If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Tyrus Books is one of the good guys. Ben’s dedication to rooting out fantastic stories and connecting them with readers is admirable. He understands that reading is neither a race nor a competition, but rather a journey that we’ll never, thankfully, complete.
And me? I’m a reader. I happen to also be lucky enough to promote books, and sometimes get to talk with authors about stories. I’m loyal to crime fiction as a rule, but lately I’ve stepped outside my reading comfort zone, and have found some truly exceptional books.
THE SAMARITAN has been called science fiction, but I don’t think that’s fair. It is, at its core, a story about growing up in America, about love, about friendship, and about our celebrity-infused culture. Hell, it’s even a bit about baseball. The lead character has a scifi-y ability—he can regenerate his body parts—but the story is not about this ability. I’m not a big fan of applying super precise labels to books, and this one is an excellent example of how a label can sometimes cause readers to miss a tale that could touch them deeply.
This was perhaps the most uncomfortable book I’ve read in years, mostly because it bears the soul of Dale Sampson, the aforementioned lead character, in stark relief.
Through the course of the story, Dale travels from small-town America to the bright lights of the City of Angels. He is constantly and painfully isolated, connecting with few people at all, and some only in his mind. We meet him in his teens, but make no mistake, this no High School Musical tale. If you object to curse words and/or bloody violence, this book isn’t for you. If, however, you’re not inclined to shy away from honesty, you’ll want to read this one more than once.
Ultimately, it is evangelism for this book that will incite its reading, rather than the jacket copy, which is why I’m here. I’ll admit that I was skeptical about THE SAMARTITAN—have I mentioned that I’m loyal to crime fiction in its many forms?—but that skepticism was replaced within a few pages by overwhelming curiosity and fascination.
THE SAMARITAN is published by Blank Slate Press, a new indie publisher based in St. Louis whose mission is strikingly similar to that of our beloved Tyrus Books. To wit: Blank Slate Press was founded in 2010 to discover, nurture, publish and promote emerging writers. Fred Venturini is a find; he has published numerous short stories, and this is his first novel. It reads like a first novel, but the nature of the story is such that this is a benefit. His voice could not be described as “polished,” but this tarnished story reminds us that we’re all more than a bit imperfect.
While I was reading THE SAMARITAN, I thought often of my 27 year-old stepson. Dale is younger, but his experiences gave me insight into some of the struggles, big and small, that we’ve had. Not in a “self-help, now-I-feel-all better” way, but rather in a manner that was decidedly uncomfortable. If you’re a parent, think of how you felt when you discovered your perfect child has real and potentially dangerous imperfections.
Business-wise, Blank Slate has a tough enough business road ahead, and I hope readers will support their mission and this book. If you’d like to tell me what you think of it, you can find me at erin-faye.com or on Twitter at @erinfaye.