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Shaffner, George

Shaffner, George

PERSONAL:

Married; children: three.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Sammamish, WA. Agent—Jane Dystel, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, 1 Union Sq. W., New York, NY 10003.

CAREER:

Writer, business executive, mathematics expert, and novelist. Has worked as CEO or COO of three international computer companies.

WRITINGS:

The Arithmetic of Life, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Living by the Numbers: Life Lessons from the Bottom Line Up, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Arithmetic of Life and Death, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.

"EBB" SERIES

In the Land of Second Chances (novel), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.

One Part Angel (novel), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author and novelist George Shaffner is an executive in the computer industry and a mathematics enthusiast who has written several nonfiction works intended to popularize math and encourage numerical literacy. The Arithmetic of Life, Shaffner's first book, contains a series of thirty-eight linked essays that look at practical, real-life applications of mathematics and "questions of statistics, probability, simple economics and applied mathematics" that enter into aspects of daily living, noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. For example, Shaffner considers whether drivers will save or lose time on their trips by speeding. He calculates the odds of a young girl actually becoming what she wants to be when she grows up. He explains how the ever-increasing odds of getting caught means that crime will never pay. Shaffner also offers a few surprises, including mathematical proof that life after death is more likely to be true than not. "Shaffner's writing is usually clever and clear," the Publishers Weekly reviewer stated.

Shaffner is also the author of a series of novels set in the gloomy, down-on-its-luck town of Ebb, Nebraska. The first book, In the Land of Second Chances, is narrated by Wilma Porter, owner of the town's upscale bed-and-breakfast inn. Wilma relates how the town's economic base is steadily failing, damaged beyond hope by the presence of a super-retailer. The downtown merchants cling to the hope that association with Calvin Millet's department store will be able to keep them anchored and solvent. Millet's store, however, is also in decline, and there seems to be little chance that all will turn out fine. Worse for Calvin, his time, attention, and resources are required to attend to his daughter, stricken with a life-threatening illness. When a visitor arrives in this depressed atmosphere of tragedy preparing to happen, the townsfolk are unprepared for the results. Dapper salesman Vernon Moore, who claims to be a traveling salesman of games of chance, checks into Wilma's B&B and assesses the state of the town. Soon, he has everyone charmed by his handsome face, his smooth talk, his easy manner, and his philosophy of "reasoned faith." As Moore works his way through Ebb, he helps everyone he meets reconcile with their problems and gain new insights and methods of coping. For some, the mysterious Moore is not simply a wise counselor—he may not have wings on his back, but they know where he comes from. Booklist reviewer Jennifer Baker called the book an "unusual and affectionate first novel."

In One Part Angel, the genial and uplifting Vernon Moore "returns to save the day in this enchanting sequel," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Again told from the viewpoint of innkeeper Wilma Porter, the story unfolds as Wilma's grandson, in jail on murder charges, refuses to name the accomplices who destroyed a local hair salon and pummeled owner Loretta Parsons into a coma. Since Loretta is the only African American in town, police suspect a hate crime, but Mark won't divulge the others' identities. The crime is particularly hard on Wilma, since Loretta was also her best friend. In other bad omens, Wilma's perpetual boyfriend, well-to-do businessman Clem Tucker, is selling his inherited family farm a parcel at a time, and a local religious cult keeps getting larger and more menacing. Again at the time of Ebb's greatest need, the transcendent Vernon Moore arrives with deals to save the town's economic core, with a plan to loosen Mark's tight lips, and the ability to bring Loretta back from the edge of death. Carol Haggas, writing in Booklist, called the novel "quietly inspirational" and "quirkily humorous." A Kirkus Reviews critic observed: "While many of the plot twists border on the fantastic, Shaffner's style is folksy and gently humorous."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 2004, Jennifer Baker, review of In the Land of Second Chances, p. 1903; February 1, 2006, Carol Haggas, review of One Part Angel, p. 31.

Entertainment Weekly, October 22, 2004, Alanna Nash, review of In the Land of Second Chances, p. 789.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of In the Land of Second Chances, p. 712; January 1, 2006, review of One Part Angel, p. 14.

Publishers Weekly, August 9, 1999, review of The Arithmetic of Life, p. 330; September 13, 2004, review of In the Land of Second Chances, p. 57; November 14, 2005, Matthew Thornton, "George Shaffner's The Widows of Eden, the Final Novel in His Trilogy about the Fictional Midwestern Town of Ebb," p. 10; January 2, 2006, review of One Part Angel, p. 33.

School Library Journal, March, 2006, Kim Dare, review of One Part Angel, p. 256.

Seattle Times, July 21, 2006, David Flood, review of One Part Angel.*

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