Nikitas, Derek 1974-
Nikitas, Derek 1974-
Writer, novelist, short-story writer, and educator. State University of New York at Brockport, Delta College, educator; Eastern Kentucky University, assistant professor, 2008—.
Pushcart Prize nomination, 2005; Thrillerfest Debut Author Scholarship, International Thriller Writers, and Sewanee Writers' Conference, both 2007; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 2008, for Pyres.
Pyres (novel), St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of fiction and short stories to magazines and periodicals, including Ontario Review, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Pedestal, and Chelsea. Author of blog, This World Like a Knife.
Derek Nikitas is a novelist and short-story writer from the eastern United States. Raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, and Rochester, New York, Nikitas earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Following his graduation, he traveled widely abroad, living and writing in Costa Rica, England, and the Czech Republic. He worked on his first novel while living near San Jose, Costa Rica, he told interviewer J.B. Thompson on the Spinetingler magazine Web site. "I was without a car, without the Internet, without English-language TV, without hot water—a rather miserable situation remarkably conducive to writing," he told Thompson. "It was the perfect counterpoint to the wintry world of my novel, and an often-torturous experience I wouldn't trade for anything."
Nikitas's short stories have appeared in venues such as Chelsea, Ontario Review, and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. In 2005, Nikitas was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Ontario Review editor and noted author Joyce Carol Oates. In addition to his writing, Nikitas has also served as an educator. He has taught creative writing, literature, and film at the Delta College, a division of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Brockport. In 2008, he became an assistant professor of creative writing at Eastern Kentucky University.
Nikitas is a member of Killer Year, a group of first-time thriller novelists whose books appeared in 2007. His debut novel, Pyres, is "an immensely powerful, emotionally gripping, crime-and-consequence story of three female characters, ranging from teen age to middle age, who face circumstances and make choices that will forever alter their lives," wrote reviewer Terry D'Auray on the Agony Column Web site. Lucia "Luc" Moberg is a moody fifteen-year-old goth girl who dresses in black and engages in petty larceny. Tanya Yasbeck is nineteen, streetwise, and pregnant, hoping that her boyfriend, a member of a violent Skeleton Crew motorcycle gang, will uphold his responsibilities to her. Greta Hurd is a middle-aged divorcée and a homicide detective in Rochester, New York, with family troubles and conflict with her adult daughter.
The story begins when Luc convinces her college-professor father to drive her to the mall, where she promptly steals some CDs for her friends. As she leaves, however, she witnesses the horror of seeing her father shot to death as he sits behind the wheel of the car. Greta investigates the killing but does not believe Luc's story that her father was killed in an attempted carjacking. She finds that after the murder, Luc's mother's behavior takes on some increasingly bizarre twists. Luc herself is consumed with guilt, blaming herself for putting her father in harm's way. Soon, however, Greta has expanded her investigation to include not only Luc and her mother, but a suspicious neighbor and members of the Skeleton Crew gang. "The narrative burns as bright as the title against the darkness of the personalities," commented Deirdre Cerkanowicz in School Library Journal.
Throughout the book, Nikitas demonstrates a "sharp ear for language and a keen eye for terror," observed John Keenan, writing in the Omaha World-Herald. Booklist reviewer Thomas Gaughan called Pyres "a heartbreaking coming-of-age story and a gripping psychological thriller," while Nancy Fontaine, writing in Library Journal, found it to be "literary, gripping, and very real." Nikitas "renders his story with just the right balance of style, detail, pace, depth and humor, building a suspenseful narrative that reaches a genuinely painful level of heartache," remarked Eddie Muller in the San Francisco Chronicle. Readers "won't be able to turn the last eighty pages fast enough, as a series of betrayals become clear and the stakes become life-and-death for Nikitas' protagonists," commented Keenan. D'Auray summed up the novel as "tough reading—yes; immersive reading—definitely; recommended reading—absolutely."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2007, Thomas Gaughan, review of Pyres, p. 48.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of Pyres.
Library Journal, October 15, 2007, Nancy Fontaine, review of Pyres, p. 61.
Omaha World-Herald, December 9, 2007, John Keenan, "In Every Way, Pyres Succeeds."
Publishers Weekly, August 20, 2007, review of Pyres, p. 45.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 2007, Eddie Muller, "Derek Nikitas's Pyres Pops with Intensity from Its Shocker Start."
School Library Journal, January, 2008, Deirdre Cerkanowicz, review of Pyres, p. 157.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, December 5, 2007, Oline H. Cogdill, "Bracing Tale Devolves into Cartoon," review of Pyres.
Agony Column,http://trashotron.com/agony/ (February 6, 2008), Terry D'Auray, review of Pyres.
Blog Cabin,http://www.timothyhallinan.com/blog/ (February 27, 2008), Timothy Hallinan, review of Pyres.
Casa Mysterioso,http://www.casamysterioso.com/ (October 20, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Pyres.
Derek Nikitas Home Page,http://www.dereknikitas.com (July 16, 2008).
Derek Nikitas MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/dereknikitas (July 16, 2008).
Georgia State University, Department of English Web site,http://www.english.gsu.edu/ (July 16, 1008).
Kristie Loves Books Web log,http://kristiesbooks.blogspot.com/ (December 17, 2007), review of Pyres.
Spinetingler,http://www.spinetinglermag.com/ (July 16, 2008), J.B. Thompson, interview with Derek Nikitas.
University of North Carolina at Wilmington Web site,http://www.uncw.edu/ (July 17, 2008), biography of Derek Nikitas.