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The Serialist: A Novel Paperback – March 9, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A seedy freelance writer provides the wry narrative voice for Gordon's winning debut, a darkly humorous thriller. New Yorker Harry Bloch, who once had lofty literary ambitions, has spent the past two decades as a hack, mostly as an advice columnist called the Slut Whisperer for Raunchy magazine. Bloch also earns cash by doing homework for affluent private school students, a side business managed by a precocious teenage girl who was the first pupil he was paid to tutor. His boring life takes an unexpected turn after he receives a letter from death-row inmate Darian Clay (aka the Photo Killer), who, as a fan of the Slut Whisperer, thinks Bloch is right for the job of assisting him on his memoirs. In exchange for Clay revealing where he concealed the heads of his female victims, Bloch must seek out women who have written to Clay and write stories about their having sex with the serial killer. A number of plausible plot twists help shift the story from farce to whodunit. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Harry Bloch is a serialist in spades. He ekes out a living in Queens by writing pseudonymous series novels, all in the pulp style: the Zorg SF series by T. R. L. Pangstrom; the inner-city black Jew detective series by J. Duke Johnson; and the vampire series by Sybilline Lorindo-Gold, Bloch’s mother’s full maiden name. In addition he “tutors” rich high-school kids by writing their term papers. Bloch’s big break comes from a serial killer on death row: 88 days before his execution, Darian Clay offers a chapter of his life story for each piece of pornography Bloch writes based on the torrid letters Clay has received in prison. Bloch’s visits to three letter-writing women have unexpected consequences, raising the possibility of a retrial for Clay; meanwhile, Bloch is suspected of murder and fears for his life. In his debut novel, Gordon sustains the action of an involved plot while sprinkling in chapters from each of Bloch’s three series and his own reflections on reading and writing, with an emphasis on the mystery genre. Seldom has a serial-killer story been as richly textured and laugh-out-loud funny as this one. Sure to be among the most unusual and appealing of this year’s debut thrillers. --Michele Leber

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439158487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439158487
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #767,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Gordon was born in New York City. He attended Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature and an MFA in Writing, both from Columbia University, and has worked in film, fashion, publishing and pornography. His first novel, "The Serialist," won the VCU/Cabell First Novel Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. It was also made into a major motion picture in Japan. His second novel, "Mystery Girl" was released in July 2013 and his short story collection, "White Tiger on Snow Mountain" is forthcoming in Fall 2014 . His work has also appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Purple, and Fence, among other publications.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved so much about this novel--its wonderful and witty narrative voice, the laugh-out-loud humor, the many entertaining asides about writers and writing, and perhaps most of all, its heart. The main character is a likable hack who pens pulp fiction and kids' term papers while dreaming about publishing successful novels under his own name. His chance at fame (if not acclaim) comes with an invitation to tell the tale of the infamous, soon-to-be-executed Photo Killer.

With one of his cute blond teenage tutorees as business manager--the totally delightful, razor-witted Claire--our hero takes the challenge and steps right into it: an apparent set-up where he gets framed. Three incredibly grisly murders committed in the unmistakable style of his serial murderer ensue. That's where I almost couldn't keep reading. Gordon is such a powerful writer that he describes this mutilation in a way most genre writers don't. The victims are all women the protagonist has just interviewed, and their deaths seem too nauseatingly close and real, unlike the deaths in so much mystery fiction. In a story that had been primarily light-hearted with funny references to porn and S & M before this point, it was a shocking change of tone for me and made some of the later sexist remarks and sexual jokes seem off-key.

The book IS a wonderfully original blend of genres, which was both a major delight and also perhaps the source of this occasional incongruity. For the most part I simply enjoyed what the author was doing and how beautifully he pulled it off, crafting a novel that's alternately hilarious, moving, horrible, suspenseful, trashy, literary, thought-provoking, self-reflective, engrossing, and an ode to storytelling all in one job.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Silea VINE VOICE on March 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's cliche to talk about a book you just can't put down, but i guess even that's not quite right here. What happened to me with this book was that i picked it up to skim the first few pages and ended up reading the first hundred.

The story itself is well done, with a good dash of suspense, but nothing so riveting that you'd skip a meal intentionally rather than set the book aside for an hour. What gets you is the flow of the story; there are no ebbs, no peaks and troughs, no place where you need to put the book aside to catch your breath, or want to put the book aside because it's gotten temporarily dull. It is, simply, a very well-paced book, which is a staggering achievement for a first-time novelist.

Our narrator is an author of cheap genre novels and porn columns, keenly aware of his own mediocrity and only occasionally mourning the brilliant writing career he once planned. He gets an offer to write the memoirs of a serial killer on death row, and takes it as an opportunity for name recognition and, of course, money. Inevitably, he's roped into a murder-mystery with his motley band of sidekicks.

The big let-down in this novel is that the mystery is solved not through any real detective work but rather a series of genius insights from a man repeatedly demonstrated to be well short of clever. As a reader, i always feel cheated by such turns. But i wasn't able to figure out who the antagonist was before the reveal, so the author gets props for that.

Only for a small chunk near the end of the book does the author engage in the sort of self-absorbed maudlin melodrama to which authors writing about authors are prone. You can see it coming and skim those paragraphs if you want.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Antigone Walsh VINE VOICE on February 25, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Harry Bloch finds himself far from his dreams, single and living with his mother in a two bedroom apartment in Queens. Lover of books and literature, Harry pens serial novels, sci fi, porn, pulp fiction and vampires, as well as penning an advice column for Raunchy magazine. Barely making ends meet, he is invited to co-write the memoirs of a vicious serial killer on Death Row. The catch is that he must meet and greet in the Biblical fashion some of the Death row groupies who have written to the inmate. As these women wind up murdered in exactly in the same brutal manner as the crimes the inmate was convicted of, Harry becomes the prime suspect. Soon he finds his quiet life turned upside down as he realizes he is more of a pawn than a partner. Aided by a cast of quirky characters and his own writings, he learns the truth about the killings and himself.

This was a great read. The cast of characters, from the precocious teen to the stripper sister of one of the murder victims, are deftly handled. Most of the characters are out of central casting,( the gruff FBI investigator, the chain smoking lawyer, the creepy,handsome convict and the true believer legal intern) would be clownish in less capable hands. Bloch is an engaging voice, wry and cynical. A wistful underachiever, he rises to the challenge when his life and the lives of the ones he loves (and some he barely knows) are threatened.

Ultimately this novel is more about acceptance than finding oneself. The wealthy teen "orphan with parents" drops her pseudo sophistication when the bullets start flying and realizes she is just a kid. The bad girl stripper realizes that she really is a good girl after all. And Harry comes to peace with who he is because the bottom line is people would much rather read the tabloids than the Times and there's nothing wrong with that.
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