I have been thinking about mid-list authors lately. There are lots and lots of writers whose work never makes the bestseller lists but who deserve more attention from readers. Too often, the bestseller lists are more a reflection of marketing and hype than indicators of quality writing. But it can be overwhelming to simply head out into the library stacks to track down a new author. That’s one reason that we put together so many reading lists for readers in the community. These lists offer the chance to discover authors and titles that you won’t necessarily see reviewed in the paper or online or that you might have missed when they first came out. You can check out our reading lists on Books and Reading page of the library website. Here you will find our online book display, links to our reading suggestion service, and lots of reading lists to whet your appetite or get you out of a reading rut.
One of my favorite authors, who I think deserves more attention is Jim Fusilli, whose novel Closing Time is the first in a series of thoughtful and exciting crime stories. Fusilli’s series features a noir feel, a great city setting (New York in the early 2000s), and a complex protagonist.
When Terry Orr’s wife and young son are killed, he is plunged into despair, and the only thing that keeps him going is his love for his teenage daughter, Bella. Orr takes on some work as a private eye when he is drawn into the investigation of the death of a cab driver and then a bombing at an art gallery. The reader follows Orr as he struggles to resolve his anger over his wife and son’s deaths, to be a good father, and to live an ethical, honest life. Fusilli knows the New York art world and does not spare its pretensions and posing from his clear-eyed gaze.
There are numerous appeals here. The books have a strong sense of place, and Fusilli draws a compelling portrait of New York City just prior to the 9/11 attacks. The reader knows the tragedy that will be coming soon, though of course the characters do not, and neither did the author when he was writing. This understanding adds a certain poignancy to the story. Fusilli also captures the loving relationship between Orr and his daughter. Closing Time is as much a novel of a father and daughter trying to come to a better understanding of each other as it is a crime novel. Like all the best mystery writers, Fusilli uses the crime setting as a frame to encompass the human condition and his characters’ attempts to better understand themselves and their world.
Check the WRL catalog for Closing Time