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PFP Publishing/AJAR Contemporaries

Member of the Independent Book Publishers Association

& the Independent Publishers of New England

Publications

The following list and associated book summaries are just a sample of the titles available from PFP / AJAR Contemporaries.  For additional information about our authors and their work, please click on the links to the left.

Revere Beach Elegy

Roland Merullo, author of ten novels and three other books of nonfiction, reflects on family, friends and a series of experiences that include a stint in the Peace Corps, service in the former Soviet Union, and excursions to Europe. The author shares his spiritual, intellectual and emotional discoveries along the way, writing about his relationship with his father, his working class upbringing and upper class education, the early years of his marriage, and the gift of children. From a severe eye injury and a broken back, to the joys of Italian travel and friendship, from poverty to abundance, adolescence to middle age, Merullo paints a life that is rich with adventure and insight.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left

Tornado Alley       

Tornado Alley, by Craig Nova, is a story of a man and a woman who are on a dangerous collision course.  Marie Boule is a love-starved young woman who grew up in a small, impoverished town in Pennsylvania, and her one desire is to find a comfortable, easy life.  She thinks she is capable of hardening her heart and making any sacrifice necessary to get where she’s going.  It is only a matter of time before she meets Ben Lunn, a bright and responsible man who thinks he has made his peace with the woman he has married and the demands of being a father and husband.  When Ben and Marie meet it is with all the unstoppable quality of a force of nature: at first, they are just pleased with each other’s company, a kind of innocent companionship they both crave, but soon they enter into a secret bond.

Benn Lunn’s life has been marked by gifts, not the least of which is a kind of magical sense about the world.  He is the son of a small-town doctor, and in the heat of the place where he grew up, in the scandals of those around him, there is always the constant presence of the effect of passion.  His mother ran off to become an actress… his father keeps his own love alive, waiting for her return.

Marie has seen, in her own youth, the result of love come to nothing, and she is determined to avoid this at all costs…

Tornado Alley is a compelling novel about love and loss, honor and passion, and the mysteries of the human heart.  It is told with drama and humor, and its characters are real people dealing with the recognizable problems of life.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Demons of the Blank Page

From author Roland Merullo's preface:

During the ten years I taught in college, and the numerous writing conferences and workshops I have been a part of since then, I've heard volumes of advice about the technical aspects of writing. Plot, character, pace, description, dialogue, theme, metaphor, symbolism, and so on. In the conferences especially, there has been a lot of good practical information about finding an agent, attracting a publisher, self-publishing, e-publishing, and marketing a book once it is in print.

All this is very good, helpful, and necessary. For high school and college writers, the technical material is useful; for those writing a book or hoping to make a career in the world of words, the practical material can provide a clear understanding of the publishing landscape. But again and again in those classrooms and workshops, I was struck by the fact that very little was being said about what might be called the emotional or psychological aspects of the writing process.

Over the course of thirty years in the profession, thirteen book publications, and several hundred articles, reviews, Op-Ed pieces, travel essays, food essays, personal essays, political analysis, profiles, and thanks to countless conversations with writers - some famous, some widely published and admired, some struggling to finish a first book or find an agent, and some simply hoping to earn a good grade on a college assignment - I know how critical that interior dimension of the writing life is.

In this book I hope to shed some light on that dimension of the work, not as a psychiatrist or counselor, but as an author, because I am sure that writing success - however that term is defined for the individual writer - always has its roots in the soil of the psychological/emotional world.

From chapters entitled "Writer's Block" to "Finding A Mentor" to "Impatience and Rejection", Merullo covers these topics with the insight, empathy and encouragement of an author who has "been there." Demons of the Blank Page is a no-nonsense handbook and guide for aspiring and established writers alike.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

 

What Is Told

What is Told is a masterful novel that sprints across generations, centuries and continents.  In a spirited narrative that travels from old Ukraine to New Jersey, Askold Melnyczuk follows his character through the betrayals of war and the promises of marriage.

Zenon and Natalka Zabobon marry the day Archduke Ferdinand is shot in Sarajevo.  When Natalka wins the battle of the bedroom, Zenon throws his energies into making sure his country doesn’t completely disappear from the map.  His brother Stefan, meanwhile, renounces the abstractions of nationalism for the certain pleasures of Paris and his two mistresses, a mother and daughter.

