Phillips, Max (Forrest DeVoe, Jr.)
(Forrest DeVoe, Jr.)
CAREER: Cofounder of Hard Case Crime (imprint), New York, NY.
AWARDS, HONORS: Academy of American Poets Prize; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.
Snakebite Sonnet, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.
The Artist's Wife, Holt (New York, NY), 2001.
Fade to Blonde, Hard Case Crime (New York, NY), 2004.
(As Forrest DeVoe, Jr.) Into the Volcano: A Mallory and Morse Novel of Espionage, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of short fiction and poetry to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly and Story.
SIDELIGHTS: New York-based writer Max Phillips is the author of several mystery novels. He is also the cofounder, with Charles Ardai, of the Hard Case Crime imprint, which aims to publish or reprint hard-boiled crime fiction by such noted authors as David Dodge, Ed McBain, Erle Stanley Gardner, Lawrence Block, and Stephen King.
Phillips's own writing covers a range of styles, from literary to genre. His first novel, Snakebite Sonnet, takes place over two decades, beginning in 1970, and recounts the adventures of ten-year-old Nick as he assists a beautiful college sophomore when she is bitten by a snake. The incident prompts Nick to fancy himself in love with this older woman, and his feelings continue as he goes on with his life and grows up. Megan Harlan, in a review for Entertainment Weekly, called Phillips's writing "a gorgeous mesh of erotic exactitude, heaps of wit, and generous, weary wisdom." A contributor for Publishers Weekly suggested that Phillips "flirts with excess," but concluded that he "demonstrates a poet's ear for lyric precision and a comic's for surefire punch lines." Joanne Wilkinson, writing for Booklist, dubbed the book "an uncommonly well crafted first novel."
In The Artist's Wife, Phillips tells the fictionalized memoir of the colorful Alma Mahler, wife of Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. The book follows Alma, the daughter of a landscape painter and a lieder singer, through her relationships with men, including architect Walter Gropius and author Franz Werfel, as well as her experiences as a minor composer in her own right. Alma had a reputation as something of a wild woman, and the novel depicts her joyful exuberance. A contributor for Publishers Weekly remarked that Phillips's "well-informed presentation of the historical milieu is overpowered by the self-centered sensuality of his protagonist." Elise Harris, in a review for the Nation, commented that the author's "overreliance on Alma's diaries has done him a disservice as a novelist, because he cannot get away from her own idea of herself." She went on to conclude, however, that the book presents "an amusing facsimile of the woman and her peculiar gifts." Brad Hooper, in a review for Booklist, found the depiction of Alma to be "vivid and viable."
Fade to Blonde represents a change in style for Phillips. This hard-boiled thriller, published by Phillips's Hard Case Crime imprint, tells the story of former boxer Ray Corson, who has tried his hand at writing screenplays and, failing at that, turned to detective work. Corson is hired by Rebecca LaFontaine to protect her from Lance Halliday, a Hollywood porn producer whom she has recently spurned. In a review for Publishers Weekly, a contributor remarked that Phillips "deftly balances his lovestruck hero's terse yet tender introspection with hard-hitting physical action," concluding that "they do write 'em like they used to."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1996, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Snakebite Sonnet, p. 1677; April 1, 2001, Brad Hooper, review of The Artist's Wife, p. 1452.
Daily News (New York, NY), June 1, 2004, Ethan Sacks, "New York City Pair Writes New Chapter for Pulp Novels."
Entertainment Weekly, July 12, 1996, Megan Harlan, review of Snakebite Sonnet, p. 52.
Nation, December 3, 2001, Elise Harris, "The Insatiable Fiction of Desire," review of The Artist's Wife, p. 25.
Newsweek, June 3, 1996, Jeff Giles and David Gates, "First Time for Everyone," review of Snakebite Sonnet, p. 74.
New York Times, July 8, 2001, Sarah Boxer, review of The Artist's Wife, p. 7.
Publishers Weekly, Aprill 22, 1996, review of Snakebite Sonnet, p. 58; June 4, 2001, review of The Artist's Wife, p. 55; August 2, 2004, review of Fade to Blonde, p. 57.
Hard Case Crime Web site, http://www.hardcasecrime.com/ (April 16, 2005), "Max Phillips."
MostlyFiction.com, http://mostlyfiction.com/ (April 16, 2005), "Max Phillips."