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  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2019/05/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , firestarter, , , pet semetery, , suffer the little children, , , the institute, , , the waste lands   

    12 Unforgettable Young Protagonists in Stephen King Books 


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    Any list of the scariest horror stories likely includes at least a few on your list featuring young protagonists. Children and teenagers are well-represented in horror for a few reasons: They represent powerlessness, as most kids lack the freedoms adults enjoy, making them especially vulnerable to supernatural terror, and not especially well-equipped to deal with it. Kids themselves can be a little spooky to adults who have lost their connection to that imagination-fueled, morally simple time in their lives. And kids generally embody innocence, making them ideal prey for the monsters under their beds. For teenagers, on the other hand, the parallels between the loss of that childlike innocence and exposure to the often troubling realities of adulthood make for potent fuel for storytelling.

    No one knows all of this better than Stephen King, the master of modern horror. If you compile a list of his best-loved novels, a large proportion of them will feature kids as primary protagonists. Below, find 12 young King lead characters for whom “suffer the little children” isn’t just an old saying.

    Luke Ellis in The Institute
    Luke is a special kid, with special abilities. One night his parents are brutally murdered during an apparent home invasion that turns out to be something more. Luke is kidnapped by the killers and forced into the titular Institute, where Luke and other children are overseen by a sinister staff led by Mrs. Sigsby, who hopes to extract their powers, which range from telekinesis to telepathy. Luke soon discovers that eventually all the kids in the Institute graduate to the “Back Half,” from which point they are never seen again. In announcing this novel earlier this year, King specifically invoked past favorites like Firestarter and It (prompting me to imagine what would have happened if pyromancer Charlie had the benefit of a Loser’s Club of her own, one full of similarly superpowered kids). Dark powers forcing a vulnerable, orphaned child with powers beyond understanding to grow up too soon? This one covers all the “young horror protagonist” bases.

    Carrie White in Carrie
    Carrie’s not just a kid—she’s actually very obviously a sheltered one, her development stunted by her mother’s fanaticism and cruelty. King’s debut novel can be seen as a metaphor for adolescence and the loss of innocence, as Carrie’s abilities are directly connected to her physical maturation and sexual awakening. King has said he intended to write a feminist story, and that still scans, despite some dated elements. Certainly Carrie’s rage after seeing her life turn into a series of one humiliation after another will resonate with girls raised in an era of cyber bullying and social media, as she is shamed and deprecated for her power at every turn. In some ways, Carrie is the ultimate young King protagonist, stepping cautiously into the adult world and being revolted and disappointed by what she finds. She is a tragic hero—but a hero nonetheless.

    Danny Torrance in The Shining
    Danny Torrance is a victim of child abuse, and the lingering trauma from his father’s violent acts infect the whole story. Danny also suffers because of his “shine,” the mental powers he exhibits, which expose him to a darkness no young kid should have to face. No sooner has the Torrance family’s snowbound isolation in the remote, otherwise empty Overlook Hotel begun than does Jack Torrance’s mental breakdown and recruitment by supernatural forces into murderous rampage begin. And all of it is really just illustrating the subtext of Danny’s life, which is marked by post-traumatic stress disorder (he copes with the help of an invisible friend Tony who lives in his mouth) and sheer terror, made text. It’s remarkable how much of a kid Danny remains despite his suffering, including the way he clings to the idea that his father still loves him. That’s part of the psychological richness of the book, as is the masterful way King brings Danny’s terrifying experiences to visceral life.

    Gage Creed in Pet Sematary
    Gage is just three years old when he’s hit by a truck and killed. A sweet, loving little boy, his death is a powerful moment in the novel, despite coming so early in the story. The sweetness King establishes in him before that point magnifies the horror when Gage is brought back by the animating force of the Sematary but it no longer Gage at all. Interpretations of the character usually focus on imagining the horror of your own child returning from the dead not-quite-right, but there’s so much going on psychologically in this novel—from the fear of your children changing into people you don’t recognize, to the way we can be blind to problems when it comes to our loved ones (even when they’ve turned into murderous, undead demons). King’s weaponization of hope and love is almost cruel, and makes this one of his most terrifying books.

