“A masterly communicator” —Kirkus Reviews

 

 
 
 
Steven Key Meyers,
        Fiction & Nonfiction

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;
New York / 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;
The Man in the Balloon: Harvey Joiner’s Wondrous 1877;  
Available from any bookseller*
 
 

If I had a blog

 

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

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

—Coming in May 2019—

Meyers here collects plays and adaptations he wrote before turning novelist. His 1994 take on Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year is a powerful dramatic response to the AIDS epidemic. 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 sidewalk 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 is inspired to take action; a man explores the sexual temptation offered by a random encounter, and a casual philanderer finally meets a reckoning.

One of the country’s most interesting and accomplished novelists widens his vision with this collection.

 

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: investigating a bank robbery and tearing off in a posse after the robber—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 capture 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 richly detailed, Texas-sized adventure story about growing up, Inspired by Real Events from the author’s family history.

 

ISBN 978-1-63263-870-0   Cover by Todd Engel

 

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf):     We sipped our coffee as the sun stabbed its first flat rays into the town . . .

 

   
   

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 there’s a catch: Ever since Dora’s fling 20 years earlier with a famous Russian inventor (an affair Stalin himself broke off, as recounted in Meyers’ My Mad Russian), 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, the Russian defector David Spegall (who happens to be his ex-lover), then watches in dismay as David hits it off with their patroness. Jealousy will ultimately 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, as well as a meditation on art and promiscuity, Another’s Fool is an acutely observed account of a time and place where what people have to do in order to survive—while being able to live with themselves—becomes more complicated than ever.

ISBN 978-1-63492-732-1 (paper; for ebook, see I Remember Caramoor)  
Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf):     As we rolled through the tunnel, a dark man of mystery was blowing frost at me . . .

   

“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 unusual and lively memoir, Meyers recaptures his 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 filled with art. 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, Meyers assesses and accepts the gifts—and losses—of a transformative experience.

ISBN 978-1-63492-416-0 (paper)
ISBN 9781543962369 (ebook; includes 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. Heroin now powders the Corn Belt; the daily Hoosier imperative is to get high, no matter what, but that’s no easy task in a rusting old industrial town where the surest way to make money is to dismantle abandoned factories and haul the pieces to the scrap yard. Meanwhile, Adam’s business model of dealing drugs on a modest scale so that he and his cousin can safely stay high begins to teeter.

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

A third cousin, Paul, narrates this acutely observed and very bleak tale, torn from the chronicles of the Midwest’s opioid epidemic.

ISBN 978-1-63491-406-2 (paper)   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 the title tale, 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 a society couple, Mr. and Mrs. Max Berlin. A banker, Berlin proposes a business partnership to exploit the technology behind the Primover, while his wife forms a more intimate partnership with the inventor. The husband hires detectives, but finds himself stymied when Stalin himself intervenes. Atmospheric and engrossing, My Mad Russian takes its inspiration from the real-life legend of Léon Theremin and his wealthy patrons, Walter and Lucie Rosen—a story the author encountered (and here embellishes) as a teenaged underbutler at the Rosens’ famous Westchester County estate, Caramoor.

Big Luck moves the scene to the early 2000s and Los Angeles’ Silver Lake, where an out-of-work actor wins the lottery and enlists his Mexican immigrant friend to help 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); 978-1-48355-0329 (ebook)   Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf):     My detective, Bob Argent, left word with my butler in Katonah one Friday evening past 11:00 . . .    

 

 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 a classic RV on a quest for Paradise, USA. He seems to find it in a bucolic Kansas park where he takes a workamper job, until this Eden turns out to be almost as tricky as the original: The head ranger, neglecting his duties as he prepares to marry Donna atop Big Bone Hill, allows Donna’s father, Percy, an ex-con stickler for the rules, free rein over the park.

Percy’s conviction is that everybody tries to get away with something, but that anyone once 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 the whole community on edge, including his widowed friend Maureen, Dennis (who runs the entrance booth), and the Beanblossoms, workamper entrepreneurs who introduce the shirtless Rick to Eden.

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 the upside-down underpinnings of an American microcosm.

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

Excerpt (.pdf):   On her way to work the lunch shift at Long John Silver’s, Donna stopped off . . .

 
Queer’s Progress, a novel

Queer’s Progress

A Novel

My family is more fucked up than the norm, OK? That’s why I work like a maniac, to keep out of the house. Not that it helps, when everyone I meet is so fucked up.

This compelling story of young love opens with Edward, Cuban-born CCNY honor student and page at the New York Public Library (“just a page, not a whole book or anything”). Edward is handsome, charming, and reeks of sex.

Ned, who’s seen it all before, adds his voice when Andrew, a young scholar new to town, falls in love with Edward at first sight and seeks the older man’s guidance.

