Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Mafia Story in Sound

I’m pleased to announce the debut of the audiobook edition of the critically acclaimed novella Saraceno by Djelloul Marbrook, narrated by the author. It’s available for download from Amazon, Audible, or iTunes. I had a good experience working with Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) for distribution. Recording was handled by Julie Last at Coldbrook Productions of Woodstock, NY, with some fine saxophone licks added by Peter Buettner.

A year ago, through my small publishing company, Bliss Plot Press, I launched the e-book version of Saraceno, which is available in all formats from Smashwords and other e-book retailers, or in Kindle format direct from Amazon. By year’s end, I’ll be announcing a trade paperback edition.

Saraceno has had a difficult history. Its original publisher folded before the book actually entered the market, but a few hardback copies continue to be traded on Amazon. It earned some laudatory reviews, excerpted here:

"Not just another run-of-the-mill Mafia novel." —Small Press Bookwatch

"Saraceno is an electric tone-poem straight from a world we only think we understand. An heir to George V. Higgins and David Mamet, Djelloul Marbrook writes dialogue that not only entertains with an intoxicating clickety-clack, but also packs a truth about low-life mob culture The Sopranos only hints at. You can practically smell the anisette and filling-station coffee."
—Dan Baum, author of Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death and Life in New Orleans (Spiegel & Grau, 2009)

"…a good ear for crackling dialogue… I love Marbrook’s crude, raw music of the streets. The notes are authentic and on target…" —Sam Coale, The Providence (RI) Journal

"Strongly recommended as a remarkably crafted tale." —Midwest Book Review

"This lyrical and violent, funny and sad, hot and cool novella haunts us. Try it.” —Ann LaFarge, Taconic Weekend

And what follows is my own original review of the book, from About Town, 2005.

A New Type of Mafia Story

In "Saraceno," Djelloul Marbrook has crafted an entirely new variety of gangster tale. The story of a Mafia hit man and his friend, the grandson of the godfather, as each searches for his own true path, this compact novella is also a glass through which we see its author. "Saraceno" is an unlikely artifact: a Mafia story sculpted with the most refined of sensibilities from the clay of high art and philosophy, and then thoroughly suffused with love. This love is, first, the mysterious affection of a creator for his creations, a compassion for flawed humanity that drives the best fiction and makes its consumption a healthy activity. Second, it is the love of the characters for one another, from which redemption finally comes.

In Marbrook's narrative, "Il Saraceno" is the secret nickname given to the handsome and deadly Billy Salviati by his Mafia master, connoting both menace and respect--the historical view of the Sicilians toward their one-time rulers, the Arabs. Billy's life changes, as do the lives of his few friends, when he meets an elderly Jewish woman and is introduced to a library of the best writing and a rooftop full of roses. In an economical, erudite voice powered by an awesome vocabulary, Marbrook weaves bright strands of alchemy, art, literature, and religion into a dark Hell's Kitchen fabric.

If you're an aficionado of the recent spate of gangster yarns masquerading as psychological explorations while glorifying brutality, "Saraceno" may leave your bloodlust unfulfilled. This is no "Sopranos," no "Goodfellas," no "Godfather Part X." A nasty beating or two are in full view, but the much bloodier doings we know to be the currency of that world stay off-screen. In the same way that Paul Auster used the "detective" persona in his "New York Trilogy" to create works of art that delve into mysteries far deeper than "whodunit," and as a result got slammed by fans of the genre, so "Saraceno" takes higher aim, and may not be appreciated by those who prefer their reading tightly pigeonholed.

Djelloul Marbrook is the kind of writer I take real pleasure in discovering: a Hudson Valley neighbor and a mature artist whose rich body of work is finally coming to light. Marbrook's poetry collection, Far From Algiers, was the 2007 winner of the Wick Poetry Prize. His second poetry collection, Brushstrokes & Glances, was published by Deerbrook Editions in 2010, and his novella Artemisia’s Wolf by Prakash Books in 2011. His blog is always insightful: see djelloulmarbrook.com.