Transplanted to the strange soil of the new world by the upheavals of World War II, the family finds itself unprepared for the subtle sabotages of peacetime suburbia.  With the ghosts of their extraordinary past never far away, the voyagers resort to the strategies learned in the struggle again the Tartars, Nazis, and Communists.  The results are as comic as they are unexpected.

In What is Told Askold Melnyczuk reinvents with humor and compassion, the story of a people long hidden behind the Iron Curtain.  His novel is a reminder that history is not something that happens only to others.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Revere Beach Boulevard

A Merullo novel both literary and suspenseful, Revere Beach Boulevard tells the story of a family that rallies around an errant son, even as a long-hidden secret that has touched all their lives comes to the surface. Peter Imbesalacqua has bent the rules and battled a gambling addiction for most of his adult life. Now, his real-estate business in shambles and his life in danger because of an unpaid debt, he spins at the center of a hurricane of love and risk. His parents, sister, and friends, all carrying their own secrets, find themselves drawn into the terrifying storm, each trying to do for Peter what he must ultimately do—or fail to do—for himself. Revere Beach Boulevard is a rich and heartfelt novel that looks deeply into the secret places in men's and women's hearts, places only great fiction can reveal.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

A Four-Sided Bed

a four sided bed coverThe characters in this bold and compassionate novel by Elizabeth Searle find themselves in uncharted territory as they explore what is possible within the sexual boundaries of friendship, love, and identity. As thee Los Angeles Timesshas said previously about Elizabeth Searle, she sets out to "test the limits of the sensible, the approved, even the sexually possible." With this debut novel she creates a sexy, four-sided love story unique to our times in which gender is constantly redefined.has said previously about Elizabeth Searle, she sets out to "test the limits of the sensible, the approved, even the sexually possible." With this debut novel she creates a sexy, four-sided love story unique to our times in which gender is constantly redefined.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

The Book of Dreams

the book of dreams coverIn his swift, lyrical prose, comic and moving, Craig Nova weaves disparate lives together into a novel that makes utter beauty out of the gritty and grotesque.  This is a story about people who are willing to take the chance they have been waiting for all their lives, men and women trying to live up to their dreams.

The Book of Dreams is also a book about California, that youthful place prematurely aged by the burden of too much longing and desire.  And the look of the place, with its heartbreaking , ever receding landscape (seen most often through car windows), haunts this novel.

Like a jazz pianist, improvising snatches of other tunes while never straying far from the melody, Nova effortlessly echoes the writers who have helped us see the state in earlier times – Chandler, Fitzgerald, West, all are acknowledged here in graceful, amusing riffs.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Leaving Losapas

Roland Merullo's novel, Leaving Losapas begins on a tiny atoll in the equatorial Pacific. Leo Markin, a young US Marine and Vietnam combat veteran who survived the war, found himself so changed by the experience that he simply could not find a way to return to his home, family, and his fiancée in the working class city of his birth outside of Boston.

The islanders in Losapas are kind to him–he had been living there for years–and he had found a woman he came to love. Various events conspire to convince him to return to America, but on his return home he feels lost. He has troubling encounters with his aging father, finds that his fiancée has married another man and appears trapped in an abusive relationship, and his old friends seem like strangers to him.

Leo is torn between the peaceful, natural way of life on the island, and the rougher rules of his upbringing. In the end, though he has sworn to turn his back on physical violence, it is an act of physical violence that convinces him the only place he can live is Losapas. When his father suddenly dies, Leo decides to leave the house he inherits to his former fiancée–thus encouraging her to leave her husband–and he returns to the life he left behind and to his island lover.

or additional information, click the author's name on the left.or additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Celebrities in Disgrace  (eBook only)

Celebrities in Disgrace Cover

Inspired by a society obsessed with celebrities, in this novella and short story collection, Elizabeth Searle explores the glittery-dark underworld of 'hopefuls,' those who have been given the slightest hint of success--or even imagined success--and who are hungry for an audience, of any size. Ranging from a woman's relentless pursuit to be an actress despite her tendency to faint onstage, to a disintegrating family who comes together if only to watch the imaginary lives in a soap opera, these stories capture the thrill and lure of fame and our insatiable need for it.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

A Russian Requiem

Two weeks before the failed coup of August 1991, Anton Czesich, an American in his late forties who has spent a mostly disillusioning career working overseas for the U.S. government, arrives in Moscow to take charge of a volatile American food distribution program—a program administered by Julie Stirvin, the love of his youth. She and Czesich have their own history, their own protracted cold war.

