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Ghostfires: A Novel Paperback – 1 Mar 2005


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Review

"Ghostfires" is a remarkable first novel. Few books have captured the tragic and debilitating effects of addiction. In startlingly fresh and dramatic terms, it presents the downward spiral of a fundamentally decent man and those he loves. At once powerful and subtle, raw and nuanced, Dixon's book captures, in stunning prose, the dark intricacies of familial love and guilt, loyalty and betrayal.--Michael C. White, author of the New York Times Notable Book, A Brother's Blood

About the Author

Keith Dixon works as an editor for "The New York Times." He lives in New York City.

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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Wrenching -- but in a good way 14 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Ghostfires" is not an easy read, with its complicated relationships, violence, and overall darkness. But the power of the writing propels the reader forward, even through the wrenching interactions among well-drawn characters. The admiring professional reviews are to be heeded.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An Impressive Debut from a Promising Writer 31 Jan. 2004
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There is an uncharted territory of the heart, mind and spirit that is a geographical locus as well. We could call it, generally, the outskirts of New York City, neither quite urban nor entirely rural, influenced adversely by the qualities of both. It is into this setting that Keith Dixon, an editor for the New York Times, brings his debut novel GHOSTFIRES, laying bare the extremes of the borders of the complicated relationship between fathers and sons.
The father and son of this novel are Warren and Ben Bascomb, respectively. As GHOSTFIRES opens, the center of their quiet but long-simmering dispute revolves around an act that Ben regarded as a final act of mercy for his terminally ill mother, but that Warren considered to be murder. The father and son relationship, always uneasy, became further unraveled when Warren's medical license was suspended five years previous to the events of GHOSTFIRES due to his addiction to Dilaudid. He subsequently entered into an uneasy, roiling pact with his son, a clandestine arrangement that has kept Ben financially afloat subsequent to a business failure while keeping Warren supplied with the drugs that have enslaved and ruined him.
While the pact brought an abrupt end to their external hostilities, their mutual anger continues to simultaneously consume both men from within. Father and son each despise the other for providing them with what they feel they need: a tenuous financial security for Ben, and the temporary satiation of addiction for Warren. It is this dichotomy that drives GHOSTFIRES.
Dixon, however, infuses this fine third-person narrative from the first page with the implied foreknowledge that the arrangement cannot successfully continue for long. Ben may be a drug mule, but he does not have the personality for it. The people he is dealing with are way out of his league. These include the enigmatic Victor, for whom every deed, even those that might in some way be described as charitable, is extracted only at great price. Warren, meanwhile, is driven entirely by his addiction. His all-consuming desire for drugs both sustains and threatens the arrangement that keeps him supplied and his son marginally solvent. Ben, meanwhile, is on the verge of losing his family. His desperate actions drive his wife Emma back to the home of her parents, where quiet but dangerous insanity reigns.
As the reader gradually learns the motivations behind all of the parties involved, and the history that has brought them to where they are, Ben and Warren move steadfastly toward an apocalypse that will result in a bad ending for one and a bizarre, partial redemption for the other.
While GHOSTFIRES is Dixon's first novel, he remains sure-footed from first page to last, turning over the rocks of the father-son relationship and revealing the quiet, coiled, and dangerous snakes beneath. Reminiscent of some heretofore unknown collaboration between John Barth and George V. Higgins, GHOSTFIRES is not so much a crime novel as a character study, a penetrating allegorical look into the lives of a father and son who, over the course of their lives, have had achievements and disappointments and have been unable to fully come to grips with either. Now, they are inexorably linked together in a situation from which neither of them is able to escape intact.
This is an impressive debut from a writer who unquestionably will have more to say in the future.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Searingly honest 7 April 2005
By Tim Krause - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Keith Dixon tackles the subjects of personal addiction, guilt and familial relations reminiscent of Hemmingway in its stark, unrelenting style.

Ghostfires gives the impression that it's about the painful legacies passed down among the Bascomb men for three generations (and it is that). While that alone makes it a worthwhile read, it's reflecting on the secondar characters in the novel that make it an enduring experience.

At the end, none of Dixon's characters are free from their own demons, or free from the fallout associated with their relationships with the Bascomb men.

Hauntingly realistic, Ghostfires draws its strength from a near-clinical attention to the truth that leaves the biggest questions unanswered, characters unfulfilled and sense of closure unsatisfactory.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Quite an Impressive Debut 10 Jan. 2005
By Andy J. Welch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Ghostfires is a magical novel. There are points that could sometimes be seen as hard to swallow, but these are quickly overcome by the sheer thematic power and the crispness of Dixon's prose.

Fiction in its highest form strives for truth. It allows the characters to stand on their own and play out their actions in a world that is more than a clever artifice. For me, as a reader and also a writer, fiction also makes me want to sometimes scream at the characters when they do something totally inane, to praise them when their actions merit. Good fiction embeds me with the characters' happiness, their hopeful strainings, and, in this work's case, their almost insurmountable pain.

In his first novel, Dixon achieves so much that it would take more words than this meager review allows. Let me just say that it is rare that a writer appears full blown and unflinching and so seemingly sure of his abilities. I look forward to anything Mr Dixon chooses to write.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
No Walk In The Park 8 Nov. 2004
By Kenneth Stenger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The elegant and elegaic language of this novel draws you into the lives of every one of its inhabitants with the same morbid attraction of a slowly unwinding train wreck. It is solely illuminated by the all too human conceit that life's bitterest cup is best observed at the lip of someone other than your self. You close the book with harrowing relief that it is over and somehow you, or someone you love, did not show up in it.
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