THE YEAR IS 1910. Eighteen-year-old Will Edwards has landed a prestigious apprenticeship at
Detroit’s Tesla Industries, the most advanced scientific research center in the United States. It’s a plum prize for a young man who dreams of a career in the new science of Otherwhere Engineering.
But his father doesn’t want him to go. And he won’t tell him why.
Determined to get there by any means necessary, Will finds unexpected support along the way. His old friend Jenny Hansen—daughter of a
San Franciscotimber baron—is eager to help him for reasons of her own. And so is his estranged brother Ben, who he hasn’t seen in over ten years.
But running away turns out to be the easy part. On the first full moon after his eighteenth birthday, Will is stricken by a powerful magic—a devastating curse laid upon his ancestors by the malevolent sangrimancer Aebedel Cowdray. Will must find a way to control the magic that possesses him—or the vengeful warlock’s spirit will destroy everything and everyone he loves.
- Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie. Sister Carrie is the age-old story of a country girl who tries to make it in the big city. She ultimately achieves success as a famous actress—but not without "compromising her virtue" along the way. At the time this book was published, it was denounced by critics of the time as being immoral, because it was generally accepted that only heroines of spotless moral character were allowed to have a happy ending.
- Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt. I love just about all of Sinclair Lewis' books, but Babbitt is one of my all-time favorites. It's a frequently hilarious satire of American culture, society, and behavior as it existed in 1922, but when you read it you'll be amazed at how little has changed between then and now.
- Gore Vidal, Burr. Published in 1973, this is the newest book on my list. Author Gore Vidal built his reputation on being an outspoken, ornery cuss. With Burr, he lived up to that reputation in spades, making Aaron Burr (often regarded by history as a self-serving hothead) the hero of the story. At the same time, he casts Burr's more-lauded contemporaries—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the ill-fated Alexander Hamilton—in an unflattering light. I was so delighted by Gore Vidal's subversive, iconoclastic depiction of the founding fathers—and ultimately, by the rest of his historical fiction—that I gave him a fangirl shout-out in The Warlock's Curse, using his first name for a family of Greek sangrimancers.
- Gertrude Atherton, Patience Sparhawk and Her Times. Gertrude Atherton also gets a fangirl shout-out in The Warlock's Curse—I gave her last name to the book's secondary love interest. She began writing to support herself and her children after the death of her husband in 1887, and while much of her financial success came from straight-ahead commercial potboilers, she also wrote several works of superior literary value, Patience Sparhawk being one. Like Sister Carrie, the book was considered scandalous in its time because of the sympathetic and pragmatic presentation of prostitution and the overall contempt for the institution of marriage. Just as importantly, it's a ripping good yarn—the last 20 pages had me on the edge of my seat.