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Synopsis: Ashley McKenna is a blunt instrument. Find someone, scare someone, carry something; point him at the job, he gets it done. He generally accepts money upon completion, though a bottle of whiskey works, too--he's comfortable working on a barter system. It's not the career he dreamed about (archeologist) but it keeps him comfortable in his ever-changing East Village neighborhood.
That's until Chell, the woman he loves, leaves him a voicemail looking for help--a voicemail he gets two hours after her body is found. Ash hunts for her killer with the grace of a wrecking ball, running afoul of a drag queen crime lord and stumbling into a hard-boiled role playing game that might be connected to a hipster turf war.
Along the way, he's forced to face the memories of his tumultuous relationship with Chell, his unresolved anger over his father's death... and the consequences of his own violent tendencies.
NEW YORKED takes you deep into the seedy underbelly of New York with a strong noir voice in the tradition of Lawrence Block's iconic character Matthew Scudder--an unforgettable debut crime novel from an exciting new voice you'll be hearing much more from.
Author: Rob Hart is the associate publisher at MysteriousPress.com and the class director at LitReactor. Previously, he has been a political reporter, the communications director for a politician, and a commissioner for the city of New York. Rob is the author of The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella, and his short stories have appeared in publications like Thuglit, NEEDLE, Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect, and Helix Literary Magazine. He lives in New York City.
I'm really excited for Rob to finally have this hitting shelves. He had a minor set back with it, but now it's out and people are talking about it. I know Rob has helped a lot of you out there with his classes and advice, so I think it would be awesome if we gave him a great discussion. So, yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys have to say about this.
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I AM VERY EXCITED FOR THIS.
Really digging the book so far. Looking forward to discussing it in a couple weeks.
Finished the book last night. It was super, one of the most excellent books I have read in a very, very long time. Can't wait to see what others think!
I really enjoyed the book. The only problem was, I didn't like Chell. What we were told about her made me not enjoy her character. Pretty much the only reason we should care about her is that the main character loved her (and the fact that she's the motivation for the book), and even then the only reason Ash loves her is because the plot requires it. During the flashbacks, I kept thinking 'Why can't Ash get over her? He knows she's bad news, so why does he care?'
On that note, Ash was a great anti-hero. And his encounters with the Hipster King (appropriately bad name) had me laughing at all the right places.
Just finished it.
I really enjoyed it. I thought the story was pretty tight and kept me coming back to it.
I agree that I didn't quite understand the relationship between Chell and Ash. And sometimes Ash came off a little bit fake, like his dialogue just didn't feel real for some reason. But toward the end of the book, that last few chapters, he was solid.
His character sort of reminds me of a lighter version, or less trained version, of Burke from the Burke Series by Andrew Vachss. If you haven't read them, check them out. Or read Shella by him, which isn't in the series but is bad ass.
I kind of wish there was more Margo. She could have been what we needed to make lighten it up a bit. You can only take so much of Ash acting like a hard ass about every single thing he does. I think a little bit more of Margo would have been nice.
And I hope this isn't coming off too critical because I really did enjoy the shit out of the book and plan on reading City of Rose.
I read through the book in about two days, found it to be quite the page turner, which is always a good sign. Some of the biggest strengths of the book were the actual writing, I found it to be very crisp, clean, easy to follow what the author was attempting to convey. This piece of work was very clearly drafted and re-drafted and poured over to create the best product possible. This also translated into excellent pacing. I never felt the story dragged and an appropriate amount of info was given to the reader to keep us interested considering this was a murder-mystery to a degree. I also found many turns-of-phrases and insight to be spot on and added some punch to the story through dialogue and the general narative. So all in all to me, this is a profesional quality piece of fiction that I enjoyed enough to look forward to the sequel, City of Rose.
So 90% positive in my book!
My biggest concerns and area of construtive critisim will revolve around Ash and a few plot points. This is not to be overly-critical either, simply in the spirit of writing and always striving to create the best story possible. So I think we get pretty quickly that Ash is a human-hammer and he kind of sees the world as 'nails' - though not a very tall man, it sounds like he has the build and the look to back it up. So be it, that's his strength and he plays to it. I do think the reader is reminded of this a bit too often. My concern with Ash is a big contradiction I found in his character. At one point he goes on to claim he hates 'bullies' and actually defending someone in high school is how be became friends with a major charachter in the story (sorry, blanking on the name). My problem is that Ash himself is an abslute bully himself. There are countless instances of him using his disposition and look to intimate, mouth-off and take advantage of people who are simply ordering a beer, standing in line to get a coffee, walking down the street (you get my jist). And while I think he slowly comes around to this fact towards the very end of the book, perhaps promting his decision to leave NY. Too much of the story reads with this glaring contradiction. Ash is the kind of guy if I accidently dropped a gum wrapper in one of his "parks", he'd pick up that wrapper and bully me into a confrontation revolving around his internal code. Trust me, I know these guys and they always have way less to lose than I do - and that's who Ash is, a guy with not much to lose. My hope is that we see him confront this about himself a bit more in City of Rose - like I said, I think I saw a glimpse of it towards the very end of New Yorked, so here's hoping that's where it's going.
