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The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
Midnight In America
by Don Eminizer

Litmocracy Publications, 2007

Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey
"I wanted to go BOOM and leave shrapnel on the wall."

John Sterling’s emotions are high at the beginning of his story, narrated by Don Eminizer, and the force of John’s youthful energy is felt by the readers well before they witness the young man’s emergence as a songsmith and guitarist. In the homeless American nights, John’s anxious spirits are soothed by two means: drugs and the company of his friends. Abandoned by his parents in his teens, there is no permanent place for John to settle down, and moving on is synonymous with life itself. John’s passion for music grows silently, and his artistic ventures are but brief forays; we come to know John as a walking volcano of creative energy, highly prone to self-destruction. But this will change when he becomes the lead figure of the musical band The Shattered Mirror, a channel that will at least stay him from erupting into death. As their band gets exposure, John finds his soul mate. He is close to seeing peace and success at last, but things hardly go the way he has dreamed.

ERNEST DEMPSEY is a geology graduate and an MA in English Literature. He has authored two books: Islands of Illusion (poetry) and The Biting Age (short fiction). Dempsey is the president of the World Audience Inc. (www.worldaudience.org) and the Editor-in-Chief of the print quarterly The Audience Review.
Midnight In America is inspired by, and based on, real life events of the author, and everything is seen through the eyes of the protagonist who is modeled on the author’s life in his younger years. In his interview with me, Don Eminizer speaks of John Sterling as a ‘quasi-fictional character’ based on his early years. The book captures a whole mode of existence in modern American society as a young man without a home or family. The loss of the good old days, when family life and controlled behavior were the ideals of happiness, is reflected in John’s discontent with constantly shifting places and one-night stands. There is no question that moving on is filled with the warm spirit of adventure and the pleasure of discovering and experimenting; and yet it lacks the soothing permanence that our artistic hero will choose, in the form of his love for his would-be mate Chris, a fictional character created out of the author’s imagination to make John’s aspirations more compelling and partly-fulfilled. The tragedy of life is that it comes without a guarantee. How John is drained of energy and passion for life after losing his beloved to a road mishap puts our very love of life to question. Is it worth the giving of our passionate soul when we may get no more from it than the corpse of our love?

Midnight In America is a grasping tale of love, loss, and recovery. As John witnesses the fact that "bringing up pain and rage was easy but putting it away was a nightmare," we discover that love is not all about losing one’s self to passion but just the contrary: getting in control. This is the essence of John Sterling’s story: moving on with greater control in the face of all the recklessness with which life may smite us in the face. So there you can spot John, sitting by the grave of his beloved wife and playing his soul out to her through the strings of his guitar. He does not care about how odd he may look to the world. What he may not know is how the beauty of his love and passion for Chris and the creative spirit of his artistic soul will live on to inspire countless hearts who have loved, and have lost.

At the end of the book, the author includes a brief interview with Drew James, one of the author’s pals, about John’s erratic behavior and the rumors of his suicide. Given the quasi-fictional nature of John’s character, the reader might be confused about the accuracy of information and the way John is referred to as a real-life figure. From Eminizer’s interview with me, however, it is apparent that our hero, while his life tragically ended suddenly in the story as the result of an accident, was not as unsteady and out of control as we might suspect him to be after suffering the wounds of bereavement. The author leaves the rest to the readers to arrive their own conclusions. The story of the book itself, however, is not baffling; it is consistent and makes its point convincingly, leaving a lasting impression and a reserve of energy to enjoy life in a new light.

Don Eminizer’s Midnight In America is a captivating read, carrying, besides John’s life story, some original lyrics and sketches from the author’s musical group. As the light of John’s passion lingers after the book closes, the darkness of night gives way to meaning and peace.