Cafe Nevo Revisited

When published books are reissued, it’s unusual to get any critical attention at all, so I was thrilled when I learned that Ellis Shuman recently reviewed CAFE NEVO for “The Times of Israel.” I think I enjoyed his review as much as he enjoyed the book–so much so that, with his kind permission, I am sharing it with you today.

A little background first. CAFE NEVO was my second published novel, and to this day, it remains my family’s favorite; not just theirs, either. Among the writers who were kind enough to praise the book were Alan Silitoe, author of THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, who wrote: “Wonderfully vivid and well-constructed…I couldn’t put it down. Barbara Rogan is that rare writer who creates equally credible male and female writers; a great talent for the souls of people, which is what writing novels is all about.” Madeleine L’Engle called it “a wonderful novel, with richly developed characters acting and interacting… the café and its clients will long remain in memory.” And Alice Hoffman said, “From the very first line of CAFÉ NEVO we are in the hands of a real storyteller. Barbara Rogan writes with compelling grace.”

Throughout my writing career I’ve been blessed with some wonderful reviews, but the critical response to CAFE NEVO was something special. Here’s a small sample:

“An inspired, passionate work of fiction…a near-magical novel.”—Kirkus Review

“A wonderful novel … vivid … unforgettable.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Fresh, funny, tragic, violent, sexy, mystical and romantic…Barbara Rogan’s style is utterly engaging…works beautifully.”—Christian Science Monitor

CAFE NEVO, originally published by Atheneum and New American Library, was out of print for a long time until my friends at E-Reads brought it back into the world in a brand-new ebook and paperback edition two months ago. To me it feels as if not only the book has been resurrected, but also its characters: Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz, the waiter and proprietor of Cafe Nevo, and its other cantankerous, argumentative, but brilliant habituees. I love these characters dearly, and I’m so glad that new generations of readers will now have the chance to discover them. I know that there are endless new books coming out, clamoring for attention, and rightly so. But I’m hoping that readers who know my work will make some time for CAFE NEVO.

Ellis Shuman has this and a number of other reviews and posts on his interesting blog; I encourage you to check it out for yourselves. Here is his review of CAFE NEVO:

“The Aroma of Tel Aviv’s Coffee House Culture

I am writing these lines on my laptop as I sip my morning cappuccino. Like many who work in Ramat Gan’s Bursa district, my day begins with a cup of steaming hot coffee professionally prepared; there are many coffee shops and cafes in the neighborhood. Some people linger over their coffee, catching up on iPhone messages and answering emails; while others, like me, pull out their laptops and type away, undisturbed by the grinding of coffee beans; the hiss of steam escaping as milk is heated; and the swish of credit cards as orders are recorded.

Go back twenty five years. The fictitious Café Nevo of the Barbara Rogan novel of the same name is the “oldest and certainly the grungiest of the Dizengoff cafés”. The coffee shop, originally established by two enterprising Polish brothers, attracts not only common workers, but “writers, actors, and artists who by virtue of their socialist ideology styled themselves members of the proletariat, but who in fact constituted the Tel Aviv elite of their day”.

“If they were that good they’d be working,” one of the characters of the novel says of Café Nevo’s clientele. “Nobody with any serious work to do hangs out in cafés”.

Quirky and colorful regulars

Café Nevo has quirky and colorful regulars – they hang out in the coffee shop for hours at end. Each of them has an opinion about the establishment. “Nevo was like some great puzzle whose pieces wandered around of their own accord,” one says, while another notes that “Nevo was a place where events and chance meetings broke over one’s head like waves. One could duck or jump them, but swimming for shore was not one of the options, not unless one chose to opt out completely.”

The man serving Café Nevo’s patrons, when he bothers to do so, is Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz, a “jealous and exacting waiter.” Sternholz “was the keeper of Nevo, no more, no less. If Nevo was a stage, and all his customers protagonists in their separate dramas, then Sternholz’s roles were manifold but uniformly subsidiary. He was the propman, the janitor, the Greek chorus, and the machinist of the deus ex machina; he was everything to others and nothing to himself.”

