by John Smolens

Publisher:  WW Norton

Pub Date:  1994

Format:  Hardcover

Brief Description
Set on an isolated island off Cape Cod, the story of a series of small town murders, and the race to find the killer. Great atmosphere and authentic detail—set against a local fishing village and the howling winds off the cape.

"John Smolens is that rare and gifted writer who can capture both our exterior and interior worlds with equal dexterity, grace and power."
--Andre Dubus III
(author of House of Sand and Fog)

"COLD is a finely crafted, wild yarn set in the great north. John Smolens gives us a suspenseful tale in a style somewhere between Jack London and Raymond Chandler. A fine read."
--Jim Harrison
(author of Legends of the Fall)


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"What holds our attention is the rich atmosphere, the chill desolation of a shore town in midwinter.  John Smolens knows his territory, social as well as geographical and proves it in his first novel."
--Boston Sunday Globe

"A promising debut."
--Chicago Tribune

"...delivers gritty dialogue and earthy atmosphere."

"Richly textured and intriguing. A gritty tale of mystery and violence...."
Lansing State Journal

"Rich in detail....Captures the sense of gloom that hangs over seaside communities in the winter as if a tragedy is just around every corner."
Cape Cod Chronicle

for COLD

"Set in Michigan's cold, harsh Upper Peninsula, this third novel by Smolens (Angel's Head, etc.) uses its frigid backdrop as the perfect setting for an astute examination of six lives wrecked by fate, betrayal and tragedy. Norman Haas, an inmate at a nearby prison, turns up nearly frozen and starved on the isolated property of Liesl Tiomenen, a widow whose life was derailed by the deaths of her husband and daughter in a car crash. Liesl has a gun, and she decides to escort Norman into town on foot, since the snow is too deep for driving. When she falls and can't get up again, Norman leaves her alone in the snow. Though he was jailed for assaulting his older outlaw brother, Warren, and pill-popping girlfriend, Noel, who were cheating on him together, Norman still loves Noel and is determined to return and set things straight. Heading home through a relentless blizzard, he picks up Noel and their three-year-old daughter, Lorraine, and together the three hole up in a lodge deep in the snowy woods. Meanwhile, Liesl has been rescued; recovering, she joins forces with dogged local sheriff Del Maki to find Norman, though both suspect he got a raw deal from the law. When all of the major players including treacherous Warren and Noel's sinister father come together for the final confrontation, nothing prepares the reader for the startling chain of events that lead to a violent, shattering ending. Smolens's skill in rendering scenes of stunning brutality and uncommon tenderness, his crisp dialogue, vigorous writing style and keen descriptive powers all make this a first-rate thriller. Agent, Noah Lukeman. (Sept.)Forecast: A rave blurb from Jim Harrison suggests the cut-above quality of this excellent thriller. Smolens's previous novels were critically acclaimed, and this one should help build his readership."
--Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

"Smolens not only uses the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a backdrop, he also treats it as a character, silent, relentless, and cruel. Norman Haas walks away from a prison work crew into a snowstorm, heading toward freedom but also toward his past in search of answers and justice. Convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, Noel, his sentence is long because of her father's clout and the implication that he caused the disappearance of a witness. But it's more of a sense of natural order than evil that causes Norman to leave a woman for dead and to take advantage of the bad luck of others. He runs off with a willing Noel and their daughter, trailed by a wise local policeman and others concerned with keeping the past hidden. The truth eventually is uncovered, but at what price? Those who read suspense novels for their projection of justice and resolution will find a winner here in this well-plotted and well-written tale fueled by a sense of impending disaster."
Danise Hoover, Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

"John Smolens's matter-of-fact narrative style pairs ideally with this gritty yarn about a convict who, after fleeing a work detail in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, sets off through a snowstorm to reclaim the life he'd enjoyed before his duplicitous family sent him to prison. Here's an example of Smolens's style from early on in Cold, when escapee Norman Haas is involved in a trucking accident. Rather than save the trapped driver from his rig's explosion, Norman steals a van from a stranger who has stopped to help them both. "As he pushed in the clutch and shifted into first gear," Smolens writes,

he realized there was a familiar smell in the warm van. The ashtray was full of rolls of Certs; he picked up one and began peeling back the paper. In the rearview mirror he could see the burning truck. The flames now rose high above the cab, and thick black smoke blew into the trees alongside the road. Norman put a Certs in his mouth. The taste reminded him of inside, where he'd sucked on Certs all day long. Wintergreen.

