Kowalski, William J. 1970-
KOWALSKI, William J. 1970-
Born August 3, 1970, in Cleveland, OH; married Alexandra Nedergaard; children: Kasia Alexandra. Education: St. John's College, B.A., 1994.
Agent—Anne Hawkins, John Hawkins and Associates Literary Agency. E-mail—[email protected]s.sympatico.ca.
Writer. Worked at Avenue Victor Hugo and Globe Corner Bookstore, both in Boston, MA.
AMA-Boeke (Book Lover's) Award, South Africa, 2001, for Eddie's Bastard; Coyote Beach received the Twenty-First-Century Filmmaker's Award for best American short, Ninth Avignon/New York Film Festival, April, 2003.
Eddie's Bastard: A Novel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Somewhere South of Here: A Novel (sequel to Eddie's Bastard), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
The Adventures of Flash Jackson: A Novel, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2003.
Writer, with Markus Griesshammer, of Coyote Beach (short film).
WORK IN PROGRESS:
The Good Neighbor, a novel.
William Kowalski's first novel, Eddie's Bastard, follows the life of William Amos Mann, known as Billy, from birth to age eighteen. In 1970, the infant Billy was left in a basket on the front porch of his paternal grandfather; with him was a note that read, "Eddie's bastard." The unknown mother had left the grandchild of Thomas Mann, whose son had died in Vietnam, and Thomas named the last male in the line of Manns and raised him there in Mannville, New York, near Lake Erie.
Billy and his grandfather live apart from the community, and Thomas spends most of his time drunk and remembering family lore, which he passes on to Billy. When the old man breaks a hip, Billy stays with a foster family where he meets Trevor, a tough boy who has spent most of his life as a ward of the state. His closest friend is Annie, who suffers at the hands of an abusive father.
New York Times Book Review critic William J. Cobb wrote that "infected with a sentimentality that is perhaps meant to provide an antidote to the usual somber chronicling of dysfunctional families, Billy's story works best when he's describing the exploits of his forebears—how, for example, his grandfather was shot down over the Pacific in World War II. But Billy is less effective when it comes to the uglier aspects of these stories. This same grandfather happens to be an insidiously narrow-minded drunk." A Publishers Weekly contributor, however, found that Eddie's Bastard is "ultimately an absorbing, redemptive exploration of a young man's search for himself." A reviewer for Curled Up with a Good Book called Eddie's Bastard "a simply gorgeous novel, smoothly and honestly told. Benevolent ghosts, hereditary dreams, and shadowy pasts are workaday aspects in the life of a lovably normal child raised on the sometimes grisly, often admirable stories of his forebears. Rivaling Irving's quirk and Lamb's forthrightness, William Kowalski has crafted a novel to be either savored or devoured; it's delicious either way."
In the sequel, Somewhere South of Here, Billy's grandfather has died, and Billy hands the house over to Thomas's girlfriend, Mildred, who turns it into a home for unwed pregnant girls. The twenty-year-old aspiring novelist Billy travels on his motorcycle to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the last known location of his mother, Eliza McMeel, also known as Sky. He finds her and a half-sister, Sophia, and falls in love with Consuelo, a singer and former high-wire walker who communicates with the eleven guardian angels who saved her when she fell to the ground. Other characters include Bob, owner of The Oasis of Truth and Justice bar, who is also the town sheriff. Bob sports long, silver hair and a handlebar mustache to match, wears spurs, and has a Ph.D. in Greek philosophy.
"Likable characters," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor of the followup to Eddie's Bastard, "though the quick plotting … could have been sacrificed for a little more depth and self-reflection." "Kowalski is a talented and often vivid stylist, and the book flies by like a breeze," wrote Gavin McNett in the Washington Post Book World. "But it strains the compact between author and reader by mistaking 'destiny' for motive, foregone conclusions for resolution—by swallowing its own tail and vanishing for a finale instead of leaving you with something of Kowalski's adult world and its workings." Elizabeth Judd wrote in the New York Times Book Review that the novel "has the bravado of a barstool reminiscence; it rambles along confidently, oblivious to deeper truths but entertaining nonetheless."
Kowalski's The Adventures of Flash Jackson is also a coming-of-age story, but this one is about a girl with a mystical bent. "And what a girl she is," wrote William Dieter for Rocky Mountain News Online, "part Harper Lee's Scout, part Salinger's Holden Caulfield, part Twain's Tom Sawyer. And her name really isn't Flash Jackson, it's Haley Bombauer. She has just turned seventeen, has broken her leg, and is bored out of her skull with the little upstate New York town she lives in and its bleak prospects." Haley's now-deceased father gave her the nickname when she was a child and they played stuntman games together. He called himself Fireball McGinty. When she falls through the barn roof, her grandmother takes her to her cabin in the woods, where Haley observes the old woman's gifts of healing and prophecy.
"It is not immediately apparent that the two women love and respect each other; they drive each other crazy," remarked a Curled Up with a Good Book reviewer. "But during the time they spend together, Haley is clearly transformed from a sassy teen into a surprisingly mature young lady. The bond that joins her to her grandmother becomes great and unbreakable." The women of the family are actually witches, although Haley's mother no longer practices, and Haley learns magic at the knee of her grandmother until the woman is threatened by outside forces and vanishes along with her cabin. It is then that Haley returns to her mother and the village to continue her grandmother's healing practice. Other characters include Haley's neighbor, Elizabeth Powell, a former CIA agent, friend Letty Horgan, and Adam, Haley's sweetheart. Booklist's Margaret Flanagan wrote that The Adventures of Flash Jackson "resonates with homespun wit and truth."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1999, Steffanie Brown, review of Eddie's Bastard: A Novel, p. 1987; April 15, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Somewhere South of Here: ANovel, p. 1534; January 1, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Adventures of Flash Jackson: A Novel, p. 848.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2001, review of Somewhere South of Here, p. 206; November 15, 2002, review of The Adventures of Flash Jackson, p. 1645.
Library Journal, July, 1999, Carol J. Bissett, review of Eddie's Bastard, p. 133; November 15, 2002, Bette-Lee Fox, review of The Adventures of Flash Jackson, p. 101.
New York Times Book Review, November 14, 1999, William J. Cobb, review of Eddie's Bastard, p. 28; April 29, 2001, Elizabeth Judd, review of Somewhere South of Here, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, August 23, 1999, review of Eddie's Bastard, p. 43; March 12, 2001, review of Somewhere South of Here, p. 61; November 11, 2002, review of The Adventures of Flash Jackson, p. 40.
Washington Post Book World, July 25, 2001, Gavin McNett, review of Somewhere South of Here, p. C9.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (October, 1999), Rosalind S. Fournier, review of Eddie's Bastard.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (July 8, 2003), reviews of Eddie's Bastard, Somewhere South of Here, and The Adventures of Flash Jackson.
DenverPost,http://www.denverpost.com/books/ (April 1, 2001), Tom Walker, review of Somewhere South of Here.
Rocky Mountain News Online,http://www.rockymountainnews.com/ (July 4, 2003), William Dieter, review of The Adventures of Flash Jackson.