Jim's Author Page

I have completed three novels and compiled a number of my short stories. The genre for all is generally Literary Fiction, but within that genre there is a great deal of diversity. Below please find their brief summaries and descriptions.

EULOGY is the story of a successful young lawyer whose snug post-Recession world begins to unravel after he agrees to euthanize his estranged, terminally ill mother. ~93,000 words.

AUTO-DA-FÉ is the story of a naive Appalachian farm boy who, upon his return from Vietnam, falls prey to an extremist group intent on fomenting a revolution in the anticipated chaos leading up to Y2K. ~88,000 words.

THE FAILED FESTIVAL is a contemporary story about a web designer/coder and his tightly knit group of millennials who are forced to confront a harsh reality when the luxe Caribbean festival they attend falls into chaos. ~73,000 words.

FLOW: STORIES is a collection of twelve (possibly thirteen) diverse stories. ~75,000 words.
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EULOGY: Thirty-something Manhattan lawyer Josh Bethune has come a long way. He left his meager Southern roots behind when he married Nina Chilton, the beautiful but scarred daughter of his formidable mentor, a decade ago. And he has never looked back. Spanning the one hundred fitful hours between Josh’s ill-advised euthanasia of his mother and her cathartic funeral at a rural North Carolina graveyard, the narrative follows Josh up and down the East Coast as he attempts to come up with something good to say about the woman he has spent his adult life trying to forget. As he dredges up the ghosts of a painful past, powerful subterranean emotions threaten to overwhelm him at every turn—even as he struggles to repair a perplexing rift in his marriage, deals with an unanticipated set of crises at work, and frets about whether his actions might lead to his arrest when he shows up again in his hometown.

EULOGY is about the hard choices a man is forced to make when confronted with his own mortality, the death of love, and the potential failure of his dreams. It is about having to imagine a way forward free from the pulls and ultimate inadequacies of both traditional masculine identity and a modern world abounding with strong, independent women.

It is my first and therefore my most personal novel.

[Think Joshua Ferris's TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR meets Anna Quindlen's ONE TRUE THING.]
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AUTO-DA-FÉ traces a simple man's descent into a violent underworld from which there may be no safe passage. After his traumatic experience in Vietnam, Johnny Elam desires nothing more than to be free to pursue a 'normal' life like his father before him as an independent waste hauler and itinerant bootlegger on his ancestral farm in the North Carolina mountains. But his life with his family—and a former lover he finds himself no longer capable of loving—is disrupted forever when he reconnects with a former Army comrade who led a brigade of lawless jungle marauders and now heads up the security services for a charismatic tent revivalist. The ministry is a front for a radical, white supremacist militia, and over the years these two powerful figures seduce Elam deeper into their murderous cause—first as a courier for the organization's weapons, drugs, and money; later as an assassin; and finally as a suicide bomber. As Elam slowly discovers a cynical secret behind the men's schemes, he must confront the emotional vulnerabilities that led to his complicity and at the same time re-discover the elemental human decency that will bring him to the one last devastating, redemptive 'act of faith' from which the book derives its title.

Southern Gothic-flavored Americana gets no grittier than AUTO-DA-FÉ's urgent examination of the underbelly of violent anti-government nativism. At the same time that it tackles this edgy topic, the novel also pushes the formal boundaries between literary and historical fiction and thriller—drawing on actual events from the last half of the 20th Century. Timely and relevant yet at the same time embodying universal human themes, AUTO-DA-FÉ is at once a novel of betrayal and revenge, a story of doomed love, and an existentialist meditation.

It is at once a regional piece—Southern Gothic, if you will—as well as a social novel.

[Think CHERRY by Nico Walker, except darker and with a Southern accent. I like to think of Elam as the underground or anti-Gump.]
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THE FAILED FESTIVAL is as current as today's headlines. Call it a contemporary comedy of manners or a social satire.

The world feels like it's crumbling around our unnamed trust-funder: the infrastructure of his city is collapsing; his brilliant, wealthy father is demented and dying; and his mother, a frustrated artist, is depressed and lonely after her online identity is stolen. After the sudden death of Justin, his mentor and closest collaborator, he decides to impersonate Justin on a couple of projects for his friend's remote electronic clients: the first, creating a website and a proprietary cryptocurrency for something called The Big Bang Festival; the second, developing a smart phone surveillance app for a shadowy private security agency. Along the way he is drugged, interrogated, and coerced into beta-testing the code for the spyware project. And when the promoter of the festival proves to be a fraud, he and his friends find themselves stranded on a salt mining island in the Bahamas. As he's secretly surveilling the distressed, zoned out partiers, reality—in the form of a boat lift of Haitian refugees fleeing the after-effects of a devastating hurricane—intervenes, an event that will change him forever.

Though the fabric of TFF is interwoven with themes of identity theft and high-tech surveillance, gender transitioning and twincest and thruples, dementia and genius, art theory and religion, speculative cosmology and evolution, the hype industries and ancient Greek satyr plays, Occupy and Antifa vs. neo-Nazi street clashes, and undocumented DREAMERS and climate migration, its message is ultimately about the enduring human importance of friendship.

THE FAILED FESTIVAL is an emotionally, intellectually, and formally adventurous literary novel in the mold of such recent works as Ben Lerner's 10:04 and Tom McCarthy's SATIN ISLAND. While closely observing the day-to-day anxieties and foibles of its crew of millennials, like all good (dark) comedy it also confronts larger philosophical questions of identity and authenticity, truth and representation, and humanism and the transhumanist digital future—all in the face of singular cosmic indifference.

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FLOW: STORIES is divided into four parts each having a separate style and theme.

Part I: Flow contains three literary short stories: a pastoral coming-of-age tale (the sixteenth chapter of EULOGY); a story about a demented lawyer, his fading rockstar son, and his aspiring skateboarder grandson who fail to connect across the generations; and an account of a dysfunctional family's final implosion.

Part II: I'm Only Dancing has four experimental tales involving a self-harming college student, an eccentric sculptor who earns his living stenciling gravestones, a newly-minted billionaire who attends a Gatsby-style party, and a couple enjoying a quiet dinner together but whose thoughts are elsewhere.

Part III: Hostiles consists of two war narratives: my published story "Harley in Beni" and the novella-length Vietnam narrative that makes up Chapter Two of AUTO-DA-FÉ.

Part IV: Consciousness Does Not Perdure comprises three speculative fictions: a magical realist tale about a child pageant participant who develops a surreal disfigurement; a Reality TV show cryptozoologist who uses occult means to track down his surprising prey; and a Nobel scientist from the future who seeks to live forever but, like Moses, can only see the promised land from afar.

[NB: I'm considering whether to include the first chapter of THE FAILED FESTIVAL in Part II where it would fit quite nicely.]

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I studied Literature, Classics, and Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have a graduate degree in Philosophy as well, with a focus on aesthetics of fiction. After law school, I practiced at a major firm in Manhattan before moving to Atlanta to father and write full-time.