    The Losers Club in It
    King returns to childhood over and over again, exploring is the idea that all kids are tormented or damaged in some way large or small. (In his novel’s, the torments are usually… not small.) It’s inevitable: life isn’t safe, and the moment we can start making our own decisions, we’re in danger (of course, the real horror comes in the realization that we are always in danger). That understanding informs all of King’s work, but never more effectively than as embodied by the Loser’s Club. All the kids in this gangly gathering of like-aged friends is struggling with a different sort of damage, but together, they find the strength to not only survive their own traumas but to resist an immense evil terrorizing their home town (which, not coincidentally, preys on children, using their innocent imaginations as a weapon against them).

    Jack Sawyer in The Talisman
    Jack, the hero of King’s foray into portal fantasy, co-written with fellow ’80s horror master Peter Straub, faces truly nightmarish circumstances in his quest to save his dying mother, but remains a stalwart hero throughout, battling epic forces of evil as her travels through the otherworldly alternate world known as the Territories. Jack is introduced as an independent, intelligent, and cynical 12 year-old, older that his years thanks to his mother’s illness. But his fierce dedication to her, and his lack of hesitation when it comes to risking his life to track down the mystical Talisman that might cure her, demonstrate the best aspects of childhood—loyalty, innocence,  a stubborn persistence of hope, and an unflagging ability to adapt (even to the realization that you’ve traveled to a parallel universe).

    Jake Chambers in The Waste Lands
    It’s not a spoiler to say Jake Chambers dies more than once before the end of Stephen King’s epic, seven-volume Dark Tower series. The first time he’s pushed in front of a car in New York City and wakes up in another world—that of Roland Deschain, Mid-World’s last gunslinger. In short order, Roland chooses his obsession with the Man in Black over saving Jake’s life, and is haunted by the decision. Later, a bit of time travel magic gives him a chance to undo Jake’s first death, but the decision has disastrous consequences for them both. In the third novel of the series, The Waste Lands, Jake becomes a second lead of sorts, spending the first portion of the book trying to make sense of his fractured memories and find his way back to Roland’s world. As he grows and matures across the remainder of Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower, Jake becomes one of King’s most well-rounded young creations—sensitive and smart, funny and faithful, and very good in a fight.

    Ray Garraty in The Long Walk
    King was just a kid himself—only 18—when he wrote this novel (though it wasn’t published until years later, under his onetime pseudonym Richard Bachman), so it’s not hard to imagine 16 year-old Ray as a stand-in for King himself, placed within a story that tests him to his very limits. Every year in its dystopian alternate America, 100 teenage boys are selected via lottery to simply start walking, and continue doing so until only one of them is left alive. Considering the time in which it was first written, it seems a clear allegory for thefates of all those boys who went off to die in the Vietnam War—the draft making it a real world example of a death lottery for the young. Ray is a very normal kid, but King skillfully positions him as a bit of an outsider—he’s not athletic, and his passions include dancing and cooking. Ray’s motivations for winning are prosaic and universal: the prize is basically anything he wants (including not dying, I suppose), but his true goals are left open to interpretation.

    Arnie Cunningham in Christine
    King skillfully builds this surprisingly down-to-earth killer car story around a villainous protagonist. Arnie Cunningham is 17 and a stereotypical nerd when the story begins.He has just one true friend and nothing but a life of bullying and misery to look forward to every day. When he acquires a 1958 Plymouth Fury from a creepy old man, he begins to be possessed by a malevolent spirit that unleashes his inner demons, leading to vehicular mayhem. King transposes the sort of adolescent play-acting kids go through when they’re trying to figure out how to adult, transforming it into full-blown horror. Arnie slowly evolves into a cartoonish caricature of what a teenager thinks being a grown man is supposed to look like, all surly cynicism and superficial cool. The story likely hits home for any parent who goes to bed one night with a sensitive, caring kid in the other room and wakes up the next morning to a monosyllabic, sex-obsessed monster. King also injects a careful optimism into the book as, amid terrible events, Arnie actively struggles to remember who he really is.

