A Novel by John Smolens
Michigan State University Press, February 2016
Quarantine & The Schoolmaster's Daughter, by John Smolens
A Novel by John Smolens
Pegasus Books, New York (distributed by W. W. Norton)
Publication date: September 5, 2012
Blurbs for John Smolens's Novels
"John Smolens is that rare and gifted writer who can capture both our exterior and interior worlds with equal dexterity, grace and power. His characters will stay with you long after turning the last page." --Andre Dubus III (Townies)
"A fine writer with a profound knowledge of human behavior gone awry." --Jim Harrison (Legends of the Fall)
John Smolens was educated at Boston College, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Iowa. He taught at Michigan State University, and is currently teaching in the Master of Fine Arts program at Northern Michigan University, where he has been the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award. In 2010 he received the Michigan Author of the Year Award from The Michigan Library Association.
Quarantine Catalogue Copy
In 1796, a trading ship arrives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, its crew decimated by a virulent fever which causes residents of the harbor town to fall ill and die with alarming haste. When physician Giles Wiggins places the port under quarantine, he earns the ire of his shipbuilder half-brother, Enoch Sumner, and their eccentric mother, Miranda. Defiantly, Giles sets up a pest-house, where the afflicted might be cared for and separated from the rest of the populace.
As the seaport descends into panic, religious fervor, and mob rule, bizarre occurrences ensue: the harbormaster's family falls victim to the fever, except for his son, Leander Hatch, who is taken in at the Sumner mansion, where he challenges order and tradition; a young woman, Marie Montpelier, is fished out of the Merrimack River, causing Giles and Enoch--who is convinced she's the expatriate daughter of the French king--to vie for her attentions; and medical supplies are pillaged by a black marketer from Boston. As the epidemic grows, fear, greed, and unhinged obsession threaten the Sumner family--and the future of Newburyport itself.
Quarantine is John Smolens' eloquent, darkly ironic portrait of an early American city under duress caused by a mysterious pestilence, and of a prominent family which succumbs to its own corrupt influence and desires.
The Schoolmaster's Daughter
Paperback Release: September 5, 2012
Revolutionary War-era Boston fairly reverberates with divided loyalties as Smolens admirably conveys the often painful personal price exacted by many on both sides of the colonial question the actions of the Lovell family. Although respected Tory schoolmaster John Lovell is a staunch Loyalist, his three children hold contrary political opinions and views. Despite suffering from a debilitating illness, eldest son James wields his pen quite effectively in support of the Rebel cause, while wily younger brother Benjamin acts as a courier, surreptitiously weaving in and out of the backstreets of Boston, evading the omnipresent Redcoats. Still, it is their sister, Abigail, the beautiful, willful schoolmaster's daughter, who is destined to play the most prominent and provocative role in the Revolution. Torn between loyalty to her parents and devotion to the ideals of independence, Abigail walks a fine line between trust and treason. As her beloved Boston endures an increasingly harsh siege and her family is torn apart, she is further drawn into the fray by her brothers and other prominent members of the Sons of Liberty. When Abigail's sympathetic relationship with a British officer provides an opportunity for her compatriots to sabotage a cache of British ammunition, she risks much more than her life on the eve of the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Boston smolders on the eve of the American Revolution in Smolens's ambitious blend of fiction, history, battlefield romance, and intrigue. Drawing from the real-life Lovell family, with loyalist Boston Latin schoolmaster John and his cipher of a son, James, on opposite sides, Smolens builds his story around Abigail, John's daughter and James's sister, forgotten by history but here the unsung heroine of Bunker Hill. Abigail aids the resistance by helping her brother, Benjamin, detained by the British, and her friend Rachel Revere, and soon becomes the prime suspect in a redcoat's murder. She's torn between her parents and siblings, and between a careless American volunteer and an attentive British officer who proves both her most intimate ally and deadliest enemy. Well-researched but overreaching, Smolens's novel features appearances by Dr. Benjamin Church (less famous than Benedict Arnold, but equally traitorous), Paul Revere, and others. In his best passages, Smolens imagines the betrayals, espionage, and collaborations, personal and strategic alliances, and the frequent crossing of lines (not just physical) between the occupying British and the Bostonians they want to control. Abigail herself crosses lines for the cause, joining a roster of historical fiction heroines with feminist leanings toward self-determination, sexual freedom, and altering the course of history.
