Monday, January 11, 2016

Nicholas Petrie and Mark Zimmermann at Boswell this week, plus Stephen Anderson at Woodland Pattern and Richard Thieme at the Milwaukee Public Library Reading Room.

Here's what's going on this week.

Tuesday, January 12, 7 pm, at Boswell:
The launch of Nicholas Petrie's first published novel, The Drifter.

It's almost here! The debut thriller set in Milwaukee. Here's my staff recommendation: "When Peter Ash finds out that his former Marine buddy committed suicide, he shows up at his widow’s house to help with some home repairs. Under the crawl space, he finds a mangy dog and a mysterious suitcase filled with cash. Needless to say, the contents are much desired by another party, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nicholas Petrie has written a compelling thriller that knows all the right moves, from the loner character to the family in peril to the multiple plot turns, but infuses a fresh twist with Peter Ash, a vet with PTSD manifested in acute claustrophobia. There’s a bit of an Elmore Leonard vibe going on here, only with everyone playing at more contemporary higher stakes. And as a bonus for locals, the Milwaukee setting is distinct, but not so over-detailed to get in the way of the nail-biting plot."

The great thing about Petrie's novel is not just is it well-written and exciting, it's got some meat on it too, so to speak. Kirkus's starred review called The Drifter "a powerful, empathetic, and entertaining tale about the plight many combat veterans face when they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Top-notch storytelling." And Publishers Weekly praised how "Petrie's expertly paced plot sets a colorful array of characters on a collision course."

Here's a little more from Carole E. Barrowman's strong review in the Journal Sentinel: "The novel is populated with our neighbors and inhabits our local hangouts (one of the few indoor places Ash can stand is Alterra Coffee (now called Colectivo Coffee) because of its "tall glass roll up door and skylights"). The narrative pulses with references to jazz (a dog named Mingus; a child called Miles; a woman named Dinah). Its lean prose, gritty descriptions (houses like "worn out drunks sharing a skin disease"), and raw psychological depth give the novel a feel that reminded me of early Dennis Lehane. With static "like a flashing thundercloud" in Ash's head and full on dramatic irony crackling through the plot, the narrative marches toward a Veterans Day parade in Milwaukee."

Thursday, January 14, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mark Zimmermann, author of Impersonations.

Mark Zimmermann was awarded the Johnson Controls Award for Teaching Excellence in 2013 for his work teaching humanities at MSOE. He currently serves on the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, and is a member of the Hartford Avenue Poets. His recent collection of poems are in the form of lipograms.

Here's Jim Higgins's review of Impersonations in the Journal Sentinel, which explains it a bit better: "Zimmermann's 62 poems in "Impersonations" are dramatic monologues, a la Robert Browning, written as lipograms — a constraint that would make Georges Perec proud. For each poem, Zimmermann limited his vocabulary to words drawing on the letters of its title. To take a particularly fiendish example, his poem "Moby Dick" consists exclusively of words using the letters b, c, d, i, k, m, o and y. Oy, you say? Yes, that's something Zimmermann's whale said, too. Forced into new neural pathways by these constraints, Zimmermann has produced poems that are fresh, invigorating and occasionally odd. Beyond sheer novelty, what makes this collection so delightful is Zimmermann's high batting average for pith. He keeps coming up with zingers and stingers."

How did this interest in lipograms come about? Zimmermann explains in Stone Boat: "I came across the lipogram sometime around 1990-91 when a sprinkler malfunction flooded the UW-M bookstore, where I worked at the time. Hundreds of books were damaged and ended up being sold for 75% off the cover price. Employees got first choice and I took advantage, buying a pile of hardcovers that I never could have otherwise afforded. One of them was O.B. Hardison’s Disappearing Through the Skylight, which included examples of lipograms. The form intrigued me as novel, challenging, and a little crazy, but I didn’t pursue it further." And then of course he did!

Looking for more?
Friday, January 15, 7 pm, at Woodland Pattern: Stephen Anderson, author of Navigating the Sun.

From the Blue Heron Review: "While reading Stephen Anderson’s poems, we closely hold the miracle of each memory he shares with us, as if they are our own. Anderson has that rare gift as a poet of showing us the magic of small moments through beautiful imagery and thoughtful details. We, too, are on that swing as a child. We, too, are listening to the cicada serenade. We, too, are contemplating the fate of a colony of yellow jackets. I hope you will linger long and often, while reading these poems, as we welcome the new life that awaits us behind the russet and gold of September." Woodland Pattern is located at 720 E. Locust St. in Riverwest.

Saturday, January 16, 2 pm, at the Milwaukee Public Library Reading Room, 2nd floor: Richard Thieme, author of FOAM.

"FOAM asks, What does it mean to be human? What is the human condition? Can a person be transformed by the power of love - even if they come from another planet? His novel is about an extraterrestrial downsized into a human body to do improv with the denizens of earth and broadcast his encounters to an audience for whom 'humans are the funniest species in the galaxy.'" Thieme has published numerous books and also works with security and intelligence professionals. Central Library is located at 814 W. Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Milwaukee.

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