Chuck Greaves is the author of five novels, most recently Tom & Lucky, a WSJ “Best Books of 2015” selection and a finalist for the 2016 Harper Lee Prize. His novel Hard Twisted, an award winning work of historic fiction, is a long-time staff favorite.
Scott Graham is the author of nine fiction and non-fiction books, including the National Outdoor Book Award winning Extreme Kids and most recently Yosemite Fall, the fourth installment in the acclaimed National Park Mystery Series.
When writers and editors speak of “voice” in the context of fiction, they refer to stylistic qualities of attitude and personality an author employs to engage the reader, as conveyed through tone and word choice. A unique and powerful voice – think of Mattie Ross recounting her childhood travails in Charles Portis’ True Grit – can turn an otherwise mundane story into a riveting page-turner. A dull or flaccid voice, in contrast, can render even an international spy thriller into a soporific slog.
That brings us to Jonathan Lethem’s latest installment in an authorial oeuvre that includes The Fortress of Solitude, his 2003 New York Times bestseller, and Motherless Brooklyn, winner of the 1999 National Book Critics Circle Award, because with The Feral Detective, Lethem’s 11th novel, he demonstrates just how effectively a potent voice can combine with an engaging story to produce masterful fiction. MORE...
Ambition is a commendable attribute in a debut novelist, as is the courage to take chances, stretching the boundaries of your chosen genre. Combine the two, and the potential for literary transcendence is manifest. So too, alas, is the potential for a very messy splatter.
Just when you thought you’d read all there was to read in the realm of crime fiction, along comes The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton’s dizzying thought experiment in how to bring a fresh perspective – or multiple perspectives – to the venerable trope of the British locked-room murder mystery. MORE...
What’s the recipe for a great summer novel? Page-turning suspense, for starters, and a plucky heroine for whom to root. Lyrical writing is a bonus, as are reversed roles and upended expectations. Mix in a Cold War setting and radical politics, garnish with an exotic locale and a dash of sexual frisson, and the result is a frosty cocktail guaranteed to quench even the most parched reader’s thirst for a satisfying dog-days diversion. MORE...
“The evening when we first heard Sparsholt’s name seems the best place to start this little memoir.” That deceptively modest declaration begins The Sparsholt Affair, a novel of staggering depth and beauty from an author – Alan Hollinghurst – whom the The New Yorker’s Alexandra Schwartz describes as “not simply one of the best living English novelists but one of the best novelists working in English.” MORE...
Beau knows Louis L’Amour (Prose and Cons)
January 1, 2018
C. Joseph Greaves
“This book may drive you crazy.”
So begins Beau L’Amour’s Introduction to Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures, Vol. 1, a 500-page compendium of his late father’s unfinished manuscripts, treatments, and notes. But in this, Beau misleads. Truer to have written, “This book will make you a Louis L’Amour fan for life, and if you’re already a fan, it will give you unprecedented insight into the creative process that made him one of America’s most popular storytellers.”
Nativity (Prose and Cons)
November 1, 2017
It’s impossible to ignore the many parallels between Atwood’s chilling work of speculative fiction and Louise Erdich’s latest novel, Future Home of the Living God. Both feature environmental crisis, religious fundamentalism, and governmental intrusion into the reproductive process. But while Atwood’s book seems to have anticipated current events, Erdrich’s, in a sense, reflects them. As its forward explains, Living God was actually begun, and then shelved, in 2002, only to be exhumed and completed in January of 2017. As such, it functions both as crystal ball and looking glass. MORE....
A fine Navajoland whodunnit (Prose and Cons)
October 9, 2017
Despite confronting the bodies of four murdered young people at the start of Katayoun Medhat’s The Quality of Mercy, readers know they’re in for an enjoyable — if dark — ride by the end of the first chapter of Medhat’s debut, the latest entrant in the Navajoland mystery niche pioneered by Tony Hillerman.
The Quality of Mercy introduces cynical protagonist K, a police officer in the remote Southwest town of Milagro, an obvious stand-in for Cortez, Colo., near the sprawling Navajo Reservation. K, short for Franz Kafka, has landed in Milagro because of the opportunity it provides him to disappear from the wider world. K’s droll observations — of his fellow police officers, local citizens, and life in general — are as cutting as they are funny. MORE...
Gothic ramblings (Prose and Cons)
September 6, 2017
Race, like a flaming cross at a Klan rally, stands at the center of Sing, Unburied, Sing, casting shadows on all that transpires. The novel, Jesmyn Ward’s third and the first since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, depicts a tumultuous week in the lives of three generations of the River family, proud but impoverished denizens of bayou Mississippi.
Pop, the family patriarch, is haunted by memories of his juvenile incarceration at Parchman Farm – the Mississippi State Penitentiary – the brutality of which we glimpse in lurid flashbacks. Mam, bedridden with cancer, is a Santera whose gift of clairvoyance has passed to her daughter Leonie even if her healing arts and empathetic wisdom have not. As for Leonie, her indifference to motherhood contrasts with her dedication to methamphetamine, leaving it to her son Jojo, wise beyond his 13 years, to care for his infant sister Kayla. MORE...
Rose invents a new genre with ‘Thief’ (Prose and Cons)
August 19, 2017
Augustus Rose may have invented a new genre with his debut novel, The Readymade Thief, released Aug. 1 by Viking Press.
Let’s call Rose’s creation a Young Adult novel for adults; rather than a YA novel, Rose has written a YAA novel. In The Readymade Thief, Rose adopts many of the norms of a novel aimed at teenage readers to tell a thought-provoking coming-of-age tale layered with adult themes.
Like the protagonists in many YA stories, the heroine of The Readymade Thief is young, whip-smart, abandoned by family, and blackballed by society. It turns out — and nearly goes without saying — that 17-year-old Lee also has been pre-selected by mysterious forces for bigger things than she ever could have imagined for herself. MORE...
Worth the weight (Prose and Cons)
July 12, 2017
There are many authors whose virtuosity inspires me to be a better writer. There are but a few, however, whose talent is so prodigious, so dispiritingly outsized, as to make me want to throw up my hands and quit writing altogether.
Arundhati Roy is one of those few. Roy exploded onto the world literary scene with her debut novel The God of Small Things, a voluptuous coming-ofage saga that explores the legacies of colonialism, sexism, and governmental oppression in modern-day India. Small Things won the Booker Prize in 1997, has been translated into more than forty languages, and provided the platform from which Roy has since established herself as one of India’s most outspoken and controversial social critics – activities that had, alas, kept her from undertaking a second novel.
Until now. MORE....