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Abrahams, Peter 1947-

Abrahams, Peter 1947-

Personal

Born June 28, 1947; married Diana Gray (a teacher), 1978; children: Seth, Ben, Lily, Rosie. Education: Williams College, B.A., 1968.

Addresses

Home—Cape Cod, MA. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Writer. Worked as a spear fisher in the Bahamas, 1968-70; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, radio producer.

Awards, Honors

Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for best novel, Mystery Writers of America, 1994, for Lights Out; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, and Agatha Award for best children's/young-adult fiction, both 2006, both for Down the Rabbit Hole.

Writings

JUVENILE NOVELS; "ECHO FALLS MYSTERY" SERIES

Down the Rabbit Hole, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Behind the Curtain, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Into the Dark, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2008.

ADULT NOVELS

The Fury of Rachel Monette, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1980.

Tongues of Fire, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1982.

Hard Rain, Dutton (New York, NY), 1988.

Pressure Drop, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.

Revolution Number 9, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Lights Out, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1994.

The Fan, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1995.

A Perfect Crime, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Crying Wolf, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Last of the Dixie Heroes, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Tutor, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Their Wildest Dreams, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Oblivion, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.

End of Story, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.

Nerve Damage, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.

Delusion, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2008.

OTHER

Red Message, 1986.

(With Sidney D. Kirkpatrick) Turning the Tide: One Man against the Medellin Cartel (nonfiction), Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.

Contributor to anthologies, including 666, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007; and Up All Night, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2008.

Adaptations

The Fan was adapted for film by Frank Darabont and Phoef Sutton and released by TriStar, 1996. The "Echo Falls" novels have been adapted for audiobook by HarperAudio, beginning 2006.

Sidelights

Peter Abrahams is the author of critically acclaimed crime novels that include Nerve Damage, Oblivion, End of Story, and Lights Out, the last which was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America's coveted Edgar award. Turning to a younger readership, the Massachusetts-based novelist and father of four is also the creator of the "Echo Falls" mystery novels, which includes the award-winning Down the Rabbit Hole and Behind the Curtain. Commenting on his books to Kay Longcope in the Boston Globe, Abrahams stated: "I'm interested in putting ordinary people into extraordinary situations, as [British film director] Alfred Hitchcock did, rather than making James Bond-type superheroes and putting them in life and death situations. You can generate a lot more dread. I want to directly attack the imagination, to ensnare it. That's the way a good book works for me."

In Down the Rabbit Hole readers meet thirteen-year-old Ingrid Levin-Hill, a middle-school student living in small-town Connecticut. A fan of famous literary sleuth Sherlock Holmes, Ingrid is also a likeable eighth grader with a love of soccer. When a woman the girl has met is found murdered, Ingrid recognizes that their brief friendship makes sleuthing an obligation. As the mystery surrounding the woman's death thickens, the girl develops a useful friendship with Joey, the son of the town's chief of police. She also manages to keep up with the clues while studying and rehearsing the title role in a stage version of Alice in Wonderland. Calling Down the Rabbit Hole "good, smart entertainment," Claire Rosser praised Abraham's novel for its realistic setting and for a heroine who "acts in ways most of us readers wouldn't dare to attempt."

In Behind the Curtain Ingrid and Joey team up to prove the truth of her allegations about a local drug ring that may be selling steroids to her older brother Ty. Meanwhile, Grampy is hoping to keep his farm from greedy land developers and Ingrid's father seems preoccupied with worries about his job. With its focus on the steroid crisis among young athletes, Abrahams's novel addresses "a timely issue [that] gives this mystery a ‘ripped from the headlines’ flavor," according to Connie Fletcher in Booklist. Noting Ingrid's similarly to teen sleuth Sammy Keyes in the mystery series by Wendelin Van Draanen, Kliatt contributor Rosser called the novel "entertaining and well constructed." In School Library Journal Denise Moore dubbed Behind the Curtain "a fast-paced mystery with well-defined characters," and in Kirkus Reviews a critic concluded that Abraham's "wonderfully realized" young sleuth shines in "a deliciously plotted, highly satisfying adventure."

The "Echo Falls" series continues with Into the Dark, which Rosser deemed "the best [installment] of all." Here the mystery centers on a murder committed on Grampy's farm, and Grampy is arrested as the suspected killer. When the elderly man refuses to give police an alibi, Ingrid decides to come to his rescue and follows the mystery back into Grampy's experiences during World War II. Praising the suspense that builds throughout Into the Dark, School Library Journal contributor Sheila Fiscus added that "Ingrid's ability to not only think through the crime but also solve it is impressive." Noting that "the hallmark of this series is the author's revealing of clues to readers ahead of Ingrid," a Kirkus Reviews contributor described the teenage sleuth as "intrepid."

One of Abrahams' early adult thrillers, Lights Out, focuses on Eddie Nye. Finally released from prison on trumped-up drug charges, Eddie is quickly plunged into dangerous intrigue while investigating the circumstances of his frame-up. Also adapted as a feature film starring Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes, The Fan focuses on Gil Renard, a divorced and down-and-out traveling salesman, and Bobby Rayburn, an arrogant and successful baseball player. Renard, a baseball fanatic who has slid into committing petty crimes, is obsessed with Rayburn. He manages to become caretaker on Rayburn's estate while also planning to murder the star athlete on the playing field. According to a Publishers Weekly critic, in Lights Out Abrahams presents readers with "a fascinating and memorable character" in Eddie, making the book "consistently interesting and suspenseful." In Booklist, Wes Lukowsky called The Fan a "firstrate thriller," and Library Journal reviewer Marylaine Block termed it an "excellent novel."