I had two concerns with the actual plot. The first is the role playing game. I thought that was a great idea to bring into the story. Unique and something you can have a lot of fun with. My problem is how it was executed to those who have no clue what exactly it is. For instance, it's described as an experience for tourists, those who want to learn about the real New York. But one of the first clues is "go to the bar in Statan Island with pub trivia". Huh? So only one bar in all of Statan Island has pub trivia? Even if that's true, which seems impossible, how on Earth would a tourist know that? It was a reach that Ash knew that off the top of his head. So what was tee'd up as a neat part of the plot, got off to a head-scratching start. And then just the logistics of the game. An apartment and multiple paid actors litterally hanging around all day in bars and parks waiting on one person to show? How many people are playing this game in a given day? Ash only had to pay $500 which is not a lot of money to fund actors, an apartment, and make a profit. I really couldn't wrap my head around how this game actually survivied. For all I know, this is an actual thing. And if it is, then I think the reader needed a bit more information to actually understand how this works because I really liked the concept, but I don't quite know if the delivery was there.
My second concern is the actual resolution to the murder story line. The reader is brought through this great world for 300 pages and at the end of the day, none of it had anything to do with what happened. It appears to be totally random and I'm not really sure I even followed the logistics of how he pulled if off (but that very well be on me). Now this could have been done very much by design. It is kind of like real life where you go down one path and the answers were down an entirly different one. But it did feel a little bit like a bait and switch to me, hundreds of pages of red herrings only to realize it was a bouncer that had his feelings hurt? Now I found Ash's confrontation with him to be nicely done and I think he learns quite a bit about himself during those moments, about just how close to the knife's edge he's lived his life, how perhaps if not for some of his roots, he could easily have turned out to be like the bouncer. Again, nicely done. And it helps prompt his decison to leave NY I think. It's not the biggest of deals to me and a lot of this is about the journey not the destination, but I'd be lying if I wasn't scratching my head a bit about the who and why and how the murder actually went down.
Again, not trying to be nit-picky, just putting some stuff out there. What matters is that I'd recommend this book to others and will look forward to the sequel. If I didn't feel that way, I certainly wouldn't bother posting a review. Looking forward to seeing what other people have to say about this book.
Thanks for the kind words and input so far. I really appreciate it.
Some people really haven't liked Chell, which doesn't totally surprise me. She's a tough character.
And, Deets, as for the resolution of the murder, that was intentional, in the sense that Ash is desperate for a narrative--for them to be some long-form story that explains Chell's death--when really it's a random act of violence. He doesn't seem ready to accept that, which is why even though he meets the killer pretty early on, he's not roused to suspicion.
I think one of the lessons I learned on this book was with plotting--it got a little convoluted. Part of that was for a reason--it was a throwback to old-school hardboiled novels, which were often very twisty, and sometimes turns and resolutions came out of nowhere. I got over that for the second book and really focused on stepping up my plot game, so it'd be more linear.
Thanks for reading and for the honest input, everyone!
Was it just me or did this read like a breakup letter? I liked it, but it had that vibe, like Ash was breaking up with NYC.
That's an interesting way of looking at it.
Like him telling us about all of the ways he's been shit on is really him giving us the reason that he's finally leaving the city he claims to love.
Dwayne, I think that's my new favorite interpretation, because it's true on a couple of levels.
Thanks for that.
Dwayne makes an astute observation. I almost felt like Ash's somewhat toxic relationship with Chell was mirrored in his relationship with the city.
At the core of Ash is the idea that gets stuck in the head of most people in their mid-20s—"I've got the world figured out and I'm just waiting for everyone else to notice." Except he doesn't understand shit.
I say that from my early 30s, where I still don't have anything figured out but at least I recognize that.
Your 20s are such a weird period. You're on your own. You're expected to be an adult. But you don't feel like one, and you certainly don't want to be one.
And here's Ash, still nursing old wounds inflicted by a chaotic event, who wants the world to be not chaotic. He wants the world to conform to his expectations. He wants control, essentially, in a way that pushes him into a scary place.
Of course, the problem ends up being that you can't control people just like you can't control a city. You just have to roll with it. And Ash is completely incapable of rolling with anything.
It was fun ground to cover. Even more fun right now is finding new ground for future installments. What are the moments and ideas that build a person? Where is he in the next book that he's moved a little bit forward, but is still handicapped?
I'm excited for people to read the second book. I feel like I took a step up, both with the character and as a writer. Fingers crossed.
Glad you guys liked it.
For real--one of the best parts of this whole process is seeing how people respond. The stuff they see that I missed. The story threads they pull on.
It's all fun and games until some asshole leaves a dumb bigoted review on Amazon after not even finishing the book!
Yeah, but dude...you need those dumb bigoted reviews to establish legitimacy. Otherwise, you'll have some guy claiming all of your reviews are fake because they're all positive.
Balance is a good thing!
Plus, it makes me really happy to think I offended his delicate fucking sensibilities.
Is he a reverse sock puppet?