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Posts tagged ‘literary novel’

October treat: Amazon UK promotion for Colin O’Sullivan’s novel “The Dark Manual”

October 1, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

During the whole month of October, readers in the UK & Ireland can buy The Dark Manual here for £0.99!

This is, of course, a Kindle edition. Print edition is also available on Amazon, the Book Depository (free delivery worldwide), etc.

Or maybe you prefer to watch it on TV? It’s coming, but it will take a bit of time, so why not discovering the novel now?

More about The Dark Manual here

Meet the author: Colin O’Sullivan

 

More praise for “The Dark Manual”

September 11, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Review published on Book Nudge / Book Noir, August 31, 2018.

The Dark Manual defies easy categorisation; it’s a literary novel, a very desperate tale of love and loss, a noir thriller, of real and imaginary threats and a sci-fi speculation (which could be read as prescient future gazing). O’Sullivan has carved himself a distinct niche in the blackly comic noir world. The Dark Manual proves that he is as comfortable writing about Japan, the place where he has lived for many years, as he was writing about his native Ireland in his earlier novel Killarney Blues. The Dark Manual is a mature rounded work, assured and confident, at times lyrical and beautiful but also punchy and sharp. Susie Sakamoto’s bleak world is painful and depressing but compelling and honest. Yet this isn’t a hard read, it’s engaging, inventive and thought-provoking.

So The Dark Manual takes us into the world of Susie Sakamoto, an Irish woman trapped in a nightmare since the disappearance of her husband and son, Masa and Zen, in a terrible plane crash at sea. Susie is alone in her grief, except for the homebot, Sonny.

“Her deep despair. Her piteous and addle-egged mind….Gravity pinning her right down. Gravity seems so much heavier these days; her bones, now leaden and so hard to move. She is rooted. Rooted to this spot. So firmly, so horribly stuck.”

The description of Susie’s home life is so stark and brutal, it could be an interior scene from Blade Runner 2049. As Susie sprawls on the couch unable to relieve the torpor she is irritated by the hoover, is it just a symptom of her malaise or something more insidious? Her life is managed by the homebots, particularly Sonny, model SH.XL8. Susie can cook, she can clean, she used to be able to manage her life, but now the machines do all the work. Even though she doesn’t want to acknowledge their presence they become one of her only means of discourse. Sonny is male, he responds to commands, but is there a touch of sarcasm in his answers, an independence, is he manipulating her life? Is Sonny arguing with her? For the reader the exchanges with the homebot are witty, for Susie they are both necessary, invasive and disturbing. Did she ask the health information monitor to tell her, her weight, to suggest a revision in her diet?

Susie is adrift after the death of her family, mired in grief and not coping. She was a confident woman working for an online news outlet compiling a column: “a foreigner’s interpretation of Japan”, which was translated from English to Japanese by machine and checked, but rarely corrected, by a sub-editor. She’s not ready to return to work and fills the void with bars and booze with her friend, Mixxy. Are her problems with the robots in her head, are these computers a benign or malignant force. What is The Dark Manual, and what did her husband have to do with it?

There are so many facets to this novel, subtleties to the story, but I have want to concentrate on three major themes. Grief – this is a study of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, suffering the profound grief of losing her loved ones (grief the devouring monster). It’s grief in an alien environment, or perhaps more accurately, the realisation that any environment becomes alien when grief strikes. Susie’s grief is all she is left with in the world where she has so little real contact to other humans, where everything is done for her by machines but nothing fills the void. Artificial intelligence – the fear of a future in which we may not be in charge, think of a more intellectual Humans (the Channel 4 series). It’s deja vu, the re-emergence of Frankenstein’s monster, except this time there is a genuine concern that the machines will outstrip us. Will we be consumed, altered, rendered helpless by machines? Truth and memory – was Masa the man she thought he was? We all want to believe we know the people who are close to us but do we really know others? What if the human impetus for the robot programmes is not benign? O’Sullivan has an understanding of the power of words, their placing, their specific meaning, that reminded me a little of Bernard MacLaverty’s use of language to conjure images in Cal. This bleak, but also witty novel is a philosophical musing on what we are and how we respond to life; grief, the future, a world inhabited by AI. The dystopian future has been the staple of sci-fi (1984, Brave New World). This is a modern novel that reflects the current malaise and modern preoccupations. As a thriller this is a page turner, a really intriguing read.

The publisher, Betimes Books, is about to announce a major film deal for the The Dark Manual, which will be one to keep an eye out for. [SOON!!!]

If you like The Dark Manual I would thoroughly recommend O’Sullivan’s earlier novel Killarney Blues, an unconventional crime novel of small town living in Killarney – everyone seems to be in a funk. Bernard Dunphy loves American Blues but he’s troubled by his father’s suicide. The sins of the past always have ramifications in the present. A sudden violent act has an impact on Bernard and the young people of the town. Killarney Blues is engrossing, witty, depressing and uplifting. Winner of the Prix Mystère de la critique 2018.

Paul Burke

The Dark Manual by Colin O’Sullivan
Betimes Books 9780993433177, May 2018

Original review here: https://nudge-book.com/blog/2018/08/the-dark-manual-by-colin-osullivan/

Donald Finnaeus Mayo about women’s fiction, spycops and divided societies (Interview, Part II)

June 22, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

KOB: Both of your novels are driven by strong female characters. Would you consider your work to be “Women’s Fiction” and if so, how do you feel your position as a male novelist impacts your female-centric writing?

DFM: I have noticed that women seem to respond well to my work, which I’m happy about because they buy far more books than men. However, I’m not sure about this notion of “Women’s Fiction”. There seems to be this idea in publishing that men write bang-bang-shoot-em-ups, while women pick apart dysfunctional relationships over the kitchen table with a large glass of red wine. Publishers like to categorise books into genres, I guess it makes it easier for them to target the audience they think they’re after, but so far as I’m concerned there’s only good fiction and bad fiction. I don’t really mind whether it’s packaged as crime, romance or a thriller, if it’s well written and captures my imagination I’ll read it, if it doesn’t I won’t. I think one of the most important traits you need as a writer of fiction is the ability to see the world from someone else’s point of view, whether that’s a politically engaged Irish woman, a Timorese teenager or a corrupt ageing Indonesian army officer. It’s the only way, in my view, you can create convincing characters that readers will relate to and care about.

      

Click on the covers for more information about the books

KOB: The recent Lush cosmetics campaign against Spycops has brought the issue tackled in The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal to light. Decades after these incidents took place, do you believe justice can eventually come from the public enquiry?

DFM: To me the Spycops scandal offers a perfect example of what can happen when a group of people in a position of power who aren’t publicly accountable to anyone for their actions lose sight of what they are there for in the first place. For those who aren’t familiar with the background, what happened was that in the 1970s a group was set up within the Metropolitan Police to infiltrate political organisations that were deemed a threat to society, and in doing so gain intelligence about their activities, plans and intentions. For obvious reasons no one knew about this group, and it didn’t seem to be answerable to anyone outside the Met. There was never any proper debate about what constituted a threat to society, or how far this group could go in order to counter it. As it turned out, the targets were typically peace campaigners, animal rights or environmental activists and other groups the government of the time didn’t particularly like, but who were engaged in legitimate political protest. Even if they did occasionally cross the line of the law, by comparison to the type of terrorism we see today, their activities were benign, almost charmingly quaint. We’re talking about people breaking into a laboratory and releasing a few rabbits destined for experiments, or tearing down some barbed wire outside a missile base, not some fanatic walking into a crowded concert hall and blowing up a hundred people. What has always staggered me about the Spycops scandal is how much effort, resources and moral compromise went into these deceptions when the stakes were so low and the threats to society so trivial. Over the years undercover officers infiltrated these groups and entered into intimate relationships with female members of them, sometimes going to far as to have children with them. At weekends they might go back to their real families; then there would come a time when they would be recalled and simply disappear from the lives of the women they had betrayed, leaving them to wonder what had happened. The collateral damage to the women and their families was mind-boggling, and no one in a position of power wanted to know or do anything about it.