The_philosopherTourists are often turned away from the Café Nevo tables, as Sternholz feels they might disturb the regulars. But “a customer on whom Sternholz deigned to wait” would not always get “what he asked for, for the waiter reserved the right to edit all orders. He gave his customers what they needed, not what they wanted.”

The café serves as just the center of this wondrous stage. Rogan’s novel takes us into the lives of its regular customers one by one. We meet a cabinet minister with secret real estate deals in the West Bank; a celebrity prostitute who only takes on Jewish clients and ends up pregnant by one of them; a disillusioned kibbutznik who walked away from his Israeli army service, upsetting not only his IDF general father but the entire kibbutz; a young painter who sets up her studio on Sheinkin when that street was still affordable; a famous Israeli author at odds with his Palestinian collaborator on an anthology; and the author’s estranged wife, who has a casual affair with that same Palestinian.

Sternholz doesn’t hesitate to sit down with his customers, listening to their life stories and offering solutions to their problems. Frequently he tries to kick them out of the café, to get on with their lives. As one of his regulars observes, “He was always telling customers, ‘Go home, get a job, get out of here.’ Sometimes they went, but they never stayed away. Whatever changes, growth, or petrification took place in their outside lives, they kept on coming back, as if Nevo were their spawning or their burial ground.”

Tel Aviv’s legendary Café Kassit

breaking_upRogan admits that the Café Nevo of her novel was modeled on Tel Aviv’s legendary Café Kassit, which was also located on Dizengoff Street.  An Israeli documentary a few years ago featured Cafe Kassit, which for five decades served as a home and meeting place for the best artists in Israel. According to an article in Haaretz about the film, the cafe “helped Hebrew creativity flourish thanks to a constant flow of alcohol, food and regular or incidental muses.”

As Rogan adds on her blog, “If a missile had struck the cafe on a Friday afternoon, Israeli culture would have been pulverized.”

“My café was modeled on Kassit, not the thing itself, which could not have been encompassed in a novel; but it was also a tribute to an institution I’d thought would last forever,” Rogan writes. “But Kassit was gone, long gone. It existed only in the memories of its patrons…and, in a way, between the pages of my novel, where its fractious customers are forever presided over the café’s tyrannical waiter and secret owner, Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz.”

Coffee culture

Café Nevo, the book, transports readers to Café Nevo, a coffee house that was trendy long before there was a trend to visit gourmet coffee shops on a daily basis. Today Israelis flock to the local Aroma, Arcaffe, and Café Café chains and drink their espressos, their café hafuch, and their simple, instant nescafe, without worrying whether a jealous and exacting waiter will refuse to take their orders.

As for me, I will finish my cappuccino, think about the memorable Café Nevo, close my laptop and continue to my office.

Café Nevo was originally published in 1987 but has just been re-released in both e-book and paperback editions.  Barbara Rogan lived in Israel for many years and was the founder and director of the Barbara Rogan Literary Agency. During that period, she served on the Board of Directors of the Jerusalem Book Fair. Her new novel, A Dangerous Fiction, will be published in July.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.”

CAFE NEVO is available on Amazon or B&N or your favorite online bookseller.

It’s no secret, by the way, that I based my fictional Cafe Nevo on a very real cafe in Tel Aviv called Kassit. Last time I was in Israel, we had an interesting encounter with that site. I wrote about it here– have a read, if you’re interested.

 

BREAKING NEWS: If you’re on Twitter, let’s make a date! I’m appearing on #LitChat this Friday, Sept. 6, between 4-5, to talk about A DANGEROUS FICTION and my checkered career as a writer/editor/literary agent.

Don’t know about you, but audio books are as essential to my car as gas. I wouldn’t get much cooking done without them, either. So I’m delighted to announce that A DANGEROUS FICTION  is now available as an audio book, just issued by Audible.com. I understand that you can get it free if you join the service.

