THE ANARCHIST
by John Smolens

Publisher:  Shaye Areheart Books/Random House

Pub Date:  Fall 2009

Format:  Hardcover

Brief Description
A riveting historical thriller, the first novel to dramatize the historic assassination of President McKinley in 1901. By the critically-acclaimed novelist and current head of the MFA program at Northern Michigan. 

 

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PRAISE for THE ANARCHIST

"This is a skillfully rendered historical novel about the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901...Smolens has fashioned a believable, complex, and human protagonist. He also puts forth a novel about historical conditions that produced this assassination; throughout, we see revolutionary ideas like socialism, communism, and anarchy being discussed (and, in some cases, tested) by various characters, who protest the repetitive, demanding, and dangerous work laborers performed for meager wages. VERDICT: These were indeed dangerous and tumultuous times, and Smolens brings them convincingly to life. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction."-- Library Journal

"Here McKinley and his intimates emerge as complex, flawed individuals while Czolgosz, his accidental comrades, and even his jailers are granted similar depth. The incoming president, Theodore Roosevelt - and the political change he represents - is also pithily captured. There are no surprises if you know your history, but the subtlety and vigor with which Smolens evokes this turbulent era makes “The Anarchist” far more than a superior adventure."--Boston Sunday Globe 

"John Smolens has written a historical novel with the quick-beating heart of a thriller. Written in crisp, cinematic prose, The Anarchist has echoes of the best noir, while at the same time invoking a terrifyingly empathetic portrait of the young assassin Leon Czolgosz, who, in Smolens hands, has a kind of Dostoyevskian complexity. Before reading this book, the McKinley assassination existed in my mind as only a dry fact. The Anarchist has brought these events to rich, bloody, teeming life."
– Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply

"Fiction so shapely and finely wrought: dark history inexorably bound to repeat itself -- The Anarchist is another gem from a master of the storyteller's arts."
– Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking

"If you have ever been fascinated by the name and deed of one Leon Czolgosz, John Smolens’s The Anarchist will be a good friend to you. If you have never heard of the name and deed of one Leon Czolgosz, John Smolens’s The Anarchist will likely be a revelation. With his portrait of a bygone America both out for blood and at its own throat, Smolens has written an intelligent, often troubling warning disguised as a first-rate thriller, as though Sinclair Lewis has fused with Alan Furst.”
– Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things

Past Endorsements and Reviews

"THE INVISIBLE WORLD is an utterly engaging thriller, andat 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

