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Monthly Archives: March 2010

ETA: Estimated Time of Arrest
By Delphine Pontvieux
Miss Nyet Publishing

As I’ve said here several times before, I think it unfair to directly compare the worth of a book by a full-time writer on a major press with one by a part-time self-publishing author, if for no other reason than the tremendous amount of editorial advantages held by the former — after all, a full-time author signed to a large publishing company will have at least a full-time editor, copy editor, proofreader and agent at their disposal, all of them making fine-tuned changes to that manuscript that a self-published one simply doesn’t receive, not to mention the entire army of student volunteers that full-time writers sometimes have if they are a professor as well, which they are in so many cases. So it’s always a real delight to come across a book like Delphine Pontvieux’s ETA: Estimated Time of Arrest; because although you should be aware from the start that it’s not much more than a beach-and-airport political thriller, it’s a good enough one that it could literally be picked up right this second by Random House for a million-copy print run with no changes needed, a rare occurrence for a book like this which is basically one step above being self-published. (So that is, it’s put out by an actual company called Miss Nyet, but which was started by the author specifically to put out this book, the situation that many people are referring to when they use the term “basement press.”)

And in fact I suspect one of the reasons this book is so effective is that it’s set in a milieu that’s rarely discussed here in the US; that of the Basque separatists who live in the borderland between Spain and France, a place that the French-born, globetrotting Pontvieux (now a Chicagoan) is obviously quite familiar with, and which turns out makes for an almost perfect setting in which to base an exciting political potboiler. For those who need a little primer (and forgive me if I get some of this wrong — I’m getting most of my info from the novel itself), you can think of the situation in Basque in much the same terms as the more well-known Northern Ireland; for a long time a tiny independent nation surrounded by the various Great Powers (much like its nearby neighbors Monaco and Luxembourg), during the fascist Franco years it was taken over by Spain and subjected to a brutal process of assimilation, which like the Irish Republican Army (or IRA) inspired the formation of a paramilitary nationalist organization, known there as the ETA. But by the 1990s, twenty years after the fall of the Franco regime, a compromise of sorts had been struck, which gave the Basque region an autonomous political status while still officially remaining a part of Spanish and French territory, with an end to imperialistic hostilities and the official public right again to celebrate Basque history and culture; and again, much like the IRA, it was at this point that even more and more locals started questioning the effectiveness or even need of a continued ETA, making them much more controversial and not nearly as automatically supported by separatists as when they were fighting literal fascists hellbent on destroying them.

And like the best political thrillers, Pontvieux takes no official sides in ETA, but rather uses the complex situation itself to tell an epic and far-reaching story, essentially centered around a young good-guy named Lorenzo Izcoa, swept up as a teen into the romanticism of the paramilitary movement but then eventually falsely accused of blowing up a police station, during a mass protest that turned chaotic. Like the early work of Tom Clancy, then (which I happen to like alot), Pontvieux uses Izcoa’s situation to examine a whole series of communities and locations related to the issue of Basque independence — from rural Mexico where he spends time as a fugitive, to the alps of southern France where he is brought in by the group to do one last favor, from a mountain hippie community full of environmental activists to the weary police inspectors of big-city Espana. Pontvieux uses all these settings to examine the issue of Basque separatism and terrorist violence from all kinds of different angles, thankfully enfolding these more philosophical issues into the action itself, instead of simply lecturing us like so many mediocre political thrillers do; and along the way, she bases an important aspect of the plot on her personal love for freehand rock-climbing, a natural addition within the beautiful yet treacherous mountain terrain of southern France and northern Spain where our story largely takes place.

Now, like I said, this is a genre project through and through, and you will need to be an existing fan of people like John LeCarre to have even a chance of enjoying ETA; but as far as that’s concerned, this is definitely on the high end of the quality scale for that genre, a quickly-paced page-turner that I imagine most fans of political thrillers will find themselves flying through. What a great week it always is when I get a chance to stumble across a book like this, one that far exceeds both my expectations and its publishing circumstances. It comes highly recommended today to those who are fans of such work.


brush up on your Dutch! 😉

up magazine review

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And do not forget that tonight is Nelson Algren’s 101th annual birthday party!

I will be reading excerpts from love letters that Simone de Beauvoir sent to her lover Nelson Algren. For more details, please scroll a few posts down.