The campaign to bring justice to these women seems to be pretty well organised and it’s certainly very determined. The Guardian newspaper has done and continues to do an excellent job keeping the story in the public eye, so I think despite all their prevaricating there’s a good chance the British Government will eventually be shamed into owning up and paying compensation where they haven’t already. Whether that constitutes justice or not is another question, as the real damage was done years ago and can’t be undone.  There was no excuse for it in what’s meant to be an accountable democracy, and it was an absolute disgrace it was ever allowed to happen. What I was interested in pressing in The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal is whether it is ever possible to justify engaging in that level of deception, when the stakes are much higher, when innocent lives really are at risk, and what happens when you decide they are and go down that road.

KOB: Both Francesca and The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal are focused on divided societies. What draws you to explore stories of such societal division?

DFM: The divisions in society, both in Europe and America, are becoming more extreme each year, and it’s something I find very worrying. It’s one of the biggest issues we are currently facing, and in my view is behind a lot of the political turmoil we have experienced, such as Brexit and the election of Trump. History tells us that whenever societies start to experience severe inequalities on the scale we are currently seeing, when people feel they have lost a stake in their society and have nothing to lose by overturning it, it generally ends badly all round. Just ask the French or the Russian aristocracy. Can we achieve a more just society through peaceful means as opposed to violent ones? I’d like to think so, but right now I’m not overly optimistic.

The other thing about divided societies is that people often end up in situations they could never have imagined in a more stable, peaceful environment. I have always been fascinated in what happens when people are pushed to extremes, how moral lines can become blurred, how they will do things and behave in ways that would have astonished and horrified them but a short time ago. How does a football mad kid who likes collecting stickers become a soldier capable of murdering innocent civilians, and what was the process that paved the way for that to happen? It’s only by exploring these threads and understanding them that we have a chance of preventing the worst aspects of our history repeating itself. You only have to look at some of the appalling things people did to each other during the Northern Ireland troubles to realise we are deluding ourselves if we think we are too civilized or sophisticated to go down that road. Bosnia was the same. These things weren’t done by animals, they were done by people like us. That’s the frightening thing about it. We can go down that road any time we choose. The camps are closer than we think. If fiction can wave a red flag and alert us to some of the dangers, then in my view it’s serving a useful purpose.

KOB: While both novels explore divided societies, they also both examine issues of family and human connection. Would you say that this is a major preoccupation of your writing?

DFM: For most people their families – and that concept can be understood in the loosest sense – constitute the arena where they engage in their most intimate relationships, where they feel free to reveal the innermost parts of themselves. And that is certainly a rewarding seam for a writer to mine, so to speak. I am fascinated by our human connections, which interestingly enough is a theme that Forster grapples with in Howard’s End. As a writer, your topic is the human condition and how that plays itself out. Connections are an inescapable part of that. Fiction is all about conflict and collision, whether it’s between world views and wills of the characters involved, or people and their external circumstances. If there is no conflict there is no drama, if there is no drama there is nothing to keep the reader with you. So, yes, I would say that’s a fairly major preoccupation of mine.

For adepts of serious summer reading:

Francesca is available on Amazon and Book Depository

The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal is available on Amazon and Book Depository

 

Donald Finnaeus Mayo about journalism, modern history and inspiration (Interview, Part I)

June 20, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Kelly O’Brien: Both of your novels, Francesca and The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal are set in the 1970s and 1980s, is this period of time significant to you? What interests you in the writing of historical fiction?

Donald Finnaeus Mayo: Most decades have something interesting to offer, and if you have lived through them your recollections will obviously be coloured by your own experiences. Though to hear the 1970s and 1980s described as historical fiction makes me feel very old! I tend to be drawn to subjects or events as opposed to specific decades, but I also think you sometimes need a bit of time to elapse before you can gain a proper perspective of an era. If you’re too close to an event you can end up writing reportage rather than fiction. I remember a slew of novels about 9/11 came out a few years after the twin towers came down, and people didn’t seem ready for them. They had already digested all the documentary coverage they could take, and it begged the question as to what fiction could add. It takes me a long time to percolate ideas and work out what I really think. Possibly there’s an element of nostalgia to it as well. In writing about an era I get the chance to immerse myself back in it; what music people were listening to, what was happening in the world, what they were wearing, what they feared and where their hopes lay, recreating that world for people who weren’t there or may have forgotten what it was like. Right now I’m writing a novel about the impact of the 2008 financial crash on a small town in the American South.

KOB: Francesca follows the story of a young woman in East Timor during the Indonesian invasion of 1975, a moment of history that is potentially not very well-known, is this what inspired you to tell Francesca’s story?

DFM: It was more personal than that. My father worked in the oil business, and I spent a number of years as a child living in Indonesian Borneo. This period coincided with the invasion of East Timor, which ended up costing the lives of almost a third of that country’s population. Cocooned in our expat bubble, we were completely oblivious to what was happening. That was deliberate – journalists, human rights activists and anyone else who might cause trouble were kept well away from the place by the Indonesian government. With no social media, mobile phones or internet, it was possible for a military dictatorship to effectively shut a region off from the outside world in a way that seems inconceivable today. Western powers such as the United States and Australia, who did know what was going on despite what they may have said publicly to the contrary, were happy to sit by and let Suharto’s troops embark upon this genocide because he represented a bulwark against communism, which they were terrified of spreading throughout South East Asia. Saigon had only recently fallen, and there were worries revolutions could be sparked off through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and beyond. So poor old East Timor, who had never threatened anyone, was forgotten and left to suffer. It was only many years later, when I was working as a volunteer for Amnesty International in London, that I started coming across all these cases of human rights abuses from the region. When I examined them more closely, I was shocked to discover this mass murder had been taking place just a few hundred miles from our tennis courts and swimming pools. No one talked about it, no one wanted to upset the cosy relationship between the Suharto regime and the western oil companies. The genesis of the novel lay in the idea of what would happen if these parallel worlds jumped off their rails and collided.

KOB: You have worked previously as a radio journalist for the BBC. Do you bring any of your journalistic skills or knowledge to your fiction writing?

