“A masterly communicator” —Kirkus Reviews
Welcome to my Fiction & Nonfiction
— Steven Key Meyers
Available from your favorite bookseller. Please search by International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
My Hollywood Memoir
and Other Fiction
Four vignettes about America’s past half-century.
In My Hollywood Memoir, the grandson of a silent-screen star goes to Los Angeles to become a movie star himself. It’s 1972, and Kid Crusoe Wyatt parlays his contacts into a gay love affair and a starring role in his grandfather’s biopic—but will his fate be any different from Granddad’s? Sidestep, set in 1980s Ohio, explores how American elites manage to stay on top come what may, even as crack cocaine threatens Jonah Greene’s outsized success. Big Luck’s Ricardo is a 2000s Mexican immigrant whose sex-worker past stymies his citizenship application, until—after helping to game the California lottery—he realizes what he has to do. The mood darkens in the mid-2010s with Save the Max Man! as a family deals with a child’s health crisis by waging war on its medical insurance provider.
Smash-and-Grab Press (2022, paper, 232 pp. ISBN 979-8-9850215-2-3). Cover by Todd Engel.
That’s My Story
That’s My Story tells two tales inspired by my family history.
In the first, The Last Posse, twelve-year-old Bing, visiting his Uncle Jim Groves, Sheriff of Texas’s Wilbarger County in 1922, is swept up in adventure as his uncle leads a posse chasing the famous outlaw Frank Holloway. They pursue 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 Jim’s father’s long-buried bones. Bing narrates his encounters with newsreel cameramen, an English lord, a biplane, a blue norther, his own murderous impulses and Manhattan’s historic (if illusory) “Edwards Estate”—not to mention a certain embroidered Mexican dress—in this Texas-sized adventure story inspired by real events.
The second tale—That’s My Story, based on UCLA’s 1935 “Texas Ted” scandal—takes place in Beverly Hills, California. Jim Groves is living in a stately Holmby Hills “cottage,” providing security to the Raven brothers, rich Los Angeles developers and boosters of UCLA’s football team. Jim’s son, Bruins' fullback “Texas Ted,” carries the team almost to the Rose Bowl before getting called out as a ringer. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Jim—Bing again accompanying him and narrating—traces the commotion to Oil King Cassidy himself, chief booster of the Bruin's archrivals, the USC Trojans. Noir mayhem ensues.
Smash-and-Grab Press (2020, paper, 232 pp., ISBN 978-1-7368333-9-1).
A Family Romance
This family saga sweeps through more than 40 years. The first part 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 meet 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 inexorably 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 student-group travel 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, in the end art reconciles everything.
Smash-and-Grab Press (2020, paper, 316 pp., ISBN 978-1-7330465-1-0; ebook 978-1-7368333-6-0). Cover by Todd Engel.
A Journal of the Plague Year,
and Other Plays and Adaptations
This book collects plays I wrote before turning novelist. My 1994 take on Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year was 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 an 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 one-acts 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.
Smash-and-Grab Press (2019, paper 392 pp., ISBN 978-1-7330465-0-3). Cover by Todd Engel.
My Mad Russian
My Mad Russian collects my three tales about Westchester County’s legendary Caramoor estate. In the title piece, 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. Berlin invests in the Primover’s technology, while his wife, Dora, forms a more intimate partnership with the inventor. The husband hires detectives, but Stalin himself intervenes. My Mad Russian takes its inspiration from the real-life legend of Leon 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. (At its original publication, Readers’ Favorite declared, “My Mad Russion is a work of literary art.”)
In Another’s Fool the Cold War’s at its 1953 hottest when Dora Berlin hires handsome young classical-music manager Bruce Harnes to start a summer festival on her estate. To direct his festival, Bruce hires his ex-lover, Russian defector David Spegall, then watches in dismay as David hits it off with their patroness. Jealousy spurs Bruce to a mad scheme—but is that the FBI one step ahead? With the KGB hardly a step behind? (At its original publication, Kirkus Reviews called Another’s Fool “confident and stylish... leaves a distinctive impression.”)
In I Remember Caramoor I try to recapture my experience of being a teen-aged underbutler at Caramoor, and recount 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, dinners, concerts, receptions and house tours, I do my best to assess and accept the gifts—and losses—of a transformative experience. (At its original publication, Kirkus Reviews said I Remember Caramoor “successfully summons not just a place, but the energy of that place.”)
Smash-and-Grab Press (revised edition 2021, paper, 268 pp. ISBN 978-1-7368333-3-9; ebook 978-1-7368333-2-2). Cover by Todd Engel.
