Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kathleen George

Kathleen George is the editor of Pittsburgh Noir and the author of Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds (Edgar finalist, best novel), Hideout, and the newly released Simple. The novels are set in Pittsburgh. The author teaches theatre and writing at Pitt.

Last month I asked George what she was reading.  Her reply:
I write thrillers, but “thoughtful” ones the reviewers say, and they often call them literary thrillers. So I have one foot in the chills and thrills category and the other in complex characterization. My writing is matched by my reading patterns which include about half mainstream novels and about half crime novels. So, I recently finished The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger and Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead on the non-crime side of my night table and I also finished Gone by Mo Hayder and Bent Road by Lori Roy for my crime fix.

The Newlyweds arrives at a truth of character, I believe, by allowing those people contradictions aplenty. A young Bangladeshi woman wants to come to America and wants to bring her parents, too, and so she refuses a young Bangladeshi man’s proposal to make herself available on an internet site where she attracts the attention of an American man disillusioned with American women. Their relationship and their secrets give the feeling of being extremely real. Everybody is interesting in this book in a way that makes you think about your own relationships. The novel has won tons of praise all around.

I love a good manners comedy and Seating Arrangements catches about-to-be-weds at the point of an elongated wedding weekend with several events. There are the usual traumas and many more. The bride is seven months pregnant, her sister who has recently aborted a child is in the throes of deep mourning over the man she lost, and the bride’s father lusts uncontrollably for his daughter’s bridesmaid. These are only a few of the complications. The characters are beautifully drawn and, as in The Newlyweds, there is no prettifying the situations or the ending.

Gone kept me reading as thrillers do when you’re made to care about the characters. This one had many classic ingredients, but it also had something new. One of the main characters is a policewoman who heads the underwater and caving unit. The specificity of her work is informative, not to mention totally gripping—and she’s a good tough cookie to be reading about. I also liked the characterizations of the other police.

Bent Road is a frightening book. There is so much mystery and tension from page one and it doesn’t explode or let up. Instead it makes us get used to the life on the American prairie as the transplanted protagonist family must. One of the fascinating aspects of the family drama is the way the children gradually become accustomed to the ideas of danger and evil.

I feel awfully lucky when four in a row fascinate me. I just had that luck.
Visit Kathleen George's website.

The Page 69 Test: Simple.

--Marshal Zeringue