DFM: I’ve always been interested in politics, and in newsrooms you’re surrounded by people who live and breathe it, so you get some great conversations going with bright, witty, well-informed people. They are fairly cynical environments, and there’s a lot of cut-and-thrust between the reporters, peppered with a fair amount of black humour. It’s no place for shrinking violets. Journalism taught me discipline when it came to writing. You need to check your facts, and you need to get your point across quickly. A radio news story might be less than 100 words, so you have to make sure each one counts. On the other hand, it can be quite restrictive in what is deemed important and worthy of coverage. What’s not reported is often as significant as what is. You can end up thinking the entire human experience amounts to plane crashes, political clashes, sport and celebrity intrigue. Journalism is also very workaday and practical. There isn’t any of the mystique of the tortured writer struggling to come to grips with the essence of life as there is with fiction. Complain to a news editor you’re suffering from writer’s block and he or she will inform you the deadline’s less than an hour away and politely suggest you just get on with it. You learn very quickly to push through the barriers when the muse has taken the morning off. That helped me a lot when I was trying to juggle novel-writing with looking after young children.

KOB: You begin The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal with a quote by E.M. Forster. Was Forster a particular influence on the narrative of the novel?

DFM: Not especially, other than the quote, which came from one of Forster’s essays rather than his novels but seemed to sum up the essence of The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal. I read a lot of Forster as a teenager, but haven’t really returned to him much since they made all those Merchant Ivory films of his books. I suppose the main thing I have taken from Forster is his emphasis on creating three-dimensional characters, which is something I have always tried to do in my work. I don’t believe in goodies and baddies per se, even one of the most odious characters in Francesca, Benny Surikano, is partially redeemed by the love he has for his son. I suppose one of the most interesting things about Forster as a person is his struggle to live a double life as a gay man in an era when that could not only destroy your reputation and livelihood, but land you up in prison. You just need to think of what happened to Alan Turing to appreciate just how repressed certain aspects of people’s lives had to be for their very survival. Having made one of the most spectacular contributions to Britain’s effort to defeat the Nazis by cracking the Enigma code, he was subsequently hounded by the police for a gay indiscretion to the point where he committed suicide. How those forces played themselves out in Forster’s fiction is a matter of ongoing debate. I know some literary scholars get very irate when everything he wrote is viewed through this lens – others see it as the only way to understand him properly as an author.

   To be followed on Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Click on the covers for more information about the books

       

Richard Kalich acknowledged as an notable postmodernist author

March 14, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Do you know the difference between Modernism and Postmodernism in literature?

This Pediaa.com article gives a clear definition of each movement and, importantly, mentions Richard Kalich, author of The Nihilesthete, Charlie P., and Penthouse F, published as Central Park West Trilogy by Betimes Books, as one of the notable postmodernist writers, along with “household” names like Nabokov, Eco, Auster, and Vonneghut:

What is Postmodernism

Postmodernism was a reaction against modernism, brought about by the disillusionment followed by the Second world war. Postmodernism is characterized by the deliberate use of earlier styles and conventions, a mixing of different artistic styles and media, and a general distrust of theories. It can be seen as a radical break from modernism when we look at some unique features of postmodernism. Some of these features include,

Irony and parody: Postmodernism works are often characterized by irony and satire. They demonstrate playful, mischievous vibe and a love of satirical humor.Pastiche: Copying ideas and styles from various authors and combining them to make a new style.

Metafiction: Making the readers aware that of the fictional nature of the text they are reading.

Intertextuality: Acknowledging other texts and referring to them in a text.

Faction: Mixing of actual events and fictional events without mentioning what is real and what is fictional.

Paranoia: The distrust in the system and even the distrust of the self.

Some notable writers in postmodernism include  Vladimir Nabokov,  Umberto Eco, John Hawkes,  RICHARD KALICH, Giannina Braschi, Kurt Vonnegut, William Gaddis,  John Barth, Jean Rhys, Donald Barthelme, E.L. Doctorow,  Don DeLillo, Ana Lydia Vega, Jachym Topol and Paul Auster.

Full article here: http://pediaa.com/difference-between-modernism-and-postmodernism-in-literature/

Colin O’Sullivan’s “KILLARNEY BLUES” is on RTL!

January 22, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Colin O’Sullivan‘s novel KILLARNEY BLUES (French translation, Éditions Rivages, Sept. 2017) is on the RTL radio (C’est à lire – To be read)!

“This first Noir novel from Colin O’Sullivan is magnificent, very finely written, and profoundly sad. To be savoured while drinking a Guinness and listening to some old blues, by Muddy Waters or Bessie Smith. And if rain knocks on the window glass, like in Killarney, it’s even better.”

C’est à lire : “Killarney Blues” de Colin O’Sullivan

Bernard Poirette, Journaliste RTL

À Killarney, charmante bourgade irlandaise, Bernard Dunphy passe pour l’idiot du village. Il n’a pas trente ans, s’habille hiver comme été d’un lourd manteau de laine et conduit d’une main sûre sa calèche à touristes tirée par sa vieille jument Ninny.

Bernard a toujours le sourire. Il est légèrement autiste. Ça ne l’empêche pas d’avoir deux passions dans la vie : le blues et… Marian, la sublime Marian, qu’il courtise à sa façon, en lui envoyant des cassettes de ses chanteurs préférés. Bernard, c’est en quelque sorte la face lumineuse de Killarney.

Pour le reste, la petite ville a essentiellement du sombre à offrir. La violence perverse de Jack Moriarty, une brute épaisse, sur les terrains de sport comme dans le lit des filles. Parlons des filles, justement : Mags et Cathy, l’officielle et la maitresse de Jack, qui noient leur temps libre dans des pintes de Guinness en attendant le prince charmant. Qui bien sûr ne viendra pas ; rebuté peut-être par les 250 jours de pluie annuels sur Killarney. Rebuté sans doute aussi par les fantômes qui hantent la petite ville… à commencer par celui de John, volontairement noyé dans le lac et dont les lourds et terribles secrets remontent à la surface, comme des cadavres gonflés. C’est tout cela, l’innocence de Bernard et la laideur du monde alentour qui vont se percuter, l’espace de quelques jours, à Killarney, comté de Kerry.

Ce premier roman noir de Colin O’Sullivan est magnifique, très finement écrit et infiniment triste. A déguster en buvant une Guinness et en écoutant un vieux blues de Muddy Waters ou Bessie Smith. Et si, comme à Killarney, la pluie frappe les vitres au dehors, c’est encore mieux.

Christmas nostalgia : Our authors about the best book gift they have ever received (Part 3)

December 14, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Hadley Colt, author of Permanent Fatal Error and The Red-Handed League

Forget Nancy Drew: Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise was my Christmas-gift light-bulb moment of finding a thriller series with a strong female lead, and inspiring my own heroine-driven novels for Betimes Books.

Colin O’Sullivan, author of Killarney Blues and The Starved Lover Sings

This is a big shout-out to my relatives back in Kerry who spoil me and my family in Japan at every Christmas and on birthdays. One of my favourites was a lovely edition of Possessed of a Past: A John Banville Reader, which my benevolent cousin, Martina, also got signed by the great writer. I’ve been a Banville admirer since first reading The Book of Evidence in 1989, and this anthology is a wonderful volume to occasionally dip into and savour the superb stylings of an Irish prose master.

Sam Hawken, author of La Frontera

Sam HawkenEasily the best book gift I ever received was for Christmas in the mid-‘90s, when my girlfriend at the time gave me a copy of a first edition Ace paperback (1970) of Swords and Deviltry, signed by the late Fritz Leiber himself. What a treasure!