*** The Schoolmaster's Daughter was on the Boston Globe Bestselling Books About Boston List: Ranked #6, September 2011
Review Excerpts for John Smolens' Novel The Anarchist (2009)
"Thrilling. The subtlety and vigor with which Smolens evokes this turbulent era makes The Anarchist far more than a superior adventure." --The Boston Sunday Globe
"Smolens has written an intelligent, often troubling warning disguised as a first-rate thriller, as though Sinclair Lewis has fused with Alan Furst." --Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things
"A smart and compelling historical thriller. Enthralling." --Ron Charles, Page One Review, The Washington Post Book World
John Smolens's new novel, THE SCHOOLMASTER'S DAUGHTER, which is set in Boston during the first year of the American Revolution, will be published September 12, 2011, by Pegasus Books, New York.
ENDORSEMENTS for THE SCHOOLMASTER'S DAUGHTER
"In this magnificently researched and absorbing historical novel, John Smolens brings to intimate life the first days of the American Revolution as the civil war it actually was, in and around a Boston at once recognizable and yet still thrillingly close to wild nature, with a swampy waterfront, three cave pocked hills above it, and cows everywhere, not only on the Commons. Smolens gives us a rich sense, not only of how the fight divided private families, but also of what surprising alignments it bred inside Colonial society, from its selectmen, through its watermen and their families, down to its abundant prostitutes. This is a fresh take on the world of Paul Revere, thronged with strong women."
--Jaimy Gordon, author of LORD OF MISRULE, winner of the National Book Award 2010.
"John Smolens tells the fictional story of the outbreak of the revolutionary war with such fine detail and verve it seems he was there. You won't forget the lovely Abigail Lovell who helped her two brothers outmaneuver the Brits with a combination of pluck, smarts, and sexual wiles. This is a book for anyone who likes their history served up with literary flair, and deep empathy for a myriad of characters-- hot-blooded story-telling at its finest."
--Doug Stanton, author of HORSE SOLDIERS and IN HARM'S WAY
John Smolens has published six novels, The Anarchist, Cold, The Invisible World, Fire Point, Angel's Head, and Winter by Degrees; and one collection of short stories, My One and Only Bomb Shelter. His new book, entitled The Anarchist, a historical novel that depicts the William McKinley's assassination, will be published December 2009 by Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House. His short stories and essays have been in various magazines and newspapers, including Redbook, Yankee, the Massachusetts Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. His work has been published in the United Kingdom, and translations have appeared in the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Educated at Boston College, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Iowa, he is a professor of English Northern Michigan University and lives in Marquette, Michigan. More information and sample chapters are available at johnsmolens.com.
The Anarchist, by John Smolens
Publication Date: December 8, 2009
Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House
"John Smolens has written a historical novel with the quick-beating heart of a thriller. Written in crisp, cinematic prose, The Anarchist has echoes of the best noir, while at the same time invoking a terrifyingly empathetic portrait of the young assassin Leon Czolgosz, who, in Smolens hands, has a kind of Dostoyevskian complexity. Before reading this book, the McKinley assassination existed in my mind as only a dry fact. The Anarchist has brought these events to rich, bloody, teeming life. " --Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
"Fiction so shapely and finely wrought: dark history inexorably bound to repeat itself -- The Anarchist is another gem from a master of the storyteller's arts." - National Book Award finalist Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking
"If you have ever been fascinated by the name and deed of one Leon Czolgosz, John Smolens's The Anarchist will be a good friend to you. If you have never heard of the name and deed of one Leon Czolgosz, John Smolens's The Anarchist will likely be a revelation. With his portrait of a bygone America both out for blood and at its own throat, Smolens has written an intelligent, often troubling warning disguised as a first-rate thriller, as though Sinclair Lewis has fused with Alan Furst." --Tom Bissell (Father of All Things, God Lives in St. Petersburg, and Chasing the Sea)
From the Random House catalogue:
The Anarchist is a richly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller based on the true story of one man's delusional, murderous dream that ushered in America's troubled twentieth century.
On a hot afternoon in September 1901, a young, dreamy-eyed anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, who has been stalking President William McKinley during his visit to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, waits in line to meet the president, his right hand wrapped in a handkerchief and held across his chest as though it were in a sling. But the handkerchief conceals a .32 caliber revolver, and as the president greets him, Czolgosz fires two shots, shouting "I done my duty!" while security guards wrestle him to the floor.
As the president struggles to survive, the nation plummets into fear and anger.
