12 August 2011

Imprint Friday: What You See in the Dark by Manuel Munoz

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.

It's summer and that means it's time for some high-class escape reading. Manuel Muñoz's What You See in the Dark is the perfect choice for a warm August night. But you might just want to leave a light on—this retelling of the filming of Hitchcock's Psycho is riveting and just a bit spooky.

Here's the publisher's summary:

Bakersfield, California, in the late 1950s is a dusty, quiet town too far from Los Angeles to share that city’s energy yet close enough to Hollywood to fill its citizens with the kinds of dreams they discover in the darkness of the movie theater. For Teresa, a young, aspiring singer who works at a shoe store, dreams lie in the music her mother shared with her, plaintive songs of love and longing. In Dan Watson, the most desirable young man in Bakersfield, she believes she has found someone to help her realize those dreams.

When a famous actress arrives from Hollywood with a great and already legendary director, local gossip about Teresa and Dan gives way to speculation about the celebrated visitors, there to work on what will become an iconic, groundbreaking film of madness and murder at a roadside motel. No one anticipates how the ill-fated love affair between Dan and Teresa will soon rival anything the director could ever put on the screen.

This thoroughly original work is intense and fascinating in its juxtapositions of tenderness and menace, violence and regret, played out in a town on the brink of change.
There are several things that attracted me to Muñoz's novel, including the Psycho connection, the time period, and the contrasts and similarities between the script and small-town life. What I wasn't expecting was the intriguing noir style of the book, from the way the Hollywood people are referred to by their roles (the Director, the Actress) to the second-person narrative to the mystery of what people do when shrouded by darkness. Jealousy, desire, mothers and sons, and of course murder—both on screen and off—sit in the driver's seat, and you're thankful for the ride.

What You See in the Dark should be near the top of your list for must-read August reading. Here are some other thoughts:
  • Publishers Weekly starred review ends with this sentence: "The lyrical prose and sensitive portrayal of the crime's ripple effect in the small community elevate this far beyond the typical noir."
  • Belinda Acosta, writing for the Austin Chronicle concludes: "What You See in the Dark strikes emotional chords so deep and with such precision, it almost makes you believe you've discovered a new art form."
  • Teri Harman, writing for the Desert News, notes: "The plot of the novel is an interesting combination of thriller, love story and exploration of the dark side of the American dream."
For more about Manuel Muñoz, visit his website. On the home page, you'll find the book trailer, which is introduced with this note: "The trailer illustrations, inspired by Hitchcock’s classic storyboards, are by the superb artist Chad Sell." New West Books & Writers has posted a interview with Muñoz, and the author has also been featured on Largehearted Boy, where he shares a unique play list.

Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.

What You See in the Dark at Powell's
What You See in the Dark at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Algonquin Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781565125339

10 comments:

Sandy Nawrot 8/12/11, 7:07 AM  

I think the time period would be the big draw for this novel.

bermudaonion 8/12/11, 9:00 AM  

I'll have to be sure Carl is in town when I read this one!

Barbara 8/12/11, 9:50 AM  

I still after all these years cannot get past the first murder in "Psycho." That movie made me swear off Hitchcock forever. However, this sounds like an intriguing premise for a book; I'm putting it on my list. Warning: nightmares ahead. I love Imprint Friday.

Veens 8/12/11, 12:01 PM  

This one does sound like a great read.

Julie P. 8/12/11, 4:25 PM  

Sounds like a perfectly spooky read!

Lynne Perednia 8/12/11, 10:09 PM  

This looks like another Algonquin winner. I'm grateful (even if my bank account isn't)!

caite 8/13/11, 11:52 AM  

I love me a bit of noir in the night!

Leslie 8/13/11, 5:31 PM  

And yet another book to add to my ever growing 'to-read' list.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 8/13/11, 9:15 PM  

I'm such a wimp! I'll recommend this one to my friends who like thrillers, but I likely won't read it.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick 8/14/11, 11:23 AM  

You're right. A little noir-escape is perfect for the summer. I loved Psycho, both the book and the film, so I love the reference to it in this book. Looking forward to getting this one, jumping on the Nook now.

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