Martin, David 1946–
Martin, David 1946–
(David Lozell Martin)
Born March 13, 1946, in Granite City, IL; son of Curtis C. (a steelworker) and Marjorie Martin; married Gretchen Bayon (a teacher), June 15, 1968 (divorced, 1987); married Arabel Allfrey (a farmer), May 23, 1988; children: (first marriage) Matthew David, Joshua Robert. Education: University of Illinois, B.S., 1969.
Home—Blue Goose Farm, Alderson, WV. Agent—Robert Datilla, Phoenix Literary Agency, 387 N. Meyer Ave., Tucson, AZ 85701.
Writer and farmer. American School Board Journal, Evanston, IL, managing editor, 1971-76; Learning, Palo Alto, CA, managing editor, 1976-78; American School Board Journal and Executive Educator, Washington, DC, editor and assistant publisher, 1978-82; Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Washington, DC, vice president, beginning 1984. Military service: U.S. Air Force, 1969.
Eight All-America awards from the Educational Press Association for excellence in education journalism, including Laurence B. Johnson Award for Editorial Writing, 1975; Bread Loaf Writers Conference fellow, 1980; New York Times Notable Novel, 1982, for The Crying Heart Tattoo; Aspen Institute fellow, 1983.
Tethered, Holt (New York, NY), 1979.
The Crying Heart Tattoo, Holt (New York, NY), 1982.
Final Harbor, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
The Beginning of Sorrows, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (New York, NY), 1987.
Lie to Me, Random House (New York, NY), 1990.
Bring Me Children, Random House (New York, NY), 1992.
Tap, Tap, Random House (New York, NY), 1994.
Cul-de-sac, Villard (New York, NY), 1997.
Pelikan, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Crazy Love: A Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Facing Rushmore, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Our American King, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
In his first novel, Tethered, David Martin explores the strained ties between a wife, husband, and son living on a farm in Illinois. Although the novel's premise is fairly simple, Martin includes a larger element to enhance the work. A Kirkus Reviews contributor, for example, asserted that Tethered "endows the most familiar homespun materials with form and flair," calling it "a fine first novel." The critic elaborated by observing that the narrative is "all done with interwoven attention to a few farm-life symbols that deftly take the novel beyond a mere rural-boyhood narrative."
Similarly, The Crying Heart Tattoo, Martin's next novel, contains a story within the plot that parallels the action of the protagonists. The novel recounts the thirty-year affair between Sonny and Felicity, a woman twenty years his senior. Throughout the course of their relationship, Felicity tells her lover the story of Graveda, an Indian woman journeying to rejoin her tribe. The novel alternates between the two stories, providing the reader with opportunity to draw comparisons between Felicity and Graveda. Critics disagreed as to the effectiveness of this parallel story. While New York Times Book Review contributor Johanna Kaplan remarked that "the beginning sections [of the novel] spring buoyantly to life in fresh, crisp, spontaneous language," she believed that the Graveda sections "do not serve to sharpen the novel's narrative thrust; they are arch, constricted and leaden with symbols." Even more critical is Jonathan Yardley, who wrote in the Washington Post that the author's "attempt to give a mythic dimension to the story … accomplishes nothing except to give us two silly stories when one was more than enough."
Martin's later novels display some of the same elements that characterize his first two. Final Harbor, his third, "is another essay in unorthodoxy, a testing-set piece, again funny, again moving, despite its bizarre and raucous events," stated Charles Champlin. The novel takes place in Harper's Ferry, where a number of different fanatics, religious and otherwise, are assembling. A focus for many of these people is Colleen, a "professional virgin," who inspires them. "The month-long gathering of these characters provides Mr. Martin with a perfect vehicle for satire," Nancy Ramsey noted in the New York Times Book Review, giving the seeming "tall tale" a sharp edge. The result is a book that "deserves a place within the vernacular tradition of American fiction," according to Ramsey.
Martin's next novel, The Beginning of Sorrows, tells the story of Johnny Reace, a drifter and a storyteller. When Reace wanders into a sleepy Midwestern town, he begins a passionate love affair that shatters the local community forever. In Pelikan, Martin's 1999 thriller, the author "has outdone himself," wrote Library Journal contributor Roland C. Person. The story follows Charlie Curtis, whose rough-and-tumble upbringing in New Orleans impels him as an adult to abandon the Big Easy with speed. Charlie returns reluctantly to help his dying father locate his infamous uncle, the French Quarter's criminal kingpin James Joseph Pelikan. But on his first day back, Charlie stumbles into a murder scene and is left "literally holding the smoking gun," as a Publishers Weekly contributor related. Now a murder suspect, Charlie must contend with the city's underworld, a corrupt police detective and a parade of New Orleans' most colorful characters as he struggles to save himself. The story culminates in a robbery that signals, according to the contributor to Publishers Weekly, that the once "startling and fresh" plot has "[lost] steam." Booklist contributor Emily Melton, on the other hand, was more impressed by Pelikan, calling Martin's work "a wild, carnival ride of a story guaranteed to keep readers riveted."
