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The American Paperback – October 30, 2020
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Former US tunnel rat Richard Trenor - disfigured in the war, but left with strange gifts as a result - is summoned back to Vietnam by Thanh, the son of an old friend, to find the man who killed Thanh's eight-year-old sister. Trenor's quest for justice will not only cause him to cross paths with two other Americans - one a cold-blooded assassin, the other a bloodthirsty madman - but also a tormented ghost, and an infestation of living evil. Spanning fifty years, The American is a gritty crime thriller laced with the supernatural, set in a vividly rendered Vietnam.
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- Publishers Weekly
The American rivals Ellis and Barker in terms of sheer darkness. Thomas combines horror and thriller to merciless effect.
- Laird Barron, author of Swift to Chase
With his unerring eye for the disturbing and horrific, Thomas sinks us into a Vietnam few have ever seen. A haunting page-turner about the power of friendship, debts owed, and the countless wounds of war. A brutal, riveting read.
- Erica Ferencik, bestselling author of The River at Night and Into the Jungle
Peter Straub's Koko meets Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer in this relentless plunge into darkness from Bram Stoker Award finalist Jeffrey Thomas. Refreshingly ordinary, fallible heroes, wounded physically and spiritually, work to solve a heartbreaking mystery rooted deep in the harrowing and gruesome underworld of human trafficking. Aided by a skin-crawling manifestation of the supernatural, their efforts lead them toward a figure chillingly banal in his unrepentant cruelty, and a bittersweet ending you'll never see coming.
- Mike Allen, World Fantasy Award-nominated author of Unseaming and Aftermath of an Industrial Accident
The American is a deep, dark plunge into transglobal post-colonial Late Capitalism paranoia, juxtaposing moral horror with its supernatural effects in ways that crack the reader's third eye open - gradually, terribly, implacably. It's a ghost story about history, layers folding over layers of willing, knowing self-pollution, desire melding into hunger melding into horror; the slime we leave behind ourselves as we slug-trail around this awful world, finding the places where we can debase ourselves until we disappear. I started reading and couldn't stop, no matter how much I wanted to.
- Gemma Files, author of Experimental Film
An exquisitely-written, compulsively-readable dark thriller steeped in Vietnamese culture with eerie supernatural overtones. The characters- villains with a touch of humanity, heroes with more than a hint of darkness -are haunted by ghosts of the past, both literal and metaphorical. This is one of the best books I've read in years, and you'd be a fool to miss it.
- Tim Waggoner, Bram Stoker Award-winning author
About the Author
- Publisher : JournalStone (October 30, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 266 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1950305414
- ISBN-13 : 978-1950305414
- Item Weight : 13.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,502,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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It's difficult to try and describe this novel because it's very layered and weaves a lot of things together in the process of telling the story. On the surface, it's a mystery/thriller/horror novel, but there's actually a lot more to it than that. It deals with a number of ideas and themes that give the world and the characters in it texture and depth. The old advice to writers is "Write about what you know". And Jeffrey Thomas knows about a lot of things and brings that to The American. From what it's like to work in our humanity-be-damned corporate office culture to what current-day Vietnam is like and how differently things are done there. Having been in both environments, I found myself frequently recognizing and relating to things from my own experience. Thomas definitely knows his stuff.
Richard Trenor is an American in Massachusetts working for Innovative Productivity Concepts (a soul-numbing cubicle-farm horror of a place that a lot of readers will probably identify with). In late middle-age - and missing an eye from when he served in Vietnam as a "tunnel rat" some forty years earlier - Trenor has come to terms with his existence, looking only to eventually reach some sort of modestly comfortable retirement.
That all changes when he gets a phone call in the middle of the night from Vietnam, from a young man named Thanh, the son of a Vietnamese soldier Trenor served with back in 1970 and who saved Trenor's life. Improbably, Thanh is calling seeking Trenor's help to find the murderer of his younger sister, Hang Ni, and the whereabouts of his other sister, Tra Mi, who has gone missing. Trenor though hasn't set foot in Vietnam in forty years, and he tells Thanh he doesn't know what he can do to help. But then the next day, equally improbably, Trenor decides to drop everything - including his job - and go. Because one of the themes in The American is that some bonds cannot be broken by distance or worn away by time.
I don't want to give away too much as one of the pleasures of reading The American is that of discovery. And that of the many subtleties in the way The American unfolds. One thing I liked though was that there are actually three characters to whom "The American" of the title could be applied to. Another thing I liked was that on at least two occasions the novel caught me completely off-guard, taking twists that I did not see coming.
But if you're looking for horror, it's definitely there to be found. The deeper Trenor gets drawn into the search for Hang Ni's murderer and the missing Tra Mi, the more the tension builds and the more visceral the threats become. And there are at least two supernatural aspects that add to the atmosphere of mystery and foreboding. And of sadness and regret, at things done that cannot be undone.
All in all, I found The American to be engaging, very original and moving in ways that one would not expect from a horror novel. Highly recommended.
Contemporary Viet Nam is itself a character here, and the writing reflects that: the prose is purposefully tough and unsparing and not necessarily interested in beauty for its own sake. I really feel like I’ve been there just by reading it. But there’s also an underlying beauty and innocence. I found myself highlighting little moments here and there, the purity and depravity dovetailed in a type of dark poetry that only the best fiction can provide. Like this one:
‘“God,” he said as she went on her way, with the fast, awkward steps Thanh had never told anyone he found achingly adorable, “did someone throw acid on her, too?”’
“The American” is a complex novel about friendship and love and the gaudy spectacle of a country and characters doing their best to get on with life despite their plethora of inner and outer scars. Highly recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
The story is good, if a bit dark and unpleasant in places, with many twists and turns. I really liked the characters, especially Thanh and his father, they felt like real people. I’d recommend this to anybody who likes a good thriller, especially if they are interested in Vietnam.