Anthony Sciascia arrives in Beijing as a person of interest to a beautiful Chinese spy. CIA and China’s Ministry of State Security intend to play this unknown writer and his wife, Professor Riva Klein, as pawns in a Cold War-style propaganda gambit. Zhang Ailing, consummate double-agent and mistress of aliases, is the operative both agencies tap to execute their strangely complementary schemes.
Ailing’s English-language fluency and personal beauty lure Anthony in. She makes sure he sees her reading one of his novels, then praises the book to his face. This “coincidence” occurs while Anthony is imagining a new novel set in China. His minute of fame seems to have arrived and his prospective “China novel” seems destined for success.
Greater outcomes, however, are at stake. Only Ailing’s defiance of her MSS puppet-master — and some timely critical thinking by the Americans — can save Anthony and Riva from a catastrophic error no novel can redeem.
The narrator of this clever, comical novel, a totally unknown writer touring China, mocks his own vanity and frailties, even as he indulges the vanity and suffers (loudly) the frailties. He's endearing all the same, with his determination to write more books that won't sell, and his admiration for his polar-opposite wife. But the novel is also partly a send-up of spy fiction, as these ordinary Americans become the focus of intrigue by various shadowy (and absurd) figures in both the Chinese and U.S. intelligence agencies. A smart, funny novel with an unexpected twist near the end. -- Amazon review by Ithacan
Sofie Timm is the bravest 12-year-old anyone has ever met — and only Dante Buonarroti knows it. At their middle school in Hollywood, Florida, during America's Bicentennial Year, Sofie and Dante become "special friends" despite their differences and because of childhood traumas they entrust to each other in the telling.
Dante tells Sofie how he was brutalized on a daily basis in Brooklyn when he was six. Sofie's story is a horror beyond Dante's darkest imaginings: as a young child, she was sexually molested. Those violations ended when she was eight but her abuser has "promised" to "teach" her about sexual intercourse when she turns thirteen. And Sofie is already twelve.
These resilient adolescents have each other's back in an imperishable tale of friendship, survival, and love. Unforgettable tells a story silenced in our literature. It is a difficult story to tell, maybe one most authors dare not write. This author has written it.
In late middle age, after a quarter-century clean and sober, novelist Paul Cody found himself lost in the fog of prescription drug addiction. He went to a rehab in the hills of Pennsylvania, and during a 37-day stay there he encountered doctors and soldiers and bartenders, MMA fighters and lawyers and businessmen—who were also junkies and huffers, coke heads and meth heads, drunks and pill-poppers and generalized dope fiends. He saw degradation and despair and hope and grace. And, with growing clarity, he began to see their humanity, as well as his own.
This book tells the truth about the disease of addiction in a way that few writers have done. The narrative is well crafted and manages to tell the story of his detox from benzos along with the story of his life and family. It is very compelling and manages to convey the ambivalence associated with his addiction along with the hope of his recovery. It doesn't pull any punches, and yet his story is punctuated with vignettes that are light and humorous in the midst of a very dark time in his life. Anyone who deals with addiction should read this both for education and inspiration. It would be great if more health care professionals would read it to understand the plight of people who are trying to do the difficult work of recovery from addiction. -- Amazon review by Jojoaruba
In his terse narrative Paul Cody cuts between glimpses of the grim, restrictive rituals of withdrawal and flashbacks to the sweet and fragile beauty of ordinary life that his protagonist can only hope he hasn't lost completely. Though despair is never more than a breath away, the story is told with grace and humor and a generosity of spirit. Vivid depictions of fellow addicts as well as loved ones make clear the role that others play in easing the achingly lonely struggle to escape addiction. Incisive, illuminating & above all moving, this is no clinical account but a story of, as Faulkner put it, "the human heart in conflict with itself." Read it. -- Amazon review by K.C. Frederick
In 2094 ...
citizens of Illumined Cities enjoy cerebral microchips and SexBot service ...
Badlands desperadoes sabotage nuclear waste storages sites in Mexico ...
detainees of Gulag Cuba wage jihad against Discipline & Punish ...
Initiates and Adepts on Mars seek the Philosopher's Stone.
