Books by Richard Zimler

Richard Zimler was born in Roslyn Heights, a suburb of New York, in 1956. After earning a bachelor’s degree in comparative religion from Duke University (1977) and a master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University (1982), he worked for eight years


THE SEVENTH GATE by Richard Zimler
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 1, 2012

"Adult fiction that counts on readers' ability to draw meaning from cultural signposts such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Greta Garbo and The Magic Mountain. But its plucky heroine gives it young adult appeal as well."
In early 1930s Berlin, with Nazism on the rise, self-possessed 14-year-old Sophie Riedesel joins her kindly Jewish neighbor, Mr. Zarco, in a secret resistance group known as the Ring. When the group's leader is murdered, Sophie dedicates herself to solving the crime, even as her father and boyfriend are signing up with the Nazis. Read full book review >
GUARDIAN OF THE DAWN by Richard Zimler
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 26, 2005

"The weird contrast of Christianity at its most murderous and India at its most sumptuous jars the senses as crime and punishment work their usual spell in this deeply absorbing work. "
The Inquisition visits on Portuguese Goa a great terror worthy of Josef Stalin, testing a fragile family to the limit. Read full book review >
HUNTING MIDNIGHT by Richard Zimler
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 1, 2003

"Florid prose but little depth. The adventure and mystery of the second half here hold much more interest than John's coming-of-age."
From Zimler (The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, 1998, etc.): an earnest and deliberate thriller of family secrets, with historical trappings. Read full book review >
THE ANGELIC DARKNESS by Richard Zimler
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

A disappointing second effort from Zimler (The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, 1998), who follows up his early success with a lugubrious coming-out tale set in 1980s San Francisco. Magazine editor Bill Ticino grew up in Long Island and as a child was regaled with his sadistic Italian father's tales of rape and pillage in Ethiopia. Bill eventually marries icy, beautiful Alexandra but can—t give up his philandering, which leads her to abandon him. Overcome with fear and loneliness, Bill decides to take in a boarder. The only marginally acceptable applicant turns out to be a soft-spoken foreigner named Peter, who moves in with his pet bird Maria and part of an enormous worm taken from a friend's gastrointestinal tract. Although Bill finds most of Peter's eccentricities more charming than not, the Nazi flag over the boarder's desk is worrisome, as is his dubious sexuality. Peter has some odd friends, too: when Bill confesses to an interest in prostitution, Peter immediately takes him to meet Mara, a former streetwalker with the body of a 15-year-old who leads Bill through the lowest parts of the Tenderloin and introduces him to some of her friends in the trade. Mara admits to Bill that there's a secret about Peter she can—t reveal. Soon enough, however, Bill discovers it on his own—and his life is changed forever. Immediately afterward Peter disappears without a trace. Bill is sad at first, but soon he meets and falls in love with Paul, a graphic designer for the San Francisco. The two live happily ever after. Sentimentality dressed up in purple prose (—The sad joke was that Alex and I were crippled twins hobbling along over our separate desert landscapes, stepping carefully over the cracked outcroppings of emotions we—d buried long ago . . .—). Read full book review >
THE LAST KABBALIST OF LISBON by Richard Zimler
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 20, 1998

Despite the recent embrace of Kabbalah as the contemporary celebrity spiritual plaything, it's unlikely that the Hollywood pack will spend many hours studying the intricacies of this willfully arcane first novel by an American writer who lives and teaches in Portugal. First published there (to wide acclaim) in Zimler's own Portuguese translation, it's a murder mystery set in Lisbon in the early 16th century: a time of wholesale persecution and executions of Jews (who refused to convert into "New Christians"), and also the establishment of a religious "underground" devoted to the preservation of endangered orthodox rituals. Berekiah Zarco, a young manuscript illuminator and fruitseller (whose manuscript is discovered centuries later, by this novel's supposed editor), tells the story of his search for the killer of his beloved Uncle Abraham, a "kabbalah master" whose naked body was discovered beside that of an (initially) unknown young woman. Evidence that the two had had sex just before their deaths proves open to multiple interpretation—as do other adventures that befall Berekiah as he seeks to apply the interpretive skills taught by the Jewish mystics to the bewildering pattern of collusions and conflicts that his "investigations" disclose. Zimler's plot wheezes and strains more than a little (there are far too many essentially similar coincidences and hairsbreadth escapes), but Berekiah's hard-won wisdom is credibly linked to his memories of his Uncle's exemplary stories, and effectively concealed in enigmatic proverbial nuggets (e.g., "The map of a town is in a blind beggar's feet"). The novel exhibits a curious predilection for revoltingly detailed descriptions of torture and murder, but there's no gainsaying its authoritative re-creation of an imperilled culture in a savage time and place, or the force of the prophecy that Berekiah finally infers from the mystery of the death his Uncle doubtless expected—and may have courted. A bit attenuated, but, on balance, one of the more unusual and interesting first novels of recent vintage. Read full book review >