Books by Craig Nova

Released: June 11, 2013

"Nova is a gifted writer of quotidian violence: car wrecks, suicides, animal poisonings, murder. The macabre steadies his prose. Connoisseurs of this sort of not-quite hard-boiled fiction will find much to admire here."
A complex melodrama, set in Boston, about a third-generation attorney who must come to terms with the tawdry legacy of a manipulative father manipulated by his own father and a willful daughter who falls for the wrong guy. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 11, 2012

"Wildly uneven, by turns cringe-worthy and hilarious, this is an uneventful trip to a worthy destination."
From Nova (The Informer, 2010, etc.), another illustration, painted in noirish tints, that love is all we need. Read full book review >
THE INFORMER by Craig Nova
Released: Feb. 2, 2010

"The author's formidable literary gifts are only occasionally on view in an overly ambitious psychological thriller that provides little persuasive psychology and few thrills."
Chaotic historical mystery from Nova (Cruisers, 2004, etc.), who continues his move toward more heavily plotted work. Read full book review >
CRUISERS by Craig Nova
Released: July 13, 2004

"Like a depressing tale of crime and woe from the evening news but shorn of tabloid extravagance—and with an uncommonly human sensibility."
Cop with relationship problems meets a psychopath computer repairman; differences of opinion ensue. Read full book review >
WETWARE by Craig Nova
Released: Dec. 4, 2001

"Odd and oddly moving, with a strange mix of platonic shadow and human detail giving it a lingering power."
A seductive and intelligent novel about love and freedom set in a dreamlike near future. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Acclaimed novelist Nova (The Universal Donor, 1997, etc.) turns his writerly eye to his other great passion, fly-fishing. One of Nova's great strengths as a novelist is his unerring eye for natural detail. In this slender volume, one senses that his experience as a trout fisherman has helped to strengthen that eye. For much of its length, this little book is predicated on the tension between that which is seen above the water's surface and that which takes place out of sight, and the ways in which life beyond the trout stream falls into a series of similar dichotomies. "The events of life and brook trout often meet at the line of demarcation between the world of the fish and the world of the fisherman, between the seen and the unseen," Nova writes at the book's outset. The theme resonates quietly but insistently elsewhere in the book, with a passing reference to New York City's Minetta Lane, under which still runs a now invisible brook, and the artists' lofts of SoHo in the 1960s, when people lived sub rosa in old industrial spaces. For Nova, that tension clearly resonates powerfully in his writing life—in the unseen struggles of the writer seeking a voice, as distinct from the seemingly untroubled surface of the books he produces—and his personal life as well. The book is unflinchingly candid about both the writing process and the hard work of marriage, each of which is seen intertwined with his fishing and his love of nature. For the first two-thirds of the book, Nova delineates both the hidden dangers and multiple rewards of fishing, family, and writing. Regrettably, in its final movement, the book comes a bit unglued, with a couple of anecdotal passages that seem to have been included to flesh out what would have otherwise been a long magazine article. For the most part, an engagingly honest and keenly observed essay, flawed by its dribbling-away ending. Read full book review >
Released: June 10, 1997

Another fine novel by the author of, most recently, The Book of Dreams (1994). Dr. Terry McKechnie is working the emergency room during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, treating victims of substance abuse and gunshot wounds, when Virginia Lee, the woman he's having an affair with, checks in. She's a herpetologist and has been bitten by a rare and extremely poisonous viper, a taipan from New Guinea. Virginia brings along the appropriate anti-venom, but one of her allergies fights against its effects, and her recovery is problematical. Worse, it becomes clear that she will need blood, but she has a rare type, so rare, in fact, that even Terry's status as a universal donor is useless. After this suspenseful and affecting opener, the novel moves backward in time, to portray the origins of Terry and Virginia's love affair. Virginia is the new wife of Terry's old friend Rick, but the two are helplessly, hopelessly drawn to each other, which they first realize soon after the wedding. Both are moral people, deeply troubled by how they're hurting Rick in a situation that's made even more complicated by Rick's agony at his wife's bedside. He suspects the affair, and he strikes out at Terry even as Terry tries doggedly to save Virginia. In a subplot, Terry's expensive foreign car has recently been stolen. From a police line-up, he identifies ``Number 2'' as the thief, and the suspect, out on bail, tracks Terry, threatens him, and yet also challenges him philosophically during a wild ride around Los Angeles. Turns out Number 2's blood type is the same as Virginia's, a neat though rather too convenient development. Marred by the use of coincidence and Nova's slight tendency toward melodrama. But, even so, the author's spare lyricism and philosophical manner are absorbing, original, and moving. Read full book review >
Released: May 9, 1994