    Marty Coslaw in The Cycle of the Werewolf
    Marty is ten years old and a paraplegic—a double-down on the perceived vulnerability of a child. Marty is attacked by a werewolf and manages to survive, only to find that no one—not one adult—believes him. It’s left to him to investigate, identify, and oppose the creature. The idea that children are receptive to concepts that adults are closed off to is a pretty classic trope, and King twists it by making them party to insights more horrifying than magical:  Marty isn’t living in a world of pure imagination that gives him special perspective and powers, he’s struggling to survive against a predator. In the end, it is brains and determination that win the day, not physical prowess—showing kids can sometimes be the strongest among us.

    Trisha McFarland in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
    While the horror bonafides of this short, strange novel can be argued, King leaves the door cracked open just enough to allow you to believe all the supernaturally tinged weirdness Trisha McFarland experiences after she becomes lost in the woods really happens, and can’t be chalked up to a hallucination brought on by exposure, hunger, and dehydration. King plays with very straightforward young protagonist tropes—as she searches for a way home, Trisha is both completely vulnerable and extremely resourceful, forced to deal with her own fears (both literal and metaphorical) without any help from parents, friends, or even society (but a little help from a vision of her hero, a baseball player for the Boston Red Sox). Childhood can be dark and full of terrors, and King makes the struggle to get through it visceral by placing Trisha all alone in the middle of nature. The fact that her inner strength—coupled with the emotional scars inflicted upon her by a tumultuous home life—is what enables her to survive her ordeal is a celebration of the resiliency of children.

    Charlie McGee in Firestarter
    Mentioned above, the telekinetic Charlie is in many ways a typical eight-year-old girl, although we never get to see her living a normal life. Her mental abilities, which manifest mainly as the ability to non-spoiler alert, start fires, are as awesome as they are deadly, but she actually only uses them purposefully to hurt someone once in the story, and only then when her father’s life is threatened. Otherwise, she’s a pretty cheerful and friendly kid whose abilities only slip out of her control unintentionally, causing damage. Just like any other kid that age, Charlie struggles with emotional control and proper social behavior—only her tantrums result in things near her being burned to a cinder. An interesting element in narrative is the fact that she inherits her powers from her parents, who gained their own abilities through a drug experiment, a bit of mad science that underscores a primal fear experienced by many parents: not only are they incapable of protecting them from the evil in the world, they may have also doomed their offspring to suffer their same mistakes.

    Who’s your favorite young protagonist in a horror novel?

    The post 12 Unforgettable Young Protagonists in Stephen King Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2019/04/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , cari mora, , ,   

    May’s Best New Thrillers 


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    Our list of the best thrillers out this month is stacked with star authors like Thomas Harris, the father of Hannibal Lecter, who delivers an entirely new story of greed and obsession; Clive Cussler, who returns with another Fargo Adventures story; and Jeffery Deaver, who is launching a taut new series. May just got a lot more exciting.

    Cari Mora, by Thomas Harris
    The author of The Silence of the Lambs delivers his first standalone novel in four decades, a tense thrilling with a most unexpectedly dangerous protagonist. It’s the story of Cari Mora, an tenuously legal immigrant working in Miami as the caretaker of a luxurious beach house, having fled violence and brutality in her home country. What Cari doesn’t know is that her life in the U.S. will be no safer: a drug cartel has buried $25 million under the house, and a group of ruthless, driven men seek to claim it. The worst of them, a sadistic fiend named Hans-Peter Schneider, is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the money, but he finds himself distracted with the beautiful Cari, and decides to claim her as part of the fortune. But Schneider soon discovers that Cari has learned how to survive the hard way, and has the skills—and the desperate drive to survive—to match his own perverse desires.