A complex marriage is at the heart of another thriller, A Perfect Crime. Here Roger Cullingwood is in an unhappy marriage, and his employment situation has not been the best for months. The man's idyllic perception of his life is finally shattered when he learns that his wife, Francie, is romantically involved with a well-known local psychologist. Determined to restore his enormous ego, Roger engineers a complex plan to kill his wife but loses control of the scheme after enlisting the help of a convicted murder. In Booklist Thomas Gaughan cited the novel's "complex and compelling" plotting and "sharp and almost flawless" dialogue. A Perfect Crime "is fast-paced, tense, even witty as it careens to its bloody conclusion," noted Karen Anderson in her Library Journal review.

What will a middle-class kid from a small Colorado town do to pay for a prestigious university education in New England? Abrahams presents one possible scenario in Crying Wolf, "a suspense novel built around kidnapping, extortion and youthful stupidity," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Nat, a high school valedictorian, uses his $2,000 essay-contest winnings to help his mother cover the tuition for his freshman year at Inverness. When his mom loses her job, Nat decides to subsidize his education by kidnapping, hatching his "victimless" scheme with the help of wealthy twin friends from school.

The title character in Abrahams' thriller The Tutor was likened by a Publishers Weekly contributor to the Hitchcock character Norman Bates of Psycho fame: an apparently ordinary and pleasant fellow who gradually emerges as a sinister threat to an entire family. Hired by the suburban Gardner family to prepare son Brandon for his Scholastic Aptitude Test, tutor Julian Sawyer manages to penetrate the weaknesses of the family members, guiding each toward a personalized, destructive objective. It is up to Brandon's teenaged sister Ruby to unravel the emerging clues and save her family from danger. "Once again this author finds menace in dailiness," the Publishers Weekly reviewer observed, and a Kirkus Reviews critic viewed the plot of The Tutor as "the familiar laced with lingering irony."

In End of Story, Abrahams "solidifies his reputation as one of the best contemporary thriller writers around," proclaimed a Publishers Weekly contributor. This novel takes readers to upstate New York as they follow protagonist Ivy Seidel. Trained as a writer but finding it difficult to find work, Ivy eventually gets a job at Dannemora Prison, teaching writing to inmates. When a poem by one of her incarcerated students professes innocence, Ivy decides to clear the man's name, her efforts recounted by Abrahams in what Booklist contributor Keir Graff described as "prose [that is] "cool and vivid, [and] keeps the focus … on the story."

A sculptor with only months to live is the focus of Nerve Damage. Here Abrahams' "succinct prose" conveys the mystery surrounding the untimely death of the ill man's wife's in a helicopter accident, using "more than enough substance … to keep readers … engrossed," according to Booklist critic Thomas Gaughan. In another thriller, Delusion, a tropical storm leaves in its wake a formerly hidden videotape that sheds new light on the murder of Nell Jarreau's boyfriend twenty years before. Now married to the chief of police, Nell is haunted by the crime and fascinated by the now-released convict, who she may have incorrectly identified as the murderer. In Booklist, Stephanie Zvirin praised the thriller's complex characters, concluding that in Delusion "readers catch a glimpse of how betrayal and loyalty can be equally deadly."

In Oblivion Abrahams moves into the detective genre. Private investigator Nick Petrov is trying to locate a missing teen, but the memory loss and mental confusion he experiences due to a cerebral hemorrhage slows and then halts his investigation. The challenges both in Nick's career and his personal life soon entwine in what New Yorker critic Joyce Carol Oates referred to as "a Dali landscape of baffling clues, memory lapses, and visual hallucinations." As Abrahams' story unwinds, the psychological fear associated with Nick's amnesia inspires fear: The fragmented clues available to him cause him to question his own integrity. Could he himself be a criminal—even a murderer? Oates called Oblivion "gratifyingly attentive to psychological detail, richly atmospheric, [and] layered in ambiguity."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Armchair Detective, spring, 1990, William J. Schafer, review of Pressure Drop, p. 238.

Booklist, August, 1992, Peter Robertson, review of Revolution Number 9, p. 1998; February 1, 1994, Wes Lukowsky, review of Lights Out, p. 996; January 15, 1995, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Fan, p. 868; July, 1998, Thomas Gaughan, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 1827; August, 1999, Karen Harris, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 2075; January 1, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of Crying Wolf, p. 833; March 1, 2006, Keir Graff, review of End of Story, p. 43; May 1, 2006, Connie Fletcher, review of Behind the Curtain, p. 47; February 15, 2007, Thomas Gaughan, review of Nerve Damage, p. 37; February 1, 2008, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Delusion, p. 5.

Boston Globe, February 22, 1988, interview by Kay Longcope.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2006, review of Behind the Curtain, p. 4.

