Skull Session

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Overview

Back in print and accompanied by its prequel Puppets, the bestselling Skull Session is a classic tale of suspense. Despite his brilliance, Paul Skoglund hasn?t held a steady job for years, partly because of his Tourette?s syndrome. When his eccentric, wealthy aunt asks him to take on the repairs of her magnificent hunting lodge, he is in no position to refuse. But then he finds that the rambling old house has been savagely vandalized: he discovers a scene of almost superhuman destruction, a violence mirrored by a...

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Skull Session

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Overview

Back in print and accompanied by its prequel Puppets, the bestselling Skull Session is a classic tale of suspense. Despite his brilliance, Paul Skoglund hasn’t held a steady job for years, partly because of his Tourette’s syndrome. When his eccentric, wealthy aunt asks him to take on the repairs of her magnificent hunting lodge, he is in no position to refuse. But then he finds that the rambling old house has been savagely vandalized: he discovers a scene of almost superhuman destruction, a violence mirrored by a series of disappearances and grisly deaths haunting the region. Paul delves into the wreckage, wondering what dark passion—and what strength—could cause such chaos. As state police investigator Mo Ford pursues the mystery through official channels, escalating events force Paul deeper into his family’s past and into the darker aspects of his own nature.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
With his astoundingly clever debut, Skull Session, Daniel Hecht offers an intelligent novel that is an investigation into the human brain and its dark capacities. Containing elements of romance and mystery, this psychological thriller sweeps readers into a realm of dark logic and holds them in its grip until the very end. Masterful detail, attained through extraordinarily in-depth research, creates an eerie realness in the villain and prompts comparisons of Skull Session with such novels as Gorky Park and The Silence of the Lambs.

Skull Session centers around an abandoned hunting lodge deep in the wooded reaches of the Hudson River valley. Outside all appears tranquil, but inside lies a murderous force, a superhuman violence reflected by the disappearances and deaths that have haunted the area.

Paul Skoglund is hired by his aunt to restore order to the magnificent house. He suffers from Tourette's syndrome, which, despite his brilliant mind, keeps him underemployed and frustrated. In addition to the social hardships he faces because of his handicaps, his ex-wife is using his condition against him to obtain sole custody of their son, Mark.

Paul hasn't seen his wealthy aunt in years, but her 19th-century hunting lodge has been ravaged, and she refuses to allow anyone outside the family to take on the repairs. As Paul and his girlfriend, Lia, start the reconstruction, they can't help but wonder what caused such chaos. Their search for answers takes them to the cutting edge of biomedical research, from the science of genetics toVikinglegends. As they delve deeper into his family's past, Paul must face the darker side of his own nature as he braves the possibility that he may destroy himself in order to save those he loves.

Jonathan Kellerman
"Vividly atmospheric, rich with twists and turns."
New York Daily News
"[A] thriller of the mind...Hecht transcends cliché and raises valid and timely questions...Enticing."
New York Times Book Review
"Skull Session is a story that keeps the reader guessing till the very end... A narrative that's populated by believable characters and infused with healthy doses of medical science and psychology."
People
"Stunning...This stylish thriller reminds us why we're so afraid of the dark-especially the kind that lurks within.
People Magazine
"Stunning...This stylish thriller reminds us why we're so afraid of the dark-especially the kind that lurks within."
People
Stunning. . . .This stylist thriller reminds us why we're so afraid of the dark — especially the kind that lurks within.
New York Daily News
Emotional. . . .Enticing. . . .A thriller of the mind . . . .Hecht transcends cliche and raises valid and timely questions.
NY Times Book Review
In his accomplished first novel, Daniel Hecht has written a true 'neurological thriller'. . . .A narrative that's populated by believable characters and infused wtih healthy doses of medical science and psychology. Skull Session is a story that keeps the reader guessing till the very end.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582344966
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 7/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Hecht is the author of the bestselling Skull Session and Puppets; The Babel Effect; and two novels in the Cree Black series, City of Masks and Land of Echoes. He lives in Montpelier, Vermont.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

Before the live bn.com chat, Daniel Hecht agreed to answer some of our questions.

Q:  What was it like performing at Carnegie Hall?

A:  The first time I was playing lute with an ancient music ensemble, and we were all dressed formally -- black tie and tails, false front, studs, the whole nine yards. I was only 19 and nervous as hell about performing well in such a prestigious hall, but to make matters worse I ripped my pants badly just as I was entering the stage. There was a short step up, off in the wings, and as I raised my leg my rented pants ripped practically in half, from waistband to fly! Fortunately, the jacket tails hung down in the back, and by artfully keeping my lute in front of me as I walked and played, I don't think anyone noticed. However, I'm sure my performance seemed a bit stilted.

The second time I was solo, and I wore sturdy blue jeans and played my own composition for steel-string guitar. The audience was enthusiastic, and I played well. It's a charming hall, with splendid acoustics; it's easy to see why performers love playing there.

Q:  Who would you consider your literary influences?

A:  I've got quite a few influences because I've always read voraciously, and my tastes are diverse. When I was a kid, I read books like C. S. Lewis's Narnia Chronicles; as a teenager, I absorbed Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine and Martian Chronicles; in my 20s I went through a long "great literature" phase that included Shakespeare, Dickens, Melville, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Henry James, Henry Miller, and 20 others. When I first took up writing, I read with particular interest Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellow, Bette Pesetsky. To this day, I can get hit hard by writing as dense as Faulkner's southern Gothic style or as spare as Amy Hemphill's exquisite minimalism.