The self-styled master of gay Manhattan—founder of “Gays Reaching Out” and author of the bestselling How to Score Tonight—Ned offers hands-on instruction as required, but also wants to use Andrew’s publishing connections to kick-start his own languishing literary career.

Andrew makes stumbling progress through gay New York in pursuit of Edward. But Edward, in flight from a pregnant hookup, leaves his mom’s Harlem apartment to flop successively on his oldest friend’s floor, on 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 churn as Queer’s Progress races towards a classic if surprising inevitability, in a tale by turns savage and urbane, lyrical and full of wit-burnished emotion.

ISBN 978-1-62646-647-0 (paper, 255 pp.)   Cover by Todd Engel

Excerpt (.pdf):   My family is more fucked up than the norm, OK?        

Decider         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 ever 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 as the witty wood-engraved advertising images that have occupied him since he was a teenager have ceased to sell. But he is beginning to paint the pictures for which he will become known—landscapes filtering the light falling from the forest canopy through personal responses and meanings. And all the while he promotes himself nonstop, 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—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 attracts the commission of a lifetime from the Christian Church in Utica, Indiana and paints his enormous masterpiece, Ruth Gleaning in the Fields of Boaz. Analyzing the complex Bible story of 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.

ISBN 978-1-62249-101-8 (paper)   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)

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

   

“Two sharp novellas that vividly complement each other!” —Kirkus Reviews      

New York / Siena, two short novels

 

New York / Siena

Two Short Novels

The sharply rendered, weirdly palindromic novels of New York / Siena rush with wit and verve to their opposite endings.

In The Man Who Owned New York, guileless young cleric Albert“Dick Rover” Stackpole is newly installed in 1907 Manhattan’s richest Episcopal parish when his safely bishop-bound future is threatened:   A Kansas farmer claims title to the Manhattan real estate that has enriched the parish since the American Revolution.   The farmer’s proofs (and his daughter Delia) look irresistible, and Stackpole intervenes, committing a gaudy crime to secure the farmer’s patrimony.

Springtime in Siena follows a young academic, hungry for fame and wealth, as he leads a semester-abroad student group to Tuscany in 1974.   Knowing his charges are less interested in Italy’s art than in sex, Gary sleeps with his students of both sexes until, coldly modifying his own voracious behavior, he winds up, still hungry, with everything he’s dreamed of.

ISBN 978-1-62141-859-7 (paper)  Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note          Decider

Excerpt (.pdf):     Edith Wharton died the other day . . .          

 

“The kind of novel Chandler or Hammett might write today” —M. Lee Alexander (author of 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 Lucie Spode White kidnapping case, the rumors are true.

Falls City’s sexy Depression belle is a high-living heiress whose stingy husband expects her to get by on her pin money. She’s only 25 and 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 can guess 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 too, if he’s ever 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 real-life 1934 kidnapping of Alice Speed Stoll, All That Money is a fast-moving reverse mystery that takes a rollicking ride with Lucie, Harry and her hapless husband—with square-jawed Special Agent Joe Albright sniffing out the trail!

ISBN 978-1614346982 (paper)   Cover by Todd Engel

Author’s Note

Excerpt (.pdf):   In Hollywood, when you wake up, who are you?

 

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

                     Good People

                                          A Novel

Good People, a novel

In the mid-1980s, Rolling Stone proclaims comedy “the rock and roll of the Eighties,” inspiring Rex Black, owner of an Upper East Side dive, to brand the zeitgeist for his own by taking his comedy club public!

Rex scouts new clients, builds new clubs, recruits Wall Street titan Siggy Brewster to handle an IPO, appeases his Mafioso landlord (without paying the rent), pitches private placements 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—desperate for her break—is comedian Rosetta Stone.

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

ISBN 978-1609106317 (paper)  Cover by Todd Engel

Decider       Author’s Note  

Excerpt (.pdf):   A nor’easter was lashing Manhattan the October night Rex Black raided Poor Richard’s Cabaret . . .

 

Steven Key Meyers was born on a farm in western Colorado and now, alas, lives in the Midwest. His memoir I Remember Caramoor recounts his time as teenaged underbutler at that famous Westchester County estate, which also inspired two novels, the title piece of My Mad Russian: Three Tales and Another’s Fool. In 2018 he published The Last Posse, a novel based on his great-uncle’s historic pursuit of a famous outlaw by automobile and on horseback. He is at work on a sequel, mining more family history for a tale set in 1935 in Holmby Hills, California, called The Ringers, and is meanwhile completing a new novel, A Family Romance. He can sometimes be reached at stevenkeymeyers@stevenkeymeyers.com.