When the president dies a week later, Teddy Roosevelt is sworn into office in Buffalo while rioting mobs attempt to lynch McKinley's assassin, and across the country anarchists such as the notorious Emma Goldman are being tracked down and arrested. While Pinkerton detectives search for Czolgosz's conspirators, another young man, Moses Hyde, an orphan who has labored for years on Erie Canal towboats, and who is driven by his love for Motka Ascher, a beautiful Russian immigrant imprisoned in the attic of Big Maud's whorehouse, infiltrates an anarchist group as it sets in motion a deadly scheme designed to push the country into a state of anarchy.
The Anarchist brilliantly renders a haunting and belligerent twentieth century landscape teeming with immigrants, corrupt politicians, con artists, prostitutes, and "canawlers," an America where every allegiance is questioned, and every hope and aspiration comes at a price.
Excerpts from Book Reviews:
Fire Point (2004)
Publications & Review Excerpts
* United States: Shaye Areheart Books/Random House, New York, August 2004.
* United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., London, August 2004.
* Greece (Greek translation): Electra Publishing, Athens, forthcoming 2006.
* Reviewed in (partial list): Publishers' Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Denver Post, Detroit Free Press, Baltimore Sun, Wichita Weekly, Houghton Daily Gazette, The Independent on Sunday (UK), Yorkshire Gazette & Herald (UK).
* Detroit Free Press selection as the best book written by a Michigan author in 2004.
* Finalist for the Great Lakes Booksellers Award, 2004.
Innocent lovers are subjected to an onslaught of jealousy and hostility on Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula in a sensitively observed, mesmerizing fourth novel that builds in fury as inexorably and stunningly as a Lake Superior storm.
--Publishers' Weekly (starred review)
Smolens is especially deft at capturing the rhythms of small-town life and the complexity of his "ordinary" people. Incisive portraits of town denizens add texture.
Smolens proves especially adept at illustrating the tenuous alliances and small fissures that form between townies when the tourists have all gone home. In a quiet, assured fashion, he sets up a series of inevitable confrontations that don't usually turn out the way one would expect--just like in real life. Fans of Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods will find much to like here. -Booklist
Fire Point is a good, suspenseful read with the kind of lean writing that many better-selling writers would have to sell their souls to achieve. -Detroit Free Press
In January 2005 the Detroit Free Press selected Fire Point as the best book by a Michigan Author in 2004.
Hemingway set some of his best tales in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as has Jim Harrison. In his latest novel, John Smolens also takes advantage of the Lake Superior area to great effect....Smolens has done a superlative job of rendering a place and its people realistically. He has crafted a thriller that is as literate and insightful into human nature as any novel out this year. -Denver Post
In the hands of others, this story line would feel trite and overused, but not in Smolens' hands. Hannah LeClaire, new love Martin Reed, and old flame Sean Colby are victims of past mistakes, beholden to choices they had no power to make, and amazingly, redeemed in surprising and unexpected ways. --Baltimore Sun
Smolens has made a Hamlet's Denmark out of Hannah's Whitefish Harbor, Michigan - Upper Peninsula. --Wichita Eagle
Fire Point put my teeth on edge from the first page and kept them there until I finished. Smolens is a fine writer with a profound knowledge of human behavior gone awry.
--Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall
The Invisible World (2002)
Publications & Review Excerpts
* United States: Shaye Areheart Books/Random House, New York, October 2002.
* United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., London, November 2002.
* Greece: Electra Publishing, Athens, May 2004.
* Reviewed in (partial list): The New York Times, Publishers' Weekly, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe, Dublin Times (Ireland), the Baltimore Sun, Ann Arbor News, Dallas Star, Booklist, Library Journal; To Vima, Ta Nea, The Athens Voice, Aggelioforos (Greece).
Smolens's sharp views of places like Charlestown and Salem avoid the usual hometown sentimentality, making a nice contrast with the mournful lyric voice he uses for Sam's recollections of his miserable family life. --Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
The novel contains many allusions to the various conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination, but thankfully, it never comes across as trying to solve the mystery. It is far more a well-told tale about the way that obsessions - with theories, with fathers, with failures - tend to take over lives, sometimes several lives at once, and the manner in which the shadows of momentous events only seem to lengthen over time, cloaking an ever larger crowd in their darkness. --Dan Fesperman, The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune
While there are plenty of moments of high suspense along the way - a few close shaves, a disappearance, a killing or two - it is the slower moments that are more rewarding, often graced with pitch-perfect observations. --The Associated Press
A poignant and literate thriller which shows that a news story that reaches its 40th birthday this year still has the power to haunt. --The Guardian, London
The Invisible World is more than a first-rate political thriller. It's an absorbing tale of alienation and loss, and the ramifications of a rootless, troubled family. Adams, though nearly 50 years old, is a man without place, despite his affection for his neighborhood, his memories of the hockey games at the old Garden, and, most dear and troubling to him, his childhood in Salem, when his promising sister fell prey to drugs and local lore, and his mother was compelled to live a life not of her choosing. And then there's his father, whom he's written about but doesn't really know. Thus, the shadows Adams crosses on the streets of Boston and Salem compete with the dark places in his regret-plagued mind, and he is never at ease. Smolens manages all this without surrendering to sentimentality or losing his grip on his mystery. It's an achievement, for "The Invisible World" enriches us, and subtly provokes us, while providing its chills and thrills.
