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Stansberry, Domenic 1952–

Stansberry, Domenic 1952–

(Domenic Joseph Stansberry)

PERSONAL:

Born March 15, 1952, in Washington, DC; son of Chadwick Leroy (an aerospace engineer) and Teresa Stansberry; married Gillian Conoley (a writer), March 22, 1986; children: Gillis (daughter). Education: Attended University of California at Santa Cruz, 1970-72; Portland State University, B.A., 1977; Colorado State University, M.A., 1980; University of Massachusetts, M.F.A., 1984.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Corte Madera, CA. Agent—Fred Hill, 1842 Union St., San Francisco, CA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, MA, feature writer, 1981-83; University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, instructor in composition and creative writing, 1984-87; Tulane University, New Orleans, visiting lecturer, 1985-86; Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, editor and writer of public relations and marketing material, beginning 1987; California State University at Hayward, writing instructor, 1990-92; Stansberry Communications, dialogue writer and media consultant, 1992—. Visiting writer at Vermont College. Black River Publishing, Marina del Rey, CA, cofounder and coeditor. Designer and writer for artificial intelligence engines.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for best first novel, Mystery Writers of America, 1988, for The Spoiler; Dashiell Hammett Award nomination, and Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for best novel, Mystery Writers of America, 1999, both for The Last Days of Il Duce; Edgar Allan Poe Award for best paperback original, Mystery Writers of America, 2005, for The Confession; Film Arts Foundation Award, for work in documentary video; grants from National Endowment for the Humanities and Pioneer Fund.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Spoiler, Atlantic Monthly Press (Boston, MA), 1988.

In the First Degree, Crown (New York, NY), 1995.

The Last Days of Il Duce, Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 1998.

Manifesto for the Dead, Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 2000.

The Confession, Hard Case Crime (New York, NY), 2004.

Chasing the Dragon ("North Beach" mystery series), Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.

The Big Boom ("North Beach" mystery series), Minotaur (New York, NY), 2006.

OTHER

Exit Paradise: Stories, Lynx House Press (Amherst, MA), 1992.

Labyrinths—The Art of Interactive Writing and Design: Content Development for New Media, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1998.

Contributor to periodicals, including New Review of Literature.

SIDELIGHTS:

Domenic Stansberry has published several novels, including The Last Days of Il Duce and The Confession, that have garnered critical praise and earned a host of literary awards. His tales of crime and murder "are as raw and unadulterated as any in the genre," noted Bill Ott in Booklist. Stansberry worked his way through the creative writing program at the University of Massachusetts as a freelance journalist. One of his assignments was to do a piece on the Millers, a minor league baseball team in the nearby town of Holyoke. In the process, he became fascinated by the small stadium where the team played, and the run-down, arson-riddled, neighborhood in which it stood. These elements stayed with him and later formed the atmosphere of his first novel, The Spoiler.

The Spoiler was billed by Tom Shea in the Springfield Union-News as "a story of baseball and murder" centered on a reporter assigned to cover the minor-league Holyoke Redwings. In the process, the reporter uncovers an arson-for-insurance scheme, a murder, and political corruption. He also becomes involved with the mistress of one of the team's owners. Stansberry's novel was well received, with critics praising its well developed sense of setting and character. Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Michael J. Carroll, for example, heralded The Spoiler as "less of a thriller than a moving chronicle of humanity—disquietingly black and totally absorbing." In the New York Times Book Review Newgate Callendar remarked that the author "knows his baseball, and obviously is in love with the game." Willamette Week writer D.K. Holm compared The Spoiler favorably to other fiction about baseball, observing that the book "is suffused with the quality of William Kennedy's paeans to losers beating the pavement all day and night. Stansberry has a sympathetic but realistic appraisal of life's peripheral people, hanging on the edges."

Speaking about this first novel, Stansberry once told CA: "I was attracted to sports not so much for their own sake, though that's part of it, but because of what they tell us about human aspiration, about our striving for success, and the inevitability, in many ways, of failure. There is a certain glory in failure, particularly anonymous failure, and that small bit of glory, ‘the beauty in the ruins,’ remains the subject of my fiction, even now that I've gone on to other subject matter."

The Last Days of Il Duce is an urban murder mystery about racial tensions and hidden political secrets. It concerns Niccolo Jones, a San Francisco ex-lawyer who is in love with his brother's wife. When his brother turns up murdered, Niccolo tracks down the killer in a neighborhood where resident Italians are being driven out by Chinese immigrants. The ethnic tension between the two groups hampers Niccolo's investigation, which leads him to uncover dangerous fascist secrets from World War II among members of the city's Italian community. Ott called the book a "gut-wrenching tale of doomed lovers," and a critic in Publishers Weekly believed that Stansberry offers "an intriguing picture of Italian fascist activity in San Francisco."

In Manifesto for the Dead Stansberry writes a fictionalized story in which real-life mystery writer Jim Thompson—famous for his gritty novels of low-life criminality—finds himself framed for a Hollywood murder. Writing in a manner similar to Thompson's, Stansberry creates "an eerie echo of a dead man's style," according to a New York Times Book Review critic. A Publishers Weekly reviewer likewise commented on Stansberry's "uncanny recreations of Thompson's writing." Ott found that "Stansberry manages to make the pain [of his story] palpable while also constructing an airtight plot that feeds on itself." The story, the New York Times Book Review critic concluded, "would make Thompson's own skin crawl."

