Monday, November 30, 2015

Here's a podcast interview about The Debtor Class conducted by savvy interviewer Stephen Campbell. Great questions. You have to pick it up and put it down in the address bar.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


My publisher Martin Shepard of the Permanent Press asked me to describe our experiences that terrible Friday night in Paris, where my wife Connie and I were on vacation. This is that letter, written the next morning.

By Ivan G. Goldman

I want to make clear that Connie and I have no complaints. Any minor inconveniences we experienced are nothing in the face of such tragedy, but I will try to clue you in a little as to what it’s been like to be in the city at this terrible time. We were out and about when all this happened Friday night. First, we saw no panic. Confusion yes, but no one running around in hysterics. The mood has been somber. There are few roadmaps to follow in such cases.
We’re staying in an Airbnb apartment in the 6th arrondisement on the Left Bank. The shithead perpetrators mounted their attacks on the Right Bank, where we happened to be Friday night. We were trying to choose between two restaurants for dinner. One was a little place in the Place Republique area where much of the horror unfolded, but finally we settled on the other place near Place Madeleine, not as close. After a nice dinner we strolled around absorbing the Friday night excitement of life in this great city. I recall passing Harry’s New York Bar on rue Daunou, a place that used to be so thick with cigar smoke it reminded me of Army gas mask training. Now all of indoor Paris is smoke-free. But Harry’s is still someone’s crowded, obnoxious idea of what a New York bar is supposed to be. Anyway, we kept moving, and at some point noticed one of those beautiful old four-star hotels we can’t afford to stay in. Called the Westminster or something. We ducked in and found the bar. It was suitably swanky and moderately filled with smug, skinny hotel guests. Lots of polished old wood and books on the shelves. Kind of like the British Library with an expensive menu. Great jazzy piano and bass combo in the corner. I find it’s usually better to sit at the bar in such places, and that’s where we headed. The round-faced, middle-aged barman wore an expensive suit and spoke British English but was Parisian down to the ground. No, that doesn’t mean impolite. I like Parisians, big-city folks who don’t suffer fools gladly. He served Connie a fantastic red wine and found me my scotch, pouring generously. We discussed booze habits in Asia and the Middle East. Later, as we were finishing our drinks his face took on a peculiar mien and he told us terrorists had just gunned down 26 young people in a Paris restaurant around Republique. That’s how the news streamed all night. It would spill out in new chunks of horror, numbers and details changing.
You could see most people in the room didn’t know yet. They still wore smiles. The barman, as I paid him, seemed to blame Obama. Complained that Obama said it would take 10 years to defeat Isis. I felt sorry for this poor dumb bastard but told him immediately and heatedly that Bush, Rumsfeld, & Cheney created Isis when they invaded the wrong country, that I didn’t mind him blaming Americans, but he was blaming the wrong American. What about the confessed torturers? He apologized and I did too. “You’re a Parisian and your city has been attacked,” I said. “If you weren’t upset you’d have to be nuts.” I always admired the French for not following us blindly into Iraq like Tony the Poodle Blair. The Brits are our friends and would follow us into hell, but we should also value the friendship of someone willing to warn us against making a terrible mistake.
We knew the authorities were closing up the city. The barman told us we’d never find a cab, assuming that if we were rich enough to drink in that bar we wouldn’t ride underground with common folk. Anyway, we all figured the Metro would be shut down as authorities tried to close off a getaway for the shitheads. Connie and I decided to start walking toward the river. We were staying a good two miles away. When we got to Opera, a busy hub with a big Metro station underneath, Connie wanted to see if the Metro was running. I wasn’t crazy about going down there because if there’s shooting, you’ve got nowhere to run in a subway. We descended the steps.
Lots of people down there. It’s not terribly far from Republique. People  along the track pacing or clustered around smart phones. Sad. Our train didn’t have to pass Republique. Amazingly, it showed up. Crowded, as always on a Friday night. Standing room only. I found myself staring down at a man I assumed was an Arab. He looked up and flashed a long, sickly smile, whether ingratiating or mocking I could not tell, but I knew I’d been wrong to stare. A couple stations down the line the train stopped and an announcer asked everyone to get off, which we did in quick, orderly fashion. Standing there along the track as our train left, we didn’t know if we were trapped down there or another train would come. Lots of possibilities. Everyone still clustered around smart phones. A young woman heard Connie and me speaking English and approached. She was Canadian, but her French was no better than ours. She had a long way to go, the end of the line. We told her if they let us out of the station she could sleep on our sofa. By this time we were hearing about explosions and the big soccer game. But after a while another train stopped for us. We wished one another luck and Connie and I got out at our station, Sevres Babylone, near St. Germaine. The brasserie on the corner was defiantly open, with local folks gathering in solidarity. But we knew authorities were asking everyone to stay inside, and it was around midnight. We made it into our apartment and began following the news with everyone else, watching witnesses, cops, inert bodies on the streets. They’d closed at least a third of the Metro. We learned they were also closing borders and airports, but we weren’t terribly concerned even though we were supposed to go home in four days. When there are body bags right across the river, you can't worry so much about your piddling little problems. Soon would come the funerals and then the response of the civilized world.

Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a 'gripping ...triumphant read,' says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with 'howlingly funny dialogue,' says Booklist. Available in April from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Easy Reader News

From Easy Reader News

May 14, 2015

By Bondo Wyszpolski

BOOK REVIEW: Rich Man, Poor Man

Talking dollars and sense with writer Ivan Goldman

Ivan Goldman has a new novel, and here’s how it begins: “When they brought out the sidewalk chicken costume, Liz hoped they were pulling her leg, but every passing moment chipped away more of this hope. It was a one-piece outfit–bright yellow with red highlights and a gap-toothed smile sewn permanently into the chicken face.” And a page or two later: “Only one thing to do in an outfit like this–dance!”
“The Debtor Class” is Goldman’s fifth novel (he’s also authored two nonfiction titles). He resides in Rancho Palos Verdes and the other day we sat in the quieter corner of a shopping center while his dog, Daisy, napped in the bushes nearby. Goldman has been a local resident for quite some time, and “The Debtor Class” takes place largely in the South Bay. Which is where the girl in the chicken costume comes in.
Some years ago, and on a couple of occasions, Goldman noticed a young woman near the corner of 190th/Herondo and Pacific Coast Highway as he drove by. She was holding a sign–condominiums for sale, something like that. However, “She was always dancing; I’d never seen that before,” Goldman says. One guesses she had a Sony Walkman or other musical device. In case you’re wondering, no, she wasn’t dressed like a rooster or a hen: “That’s what I like about fiction; you can lie.”
Sometimes a chance occurrence or just an image can stick in the memory of an artist, and then later on it nudges up to the surface (“Make way, look out, coming through!”). That’s what happened here, and along the way there were other recollections that came to the fore as Goldman was plotting and writing his latest book.
“The Debtor Class” is an intriguing story that follows several characters (I’d call them marginal characters in that on the margin is how most of them live) who work for a collection agency run by the curiously named Philyaw, which is located in a ratty warehouse in downtown El Segundo. There are lots of plotlines that–like eels in a basket–wiggle back and forth. It’s a bit like Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice,” but more comprehensible. As the inner flap of the book jacket warns us, “All bought the American dream but couldn’t pay the price.”
“It didn’t start with the young woman dancing,” Goldman explains. “The idea for it came from many years ago when I was a reporter on the Washington Post. I did a series on a collection agency. It was a good series, and I made the front page with it.
“I remember I was very surprised,” he says. “It was my idea: let’s go to a collection agency and see what they do. I didn’t know what I was going to find, but I think like most of us I expected to find some pretty negative stuff–I didn’t expect to find nice people.
“The two guys running it were brothers. They were Korean War vets, educated, college grads, intelligent, a sense of humor. They weren’t cruel, bloodsucking scumbags. They were pretty nice guys. And the whole office was like that; they weren’t putting on a show. So it mixed me up; it surprised me. That’s not what I expected, and so it was very interesting. And over the years I remembered it.”
As he remembered the girl dancing on PCH in Hermosa Beach.
Well, and that’s another thing, our perhaps very selective memories.
“That collection agency,” Goldman says, “I remember whole conversations. At some point, after I became a novelist, I realized there’s a reason why you remember this. It’s because it’s interesting.” He  laughs. “And that was the springboard for the book.”
Okay. But why is that important?
“Because a collection agency gives you kind of a front row seat to the American opera. As we all know, money isn’t just about money, and it’s not just about possessions. It’s about experiences, it’s about vacations to Disney World or whatever else you’re buying with that money.
“So, money is currency,” Goldman continues; “but it’s the currency of a lot of things, not just material things. And people don’t talk about money, really. I don’t ask you, What’s your salary? That would be a vicious thing — it’s like asking someone, Tell me the personal details of your sexual life. You don’t do that, and you don’t ask people’s salary. So money is very, very personal.
“So what they’re discussing ostensibly in this collection agency is money that’s owed to them. But how did it get owed to them? Who are those people who owe them money, and who are these people who are collecting the money? I felt very strongly that the people collecting the money, the ones I met, weren’t very different than the people they were collecting the money from, and maybe were themselves done by collectors in the past.”
Every book requires some kind of foundation that monitors length and pacing and whatnot. Did Goldman meticulously outline the 41 chapters of “The Debtor Class” before he began writing? And does this apply to all of his novels?
“I have a semi-outline,” he replies. “I have an idea how it will end, but in this particular case I really didn’t, and that’s why it was so important to create good characters because if you create really good characters it’s like a parent sending off their children into the world. I try to create these good characters and it’s as though they decide what happens.”
It sounds a little like winding up a clock or some other device that in turn sets the wheels in motion. “The book is quite character-driven,” Goldman says, “and the characters pretty much created the plot.”
“The Debtor Class” took maybe two years to write, “but probably only six months of those two years were full time. Ideas would come to me gradually and I’d write them down — ideas about characters, about events. I’d think about them in the back of my mind and try to tie them all together.”
Are there numerous rewrites or revisions?
“I revise as I go along,” Goldman explains. “You have these people who do first draft, second draft, third draft. I do that to some extent, but mostly I revise as I write. Sometimes if the ideas are flowing I’ll just keep writing” — meaning that he’ll plow through any rough patches, all the while knowing he’ll “go back and fix that later. I know there’s something wrong with it, but I’m riding this train and I don’t want to jump off.”
Goldman, who was a Fulbright Scholar, has had a distinguished career as a journalist — writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, Utne Reader, The Nation, National Review, Rolling Stone, The Ring, The New York Times, and the aforementioned Washington Post — and he seems to have ended up in a place that suits him well.
“Life is just a crapshoot,” he says, “and you don’t know where the dice are gonna come up. I’m not a famous novelist but I really am quite content with that. I’m very happy to be doing what I like to do and to actually get it published. And somebody reads it.”
But books have a lot of competition from the entertainment industry and other art forms.
“People will pay $200 for their sunglasses,” Goldman says, exaggerating a little although not by much. “They’ll pay $100 to see a crappy fight on TV, and they’ll pay $12 to see a terrible film — but they don’t want to put out $25 for a book.”
Writers write, most of them because of an inner compulsion, but sometimes to impress friends, families, or colleagues, and yet probably without knowing who their wider audience will be. So who else might Goldman be writing for?
“Maybe a million years from now creatures will land on Earth and dig through the shards of our civilization,” he says. “They’ll find my work and get a big kick out of it. I’m writing for them too.”
In the meantime, we humans can get a headstart.
THE DEBTOR CLASS,” by Ivan G. Goldman, is new from The Permanent Press (well, it better be “permanent” if aliens are going to find it in a million years!). The publisher’s website is