    The Oracle, by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell
    Cussler and Burcell’s treasure hunting couple Sam and Remi Fargo have never let a little thing like the threat of a supernatural curse prevent them from tracking down the treasures of the ancient world, and they aren’t about to start now. In the 6th century, a Vandal kingdom in Africa collapsed when a bundle of sacred scrolls were stolen and a curse was laid upon the king. The scrolls were never found, and the Fargos are determined to recover them. Delaying their quest is the theft of the humanitarian supplies being delivered by their charity, which forces them to travel to Africa to ensure replacements get to their intended destination. But the couple themselves are next assailed by thieves, and Remi is taken hostage. As Sam desperately searches for her, he discovers an apparent connection between the kidnapping and the ancient scrolls. The Fargos will be tested to their limits and beyond as they struggle to survive their 11th adventure..

    The Night Window, by Dean Koontz
    Five books into Koontz’s fast-paced techno-thriller series, Jane Hawk’s struggle against the Techno Arcadians—a shadowy cabal using secret nanotech implants to control minds and souls—is at its most desperate point. Having hidden her son Travis with allies, she teams up with former FBI agent Vikram Rangnekar and adopts a new identity in order to continue the fight. Vikram, a skilled computer hacker, has an unrequited crush on Jane, and brings his own problems into the mix in the form of an Arcadian obsessed with his capture. As they work together to find a way to stop the conspiracy, the Arcadians prove just how fearsome they are—some hunt humans for sport, some hunt for Travis in order to secure leverage over Hawk, and all of them are willing to use advanced surveillance technology to control the population and eliminate any threats to their rule.

    The Never Game, by Jeffery Deaver
    Jeffrey Deaver introduces a new protagonist in Colter Shaw, the son of a survivalist who travels the country in a mobile home taking on the search for people who the proper authorities can’t—or won’t—locate. Shaw is in California to search for Sophie Mulliner, who stormed out of her father’s house after an argument and was never seen again. The police think she’s just left town, but Shaw calculates long odds that she’s still alive. He quickly finds clues pointing to an abduction, and realizes the police who missed them were either incompetent or corrupt. When another abduction occurs, and then another, Shaw begins to piece together a connection between the crimes and a shadowy video game—and the uncertain fates of the victims puts a ticking clock on his efforts to track them down and save them from a terrifying fate.

    The Paris Diversion, by Chris Pavone
    Kate Moore appears to be just another young ex-pat in Paris, living comfortably as the wife of her hedge-fund manager husband Dexter. But Kate is much more than that: she’s a CIA agent under cover so deep not even Dexter knows their marriage is a sham. Despite all that, Kate has grown bored with her pretend-small life, but her malaise is shattered by two events: a young jihadi straps a bomb to himself and stands in front of the Louvre, and one of her husband’s wealthiest clients vanishes right before making announcing a major deal. Kate only gets more excited as the connections between the two events become clear, and relishes finally being able to dive into her real work—activating hidden support networks and chasing down leads in order to solve an increasingly twisted mystery.

    Vessel, by Lisa A. Nichols
    When the space mission onboard the Sagittarius ends in calamity, Catherine Wells is the only survivor to return to Earth, where she is met with suspicion. Catherine herself isn’t quite sure what to think; after nine years in space her personal relationships are already strained, and she’s experiencing memory loss, blackouts, and violent mood swings that make reconnecting with her family back on Earth enough of a challenge, never mind piecing together the events of a disaster in space. Cal Morganson, who is leading the follow-up mission and thus has a vested interest in figuring out what went wrong the first time, begins working directly with Catherine to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s a story of confused identity and desperate survival—Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter meets Andy Weir’s The Martian.

    Reaper: Threat Zero—A Sniper Novel, by Nicholas Irving with A. J. Tata
    In the next thriller from bestselling author Nicholas Irving and A.J. Tata, a retired U.S. special operations forces sniper, decorated ex-military sniper Vick Harwood returns in an explosive story that begins when a caravan of vehicles bringing the families of U.S. cabinet members to Camp David is ambushed and its passengers are brutally murdered. Harwood watches the live feed of footage captured by a fellow Ranger, Sammie Samuelson, who confesses to the attack and commits suicide live on the internet. Harwood investigates with the help of an FBI agent, Valerie Hinojosa, and soon uncovers a terrorist plot, leading to his recruitment into Team Valid, an elite team directed by the president to extract revenge on the terrorists behind the heinous act by tracking down their families and executing them. But as Harwood and his team travel the world in search of their targets, he discovers evidence that suggests nothing is as it seems, and soon, he is fighting not only for justice, but to defend his own closely held moral code.

