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MichaelNeff belongs to the Staff group.

About MichaelNeff

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  • Location
    Washington DC
  • Interests
    Novel writing, film, teaching, website production, and trail hiking.

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  1. Allan Gurganus. Photo: © Roger Haile. Courtesy of W. W. Norton. In his Art of Fiction interview, Allan Gurganus preaches the power of the sentence. But for me, the real satisfaction to be had from the newly released Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus comes from the layers: a shrewd grad student’s thrifting trip becomes the story of a portrait, which is actually the story of a tragic moment in a small town’s history; a local news report becomes a firsthand account of the incident told by a police officer to his tape recorder. (In fact, local news reporters are more than once a way of gettin
  2. In Paul Anthony Smith’s Untitled (Dead Yard), a figure stands with arms outstretched in the midst of a haze of ghostly breeze-blocks. The physical appears to commune with the spiritual; unreality encroaches on the real. It’s a startling effect, one that persists throughout Smith’s second solo show with Jack Shainman Gallery, “Tradewinds” (on view through April 3). Using a needled wooden tool, Smith painstakingly works over his photographic prints, puncturing the surface and chipping away at the ink. Each stipple, each architectural flourish laces the images with the fabric of memory. This is n
  3. When you think ‘Boston Noir,’ you probably think of The Departed or The Town or, David Ortiz help us, Boondock Saints. The best of Boston noir is a different shade of darkness than the more traditional film noir. (And that’s pretty damn dark.) Add on extra layers of guilt and a strong religious presence, and you’ve got something unique. While filming in Massachusetts has become more prevalent in recent years, for decades there wasn’t much of film production in the state. All the films listed below were made in these darker days, when seeing the streets of Boston on screen was a rarer occurre
  4. We’re a year into the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of city dwellers have fled their urban apartments for suburban spaces. It is, if you live outside the city limits, a seller’s market. New York City, where I live, is in the middle of an all-time low-rent bonanza. It is a crazy time for real estate, that’s no doubt. If you’re like me, the pandemic has increased your habit of casually browsing Zillow and Realtor.com listings (well, I look at StreetEasy, a site for NY real estate only, but you get the picture), wondering what it would feel like to leave my apartment and swap it for a bigger s
  5. At the risk of sounding like an imposter myself, I have to ask: What is crime fiction? This is not, perhaps, a question that someone who has just published a crime novel ought to be asking. But the more I think about it, the more trouble I have answering it. The genre’s borders are decidedly blurry. Is a crime novel simply a novel whose plot involves a criminal act? Perhaps we ought to throw in a measure of suspense too. But in that case, Ian McEwan’s Atonement (winner of the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award) should be found on the “mystery and thrillers” shelf along with Gillian Flynn
  6. Quiet Time, my first mystery, was a fictionalized version of the brutal murder of a suburban housewife. Not just any housewife, but Betty Frye, on the eve of my marriage to her son. Back in 1973, he and I were college students at CU in Boulder, practicing karate and living together on the Hill. The morning Betty was murdered, I spoke with her; hours later, I saw her killer. Her death made me a crime writer. Quiet Time was my lab for learning fiction craft. The manuscript underwent twenty-odd drafts, each more heavily fictionalized. I wasn’t imaginative enough to invent brand-new characters, t
  7. On Christmas Eve, 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Republic of France, boarded his coach bound for the Paris Opera. His coachman, César, was drunk, and sped recklessly past a cart piled with hay partially blocking the street. Seconds later, the cart exploded. A hundred yards behind, a second coach carrying Bonaparte’s wife, Josephine—delayed by her decision to change scarves—felt the force of the blast, which shattered her window and sent a shard of glass slicing across the hand of her daughter, a fellow passenger. Josephine’s sister-in-law was hurled against the side of the coa
  8. The Spring 2021 issue, which went live earlier this week, features three poems by Sheri Benning. One of these poems, “Winter Sleep,” serves as the basis for a short film of the same name. Shot in the Rural Municipality of Wolverine Creek in Saskatchewan, the project is a collaboration between Sheri and her sister, the visual artist Heather Benning, along with the filmmaker Chad Galloway. View the full article
  9. Sabrina Orah Mark’s column, Happily, focuses on fairy tales and motherhood. An illustration from Jack and the Beanstalk, Elizabeth Colborne I am cleaning my house when I receive a Facebook message from the manager of Project Safe that a volunteer has found my plague doctor, or someone who looks like my plague doctor. The baseboards are thick with dust. I spray a mix of vinegar and lavender, and run a rag across them. The plague doctor, or someone who looks like my plague doctor, has been put aside in the office for me. I write back, “Oh! oh! I hope it’s him.” The rag is black. I am on my han
  10. Here we have one of the darling fairy children of Reedsy teaching us how to just slap down that blank page and type out a marketable novel outline in no time flat! Miracle of miracles. I never knew it could be this easy!
  11. I started working at my local library two years ago. After a decade spent in the city, I knew I wasn’t happy and so left the world of finance behind in order to concentrate on writing. It wasn’t planned. I was called into my boss’s office and offered a promotion, and right there and then decided to quit. I’d recently read a book by the author John Hart, and subsequently an interview in which he talked about turning his back on a successful law career in order to spend more time writing. It was hugely inspiring. My wife was a student at the time, and pregnant, and had no idea I wanted to writ
  12. There’s nothing more delicious than a good scandal, and the best scandals are practically a cottage industry, spawning books, movies, even the odd opera or two. Here are six of my favorite scandals and the novels that bring them to life. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes Oh, how they must have gossiped when the original Real Housewife of Sparta ran off with a younger man! I’m talking, of course, about one of the most legendary scandals in history—Helen and Paris. It’s often referred to as an abduction, but most versions show Helen an active participant, throwing off her arranged marriage
  13. The rule of thumb in book publishing is simple: Unless your name is Harper Lee, your first novel will not be your best and most likely won’t be a bestseller either. All other mere mortals in the world must rely on a well-measured publishing axiom known as the learning curve. Tom Straw is no exception to the rule for first-time authors, but the rest of his publishing career broke every rule in the book. The first rule he broke was his identity. It was a closely held secret for seven years. This seven-time New York Times bestselling author (yes, he hit number one), was only outed in recent year
  14. Each month the CrimeReads editors make their selections for the best upcoming fiction in crime, mystery, and thrillers. * Benjamin Wood, A Station on the Path to Something Better (Europa) Benjamin Wood’s emotional noir about a young boy taken on a desperate road trip by his estranged father is as beautifully written as its title is long. The father promises to take his son to the set of a popular TV series he claims to work on, but the journey turns into anything but, as the father’s untruths catch up with him and he resorts to violence to salvage his self-worth. –Molly Odintz, CrimeR
  15. My brother, an avid backpacker, carries a satellite phone with him in the backcountry. I suppose it is meant for emergencies, although I’m not sure he’s ever used it for that purpose. The most recent message our siblings text thread received from that phone was a joke about how long he would wait in line for an In-N-Out double-double. I thought about this as I read Zoje Stage’s essay “How Do You Write an Isolation Thriller When Everybody Is Connected All The Time?” It is a very good question, one I have been turning over in my head since I read that piece a few weeks ago. My first, and most f
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