Siler, Jenny 1971–
Siler, Jenny 1971–
Writer and novelist. Worked variously as a forklift driver, furniture mover, grape picker, salmon grader, tutor of deaf students, waitress, sketch model, factory worker, tomato truck loader, hotel maid, cab driver, and bartender.
Easy Money was named a 1999 Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times.
Easy Money, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
Iced, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2001.
Shot, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2002.
Flashback, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
(Under pseudonym Alex Carr) An Accidental American, Random House Trade Paperbacks (New York, NY), 2007.
(Under the pseudonym Alex Carr) The Prince of Bagram Prison, Random House Trade Paperbacks (New York, NY), 2008.
Author's works have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Easy Money, Iced, Shot, and An Accidental American have all been adapted for audiocassette by Bolinda Publishing.
Jenny Siler told Margaret Lanstaff in a Publishers Weekly interview that she wrote her debut novel, Easy Money, because she was tired of bartending. The protagonist is Alison Kerry, a young woman who runs drugs and handles whatever other jobs come through the pipeline to her father, who operates out of Key West, Florida. Marilyn Stasio reviewed Easy Money in the New York Times Book Review, saying that "once in a blue moon, a new writer speaks up in a voice that gets your attention like a rifle shot." Stasio observed that Siler "has that kind of voice: clean, direct, and a little dangerous."
As the story begins, Alison is completing a deal in Seattle when she learns of her father's death. Her contact slips a computer disk containing information about war crimes into her pocket and is then drowned in Puget Sound. Allie, who has no knowledge of what is on the disk, is set up to take the blame for the murder. She flees across the country and makes stops in Colorado, Montana, Texas, and New York as she heads toward the Florida Keys. Cover-ups of CIA-sanctioned killings propel the action, and Siler based one character on that agency's former director, William Colby.
Whitney Rose Anderson reviewed Easy Money for the Mystery Reader Web site, commenting that "Siler's powerful prose is both beautifully poetic and unbearably cynical. In fact, the novel seeps with a dark pessimism that continues even until the final page."
Darwin, a cross-dressing veteran in Easy Money, reappears in Siler's second novel, Iced. In a Bookreporter.com Web site interview with Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum, the novelist said that in her second book she again based characters on real people. One character evolved from the person of Lucy Red Crow, a native woman who was involved in a sensational murder in Missoula, Montana, where Siler was raised, and to where she returned as an adult. Clay Bennett's background is influenced by the experiences of an actual Air Force officer who crashed his plane in California during the 1950s. At that time, McCarthyism was at its height, and the man was accused of selling the plane to China or the Soviet Union when it couldn't be found. These charges were eventually dropped, but the man's life was changed forever, and after he died a group of Boy Scouts discovered the plane.
The protagonist of Iced is Meg Gardner, who has been released from prison in the southwest and is intent on making an honest living as a repo woman back home in Missoula. Her job is made easier when travel agent Clay Bennett, the owner of the Jeep she is to repossess, is found dead after a drunken brawl. When the vehicle is parked in front of Meg's home, she is visited by a Russian man and a tattooed woman, both of whom want the maps from a briefcase left on the back seat. Meg learns that Clay had been searching for the missing plane he had gone down with decades earlier in the Montana wilderness.
Bookreporter.com Web site reviewer Jamie Engle wrote that "Siler further develops her distinctive voice in Iced, combining harsh reality, beautiful prose, hard-edged protagonists, and an eclectic cast of secondary characters." Library Journal critic Karen Anderson called Iced "a wild ride, and Meg is a gutsy heroine, a tough excon and a loner who bends the law as she maintains her own code of justice."
There are two female protagonists in Shot, Siler's story of covert drug-industry experimentation and cover-up. Carl Greene, a biotech executive, dies in a car accident, and his wife, Lucy, learns that Carl had made an appointment to meet with Kevin, a friend and journalist, later the same day. Her house is burglarized, first by Darcy Williams, who is being coerced by the warden of the prison from which she has just been released and where her sister is still incarcerated, and next by the thief who successfully removes all of Carl's files. The women team up when they discover they are both seeking the same thing, and in doing so, they and Kevin must remain one step ahead of the assassin who would prevent them from learning about biological testing that had been performed at the prison years before, and which may have been responsible for the death of Lucy's baby.
"As the suspense builds and the body count rises, the complex storyline takes us deeper and deeper into the shadowy and secretive world of biological warfare and government coverups," wrote Rashmi Srinivas on the Curled up with a Good Book Web site. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Siler "handles the hard-boiled writing style with a natural grace, never sounding forced or stagy."
