Chicago Author Sara Paretsky

January 10, 2008 9:07:50 AM PST
Chicagoan Sara Paretsky is the renowned author of twelve V.I. Warshawski detective novels.In those books, she carved a niche for herself as one of the country's preeminent mystery writers and best storytellers. Now she has changed her focus with her newest novel Bleeding Kansas, (G.P. Putnam's Sons; January 1, 2008; $25.95) which depicts the American heartland in turmoil. The novel is a razor-sharp examination of the social politics that govern life for the majority of Americans who live outside major metropolitan areas.

Paretsky explores the hottest topics of our times, including religious fanaticism and gay rights in Bleeding Kansas, which is set in the small farming community surrounding Lawrence, Kansas, where she author grew up. Bleeding Kansas takes place in the world of small farmers and examines what it means to have a small farm in contemporary America. The novel looks at what happens when Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews and Wiccans converge in Smalltown, America. Bleeding Kansas poses questions about how far people will go to preserve their way of life and what they believe in, what right people have to privacy, and how human beings can fight each other long after they've forgotten what they're fighting for

Bleeding Kansas poses with difficult questions about religion, morality, family loyalties, and our right to live our lives in the way we choose?without fear. In this emotionally charged new novel, the center of the country becomes a battleground for a diverse group of people, including two women who want to practice their religion in private and a family who want to make religion very much a public battle.

Set in the beautifully rural landscape on the banks of the Kaw River in Kansas, Bleeding Kansas takes its title from the nickname the state earned in the 1850s, when pro- and antislavery forces waged war on the land. Many of the book's protagonists trace their heritage to two families of settlers, the Grelliers and the Schapens, who are still locked in battle some 150 years later.

As the book begins, the Schapens have taken it on themselves to monitor the county, which is still reeling from the massive political and social uprisings of the '60s and '70s (involving bloody debate over segregation and civil rights, women's equality, and the Vietnam War). Engaging technology to further their cause, the Schapens post examples of their neighbors' misdeeds on their website, with predictable results. The small farming community, always a hotbed of civil unrest, begins to seethe again with new issues.

Into this less-than-perfect setting comes Gina Haring, a lesbian and Wiccan who wishes for nothing more than a private space in which to practice her religion. Her presence, and her religious beliefs, immediately set off a firestorm of controversy around town. Meanwhile, the Schapens and the Grelliers continue their fight, which has once again spilled over to a new generation. The latest altercation indirectly leads teenaged Chip Grellier to enlist in the military?where he dies in war.

Add to this volatile mixture the birth of a "Perfect Red Heifer"?a harbinger of the Rapture, according to some religious beliefs?and the community is poised for a fiery confrontation of epic proportions. Everything culminates in a shocking, revelatory climax on Halloween, a night of religious significance to almost all.

About the Author:

Sara Paretsky is the best-selling and award-winning author of 14 novels, including 12 V.I. Warshawski mysteries, and the essay collection Writing in an Age of Silence. She has a Ph.D. in American history and an MBA, both from the University of Chicago. She has won the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers Association and the Silver Dagger Award from the Crime Writers Association. She is a founding member of Sisters in Crime, an organization dedicated to helping women crime writers. She lives in Chicago.

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