“An expertly crafted take on the anxieties and aspirations of post-9/11 America.”
“Toward the end of Amidon’s sly and satiric sixth novel, a character considers her Massachusetts hometown: “This wasn’t New York. This was Stoneleigh. People knew how to act.” The joke here is that for nearly 300 pages we’ve watched the locals act ruthlessly and desperately, out of fear, jealousy, paranoia, lust and sleepless worry — in other words, just like people everywhere. Stoneleigh is a small college town where the powerful few control the powerless few, using laws and lies to preserve that control. When a security alarm goes off late one night in the home of one of the town’s wealthiest residents, the secretive Doyle Cutler, it’s reported as a false alarm. But is it? The owner of the security company, Edward Inman, gets involved, and what follows is a tale of corruption, addiction, violence and sexual depravity. Told from the perspectives of four characters, the story moves briskly from the alarm to an assault on a college student that same night, to Edward’s discovery that his politically ambitious wife has dealings with the creepy Cutler. Edward, meanwhile, has secret dealings of his own — with an ex-lover who still lives in Stoneleigh and whose son, a mopey 19-year-old, may know more than he’s letting on about what happened at Cutler’s house. Think of it as “Peyton Place” in the age of terror and Twitter.” JOSEPH SALVATORE - New York Times Book Review
“Security is that peculiar breed of novel that reads quickly but requires close attention. The reader finds herself pulling back the reins, reminding herself to savor what goes down smoothly. The book is funny, too; wryly and intermittently in the way that life admits humor…More than anything, Security evokes the peculiar (and occasionally sinister) intimacy of a small town where citizens are quick to surmise the worst of their fellows and slow to exonerate them. Good fences may make good neighbors, but bad neighbors make better novels” Molly Young – New York Observer
“Amidon is not one of America’s most flamboyant contemporary writers. Unlike some, he doesn’t shout and wave from the rooftops to demand attention. His prose is unobtrusive and his storyline deceptively simple. Yet, with his dry ironies and his skill in probing beneath the comfortable veneer of his characters’ lives, he tells us more than many writers with greater pretensions.
Although there are no overt references to 9/11 and its consequences, it is difficult to read a modern American novel called Security without looking for signals about the current state of the American psyche. The echoes of phrases such as “homeland security” are too obvious to ignore. Amidon provides little to comfort his readers. Beneath the surface of his subtle and absorbing narrative lurk paranoia and the refusal to face up to disquieting truths. Security proves an ambivalent aspiration.”Nick Rennison-Sunday Times
“Thematically, like any good satire, it presents a cautionary tale and dares us to find ourselves in it, and because Amidon is such a fine writer, we do. As in Human Capital, he once again displays his unerring facility for sniffing out the shaky foundations of our lives, showing us what we will selfishly renounce — trust, intimacy, integrity, reality — to achieve what we believe is an impregnable security.” Stewart O’Nan – Washington Post
Amidon’s “detailing of contemporary suburbia will lull readers into thinking these are people and places they know and are comfortable with. His sympathetic characters help the story unfold from different points of view. Various riffs on parent-child relations ring with poignant truth. Plot twists incrementally reveal psychological insights and guilty pleasures, while leading to astute cultural commentary.
Thus readers, caught up in Amidon’s carefully fleshed-out world and figuring they pretty much know the lay of fictional Stoneleigh, Mass., may be shocked by the final few pages of this book, which lay bare the notions of security and steadfastness, and make us question who we’ve been pulling for, and why.” Barbara Lloyd McMichael – Seattle Times
“Set in an America with strong echoes of Tom Perrotta’s Little Children and John Cheever’s short stories, Amidon’s sixth novel is a gripping account of scandal and fear in outer suburbia…Amidon ekes out the finale with the patience of a seasoned moose hunter. He is not as self-consciously ambitious as, say, Jonathan Franzen, but he is every bit as good at peeking behind the curtain of the American domestic unit.” Tom Cox – Financial Times
“As the title suggests, this brilliant novel roots around in the contradictions of security: the need to feel safe and protected in one’s own home and town, against the desire to live in a genuine community.
Thus Amidon’s Stoneleigh is a place of fidgeting paranoia where the rich live in gated homes and the innocent downtrodden are scrutinised by CCTV, Republican politicians, gossiping students and the local press.
