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The November Criminals: A novel [Kindle Edition]

Sam Munson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A darkly funny, pot-infused novel of teenage maladjustment in the tradition of Beautiful Children from a compelling new voice in American fiction.


For a high school senior, Addison Schacht has a lot of preoccupations. Like getting into college. Selling drugs to his classmates. His complicated relationship with his best friend (NOT his girlfriend) Digger. And he's just added another to the list: the murder of his classmate Kevin Broadus, and his own absurd, obsessive plan to investigate the death. When presented with an essay question on his application to the University of Chicago—What are your best and worst qualities?—Addison finds himself provoked into giving his final, unapologetic say about all of the above and more.


Addison Schacht finds good company among American literature's cadre of unsettled, restless youth, from Huck Finn to Holden Caulfield. The November Criminals takes on the terrain of the classic adolescent truth-telling novel and—with nerve and erudition—carves out its own unique territory.

Editorial Reviews Review

Addison Schacht Answers the Proust Questionnaire

Addison Schacht is a lot of things: high-school student, drug dealer, aspiring classicist, amateur private eye, as well as being the narrator of The November Criminals. He's got a lot to say on every subject. Below, he takes on the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
No such thing.

What is your greatest fear?
That no-one will listen to me, even though I know I'm right. And death. I'm terrified of dying.

What historical figure do you identify with the most?
The Greek warrior Neoptolemus. You're totally baffled by that, I can just tell.

Which living person do you most admire?
Even if I told you her name, you wouldn't know who she was, but that's private, so I'm not telling.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
That I'm a November Criminal. As I already said. At considerable length. If you're confused, read my essay.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
See above. (But they won't admit it.)

What is your greatest extravagance?
It was a gun, but I don't have it anymore. So I guess nothing.

On what occasion do you lie?
On what occasion don't I lie?

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I'd have to go with: whatever element of my appearance it is that makes people think I like answering their stupid questions.

Where and when were you happiest?
Four years old, just waking up in bed, hearing the rain. Don't remember the exact day or month.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'd like to be taller. Although I guess my father is tall and it hasn't helped him any.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
My father. No, I take that back: I'd want my mother to be alive.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Senior year, this girl I went to high school with, Alex Faustner, won an essay prize and got to make this ridiculous acceptance speech. I--without going too deeply into detail--ruined it. And I mean just absolutely, completely wrecked it, caused this whole small catastrophe, for which I got suspended.

If you died and came back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Whoa, Jerry Garcia, Jr.--what a penetrating question! I don't believe in reincarnation, it's always seemed even more cowardly than the idea of an afterlife. Since you're making me choose, though, I would say a sea otter. They have it pretty good, it seems to me.

What is your most treasured possession?
My Loeb Classical Library edition of the Aeneid.

What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?
English class. Or possibly my English teacher.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Did you know that word comes from Greek, originally? The word heros, meaning hero. It's the same word in Latin, but it's declined differently. The Romans, who were a bunch of culture thieves, sometimes just blatantly stole words from the Greeks like that. (The technical philological term for such a word is calque.) Unsettling, right? I mean, if not even words are immune to theft, what's the point of writing at all?

What is it that you most dislike?
You'll be here all day if I answer truthfully.

How would you like to die?
I wouldn’t.

What is your motto?
Anyone who tells you they have a motto should be laughed at.

From Publishers Weekly

Munson's funny, stoner-friendly debut follows high school senior Addison Schacht as he stumbles through the Washington, D.C., teenage underworld to investigate a classmate's unsolved murder. Schacht—a small-time pot dealer, consummate anti-social, and Jewish collector of Holocaust jokes—makes for a poor but entertaining detective, and when he places a stoned phone call to his prime suspect, Addison and his friends become caught up in the mystery he set out to solve. As Addison's sleuthing begins to unravel and his life crumbles along with it, his ramblings offer an interesting counter to, and often context for, his misguided attempt to discover the truth. Munson keeps things lightly dark, though his weakness for wandering asides—Addison is just as likely to riff on the Aeneid, Latin syntax, or his favorite movies as he is to discuss his investigation and efforts to outsmart the police—trips up the pace, even if they are what one would expect from a self-absorbed adolescent. The plotting could use some work, but Munson nails the voice. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 375 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307474828
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (April 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4CY8
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,326,372 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rambling saga of disaffected youth April 20, 2010
The book jacket accompanying this novel sets high expectations, evoking comparisons to Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn no less. The portrait of the author, which shows a prematurely balding young man smiling smugly with a cigarette hanging out of his thin lips at a jaunty angle, also presumably makes a statement.

The book itself tells the story of Addison Schacht, a high school senior who peddles drugs to classmates and his best friend (not his girlfriend) Digger. Addison lives in Washington DC and attends a gifted program at his local high school. He becomes obsessed with the murder of a classmate whom he hardly knew and mounts an inept investigation of his death that turns dangerous.

For a novel like this to fully succeed, the voice of the protagonist has to be truly compelling. Many people have written about adolescent disaffection and the struggles of bright young men who don't quite fit in to make some sense of the world. Addison, for me, didn't quite make it. He's a bit nerdy but not exactly a nerd, a bit of a misfit but not exactly a misfit. After all, he has his drug business and his not quite girlfriend who provides regular sex as well as scintillating companionship. Ultimately, Addison comes over as a know-it-all whiner -- a spoiled kid in rebellion against something, but he's not sure what. There's a slightly unpleasant air of superiority about this book and its narrator -- the same sense I gained from the photo of the author.

