A provocative, brazenly vulgar yarn sure to shock the sensitive and delight the daring.

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NIGHT AND THE TEXAS SKY

A raw, no-holds-barred novel of rock music, murder and mayhem.

University of Maine professor Baker’s raunchy, imaginative debut follows a motley quartet of band mates from a grunge rock group based in Houston, Texas, as they fight, do drugs and cause trouble. Of the four, Zac, the bass guitarist, is the most unsettled. As the story opens, he’s still traumatized by his brother James’ tragic, violent death. He’s contacted by a half-Vietnamese, half-Irish drummer named Sean who’s searching for a bassist for his band, Double Murder Suicide, after the abrupt exoduses of several of its original members. Excited at the prospect, Zac joins the ragtag group, which includes sexually ambiguous, gothic lead singer Kitten, a pierced-tongued child abuse survivor who “wore herself like it was Halloween”; and angry guitarist Raven, a virgin who drives with a 9 mm Glock under the seat of her car. In this minimally plotted yet character-rich story, they’re all damaged goods, living on drugs and inspired by rock and roll. Each has great aspirations, but in Baker’s fractured scenario, it could just be the drugs talking. The band scores their first real gig for a professional wrestler named Steele in exchange for a stash of cocaine. Their set is marred by violence, and after fleeing the scene, they regroup at a sex-drenched orgy where Raven loses her virtue. The band’s only remaining hurdle is finding a way to avoid a demanding drug dealer with a foot fetish. In this devilish, capably written debut, Baker manages to inject a good amount of melodrama into his monochromatic world of anger, suppressed childhood memories and displaced aggression. More refined readers may find that this hardscrabble tale of excess pushes the boundaries of decency and good taste. However, fans of authors such as Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh will likely enjoy the author’s nasty sense of humor and keen eye for grit. Many of them will undoubtedly want more adventures from this ragtag rock foursome.

A provocative, brazenly vulgar yarn sure to shock the sensitive and delight the daring.

Pub Date: March 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496148155

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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