Sunday, December 30, 2018

Leslie Archer

Leslie Archer is the nom de plume of a New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels.

His new novel is The Girl at the Border.

Recently I asked Archer about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished reading a rather shocking novel, Out. Like all of Natsuo Kirino’s books, this one is about the role of women in modern-day Japan, a commentary on the hardships and depredations Japanese society heaps on them, and how powerless they find their lives. Everything about the novel is fascinating. I love her writing, and, luckily, she is translated quite well. A group of women- all with their own varied difficulties – are trying to make ends meet by working nights in a factory line that assembles pre-made packaged lunches. Taken simply on the level of learning about another culture so foreign to Americans is fascinating, but when one of the group strangles her abusive husband the four’s lives spiral down into the darkest depths of the Japanese societal underbelly.

While this novel is not for the faint of heart – and it truly may disgust some readers – it is nevertheless an unflinching portrait of the desperation of these women’s lives as they strive for survival in a hostile male-dominated world. Natsuo Kirina is the author of a number of novels. I’ve read all that have been translated into English. I find all of them as rewarding as they are astonishing. All of them deal with women finding a certain power in the darkest part of their souls, and how they deal with it.

I have been a huge fan of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther, starting in 1994 with the Berlin Noir trilogy. It’s no small feat to make a German police officer/detective/SS member in the 1930s and 1940s relatable. Philip did this and more with Bernie – he made him likable, an everyman walking the tightrope of the laws and strictures Nazism laid down. How he made Bernie lovable is still beyond me: a feat of pure writing legerdemain. I knew Philip, spent some time with him, got to know him. So it was all the worse when I heard that he had passed this past March at the age of 62. Much too young. I’m still not over the loss, but I recommend almost all 13 (soon to be 14) Bernie Gunther novels. The one or two that take place in the 1950s are interesting but not among his best. Bernie belongs – always will belong – to the ‘30s-‘40s. RIP, my friend.

The third book I’d like to bring to your attention is The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke. This novel of speculative fiction had the same intense effect on me that Frank Herbert’s Dune had when I first read it. Which is to say, it blew my mind. To tell you anything about the plot would be to spoil the fun, but I will say, much to my surprise, Jeschke tackles time travel, which, in my opinion, is best left alone, considering all the ramifications. Not only does the mechanism work here, Jeschke also gives a mathematical explanation that actually make sense. The result: Mind. Blown.
Visit Leslie Archer's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl at the Border.

--Marshal Zeringue