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Finally, a New Novel by Ward Just

April 14, 2014
Ward Just (Photo by Nina Bramhall)

Ward Just (Photo by Nina Bramhall)

Ward Just is the only contemporary author whose books I eagerly await with unbridled joy. His latest, published on April 1, is American Romantic, coming three years after the superb Rodin’s Debutante. During each of those intervening years I kept checking the news sites and blogs to see if he was at work on a new book.

Seeing nothing, I thought some illness had befallen him — he’s 78 — and that he had stopped writing. Thank God he hasn’t.

For whatever reason, Just has not achieved the fame that lesser authors have enjoyed, fame that isn’t deserved based on their writing. Nor have any of his books made the bestseller lists. Still, Just has a devoted following, though reviewers have characterized him as being “underappreciated.” In an interview with the Chicago Tribune after Just’s novel Echo House was published, he said he wasn’t underappreciated, but he was “undersold.”

What draws me to his novels is that they are character-driven. Plot is secondary. I’ve posted before that I enjoy characters more than plot, which is my own novels, The Champagne Ladies and The Coffin Haulers are character-driven.

And Just also is a crafstman with words, unmatched by few others. Here’s the opening sentence from An Unfinished Season: “The winter of the year my father carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in Chicago.”

How’s that for drawing a reader into a novel?

He’s also written compelling short-stories, my favorite being The North Shore, 1958, followed closely by Honor, Power, Riches, Fame and the Love of Women.

When I start reading his latest novel I’ll have a problem with it, the same problem I’ve had with all the others: I’ll read it so quickly, absorbed by the characters, that I’ll have have to force myself to slow down and extend my enjoyment.






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