Entertainment Weekly, April 21, 1995, Gene Lyons, review of The Fan, p. 49; March 15, 2007, Jennifer Reese, review of Nerve Damage, p. 72.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of The Tutor, p. 588; June 15, 2003, review of Their Wildest Dreams, p. 817; December 15, 2004, review of Oblivion, p. 1151; February 15, 2006, review of End of Story, p. 143; April 1, 2006, review of Behind the Curtain, p. 341; August 1, 2007, review of 666; February 15, 2008, review of Delusion; March 1, 2008, review of Into the Dark.

Kliatt, March, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Down the Rabbit Hole; May, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Behind the Curtain, p. 4; March, 2008, Claire Rosser, review of Into the Dark, p. 6.

Library Journal, August, 1980, Samuel Simons, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, p. 1655; April 15, 1982, review of Tongues of Fire, p. 823; December, 1987, A.M.B. Amantia, review of Hard Rain, p. 126; May 1, 1991, review of Turning the Tide: One Man against the Medellin Cartel, p. 89; July, 1992, Michele Leber, review of Revolution _9, p. 119; February 1, 1994, Dan Bogey, review of Lights Out, p. 109; February 1, 1995, Marylaine Block, review of The Fan, p. 97; August, 1998, Karen Anderson, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 128; December, 1998, Danna Bell-Russel, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 173.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 27, 1982, Raymond Mungo, review of Tongues of Fire, p. 10; January 17, 1988, Charles Champlin, review of Hard Rain, p. 10.

New Republic, September 9, 1996, Stanley Kauffmann, review of The Fan, p. 37.

New York, July 5, 1982, Rhoda Koenig, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, p. 103.

New Yorker, April 4, 2005, Joyce Carol Oates, review of Oblivion, p. 94; April 2, 2007, review of Nerve Damage, p. 79.

New York Times Book Review, February 21, 1988, William J. Harding, review of Hard Rain, p. 20; October 11, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 28.

Publishers Weekly, June 27, 1980, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, p. 79; April 9, 1982, Barbara A. Bannon, review of Tongues of Fire, p. 43; November 6, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of Hard Rain, p. 58; September 29, 1989, review of Pressure Drop, p. 60; April 19, 1991, review of Turning the Tide, p. 54; June 1, 1992, review of Revolution Number 9, p. 50; January 10, 1994, Sybil Steinberg, review of Lights Out, pp. 43-44; January 23, 1995, review of The Fan, pp. 58-59; July 20, 1998, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 206; January 10, 2000, review of Crying Wolf, p. 42; July 1, 2002, review of The Tutor, p. 55; August 4, 2003, review of Their Wildest Dreams, p. 56; April 4, 2005, review of Down the Rabbit Hole, p. 60; February 27, 2006, review of End of Story, p. 34; January 15, 2007, review of Nerve Damage, p. 32; February 18, 2008, review of Delusion, p. 136.

Quill and Quire, February, 1990, Paul Stuewe, review of Pressure Drop, p. 27.

School Library Journal, May, 2005, Susan W. Hunter, review of Down the Rabbit Hole, p. 120; April, 2006, Denise Moore, review of Behind the Curtain, p. 133; March, 2008, Sheila Fiscus, review of Into the Dark, p. 193.

Spectator, January 30, 1982, Harriet Waugh, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, pp. 22-23.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 2, 1992, Richard Martins, review of Revolution Number 9, p. 5.

West Coast Review of Books, July, 1982, review of Tongues of Fire, p. 33.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 2005, Cyndi Gueswel, review of Down the Rabbit Hole, p. 124; April, 2006, Barbara Johnston, review of Behind the Curtain, p. 37.

ONLINE

HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (October 15, 2008), "Peter Abrahams."

Peter Abrahams Home Page,http://www.peterabrahams.com (October 15, 2008).

WritersBreak Web site,http://www.writersbreak.com/ (October 15, 2008), Jennifer Minar, interview with Abrahams.

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Abrahams, Peter 1919–

Peter Abrahams 1919

Author

From Slums to Shakespeare

Began Writing South African Novels in England

Resettled in Jamaica and Resumed Journalism

Selected writings

Sources

With the publication of his seminal novel Mine Boy in 1946, Peter Abrahams became the first author to bring the horrific reality of South Africas apartheid system of racial discrimination to international attention. Published two years before Alan Patons acclaimed Cry, The Beloved Country, which also exposed the tragedy of apartheid, Mine Boy was also significant because it made Abrahams one of the first black South African authors to become financially successful. With over a dozen books and countless newspaper and magazine articles published, Abrahams has since become established as an authority on the problems of race not only in South Africa, but in the world. Throughout his career he has consciously made the decision to present a non-white, non-Western view of the world. He did this, as he explained in his 1954 autobiography Tell Freedom, not as protest or criticism, but as part of the ongoing search for balance in the desire to assert [the non-Westerners] place in tomorrows world.

