Sunday, August 30, 2015

The New York Times Review of Franzen's Purity

A review should tell you if a book is any good or not .You should be able to depend on the reviewer in the final analysis to say hey this is something you should read or something you should pass on. It is the gut reaction we are after in books, movies, plays, anything that we are going to commit time and money to, But reviewers sometimes cannot bring themselves to give us the thumbs up or thumbs down and then we are left with a central question at the end of the did you like it?

Take the New York Times review of Jonathan Franzens Purity. By the end of this lengthy review you have no idea if the reviewer liked the book or not. The entire review is a plot review and comparison to earlier works and then some weird justifications of Franzen's prose which apparently is without style, but I am not even sure the reviewer said that. So I read the review again thinking I had missed the salient sentence.

Lets call it the verdict sentence. It is when the reviewer comes out of the hedge and it is usually at the end, This is where the quotes for the book are usually lifted. Sometimes, if a reviewer really loves a book, it will come in the beginning. But in the Franzen review it does not exist at all. There is no telling if this reviewer felt his time well spent. Unfortunately because of Franzens stature I get the feeling the reviewer was not comfortable letting us know that he probably didn't care for the novel.

This is a guess. It is the "I am reviewing a major novelist and I better be careful" tepid crossing of literary ice. One wrong misstep could reveal the truth. So after reading the review several times, I have come to the conclusion I know little more than I did before. I shall buy the book. I would have bought it anyway. I am a Franzen fan. But still, one does wish for some honesty, even if a lamb is reviewing a lion.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Last Frontier

When I was up in the Boundary Waters on the old logging roads on a motorcycle following the grey sandy roads through fallen trees and second growth forests I had the feeling that I was on the edge of the last frontier. It was summer and I had been away from the "Lower forty eight" for three weeks and one definitely felt there was this life and there was the modern life below.

You do not have to look for the reason people went West. They went West to find themselves. The frontier was declared closed in 1880 by Frederick Jackson Turner and this left people with the notion the Great Adventure was over. It was not. The million acres Teddy Roosevelt set aside on the top of the country that became the Boundary Waters was and is largely untouched.

When I was researching Jack Pine I was amazed to learn all the trees had been logged out and that all I was seeing was the Jack Pine. One can only imagine what the country looked like with the towering white pines all well over three hundred years. I haven't been back to The Boundary Waters since those years of research. But I will go back one day...if for nothing else than to see the Last Frontier one more time.

Jack Pine

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Million Dollar Novel

Ever hear of someone who wins in a state lottery? I have.  A couple from Indiana I knew won five million. They bought matching shirts and matching Cadillacs. White. They didn't change much but they were rich. Now there is the million dollar novel. In the industry they call it seven figures. Someone just got a seven figure advance. Someone just won the lotto. In a time when advances are going by the wayside this is nothing short of amazing.

So what is in the million dollar novel? A story of two half sisters in eighteenth century Ghana who don't know about each other. Sweeping. Epic. So if I wrote about two half brothers who didn't know each other in say seventeenth century Ghana I would get a million bucks? Ok. Maybe not. Maybe the writing is so unbelievable that the publisher just couldn't contain them self and the agent who sold it at William Morris knew he had a million dollar novel and it was all just a foregone conclusion

But what about the other writers who are writing about half sisters or half brothers in eighteenth century Ghana. They are out there. Actually it was out there a  long time ago in the Color Purple. Two sisters who lose contact and then find each other. But somewhere someone has written another sweeping saga of two sisters who don't know about each other until they do. And it is well written and well researched. And it will never see the light of day.

You can not quantify the million dollar novel. It is as capricious as the lottery and the couple from Indiana who won the five million. One novel gets rejected out of hand and one gets a million dollars. They could easily be the same novel. Many times they are.
Jack Pine...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fantastic Publishers Weekly Review of JACK PINE A Thriller of the North Woods

Hazelgrove (The Pitcher) delivers a searing look at a disintegrating company town and the desperate lengths people will go to in order to preserve their way of life. In Ely, Minn., near the Canadian border, Johnson Timber is the cornerstone business, with tourism a distant second. When loggers start getting killed, militant environmentalist Tom Jorde becomes a suspect; and when a 16-year-old girl cries rape, Sheriff Riechardt blames Tommy Tobin, a local Indian. Deputy Sheriff Reuger London tries to just do his job, but his ability to perform it with emotional detachment becomes increasingly difficult, as Johnson Timber owner Ben Johnson, Riechardt, and Jorde constantly pressure him to serve their respective interests. Distinctive supporting characters help keep the pages turning, including Ben’s bullying grown son, Cliff; an environmental lawyer, Patricia Helpner; and a morally bankrupt newsman, John Mcfee. Rough country and people as tenacious as the jack pines, the softwood trees that have replaced the old clear-cut timber, make Hazelgrove’s novel memorable.

