Trio of Lost Souls ($13.95, 242 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-188-0), by Jack Remick, is a work of literary/noir fiction about a journalist turned outlaw who helps a Central Valley farmer stage a risky political campaign against a corrupt incumbent.
Trio of Lost Souls is Book Four of The California Quartet, a series of standalone novels about young men coming of age and bucking the establishment in California during the ’60s and ’70s. The other books in the series are The Deification, Valley Boy, and The Book of Changes.
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Remick’s novel, Gabriela and the Widow, was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal and a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award.
“Trio of Lost Souls, a masterwork of the literary genre, makes a rousing final movement to Jack Remick’s California Quartet. This latest novel sings with precision description and uncompromising dialogue. As relentless as the California sun on high desert landscape, Remick’s writing grabs the reader by the throat and refuses to let go until long after the final notes fade. Vincent, part Clint Eastwood, part Sun Tzu, storms through the dusty fields of migrant workers and the half-empty streets of failing towns, chasing other people’s demons, one step ahead of his own. Seeking redemption for his sins and compelled to save others from theirs, Vincent navigates a rocky terrain filled with characters living in the grey area between damnation and the sublime. From damaged women to political hopefuls, Vincent pulls some from the embers and stands back and watches others burn.”
—Elena Hartwell, playwright and author of the Eddie Shoes mystery series
“Remick knows California, its people and landscapes…. Like all good road novels, there is a very strong sense of place, and as I turned pages, I came to know California, began to experience it through the eyes of Bill Vincent…. Bottom line, the still waters of Trio of Lost Souls run deep. If you’re a fan of Jim Harrison, Ron Rash, or even Cormac McCarthy this book is definitely worth a read. Recommended.” —Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series
“Trio of Lost Souls unfolds like the melodic, broad vibrato strains of a Sidney Bechet noir cinema score…. But just as Bechet’s improvisational voice is uniquely his, so too are Remick’s pronounced rhythmic textures, his mastery of a theme, recasting it, then luring it back into itself, or onto a dream sequence where the identities unexpectedly shift … yet the storyline is ever present, refrain-like and beguiling.”
—Dennis Must, author of the novels, Hush Now, Don’t Explain and The World’s Smallest Bible and the short story collections, Oh, Don’t Ask Why and Banjo Grease
Bill Vincent is a killer, but in the name of justice. Not that the law would see it that way. With one murderous act of retribution for terrible violence inflicted on his wife, he leaves behind a respectable calling as a prize-winning investigative journalist and hits the road. On the run he ekes out a living in California’s Central Valley as a box-maker, a turkey debeaker, a truck driver’s assistant, and finally a field hand. In this last job he meets Jim Garret, a like-minded spirit whose thirst for justice equals his own. They join together to beat the corrupt bossmen at their own political game.
Says Remick: “Trio of Lost Souls is the most political of the California Quartet. Unlike the other books, which are coming of age stories, Trio of Lost Souls features grown men. Men who grew up poor but learned to love literature and came to champion those who didn’t escape poverty. They are not the same characters who people the other books, but they are brothers and sisters under the skin. They understand life. They know the rules. They become decision makers. They are capable. They are flawed. They have been hurt. Their dreams have cost them. They are on the verge of destruction, but they know they can still do more good than harm.”
Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. He has published six novels with Coffeetown Enterprises’ imprints Coffeetown Press and Camel Press and a poetry collection, Satori. Click here to find Jack online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
The grapes had been drying for four days and the second picking had stripped the vines when Garret came into the water tower holding a fifth of Glenfiddich and a manila envelope. He set the manila envelope on top of the briefcase and the whiskey on the table. Vincent, sitting on the bed, eyed the envelope. Danger. He knew that. Garret uncorked the fifth and gazed at him. There was something Vincent hadn’t expected—a flicker of flint in ruthless eyes that could cut a man’s throat.
Garret said, “I looked you up, Vincent. You lied to me.”
“I told you I killed three men.”
“You didn’t tell me you wrote about politics.”
“Politics. That’s why I killed three men.”
“You got a degree from Cal. You got a guy elected to Berkeley City Council. You went to Reno, won prizes for political reporting. This man, Aleghiri, you wrote about him. Open the envelope.”
Vincent walked to the table, plucked the manila envelope off the briefcase and flipped back the seal. His hand shook when he read the first article.
Reno authorities today suspended their search for Star reporter Bill Vincent, missing since November amid speculation that he was the victim of the same vicious attack that left his wife, Claire Hanzelli, hospitalized.
Vincent’s motorcycle was found abandoned south of Stateline, but police have no leads into his disappearance. Police are investigating the possibility that Vincent was abducted in retaliation for his investigative reporting into an international “baby for sale” ring which involved local lawmakers and several crime figures who have also vanished.
Vincent was last seen following a visit to his wife, who remains in critical condition in Washoe Medical Center.
More articles from the Reno Star. His articles. His picture. Headlines about the Mexican school girls, about the syndicate. His articles about smart girls from good families turned into baby machines. About babies sold to rich Northerners who couldn’t buy the right color skin at home.
Vincent tucked the articles back in the envelope and set the envelope on top of the briefcase and walked to the door. Garret’s words weighed him down. It was time to push on. He heard a rustle, then something hit his shoulder. The cork from the Glenfiddich. He stopped.
Garret said, “Where are you going?”
“Out of here.”
“Just when I need a killer you walk out on me.”
Fraud is Doc’s business, but this was personal.
The Big Bitch ($15.95, 324 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-303-7) is a work of mystery/suspense by debut author John Patrick Lang. After Doc’s friend Jesus is murdered, he searches for the killer while being paid to investigate a missing person’s case that takes him through a dozen cities and towns up and down the Pacific Coast, from Portland to San Diego. As he follows the baffling trail, he soon discovers that the clues lead uncomfortably close to home.
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The Big Bitch is Book 1 in the Jackson “Doc” Holiday Mystery series.
“A clever, surprise-filled first novel and series opener.” Read more….
“No-one is ever going to be as poetic as Marlowe, or a wise-ass and tough as Spenser, but Holiday has certainly made an impressive debut. The dialogue crackles, the humour is black, and the bad guys are suitably dissolute. One-liners fly off the page like sparks from a welding torch…. I suspect I am not the only member of the Jackson Holiday Appreciation Society, and I look forward to his next appearance.” Read more….
—David Prestidge, Crime Fiction Lover.com
“John Patrick Lang’s highly entertaining first book, The Big Bitch, is a tale of murder, kidnapping, even a mutilation, set in the East Bay. It is told in gritty turgid prose with the brutal immediacy of the first person point of view, but with a generous leavening of humor, especially the Chandlerian similes (‘I’ll beat on you like a rented mule.’) As with most effective crime fiction, things are not at all what they seem. We hope to see much more Doc Holiday.” —Armand Croft, author of The Andrew MacCrimmon novels
“The Big Bitch is a very, very good read with the dialogue and description of an old school hard-boiled novel. Some characters could have walked in from the world of Joseph Wambaugh and some in from the world of Elmore Leonard but they all walk off the page. I haven’t encountered a character as sophisticated, smart, savvy and with the skill for skullduggery like Doc Holiday for twenty years. In other words, not since Ross Thomas died.” —Eric Mortensen, poet and author of Green Beret Blues
“A wild East Bay mystery that doesn’t just show us the underbelly of the region, but the vitality of the diverse population, all through the eyes of a darkly whimsical sleuth.” —Nick Mamatas, author of Love Is The Law
Private Eye Jackson “Doc” Holiday investigates fraud, a crime he knows intimately. He was once a respected and successful mortgage banker who laundered more than 100 million dollars in dirty money. Although never convicted, he has been blackballed from banking.