From Slums to Shakespeare

Peter Henry Abrahams was born on March 19, 1919, in Vrededorp, near Johannesburg, South Africa, the son of a black African father and a mixed French/African mother. This mulatto background made Abrahams coloured according to racial divisions in South Africa. Though at the time of his birth, apartheid was nearly 30 years away from being institutionalized, racial discrimination was endemic and, as coloured, Abrahams was considered just barely above the lowest class, Bantu or black. His father, Peter Henry Abrahams Deras, had migrated to South Africa from Ethiopia and died when Abrahams was just a boy. His death sent the familyalready on the brink of povertyeven deeper into destitution. Abrahams mother, Angelina DuPlessis, struggled with poor health and was often unable to work. As a result Abrahams, along with elder siblings Harry and Maggie, was shuffled between the households of extended family members in the slums surrounding Johannesburg.

In order to pay his way into school Abrahams began to work odd jobs at a very young age, including stints as a tinsmiths helper, a kitchen worker, and a dishwasher. When he finally began school at the age of nine, he waslike most children in the slumsilliterate. However, Abrahams quickly learned how to read and made

At a Glance

Born on March 19, 1919, in Vrededorp, South Africa, near Johannesburg; son of James Henry Abrahams Deras and Angelina DuPlessis; married Dorothy Pennington, 1942 (divorced, 1948); married Daphne Elizabeth Miller, June 1, 1948; children: Anne, Aron, Naomi. Education: Grace Dieu Diocesan College, Pietersburg, South Africa; St. Peters Secondary School, Johannesburg. Military Service: Merchant Marine, 1939-41.

Career: Daily Worker, London, England, contributor, 1941-52; novelist, 1942; The Observer, London, correspondent, 1952-54; New York Herald Tribune, correspondent, 1952-54; Radio Jamaica, radio journalist, 1957; West Indian Economist, Jamaica, journalist, 1958-62.

Memberships: International PEN; Society of Authors; Authors League; Radio Jamaica, chairman, 1978-80.

Address: Home Red Hills, St. Andrew, Jamaica, West Indies.

up for lost time by immersing himself in English classics such as the Romantic poets and Shakespeare, as well as any other book he could get his hands on. Books were a welcome refuge from the harshness of his daily life and he wanted more. As fate would have it, Abrahams soon landed a job at the Bantu Mens Social Centre. There he was introduced to the works of black American writers and thinkers such as Langston Hughes and W. E. B. Du Bois.

Deeply inspired by the world of literature, Abrahams began writing short stories at the age of 11. His literary training expanded when he enrolled in Grace Dieu, a Diocesan school located near the northern city of Pietersburg. A religious training ground for would-be teachers, the school exposed Abrahams to the literary history of the ruling Afrikaner class. Impressed by the beauty of the language, Abrahams tried his hand at writing verse in Afrikaans. He was also strongly influenced by the literary aspects of the Bible. Elements of this religious influence can be seen in some of his earliest novels.

Abrahams left Grace Dieu after two years and returned to Johannesburg where he enrolled at St. Peters Secondary School. A well-regarded school for nonwhites, St. Peters was home to a number of progressive thinkers actively seeking ways to deal with the oppression of racism. Abrahams was particularly impressed by the Marxists; some of his earlier works were decidedly Marxist in tone. While a student at both Grace Dieu and St. Peters, Abrahams published several stories and poems. According to Michael Wade, a scholar of Abrahams work, writing in the Southern African Review of Books, these works made their impact on the tiny community of black writers in the late 1930s. Whites noticed his talent too and in 1938 a British newspaper featured an article about Abrahams, calling him the Coloured Boy Poet.

Meanwhile, Abrahams had left school early in a fruitless attempt to find work as a journalist. Marxist papers found him too conservative, black papers found him too radical, and white papers simply would not hire a non-white. Unable to find writing work and with racial tension in South Africa reaching a boiling point, Abrahams decided it was time to leave. I had to escape or slip into that negative destructiveness that is the offspring of bitterness and frustration, he wrote in his 1953 book Return to Goli.

Began Writing South African Novels in England

In 1939 Abrahams took a job on a merchant marine ship and spent two years at sea before finally disembarking in England. He never returned to live in South Africa. In England he became a regular contributor to the Daily Worker, a Communist paper, and married his first wife, Dorothy Pennington. He soon began pursuing writing with a vengeance. He was determined to reveal to the outside world the harrowing consequences of the racial divisions that marred the South African social and political landscape. Not only was he concerned with how governmental policies oppressed non-whites, but also how non-whites often wittingly became part of the problem, drawing divisions amongst themselves and retreating into violence.

Three of his earliest works illustrated this duality: 1942s short story collection Dark Testament, 1945s novel Song of the City, and 1946s Mine Boy. The latter, described by Black Issues Book Review as a prophetic and revealing novel in which his portrayal of South African racism predated the formal declaration of apartheid, was the first literary work to address the dehumanizing effects of the South African racial system. The book established Abrahams as an international literary force and went onto become a classic.

With its publication, Abrahams was also making a political statement. South African coloureds often held themselves apart from Bantus, effectively reinforcing the racial divisions imposed by the Afrikaner government. With Mine Boy as well as his subsequent workAbrahams sided with his black countrymen and declared the fight against racism to be something that all non-whites should take part in. As Abrahams literary career took off, his first marriage floundered and he divorced in 1948. However, in June of that same year he married artist Daphne Elizabeth Miller, whom he later credited as the love of his life in his 2000 book, The Black Experience in the Twentieth Century. The couple would have three children together.

