Private Midnight

( 3 )


By the author of Zanesville, a seductive story of grit, gunplay, vampirism, and a bit of bondage.

Detective Birch Ritter is a man on the edge-of himself. His past is filled with secrets, shadows, guilt, and ghosts. Then a dubious police buddy he hasn't seen in a year introduces him to a mysterious woman who says her business is shadows. What she knows about what lies between the darkness and the light inside men is more than Ritter may want to find out, and much more than he can...

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By the author of Zanesville, a seductive story of grit, gunplay, vampirism, and a bit of bondage.

Detective Birch Ritter is a man on the edge-of himself. His past is filled with secrets, shadows, guilt, and ghosts. Then a dubious police buddy he hasn't seen in a year introduces him to a mysterious woman who says her business is shadows. What she knows about what lies between the darkness and the light inside men is more than Ritter may want to find out, and much more than he can resist learning. It's said that to try to forget is to try to conceal, and concealing evidence is a crime. But maybe revelation is another kind of crime-against nature.

Kris Saknussemm, the widely acclaimed author of the sci-fi smash Zanesville, now delves into another genre, and another world-a world where even the sunlight is shadowy and where deviancy is the norm. Private Midnight is a journey into the seedy, sexy, underbelly of life-crime noir for a new generation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

James Ellroy meets David Lynch in this addictive mix of noir and supernatural horror from Saknussemm (Zanesville). Det. Birch Ritter investigates the suspected suicide of California real estate magnate Deems Whitney, who apparently doused his Mercedes with gasoline and died in the resultant explosion a day after changing his will to benefit his trophy wife and disinherit his grown children. Before the cop can interview Whitney's widow, Ritter receives a cryptic message from his ex-partner that steers him to the enigmatic Genevieve Wyvern. Wyvern, who disconcerts Ritter with how well she knows his past, plunges him into a surreal world of bondage, domination and mind games. Despite being humiliated by Wyvern, Ritter finds himself unable to stay away from her lair. An unexpected and bizarre twist well into the novel jolts the fairly standard plot off the rails, but the powerful narrative voice will compel most readers to follow. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Life is piling up for Det. Birch Ritter. He's a big man loaded down with ugly cases; guilty secrets; a violent, ethically dubious approach to police work; fresh divorce papers; and a personal demon he calls El Miedo. A crooked colleague sends Ritter to Genevieve, a woman who is equal parts psychiatrist, seer, and dominatrix. So begins Ritter's dark spiral downward, a series of strange changes that cannot be explained by the laws of the world as he knows it. Saknussemm (Zanesville) creates an original blend of noir procedural, horror, and dark eroticism but sometimes loses control of his own linguistic dexterity. The result is intriguing but also muddled and awkwardly paced. A great rush of late developments suggests that either a sequel is forthcoming or that the book's most captivating questions will remain partly unanswered. What is the extent of Genevieve's power? What is the truth about Ritter's past? What will become of him? Saknussemm is a writer to watch, but this book is recommended only for large libraries where complex genre-bending works have found readership.
—Neil Hollands