When Eve, the amnesiac protagonist of Flashback, is discovered near death in a field in Burgundy, France, a bullet wound to the head has wiped away nearly all of her memories. She is nursed back to health by the group of helpful nuns that found her. Clues to her identity exist: physical scars indicate that she has had a child, and a mysterious ferry ticket in Arabic suggest that she has traveled to Morocco. Disturbing and violent dreams also hint at a complex past. When the nuns who rescued her are killed, Eve realizes that the murderer was actually searching for her. Soon, more clues to her identity surface, including a backpack containing a gun, a large amount of money, and diverse passports; unexpected talent with firearms, knives, and other weapons; and glances of apparent recognition from an uncomfortably large number of people. Her search for identity is further complicated by the presence of American Brian Haverman, who tells her that she was once the lover of his brother, Pat. The two undertake a search for the missing Pat, as foggy memories of the man gradually resurface in Eve's mind. When she is captured in Marrakech, Eve is tortured by an international arms dealer who is searching for something important, though she has no idea what it is. Slowly, the pieces of Eve's former identity come together and present her with unexpected revelations. In this novel, "the plotting is deft, the characters believable and, in the end, Eve finds who she was, even if she remains unsure of what that means or what she will become," remarked a Publishers Weekly critic. "Siler knows how to write an absorbing page-turner," observed Rebecca House Stankowski in Library Journal. New York Times Book Review critic Marilyn Stasio commented favorably on Siler's writing style, musing that "the moody beauty of Siler's style shines best at night, in the dark."
In 2007, Siler adopted the pseudonym of Alex Carr. The pen name, she told Steve Allan in a Noir Writer Web Log interview, was prompted in large part due to the subject matter of her more recent work. "My problem, especially with my more recent books, is that I'm getting away from what readers expect from a woman, which makes it difficult for people to make any kind of prejudgment about my work," Siler told Allan. "The Alex Carr books are highly literary, character-driven thrillers about political and moral corruption. Many of the characters are old men, washed-up spies and assassins. It's the kind of stuff people still don't associate with female authors. I'm not sure they think a woman can't write that kind of fiction, they just don't expect it."
The first Alex Carr novel, An Accidental American, is a "thought-provoking thriller" featuring protagonist Nicole Blake, an ex-con and former forger who has decided to go straight after six years in a French prison, noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. The daughter of a Lebanese violin teacher who perished in a car bombing and an American playboy father, Nicole is enjoying a quiet new life in the Pyrenees when she is convinced by American agent John Valsamis to help track down her former boyfriend, a suspected terrorist known as Rahim Ali. Unwillingly forced into a life of violence and intrigue, Nicole finds herself involved in a plot to transport dirty bombs to Iraq. Elsewhere, other characters are planning machinations that will soon involve her in a complex case of treachery and deceit that involves the CIA and those responsible for the 1983 bombing of the American embassy in Beirut. The Publishers Weekly writer noted that the novel's "gritty atmosphere is perfectly drawn," while Library Journal critic Ron Terpening commented favorably on the mechanics and story elements, including "tightly entwined plot with numerous reversals, poetic descriptions, thorough research, and a lightly fictionalized treatment of America's Mideast travails."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 1998, Jenny McLarin, review of Easy Money, p. 573; November 1, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Iced, p. 521; July, 2002, Carrie Bissey, review of Shot, p. 1828; December 15, 2003, Jenny McLarin, review of Flashback, p. 732; April 15, 2006, Whitney Scott, review of Flashback, p. 69.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2003, review of Flashback, p. 1380.
Library Journal, November 15, 1998, Dawn L. Anderson, review of Easy Money, p. 92; November 1, 2000, Karen Anderson, review of Iced, p. 137; July, 2002, Nanci Milone Hill, review of Shot, p. 123; January, 2004, Rebecca House Stankowski, review of Flashback, p. 160; December 1, 2006, Ron Terpening, review of An Accidental American, p. 106.
New York Times Book Review, January 24, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Easy Money, p. 24; January 14, 2001, Marilyn Stasio, review of Iced, p. 24; February 8, 2004, Marilyn Stasio, review of Flashback.
Publishers Weekly, August 3, 1998, Margaret Lanstaff, "Jenny Siler," p. 56; October 19, 1998, review of Easy Money, p. 53; November 13, 2000, review of Iced, p. 84; July 15, 2002, review of Shot, p. 53; November 24, 2003, review of Flashback, p. 40; January 1, 2007, review of An Accidental American, p. 33.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 22, 2004, Dick Adler, review of Flashback, p. 2; April 22, 2007, review of An Accidental American, p. 12.
Wall Street Journal, February 19, 1999, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, review of Easy Money, p. W8.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (November 12, 2007), Bruce Tierney, review of Shot.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (November 12, 2007), Jamie Engle, review of Iced, Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum, review of Shot, interview with Siler.
Curled up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (November 12, 2007), Sharon Schulz-Elsing, review of Iced, Rashmi Srinivas, review of Shot.
Denver Post Online,http://www.denverpost.com/ (September 1, 2002), Robin Vidimos, review of Shot.
Jenny Siler Home Page,http://jennysiler.com (November 12, 2007).
Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (November 12, 2007), reviews of Iced and Shot.
Mystery Reader,http://www.mysteryreader.com/ (November 12, 2007), Whitney Rose Anderson, review of Easy Money.
Noir Writer,http://noirwriter.blogspot.com/ (March 18, 2007), Steve Allan, interview with Jenny Siler.
Thisisull,http://www.thisisull.com/ (November 12, 2007), Steve Rudd, review of Flashback.