||First Novels - Elvis and the Shaman
Finally there is P.G. Tarr's The Underwood (Anvil Press, 132 pages, $11.95 paper), winner of the 20th Annual 3-Day Novel-Writing Contest. Twenty-one-year-old Foster Lutz takes a job as the lounge pianist at the Underwood. To most people it is nothing but a rundown old hotel, but for Foster, it is a refuge, a place to hide from the world. His loss of innocence begins in earnest when Max, a dope dealer and fellow musician, talks him into forming a trio with Antoine, the hotel's dishwasher. The trio is so good people come from far away to hear them, but eventually the group falls apart: Antoine dies, Max is arrested, Foster ends up writing movie scores in California. As the group loses its momentum, so too does the novel: it ends with a whimper, not a bang. Nevertheless, this short book is better than many books ten times as long-or that took three years, not three days, to write.