Richard Kalich, author of Central Park West Trilogy

The first US edition of Albert Camus’ The Fall (published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1957) given to me on no particular occasion by my twin brother. He bought it with his gambling winnings…

 

Christmas nostalgia : Our authors about the best book gift they have ever received (Part 1)

December 12, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Jackie Mallon, author of Silk for the Feed Dogs

It was a copy of The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. A certain someone knew I’d appreciate the paperback’s many idiosyncrasies: the title, so goofy and slapstick-sounding, in direct contrast to the elegant Hitchcockian blond stretched out nude on the cover in an image by Erwin Blumenfeld, a fashion photographer of the 40s and 50s. Published in 1958, in the tradition of the Henry James/Edith Wharton ‘American abroad’ stories, it describes the Parisian exploits of a 21-year-old Missouri native, unleashed with reckless abandon on the bistros and champagne bars off the Champs-Élysées. And he was right. What’s not to love?

     Sean Moncrieff, author of The Angel of the Streetlamps

I must have been thirteen or fourteen and I was given a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. I read it during the quiet days between Christmas and the New Year, and it was revelatory. There was no such thing as YA fiction back then, but here was a character not much older than me and who also seemed to feel that there was something ‘wrong’ with the world around them; or with themselves. Or both. I hadn’t known that fiction could do that: and I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since.

Donald Finnaeus Mayo, author of Francesca and The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal

I was given a copy of Bruce Carter’s B Flight as a boy and have since returned to it numerous times and read it to both of my sons. An astonishing story of love and war that resonates with a deceptive simplicity, and a final sentence any author would kill for. A real lost gem well overdue for rediscovery.

David Hogan, author of The Last Island

David HoganMaybe it was because the novels had to do with the decadent and entitled British upper class, which I generally have less interest in than a sloth’s synaptic processes.  Or perhaps it was the author’s name: Could the so-called Edward St. Aubyn be expected to write prose that was any less burdensome?  So I resisted, despite myself, and despite the reviews and awards and the fact that time after time the books were recommended and prominently displayed at my local bookstore.  I was strangely conflicted, however.  I wanted to read them, and talked about reading them, and once or twice perused a page or two, but dared no further until one fine day my wife slapped Never Mind on the kitchen table and said, “Maybe this will finally shut you up.”  It did.  I tore through the other four Patrick Melrose novels in quick succession and wondered what had caused my great resistance in the first place.  I now think it was the ‘St.’ in his name, which seems the height of pretension.

To be continued…

The Success of the French Edition of “Killarney Blues”

November 2, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

“Carried by a genuine writing talent, Killarney Blues is a Noir novel full of melancholy and unfulfilled dreams with a surprising glimmer of hope at the end. Without the slightest naivety. A revelation.”  —Le Soir

“A cathartic novel that ultimately creates positive emotions, like the blues can do. Poignant.” —booknode.com ­­

“A luminous novel that chases away the darkness… All its characters are at a crossroads and they will either meet the Devil himself or find a way towards a new life.” —Appuyez sur la touche lecture

“Moving, tragic, masterly crafted.” —Lea Touch

“In a style that is sometimes luminous, sometimes direct, sometimes poetic, Colin O’Sullivan traces his narrative path, creates incredibly vivid and appealing characters and brings the reader, to the 12-bar beat of the blues, towards a heart-breaking denouement.” —Le blog du Polar de Velda

“O’Sullivan’s beautiful writing transcends a rather banal story and gives it tragic depth.”  —Encore du Noir

“Colin O’Sullivan’s Killarney Blues brings us to a paradoxical Ireland, half-way between mythological timelessness and modernity. …A novel full of deep melancholy and beautiful blues.”   —actualitte.com

“A great, great book.” —unwalkers.com

“A hard, poignant novel of great humanity… remarkably well written…” —Rolling Stone

 

 

 

Review of “Killarney Blues” in Le Soir

October 2, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Voilà à quoi ressemble Killarney à l’aube de ce siècle nouveau. Il y a des bagels. Et c’est le genre d’endroit dans lequel elles viennent prendre un café : un bistrot élégant, bien éclairé, minimaliste, avec des tableaux de bon goût sur les murs, des décorations végétales spectrales en forme de bâtons sur les tables et des fauteuils qui vous aspirent, des fauteuils qui vous vaudront des problèmes de vertèbres à terme mais qui sont paradisiaques le temps de ce bref répit, alors que les sacs de shopping lacèrent atrocement les bras fins. »

Colin O’ Sullivan, inconnu au bataillon avant ce premier roman (on lui doit paraît-il de nombreuses nouvelles et des recueils de poésie), a un ton, un style et un univers. Il n’a par contre pas grand-chose en commun avec les innombrables auteurs de polar et de thriller actuels.

Situé à Killarney, ville irlandaise touristique, son Killarney Blues ne compte que deux flics (en uniforme) venus arrêter un type dans un bar. La scène se passe à la page 231 d’un ouvrage qui en compte 270. Elle se termine à la page 234. C’est dire que l’intrigue policière n’est pas au centre de cet ouvrage qui vous happe pourtant dès les premières pages pour ne plus vous lâcher.

[“This book grabs you at the first page and won’t let you put it down.”]

Car Colin O’ Sullivan fait naître une galerie de personnages d’une formidable justesse auxquels on s’attache instantanément.

[“Colin O’Sullivan creates a gallery of characters so true and real that you get attached to them immediately.”]

Au centre de ce petit monde, on trouve Bernard Dunphy, grand amateur de blues et jarvey de profession. En clair, Bernard promène des touristes dans la ville à bord de sa calèche tirée par la jument Ninny. Bernard est un drôle de type, solitaire, un peu inadapté au monde, puant la sueur et portant toujours un gros manteau noir.

Autour de Bernard, il y a sa mère, dure et forte, qui s’occupe de tout pour son grand fils un peu décalé. Et qui porte en elle le souvenir de son mari, noyé dans le lac tout proche. Il y a aussi la belle Marian, dont Bernard est amoureux depuis toujours et qui semble l’ignorer. Elle passe son temps avec ses deux copines, Mags et Cathy, à faire du shopping, à s’envoyer des vannes et à se murger tous les week-ends dans leurs bars préférés tout en s’inquiétant de n’avoir pas encore trouvé l’homme de leur vie à près de 30 ans.

Un récit choral

Il y a encore Jack Moriarty, que Bernard considère comme son seul pote mais qui ne voit pas tout à fait les choses de cette façon. Jack le séducteur, Jack le joueur de foot gaélique incapable de canaliser sa fureur, Jack qui traîne aussi ses fantômes du passé. Et puis il y a Linda la serveuse qui se mue en chanteuse à la nuit tombée, Laura la touriste américaine et son frère, amateur de blues lui aussi…

Tout un petit monde que l’auteur met en scène et suit entre passé et présent, bondissant de l’un à l’autre, tissant un récit choral où les dialogues se réduisent à la portion congrue au profit d’une écriture qui embrasse tous les aspects de l’intrigue, emporte tout sur son passage, tend la main au lecteur pour l’emporter au cœur de ces vies banales et pourtant porteuses d’une multitude de petits et de grands drames.

Au fil des 270 pages, chacun se découvre petit à petit. Tout ce qui semblait évident dans les premiers chapitres prend de nouvelles couleurs, de nouvelles directions, de nouvelles raisons d’être. Le passé resurgit sans cesse et vient le plus souvent pourrir le présent. Heureusement pour Bernard, il y a le blues. Cette musique qui l’habite littéralement, sa passion pour Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, B.B. King et tant d’autres. Dans une Irlande où les clichés culturels croisent sans cesse un nouveau mode de vie mondialisé, Bernard va petit à petit se révéler, ainsi que tous ceux qui l’entourent. Pour le meilleur ou pour le pire.