Many miles away, in the mining center of Vostok, Soviet bureaucrat Serghei Propenko, a former champion boxer, is in the midst of his own midlife crisis—partly personal, partly political. Modest and decent, surrounded by a household of strong-willed and politically astute women, Propenko is pinched between his traditional ambitions and concern for his very untraditional daughter, Lydia.

As Czesich's and Propenko's fates intersect, it becomes clear that both men are partially paralyzed by the same suspicions and fears that crippled Soviet-American relations for so long.

Roland Merullo's A Russian Requiem is a page-turner with depth, a finely crafted novel about the small piece of history each of us bears and the way our intimate lives reflect and echo in the politics of nations. Speckled with humor and irony, rich in both psychological and political drama, it carries the reader on a post-cold war voyage through the Russian—and American—soul.

or additional information, click the author's name on the left.or additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Passion for Golf: In Pursuit of the Innermost Game

Passion for Golf CoverMost avid golfers believe that there is a profound connection between the joys and challenges of golf and the joys and challenges of living - that the more devoted we are to the game, the more we learn about ourselves.

In Passion for Golf, Roland Merullo looks carefully at those connections and at the reasons why people find themselves irresistibly attracted to golf. Drawing on the triumphs and travails of playing partners, friends, and family members, and mixing in anecdotes from his own adventures on and off the course, Merullo explores the notion of a 'true goal of golf,' a hidden attraction that, ultimately, has more to do with deep peace and satisfaction than with the dream of playing on the PGA tour.

The author finds connections between fairway lessons and the mystical wisdom of Lao Tzu, Theresa of Avila, Thoreau, Jesus, Buddha, and Walt Whitman, among many others, and looks into the role of ego, anger, and silence in golf and life. More than anything else, Passion for Golf is a celebration of the game, an examination of the roots of our passion for it, and a meditation on the lessons every golfer carries away from the course and into his or her life.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Fighting Gravity

Fighting Gravity CoverEllie Rifkin is a nineteen-year-old college student from a privileged Jewish background when she meets forty-one-year-old professor Gerard Babineau. Already twice-divorced, he is a hard drinker, an ex-peacetime marine, and a practicing Catholic from southern Louisiana who is angry and complicated and renowned for his writing. Quite quickly they marry, have a child, and when Ellie is again pregnant, Babineau stops to help a motorist on the highway and is seriously injured, confined forever to a wheelchair. Their lives change, and the two must face hard truths about their relationship. Set in New England and Alabama, Fighting Gravity begins as an exploration of the complexities of love between an older man and younger woman, and ultimately raises larger questions of human connection, commitment, faith, marital and parental responsibility, and the nature of fate. In the end, Ellie discovers the importance, for her own sake and that of her children, of shaping her own destiny.

“This highly charged story … covers a wide emotional spectrum, …without becoming a soap opera. . .”– Library Journal.

“…[a] meticulous and wrenching tale of love and the will to survive. …This streamlined and potent novel … is indeed a tragic and haunting tale.”

- Booklist

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Ambassador of the Dead

Ambassador of the Dead coverOne Sunday morning, Nick Blud, a successful Boston physician, is home in bed when he receives a phone call from Ada Kruk, the mother of a boyhood friend. Ada summons Nick back to his old Ukranian-American New Jersey neighborhood, where something unspeakable has just happened-exactly what, no one is willing to say. To find out, Nick sets off on a journey through the past, his own as well as that of Ada's son, Alex, who long has struggled to escape his family's legacy of violence. A harrowing tale about friendship and love, America and the immigrant's dream, Ambassador of the Dead introduces Ada Kruk, a mother like no other, at once Mary and Medea, Sarah and Medusa. A study of ambitions gone awry and appetites too easily gratified, this novel is also an unflinching meditation on exile and assimilation and the price of love.

 Dan Cryer of Newsday labeled Ambassador of the Dead "...Artistic gold" calling Melnyczuk "an able analyst of character and a superb storyteller."

 And, Esquire magazine said "A novel so precise and understated it's stunning."

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Girl to Girl: The Real Deal On Being A Girl Today

Girl to Girl coverGirls are fun, active, interesting and strong. Girls are loud and quiet – sweet, silly and serious. Sometimes, they want to be out there doing stuff, other times, they just want to be alone in their room.

But most of all, growing up for girls is about RELATIONSHIPS. Relationships are the most important thing in the world to them.

