When a dude who has deftly edited everyone from Walter Kirn to Alan Richman to James Ellroy over the course of a fourteen-year stint at your favorite men’s general-interest magazine turns around and writes his own book, you read it. You read it because the author, GQ’s deputy editor Michael Hainey, is a supremely talented writer, editor, and interviewer (just see this month’s cover story. You read it because no less than John Jeremiah Sullivan described it as “a book whose heartbreak and humor, in the true Irish tradition, can’t be untangled.” And you read it because the book’s subject is one that any man can relate to: the story of a son trying to learn more about his father, to understand him as a man.
What you find in the pages of After Visiting Friends is more or less what you’d expect: some genius-level literary fusing of forms and functions. Words set into type as if chiseled from stone letter by letter. A decade’s worth of writing and reporting that takes the reader though a pastiche of narrative non-fiction, dreamy invented scenes, hard documents, and every writerly tool in-between. When you’re done reading this book you will want to be a better man, a better father, and a better writer.
The becoming a better man part is up to you.
If you read best-sellers or remember when we got Bin Laden, then you’re familiar with the work of Don Mann. A longtime platoon member, assault team member, boat crew leader, and advance training officer, Mann has been working with the SEALS for thirty years, and until 1998 was on active duty with SEAL Team Six (the ones who got Bin Laden). He also wrote the captivating memoir Inside SEAL Team Six, and has now, between his fighting terror in the Middle East and continued SEAL training, written a new novel. Out today from Little, Brown, Hunt the Scorpion follows a fictional SEAL Team Six that’s called upon to recover a nuclear device from terrorists. Told in sparse, informed prose, Hunt the Scorpion is a page-turning thriller that’s also a rip-roaring good time. —COLE LOUISON
Michael Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on his family’s back door one morning with the tragic news: Bob Hainey, Michael’s father, was found alone near his car on Chicago’s North Side, dead, of an apparent heart attack. Thirty-five years old, a young assistant copy desk chief at the Chicago Sun-Times, Bob was a bright and shining star in the competitive, hard-living world of newspapers, one that involved booze-soaked nights that bled into dawn. And then suddenly he was gone, leaving behind a young widow, two sons, a fractured family—and questions surrounding the mysterious nature of his death that would obsess Michael throughout adolescence and long into adulthood. Finally, roughly his father’s age when he died, and a seasoned reporter himself, Michael set out to learn what happened that night. Died “after visiting friends,” the obituaries said. But the details beyond that were inconsistent. What friends? Where? At the heart of his quest is Michael’s all-too-silent, opaque mother, a woman of great courage and tenacity—and a steely determination not to look back. Prodding and cajoling his relatives, and working through a network of his father’s buddies who abide by an honor code of silence and secrecy, Michael sees beyond the long-held myths and ultimately reconciles the father he’d imagined with the one he comes to know—and in the journey discovers new truths about his mother.
A stirring portrait of a family and its legacy of secrets, After Visiting Friends is the story of a son who goes in search of the truth and finds not only his father, but a rare window into a world of men and newspapers and fierce loyalties that no longer exists.
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For five decades, Lawrence Block has been writing about underworlds. Wealthy back-stabbers, the brotherhood of the criminal class, and hard-living souls who somehow inhabit their middlegrounds. Gentlemanly criminals. Ex-cops who drink too much. Dubiously-employed private investigators. They sound like cliché detective novel characters only because Block has so masterfully shaped the genre over the last 50 years. His new novel “Hit Me” finds a New Orleans builder collecting stamps, playing Dad, and trying hard to forget a past he knows isn’t done with him. When work dries up and the call comes from New York … well, look at the title. Out today. —COLE LOUISON