BEA Spotlight #2- Lori Rader-Day’s “The Black Hour”

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Interview with Lori Rader-Day

Interview Setting: Book Expo America @ Prometheus Book/ Seventh Street Books Stand


Bibliophile’s Reverie: Since the main character is a sociology professor, did you have any Sociology background for this book?

Lori: I took one Sociology course, when I was in college, and I took it too late to take anything else. This course blew my mind, and it was Sociology of Minorities, and immigration. I would leave class, three days a week, walking home, stars in my eyes, ideas racing.

If I had taken it earlier, I think I would have double-majored in it.  It was just so interesting to me, and I had never studied it again, but when I was writing this book, I needed Amelia to be a professor, who was somehow connected to violence. My theory is that a normal person, facing violence, would react in a certain way. I needed her to be somehow past that, meet violence a little bit closer, come about halfway to violence. And, then get over it a little bit, and start doing other things. So, I decided Sociology of violence could be her specialty.

Bibliophile’s Reverie: Could you maybe explain to the readers of my blog, just what you mean by Sociology of Violence?

Lori: Well, Sociology, really is the study of human beings, and Sociology of Violence is looking at violence and its role in society. So, not to say that it is a necessary part of society, but it’s there and what causes it, why does it flare up, and the ways it does in the book. In real life, unfortunately.

I have never taken that class, but I would love to. Again, it did some work for her character, to bring her along a little bit that way.

Bibliophile’s Reverie : And, I wanted to ask more about the purpose and theme surrounding the title, The Black Hour?

Lori: I won’t tell your readers exactly what the black hour is in the book, but I think I can safely say that the black hour is referencing the darkest hours of our lives, and how we deal with those things. Do we wallow in them, or do we rise above them, and be the people that we want to be? I hesitate to say that I would be the person that rises above. But, that is what the book is about, choosing life over death,

Bibliophile’s Reverie: Any future novel plans, like a sequel to this?

Lori:Well, I don’t have any sequel plans for this one. I mean, we’ll see, I could be talked into trying.  But, I did think of it as a standalone, and that is how my publisher purchased it. But, they also just purchased my second novel, and that is a series starter possibly. It is tentatively called Little Pretty Things, and it’s coming out sometime next summer. So, we’ll see, so I hope you like that one as well.

Bibliophile’s Reverie: So, do you have a message for the readers of my blog, who are stumbling into this interview, and wondering “Why they should read the Black Hour?”

Lori: Well, it’s got dark themes. You can’t write about campus shootings, without thinking seriously about what you’re doing. I work on a college campus, it is an issue that is troubling to the people I work with. But, I also tried to have fun with the characters,  tried to make them real people.  And, people, even in tragedy, find levity, try to live their normal lives. So, I hope that balances out what could be a real downer, but I had fun with it, and I hope the readers will too.

Thanks so much to Lori Rader-Day for her willingness to participate in this interview with A Bibliophile’s Reverie, and keep scrolling down to find my review of her book!

Review:

Right when I was about to finish Lori Rader- Day’s The Black Hour, I heard the sharp, insistent tone of the Bolt Bus operator, saying “All A tickets, please arrange yourselves here.” I was completely engrossed, before boarding my bus and nearly missing it, with the scene that represented the apex of high action and crescendo drama of the novel, where all the various disparate plot points and thematic bits were finally unifying and coming to great and terrible clash. Eventually,  I had to postpone reading the end, till I got myself securely on my bus, which was heading to New York City for the second day of Book Expo America. Once I was seated on the bus, I quickly resumed reading where I left off, and my mind eased its way back in the tense fray of the story’s wild, climatic ending.   So, you are forewarned! Before reading The Black Hour, you must set aside ample free time to not just read the book in a non-distracting environment  for an inordinate period of time. You must also prepare your subconscious to elide seamlessly with the action of the story and the overactive, conscious minds of the story’s two main characters: Sociology professor, Amelia Emmet;  and Nathaniel Barber, her somewhat gangly, socially-awkward teaching assistant  for Amelia, who has a very unorthodox academic interest in a crime that involved her

Fluidly, the novel switches between these two character’s perspectives; two characters who are psychologically  enmeshed in violence of some kind, either through a traumatic incident in the past or an extracurricular interest in the mysterious elements that cause certain violent incidents to erupt, unpredictably, at times in our lives.. And, it is this omnipresent shadow of violence that malevolently stalks the subconscious minds of all the characters in the novel, and the doom and ineffably gloomy darkness of the human proclivity towards violence is what is metaphorically referred to in the novel as “the black hour.” Both these characters are drawn to each other because of their deep knowledge of this black hour and the thoughts that haunt this frame of mind,  So, in many parts, this novel is a very rich, fertile psychological novel, which explores the deepest terrain of the human psyche, and the phenomenon that I aptly title “the Shakespearean night.”

Essentially, “the Shakespearean night,” often recurs in Shakespearean tragedies. The most clear example and representation of the Shakespearean night is in the iconic, tragic play Macbeth, during which the darkest, most amoral part of Macbeth’s subconscious, represented by Lady Macbeth, goads him to kill King Malcolm, and to cruelly seize the throne that he feels that he selfishly deserves. In Greek Tragedies, this flaw that subtly influences our actions is often called hubris, the tragic flaw of the human heart (the human heart is a term I believe to be an earlier way of describing the human subconscious).  How does this have anything to do with a contemporary thriller?

Well, this book is discussing in more modern terms, utilizing more commonplace parlance for sociological phenomenon, the same exact things that Shakespeare and the Greek tragic writers were fluently writing about in all their plays. Both Amelia and Nathaniel have a deep psychological connection with this “black hour,”and it this darkness of the human soul or psyche(psyche is another newer word for soul) that permeates the story. Certain characters allow their hidden desires, viewed in “the black hour,” to become manifest and to drive the story’s plot in a way that makes the reader feel intensely nervous.

Since the novel is set in a small, private college of sorts, Lori Rader-Day is writing a modern day crime tragedy beyond just writing a thriller. The novel peers in the the underside of what constitutes the  mundane world, and deeply plumbs   and exhumes the darkness that lies  at the heart of the most sinister, criminal element of this novel.  This is something I forbid myself to talk about further, as it would completely spoil the surprise at the heart of the novel.

But, this excellent book, from Lori-Rader Day, shows that this writers has talent to write books with psychologically interesting characters. More importantly, she is yet another writer that I feel has the capacity to really structure the mystery and psychological intrigue of the novel-content that could become ponderous for other writers- in a way that is clearly understood by the reader, and lends itself to deeper exploration due to the the mastery of Lori-Rader Day’s language. My only minor complaint with the novel really is that I would have loved certain characters to be developed with a bit more depth, notably a certain smarmy, though eccentric journalist character in the book. Also, it seemed to end too soon, but that’s not really a criticism, as much as it is  praise.

So, if you’re looking a modern-day, contemporary thriller that explores violence that lies at the heart of our country’s colleges (and discusses the endemic violence that occurs frequently in these educational settings), this book provides some really interesting, well-developed insight into this phenomenon. It also has very realistically shaped main characters, and the writing is clear,effective, and the pacing of the novel is stupendous. It is definitely a very well-written thriller that truly stands on its own, and it definitely has made me a new fan of Lori Rader-Day’s writing, for this is the type of thriller that contains many different genre elements beyond just your pedestrian thriller. So, get this book, and be sure not to miss your bus or train, if you happen to be reading the end of the book, while waiting to board either mode of transportation.

 

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