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The November Criminals

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Overview

A darkly funny, pot-infused novel of teenage maladjustment in the tradition of Beautiful Children from a compelling new voice in American fiction.

For a high school senior, Addison Schacht has a lot of preoccupations. Like getting into college. Selling drugs to his classmates. His complicated relationship with his best friend (NOT his girlfriend) Digger. And he's just added another to the list: the murder of his classmate Kevin Broadus, and his own absurd, obsessive plan to ...

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2010-04-20 Hardcover First Edition New. Very good DJ First Edition. Very good DJ. Doubleday 2010. 1st printing. Clean covers with clean and firm pages, with no marks, volume is ... square, tight spine, sharp corners. Read more Show Less

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Overview

A darkly funny, pot-infused novel of teenage maladjustment in the tradition of Beautiful Children from a compelling new voice in American fiction.

For a high school senior, Addison Schacht has a lot of preoccupations. Like getting into college. Selling drugs to his classmates. His complicated relationship with his best friend (NOT his girlfriend) Digger. And he's just added another to the list: the murder of his classmate Kevin Broadus, and his own absurd, obsessive plan to investigate the death. When presented with an essay question on his application to the University of Chicago—What are your best and worst qualities?—Addison finds himself provoked into giving his final, unapologetic say about all of the above and more.

Addison Schacht finds good company among American literature's cadre of unsettled, restless youth, from Huck Finn to Holden Caulfield. The November Criminals takes on the terrain of the classic adolescent truth-telling novel and—with nerve and erudition—carves out its own unique territory.

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Editorial Reviews

Joseph Salvatore
…both a thoughtful coming-of-age story and an engaging teenage noir. Think of it as an existential murder mystery for the stoner pre-­college set—Keanu Reeves's "River’s Edge," as written by Camus.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Munson’s funny, stoner-friendly debut follows high school senior Addison Schacht as he stumbles through the Washington, D.C., teenage underworld to investigate a classmate’s unsolved murder. Schacht—a small-time pot dealer, consummate anti-social, and Jewish collector of Holocaust jokes—makes for a poor but entertaining detective, and when he places a stoned phone call to his prime suspect, Addison and his friends become caught up in the mystery he set out to solve. As Addison’s sleuthing begins to unravel and his life crumbles along with it, his ramblings offer an interesting counter to, and often context for, his misguided attempt to discover the truth. Munson keeps things lightly dark, though his weakness for wandering asides—Addison is just as likely to riff on the Aeneid, Latin syntax, or his favorite movies as he is to discuss his investigation and efforts to outsmart the police—trips up the pace, even if they are what one would expect from a self-absorbed adolescent. The plotting could use some work, but Munson nails the voice. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Set in Washington, DC, in the late 1990s, this novel answers a college application question: "What are your best and worst qualities?" Given the psychological complexity of its writer, the gifted and disaffected high schooler Addison Schacht, the answer is extensive. A small-time drug dealer and advanced Latin student (he's a devotee of Virgil's Aeneid), Addison is also involved in a "nonrelationship" with the equally gifted but more levelheaded Phoebe "Digger" Zeleny. After the murder of classmate Kevin Broadus, a kid he barely knew, Addison becomes obsessed with solving the murder mystery. When he hears a rumor of an alleged perpetrator, he embarks, along with Digger, on a reckless quest to bring him to justice. VERDICT First novelist Munson, an online editor at Commentary, takes the young, alienated hero/antihero trope à la Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield in a decidedly contemporary direction. However, Addison's negativity and detachment make him less engaging than his spiritual predecessors, and overall the novel is not entirely successful.—Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, North Andover, MA
Kirkus Reviews
High-school student with dreams of collegiate glory investigates the murder of a classmate. Debut novelist Munson combines a classic sense of adolescent alienation and a keen comedic voice to depict a bleakly funny teenage wasteland in the wilds of the District of Columbia. The book is structured around the college essay question of one Addison Schacht, a smart 18-year-old high-school senior who supplements the dreary monotony of life in an upper-middle-class D.C. suburb with a sideline selling marijuana to his equally well-off classmates. But Addison fully intends to surpass his peers with a meteoric rise to academic greatness-as a classics major, no less. His only real comrade in his delusional struggle is best friend and soul mate Phoebe "Digger" Zeleny, a funny, sly young woman Addison repeatedly declares is not his girlfriend by any stretch of the imagination. The crime to which our hero devotes himself is the startling death of his classmate Kevin Broadus, gunned down in a coffee shop near the Potomac. Two others were also killed, but the murderer took the time to pump a dozen bullets into Kevin. "You had to figure all the extra bullets . . . meant something," Addison says. Echoes of James Fuerst's Huge (2009) and the 2005 film Brick abound, but deft comic timing and a caustic, ambitious protagonist make this a perfectly valid entry in the teen noir subgenre.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385532273
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/20/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

