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Cruisers: A Novel Paperback – July 12, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400030692
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400030699
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,080,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nova's muted, somewhat bleak novel, set in a Vermont mill town, hints at disaster from its first pages. The product of a catastrophic childhood, Frank Kohler is a loner who "knew he was running out of time." The reader knows it, too, and can feel Frank moving toward some unknown, perhaps lethal cataclysm. Likable state cop Russell Boyd spends most nights on traffic duty, which he rather enjoys, and has a promising new girlfriend in Zofia. Nova (Wetware, etc.) alternates between these two men as Frank, in a misguided search for love, gets a Russian mail-order bride, Katryna, and Russell lives "the malice and danger of his hour-to-hour" job. The two men cross paths briefly several times, ricocheting off one another before their final confrontation. The reader, lulled by the soporific grace of Nova's prose, watches transfixed as his four players travel inexorably down the paths to their awaiting fates. Nova again demonstrates his control of character, sense of place and ability to create grim worlds that readers might be reluctant to experience at first, but then find hard to resist.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Nova, an electrifying novelist with a loyal following, ventured into the future in Wetware (2001), and while he returns to the present in his eleventh novel, it, too, pulses with the menace engendered by the divide between our potent technologies and our old instinctive, reptilian brains. And so it is in this tautly strung tale of two rural New Englanders: Russell Boyd, a cop who scans the highway for speeders, and Frank Kohler, a loner on the brink of a violent crisis. Russell is in love with Zofia, a forthright special-ed teacher. Frank has Katryna, a Russian mail-order bride, but he expects trouble rather than happiness. Clearly, all four are destined to cross paths, and Nova executes their moves like a chess master, all the while ratcheting up the tension and calling into question any sense of security, order, or reason. Like the best of noir, Nova's unsettling novels, serpentine in their structure, speed, and toxic bite, remind us that while dark forces are always present, we must embrace love. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Craig Nova is the award-winning author of twelve novels and one autobiography. His latest novel is THE INFORMER, a literary thriller set in 1930s Berlin.

Nova's writing has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, and Men's Journal, among others. He has received an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2005 he was named Class of 1949 Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

"Craig Nova is a fine writer, one of our best," writes Jonathan Yardley, book critic for the Washington Post. "If you haven't read him, the loss is yours." "He's a novelist who has yet to write a supermarket bestseller...but he has written at least two American classics that will likely resonate after his death, the way the poor-selling 'Great Gatsby' did for poor ol' F. Scott Fitzgerald," writes David Bowman of

Nova's life has been a plethora of experience, almost like something straight out of Hollywood -- where Nova, coincidence or not, was raised. From rebellious and alienated youth in the Hollywood Hills to graduation from University of California at Berkeley during the turbulent 1960s; from starving artist years in New York City to a placid and content writing life in more rustic parts, Nova's rich experience has made him "an artist in full command," as Yardley says.

Raised during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Nova was unfazed by the star-studded environment of his childhood. "Like all kids, I thought that my immediate surroundings were perfectly natural and that the whole world was just like Hollywood," says Nova. "In fact, I think my entire life has been spent correcting this misperception, or at least realizing that there is a difference between the way things appear and the way they really are.

"I remember playing with Jayne Mansfield's daughter when I was about eight, and racing Steve McQueen on Mulholland when I was 16," recounts Nova. As a teenager, he attended the famed and celebrity saturated Hollywood High. There he, with most of the Mouseketeers as classmates, lived out his share of youthful rebellion.

Nova made up for those minor transgressions by being a diligent student at the University of California at Berkeley, from which he graduated just weeks before the Summer of Love. "When I was there, someone in the state senate stood up and said, 'A course at Berkeley is a course in sex, drugs, and treason.' I have to say he was damn right."

After graduation, Nova moved to New York City and attended Columbia University, where his writing ambitions flourished. There at Columbia, he met Jean Stafford, a profound influence who introduced him to "the writing life." Upon publishing his first book, Turkey Hash in 1975, Nova won the Harper Saxton prize, putting him in the ranks of such esteemed writers as Sylvia Plath and James Baldwin. "I assumed that when it was published, it would change my life," he says, "Of course, not a lot happened. I ended up driving a taxicab in New York."

The years between Nova's first and third novel found him struggling, not only to write, but also to survive. He worked a variety of odd jobs constantly balancing attempts to support himself with his writing endeavors. In addition to driving a cab, his diverse experiences included carpentering in SoHo and managing a small real estate empire. "There were some very hard times here, going hungry, ending up on the street, broke," Nova recollects. "I find it hard to remember the will it took to go on writing under those circumstances."

During Nova's early years in New York City, he met his wife Christina at a party. Describing their first encounter in his memoir Brook Trout and the Writing Life, Nova writes, "Like all chance meetings that turn out differently than one supposes, I almost did not go to this party." To get away from the city, he and Christina would venture up to her small house in the country on weekends with increasing frequency. Christina gave him his first fly rod, with which he caught a brook trout during one of their escapades to the house. The brook trout, then merely a fish, would go on to reappear throughout Nova's life, serving as a powerful link between intimate events and, eventually, giving the title to his memoir. Of his and Christina's decision to wed, he writes, "We planned to get married, and then we did."

Nova's fourth book, The Good Son, received a substantial advance from the publisher and met almost universal critical acclaim. When the young couple decided to leave New York City for a more serene life in the country, Christina quit her job at CBS, where she had been working in television news. "I managed the land as a tree farm, and I have to say this was one of the most happy times in my life," Nova recalls. "I'd write in the morning and then work in the woods in the afternoons. And when I saw something in the woods, bears, deer, rugged grouse, foxes, they found a way into the book I was writing."