After his drinking buddy, a Catholic priest named Jesus Cortez, is shot dead in the driveway of Doc’s Berkeley home, he sets out to find his killer. The case takes him in search of an old confederate in Portland, where he begins to suspect that the murder of Jesus is connected to a money laundering scheme suspiciously similar to Doc’s own. As Doc delves in further, he crosses swords with a scheming matriarch, a bent cop, a femme fatale, and a master criminal. Whoever’s at the bottom of this business has already killed and is facing “The Big Bitch,” or life in prison. And they’re not afraid to kill again.
Says the author, “I was attracted to the noir genre because of its capacity to convey social and cultural perceptions, indict the false values of the American Dream, create existential allegory, and ultimately turn pulp into parable. Jesus Cortez is a young, handsome, charming Catholic priest who is purported to have performed miracles, but also a man with a mysterious past, a dark and dangerous secret, and evidently a woman or two stashed away somewhere. It seems to me that such a character could only be fully realized in a hard-boiled detective novel, particularly when the detective and narrator is a man called ‘Doc’ Holiday, a name that suggests a checkered past and the dark end of the street.”
By turns, John Patrick Lang has been a lit major, a submarine sailor, a country-western singer/songwriter and a mortgage banker specializing in community lending. A native of Portland, Oregon, he makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Big Bitch is his first novel. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
An early recording of Willie Nelson singing his classic “Nightlife” played on the jukebox as Mary said, “Well, look at you now, just another loser from the boulevard of broken dreams and just another swinging dick in John and Mary’s Saloon. What are you drinking, Swinging Dick?”
“I’ll have a Bud in a bottle and a double rye in one of your cleaner dirty fruit jars.”
After Mary brought his drinks she moved to the other end of the bar. I asked Hobbs if this visit was official.
“Why?” he asked without looking up from his drink. “You got something you want to tell me, off the record?”
“I spent five hours with you and Manners last night. Told you everything I know. At least three times.”
“Maybe you left something out.”
I let that pass.
He looked up from his drink and caught my eye in the mirror. “Are you sure, Doc?”
“Like I said last night: nobody calls me ‘Doc’ anymore.”
“Let’s review our interview from last night and my subsequent research. Your legal given name is Jackson Burke Holiday, AKA ‘Doc Holiday.’ White male Caucasian, age thirty-nine, six feet, one eighty-five, blue on brown. No distinguishing marks or characteristics. No misdemeanor or felony convictions of any kind.” He swallowed the rest of his rye and signaled for another round. “But three years ago a federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon, delivered multi-count indictments against you for your role as president of a mortgage bank that went tits up. Mortgage fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to violate the Bank Secrecy Act, et cetera. Now, either you were too smart, or had too good a piece of legal talent, because the indictments all got kicked back, thrown out of court. Case never even went to trial. You walked.”
“Maybe I wasn’t culpable.”
Hobbs looked away from the mirror and directly at me for a moment. He said, “Yeah, maybe you weren’t culpable. There’s always that, Doc. Anyway, you walked. You walked but you were through in the money game. So you were blackballed from banking and you went to team up with your dad and his private investigation firm in Portland. Approximately a year and a half ago you moved here to the Bay Area and set up your own business specializing in white-collar crime. Your clients are banks, mortgage banks, and insurance companies. You specialize in insurance fraud, bank fraud, and what you evidently have some hands-on expertise in, mortgage fraud. You make a living, you don’t get rich … not so as anyone can tell. On the personal side, two years ago your dad died of an accidental gunshot wound—or he ate his gun, depending on who you talk to. Your mother died when you were a child. That leaves you with no parents, no siblings, no spouse, no live-in girlfriend and no family except a great aunt somewhere in Kentucky who you haven’t seen for twenty years. How’d I do?”
Seattle, 1950. When men were men, thanks to WWII, and fine dining meant a steak at Canlis.
“Seattle-area writer T.W. Emory’s debut, Trouble in Rooster Paradise is an affectionate nod to noir fiction and its tough guys and dolls…. Good, vivid stuff. And who can resist a book with a cover featuring a fedora-wearing private eye, a shapely dame … and the Smith Tower?” Read more….
—Adam Woog, The Seattle Times
Trouble in Rooster Paradise ($14.95, 256 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-996-1) is a work of mystery/suspense by debut author T.W. Emory. While investigating the death of a high-end shop girl, a lone private eye comes up against some deadly and powerful local characters.
Trouble in Rooster Paradise is Book 1 in the Gunnar Nilson Mystery series.
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“Emory’s first novel vividly evokes the ambiance of classic American hard-boiled crime writing.”
“Gunnar Nilson, Emory’s clove-chewing gumshoe with an eye for the ladies is every cliché in the book when it comes to hard-boiled detective stories, but to great extent that’s what makes this novel such a pleasure…. The characters in the 1950s sections (which make up the bulk of the book) are well-drawn, quirky, and a lot of fun to get to know. The setting—Seattle in the 50s when it was a working-class backwater—is also evoked well…. Readers will want to follow this detective and his delightful supporting cast of friends.” Read more….
—Meredith Frazier, Reviewing the Evidence
“Emory skillfully evokes this era of class distinctions and gender inequity. The murderer’s motive is inspired by both of these inequalities. The tale is peppered with recognizable 1950s characters—the world-weary waitress, the damaged World War II veteran, the thwarted career woman…. I was happy to be plunged into Nilson’s tale in the 1950s.” Read more….
—Historical Novel Society
“When perfume is the smell of death, a private eye needs to be careful around the ladies. That’s a tall order for detective Gunnar Nilson in T.W. Emory’s thrilling debut set in post-war Seattle. Nilson meets many a lovely beauty as he tries to find out how one of them ended up murdered with his business card in her pocket. He’s a tough-minded, smart sleuth, unwinding a plot layered with deception and driven by sins going back decades. Call it Queen City noir; this is an enthralling look at Seattle when it was a working class town populated by tough guys and great smelling gals, many with black secrets.”
—Rich Zahradnik, author of Last Words
Recuperating from an injury and prompted by an eager young nurse, old-timer Gunnar Nilson looks back at one of his big cases as a private eye in 1950. At that time memories of World War II were still fresh, and Seattle was a cultural backwater. The Ballard neighborhood where he hung out his shingle teemed with working-class folk of Scandinavian descent. Gals with hourglass figures and gimlet eyes enticed men in gray flannel suits with cigarettes dangling from their lips.
The case he recounts involves the murder of one of these beauties. Gunnar’s business card is in her pocket, but she’s no client. She’s just a gal he met at the movies; he gave her a ride home and helped her lose the creep who was tailing her. It’s none of Gunnar’s business who killed her, not until he discovers she dated the godson of a wealthy client, a man who’s willing to pay big bucks for Gunnar to nose around.
Nose around he does, in the perfumed rooms of Fasciné Expressions, a “rooster paradise” that employed the murdered girl and is frequented by the godson. Schooled to be class acts by a former showgirl, these fine-feathered hens know how to inspire a man to spend big on gifts for his lady.
Gunnar believes the victim was killed by one of her customers, but the heady fragrance of perfumed female can make it awfully tough for a guy to think clearly, especially when the killer is also breathing down his neck.
Says T.W., “Ballard in the year 1950 seemed a fitting place and time for my story, given some of my family history. My maternal grandparents emigrated from Sweden in the late 1920s along with my mom and her older sister. Their family enlarged and grew up, and by the late 1940s my grandparents moved to Ballard, where for several years they took in fellow Swedes as boarders. I can still remember a boarder or two when I was a little kid and when their home was a hub of activity for aunts, uncles, and many cousins.”
Born into a blue collar family in Seattle, Washington, and raised in the suburbs of the greater Seattle area, T.W. Emory has been an avid reader since his early teens. In addition to writing, T.W. enjoys cartooning as a hobby and provided the illustrations for the cover of Trouble in Rooster Paradise. He currently lives north of Seattle with his wife and two sons. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
I parked my Chevy thirty feet from a prowl car and an ambulance. Beams of light quivered in a passageway between two buildings. A small huddle of men examined a lumpy pile on the ground. Some distance beyond them, more flashlights bobbed and swayed as a search party spread out.
