William J. Palmer

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William J. Palmer is Professor Emeritus from the Department of English of Purdue University. "Eidetic Transubstantiation: A Novel" is his 10th novel. From 1991 to 2002 he began his novel-writing career with the four novels in the "Mr. Dickens" Victorian murder mystery series all published by St. Martin's Press (and in paperback editions by Ballantine Books). The first novel in this series, "The Detective and Mr. Dickens," was a selection of The Book of the Month Club, The Doubleday Book Club, and The Mystery Guild. The second novel in this series, "The Highwayman and Mr. Dickens," was a featured selection of The Literary Guild. Both of these first two novels were translated into Spanish and Japanese. Three renewed film options were sold on "The Detective and Mr. Dickens" and one film option was sold on the fourth novel in the series, "The Dons and Mr. Dickens." This option on "The Dons and Mr. Dickens" was sold to the Oxford, England-based production company of Julie Corman which at the time was searching for an Oxford property for TV-production.

His next project was "The Wabash Trilogy," three novels all set in the Wabash river valley of Indiana. This trilogy (all 3 novels published under one cover in 2010 by Parlor Press) is comprised of "The Wabash Baseball Blues," a sports novel, "The Redneck Mafia," a crime novel, and "Civic Theatre," a comic backstage novel. These novels all embrace different aspects of the midwestern culture of the fictional Wabash City, Indiana, located on the banks of the Wabash River.

His next novel (2015), "The Uses of Money," begins as a romantic novel, then morphs into a kidnap and rescue thriller, but finally is always a social consciousness novel. It is set in post-earthquake, post-hurricanes Haiti, today's most poverty-stricken heart of darkness.

"Two Cities" (2018) is a eco-thriller set in Washington and Los Angeles that is based on the premise: If Dickens was writing his famous "Tale" in the 21st Century what form would it take. In this novel two very different brothers find themselves caught up in the biggest Earth Day protest march in history that turns into an apocalyptic blood bath on Santa Monica beach in Southern California.

Finally, "Eidetic Transubstantiation: A Novel," will be published on March 15, 2020. Drawn into the Cuban Missile Crisis, point man to President Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas, undercover amongst the radicals at Berkeley, Michael Edwards is embedded as an active participant in the turmoil of 1960s and 70s America. Then, in the 1990s, he finds himself on the front lines in the war against cyberterrorism. But he is no Forrest Gump, bumbling his way through history. He is blessed with an almost magical power that makes him indispensable to the American government. Unfortunately, his powers of memory and adaptability force him to change identities so often that he finds himself desperately in search of himself. "Eidetic Transubstantiation: A Novel" is certainly a historical novel, frequently an existential novel, often a romantic novel, but finally its decade-morphing narrator makes it a self-conscious metafiction.

All of Professor Palmer's last three novels have been published by Anaphora Literary Press.
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BY William J. Palmer • POSTED ON March 15, 2020

A young Pentagon employee with a remarkable memory gets caught up in the Cuban Missile Crisis, among other adventures, in this novel.

Indiana native Michael Edwards has a photographic memory on steroids. It’s called eidetic memory and it helps him get a Ph.D. by the age of 22 and learn three foreign languages. In 1962, he is working in the photography room at the Pentagon, analyzing shots of enemy territory taken by U2 spy planes. His early success at spotting missile launchers in Cuba lands him a three-day gig as a “Pathfinder,” and he is dropped off in Cuba posing as a peasant farmer to get a firsthand look at the sites. His powers of observation and recall are so astonishing that President John F. Kennedy himself wants Michael in the Secret Service. After that administration’s tragic end, a childhood friend talks him into working undercover for the FBI at Berkeley, spying on student activists.  Michael convinces himself that his information will be useless and no lives will be ruined. But he sends a female friend and others to jail, leading to pangs of guilt. He needs to leave Berkeley and reinvent himself, a process he calls transubstantiation: “It gave me hope that despite this identity-less, hollow, black hole of regret that the whole Berkeley experience had sucked me into, maybe I could transubstantiate myself into a person that I could stomach.” An academic career follows, and marriage and fatherhood, but tragedy and wanderlust pull him overseas to Europe and back again. He traverses various life stages involving the dawn of the tech era and finds himself through a new love. Palmer’s (Two Cities, 2017, etc.) globe-hopping tale is written with a thirst for knowledge and a love of detail that make for an exciting read, especially because it’s about a character who is often on the forefront of new technology or fields. The overall point that people are not one thing but go through a variety of different incarnations is a strong one, especially because this sweeping story progresses through Michael’s retirement. But shifting between pensive and wild, the book is overwritten; a leaner, more concise style would have strengthened the skillful storytelling.

