This engaging narrative with memorable characters features supernatural overtones that lead to an unsettling finale.

CHASM CREEK

A NOVEL OF THE WEST

In this debut Old West novel, set in 1880 in the Arizona Territory, the wars with Native Americans have mainly ended, but the prejudice and violence against them still thrive.

Juan Ruben Tellez de Santiago, an aging Navajo, and Morgan Braddock, his business partner, ride to Esther Corbin’s farm a few miles outside of Chasm Creek in search of fresh water and some shade from the desert heat. Morgan is sick; Esther is the mother of four, managing the farm alone while her husband, Howard, is away. She is frightened and picks up her shotgun to warn the strangers to leave. But the weapon goes off accidentally, and Morgan is hit with some buckshot. Guilt-stricken, Esther offers the travelers overnight refuge until Morgan can heal. Within the first three pages, Cox has introduced her three main characters. The two men are here to execute Morgan’s latest plan. Ruben will make a deal with renegade Apaches to round up wild horses; the duo will break them; and Morgan will sell them to the Army soldiers stationed at nearby Fort McDowell. Esther agrees to rent the pair her farm, moving with her children into town to stay at her brother’s currently unused house. Unfortunately, her brother, Jacob Tillinghast, the mescal-drinking, goat-loving town marshal, finds an old poster proclaiming that Morgan is “Wanted for Murder” in the territory of New Mexico. There’s already plenty of material at this point for the coming excitement. But the real drama of this novel involves the heartbreaking backstories of Morgan and Ruben, their friendship, and the relationships that develop between each of them and Esther. Hope and tragedy alternate throughout pages suffused with pathos. Native American mysticism mingles with Western violence as the past haunts the present in a twisting plotline. And the visceral prose is evocative of the dry Southwestern landscape: “They maneuvered around cactus and thorny brush and switch-backed up the steep slope, headed for a saddle between two peaks. The ground was thick with prickly pear, and stands of saguaro cactus towered above him.”

This engaging narrative with memorable characters features supernatural overtones that lead to an unsettling finale.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9993375-0-9

Page Count: 290

Publisher: IRW Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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