“A masterly communicator” —Kirkus Reviews

 

Welcome to my

          Fiction & Nonfiction

for Outstanding Readers

— Steven Key Meyers

 

 
 
 

Available from any bookseller*

Save the Max Man!
A Journal of the Plague Year, and Other Plays and Adaptations; The Last Posse; My Mad Russian: Three Tales;
I Remember Caramoor: A Memoir; Another’s Fool, a novel;
Junkie, Indiana, a novel; Springtime in Siena, two short novels;  Good People, a novel;
All That Money, a novel;The Wedding on Big Bone Hill, a novel;
Queer’s Progress, a novel;  A Family Romance   The Man in the Balloon: Harvey Joiner’s Wondrous 1877;
 
   

Save the Max Man!

Save the Max Man!

A Novella

Even after 13-year-old Max’s spinal surgery leaves him paralyzed and on a ventilator in the ICU, a metal halo bolted to his head, his prognosis for full recovery is good—so long as he gets to rehabilitation promptly for the physical therapy he needs.

But his insurance company’s sudden demand for a $6,000 copay grounds the mediflight to rehab. Max’s parents—Kate and Luther, in New York with him—and grandparents (Archie and Charlotte, holding down the fort in Louisville) refuse to be extorted. Even as the insurance company’s fingers probe his gut for its pound of flesh, Archie leads the fight!

Inspired by a true story, Save the Max Man! is a gripping and subtle study of family dynamics playing out in an extreme situation.

The Smash-and-Grab Press 96 pp. (paper $9. 2020, ISBN 978-1-7330465-2-7; ebook $2.99 ISBN 978-1-7330465-5-8) Cover by Todd Engel

Excerpt (.pdf)

 

A Family Romance;

A Family Romance

A Novel

My new novel serves up tasty takes on American life as it sweeps through more than 40 years.

The first part of this family saga draws on my upbringing in Washington’s Maryland suburbs as a son of a White House correspondent for a national newsmagazine. We meet Nat and Viv Handler at their 1959 arrival in Washington. When he stumbles upon the untold story of President Kennedy’s womanizing, Nat sets out to report on it. But the more he tries to get the facts from the President’s sexiest mistress, the more he puts his job—and his marriage—at risk.

Then we make the acquaintance of Nat and Viv as students in Colorado during World War II. Viv’s involved with J.T.—her handsome bad boyfriend—when Nat begins courting her. It’s a scene of Swing Era dances, steamy backseats and rationed Coca-Cola, as J.T.—dragging Viv and Nat along—works steadily towards his fate.

Years later, in the 1980s, we follow Viv and Nat at the height of their careers through the course of a single day, living a busy life in New York City. Nat’s a magazine editor and Viv runs her own travel-operator business. Looking forward to the future, but inescapably aware of the past, they walk to work, negotiate their offices and office mates, solve crises, go shopping, see a play. Viv rescues an old friend, while Nat inadvertently brings disaster upon a colleague. Fortunately, art reconciles everything in the end.

With its vivid characters and true-to-life action, A Family Romance is my tour de force.

 

The Smash-and-Grab Press (paper, 2020 316 pp. $15.95, ISBN 978-1-7330465-1-0) Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note   Excerpt (.pdf)

A Journal of the Plague Year, and Other Plays and Adaptations

Free Pandemic Offering: Read my stage adaptation of Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year (.pdf)

A Journal of the Plague Year,
and Other Plays and Adaptations

Here I collect plays I wrote before turning novelist. My 1994 take on Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year is a dramatic response to the AIDS epidemic—though distressingly germane to Covid-19 as well (read the .pdf here). The one-man play Chesterfield to His Son, adapting that forbidding nobleman’s famous Letters, is a hilariously antic—and painfully accurate—dissection of a father’s love for his son. Dr. Knox and Mr. Banner examines same-sex desire in 19th-century London and the stories people tell themselves about what makes them who they are.

More characters tell themselves more stories in five sparkling one-act plays set in locales ranging from Seward, Alaska to the sidewalks of West 23rd Street: The Old Agitator continues his lifelong mission, but with modified idealism; a new arrival in Alaska does what she must in order to stay; a grandmother exiled to a suburban lawn examines her life and finds inspiraton; a man explores the temptation offered by a random encounter, and a casual philanderer finally meets a reckoning.

