Kostoff, Lynn 1954(?)-
KOSTOFF, Lynn 1954(?)-
Male; born c. 1954; married; children: one son. Education: Bowling Green State University, B.F.A., M.F.A., 1978.
Author and educator. Francis Marion University, Florence, SC, professor of English, 1985—; previously taught at Indiana State University and University of Alabama.
A Choice of Nightmares (novel), Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1991.
The Long Fall (novel), Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.
Novelist Lynn Kostoff's debut thriller, A Choice of Nightmares, "takes a disturbing look at the drug trade and the destruction it wreaks, not only on users but on suppliers as well," commented reviewer Sybil Steinberg in Publishers Weekly. In the novel, down-on-his-luck actor Robert Staples has lost his wife and cannot seem to revive his flagging acting career despite interminable appearances at mall openings and other low-grade public events. During a promotional appearance in Florida, an irritated Staples tosses an annoying little dog into an alligator pit. To make amends to his agent for this public relations disaster, Staples agrees to spend some time out of sight in Key West, and while on his way there, to deliver a package to a man arriving from Colombia at the Miami airport. Staples loses the package in the airport bar, and the intended recipient harasses him in true drug lord fashion. Further complicating his life are a burgeoning cocaine addiction, a maddening attraction to the mysterious Denice Shell, and a deepening involvement in a massive drug operation. Steinberg declared that "Kostoff's writing is powerful," but found little reason to feel sympathy for the protagonist. However, a Kirkus Reviews critic called A Choice of Nightmares "a noir thriller that delivers with vivid writing, smart plotting, and a deeper-than-usual insight into its flawed central character."
After the publication of A Choice of Nightmares, Kostoff nearly became the victim of restructurings and downsizings in the publishing industry. A Choice of Nightmares "did well enough to break even for Crown Publishers, a rarity for a first novel," commented Joe Pinchot in a profile of Kostoff in the Sharon, Pensylvania, Herald. But then Kostoff's editor was fired, and he found that most publishers "were more interested in signing big names who could insure large first printings and keeping franchise writers happy rather than cultivating new and young authors," Pinchot remarked. Despite the discouraging signs, "I was too stubborn to give up," Kostoff told Pinchot. Persistence paid off, and Kostoff's thriller The Long Fall was published in 2003.
The Long Fall is a "craftily written … thriller," commented Jeff Zaleski in Publishers Weekly. Ex-convict Jimmy Coates lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is deep in debt to loan shark Ray Harp, who is growing impatient for the return of his money. Among Harp's brutal enforcers is one with a particular grudge against Coates—Aaron Limbe, a former police officer who lost his job after Coates turned informer and offered incriminating evidence on Limbe in exchange for dropping a grand larceny charge. Despite working double shifts recreating old-west shootouts for tourists at Big and Bigger Jones's Old Wild West Park, Coates cannot fulfill his debt to Harp. Coates gets no help from his straight-arrow brother, Richard, who in his contempt for Jimmy's criminal background has manipulated him out of an inheritance. Out of spite, and with increasing desperation, Coates decides to rob several dry-cleaning shops owned by Richard. Unexpectedly—especially to Jimmy—he falls in love with Richard's disenchanted and unhappy wife, "setting off a chain reaction that makes good turn bad, then bad good, as Jimmy gets more or less what he deserves," wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic.
"Kostoff keeps the pace lightning-fast even as he leaves more than enough room for his characters to grow and respond to the changing dynamics between them," remarked Sarah Weinman on the January Magazine Web site. Jim Jawrocki, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, commented that "Kostoff spins this tale deftly, with Chandleresque language and a cast of memorable minor characters," while Rex Klett, writing in Library Journal, called the book a "fascinating ride through tangled relationships" and remarked favorably on the "clean-cut prose and nicely complicated plot."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 22, 1991, Brad Strickland, review of A Choice of Nightmares, section N, p. 8.
Booklist, June 15, 1991, Peter Robertson, review of A Choice of Nightmares, p. 1936; March 15, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of The Long Fall, p. 1280.
Herald (Sharon, PA), September 9, 2003, Joe Pinchot, "Novelist Gets Second Act after Long Wait."
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1991, review of A Choice of Nightmares, pp. 491-492; April 1, 2003, review of The Long Fall, pp. 509-510.
Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Rex Klett, review of The Long Fall, p. 158.
Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of A Choice of Nightmares, p. 48; May 26, 2003, Jeff Zaleski, review of The Long Fall, p. 47.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 29, 2003, Jim Nawrocki, review of The Long Fall, section M, p. 4.
January Magazine Web site,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (June 30, 2004), Sarah Weinman, review of The Long Fall.
Romantic Times Web site,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (June 30, 2004), Lorraine Gelly, review of The Long Fall.*