One of the uniformed cops spotted us and tapped the arm of a man lighting a cigarette. Detective Sergeant Frank Milland flagged me over with the first two fingers of his left hand. I approached and was met by expressions ranging from hostile to indifferent. Walter followed but held back a ways.
“Nice of you to join our little cotillion,” Milland said, looking at and past me, “but who invited the freak show?”
“I invited him. And don’t call him a freak.”
Milland made an animal noise of acceptance. “Just as long as he keeps his distance. The stiff had your card. Take a look-see and tell us who we’re looking at.”
I stepped into the circle of men hovered over the body. During the war, I’d seen more than my share of the dead—enough to become inured and detached. But one of the things that continued to jangle my nerves was seeing the corpse of someone I’d visited with just the day before.
This was a nerve-jangler.
In combat, bodies are strewn about like damaged puppets with their strings cut. Sometimes a face looks at peace with its surroundings. The face on the body at my feet gave me a gut-tightening twinge. The strings had been cut, but the face didn’t look at all peaceful.
“What’s the verdict, Gunnar? Anyone you know?” Milland demanded.
“Yeah. But we’d met only once. Last night.” I glanced at my Longines. It said 12:01. “Well, it’s Thursday now, so make that Tuesday night when I met her.”
Blood had run down the wall of the building, marking the trail the body had made from its standing position to the pavement where it initially landed. A path of blood led farther into the alley where the body now lay. I took two cloves from my shirt pocket and slipped them in my mouth, sawing them in half with my teeth. I could see Walter flipping up the collar of his overcoat as he moved in closer, looking like a homogenized version of the Shadow and Phantom of the Opera.
Milland exhaled smoke and said, “So, you say you met this gal on Tuesday night. Tell us what else you know.”
I had a fair idea as to when to begin. My tongue played with pieces of clove as my mind struggled with the who, what and why particulars that didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the here and now.
Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone ($11.95, 152 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-321-1), is a collection of 65 poems by Mary Anne Morefield. The final poem in the collection, “Requiem,” will be set to music for the Susquehanna Chorale in 2015 by Bob Chilcott.
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“Mary Anne Morefield’s debut collection overflows with the primacy of living, with the most elemental actions of groundhogs and lambs, with the exuberant colors of cholla and prickly pear, with what she rightly calls ‘the ache of prayer.’ Here is a writer offering wisdom and beauty, humbly teaching us how to live, how to journey toward death with a loved one, how to find strength, even joy, despite grief’s shadow. These poems chant both praise and lamentation. They show us the way toward an earthly resurrection of sorts. They admonish the reader to ‘Let yourself be air.’ With a hard-earned gladness, they say ‘Amen.’ ”
—Todd Davis, author of In the Kingdom of the Ditch and The Least of These
“Mary Anne Morefield’s collection reflects the poet’s meticulous observation of the natural world, but the poems belie their sometimes beautiful surfaces. Their subjects are as various as the forms they take (haibun, sonnet, ode, and more) and encompass vastly different geographies. This is true of the physical worlds the poems evoke: Pennsylvania’s woods, hills, and farmlands and Arizona’s desert landscape. This is also true of the psychic space they conjure, one often marked by loss, both personal and public. Beginning with the opening, title poem and extended in the third, the book contains a number of elegies and could be read as a moving lament for a lost spouse. Yet inside the elegy resides the ode, and these poems insist that we remember the full range of human experience: ‘Rain or Sun? Must I Choose/between them?’ the poet asks at the conclusion of one of her poems. The answer the collection overwhelmingly suggests is: No. The point is not to ‘choose’ but rather to learn to live ‘in the space between/the nothing, the everything, the all.’ ”
—Shara McCallum, poet
“These poems celebrate and mourn, ache and ask. Morefield has received her life, moment by moment, in all its fullness, and she gives it back to us in a voice of gentle and reflective contemplation.”
—Margaret Gibson, author of Broken Cup
With eyes wide open to the world around her, Mary Anne Morefield explores hedgerow and pasture, the plants and animals and humans that inhabit an 18th-century Pennsylvania farm. She broadens her search to the wider world of ideas, to other cultures, to Aleppo and the West Bank. She looks directly at Hurricane Sandy and sits beside death. She examines the region of widowhood, laces up her hiking boots and explores new territory in the flora, fauna and mountains of Arizona. There new colors catch her eye, new sounds enchant her ears. The poems speak to living deeply and fully in the world.
Born and raised in the Mid-West, Mary Anne Morefield lives a tri-partite life in Central Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Chautauqua, New York. She served as Vice President of The Writers’ Center, and as President of the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends. Mary Anne is a member of the Seminary Ridge Foundation in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which oversees the Seminary Ridge Museum. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Poet Lore, Poetry East, Atlanta Review, The MacGuffin and Chautauqua. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt from the poem, “Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone”:
For the first time since we left you
in this place of earth, grass, trees and stone,
I’ve come to hear its silence and its sounds,
to learn the beauty of granite, its veins
lakes and rivers on which seed boats float,
and on whose banks, a fly dries itself after bathing.
A guy from Vermont crashes in a tropical paradise ruled by angry gods. It’s a long way home.
Dash in the Blue Pacific (5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-252-8, 256 pp., $14.95) is Cole Alpaugh’s fourth novel. A lone survivor of a plane crash in the South Pacific is held captive by a tribe of shabby natives. As he heals, Dash learns what it truly means to belong to the human race.
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As in Alpaugh’s first two novels, Dash in the Blue Pacific contains elements of magical realism.
Alpaugh’s third novel, The Spy’s Little Zonbi, and his second, The Turtle-Girl from East Pukapuka, were finalists in the 2014 and 2013 Foreword Book of the Year Awards, respectively. Alpaugh’s first book, The Bear in a Muddy Tutu, set in a ragtag traveling circus, garnered eleven five-star reviews on WorldCat.
“The weird parts work because Alpaugh integrates them into a story that is physically raw and wickedly funny. Dash is as incredulous about all that is happening as anyone, and his self-conscious skepticism keeps the magical elements from seeming off-the-wall. Little by little, Dash’s conversations with Willy reveal Dash’s deeper emotional wounds, and offer another interpretation for his dreamlike visions. Taken simply as a comic adventure story, Dash in the Blue Pacific is thoroughly entertaining. When you consider the other elements—racial tensions, human grief, and spiritual redemption—it takes on new levels of meaning. Book clubs will be talking about this one.” Read more….
—Sheila M. Trask, ForeWord Magazine
“Cole Alpaugh is a grand comedian, and the conflicts and themes which exist in uncharted territory for traditional novels work well with his droll craft. The novel is full of magical wonders, melancholic gods, invasive spiders, and hilarious blunders from both Dash and the natives. ‘Boring’ and ‘predictable’ would be the last two words you’d use to describe Alpaugh’s novel.” Read more….
— D. A. Wetherell, Necessary Fiction
“Cole Alpaugh provides another fascinating read with Dash in the Blue Pacific. A young man is the lone survivor of a harrowing plane crash. His life to date has been a series of hard luck events, and now he is facing the prospect of human sacrifice if he cannot impregnate a local in order to bribe slave traders. This is why I read Alpaugh’s books! I was reminded of Paul Theroux’s Mosquito Coast, with its beautiful descriptions of brutal nature, and the impending sense of doom. I am also reminded of the relationship between the main characters of Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. My head was spinning as I came to the end of this book, and I was also in tears. The despondent god Dash befriends is a wonderfully constructed character who challenges the reader’s belief system. This is a relatively quick story, although with its many levels, it begs to be read more than once. Dash in the Blue Pacific is laugh-out-loud funny as much as it is raw and disturbing. Even though I’ve compared this book to two others, it is truly a one-of-a-kind literary experience. I highly recommend it for book club reading.”
