Sunday, June 01, 2014

What is Michael A. Kahn reading?

Featured at Writer Read: Michael A. Kahn, author of Face Value: A Rachel Gold Mystery.

His entry begins:
There are usually two books on my nightstand—one that’s fairly recent, the other much older. I tend to alternate between the two—a few chapters of one, then a few chapters of the other. Sometimes the pairings work quite well—Jane Austen happens to go nicely with Elmore Leonard, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness resonates with Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

But my current pairing is hardly complementary. I am reading—or rather, wincing and occasionally skimming—About the Author by John Colapinto. It’s a clever, well-written novel featuring an unlikeable but somewhat sympathetic narrator named Cal Cunningham. Cal is a struggling wannabe author who, after two years, has yet to write a single word. He is shocked, and then angered, and then jealous to discover that his dull law school roommate has written a powerful novel based largely on Cal’s life. When the roommate dies in a traffic accident, Cal decides to have the novel published under his own name. “His” novel is a huge commercial and critical success. He’s on top of the world, and even marries the beautiful woman his dead roommate had loved. But then, alas, things start to go wrong—gradually, and then...[read on]
About Face Value, from the publisher:
As St. Louis attorney Rachel Gold knows firsthand, the grueling hours and demands of Big Law take their toll on young lawyers. Some turn to drugs, some quit the profession, and occasionally one quits altogether. According to the medical examiner, Sari Bashir quit altogether on that Thursday night. That’s when she fell to her death from the eighth floor of the downtown garage where she parked her car.

The police ruled her death a suicide. Stanley Plotkin, however, rules it a homicide. Stanley is the weird mailroom clerk at Sari’s law firm, but he is also a true genius. Among his obsessions is the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), a massive compilation that correlates hundreds of facial muscle actions with specific emotions and mental states. For someone like Stanley, whose Asperger’s Syndrome renders him incapable of intuiting emotions from facial expressions, his mastery of FACS has caused him to conclude that Sari did not kill herself.

Rachel had been close with Sari, who worked for her during law school. She also knows Stanley—and his quirkiness and his genius—because their mothers are friends. Thus when Stanley announces his conclusion to Rachel as she drives him home from Sari’s memorial service, she can’t simply dismiss it. And when Sari’s father pleads with Rachel to review the police file on his daughter’s suicide, she reluctantly starts down a path that will lead into the heart of a dark criminal enterprise in which Sari was simply collateral damage.
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Writer Read: Michael A. Kahn.

--Marshal Zeringue