Don Swaim's The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story was published by Hippocampus Press in April 2016.
Information about Don Swaim:
Don Swaim is the author of Steampunk Electroblaster Romance, The H. L. Mencken Murder Case, and other works. He runs the most comprehensive website on Ambrose Bierce (donswaim.com).
Information about The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story:
Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914?) is one of the most colorful and inscrutable figures in American literature. He had a long literary career in San Francisco before disappearing in a cloud of smoke in the Mexican Civil War. His life story is ripe for fictional treatment, and Don Swaim has brought all his knowledge of Bierce - and his skill as a novelist - to bear in The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce.
The novel tells of Bierce's departure from his home in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1913 and his venture into Mexico, where he meets a number of the leading figures in the Mexican Civil War, notably Pancho Villa. Intermixed with Bierce's lively encounters with the ill-educated and violent Villa are passages where Bierce recalls the more notable episodes of a long and rich life, notably his participation in some of the grisliest battles of the Civil War.
In the end, Bierce, after escaping death on several occasions in the Mexican Civil War, ventures up with Villa to Saratoga Springs, where he unexpectedly falls in love with a fetching woman, Elizabeth Dumont, justifying Swaim's provocative subtitle (“A Love Story”). Along the way, Bierce also has repeated encounters with “the Damned Thing” - the baleful figure of death.
This novel - by turns moving, funny, and terrifying - will be richly enjoyed by aficionados of Ambrose Bierce and with any readers who like a well-told tale that evokes the past with vividness and panache.
A REVIEW OF DON SWAIM'S THE ASSASSINATION OF AMBROSE BIERCE: A LOVE STORY
Don Swaim's semibiographical The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story is one of the most intriguing novels published this year. It gives fans of classic weird fiction a unique and enjoyable glimpse into the life of Ambrose Bierce. Because Don Swaim is a devoted expert an all things Biercean, he has a lot to write about Ambrose Bierce and he does his utmost best to deliver an entertaining story.
The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story is a fascinating blend of literary fiction, historical fiction and speculative fiction (it's in equal parts fact and fiction). It's one of the few novels of its kind that are worth reading due to the author's vast knowledge about Ambrose Bierce.
It's good to point out that although this novel is a story about Ambrose Bierce, readers don't necessarily have to know anything about Bierce in order to enjoy the story. The story has been written so well that it will captivate its readers.
I think that many speculative fiction readers - especially fans of horror fiction and its sub-genres - have read at least a couple of stories by Ambrose Bierce, but if there happen to be readers out there who have never heard of Ambrose Bierce and his works, here's a bit of information about him and his amazing and event-filled life (more information about Ambrose Bierce can easily be found from the internet and from the author's official website):
Ambrose Bierce was born in 1842 in rural Ohio. He died circa 1914 (he was last seen in Chihuahua, Mexico). He was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist. He enlisted in the Union army and fought in the Civil War. He wrote for San Francisco papers, worked as general agent for a mining company and wrote stories etc. Bierce was a complex man who was disappointed in the human race and pointed out his feelings about this matter. He was also a lover and had a boyhood love affair when he was young. Later his marriage to Mollie Day led to the birth of three children.
I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I'm not as well-read when it comes to Ambrose Bierce's stories as I'd like to be, but I've read a few of his stories. He's been on my reading list for a long time, because I like his fiction, but I haven't yet gotten round to reading all of his stories. I will remedy this as soon as possible, because this novel made me even more curious about his stories.
In this novel, delicate complexity meets absorbing storytelling in an entertaining way. The story has a fascinating rhythm, because it's a combination of lighter and heavier scenes that balance each other perfectly.
I'm aware that this may sound a bit strange and may not make sense to readers, but this novel can be seen as a love story about Ambrose Bierce and a love story to him. The author's fascination about Bierce and his devotion to delivering information about him can be seen in all of the chapters.
In order to avoid writing spoilers, I won't go into details about the contents of this novel, but I'll reveal that the story tells about how Ambrose Bierce travels to Mexico and meets the famous Pancho Villa who terrorises Mexico. The story also includes mentions about his personal life and his experiences in the Civil War. During the story, Ambrose Bierce's thoughts often return to the events that he can't forget.
Don Swaim writes well about Ambrose Bierce and his deeds. He makes Bierce a fascinating protagonist. The other characters are well-portrayed and add a nice flavour to the story because of their connection to Bierce's life.
The richly-told story is evocative and exciting, because the author's fictional treatment of Bierce's life is stunningly detailed and enjoyable. I don't normally warm up to this kind of fictional treatments about famous people and their lives, but this novel is an exception. There was something about this novel that wholly captured my imagination and kept me glued to it until the wee hours of morning.
A big part of the story's charm comes from Bierce referring to death as "the Damned Thing", because he has encounters with death. This weird spectre seems to haunt and hunt him.
Another reason why I love this novel so much is Don Swaim's prose, because he writes fluent, melancholy and compelling prose that is at times fascinatingly sardonic. He easily creates an excellent atmosphere with his prose, and he writes well about the different happenings.
I liked the ending very much, because it's a perfect and fitting conclusion to the story. Because the author has done his best to write as good and interesting a conclusion as possible, it's fair to say that there's something spellbindingly Biercian about it.
The introduction by S. T. Joshi provides good and useful information about Ambrose Bierce and his life. It reveals many things about Bierce.
I give this novel full five stars on the scale from one to five stars. It deserves to be read and enjoyed by fans of literary fiction and weird fiction.
If you're a fan of classic weird fiction and are interested in the life of Ambrose Bierce, Don Swaim's The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story is essential reading material to you. It's an intriguingly complex semibiographical novel that will fascinate many readers, because the author has written a story that both chills and thrills readers.
Highly recommended (especially to fans of Ambrose Bierce)!