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Posts tagged ‘review’

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

 

Review of DEATH IN THE FACE: “The Last Man Standing”

May 18, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Review by Marvin Minkler: @MarvinMinklerModernFirstEditions

Death in the Face

“Quite alone, yet somehow quite happy, Hector drove on through the sweet-smelling autumn rain, back to his home and family.”

This one true sentence, from the ending of the newly finished novel, Death in the Face, by Craig McDonald, an Edgar and Anthony Awards Finalist, brought to a close my nine-novel journey through the mid-20th Century world, with Hector Lassiter, the man who “writes what he lives and lives what he writes.”

Death in the Face takes place in 1963 and finds Hector at 62 years of age. He is starting to feel that the modern world is passing him by and that he might be slowing down a step or two. He has lost some dear friends and lovers, and, at night, he is haunted by realistic dreams and visions of his life’s love, Brinke Devlin. Brinke’s tragic death still tears at him.

Hector is invited to come along with his old and slowly dying friend, British author, and former spy, Ian Fleming, to the land of the rising sun. Ian is finding late success with his bestselling James Bond series of novels, which have just begun to be made into movies, starring Sean Connery.

Long ago, just after World War II, Ian and Hector, who were intelligence agents at the time, had tried to get their hands on a deadly biological weapon, developed by the Japanese, that could spell doom for whatever country it was used on. While in Japan this time, Ian is determined to find it again, and Hector is along for the ride, with the hope of recovering some previously unknown writings by Brinke Devlin, which are also supposedly there.

As usual with a Hector Lassiter novel, there is plenty of action, deadly villains, a fetchingly beautiful spy, with her eye and gun on Hector, James Bond-type gadgets, intrigue, twists and turns, sexy romps, tragedy, loss, and many reflective moments where the sheer poetry of Craig McDonald’s writing stops the reader in their tracks. There are places where a passage is so moving that it must be read all over again.

I admit to feeling a bit sad about finishing my last Hector Lassiter novel. The books have taken me on a journey all the way from Paris in the 1920s, to Key West in the 30s, Germany and France during World War II, 1950s clashes with the Cleveland mob, assassins in the South-west, and Hollywood, Nashville, and finally Hawaii.

I have met historical characters that have come to life fully fleshed, due to the author’s genuine depiction and understanding of them. Ernest and Mary Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, Orson Wells, Eliot Ness, Robert Shaw, Yukio Mishima, Mitsuharu Kaneko, Lester Dent, Rod Serling, and George W. and Prescott Bush, and many more.

Thanks, Craig McDonald, for these wonderfully entertaining and deeply felt novels. I feel Hector Lassiter is the best on-going character ever created in fiction. Truly the last man standing. There is not enough praise that I can give you for your mighty creation and your masterful writing.

Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions, May 2017

The full Hector Lassiter Series is available to buy on Amazon here

A new review of Craig McDonald’s “The Running Kind”

April 20, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

The Running Kind reviewed by Marvin Minkler of Modern First Editions

No happy ending ever started in a bar.

After the tumultuous events that took place on the world’s stage during World War II, and after, in the last Hector Lassiter novel I read, and my ninth, Roll The Credits, expectations were a bit lower as I began The Running Kind. Mistake on my part.

Hector was in a Youngstown, Ohio hotel bar during the December 1950 blizzard, reuniting with his dear, old Irish cop friend, Jimmy Hanrahan. While sharing drinks and war stories, they are suddenly interrupted by a young hysterical girl, who pulls at Hector’s sleeve, pleading: “Please, mister, my mommy needs help.”
Never hesitant, off Hector and Jimmy go, guns and fists at the ready.

After a violent confrontation with some thugs in the bathroom of the hotel and outside, the men rescue the girl’s mother, who is the wife of a Ohio mobster chieftain, and the mistress of the mobster, who Hector notices right away, resembles Veronica Lake. The girls are on the run, trying to find a way to testify against the mob boss, at the Televised Hearings on the Mafia, being held by Senator Kefauver.

Never to shy away from a dangerous and deadly challenge, especially when outnumbered, Hector and Jimmy commit to helping them get to Dayton to testify. Off they go with mobsters, hit men, crooked cops, hired thugs, and FBI agents, joining the cross-country chase through the blizzard, culminating in events that will alter Lassiter’s life forever. Alter in a way that he never would have imagined. One hell-of-a way for the original running kind to celebrate turning 50.

