Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Today's novel is a genre-bender, making it a great pick for almost everyone. David Anthony's Something for Nothing takes place in the 1970s and follows Martin Anderson's quest for material wealth . . . never mind that he's gotten seriously in debt and is wondering how to keep his kneecaps intact.
I have a couple of exciting things to share with you, but first I'll start (as always) with the publisher's summary:
Martin Anderson has a racehorse, a deep-sea fishing boat, a vacation home in Tahoe, and a Caddy in the garage. But his life is in freefall. It’s the 1970s, and with the arrival of the oil crisis and gas rationing, his small aircraft business is tanking, as is his extravagant suburban lifestyle. Martin keeps many secrets from his wife, such as his mounting debt and his penchant for sneaking into neighborhood homes and making off with small keepsakes. So when he’s given the opportunity to clear his debt by using one of his planes to make a few drug runs between California and Mexico, Martin doesn’t think twice . . . or at all, for that matter.So we have social commentary, murder, humor, suspense, and thriller . . . truly something for everyone in this witty debut novel. What would you do in the heady days of the 1970s, when everything seemed possible and drugs and travel were easy? Martin is so sure he can have it all. Nothing to it—just one simple little flight to Mexico once a month for a year. Easy peasy. If you're thinking there must be a catch, you'd be right.
Things quickly spiral out of control when Martin’s simple plan lands him in the midst of gun-toting Mexican thugs. After a narcotics agent arrives on his doorstep, he becomes increasingly paranoid, both about the police and about his associates in the drug world—a feeling that seems justified when he stumbles upon the scene of a brutal double murder. Martin wants out, but he wants his money, too.
Deeply funny and suspenseful, David Anthony’s novel is a perfect snapshot of the excesses of American culture.
There's a lot to like about this novel, but two aspects really stand out. First is the time period. I was in college during the early 1970s, and in my mind, Anthony brilliantly re-creates the era of Patty Hearst, the oil embargo, and the Nixon administration. The second is the complexity of Martin, who at heart is a family man but who at the same time wants the extravagant lifestyle that pushed him just a little bit too far in debt and a little bit too beholden to the wrong sort of people.
In addition, as I mentioned, I like the mixing of genres. Author David Anthony has a lot to say about trying to place Something for Nothing into a specific category or type of novel, and I am thrilled to be able to share with you some of his thoughts. Today, I have a you've-seen-it-here-first video of Anthony comparing his book with other novels that share similar characteristics. On Monday, he will be back at Beth Fish Reads to talk more about genre and the difficulty of pigeonholing novels.
Now, take a couple of minutes to see this never-before-posted video of Anthony discussing his novel (no spoilers!):
The bag-of-money idea has always been intriguing, and the personality of the individual who finds the loot becomes a driving force for the story line. Martin is such a mix of bad and good, smart and stupid, selfish and caring that I just had to keep reading.
Early reviewers have agreed with me, praising Anthony's skills at character development and at capturing the 1970s:
- From Kirkus Reviews: "Where this book exceeds the expectations of its formula is in the finesse and wit with which Anthony handles both the setting and the swaggering, self-absorbed but often likable protagonist—he captures the ethos of the '70s and the soul of sad-sack Martin admirably, and the links to our own time are compelling."
- From Publishers Weekly: "The parallels Anthony draws between the 1974 economic crisis and our own are successful precisely because they're not overt, just like his depiction of Martin as an antihero succeeds because his ridiculous antics are laced with a yearning to belong that's so intense it borders on deranged innocence, rendering him the most lovable drug smuggler in ages."
- The Daily Rumpus: "Anthony [is] a young writer who, without a single anachronistic misstep, has fabricated a '70s period piece complete with a toupee-wearing hero who thinks, acts, and talks exactly as I would expect him to."
This book was spotlighted as part of both my Imprint Fridays feature and my Get to know Algonquin Books feature. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.