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The Twenty-Year Death

Cover of The Twenty-Year Death

The Twenty-Year Death

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THERE'S NEVER BEEN A BOOK LIKE
THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH

A breathtaking first novel written in the form of three separate crime novels, each set in a different decade and penned in the style of a different giant of the mystery genre.

1931--
The body found in the gutter in France led the police inspector to the dead man's beautiful daughter--and to her hot-tempered American husband.

1941--
A hardboiled private eye hired to keep a movie studio's leading lady happy uncovers the truth behind the brutal slaying of a Hollywood starlet.

1951--
A desperate man pursuing his last chance at redemption finds himself with blood on his hands and the police on his trail...

Three complete novels that, taken together, tell a single epic story, about an author whose life is shattered when violence and tragedy consume the people closest to him. It is an ingenious and emotionally powerful debut performance from literary detective and former bookseller Ariel S. Winter, one that establishes this talented newcomer as a storyteller of the highest caliber.

THERE'S NEVER BEEN A BOOK LIKE
THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH

A breathtaking first novel written in the form of three separate crime novels, each set in a different decade and penned in the style of a different giant of the mystery genre.

1931--
The body found in the gutter in France led the police inspector to the dead man's beautiful daughter--and to her hot-tempered American husband.

1941--
A hardboiled private eye hired to keep a movie studio's leading lady happy uncovers the truth behind the brutal slaying of a Hollywood starlet.

1951--
A desperate man pursuing his last chance at redemption finds himself with blood on his hands and the police on his trail...

Three complete novels that, taken together, tell a single epic story, about an author whose life is shattered when violence and tragedy consume the people closest to him. It is an ingenious and emotionally powerful debut performance from literary detective and former bookseller Ariel S. Winter, one that establishes this talented newcomer as a storyteller of the highest caliber.

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About the Author-
  • A long-time bookseller at The Corner Bookstore in New York City and Borders in Baltimore, Ariel S. Winter is also the author of the forthcoming children's picture book One of a Kind (Aladdin) and of the blog We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie, devoted to the rediscovery of long-forgotten children's books written by literary icons such as John Updike, Langston Hughes, and Gertrude Stein. His writing has appeared in The Urbanite and on McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and in 2008 he won the Free Press "Who Can Save Us Now?" short story contest. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 11, 2012
    This isn’t a first novel so much as a series of three discrete but interrelated first novels, each written (with apologies from the author) in the style of a different iconic thriller writer—Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson, respectively. This is a bold, not to say supremely cheeky, conceit—and if Winter hasn’t completely channeled the hard hearts and gimlet styles of these dark, departed legends, the good news is that he delivers something even better: a hell of a lot of fun. The noir triptych is nominally linked by the presence of an alcoholic (but of course!) American writer, Shem Rosenkrantz, who remains largely—if menacingly—in the background for the first two installments before emerging (in first person) center stage in the last, best story. Set in the fictitious Verargent, France, circa 1931, the first book, Malniveau Prison, revolves around the mysterious death of a prisoner—the father of one Clothilde-ma-Fleur Meprise, Rosenkrantz’s beautiful wife. (Along the way, some children—and Clothilde herself—go missing.) The search for the killer leads to a mysterious psychopath with a penchant for torturing tots, as well as a coverup at the titular prison. In the second, The Falling Star, set in 1941, Rosenkrantz is a womanizing L.A. screenwriter on a self-destructive slide. His wife, now working under the name Chloë Rose, is a successful but unstable starlet who suspects she’s being followed. A suitably laconic Chandlerian PI, Dennis Foster, is enlisted to help the troubled star—but is he really being set up for a homicidal fall? In the third, and arguably darkest, tale, Police at the Funeral, it’s 1951 in Calvert, Md., and Rose has been institutionalized, leaving Rosenkrantz—now a remorseful has-been—roiling in the tide of his boozy dissolution. “Yeah, I’d always gotten a raw deal, and I was too pathetic to do anything about it, and I hated myself for that” pretty much sums up the self-inflicted purgatory this antihero wallows in. The stories work wonderfully well individually, but taken together create a tapestry of associations and reflections, sort of like mirrors trained on other mirrors. The whole, as they say, is greater than the sum of its parts. Along the way, Winter manages to deliver more than a few winking nods to genre tropes without ever descending into the arch or the obvious. Though there’s clearly something meta (not to say postmodern) about the whole endeavor, Winter never loses touch with his genre heart; the books practically radiate grassroots passion. No, he does not entirely capture Chandler’s verbal color or masterful use of metaphor (but who does). Nor does he completely conjure up Thompson’s furious fusion of horror and hilarity (but who does). He comes damn close to capturing Simenon’s slick, spare procedural vibe. But in the end all these comparisons are, yes, odious—because Winter has created something more than a facile feat of literary ventriloquism. He has written a truly affecting and suspenseful triple treat that transcends the formal gimmick at its heart. Agent: Chelsea Lindman, Nicholas Ellison Agency. (Aug.) Reviewed by J.I. Baker, who is the author of The Empty Glass, which Blue Rider Press will publish in July.

  • Stephen King
    "Bold, innovative, and thrilling – The Twenty-Year Death crackles with suspense and will keep you up late."
  • James Frey "Not content with writing one first novel like ordinary mortals, Ariel Winter has written three – and in the style of some of the most famous crime writers of all time for good measure. It's a virtuoso act of literary recreation that's both astonishingly faithful and wildly, audaciously original. One hell of a debut."
  • John Banville "The Twenty-Year Death is a bravura debut, ingenious and assured, and a fitting tribute to the trio of illustrious ghosts who are looking – with indulgence, surely – over Ariel Winter's shoulder."
  • Megan Abbott on Book 2 of The Twenty-Year Death "Expertly summoning the most sinuous strains of Chandler, THE FALLING STAR sinks you into its dark, sleek world."
  • Stephen Dixon "If ever there was a born writer, Mr. Winter is one...Mr. Winter's work is sharp, smart, original, intensely interesting and ingenious."
  • Richard Vinen "A tour de force, or rather three different, ingeniously interwoven, tours de force. An exciting book that will make many commuters miss their stop."
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