It’s December 1954. During a live television performance of the General Electric Theater, a young James Dean brandishes a pistol at fellow actor (and weekly show-host) Ronald Reagan.
Dean goes off script, and what happens next kicks off an alternate history, a “sliding doors” narrative that takes those real events in a slightly different direction.
The Cold Last Swim features two cultural icons: one who would be dead within a year, immortalized as a symbol of cool rebellion; the other, in a little over a quarter century, would become leader of the free world, the standard bearer of traditional and even fundamentalist values. Each reflects fifties America: Reagan is firmly established among the open freeways and unblemished skies of sunny Los Angeles; Jimmy, emerging from the black-and-white shadows of a rainy New York street.
Told largely from Jimmy’s viewpoint, but incorporating a diverse cast of period characters, The Cold Last Swim is classical Greek drama: Reagan’s Apollo, god of light, warmth, and temperance; Jimmy’s Bacchus, license, alienation, and impulse. In this era between the mid-fifties and mid-sixties, we recognize the seeds are being sown for the cultural gulf that divides America today.
Besides The Cold Last Swim, Junior Burke is the author of the novels Something Gorgeous and A Thousand Eyes. He is also a songwriter and recording artist whose 2007 album While You Were Gone was named by New York’s Bowery Poetry Club as one of the best releases of that year. Other albums include Spot of Time (2017) and the EP America’s a Lonely Town (2019). He lives in rural Colorado. Visit juniorburke.com
“In this gorgeous and powerful new novel, James Dean ignites pieces of paper with his cigarette lighter, one after another. A revenant yet desiccating presence, he appears then disappears. A character pronounces: “Art has to be inevitable.” This, for me, was how Junior Burke’s book worked its magic. The narrative was irreversible, a conduit between the world as it was and the world as it could be. Streaming in the background: a pastel-toned Pasadena or a neon Sunset Boulevard, a succession of Californian atmospheres that make The Cold Last Swim a particular and immersive pleasure to read.”
—Bhanu Kapil, Author of The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers and How To Wash A Heart
“Junior Burke’s sure-footed alternative history recasts the wild life and turbulent times of James Dean with wit and great inventiveness. Personal dramas blend with political conflicts in a fast-paced and gritty tale of ambition, second chances, and obsession.”
5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ * Fiction/Literary; Fiction/Alternate History * May 2020 publication
$16.99 US/$22.99 CAN * ISBN-13: 978-1-948721-10-3 * Original Trade Paperback
Also available in ebook formats
Trade distributor: Publishers Group West (PGW)
Publicity contact: Mary Bisbee-Beek, [email protected]
Librarians, reviewers, booksellers: request download in Edelweiss