After the Workshop by John McNally – Book Review

After the Workshop by John McNally
Published by CounterPoint

Have you ever wondered how authors get from the airport, to the hotel, to the bookstore in an unknown town when their publisher sends them on tour? In some cases, at least, they are sent with a media escort like Jack Hercules Sheahan. Sheahan is himself an aspiring author, having graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop some twenty years ago. Back then, Jack’s life was very promising, he even had a story published in the New Yorker. After graduating, he took a job as a media escort and subsequently failed to finish his novel or do really anything in publishing besides drive authors around Iowa. Suddenly, though, the failures in Sheahan’s life seem to be coming back to haunt him. He is trying to escort two authors in the same weekend when one of them disappears with her baby, causing her slightly crazy publicist to all but stalk Jack, while the other reminds Jack of all he despises yet somewhat wants to be as well. Just as he is confronting his professional failures, Sheahan’s personal failures – largely through the person of his ex-fiancee – reappear as well.

“After the Workshop” is a highly entertaining account of a side of publishing about which I had never before thought. Media escorts! It makes so much sense, but it really never occurred to me. It sounds like a really fun job, actually, until you start reading “After the Workshop.” Authors sending you on embarrassing errands, crazy people, authors who lord their success over you…makes me feel very lucky about the personalities of all of the authors I have met!

McNally’s book is very entertaining, I really enjoyed his wry humor. I wouldn’t hand this to every reader, though. There is a very ‘inside baseball‘ feel to the book, so that I would really recommend it more to people who are interested in the ins and outs of publishing and book marketing. If you are happy to just have books show up at your door or on the shelves of your local store, this book might not really interest you. If, however, you like hearing about the politics of publishing, the little details of getting books published and makingĀ  book tours work, you might very well really enjoy this book.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

John McNally’s website

Other Books by John McNally:
“Ghosts of Chicago”
“America’s Report Card”
“The Book of Ralph”
“The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide”
“Who Can Save us Now?” (coedited)
“When I Was a Loser”
“Bottom of the Ninth”
“Humor Me”
“The Student Body”
“High Infidelity”

This review was done with a book I purchased.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Hanging Tree by Bryan Gruley – Book Review

The Hanging Tree by Bryan Gruley
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Note: “The Hanging Tree” is a sequel to “Starvation Lake,” but stands alone quite well. This review does not knowingly contain any spoilers for “Starvation Lake.”

After a mishap at his job in Detroit, Gus Carpenter has returned to his childhood home, Starvation Lake, Michigan, where he became the Executive editor of the local paper. The only problem is that now, even as executive editor, Gus is no longer in charge of the paper. When his second cousin, Gracie McBride, is found dead of apparent suicide and Gus suspects her death is related to Laird Haskell, the man building Starvation Lake a new hockey rink. Gus isn’t winning any friends in Starvation Lake by poking into Haskell’s affairs and if he isn’t careful it may just lose him his job.

Gruley is a new-to-me author, and one I probably would not have read had it not been for the fact I got an unsolicited copy from the publisher and had he not been a Chicago author, but I am glad that circumstances conspired to get me to read this. What I found particularly special about “The Hanging Tree” was the media-slant on the story. As the Chicago bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, Gruley clearly knows media, and having Gus be a newspaper man when Gruley is one himself gives his character a ring of truth. In addition to making Gus a more realistic character, the angle of media made the story even mre interesting than I might have otherwise found it.

“The Hanging Tree” is good enough that even all the hockey talk – which I could really not care less about – did not negate my enjoyment. Definitely a series to take a look at if you are looking for a good mystery.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Bryan Gruley’s website

Other Books by Bryan Gruley:
“Starvation Lake”

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.