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The Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life and Crimes Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 16, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (May 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688175694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688175696
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,950,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Encompassing dramatic shifts in place and time, from the end of the Civil War to the heyday of Coney Island, this sprawling, splendidly imagined novel dramatizes Victorian age yet eminently familiar dilemmas of race, spirituality and sexual identity through the unforgettable journey of a wonderfully motley cast of characters. The eponymous pianist-cum-spiritualist, Augustus Fitzwilliam "Fitz" Boyd, first meets Isaac Kemp, his lifelong love, on a Civil War battlefield, where teenage Isaac is a slave accompanying his master's son. Augustus, himself only 14, has been captured after playing the flute to entertain the Union troops. When both boys are set free, they take off for New York, where, after various vicissitudes, clever, enterprising Isaac becomes Fitz's manager, traveling with him to his s ance-like piano concerts all over the world. Eventually, to Fitz's chagrin, Isaac takes a white wife, Alice Pangborn, a puritanical New England bluestocking. Soon the couple's two children are also traveling as part of the entourage of "Dr. August." At the height of his popularity, Fitz performs for the privileged classes on an international circuit; both the cultural landscape and the musical selections are detailed with beguiling immediacy. Though the surroundings are glamorous, Fitz and his clan find it difficult to make ends meet. So when they are invited to stay in Constantinople with an old acquaintance of Fitz's, once a whore and now a wealthy widow, they seize the chanceDbut a tragedy tests the bonds that hold their most unconventional family together. Bram (Father of Frankenstein; Almost History) tells his story through Fitz's own recollections asDlate in lifeDhe dictates his candid memoirs to Isaac's son, who has never known the full story of his family. Informed by sources as disparate as Ricky Jay's Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women and Edmund Wilson's Patriotic Gore, this provocative, imaginative exploration is generously endowed with evocative period details and rich characterizations of people from all walks of life. 6-city author tour. (June) FYI: Father of Frankenstein was the basis of the movie Gods and Monsters.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

It is difficult to summarize this latest work from Bram (Father of Frankenstein) without sounding tawdry and doing a disservice to his thought-provoking exploration of the human soul. Narrated by the effete Fitz Boyd, who works under the stage name of Dr. August in New York, Paris, London, and Constantinople, the novel ostensibly describes the life of an improvisational pianist working as a musician of the metaphysical, employing chicanery and parlor tricks to capitalize on the 19th-century fascination with the spirit world. But the novel is much more than that, using the complex relationships among Fitz, former slave Isaac Kemp, and Kemp's Caucasian wife, Alice, to explore the meaning of freedom. It is the challenge of discovering whether any one of us can be free of the past and choose the future that stands in such stark contrast to Dr. August's vaudeville tricks, making the novel such a complex and compelling read. Recommended for most collections.DCaroline M. Hallsworth, Sudbury P.L., Ont.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Surprising, funny, aching, and always interesting, it's a hard book to put down.
Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader
Dr. August is a great character, gifted without seemingly so, and yearning for love and companionship that is just beyond his grasp.
James Hiller
Funny, tender, tragic, moving, entertaining - A thouroughly wondrous book by an incredibly gifted writer.