One of the things I so enjoy about reading the Hector Lassiter series, is the way novelist Craig McDonald introduces historical and cultural figures who play roles in the different books, through different eras. In The Running Kind one of the people who help Hector out of a deadly jam, is Doc Savage’s writer, Lester Dent. A young writer, Rod Serling sits with Hector in a bar outside the Antioch campus, and tells Hector of his idea for a new dark anthology series he is writing for television.

Untouchables hero, and now down on his luck, Eliot Ness, puts down the bottle, and picks up a gun to give Hector and Jimmy much-needed help. Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner make an appearance late in the novel, bringing a message from Sam “Momo” Giancana, that will lead Hector back to Cleveland, for revenge, and a terrific climax.

There is also a subtle undercurrent of loss and regret throughout The Running Kind. For Hector, at three am in the morning, it will always be the dark-haired beauty, and fellow writer, Brinke Devlin, his life’s greatest love. Like Hector, she was a running kind, and her memory will run through his thoughts forever.

I have been asked on more than one occasion, which Hector Lassiter novel I liked the best. It is safe to say that it has always been the last one I read.

An unmissable book at an unbeatable price

August 9, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

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Bring New York on holidays with you with this August promotion of Richard Kalich‘s Central Park West Trilogy : it’s only £0.99 on Amazon UK until the end of the month!

***

– So we are going to do this like a courtroom drama, or an interrogation?

– Yes. We are. We are indeed.

– Why?

– Because most of the book is done in that style.

–  I see. Was the book impressive?

– Yes, very impressive. Mr. Kalich is a great writer.

– And he appears in the book too?

– Yes, if it really is him, if you know what I mean…you can call the book postmodern, or that he uses meta-narratives or…RK on his terrace with view-page-001

– That all sounds a bit confusing.

– In theory yes, but it’s a very entertaining book. Says a lot about writing. And the creative process. It’s playful, but not flippant. We’re dealing with a serious artist here.

– Oh, really?

***

Read the full review of Penthouse F, one of the novels in Central Park West Trilogy, on Colin O’Sullivan’s blog.

***

Cover image and art © Bernard Piga

If you haven’t read Richard Kalich yet, this should convince you to start

September 10, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

An American Master *****

Richard Kalich is an American novelist who creates brilliant and accomplished works of fiction that deal with themes of cruelty and obsession . Although Kalich’s work is informed by the earlier works of the European avant garde, his exploration of the current era is as American and up-to-date as the latest episode of the Kardashian’s. The three novels, gathered in one volume by Betimes Books, are each unique, enthralling, and spiked with dark humor. Together they illustrate Kalich’s scope and power as novelist and cultural interpreter.

Acknowledged to be Kalich’s Masterpiece, ‘The Nihilesthete’, is told in linear style and the form is that of a conventional novel. The story concerns the twisted power games of Haberman, a long time social worker who once had creative ambitions. When Haberman meets the spectacularly handicapped Brodski, a welfare recipient who has no arms and no legs and can only communicate in cat language, he becomes obsessed with gaining control of the helpless young man.

‘Penthouse F’ is an exercise in meta-fiction that should be read as a companion piece to ‘The Nihilesthete.’ Blocked author, Richard Kalich, is accused of encouraging a young couple to commit suicide. During an interrogation we learn that Kalich, like Haberman, is an ex-social worker with a penchant for sadistic games. The line between reality and fiction is blurred and the reader is allowed to draw his own conclusions.

‘Charlie P’ is an outlandish and absurd tale that is told with humor and playfulness. Charlie is a deeply alienated man who lives in a dream world and deliberately refuses to distinguish fantasy from reality. The reader enters Charlie’s mind and experiences his misadventures while slowly realizing that Charlie is not so different from the rest of us.

This review is for Central Park West Trilogy: The Nihilesthete, Penthouse F, Charlie :

http://www.amazon.com/review/R3QGEHJ4547GUS/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00MWY2XWK&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=133140011&store=digital-text

Review of Richard Kalich’s Penthouse F

March 7, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Colin O’Sullivan about PENTHOUSE-F by Richard Kalich

Colin O' Sullivan

– So we are going to do this like a courtroom drama, or an interrogation?

– Yes. We are. We are indeed.

– Why?

– Because most of the book is done in that style.

–  I see. Was the book impressive?

– Yes, very impressive. Mr. Kalich is a great writer.

– And he appears in the book too?

– Yes, if it really is him, if you know what I mean…you can call the book postmodern, or that he uses meta-narratives or…

– That all sounds a bit confusing.

– In theory yes, but it’s a very entertaining book. Says a lot about writing. And the creative process. It’s playful, but not flippant. We’re dealing with a serious artist here.

– Oh, really?

– “He’s an idiot. So disconnected . . . conflicted . . . torn apart.”

