Peter Blauner

Peter Blauner is back! After an 11-year break from writing novels – the poor man had to make a living, crafting scripts for TV shows like “Law & Order: SVU” and “Blue Bloods” (my mom’s fave) – the Edgar Award-winner has delivered his seventh novel, Proving Ground.

The cathode rays have not diminished his powers. PW says Blauner “hasn’t lost his touch, as this page-turner demonstrates” and in its starred review, Kirkus calls it “a top-notch crime novel that avoids easy resolutions and is all the better for its unanswered questions.”

Proving Ground centers on Nathaniel Dresden, aka "Natty Dread," who never really got along with his father, an infamous civil rights lawyer who defended criminals and spearheaded protest movements. As an act of rebellion, Natty joined the U.S. Army and served in Iraq, coming back with a chest full of commendations and a head full of disturbing memories. But when his father is found murdered near the peaceful confines of Brooklyn's Prospect Park, Natty is forced to deal with the troubled legacy of their unresolved relationship. He also has to fend off the growing suspicions of Detective Lourdes Robles, a brash Latina cop with something to prove, who thinks Natty might bear some responsibility for his father's death. The search for answers leads them both into an urban labyrinth where they must confront each other—and brutal truths that could destroy each of them.

While reviewing this “exceptional novel,” in the Washington Post, Patrick Anderson, writes: “Throughout, Peter Blauner’s characters are complex and his prose is as impressive as his plot. His gritty portrayal of urban crime recalls the work of Richard Price and Dennis Lehane.” 

Peter Blauner’s Top Ten List (with his comments)

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877). Probes deep into the human condition by proving people haven’t changed that much, and men and women were always fucked up and crazy.

2. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905). Ditto. After reading this novel, I understood why Scorsese was moved to do a Wharton adaptation. Her underlying attitude is as tough and gangsta as “Goodfellas” and “Mean Streets.”

3. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (1934). Beautiful and crushing. An immigrant childhood at the turn of the last century. Small impossible lives described in language that makes everything seem possible.

4. A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes (1957). Funny, acidic, tight, and cool. Himes was the kind of writer who didn’t try to knock you out with every punch. He just saved his best stuff for when he had you on the ropes.

5. What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (2003). Sometimes I think a good piece of writing shouldn’t necessarily comfort you; it should bruise you a little. I read this more than ten years ago and I’m still a little sore from it.

6. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos (1989). How can one know so much about music, love, and ladies’ underwear?

7. Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg. And then there are books that just make you go, “Damn, I’d like to do that!” A novel that strolls ever so deceptively from detective fiction into horror, casually whistling until it cuts you to the bone.

8. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara (1934). Cheever and Updike are great. But they’re ginger ale drinkers by comparison.

9. American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1997). I could have picked a number of the great books he wrote in the great late streak where he took that powerful instrument he has and finally aimed it toward the world at large.

10. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939). Because it all starts with Hammett, Hemingway, and this guy.

 

New List

Francine Prose

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839). (See below.)
3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
4. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
5. The stories of John Cheever (1912–82).
6. The stories of Mavis Gallant (1922– ).
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).

 

Classic List

Amy Bloom

 

1. The Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies (1983).
2.Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
3. His Dark Materialsby Philip Pullman (1995–2000).
4.The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1995).
5.The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003).
6. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (1978).
7. The Plot Against Americaby Philip Roth.
8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998).
9. Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier (1951).
10. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1997).

 

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