Grady Harp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Christopher Bram has written perhaps the most unique and adventurous novel of the new century. By his own closing page note he attributes his inspiration for this amazing novel to great writers both of history and contemporary. The Notorious Dr August scoops us up from the very first page and runs with us hand in hand through the extraordinary life of a dreamer who starts as a fife player in the Civil War, becomes intimately bound to a freed slave, turns a potentially harmful sexual history into a revealing life pattern, using his musical skill to become a Spiritulaist Pianist to wander fascinating European cities in support of an adopted family. But oh, trying to capsulize this incredibly well-spun story into a sentence is as difficult as condensing Joyce's Ullyses into a paragraph. You simply must read this magical tale of intrigue, love, commitment, spiritual journeys for yourself. Bram is a consummate storyteller and has the guts to present us with characters who are potentially unloveable and make us thrill to sail through their development and destinies. This book has it all - the complete spectrum of love, the importance of self discovery, an examination of the post Civil War dilemma of racism, and the struggle of the Victorian era coming to grips with real people instead of comfortable stereotypes. Funny, tender, tragic, moving, entertaining - A thouroughly wondrous book by an incredibly gifted writer. A MUST READ for everyone!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Louis W. Frazier on June 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I would have been entertained by Bram's ingenious plot line and the remarkable use he makes of historical mileposts, from the Civil War to the great Coney Island Dreamland fire; trekking from Norfolk to New York to Constantinople over more than half a century. Those mileposts are parts of us through life's reading, travel, modern media. Colorful descriptions throughout give emotional and nostalgic thrills. Bravo to wonderful story telling! But the most joy came from immersing me in my great personal issues - race and its inexplicable importance in our society - my life's joys and fears in sexuality - and my regrets at living comfortably for 74 years within society's rules. My vicarious journey with Dr. August and his loves was an intellectual and erotic pleasure.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on July 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Christopher Bram pulls off a tour de force in his latest novel, "The Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life and Crimes". As a fan of his work, I eagerly awaited his latest contribution to my literary world, and found not the least bit disappointment in this story.
In the book, he spins the yarn of Dr. August, or Fitz, a musical spiritualist who communicates to his audience messages through playing the piano. At first reading, I worried this device would become overblown, but through some excellent writing and plot twists, it manages to keep the story focused without totally consuming it. Dr. August is a great character, gifted without seemingly so, and yearning for love and companionship that is just beyond his grasp. Throw into the mix Isaac, an ex-slave who bravely overcomes his upbringing and learns to lead with his heart, and Alice, a 27 year old "spinster" just brave enough to buck societal norms, and we have a triangle that is complex, and so much more.
You will notice upon reading "Dr. August" how quickly paced the story is. Never dwelling too much on any one moment, it is a brisk and consuming read. Yet Bram leaves nothing out, and creates a real world before, during, and after the turn of the century. Absolutely, spotlessly breathtaking.
Do not delay in reading this fine work!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Armijo on October 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The author of this book was unknown to me. Now, I'll seek him out. This book will certainly become a motion picture someday. If they made his other book (Father of Frankenstein) into the movie, Gods & Monsters...then, this will be up for film rights. It's an astonishing epic that mixes music into a novel that flows like non-fiction. It's so well written. You get caught up in the charachters of Dr. August (Fitz), Isaac, Alice, Fanny/Lady Ashe and more. What was amazing is that it takes you back in time to a time when something like this could NEVER have been written about. What a love triangle...I loved experiencing the end of the Civil War, the early 1900's in New York, a cruise ship, London, and Constantinople. If you want an ESCAPE...this book is your best bet! I SIMPLY LOVED IT. There were plenty of significant lines that you'll take with you too...There are just too many favorite lines for me to list here...but the story is quite unique. It's an A+.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "blissengine" on November 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the fourth book by Bram I've read, and his writing is just getting better! I found the story utterly captivating and compelling. Beginning in the later years of the American Civil War through the 1920s, we follow the life of Augustus Boyd, a.k.a Dr August. He falls in love with an ex-slave named Isaac, eventually convincing him to make it an intimate relationship. August becomes an improvisational pianist, inspired by his "spirits", with Isaac as his manager. While on a voyage to Europe, Isaac is enraptured with a white governess, and breaks off the love affair with August to pursue Alice. Isaac & August remain friends & business partners as Isaac weds Alice, and the two have children. The love triangle is a strain on all, and it snaps finally in Constantinople, when Isaac meddles in August's new love affair with a teen. The outcome of a tragedy causes the destruction of the trio, and its reconfiguration into a strange new alliance, without one of its core members. Beautifully exploring issues of race, sexuality, class, sprituality, and the notion of love, "The Notorious Dr August" is a magnificent story including fully-fleshed characters and a delightful rendering of history. Bram rocks!
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