That said, I still enjoyed the book and valued the glimpse it gave me of the generation it depicts, which like the author must already be approaching its thirties.

Some local angles struck me as false. I take the Washington Metro every day and it's never smelled of urine as the author would have it.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Self Indulgent June 23, 2010
I know I am in trouble with a book when I find myself counting how many pages I have left to read in order to cross the finish line. Sadly with "The November Criminals" that was the case. I never could relate to this book, the main character or what the author was trying to convey. It reads like an egotistical kid who is so full of himself he doesn't care whether his story is worth telling or not. In several examples Addison (the main character) actually tells us we don't want to hear something, and then commences to tell us anyway. I think he should have taken his own advice on occasion, and kept quiet.

Addison is in high school, and a fellow classmate is gunned down while working at a local coffee shop. He is a pudgy fat kid, who we later find out has some secrets. Addison becomes obsessed with the killing and spends countless hours mulling over the details in the hopes of figuring out what happened. He drags along his best friend, Digger, who he happens to have casual sex with on a regular basis. I should correct myself here, since Addison proclaims he has no real friends, Digger must be some sort of sex therapy confidant.

As we meander through Addison's life we find out his mother was killed and he is being raised by his father, who isn't a bad guy, but doesn't seem to realize Addison is even around most of the time. The poor dad can't even find the time to go grocery shopping, but he does manage to bang one of his students on occasion. He is a college professor. Addison is pretty self sufficient though, and has been working his own business for a couple of years. He is quite the drug dealer, racking upwards of 12K in profits at his high point.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I bought this book and read it based on a reference to one of its passages--about the excitement of studying Latin at the college level. Unfortunately, this passage appears late in the book, and there were very few others that are as engaging. The only ones that grabbed me were the character's musings on the Aeneid. The most off-putting aspect is the tedious, rambling style. Many people, when speaking, use like every other word, but you don't need to copy this way of speaking verbatim for so long in a novel. Pages of dialogue with like like like. In sum: the book is 258 pages, and is supposed to be a college entrance essay. The main character simply is not interesting enough to last so long. Should have been a long short story of about 50 pages at most.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars meh. June 28, 2010
I have no problem with abrasive, easily unlikeable protagonist/narrators. However, I don't believe Addison Schacht has anything to teach me, about anything. I have a few things I could teach him about first-person narration though, e.g.: you don't have to (indeed shouldn't) begin a paragraph with: "Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you..."

That said, were I still a teenager, I think I would have learned from and enjoyed this book well enough.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning debut May 11, 2010
Sam Munson's evocation of a precocious disaffected teenager is as pitch-perfect as it is moving. The character of Addison Schacht will probably be familiar to a lot of readers -- smart & with an irritating cynicism that betrays a poignant underlying naivete. We follow Addison, a passionless small-time drug dealer (don't let that put you off), during his senior year of high school, where he is desperately (though he wouldn't say that) trying to find some sort of foothold of meaning in a hypocritical world. The plot is an investigation into a classmate's murder. Munson make these ingredients, which sounds like they could have added up to a Catcher in the Rye epigone, fresh and thought-provoking. He manages the unimaginable: to make the reader feel empathy, respect, and even love for the surly, self-absorbed, unlikeable teenager so many of us were when we were just beginning to grapple with what adulthood would mean. This is not an easy feat. And Munson can do this while weaving a surprisingly gripping plot.

Great literature, really great literature expands our world, and the borders of our empathy. The November Criminals gave me a real understanding and a vivid memory of the agonizing, liminal situation of the American teenager, and it will give you a greater empathy for yourself in your own callow youth.

Highly, highly recommended. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and Fun!
Although I literally know no one to whom I can recommend this book, I totally loved it and related to it. Read more
Published on October 25, 2012 by J. NELSON
1.0 out of 5 stars Why?
Why read this book? Many clones of Holden out there.All better although I will stick to the original. Read more
Published on August 21, 2011 by C. Rosehelen
5.0 out of 5 stars Addison has his own set of morals........
Addison Schacht is not intended to be a likable character, that much is certain. He sells pot, has a bad attitude, and manages to constantly screw up while hurting the people he... Read more
Published on March 30, 2011 by shady
5.0 out of 5 stars Edgy comic novel of poignance and wit
From the raffish photo of the author that appears on the jacket, one gathers that he is a wise-ass, only to find when reading his work that Munson's reservoir of writing talent,... Read more
Published on October 6, 2010 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant First Novel
The story certainly grabs hold of you immediately, but for me it was the author's writing (an obvious craftsman), that made this book worth reading. Read more
Published on May 11, 2010 by S. B. Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! Check out the review in the Chicago Trib, couldn't agree...

Review: `The November Criminals' by Sam Munson

Those who staff the admissions offices of America's more selective colleges and universities have the... Read more
Published on May 2, 2010 by Jacob Abrams
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More About the Author

Sam Munson's writing has appeared in The National, the New York Times, The Daily Beast, Commentary, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Observer, The Utopian, and numerous other publications. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 2003, and he lives in New York City.

Visit Sam online at


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