by John Smolens

Publisher:  Carnegie Mellon University Press

Pub Date:  Fall 2001

Format:  Trade Paperback original

Brief Description
A collection of stories by the author of several critically acclaimed novels and the current head of the MFA program at Northern Michigan.

"THE INVISIBLE WORLD is an utterly engaging thriller, and at the same time a densely meaningful novel about a family. Richly evocative about its Boston locale, THE INVISIBLE WORLD is also an old fashioned page turner."
--Jim Harrison

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"THE INVISIBLE WORLD is quite visible to John Smolens, who knows Boston—all of New England--as if he has it trapped under his own literary microscope. What you'll find when you look into his lens is that Smolen's writing has more red blood in it, than blue."
--Jack Gantos

"John Smolens is that rare and gifted writer who can capture both our exterior and interior worlds with equal dexterity, grace and power.  COLD is a novel so riveting you will absolutely not be able to put it down, and these characters will stay with you long after turning the last page."
--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)

"COLD grabs you on the first page, and, like the snow swirling around John Smolens' fascinating characters, the ice-hard prose pushed under your collar and travels quickly down your spine.  Soon you'll be chilled to the bone, but you may not even notice because you'll be too busy turning the pages.  You must read COLD--preferably beside a fire, under a blanket."
--William Martin
(author of
Back Bay, Cape Cod and Citizen Washington)

"There's danger--sometimes palpable, sometimes faint or comic, but nonetheless real--behind each of these beautifully crafted stories in John Smolens' collection.  The sense of danger is what helps make these stroies beautiful and compelling.  Danger becomes a context for these stories and raises their stakes so that it seems that if no life is safe then no life is ordinary.  Read the story "Cold," and you'll see the method at work; read "Cold," and you won't close this book again until you've read them all."
--Stuart Dybek

"At the center of this taut novel is a young carpenter's search for moral certainty, in matters of work and love and commitment, in modern America, where such quests are an ordeal.  The story is suspenseful, exciting, tender, often humorous, and, above all, significant.  John Smolens is a wise and seasoned voice."
--Andre Dubus



"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

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

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

"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

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