The Smash-and-Grab Press (paper, 2019 392 pp. $14.99, ISBN 978-1-7330465-0-3) Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Preface

The Last Posse, a novel

The Last Posse

A Novel

Twelve-year-old Bing, visiting his Uncle Jim Groves, Sheriff of Wilbarger County, Texas in 1922, is swept up in adventure, tearing off with a posse chasing after the famous outlaw Frank Holloway, pursuing him by car and on horseback across two states, before breaking off on a private mission of revenge, to find the Eastern con men behind the theft of his grandfather’s long-buried bones.

Bing engagingly narrates his encounters with newsreel cameramen, an English lord, a biplane, a blue norther, his own murderous impulses, and the historic (if illusory) “Edwards Estate”—not to mention a certain embroidered Mexican dress—in this Texas-sized adventure story about growing up, Inspired by Real Events from my family’s history.

ISBN 978-1-63263-870-0 (paper 2018) Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf)

 

Another’s Fool, a novel

“Confident and stylish... leaves a distinctive impression” —Kirkus Reviews

Another’s Fool

A Novel

The Cold War’s at its hottest in 1953 when Dora Berlin hires handsome young classical-music manager Bruce Harnes to start a summer festival on her Westchester County estate. But ever since Dora’s fling 20 years earlier with a famous Russian inventor, the FBI has been keeping tabs on her, and now it blackmails Bruce into spying for it.

To direct his festival, Bruce hires the most talented musician of the age (and his ex-lover), Russian defector David Spegall, then watches in dismay as he hits it off with their patroness. Ultimately jealousy will spur Bruce to a mad scheme of liquidating his rival. But is the FBI still one step ahead? And why is the KGB in the picture, too?

A riveting story of espionage, Another’s Fool is an acutely observed account of a time where what people must do to survive—while being able to live with themselves—becomes more complicated than ever.

ISBN 978-1-63492-732-1 (paper 2017)
ISBN 9781543962369 (ebook, included in I Remember Caramoor)
Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf)

“An ornate, leisurely walk that summons up not just a place but its energy” —Kirkus Reviews

     

I Remember Caramoor, a memoir

I Remember Caramoor

A Memoir

In this memoir, I try to recapture my early 1970s experience of being a teen-aged underbutler at Caramoor, the great estate in New York’s Westchester County famous for its music festival and house museum. With wit and rue, I Remember Caramoor recounts the charms and challenges of getting to know the house, its high-society history and its staff, below-stairs and above, at a time when the rhythms of its way of life were already those of a bygone era. In taking the reader behind the scenes at garden parties, dinner parties, concerts, receptions and house tours, I do my best to assess and accept the gifts—and losses—of a transformative experience.

ISBN 978-1-63492-416-0 (paper 2017)
ISBN 9781543962369 (ebook, including Another’s Fool)
Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf):     I first stepped inside Caramoor’s “big house”. . .

“A nihilistic tale that skillfully captures the grim depths” —Kirkus Reviews

Junkie, Indiana; a novel

Junkie, Indiana

A Novel

Cordelia falls for Jordan, the older teenager who lives across the way in Shady Acres Trailer Park, with no notion of the price that love can exact. But Jordan’s a junkie—like his cousin Adam, their mothers, aunt and a dismaying proportion of the people in Chuterville, Indiana. But getting high is no easy task in a rusting industrial town where the surest way to make money is by dismantling abandoned factories and hauling the pieces to the scrap yard. Meanwhile, Adam’s business model of dealing drugs just to keep himself and Jordan high begins to fail.

When Cordelia learns something that threatens the cousins, they try to shut her up—forcing her to take the only decisive action she can.

Another cousin, Paul, narrates this bleak tale torn from the chronicles of the Midwest’s opioid epidemic.

ISBN 978-1-63491-406-2 (paper 2016)   Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf):     Born on a sidewalk, I felt right at home . . .

  “A trilogy of dense, exciting novellas about American love and greed!” —Kirkus Reviews
     

My Mad Russian, three tales

My Mad Russian

Three Tales

In My Mad Russian, Piotyr Alexandreyevitch Primov brings his invention—the eerie Primover, the world’s first electronic musical instrument—to 1933 New York. There he finds patrons in Mr. and Mrs. Max Berlin. A banker, Berlin invests in the Primover’s technology, while his wife forms a more intimate partnership with the inventor. The husband hires detectives, but is forestalled when Stalin himself intervenes. My Mad Russian takes its inspiration from the real-life legend of Léon Theremin and his patrons Walter and Lucie Rosen—a story I encountered (and here embellish) as a teenaged underbutler at the Rosens’ famous Westchester County estate, Caramoor.