With its frustrated college lecturers and dysfunctional family units, Security will draw inevitable comparisons with Franzen, Chabon, DeLillo and other post-Updike American miserabilists.
Yet Amidon is a more modest stylist and a better storyteller, nearer in spirit to Raymond Carver. In a relatively short book, he brings emphatically to life, through their realistic actions and expertly rendered dialogue, some dozen characters – including Walt Steckl, one of the best drunks in fiction.
The tragedy that forms the novel’s page-turning climax is a largely blameless one: Amidon’s characters are victims of superbly crafted circumstances. Martin Hemming - The New Statesman
“first rate...a lean, meticulously observed story of a small college town. It races along from the first page…Amidon has a lightly satiric touch that recalls Tom Perrotta, and he deftly reminds us how class bias and gossip can roil the placid surface of a quiet, prosperous town. The novel is crowded with incident, but the pacing is brisk and the intersections of the characters artfully handled.” Taylor Antrim – The Daily Beast
“Cancel the weekend and go into lockdown with Security, a twisty novel by Stephen Amidon.” Marie Claire
“A finely written novel of paranoia and the creeping, insidious dangers of allowing the post-9/11 mindset to invade all aspects of life. Set in small-town Massachusetts, the book explores the many divisions and contradictions of modern American life, some subtle, some overt. Amidon, who spent years in London moonlighting at the FT’s weekend movie reviewer, has a fantastic feel for pace and plot. Yet he manages to resist cheap pyrotechnics and to lace the book with a cool, clear-eyed intellectualism that is the antithesis of everything the Bush years stood for.” Michael Moran - The Browser
Security can denote the deterring of burglars, the stability of a marriage, what you risk in order to borrow money and, in contemporary political speech, that which “balances” liberty, justifying restrictions on ordinary freedoms. Stephen Amidon’s new novel, set in a small Massachusetts town, plays deftly on all these resonances. Meg Inman is running for mayor, and has managed to get an illiberal law passed that forbids anyone to “occupy, sit, squat or lie in any public byway for more than ten minutes”. Walter Steckl, who was almost electrocuted in an accident
and now manages the constant pain with alcohol and painkillers, has fallen foul of this legislation. Amidon specialises in creeping satire; setting off the humour is the brilliance with which he describes Steckl’s pain, and his struggles with addiction and the legal system. This portrayal of a man broken by circumstance is so powerful that the other characters might suffer by comparison, but Amidon’s reputation as a crafter of novels that burrow beneath banal suburban surfaces ought to be secure. Stephen Poole – The Guardian
“Amidon’s plotting is crisp and assured and his depiction of disturbing secrets embedded just below the surface of placid suburban life has the feeling of truth. It’s a territory he knows well and in Security he’s successfully made it his own.”- Harvey Freedenberg BookPage
In this compelling and complexly plotted tale, disparate elements in a quiet western Massachusetts college town come together uncomfortably after a young woman is sexually assaulted. When Mount Stoneleigh college student Mary Steckl claims to have been assaulted by someone at the home of Doyle Cutler, one of the town’s most prominent if secretive citizens, one of his employees, Conor Williams, is suspected. Also under suspicion is English professor Stuart Symes, who had been there that night, and whose lover, Angela, is in the same advanced-writing seminar as Mary. As security company owner Edward Inman learns more about the incident, his suspicion shifts to the well-connected Cutler, who attempts to divert the focus to Mary’s father, Walt Steckl, a disabled electrician who had been earlier convicted (wrongfully, he believes) of molesting Inman’s son. Meanwhile, Steckl’s attempt to obtain the justice he feels he is being denied drives him toward a devastating act. This powerful and riveting novel from the author of Human Capital is highly recommended for all public libraries. — Lawrence Rungren Library Journal
“Stephen Amidon has carved out a nice niche as a writer who peers beneath the veneer of perfection to expose the nasty underbelly of the suburbs… [a] smart, fast-paced tale. But what makes Security resonate is Amidon’s characters.” Jocelyn McClurg USA TODAY
“Top Five Books for Spring” Mount Holyoke Times
“Amidon is not a flamboyant writer; his prose is unobtrusive and his storyline deceptively simple. Yet his determined and skilful probing beneath the comfortable veneer of his characters’ lives provides genuinely absorbing insight into their outwardly humdrum existences.” Áilín Quinlan, The Irish Examiner.
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