After having two daughters, Craig and Christina moved to Vermont, where their kids went to school and he went on to write another five or six novels. "This was a lovely time, too, in that I would write in the morning and afternoon, and then cook for the children and Christina. Idyllic, in a way, but the difficulty of course is the nature of the writing life," Nova says. "You are either on your way up or on your way down and this endlessly changing prospect made for a continual uneasiness."

During this time, Nova worked on magazine assignments to fulfill his dreams of going to places he'd wanted to see and picked up plenty of inspiration along the way: "I went to the equatorial Pacific, went fly fishing in Austria and on the San Juan River, flew with bush pilots...all of which came in handy in the writing of novels." He wrote screenplays for Touchstone Pictures and Behavior, a Canadian company.

"When my children went away to college, I realized that I had some extra time on my hands," says Nova. "I thought it would be a good idea to share some of what I had learned after those years alone in a room." In 2005 he was offered an endowed chair at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and accepted. There, he serves as 1949 Distinguished Professor of the Humanities.

Nova writes for Esquire, The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, and Men's Journal, among others. He has received an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and is a recipient of a Guggenheim award. He and Christina live in North Carolina.

As for the brook trout, Nova writes, "these fish are forever associated in my mind with the depths of thankfulness for good fortune, just as they always reminded me of beauty and a sense of what may be possible after all." He continues to fish for brook trout.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Palen on June 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A highway patrolman, a computer repairman, their girlfriends (one from Russia) and some strange side characters all contemplating their every sensation and thought in great detail. The fog gets pretty thick at times and within it a few people are killed, some are terrified and some love weaves though it, both beautiful and sick. I would not have thought I would like such a book, but at the end, it left me with such strong feelings that I had to say it was pretty good - at least a 3.5. It is not so much a mystery, nor a thriller, as it is just a psychological study through which, if we hang in there, we may learn a few things about ourselves
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Fitzpatrick on February 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is the kind of American crime writing that leaves UK authors like Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter looking like amateurs floundering in the wake of their cousins across the Atlantic.

It is taut, sharp, to the point and there are no heroes, flawed or otherwise; the "good" guys and the "bad" guys are ordinary people whose personalities and lives have taken them in a certain direction and, at the end of the day, they find they have little control over their destinies.

Goodbye plodding beer-drinking, crossword-solving detectives like Rankin's Rebus, Rendell's Wexford and Dexter's Morse and welcome Russell Boyd, a lowly police trooper with troubled memories of his childhood, who spends the night hours alone patrolling the dark, wintry highways of Vermont where each of the vehicles whizzing by is a potential menace.

Every time Boyd pulls up a car for speeding, he is aware that he faces the possibility of a gun being stuck in his face and fired.

The title "Cruisers" refers to the police patrol cars and much of the actions centers on cars and the fascination they have for Americans, their speed and what they represent as a means of escape and sexual attraction.

The story follows a few months in the unhappy lives of Robb and the other main character, Frank Kohler, a loner and misfit.

Both are all-American males who love guns, cars and women in that order.

Both are trying to come to terms with a new life: Robb with a schoolteacher he has just met and Kohler with a mail order bride from Russia who has just been delivered.

All the characters' paths mingle and intermingle like a Thomas Hardy story, with a similar dark cloud hanging over everything they do, and the reader knows the ending will be explosive.

The style is low key and the dramatic ending is almost underwritten, with a similarly understated follow-up.

This book is crying out to be made into a decent film.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By L. Carner on August 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am an avid reader during the summer months and came across this book while perusing the book shelves at my favorite bookstore.

Well! Reading this novel was a brand new experience!

The story is gripping, the characters are "real", and my soul just "resonated" to the "words"....the duality of our humaness and lives, the dark and the light, the mundane and the violence, the confusion and the clarity.

Never have I read anything like this before.

I am a new Craig Nova fan.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Blakely on June 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
the mood of cruisers is pretty bleak. the characters are contemplative, and no one ever seems to be in a good mood. the main character, a highway patrolman named russell, seems like a haunted guy...maybe because of his job? i don't think every cop is like that. i wasn't sure whether he is depressed or afraid.

the killer seems to have a similar dispositon, although his troubles come from a really bad childhood. there's no way to know why his wife and russell's girlfriend are so moody. kohler's wife clearly has good reason, but it's not revealed.

This reminds me of a dark thriller movie, maybe something like insomnia. much of the writing seems to be quite deep, but most of it is incomprehensible. craig nova has a good command of the language, but i'm not sure it's possible to really enjoy this book.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Schiariti on January 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
I picked this book up on a whim. Once I started to read it I couldn't wait to finish it. Not because I had to know what happened, but because I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.

The most important thing about any novel (in my opinion) is having characters you can sink your teeth into. Characters who jump to life, right off the page.

This book completely lacks that. Never have I cared LESS for main characters in a book as I did with Russel Boyd and Frank Kohler.

Russel is a State Trooper. Brooding with very little to say.
Frank Kohler is a computer repairman more or less who comes from a horrible childhood and is looking for love.

Both characters are extremely depressing to read. The constant back and forth about how they're feeling at any given moment (and beleive me, not a sentence goes by where Nova doesn't wax poetic about how each character feels about the trees outside, the color of the snow, the sound of a coffee maker, etc, etc) is confusing and totally takes you out of the story.

And there's really not much of a story. Kohler's the 'bad guy', Boyd's the 'good guy', their paths meet several times, an event happens, end of story.

This book is almost written as if it's two different stories. One about Boyd and his relationship and how his job affects that, and the other about Kohler's demons and his quest for love (or just companionship as the case may be). The stories intertwine and come to a definite, if not anticlimactic, conclusion but each separate story just isn't that interesting.

Another problem I had with the book was the dialogue, or shoud I say lack thereof.
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