– What?

– Just joking. That’s actually a quote from the book. He often sidesteps you like that. Reminds you of…

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Colin O’Sullivan’s review of THE NIHILESTHETE by Richard Kalich

February 4, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Colin O' Sullivan

Review of The Nihilesthete, by Richard Kalich (Betimes Books)

When social-worker Haberman finds a limbless wheelchair-bound man observing a street artist, it’s as if all his birthdays have come at once. He can now set about the task that he may always have been destined for, to take this unfortunate victim under his monstrous wing and systematically abuse him (mentally and spiritually) until he is somehow sated.

 

Why does he do this? What unfortunate events in his past have compelled him to carry out such atrocities? Wrong question. It’s like asking how Winnie got buried in sand in Beckett’s “Happy Days”: the fact is that she just happens to be buried in sand; the fact is that Haberman just happens to be this way, like Simenon’s Frank Friedermaier in Dirty Snow perhaps, bad to the bone. Those looking for easy armchair-psychology rationalizations have come to the wrong anti-hero.

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A review of “The Great Pretender”, book 4 in the “wildly ambitious series about Hector Lassiter”

December 19, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

http://blog.vincekeenan.com/2014/12/books-recent-reading-roundup.html

The Great Pretender, by Craig McDonald. I’ve been a fan of McDonald’s sprawling, wildly ambitious series about Hector Lassiter, the two-fisted novelist who trucks with twentieth century luminaries, from the outset. Pretender finds Hector in pursuit of the Spear of Destiny, last seen in Hellboy and Constantine, and tangling with Nazis, witches and, most contentious of all, Orson Welles. McDonald cagily splits up the action, with Welles in full enfant terrible mode in the first half of the book – much of the story unfolds on the night of the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938 – while the second takes place in the late 1940s as the filmmaker’s star is already burning out. Another entire Lassiter novel, Roll the Credits, slots in between, and I’ll be tackling that one soon enough.

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Publisher’s Weekly praises Craig McDonald’s new novel FOREVER’S JUST PRETEND!

October 7, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Publishers Weekly on FOREVER’S JUST PRETEND: “Entertaining…a must read for series fans and a solid introduction for new readers.”
http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-9926552-9-7

Electronic Book Review about Charlie P (CENTRAL PARK WEST TRILOGY)

September 11, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

About Charlie P, one of the novels in CENTRAL PARK WEST TRILOGY by Richard Kalich:

“There is little that resembles a plot, nor is there the kinds of tensions elicited by the more ‘conventional’ novel. Yet there is still a world, consistent in its inconsistency, and in that world a life, however unlived. In effect, Charlie P simultaneously asks how little is too little, and how much is too much, to create a coherent, believable narrative.

Charlie P is a carefully wrought novel with a deft sense of humor and a strong awareness of its place in literary discourse. With each answer it prompts new questions; with each added detail, it destabilizes certainty. For all that, readers must have temerity, curiosity and the ability to build on constantly shifting ground – or a willingness to subject themselves to the elements of the indeterminate and the multiple.

Though it is widely agreed that Emerson was right when claiming that ‘a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,’ the thoughtful and creative manipulation of a sustained consistency can be a challenge to the vastest and deepest of intellects. Richard Kalich is able to effect this type of consistency throughout the whole of Charlie P, an accomplishment to be admired.” – Christopher Leise, Electronic Book Review

KalichCOVER CPWx2700

“Hogan’s adept storytelling makes us ponder our spiritual essence.”

September 8, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

About THE LAST ISLAND in a Greek American newspaper The Greek Star:

http://www.thegreekstar.com/index.php/art-literature/item/2455-book-review-the-last-island

Novel Explores Themes of Redemption, Escape, Love, Our Flawed Nature

Playwright David Hogan offers an intriguing novel, “The Last Island,” based on a fictional Greek island in the Sporades. The Bostonian who lived in Athens for many years and has spent much time on the island of Skopelos, examines the human condition, our flawed nature, and more.

There, he witnessed the island change from a traditional fishing society into a modern, tourist-based economy.

“I wanted to capture something of that transition, what was lost, what was gained and the effect it had on the people, the animals, the island itself.”

“During that time, I was alternately mystified, amused, excited, frustrated, and delighted, as I would have been anywhere else, but in Greece, I think, those emotions were heightened.  I can remember moments when I was swimming in the Aegean at sunset or standing on a mountaintop at dawn where the history and urgency and majesty of the place would course through me. At times, I can still feel it.”

Hogan’s protagonist – unnamed throughout the story – is any of us, an everyman struggling with regrets, searching for meaning, asking himself, ‘now what?’