—Jennifer Wong, Toronto Public Library
Dash does not feel lucky. When his plane crashes in the South Pacific on a honeymoon flight to Sydney, Australia, he is already a broken man, having left his cheating fiancée at home in Vermont. Dash is the crash’s only survivor, and the natives who find his battered body blame him for poisoning their fish with spilled jet fuel. Once he has sufficiently recovered, they plan to offer him as a human sacrifice to their Volcano God, who they believe downed his plane and cursed them with drought and hardship.
While Dash awaits his fate, he abandons all hope of rescue. But his new life has its moments. He meets ten-year-old Tiki, daughter of the chief and an innocent who dreams of being “chosen” by the soldiers who occasionally visit their island. He also conjures up an imaginary friend, Weeleekonawahulahoopa—Willy, for short. Willy is half-man, half-fish, a sometime god who resigned his lofty status after failing to save his people from drowning.
As Dash comes to understand the natives who hold him captive and confront his own unhappy past, he suspects that he might not be so unlucky after all.
Says Alpaugh, “This has been my favorite story to write—a little quirky and a little dark. The main (human) character is a well-meaning, ordinary guy whose plane crashes into what seems to be a tropical paradise. I drew on my experience as a total outsider while working overseas, where fear and uncertainty heighten senses and can lead you to make bad decisions. Dash’s journey toward atonement is eased by fellow travelers he meets along the way. A big chunk of this story came together while I was standing on a section of lava very similar to the one described in the book. Ka Lae, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the southern-most tip of America, on the most remote island chain on the planet. I wanted to capture the feeling of finding hope while looking out at thousands of miles of vast nothingness.”
Cole Alpaugh is a former journalist, having worked at daily newspapers along the East Coast, as well as spending several years as a war correspondent in numerous hot-spots around the world for Manhattan-based news agencies. His work has appeared in dozens of magazines, as well as most newspapers in America. Cole is currently a freelance photographer and writer living in Northeast Pennsylvania, where he spends his afternoons watching his daughter hit fuzzy yellow balls and ski through slalom gates. Click here to find him online.
Dash in the Blue Pacific is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media. Wholesalers, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
The girl’s large brown eyes found him, and he was embarrassed about his drooping underwear and what she must have witnessed.
“Food’s not ready.” She tossed the stick and wiped away her artwork. “I came early. Men are drinking clap-clap and are all piss and wind.”
“My name is Dash. The women said you’d come.”
“I’m Tiki. You looking for your airplane?”
“I don’t know what I’m looking for, but it’s beautiful here. This is an island?”
The girl nodded.
“I’m sorry the airplane killed your fish. I was only a passenger.”
“Not your fault. Manu says the Volcano was angry. She threw a stone and made your airplane fall. There’s another.” She pointed past him, and he turned to look up at shiny hints of distant metal, long contrails beginning to twist apart at their far ends.
He made old man sounds when he dropped onto a mound of hardened lava, knees popping. “Did anyone else survive?”
She shook her head. “You’re the only one. Fish ate what the Sea God didn’t want.”
“The volcano erupted?”
“Just one stone.” She used her thumb to indicate the barren mountain rising from the center of the island, a soaring brown monolith producing a ribbon of white smoke.
“I’ve only seen volcanoes on television.”
She leaned toward him to whisper, “She has a bad temper.”
“It’s incredible,” he whispered back. “I guess the smoke means it really is active. That it’s alive.”
She tilted her head at him. “How else would she throw stones?”
“Right,” he said, reasonably sure the engines had been starved of fuel, or died from a catastrophic failure of a bad wiring job. Or terrorists. “I guess that makes sense.”
“People who hunted for your airplane pieces said we should move far away. They said the Volcano will kill our village soon. Manu told them people can’t hide from a god. God want to eat you, then you will get eaten no matter what island you go to. Manu said those people had nice clothes and fancy boat, but were dumb as shitter bugs.” She wrinkled her nose. “Ever see what a shitter bug does?”
He shook his head. “Has it been smoking like that for a long time?”
Tiki shrugged, got to her feet. A pretty child—maybe ten years old—with wide eyes and smooth skin, she had a mass of thick hair halfway down her back, brushed to a deep shine. She wore the same style underpants as everyone else.
She leaned in close again and lowered her voice. “She smokes when she’s angry, which is most of the time. Her temper is worse than boy warriors who drink too much clap-clap. Warriors get angry because they have nobody to fight. Maybe it’s the same thing for the Volcano God.”
“The volcano wants to fight?”
“She is surrounded by water, has no enemies. Eating people is the only thing left to make her happy.”
The narrow trail of smoke was an unbroken line connecting the mountain to the horizon. Would it bring rescue? How far did it hold together for people to see? If it really came from the mouth of a god, maybe it traveled all the way to where they’d lifted off, the perfect white smoke mixing with the yellow smog over Los Angeles. The thought made him feel less isolated, if only for a few seconds.
“Should be time for food,” said the girl. “You look hungry as a volcano.”
She was looking up at him, smiling with a flawless set of round teeth that he caught himself inspecting for bits of human flesh.
Chef Interrupted: Discovering Life’s Second Course in Ireland with Multiple Sclerosis (ISBN: 978-1-60381-301-3, 288 pp., $15.95), a memoir, is the first published book by former Seattle Chef and popular MS Blogger, Trevis L. Gleason. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Gleason follows his dreams to Ireland, where he rents an ancient cottage for a winter, gets a puppy, and discovers that there is life after the fall.
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The 5×8 trade paperback of Chef Interrupted is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media. Wholesale customers contact email@example.com.
In 2012 Dr. Oz of The Dr. Oz Show named Trevis #1 Social HealthMaker on the topic of multiple sclerosis for his Life with MS Blog, Twitter Feed, and other online presence. He was also named the Jimmie Heuga “MS Can Do Person of the Year.”
“This memoir of [Gleason’s] months in the small town of Kelly is a spry and subtly told tale of the remarkable events he experienced and the ‘wonderful, genuine, quirky people’ who welcomed him into their town and helped him achieve a sense of purpose about living with MS: ‘It was my duty then… to live fully the life they had helped me realize.’ His month-by-month narrative is interspersed with a number of his favorite recipes for Irish delights such as steak and Guinness stew and colcannon, and he leavens his joyful account of his sojourn with various displays of his ‘noir sense of humor,’ such as when he lovingly describes visiting a butcher’s shop that has ‘what every chef wants to smell… the fresh, sweet smell of fat mingled with the mineral tones of blood and meat.’ ” Read more….
“Chef Interrupted is a wonderful book, written superbly, depicts rural Ireland brilliantly, it will give you inspiration, it will make you fall in love with Ireland all over again and we would highly recommend it.” Read more….
—My Ireland Box
“While many a reader will pick up Chef Interrupted expecting some kind of culinary history or memoir, in fact it’s much more: it’s about survival and living with MS, and about envisioning and forming a new life. Through Gleason’s eyes, more than Ireland comes to life—and more than cooking becomes the focus, making for a recommendation to travel and self-help readers as well as audiences with an interest in culinary memoirs.”
—D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, MBR (Midwest Book Review)
“Trevis is not only a superb chef and a warrior in his quest to live with MS, he is also one of the most generous people I’ve had the fortune to call a friend. In the time I’ve known him, he’s shared tales both funny and serious, sad and happy. He is a consummate storyteller, a magician with words. No matter his subject, he weaves a picture for you to imagine and invites you to join him in the world he’s creating. I have no doubt that his story, as told in this engaging book, will touch readers profoundly, just the way he has touched my life.”
—Kathy Casey, Chef, Mixologist, author of Sips & Apps (Chronicle Books, 2009)
Read Kathy’s post about Chef Interrupted here: “a very well written, funny, honest and inspirational book. I urge you to pick up a copy.”
“This uplifting story (presented alongside a collection of recipes) is full of humor, hope, and inspiration; it is a true must-read.” Read more….
