Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Symbionese Liberation Army meets the ghosts of North Beach in
Domenic Stansberry's latest noir mystery, "The Ancient Rain" (St. Martin's).
The novel, the third in the popular Dante Mancuso mystery series,
centers on the plight of a North Beach investigator who is arrested
for a murder he committed 30 years earlier as a member of the Bay
Area radical guerrilla group the SLA. Set in the aftermath of 9/11,
the book is about moral ambiguity, politics and "the search for
vengeance, and how it doesn't stop," Stansberry said.
"In some ways it's a political novel," said Stansberry, an Edgar
Award-winning writer who lives in Corte Madera. "The book doesn't
take either side. I tried to show that there's no simple answer."
"The Ancient Rain" is based loosely on the story of William Harris, a
former SLA member who pleaded guilty in 2002 to murdering a
42-year-old woman during a bank robbery in 1975.
Harris was convicted of second-degree murder and received a six-year
sentence, ultimately serving four years. Three other former SLA
members, including his ex-wife, were also convicted.
The saga intrigued Stansberry because of the moral complexity of the
SLA and the era.
"I think people can relate somewhat to the SLA's cause - ending war
and poverty," he said. "They were relative amateurs who hoodwinked
the feds, kind of Bonnie and Clyde-type characters. I think that's
why the SLA is still so fascinating to many people."
In Stansberry's novel, the mystery is whether the protagonist
actually committed the crime and how culpable he is, 30 years after
Booklist compared Stansberry's spare, poetic style to that of James
Joyce, and Kirkus, in a starred review, called the novel "brilliantly
imagined." Publisher's Weekly described it as "compelling ... equal
parts contemporary crime fiction and dark, existential poetry."
Stansberry will read from "The Ancient Rain" at 7 p.m. Wed. at City
Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. Other readings will be at 7 p.m.
April 17 at M Is for Mystery, 86 E. Third Ave., San Mateo; at 7 p.m. May 4 at
San Francisco Mystery Bookstore, 4175 24th St., San Francisco; and at
7 p.m. May 23 at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera.
Carolyn Jones, email@example.com