See you all tonight


RUI: Reading Under the Influence

Because everyone needs a literary hangover

Join us from 7-9 p.m. On Wednesday, April 7 as authors Peter Schilling (“The End of Baseball: A Novel”) and Delphine Pontvieux (“ETA–Estimated Time of Arrest”) read from their brand new books. Joining Peter are 2nd Story ensemble member Kim Morris and local writer Brendan Detzner. All four featured performers will also read short selections of recognizable published work related to April’s theme (“Openings”) with interactive trivia and prizes.

As always, we’re in the back room at Sheffield’s, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave.

There’s a $3 cover. Grab a seat, a cocktail and a bite to eat at 7 p.m. Readings begin at 7:30 p.m. You’re welcome to stick around for cocktails and conversation with the authors and audience after the event.

for more info, please visit:


Delphine Pontvieux will read a selection of Simone de Beauvoir’s love letters to her lover Nelson Algren at the event tonight.

The Nelson Algren Committee hosts the 21st annual Nelson Algren Birthday Party on Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m. at St Paul’s/Acme Art Center, 2215 W. North Avenue in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, Algren’s home turf. The Party pays tribute to the National Book Award-winning author of The Man with a Golden Arm, Chicago: City on the Make and other works that combine gritty noir realism with a profound compassion for the underdog.

The event also honors community artists and activists who work in the Algren spirit. This year’s recipients of the Nelson Algren Committee Award include film preservationist and presenter extraordinaire James Bond, legendary stride pianist and teacher Erwin Helfer and eco-activist Erika Allen. Past Algren Award winners – including political maven Don Rose and veteran activist David Williams – will attend the event and say a few words.

Veteran photographer and Algren cohort Art Shay is a regular attendee at the birthday event, and his slide presentation/Q&A will give attendees a firsthand look at Algren’s world. This year’s celebration will also feature Algren scholar Nathaniel Mills, discussing Algren’s art and politics; notable local poets Charlie Newman, John Goode and Paul Ryan; award-winning novelist Bayo Ojikutu, actors Richard Henzel and Charles Richards, Algren documentarian Michael Caplan, historian/writer/photojournalist Sisi Donald Mosby, and musicians John Garvey and Larry Jones. A selection of love letters written to Algren by his very significant other, Simone de Beauvoir, will be read by author Delphine Pontvieux. On display will be the Nelson Algren Archive, a collection of materials put together by the Committee to commemorate Algren’s tenure in Wicker Park, as well as video footage of Algren in full storytelling action.

This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of Howard Zinn, whose People’s History of the United States is history as Algren would have written it, from the standpoint of humanity. Past Algren Committee Award winner Denis Mueller, co-director of the documentary Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, will talk about his friendship with the great progressive historian. Our sponsor is the Near Northwest Arts Council, whose visionary director, Laura Weathered, has overseen many a Birthday Party. And we are grateful to the Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA #33, which again has generously supported the Birthday Party.

Admission is $10 at the door, with seniors and students (bring that ID!) admitted at the knockdown price of five bucks. Libations will be available at a cash bar, with the proceeds dedicated to keeping Algren’s memory alive. Committee members Warren Leming and Hugh Iglarsh will help MC this years event; Alice Prus will lead partygoers in a rendition of the traditional Polish birthday anthem Sto Lat, ably assisted by Nina Gaspich and Kurt Jacobsen. Door prizes and refreshments will also be featured.

When the Committee started in the 1980s, all of Algren’s work was out of print. In 2010, all of Algren’s work is available (thanks in part to Committee support), his house is graced by a plaque, he has a memorial fountain right on the Blue Line, City on the Make has been dramatized by the Lookingglass troupe, and a passel of startlingly famous writers and actors performed a reading of his work at a centennial celebration last hear at a packed Steppenwolf Theatre. But Algren’s genius has never been fully recognized in his hometown, and the Committee’s work continues. For updates and more information, visit our Web site at

Date: Saturday, March 13th

Time: 11 am till 3 pm

Location: Joliet Public Library – 3395 Black Road, Joliet, IL

You are cordially invited to attend the Sixth Annual Regional Author Fair. Come and meet Delphine Pontvieux this Saturday!

The Fair is intended to provide area authors with the opportunity to promote their books and for the visitors to meet their favorite – or future favorite!- authors. Each of the previous Author Fairs have been attended by up to nine hundred patrons.     FREE ADMISSION.

This fair is made possible through the joint efforts of the Joliet and Des Plaines Valley Public Libraries.

Thank you for forwarding this invitation to all your friends and family who live in the Joliet area!

Dear all,

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