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"Fresh Kills quickly expands past itself, blows away its limiting genre boundaries, and becomes a story of real psychological complexity and emotional realism." --Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love
In Fresh Kills, the murder of John Sanders, Sr. on a New York street corner reunites his estranged and abused children, John, Jr. and Julia. While Julia struggles to keep things together on the home front, Junior, unhinged by his father's death, searches for the killer across the bleak, haunted landscape of his Staten Island hometown. Complicating Junior's pursuit are two police detectives: one, a former childhood friend; the other, a veteran cop who might have his own reasons to wish John, Sr. dead. Junior's emotional state crumbles under the pressure coming at him from every side. Bedding his high school sweetheart doesn't exactly simplify the situation. When the opportunity for revenge presents itself, Junior must decide whether he will continue the chain of violence that has nearly destroyed his life, or give in to the possibility of a new beginning. With emotional intensity, crackling dialogue and a heartfelt sense of place and character, Fresh Kills delivers unexpected and profound insights that speak to the soul of its struggling hero, and heralds a breakthrough voice in fiction.
About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island, Bill Loehfelm moved to New Orleans in 1997 where he's taught high school and college, managed a pizza joint and an antique shop, and tended bar in the Quarter and the Warehouse District. Bill's fondness for his adopted city is complete: "As long as New Orleans endures here, so too will I."
A Conversation with Bill Loehfelm on Fresh Kills
When did you realize you wanted to be a novelist?
I never made a conscious decision to be a novelist. It's just something I always thought I would do. I wrote my first "novel" when I was eleven, a thirty-page handwritten manuscript that I sent to Random House. I picked them because they published Walter Farleys "Black Stallion" series, which I was really into at that age. At least as far as writing a novel, it was never a question of if, it was a matter of when. Naiveté can get you a long way sometimes.
Did you begin by writing mystery, or have you experimented with other genres?
Fresh Kills is my second novel and my first, if you don't count that giant octopus novel, is a mystery as well. I really enjoy reading the genre, and it seems to match my writing style. I've written a number of short stories, but they're all relationship stories, no mysteries. When I was in high school, I wrote Westerns. They were awful rip-offs of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
What about writing mystery appeals to you?
I love the idea of a character pursuing something, especially something that seems to be a lost cause or just out of reach. It's something we all go through, though maybe on a smaller, less dramatic scale. And having that drive inherent in a character makes it easier to come up with a plot. Mystery can deal with some weighty topics: death, loss, justice, revenge, betrayal, sin, redemption. There are endless opportunities for exploring a character. People can get into trouble for complex and sometimes noble reasons. There's no rule that says serious emotional and psychological subject matter is reserved for massive literary tomes. Look at No Country for Old Men or Gone Baby Gone. When you think about it, most every book is a mystery: What's gonna happen next?
Do you have favorite authors who've influenced your writing style?
When I write, I want the efficiency of Hemingway, the lyricism of Fitzgerald, and the humor of Twain. I'll never get there, but that's what I shoot for. Frank Miller, the graphic novelist who wrote Sin City and the Dark Knight Batman series has been a real influence on me. He really knows how to deliver a line, and to write with punch and grace at the same time. Great dark humor. Batman is probably my favorite character in American story-telling. I've been fascinated by the complexities of that character my whole life. I really like Dennis Lehane, James Lee Burke, and John Banville's "Benjamin Black" novels--they're proof-positive of what I said about mysteries above. The Lovely Bones is another great example. I love Alice Sebold's work. She can't write fast enough for me. Roddy Doyle's got serious game, as well. A lot of musicians have influenced me: U2, Springsteen, Warren Zevon, and the Tragically Hip to name a few. The Gin Blossoms' album New Miserable Experience is a hell of a short story collection.
What made you leave New York for New Orleans?
February. Here we get Mardi Gras, there you get slush and sleet. Seriously though, I'd fallen in love with New Orleans while visiting as a tourist. It was like meeting someone you instantly know is on your wavelength. And I wanted an adventure. I didn't want to spend my whole life within ten miles of where I grew up. Something just told me New Orleans was where I needed to be. It was right.
Is there something about New Orleans that's helped you find and develop your voice?
Time. In New Orleans, taking your time with everything, from a career to a relationship to a cup of coffee is a way of life. And no one thinks you're weird for pursuing the arts. It's a very supportive environment. This place encourages you to take chances and do things differently. Most of the people I know are accomplished musicians, writers, painters, photographers, etc. The attitude here gave me time to write and write a lot, plus the cost of living is pretty low. You don't have to live your whole life at work.
Why did you choose to return home (imaginatively speaking) to write Fresh Kills?
For the longest time, I had Junior returning home after moving away, but the story suffered. He had too few relationships, there wasn't enough interaction with other people. Eventually I realized that his not going anywhere geographically paralleled well with his not getting anywhere emotionally. Staten Island is where this story belongs.Continue reading our Q&A with Bill Loehfelm
Starred Review. Superb prose and psychological insights distinguish Loehfelm's debut. Because Staten Island bartender John Sanders Jr. was regularly physically abused as a child by his father, he reacts at first with indifference to the news that John Senior has been killed, execution style, by an unknown assailant. The death has a greater impact on Sanders's sister, Julia, who returns from Boston to make the necessary arrangements and to attempt to reconnect with her brother to create some sense of family from their mutual childhood trauma. While Sanders channels some of his frustration and anger into a search for answers, the emphasis is on family relationships rather than mystery solving. Loehfelm excels in making Staten Island itself a palpable presence, brilliantly evoking the reek of the world's largest landfill that gives the novel its name, as well as the despair of the local residents. (Aug. 21)Note: Loehfelm is the winner of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award, a contest in which PW reviewed manuscript submissions.
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This is a murder mystery that really isn't. It is marketed as such but really, it has very little mystery and there is no thriller aspect. Read morePublished 8 months ago by L. Ruetz
This book also arrived in excellent condition. I had read a review on this book and kept the newspaper clipping for awhile. Read morePublished 15 months ago by kathy christman
An unusual, but refreshing, take on the story of someone out for revenge on the person who killed their father. An original conclusion makes the story well worth the read.Published 20 months ago by Tracey Tolbert
Fresh Kills is marketed as a crime mystery, but don't be fooled, it's really a story about John Sanders, Jr, a man trying to deal with his internal turmoil after the sudden death... Read morePublished on January 11, 2013 by D. K. Gaston
Bought this book at the recommendation of a friend, the author was one of his teachers in High school. I am loving the book so far!Published on January 1, 2011 by C. Jones
I said it all in the title. This book doesn't know what it is. It starts off as a whodunit pageturner and then dies a 250 page death as an interminable interior monologue. Read morePublished on October 27, 2010 by Someone Like You
I had read several mediocre reviews of this book but it sounded interesting so I purchased it, anyhow. It's more of a self examination than anything else. Read morePublished on October 18, 2010 by Amazon Customer
Extremely repetitious first person novel about a character who's narcissistic beyond belief. He whines and moans and rages, whines and moans and rages, whines and moans and rages... Read morePublished on July 11, 2010 by Frank Blank
Considering the fact that this book won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I expected so much more! Read morePublished on May 17, 2010 by Amazon Customer