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The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story Paperback – April 1, 2016
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Like Carlos Fuentes's The Old Gringo, this absorbing novel...tracks Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) south of the border as the American journalist and short story writer journeys with Pancho Villa into the maelstrom of the Mexican Revolution.... Fans of Bierce's writing should enjoy this semibiographical tale with a suspenseful plot as wild as some of his more fantastical works.--Publishers Weekly
In The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story, expect to be entertained - to laugh and sneer and shiver - expect to think - on life, on death, on love - and expect to feel - pain, anger, desire - but most importantly, expect to find out what happened to Ambrose Bierce when he left his home without looking back, and faded into the white dust of Mexico.--Michael G. Kellermeyer, publisher, Oldstyle Tales Press
Bierce is...haunted by the specter of Death, which he characterizes as the "damned thing", a reference to one of his most famous stories. The supernatural elements are more symbolic than actual, but the story is generally quite interesting and other than a couple of spots where I thought scenes were drawn out a bit too long, it held my interest throughout.
--Don D'Ammassa, Critical Mass
The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce is a work as complex as Bierce himself. It is a love story; it is an elegantly constructed historical novel; it is a tale of terror. But most of all, it is a tale of a human life--a tale of a man who belonged to the "damned human race," however much he may have wished he didn't. Readers of this book may come away moved, amused, or terrified--but chiefly they will come away with a profound understanding of what it means to be human.
--S.T. Joshi (from his introduction)
From the Author
Jared Boggess is the talented Virginia artist who designed the striking cover for The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story. On Tumblr, Boggess describes the progress of creating the vivid cover: jaredboggess.tumblr.com/post/137634951113/heres-a-process-gif-for-my-new-cover. The book's design was by David E. Schultz, himself one of the great scholars of the American weird tale.
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Bierce would delight in linking "Assassination" and "Love Story." Author Swaim is so damned good at imaginatively blending known history with 'well, anything was possible with Bierce,' that this historical, often hysterical novel had me often laughing out loud, and -- not infrequently -- shuddering.
The question of whether Ambrose Bierce courted death or attracted women with equal fervor still pends, but "The Assassination of Ambrose
Bierce is a stunning accomplishment. It is a measure of Swaim's knowledge and skill that he not only brings the satirist/cynic/fabulist back from revolutionary Mexico, his last known sighting, but also plops him down to die in serene Saratoga Springs, New York. At his side and also pseudonymous, is none other than the Mexican firebrand General Pancho Villa. And Bierce's last lover, a much younger widow and aspiring author.
It's no small matter that the introduction to Don Swaim's magnum opus is by the noted novelist and critic of writers of the weird and fantastic, S. T. Joshi, who has himself earned the title, "the nastiest reviewer in the field." Bierce would have liked that.
Swaim skillfully takes us, moment to moment, from the middle of a battlefield, to a London brothel, to a Midwest mining town, to the stress of a newspaper office, to the inner circle of the crude and murderous Pancho Villa. We get to view the awkwardness of Bierce’s marriage and his aloof attitude toward his children. Yet we also feel his grief when he outlives his two sons. For this maturing man who occasionally dabbled in various kinds of love, at last he meets a young woman who captures him. He may not know quite how to proceed but proceed he does, at least as Swaim tells it.
Throughout this read I kept wondering how Ambrose Bierce would navigate the media world of today. How would this man of strident opinions handle the Sunday morning talk shows? He was both a crack shot with a pistol and a phrase packed with conviction.
Swaim’s weaving of Bierce’s literary voice with those of his contemporaries while basking in wild and dangerous adventures, makes this an impressively told story of an impressive life.
Bierce, celebrated writer of dozens of short stories and the curmudgeon whose columns appeared in various publications, most notably in William Randolph Hearst's San Francisco Examiner, supposedly romanced a New York widow, and quite successfully, given that he would have been in his 70's at the time and it was long before Viagra reared its perky head (no pun intended).
What IS known is that Bierce, a wounded veteran of the American Civil War, waltzed into Mexico in 1914 to check on Villa's revolution...and disappeared. There was speculation that Villa had him shot. Don Swaim has them becoming strange bedfellows (not literally) traveling through various campaigns together.
The title of this book gives potential readers a hint: it is a playful exercise in gripping fiction-writing about a larger-than-life American man of letters, a man who hob-nobbed with writers such as Mark Twain, had imaginary conversations with Edgar Allan Poe, and dismissed H.L.Mencken as someone who "fancies he knows something about the English language."
This is a terrific novel that deserves a wide audience; I hope it gets one.