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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Horseman

Each year for the last five or so I've gone into December with a sense of nervous expectation. Christmas? Holiday parties? The dawning New Year? The snow storm sweeping up the East Coast? Yeah, all that stuff too, but what I'm talking about now is related to Tinseltown...

This is the month that I learn whether or not the movie producer Uberto Pasolini is going to renew the option he holds for Gabriel's Story. He's been connected with this movie since at least 2003. He found it on his own, just browsing for a Western novel that hooked him. He likes to say that every producer should have at least one Western in their portfolio. Apparently, Gabriel's Story is the one that works for him, and he's willing to put in the time and money over the long haul to make it happen.

So here we are again, and I can say with real joy that Red Wave is renewing for another year. They continue to feel good about the director, Alan Taylor, and the screenplay they have. And it sounds like they feel the market for a film like this might look better soon. Uberto's been right before. I doubt Gabriel's Story would ever be a blockbuster surprise like his hit The Full Monty, but it doesn't have to be. I'd settle for a well-made movie by people that are passionate about the book and have a record of staying the course with the projects they love.

That's what I got. Cross fingers for me, please.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

100+ Amazon Reviews, a Look at the Numbers...

I had this idea a while back that it would be incredible when I reached 100 reader reviews on Amazon.com. I don't mean 100 reviews for a particular book (although that's going to be cool, too). I just mean when the total number of reviews for my four books added up to a century. I know, those reviews can be joy. They can be pain. They can be gushing missives from friends or hatchet jobs by enemies... But no matter what, as an author, it's hard not to keep an eye on them...

Well, I wasn't paying attention when the number turned, but it has! Actually, I only noticed when I was at 106 reviews. 106! Do you realize that there was once a time I had exactly 0 Amazon reader reviews? Crazy.

Okay, but how's the math look? Have things gone well? Positives above the negatives? Let's take a look...

For Acacia, it looks like this: (34 total)
20 Five Star
10 Four Star
0 Three Star
3 Two Star
1 One Star

For Pride of Carthage, it looks like this: (40 total)
18 Five Star
9 Four Star
5 Three Star
5 Two Star
3 One Star

For Walk Through Darkness, it looks like this: (14 total)
10 Five Star
4 Four Star
0 Three Star
0 Two Star
0 One Star

For Gabriel's Story, it looks like this: (18 total)
16 Five Star
1 Four Star
0 Three Star
1 Two Star
0 One Star

Adding those all up by Star rating: (106 total)

64 Five Star
24 Four Star
5 Three Star
9 Two Star
4 One Star

So that's the way the numbers fall. I'm happy with that. The stinker reviews are always disappointing, but they're also a sign that the books are getting read by a wider range of people - and by more people, which is important. I'm not saying I'd encourage you to go and write me a one starred "I don't like this book cause it sucks!" review, but there's a place for them...

Wait... What am I doing? It didn't really take me that long to put this post together, but still it's been 26 minutes of my life that I won't have back again to write meaningful fiction! Why didn't you stop me? My apologies. Man, Resistance can be devious. It can even get me doing math. Enough!

I'm going to write now...

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Booklist's Top Ten Historical Audiobooks 2007

A wee surprise that has nothing to do with Acacia! I was checking out Booklist's online sight (yes, looking for their review of Acacia: The War with the Mein (Acacia, Book 1)- no sign of it yet) when I came across a feature about the best historical audiobooks they'd reviewed last year. I was scrolling down, sort of half paying attention, when I noticed my own name... Gabriel's Story made the cut! Very strange, but there it was. The brief note said...

In 1871, Gabriel Lynch, a discontented African American teen, runs away and joins a band of marauding cowboys. (Thomas) Penny's deliberate reading allows the masterful prose to shine.

Lovely, and nice to be reminded that my world doesn't entirely revolve around Acacia. Congrats to Thomas Penny as well. He certainly did a great job.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Gabriel's Story, the film...