Abrahamss next novel, The Path of Thunder, explored interracial love in South Africa and was published in 1948, the year that apartheid was adopted as law in South Africa. Wild Conquest, a historical novel which rethought the role of South Africas black ethnic groups in the development of modern South Africa was published in 1950. In 1952 Abrahams returned to South Africa and Kenya as a newspaper correspondent for Londons Observer and the New York Herald Tribune. From his travels grew 1953s Return to Goli, a powerful commentary on race relations. This was followed by his 1954 autobiography Tell Freedom which covered the first 20 years of his life. His next novel, A Wreath for Udomo, was published in 1956 just as African independence from European colonial rule was getting underway. It was a fictionalized examination of the difficulties African governments would encounter as they had to choose between the financial benefits of establishing ties with apartheid South Africa versus the sacrificing of those benefits by supporting black liberation movements. It presented a very pessimistic outlook for post-colonial Africa that in many instances sadly proved to be prophetic.

Resettled in Jamaica and Resumed Journalism

In 1955 Abrahams was hired to write a book about Jamaica for the British government for its Corona Library series. During the course of researching the book1957s Jamaica: An Island Mosaic Abrahams fell in love with the country and in 1956 he and his family relocated there. The land is glorious, the people, at their best (and we were fortunate to have known some of the best) without peer: open, warmhearted, imaginative, and with great generosity of spirit, he told the World and I. He soon became interested in Jamaican politics and began working as a news commentator for Radio Jamaica. From 1958 to 1962 he also held the post of editor of the Jamaica-based West Indian Economist. In the late 1970s he was chairman for Radio Jamaica and helped restructure the business to become more profitable.

However, he continued to write. In 1965 he published A Night of Their Own, described by Wade as a response to the crushing defeat inflicted on the South African liberation movement. This was followed by Abrahams first novel not based in South Africa, 1966s This Island Now. In it, Abrahams explores the role of history and race in the politics of a fictional Caribbean island, presenting a very dismal forecast for the future of Caribbean nations. Following its publication, Abrahams did not produce another novel for 19 years. However, as Wade noted, Abrahams was far from idle. Actually, there were plenty of rumblings on the non-leviathan scale: gifted travel journalism, political writing in the Jamaican press, radio work, intense and politicized involvement in Jamaican cultural life. Books and articles were written about him and his work, but not a novel did he produce.

Abrahams returned to the literary forefront with his 1985 historical novel The View from Coyaba, which follows four generations of a Jamaican family and the ongoing struggle for black autonomy. Wade noted that with this novel, [Abrahams aim was] nothing less than the reinscription of the history of black folk. He reviews the entire history of the relationship between whites and blacks in the old and new worlds from the beginnings of black slavery. Though it was well-received by critics, some dismissed it as more a political treatise than a novel. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Abrahams once again turned his attention to political commentary, journalism, and travel writing. As he explained to the World and I, he had no regrets about this shifting of focus from fiction to journalism. The African (and the Jamaican) in me placed and places a high premium on family. Family needs regular and sustained and stable social and economic support. Journalism was the most flexible and compatible of all second occupations for a writer; so, apart from time, there was no conflict, no real frustration. And I was fortunate to go into a socially useful branch of journalism. I enjoyed doing both and saw my family fed, housed, schooled.

Abrahamss next major foray into literature was The Black Experience in the Twentieth Century: An Autobiography and Meditation published in 2000. Despite the ambitious title, the novel is a final installment in Abrahams autobiographical series. Calling it a literary, political, and historical autobiography, Research in African Literatures described it as an enthralling and fascinating book that aptly captures the authors literary odyssey and vision of the world. The review continued, Abrahams autobiography is a moving farewell from a man who has lived and has much to impart. His commitment to truth and the telling of freedom has not been easy, but he dared to hope, write, and speak.

Selected writings

Dark Testament, Allen & Unwin, 1942; Kraus Reprint, 1970.

Song of the City, Dorothy Crisp, 1945.

Mine Boy, Dorothy Crisp, 1946; Knopf, 1955; Collier Books, 1970.

The Path of Thunder, Harper, 1948; Chatham Bookseller, 1975.

Wild Conquest, Harper, 1950; Anchor Books, 1970.

Return to Goli, Faber & Faber, 1953.

Tell Freedom, Knopf, 1954; Knopf, 1969; Macmillan, 1970.

A Wreath for Udomo, Knopf, 1956; Collier Books, 1971.

A Night of Their Own, Knopf, 1965.

This Island Now, Faber, 1966; Knopf, 1967; revised edition, Faber & Faber, 1985.

The View from Coyaba, Faber & Faber, 1985.

The Black Experience in the Twentieth Century: An Autobiography and Meditation, Indiana University Press, 2000.

Sources

Periodicals

Black Issues Book Review, May 2001, p. 58.

Research in African Literatures, Fall 2002, p. 235.

World and I, March 2002, p. 260.

On-line

Peter Abrahams at 70, Southern African Review of Books, www.uni-ulm.de/rturrell/antho4html/Wade.html (March 23, 2003).

Candace LaBalle

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Abrahams, Peter 1947-

Abrahams, Peter 1947-

PERSONAL: Born 1947; married Diana Gray (a teacher), 1978; children: Seth, Ben, Lily, Rosie. Education: Williams College, B.A., 1968.

