Monday, July 2, 2012

Storms, electricity, reviews and a contest!

Hi folks,
It’s been a hectic few days here in Ft. Wayne. Last Friday, the temp reached a record 106 degrees (108 by our own thermometer!), and then a cold front came in and along with it near-tornadoes. Don’t know if we had any actual tornadoes—rumors were that two touched down—but the winds were fierce—reportedly 80-90 mph--and power lines were (and are) down all over town. As of this morning, there are still over 70,000 homes and businesses without power—including us. We’re still staying in our house and nights are miserable as the heat’s back. They’re telling us we may be without power until late Wednesday night. I’ve been able to go to coffee shops and cobble this together a bit at a time.

First thing is, I want to post a review I did of Brit author Richard Godwin’s amazing new novel, MR. GLAMOUR. A fantastic read! Here’s what I think of it:

My review of Richard Godwin’s MR. GLAMOUR

While most readers and reviewers were drawn to the plot and the mystery of Richard Godwin’s brilliant novel, Mr. Glamour--as I was as well--I was struck even more by the setting. After all, once you know “whodunit,” usually there’s no reason to return to the book. In this case, there is. I’ve now read it twice and will read it several more times and it’s not to find out “whodunit” but to learn even more about both the psychology of the characters and to learn about a part of London I was sharply ignorant of. The insights Godwin provides of both are worth many hours in rereading what I predict will become a classic.

What Eugene Izzi did for the city of Chicago in novels like The Criminalist, Richard Godwin has done for London in Mr. Glamour. Like Raymond Chandler who was one of the best at creating a character out of the setting—in his case, Los Angeles--Godwin has given us London as a character. A London not seen heretofore, at least in noir. Most writers deliver us the seedy underworld of the city—the world of workingman’s and thieves’ bars and prostitute haunts and dank gaols populated by sadistic guards and murderous felons—whereas Godwin has sharply defined the world of the upper crust as being veined with the same dark blood as flowed through Jack the Ripper’s carotid… if Jack wore Armani and ate at the best four-star restaurants.

This is a story of the “Beautiful People” but none are beautiful save for their designer clothes and cars and mansions and platinum cards and the other trappings of wealth. All are twisted and ugly in one way or the other. This is surely the nihilistic view of a writer who has experienced life and thought hard about it and knows with a surety that’s discomfiting, that we all possess what Jung termed “the shadow side” no matter what level of society we find ourselves perched on. This is a story about the upper crust, but not the faction that we normally expect to see—not the royalty of London and England, but the portion of wealthy society that’s gained its advantage in ways other than inheritance or family. This is a part of London that’s more akin to Hollywood than either the England of Lord Faversham or the London of Tiny Tim and Nell. It’s a world that is particularly of the 21st century and could not have been set anywhere else or in any other period.

This novel reminds me of something author Sharon Sheehe Stark told me during one of my MFA residencies at Vermont College where she was on the faculty and my workshop leader. She said, “When you create a villain, if you want a truly great one, don’t use that oft-advised technique of ‘making ‘em like kittens.’” No, she said: “Paint them as black as you possibly can, for if you do that, the light will shine through the cracks.” She’d be pleased about Mr. Glamour, for that’s exactly what Godwin does.

Flannery O’Connor, in speaking of great endings, would doubtlessly approve of Godwin’s ending here, when she said (badly paraphrased) that “a great ending will surprise the reader, but, upon reflection be the only possible and best ending to be had.” A perfect description for Mr. Glamour. Trust me—you won’t see this one coming! And then… you’ll exclaim, “Of course!”

For readers of mystery, of thrillers, of horror, of noir—this novel will satisfy each particular taste. It will also satisfy the palate of those who enjoy simply good literature, for it is that as well. If this were a restaurant, it would have earned its Michelin star.

Susan Lerner
And now I’d like to give a wonderful new author some props with her first novel. Please meet Susan Lerner. Susan asked me to work with her on her novel A SUITABLE HUSBAND. It’s out now, available both in paperback and as an ebook. Here’s the review I wrote for Amazon and Goodreads:

A stunning portrayal of the changing social and political climate of 1930s Poland as embodied by Bianca Lieber, a young Jewish woman caught between the traditional family values of her parents and those of a volatile younger generation, unwilling to accept the status quo.

It has become almost a cliché to describe a novel as a `page turner,' but in this instance, the description is apt. The writing is never forced, and the pressure never lifts from Bianca, her mother, and her twin brother; each with their own, often conflicting, hopes and dreams, but all of them struggling against increasingly anti-Semitic government policies and harsh new realities.

Occasionally, a work of fiction appears that transcends mere genre and simple entertainment and enters a new level of literary worth. A Suitable Husband is a book that is a truly modern look at the issues that face all of us in a rapidly-changing world. It is one of those books that has the potential to change the reader in a profound way.

You’ll be glad you did—it’s a truly remarkable novel.

And, finally… Zurich writer Veronica Sicoe is having a little contest on her blog that includes yours truly. Kind of a cool contest. Veronica liked my 5-sentence outline so much that she’s having a competition to see which of her readers (or anyone else who wants to, including you guys) can come up with the best 5-sentence outline for their novel. Veronica and I will judge them and the winner will receive a signed copy of my lil blue book, HOOKED.

Well, my time here at the coffee shop is over. They’re giving Mary and me dirty looks, so… Just hoping the juice will be on when we get home…

Blue skies,


Veronica Sicoe said...

"When you create a villain, [...] paint them as black as you possibly can, for if you do that, the light will shine through the cracks."

That's great advice on villains!
A profoundly dark "bad guy" with barely a shy glint of good in him is much more compelling to me than a bad guy, who're really an average guy with a mood problem or a grim past. :)

And thank you for the shout-out and the great lessons. Much appreciated. :)

Anonymous said...

Les thank you so much for the review, I appreciate it.