Porté par un véritable souffle d’écrivain, Killarney Blues est un roman noir, plein de mélancolie et de rêves inaboutis où surgit malgré tout une étonnante lueur d’espoir. Sans la moindre naïveté. Une révélation.

[“Carried by a genuine writing talent, Killarney Blues is a Noir novel full of melancholy and unfulfilled dreams with a surprising glimmer of hope at the end. Without the slightest naivety. A revelation.”]

Roman noir. Killarney Blues, Colin 0’Sullivan ; Tr. de l’anglais par L. Bouton-Kelly, Rivages, 272 p., 21 €, e-book 14,99 €

http://plus.lesoir.be/116429/article/2017-09-29/killarney-blues-une-lueur-despoir-dans-un-ocean-de-blues

 

Union Club launch for The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal

June 7, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Donald Finnaeus Mayo new novel is available HERE

Donald Finnaeus Mayo

Last night saw the official launch of The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal by Donald Finnaeus Mayo at the Union Club in London’s Greek Street. Family, friends, figures from the world of publishing as well as guests from many walks of life gathered at the event to chat with each other and receive signed copies from the author.

With the horrifying events of the past few weeks events on everyone’s minds, the issues raised in the novel have seldom been more pertinent. How do we effectively counter terrorist atrocities that threatens us all, and to what lengths is the state justified in going in order to protect its citizens?

20170605_191636_1496740879073_resized Donald Finnaeus Mayo signing copies of his latest novel “The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal” at the Union Club in London’s Soho

We’d like to thank everyone who came to the event, and to the Union Club for hosting such a fabulous evening.

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Video extract from “The Starved Lover Sings”

May 25, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

This novel is O’Sullivan’s second, after Killarney Blues, published by Betimes Books in 2013. It takes place in a world transformed by disaster: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, nationalist and corporate mergers, roaming wolves. The Starved Lover Sings is a fever dream of a world at the end of its rope.

Our protagonist, and in many chapters our narrator, is Tombo, a PE teacher and soccer referee.

In this excerpt, our antagonist is one of the two teenage girls, called Ferocity and Velocity, or Tink and Tank, or Weal and Woe, or Tooth and Nail, or Bado and Sado — whatever suits them at the moment — who develop an obsession with Tombo and decide he’s “the one”…

 

New release: “The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal”

May 15, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

The second novel from Donald Finnaeus Mayo, author of Francesca, is an unlikely love story between an undercover intelligence officer and an IRA activist. While the novel is set in the 1980s, its theme has been placed into sharp focus by recent investigations and court cases concerning the controversial practice of  undercover policing.

 

 

 

New release: A wildly original cautionary tale from Colin O’Sullivan

April 18, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

The Starved Lover Sings

Fall under the spell of Colin O’Sullivan’s distinctive narrative voice.

O’Sullivan’s writing is striking.

Admire the at once precise and experimental nature of his prose, its energy and daring.

Enjoy it despite its darkness – and be impressed with it.

 

For bloggers and reviewers: please contact us to receive a free review copy.

Who are “The Painter’s Women”?

March 1, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Fionnuala Brennan’s novel about Francisco de Goya takes the fresh approach of telling the artist’s story through those of the important women in his life. Who were these women, and what was their relationship to the great painter?

'The Milkmaid of Bordeaux', Francisco de Goya

‘The Milkmaid of Bordeaux’

Rosario, Goya’s loyal but conflicted daughter

On the eve of her father’s burial, Rosario keeps vigil by his bedside, spending the hours talking to him before she loses him forever. Affectionately known as “his little ladybird”, Rosario and de Goya had been very close and so, on this night, she is desperate to leave nothing unsaid.

Yet, already distraught by his death, young Rosario also has to cope with being de Goya’s illegitimate daughter, ostracised by the rest of his family. As night turns to day, Rosario’s fear for the future grows more intense. Without her father’s protection, how will she and her mother, Leocadia, survive? Can she trust de Goya’s promises to provide for them despite the antagonism of his legitimate family members?

Feeling guilty for doubting her father’s word, Rosario determines to keep the promise she made to him before his passing. But can she succeed in doing so, in the midst of the chaos that follows de Goya’s death?

“Swear to me that nobody will dictate the art you will make. And when the day comes when you know you are good enough, then use my name. But not until then.”

Gumersinda, the spiteful daughter-in-law

“Opportunist, adulterer, collaborator! I know that one should not speak ill of the dead, but I do not care.”

'Portrait of a Lady with Fan', Francisco de Goya

‘Portrait of a Lady with Fan’ (probably Gumersinda)

Money, respectability and status; for Gumersinda, these are sacrosanct. Her father-in-law, however, appears to defy these values at every opportunity.

Rumours of infidelities with models and rich patrons, of his relationships with servants and his spawning of illegitimate heirs do not appear to ruffle him. Nor does he see the hypocrisy between his political paintings and his political actions. But Gumersinda cares. And she will not stand for de Goya jeopardising her, or her son’s, reputation anymore.

Charcoal drawing 'Gumersinda Goicoechea, de Goya's daughter-in-law', Francisco de Goya

Charcoal drawing ‘Gumersinda Goicoechea’

When she is called away from her comfortable life in Spain to attend to her dying father-in-law, Gumersinda is annoyed with Javier, her husband. He is blind to his father’s faults and has never caught on to Gumersinda’s dislike of the man.

However, seizing the opportunity she has unwittingly been given, Gumersinda resolves to save the dignity of her family before de Goya’s mistress, Leocadia, can cause any more harm.

 

Leocadia, Goya’s frustrated companion and mother of Rosario

Fleeing an unhappy marriage and with a son to support, Leocadia first met the widowed de Goya when she applied to be his housekeeper. Over time, they became lovers and their daughter, Rosario, was born. Due to the scandalous nature of their relationship, neither Leocadia nor Rosario could ever receive recognition as de Goya’s family which left Leocadia feeling like an object of shame, hidden away in de Goya’s house.

'La Leocadia', Francisco de Goya

‘La Leocadia’

“Everybody here knows that I was his wife – in all but name.”

For Leocadia, de Goya has never appreciated the sacrifices she made to be with him nor has he always been kind to her. He directed his passion and energy towards his art and his tenderness to his children and grandchildren, yet for Leocadia, all her efforts led to were loud arguments and stormy exits. Even the memory of his deceased wife, Josefa, loomed like a spectre in their relationship.

But now that de Goya has died, will Leocadia finally receive some token of appreciation from him? Can Leocadia now emerge from the shadows of Goya’s life and earn the respect she deserves?

 

Charcoal drawing of Josefa Bayeu, Francisco de Goya

Charcoal drawing of Josefa Bayeu

Josefa, the long-suffering wife

Confined to her deathbed, Josefa spends her remaining days looking back on her marriage to the fiercely proud and temperamental Goya. Marrying into a respected and well-connected family was of great advantage to Goya, yet for Josefa it produced a string of tragic pregnancies which left her feeling voiceless and alone.

