Monday, February 25, 2013

The Eskimo Hunts in New York

The Eskimo Hunts in New York
Author: Stefan Kanfer
Publication Date: January 4, 2013
Publisher: StoneThread Publishing
ISBN-13: 9781301975594

Jordan Gulok is an Inuit, an Eskimo in common parlance, and a former Navy SEAL. In his freelance capacity he can do things—like tracking and on occasion killing malefactors—that are beyond the authority of the uniformed services. Jordan has an expense account and liberty to travel throughout the U.S. In turn, the U.S. government has plausible deniability should he ever get caught stretching or violating the law.

In THE ESKIMO HUNTS IN NEW YORK, Jordan’s assignment involves stopping a lethal international group who’s manufacturing illegal and sometimes toxic pharmaceuticals and selling them to victims in Africa, Asia, Europe and America. In one of the worst blizzards in the City’s history, subways, buses and taxis become useless. Even fire trucks and police cars are rendered immobile. But for Jordan cold weather is only a minor obstacle; after all, he grew up hunting polar bear and reindeer on ice and snow.

His targets are managing a multi-billion dollar business that has killed thousands, and they soon become aware of him as their Enemy Number One. The idea of a lone man bringing down their organization is unthinkable. In previous cases, Jordan always acted alone, but as the cartel closes in on him, he turns to Rose Ho, a possible love interest and operative in a regional office of the Department of the Navy.

Rose has great connections—for example, her wealthy father is the unofficial mayor of Chinatown—but are all her connections among the good guys? Can she provide the help he needs, or is she trouble in a green silk skirt?

Idgie Says:
This may sound odd, but Jordan reminds me a bit of Repairman Jack, without any of the paranormal stuff following him around.  A guy who keeps to himself and handles really rough situations, but doesn't come across as the steely eyed, hard assed James Bond type.  He's just a guy hanging around in the background, getting all of the intel and drinking up the scenes.  The difference, of course, is that an Eskimo does rather stand out at times.

He is tough though.  The very first chapter he literally allows himself to get beaten into unconciousness in a bathroom - simply to get himself on the radar, bring him to the attention of the bad guys.

There's some nice background history running through the book - the desperation Jordan feels to escape his small tundra town, to get away from the life he was living, to make something else for himself and not just be another seal hunter for the rest of his life.  The backstory is good and really makes the character.

Read an excerpt from the book HERE.

Q & A with Stefan Kanfer:

Q: Your previous books were with such traditional publishers as Knopf, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Farrar Straus & Giroux, Doubleday. Why did you decide to choose an untraditional online publisher for your new book?I’ve always preferred to stay a little ahead of the curve. When my colleagues were still using Royals and Underwoods, I switched to computers—this was made easy because Time magazine, where I worked as a writer and editor, was experimenting with a main frame setup. When everybody got on that, I bought a PC and learned a new computer language. And then another. And another after that.

Then I got a laptop, and an iPod and iPad when they debuted.

I could see changes coming to retail when I signed onto Amazon years ago. And I could see hidebound, clothbound publishers absolutely nonplussed by the changes wrought by Kindle and the iPad. The fact that my last book, TOUGH WITHOUT A GUN, a biography of Humphrey Bogart, landed on the New York Times bestseller list didn’t deter me from trying something new yet again.

Besides, I had written four bestselling biographies of show business icons, and I thought the string was running out. There are still one or two vanished celebrities who might be considered (indeed Knopf tendered an offer for yet another one), but I became intrigued with the thriller genre and wanted to try it again. I had written two such books years ago -- THE EIGHTH SIN was called a Holocaust thriller and was a Book of the Month Club selection.  

I’m much too proactive to wait around for mainstream publishers to mull over a manuscript for months—their usual procedure these days, when the editors are waiting to see which way the cat will jump.

Moreover, those publishers can now offer writers only one thing that they can’t do for themselves: distribution. And with the demise of Borders there is only one powerhouse brick-and-mortar retailer: Barnes & Noble. As highly as I regard them, I know that Amazon, Smashwords and Apple grow more influential by the day.

Speaking of which, several months ago I arranged to have some of my early books offered on Amazon and Smashwords, using the electronic publisher StoneThread. When its publisher, Harvey Stanbrough, asked me whether I had something original, I sent him my manuscript. He offered to publish it with all deliberate speed, and I knew I had found my kind of ballplayer.