ADDRESSES: E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer. Worked as a spear fisher in the Bahamas, 1968-70; Canadian Broadcasting Co., Tor-onto, Ontario, Canada, producer.

AWARDS, HONORS: Edgar Allan Poe Award nominations, best novel of 1994, Mystery Writers of America, for Lights Outs, and 2007, for Down the Rabbit Hole; Agatha Award for best children/young adult fiction, 2006, for Down the Rabbit Hole.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Fury of Rachel Monette, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1980.

Tongues of Fire, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1982.

Hard Rain, Dutton (New York, NY), 1988.

Pressure Drop, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.

Revolution #9: A Thriller, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Lights Out, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1994.

The Fan, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1995.

A Perfect Crime, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Crying Wolf, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Last of the Dixie Heroes, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Tutor, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Their Wildest Dreams, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Oblivion, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.

End of Story, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.

Nerve Damage, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.

Delusion, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2008.

“ECHO FALLS MYSTERY” SERIES; YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Down the Rabbit Hole, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Behind the Curtain, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Into the Dark, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2008.

OTHER

Red Message, 1986.

(With Sidney D. Kirkpatrick) Turning the Tide: One Man against the Medellin Cartel (nonfiction), Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.

(With others) Up All Night: A Short Story Collection, introduction by Laura Geringer, Laura Geringer Books/HarperTeen (New York, NY), 2008.

ADAPTATIONS: The Fan was adapted for film by Frank Darabont and Phoef Sutton and released by TriStar in 1996.

SIDELIGHTS: Peter Abrahams is the author of many suspenseful novels that have become favorites with readers and critics alike. In an interview with Kay Long-cope of the Boston Globe, Abrahams explained: “They’re all sorts of thrillers, but defining them isn’t easy…. I think of them as novels but the suspense element plays a strong role. I like to lead my main character to something the reader will dread, then say, ‘Given characteristics of that particular character, that had to happen.’ I like a bit of humor, too. Generally, thrillers provide a humorless terrain.”

Abrahams’s early books often feature ordinary heroes and heroines, complicated plot twists, and political intrigue. His first, The Fury of Rachel Monette, follows the title character to Morocco, France, and Israel as she attempts to solve her husband’s murder, discover the secret of a 1942 German letter he left behind, and recover her young son, who has been kidnapped by a man posing as a rabbi. The Fury of Rachel Monette garnered praise from critics; a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that its “steadily sustained suspense and smooth writing keep the reader hooked,”and Spectator contributor Harriet Waugh called the book “well written, fast moving, constantly surprising and jolly exciting.”

An Israel connection also figures prominently in Tongues of Fire, Abrahams’s second novel. In it, Isaac Rehv, a former Israeli soldier, flees to the United States after his country is destroyed by Arab invaders. There, Rehv conspires to assassinate an Arab leader and attracts the attention of a zealous CIA agent who tails Rehv around the world, from Canada to Sudan and Mecca. Although some reviewers considered Tongues of Fire to be a bit implausible, many praised Abrahams’s skill nonetheless. Publishers Weekly reviewer Barbara A. Bannon termed the book “fast-paced and exciting,” while Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Raymond Mungo called it “a wickedly clever and intricate mystery.” According to a critic in the West Coast Review of Books, Abrahams’s “gripping prose can best be described as throat-grabbing.”

Abrahams’s third thriller to catch the attention of critics was Hard Rain, which conjures up the atmosphere of the late 1960s and takes its title from a Bob Dylan tune. In it, Jessie Shapiro is caught up in political intrigue as she searches for her ex-husband and young daughter, who have failed to return from a weekend trip. Defining events of the past, such as Woodstock and the Vietnam War, haunt the present as Jessie treks from Los Angeles to Vermont in search of clues. Writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Charles Champlin praised Hard Rain as a “top-rank adventure.” Publishers Weekly critic Sybil Steinberg called the book “an intricate, convincing thriller.” New York Times Book Review contributor William J. Harding was also enthusiastic, commenting that Hard Rain has the elements of “a good thriller”: “style, atmosphere and a surprising plot.”

Pressure Drop, Abrahams’s follow-up to Hard Rain, also generated approval from critics. According to Quill and Quire contributor Paul Stuewe, “The Fury of Rachel Monette and Hard Rain were competent thrillers, but Peter Abrahams’s latest novel breaks to the front ranks of this extremely crowded field.” In Pressure Drop, Abrahams sets up two seemingly unrelated plot lines that eventually collide. In one, suspicious and dangerous circumstances develop around Nina Kitchener, whose baby boy, conceived through artificial insemination, is kidnapped from the hospital shortly after birth. In the other, N.H. “Matt” Matthias investigates nagging questions surrounding a scuba-diving accident that took place at his resort in the Bahamas, uncovering a connection between the accident and Nina’s tragedy. Reviewing Pressure Drop in the Armchair Detective, William J. Schafer praised Abrahams’s writing as “highly literate, brisk, and graphic,” and his characterizations as “fresh and unclichéd.”

