‘Tale’ author Mullen’s latest novel to hit stores Tuesday

January 23, 2010
Ben Beagle bbeagle@batavianews.com

Thomas Mullen, the 2008 “A Tale for Three Counties” author, returns to the past with his second novel, “The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers.” And like his debut work, “The Last Town of Earth,” Mullen’s historical fiction is unexpectedly topical — though perhaps a bit more adventurous than his earlier death- and flu-ridden tale.

“The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers” reaches stores Tuesday. It is the mythic tale of Jason and Whit Fireson, famous bank robbers who are trying to provide for their family while evading the law during the Great Depression. (VIDEO)

“It combines the stark realism of a troubled time with the rollicking adventure of old-fashioned pulp fiction,” Mullen wrote in an e-mail to fans. “Given the tough economy we’re currently suffering through, the book has a weird resonance that I honestly hadn’t expected back when I wrote it many months ago.”

Mullen, in an author Q&A posted on his Web site, explains that he got the idea for the book after reading about Depression-era bank robbers such as John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde.

“It was an amazing time,” Mullen said. “These larger-than-life characters were robbing dozens of banks across the country, getting front-page headlines, and captivating the public.”

Mullen was also attracted by the melding of fact and fiction.

“… The way that, even in 1934, there were so many crazy rumors circulating around the actual criminals. They were romanticized, fictionalized, lionized, heroized. They were blown out of all proportion to who they really were, while at the same time certain lesser aspects of their personalities and lifestyles were overlooked,” he said. “I love the questions this poses about our identity and how it’s really formed, about groupthink and social control, about our ability to craft our own fate. Plus, I’d get to throw in a car chase and some gunfights.

Early reviews, Mullen wrote in his e-mail, “have been fantastic.”

“Firefly Brothers” was chosen as a “Best Book of the Month” by Amazon and received a starred review from Publishers’ Weekly.

Jeff VanderMeer, writing for the Los Angeles Times, said ” ‘The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers,’ tells a rip-roaring yarn that manages to be both phantasmagorical and historically accurate. In its labyrinthine, luminous narrative, reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s best fiction, readers will find powerful parallels to the present-day.”

Erica Caldwell, owner of Present Tense, 101 Washington Ave., Batavia, said that comparisons to Chabon — his “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” has become a cult classic — and renewed interest in the gangster era — with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale starring in “Public Enemies” last summer — will attract customers to Mullen’s novel.

“I’m sure once the book is in the store it will get some interest. That era seems to be getting a lot of attention now,” Caldwell said, noting her store sold several copies of a movie tie-in book for “Public Enemies.” “So I’m optimistic that Mullen’s new book set during this time period will hold interest for our customers as well.”

Mullen said the he will be doing a short book tour in February and March, giving talks and signing books in Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis and Cleveland, among other locations.

An excerpt from the first chapter is available here and on Mullen’s Web site, www.thomasmullen.net.

Mullen is the first of as many as five former “Tale for Three Counties” authors expected to release new books in 2010. Titles are scheduled to be released this spring from Mark Spragg (“Bone Fire,” March 2), Howard Frank Mosher (“Walking to Gatlinburg,” March 9) and Julie Spencer-Fleming (“One Was a Soldier,” April). Later in the year, Jennifer Donnelly is expected to release a new young adult novel, “Revolution.”

Caldwell said she has already gotten inquiries into Donnelly’s book, which is due in September, and Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books “are always popular.” “This one has had quite a bit of anticipation,” she said.

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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