Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Akashic Writer, David McConnell Tries on Nonfiction; Says the Shoe Fits, Just Differently

Akashic author, David McConnell alongside the cover of
his new book, American Honor Killings:
Desire and Rage Among Men
What can be said when a writer leaves his or her fiction post, if only temporarily, to take on something harder, more factual?  It’s an interesting move, given that a fiction writer’s whole professional existence is heavily shrouded in the unreal.  It’s almost like a singer deciding to put the old pipes to rest and pick up some drumsticks; same general area but still is, for the most part, all new territory.

Yet, when novelist David McConnell describes the method to the madness of his new non-fiction book, American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men, it all makes perfect sense.  The book, released from Benay client Akashic Books just two weeks ago, is pretty much the non-fiction cousin of his previous two novels, The Firebrat and The Silver Hearted.  The subject matter is unanimous; very young, typically foolish male protagonists who get tangled in their respective webs of extreme bias and violence. 

In 2003 McConnell brought The Firebrat to life through the tale of an aspiring, witty writer who decides to out him and his subsequently outraged partner via short story.  The firestorm that commences sends the young man through a crash course of identity change that even his cocky intelligence can’t best.  In 2010 McConnell wove another tale of crime and secrecy in the context of a wartime seaport.  An old wino and a naïve sailor must band together to hide the fortunes of a few shady investors, but their worldviews clash.  The drunkard’s power-trip and the naif’s moral conscious clash with unexpected and rather unpleasant results.

The "Betrayal" issue of Granta,
released, Spring 2013.
Intricate, no?  Except poring over the details of these two stories was not enough for McConnell.  He describes why in a recent interview with Patrick Ryan, Associate Editor for Benay’s other client, Granta Magazine.

“I wanted to do something more urgent than wordsmithing in my mansard,” McConnell explains. “Violence has always loomed large for me as an imaginary thing. But violence is also on our cultural stage in a way it hasn’t been in earlier generations.”

Right you are, Mr. McConnell. 

With tragedies like Sandy Hook happening right in Benay’s very own backyard, we know all too well what he means.  Though American Honor Killings does not deal with quite that same situation, it stays along the same vein.  The book recounts six cases in which young men, harboring large amounts of seemingly irrational violence in them, have lashed out and killed.  The victims in each and every one of these cases were all homosexual men.  McConnell’s book specifically tries to crack the logic behind these killings, delving deep into the psyche of unstable, hate-ridden young men like his featured perpetrators.

McConnell writes in his book about one specific murder that it was driven by “an authentic instance of hatred that can’t be psychologized away – an idea of what’s right, not simple emotion, caused him to kill.”  When Patrick Ryan addresses this statement in the Granta interview, asking why it is not a case of the famously coined term “gay panic,” McConnell explains that all of the killers he writes of were reasoning individuals that used a “sober world view” throughout all of their actions.  “I’d say the crimes all primarily involve a diseased sense of self,” says McConnell, “more than they involve anything like a reaction to another, very different, human being.”

It is in this that McConnell’s own reasoning behind his book is revealed.  A writer can make a character as fascinating or as dull as they would like, but in the end it is just a character, and their perverse and violent world holds the sanctity of the fact that, in the end, it is not real.  It’s only natural that David McConnell came to realize this and, having dealt with such pressing subject matter, could no longer resist the temptation to dive into it for real.

To view excerpts from American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men please click here, where you can peruse sample pages and/or purchase the paperback and digital editions.  Please feel free to visit the Akashic and Granta websites and browse the additional upcoming features and titles that both publishers have to offer - they have much authorial talent, old and new, at your disposal.

- Colleen McClintock

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