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.
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....
Start spreading the News (Prose and Cons)
May 3, 2017
C. Joseph Greaves
The year is 1870, and across the State of Texas, Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels from town to town performing live readings from newspapers to paying audiences eager to learn the news of the world. Seventy-two and widowed, a veteran of two brutal wars, the learned Captain has “a clean-shaven face with runic angles, his hair was perfectly white, and he was still six feet tall . . . He carried a short-barreled Slocum revolver in his waistband at the back. It was a five-shot, .32 caliber and he had never liked it all that much but then he had rarely used it.” More...
Anne Hillerman sings in ‘Song of the Lion’ (Prose and Cons)
April 7, 2017
Review by Scott Graham
Beloved mystery author Tony Hillerman’s bestselling series, which featured Navajo Nation cops Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, ended with Hillerman’s death in 2008.
Or so his devoted readers thought. There were plenty of groans from Hillerman fans when word came in 2013 that Tony’s daughter Anne, a first-time novelist, was resurrecting her father’s series. But there were plenty of cheers, too. Turns out the cheering fans were right. MORE...
Deadly dozen (Prose and Cons)
March 9, 2017
The cliché that certain crime novels “transcend the genre” is as shopworn as the genre itself can sometimes be. But there’s no disputing that a new generation of crime novelists, many of them women, are rewriting the rules and bringing unprecedented levels of emotional nuance, depth of character, and linguistic elegance to a literary form whose most celebrated practitioners too often depend upon formula and rote. Evoking the works of Ruth Rendell, Kate Atkinson, and Laura Lippman, these page-turning novels are as much driven by the inner workings of their characters and the complexities of their relationships as by standard tropes of the three-act plot structure. MORE..
Winter’s Tales (Prose and Cons)
January 9, 2017
Norse Mythology, Gaiman’s 12th novel following such mega-bestsellers as American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is chockablock with gods and dwarfs, ogres and trolls, monsters and giants. It spans the eons between the frozen mist world from which all life began and Ragnarok, the final, flaming battle between the forces of good and evil. MORE...
Time in a bottle (Prose and Cons)
November 10, 2016
In The Terranauts, his 16th novel to date, Boyle uses the real-life Biosphere 2 vivarium project of the 1990s as the basis for a compelling and thought-provoking examination of the frailties of human nature.
When first we meet Dawn Chapman, Ramsay Roothoorp, and Linda Ryu, they are three of the 16 finalists vying to become part of an eight-person team that will live for two years inside the Ecosphere, a domed, self-sustaining environment in the Arizona desert that’s a melding of Big Science technology and Big Top showmanship. The brainchild of flamboyant eco-visionary Jeremiah Reed, the Ecosphere is engineered (with rainforest, savanna, desert, ocean, and marshland biomes) to support its inhabitants physically while supporting itself financially from their relentless exhibition to the media and the ticket-buying public.
The final eight – four men and four women – are chosen not just for their technical expertise, but also for their telegenic qualities and their perceived ability to withstand the psychological stresses of extended, close-quarters isolation. But tensions arise from the outset when Dawn and Ramsay are selected for the mission while Linda – Dawn’s avowed best friend – is not. These three narrators then chronicle the socalled Terranauts’ progress in alternating firstperson chapters as what begin as petty jealousies soon metastasize into profound interpersonal dysfunction – think Peyton Place meets Ecotopia with an unhealthy (and winking) dollop of Lord of the Flies. MORE....
If you remember the ’60s. . . Prose and Cons
September 7, 2016
Nathan Hill’s sprawling debut novel, is a Chicago college professor with a past that’s as murky to him as his future. Samuel, whose mother abandoned him at age 11, medicates the stress of his daily existence with alarmingly large doses of online gaming while contending with the likes of Laura Pottsdam, a conniving student intent on getting him fired, and Guy Periwinkle, a New York book publisher threatening suit over Samuel’s failure to deliver a long-overdue manuscript. MORE...
O’Nan’s latest is slender but powerful (Prose and Cons)
August 5th 2016
City of Secrets is at once a riveting historical thriller based on true events in the Middle East, and a solemn meditation on humanity—in this case, the search for purpose, any purpose, in the wake of unspeakable evil. O’Nan’s combination of a thriller plot with the intense moral struggle of his lead character results in an engrossing reading experience, and a book readers likely will find themselves placing in the hands of others with the admonition that they, too, must experience it. MORE...
An epic chopping spree (Prose and Cons)
July 8th 2016
Proulx’s latest novel Barkskins ($32, from Scribner) – her most ambitious to date – is a sweeping, multi-generational saga of paradise lost, chronicling as it does the systematic deforestation of the New World. That saga begins in 1693 with the arrival in New France of two indentured servants, René Sel and Charles Duquet. “Here grew hugeous trees of a size not seen in the old country for hundreds of years,” observes Sel upon first sighting “evergreens taller than cathedrals, cloud-piercing spruce and hemlock.” MORE...
‘Cutting’ local water (Prose and Cons)
June 2nd 2016
With their futuristic, otherworldly settings, science fiction novels aren’t generally meant to strike close to home. For residents of the Four Corners area, however, acclaimed western Colorado author Paolo Bacigalupi’s best-selling, green sci-fi novel,The Water Knife, does just that.
The Water Knife is set in a climate-change- wracked Four Corners of the not-too-distant future. Bacigalupi, raised in Paonia, envisions our corner of the world as a rainless region where a crooked Las Vegas cartel has wrested control of the Colorado River’s water flow for the benefit of themselves and their cronies, with predictably grim results for everyone else. MORE...