    What new books are thrilling you this month?

    The post May’s Best New Thrillers appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2019/04/29 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    May’s Best History & Current Affairs 


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    History doesn’t take any breaks; every day is filled with the current events that will be tomorrow’s history. Thankfully the smart, incisive writers who clarify and contextualize these events also don’t take any breaks, and so we can offer you another meaty list of fantastic history and current events titles, including the newest from the legendary David McCullough, a moving portrait of one of America’s most cherished traditions from Senator Tom Cotton, and a wake-up call regarding one of our most closely held freedoms from Mark R. Levin.

    The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, by David McCullough
    David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, returns with an in-depth study of the settlement of the Northwest Territory, telling the stories of the hardy and fearless pioneers who traveled into the unknown determined to enlarge and enrich our country with their bare hands and at risk of their very lives. The movement west began sooner than most people realize, with the first settlers—veterans of the Revolutionary War—arriving in Ohio in 1788. McCullough tells the story of the town they carved out of the wilderness through the eyes of five historical figures, who becomes characters in a story about bravery, tragedy, diplomacy, and the conquest of a wilderness that wanted nothing more than to sweep them aside.

    Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, by Jared Diamond
    Jared Diamond, another Pulitzer-winner best known for Guns, Germs and Steel, returns with a unique and fascinating look at history through the lens of psychology, applying trauma treatment protocols to entire nations in order to explain sudden policy shifts and course corrections, from Chile’s wild political swings in the 20th century, to Japan’s opening to the West in the 19th century, to the persistence of the institution of slavery in the U.S., to the Winter War between the U.S.S.R. and Finland. Diamond argues that nations either take an honest look at themselves after disaster… or they don’t, and that willingness or unwillingness to acknowledge hard truths is the determining factor in what happens next.

    The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, by Rick Atkinson
    A third Pulitzer-winning author this month, Rick Atkinson delivers the first of three books covering the Revolutionary War in astonishing detail. This initial volume takes the reader through the first 21 months of the conflict, beginning with Lexington and Concord in 1775 and leaving off in the winter of 1777. Along the way, Atkinson dives deep into the personalities on both sides of the battlefield, including men who defined the fighting, like Henry Knox and George Washington, and men who defined the struggle for hearts and minds around the world, like Benjamin Franklin. The result is one of the most detailed and comprehensive studies of the early stages of a war that seemed doomed to be a short and futile one for the Americans, but instead birthed a nation.

    Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery, by Tom Cotton
    After returning home from Iraq in 2007, Tom Cotton served for several months in the Third Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard. Formed in 1784 in order to honor the memory of our fallen soldiers, the Old Guard stands over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery 24 hours a day, participates in ceremonies, and accompanies the president when he visits. In a powerful and detailed book, Cotton takes the reader through the history of this remarkable regiment, the requirements and procedures it presents, and his emotional recollections of his service to it, during which time he witnessed 11 burials on the country’s most hallowed ground. The book is a welcome reminder of the sacrifices that bind us together as a nation, and an absorbing exploration of an aspect of our country’s ceremonial life few know much about.

    Unfreedom of the Press, by Mark R. Levin
    Levin presents the argument that journalism is under threat like never before, not from government censorship or political oppression, but from a lack of honesty, transparency, and standards—in short, the press is being destroyed from within. Noting that, historically, the free press in this country has never been particularly objective and never made much effort to hide this fact, he sees the beginnings of supposed objectivity during the Progressive Era in the early 20th century as a turning point, transforming what had been an open process of championing political and policy goals into a shady, dishonest venture that is losing the faith of the people, and may cost us dearly.

    Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy, by Dan Abrams and David Fisher
    Abrams and Fisher deliver a close examination of an mostly overlooked moment in 20th century: a 1915 lawsuit against former president Theodore Roosevelt. The libel suit, brought against Roosevelt by political boss William Barnes due to Roosevelt’s public assertions that he was a corrupt official, was a sensation at the time, highlighted by Roosevelt’s turn as a witness on the stand, where the full power of his personality and intellect came into view for a whole week. After 38 hours being badgered by Barnes’ lawyers, Roosevelt emerged unscathed, having made an incredible impression on everyone involved. This detailed study of the incident brings Roosevelt to roaring life, and is a treat for anyone who wishes we could somehow experience history ourselves to get a feel for its larger-than-life players.

    This America: The Case for the Nation, by Jill Lepore
    Harvard historian Jill Lepore argues that post-Cold War America has shied away from viewing itself as a single entity—a nation—in part because of the inevitable and unpalatable connotations of nationalism. But the time, she thinks, has come to embrace the concept again. Our country did not evolve to its present state as the result of individual threads, but rather as a nation of people sharing a coherent political and cultural identity, Lepore says, and it remains so despite the apparent divisions that exist between us. Further, she argues that if we don’t embrace our status as a single nation in due course, we risk leaving the future to the demagogues and populists who are more than happy to define the future for us. It’s a thought-provoking argument from one of the best historians working today.

    The post May’s Best History & Current Affairs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2019/04/24 Permalink
    Tags: , alex michaelides, , , , the silent patient,   

    Agatha Christie, Sleight of Hand, and Psychological Complexity: An Interview with The Silent Patient Alex Michaelides 


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    There’s no shortage of excellent thrillers to read in the modern world, but every now and then a book comes along that rises above the rest and becomes that book that gets passed from person to person like a virus, accompanied by breathless endorsements and the sort of giddy joy only book lovers recognize. Well, we have our first bona-fide phenomenon thriller of 2019, the twisty, buzzy The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides.

    The Silent Patient has the bones of an old-school mystery, fused with a modern energy similar to The Girl on the Train or Gillian Flynn’s novels. It’s the sort of book you immediately want to recommend to your book club or best friend or, you know, strangers on your morning commute, just so you’ll have people to discuss it with. And then we thought, wait a sec, we’re Barnes and Noble, we can excitedly discuss the book with the author. So we reached out and sat down with Alex Michaelides himself to fanblog all over him, chatting about Agatha Christie, working as a scriptwriter in Hollywood, and, of course, the genesis of his remarkable debut novel.

    You obviously have a deep love for old-school mystery-thrillers like the works of Agatha Christie or Patricia Highsmith. How did those old-school cool novels influence The Silent Patient?

    Well, I grew up on the tiny island of Cyprus, in the Mediterranean. It was before the internet, and there was nothing to do in the summers except read. I was thirteen when I discovered Agatha Christie, and devoured all of her novels over one summer at the beach. It was probably the happiest reading experience I ever had, and it made me into a reader—and, I suspect, a writer. So later on, when I began thinking about writing a novel, I knew I wanted something to replicate that experience I’d had on the beach. And the plan was to take a Christie-style plot and marry it with a deeper psychological complexity. I tried to imagine what Christie might be writing now, if she were alive and had my life experience. Of course it’s not just Christie—I’m a huge fan of Patricia Highsmith, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Dorothy L. Sayers, all women actually! There is something so satisfying about encountering a story that works on one level and yet when you reach the end you realize you have been looking at everything the wrong way up. I think that sleight of hand, like a magician’s trick, is what appeals to me the most.

    Like all magic tricks, at its core writing is all about process. They say write what you know, and you drew on your experience working at a therapeutic community to write The Silent Patient. How much ‘real life’ is in the story?

