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Not On Fire, Only Dying

ISBN: 9781940189109
Binding: Paperback
Author: Susan Rukeyser
Pages: 280
Trim: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Published: 9/15/2015

It is the fiery pinnacle of autumn in New York's Hudson Valley when Lola, a troubled recluse, reports her newborn kidnapped from outside a seedy bar. But no one's seen Lola with a baby, or even heard of him before now. Everyone assumes the boy is one of her delusions. Only Marko—a chivalrous, drug- dealing ex-con of Romani descent—is devoted to Lola. But even he questions her story, given her fragile sanity and reckless self- medication. With help from Mary, the owner of a local salvage business, Marko hunts for answers. From the Hudson Valley to New York City's East Village, he follows a dark path to the truth, navigating doubt, vengeance, and love.


Susan Rukeyser wrote the novel Not On Fire, Only Dying (Twisted Road Publications, 2015), an SPD Fiction Bestseller and a finalist for the 2016 Lascaux Fiction Prize. Her chapbook Swap / Meet (Space Cowboy Books, 2018), is a loosely-linked collection of tiny stories inspired by classified ads. She edited Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology and published it under her imprint: world split open press. Her short fiction and creative nonfiction appear in a variety of journals including Hippocampus Magazine, Atticus Review, WhiskeyPaper, Women Writers, Women's Books, and River Teeth. For three years she was the Reviews Editor for Necessary Fiction.


"Perhaps the greatest magic trick performed in Not on Fire, Only Dying, the elegant and gritty debut from Susan Rukeyser, is its improbable blend of elegance and grit. Literary fiction disguised as a crime novel—or is it the other way around?—Rukeyser’s New Yorkers are not the irony-addicted denizens of coffee shops and gentrified walk-ups who have peopled so much contemporary literature set in the city. Instead, “towering elms gild the morning’s hard light… several empty storefronts with for lease signs fading in the windows…. There’s a pawn shop. The windows of Lenny’s Swap Shop display trays of tarnished jewelry.” These characters are drug dealers and the mentally troubled, living in a New York more familiar to viewers of classic 1970s cinema, and Rukeyser’s dignified depiction of their lives doesn’t so much blend beauty and darkness as insist they are two sides of the same tarnished, priceless coin.

By the time the novel opens, Lola’s infant son is missing. Marco, the drug dealer of Romani descent from whose point of view the novel unfolds, vows to help her find him, and the stage is set for a would-be traditional kidnapping thriller. And while this novel contains enough dramatic thrills to satisfy those looking for them, nothing is spoiled to reveal the novel’s earliest twist: Lola might or might not even have an infant child." --James Tate Hill for Monkey Bicycle