Wessel, John 1952–
Wessel, John 1952–
PERSONAL: Born January 20, 1952, in Cincinnati, OH; son of Gordon and June Wessel; married September 10, 1971; wife's name Susan. Education: University of Chicago, A.B., 1975.
CAREER: Writer. Has also worked as a bookseller.
This Far, No Further, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Pretty Ballerina, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Kiss It Goodbye, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Alison's Affairs, a novel, for Simon & Schuster.
SIDELIGHTS: John Wessel's novel This Far, No Further introduces Harding, a Chicago private investigator recently released from prison. Harding, who has never been given a first name, was jailed for manslaughter after one of his cases spun out of control. Without a badge and forced to handle unglamorous jobs for his ex-partner's security firm, Harding now works for Elenya Rosenberg, who wants him to unearth information about her unfaithful husband. Harding is drawn into a vortex of lies, strange passions, and murder, and again finds himself wanted for murder. Characters in This Far, No Further include Harding, who enjoys reading and listening to country singer Patsy Cline, and Harding's associates, feisty photographer Alison and computer whiz Boone. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio called the novel's characters "flagrantly original." As one reviewer remarked in Publishers Weekly, Wessel "exhibits the born storyteller's sure hand with characters, plot and first-person narration," adding that the author has produced "a strong debut."
Pretty Ballerina finds Harding working for actor Cassie Rayn. By helping Cassie recover some personal belongings, Harding becomes involved in sordid activities and secrets. He learns that Cassie's long-lost brother may be sending her threatening notes, and that her father murdered the other members of her family before killing himself. Harding must investigate a plot that endangers Cassie's life and his own. Reviewing the novel in another New York Times Book Review piece, Marilyn Stasio commented that the author's "byzantine plotting" can be "hard to follow," but conceded that Wessel provides "odd stylistic touches" that make him "watchable." A Publishers Weekly reviewer also gave Pretty Ballerina qualified praise, stating: "While it proves that Wessel's no fluke, it will probably leave most readers wanting more, and not just for the right reasons." Reviewing the work in the Library Journal, Bob Lunn concluded that "fans of up-and-coming wisecracking mystery novelists might want to add Wes-sel's name to the top of their list."
In Kiss It Goodbye Wessel's "energetic prose brings to life unique Chicago settings" as Harding is about to attend the wedding of Beth Reinhardt, one his girlfriend Alison's oldest compatriots, related Library Journal reviewer Rex E. Klett. However, the groom, Charles Muller, has different ideas; he has disappeared on his wedding day, leaving Beth to ask Harding for help in locating him. His investigation uncovers that Charles was last seen entering a crack house where a murder occurred at the same time the wedding was supposed to be conducted. Further, Harding finds that the Chicago police are also interested in the runaway groom for questioning in the murder of a drug dealer who may have been Charles's connection, and a female novelist who may have been betrothed to Charles's girlfriend. Harding realizes that the case will uncover more than a case of wedding-day jitters. As the investigation deepens, Harding finds connections between the events at the heart of the case and a group of Bohemian college students who, ten years earlier, lived in a University of Chicago dorm called Grand Terrace. This group includes Harding's beloved Alison. One of the murder victims was a Grand Terrace resident, and Harding must unravel the case before other Grand Terrace students, particularly Alison, become victims. A Publishers Weekly critic commented that "Wessel is a writer of considerable style and courage, but his imagination seems to need a recharging." Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher, however, called the novel "compelling reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1996, review of This Far, No Further, p. 1857; October 15, 1997, This Far, No Further, p. 424; January 1, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of Kiss It Goodbye, p. 821.
Cincinnati Enquirer, January 29, 2002, Jim Knippenberg, "John Wessel Weaves Goodbye," review of Kiss It Goodbye.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1996, This Far, No Further, p. 1008; October 15, 2001, review of Kiss It Goodbye, p. 1458.
Library Journal, August, 1996, Rex E. Klett, review of This Far, No Further, p. 117; June 15, 1998, Bob Lunn, Pretty Ballerina, p. 109; December, 2001, Rex E. Klett, review of Kiss It Goodbye, p. 180.
New York Times Book Review, October 27, 1996, Marilyn Stasio, review of This Far, No Further, p. 42; July 19, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of Pretty Ballerina, p. 20.
People Weekly, December 2, 1996, J.D. Read, review of This Far, No Further, p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1996, review of This Far, No Further, p. 54; May 11, 1998, review of Pretty Ballerina, p. 53; November 5, 2001, review of Kiss It Goodbye, p. 43.
Books 'n' Bytes, http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (February 15, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Kiss It Goodbye.
Mystery One Bookstore Web site, http://www.mysteryone.com/ (February 15, 2005), interview with John Wessel.