 

Behind the Curtains: What Publishers Really Do

An awful lot of what publishers do for books, they do behind the scenes and prior to publication. Viking/Penguin  is going to publish A DANGEROUS FICTION in late July, and they are gearing up in all sorts of ways. I thought readers might be interested in a glimpse behind the curtain.

Editing: packaging is important, but you’ve got to deliver the goods. Good editing makes any book better and good books shine. Shortly after its acquisition by my delightful editor Tara Singh, A DANGEROUS FICTION underwent a series of first-class edits and emerged the better for it.

Cover: Positioning a book starts with a cover that conveys the message and ambience of the work. Because the cover is also a marketing tool, it exemplifies the approach of the publishers’ marketing plan. If the author and publisher are not on the same page, this is where the fissure usually appears first.

Viking’s cover, by London-based French artist Malika Favre was the most perfect face I could imagine for the book I wrote. If the tone of the book could be converted into a picture, that picture would be this cover. At this point in the process, I am feeling the love.

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2

 

Blurbs: Many months before publication, copies of the manuscript were sent to writers who expressed a willingness to read and possibly write blurbs for the book. For me, this marked the first time this book had been read by anyone outside my agent, editors, and immediate family. One by one, reactions began to come in. I’m very grateful to the writers who took time from their own work to read A DANGEROUS FICTION, and I’m proud to share their comments with you now.

“A terrific read! A thriller with a psychological heart of mystery, a double-ended love story, and a fascinating look at the world of high-stakes publishing.”-Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of Outlander and An Echo in the Bone

“Clearly, the most dangerous fictions are the ones we tell ourselves.” JA Jance, author of DEADLY STAKES and many other bestsellers

A Dangerous Fiction reads like a tell-all, inviting readers into the sleek, hallowed inner circle of literary Manhattan, then blowing that world apart with harrowing intrigue and a gripping mystery. Finally, as a bonus, Rogan offers a surprisingly sweet redemptive thread with which to stitch it all back together. A Dangerous Fiction blends deft prose with a pitch-perfect voice, and Barbara Rogan is a storyteller at the top of her game.”-Vicki Pettersson, author of Cheat the Grave and The Scent of Shadows

“Barbara Rogan knows the world of writers, agents, and editors, and in A Dangerous Fiction she offers a vivid inside look at both the glittering successes and the failures that breed feuds and obsession. As a stalker resorts to murder to destroy literary agent Jo Donovan’s life, readers will cast suspicious glances at everybody from a disgruntled former employee to a rejected writer to Jo’s most trusted friends. A Dangerous Fiction is great entertainment!”–Sandra Parshall, Agatha Award-winning author of the Rachel Goddard mysteries

“The backstabbing and cutthroat competition we imagine going on behind the scenes in publishing make it the perfect setting for murder, and Barbara Rogan has done it justice in A Dangerous Fiction. I loved every wickedly delicious page.”-Hallie Ephron, author of There Was an Old Woman

“Barbara Rogan’s A Dangerous Fiction positively drips with intrigue and delicious suspense.  I couldn’t put it down—and you won’t want to, either.”—Lorraine  Bartlett, author of the Victoria Square Mysteries.

“Rogan brings an insider’s keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman’s need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she’s the target of malevolent foes she can’t identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship–A Dangerous Fiction has it all. I couldn’t put it down!”-Darlene Marshall, author of Castaway Dreams

 

DickensI received a few other blurbs as well, from some Very Illustrious Writers, but for some reason my editor doesn’t want me to post them along with what she insists on calling “the real blurbs.” But you can read them anyway, right here.

Review Copies: Five months before publication, bound galleys are already out to long-lead reviewers. In a few months, the prepublication reviews – PW, Library Journal, Kirkus – will appear. I’m not thinking about that. Not a bit. Never read reviews. And if you believe that, I have a bridge that may interest you…

Brooklyn_Bridge

Sales and Marketing: I believe that the books are being sold into bookstores nationwide by the Viking’s terrific sales force even as I write this; so, being a somewhat superstitious person, I will say no more.