In his novel, Facing Rushmore, Martin presents a tale that revolves around the virtual destruction of the St. Louis Memorial Arch. One night as people go to the bed, the 630-foot arch, which is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, is a gleaming, stainless steel architectural marvel; by the next morning it is totally black and barely sound enough to remain standing. There are no signs of damage by bombs or chemicals, but FBI agent Charlie Hart has suspects, including Lakota Sioux ghost dancer John Brown Dog. In fact, Brown Dog did defile the arch and claims that the only way to bring it back to its former life and luster is to clean it with nonpasteurized milk. Before Hart can close in, however, Mount Rushmore comes under an attack that the military cannot stop. There is no scientific explanation for what is happening, but Hart is soon confronted by magical shadows that Brown Dog brings forth in the interrogation room and must face the fact that something otherworldly is going on.
"You don't believe a word of this, do you?," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. "Neither do Charlie and the powers that be—and the resulting debate, laced with action, is exactly the point of this provocative doomsday scenario." BookPage Web site contributor Deborah Donovan commented: "Martin's latest offering reads like a thriller—a provocative one—as he engages the reader on a myriad of issues, and has a good time doing it."
Our American King tells the story of a fallen America with a collapsed federal government. "Filled with action, romance and terrific characters, this intelligent cautionary tale deserves a wide readership," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor of the novel.
While much of America is susceptible to armed prey, the rich are protected by the United States Army as well as their own hired guards. John and Mary are a long-married couple starving to death in suburban Washington, DC, when John convinces himself that a benevolent American king is out there ready to save America. When he and Mary go to Washington, they find Tazza hanging dead politicians upside down and backwards, which, Tazza informs the couple, reflects the way they spoke. John convinces Tazza that he should be the American king. However, Tazza's charismatic personality soon attracts followers but also leads to problems, including Tazza sleeping with John's wife, causing John to leave the crusade. Eventually, the government returns, and a decades-long war begins.
"Our American King is a timely political commentary, taking both sardonic and solemn jabs at the precarious ferment of our early twenty-first century," wrote Kirstin Merrihew on the Mostly Fiction Web site. Referring to the novel as "strange, engrossing and quite radical," Washington Post Book World contributor Patrick Anderson wrote that the novel "is a circus, complete with hippies, groupies, brutal Canadians, cannibalism, the decapitation of countless plutocrats and near the end, reflections on the proper relationship between people and government." He added: "Unless you object to its politics, it's a blast."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1999, Emily Melton, review of Pelikan, p. 422; October 15, 2005, Allison Block, review of Facing Rushmore, p. 33.
Entertainment Weekly, February 3, 1995, Mark Harris, review of Tap, Tap, pp. 46-47; August 23, 1996, review of Tap, Tap, p. 119.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1979, review of Tethered; April 15, 1992, review of Bring Me Children; October 1, 1999, Michael Flamm, review of Pelikan, p. 15; September 15, 2005, review of Facing Rushmore, p. 997; August 1, 2007, review of Our American King.
Library Journal, January, 1997, Roland C. Person, review of Cul-de-sac, p. 148; October 15, 1999, Roland C. Pearson, review of Pelikan, p. 107; September 15, 2007, David Keymer, review of Our American King, p. 51.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 9, 1984, Charles Champlin, review of Final Harbor, p. 1.
Ms., December, 1982, Madeline Lee, review of The Crying Heart Tattoo, p. 36.
New York Times, March 19, 1982, John Leonard, review of The Crying Heart Tattoo, p. C29.
New York Times Book Review, April 18, 1982, Johanna Kaplan, review of The Crying Heart Tattoo, p. 12; October 7, 1984, Nancy Ramsey, review of Final Harbor, p. 22; December 26, 1999, review of Pelikan, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly, April 20, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Lie to Me, p. 58; December 30, 1996, review of Cul-de-sac, p. 53; October 4, 1999, review of Pelikan, p. 63; September 19, 2005, review of Facing Rushmore, p. 42; July 23, 2007, review of Our American King, p. 43.
Washington Post, March 17, 1982, Jonathan Yardley, review of The Crying Heart Tattoo; September 3, 2007, Patrick Anderson, "No Peace, No Love, No Problem," review of Our American King, p. C3.
Best Reviews,http://thebestreviews.com/ (June 28, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Facing Rushmore.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (June 28, 2008), Deborah Donovan, "This Land Is Your Land," review of Facing Rushmore.
Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (September 15, 2007), Kirstin Merrihew, review of Our American King.