    I was pretty messed up as a teenager, neurotic, anxious, depressed—and I had a lot of personal therapy for many years. I also studied it a couple of places at a postgraduate level—but never finished my studies, as I felt strongly that I was a writer not a therapist. As part of my studies, I worked at a secure psychiatric facility for teenagers. It was one of the most formative experiences of my life, and certainly the most humbling. It was incredible, helping kids heal and get well—and it went a long way to healing the messed-up teenage part of myself. I didn’t know I was going to write The Silent Patient then, but later on when I knew that I wanted to write a Christie-style book, I needed an enclosed location—the kind of thing she does so brilliantly—and I suddenly thought of the psychiatric unit. And instead of a detective, I could have a psychotherapist. Everything went from there. I didn’t use any of the people I encountered at the unit, but I did use the atmosphere and the emotions that I felt while I was working there. I kept notes at the time, and that helped me a lot when I came to write the book.

    Many have noted the symbolism of a woman who doesn’t speak, combined with the themes of Alcestis in The Silent Patient, which ties into what’s going on today with #MeToo and other movements. Was this intentional?

    You know, it wasn’t intentional, as I wrote The Silent Patient before the #MeToo movement began. But there was a synchronicity there, for sure. When they were bidding for the movie rights, I had many producers, male and female, comment on the fact that Alicia does not speak and asking me how I felt it related to #MeToo. It was quite clear to me that when a person is imprisoned, and not believed, not being heard, then her only recourse is not to speak. So silence in my thinking is a last resort; the last weapon available, when everything else has been taken away from you. That was what interested me about Alicia—as well as the silence in the Greek myth of Alcestis. Alcestis dies to save her husband, and yet when she’s brought back to life at the end of Euripides’s play, she refuses to speak when confronted with her husband. Why? Is she overjoyed, overcome with emotion? Or is she deeply furious, angry with him, betrayed and hurt that he let her die? The refusal to conclude, the refusal to supply a definite answer, is so powerful, and has been haunting me my whole life.

    We hear you’re adapting your own novel for a film version—are there any special challenges to turning your own work into a different medium? Did you think about a film version as you were writing it?

    I think writing for screen and for novels is very different. A friend of mine is a critic, and he always says something I find very helpful—that screenplays are about contraction, and novels are about expansion. Meaning that for a movie you try to keep everything going, keep the plot ticking along. Whereas in a book you can slow down and go into someone’s thoughts and spend a day with them as they walk round the park or think about their life. And discovering that transformed me as a writer. I feel very much that I’m more of a novelist than a dramatist. I never really imagined it as a film. And I think the silence will be extremely challenging. Having said that, making the film is an incredible opportunity. It will be very exciting to take the book apart and put it together again for another medium. I am very pliable these days. I think you have to be, if you’re going to succeed as a writer. It’s never good to get stuck on ideas or lines or bits of dialogue.

    What’s harder—writing a novel or getting a movie made?

    I would say each is hard. The motivation to keep writing every day, for months at time, is a big part of writing a book. But it’s much harder—as in emotionally more painful—to make a movie. I personally have found film-making to be a soul destroying process. A movie with a decent script and a great cast can be derailed by production problems that are nobody’s fault. It’s heartbreaking. So the decision to write The Silent Patient was a last ditch attempt to try and be in control of the creative process from start to finish, and get away from movies. So the irony I am now writing the screenplay is not lost on me. I have a feeling it’s going to be different this time, as I’m working with some amazing people.

    Speaking of writing, The Silent Patient contains a DefCon-5 kind of plot twist that has people’s heads spinning, yet it works perfectly. Did you start with the twist, or did you start with the premise or the characters and find the twist as you outlined? What’s your position on ‘spoiler etiquette’?

    It was rather a magical moment, the way it happened. As I have said, the various strands came together—Greek Mythology, Agatha Christie, psychotherapy—and the idea was born in one moment, as I was walking through the park near where I live. I was trying to imagine a psychological detective story about a woman who doesn’t speak and the therapist trying to help her. I was trying to come up with an ending—and I remember asking myself, ‘what would Agatha Christie do?’ And then suddenly, I saw it. I sat down on the nearest bench and pulled out my phone and wrote down the whole plot, which I still have on my phone. The details changed of course, but the general movement of the story and the twist have remained the same. It was a really good day, that day.