Norman never achieves much more dimension than that. He exists primarily as a catalyst, forcing this book's other more intricately drawn characters to reveal their own pain, mendacity, or longing. These include characters like his ex- fiancée, Noel, who saw Norman's incarceration as just revenge for his abuse; she went on to marry his malingering brother, but now intends to run away with Norman to Canada. Or like Del Maki, the small-town sheriff whose dogged pursuit of the escapee is entwined with his growing appreciation for a widowed sculptor who'd tried to convince Norman to turn himself in. As these players, along with Noel's hunter father and his mysterious Asian business partner, converge at a remote cabin, they incite a desperate, violent clash that exposes both the deception at the root of Norman's conviction and an ugly conspiracy to profit from wildlife destruction. Cold is fiction to chill the soul--too revealing of human selfishness to be easily read, too well-written to be easily put down."'s Best of 2001
--J. Kingston Pierce

"A fascinating and disturbing novel."
Independent (Sunday)

"If you're ready for a chilling, powerful, mesmerizing tale set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, grab a copy of Cold.... The intriguing, atmospheric novel focuses on a variety of interpersonal relationships.....The entertaining, carefully crafted tale is full of surprises, including the final chilling and decisive conclusion.... Smolens' strong characters display a wide range of human emotions; the heightened sense of atmostphere is so distinct that you'll swear the temperature has gone down a few degrees since you began reading the book. The deft plotting explores the frailties of the human heart, problematic family relationsips and greed while presenting a solid tale of strength, death and deception."
--Lansing State Journal



"Father-and-son conflicts always seem to work better when there's a crime involved, preferably one of epic scope, like the one that John Smolens depicts in THE INVISIBLE WORLD (Shaye Areheart, $22.95). His protagonist, a slacked-off Boston journalist named Sam Adams, once wrote a book accusing his absentee father, a shadowy presence who ''worked in government (as opposed to for the government),'' of being the second gunman on that grassy knoll in Dallas when J.F.K. was shot.  Understandably, relations between father and son have been strained ever since. Now the old man's back in town, just long enough for Sam to accuse him of silencing Sam's mother before she could deliver her deathbed version of the conspiracy to a reporter. Smolens's sharp views of places like Charlestown and Salem avoid the usual hometown sentimentality, making a nice contrast with the mournful lyric voice he uses for Sam's recollections of his miserable family life."
--The New York Times

"This novel of conspiracy and political intrigue creates a heady atmosphere reminiscent of Paul Auster...Smolen's spare style plays off nicely against the plot, and elaborate tapestry of twists and contradictions.  Smolens (Cold) balances political commentary, excitement and heartbreak nicely, moving his career forward with sure-footed style."
--Publishers Weekly

"A perfectly-paced thriller that gently pulls you in"
--The Daily Mirror (UK)

"Beautifully written and absorbing"
--The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"What if your dad killed JFK and you'd spent your adult life trying to pin the murder on him? That's the juicy premise here. Instead of going the tabloid route, Smolens weaves a complex personal tale that examines the terrible impact of an assassin's actions on the family so often left behind. The son, Samuel Xavier Adams, a recovering journalist, can't even hold a job at an alternative paper after sinister forces discredit his Dallas expose, One True Assassin. The daughter dies after being reduced to junkie-whore status with the help of dear old Dad's Cuban associate. Their mother is snuffed on her deathbed as she's telling a reporter about long-suffering years spent waiting for cryptic calls from a husband devoted only to executing black-ops capers for the government. When the hit man steals Mom's ashes, Sam decides to track him down and finally blow the lid off the story. All good stuff, but it's Sam's underlying quest--to find an emotional replacement for the sister he loved so deeply--that proves achingly compelling."

"Smolens, who heads up the masters creative writing program at Northern Michigan University, is one of those just-under-the-radar guys who dapples just enough in thrillerdom that the crit-geeks won't give him his literary due. This effort, a smoothly efficient amalgam of Salem/Boston atmosphere, the narrator/journalist's midlife crisis, a horribly dysfunctional family that includes a witch/junkie and a dad who — by the way — might have been the triggerman on the JFK assassination, lures you in and snaps like a bear trap."
--The Day

"A dark and engrossing literary thriller - written by the director of Northern Michigan University Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program - is a virtual funnel cloud that might leave you gasping for air. "The Invisible World," by John Smolens (Shaye Areheart, 301 pages, $22.95), is polished, entertaining and somberly gray.  Smolens' earlier work includes the 2001 novel "Cold," about what happens when a prisoner escapes from an Upper Peninsula work camp, and a short-story collection, "My One and Only Bomb Shelter." The author will be at Shaman Drum 8 p.m. Dec. 16 to discuss "The Invisible World."
The novel stars a not-very-patriotic Sam Adams, who in a book called "One True Assassin" exposed his father, John, as the killer of President Kennedy. As "The Invisible World" opens, Sam, now in his 40s, is out of work as a journalist and tending to his dying mother when in swoops the undetected father, who slips his wife poison and later makes off with her ashes. The chase is on, as Sam tracks his father. Gradually we learn that Sam and his mother and sister, Abigail, had suffered greatly because of John. It's a sad family tale, and it only gets worse when we learn that Abigail died of a drug overdose.  Smolens is a fine writer, once praised by Jim Harrison as having a style somewhere between Jack London and Raymond Chandler. It does keep you reading."


"Crafted by a writer who's good at atmospherics."

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