by John Smolens

Publisher:  Shaye Areheart/Harmony Books

Pub Date:  August 2004

Format:  Hardcover and Trade Paperback

Brief Description
A new novel by the author of several critically acclaimed novels and short story collections and the current head of the MFA program at Northern Michigan.  Set in Michigan, tells the story of a son who murders his father to protect his mother and goes to prison; of the mother who moves to live near her son in prison; and of their plans to break him out.
(see below for Full Description)

* Finalist for the 2005 Great Lakes Book Award
* A Detroit Free Press Best Book of the Year 

Foreign Sales
* UK
* Greece

"FIRE POINT put my teeth on edge from the first page and kept them there until I finished. Smolens is a fine writer with a profound knowledge of human behavior gone awry."
--Jim Harrison
(author of Legends of the Fall)


"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

"Innocent lovers are subjected to an onslaught of jealousy and hostility ... in a sensitively observed, mesmerizing novel that builds in fury as inexorably and stunningly as a Lake Superior storm...Readers may devour this in one sitting, and the startling denouement will keep them rapt to the chilling end."
--Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

"Grade:  A.  Hemingway set some of his best tales in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as has Jim Harrison. In his latest novel, John Smolen also takes advantage of the Lake Superior area to great effect...Smolens has done a superlative job of rendering a place and its people realistically. He has crafted a thriller that is as literate and insightful into human nature as any novel out this year."
--Denver Post

"In a quiet, assured fashion, Smolens sets up a series of inevitable confrontations that don't usually turn out the way one would expect--just like in real life. Fans of Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods will find much to like here."

"The story structure of Smolens' fifth novel (following the critically acclaimed Cold) is all too familiar: a young woman living in a small town falls in love with an older, semi-mysterious stranger. They move in together, but then her ex-boyfriend returns home after a yearlong stint in the Army and makes their life a living hell until a shockingly violent act occurs....In the hands of others, this story line would feel trite and overused, but not in Smolens' hands....Smolens' careful realization of his characters and the harsh Upper Michigan setting adds a welcome freshness that rises above the apparent plot contrivances."
--Baltimore Sun

"A new, elegantly structured suspense novel from John Smolens, "Fire Point," argues for the heated view, where envy can immolate someone from the inside out -- and then storm out to burn down everything in its path....Smolens' characters are smart enough to know what they're up to, but too smart to advertise it....Smolens ramps up the suspense elements in "Fire Point" with skill. When Sean and Martin clash, the results will surprise even veteran thriller readers. And Smolens has stripped his prose down in the new book to match the rat-a-tat requirements of the genre...So "Fire Point" is a good, suspenseful read with the kind of lean writing that many better-selling writers would have to sell their souls to achieve."
--Detroit Free Press


"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."

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

Full Description of FIRE POINT
           Sharon Kosovec has been wandering aimlessly about the United States the past four years, after her son had been convicted of pursuing his father across Michigan and murdering him with a baseball bat in a lakeside cottage. But now, in the summer of 2000, she has returned to northern Michigan to be close to James, who is serving time in Marquette Prison. There she is drawn into a plan several inmates to break out. She becomes involved with two men, Doug Gage, a shady landlord who helps her finance her son's escape, and a local carpenter named Carl Baylor, who is attempting to rebuild his own life after his wife has died of cancer.
           Carl's twenty-year-old son, Geoff, is alienated from his father when he learns that Carl is using the insurance money from his wife's death to restore a large Victorian house overlooking Lake Superior. In anger, Geoff attempts to burn the house down, but he only manages to slow his father's restoration project, giving Doug Gage the opportunity to buy him out cheap. But Carl refuses to sell and places all his hopes in this house, and his growing love for Sharon.
            Out of frustration, Geoff decides to leave the Upper Peninsula with his girlfriend; to raise money, he uses his boat in a drug deal, then he agrees to assist in the prison break. The escape is bungled; several prisoners are killed or wounded. In an effort to conceal Geoff's involvement in the plan, Carl reluctantly helps Sharon and her contacts to keep the authorities off their trail. Sharon finally is reunited with her mortally wounded son, who has been hiding out in Carl's partially restored house. On the night that he dies, an accomplice of Doug Gage attempts to burn the house down again, but this time is thwarted by Carl Baylor.

Foreign Sales
United Kingdom (Hodder)

World Rights
Contact Lukeman

Dramatic RightsContact Lukeman

click the "Back" button on your browser to return