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Blaine, Michael

Blaine, Michael

PERSONAL: Married Rose Mackiewicz (an artist).

ADDRESSES: Home—Upstate NY. Office—1773 Teedle Brook Rd., Jefferson, NY 12093. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Soho Press, 853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: City University of New York, New York, NY, former assistant professor of English; writer.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowship in fiction, New York State Foundation for the Arts.

WRITINGS:

The Desperate Season (novel), Rob Weisbach Books (New York, NY), 1999, published as Whiteouts, [London, England], 1999.

The Midnight Band of Mercy (novel), Soho Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Founder and editor-in-chief, New York Stories. Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including Best American Stories, and to periodicals, including Village Voice Literary Supplement, Shenandoah, New England Review, North American Review, American Fiction, New Letters, Nimrod, Folio, and Chariton Review.

SIDELIGHTS: Michael Blaine has explored the thriller and mystery genres with several very different titles. While his contemporary novel The Desperate Season revolves around the havoc a mentally ill teenager causes around his family and friends, the historical mystery The Midnight Band of Mercy follows a hack journalist as he tries to scoop the story of a lifetime in nineteenth-century New York.

In The Desperate Season—published in England as Whiteouts—Blaine explores the reasons why a schizophrenic teen would go on a violent rampage in a novel a Publishers Weekly reviewer called "determinedly literary, psychologically acute, [and] disturbing in the best sense of that word." After escaping from a psychiatric hospital not far from his home in Upstate New York, Maurice discards his medication and vows to avenge himself upon his divorced parents and takes his parents and younger sister hostage in the family's hunting cabin. Told from the viewpoints of six characters, beginning and ending with Maurice, the plot weaves together the past and present, revealing the complex interactions that molded the teen killer.

Although Austin American-Statesman reviewer Carolyn Kelly found the story's "leaps in time … occasionally confusing, and the male characters … much more believable and insightfully drawn than the women," she praised Blaine's writing, calling it "as sharp and as brutal as a meat cleaver." Caroline Mann, writing in Library Journal, deemed The Desperate Season "a success," and Vanessa Bush of Booklist summed up the novel as "a powerful portrait of a family paralyzed by a son's mental illness." Writing for the London Independent Sunday of London, England, Mark Timlin dubbed the novel "a cracker of a book, if a rather depressing view of the way Americans live now."

Blaine made a radical departure from The Desperate Season with his next novel, The Midnight Band of Mercy, which Suzy Hansen described in the New York Times Book Review as "a boisterous curiosity of a book." In the later novel, Max Greengrass, a freelance reporter for the New York Herald, stumbles upon a strangely arranged assortment of strangled cats in Greenwich Village. As he investigates, Greengrass discovers that these and other cats have been euthanized by a well-meaning elderly woman who wants to prevent them from suffering in their difficult urban habitat. As Greengrass is drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of this cat-killing organization, he discovers that it represents a more sinister effort. Unearthing the truth to feed the presses becomes an addiction, one that Hansen found "comically hokey," though Library Journal reviewer Ron Samul called the journalist's obsession "palpable."

While Hansen praised Blaine's depiction of the setting in The Midnight Band of Mercy, she noted that his language at times "can be frustratingly unfamiliar." Several other reviewers applauded the author's depiction of late-nineteenth-century New York City, as well as his characterizations and plot. In Booklist, Joanne Wilkinson cited the "finely rendered detail," particularly "Blaine's re-creation of a city newsroom," and described the novel as a whole as "a delight." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that "The nineteenth-century local color makes a good mystery even more enjoyable." "This is a bawdy, seamy, ripe-for-reform Gotham City no reader would want to live in … but any reader would enjoy visiting," concluded Susan Hall-Balduf in a Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service review.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Austin American-Statesman, October 3, 1999, Carolyn Kelly, review of The Desperate Season, p. K7.

Austin Chronicle, October 1, 1999, Lissa Richardson, review of The Desperate Season.

Booklist, June 1, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of The Desperate Season, p. 1740; September 1, 2004, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Midnight Band of Mercy, p. 54.

Independent Sunday (London, England), March 14, 1999, Mark Timlin, "Hard Boiled, Heavy Ordnance, Cold Snap," review of Whiteouts, p. 11.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of The Midnight Band of Mercy, p. 701.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, September 9, 2004, Susan Hall-Balduf, "Mercy Me: Cat Killer Keeps Reporter in Ink," review of The Midnight Band of Mercy, p. K2777.

Library Journal, July, 1999, Caroline Mann, review of The Desperate Season, p. 128; September 1, 2004, Ron Samul, review of The Midnight Band of Mercy, p. 136.

New York Times Book Review, September 26, 2004, Suzy Hansen, "Fire-Easters, Flying Cats and Joseph Conrad," review of The Midnight Band of Mercy, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1999, review of The Desperate Season, p. 73; August 2, 2004, review of The Midnight Band of Mercy, p. 51.

ONLINE

AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (March 30, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of The Midnight Band of Mercy.

Michael Blaine Home Page, http://www.mpblaine.com (April 24, 2005).

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