Big Luck moves the scene to the early 2000s in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake, where an out-of-work actor wins the lottery and enlists his Mexican friend to help him evade taxes on his prize. What happens next prompts the friend to re-examine his application for U.S. citizenship.

Sidestep is a story of the heartland, where in 1984 the heir to generations of industrialists, after having to close the old factory, manages to recoup his fortunes through agriculture. The narrator, Cindy, wavers among three loves as she recounts a new challenge from drug dealers.

ISBN 978-1-63490-240-3 (paper 2015); 978-1-48355-0329 (ebook)   Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf)    

 A fable of the RV lifestyle in a Kansas Eden, complete with serpents!

The Wedding on Big Bone Hill, a novel

The Wedding on Big Bone Hill

A Novel

After losing his lover and his job, Jack hits the road in an RV on a quest for Paradise, USA. He finds it in a bucolic Kansas park where he takes a workamper job, but this Eden turns out to be almost as tricky as the original when the head ranger, soon to marry Donna atop Big Bone Hill, allows her father, Percy, his deputy, free rein over the park.

Percy’s conviction is that everybody tries to get away with something, but that anyone allowed to get away with anything will try to get away with more, and he (if he alone) can see where that leads—he being the poster child for getting away with nothing. His constant search for infractions keeps everybody on edge, including his widowed friend Maureen, Dennis (who runs the entrance booth), and the Beanblossoms, workamper entrepreneurs who introduce to Eden the shirtless Rick.

When a little boy goes missing the weekend The Wedding on Big Bone Hill is to take place, Percy takes on the lonely task of meting out justice—threatening tragedy in an otherwise ruefully funny celebration of an American microcosm.

ISBN 978-1-62646-997-6 (paper 2014)   Cover by Todd Engel     Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf)

Queer’s Progress, a novel

Queer’s Progress

A Novel

This compelling autobiographical story of young love features Eduardo—Cuban-born college student and page at the New York Public Library (“just a page, not a whole book or anything”)—Andrew, a young scholar new to town who falls in love with him, and Ned, older master of gay Manhattan.

As Andrew makes stumbling progress in pursuit of him, Eduardo flies from a pregnant hookup and his mom’s Harlem apartment to flop on his oldest friend’s floor, his best friend’s couch, in Andrew’s bed, at the West Side Y, on a patch of Central Park ivy—and in a jail cell or two. Ned’s machinations meanwhile churn on, trying to kick-start his literary career, as Queer’s Progress races towards a classic inevitability in a tale by turns savage and urbane, lyrical and drily witty.

The Smash-and-Grab Press Revised Edition available January 2021 (paper 204 pp. ISBN 978-1-7330465-3-4; ebook 978-1-7330465-7-2) Cover by Todd Engel

Excerpt (.pdf)

Author’s Note 

  “The first published examination of the works of Harvey Joiner!” —Indiana Magazine of History
     

The Man in the Balloon: Harvey Joiner’s Wondrous 1877
Harvey Joiner (1852-1932)
Harvey Joiner (1852-1932)

 

The Man in the Balloon:
Harvey Joiner’s Wondrous 1877

This lively biographical study, impeccably researched and copiously illustrated, is the first published on Harvey Joiner, once a famous American painter.

It brings Joiner to life as a 25-year-old prankster in the rip-roaring river town of Jeffersonville, Indiana. The witty wood-engraved advertising images he’s produced since he was a teenager ceasing to sell, he begins to paint the pictures he’ll become known for—landscapes filtering through personal responses and meanings the light falling from the forest canopy—while promoting himself nonstop.

But Joiner will stave off adulthood a little longer with a series of pranks, launching hot-air balloons of increasing size, until his masterwork—seen to be carrying a man in its basket—soars across the Ohio River and over the rooftops of Louisville, Kentucky.

Before his wondrous year is out, Joiner wins the commission of a lifetime and paints his enormous masterpiece, Ruth Gleaning in the Fields of Boaz, for the Christian Church in Utica, Indiana. Analyzing the Bible story of how Ruth achieves security, he places the young widow in harvest fields at day’s end, a moment of respite he makes personal by recalling his own widowed mother’s dilemma and depicting the fields of his boyhood.

In The Man in the Balloon: Harvey Joiner’s Wondrous 1877, an American painter steps out of the shadows of neglect.