“He’s as flawed as any of us. Perhaps the one thing that sets him apart is the level of his self-awareness when he recognizes who he is and what he’s capable of.  This understanding comes to him abruptly and confrontationally. Most of us will never experience such a defining moment, but that’s one of many reasons to read novels.”

The protagonist flees his everyday life as a Boston fireman and heads to a Greek island. His grandmother was Greek, and he learned some of the language as a child. He seeks refuge there, where no one knows him, no one knows he can understand some language; he’s just another person. It’s the perfect place to get lost – to lose his former self and begin anew. But redemption is not so easy.

He finds work at a taverna. Immersed in island culture, he meets a mysterious stranger, named Kerryn, who teaches him much about life, getting back to basics, and also about protecting the environment.

Kerryn, like Hogan, is an environmentalist. She’s shedding all her possessions in an attempt to get back to a simple, more natural life, where man and nature live in complete harmony.

“She hasn’t found an answer yet, hasn’t quite found a new way of being, but she’s searching. I’d like to believe we all are.”

She befriends a dolphin, and risks her life to make sure the waters remain wildlife-friendly. Their growing friendship pulls him into her quest to save the island from losing its old ways, and ultimately, helping the dolphins.

Two unlikely beings, shedding their own pasts teach each other about life, love, and human nature. One has previously crossed ethical lines, while another does it currently. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What if the end justifies the means? Is man more important than nature? Are the new ways better than the old? Have we made life too complicated, and if yes, can we return to simpler ways and times? Do we know what we are really capable of? Hogan’s adept storytelling makes us ponder our spiritual essence, and to reflect on who we are, where we have been and where we are going – and how things so different can really be so much alike.

“The Last Island” is a contemporary fiction bestseller at Amazon UK, reached Number 1 at Amazon Australia, and was a finalist for the San Diego Book Award. Hogan has recently completed a stage play and is currently working on a new novel.

How to fail (at) fiction and influence everybody: review of one of the novels from Central Park West Trilogy

September 6, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

“This is a book that will throw you back into an energetic relationship with the process of reading fiction”. –Christopher Leise about Richard Kalich

Read more: http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/fictionspresent/moist

 

KalichCOVER CPWx2700

Review of PENTHOUSE F (CENTRAL PARK WEST TRILOGY)

September 4, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

About one of the novels in CENTRAL PARK WEST TRILOGY: “An important book that dismantles the reader, leaving you in fragmented bits and pieces like the barbed clips that make up the novel’s structure.”

Read more: http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/watcher-manipulator/

The Rap Sheet competition: Forever’s Just Pretend

August 27, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

“While no overt historical personages haunt the pages of Forever’s Just Pretend, the crimes that drive the plot are based on a real cycle of murders and arsons that rocked 1920s America.

Now, here’s a challenge to all you Lassiter series readers: the first three people who can correctly identify the inspiration for the “Key West Clubber” killings in Forever’s Just Pretend will be rewarded with signed and numbered copies of the now über-rare, limited-edition hardcover version of Toros & Torsos, complete with the “booking sheet” for yours truly and a personalized fingerprint. Submit your answer in an e-mail note to jpwrites@wordcuts.org. And please be sure to write “Key West Clubber Contest” in the subject line. We’ll let you know when we have our three winners.”

More info: http://therapsheet.blogspot.ie/2014/08/the-story-behind-story-forevers-just.html

“Sharp”, “hilarious”, “observant”, “entertaining”: SILK, of course!

August 13, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

“The writing is sharp and humorous. Mallon is a very observant author and her heroine Kat negotiates her way through a world it’s clear her creator knows a lot about. In particular the passages in Italy made me feel as if I were there myself, without having to get on the plane to go there.”

Jackie Mallon’s novel SILK FOR THE FEED DOGS reviewed by a debut novelist Susan Lanigan on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1024602443

The Last Island: “an unforgettable experience”…

August 8, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

A new review of David Hogan’s beautiful novel:” The Last Island delivers smoothly an unforgettable experience you won’t get anywhere else.” Full review here: http://thereaderandthechef.blogspot.ie/2014/08/book-review-last-island-by-david-hogan.html?m=1

Raven Crime Reads about Kevin Stevens’ novel REACH THE SHINING RIVER

August 5, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

“Not only a solid murder mystery, but equally a colourful and thought-provoking study of a moment in time. With the rhythm and cadence of the prose, echoing the blues soundtrack that underscored the whole book, Stevens easily achieved that balance between crime fiction and literary fiction due to his exceptional characterisation and engaging prose.” Full review here: http://ravencrimereads.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/kevin-stevens-reach-the-shining-river-extract-and-review/

Book Review: Killarney Blues by Colin O’Sullivan

July 29, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Thoughtful and beautiful review of KILLARNEY BLUES

Love, Sex & Other Dirty Words

The sun on the lake sparkles. Only a laden, dark cloud in the distance has the audacity to ruin the perfect picture. Bernard has one eye on it, knows how things loom, how those clouds can hover, then open and pour, drench, saturate. But not yet. There’s a few more hours of this brightness, and he’s intent on enjoying it.

