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Kokio: A Novel Based on the Life of Neill James Paperback – April 5, 2016
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"Kokio is a wonderful contribution to the increasingly popular genre of biographical novels. Rather than dramatizing the story of a famous figure like Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sylvia Plath, or Marilyn Monroe, as so many skillful biographical novelists have done, Stephen Banks pictures the unfamiliar life of Neill James, a spectacular woman who was an under-cover intelligence agent, travel writer, novelist, and adventurer. Kokio testifies to the value and power of the biographical novel, which, in this instance, does the important cultural and historical work of resurrecting an early lost life."
--Michael Lackey, author of The American Biographical Novel and Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists
"Stephen Banks refers to Kokio, based on the life of Neill James--intelligence agent, intrepid adventurer, writer and, above all, a woman adept at recreating herself--as a novel based on a life, but that's an understatement. He's accomplished far more. After ten years of intensive research, Banks has succeeded in creating a character so believable, so true to life, she jumps off the page of this masterful page-turner of a book."
--Diana Anhalt, author of Second Skin and Because There Is No Return
"Neill James had the rare luck and the rare talent to invent--and re-invent--her life as she lived it. Her 'inventions' often disguised secrets; some trivial, others not.Stephen Banks has done a masterful job of reconstructing and revealing that life, weaving it together with a strand of fiction that Neill, doubtless, would appreciate."
--Richard Spence, author of Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley,British Intelligence and the Occult
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Neill James was an accomplished writer who conveniently put herself in places and events that sometimes stretched the truth. Author Stephen Banks had to wrestle for over 10 years with what was fact and what was fiction in her life. His research led him to eventually construct a biographical story that is grounded on the facts, but expanded into a piece of work that explores in some detail his best speculation of conversations, recollections of overseers, and pivotal events in her life. She is such a fearless adventurer. Neill goes mountain climbing in Mexico and suffers an incredible fall that would have taken an ordinary person’s life. Her recovery process from the fall – which I won’t reveal here (except it involves another mountain) – speaks to her endless drive for risky adventure.
As the reader will discover in the author notes, Banks had a treasure trove of information, but more questions than answers about her life. She claimed to be friends with the rich and famous. Banks is unsure, but after reading the book, I can easily picture her chatting with Amelia Earhart or Ernest Hemingway.
Thanks Stephen. I’m going to look for more biographical novels.