REVIEW FROM KIRKUS:
IN THE SHADOW OF CRAZY CAT
Western Star Books (209 pp.)
ISBN: 978-1-79771-326-7; February 24, 2019
An author explores publishing, writing, and the Wild West.
“The tale of my publishing career is a lament of bad luck, ignorant mistakes, and lost opportunities,” Fackler-Sinkóvitz (Grand River Highway, 2015, etc.) writes in this memoir, which draws from journal entries from the early 1990s. She offers a biting self-critique as she describes her largely unsuccessful struggle to get New York City agents and editors to notice her offbeat Westerns. She also touches on the basics of her autobiography, giving readers glimpses into a childhood with a demanding, violent father and of her early adult years, when she was married to a man named Roberto; the latter eventually inspired some of her first stories after committing a murder-suicide. In addition, Fackler-Sinkóvitz writes of an existential crisis provoked by her daily life in El Paso, Texas, among her friends and her gentle second husband, Michael. However, she also notes that she’s often had trouble distinguishing between her waking life, her dream life, and her writerly imagination. Consequently, the various vignettes in this memoir move seamlessly and poetically between several different realities; one moment, she’s walking up a canyon and eating chocolate chip cookies; in the next, she’s shooting a woman in an old-time saloon. Seth Strummar, the rough-and-tumble hero of many of her novels, appears to her as if he’s just another man in her life, completely tearing down the barriers between lived and constructed experience. This confusion between fiction and reality creates a richly convoluted landscape that allows Fackler-Sinkóvitz the space to effectively ruminate on her writing and her reactions to criticism; of walking and talking with her friend Roy, she writes, “We felt happy. He was picking notes on my novels from the bushes as if they were flowers.” She punctuates the remarkable, impressionistic moments with bursts of straightforward, and disappointing, realism, such as her realization that men dominate the Western book market. The publishing world may have been difficult to navigate, but Fackler-Sinkóvitz certainly knows how to lead readers through the engaging, surreal terrain that she’s created in this work.
A dark, dreamlike memoir that compellingly confronts questions of success and imagination.