U.P. – A novel by R.A. Riekki

This post was contributed by Ron Riekki regarding his new novel, U.P. which is available now. You can learn more about Ron on his website at rariekki.webs.com

R.A. Riekki
Travers, make it more 2000s than 1950s, more Quentin Tarantino than Otto Preminger. Imagine _Trainspotting_ set in Ishpeming, but instead of heroin it’s the alcoholism and unemployment and isolation of a Northern mining community.

And a little bit of heroin.

Ron Riekki
I remember times eating pizza at the Congress in Ishpeming and looking up at the black and whites of Jimmy Stewart and Ben Gazzara on the wall and wishing that we had more contemporary representations of the U.P. I prefer Gazzara in _Buffalo ’66_, which I consider to be a masterpiece, than in _Anatomy_. As a side note, I asked Vincent Gallo to blurb _U.P._, but he emailed me saying he hasn’t read a book since high school. I found that hilarious and wish he would have let me quote that as his blurb. And how incredible would it be to have someone from _Goodfellas_ blurbing my novel?

Anyway, I felt like the vanity press books I’d seen had Yoopers farting and taking saunas and acting like we were all simpletons. And that confused me, because the writers were actually from the U.P. and that’s how they wanted to portray U.P. life–as if we didn’t love or lust or hate or have any true emotional range. But perhaps I’ll receive criticism for the darker side that I portray in my novel, but it comes from witnessing some true anger, desperation, and loss of those whose fathers were affected by the socioeconomic difficulties of a slowly collapsing mining industry (and are still affected).

U.P. definitely has humor, but it’s more Fargo than the vacuity I’ve found in the brief excerpts I’ve seen from Escanaba in da Moonlight. I think that was a start of wanting to write the book, to provide a “Realism” that a ForeWord Magazine review of my novel pointed out. It’s been interesting, because I’ve had people tell me that my novel is the only one they’ve ever read set in the U.P. And that it’s the only one they’ve ever read with a main character with cerebral palsy. And it’s the only book with a main character who’s a metalhead. And only one they’ve read in the style that I’ve written it. (You’ll have to read the book to see what I mean.) Those were some of the elements that drew Ghost Road into publishing it–the amount of firsts that the novel seemed to have. My goal when I wrote the first rough draft in 2000 was to write a book I’d never seen before and I think those elements of originality were critical to accomplish that.

I love that I’m having the opportunity to have the U.P. on the page. Steve Ponchaud from WUPK/WIMK said that was one of his favorite parts about reading the book; I talk about Germfask and Suomi in the first couple pages. (The computer I’m on right now has a spell check that’s telling me Germfask and Suomi are not words.) You don’t get Germfask in James Joyce. But the U.P. has become my Ireland in many ways. Ghost Road is talking about a four book deal with me where, after _U.P._ (2008), they’ll publish my experimental horror novel _A Portrait of the Artist as a Boogey Man_ (2010), my military memoir _I Hate It Here_ (2011), and my pulp crime underbelly novel _Hunger and the Ass_ (2012). The great thing is that the U.P. reader will get to watch a Negaunee High School alum’s writing career grow over the next four years. I hope U.P. readers will support me in the process and in return they’ll get to see the U.P. on the page, in a style they’ve never seen before.

U.P. is available at Ishpeming’s Country Village Bookstore and Marquette’s Snowbound Books and B. Dalton. If they’re sold out, I’m sure they’ll be happy to order more copies for you. Or you can order at Ghost Road Press, Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and other bookstores and bookstore web sites.

Thanks for having me on Yooper Steez! U.P.’s been Ghost Road’s bestseller in fiction for the last seven weeks, so hopefully readers will vote for U.P. books by buying a copy and show that we want writing set in the Upper Peninsula. (And maybe we can get another film crew up in Marquette, which would really help the Yooper economy.)

In the meantime, check out U.P.!