An exquisitely moody, searing assemblage of tales, each distinctively contributing to the atmosphere and desperation of The...



A collection of jarring prison stories centers on Alcatraz.

Editors Keaton (Stealing Propeller Hats from the Dead, 2015) and Clifford’s (Trouble in the Heartland, 2014, etc.) group of 19 crime tales is influenced by the historic, notorious Alcatraz Island penitentiary. In his witty, dynamic introduction, Keaton writes of being inspired by the iconic fortification soon after his relocation to California, where he discovered a basketball tournament held in the Alcatraz prison yard. “Combine an island with a prison, and you’ve got a recipe for mythmaking,” notes Keaton, who, along with this band of talented writers, seems bewitched and enchanted by the eerie, mysterious legend of The Rock. Author and New York radiologist Glenn Gray contributes the riveting opener, “Break,” narrated by a brittle-boned prisoner who commemorates his 1941 incarceration in Alcatraz with a contortionistic escape plan. Nick Mamatas’ taut, psychedelic “Being Whitey” channels a malevolent Whitey Bulger through the use of LSD, resulting in a trippy, imaginative treat. In “Dream Flyer,” Les Edgerton, an ex-con and award-winning author, evokes the frighteningly authentic voice of a tough convict eager for his day of reckoning. The volume derives much of its strength from the variety of its contents even while all of the stories orbit a common theme. Crime fiction author and Civil War buff Rory Costello offers a unique history lesson with his 1865-set tale “The Sympathizers,” as does Mark Rapacz’s “Bodhisattva Badass,” a hardcore, 1932-set meditation on bedeviled incarceration. The assortment is accented by a raw, edgy, historical photo collage of Alcatraz, which lends the book a spooky, grim spirit. Each story has merit, whether reflecting the solemn hopelessness of the concrete tomb or capturing the essence of the inmate experience. As none of the pieces approach novella length, readers can enjoy them in the amounts they choose. These tales—infused with raw characterizations, singular narrative voices, and fictionalized situations—vividly conjure the cynical chill of the prison experience. Closing out the anthology are novelist Rob Hart’s potent, food-themed yarn “The Gas Chamber”; Southern author Leah Rhyne’s gorgeous ballerina love song “The Music Box”; and Nick Kolakowski’s unvarnished glance at the institution, where one character, dubbed the “Man in Black,” laments that there’s “nothing good about a prison you can’t walk out of.” But these hardened tales demonstrate that Alcatraz certainly provides bracing entertainment.

An exquisitely moody, searing assemblage of tales, each distinctively contributing to the atmosphere and desperation of The Rock.

Pub Date: May 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-940885-37-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: Broken River Books

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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