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The Accidental Pallbearer

Part of Melville International Crime

Introducing a gritty new detective series set in the bleak hinterlands of upstate new York

Washed-up private investigator Eliot Conte would rather be teaching American literature and listening to opera than taking pictures of spouses in flagrante delicto. But he flamed out of an academic career when he hung the Provost of UCLA out a window, and he had to come home — to bleak Utica, New York, where his aging father, Silvio Conte, a political kingmaker, is still cutting deals and hustling appointments, and his all-but-in-blood brother Antonio Robinson is the city’s first black Chief of Police.

But now Antonio’s asking him for a favor that, to Eliot, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a police chief should ask for … especially as he begins to uncover a trail of evidence leading back to the most sensational hit in Mafia history. In a Utica marked by economic devastation and racial tensions, Eliot picks up one strand after another, weaving his way through a web of allegiances, grudges, and his own dark demons. Who is the spider at the center of it all?

FRANK LENTRICCHIA was raised in Utica, New York, to working class, first generation Italian-American parents. A chaired professor of literature at Duke University, he is the author of several highly acclaimed and often controversial critical studies; novels, including Johnny Critelli and The Knifemen; and a memoir, The Edge of Night.

“This new novel is a tight, twisted and totally engaging read… Once again, Lentricchia has forged a fiction that has guts.” —Fred GardapheFra Noi

“If you like your crime very noir, very hard-boiled and very American, then this is the novel for you.” — The Telegraph

”Gripping, complex…An excellent start for these Eliot Conte books. Can’t wait for the next one – and the cable-TV series.” — The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Vivid and unnerving … Eliot Conte is an instant original.” — The Washington Post

“The terrific writing, clever plots, bleak humor, and colorful characters recommend this to fans of gritty noir crime fiction.” — Library Journal, starred review

“Until the sequel arrives, this will continue to be the best contemporary crime novel money can buy.” — Liam Buell, bookseller, the Harvard Coop

“Lentricchia captures the feel of upstate New York (Richard Russo territory) and of Italian American culture within a familiar genre, with predictable grit and wit. We hope to see more of Conte and perhaps of his promising romantic interest, a Troy policewoman.” Booklist

“There’s a Quentin Tarantino masculinity to this story of a private investigator known for solving knotty problems in not-quite-lawful ways.” –The Charlotte Observer

”Utica, N.Y, the downtrodden upstate city in which ”The Accidental Pallbearer” is set, is as much the main character of literary critic Frank Lentricchia’s gripping, complex detective story as the depressive shamus Eliot Conte, whose series debut this is.”The Ledger

“More than a thriller … Lentricchia’s prose soars…” — The Raleigh-Durham Herald-Sun 

“Lentricchia’s latest work, in my opinion his finest, certainly the one most accessible to a wide audience, is entitled “The Accidental Pallbearer,” a detective-crime-Mafioso novel set in Utica, full of bits and pieces of authentic Utica history, altered and molded into a totally fictional story that is fast-paced and thrilling, scene after scene. It has the hard-bitten diction and action of “Film Noir” (and I do believe it is destined to be made into a film). Central to the novel is the conflict of family loyalty versus family disintegration that makes the best of Italian-American fiction so riveting.” The Utica Observer-Dispatch

“Bravissimo!” –Lisa Scottoline

The Accidental Pallbearer is a brilliant piece of fiction, and a page turner to boot, able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best writing in America today.” –Jay Parini

The Accidental Pallbearer deserves to be read alongside the best literary detective fiction of our time. Lentricchia’s protagonist is the anti-hero par excellence — you can’t put him down, either physically or emotionally — whose only equal is Fabio Montale from the great Marseilles trilogy by Jean-Claude Izzo.” –John R. MacArthur, publisher, Harper’s Magazine

Praise for The Knifemen and Johnny Critelli …

“[Scenes that are] somber or funny or lose-your-lunch ugly….The sabotage and sadness are real, and the language out of the streets and kitchens and bedrooms is obscenely authentic.” –Entertainment Weekly

“Lentricchia has fashioned two short novels that display a rousing capacity for language and a gritty sense of the contemporary male mind.” –Publishers Weekly

“Brutal and uncompromising, brilliant and desperate.” Rolling Stone

“Original and lively . . . Frank Lentricchia is that rare thing, a professor of English with writing talent.” Frank Kermode