--Jim Fusilli, The Boston Globe
Publications & Review Excerpts
* United States: Shaye Areheart Books/Random House, New York, September 2001.
* U. S. Paperback edition: Three Rivers Press/Random House, New York, October, 2003.
* United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., London, October 2001.
* Holland (Dutch translation: Koud Spoor): House of Books/EMI, 2002.
* Italy (Italian translation: Freddo): Hobby & Work, Milan, 2003.
* Turkey (Turkish translation: Soguk): Plan B, Istanbul, 2003.
* United Kingdom (Large print edition): F. A. Thorpe, Leicestershire, 2003.
* Greece (Greek translation): Electra Publishing, Athens, 2005.
* Reviewed in (partial list): Publishers' Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Booklist, London Sunday Express (UK), Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun.
* Selections: Detroit Free Press Book Club selection, November 2003; Amazon.com Editors' Choice selection; finalist for Great Lakes Book Award; nominated for Pulitzer Prize in Fiction by Shaye Areheart Books.
Smolens's skill in rendering scenes of stunning brutality and uncommon tenderness, his crisp dialogue, vigorous writing style and keen descriptive powers all make this a first-rate thriller. --Publishers Weekly
In prose that is as pure and clear as the cold it evokes, Smolens probes intimate relationships and reveals nefarious schemes in a gripping story. Absolutely compelling; for all fiction collections. -- Library Journal
Those who read suspense novels for their projection of justice and resolution will find a winner here in this well-plotted and well-written tale fueled by a sense of impending disaster. --Booklist
A mesmerizing danse macabre, one that welds the drama of family treachery to an unforgiving landscape...Imagine James M. Cain rewriting the script of the film Fargo and you get close to the novel's palpable mixture of bleak wilderness and blood-hot passion. Hot stuff, stripped bare with ice and fire. -- The London Sunday Express
"John Smolens is that rare and gifted writer who can capture both our exterior and interior worlds with equal dexterity, grace, and power. COLD is a novel so riveting you will absolutely not be able to put it down, and these characters will stay with you long after turning the last page."
--Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog
"Cold is a finely crafted, wild yarn set in the great north. John Smolens gives us a suspenseful tale in a style somewhere between Jack London and Raymond Chandler. A fine read." --Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall
Angel's Head (1994)
"Smolens' prose ... is an understated marvel."
-- Publisher's Weekly
Winter by Degrees (1987)
"What holds our attention is the rich atmosphere, the chill desolation of a shore town in midwinter. John Smolens knows his territory, social as well as geographical and proves it in his first novel." --Boston Sunday Globe
"A promising debut." --Chicago Tribune
"...delivers gritty dialogue and earthy atmosphere." --Kirkus
"Rich in detail....Captures the sense of gloom that hangs over seaside communities in the winter as if a tragedy is just around every corner." --Cape Cod Chronicle
John Smolens has given numerous public readings, talks, workshops, and book signings at book stores, conferences, conventions, libraries, and schools. Many of these events took place in the Upper Midwest and Massachusetts in conjunction with the publication of his books. A sampling includes: the BookExpo of America Convention; the University of Iowa, Central College, Iowa; Creighton University, Omaha; Wichita State University, Kansas; Finlandia College; the Ann Arbor Authors' Festival; the Romeo Michigan Public Library, the Dow Memorial Public Library, Midland, MI; Biblioteca Comunale "Mozzi Borgetti," Macerata, Italy; Libreria Feltrinelli Interantional, Firenze; appearances in Istanbul, Turkey, arranged by Plan B, publisher of Soguk (Cold). In conjunction with many of these events he has given numerous radio, newspaper, and on-line interviews.
For upcoming readings and events, please go to johnsmolens.com