 Here, in girls’ own voices, is what they think about, care about and want to share.

 “Driscoll surveyed hundreds of girls from around the country - and the world - regarding their experiences with friends, family, teachers, boys and more. What she found is that the majority shared experiences from which other girls could learn. In their own voices, girls tackle some of the big issues (boys, body image, friends) with Driscoll's advice on building better relationships and self-confidence.”

- Detroit News

 “A ‘girl power’ book for pre-teens, Girl to Girl:The Real Deal on Being a Girl Today spills secrets of keeping friends, cracks the code of boyspeak and gives the skinny on body image. Quotations from preteen girls pepper the text with a chorus of voices, along with sidebars, quizzes, cartoon illustrations and profiles of regular girls.”

- Publishers Weekly

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Temporary Sojourner:South African Stories

Temporary Sojourner CoverA tapestry of suffering, joy, transcendence…a journey of guilt and hope…In these remarkable short stories by native South African Tony Eprile, men and women play out dramas that echo the tumultuous din of their homeland. With a particular emphasis on exiles — whether expatriates or those people alienated in their own country — these stories examine a nation breaking apart along the fault lines of race, belief, and circumstance.

 With this collection, Mr. Eprile emerges as a brilliant compassionate chronicler of one of the most troubled and troubling landscapes of our world.

 The Pittsburg Courier wrote “Eprile captures the innocence of childhood, the complexity of Black/white friendship, the conflicting sentiments of expatriates, liberal sacrifice, and hope.”

 And, David Bradley, author of The Chaneysville Incident said "More than a well-written and dramatic set of stories — but a remarkable panorama of South Africa and its several peoples. Our impulse is to see South Africa as a conflict; Eprile manages to present it as an organism …This book does what all books should do, personalize and humanize those who have been depersonalized and dehumanized. It is both a fine work of art and a fine work of politics.”

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Blind Tongues

Blind Tongues CoverFor Merelene Durham it’s been fifteen years of coping, of determination not to lose her purchase on this world: a world that has become almost unendurable since her rakish husband, Mayfield, fled after encephalitis turned their son Roland’s mind into a strange, shell-holed country.

 Blind Tongues is the story of what happens when Mayfield unexpectedly returns, and his conviction that a newly made fortune can make Roland whole again, of a brilliant local attorney whose body bears the scars of aviation heroics in World War II, and finally of Merelene herself, who must choose between these two competitors in love while trying to accept the sweet simplicity of her ageless son.

 Sterling Watson, author of The Calling and Fighting in the Shade, has created a stunning evocation of a Florida coast town and of the people struggling for love and solace within its borders.

 The Saint Petersburg Times said that “…Blind Tongues is a novel that merits, and repays, quiet absorption and careful reflection” and called it “unique and often deeply moving.”

 And, The Washington Post said “…the poetry of Sterling Watson's prose and the depth of his attention to human connectedness keep you reading Blind Tongues

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

The Young and the Rest of Us eBook "single" 

the young and the rest of us cover“The Young and the Rest of Us” is a featured story from the Elizabeth Searle collection Celebrities in Disgrace. It is the poignant tale of two young sisters left isolated by tragedy and shattered dreams and the role television plays in their family’s life.

 Inspired by a society obsessed with celebrities, in Celebrities in Disgrace, Elizabeth Searle explores the glittery-dark underworld of 'hopefuls,' those who have been given the slightest hint of success — or even imagined success — and who are hungry for an audience, of any size. Ranging from a woman's relentless pursuit to be an actress despite her tendency to faint onstage, to a disintegrating family who comes together if only to watch the imaginary lives in a soap opera, these stories capture the thrill and lure of fame and our insatiable need for it.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.

Last Call eBook "single"

last call coverMore than simply a golf story, “Last Call” portrays a round of golf played by, Sylvie, a middle-aged woman whose father lays terminally ill in a hospital bed two hours away. Since she and her father have always shared a love of the game, she decides to call him from the course, and then keep her cell phone on, talking to him as she plays, relating each shot and challenge in a language of love all their own. Her father strains to hear her voice through a blanket of pain, and both of them are swept up in warm and sometimes difficult memories.

 A meditation on father-daughter love, and the life lessons golf offers, “Last Call” is described by Roland Merullo, as one of the best pieces of writing he's done in thirty years at his desk.

For additional information, click the author's name on the left.