Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Airtight," by J.P. Smith

Old pals Nick and Rob are headin' back to college. But not to resume their studies: they're pushing 50 now, with careers and families, and they're both unemployed, laid off from well-paying jobs. Then one of them remembers an episode from their younger, more adventurous days, when they were known, occasionally, to partake of some not-entirely-legal substances. It turns out they know where to find two mason jars of a definitely illegal substance buried on their old college campus. The plan: dig the stuff up, sell it, make a quick profit. The plan’s execution: well, let’s just say it doesn’t go entirely—or even mostly—as they thought it would. Like Donald Westlake’s The Ax (1997), which features and out-of-work family man driven by desperation to find an extreme solution to his problem, Smith’s novel depends on the reader’s willingness to accept that an ordinary person will do some very uncharacteristic things to keep his life from imploding. A solidly constructed and nicely written comic thriller. -- David Pitt, Booklist

Airtight, by J.P. Smith

Nick Copeland has lost his mind only twice in his forty-eight years—once in college on a bad acid trip, and once at this very moment, as the mountain of bills he’s been hiding from his family finally topples. But Nick’s chance meeting with an old friend, Rob Johnson, pulls on the memory wires. Rob—who’s already lost his wife and job—seems resigned to a life of basic cable and Chinese takeout. Suddenly, the answer to their problems arrives: two airtight jars of high-grade heroin they’d buried under the football field of their old college campus.
Returning to the scene of the crime-that-never-happened seems like a cinch—that is, until Nick takes a trip down Memory Lane and a sharp right turn on Law Enforcement Drive. This is not the beads-and-bellbottoms of their youths, but maybe the Stones were right, anyway: you can’t always get what you want.
Tarantino meets Mamet in this action-packed trip from the prolific literary novelist J.P. Smith.


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Meet the Author

Is Airtight your first novel that could fit into a genre other than "literary fiction"?

--Although most of my published novels play with genre to some degree--The Blue Hour is a dark, surrealistic thriller set in Paris and based on the Orpheus myth; The Man from Marseille is a kind of detective novel in which the narrator investigates his own past; Body and Soul, a take on the darkly comic French roman noir, an experiment in improvisation, as the main character is a jazz pianist, but also a tale of how the West deals with Cold War emigrés; The Discovery of Light--a Barnes & Noble Discover Title--a contemporary thriller built around the paintings of Vermeer, about how something witnessed can be interpreted in a hundred different ways; while Breathless, also something of a mystery, is about the widow of a murdered man trying to get to the truth of his death.

Who originally published you?

--The Man from Marseille was, as I said, published by John Murray, and here in the US by St. Martin's Press. Body and Soul was a Grove Press book, The Blue Hour was brought out by British American Publishing (and only missed being a Paris Review edition under that imprint, because George Plimpton found it "too lurid," which I thought should have served as a blurb for the book), and The Discovery of Light and Breathless were Both Viking Penguin editions. One of the great things about being with my current publisher, Thomas & Mercer, is having these all back in print as a uniform edition.

(See more of this interview at Smith's Amazon author page.)

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