Semifinalist for the VCU Cabell First Fiction Prize
Erika Krouse's Contenders is a serious contender for my favorite novel of the yearin fact, my favorite novel in a long time. By turns hilarious, exciting, tough as rusty nails, and blazingly heartfelt, it's a knockout on every level.
David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
"Reading Contenders is like watching a fire. You see the flames, but it is the glowing embers that fascinate. The dialogue, the descriptions of action, everything crackles and pops in this novel. This is a beautiful, physical piece of work."
Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier and Little Faith
"Here's a book with a real fighting heart, and also a real loving heart, and you don't often see those two things together. Pick up Contenders and give it a read."
Madison Smartt Bell, PEN/Faulkner Award winner and National Book Award finalist for All Souls' Rising
"Contenders is a knockout! I've never read anything like it. The marvelous Erika Krouse has crafted one of the most unforgettable heroines in modern fiction. Nina Black is not the kind of woman you'd want to meet in a dark alley. But she's precisely the kind of character I always hope to encounter in fiction: a badass streetfighter forced by fate to confront her capacity for maternal tenderness, her need for love, and the anguished contents of her heart."
Steve Almond, author of Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto
"Krouse...writes with a pulse-pounding and engaging ferocity that grabs at the reader, Contenders is heart-racingly original."
"Contenders is a beautiful, brawling book that reminds me of the best of Harry Crewsnd there is no higher praise that I can give. I loved every word."
Benjamin Whitmer, author of Cry Father and Pike
"Contenders is a ferociously taut novel driven with the power of a shuto (knife hand), not a mere punch. It is unapologetically on the fringe of everything, which, in this day and age, places it right in the heart of what matters."
BK Loren, author of Theft and Animal, Mineral, Radical
"I've been waiting for Nina Black for a long time. Violent, gruff, and relentlessly female, Nina is the kind of antihero we've rarely seen in fiction. Contenders is a one-of-a-kind powerhouse of a novel that further showcases Krouse as a talent to be reckoned with."
Sarah Bird, author of Above the East China Sea
"Erika Krouse’s moving novel Contenders, gives us a lowdown depiction of Denver, Colorado, reminiscent of the Knoxville, Tennessee of Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree. And if you know Suttree (or McCarthy!), you know that that’s no mean feat. What’s more, Contenders contains within it the most un-sentimentalized version of the Karate Kid that any good street fighter could want, complete with epigraphs pulled from Krouse’s knowledge of the inner workings of Asia
most particularly Japan. It’s a novel that moves with the quickness of a slap to the face, and does what a good slap and good literature always does
it wakes you up. This is an absorbing and rewarding read."
Richard Wiley, PEN/Faulkner Award winner for Soldiers in Hiding
"The sharpest, most intense romantic comedy you’ll ever read. Or a journey deep into the resonance of dark memories and loss. Erika Krouse’s Contenders is unlike any novel I can rememberit straddles the line of sweetness and brutality like a beautiful, punch drunk, fragile fighter looking for love."
William Haywood Henderson, author of Augusta Locke
"Contenders is a sunburst of a novel, one that blazes into your heart and won’t let go. Erika Krouse has an uncanny ability to write about the intersection of violence and love, and in doing so she renders a basic and important human truth: that pain and rage are often a response to heartbreak. After all, what is fighting but an expression of desire? Contenders is part karate thriller, part zen koan, part mystery, part beat novel, and part love story. Krouse impressively weaves these all together into a deeply moving tale. I’m mesmerized by Contenders, and by the exceptional courage and heart contained within."
Michael Henry, author of Active Gods
"This book is like watching Lorrie Moore's humor in a glorious street brawl with Ernest Hemingway's bullfighters. Full of heart, spirit, and delightful characters, Contenders hits you hard and leaves a mark you'll remember for a very long time."
Nick Arvin, author of The Reconstructionist and Articles of War
"Erika Krouse has penned a fierce and fearless novel about the purity of violence and the necessity of honor. Contenders kicks and blazes and jabs, and in all the right corners it breathes with love, with the beauty born of commitment. Her Denver is a pitiless place of forgotten promise, and her heroine, Nina Black, is a twenty-first-century American badass, strutting across these pages with uncommon elan. A beautifully crafted novel."
William Giraldi, author of Hold the Dark
“Forget about Katniss, or Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander, and even Zou Lei from Preparation for the Next Life, Nina Black is the real deala female antihero who can fight. With wit, parables, streetfights that have you ducking, cheering, and gasping for breath, and a breakneck plot, Erika Krouse has written an intensely entertaining, very funny, highly stylish, and finally moving love story of broken people battling through a dystopian Denver to find each other. Contenders may be the best woman warrior novel ever written.”
Baine Kerr, author of Wrongful Death