History, action, the supernatural and intelligent discourse; this novel holds something for everyone.

MESMER'S DISCIPLE

Set in 1840s St. Louis and New York, this historical supernatural thriller pits Alvord Rawn, a vigilante-style New York cop with anger management issues, against Count Abendroth, a demonic mesmerist who has painter Charles Deas in his thrall.

Deas, a historical figure famous for frontier paintings, mysteriously went insane after becoming involved in mesmerism while in St. Louis. He returned to New York and in 1848 was committed to the Bloomingdale asylum. Swanson skillfully weaves the artist’s tale into his debut novel. Police Capt. Alvord Rawn is dismissed from the New York City Police Department for his vengeful, ruthless massacre of an Irish gang. He takes a job as a private detective working for Deas’ mother, who fears her son is losing his mind. Mrs. Deas pays Rawn well to retrieve Deas from St. Louis—by force if necessary. Swanson gives the work a 19th century feel by salting it with historical detail and imbuing characters with the manners and attitudes of the era. He also makes use of 19th century prose style to mimic period writers: “Stout was the truncheon in his belt, hickory in origin and delightfully wieldy.” This approach works, but when Swanson uses modern idioms, it jars; e.g., “shit like this”; “Damn straight I did”; “smoked his competition.” Along the way, Rawn teams up with Finnbar Fagan, a would-be Irish writer, and Marcel Durand, a true frontiersman. Both are reliable allies and thinking men, allowing Swanson to explore various ideas concerning the nature of honor, justice, race relations and art in 19th century America. As the story progresses, Deas partners with Rawn and company to bring down Abendroth as it becomes increasingly obvious the count is evil, tapping into a demonic well for his powers. Thoughtful and action-packed, with a final showdown that is both exciting and gratifying—a fine first novel.

History, action, the supernatural and intelligent discourse; this novel holds something for everyone.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0988537064

Page Count: 386

Publisher: Riverrun Bookstore Inc

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2014

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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