Jack Pine A Thriller of the North Woods

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Writing the Historical Thriller

I have written two books that might be termed historical thrillers, Tobacco Sticks and Jack Pine. Both books required a lot of research and both required me to go to the actual location. Lets take the first one Tobacco Sticks. This book began with stories my father used to tell me about his family in Virginia and his father who was a lawyer and who ran a Senators campaign in 1946. I began by recording my dad and gathering all the scrapbooks and pictures he had. Then I went to Virginia.

In Virginia I lugged around a video camera and interviewed people who knew my grandfather in 1946. Then I went and videotaped where he lived and where he worked and then finally where he was buried. I then returned to Chicago and went to the library to do some legal research on court cases. Then I made outlines and arranged the pictures I had of my fathers family on the table. This was how I got into that world every day and five years later I published Tobacco Sticks which was my break out book and hit the National Bestseller List.

Now we come to Jack Pine. This began by going to the Boundary Waters on a family vacation and becoming interested in the way of life in this remote wilderness that struck me as the way the country used to be. Then I found out about the logging issues associated with the area and again talked to a lot of people. Finally I rode around with a Deputy Sherriff and asked a lot of inane questions about police procedures. Then I returned to Chicago and got out lots of books on logging and did my outlines again.

Ten years later I published Jack Pine which is due out (the paperback) this month. The story of a way of life that is vanishing and the struggle between the enviromentalists and loggers with a psychopath thrown in to get things going. I would love to write another set in the early twentieth century but I need to settle down and go into that world. Something that his harder and harder to do these days.

Jack Pine...a thriller of the North Woods


Outstanding Booklist Review of JACK PINE Comparisons to FARGO and William Kent Kreuger

In northern Minnesota, a logger is found dead. At about the same time, a teenage girl claims that she was molested by a Native American, but then changes her story. Some concerned citizens wonder if the same man is responsible for both incidents, but Deputy Sheriff Reuger London isn’t inclined to jump to conclusions, as he’s convinced neither that the logger’s death was murder nor that the girl was really molested. Under pressure to close the cases, London soon finds himself stuck in the middle of a potentially violent conflict between loggers and environmentalists. Hazelgrove tells great stories (his last book was the wonderful Real Santa, 2014), and he creates believable, captivating characters. The people in Jack Pine feel like just that: people, not fictional characters. Hazelgrove gives these characters a tactile environment, the Minnesota Boundary Waters region near the Canadian border, and real voices (that distinctive upper-midwestern drawl we know from Fargo). Another fine effort from a very interesting writer. This one will appeal especially to William Kent Krueger fans.

JACK PINE...A thriller of the North Woods





Sunday, April 5, 2015

Top Amazon Reviewer Harriet Klausner Gives thriller Jack Pine Five Stars

Format: Paperback
Jack Pine
William Hazelgrove
Koehler Books, Apr 1 2015, $18.95
ISBN: 9781940192680

On the Northern Minnesota side of the Boundary Waters that separates America from Canada, Deputy Sheriff Reuger London finds sexagenarian logger Foster Jones with a bullet in his head and his slasher vehicle burned. Soon after that Sheriff Riechardt tells Reuger that a teenage girl Dana Reynolds staying with her parents at the Lodge claims a big Indian raped her. Riechardt wants London to bring in the latter’s friend Tommy “Tobin” Toboken, a recent guest of Stateville Correctional Center, before the man flees to Canada.

Johnson Timber CEO Ben Johnson accuses the tree huggers for killing Foster and other loggers as a means to speed up the end of the industry in the area; the environmentalists insist not them but likely the loggers eliminating competition for the dwindling jobs. Owners of the best Jack Pine forest, the Ojibwa Indians distrust both groups whose respective agendas fail to consider tribal needs. In that environ, London seeks a killer and a rapist.

Armchair readers will feel transported to the Northern Minnesota forests in William Hazelgrove’s engrossing atmospheric police procedural; as even local vernacular adds to the sense of being there. The official investigations are top rate, but it is the rustic outdoor lifestyles that hook the audience throughout.

Harriet Klausner

Books by William Hazelgrove