four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-Death of a WriterE. Robert Pendleton, an English professor at an exclusive liberal arts in the Midwest, is less than thrilled when best-selling author, former friend, and rival Allen Horowitz visits campus for homecoming weekend. Pendleton, whose career trajectory plummeted as Horowitz’s rose, decides to end his life. Instead, he suffers a paralyzing stroke that leaves him mentally incapacitated. Then a graduate student discovers Pendleton’s self-published novel, Scream, which, with Horowitz’s aid, becomes a best seller and a finalist for the National Book Award. But the semiautobiographical novel, which details the grisly murder of a teenage girl, soon attracts the attention of detective Jon Ryder.
Bloomsbury. 307 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1596912294

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Make no mistake: This is literary fiction with serious intent, examining such important matters as the pain of artistic creation, the price of success, the isolation of academia, the hopelessness of life in a dying small town. But Collins seamlessly enfolds such meditations into a gripping novel that should leave many readers both mightily impressed and absolutely breathless." John Marshall

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"At the start of Death of a Writer, we’re smirking at the esoteric irrelevancies that fuel critical studies, but by the end of this frightening mystery, we’re left wondering about intentionality, the anxiety of influence, the transmutation of stories, the stability of signifiers, the tension between fiction and autobiography as though these were matters of life and death—which of course they are." Ron Charles

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Michael Collins populates Death of a Writer with complex, haunted characters who dwell on their derailed lives and missed chances, weaving a darkly comic tale that skewers the insular, self-important worlds of both academia and publishing." Bob Cannon

Sunday Times [London] 4 of 5 Stars
"Collins is wittily liberal with allusions, implicit and explicit; a joy for the informed reader, and effortlessly embedded in the racy, suspenseful narrative." Michelene Wandor

New York Daily News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Dark wit is the prevailing tone of Death of a Writer." Halley Bondy

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Death of a Writer is a scathingly dark send-up of chasing the fickle muse of literature at the cost of the soul. … Collins proves that if a tree falls in the groves of academe and no one is there to hear it or see it fall, it will still get deconstructed and analyzed to death." Robert Allen Papinchak

Critical Summary

Irish author Michael Collins, whose Keepers of the Truth was a Booker Prize finalist in 2000, took great risks with this murder mystery, love story, academic satire, psychological study, and gritty police procedural—and they all paid off. Described as a "stunning tour de force" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), Death of a Writer brilliantly transcends diverse genres as it simultaneously juggles different plot threads. While the first part of the novel is smart and compelling, it really picks up speed when it transitions from a college satire into a frightening, unnerving police procedural. While critics were hard-pressed to characterize the novel, all agreed that it’s serious literature.