Archive for June, 2009

Meet the Fiction Fortune Hunter

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

This is the inaugural blog of Fiction Fortune-Hunter. My goal is a simple one; find and report on lesser-known literary masterpieces. Not the ones your sophomore English teacher insisted that you read. Not the ones on past or present New York Times Best Seller Lists. In fact, if a novel is found in a college curriculum or on some best seller list or another, you probably won’t find it discussed here. Fiction Fortune-Hunter is more interested in the little-known gem, the one that may have gotten published but somehow flew under most readers’ radar, the exquisite failure.

Which is not to say I won’t be covering highly recognized and readable authors. I will do so. Assuming the tome they’ve created is one thing; unforgettable. And I guess there’s actually a second thing. It must not have already been written about ad nauseam. So, while it’s possible that while you’re here you might be exposed to Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald or Joyce, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be reading about A Farewell To Arms, The Great Gatsby, Light In August or Ulysses.

Just so you’ll know, I will not restrict my musings to any particular genre, style, decade or century for that matter. A novel that puts its imprint on one’s mind and heart achieves timelessness. Therefore it matters little when it was initially conceived. And yes, as you might have guessed, the ultimate decision maker
on just which novel I serve up for your perusal every week or so will be me, Fiction Fortune-Hunter. Though I have no doubt , readers of this column will offer their own opinions as to their gems as well.

For this very first Fiction Fortune-Hunter post, I give you The Master of Rain
by Tom Bradby. Published by Doubleday in 2002. This sprawling novel of Shanghai In 1926 whisks you into a world of Russian princesses, American gun-runners, British civil servants and Chinese gangsters. If there were a bit more Catholic guilt involved you’d swear you were between the pages of a Graham Greene offering.

Bradby serves up the very best kind of escapism. Luxuriously decadent brothels and opium dens, lavish dinner parties and starving masses. Sex, murder, and wicked weather. A journalist, when not penning fiction, Bradby also brings an historian’s precision to his depiction of the international settlement and French concession that was part of Shanghi at that time. And he wraps it all tightly with an enthralling murder mystery to boot.

The title relates to Chinese legend, which Bradby entices you with initially, letting you know that you are about to enter a world for which you are woefully unprepared. But have no fear, the journey is more than worth it. The people you meet along the way are excellent companions. And the trip itself is unforgettable. Find and read The Master of Rain by Tom Bradby.