Book Tour: Urbantasm Series by Connor Coyne
Urbantasm Book One
The Dying City Connor Coyne
Genre: YA, Magical Realism, New Adult, Teen Noir, Lit Fic
Publisher: Gothic Funk Press
Date of Publication: September 6, 2018
Number of pages: 450 pages Word Count: 85,000
Cover Artist: Sam Perkins-Harbin,
Urbantasm is a magical teen noir serial novel inspired by the author’s experiences growing up in and around Flint, Michigan.
Thirteen-year-old John Bridge’s plans include hooking up with an eighth-grade girl and becoming one of the most popular kids at Radcliffe Junior High, but when he steals a pair of strange blue sunglasses from a homeless person, it drops him into the middle of a gang war overwhelming the once-great Rust Belt town of Akawe.
John doesn’t understand why the sunglasses are such a big deal, but everything, it seems, is on the table. Perhaps he accidentally offended the Chalks, a white supremacist gang trying to expand across the city. Maybe the feud involves his friend Selby, whose father died under mysterious circumstances. It could even have something to do with O-Sugar, a homegrown drug with the seeming ability to distort space. On the night before school began, a group of teenagers took O-Sugar and leapt to their deaths from an abandoned hospital.
John struggles to untangle these mysteries while adjusting to his new school, even as his parents confront looming unemployment and as his city fractures and burns.
“A novel of wonder and horror.”— William Shunn, author of The Accidental Terrorist
Excerpt Book 1
I have to become the Antichrist.
I realized this one night when I was standing on an overpass looking down through a chain-link fence onto the expressway below. Blue neon light shined off icy puddles. The gutters were flush with slush. Empty houses, ragged wrecks, hung out on tiny lots to my left and right. Beneath me, the cars that this city had built were leaving it – some of them forever. Across from me, on a rusted trestle, a freight train slowly passed, bringing in the parts for more cars.
As the train moved on through, I thought about Drake and about how God had fucked him over. How he’d fucked us all over. Then I thought about the house with Jesus graffitied on its side. Orange skin, blue eyes, green thorns. A welter of wounds. I clenched my jaw and my teeth squeaked together. Across from me, the train wheels squealed.
If I wanted to save my friends, I would have to murder God.
Urbantasm Book Two
The Empty Room
Publisher: Gothic Funk Press
Date of Publication: September 2019
Number of pages:
Word Count: 175,000
Cover Artist: Sam Perkins-Harbin, Forge22 Design
Book Description: Urbantasm: The Empty Room is the second book in the magical teen noir serial novel inspired by the author’s experiences growing up in and around Flint, Michigan.
John Bridge is only two months into junior high and his previously boring life has already been turned upside-down. His best friend has gone missing, his father has been laid-off from the factory, and John keeps looking over his shoulder for a mysterious adversary: a man with a knife and some perfect blue sunglasses.
As if all this wasn’t bad enough, John must now confront his complicated feelings for a classmate who has helped him out of one scrape after another, although he knows little about who she is and what she wants. What does it mean to want somebody? How can you want them if you don’t understand them? Does anybody understand anyone, ever? These are hard questions made harder in the struggling city of Akawe, where the factories are closing, the schools are closing, the schools are crumbling, and even the streetlights can’t be kept on all night.
John and his friends are only thirteen, but they are fighting for their lives and futures. Will they save Akawe, will they escape, or are they doomed? They might find their answers in an empty room… in a city with ten thousand abandoned houses, there will be plenty to choose from.
Excerpt Book 2
In the perfect past, in the flushest years at Ellis Island, as overladen ships waked the gray waves and passed into New York Harbor, small groups of Greeks clustered at the prows and pointed at the broad banks of twinkling lights in the distance.
“Είναι ότι η New York?” they'd ask a deckhand or
whoever happened to be standing nearby. “Ya,” he'd reply. “That's Coney Island.”
“Coney Island,” the emigrants repeated in awe, leaning out over the churning ocean to get a better look at their new home. It was sparkling bright, shimmering, these ethereal, auroral sparks in the morning twilight, murmured invitations from the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, to taste the delights of the Boardwalk, of Luna Park, Steeplechase, Dreamland, and rapture on off of the Parachute Drop. The lights preceded the long queues, the dirty work, the discrimination against these Orthodox Christians with their swinging censers and their woolly bearded priests. In the hard years to come, the emigrants always held that first vision of Coney Island in their memories, because it was their first, unsullied glimpse of the Americas, and it had seemed to confirm the promise of a better life here. That's why, days, or weeks, or years later, having saved up scraps from their factory jobs, or having snuck small fortunes overseas, sewn into their threadbare jackets, when they opened hot dog stands in the industrial cities of Southeast Michigan, they called them “Coney Islands.”
That's the story I was told growing up. Like so many of our New World origin stories, it's pretty much bullshit. The immigrants called their wieners “coney islands” because they bought them at Coney Island, and the local Chamber of Commerce banned the words “hot dog” because they figured the stupid immigrants might think their wieners were made from actual dogs.
