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Reading & Signing with Jon Michael Varese

May 19 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


On Saturday May 19th at 5pm, author Jon Michael Varese will be in the shop for a reading and signing of his debut novel, The Spirit Photographer. We’re very excited to have this new, unique voice in the shop!

About The Spirit Photographer: 

Jon Michael Varese’s titular character, Edward Moody runs a booming business capturing the images of spirits in his portraits. Grieving widows and mothers visit his studio with breathless hopes of immortalizing, and so reuniting with, their deceased loved ones through his photographs. While public opinion of his practice is split between considering Moody a fraud on the one hand and a spiritualist of the highest caliber on the other, no one has been able to expose him, and his renown has spread, bringing with it money and a growing list of clients from elite circles.

When Moody persuades abolitionist Senator James B. Garrett and his wife to sit for a portrait that will capture their deceased son, however, he is shocked to find a different specter develop on the plate before his eyes. Instead of the staged image of the boy he was expecting, the negative depicts a beautiful young woman, who Moody recognizes as the daughter of an escaped slave he knew long ago. Is it possible that he truly caught her spirit, a real ghost? And, if so, what does she want?

Compelled to discover the apparition’s true meaning, Moody travels from Boston to the Louisiana bayous and finds himself embroiled in a dangerous bid to reconcile the past with the present–and perhaps save his soul. Exploring the darkest specter of American history in Southern Gothic style, The Spirit Photographer conjures the Reconstruction era South, where fugitive hunters, voodoo healers, and other dangers threaten to upend Moody’s quest. The resulting debut promises to thrill readers as they unravel the dreadful mystery behind the spirit in the photograph.

About the author: 

Jon Michael Varese is a literary historian whose focus has been the significance of the 19th-century British novel in both Britain and America, and is the Director of Public Outreach for The Dickens Project at the University of California Santa Cruz. He is also the editor of the Signature edition of Great Expectations (2012). The Spirit Photographer is his debut novel.

Praise for The Spirit Photographer: 

“An intricately plotted debut novel that combines post-Civil War history with a ghost story . . . The writing is vivid, even lyrical at times, and the passages on Reconstruction are illuminating . . . The deep divide in the country circa 1870 [that] is vaguely reminiscent of our own time.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Varese’s unique first novel is set deep in the secrets of the postwar years, when the chains of slavery have vanished but an equally sinister underside to society remains. An entertaining amalgam of history and fiction, gothic and ghost story, The Spirit Photographer is an addicting tale.” —Booklist (starred review)

“A stunning first novel that combines the thrills of mystery and fantasy with the feel of historical authenticity. Jon Varese makes 19th-century America come alive with an elegant and fluid style. A fine accomplishment.”
—Bruce Levine, author of The Fall of the House of Dixie


May 19
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Star Line Books


Star Line Books
1467 Market Street
Chattanooga, 37402 United States
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