Christopher Bollen, Lightning People (Soft Skull Press; 368 pages; $25).
Despite what many readers think, debut novels are not easy to write. Common mistakes freshman authors make run the gamut from implausible storylines to stock characters to awkward dialogue to clumsy organization. A good editor helps, but often a first-time novelist either has that certain something or he does not. That kind of talent cannot be taught; it is innate. Christopher Bollen proves with his debut novel Lightning People that he has that magic and then some.
Setting is not everything, but place ranks high on this reviewer’s list of what can turn a good book into a great one. Bollen lives in New York City; thus, he knows the city well and it shows. From the very first page, Bollen knows how to set the mood.
Bollen opens his novel with a very real phenomenon: lightning strikes. Through his protagonist, Joseph Guiteau, Bollen writes, “The Manhattan skyline has changed since I moved here from Cincinnati at the age of eighteen. What no one seems willing to mention is that before the World Trade Center fell, lightning rarely struck any parts of Manhattan other than the towers themselves….”
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