OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “YOUR BOSS IS NOT YOUR MOTHER,” BY DR. DEBRA MANDEL, “SPUTNIK SUMMER,” BY PAUL CASTELLANI AND “EMBRACING THE SPIRIT OF NATURE,” BY LINDA SHAYLOR COOPER, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.
Meanwhile, the three books to be highlighted this coming week are all examples, in different ways, of niches we hope to help fill.
COMING UP ON OCT. 27-NOV. 2.
By every definition of that status, Rick is a successful novelist. His first, “Death in Mexico,” was a Hemingway First Novel Award winner; the second, “Sleeping With Pancho Villa,” was a Willa Cather Fiction Prize finalist. And speaking of Hemingway, Skwiot now lives in Papa’s beloved Key West, where he also works as a feature writer, book doctor and editor. That multitude of hats is no doubt necessary, because, as Rick admits, “It’s not easy to sell fiction these days.” Critical acclaim doesn’t always translate into sales. It probably doesn’t help that Rick has chosen a police/detective story road for his latest book, because that is among the most competitive of genres. But this isn’t just another cops book, as you’ll realize by reading the first chapter on Amazon. There is an underlying agenda here broader and far more important than the usual “Who Shot John? – the way in which failing schools in the inner cities (in this case , St. Louis) lie at the root of decay in those communities. In a way, what Rick has done is like diluting the taste of medicine with something more palatable, entertaining readers with a good story while a message slips in almost unnoticed through the back door. “Snowflakes in a Blizzard” is just a whisper of a voice at this point, but it’s a still place where a mainstream novelist like Rick Skwiot can tell even a few readers: “Hey, this is why my book is different, and why you’d want to read it.” For every reader is important, and we’re honored that Rick is willing to give this a try.
2. “CONVERT THIS,” BY D.W. FINTON
Another of the goals of “Snowflakes in a Blizzard” is to generate thought and conversation about controversial issues. You might see anything included on this blog, on virtually any subject. In this sense, D.W. Finton’s novel “Convert This” is a perfect fit. Finton gives us a family ripped open by evidence that a son might be gay, and what happens to the boy when he is sent to a camp that purports to “fix” him. Like the mirror Skwiot holds up to the St. Louis public schools, “Convert This” asks the very relevant question: “Why does homosexuality bother ‘straight’ people so much?” With, of course, the age-old corrolary: Is being gay a choice or a genetic imperative? As an aside, D.W. Finton is one of our more mysterious contributors, the first out of 70 to decline to submit a personal photograph (“I don’t like to have my image out there”). Thus, she recedes into the background, leaving only the story. It’s up to you what you make of it.
We try, as often as we can, to give a leg up to new writers. And in her author comments, you’ll see that Heather Osting glories in being a self-taught, out of nowhere novelist from small-town Ohio. “I’m not really a writer,” she explains. But she is, and the reason “Dead in a Ditch” clicks (besides the presence of rogue bikers and other hazards for main character Vivienne Taylor) is because Heather had the sense to lay out her tale in first person. Whether by learned skill or beginner’s luck, she makes that very human voice convincing and consistent, albeit not flashy or “literary.” It’s a great way of bringing readers into the world she created, rather than trying to sell them on someone else’s.