Read “The Black Count”

This, I guess, is the first of many recommendations (which will range all over the place, I promise).

I’ve finished reading Tom Reiss’ “The Black Count”. Loved it. Hard to put it down. It does read like a novel. It’s part adventure, part history lesson (and there are many lessons to be learned) and part biography of a man who was born in the tropics, lived the high life among French nobility, fought battles on glaciers and mountain bridges, sailed to Egypt and was then imprisoned by circumstance – all by the age of 40.

Reiss’ Pulitzer Prize-winner captures the violence, shifting politics and fickle social cravings of late-eighteenth century France on a scale that’s hard to believe. He excels at describing the complicated context in which a ‘mulatto’ boy from Jeremie (in what is now Haiti) would step off the boat with his aristocrat (if scoundrel) father and enter a then-colorblind, egalitarian French society. Long before fathering “Monte Cristo” and “Three Musketeers” novelist A. Dumas, this young “American” master of many artsĀ  would assume the name Alex Dumas upon enlisting in the early years of the French Revolution. And in no time, he’d become a legendary general whose adventures and military successes incurred the jealousy of cohort and fiery rival Napoleon.

Though it’s not for the dainty doilies (or a young audience), it’s simply an amazing story.

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When to Try Again

coffeebookA while ago, I got the great news that Booktrope, a local publisher and support org, is going to re-publish “The Churning.” The launch-date isn’t set, yet, because, well, it’s still a work in progress.

For a fiction writer, there’s this key if nebulous question: When is it done? When it’s published? When you’re sick of working on it? When someone else accepts it, signaling a ‘good-enough’ stopping point? Some debate whether a novel is ever ‘done’. It just happens to see the light – via publisher – in some form the writer is, hopefully, okay with.

So, roughly two years ago, I was done with my second novel, “The Churning”. I’d made a ton of bumbling blunders with my first book (which wasn’t my first, really) and I wasn’t making those mistakes again! So, after three years of work (2200 hours’ worth) I was happy with “The Churning”. In a nutshell, it’s the story of a brash, egotistical Persian-American soccer star who gets kidnapped in Europe. Dark. Fun. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

But in the process of getting it out via Booktrope, a couple editors have pushed me to question whether I was done the first time around. Was it as good as it could be? Were all my original intents clear?

Sure looks like I made, oh, a few mistakes once again! Fan-tastic. Now I had to consider going back and re-opening that sealed box? Seriously? After 30+ passes on it the first time around?

So, I did. And I’m editing like mad. And the jury’s still out on whether this is enjoyable…

(to be continued)