Kirkus Reviews
A narrative that moves from a noirish hard-boiled detective novel to a fantasy of sexual transformation, an uncomfortable journey for the first-person narrator and for the reader. Birch Ritter is a detective-cynical and world-weary, of course-whose patter sounds at once fresh and drearily familiar: "It was a hooker, I was pretty sure. It was trouble I was certain"; "She had a laugh like Stevie Nicks on nitrous oxide and a slow burn gotta-get-there bed moan like an ambulance in Friday night rush hour." Ritter gets involved in two puzzling cases: Real-estate mogul Deems Whitney is found dead in his burnt-out Mercedes, and a man named Mervyn Stoakes has engaged in a spasm of self-castration. One of Ritter's old partners then mysteriously puts him onto Genevieve, Whitney's widow, whose grief for her husband's death might be for show. When Ritter goes to meet her in her old house in a rundown section of town, his life literally changes. She takes off her clothes, blindfolds him and tells him his name is going to be "Sunny." Ritter is intrigued, bewildered and ultimately frightened by the charismatic and powerful Genevieve, and he keeps going back for more-not for sex but for the powerful draw of her personality and for what she can reveal to him about his past. Ultimately, Ritter/Sunny notices some changes, not just in his personality (crying, for example, starts to become a more normative experience for him) but also in his body. Genevieve is a shape-changer who's able to reinvent some of the ghostly images from Ritter's past, including his mother. By the end the word "freakish" doesn't even begin to describe the events of the novel, which include Ritter's pet cat being devoured by a giantsnake and Genevieve serving up her consort Sophia as "tender meat" in an entree Ritter unwittingly consumes. Off-the-wall strange and surreal-and definitely not recommended as a Mother's Day gift.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590201763
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 3/5/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Kris Saknussemmis a writer, painter, and sculptor. The author of the breakthrough novel Zanesville, he has been a resident at the MacDowell Colony and is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He now divides his time between a rural property in the old goldfields region outside Melbourne, Australia and the West Coast of the US.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Erotic soul searching at it's best

    This is one of those books that no matter how many times you read it, something new will pop out at you. What you think is going to be a detective story quickly turns into a soul searching experience when Det. Ritter meets Genevieve. Past experiences, sexuality and the supernatural all come into play. This book made me ask myself how much would you be willing to go outside of society's norms to be your true inner self? What would you be willing to give up and change? Could you stay sane in the process or would you become another statistic? Could you let go of not only your mistakes, but your entire life to be reborn?

    If you want to be freaked out and take a trip into your soul you should read this book.

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  • Posted February 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    PRIVATE MIDNIGHT is an exciting Noir with an exotic paranormal spin.

    Detective Birch Ritter leads the official investigation into the death of multimillionaire California realtor Deems Whitney in what looks like a suicide. The evidence points towards Deems hosing his Mercedes with gasoline and dying in the subsequent explosion. The only doubt re the case is one day earlier, the victim changed his will naming his latest wife as his sole beneficiary and cutting out his adult children.<BR/><BR/>However, his former partner, whom he has not spoken with since they split up a year ago, suggests Ritter speak with the mysterious Genevieve Wyvern. He does though he cannot fathom why; worse she shakes him up with her intimate knowledge of him that no one else knows except him. Wyvern explains she works her magic in the shadows and that men hide from everyone including themselves. To his humiliation, she dominates him making the cop her submissive little boy ¿Sunny¿ in a bondage match of what seemed equals. Ashamed of himself not because she overwhelmed him, but because he wants her to dominate him even more while his case goes nowhere unless he can overcome his lower head need for his new Mistress.<BR/><BR/>This is a strange but well written supernatural police procedural starring two lead characters that enter in a game of domination. The tough Noir like cop is overmatched in this contest against Genevieve. The death inquiry provides more of a backdrop as the deep story line focuses on the needs and motives of Ritter to even his becoming a kick butt cop once Wyvern strips him bare. Not for everyone, PRIVATE MIDNIGHT is an exciting Noir with an exotic paranormal spin.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted November 13, 2008


    A RICH DARK EROTIC NIGHTMARE<BR/><BR/>I have just read an advance review copy of this book and I am simply blown<BR/>away. Saknussemm's story is harrowing and haunting--and very, very sexy. I would not want to give away any aspects of the plot, so that readers can feel the trap door opening beneath their feet for themselves. But this is exceptionally stylish fiction of a highly disturbing and energizing species. An imaginative reinvention of the gritty noir genre, with a genuinely profound glimpse into the blackest and neon lit recesses of the human psyche. You may well be shocked--but if you are not mesmerized, you need to reconsider some aspects of your life. The book was apparently scheduled for a Fall release, but pushed back to Spring because of the hoopla surrounding the election and a desire to let its visceral originality resonate as fully as possible. To boil down this hardboiled magic very simply--Sarah Palin would make sure this book was burned. Enjoy your freedom. Read it. Drink it. Let it touch you there. This is like a Tom Waits song made into a movie and then printed on the page.

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