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End of Story

End of Story

3.2 5
by Peter Abrahams

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Aspiring author Ivy Seidel accepts a part-time position teaching writing to a group of convicted criminals hoping the experience will add depth and darkness to her own work.

But in the haunting writings of charismatic inmate Vance Harrow she discovers a talent possibly greater than her own. And in the startling, disturbing stories Harrow has to tell, Ivy


Aspiring author Ivy Seidel accepts a part-time position teaching writing to a group of convicted criminals hoping the experience will add depth and darkness to her own work.

But in the haunting writings of charismatic inmate Vance Harrow she discovers a talent possibly greater than her own. And in the startling, disturbing stories Harrow has to tell, Ivy finds a dangerous new purpose—and a terrifying temptation that lures her into an inescapable world of shadows.

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
A stickler for realistic detail, Abrahams writes prison scenes that can curl your toes, but nothing captures the brutality of the life more expressively than the material turned out by Ivy's class. "Last night a man dream of a knife in a drawer" goes a line from one of them, who winds up in the psych ward.
— The New York Times
Patrick Anderson
As the novel races to a climax, we aren't sure if Ivy is about to become a new literary star in Manhattan or wind up dead because of her meddling upstate. Or both. The novel is a delight and, if you haven't discovered Abrahams, a fine place to start, despite an ending as unnerving as it is abrupt.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Abrahams (Oblivion) solidifies his reputation as one of the best contemporary thriller writers around with this psychologically deep page-turner evoking the classic noir of Cornell Woolrich. Ivy Seidel, a struggling would-be writer paying the bills by working in a New York City bar, finds herself drawn into an unfamiliar world when she's offered the chance to teach writing at an upstate prison. The na ve teacher is startled to find that one of her students, convicted robber Vance Harrow, is actually more gifted than she is. Unable to believe that he could be both guilty and such a creative talent, Seidel begins to pick at the stray loose threads surrounding his case-despite Harrow's having pleaded guilty to the violent crime. Abrahams manages to make each individual step that his heroine takes into the twisted maze believable, even if it's clear that she's rapidly approaching a precipice that will threaten her life and her mental state. In 2005, Abrahams published his first children's novel, Down the Rabbit Hole. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Ivy Seidel earned an MFA from Brown, but her writing style lacks a certain hardness, which results in two abandoned novels and a drawerful of rejection letters. In an attempt to add punch to her writing and supplement her bartending wages, Ivy agrees to teach a writing course to inmates in a maximum-security prison in upstate New York. Among the seedy convicts in her class, Vance Harrow stands out, not just because of his impressive writing talent but also owing to his quiet confidence and charm. Ivy seeks to understand how Vance could have turned into such a violent criminal, eventually discovering that he may be innocent after all. But then why did he plead guilty, and why hasn't he tried to free himself? Ivy's investigation into the mysterious past of this charismatic prisoner leads to adventures that even a seasoned writer would have a hard time imagining. Abrahams's (Oblivion) latest offering affirms his position as one of the leading authors in the psychological suspense genre. His writing displays a wonderful combination of intensity and compassion blended with a silky delivery from start to finish. Recommended for any fiction collection. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05.]-Ken Bolton, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hip, crisp dialogue and swift prose rife with apt, unflashy literary allusions; a credibly brilliant and likable heroine; an effectively chilling behind-bars mise en scene; and a firecracker plot all add up to a very cool, smart thriller. Bartender by night, cute Brooklynite Ivy Seidel pens fiction and is all hot to publish in the New Yorker. While waiting out unlikely fame, she agrees to teach composition in a literal school of hard knocks: Dannemora Prison. Abrahams (Oblivion, 2005) assembles a convincingly menacing student body: Latino gangsters, rip-off artists making the wicked most out of Harvard MBAs and straight-ahead, ice-cold killers. Between classes, she's futzing with a fairly iffy story called "Caveman" and hanging with either bohemians or suits, all the while reluctantly discovering that the macho men inside the pokey seem much more exciting. They fill her on some primal level with both fear and fascination. Especially Vance Harrow. Serving significant time for his role in a long-ago heist-slash-murder in a casino, he intrigues Ivy not only with his stoic mystery, but, of all things, the way he fulfills his class assignments-with lean, vivid images that read like a better Charles Bukowski. Convincing herself that so good a writer can't be a truly bad egg, she begins amateur sleuthing, revisiting the slot-machine scene of the crime, chatting up former eyewitnesses, exhuming the teacher's pet's conspirators from strip clubs and other suitably demimonde haunts. But Harrow again will surprise her. Studded with alarmingly precise renderings of explosive violence and pop-culture references ranging from Adam Sandler flicks to the Harvard Crimson to Wal-Mart nametags, the storyreads like up-to-the-minute Ross MacDonald, Abraham's idol and the presiding eminence of brainy crime fare. Truly clever writing about a clever writer turned true detective.

