Archives for category: novels

Marcia Meara started writing novels at age 69 and there’s no slowing her down. She’s just released her second romantic suspense novel in less than a year —  Swamp Ghosts, and the Kindle version is available free today (Tuesday, May 13, 2014). Get your free book at

ABOUT THE NOVEL: Wildlife photographer Gunnar Wolfe looked like the kind of guy every man wanted to be and every woman just plain wanted, and the St. Johns River of central Florida drew him like a magnet. EcoTour boat owner Maggie Devlin knew all the river’s secrets, including the deadliest ones found in the swamps. But neither Maggie nor Gunn was prepared for the danger that would come after them on two legs.  On a quest to make history photographing the rarest birds of them all, Gunnar hires the fiery, no-nonsense Maggie to canoe him into the most remote wetland areas in the state. He was unprepared for how much he would enjoy both the trips and Maggie’s company. He soon realizes he wants more than she’s prepared to give, but before he can win her over, they make a grisly discovery that changes everything, and turns the quiet little town of Riverbend upside down. A serial killer is on the prowl among them.


The lean days of determination. That was the word for it, determination: Arturo Bandini in front of his typewriter two full days in succession, determined to succeed; but it didn’t work, the longest siege of hard and fast determination in his life, and not one line done, only two words written over and over across the page, up and down, the same words: palm tree, palm tree, a battle to the death between the palm tree and me, and the palm tree won: see it out there swaying in the blue air, creaking sweetly in the blue air. The palm tree won after two fighting days, and I crawled out of the window and sat at the foot of the tree. Time passed, a moment or two, and I slept, little brown ants carousing in the hair on my legs.”

From Chapter 1 of Ask the Dust, a novel by John Fante first published in 1939 and reissued in 1980 by Black Sparrow Press with an introduction by Charles Bukowski. A Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition, released in 2006, is available at


Black Sparrow Press published Dreams of Bunker Hill in 1982, the year before John Fante passed away at age 74. During Fante’s final years, he suffered the debilitating effects of diabetes — losing both his vision and his legs to the disease. But despite the challenges and disappointments in his life — including frustrating years as a Hollywood screenwriter — Fante never lost that “animal gusto” (to use Raymond Chandler‘s expression) that allowed him to create great works of art.

Case in point is his final novel Dreams of Bunker HIll — a bookend to his masterpiece Ask the Dust — which explores the writing career of his fictional alter ego Arturo Bandini. Dreams of Bunker Hill is fresh, full of life, funny, and feels like the work of a young man — though a blind, septuagenarian Fante dictated the book to his wife Joyce, who transcribed his words into written form.

Image“The good days, the fat days, page upon page of manuscript; prosperous days, something to say…the pages mounted and I was happy. Fabulous days, the rent paid, still fifty dollars in my wallet, nothing to do all day and night but write and think of writing; ah, such sweet days, to see it grow, to worry for it, myself, my book, my words, maybe important, maybe timeless, but mine nevertheless, the indomitable Arturo Bandini, already deep into his first novel. “

From Chapter Sixteen of Ask the Dust a novel by John Fante, originally published in 1939.

April 8, 2014 marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of John Fante, author of Ask the Dust, the novel that Charles Bukowski said showed him how to write prose. The Sad Flower in the Sand is a jazzy, moody one-hour documentary from 2001 — directed by Jan Louter — that explores Fante’s life through his words and comments from significant people in his life, including screenwriter Robert Towne, author Stephen Cooper, wife Joyce Fante, and sons Dan Fante and Jim Fante.

ImageToday we celebrate the birth of one of the all-time greatest of the great writers — Flannery O’Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925. Author of two novels — Wise Blood (1952), which she holds on her lap in the photo above, and The Violent Bear It Away (1960) — and 32 short stories, O’Connor created a lasting body of work in her short life (she died 50 years ago — in 1964 at age 39).

Kurt Vonnegut said of her, “The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor. She broke practically every one of my [writing] rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.” (For the record, Vonnegut’s first rule of writing is: “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” Read the complete list at this link.)

Here’s a favorite Flannery O’Connor quote: “I often ask myself what makes a story work, and what makes it hold up as a story, and I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies. This would have to be an action or a gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both time and eternity.”



Novel by Kim Cooper

 Silver Birch Press Review

*****Five stars *****

While Los Angeles has been called a city with a “history of forgetting”—with wide-scale demolition of landmarks and even entire neighborhoods—author Kim Cooper helps readers relive L.A.’s past in her captivating first novel, The Kept Girl (Esotouric, 2014), a book based on real people and events.

Cooper—a social historian, nonfiction author, and historic preservationist—serves as our guide as we travel back to Jazz Age L.A., the summer of 1929, just a few months before the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression.

It was a time when L.A. was starting to boom, thanks to abundant oil reserves and the burgeoning movie business—with dreamers and people who preyed on dreamers converging on the City of Angels to reach for the gold ring.

One of these California transplants was Raymond Chandler, who moved to L.A. after his years of service during WWI—and by 1929, he had lived in the city for a decade. As a 41-year-old oil executive, his fondness for booze and broads complicated both his professional and private lives—since he made a living as an executive in the oil business and was married to an ailing woman nearly 20 years his senior.

Cooper’s novel reveals Chandler before he became L.A.’s premier chronicler of crime—the writer who more than anyone created the neon noir image of L.A. that the city has enjoyed ever since.