“I was stricken with a sickness of mind and body worse than the plague. There was no hope, no reason for me to go on breathing”

A sympathetic response was all Josefa desired but proved difficult to achieve when having to compete with Goya’s art – and his female models – for his attention.

As she approaches the end of her life, Josefa wishes to make de Goya hear the truth about their marriage, about the ways she suffered.

Can she at last cease vying for Goya’s attention and get the respect she deserves? Yet if there was any love in their marriage, will it fully reveal itself now before it’s too late?

'The White Duchess', Francisco de Goya

‘The White Duchess’

Duchess of Alba, Goya’s fiery patron

Beautiful and intelligent, the Duchess of Alba does not lack confidence in her abilities. When she sets her sights on something – or someone – she normally gets her way. If this makes her endearing to men, it bristles the women she takes them from.

In an effort to rile another woman, the Duchess summons Goya to her home to paint a number of portraits for her. Goya’s arrogant nature vexes the Duchess at first but, to her surprise, she finds herself wanting him nonetheless.

'The Black Duchess' Francisco de Goya

‘The Black Duchess’

“In truth I am fascinated by this uncouth artist. I ask myself why this is so and have to admit that it is simply because he appears so impenetrable, contradictory and, most exasperating of all, unattainable. He has become my challenge.”

Widely revered for her beauty and skilled at the art of seduction, the Duchess feels a certain power over the artist she has employed. But Goya is headstrong too. Will her flirtation with the artist succeed or has she met her match in Goya?

Dolores, a naïve artist’s model who gets a hard lesson in life

'The Clothed Maja', Francisco de Goya

‘The Clothed Maja’

Working as a maid in the Duchess of Alba’s home, Dolores thought she knew exactly how her life would turn out; she would follow the rules, marry a man of her rank and have a family of her own. However, the normal and secure life Dolores foresaw is utterly changed after a strange artist is summoned to paint the Duchess. Intrigued by the young servant, de Goya asks for her to model for him and introduces her to a life Dolores would never have expected.

“I could hardly wait to find out what being a model for an artist meant. I also wondered why there had to be so much secrecy about it. I was soon to find out.”

'The Duchess of Osuna', Francisco de Goya

‘The Duchess of Osuna’

Duchess of Osuna, another aristocratic patron

“María Josefa has a great many talents and gifts. So elegant, so learned, so accomplished.”

As an artist, de Goya relied on the regular and loyal patronage of a number of Spain’s wealthy elite. His status as the Court Painter and his reputation for being one of Spain’s leading painters of the day helped him receive more commissions. Of these many aristocratic patrons, one of the most fervent was the Duchess of Osuna.

As with many of de Goya’s models – and to the detriment of Josefa and Leocadia – rumours swirled as to whether the two enjoyed a strictly business relationship.

Queen María Luisa

The queen of Spain was another of Goya’s patrons and was fond of horse-riding, as seen in her portrait here. According to the Duchess of Alba, Queen María Luisa was suspected of having a relationship with the prime minister, Don Manuel Godoy.

'Queen Maria Luisa On Horseback', Francisco de Goya

‘Queen Maria Luisa On Horseback’

“Despite the torture she endured while Goya painted her, the lump of lard was apparently very pleased with the finished work, and especially with the portrayal of Marcial, a present from Godoy and thus her favourite horse. Her Majesty was also delighted with the progress of another big painting on which Goya was engaged – a group portrait of the entire Royal Family.”

Love and Death: What else is worth writing about?

February 22, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

image5Dearest Followers and Readers,

If you haven’t discovered Patricia Ketola yet, you are missing out on a truly original new voice.

If you are weary of pre-formatted fiction, you simply MUST read Dirty Pictures!

Patricia KETOLA’s flamboyant characters play a delightfully witty game where death and desire are intertwined. Rebellious, stylish and eccentric, like its author, Dirty Pictures weaves emotional depth and moments of pure farce to winning effect.

So, open your mind, read a sample below, and tell us what you think.

We are preparing an interview with Patricia. Questions to the author welcome through our Contact page!

New release: THE DEATH OF TARPONS by Les Edgerton

February 16, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

The Death of Tarpons was first published in 1996 and launched Les Edgerton’s reputation not only as an outstanding narrative talent, but as one of those writers able to break your heart with one sentence. Timeless.

tarponsfront“Edgerton’s first novel shines with wisdom.” —Publishers Weekly, 1996

“Facing his own battle with cancer, Corey John returns to Freeport, Texas, where he spent the summer of 1955 amid the turmoil of his dysfunctional family. Then fourteen, he had wanted nothing more than to go fishing and to please his abusive father. Yet through the tutelage of his loving, cancer-stricken grandfather, Corey crossed over into an adulthood in which he would not mimic his father’s example. Throughout this exceptional first novel, Edgerton uses fishing as an extended metaphor for life. Like a hooked tarpon that first lurks on the bottom before leaping high out of the water, life’s lows are followed by highs, and the successful angler must learn to cope with both extremes.” —Library Journal, 1996

“Edgerton’s later novels have become Noir classics to many, and The Death of Tarpons hints at a moonless childhood that explains the author’s successful literary journeys into darkness.” Jack Getze, Spinetingler Magazine, 2017

betimeslogo3

AVAILABLE HERE:  viewBook.at/Tarpons_Edgerton_pb

Free climbing: excerpt from DIRTY PICTURES

February 8, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Patricia Ketola‘s novel Dirty Pictures is about artistic daredevilry. It is a cultural romp, peopled by musicians, painters and performance artists, and it conceptualizes a world in which the older artistic traditions manage to embrace the younger, more conceptual definitions of art. From stolen Rembrandts, to gypsy jazz, to free-climbing, Dirty Pictures celebrates all forms of self-expression and the will of the artist to, quite literally, take a leap into the unknown.

Below is an extract celebrating the exhilaration and the beauty of free-climbing.

climbing

***

“Willem was in a meeting when we got to the studio, and we decided to wait until he got out. We went in his office and Venessa sat down at his computer: ‘I found a video of the boys on YouTube, but I don’t know if we should show it to Willem.  He’s not too steady on his feet since the head injury, the shock might give him a stroke,’ she brought up a video:  ‘Take a look, Martel, what do you think?’
The video showed Dries and the Viper sneaking into a building site and climbing the skeleton of an unfinished skyscraper.  The building was tall, and when they got to the top they had a superb view that stretched all the way to Siberia. The boys worked in bare feet and without ropes or tools.  The climb had been jaw-droppingly difficult, but when they reached the summit they did not rest on their laurels, instead they began to crawl out on the exposed beams.  Acting in unison they lowered themselves off the beams and into the air.  At first they hung from the beams by both hands like trapeze artists, but then they took one hand off the beam and hung by one arm as their bodies dangled out into empty space. It was a frightening performance, and one that I did not think Willem would be able to tolerate.
‘Let’s just show him the picture,’ I said.
‘Pretty scary, isn’t it?’ Venessa smiled.  She seemed intensely proud of her cousin and his friend.
‘Yes, but it’s also frighteningly beautiful,’ I said.
‘This is real performance art!’ Venessa was enthusiastic. ‘I wish I could write my dissertation on this mode of expression, but those old frumps at school wouldn’t stand for it.’31ccf00800000578-3474598-this_shot_was_captured_looking_out_over_dubai_with_impressive_bu-a-133_1457016292257
Just then Willem walked in followed by his secretary, Irene.  He was giving dictation and she was trailing behind taking notes on an old-fashioned steno pad. Willem stopped dictating and noticed us: ‘Oh, hello you two, what brings you to my lair?’
‘We’ve got a big surprise for you. Wait till you see it!’ Venessa gushed.
‘I hope it’s not another Rembrandt.’ Willem smiled at Venessa and then turned to Irene: ‘Get that typed up and I’ll sign it this afternoon.’
After Irene left Venessa jumped up from the computer and ran to Willem with the print in her hand: ‘Look at this Uncle Willem.  Dries and the Viper have surfaced.  They’re living it up at a nightclub in Moscow.’
Willem took the print and studied it. ‘I wonder who made those T-shirts?’ he mused.  ‘They show a great sense of design and the portrait of Stalin is authentic 1930s propaganda art. It’s a nice piece of work, but I’m surprised the boys are running around with a picture of that tyrant on their chests. ’
‘They’re just kids, Willem. It probably wasn’t a political choice,’ I said.
‘I don’t care a damn about their fucking T-shirts,’ Venessa wailed, ‘look at them, Uncle Willem, they’re with girls, and they’re smiling.  Dries never used to smile.  He always kept a tight lip, and now it looks like he’s happy.’
‘I can see that, Venessa, and I am deeply touched.’