The Confession centers on Jake Danser, a Marin County forensic psychologist testifying as an expert defense witness in the murder trial of Andrew Dillard, who is accused of strangling his wife, Angela Mori. A notorious womanizer, Danser enters an affair with Sara Johnson, a young criminal attorney. When Johnson is found brutally murdered—strangled to death with Danser's necktie—the psychologist must prove his innocence. "Danser is a fascinating narrator because he's a shifty one, telling his story in small, measured bits," reported a critic in Publishers Weekly. According to Book Reporter contributor Joe Hartlaub, "Stansberry is a hard-hitting, uncompromising writer; those seeking happy, conventional endings where good and evil are clearly defined and the white hats triumph should look elsewhere." Hartlaub concluded: "This is a masterful novel by a (heretofore) underappreciated master of the genre."

The Confession garnered the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best paperback original, though it was not without controversy: one dissenting judge suggested banning the work. In an interview with Angelina Gabriel that was published on the author's Web site, Stansberry remarked: "I think some of the people reacting to The Confession were reacting to the fact that the book didn't resolve on the side of good—that evil was not punished in the way they thought it should be." Stansberry added that "some people, they want evil to be outside of them, separate, and anything that suggests, hey, no, it's inside you, too, it freaks them out. Some people, when confronted with their own innate evil, instead of acknowledging that, they roll over and play victim."

In Chasing the Dragon, the first work in the "North Beach" mystery series, Stansberry introduces former San Francisco police detective Dante "The Pelican" Mancuso. Forced off the job years earlier, Mancuso returns to his old neighborhood following the mysterious death of his father, who overdosed on cancer medication. Working as an operative for a shadowy international security agency known only as "the company," Mancuso is assigned to infiltrate a drug-smuggling ring and arrange a heroin buy to trap a pair of dangerous ex-convicts. When Mancuso's uncle, who may be linked to the drug ring, is gunned down in his home and the investigator is spotted leaving the house, he becomes the target of homicide detective Frank Ying. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Stansberry "evokes the nightmarish criminal underworld without making it too depressing and his protagonist is believable and strangely admirable." Marilyn Stasio, writing in the New York Times Book Review, complimented the author's melancholy prose, "with its lonely lyric voice raised in lament for the old people and the old ways that are dying out."

Mancuso returns in The Big Boom, which was described as "lean, literate, atmospheric stuff, ideal for the noir-is-beautiful set" by a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Mancuso, now an employee of Cicero Investigations, is hired to search for a girlfriend from his youth, Angie Antonelli, after her father reports her missing. When Angie's body is pulled from San Francisco Bay, Mancuso grows suspicious of her boss and lover, Michael Solano, the CEO of a glitzy dot.com startup company. "What makes this yarn's urban setting unique is that it's clear to both Mancuso and his creator that San Francisco is under siege," remarked January Magazine reviewer Stephen Miller. "Not from AIDS, homophobia, or the occasional bouts of Left Coast-itis. What drives this work is the fact that the North Beach way of life is collapsing from within—specifically, from residents anxious to cash in on today's runaway real-estate market." In another Booklist review, Ott praised Stansberry's ability to present a "soulless contemporary phenomenon—dot-com speculation—and give it the same chilling, metaphorical resonance that the postwar noir masters gave to a darkened city street." A Publishers Weekly reviewer particularly appreciated the author's "flawless evocation of place in another fine Chandleresque meditation on a world haunted by crime."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 1998, Bill Ott, review of The Last Days of Il Duce, p. 785; November 15, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Manifesto for the Dead, p. 607; June 1, 2006, Bill Ott, review of The Big Boom, p. 44.

Database, August-September, 1998, Margareta Knauff, review of Labyrinths—The Art of Interactive Writing and Design: Content Development for New Media, p. 107.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of Chasing the Dragon, p. 895; April 15, 2006, review of The Big Boom, p. 385.

Library Journal, June 1, 1998, Thom Gillespie, review of Labyrinths, p. 144; October 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Chasing the Dragon, p. 64; May 1, 2006, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of The Big Boom, p. 67.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 18, 1987, Michael J. Carroll, review of The Spoiler, p. 4.

New York Times Book Review, November 8, 1987, Newgate Callendar, review of The Spoiler, p. 62; January 9, 2000, review of Manifesto for the Dead, p. 24; October 24, 2004, Marilyn Stasio, "Blood, Thunder and Grace," review of Chasing the Dragon, p. 27.

Publishers Weekly, August 7, 1987, review of The Spoiler, p. 435; November 24, 1997, review of The Last Days of Il Duce, p. 55; December 13, 1999, review of Manifesto for the Dead, p. 65; September 27, 2004, review of Chasing the Dragon, p. 40; October 11, 2004, review of The Confession, p. 62; March 27, 2006, review of The Big Boom, p. 60.

Springfield Union-News, November 10, 1987, Tom Shea, review of The Spoiler.

Willamette Week (Portland, OR), December 17, 1987, D.K. Holm, review of The Spoiler.

ONLINE

Book Reporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (April 15, 2007), Joe Hartlaub, review of The Confession.

Domenic Stansberry Home Page,http://www.domenicstansberry.com (April 15, 2007).

January Magazine,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (July, 2006), Stephen Miller, "City under Siege," review of The Big Boom.

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