Posts Tagged ‘Derek Nikitas’

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Author Interview: Derek Nikitas

January 25, 2010

Derek Nikitas is the author of two novels: Pyres, nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and The Long Division, which was released last fall to extraordinary reviews. Marilyn Stasio said in the New York Times that Nikitas’ second novel “bumps up the style requirements for writing crime fiction another notch.” Oline H. Cogdill wrote in the Florida Sun-Sentinel that “Derek Nikitas proves that he doesn’t write conventional crime fiction; nor does he write conventionally.” And a stellar review in the Washington Post began with these lines: “Here is a book to scorch the heart and freeze the blood. Here is a story that leaves the reader gasping in shock and sadness, dry-mouthed and damp-eyed, dragging in air as the final chapters detonate. Here, in abundance, is live-wire language pumping beauty, desire and violence like electric currents; here are characters so exquisitely textured, the pages nearly shudder with their breath.”

I’ve been unfortunately slow to come around to Nikitas’ work — despite a recommendation several months back from Wendy Brenner, one of Nikitas’ former professors in the MFA program at UNC-Wilmington. But after those reviews, I was doubly eager to delve into The Long Division, and now after reading it, I can only add my own praise to what’s already come before. The book is a marvel — relentless and rich with emotion. A young housecleaner steals cash from a client in Atlanta and sets out on the road in search the son she gave up for adoption; that son is eager to hit the road himself, struggling with his sexuality and his sense of place and looking for something other, something more. A college student in western New York takes a ride himself — with an old friend, in this case in search of the friend’s sister — but this ride is shorter, brutal and ugly. The bloodbath that’s left in the wake of that ride brings in another character, a sheriff’s deputy whose involvement in the case is more complex than people know and who’s trying to balance trouble in his own family: his wife’s fatal illness, an impending sense of loss.

I had the good fortune of chatting with Nikitas about The Long Division in a recent email conversation. I’m glad to share that here.

Art Taylor: The Long Division starts off in some pretty dark places — and then things just get more complicated, more bleak, from there. Do the various plotlines emerge from the idea that good drama requires trouble and turmoil — take a character, add conflict and lots of it — or do the events of the novel ultimately represent a darker worldview overall?

Derek Nikitas

Derek Nikitas: I believe good story is conflict — internal and external — from the first sentence to the last. Not much pausing to watch the sunrise. This may account, perhaps, for some readers’ sense of relentlessness in my storytelling. But I should also concede that my worldview is pretty pessimistic, and, unfortunately, writing fiction is a great occasion for thinking too much. I indulged my maudlin nature full-on in The Long Division, but I’m leery of doing it again, if only because bleakness is rather alienating to readers. I’ve yet to find the balance between telling the truth and providing a satisfying, cathartic read. I hope to, but maybe it’s hopeless.
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NYT Praises UNC-W Grad’s Second Thriller

November 13, 2009

Marilyn Stasio’s latest crime column gives high marks to The Long Division, the second novel from UNC-Wilmington graduate Derek Nikitas. “Nikitas bumps up the style requirements for writing crime fiction another notch,” says Stasio, who also notes the novel’s “dazzling plot maneuvers.” Nice praise, to say the least. The full review is at the end of the article here. Nikitas already stopped by Pomegranate Books in Wilmington right after the book’s publication in October, so no N.C. events on the schedule right now. I’ll keep my N.C. readers updated if more events develop.

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