On August 16th we had our second Noir At The Bar over at Opal Divine’s with special guest Michael Koryta. It was a great night, and great to see as many writers in the audience as we had on stage. Two of the three authors who make up the pseudonym Miles Arceneux showed up. Their book, Thin Slice Of Life, is a fun thriller set along the Gulf. They’ll be here at BookPeople October 1st. Lee Thomas and Ed Kurtz, part of Austin’s horror scene, also dropped in.
Jesse Sublett kicked things off with tunes from his stand-up base, proving my claim that he’s the coolest guy in Austin. George Wier, known for his story “Duck Weed” in the collection Lone Star Noir, scarred us for life with his story “Death Kiss” about a serial killer’s disturbing use of flesh-eating bacteria. Michael Koryta read a passage from his current book, the acclaimed The Prophet, which sobered us up no matter what we were drinking. Jesse returned to close the night with an enthusiastic and funny performance from his work in progress, Grave Digger Blues, which follows a PI during the end of the world.
A side note – legendary singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard invited Michael Koryta and me to his show at Shady Grove later that night. Apparently these things happen when you’re standing next to Michael. Michael was excited since he played a lot of Ray’s music while working on his book The Ridge. We caught the tail end of the performance. Right after Ray played “Screw You We’re From Texas” he said to the crowd, “You all need to go over to BookPeople and get The Prophet.”
Michael turned to me and asked “Can I come back?”
Any time, Michael. For anybody who loves noir, there’s always a place at The Bar.
Michael Koryta has moved from sub-genre to sub-genre, building his reputation along the way. He splashed onto the scene with his PI novel, Tonight Said Goodbye. After following detectives Lincoln Perry and Joe Pritchard for four books, he wrote several acclaimed supernatural thrillers, including The Ridge. Now with The Prophet, Koryta delivers a book with an emotional and social depth that puts him in the company of Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos.
The story centers on two brothers, Adam and Kent Austin, estranged after the murder of their sister over twenty years ago. Adam, the oldest, threw away his football career and became a bail bondsman and PI in their rust belt town. Kent has thrown himself into faith and football as the coach of the town’s winning team.
A teenage girl hires Adam to find her father who just got out of prison. After he gives her his whereabouts, the girl is found murdered and one of Kent’s players is the chief suspect. Kent looks into the murder to help his player. Adam is out to avenge his client in the way he couldn’t with his sister. When an old football card of Kent’s gets sent to him, both are brought together and entwined in sins past, present, and future.
The book’s impact comes from Koryta’s subdued approach. The occurrences are matter of fact. Knowing the power of his characters’ emotions, he simply lets them play out mainly through action and dialogue. There is a banality to the violence, making it even more disturbing as it sends ripples throughout the book.
Koryta never forgets it’s the brothers and their pain that carry the story. Adam is stuck in memories before the murder, not selling the family house and keeping his sister’s room as it was. Kent dove into religion more as a coping mechanism than out of true spiritual salvation. Koryta uses these men as the source to build plot, mood, and style. As always with his work, it comes down to character.
The Prophet is a stunning next step for Michael Koryta. It takes the themes of family, faith, guilt, redemption, and justice and forms a novel that keeps the pages turning and the heart engaged. I look forward to what he writes next.
MysteryPeople will host Michael Koryta in another round of Austin’s Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s Thursday, August 16 at 7p. He’ll be joined by George Weir and Jesse Sublett. Crime fiction, music, beer & good times. All are welcome.
I definitely recommend The Prophet for any fan of George Pelecanos or Dennis Lehane. Koryta is a brilliant author who’s gone into many different sub-genres. He takes another new direction in this book, further proof that we’ve only scratched the surface of his incredible talent. Can’t wait to hang out with him and hear him read at our next Noir at the Bar (Opal Divine’s, August 16th).