I looked at Venessa: ‘Maybe we should leave, darling.  I’m sure Willem is terribly busy.’
‘Yes, of course,’ she said.  We started for the door.
‘No, stick around. I want to talk to you about Dries,’ Willem said. He sat down at the computer.  The screen was black and he hit a key: ‘I’ll be with you in a minute; I just have to get some dates for Irene.’
Venessa’s face got very pale and she ran towards Willem’s desk, but it was too late. In her haste to show Willem the picture of Dries and the Viper she had forgotten to sign out of YouTube, and now Willem was sitting in front of a video that was labeled Dutch Daredevils Go Wild in Moscow.’

Photo: Max Polatov / Barcroft

‘You weren’t supposed to see that,’ I said.
‘Then why is it on my screen?’  He clicked on the video.
‘It’s up there because you didn’t turn off your computer when you went to the meeting.’  I was trying to deflect the blame from Venessa, but I knew what I said was pretty lame.
‘I’m sorry, Uncle Willem, I just wanted to show the video to Martel,’ Venessa chimed in.  She looked scared and sounded contrite.
Willem paid no attention to our excuses because he was caught up in the action on the screen. When the boys finally climbed back down to safety and were greeted by a gaggle of cops he relaxed:  ‘Is Hendrik around?  I want him to see this.’
‘I’ll call his office,’ I said.  I got Hendrik on the first ring and told him to meet us in the studio.  He said he’d be right down.

urban-climbing

Photo: Maxime Sirugue a.k.a siirvgve †

After I hung up my focus was back on Willem.  ‘What did you think of the climb?’ I asked.
‘I think they’re thrill-seeking morons, but aside from that it was an exciting piece of work.  I didn’t think those two little bastards had it in them.’ He paused for a moment and then said: ‘The cops took them away. Do you think they’re in jail?’
‘I doubt it,’ Venessa said, ‘the photo was posted after the climb. They seem to be celebrating their success.’
‘I hope you’re right because I don’t feel like engaging with a bunch of Moscow cops.  The bribes would be outrageous.’
The door opened and Hendrik walked in.  When he saw his family members gathered around the computer he gave us a wary look: ‘I hope you haven’t called me here to have a conference about my illness.’
Willem smiled, ‘No, Hendrik, it’s much more serious.  Take a look at this video and tell me what you think.’
The video played through again. It was the third time I’d seen it, but it remained eminently fascinating and I couldn’t help but hold my breath when the boys started dangling in space.
‘It’s fucking brilliant,’ Hendrik exclaimed.  ‘I don’t understand how those two puny little shits developed the skills to perform this kind of stunt.’‘They probably trained day and night,’ Venessa said. ‘Also, it helps to be in an environment where your hopes and dreams are encouraged by a peer group of like-minded people.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Willem asked. He was taking her comment as a slight on his parenting.
Venessa backtracked, ‘I just meant he was with people who could give him the skills and support to meet his goals.’31cce7e400000578-3474598-the_boys_seem_unafraid_at_being_suspended_on_a_thin_plank_above_-a-128_1457016278425
‘That’s enough,’ Hendrik commanded, ‘let’s not get off track here.  Willem, what are you going to do about this?  Frankly, I don’t like the idea of Dries and the Viper continuing in this suicidal activity.  They are going to fall to their deaths if they continue.’
‘You don’t know that, Daddy.’ Venessa was really hot on free climbing.  If she liked it so much, maybe she should take a trip to Moscow and get trained in the art.
‘You’re right, shatje, I don’t know, but you have to admit it does seem possible.  Think about it, we don’t want to lose Dries or the Viper.  We have to stop them.’
‘I’m going to Moscow and bring them back,’ Willem said.  He looked at Hendrik: ‘Will you come with me brother?’
‘Of course, Willem, you know I’ve got your back.  Although I do wonder if that’s the right approach.  These kids are flushed with triumph after their great ascent, and I doubt if they’d welcome two middle-aged relatives busting in and trying to bust their balloon.’
‘You may be right,’ Willem said.
‘Maybe Bobby could help,’ I said. ‘I know he has a lot of influence on Dries.  The kid adores him.’
Venessa had been sitting quietly at the corner of Willem’s desk.  She seemed to have taken her father’s words to heart.  I understood her enthusiasm for the art; you had to be a fool not to see the brilliance.  These kids were the ultimate in nihilism, and you could write a whole paper on their existential activities.  Venessa was a scholar and she was taking free climbing from a philosophical point of view, but now that Hendrik had forced her to see that two young lives might be dashed to pieces after a long, hard, fall, she was giving it a different take:
‘I’ll call Bobby,’ she said.”

 

An Excerpt from Charlie P, Book 3 in Central Park West Trilogy by Richard Kalich

August 29, 2016

BetimesBooksNow


Central Park West Trilogy includes three novels, The Nihilesthete, Penthouse F and Charlie P, originally published separately and collected for the first time in a single volume.  Post-modern fables, dark, shocking, perversely funny, wickedly astute, and compulsively readable, they share Kalich’s ferocious energy and unique vision. Together, they break down standard notions of plot, character and form a body of work that is distinctive and brilliant. Central Park West Trilogy encapsulates Kalich’s uncompromising examination of the state of modern life, as well as his experimentations with form and language.

Charlie P (first published 2005) dispenses with a conventional narrative altogether, as we follow the comic misadventures of a singularly unique, comic and outlandish Everyman. At age three, when his father dies, he decides to overcome mortality by becoming immortal: by not living his life, he will live forever. Akin to other great American icons such as Sinclair Lewis’s Babbit and Forrest Gump, Charlie P, while asocial and alienated, is, at the same time, at the heart of the American dream.

“I would rather that the familiar be embraced and the novel resonate beyond itself and intone the spheres of Plato and Beckett. Charlie P resonates.”  Review of Contemporary Fiction


“Immortality

Once and for all, at age three, when Charlie P’s father died after having given him the most special birthday present of his young life, Lionel Electric Trains, Charlie P decided to live forever rather than suffer the indignity of mortality. Under no circumstances would he allow death to interfere with his daily regimen from this time on.