A smart, discerning but protracted tale about an extraordinary man’s unique layers of memories.

Pub Date: March 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68114-515-0

Page count: 252pp

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019



BY William J. Palmer • POSTED ON Nov. 1, 2000

Victoriana fans who thought that Palmer’s first three adventures of amateur sleuth Charles Dickens and his friend and amanuensis Wilkie Collins (The Hoydens and Mr. Dickens, 1997, etc.) weren’t literary enough will be delighted when they team up with Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll. This time, the three set out to solve the murder of an Oxford historian who came a long way from Christ Church College to be found dead in the disreputable neighborhood of Limehouse Hole.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-26576-X

Page count: 272pp

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000



BY William J. Palmer • POSTED ON Feb. 8, 1997

Ellen Ternan just can't stay out of trouble. No sooner has Charles Dickens removed the young actress, his ``ward,'' from Urania House, banking heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts's home for wayward women, and gotten her settled in the home of proto- feminists Barbara Leigh Smith and Marian Evans (not yet George Eliot) than the Protectives are looking for her for killing Eliza Lane, whose wild threats against the members of Angela's Women's Emancipation Society were cut short when someone tied Nellie's scarf around her throat during a robbery of the Coutts Bank. Ellen's only alibi: She was spending the night in the St. George Hotel with Dickens, who feels honor-bound to clear her name without losing his own. Dickens's detective work, though he gives himself high marks for it, amounts to little more than wading through a thicket of cross-dressing daughters of Lesbos (Marie de Brevecoeur, Sydney Beach), celebrity walk-ons (Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Barrett Browning), and future Dickens characters (John Barsad, Jaggers the lawyer) in search of the ``phantom'' who's taken the Emancipationists in thrall by mesmerizing them with his devilish blue-stoned ring. As for Dickens amanuensis Wilkie Collins, who continues to give Dr. Watson a run for his money as the dimmest sidekick in detective fiction—well, it looks like a long way to The Moonstone. Palmer's third (The Highwayman and Mr. Dickens, 1992, etc.) continues his quest to peer into every fleshpot in Victorian England. Better as unbridled period adventure than mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15145-4

Page count: 256pp

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1996



BY William J. Palmer • POSTED ON Sept. 17, 1992

This surprisingly formulaic sequel to The Detective and Mr. Dickens (1990) gets off to a brisk start with that staple of Victorian fiction, coitus interruptus, as a knock on the door brings Wilkie Collins and his sluttish doxy, Irish Meg, news that amiable lowlife Tally Ho Thompson has been arrested for two murders in a house he insists he'd been paid to break into by actor Dickie Dunn. There's no lack of melodramatic incident here—Dickens and Collins, who continues as his insultingly dense Watson, help Thompson break out of Newgate; witness the former's confrontations with Dunn (at swords' points) and with widower/whoremaster Dr. William Palmer (a horse race that turns into a screaming bout); and take time out (at least Collins does) for more depraved lust. But the whole affair—tricked out with cameos by Richard Burton, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the great snowstorm of 1852—is curiously lightweight, with too many edifying footnotes and too little real mystery or suspense. Mildly diverting Victorian tosh. More on the way.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1992

ISBN: 0-312-08207-X

Page count: 288pp

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

Awards, Press & Interests

Favorite author

Charles Dickens

Favorite book

Bleak House

Favorite line from a book

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.


West Lafayette, Indiana

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