I had the pleasure, not long ago, of reading an advance copy of PALISADES PARK, by Alan Brennert. The novel will be coming out from St. Martin’s Press next April, and I recommend it highly.
Let me say up front that I’m a big Brennert fan. I have been since I first saw his work in issues of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD from DC Comics, teaming Batman with other DC heroes. Brennert didn’t tell straightforward adventure stories, he told character stories—of teen heroes Hawk & Dove as maturing adults, thinking back on what their lives had been, of the courtship and marriage of the Batman and Catwoman of DC’s Golden Age, of the repercussions of Batman’s efforts to save the young Bruce Wayne of an alternate timeline from the same tragedy that had haunted and shaped Batman’s life. And whatever else Brennert wrote, whether it was TV series like L.A. LAW or novels like KINDRED SPIRITS, a romance between two disembodied spirits discovering on the verge of death that life is perhaps worth living after all, I sought out his work and couldn’t get enough of it. Everything he writes is imaginative and human, creating richly textured worlds full of engaging, believable characters that don’t so much suck the reader in as welcome him in, enveloping him in story for as long as it takes.
And then, a couple of books back, he took what felt like a quantum leap forward, abandoning the fantasy of his previous work for history, in MOLOKA’I, which I can only describe as the most positive, uplifting, heartwarming novel about decades of life in a leper colony that you’ll ever read. As with all of Brennert’s work, it found a great depth of humanity in its characters, but it did so in a world so outwardly horrific and unsettling that the impact of the book was all the richer for it, mixing tragedy, sweetness, endurance, emotion and hope into a powerful and compelling story. Much as I like fantasy, and much as I liked what Brennert had done before, MOLOKA’I showed that historical fiction was what he should be doing, ushering us into worlds and times that we simply could never see or experience in any other way.