#MormonLit: Halloween reading


I read at least one scary book per October. I think the best one I tried this time around was Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon. It fell apart a bit at the end, but I was on codeine at the time so my opinion is suspect.

I’ll let someone else defend horror today, but if you’re just now getting the jones for a scare, some successful Mormons in the field to check out include Michaelbrent Collings, Dan Wells, and Ben Hopkin.

Zarahemla has put out a few frighteners: Dispirirted, Brother Brigham (out of print), Angel Falling Softly (out of print).

And hey!

Most importantly, as always, Monsters & Mormons. You can’t do better than that on Halloween.

_Saints On Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama_ is Off to the Printers!

It’s taken the better half of a decade, but Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama is off to the printers. This is the description of the book on Zarahemla Books’s website:

SaintsOnStage-Cover.inddSaints on Stage is the most comprehensive and important work on Mormon drama ever published. This volume anthologizes some of Mormonism’s best plays from the last several decades, many of them published here for the first time. Several of these plays have won honors from institutions as varied as the Kennedy Center and the Association for Mormon Letters.

This volume includes historical backgrounds and playwright biographies, as well as an introduction that provides an extensive overview of Mormon drama. The following plays are included:

Fires of the Mind ““ Robert Elliott

Huebener ““ Thomas F. Rogers

Burdens of Earth ““ Susan Elizabeth Howe

J. Golden ““ James Arrington

Matters of the Heart ““ Thom Duncan

Gadianton ““ Eric Samuelsen

Hancock County ““ Tim Slover

Stones ““ J. Scott Bronson

Farewell to Eden ““ Mahonri Stewart

Martyrs’ Crossing ““ Melissa Leilani Larson

I Am Jane ““ Margaret Blair Young

Chris Bigelow kickstarts memoir LSD to LDS: 4 days to hit goal

Chris Bigelow wants to use Kickstarter to fund his memoir Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS.

Zarahemla Books owner and Irreantum founder Chris Bigelow has until this Saturday at 8 pm MDT to reach the Kickstarter goal for his memoir Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS. Here’s his description of it:

As a sixth-generation Mormon and the oldest of ten siblings, I was ordained to the priesthood at age twelve. By then, however, I was utterly bored with the LDS religion–my true inner religion had become Dungeons & Dragons and the rock group Rush. As soon as I left home at age seventeen, I escaped into Salt Lake City’s mid-1980s underground punk and New Wave scene, my generation’s version of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Rather than finding a workable new life, however, I ended up–possibly as a result of taking hallucinogenic drugs–encountering the devil in a harrowing midnight ordeal. My encounter was not unlike the demonic experiences of some early Mormons, including Joseph Smith and my own ancestor, the polygamous apostle Heber C. Kimball. Wanting to protect myself against such malevolent forces, I did a 180 and dove back into the religion of my youth.

$15 gets you an ebook version; $25 the trade paperback. Because of Zarahemla Books, we know Chris can deliver on getting the thing produced — he just needs some incentive to get the thing written and revised, especially now that his work circumstances have changed and he is a freelancer. I haven’t read this part of his story (if you click through there are sample chapters), but I have read some of what he is written about his mission experience, and in my opinion memoir is Chris’s most natural mode of writing. Click through and if you’re intrigued by what you read and want more, back the project.

My take on S.P. Bailey’s Millstone City

William shares his full blurb for S.P. Bailey’s debut novel Milllstone City and discusses the novel’s dialogue with Mormon faithful realism.

AMVer S.P. Bailey’s Millstone City has already been reviewed here by Th. Jepson. The novel . The Kindle version is only $2.99 (other ebook formats to come) and the trade paperback is $15.95.

I provided a blurb for it. Partly because Shawn and I have been alpha/beta readers of each other’s work for several years now, but mostly because I really like what he did with Millstone City and how it fits into the field of Mormon literature.

Here is my full blurb for the novel:

In Millstone City, the LDS mission novel and the thriller collide to create something new: an intense, gritty story that is nevertheless shot through with resilience, honesty, optimism and, yes, that certain willful naïveté that missionaries possess. Call it Mormon neo-noir. Or full-throttle faithful realism. Whatever you dub this hybrid, clearly, S.P. Bailey is well versed in both of the literary streams he’s working with, and I’m very pleased to see him cross them to such good effect.