Q:  Why did you decide to make your protagonist an Eskimo? A: Several reasons went into the decision. I was in the army with Native Americans—young men who decided to leave the reservation to seek a career in the outside world via the armed forces. They brought some traditions with them, but they were anxious to get away from the insularity of the rez—and from the poverty and alcoholism they saw around them. Their stoicism, intelligence and resourcefulness were well worth chronicling. But there have already been many excellent novels with Native Americans as the main characters and sleuths—most notably Tony Hillerman’s outstanding Navajo series.

Years ago I met some Eskimos in Seattle, and I found them intriguing. I promised myself to do some research on the Inuit tribe when I bought some Eskimo art in Canada and chatted with some of the sculptors. Last year I made good on that promise, interviewing experts, digging around in old books rather than doing online googling. Perhaps the most memorable passage I came across is from Barry Lopez’s nonfiction book about the frozen north, Arctic Dreams:

“The darker side of the human spirit is not refined away by civilization. It is not something we are done with. Eskimo people, in my experience, have, still, a sober knowledge of their capacity for violence, but are reluctant to speak to it to whites because they have been taught that those are the emotions, the impulses, of primitives. We confuse the primitive with being deranged. They can humiliate you with a look that says they know better.”

It occurred to me that an Inuit would make an ideal protagonist—particularly if his non-Arctic life began when he became a scholarship student at Alaska University. There, Jordan Gulok’s mind would be opened in English Literature courses. His body would be enlightened by a series of intense, if short-lived, campus romances. And his self-confidence would be reinforced when the Navy Seals recruited him for two reasons: his intelligence in the classroom and his prowess as a hunter, a skill that began in the Tundra and carried over to the Alaskan forests.

He would be just as stoic as the American Indians to whom he is distantly related. He would also wind up at the top of his class in search-and-destroy military techniques. He would be sent into action in the Middle East, Near East and Europe, where he would exhibit a remarkable lack of fear, even when wounded in action.

For Jordan Gulok’s first adventure I put him in Manhattan, during one of the coldest winters in New York City history. The native dwellers—including the police—would of course be paralyzed by bad weather, as they always are. But to an Eskimo, who grew up on ice and snow, it would be a minor hindrance, something to be dealt with, not complained about.

Once Jordan becomes involved with the tracking down of criminals in New York, he goes from tourist to tracker, relentless and ruthless in his pursuit of mysterious figures who are not terrorists, who have no interest in politics—but who are mass murderers nonetheless.

Like those aforementioned Indians, Jordan considers himself free of the tribal past. But he, too, carries traditions with him, traditions that emerge in the involuntary memories of flashbacks and dreams—and, naturally enough, in the way he deals with danger as a freelance working in a clandestine arrangement with his once and future employer, the United States Navy. 

Q: You’ve written three novels and a dozen nonfiction books. Why did you choose to return to fiction after a series of bestselling biographies and social histories? Is one genre harder than the other, or do they present very different problems to a writer?I returned to the novel form because, frankly, I missed it. Over the years I almost forgot how much enjoyment I derived from creating and developing characters, placing them in romantic or hazardous situations, putting them in various neighborhoods, writing dialogue and working out plots that reflect our conflicted times.

In some ways writing nonfiction is harder because it requires a great deal of research and interviewing—particularly in the field of biography. I usually steep like a teabag in libraries for a year getting material, learning who the person is and why he or she became an icon. During that time I also talk to their colleagues and families to add to the portrait. Then, of course, comes the actual writing, which can take another year.

On the other hand, lives, as well as social histories, have a beginning, a middle and an end, and the chronology dictates the form. In that sense, nonfiction is easier—nothing is invented, everything is reported. The success of the book depends on the writer's interpretation of events, his insights and his prose style.

Fiction can be said to be easier because the writer makes it all up—save for the physical backgrounds and whatever historical events pertain to the action. But in another sense it’s harder than nonfiction, at least for me, because I don’t write sci fi or the adventures of impervious superheroes. In my view any successful thriller has to be credible; the protagonist, the colleagues, the villains, all have to be recognizable human beings. My central character is a troubled Eskimo with a military background. I set him down in unlikely but real places. When he outwits a foe it’s because he’s plausibly inventive, not because of a deus ex machina; when he’s hit by a bullet he bleeds.