–Kristie Collado, The Daily Meal
“Trevis weaves magic through his poetic style of storytelling allowing us to, at times, forget that he’s living with a debilitating disease, one that catapulted him to visit his family’s roots so far away. His story touched my heart, and I know it will touch yours. This is not a story about disability but one about finding your joy no matter what life has to offer. If you’ve ever had a dream, you’ll want to take a look at Chef Interrupted. It’ll keep hope in your heart and help you believe that anything is possible.” Read more ….
—Cathy Chester’s Blog: An Empowered Spirit
“I had previously known Trevis Gleason only as the popular blogger at Life With Multiple Sclerosis. Within the constraints of this platform, he dispenses his wisdom, humor, and charm in 500 word snippets. But in Chef Interrupted Trevis throws off the shackles of forced brevity and reveals his considerable storytelling acumen…. I devoured the book in no time at all. It’s a delightful read for anyone who longs to find meaning by going back to their roots, in this case his ancestral homeland of Ireland…. It’s about the connections he made with the people and with the land, and experiences he shared with folks from home who dropped in and out of his life, and his rented cottage, during that time. It’s about a fondness for good food and drink, and a loyal, furry companion. And yes, it’s about living a full life despite a debilitating disease.” Read more….
—Mitch Sturgeon, Enjoying The Ride Blog
“When I want to know what’s really ‘cooking’ in the MS community, I log onto Trevis’ blog. He has never failed to provide balanced, candid, thoughtful, and even humorous insights into life with MS. His perspectives about the issues of the day—MS related and otherwise—always enlighten and inform me. The same is true for Chef Interrupted.”
—Joyce Nelson, CEO emeritus, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
“Don’t think of this book as a how-to-cope tome. Trevis Gleasons’ Chef Interrupted has widespread appeal and is a joy to read. Certainly his prose abounds in Celtic wit and American audacity—plus a perfectly cooked attitude of use to people who have never heard (lucky them) of ‘multiple sclerosis.’ His recipe is not to devote his life to endless warfare against a nasty incurable disease or to collapse in saintly victimhood. He’s just going on with it directly, indirectly, whatever direction works. I suppose the Irish have known this forever.”
—Martha King, Editor, Momentum, the magazine of the National MS Society (USA)
“What I love about Trevis’ writing is that he makes connections: with his blog followers, with people who have multiple sclerosis or live with other long-term conditions, with foodies, with just about anyone who reads what he writes. Chef Interrupted is, like all of Trevis’ writings, instantly relatable, funny, smart, skeptical, hopeful, and always interesting.”
—Rose Pike, Executive Editor, EverydayHealth.com
“Trevis is one of those truly gifted community organizers. To be able to lead and organize a community you have to have the ability to inspire. Trevis has this down to an art. I’ve seen him transform his pain into humor, humility, and personal growth via his writings, but perhaps even more impressive is his natural ability to relate to and reach people. That means he has the gift to make you give a damn to the point you find yourself repeating his musings to others. That’s the mark of a talented writer and community leader.”
—Natalie Brown, Editor, Health Talk
When Trevis Gleason, a former chef at the top of his professional culinary career, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he lost everything—his job, his marriage, even his perceived persona. Surveying the ruins of his former life, he saw an opportunity to fulfill a long-postponed dream. He would travel from Seattle, Washington, to the wilds of west Kerry, Ireland for the winter.
Renting a rustic cottage in “The Town,” Trevis braved narrow, sheep-obstructed roads and antiquated heating systems to learn that his life, his loves (including cooking), and even his dreams weren’t lost, just waiting to be rediscovered in this magical place.
He acquired a charming puppy named Sadie, who grounded his days and served as a devoted companion as he surmounted inevitable physical setbacks and cultural challenges. All the while, he entertained a steady stream of visiting friends and relatives, including his former wife. The Town’s colorful characters welcomed the American stranger as one of their own, and he soon found himself reveling in the beauty of the rugged countryside, the authentic joy of the holidays, the conviviality of the pubs, and the hearty flavor of the simple food.
“Multiple sclerosis doesn’t steal away our futures; it steals what we thought and expected to await us in our futures,” says Gleason in his introduction. “My bright flash of the obvious was that my ‘retirement years’ weren’t going to find me seventy years old, in a canoe, fishing in some pond in Vermont. MS had already stolen much of my control of my left side, attacked my vision, and even—showing the true bastard of itself—taken away elements of my sense of taste on a number of occasions. If I was to enjoy any of the things I’d hoped to be doing in my far advanced years after a career, I would have to start identifying what those dreams were and create a plan to make them happen.”
Chef Trevis L. Gleason has been an award-winning culinarian, consultant, and instructor as well as a decorated member of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Goodwill Ambassador to Ukraine. Retired from a distinguished culinary career, Gleason has taken on the challenges of living with secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis since his diagnosis in 2001. He is an ambassador for the National MS Society, an active volunteer for Multiple Sclerosis Ireland and the MS Society of the UK, and speaks to groups, both large and small, about living life fully with or without a chronic illness. Gleason divides his time between Seattle, Washington and County Kerry, Ireland with his wife, Caryn, and their two Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, Sadie and Maggie. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
I could see past the herd, where there was a short line of four or five cars following at parade pace. My guess is that it wasn’t unlike driving behind horses in a parade, when it came to dodging the landmines they were known to drop in the road. I could only surmise that this was either a) commonplace for the drivers, if they were locals or b) quite the memorable experience if they were tourists.
A few of them must have been on tour, for I could also see cameras sticking out a few windows. I was expecting my experience to be a bit more thrilling as I was to be overtaken by the beasts. I had no idea, however, how thrilling and potentially expensive my half of the encounter would prove.
Smiles of the passing herders were replaced by shock on the face of Your Man at the back of the bunch. After about one third of the flock passed by a parting of the White Sea, one of the lazy buggers decided that going around the obstacle to progress that I had become was a waste of his time and/or energy. Up onto the hood—bonnet, in Ireland—of the car jumped the sheep who couldn’t be bothered to go around. Countless of his fellow pilgrims followed suit. In due course the dogs decided that their charges shouldn’t be taking the skate-ball bag as a ramp. Three of them mounted the car to escort those already in transit from off the bonnet, roof, and boot. One stayed on the bonnet to deter others as his comrades retook chase of their woolly wards.
Stunned beyond words and well into my ability to form a thought beyond “I wish Sadie had been here,” I rolled down my window to greet the man ushering the last of the ewes past.
“Jea-sus, I’m sorry!” said Your Man. “Is it a hired car?” as if anyone in their right mind would buy a car of such poor breeding.
“Aye,” I fumbled out. “Does that happen often?” I was still gob-smacked by the episode.
“No, usually with the ewes,” he replied. He stopped and leaned in my window, smelling very much of musky lanolin from that lack of distance. “But there are a few young rams me da is moving to market. Are ye stayin’ near here? We’ll buff those marks and Dan Dooley’ll never know what happened.” That was the name of the omnipresent Irish rental care agency that I had not used.
“I’m staying in The Town for the winter and don’t have to return the car for about a week,” I said, finally finding my words.
“That’s our house back there,” he said, pointing to the last farmhouse I’d passed. “Bring her by and we’ll clean it up for ye.”
In Exile on Kalamazoo Street ($12.95, 160 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-235-1), a novel by Michael Loyd Gray, a heavy-drinking author decides that the only way to get his life back on track is to stop drinking. To do so, he spends an entire Michigan winter without leaving the house. As a result the world comes to him in ways he never could have imagined.
“Exile on Kalamazoo Street is filled with truths large and small. That, and Gray’s dialogue, descriptions, and the opinions he attributes to Bryce make the book delightful. Unlike the typical alcoholic memoir (‘How I overcame terrific odds to overcome my drinking’), this novel is a fascinating fictional account of one man’s experience of internal exile. I was willing to believe every word of it.” Read more ….
