STRANGE HIGHWAYS

For his 19th book, the incredible Koontz (Mr. Murder, 1993, etc.) kicks off a change of publisher (the brand-new Tartikoff/Warner imprint) with his first-ever collection. Strange Highways holds two novels, plus 12 novellas and short stories, all but the title novel published before but here tastefully if not totally rewritten. ``Strange Highways'' itself tells of alcoholic Joey Shannon's return in 1995 to Coal Valley, a ghost town once emptied of people by the federal government when 4,000 acres of burning coal seams beneath it threatened to collapse and turn everyone to cinders. Joey can be redeemed from his alcoholism if he saves young Celeste Baker from crucifixion by his psychopathic brother, P.J., a bestselling suspense novelist (!) whom Joey once helped cover up a murder. Time hurls Joey back into 1975, and again and again in replays of the same scene he fails three times to stop his brother's hammerstrokes before the power to believe gives him the needed strength. Whatever its appeal, this is gimmicky, joylessly uninspired hackwork. Also here is ``Kittens,'' Koontz's first published story, a neat piece from 1966 that turns on the forced characterization of a religious zealot. The story that shows greatest promise, though, is ``Twilight of the Dawn,'' about an architect whose adamant atheism costs him his beloved business partner. When his wife dies in an auto accident and his son comes down with bone cancer, his atheism remains intact. But what begins with a Tolstoyan sweep fades into a breeze when two miracles attest to the truth of an afterlife. The closing novel, Chase, first published in 1974 under the pseudonym K.R. Dwyer, is straight suspense with no supernatural trimmings: a Medal of Honor winner may be the weird killer who murders fornicators on lovers' lane. Despite some weak moments and dumb dialogue in passing, the suspense holds and won't disappoint fans. Strange highways—but little feeling of freshness or originality. (First printing of 500,000; Literary Guild main selection)

Pub Date: May 23, 1995

ISBN: 0-446-51974-X

Page Count: 512

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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