Flashbacks to 1960s Vietnam War protests provide a backdrop for Abrahams’s next novel, Revolution #9: A Thriller. The main character is Charlie Ochs, a Cape Cod lobster fisher who has been lying low since a campus protest bombing he was involved in accidentally killed a young boy. Ochs, who has spent nearly twenty years living underground, is finally tracked down by federal agents the night before his wedding. He is given an ultimatum: help the government find the bombing’s mastermind, Rebecca Klein, or serve time for his own role in the attack. According to Chicago Tribune Books contributor Richard Martins: “Charlie’s hunt through the past is an often painful but always gripping story. Abrahams weaves in and out of time and temperament with considerable skill.” Although finding Revolution #9 somewhat “uneven,” a Publishers Weekly reviewer nonetheless noted that “expert pacing and an intriguing plot hold the reader’s interest.”

Abrahams followed Revolution #9 with Lights Out, which received an Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for best novel of 1994. The book’s main character is Eddie Nye, who, despite his innocence, has spent fifteen years in prison on drug charges. He is not free long before he is again plunged into dangerous intrigue while investigating his frame-up. According to Publishers Weekly critic Sybil Steinberg, Abrahams “creates a fascinating and memorable character in Eddie Nye.” Steinberg further noted: “Consistently interesting and suspenseful, his thriller’s shocking outcome is revealed only on the very last page.” According to the author, Lights Out marked the beginning of a new phase in Abrahams’s work, where he began to expand beyond the limits of the genre.

In The Fan, Abrahams focuses on Gil Renard, a down-and-out traveling salesman, and Bobby Rayburn, an arrogant and successful baseball player who is riding out a batting slump. Renard, a baseball fanatic, has lost his job and wife and has slid into committing petty crimes. He becomes obsessed with Rayburn, managing to become the caretaker on the ballplayer’s estate while he plans to murder the star on the field. The Fan was a hit with critics; Booklist contributor Wes Lukowsky called it a “first-rate thriller,” and Library Journal reviewer Marylaine Block termed it an “excellent novel.” The Fan was filmed in 1996 by Tony Scott, starring Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes.

The thriller A Perfect Crime tells of Roger Culling-wood’s murderous plot against his wife. Though he is in a marriage that lacks depth and has been on unemployment for months, Roger’s idyllic perception of his life is not shattered until he learns that his wife, Francie, is romantically involved with a well-known local psychologist. Roger, an extremely intelligent person desperate to restore his enormous ego, engineers a “perfect” plan to kill his wife. He loses control of his plot after he enlists the help of a previously convicted murderer. Although a Publishers Weekly critic felt that Roger and his cohort were unrealistic characters who “lack dimension,” the critic noted that the other major characters were “well-drawn.” In contrast, Booklist contributor Thomas Gaughan uniformly praised Abrahams’ characterizations as well as complimenting the author’s “complex and compelling [plotting]” and almost flawless [dialogue].”Gaughan noted, however, that the “satisfying” novel has “a subtle sense of the mathematical certainty to the denouement.” “A Perfect Crime is fast-paced, tense, even witty as it careens to its bloody conclusion,” noted Karen Anderson in her Library Journal review.

The ethics of four young adults from various social classes are exposed and tested in actions and reactions associated with acquiring money and material goods. What will a middle-class kid from a small Colorado town do to pay for a prestigious university education in New England? Abrahams presents one scenario in Crying Wolf, “a suspense novel built around kidnapping, extortion and youthful stupidity,” related a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Nat, a high school valedictorian, uses his two thousand dollar essay contest winnings to help his mother cover the tuition for his freshman year at Inverness. When his mother loses her job, Nat must find another way to subsidize his education. He sets up a kidnapping plot with the help of Grace and Izzie, the wealthy twins Nat becomes involved with at Inverness. As Vanessa Bush indicated in Booklist, the trio’s plan is devised to be “a ‘victimless’ crime with one of [the twins] as the kidnapping subject, to get the money from an indifferent father.” The father prevents the kidnapping, however, and Freedy, a thief and suspected rapist from the “wrong side” of the college town, takes the trio’s kidnapping idea and adapts it, making a more dangerous plan. When Nat tries to expose Freedy’s plans, people think that he is just “crying wolf.”

The title character in The Tutor was likened by a Publishers Weekly contributor to the Alfred Hitchcock character Norman Bates of Psycho fame: an apparently ordinary and pleasant fellow who gradually emerges as a sinister threat to an entire family. Hired by the suburban Gardner family to prepare son Brandon for his Scholastic Aptitude Test, tutor Julian Sawyer manages to penetrate the weaknesses of the family members, guiding each toward a personalized, destructive objective. It is up to Brandon’s teenaged sister Ruby to unravel the emerging clues and save her family from danger. The Publishers Weekly reviewer observed: “Once again this author finds menace in dailiness.” A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called The Tutor a reflection of “the familiar laced with lingering irony.”

The novel Their Wildest Dreams features not one but several potential troublemakers and multiple storylines. Single mom Helen Larkin, who works as an exotic dancer, feels eerily uncomfortable about her employer’s “intentions.” Strip club patron and aspiring crime writer Nicholas Loeb is lured by an Internet literary critic across the line from imagination into the realm of true crime. Larkin’s teenage daughter develops a crush on a ranch hand and would-be bank robber at her father’s dude ranch. The unlikely cast of characters converges at a small Arizona border town, where all the plot lines come together. A reviewer of Their Wildest Dreams commented in Kirkus Reviews that Abrahams’s attention to minute detail and the flaws of his characters make them not only believable, but “engaging.” A Publishers Weekly contributor recommended the novel as a “wildly inventive, captivating caper” and a “bravura thrillfest.”