Nova's Hollywood novel is an ambitious murder/blackmail melodrama full of echoes (Fitzgerald, West, Chandler, even Citizen Kane), but the ambitions get in the way of the melodrama. Movieland's most eligible bachelor, new studio head Warren Hodges, was raised in the unglamorous Hollywood of used-car lots and high school gangs. He has hustled his way to the top but still feels walled in, his lifelong love of illusion intact but unsatisfied. All that changes when he throws a lavish party and is mesmerized by a young blonde. Uninvited guest Marta Brooks is a nobody, a Berkeley droput who places ads for lonelyhearts, an emotional outcast ever since her mother admitted lying about her parentage. She is having the worst day of her life. She killed a mobster in self-defense and is now being blackmailed by ex-con Victor Shaw, who witnessed the incident. Despite her torment, Marta does not confide in the intensely sympathetic Warren, not even during an idyll in his mountain hideaway following the party, and her hard-to-believe silence throws the whole novel out of whack. Warren, the natural lead, becomes a bit player, upstaged by the less interesting but problem-plagued Victor. More trouble stems from Nova's use of a broad canvas; the action constantly stops for another colorful character sketch or another sideshow, and the story trails a passel of loose ends by the time it finally staggers to a denouement involving Marta, Victor, and a hit man who reads Tacitus, with Warren as usual on the sidelines. Enjoy the digressions in Nova's eighth novel (after Trombone, 1992), but don't expect a satisfying narrative payoff or a coherent vision of contemporary Tinseltown. Read full book review >
TROMBONE by Craig Nova
Released: June 1, 1992

An adolescent's philandering father is training him to be an arnist—until a woman steps between them. In his seventh novel (Tornado Alley, 1989, etc.), Nova matches his hard-boiled style with his blue-collar milieu—where small-time crooks and inscrutable Oriental kingpins do business—and enables the story barely to survive its stereotypes. It opens with California print-shop owner Dean Gollancz taking his son Ray with him to commit arson and collect payment from Mr. Mei, who reads Marcus Aurelius and leads the good life. ``I'm not a firebug,'' Dean tells his son. ``I'm an arsonist. There are good reasons for a building to disappear....'' While Ray learns the rules of the trade, Dean philanders on wife Marge, ten years his elder with a ``constant antagonism to the passage of time,'' and takes up with teenaged Iris Mason, whom Ray loves. Ray, who is smart enough for college (Dean: ``I thought you were going into the printing business. Isn't that what we'd always planned?''), takes the fall for Dean when Iris's father shows up at their house, enraged. Iris disappears (with help from Mei?); Ray leaves town, then returns to tell his father to ``stop acting like a small-time crook!'' and goes to Mei to locate Iris. In return for information, he agrees to torch a condo, and in Vegas—after digressions and filler—he finds Iris, a high-paid call girl. The two will take off—forever—after a final visit to Mr. Mei. Nova's eye for human detail and gritty texture is nearly unerring—even while elements of story and character occasionally veer too close to hackneyed genre formulations. Read full book review >
Released: May 15, 1989

A disappointing follow-up to The Congressman's Daughter (1986): the patchy, convoluted story of two small-town products of unhappy families who ultimately become lovers—and destroy each other. Marie Boule eventually leaves Baxter, Pa., to get away from her mother's belief in "luck or the benign progression of life" and from her father's pathetic money-making schemes. After an affair with a French-Canadian hairdresser and the affluent Robert Chesterfield, she goes to California. Meanwhile, Ben Lunn sees his mother leave his father for Los Angeles, where (it's reported) she eventually swims for a living—in a fish tank in a nudie bar. Ben believes in the barometer ("in the jerky rise and fall of the needle there was something worth knowing and even useful enough to keep him from getting hurt"); after waiting fruitlessly in Baxter for his girl—Marie—to return, he goes off to Berkeley, eventually gets a Ph.D. in meteorology, and marries Faith Wheeler. Inevitably, of course, he meets Marie, who has been living as Christine Taylor—sometimes a kept woman, sometimes a prostitute. As lovers, she and Ben are forces of nature. When Marie demands that Ben leave his wife, threatening him with a pistol, Ben kills her with a bottle of booze, climaxing a booklength dissertation on love: characters believe in it, and then don't, or don't, and then do. Technically fluent and vivid, but the whole thing is curiously anecdotal and distant—a series of portraits about people we are never sufficiently made to care for, so that mood and attitude too often overwhelm significance. Read full book review >