Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Naming the Characters in The Captive Condition by Kevin P. Keating + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

The Captive Condition
Kevin P. Keating

From a thrilling new voice in fiction comes a chilling and deliciously dark novel about an idyllic Midwestern college town that turns out to be a panorama of depravity and a nexus of horror.

For years Normandy Falls has been haunted by its strange history and the aggrieved spirits said to roam its graveyards. Despite warnings, Edmund Campion is determined to pursue an advanced degree there. But Edmund soon learns he isn’t immune to the impersonal trappings of fate: his girlfriend, Morgan Fey, smashes his heart; his adviser, Professor Martin Kingsley, crushes him with frivolous assignments; and his dead-end job begins to take a toll on his physical and mental health. One night he stumbles upon the body of Emily Ryan, an unapologetic townie, drowned in her family pool. Was it suicide or murder? In the days that follow, Emily’s husband, Charlie, crippled by self-loathing and frozen with fear, attempts to flee his disastrous life and sends their twin daughters to stay with the Kingsleys. Possessed by an unnamed, preternatural power, the twins know that the professor seduced their mother and may have had a hand in her fate. With their piercing stares, the girls fill Martin with a remorse that he desperately tries to hide from his wife. Elsewhere, a low-level criminal named the Gonk takes over a remote cottage, complete with a burial ground and moonshine still, and devises plans for both. Xavier D’Avignon, the eccentric chef of a failing French restaurant, supplies customers with a hallucinogenic cocktail. And Colette Collins, an elderly local artist of the surreal, attends a retrospective of her work that is destined to set the whole town on fire.

Kevin P. Keating’s masterly novel delves into the deepest recesses of the human capacity for evil.

How I Came Up with Character Names in The Captive Condition

Edmund Campion, an aspiring young writer and the narrator of my new novel The Captive Condition, has just split up with his long-time girlfriend Morgan Fey, has dropped out of graduate school due to poor grades and, because he is penniless, has to find immediate employment before the rent is due. Eventually, he takes a position at the college’s Department of Plant Services where each of the incompetent, substance-abusing employees has an unusual nickname, “typically a reference to an undisclosed calamity that left its owner physically and psychologically scarred—Giraffeneck, Cockburn, Mudflap, Jittery, Frosty, Monkey, Leper, Sliver—and though Edmund isn’t entirely certain about the legitimacy of some—Peter, Skip, Ralph, Randy—he can guess the truth about most, and in a vaguely masochistic way he hopes to earn his own nickname, one that like Molière, Voltaire, Twain, Orwell can serve as a clever and timeless nom de plume if he ever manages to finish his novel- in-progress.”

The name Edmund Campion, as some readers will of course know, is an allusion to the infamous Jesuit martyr who proselytized in Elizabethan England. He was eventually captured by “priest hunters,” convicted of high treason, imprisoned, tortured, and then publicly drawn and quartered. In The Captive Condition Edmund is a Jesuit educated preppy who plays a small but significant role in my first novel The Natural Order of Things (Vintage Contemporaries). In that book Edmund tries, unsuccessfully, to get his short stories published in the school’s literary magazine The Millstone. After receiving one rejection after another from the sadistic and monomaniacal editor, Edmund, desperate for recognition, decides he might have better luck if he submits his work under a nom de plume. Borrowing a trick from his favorite author Vladimir Nabokov, he creates a number of preposterous pen names—Pink E. Vintage, Kit Van Peeking, Kate E. Kingpin, all of them anagrams of Kevin P. Keating.

At the beginning of The Captive Condition, Edmund meets with the headmaster of the Jesuit school to discuss his plans to attend Normandy College in the fall. The headmaster’s name is James Rhodes Montague, a sly sendup of Montague Rhodes James, the British antiquarian and ghost story writer. The name is significant because, at least in the prologue, I satirize all of those old horror story clichés that James deplored—restless spirits roaming a graveyard late at night, an abandoned house in a haunted valley, the ruins of a laboratory that once belonged to a mad In The Captive Condition the mad scientist in question is Nathaniel Wakefield, a reference to author Nathaniel Hawthorne and his short story “Wakefield.” Hawthorne’s tale concerns a seemingly happy married man who one day and without explanation “disappears” from home, leaving behind his wife and children. In point of fact Mr. Wakefield has rented a small apartment across the street from his house and for many years observes his wife’s comings and goings. Is this some kind of strange moral allegory? The narrator, while occasionally intrusive, never gives the reader any indication what this tale might mean.

The perennial theme of the wayward husband who exhibits weird behavior is used again by Dashiell Hammett in his novel The Maltese Falcon in a chapter sometimes known as the “Flitcraft Parable.” Hammett writes:
Flitcraft was a real-estate agent in Tacoma, Washington. He had a comfortable life: a wife, children, a good income, money in the bank, regular four-o’clock golf outings. Then one day he disappeared. He just walked out of his office and never came back. He went like that … like a fist when you open your hand. What had happened that day in Tacoma was simple. On his way to get lunch Flitcraft narrowly avoided being killed by a beam falling from a nearby unfinished building. Having lived a life of order and responsibility, he now realized that none of it mattered and that life could end at any moment. It was like someone lifted the lid on life and let him take a look at the works. He adjusted to his new knowledge by leaving that afternoon. Years later, he took a new job in Spokane, Washington under the name Charles Pierce.
In The Captive Condition I reference this story, describing how Edmund Campion finally finds success, modest though it may be, by having his fiction published in a small literary journal “edited by Charles Pierce Flitcraft, a reclusive curmudgeon who’d garnered moderate fame for his hardboiled detective stories that, as they progressed, became devious little exercises in metafiction and intertexuality.”

In order to enjoy The Captive Condition, readers need not have any knowledge of these historical figures or literary allusion. I include them simply because, as David Foster Wallace once said in a conversation with Fresh Air host Terry Gross, “We are the most grotesquely overeducated generation in history,” and I recognize that many of today’s readers, with their master’s degrees in English and comparative literature, might enjoy reading a novel that works on multiple levels. Some may get a chuckle from my nods to Kingsley and Martin Amis, Christopher Hitchens, John Keats, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Homer, Ted Hughes, William Shakespeare, Peter Straub, and dozens of others. It’s just my way of turning an otherwise traditional narrative into an interactive literary game.

About the Author

After working as a boilermaker in the steel mills in Ohio, Kevin P. Keating became a professor of English and began teaching at Baldwin Wallace University, Cleveland State University, and Lorain County Community College. His essays and stories have appeared in more than fifty literary journals, and his first novel, The Natural Order of Things, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. His second novel, The Captive Condition, was released by Pantheon Books in July 2015. He lives in Cleveland.


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Captive Condition—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
If you were guaranteed the correct answer to any one question (about yourself, the future, the TRUTH, science... anything!), what would you ask?
This is something I have a hard time answering, myself! I would ask: "What's the best solution for preventing war since nothing we have tried in the past has ever worked?", kind of a more complicated spin on how to achieve world peace.

Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Kevin and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at TLC Book Tours and Pantheon Books!
Giveaway ends November 11th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!