But when the supposedly stupid immigrants arrived in Michigan and started selling their own coney islands in the nineteen teens, they decided to improve their product. Thus began a long process of prayer and experimentation, roots plucked from tiny backyard gardens, cattle slaughtered at the altar, with providential navigation toward the apotheosis of the hot dog.
The core of this creation was the wiener itself, and from 1914 these were produced under arcane secrecy by the Richard Goerlich Bavarian Encased Meats Company, later known simply as “Goerlich's.” Perhaps as a nod to the melting pot that threw the German Lutherans in with the Balkanites, a Goerlich was made out of many animals. A puree of pork and beef with secret spices all pressed together in a lambskin casing, tied off and smoked over a hardwood grill. The pork content meant that these Viennas could be grilled for longer than other wieners without burning and shrinking. The spices were sweet and sour: traces of mustard, sugar, vinegar, and salt. When you bit into a Goerlich, you felt the skin snap before your teeth sank into its soft inner flesh.
A Goerlich alone, however, was not enough to make the superior coney. To turn a Goerlich into a coney, you had to top it with coney sauce, mustard, and onions, on a fresh bun, on a hot plate with a hot cup of coffee on the side. To do it right, everything must be fresh. Even the mustard, the simplest ingredient, must taste as sharp as a paring knife and shine as bright as the sun. The Balkanites didn't just chop their onions into large, trapezoidal chunks. Onions were precision-cubed by calloused hands at half the speed of sound before being swept into oak barrels and sealed and chilled and called into use. Akawe Ashkenazi bakeries supplied the buns, which the Balkanites steamed before setting them onto waxed paper gracing elliptical china plates. The thick plates kept your food from burning your fingers. The thick cups kept your coffee from cooling off.
I haven't described the sauce. I've saved the best for last. Finely ground beef heart and beef kidney, mixed with beef suet and more ground up Goerlich's, browned minced onions, and sanguined spices. Which spices? Cumin and chili powder and something else. Something magical. Nobody knows what but the coney chefs, and if they told then they would not be gods.
The truth is, they may not have realized at first the specialness of what they had created. These Greeks, these Macedonians, these Albanians, these Rumanians had arrived in factory burgs to take up jobs in the factories and to serve the factory workers. The immigrants hemmed trousers, cobbled clogs, thatched nobs. They sold their coneys on the side, to earn a little extra, but soon they noticed that the coneys brought in more ducats than their other trades.
This was filling food; as heavy as it was delicious. The X Automobilians, whether sweating in the foundries, grinding through midnight shifts at the metal center, or straining over dies and tools in bright light for hours, could fill up in five minutes with a coney and coffee. The perfect food for an assembly line town, as demonstrated by the ordering shorthand that sprang into life like a new language: “One up” meant a coney with everything; a milestone of verbal economy and the inverse relationship of calories to syllables. So coney stands became Coney Island Restaurants. They bloomed fruitful and fecund, increased in number. Multiplied across the earth and increased upon it.
By the mid-twenties some three-dozen Coney Islands in Akawe served up tens of thousands of coneys a day built by hundreds of restaurant employees. Balkan assembly line workers bent over their stations for hours: one man grilled the Goerlich's, another steered it to its bun and plate, where the next station assembled the dressing, nothing written down, everything achieved with hands and voice, as demanding of speed and rigor as riveting.
I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that there were so many Coney Islands that they were served over the river; two restaurants opened on the midst of the East Street Bridge and stayed there for decades. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that the Coney Islands were open 24-7-365. Once, during a flood, a Coney had to hire a security guard to watch the door because the owners had lost the keys years earlier.
The Coney Islands thrived along the factory zones. They pulsed along the Akawe's main arteries. They anchored each neighborhood and kept their street corners noisy all night long, from the wail of the evening whistle to the chiming of the church bells.
When the factories started to wither, the Coney Islands did too.
They held out longer than the factory jobs but, one by one, the great restaurants closed their doors. Midnight Oil Coney Island, Akawe Old Fashioned Coney Island, Delicious Coneys, Joe's Original Coney Island, and most of the others dried up through the 80s. By 1993, there were less than a dozen left.
About the Author:
Connor Coyne is a writer living and working in Flint, Michigan.
His first novel, Hungry Rats, has been hailed by Heartland prize-winner Jeffery Renard Allen as “an emotional and aesthetic tour de force.”
His second novel, Shattering Glass, has been praised by Gordon Young, author of Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City as “a hypnotic tale that is at once universal and otherworldly.”
Connor’s novel Urbantasm, Book One: The Dying City is winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2019 Young New Adult Award. Hugo- and Nebula-nominee William Shunn has praised Urbantasm as “a novel of wonder and horror.”
Connor’s essay “Bathtime” was included in the Picador anthology Voices from the Rust Belt. His work has been published in Vox.com, Belt Magazine, Santa Clara Review, and elsewhere.
Connor is on the planning committee for the Flint Festival of Writers and in 2013 he represented Flint’s 7th Ward as its artist-in-residence for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town grant. In 2007, he earned his Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the New School.
Connor lives in Flint’s College Cultural Neighborhood (aka the East Village), less than a mile from the house where he grew up.