Kyle Jarrard (www.kylejarrard.com) is a Texas-born writer who lives near Paris and works as an editor at the International Herald Tribune, longtime expat favorite and overseas voice of The New York Times.
Jarrard's first novel, "Over There," was published in 1997 by Baskerville, a literary house in Texas. Even before its publication, this first novel garnered intense interest, with Library Journal giving it a starred review and lauding its "epic proportions." Publishers Weekly called it "deliciously weird," noting how Jarrard "takes readers on a wild ride not just through time and space but through loopholes in language and meaning."
"Over There" draws its considerable power from a wide array of literary antecedents. Burroughs, Faulkner, Beckett, Walker Percy, Garcia Marquez,
Flann O'Brien -- echoes of each master ripple beneath Jarrard's inventive prose. And yet the novelist's voice is truly his own, a hybrid blend of Texas matter-of-fact and continental hip that swings between off-the-wall hilarity and cut-to-the-bone pathos as it shifts from Texas to France to Mexico and back again in a neatly woven multivoiced story.
Jarrard's second novel, "Rolling the Bones," was published by another strong literary house, Steerforth Press, of Vermont, in 2001. This road book takes the reader into the depths of Mexico, where the editor who selected this manuscript, Michael Moore, heard echoes of Malcolm Lowry.
"Rolling the Bones" is the story of two Southern couples whose lives are set spinning off in unforeseen directions following the sudden death of one of their number amid their placid doings one Texas summer. Three narrators tell the story, relay-style, carrying the reader down the byways of Texas and Louisiana and Mexico as each searches for a way to escape the event.
Jarrard, meanwhile, is a prolific writer of short stories. These have appeared in many magazines, including the North American Review, Mississippi Review, Frank, Oyster Boy Review, Eclectica, Rain City Review, Pharos, Descant, New Orleans Review, Octavo and American Way.
Jarrard's French wife, born in Cognac country, and her family are a major inspiration behind his first lengthy nonfiction work, "Cognac: The Seductive Saga of the World's Most Coveted Spirit." This history book, published by John Wiley & Sons, is the first complete history of this famous brandy, in which Jarrard brings to bear his 20-plus years in France and his intimate familiarity with the Cognac region and its unique artisans.
Jarrard charts Cognac's birth in the 1500s and its transformation into the world's most inimitable drink. Along the way, he reveals how Cognac distillers weathered vineyard die-offs, the German occupation, and other challenges over the years-and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Hennessy, R'my-Martin, Courvoisier, Martell and other legendary brands. "Cognac" joins the highly successful genre of very readable books about "things," with echoes of Mark Kurlansky's "Salt" and Mike Dash's "Tulipomania."
Frank Prial, wine critic of The New York Times, wrote of "Cognac":
"An enthralling volume. Kyle Jarrard has put together a compelling story, not just about the world's best-known eau-de-vie, but about the people who make it and the often violent history of the remarkable but little-known region of France from which it comes."