Online Marketing: Viking’s online marketing mavens have worked with me to help me improve my websites and FB author page, and to ease me onto Twitter, where I am known as @RoganBarbara–do look me up and say hi!   They’re patiently training an old dog new tricks, and I’m relieved to say they employ purely positive training techniques; not a whip in sight, no authors hurt in the production of this book.

Bookstore appearances, Book and Author Luncheons, conferences, etc.: These are already being scheduled, starting in July, for the New York area. I’m infinitely corruptible and shamefully approachable. If you have any offers, please direct them to Ben Petrone, Associate Director of Publicity at Viking.

The Readers’ Guide to A DANGEROUS FICTION has just gone live for use by book clubs and library reading groups. I think it’s terrific; it even taught me a few things about the book I didn’t know. Do have a look. I’m open to participating by phone or Skype in book club discussions of A DANGEROUS FICTION; just contact me at Barbara Rogan at Gmail dot COM.

So much of what publishers do is invisible and goes uncredited. I’d like to take this opportunity for a shout-out to the dedicated folks at Viking for their hard work and support. And next time someone asks, “What do publishers really do for writers?”, point them here.

 

A DANGEROUS FICTION is now available for pre-order;  and most vendors are offering early buyers  a 35% discount on the hardcover edition. While you’re waiting for that to arrive, my last three books, SUSPICION, HINDSIGHT, and ROWING IN EDEN,  have been reissued in ebook and paperback.

 

Galleys!

There are a few big milestones in the publication of a book. Selling it is the first, of course–getting that fateful phone call from one’s agent.  The next is finishing the final edit–letting the book go at last. The third is  receiving bound galleys in the mail: suddenly your brainchild is an actual, physical book,  cover and all. And that, dear reader, is what happened today.  The galleys of A DANGEROUS FICTION have arrived, and I’m thrilled to death. Here’s the cover:

 

 

A DANGEROUS FICTION will be out next summer via Viking Press, but the book is available for preorder already on Amazon and Booksamillion. No reviews yet, of course—but check out these amazing blurbs from fellow-writers. The latest, not yet posted,  is from bestselling author J.A. Jance:

“Clearly, the most dangerous fictions are the ones we tell ourselves.”

It’s a good day.

Digging Up Blurbs

I was looking for a book in an airport recently, just in case the three paperbacks and the hundred or so novels stored in my Kindle failed to suffice, when I came upon a novel by a writer I’d never heard of before: Witches on the Road Tonight, by Sheri Holman. The book looked interesting, and the first page passed the acid test, but what pushed me over the edge was a glowing blurb by Jane Smiley, whose work I love. I bought the book and was amply rewarded.

I remembered this incident when my editor at Viking asked if I had any suggestions for writers who might give us blurbs for my upcoming novel, A DANGEROUS FICTION. As it happened, I did know a few writers who I thought might be willing to read, which they graciously agreed to do.

But why stop there? I thought. I made a list of writers whose work I admired. Most of them I didn’t dare approach, knowing that famous and bestselling writers are besieged with such requests. The writers who remained on the list would, I knew, be difficult to reach. But with the help of my cousin the medium, I was able to make contact, and I’m pleased to report that they were all happy to oblige.

Their responses after reading went beyond anything I could have hoped for. I’m delighted to share their blurbs with you now.

 

 

“This is a brave book, with heart and guts and kidneys. This book charges straight up the hill, bayonetting all who stand in its path.” “Ernest Hemingway

“I wish I’d written this book.” Jane Austen

“A book is a book is a book, but not all books smell this sweet.” Gertrude Stein

“At last I have found my Dulcinea!” Cervantes

“Kid’s got a mouth on her. I like it.” Dashiell Hammett

 

“It is a far, far better book than I have read before, and nearly as good as any I have written.” Charles Dickens

 

 

“Such stuff as dreams are made of.” William Shakespeare

“I can’t wait for her next.” Homer
Many thanks to my esteemed colleagues, may they rest in peace.

 

A DANGEROUS FICTION is now available on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Books-A-Million, and other bookstores; also available as an audio book.