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End of Story

A Novel of Suspense
By Peter Abrahams

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Peter Abrahams
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060726652

Chapter One

"How is going the writing?" said Dragan Karodojic.

Closing time at Verlaine's Bar and Grille on Schermerhorn Street, no one left inside except Dragan, the dishwasher, mopping the floor, and Ivy Seidel, the bartender, cashing out.

"Not bad," Ivy said. The question -- how her writing was going -- was the biggest one in her life, with her all the time, and the true answer was she had no idea. What she had was a creative writing MFA from Brown, three summers spent at an upstate fiction workshop, the last on full scholarship, two abandoned novels, sixty-one completed short stories, ranging in length from one page to fifty-eight, and a drawerful of rejection letters.

"I myself have idea for novel," Dragan said.

"You never mentioned that," Ivy said, taking her tip money from under the cash tray in the register and stuffing it in her pocket.

"You are never asking," said Dragan, and the next thing she knew he'd put down the mop and was sitting across the bar. Ivy liked Dragan. Hard not to -- six months in the country, big smile full of crooked East European teeth, wide-eyed enthusiasm for things most New Yorkers didn't even notice -- but it was after two and she wanted to go home.

"What is this thing," Dragan said, "for the cell-phone relays?" He made an expanding gesture with his hands, like a circle growing.

"Tower?" said Ivy.

"Tower, yes," said Dragan. "Cell tower." And he launched into a long and incomprehensible tale about a cell tower that picks up signals from a shadow world where the souls of all the extinct Neanderthals are plotting revenge. "So," said Dragan, head tilted up at a puppy-dog angle, "I want truth: What is your verdict?"

Ivy walked home. A warm September night, as warm as summer, but somehow different. How, exactly? It was important to nail these things down, find the right words. But as Ivy reached her building and climbed the stairs to the front door, the right words still hadn't come.

She unlocked her mailbox, number five, found a single letter. The New Yorker. She tore open the envelope. Rejection. A form rejection, of which she'd already collected three from The New Yorker -- they used thick paper, might have been sending out swanky invitations, if you were judging just by feel -- but this time someone with an illegible signature had added a note at the bottom. Ivy angled it toward the streetlight.

The Utah part is really nice.

The Utah part? What Utah part? Hadn't she sent them "Live Entertainment," an eight-page story that took place entirely at a truck stop in New Jersey? But then Ivy remembered a brief reference to a snowboarding accident in Alta. How brief? Three lines, if that.

Ivy unlocked the front door, walked up to her fifth-floor studio apartment. The staircase, the whole building, in fact, leaned slightly to the right, plus nothing worked properly and repairs never got done, but that didn't keep the rents low. Ivy's room, a converted attic, 485 lopsided square feet, cost $1,100 a month. She went in, slid the dead bolt closed, sat at the table, a cafe table she'd gotten for free from a failed Smith Street restaurant. Ivy switched on her laptop, found the Utah -passage in "Live Entertainment."

He fell but the direction must have been up because he landed in the top of a tree. The only sound was the kid he'd run over, crying up the trail. Far away the Great Salt Lake was somehow shining and brown at the same time.

That was really nice? Somehow much nicer than the rest of the story? Ivy read the whole thing over several times without seeing how. She decided to take The New Yorker's word for it. She was capable of really nice and she interpreted really nice to mean publishable in The New Yorker and all that would come after.

Almost three in the morning, but Ivy no longer felt tired. She made herself tea, stood on the table, pulled down the trapdoor with the folding staircase and climbed up on the roof. The only good feature of apartment five, but so good she'd signed the lease even though it was more than she could afford.

Ivy stood on her roof, looking west. Over the rooftops, across the river: Manhattan. She had no words for this view. Maybe the movies would always do that kind of thing better. But what the movies didn't capture, at least none of the movies Ivy knew, was the vulnerability. She saw it now, very clearly -- the whole skyline could be gone, just like that, as everybody now understood but as no camera could ever show. A tragic magnificence, even futile, like . . . Ozymandias. Wait a minute. Shelley had been this way already. So maybe she was wrong, maybe a really good writer could still --

At that moment, with the lit-up Manhattan skyline before her, -doubly in view, actually, the second image blurred on the water, and a soft September night breeze on her skin, soft and warm, but there was something impermanent about that warmth, even vulnerable, yes, that was it, the answer to the September night and skyline questions turning out to be one and the same -- at that moment, Ivy got an idea for a brand-new story.