A fable of the RV lifestyle in a Kansas Eden, complete with serpents!
The Wedding on Big Bone Hill
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, gives 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 widow 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.
In the bonus novella, Junkie, Indiana (originally published in 2016), Cordelia falls for Jordan, the older teenager who lives across the way in Shady Acres Trailer Park. But Jordan’s a junkie—like his cousin Adam, their mothers, aunt and a dismaying proportion of the population of Chuterville, Indiana. When Adam’s business model of dealing just enough drugs to keep himself and Jordan high begins to fail and Cordelia learns something that threatens the cousins, they try to shut her up—forcing her to take the only decisive action she can.
Smash-and-Grab Press (revised edition 2021, paper, 212 pp. ISBN 978-1-7368333-7-7; ebook 978-1-7368333-8-4). Cover by Todd Engel.
This 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”), plus 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. Meanwhile Ned’s machinations—meant to kick-start his literary career—churn on as Queer’s Progress races towards a classic inevitability in a tale by turns savage and urbane, lyrical and drily witty.
Smash-and-Grab Press (revised edition 2021, paper, 204 pp. ISBN 978-1-7330465-3-4; ebook 978-1-7330465-7-2). Cover by Todd Engel.
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 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 in 1907 is a new curate at Manhattan’s richest Episcopal parish 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.
Smash-and-Grab Press (revised edition 2020, paper, 196 pp. ISBN 978-1-7330465-4-1; ebook, ISBN 978-1-7330465-6-5). Cover by Todd Engel.
“The kind of novel Chandler or Hammett might write today” —M. Lee Alexander (Detective Fiction)
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 scratch for 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 burst 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 Louisville, Kentucky kidnapping of Alice Speed Stoll, All That Money is a fast-moving ride with Lucie and Harry—and Special Agent Joe Albright sniffing out the trail!
Smash-and-Grab Press (revised edition 2020, paper, 168 pp. ISBN 978-1-7368333-0-8; ebook 978-1-7368333-1-5). Cover by Todd Engel.
“A crackling good read!” —Toronto Post City Magazines
When Rolling Stone proclaims comedy “the rock and roll of the Eighties,” Rex Black decides to take his Upper East Side comedy club public!
Recruiting Wall Street titan Siggy Brewster to handle the IPO, Rex scouts new clients, builds new clubs, appeases his Mafioso landlord and plays chicken in a Central Park running lane with Madonna. His wife Perri helps Rex chase his dreams, as do Ashley, his blue-blooded club booker; irrepressible Joey (A&R, on the 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 waters—and desperate for her break—is comedian Rosetta Stone.
Fast, funny and heartfelt, Good People plumbs the American appetite in summing up an era of surreal greed.
Smash-and-Grab Press (revised edition 2021, paper, 222 pp. ISBN 978-1-7330465-8-9; ebook 978-1-7330465-9-6). Cover by Todd Engel.
I was born on a farm in western Colorado, earned English Lit degrees at The City College of New York and Columbia University and currently live in the Midwest. My new novel, The Singing Monsignor, (.pdf) will be published in autumn 2023.
Also from Smash-and-Grab Press:
Two books by Harold Burton Meyers
Out of Print, but to be reissued by Smash-and-Grab Press later in 2023:
"The first published examination of the works of Harvey Joiner!" —Indiana Magazine of History
The Man in the Balloon:
Harvey Joiner's Wondrous 1877
This lively biographical study, impeccably researched and copiously illustrated, is the first ever published on the once famous American painter Harvey Joiner.
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 that occupied him since he was a teenager have ceased to sell, but Joiner’s beginning to paint the pictures that will make him famous, especially forest landscapes that filter through personal responses the sunlight falling from their green-leafed canopies. And he promotes himself nonstop, prolifically placing items about himself in local newspapers and hobnobbing with the gentry.
But Joiner will stave off adulthood a little longer with a series of pranks, launching hot air balloons of increasing size, until his masterwork—its basket seen to be carrying a man—soars across the Ohio River and over the rooftops of Louisville, Kentucky.
Before his wondrous year is out, Joiner attracts the commission of a lifetime from the Christian Church of Utica, Indiana and paints his masterpiece, Ruth Gleaning in the Fields of Boaz. Analyzing the complex Bible story about how Ruth achieves security, he places the young widow in harvest fields at day's end, a moment of respite and possibility he makes personal by recalling his widowed mother's dilemma and depicting the very 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.
The Educational Publisher, Columbus, Ohio (2013, paper, 126 pp. ISBN 978-1-62249-101-8).
Excerpt (.pdf, 4.35 MB) Author's Note