Denham, Laura 1966-
DENHAM, Laura 1966-
Born October 10, 1966, in London, England.
Home—San Francisco, CA. Agent—Noah Lukeman, Lukeman Literary, 101 North St., Brooklyn, NY 11211.
William Faulkner Award finalist for short story; Pushcart Prize nominee; Barnes and Noble, Discover Great New Writers selection, for Have You Seen Me?.
Have You Seen Me?, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including San Francisco Bay Guardian, South Dakota Review, Phoebe, Short Story Quarterly, Salon.com, and Beloit Fiction Journal.
Novelist Laura Denham was born in London, England in 1966. Currently a resident of San Francisco, California, her early years were spent in exotic locations in Jamaica, Jordan, and the Isle of Wight.
In her debut novel, Have You Seen Me?, Denham chronicles the degeneration and eventual salvation of Juliet, the daughter of intellectual 1960s hippies. Raised by her biker father (who is also a Silicon Valley computer systems expert) after the death of her British mother, Juliet has her first sexual experience at the age of sixteen with a friend of her father's. Although the encounter leaves her with a case of Hepatitis B, "it also infects her with a sense of the power dynamic inherent in the sexual act," wrote a reviewer on the Absinthe Literary Review Web site.
After graduating from college, Juliet settles in San Francisco. But instead of pursuing a traditional career, Juliet becomes involved in the sex industry, dancing at a strip club, modeling for pornographic photographs, acting in adult movies, and eventually turning to prostitution. Her best friend is Mary, a crystal meth addict, and her most serious relationship is with David Slaughter, the host of a conservative radio talk show. Through it all, she manages to keep her lifestyle hidden from her father. After her apartment is destroyed by fire and she loses her job at the strip club for giving a client Hepatitis, Juliet finds her redemption in an eco-terrorist commune in the mountains around Santa Cruz.
Reba Leiding, writing in Library Journal, observed that the novel was "flawed but forgivably so because it reveals something about human nature while suggesting how the author may develop." Juliet is a "likeable character," Leiding commented, and the novel demonstrates "poetic flair and real promise." The Absinthe Literary Review critic noted that "Though the actions, characters, and accoutrements of the story tend towards the seedy and vile, the writing itself is clean, effective, and unpretentious."
A Kirkus Reviews critic stated that while the novel's concluding episodes lack "an emotional connection to what has preceded it or a sense of reflection as to what the past few years might have meant," the book demonstrates that "Denham's language is often witty and likable, and the story trots along happily from one raunchy pursuit to the next." Similarly, Leiding also observed that the novel's conclusion in the commune does not "ring true." The Kirkus Reviews critic also remarked that Juliet's ventures into the life of a sex worker seemed "both swift and inexplicable," even though Denham characterizes her as impatient and enticed by the easy money to be had in the sex field.
Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist, also remarked that Juliet at times "lacks credibility," but that Denham's "descriptive prose and sense of place can be arresting."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Have You Seen Me?, p. 1820.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2001, review of Have You Seen Me?, p. 900.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Reba Leiding, review of Have You Seen Me?, pp. 127-128.
Absinthe Literary Review,http://www.absinthe-literaryreview.com/ (January 21, 2003), review of Have You Seen Me?.*