Though still a babe in his mother’s arms, certainly not to be misconstrued a late bloomer, Charlie P had already given the matter much thought; in fact, thought of nothing else. His father’s premature death presaged even more ominous events to come. Living forever, immortality, was indeed the only sure defense against this constant gnawing fear of the worst.

Given the nature of child consciousness, the global, diffuse, undifferentiated way it cognizes the world, its lack of specificity and discernment, it didn’t take Charlie P long to transfer the dread of his father’s loss on to his most prized possession, the electric trains, and especially the little train-master responsible for routing the train’s safe passage.

Charlie P focused all his life’s blood and energy on that little man. More than anything, he wanted the trainmaster to continue doing his job uninterrupted forever. Easier said than done: Immortality. There are less difficult things to accomplish in this world. Charlie P’s main challenge was to keep the trainmaster out of harm’s way. More specifically, to keep the little man sitting safely and securely at his table in the stationmaster’s house, ever on the ready to be called to duty. What would happen if the little man took ill? Succumbed to his father’s fate? What would happen if the battery that energized the light bulb on top of the house’s door whenever the trains approached, signaling the trainmaster to stand and leave his shelter and go about performing his duties, failed to light? Charlie P lived with the chronic fear that just this eventuality would happen. That one day the battery would die.

But how to prevent such a catastrophe? That was the question: Should he obtain an additional set of electric trains? Seek out an as yet unbeknownst elixir of life? Place the little man on a health food diet with vitamin supplements? Discover the secrets of the aging process? Or should he himself control the trains’ speeds, alter their paths, negotiate new routes, take other means of transportation—no, boats, planes, automobiles were subject to the same laws of chance and risk, gravity and motion, as trains; those unfortunates taking them could sink, crash and burn. And even though mourned for a short while after their demise, ultimately, like his father, they would soon be forgotten as the years passed by. No. Charlie P’s answer was not to play the game. By not using up the battery, the trainmaster could go on sitting safely in his house—be at Charlie P’s beck and call forever. By denying himself pleasure now, by abrogating what he most looked forward to while playing with his trains, by not having the little man do his duty, perform his chores, even though it was his favorite moment in all the world, the precursor, causal link and catalyst to his trains riding through peaks and valleys, across bridges and over hills, high on steppes and low beneath mountains, during which, needless to say, everything around them was fraught with danger, subject to the aleatory whims of chance, when the battery sooner or later would run out, when, like his father, the trainmaster sooner or later would succumb to his fate—No. Pleasure and joy, fun and games, intoxication and bliss, were a small price to pay for immortality.

And so Charlie P played the game by not playing it. Bestowed eternal everlasting life on the trainmaster.

Once and for all, at age three, Charlie P decided that by not playing the game, by not living his life, unlike his father, like the trainmaster, he could, he would, live forever.”


The Central Park West Trilogy is part of Amazon.co.uk‘s August promotions and will be available to buy for £0.99 until the start of September. 

RK portrait with view of CPW-page-001.jpg

An Excerpt from Penthouse F, Book 2 in the Central Park West Trilogy by Richard Kalich

August 25, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

Central Park West Trilogy is under promotion at Amazon.co.uk and the e-book will be available for the fantastic price of £0.99 until the end of August. Don’t miss your chance to discover Richard Kalich’s outstanding work practically for free.


056a6d014a626317878a4fa3e4632568“- You noticed Mr. Kalich and the young woman as soon as they entered the women’s area on the second floor.

The sales rep nods his head.

– Why was that?

– A young woman and a mature gentleman always catch my eye. I guess it’s my salesman’s instinct. The old ones always spend more.

– And that’s what happened on this occasion?

– As soon as the young woman asked to try on our white Juliet dress displayed on the cover page of our fall brochure, I knew he was a goner.

– The brochure with the Romeo and Juliet thematic logo?

– That’s the one.

– What do you mean when you say: Mr. Kalich was a goner?

– Actually it was the way both of them looked.

– Both of them?

– Well, when Mr. Kalich first saw the young woman in the white dress, he just stood there as if mesmerized.

– And the young woman?

– She was absolutely beautiful. Radiant. But to be more accurate, she didn’t so much come out of the dressing room as peeked out. Her face flushed as if embarrassed.

– Why was she embarrassed?

– I’ve seen that look before. The young woman’s at that awkward age, half woman, half girl. I would bet anything she was asking herself those questions young girls always ask: Do I belong here? Is this really me? You know–am I a woman or still a girl?

– And Mr. Kalich. Can you elaborate further on how he reacted when seeing the young woman first peek out of the dressing room?

– He immediately purchased the dress. I had the impression no expense would have been too great for him.

– Did you notice anything else about Mr. Kalich and the young girl?

– Well, she gave him a thank you kiss. Just a peck on the cheek, really.

– Was Mr. Kalich disappointed?

– I wouldn’t say that. At least at the time I didn’t think so. But a little later I changed my mind.

– What made you change your mind?

– A customer standing nearby, an elegant lady, made a comment to Mr. Kalich saying: “You have a beautiful daughter.”

– And how did Mr. Kalich react to the elegant lady’s comment: “You have a beautiful daughter?”

– It was an awkward moment to say the least. But somehow he managed a polite smile and thank you. But anyone could see it was a forced smile.

– Did you notice anything else about Mr. Kalich after the elegant lady’s comment?

– Despite my rushing him away from the scene of the crime, so to speak, after paying for the dress he left the store in a huff.

– And the girl?

– She followed after him, poor thing, like a naughty child with her fingers caught in the cookie jar.

– You’re not exaggerating?

– No, not at all. It doesn’t take much more than that to break the spell. That’s why we salesmen have to be constantly on guard against eventualities like that.

Picture09-page-001.jpg– And this time you were not?

– I guess not. The woman caught me offguard. I must have been staring at the young girl as much as Mr. Kalich. As the brochure suggests. Romeo and Juliet. It’s all illusion. Magic, you know. For those few seconds when the girl made her entrance out of the dressing room wearing the white dress, who can say what was in the old man’s mind.

– I take it not like a doting father.

– More like a Romeo who had found his Juliet. 

As if to validate, if only to himself, the sales rep nods his head.”


Central Park West Trilogy includes three novels, The Nihilesthete, Penthouse F and Charlie P, originally published separately and collected for the first time in a single volume.  Post-modern fables, dark, shocking, perversely funny, wickedly astute, and compulsively readable, they share Kalich’s ferocious energy and unique vision. Together, they break down standard notions of plot, character and form a body of work that is distinctive and brilliant. Central Park West Trilogy encapsulates Kalich’s uncompromising examination of the state of modern life, as well as his experimentations with form and language.

Penthouse F (first published 2010) is a cautionary tale that takes the form of an inquiry into the suicide—or murder?—of a young boy and girl in the Manhattan penthouse of a writer named Richard Kalich. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, kindness and cruelty, love and obsession, guilt and responsibility, writer and character, Penthouse F is a critical examination of our increasingly voyeuristic society.

Penthouse F is akin to the best work of Paul Auster in terms of its readability without sacrificing its intelligence of experiment. […] Kalich delivers afresh, relevant, and enticingly readable work of metafiction.”  American Book Review