Anahid Literary Prize Winner Peelle Celebrates Release of Novel with Revue Readings


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Acclaimed author Lydia Peelle will be celebrating the publication of her first novel The Midnight Cool (published January 2017 by Harper, a division of HarperCollins) with a string of appearances featuring a variety of music, readings and mixed media. The revue travels to Powerhouse Arena, 28 Adams St., in Brooklyn on March 21 at 7 p.m.

The Midnight Cool, set in Tennessee exactly 100 years ago, is a hauntingly modern story of two freewheeling grifters torn between personal liberty and civic responsibility as America enters the first World War.

The Midnight Cool Revue brings to life the characters and times of The Midnight Cool through period music, photography and storytelling, and commemorates the centenary (April 6th, 2017) of the United States’ entry into WWI. The musical portion of the program will feature Peelle’s husband Ketch Secor of two-time Grammy award-winning group Old Crow Medicine Show performing WWI era songs on an antique guitjo.

An original 1919 Edison Amberola Cylinder player (featured in the action of the novel) will also play a part in the program demonstrating some of the recorded patriotic propaganda songs of the era.

As expected Peelle will read excerpts from the book, as well as present recruitment posters and discuss the role of war propaganda in that time.

The Midnight Cool takes place in Richfield, Tenn. in 1916, where traveling horse traders Charles McLaughlin and Billy Monday buy a beautiful yet mysteriously vicious horse. As it slowly becomes clear that both this horse and the wealthy man who owned her have a terrible secret, Charles, a fierce and hungry 18-year-old, falls in love with the man’s daughter, Catherine Hatcher. All the while, the war in Europe looms, and Richfield, like America, finds itself deeply divided over the decision to engage in the conflict. Charles and Billy are drawn into it when they take a job supplying mules to the British Army, and when America enters the war in April 1917, they suddenly become local heroes, sending Tennessee mules to the fight alongside growing numbers of local men. But in the war’s encroaching shadow, Charles is forced to question his own ideology, and when a trade goes terribly wrong, he must choose between freedom and responsibility, self and country, and love and duty.

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Peelle’s debut story collection, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, appeared to much acclaim in 2009. According to the New York Times Book Review, Peelle had “the makings of a writer who defies labels and creates her own categories.” That same year, Peelle was named one of the “5 Under 35” honorees by the National Book Foundation, and in 2010 won a Whiting Award. Peelle, whose maternal great-grandparents all immigrated to the United States from Armenia as a result of the Armenian Genocide, was the 2012 winner of the Anahid Literary Prize given by Columbia University’s Armenian Center.

Peelle’s novel arrives at a critical moment to examine the US role in WWI and the complex legacy that participation in it has created, both domestically and in global politics. The New Yorker calls this book “a drama about the speciousness of the American dream and the costs of self-invention” And the New York Times Book Review notes that “it offers a pertinent demonstration of the way homegrown xenophobia can feed off overseas terrors.”

Topics: Book Reviews
People: Lydia Peelle
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