Pleasing expedition into the moon-mad world of the supernatural.

HAVOC AFTER DARK

TALES OF TERROR

A first-time fiction author brings an African-American sensibility to the whites-mostly field of horror in these 14 strongly plotted stories.

Fleming’s tales lean on moods and soul-states as much as blood. He steps out best foot forward with an erotic variation on the Beauty and the Beast theme: “Life After Bas” tells of Madame Baye, a Creole/Cajun sired by the werewolf Loup Garou and born with a magical caul. In a New Orleans asylum, she insists she has come back from the dead as she “sits in a darkened room, a padded room, a room with wire mesh over the windows.” At the same time, we are told that Madame Baye is chained “spread-eagle” to a bed from which she can vanish even when straitjacketed to reappear in another ward. Despite such inconsistencies, the richly finished story would be worth building into a short novel. “The Tenderness of Monsieur Blanc” introduces Roy Capote, Scholar of Death, Democracy’s enforcer, and the State Department’s golden hit man. Sent on a nasty purging mission into the anguished capital of Haiti, Roy finds himself up against Voudoun and the Undead, whom no bullet can stop. Best of all is “The Wisdom of the Serpents,” wherein a wealthy young American truth seeker goes to the Far East and returns buried in the ravaged body of a man in his late 80s.

Pleasing expedition into the moon-mad world of the supernatural.

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7582-0575-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dafina/Kensington

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2004

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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