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

Reviews for THE INVISIBLE WORLD

"With this novel of American paranoia, the two best-known practitioners in that genre - Don DeLillo and James Ellroy - might be justified in wondering if John Smolens is following them. In his fifth book, although it is the first to be given a real publicity shove in Britain, Smolens adds to the stack of novels - topped by DeLillo's Libra and Ellroy's The Cold Six Thousand - that fret over and meddle with events in Dallas on November 22 1963.
             Its title nudging conspiratorially at hidden truths and governmental subterfuge, The Invisible World builds its tension from a book within the book. Sam Adams, a semi-retired Boston hack, believes that his dad, a shadowy employee of Uncle Sam, was the second gunman on that Texas day: the one, standing on the grassy knoll, who conspiracy theorists believe really killed President Kennedy.
             Sam's book, One True Assassin , a contribution to the shelves of family confessionals that makes Mommie Dearest read like a mother's day card, was rubbished by Senator Hume, a stickler for the official version, thus burning Sam's career. When Sam's mother dies, her ashes are stolen from the crematorium, apparently by his spooky and elusive father. In recovering his mother's dust and confronting his father, the book's anti-hero hopes finally to get the assassination story straight. But Senator Hume is fighting a tight re-election race, and a colleague of Sam's is shot in what may be a case of fatally mistaken identity.
             Inevitably, most of the JFK fiction has been located in Dallas. What makes The Invisible World distinctive is that it's a Boston book: bringing the president's body home, as it were. Not only is the hero named after a local beer, but Smolens sometimes seems to be writing for people who are as familiar with the city as Samuel Adams himself.
             Happenings are lovingly catalogued as a "Boston moment" and there are reminiscences of several municipal occurrences: "At the time the Hancock Tower was under construction and they were having trouble with the large glass windows..." Local dignitaries, literary and athletic, are also name-checked: "We talked about John Updike's piece on Tad Williams's last game." Such details sometimes build local colour for outsiders, but can also tend to lessen the novel's heft beyond Boston Harbour.
             Other references travel better. Smolens is excellent at physical detail, such as the crunch of the sand left in freshly cooked clams. And, in a paranoid thriller, it's a smart move to give the Adams clan a family home in Salem, where the witches were hunted. Many works, most notably Arthur Miller's The Crucible, have drawn a parallel between Salem and McCarthyism, but the hysteria here works well as a backdrop to the Kennedy assassination and other conspiratorial twistings.
             As a character, Sam Adams has the drawback that the National Union of Fictional Journalists must these days be refusing entry to any more cynical but charismatic hacks whose taste for booze has not ruined their nose for a yarn. His multi-orgasmic couplings with a much younger journalist girlfriend make us wonder whether the writer has already cast a Hollywood senior such as Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford in a mental movie version. However, the balance of his motivations - half good citizen, half Oedipal son, healing the country by destroying his family - is original and fascinating.
             This is the first JFK-related thriller I've read since New York rather than Dallas - the World Trade Centre, not the Texas Book Depository - came to stand for the biggest modern crime against the American state. And there's no doubt that the question of who exactly did away with JFK has lost some resonance.
             The novel also feels more historical than it should because, in its later stages, when new conspiracy theories take hold that concern events in Boston now rather than in Dallas then, there's surprisingly little reflection of that contemporary engine of paranoia and rumour: the internet. Imagine, if the web had existed when Kennedy was shot, what skeins of theory and spirals of hypothesis there would now be. With emails and text messaging, technology has finally caught up with the human instinct to gossip.
             However, in adding to the JFK speculations which were spread merely by letter and telephone, John Smolens has written a poignant and literate thriller which shows that a news story that reaches its 40th birthday this year still has the power to haunt."
--The Guardian (London)

"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

"Even if you're weary of speculations about JFK and Dallas, this book is brilliant in its details. The descriptions of people and places are memorable. And its ghostly portrait of the Adams family will haunt you."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer

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

"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."
--Booklist

"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."

"Samuel Adams has spent his life trying to discover the truth about his father. Why did he keep disappearing from family life only to reenter for brief, unannounced periods of time? What mysterious work did he perform for the government? What was his father's role in the Kennedy assassination? As Sam's mother lies dying at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, a reporter leaks to Sam that she saw his father enter and exit from his mother's room. Was he there to say his final goodbye or to stop her from telling her story? A suspicious autopsy report and the realization that his father has taken off with his mother's ashes send Sam off on the trail of this enigma once again. The characters he meets, the motives he exposes, and the puzzle he tries desperately to solve will keep the reader in suspense. Smolens (Cold) once again proves that he clearly possesses an uncanny ability to tell a disturbing story of intrigue. Recommended for most collections."
--Library Journal