A story about an immigrant, a legal alien in New York, in Sting's words, but this one finds himself turning into a Neanderthal man. Was she stealing from Dragan? No. More like stealing Dragan, if anything. But this was how art worked. There was something brutal about it, a brutality, she suddenly realized, often evident in the faces of the greatest artists, like Picasso, Brando, Hemingway. She remembered the parting words of Professor Smallian at Brown, teacher of the -advanced class and published author of three novels, one of which had been a New York Times notable book: You don't have to be a good person to be a good writer -- history shows it's better if you're not -- but you have to understand your badness.


Excerpted from End of Story by Peter Abrahams Copyright © 2006 by Peter Abrahams. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Peter Abrahams is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-five books, including the Edgar Award-winning Reality Check, Bullet Point, and the Echo Falls series for middle graders. Writing as Spencer Quinn, he is also the author of the Chet and Bernie series—Dog on It, Thereby Hangs a Tail, and To Fetch a Thief. He and his wife live in Massachusetts with their dog, Audrey.

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End of Story 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dysphoric_Angel More than 1 year ago
End of Story centers around Ivy, a failing writer with an MFA in English or something like that, who wants to be a published author. A friend of hers goes off to Hollywood to work on a movie of a screenplay he wrote that got greenlit, and he offers her the opportunity to work at his old job, teaching creative writing to prison inmates. One day, a mysterious inmate transfers to her class and he captures her interest. She sets out on an adventure to try to find out why he's in there and attempts to get him out on the presumption that he's innocent. The concept of the novel is engaging, but its problem comes from not being engaging in the story. Based on that concept alone, one would figure the story would grasp one's attention and never let go, but that's simply not the case with this novel. The story progresses quite slowly with an occasional situation that rouses interest just long enough to compel the reader for the next rousing situation. Unfortunately, those are few and far between. The first rousing situation would have to be the confrontation between Morales and Vance Harrow in which Harrow breaks Morales' arm. After that, there are others, such as a shanking, a hospital sexual encounter and Harrow killing a group of three people, but as I said before, these moments of stimulation are few and far between. The twist ending hits the reader so abruptly that it seems forced and feels like just a cheap device, rather than being drawn out and actually thought about. Overall, this novel takes some patience to even want to finish, let alone actually do so, and afterward, given its few adrenaline-rush moments, it's a forgettable novel once finished.
Sunflower6_Cris More than 1 year ago
Not one of Peter Abraham's better books. The story line was good and descriptive but the main character Ivy Seidel was boring and uninteresting. The storyline was believable but then it just ended. I would recommend A Perfect Crime by Peter Abrahams, there is no picture for a product recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The irony here is that Peter Abrahams 'End Of Story', didn't really become much of a story until towards the end of the story. I read over three quarters, but didn't finish the book because I had a foreboding sense of which path it was heading towards. I skimmed ahead to the final pages and my foreboding proved correct. I can grasp certain aspects of the book such as the wild attraction between Ivy and Vance. I could even understand the fact that Ivy was using Vance's writing capabilities to disguise admitting to herself the attraction. I just couldn¿t really understand how a novice author wannabe found witness protected gone defector Frank Mandrell fairly easy or how violent offenders in a maximum security prison are allowed writing sessions with unqualified civilian lay people naïve to the horrors of prison life. Though you do find yourself rooting and pulling for Ivy and Vance, you just know three quarters of the way in that none of it will ever come to any good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm giving this a marginal 4 stars - it's really about halfway between 3 and 4. I've read other books by Peter Abrahams, and this is not one of his best. For starters, the heroine is a cipher - bland and not very likable. For someone who's an aspiring writer and should have a way with words, Ivy is remarkably terse, rarely speaking words of more than two syllables - in sentences mostly six words or less. It's also VERY difficult to believe a high-security prison would send such violent men to her writing class in the library. It's even more incredible when two of them reappear in class a week after they've had a knock-down brawl right in front of her! An unlikely love affair with its attendant pleasures and consequences occurs between Ivy and one of the prisoners. The story moves along at a great pace - the pages of the last few chapters almost turn themselves. At the end, Ivy, who evidently is as lacking in brains as in personality, seems to be talking herself right into getting her head blown off. The last page seems like it was added as an afterthought. In all, good reading but too flawed to be really great.