And here is another thought:

Part of why I think this counts as missionary fiction rather than just being a thriller is that it all starts with a minor infraction of mission rules. In other LDS mission novels, such a minor infraction may be played as comedy, or lead to some tension between characters, or simply try to capture the up-and-downs of a mission. Here it has major repercussions.

In addition, the resources the Elders call upon to help them with their situation — members, relatives of members, the mission president — are true to life. Also true to life is the fact that their efforts aren’t always 100% effective. This is not to say that this wholly a work of realism. But rather that because it draws enough on the tropes and traditions of  Mormon faithful realism, it has a bit more heft and dimension to it than I had expected, especially considering that it’s, essentially, a thriller/suspense novel.

Millstone City by S.P. Bailey


Here’s the elevator pitch for Millstone City: “Two Mormon missionaries stumble into the City of God—-will they survive?

And that’s a pretty good pitch, but it misrepresents the feel of the book. If you’ve seen City of God you know how terrible and sick its violence makes you feel:

The film offers little comfort to viewers uncomfortable with their own complicity in the on-screen violence, or those seeking a ‘ray of hope’ in the narrative. Meirelles introduces alternatives to violence, only to then dismiss or disempower those alternatives. City of God breaks with audience expectations by presenting no viable moral choice. The allegory of the chicken’s  dilemma—“if you run away they get you and if you stay they get you too”—illustrates the film’s fatalism, a fatalism that is not only ascribed to Rocket, but impressed upon the viewer throughout the film.  [source]

Millstone City is not a fatalistic novel.  And so while I’m new to the John Le Carré game (I just read my first book), I think Bailey’s story of Brazilian gangsters has more in common with Le Carré’s Cold War spies than City of God or anything else I’ve read or seen recently.

Continue reading “Millstone City by S.P. Bailey”

Luisa Perkins on her novel Dispirited

Luisa Perkins discusses her new novel Dispirited, which was recently published by Zarahemla Books

Luisa Perkins new novel Dispirited was recently published by Zarahemla Books. It’s a work of supernatural fiction or maybe “contemporary dark fantasy” (that a term Luisa uses on her about page). You can read more about Luisa and her work on her author website Kashkawan.

She is also a frequent commenter here at AMV and other Mormon blogs and an active Twitter user. When I heard about the publication of Dispirited, I had a few questions for her…

The synopsis for Dispirited on the Zarahemla Books website is a bit on the vague side. Could you tell us more about what the novel is about?

A boy named Blake teaches himself how to get out of his body in order to go looking for the spirit of his dead mother. One night when he comes home, he finds that another being has taken over his body in his absence. For years, he watches an impostor live his life. Then his father remarries, and Blake hopes to get help from his new stepsister, Cathy, who has some unusual gifts. Continue reading “Luisa Perkins on her novel Dispirited”

The Death of a Disco Dancer (there’s a double meaning in that)


Zarahemla Books is, in my opinion, the most valuable brand in Mormon letters today. I can’t think of another publisher (of any type) whose books I’m as likely to pick up just because of who them. And while I may never finish Hooligan (even though I have recently repented of my Douglas Thayer skepticism), Zarahemla keeps proving my faith in them well placed.

They’re the Pixar of MoLit!

David Clark’s The Death of a Disco Dancer is a brilliant book. I was lucky that I started reading it the same day my classes had to take a mandated test, freeing me from teaching responsibilities. Before I was a quarter of the way through, I had disturbed my students with merry snorts—and had had to hide my teary eyes—as I tore through the pages in utter glee, trying to read as much as I could before I had to collect their work. In the end, I finished the book in two calendar days. Which is just not something I do anymore. (Of the novels I read last year, the only ones that can compete in terms of my reading speed are Dan Wells’s and Robison Wells’s*—it’s been a good year for Mormon fun, it would seem.) But Disco Dancer was unlike those propulsive books in that, well, for one thing, it’s not a thriller. It’s just a regular old story about a family.

Continue reading “The Death of a Disco Dancer (there’s a double meaning in that)”

An interview with David Clark, author of The Death of a Disco Dancer

When I heard about David Clark’s The Death of a Disco Dancer, which was recently published by Zarahemla Books, I tracked down his contact information because I remembered his Irreantum short story, and I was very intrigued by the premise of the novel, and there were some things I wanted to ask him about. I’m very pleased that he agreed to do an interview:

The very first question that came to mind when I saw the title was: why is it titled after a song by the Smiths? Let me restate that: why is it titled after a *great* song by the Smiths. One of my personal favorites.