—Wally Wood, BookPleasures.com
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“Together, his isolated moments and his human interaction through a variety of encounters:—religious, personal, professional and artistic in nature—all offer a perspective on Bryce Carter that reveal the different shades of the protagonist to us. But perhaps Gray’s Exile on Kalamazoo Street in truth echoes in literature form the genius of theatre and opera to use a single stage to tell a rich and diverse story at the heart of which is the human character or characters. Exile on Kalamazoo Street is one of those stories that comes along every once in a while. These are stories that have a pleasant feel to them, and yet the feeling of warm satisfaction they provide cannot be expressed in words.” Read more….
—Paul Risker, Pop Matters
“Gray is one of only a handful of current writers who share a strong male voice, telling their tales through mouths of men who, despite being flawed, ugly or even unlikeable, never pander to the reader for the sake of a metaphorical group hug.”
—Ned Randle, author of Baxter’s Friends and the poetry collection, Running at Night
Michael Loyd Gray is the author of four published novels. His most recent novel (August 2013), The Canary, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is the winner of the 2005 Alligator Juniper Fiction Prize and the 2005 Writers Place Award for Fiction. Well Deserved won the 2008 Sol Books Prose Series Prize. For more information, click here.
Bryce Carter was once a novelist with a following. But unlike James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is genius to millions, Bryce’s experimental novel Reflections was genius to maybe three people. After walking away from his teaching job, Bryce was headed on a one-way collision course down Whiskey River, with only one path to survival: sobriety. And for him, giving up drinking meant exiling himself from his former life.
Now Bryce is holed up in his house on Kalamazoo Street along with his cat, Black Kitty, also a refugee from the cold, snowy world outside. The terms of his self-imposed exile make him dependent on his sister and a sitting duck for anyone who cares to drop by, including an officious minister, an old drinking buddy, an alluring former student, and a pair of Hollywood flunkies who offer Bryce a chance to rescue Reflections from obscurity—if only he can write the screenplay. Unfortunately Bryce’s well of creativity has dried up along with his will to drink, and the more time he spends in exile, the less inclined he is to dip a toe into the icy waters of reality.
Says Gray, “At the beginning of a snowy winter in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I heard The Mamas and The Papas singing ‘California Dreamin’ ’ on an oldies rock station. The line that stuck in my head was, ‘California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.’ That song, that line, would play in my head as I looked out the windows at the snow, and soon I began to think of winter as an exile of sorts. Exile might make for a good story, I thought, but what kind of exile? After a few days I began to imagine the life of someone who exiles himself in his house all winter to stop drinking.”
Keep reading for an excerpt:
My sister came back on another day after I called and urged her to try and catch the cat again. I’d seen it loitering around the house across the street all morning, sometimes just sitting stoically on the porch steps, where it could feel the few meager rays of sunshine as the sun, very shy, slipped in and out of clouds. The cat seemed uninterested in much of anything at all and appeared unmoved when my sister pulled up and walked slowly toward it with strips of meat from a chicken breast. She placed the morsels on the ground in a spot where there was no snow and retreated a few yards. The cat picked up the scent of the meat and started toward it, but halted, remembering, perhaps, that the choice was between food and the potential of undesirable human contact. But it quickly concluded, I suspected, that there was no choice at all. It chose food—immediate survival—and devoured the meat.
When the cat was done, my sister, who kept cats of her own and understood the timing involved, immediately scooped the cat up with both hands. It twisted and flailed but she had a good grip. Tucking the dark bundle of fur against her side, a bit like a halfback tucking the football securely, she skipped across the street and handed the cat to me while I stood in the open side door of my house. Then she pulled the blue knit cap off her head, as though catching the cat required a victory lap in the form of freeing her long blond hair to tumble out and cascade over her shoulders, strands dancing provocatively in the breeze. Her blue eyes sparkled. She was just two years younger than me, with fifty threatening to soon appear on her horizon, but still she retained girlishness, lightness, in her broad face.
I cradled the cat against my chest with both hands as it squirmed and tried to claw me. But my grip was solid and it could not move much. I looked up and out the door at my sister, who grinned as I struggled to contain the hissing cat. And because again it was not one of the days to drop off supplies, she coaxed her grin into a smile and nodded what I felt was approval of our cat kidnapping. Giving a thumbs up with one hand, she trudged down the driveway to her car. She drove away and only then did I realize how cold the air sweeping in through the door was. Using my elbow, I managed to pull the door closed. I carried the cat up the stairs to the kitchen and released it, laughing as it hit the kitchen floor with all four feet a blur. It slipped on the linoleum and hit a wall before disappearing around a corner. I did not see it again for three hours.
Stars and Flowers: Informative Talks with Celebrities about Plants ($22.95, 508 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-242-9), by Evelyn Klahre Anderson, is a collection of interviews that took place in the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s with famous people from many different professions and walks of life.
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“A great read for any gardener or nature lover.” Read more ….
–Sue Scholz, Erie Times-News
Evelyn Klahre Anderson grew up in the company of nature. At a young age, she received gifts of small field guides of wildflowers and birds from her parents, who introduced her to the species growing in their flower garden and Victory garden, as well as those spotted on their many field trips and outings together. In those early years, she and her young friends enjoyed playing with some of the wild plants that they found growing nearby.
In 1975, Evelyn began writing feature articles for the Erie Weekender. In September, 1984, she started a nature column, “Nature’s Way,” for the Erie Morning News, which branched out into the Erie Times-News and ran for twenty-eight years. During those years, she had articles printed in many other publications.
In 1978, Evelyn began interviewing celebrities on the lecture circuit in Erie and nearby Chautauqua, New York, asking them for their personal memories and thoughts relating to plants, flowers, and the out-of-doors. These celebrities included a vast cross-section of American people of interest: Broadway stars, scientists, astronauts, even presidents and first ladies. The result, Stars and Flowers, is a delightful treasury of humorous and fascinating anecdotes and homey insights from the gracious stars whose names and faces dominated the media in the 1980s and ’90s.
While in the area, many of these celebrities, especially those with expertise in horticulture, mentioned in particular the plants and flowers they encountered while visiting the area, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Chautauqua and Salamanca, New York.
For more information, go to www.evelynkanderson.com.
Says the author, “In the late 1970s, when it became possible for me to join reporters at press conferences, it seemed only natural to begin asking the celebrities about plants and flowers. But what a shock it must have been for them to find themselves facing a tape recorder and being expected to respond to questions that had nothing to do with their profession. Amazingly, even though they were totally unprepared and already had much to do that day and much more to do that night, they were gracious.”
Keep reading for an excerpt:
I told the pilot—at least, I presumed he was the pilot—why I wanted to see John Denver, and said that perhaps he, too, could tell me something about plants or flowers. He smiled and said, “I just sent my wife a bouquet of roses, so she knows I still love her.”
What happened next, happened so fast I can’t be sure, but the door opened and, as it did, three men—possibly four—breezed through the door, across the room, and out the opposite door. In a split second, they were gone. So, too, was the man who had been in the room with me.
I jumped up and ran after them. As I paused in front of the nose of the plane I could see men starting to get in the on the left side. John Denver was off to my right, ready to get in on that side. They all froze when they saw me. Quickly, I explained why I was there, and held up my tape recorder, so I could catch John Denver’s answer.
He answered: “So, I love plants. My home is full of plants. I always have plants with me on stage whenever I perform. I just like having that little touch of the earth there.”
What about when you were a boy? Did you grow up in the out-of-doors?
“My father was a farmer, so I was raised on a farm. And so I got a little bit closer to the earth, I think, through my experiences with them—the family. But I always loved being outdoors when I was a kid. I prefer being out in the country as opposed to the city. I love to be out in mountains, especially and—”
Just then, the engine roared, and the rest of his words were drowned out.
“That is where my home is now,” he repeated. By then, he was turning, ready to climb into the plane.
Do you know the wildflowers?
“Yes, I know all of them,” he said as he started to climb in.
What’s your favorite?
“I think the columbine, the Colorado columbine,” he called down to me.
“Okay,” he said and added something else, but the engine drowned him out. Then they taxied and took off.
