Monday, August 06, 2012

Michael Gruber

Michael Gruber, our most original so- called "Thriller" writer, has a new blog up on writing and other matters of interest to Q- Philes.

Gruber is nothing less than remarkable as a person & author. After a long history of ghost- writing, he emerged from obscurity with Tropic of Night, which is set in Miami and features psychopharmacology and ethnobotany, Cuban lore, local color, the Vachel Lindsay poem "The Congo", flashbacks to NYC Bohemia and academia, Africa, even Siberia and its shamans. (It's not bad on Broomhandle Mauser lore, either). It is the best place to start. If you like, it you will want to follow its protagonists through Valley of Bones (basically the story of Joan of Arc-- a former hillbilly crack whore-- in the Sudanese wars, but also How Orders of Nuns are founded, and a lot more African lore-- and Night of the Jaguar-- more religious syncretism, a were- jaguar of sorts, great biology, Neotropical shamanism, Santeria). These three form a trilogy and are my favorites, but his later stuff, which includes one with a lost Shakespeare manuscript, one with a forger who may or may not tap in to Velasquez, and one about terrorists in Afghanistan, a religious scholar who they kidnap, and her Moslem/ Special Forces son coming to the rescue, are pretty damned good and may feature your favorite themes or memes.

He is, as they say out here in cow country, real different. In his late sixties, a marine and evolutionary biologist with old associations with the Whole Earth Catalog folks, a strong side interest in ethnobotany; a rather idiosyncratic practicing Catholic ("If I keep practicing I might get good") who sees much virtue in the old hunter- gatherer ways; a New York kid (his ghost- written stuff, also good, consists of a series of gritty NYC police novels), who spent many years in Florida and now lives in Seattle; and unusually, an obvious gun nut who unlike about 85% of suspense writers gets them right...

One subordinate reason I like him is that HE GETS IT RIGHT. Most fictioners don't, because they don't do anything but read and write, but with Gruber, you get the distinct idea that he learns most of this stuff because it interests him, and he is already pretty well- informed. I know a bunch of weird things myself, and I can testify he knows a lot about the following: shamanism of the Asian variety, Neotropical ethnobotany, Catholicism & nuns; jaguars, serious dog training; the rural meth subculture (a plague where I live), guns, art history, 70's haute- Bohemia... lots more, but that is off the top of my head. I therefore believe him when he leads me elsewhere. See the quote below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dammit! I already have too many books to read and now I'm too intrigued to pass this by.

Jim Cornelius