    Regarding spoilers, I will always remember going to see The Mousetrap in London, when I was a kid. At the end of the performance, one of the actors steps forward and asks the audience not to reveal the ending to anyone else as it would spoil their enjoyment of the play. So I think it’s just good manners, don’t you?

    We do! So we’re not going to spoil The Silent Patient, we’ll just encourage everyone reading this to buy a copy immediately so we can all discuss it freely. Thanks, Alex, for taking the time to talk about your book with us!

    Shop all thrillers >

    The post Agatha Christie, Sleight of Hand, and Psychological Complexity: An Interview with <i>The Silent Patient</i> Alex Michaelides appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:05 pm on 2019/04/11 Permalink
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    5 Reasons Supermarket Is the Breakout Novel You Didn’t See Coming 


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    Supermarket, by Bobby Hall—also known as rapper Logic—is one of those books that seemed to come out of nowhere. This mindbending debut has rocketed up the bestseller lists despite almost zero advance publicity, and it’s generating tons of buzz—for very good reason. In fact, Supermarket is one of the year’s most unexpected delights—and here are five reasons it’s going to surprise the heck out of you.

    Bobby Hall, aka…

    This is Hall’s debut novel, but not his debut everything, because Bobby Hall is Sir Robert Bryson Hall II. And Sir Robert Bryson Hall II is the rapper Logic, behind multiple number-one rap albums and the quintuple platinum hit song 1-800-273-8255. Logic apparently decided to write a novel when his manager told him “Yeah, dude, you can’t write a book.” Based on how well Supermarket is doing, someone please tell Logic he can’t cure cancer or solve world peace, like pronto.

    Nothing Up His Sleeves

    To say that Supermarket is a mindbender is an understatement. No spoilers here, but what’s really remarkable is how Hall doesn’t hide the fact that this novel is going to mess with you. He overtly breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to readers in the very first chapter, alerting us to the fact that he—or the main character—is fully aware you’re reading a book. And that’s just the beginning of the mind-screwing you will endure in this novel. On the surface, it’s the story of a frustrated, dissatisfied young man who takes a job at a supermarket to research a novel he’s writing. He takes notes on everyone he works with, and takes inspiration from the events at the store. That’s level one of a hundred, but the way he admits the surface trick may tempt you to relax.

    Do not relax. Buckle up.

    The Soundtrack

    Logic’s a musician, so it’s not surprising that music plays a big role in the novel. Narrator Flynn cites songs that have affected his life, and bonds with the people around him via a shared love of music. Songs and bands are name-dropped regularly, and they’re often the sort of crate-diggers that will have you scouring the internet for information. But as a wonderful surprise, Hall also released a bona-fide soundtrack to the book, of all original music. The soundtrack both augments the reading experience and offers a unique opportunity to get inside the head of a writer while reading their work.

    The Themes

    It might be tempting, going in, to classify this work as a celebrity’s book, or a work of metafiction that exists just to break some rules. But Logic’s an artist who has been upfront about his struggles with mental health, an artist whose biggest hit is literally the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number. It should come as zero surprise that Supermarket is ultimately a raw and powerful rumination on how depression and mental illness can conspire to destroy a life—and how that destruction is not inevitable. Ultimately, this is a book of hope, a story that assures us all that we might be messed up, but we can—and should—survive.

    Two for One

    In a lot of ways, the most surprising thing about Supermarket is that it’s really two stories in one. There’s a complete arc in the first half of the book, a whole story. Then the second half of the book deconstructs the first half and makes of it a whole new narrative, that doesn’t so much replace the first half as reinvent it and assimilate it into something bigger. Because Hall doesn’t hesitate or use half-measures, he simply rips the band-aid away when it comes time to reveal the big twist. Where other authors might have made a meal of it, Hall tears through it with a wild energy that perfectly matches the events being described.

    Best of all? There’s a point. Hall brings it all home with a satisfying ending, solidifying Supermarket as not just one of the more surprising books of 2019, but also one of the most assured debut novels of all time.

    The post 5 Reasons <i>Supermarket</i> Is the Breakout Novel You Didn’t See Coming appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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