Nowadays, with all that as foundation, I find I am surprisingly influenced by whatever I just read. I admired the hip, taut style of Peter Hoeg (Smilla's Sense of Snow), or George Dawes Green (The Caveman's Valentine, The Juror); I loved the deep characterization and the lyrical grace and patience of David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars. While writing Skull Session, I freely appropriated stylistic and thematic elements I liked from sources as diverse as Dr. Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars), Richard North Patterson (The Lasko Tangent, Private Screening), and Michael Connelly (The Poet, The Concrete Blonde).

In fact, I consider literary influences a bit dangerous. Depending on my (psychological) writing needs of the moment, I sometimes just don't read anything in order to avoid outside influences.

Q:  Did you have any interesting teachers while receiving your M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop? Did you enjoy that experience?

A:  I was lucky in that during my first year at Iowa I was able to study with Bette Pesetsky, whose collection Stories Up to a Point had "opened the door" for my own stories when I first started writing. She's a wonderful woman, wise and insightful, and she was generous with her time; her support and critical candor were invaluable.

That first year I also studied with James McPherson, the brilliant scholar and writer who had won the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship for his fine, honest, difficult stories. He is able to look through the mishmash of ideas that usually comprise the first draft of a story and can point out to you the story's secret core -- the real theme, the real reason you wrote it in the first place. For two years, in class and at informal breakfasts, he worked closely with me and gave me a great deal of insight.

I benefited also from a semester with Ethan Canin, author of The Emperor of the Air, whose warmth, good humor, lack of pretension, and nuts-and-bolts pragmatic suggestions made writing accessible. Marilyn Robinson, one of America's most brilliant scholars, was a wonderful critic who (unlike most people) enjoyed and supported my tendency for concept-rich writing, for nuance and symbolism.

Did I enjoy the experience? Sometimes. I won a major award from the workshop, I was able to teach writing, I worked with some great writers; best of all, I was allowed to indulge a monomaniacal focus on writing for two years straight.

But graduate programs are divorce mills, and I certainly got milled right around then, which wasn't easy. Also, the workshop is full of very talented people with huge egos and powerful ambitions, so it can be a competitive -- and, for many, discouraging -- environment. The critical culture that prevailed when I was there was sometimes unnecessarily nasty. This not only made the process unpleasant but worse, tended to produce safe, "workshop-proof" writing rather than the riskier work I prefer. (Do you want to live in a concrete bunker or the Taj Mahal? One is safe against attack; the other is -- though fragile -- beautiful and astonishing.) I give the workshop experience one thumb up and one thumb down.

Q:  Do you still play the acoustic and steel guitar?

A:  I quit playing guitar in the late 1980s because of a medical condition that wrecked my hands and ruined a career as a performer and recording artist. Ten years later, the hands are much better, and I've been picking it up again. I literally did not take my guitar out of the case for five or six years, but it's amazing how little technique I've lost. Now I'm even thinking of recording another album, and I have fantasies of touring with a multimedia performance that combines literary reading with guitar playing.

Q:  I see that you have worked in many odd jobs; what would you consider your most unique job?

A:  If I told the "What's My Line" panel about an experience building mechanical musical instrument systems for the House on the Rock, they'd never believe it. Alex Jordan, eccentric millionaire, a cross between Walt Disney, Federico Fellini, and Forrest Gump, hired me to design and build whole orchestras of musical instruments that played by themselves. You can still see many of them at the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, the state's largest tourist attraction: rooms full of harps, pianos, cellos, oboes, saxophones, organ, and drums, all apparently playing away in concert. They're not really -- they're just going through the motions, and the music is piped in -- but it was a real challenge to think of ways to make them work and then to make the whole environment look like a Louis XV music chamber or whatever. There's a book to be written about that place, that job, I'm sure of it.

Apple picking was one of the best jobs. Every fall for six years, I picked apples professionally at orchards in New Hampshire. It's hard work -- carrying around a 21-foot pointed ladder, teetering at the top of trees with a metal-and-canvas bucket strapped to your shoulders while groping for fruit just out of reach, picking and carrying and dumping tons of apples every day. But you get very fit, and you gain a rare power and serenity from working outside all day, every day, rain or shine, in the New England autumn. You feel a pride in your skill and your endurance and in your part in putting food on America's tables. Also, living in a coed, commercial bunkhouse with 30 or so other pickers allows you to get to know people in a way that no other job does.

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Customer Reviews

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( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 23, 2013

    Recommended

    I was surprised by who the culprit was to the very end.

    A bit fanciful.

    Read quickly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2004

    great

    i have to say when i first started reading this book i almost didnt finish causee in the beginning it was a little boring but i thought i would give it a try and im glad i did now i cant put it down

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2002

    wow...what a find...

    stumbled across this book via (of all things) the people magazine book of the month or something like that. great writer. you'll have to get past some early (and important) character development with info on torrette's..but...after that? hang on for a non stop thrill ride. intelligent writing, too. i spoke out loud while reading it a couple of times, in exasperation!!!! highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2001

    Splendid writing...

    Gifted author, and great story. Not your average science-fiction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2001

    Excellent!

    I could not put this book down. I finished it in 2 days.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2000

    SKULL SESSION IS EXTRAORDINARY!

    Excellent character development! Fascinating look at people's behaviors, and educational about neurological disorders! Complete surprise ending!! Disturbing, but only because people can be this way!! Read it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2000

    A gifted writer

    Found this writing, Skull Session,while browsing the local B&N. A fortunate happenstance as I've been rewarded with one of the best thrillers I've ever read. The loss of sleep was a small price for this reading experience. A gifted author with hopefully, many more books to come.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted May 5, 2011

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    Posted April 14, 2009

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    Posted March 14, 2010

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