Greg Hrbek Gets Incendiary at Malvern Books
Award-winning author presents a bomb-ravaged USA this weekend
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
8:00AM, Wed. Jan. 25, 2017
It’s time for another installment of genre-happy bibliofestivity at Austin’s Malvern Books this weekend.
Fantastical Fictions is, as you might already know, the ongoing series of bookish celebrations – with readings and signings and a Q&A, much convivial camaraderie and drinking, the sort of thing you might find at any literary shindig – but a series that showcases authors who tend to hew their tales from the more speculative outcroppings of human imagination.
Your hosts for Saturday’s event are, as ever, the estimable Rebecca Schwarz and Christopher Brown – two local practitioners of the slipstream style of fiction – and the writer in the spotlight this time is Greg Hrbek, New York-based author of the novel Not on Fire, but Burning, published by Melville House.
Note: Hrbek’s previous novel, The Hindenburg Crashes Nightly, won the James Jones First Novel Award – besides having one hell of an awesome title, right? – and this latest tome arrives with a cover blurb from no less than the Michener Center’s Elizabeth McCracken.Note: Here's the Wikipedia lowdown on Mr. Hrbek.
So – what’s it about, this Not on Fire, but Burning? Anyone can find that information online, of course, but we figured we’d ask Fantastical Fiction co-honcho Chris Brown over drinks at Thunderbird Coffee on Manor.
“So, this Hrbek book,” we said, and slurped probably a bit too noisily on our cappuccino, “is it science fiction?”
“I don’t know that it’s really science fiction,” said Brown, considering. “It’s one of these books that really straddles genre in a way that obliterates the distinction – but with a very strong post-9/11 oomph to it, you know? It’s set in a near-future United States, after an evidently nuclear kind of event that’s happened, and the geopolitical construction of the world is different than ours, but the everyday lives of the characters, American lives, seem very similar. And the story follows two teenage boys, one of whom has been living in an internment camp for Muslims in North Dakota. And he gets adopted by an older guy who’s a veteran of military actions in the Middle East, and they go to live in a neighborhood in the Northeast …”
We won’t relate the whole of Brown’s synopsis – go, meet author Hrbek at Malvern Books on Saturday, get a copy of the book for yourself – but we will say the story gets even more interesting and more intense the further it goes.
Note: Kind of like Chris Brown’s own career. The amiable gent, who supports himself by lawyering when he’s not moving-and-shaking various bibliocentric arenas, has his debut novel coming out from Harper Voyager this summer: Tropic of Kansas. And we’ll have coverage of that event, citizen, the closer we get to the release date.