Hush Now, Don’t Explain ($14.95, 300 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-201-6) is a work of literary fiction by Dennis Must. A white orphan and two mixed race friends set out from Ohio on a trip to New Orleans, in search of their roots and their destinies.
“Steeped in the strains of postwar jazz and the lonely sound of train whistles in the night, this is a gritty, evocative novel of identity, race, and a particularly American kind of yearning.”
—The Library Journal
Hush Now has earned Dennis the 2014 Dactyl Foundation Award for literary fiction. Read more. It was also a finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.
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“Hush Now, Don’t Explain is an extraordinary book. Jazz devotee Dennis Must creates an incredibly rich, original, sensual world that reads like a combination of Walt Whitman, jazz improvisation, and the wail of locomotives in the night. The coming of age story of a young woman named Honor, an orphan searching for her roots, and a biracial, fatherless boy named Billy trying to find his tune, Hush Now, Don’t Explain fuses the themes of identity, parentage, sexuality, race, and longing into a haunting refrain that lingers on, long after the last page is turned.”
—Paulette Alden, author of The Answer to Your Question, Feeding the Eagles, and Crossing the Moon.
“Hush Now, Don’t Explain is a compelling novel about the quest of an unlikely trio, Honor, Augustus and Billy, and the longing for identity that shapes their lives. Set in late 1940’s America this book sings with jazz as it examines gender stereotypes, race, ambition, and violence. Dennis Must writes with lyrical intensity. He has crafted an evocative, resonate tale in rich, vivid detail. Hush Now, Don’t Explain is a beautifully written book.”
—Suzanne Frischkorn,author of Girl on a Bridge and Lit Windowpane
“Dennis Must’s Hush Now, Don’t Explain—a lyrical, impassioned, Biblically-inflected road novel dealing with the adventures of three outcast runaways—goes Barry Gifford’s Wild At Heart one better. Charged with true American grittiness, pathos, and glory, and at times veering dangerously close to total despair, Must’s masterpiece lights up the dark sky of contemporary literature like a Fourth of July fireworks display.”
—Andrew Wilson, author of The Luzhang Bridges, Across the Bridge of Straw & Fog, and Osai’s Razor.
“Hush Now, Don’t Explain is a gorgeous novel told in a gentle voice and bearing witness to the true art possible from the pure American language. I have not read such a fine novel—controlled and wild at the same time—in a long while.” Read more ….
—Jack Remick, poet and author of several books, including Gabriela and The Widow
Honor, an orphan, finds her way to the Victorian boarding house where she thinks her mother might have birthed her. World War II has just ended, which alerted many Americans to the world beyond, but Honor and Billy’s lives are limited to the dead-end town of DeForest Junction, Ohio, and its nearby notcherie, where exotic wemen sell their bodies to the rail men. Alongside her mixed-race “cousin” Billy, Honor grows to womanhood, cared for by Miss Alsada and enchanted by the colorful stories of the shanty store owner, Mr. Augustus Willard, who claims to have traveled far and wide.
One day, an itinerant blues musician shows up at the boardinghouse, electrifying Billy with his skill at the upright piano. He departs just as quickly, leaving behind hints that he might be Billy’s father. Soon after Buster Stanley’s departure, men in white hoods burn a cross in the field behind the boardinghouse and torch a number of shacks occupied by black families. Honor and Billy decide to leave DeForest Junction—a feat they accomplish with the help of Mr. Willard, whose shanty store was burned. With Honor disguised as a boy for safety’s sake, the three friends ride the rails southward, their ultimate destination: New Orleans. Billy is on the trail of Buster Stanley, but Honor is on an intense quest for Honor. How will she escape that fate of those wemen, waiting for a man to fill up the void in her life?
Says Must, “Honor’s story is inspired by my own. As a young boy I spent summers in a boarding house at a railroad junction on the outskirts of town in Ohio. It was run by a distant aunt who had three daughters similar in age to me. The ‘cousins’ and I, seldom interacting with any adults, passed care-free days, fishing for sunnies, smoking, and inventing stories often inspired by the forlorn cry of locomotives transporting passengers to places we could only imagine. Then, from our attic bed one August midnight we witnessed fiery crosses illuminate a field across the road as angry figures in white sheets and conical hats gathered in a circle. It was the night our childhood perished.”
Dennis Must is the author of two short story collections: Oh, Don’t Ask Why, Red Hen Press (2007), and Banjo Grease, Creative Arts Book Company, Berkeley, CA (2000). His first novel, The World’s Smallest Bible, was published by Red Hen Press in March of 2014. His plays have been performed Off Off Broadway, and his fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary reviews. Dennis and his wife Aviva live in Massachusetts. Click here to visit him online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Just then we heard a salvo of drumbeats and high-pitched coronets from outside. We followed Mr. Willard out the door and saw what looked like a parade. But nobody was standing on the side of DeForest Road watching, except us. The procession appeared to originate up at the Pillar of Fire Tabernacle’s steps. Sunday mornings from our porch, Billy and I watched all white folk arrive mostly by cars to worship.
“Used never to be no tambourine and speakin’ in tongues church around here except the black folks’ Baptist church out on the highway,” Billy said.
Women in crisp white cotton dresses with purple sashes toted ecclesiastical banners at its head. A brass band, kids our age attired in white pants and dress shirts and wearing purple berets, marched stiffly behind. Soot-pocked men wearing red bandanas and snare drums strapped to their chests closed the formation.
The solemn music oddly foreshadowed the automobiles of revelers that would shortly come barreling down DeForest Road toward the tracks.
“What they playing?” I asked.
“A hymn, ‘Nearer My God to Thee’,” Mr. Willard responded as he stepped back into the shadow of his doorway.
As the fair-skinned procession moved closer, I could see that the women color guard all wore lace-ups with heels like Miss Alsada’s. They lifted their legs high in time to the muffled drumbeat. Their heels popped on the macadam like paper caps.
“Look,” Billy said. He pointed to one of the drummers. “Oscar Jakes in his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes.” He, like every other member, kept his eyes unwaveringly focused on the road ahead. Each wore a serious mien. “Some of our neighbors alongside him,” Billy whispered. “They work in the roundhouse.”
Still, not one person came out on a porch or waited by the side of the road.
When the column got within several feet of Mr. Willard’s store, the music ceased. Only then did we see the lone bass drum on a set of wheels. A heavyset man in a white and red velvet sash commenced a solemn, steady beat.
Boom … Boom … Boom … Boom ….
A port-wine stain on his right temple pulsed with each strike.
None of the procession moved. Visibly night began to eclipse the dusk. Heavy shadows swelled across DeForest Road as the ecclesiastical cloths seemed to glow phosphorescent.
Ominously the color guard pivoted their staffs toward Mr. Willard’s shanty … then held them fast until the band struck up the hymn once again. The satin flags bordered in gold fringe bore no lettering.
One of the women blew a silver whistle, and the parade resumed marching toward the tracks.
Mr. Willard was nearly hidden inside the inky pocket of his shanty store.
Billy and I didn’t know what to make of what we had just witnessed. I turned to our old friend for an answer.
“See that drum man?”
“He steal your heart when his no longer beats. Beware.”
At the crossing the white ecclesiastical silks pitched moonlike toward the house of joy.
Mr. Willard pulled the Dr. Pepper sign over the doorway. “Time to close,” he said.
“Outsiders,” Miss Alsada let loose across the supper table when Billy described what we’d seen. “A big storm’s brewing, rising up from the south,” she warned. “They serenaded the call house ladies, too.”
Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb ($18.95, 406 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-231-3), a work of literary fiction by Ian Woollen, takes place in the latter half of the 20th century, when Cold War paranoia led just about every American family of means to build a bomb shelter in the backyard.
Shorted-listed for the Balcones Prize.
Mary weds Ward Jr., heir to the well-to-do Wangerts of Indianapolis, and together they raise three sons. As they negotiate a rocky path through the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, they take turns spinning a nighttime yarn inspired by the idea: what if Anton Chekhov wrote a story about the atomic bomb?