He’s very happy to be sitting out in it with this pretty American by his side: Laura. Laura from Texas. Blue-eyed. Bouncy. Beautiful. They both sit on the edge of the main pier and stare out at the lake, the sound of gentle lapping under their feet. It’s almost idyllic. So many scenes like this can be found in spots all over Killarney. Some famous, well-trodden places. Some hidden treasures that await discovery.

This is just one of the frequented runs, but yes, it is, for the most part, an…

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Crime writer Sheila Bugler about Sam Hawken’s novel LA FRONTERA

June 13, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

La Frontera is a heart-breaking novel of corruption, broken dreams and the indominatable power of the human spirit.
Set in the harsh, desert landscape of the borderland between Texas and Mexico, the novel is, at its heart, an exploration of the socio-economic conditions that force millions of people to enter the US illegally in search of a better life.
We follow the story of three characters: Texas Ranger, Ana Torres spends her days patrolling the border in an attempt to stop people coming through illegally; Luis Gonzalez lives on the Mexican side of the border and offers help and advice to those poor souls trying to get across to the other side; and Marisola Herrara from El Salvador, who has spent her life dreaming of a way out of the deadening poverty of the small mountain village where she lives.
With exquisite skill, Hawken brings us deep into the life of each of these deeply sympathetic characters. He makes us care about them first. Then, alongside each one, we endure the horror that is commonplace for those living close la frontera and those trying to break across it into the US.
Hawken is a great writer and this novel sits alongside the best of American literary fiction. Possibly because of the CWA shortlisting, Hawken is sometimes classed as a ‘crime writer’. Yes, there is crime here, but the novel is far more than that. It is a scathing exploration of poverty, corruption and the terrible violence so commonplace in this beautiful, desperate part of the world.
I adored this novel and am in awe of Hawken’s power as a writer.

La Frontera Review – Raven Crime Reads

May 9, 2014

The Author

Following in the tradition of his first two novels, The Dead Women of Juarez and Tequilla Sunset, Hawken brings another glorious and affecting Mexico influenced novel with La Frontera. Cleverly intertwining three distinct and separate stories, Hawken manages to encompass the essential ills of South American and Mexican life, showing the desperation of those keen to enter America in the search of a better life, those that feed financially on this desperation, and the forces of law and order who seek to thwart their foolhardy attempts at escape.

I can say with no compunction whatsoever that this book was so perfectly constructed that all three strands stood both singly and together as intensely powerful and accomplished pieces of writing. So often in split narrative books there is a story that does not hold the same level of interest in the reader, but Hawken so neatly side-steps this due to his vibrant and empathetic characterisation.

I felt that I really saw beneath the skin of all three protagonists, who all to some degree have their morality and sense of purpose severely tested and questioned as the story develops. Ana is a representative of the law, tracking border crossers, marking the locations of the sinister rape-trees, negotiating with landholders who have little time or sympathy for the border crossers, and proving her strength as a woman in an incredibly male-dominated environment.

Luis is an ex-coyote, now dedicated to providing the essential supplies for potential border crossers, but who quickly discovers that his former life is not so easy to shrug off, which brings him into contact with Marisol, making her way from El Salvador and the inherent dangers this encompasses to get to Mexico on the the brink of reaching the promised land- America. Luis and Marisol’s stories in particular are truly touching, as Hawken affords the right level of sympathy and empathy with both, whatever the rights and wrongs of their actions, previously or now. I was absolutely rooting for Marisol, who shows such a strength and dignity as the story progresses in her single-minded determination to reach her goal, and those she protects along the way, mirrored in the actions of Luis.

I must confess that having read both of Hawken’s previous books, I was not expecting any deviation from the accomplished and gripping style that permeates his writing. I was quite right in this assumption, as La Frontera merely strengthens my admiration for his writing with its perfect rendition of not only location, but the sustained and probing characterisation that underscores a compelling plot. Excellent.

Source:

http://ravencrimereads.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/down-mexico-way-sam-hawken-la-fronterachristopher-irvin-federales/