Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"A Uniquely American Novel"

"Cover to Cover" generally features books and authors whose lives and/or work is linked in some way to the South. This week's author is a native New Englander, educated in the Midwest, which, after a debut novel set in the Pacific Northwest, is the setting for his second book, a rip-roaring gangster novel with a metaphysical twist, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers. We in the South would be wise to claim Thomas Mullen as one of our own, however, if only for the flimsy reason that he currently calls Decatur home. In due time, Mullen seems destined to be a writer of much more than regional acclaim and as such will be a credit to our literary landscape. His smart, stylishly rendered work suggests that Mullen is an authorial alchemist of the first rank.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers is on one level an exciting tale of a band of Depression-era bank robbers, led by a pair of brothers, Jason and Whit Fireson, plotting their crimes and trying to keep away from the law. The fact that the brothers repeatedly arise from being shot to death, however, gives the novel the ethereal resonance of a work of mythology. And since Mullen (whose first novel, The Last Town on Earth, was set during the flu epidemic of 1918) so completely captures the era about which he writes, it is also an insightful exploration of life as it was experienced during the Great Depression and in many ways an exploration of the American Dream.

Mullen's energetic work is fueled most of all by a sense of fun, but fun of the highest order, fun like Michael Chabon and The Coen Brothers. And while it's fun to claim him now as a home-state hero, with the kind of reviews Mullen is getting from the Los Angeles Times ("uniquely American") to The Star of Toronto..., he is a writer we're going to have to share with everybody.

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