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“This is the Great American Cold War novel. This is a novel of spies and journalists. This is a novel of failures and attempted successes; this is a novel of love and despair and, moreover, this is a novel about family…. Whether it’s the early adventures on Great Tusk Island, the daily work day of He Who Remains Classified, the school years spent at Rokeby School, or the decline of Indianapolis, Woollen keeps the reader occupied but in a way that doesn’t make it seem like he’s fooling or delaying you. They are stories within stories constructed like a finely crafted Matryoshka doll set…. Woollen is able to weave history and fiction in a way that transcends genre. This isn’t a historical fiction novel, it’s not a romance novel, and it’s not even a spy thriller. It’s all of the above and at the same time, none of them. It’s a saga, a personal one stuck in the middle of something bigger…. This is craftsmanship at its finest. This passive thriller, this lengthy epic, may not be for everyone. And that’s fine. But for those readers interested in diving head first into the deepest rabbit holes of our own history, this is one you just can’t miss.” Read more….
—Nick Sweeney for the Atticus Review
“As I expected, this is a delightful novel, with an eccentric but heartwarming cast of characters you cannot help but like …. The characters are warm and compelling, funny and easy to relate to as they struggle with finding their places in family and in the world at large, and Woollen tells their stories with wisdom, compassion and insight …. Recommended for readers who love Americana, humor, quirky ensembles, and an engaging family saga.” Read more ….
“A thoroughly readable narrative …. What makes Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb work is the way it balances the family’s normalcy and the heightened circumstances. That includes the three sons’ diverging paths as each finds a partner, sees his relationship with their parents change, and becomes a generational archetype while remaining a memorable character. This is a unique work, and one that remains interesting all the way through the reveal of its Chekhovian secrets.” Read more ….
—Jeff Fleischer, ForeWord Magazine
“Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb is a book to be read somewhat slowly (or read it twice). Woollen includes a lot of small details, little musings, quick humorous bites that add so much but require careful reading.” Read more ….
–Catherine Ramsdell, Pop Matters
“Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb is smart, mildly ironic, and self-consciously funny. The plot sails along at a clipper’s pace. And there’s a lot to chomp on from our temporal distance: topics ranging from family dynamics, gender roles, government reach, to sexuality.” Read more ….
Click here to read an interview with Ian Woollen
“In the grand tradition of Hoosier authors Theodore Dreiser and Booth Tarkington, Ian Woollen’s Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb weaves its compelling narrative in personal, romantic, and historical threads from The Cold War to the present day, linking housewives and counter-spies, disgruntled fathers and rebellious sons, creating an indelible American tapestry.”
—Dan Wakefield, author of Going all the Way and New York in the Fifties
“An absorbing, touching, wise, often funny novel. Woollen is a master at writing about families, people’s vulnerabilities, and about mortality itself.”
—James Alexander Thom, author of Follow the River and St. Patrick’s Battalion.
“Famously, Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby concludes that his was a story of the ‘West.’ Ian Woollen, in his grand generational novel Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb, writes another classic ‘Western’ now with reversed polarity. This is a Chekhovian book as well—vivid, epiphanic, rich with secrets intimates keep from each other and then reveal in stunning dramatic fashions. There is a gun too, high caliber, and it goes off. Boy, does it go off with a teeth-rattling BOOM.”
—Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Four for a Quarter
“Here again with great verve and admirable nerve is the wily Ian Woollen with a wild and curious saga, told as Vonnegut might have, with the strange shadow of a weapon over the carnival of years. Disco, acid fog, prep school, white gloves, and my favorite sentence: ‘How do you think Anthony would feel to know that his father is the Devil’s Spymaster?’ ”
—Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies and Return to Oakpine
Spring, 1951. The Cold War. Two fresh college graduates renew a childhood acquaintance on a long train ride home to Indianapolis. Embers ignite. Mary Grace Stark is about to embark on her first State Department posting in Moscow. Ward Wangert III reluctantly returns to his family business, after turning down a job offer from He Who Remains Classified, a powerful friend at the C.I.A. A few months later, while supervising a bomb shelter project, Ward receives an emergency summons from Moscow. He travels behind the Iron Curtain to rescue Mary from a diplomatic debacle. The couple decides to wed, even though Mary won’t say who fathered her unborn child.
Ward and Mary produce two more sons and struggle to maintain their standing in the deteriorating rust-belt city of Indianapolis. Their family saga, which spans the latter half of the American Century, is a tragicomic mix of upper-crust romance, sibling warfare, boarding school drama, and C.I.A. skullduggery.
Says Woollen, “In 1989 I was driving home from work, turned on the radio and heard the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Hit by an inexplicably large wave of emotion, I pulled over. Suddenly it was visible—the insidious Cold War TENSION that pervaded American life for so long that it blurred into normalcy. I began to think about a novel that would capture the charged interweave of big-stage influences with a local, day-to-day family drama.”
Ian Woollen was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shipped off to boarding school at age fourteen, he eventually graduated from Yale University and Christian Theological Seminary. A checkered job history includes house painter, furniture stripper, script reader, psychotherapist. His first novel, Stakeout on Millennium Drive, won the 2006 Best Book of Indiana Fiction Award. His short fiction has surfaced in a variety of journals, including The Massachusetts Review, Juked, decomP, The Smokelong Quarterly, and The Mid-American Review, from which he received a Sherwood Anderson Prize. Click here to find Ian online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
As live-ins with a night-terror baby that even old Meemo couldn’t soothe, Mary felt compelled to participate as much as she could in the household maintenance. Tuesday was silver-polishing day. Wednesday was dusting. Thursday meant the crystal and windows. The main house dated from 1870. Everything was elaborately wallpapered. The wing additions came later. All of it with a baffling internal symmetry, due to separate stairwells, entrances, sleeping quarters, and facilities for the servants. Mary occasionally found herself lost in the wrong stairwell or hallway.
“Miss Mary, you could leave a trail of breadcrumbs,” Meemo suggested.
Meemo instructed Mary on baking K-bars and negotiating other domestic idiosyncrasies, such as how to execute the imperceptibly small faucet turns to adjust water temperature in the claw-foot bathtubs, and which of the thick, swollen doors required shoulder-shoves to open. Mary could not bring herself to tinkle the little porcelain bell on the dinner table to summon Meemo for the next course, despite Constance’s assurances that this was how it was done.
Meemo was the only servant in residence now. She oversaw a small day staff. They were kept busy preparing for the next big Wangert Public Relations party, or cleaning up from the last one.
The house, which loomed above the street from a small rise at the front of a double lot, was surrounded by meticulously trimmed yew hedges. A pea gravel path from the side screen porch meandered to the new bomb shelter, located among the walnut trees along the back alley. At first glance, the bomb shelter appeared to be a square, flagstone patio, carved out of the walnut grove. Flush to the ground at the south edge of the patio, a steel covering, somewhat like an old-fashioned cellar door, opened upward to reveal a marble stairwell. As Ward predicted, the bomb shelter served primarily as a wine cellar. One design flaw was the failure to anticipate the effect of walnuts falling from great heights onto the steel door, creating noise not unlike an artillery barrage.
Constance and Ward Sr. patriotically championed the new bomb shelter. Their parties commenced with guests strolling back into the walnut grove for cocktails and guided tours of the four richly appointed subterranean rooms.
Mary convinced Constance to implement some updating of other Wangert party traditions. They no longer separated the men and women after dinner. Young Ward Jr., white towel on his shoulder, personally indulged his bartending interest, shaking martinis and mixing drinks to order. Another innovation, thanks to Mary, was targeting invitations to select members of certain industries, such as real-estate and construction, rather than a random crop of prominent citizens.
However, Constance held to the traditional format of name card place settings and equal pairings of male and female dinner partners. Mary’s first attempt to invite Rusalka Jones failed because her husband was out of town and Constance did not have a bachelor gentleman available to seat with her.