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Reid, Elwood

REID, Elwood

PERSONAL:

Born in Cleveland, OH; children: one daughter. Education: Attended the University of Michigan.

ADDRESSES:

Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, Inc., 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; c/o Midnight Mind Magazine, P.O. Box 146912, Chicago, IL 60614.

CAREER:

Novelist, short story writer, and screen-writer. Has worked as a carpenter.

WRITINGS:

If I Don't Six (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.

What Salmon Know (short stories), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.

Midnight Sun (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.

The Pennsylvania Miners' Story, (television movie screenplay), American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC), 2000.

DB (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including GQ.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

A screenplay for If I Don't Six.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author Elwood Reid grew up in a working-class area of Cleveland, Ohio, where he developed a taste for literature and skills at football. "His only hope of escape was a football scholarship to the University of Michigan," wrote Ronald Sklar on the Pop Entertainment Web site. "But here's the catch: Reid loved books and writing more than the game," Sklar remarked. "In fact, while on the field, he longed for the moment when he could go back to his dorm room, crawl into bed and get back to reading a book." Unusual behavior for a football player, perhaps, but Reid persisted, eventually selling his short story "What Salmon Know" to GQ, directly out of the slush pile. While that story would serve as the centerpiece of a later collection, Reid also parlayed his gridiron experience and his love of the written word into his first novel, If I Don't Six.

In the book, Elwood Riley arrives on the University of Michigan campus, a recipient of a football scholarship that will allow him to attend the expensive school and escape the factory-work drudgery that claimed his father. The world of the collegiate football player, however, has its own dark side. Riley finds he is no longer an individual, but part of a system larger than himself, designed only to win. He endures vicious, screaming coaches urging him and his teammates to greater acts of violence; he suffers through the pain of injury and physical overwork; he learns to interact with teammates he does not like, to accept grades that he did not really earn, and to bed women who are little more than groupies. The players live in perpetual fear that they will "six," which means becoming ineligible to play because of a failed class or an injury. Sixing would be a disaster for Riley because he would lose his scholarship and the chance at a genuine education. As his distaste for the world of college football grows, so does his desire to enrich himself through academics rather than athletics.

The book is partly a coming-of-age novel and partly an autobiography. Riley serves as a stand-in for Reid himself, who also played football at Michigan until he was sidelined by a neck injury. Reid offers "a harrowing (if sometimes exhaustingly detailed) description of the politics and logistics of daylong football practices and parties at which fights and rapes are commonplace," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The author "has a sure hand for immersing the reader in the workings of the football machine, where young men are treated like animals to be trained to perform feats of gridiron glory for the huddled and howling fans and alumni," observed Ira Berkow in the New York Times Book Review.

Reid's short story collection, What Salmon Know, explores the "depressing, destructive, and self-destructive sides of American masculinity" in ten bleak, sometimes violent stories, commented a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. In "Overtime" a factory foreman deals with the consequences of forcing a worker to stay late when the worker's daughter is kidnapped and murdered; consequently, the foreman slides ever deeper into despair and ruin. In "No Strings Attached" a rough-and-tumble man's man falls in love with a quiet, gentle woman who is his opposite, and learns to deal with her tragic, complicated emotional background. The title story finds two drunken salmon poachers in a vicious fight with two soldiers over a mutilated fish, but neither side has a moral advantage. "While Reid's prose is always crisp and clear, his images striking and memorable, it can be hard to feel for his characters; many come across simply as obnoxious drunks," the Publishers Weekly critic remarked. "Hardedged and violent, these are characters struggling to survive in difficult economic and social situations," commented Lawrence Rungren in Library Journal.

Reid's next novel, Midnight Sun, takes place in the remote, dangerous Alaskan wilderness, where charismatic leader Nunn has established a small, cult-like camp for the disillusioned, washed out, and disgusted. Jack and Burke, two rugged construction workers, agree to retrieve a friend's daughter from the shadowy Nunn's equally mysterious encampment. But the wilderness is unforgiving, and along the way they discover how dangerous the river they travel and the untamed areas they cross can be. Equally dangerous but with deliberate motives, a gold hunter attacks the pair before they arrive at Nunn's compound and is killed by Burke. Nunn and his acolytes prove to be a tough target, too. Seemingly peaceful, the camp does not look like a place of evil, and when Jack and Burke arrive, they are told the woman does not want to leave. Burke is attacked and beaten so badly he cannot continue his mission with Jack. Then Jack begins to unravel the unsavory secrets behind the camp and the physically and mentally scarred Nunn.

The novel is "a more or less explicit homage" to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, noted Jonathan Miles in the New York Times Book Review. "In taut, well-sculpted prose, Reid expertly evokes end-of-the-road Fairbanks, his characters' physical and spiritual rootlessness, and the magnificent, dangerous country they travel through," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 2000, Ted Leventhal, review of Midnight Sun, p. 67.

Hollywood Reporter, November 22, 2002, Barry Garron, review of The Pennsylvania Miners' Story, p. 41.

Library Journal, June 1, 1998, Marylaine Block, review of If I Don't Six, p. 158; July, 1999, Lawrence Rungren, review of What Salmon Know, p. 139; May 15, 2000, Dan Bogey, review of What Salmon Know, p. 152; August, 2000, Lawrence Rungren, review of Midnight Sun, p. 161.

New York Times Book Review, August 2, 1998, Ira Berkow, "Tackling Dummies," p. 19; October 15, 2000, Jonathan Miles, review of Midnight Sun, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1998, review of If I Don't Six, p. 35; July 12, 1999, review of What Salmon Know, p. 72; August 7, 2000, review of Midnight Sun, p. 71.

ONLINE

Anchorage Press,http://www.anchoragepress.com/ (September 27, 2001), Alyson Williams, "Off the Shelf."

Michigan Daily,http://www.pub.umich.edu/daily/ (October 6, 1998), Corinne Schneider, "Former 'U' Football Player Relates Story."

Midnight Mind,http://www.midnightmind.com/ (April 2, 2004), profile of Elwood Reid.

Pop Entertainment,http://www.popentertainment.com/ (April 2, 2004), Ronald Sklar, "Elwood Reid."

Random House,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (April 2, 2004), profile of Elwood Reid.*

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