In the novel Oblivion the threat comes not only from Abrahams’s solid and believable characters, but from the foe within. Private detective Nick Petrov must try to locate a missing teenaged girl while in the throes of memory loss and mental confusion caused by a cerebral hemorrhage that puts a temporary halt to his investigation. Both challenges entwine Nick’s career and his personal life in what New Yorker critic Joyce Carol Oates referred to as “a Dali landscape of baffling clues, memory lapses, and visual hallucinations.” The tension of the investigation is increased by the psychological fear associated with Nick’s amnesia. He believes that following the course of his interrupted investigation backward to its roots may help him recover his memory. Instead, the fragmented clues available to him cause Nick to question his own integrity. Could he himself be a criminal—even a murderer? Oates found Oblivion to be, like Abrahams’s earlier novels, “gratifyingly attentive to psychological detail, richly atmospheric, layered in ambiguity.” She concluded that “Peter Abrahams’s strongest novels seem to suggest, despite their allegiance to [the thriller] genre, a fascination with something beyond mere form.”

Commenting on his books to Kay Longcope in the Boston Globe, Abrahams stated: “I’m interested in putting ordinary people into extraordinary situations, as Alfred Hitchcock did, rather than making James Bond-type superheroes and putting them in life and death situations. You can generate a lot more dread. I want to directly attack the imagination, to ensnare it. That’s the way a good book works for me.”

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Armchair Detective, spring, 1990, William J. Schafer, review of Pressure Drop, p. 238.

Booklist, August, 1992, Peter Robertson, review of Revolution #9: A Thriller, p. 1998; February 1, 1994, Wes Lukowsky, review of Lights Out, p. 996; January 15, 1995, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Fan, p. 868; July, 1998, Thomas Gaughan, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 1827; August, 1999, Karen Harris, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 2075; January 1, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of Crying Wolf, p. 833.

Boston Globe, February 22, 1988, interview by Kay Longcope.

Entertainment Weekly, April 21, 1995, Gene Lyons, review of The Fan, p. 49.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of The Tutor, p. 588; June 15, 2003, review of Their Wildest Dreams, p. 817; December 15, 2004, review of Oblivion, p. 1151.

Library Journal, August, 1980, Samuel Simons, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, p. 1655; April 15, 1982, review of Tongues of Fire, p. 823; December, 1987, A.M.B. Amantia, review of Hard Rain, p. 126; May 1, 1991, review of Turning the Tide: One Man against the Medellin Cartel, p. 89; July, 1992, Michele Leber, review of Revolution #9, p. 119; February 1, 1994, Dan Bogey, review of Lights Out, p. 109; February 1, 1995, Marylaine Block, review of The Fan, p. 97; August, 1998, Karen Anderson, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 128; December, 1998, Danna Bell-Russel, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 173.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 27, 1982, Raymond Mungo, review of Tongues of Fire, p. 10; January 17, 1988, Charles Champlin, review of Hard Rain, p. 10.

New Republic, September 9, 1996, Stanley Kauffmann, review of The Fan, p. 37.

New York, July 5, 1982, Rhoda Koenig, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, p. 103.

New Yorker, April 4, 2005, Joyce Carol Oates, review of Oblivion, p. 94.

New York Times Book Review, February 21, 1988, William J. Harding, review of Hard Rain, p. 20; October 11, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 28.

Penthouse, February, 1981, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, p. 48.

Playboy, June, 1991, Digby Diehl, review of Turning the Tide, p. 38.

Publishers Weekly, June 27, 1980, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, p. 79; April 9, 1982, Barbara A. Bannon, review of Tongues of Fire, p. 43; November 6, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of Hard Rain, p. 58; September 29, 1989, review of Pressure Drop, p. 60; April 19, 1991, review of Turning the Tide, p. 54; June 1, 1992, review of Revolution #9, p. 50; January 10, 1994, Sybil Steinberg, review of Lights Out, pp. 43-44; January 23, 1995, review of The Fan, pp. 58-59; July 3, 1995, p. 26; July 20, 1998, review of A Perfect Crime, p. 206; January 10, 2000, review of Crying Wolf, p. 42; July 1, 2002, review of The Tutor, p. 55; August 4, 2003, review of Their Wildest Dreams, p. 56; April 4, 2005, review of Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mystery, p. 60.

Quill and Quire, February, 1990, Paul Stuewe, review of Pressure Drop, p. 27.

School Library Journal, May, 2005, Susan W. Hunter, review of Down the Rabbit Hole, p. 120.

Spectator, January 30, 1982, Harriet Waugh, review of The Fury of Rachel Monette, pp. 22-23.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 2, 1992, Richard Martins, review of Revolution #9, p. 5.

West Coast Review of Books, July, 1982, review of Tongues of Fire, p. 33.

ONLINE

Peter Abrahams Home Page,http://www.peterabrahams.com (August 18, 2005).

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