The Kept Girl—which takes place a decade before Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep, in 1939—offers a speculative history of how the author may have got his start as a purveyor of crime fiction. In Cooper’s telling, Chandler’s employer asks him to investigate a religious cult that has squeezed $40,000 from Clifford Dabney, the boss’s nephew. Chandler enlists his secretary/mistress Muriel Fischer and an honest cop named Tom James—believed to be the model for detective Philip Marlowe—to assist him in solving the crime.

Throughout the story, the three protagonists deal with personal demons—including aging, sexism, alcoholism, and corruption—as they endeavor to crack the case of the Great Eleven Cult, headed by a shady mother and daughter who claim they receive messages and directives from angels.  A range of gullible types fall for their spiel—mainly out of greed, since the angels promise to reveal the locations of the richest oil deposits in California.

As P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and the L.A. of 1929 is much like a circus sideshow—with humanity in all its flaws, foibles, and hopes on full display. Cooper does a masterful job of pulling all the disparate parts of the story together into a riveting mystery. The big reveal at the end is worth the price of admission. So step right up and read The Kept Girlyou’ve never seen anything like it: history, social commentary, and an engaging mystery all in one tidy 274-page package.

The Kept Girl is available in Kindle and paperback versions at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential, the Real Black Dahlia and Weird West Adams. Her collaborative L.A. history blogs include On Bunker Hill and In SRO Land. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA–The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage,vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For LifeBubblegum Music is the Naked TruthLost in the Grooves and an oral history of the cult band Neutral Milk Hotel. The Kept Girl is her first novel.

COVER ART: Paul Rogers

On Friday, January 24, 2014, Writers Tribe Books, an independent publisher in Los Angeles, released Two Small Birds, a novel by Dave Newman.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Dan Charles reads Whitman the way some people read the Bible. He works three jobs. He attends college. Dan’s older brother sells industrial parts and wants out. Dan wants something. In Two Small Birds, the brothers take flight in the worst possible way. This is the story of what it means to be family, to be working class, and to dream of being a poet in a world that refuses books. Set in tiny apartments and roadside diners, truckstops and warehouses, dive bars and worse hotels, Two Small Birds is a story of misdemeanors and perseverance, the jobs we take and the lives we lose. It’s the story of love, and whoever is in charge of that.


There are writers who understand America and there are writers who understand an America most writers don’t write about. This short-money, low-end, no expectations, working class just-skating-by America is the one Dave Newman lays bare in his achingly beautiful, badass and authentic novel, Two Small Birds. Call it Truck Driving America. What Newman has created in this big-hearted, gritty book is a kind of road novel, where the road is one you and everybody you know just want to get the hell off of, before it kills you or works you to death. Readers will hear echoes of Raymond Carver, Daniel Woodrell and Denis Johnson, but in the end Two Small Birds earns Newman a place of his own in the pantheon. Two Small Birds is really a book to love.” JERRY STAHL, author of PERMANENT MIDNIGHT


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Newman is the author of the novel Please Don’t Shoot Anyone Tonight and four poetry chapbooks, most recently Allen Ginsberg Comes To Pittsburgh. He’s worked as a truck driver, a book store manager, an air filter salesman, a house painter, and a college teacher. More than 100 of his poems and stories have appeared in magazines throughout the world, including Gulf Stream, Word Riot, Smokelong Quarterly, Wormwood Review, Tears in the Fence (UK), and The New Yinzer. He has been the featured writer and on the cover of both 5AM and Chiron Review. Anthologies include Beside the City of Angels (World Parade Books) and The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (Autumn House Press). In 2004, he received the Andre Dubus Novella Award. He lives in Trafford, Pennsylvania, with his wife, the writer Lori Jakiela, and their two children.


In 1968,  Ursula Le Guin‘s agent received the following letter from an editor regarding Le Guin’s novel The Left Hand of Darkness:

Dear Miss Kidd,

Ursula K. Le Guin writes extremely well, but I’m sorry to have to say that on the basis of that one highly distinguishing quality alone I cannot make you an offer for the novel. The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having thought of us. The manuscript of  The Left Hand of Darkness is returned herewith.

Yours sincerely,

The Editor
21 June, 1968

The following year (1969), Walker and Company published The Left Hand of Darkness to overwhelming critical acclaim. The novel also won the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards. Here are some of the reviews Le Guin  has received for the book:

“[A] science fiction masterpiece.”Newsweek

“A jewel of a story.”Frank Herbert

“As profuse and original in invention as The Lord of the Rings.”Michael Moorcock

“An instant classic.”Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own.”The Boston Globe

“Stellar…Le Guin is a superb stylist with a knack for creating characters who are both wise and deeply humane. A major event in fantasy literature.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Find The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin at

Trivia Tidbit: Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick were in the same high school graduating class — Berkeley (California) High School Class of 1947


Yann Martel was surprised to open his mail one day and read a letter from a famous fan who enjoyed his novel Life of Pi. (For the record, at the end of the novel, the author asks readers whether they prefer his book with or without animals — a tiger named Richard Parker is one of the main characters.)


(In case you can’t read the handwriting, here is the textMr. Martel, My daughter and I just finished reading LIFE OF PI together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals. It is a lovely book — an elegant proof of God and the power of storytelling. Thank you. Barack Obama)