...is still a working possibility. I got an email from Uberto Pasolini, the producer behind The Full Monty and others. He's had the option for Gabriel's Story for a couple years now, and he's been working with the director Alan Taylor to get a script together and make it happen. Sounds like they're now on draft number three and are preparing to carry on with it. Glad to hear it. I've enjoyed the films these two have made together, The Emperor's New Clothes and Palookaville, and I'm certainly warmed by their lasting commitment to the project. It's a long road yet, but nice to know Gabriel may yet make an appearance on the big screen.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Listening to Gabriel

Listened to a little bit of the Recorded Books version of Gabriel's Story. Really enjoyed hearing it rendered through another's voice. The reader doesn't stress things exactly as I would, but that's okay. It's kinda nice to hear the story as if it belongs to world. My local library got the audio version of Walk Through Darkness. I borrowed it. (Yeah, I'll buy one eventually, but they're not cheap, not even for the author.) Again, the reader had very different stresses than I've ever used in my readings, but overall it's a srong production. If you're at all interested please consider requesting one of these through your library. I find most libraries are pretty good about buying things that people ask for.

On another matter, I recently ordered a copy of the large print edition of Gabriel's Story, by Thorndike Large Print. I didn't have anything to do with the publication of it, with choosing a cover image or anything. Gabriel's story, it seems, has a life of its own. There's a large print version of Walk Through Darkness too. Maybe when I get some coins together I'll pick up a copy. Strange that none of these subrights publishers give the author a free copy...


Monday, March 06, 2006

Recorded Books Versions of Gabriel's Story and Walk Through Darkness

I knew they were in the making, but I've just learned they actually exist. Recorded Books has versions of both of them, on cd and cassette. The guy who reads Gabriel's Story is Thomas Penny. He also read Fighting for America, Black Soldiers--the Unsung Heroes of World War II, by Christopher Moore, among others. And Kevin Free, who reads Walk Through Darkness, also read The Known World by Edward P. Jones and Soul City, by Toure, among others.

I put in an order for Gabriel's Story. It'll be very strange listening to somebody read my novel. I'll let you know what I think...


Friday, April 15, 2005

A little more about the stars

I know this is decidedly after the fact, but as I'm starting up this blog thing I'm inclined to make up for some lost time. So herewith the pre-publication reviews Gabriel's Story received. These are the reviews mostly for the industry, for bookstores and libraries, and the type of things critics might take a look at when they're deciding to review a work for a mainstream audience. These were rather good. Actually, three of them were "Starred", which is supposed to indicate titles of particular note. Here's how they went...

Publishers Weekly

STARRED REVIEW - The old West, both beautiful and brutal, is the setting of Durham's magnificently realized debut novel, a classic coming-of-age story of an African-American boy. Shortly after the Civil War, 15-year-old Gabriel Lynch, his mother and younger brother head out from Baltimore to meet Gabriel's new stepfather in Kansas, where the family hopes to make a fresh start as farmers. But Gabriel finds homesteading to be backbreaking and depressing and is soon lured away by cruel, charismatic Marshall Hogg, who's leading a group of cowboys down into Texas. It seems a dream come true for Gabriel, but then the nightmare begins. While bloated with whiskey, Marshall accidentally murders a man, precipitating a flight from the law that degenerates into a grotesque spree of burglary, rape, kidnapping and murder. Gabriel desperately wants to escape, but is prevented by Marshall's threats and the menacing presence of Caleb, a mute and shadowy figure. When Gabriel finally manages to free himself, the evil that he unwillingly witnessed follows him back homeAand threatens the people he loves most. Durham is a born storyteller: each step of Gabriel's descent into hell proceeds from the natural logic of the narrative itself, which manages to be inevitable even as it's totally surprising. Equally impressive is Durham's gift for describing the awful beauty of the American West: "The April sky was not a thing of air and gas," writes Durham. "Rather it lay like a solid ceiling of slate, pressing the living down into the prairie." The tale's racial dimension is subtly and intelligently developed, and though some readers may be turned off by the violence Gabriel witnesses, all will be impressed by Durham's maturity, skill and lovingly crafted prose. Agent, Sloan Harris. (Jan. 16) Forecast: Durham's view of 1800s history through the eyes of a hopeful African-American boy adds a new dimension to the perennially appealing theme of the lure of the West. Doubleday seems ready to get behind this novel with focused promotion, including an author tour; readers may take notice.