"Sam Adams has plenty to be gloomy about. His mother has just died. He is still haunted by the suicide of his drugged-out younger sister. And his father, a shadowy government operative who was almost never around as a dad and who almost certainly played a role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, has suddenly re-appeared, just long enough to make away with mom's ashes. In addition, Sam's career is in the toilet, largely thanks to his recent magnum opus, a book in which the 40-something journalist tried unsuccessfully to prove his father's role in the assassination.
                  Or did he? Because suddenly an awful lot of mysterious people want to talk to him, mostly because they're looking for his dad. Then along comes Petra, a warm and sensual young woman who, for her own hidden reasons, might just as attracted to Sam's arcane memories as she is to his somewhat prickly personality.
Thus does author John Smolens set in motion his fourth novel, The Invisible World, a noir-ish literary thriller set mostly in the streets of Boston and the snug harbors of Cape Cod.
                  Sam Adams narrates the tale himself (and could there possibly be a better name for someone so closely tied to the lore of Boston?), and even with all his introspection and misfortune he comes across as a pleasant and engaging guide. His movements through the city set a tone like that of a film shot in grainy black and white. It is a portentous world of cold weather, low clouds and dark waters - gloomy yet never quite crossing into gothic. His is a solitary stroll in which the more ponderous events of the past are always whispering just over his shoulder.
                  As Sam labors to elude his pursuers even as he attempts to track down his father, he must again dig deep into the past, both his own and his father's. While there are plenty of moments of high suspense along the way - a few close shaves, a disappearance, a killing or two - it is the slower moments that are more rewarding, often graced with pitch-perfect observations, such as this one about Sam's troubled sister, Abby: "Conversation with her was always like testing the ice on the pond - she'd start out where it was safe and sidle out toward the middle, until the sheet would begin to crackle and boom, and she'd inch her way back toward shore."
                  At times, the book seems oddly underpopulated, as if half of Boston had left town while the main characters played out their roles. But this sparseness is at least partly due to the narrative mood. Sam has sealed himself off from so much of the workaday world that he appears to be going it alone, even when seated among thousands of fellow Red Sox fans at Fenway Park.
                  The novel contains many allusions to the various conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination, but thankfully, it never comes across as trying to solve the mystery. It is far more a well-told tale about the way that obsessions - with theories, with fathers, with failures - tend to take over lives, sometimes several lives at once, and the manner in which the shadows of momentous events only seem to lengthen over time, cloaking an ever larger crowd in their darkness."
--The Baltimore Sun

"John Smolens's "The Invisible World" has a nifty setup. Samuel X. Adams, a Boston University grad and former reporter for the Boston Beacon, has written a book in which he accuses his absentee father of participating in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Years later, with his book widely discredited, especially by an ambitious junior senator from Massachusetts, Adams learns that a local journalist, Petra Mouzakis, has been interviewing his mother as she lies dying at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. When his mother succumbs to cancer, Adams's father resurfaces briefly and, with all the stealth learned during his years in government service, he makes off with his late wife's ashes. Mouzakis tells Adams she believes she saw his father visit his mother in the days before she died, and soon hospital officials are telling Adams they found traces of a brain-damaging chemical in her blood.
               And so we're entangled in a web with Adams. He's in danger, as is Mouzakis, and the former junior senator, now running for attorney general, reemerges with a new interest in what Adams knows about the Kennedy assassination. Soon, Adams is trapped, not only in his Bunker Hill neighborhood, but by memories of his childhood and the need to reinvestigate his father and his activities almost 40 years earlier. But the setup tells only some of what Smolens has achieved with his fourth novel. "The Invisible World" is more than a first-rate political thriller. It's an absorbing tale of alienation and loss, and the ramifications of a rootless, troubled family. Adams, though nearly 50 years old, is a man without place, despite his affection for his neighborhood, his memories of the hockey games at the old Garden, and, most dear and troubling to him, his childhood in Salem, when his promising sister fell prey to drugs and local lore, and his mother was compelled to live a life not of her choosing. And then there's his father, whom he's written about but doesn't really know. Thus, the shadows Adams crosses on the streets of Boston and Salem compete with the dark places in his regret-plagued mind, and he is never at ease. Smolens manages all this without surrendering to sentimentality or losing his grip on his mystery. It's an achievement, for "The Invisible World" enriches us, and subtly provokes us, while providing its chills and thrills."
--The Boston Sunday Globe