“Death of a Disco Dancer” is definitely one of my all-time Smith’s favorites; actually, it’s one of my all-time favorite songs, period.  As I was writing the novel, I knew that there would be death — physical, intellectual and social — that a few of the different characters would experience.  I also knew that one of the characters, the narrator’s Grandmother, would suffer from dementia and would be obsessed with a Saturday Night Fever album cover (which I’ve always thought was an absolutely hilarious and ridiculous image, in a very “˜70s sort of way).  So, with these ideas percolating in the back of my mind — that there are different types of “death” or catastrophe in life — and the fact that the narrator’s grandmother was obsessed with arguably the most recognizable pop culture image of the somewhat unfortunate disco era, as I was driving home from work one day, the Smiths’ “Death of a Disco Dancer” came on.  The first line of the song, says, very heavily and melancholically, “The death of a disco dancer, well it happens a lot “˜round here”¦”  And, with that, it just clicked.  I thought it was, like any great Smith’s song, goofy, ridiculous, enigmatic and yet poignant, and it seemed like a perfect match for the entire tone of the novel.  From then on, despite a universality of raised eyebrows from those I shared the novel with, I knew there could be no other title. Continue reading “An interview with David Clark, author of The Death of a Disco Dancer”

Stephen Carter’s What of the Night?

WhatofTheNight_LGI’ve been following Stephen Carter’s career for several years — from his participation on the AML-List during it’s heyday, to his graduate studies in creative writing, his work on the Sugar Beet and then as editor of Sunstone. I like Stephen, and I like his essay collection What of the Night? (Zarahemla Books — note that the e-book editions, including Kindle, are only $2.99) I’ve put off this review long enough (not because of lack of interest, but because of lack of time) so I’m not going to go into detail about the collection, but I will make a few points.

1. What of the Night? is like a really good album. It’s of one piece but with variation. Themes repeat, tone modulates but doesn’t swing to extremes, length varies but within a range. These essays go together. There’s a rhythm to the collection and the reader (or at least this reader) feels that they were all written within the same energy.

2. There is humor. There is earthiness. There is doubt. But on the whole I like that the Church’s pull on Stephen is generally a good thing. Sometimes a perplexing thing, but a good thing. And that the essays are more about Stephen figuring out where he is located in relationship to the LDS Church, to Mormon culture, to the gospel, to his family than trying to make grand, global pronouncements about how the reader should feel about such things. He’s a dude trying to figure things out. I can relate, even if my particulars are very different because I never quite felt the pressures of Utah culture that he did growing up.

3. I like the cover.

4. There are a few sections where the writing seems too honed and needs to loosen up and breathe a bit. Endings end too early sometimes. Stephen seems at times too allergic to sermonizing or drawing larger conclusions. But really, that’s okay — he needed to err on that side of things as he learned his craft, and so does Mormon letters in general, I think. Right now honed and more personal, less socio-cultural is good.

Note: this review is based on a free PDF of the book provided to me by the publisher

Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market

2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review

By Andrew Hall

Part 2: The Mormon Market

Link to Part 1: The National Market

Wm notes: portions of this bibliographic review rely on comments from sources who have chosen to remain anonymous. As I said with his report on independent Mormon publishers posted here at AMV last July: I’m personally confident that Andrew has used his anonymous sources judiciously and within standard journalistic practices. But also keep in mind that the comments here represent particular points of view.

(Note: I am now posting at Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog of the Association for Mormon Letters, a weekly column covering the world of Mormon literature.  The focus is on published fiction, but I also cover theater and film.  I also link to recently published literary works, news, and reviews. I hope to make the brief column a convenient gathering place for authors and readers to announce and follow news about the field each week.)

In this section, I will look at the Mormon fiction market by analysing recent trends, introducing each publisher, noting books that have received especially strong reviews, and noting the passing of a beloved author.

Despite the troubled economy, the number of literary works published by Mormon market publishers rose considerably in 2010. This was despite the fact that the publishers owned by the Church’s Deseret Media Companies, Deseret Book Publishing and Covenant Communications, stood pat on their annual output. The rise was due largely to an increase in the number of fiction works published by independent publishers Cedar Fort, Leatherwood, and Valor. Publishers report, however, that the book-selling economy remained stagnant in 2010, which means that more authors and more books crowded into the market, increasing the competition for market share. Continue reading “Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market”