Abrams served in the U.S. Army for 20 years and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In his new novel, Brave Deeds, he tells the story of six soldiers who choose to go AWOL and maneuver the streets of Baghdad to attend a memorial service for their sergeant, who was killed by a car bomb. The author, who skillfully uses first person plural in most of the book, says he first approached it as a short story. "I knew they would start off in the morning with a mission to get to the memorial service,'' said Abrams, 54. "I started off with the intent for maybe a short story, but I kept typing and then I thought maybe a good novella. I kept typing and fleshing out the story, and the more I got to know the characters the more they warranted longer treatment.''
Abrams' quick wit can also be seen in the newly released Montana Noir, the latest in the Akashic Book series. On Nov. 11, Abrams will be a featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading.
What's on your nightstand?
I'm reading about eight books at once. There are so many books and so little time. It's a little stressful to keep ideas separate. First is Wolf Season by Helen Benedict. She wrote a novel, Sand Queen, which addressed not only the male-female divide but also the U.S-Iraq relationship, too. There is a devastating storm in upstate New York. It brings together several different characters. The first is a female veteran of the Iraq War. She's damaged with post-traumatic stress disorder. This young woman isolated herself on a remote farm. She's taking care of her father, but she is also raising a pack of wolves. At the same time, there is a female Iraqi doctor who is a refugee who lost a leg in Iraq, and then there is a third female character, a military spouse. Her husband is on his third deployment. She's trying to cope with an emotionally troubled son. The author brings all the thought strands together in a beautiful way.
Is the author a veteran?
Helen is not. That's what is so marvelous. She's one of those authors who has not served in uniform but who brings a really deep perspective to the experience. It goes to show you how they can fit inside the skin of not only us service members but the Iraqi people.
And the next one?
It is a nonfiction. It was handed to me at Powell's City Books in Portland. It is Draw Your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles. It's about art and perception. It brings in theology. A whole meditation on how to see the world differently through art. People compare her to writers like Maggie Nelson and like Susan Sontag.
And finally, I'm reading Lee Childs. He's a new discovery for me. One person kept telling me to read him. I resisted it because he was on the bestseller lists, and I shy away from those. I'm reading The Midnight Line. It officially comes out in November. So I am only a few pages into it. The very first Lee Child I picked up was A Wanted Man.
Do you think you've discovered why he continues to be on the bestseller list?
His sentences and style are so direct. It's like pop, pop, pop. There is no fat or fluff. He pulls you right in.
Contact Piper Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @Florida_PBJC.