STARRED REVIEW - In 1871, 15-year-old Gabriel Lynch, his younger brother, Ben, and their mother, Eliza, arrive in Crownsville, Kansas. Gabriel is angry with his lot in life, particularly with his mother, who has taken him from his home in the East and his dream of becoming a doctor to a homestead on the plains and a stepfather, Solomon, whom he has barely met. Soon Gabriel befriends another dissatisfied youth, James, and the two innocent African American boys run away from their troubles in search of adventure with a band of cowboys. The road they've chosen becomes a perilous one, taking them across the American West with men prone to violence and pursued by their own demons. On this journey from home and back, one could conclude that Gabriel discovers what he values, but one also sees the enactment of that old saying about the grass being greener on the other side. And the surfeit of symbolism (for example, picture Eliza crossing troubled waters) will have critics salivating. Nevertheless, the circular movement of the plot is devastatingly powerful, particularly the embedded coming-of-age story involving the leader of the cowboys, Marshall Hogg, and his chief companion, the black Caleb. First-time novelist Durham acknowledges the influence of Cormac McCarthy's border trilogy, and Durham's novel does recall McCarthy's work in its juxtaposition of the pristine beauty and spaciousness of the land with the raw violence of the men come to carve a civilization out of it. Yet, perhaps because of the African American family and the skillful manipulation of myths, Durham posits a slant on the settlement of the West that speaks to the essential multicultural character of the nation. Durham is a storyteller touched by an angel.

Kirkus Reviews

STARRED REVIEW - Intensely dramatic debut, set in Kansas and points west and southwest during the 1870s: a direct homage to Cormac McCarthy's highly praised fiction (both his Blood Meridian and the recent Border Trilogy) but also an original work of high distinction. The protagonist, teenaged Gabriel Lynch, arrives from the East with his widowed mother Eliza and younger brother Ben at a train station where they're met by her husband-to-be, Solomon Johns, a farmer who had been Eliza's first love before her life with the boys' father, a prosperous middle-class Baltimore mortician. Gabriel resents the opportunities lost, and the hard life they're introduced to, and eagerly leaves "home," joining another black boy (James) to ride with a group of cattle drovers. A bloodthirsty odyssey ensues, as the gang's embittered leader Marshall Hogg (an amoral fatalist straight out of Dostoevsky) directs his minions to steal, rape, and murder, ever moving on, through Mexico, Arizona, and the Rockies, en route to California - away from the avengers who slowly, methodically pursue them. Durham tells this story with great skill, weaving together a beautifully plotted central action and extended italicized passages detailing the embattled growth to manhood of the stoical Ben and the steely determination of a bereaved Mexican soldier who'll follow Hogg to hell and back. Meanwhile, he also depicts with hallucinatory vividness the enigmatic figure of Hogg's second-in-command Caleb, a black drover who never speaks, and harbors a terrible secret indeed. The only flaw in the narrative is Durham's inexplicable tendency toward an abstract rhetoric clearly influenced by both the aforementioned McCarthy and his major influence, Faulkner, which often produces moments of ludicrous and vague grandiosity (e.g., watching Caleb," Gabriel thought him some dark figure of the apocalypse"). Such moments aside, Gabriel's Story grates on the reader's nerves unerringly, and frequently rises to real grandeur. A brilliant example of how to assimilate and transmute powerful literary influence. And what a movie this dark, haunting tale will make.

Library Journal

A Wild West debut: forced by his mother's remarriage to move from New York City to a sod house in Kansas, Gabriel decides to run away and become a cowboy.

Uh, well, that's all Library Journal had to say. No star there, although looking at that review I'm inclined to say it wasn't really a review. They "mentioned" the book, but didn't choose to assign it. No matter, they were very kind to Walk Through Darkness a year. They gave that one a star. And then they gave Pride of Carthage a star too, as did Publisher's Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus didn't, but they still wrote a helluva review. So all told, for three novels since 2001, I've received seven starred reviews. I think that's more than all but a few writers, and I don't think any African-American writers have received more stars in this time period. I'm proud of that. Didn't exactly lead to massive sales, but I'm working on that...