Introduction for Keith Rosson
May 20, 2018
by Virginia Bellis Brandabur
Our final reader, Keith Rosson, is a man of many talents: zinemaker, short fiction author, illustrator, graphic designer. His zine AVOW is known for its “dark, humorous tone” and “solid design.” His artwork and graphics promote the music of Green Day, the Goo Goo Dolls and Against Me!. His short fiction, published in Cream City Review, PANK, December, The Nervous Breakdown, and the anthology Behind the Mask, has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the Birdwhistle Prize for Short Fiction. In 2017, with the publication of The Mercy of the Tide, Keith added “novelist” to his many talents. NPR gave the book a glowing review, commenting that Keith’s novel had “one of the most immersive fictional settings in recent memory,” and “a sumptuously oppressive atmosphere.” A murder mystery/horror story/apocalyptic narrative, The Mercy of the Tide has been nominated for a Bram Stoker award and optioned by one of the producers of Game of Thrones.
Keith’s latest novel, Smoke City, a narrative woven of magical realism and literary fiction, offers another deliciously oppressive atmosphere, in which his main characters are haunted by grief, regret and shame. There is Mike Vale, an alcoholic who has drunk himself out of his marriage, his art career and his fortune, with daily binges that border on ecstatic self-flagellation. And Marvin Dietz, Joan of Arc’s executioner, doomed for this sin to eternal reincarnation of lives marked by mutilation and loss. Even the ghosts in this story are haunted, wringing their hands, pleading, trapped in a silent purgatory where they cannot be heard. This is perhaps the power of Keith’s writing, not only in this novel but in all his fiction; how he portrays this struggle to be heard, especially by his male characters who are forbidden the right to feel any productive emotion, be it joy or sadness, but instead are allowed only to suffer physically. Keith does not spare his characters, nor does he spare us, doling out – with dark humor – grisly punishment in exquisite detail, leaving everyone haunted. Yet even as this is a ghost story, it is also a road story, one of the few acceptable literary vehicles in which men are allowed to have friendships and feelings, and through which they are able to find forgiveness and redemption. It is this signature blending of genres – fantasy & literary fiction, ghost story and road story – that allows Keith to take his characters where they might not otherwise go, and that makes his writing so well worth the journey.
Please welcome Keith Rosson.