Hard Rain

Many thanks to Jim Thomsen for his FB comment (below) on yesterday’s post re my first book, The Fury of Rachel Monette, on digital sale for a few more days ($1.99). The other book he mentions, Hard Rain, has the same deal going on.

In 1981, I was a student at a Seventh-Day Adventist boarding school, and whiled away many lonely nights and weekends with voracious reading marathons, turning pages with the determined rage of a wild animal chewing its way out of a chain trap. My parents would visit once a month or so, and bring a big bag of paperbacks from my hometown’s regular Friends of the Library sales. At the time I was into fast-paced, disposable, blood-and-bullets tales designed to let me project myself heroically into any chaotic setting.
In the bottom of one bag was this book. I believe my mom picked it because she thought the cover was a good fit for my fifteen-year-old tastes. And so I started in one late night, and discovered something different: a thriller, yet, but with a swirling current of gorgeous molasses darkness that awakened me to the possibilities of story beyond mere diversion: a mood, a tone, a sense of being invited to go beneath the surface of the story and swim in its hidden eddies. It was my first encounter with oblique, off-the-nose storytelling that somehow flattered me by insisting on my close attention beyond the level of all the Clive Cussler potboilers I’d been inhaling. It was the first time I’d ever felt invited to see the story beyond the story: a story that revealed itself through what people didn’t say as much as what they did say, all in prose that I remember thinking of as so gorgeously hardboiled that I would get an instant olfactory referent from the reading: the acrid smell of my dad’s burnt morning coffee, burnt deliberately, he told me later, to replicate the smell and taste of the coffee he drank at sea in the Merchant Marine.
At fifteen, I wasn’t really ready for this kind of book; I was still too in need of instant diversion from teen agitation. But it stayed with me on some sedimentary-layer-of-the-soul level: it unlocked the door to a dark cellar I’d never noticed before. I was afraid to do more than tiptoe down a couple of steps and poke a flashlight at it.
It was only at the tail end of my college years that I chanced upon HARD RAN in the local public library, and read it with a head full of smoky coffee, and saw at the end that tye author was the author of THE FURY OF RACHEL MONETTE. By then, I was ready for it. I was sort of a Peter Abrahams character myself; I had adopted a smiling, enigmatically superior, question-deflecting manner as a way of masking my fears and insecurities from the world, and righting my own balance by keeping everyone else off-balance held me scrape by in the world outside my own head. Characters like Rachel Monette were my dark passengers, and with each new Abrahams novel, I added more enigmatic antiheroes to my personal repertory company. If people go through life with a burning desire to be seen, then these characters helped me see myself as a preparatory course for being seen by everybody else.

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