Excerpt (.pdf, 4.35 MB)         Author’s Note

Biblio Publishing ISBN 978-1-62249-101-8 125 pp. (paper 2013)   Photograph from Notable Men of Kentucky at the Beginning of the 20th Century (1901-1902), by Benjamin La Bree (Louisville: George G. Fetter, 1902, p.119)

Springtime in Siena, two short novels

 

Springtime in Siena

Two Short Novels

Springtime in Siena offers a pair of faux memoirs—period takes on American ways of growing up that rush with verve and wit to opposite endings.

The title piece, Springtime in Siena, follows a hungry young academic leading a semester-abroad group to Tuscany in 1974. Gary sleeps with students of both sexes while mulling the coming post-Watergate, post–Viet Nam era. Coldly modifying his voracious appetite, he winds up with everything he’s dreamed of—but still hungry. In The Man Who Owned New York, Albert’s a new curate in Manhattan’s richest Episcopal parish in 1907 when a Kansas farmer comes to town claiming title to the church's property. The farmer’s proofs looking as irresistible as his daughter, Albert weighs what he really wants out of life—and commits a gaudy crime.

The Smash-and-Grab Press 196 pp. $12.
(paper, revised edition 2020, ISBN 978-1-7330465-4-1; ebook, ISBN 978-1-7330465-6-5) Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note          

Excerpt (.pdf)

“The kind of novel Chandler or Hammett might write today” —M. Lee Alexander (Detective Fiction) All That Money, a novel
 

All That Money

A Novel Inspired by Real Events

Celebrity crimes often breed rumors that the victim was complicit. In the 1934 Lucie Spode White kidnapping case, the rumors are true.

Falls City’s sexy Depression belle is a high-living heiress whose husband expects her to get by on her pin money. Only 25, she won't come into her inheritance until she turns 30: How can she possibly make it? Generous—if ruthless—with her favors, when she can’t raise the cash for a room at a hot-pillow motel, Lucie enlists her handsome young lover Harry Thrall in a scheme to anticipate part of her inheritance. Just a prank. Can’t be a crime if she’s in on it, right?

Though pants-on-fire Harry worries that one of them (and he knows who) will end up on Death Row while the other lives it up on Easy Street, he enters into the spirit of the thing. After all, Harry needs money if he’s going to get to Hollywood.

So off they go, and in come reality and the F.B.I.   Lucie finds herself trapped in a closet with a gash in her head, while G-Men dog Harry across the country.

Inspired by the sensational kidnapping of Alice Speed Stoll, All That Money is a fast-moving, rollicking ride with Lucie and Harry—and Special Agent Joe Albright sniffing out the trail!

ISBN 978-1614346982 (paper 2011)   Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf)

“A crackling good read!” —Toronto Post City Magazines

                     Good People

                                          A Novel

Good People, a novel

When Rolling Stone proclaims comedy “the rock and roll of the Eighties,” Rex Black decides to take his Upper East Side comedy club public!

Rex recruits Wall Street titan Siggy Brewster to handle the IPO, scouts new clients, builds new clubs, appeases his Mafioso landlord and plays chicken with Madonna in a Central Park running lane. His wife Perri helps Rex chase his dreams, as do Ashley, his blue-blooded club booker; irrepressible Joey (A&R, for the empire’s music side); Rex’s assistant Michael and Michael’s partner, bar manager Conor. Circling them, her fin hardly breaking the waves, sniffing for the blood she senses will soon dye the water—and desperate for her break—is comedian Rosetta Stone.

Fast, funny and heartfelt—and a heart-breaking prophecy of the Trump era—Good People plumbs the American appetite in summing up an era of surreal greed.

ISBN 978-1609106317 (paper 2010) Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note  

Excerpt (.pdf)

 

BIO
 
I was born on a farm in western Colorado, earned degrees in English Lit at The City College of New York and Columbia University, and currently live in the Midwest writing fiction chronicling a great nation’s precipitous decline. I can sometimes be reached at stevenkeymeyers@stevenkeymeyers.com. My new novel, That Ol’ College Try, will appear in 2021. It’s everything a novel set in 1935 Los Angeles has to be, but incorporates as well some of my cousin Shorty Key’s spectacular UCLA football career, including scoring all the points in a fabled 7-6 victory over Stanford (playing as Ted Key) and, very soon after that, undergoing a scandal about his eligibility.

              If I had a blog