J Melmoth and wife Raquel are leisured, privileged, self-indulgent, and at peace with the world that is. SmartBots do all the work, CellRenew keeps them young, organ cloning keeps them healthy, and microchips integrated with their prefrontal cortexes keep them connected. Newsstories manifesting on their windowall nag at their attention: Gulag Cuba remains full of detainees, New Age alchemists on Mars still cannot establish a viable atmosphere for the Red Planet, and EcoTerrorism is rampant across the Badlands of Mexico. Puzzling, that Gulag prisoners refuse microchip implantation despite rewards on offer. Inside Mars Colony's geodesic domes, Initiates and Adepts control the dispensation on Earth while Mexican guerrillas elude ambush and cheat death. Against long odds, they cross the Badlands and Sierra Madre in search of stolen families and an ancient treasure that may ransom them. Initiates know the secret to immortality lies in gold. It is a question of creating enough or of finding it. The paradise promised by a century of high technology and ancient knowledge seems at hand.
Or is it? Why does Melmoth's SmartBot malfunction, and Raquel's follow suit? Why has the historical record been changed and the text of a famous novel tinkered with? Gulag detainees court death by resisting microchip enhancement. The Mexican's quest brings them to the ancient city of Teotihuacan — conveniently for the eggheads on Mars, who fail repeatedly to transform base metals into gold.
And Melmoth? His head hurts. That microchip must be on the fritz. Can he remediate?
In the world that is, it is late in day. For Melmoth. For everyone ...
Tragic and comic, realistic and fantastic, 2094 is a narrative mosaic, a speculative dystopia jazzed with science-fiction and fretted with gold. It is a story of quest and protest, esoteric theology, Meso-American legend, and synthetic technologies. Visionary, sardonic, and fiercely honest, it imagines a future being born today.
My initial reaction was 'Wow. This novel was really something awesome.' I would strongly recommend it for both personal reading, and as a school text. It's about time the high school curriculum got a shakeup, and this novel is just the thing to do it. The sex will bother some people, but at the same time, teenagers are growing up a lot faster these days.
For once the genre listings on the back were completely spot-on. It's 'fiction, literature and dystopian'. It doesn't read as a fiction, it reads as if the author has seen into the future, and brought back the truth of it.
Get out there, buy a copy, and read this novel. -- Amazon review by Rose Herbert
In terse prose with dollops of pathos and humor, Lauricella offers a credible depiction of a possible future. Besides working on one level as fictional futurism, the book also serves as a parable for our times, mirroring the ways in which the upper class tranquilizes the masses with bread and a media circus -- all supported by an abused lower class in near slavery amid the oppression of certain cultures. Keen commentary on social conditions today and in the future. -- Kirkus Indie
Hunting Old Sammie
Three years after glass and steel plunged from a morning sky, suicide bombers and IEDs kill American soldiers in Iraq. Al Qaeda kidnaps aid workers, translators, and journalists, then beheads them. In Afghanistan, the hunt for Osama bin Laden has stalled amid the caves of Tora Bora. In Ithaca, New York, Armand Terranova monitors America's wars even as he hides from them—a practice he shares unknowingly with his neighbor, Luke Robideau, who has stocked a sniper's nest in anticipation of fighting terrorists head-on. Luke and Armand have never exchanged a word and distrust each other on sight. Luke's cats and dogs roam freely and foul Armand's lawn and patio. Stalking the animals with a BB-gun, Armand feels his neighbor as a threat: an unmarried, ill-kempt big man with gray-streaked beard and ponytail who lives with his elderly mother. To Luke, Armand is a usurper, a immigrant peasant who has gotten lucky in America at Luke's expense. Armand has everything Luke can only dream of: a beautiful wife and two children, a renovated house, enough money. Luke himself depends on Mother's Social Security and siblings' checks to live in his worn-down childhood home. When small-animal excrement begins to fly across the property line, their mutual antagonism escalates into a confrontation only one man can win.