SAM MUNSON's writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Times Literary Supplement, among other venues. He is the former online editor of Commentary magazine, and he graduated from the University of Chicago in 2003. He lives in New York City.
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Read an Excerpt

Addison Schacht is a lot of things: high-school student, drug dealer, aspiring classicist, amateur private eye, as well as being the narrator of THE NOVEMBER CRIMINALS. He's got a lot to say on every subject. Below, he takes on the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
No such thing.

What is your greatest fear?
That no-one will listen to me, even though I know I'm right. And death. I'm terrified of dying.

What historical figure do you identify with the most?
The Greek warrior Neoptolemus. You're totally baffled by that, I can just tell.

Which living person do you most admire?
Even if I told you her name, you wouldn't know who she was, but that's private, so I'm not telling.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
That I'm a November Criminal. As I already said. At considerable length. If you're confused, read my essay.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
See above. (But they won't admit it.)

What is your greatest extravagance?
It was a gun, but I don't have it anymore. So I guess nothing.

On what occasion do you lie?
On what occasion don't I lie?

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I'd have to go with: whatever element of my appearance it is that makes people think I like answering their stupid questions.

Where and when were you happiest?
Four years old, just waking up in bed, hearing the rain. Don't remember the exact day or month.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'd like to be taller. Although I guess my father is tall and it hasn't helped him any.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
My father. No, I take that back: I'd want my mother to be alive.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Senior year, this girl I went to high school with, Alex Faustner, won an essay prize and got to make this ridiculous acceptance speech. I-without going too deeply into detail-RUINED it. And I mean just absolutely, completely wrecked it, caused this whole small catastrophe, for which I got suspended.

If you died and came back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Whoa, Jerry Garcia, Jr.-what a penetrating question! I don't believe in reincarnation, it's always seemed even more cowardly than the idea of an afterlife. Since you're making me choose, though, I would say a sea otter. They have it pretty good, it seems to me.

What is your most treasured possession?
My Loeb Classical Library edition of the Aeneid.

What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?
English class. Or possibly my English teacher.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Did you know that word comes from Greek, originally? The word heros, meaning hero. It's the same word in Latin, but it's declined differently. The Romans, who were a bunch of culture thieves, sometimes just blatantly stole words from the Greeks like that. (The technical philological term for such a word is calque.) Unsettling, right? I mean, if not even words are immune to theft, what's the point of writing at all?

What is it that you most dislike?
You'll be here all day if I answer truthfully.

How would you like to die?
I wouldn't.

What is your motto?
Anyone who tells you they have a motto should be laughed at.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Where Do I Start?

    It's been over two months now since The November Criminals was published, and yet not a single review here at bn.com. I always hate to be the first to submit a review lest some one come long later and point out all of the things I missed about the novel. So that is probably what will happen here. But, here goes: The November Criminals is virtually unreadable. After 50 pages I was going to give up, but then it became somewhat interesting. For a while. But the narrator is so self-absorbed that it becomes obnoxious. He will take a small topic and go on for pages about it, thinking, I imagine, that the reader is just fascinated. And maybe some were, but not enough to write up a review. About page 160 I was sure that I had enough, and I do admit to skimming some of his long and tedious blatherings, but I did finish the book. And I am nowhere ahead for doing it. So I await the review that tells me what I missed!

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    Posted June 1, 2014

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