"Journalist Samuel Xavier Adams's mother has just died of cancer. A strange man was seen entering her room shortly before her death, her ashes are stolen from the crematorium and the hospital pathologist is puzzled by a substance he discovers in her body. Samuel is convinced his father, a shadowy figure from the intelligence world who disappeared shortly after the tragic events in Dallas on November 11, 1963, has returned. He's been convinced for years his father was one of the men on the grassy knoll.
As he tries to uncover the truth, he realizes that both he and his father are being pursued by ruthless CIA operatives determined to silence father and son and keep the details of what really happened in Dallas buried for ever. An intriguing, exquisitely written conspiracy thriller with a fresh take on the enduring controversy surrounding the assassination of JFK."
--The Irish Independent, Dublin

"
SAM ADAMS never really knew his father. Was this because Daddy was jetting around the world working as an assassin for the American Government? Sam writes a controversial book that places his father John, gun in hand, on the grassy knoll above Dealey Plaza from where he shot President Kennedy. Shortly after its publication the book’s findings are contradicted by a congressman and Sam’s journalism career goes to the dogs. Before long Sam and Petra, a sympathetic reporter who has also been piecing together John’s secret history, find themselves beset on all sides by sinister strangers and, before too long, even more sinister corpses.
Never less than entertaining, Smolens’s superior thriller is utterly absorbing when delving into the Byzantine mysteries that surround JFK’s death.
The London Times

"Sam Adams has plenty to be gloomy about in a new book, "The Invisible World," by John Smolens, His mother has just died. He is still haunted by the suicide of his drugged-out younger sister. And his father, a shadowy government operative who was almost never around as a dad and who almost certainly played a role in the assassination of President Kennedy, has suddenly reappeared, just long enough to make away with mom's ashes.
Thus does author John Smolens set in motion his fourth novel, "The Invisible World," a noir-ish literary thriller set mostly in the streets of Boston and the snug harbors of Cape Cod.
                  As Sam labors to elude his pursuers even as he attempts to track down his father, he must again dig deep into the past, both his own and his father's. While there are plenty of moments of high suspense along the way - a few close shaves, a disappearance, a killing or two - it is the slower moments that are more rewarding, often graced with pitch-perfect observations, such as this one about Sam's troubled sister, Abby:
                  "Conversation with her was always like testing the ice on the pond - she'd start out where it was safe and sidle out toward the middle, until the sheet would begin to crackle and boom, and she'd inch her way back toward shore."
--The Associated Press

"There have been many thrillers and, indeed, supposed "true life" books that center on the killer(s) of John F. Kennedy. In this one, though, written by a smoothly accomplished stylist who heads the creative writing program at Northern Michigan University, protagonist Samuel Adams must negotiate a midlife crisis, precipitated by the death of his mother, that leads him to search for his long-gone father about whom Sam wrote a famous book suggesting that the Old Man killed the president.
Another journalist, Petra, following up on Adams' long-discredited work, tells him she saw his father visiting his mother in the hospital just before she died. Did Dad kill Mom and if so, why? Helpfully, Petra is a fox who can supply Adams with a romantic reason to live as well as help in his attempt to unravel the past but what if Sam's survival isn't in Dad's plans?
            Mr. Smolens is also the author of Cold and Angel's Head, and as always, his work is as much "literary" as "thriller" with the most delicious elements of each."
--The Dallas Morning News

"Fathers, sons and spies are at the heart of the new novel by John Smolens, a talented author with a growing reputation. The book turns on a middle-aged narrator's search for the truth about his elusive father, who haunts him at every turn. 
             The narrator's father held a secretive job with "the government" that left his mother to raise two children essentially alone. The absence of the father and the love-hate dynamic it sets in motion drives the well-written and gripping story from beginning to end as Smolens takes two very different genres - the spy novel and the family saga - and blends them into an absorbing work of fiction."
--The Oakland Press


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."
--Booklist
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."
Amazon.com'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

for WINTER BY DEGREES
"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."
--Kirkus

"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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