This is a moving, powerful and haunting novel about what we don't know about each other, and of what happens when we tell ourselves stories in our own minds about what we think we see—and how sadly, tragically wrong those versions of the world and of others can be. Mr. Lauricella has written an elegant, unforgettable book about the things that divide us in this lonely, Balkanized world. -- Amazon review by Ithacan
John Lauricella's Hunting Old Sammie holds appeal far beyond the environs of Cornell University and Ithaca, NY, where this reader resides. In a post-9/11 world, the story metastasizes around the disease of suspicion that pervades the relationships of spouses, neighbors, coworkers, communities, cultures and nations. Lauricella's intense writing style, exacting details, and unexpected plot twists make this novel a page-turner, but maybe not one for Grandma (unless you suspect that Grandma has a dark side!). -- Amazon review by Matt Conway
This a GREAT read! While the synopsis does a very good job of exposing the plot all the way to the end without disclosing details and spoiling it for potential readers; it DOES whet a desire to read the entire book. (It worked for me!) While vacillating between Armand and Luke, the story also brings in episodes in the lives of Luke's mother, and Armand's wife and son. While the last three people have almost nothing to do with the escalating feud between Luke and Armand, their episodes give the over-all story a depth of realism seldom experienced in literature. -- Amazon review by Dr. John T. Webb
Hunting Old Sammie is a powerful book limning a specific moment in our culture. It is dark and lyrical, artistically wrought and emotionally fraught. -- review by Tilia Klebenov for IndieReader
The Pornographer's Apprentice
When a videotape shows up with a note talking blackmail, ADA Dale Cuffy knows it's a matter requiring an unofficial response — especially as the video catches him at an orgy with more than his pants down. Even worse is the fatal accident (in dying color) involving his wife, who appears to have instigated the crash, in disguise.
How are these scenes related? Who played witness, on-the-spot with a camera? Can Dale thwart the blackmailer and be sure of keeping secrets? Shauna holds the key: the identity of the pornographer and the name of his apprentice.
A narrative of operatic variety, The Pornographer's Apprentice dramatizes a young man's extreme and illicit gambit to satisfy his desire for one special woman — and how his friend's counterplot defeats his intentions. It is a story of sex and death, art and money, poetry and pornography, life's brevity and our yearning for permanence.
Home Games: Essays on Baseball Fiction
Home Games: Essays on Baseball Fiction is a series of interpretative essays about the baseball content of selected American prose fictions. Part I explicates allusions to baseball in canonical works, including F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, James T. Farrell's A World I Never Made, Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again, and Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, and illustrates how baseball allusions engage signature themes of American literature: versions of the American Dream, ethnic prejudice, city work and pastoral play, cultural identity, and the relationship of father and son, among others. Whatever their thematic import, baseball allusions retain a concern with "home," in various senses of that word. Notions of home, always underlying or metaphoric in baseball allusions, provide the unifying theme of Part I, just as the prospect of home or "coming home" shapes the readings that comprise Part II. The four novels discussed in Part II — You Know Me Al, by Ring Lardner; The Natural, by Bernard Malamud; The Southpaw, by Mark Harris; and The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., by Robert Coover — inaugurated the baseball fiction genre and staked its claims to artistic legitimacy. In narrative strategy and mimesis, one or more of these books is the precursor of every baseball novel written since; having established the tonal and representational parameters of literary baseball fiction, these novels continue to inspire authors to approach the genre with seriousness of purpose. Although distinct from one another in story and verisimilitude, these works share at least one important element: the quest for home.
Lauricella refreshingly emphasizes the aesthetic elements of fiction that create meaning rather than considering the novels as expressions of politics, ideology, or gender. Consequently, he avoids the many baseball novels of negligible merit, those that commit the 'cardinal errors' of lacking serious intent and of failing to regard the characters as 'real.' Accordingly, Lauricella distinguishes his examples from boys' books, Zane Grey's pulp fiction, and even W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, which he calls 'a sentimental fantasy, phony and self-indulgent.'
The chapters on the novels by Lardner, Malamud, Harris, and Coover are the most accessible and should prove engaging even to readers not yet familiar with the novels. Indeed, so well-written are these detailed treatments ... they will prompt most readers to track down the novels to (re)experience them firsthand.
— Matthew Brennan
NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture
University of Nebraska Press
impressive ... opens with a well-balanced account of baseball within the American context. This chapter also includes a useful history of the early years of baseball. … authoritative … a pleasure to read … a comprehensive study — The Colgate Scene