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First Reader Reviews for The Debtor Class, by Ivan G. Goldman (Permanent Press, April 2015) (Reviews from Amazon &

Amazon review (5 stars)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

By Stephen Campbell on May 12, 2015

Format: Hardcover

A dark, quirky and laugh out loud funny book that beautifully 

captures the effect the recession has had on so many 

Americans. The author has put together an unforgettable 

cast of characters in what is one of my favorite books of 

2015. Debtor Class goes directly to the "I'll want to read this 

one again" shelf in my bookcase. Highly recommended.

Goodreads review

 rated it 5 of 5 stars
Bento lost it all when he went to jail. Sussman almost loses his life. Philyaw loses his temper and finds a new employee. The rich have fame and fortunes. Drug-dealers have hard-earned cash. And the cop has blue skin! But it all makes perfectly believable, imperfect sense, as author Ivan Goldman collects an unlikely group of characters together, and the Debtor Class begins. Unspooling lives weave together in unexpected ways, and the color blue can be sadness, survival, beauty or even folly, depending on your point of view.

The Debtor Class centers around the modern world’s most unlikely heroes—its debt collectors. The novelist peoples their world with fine characters, colors them deeply in shades of genuine humanity behind wholly believable bantering, and sets them loose on a rich man about to lose his fortune. But loss can be faced in many different ways, and Job’s patience combines with the Buddha’s serenity as these characters face their tragedies and learn to hold more loosely to their dreams. Perhaps that was Job’s problem in the end—that he held on too tight and needed to be freed to be redeemed.

In the Debtor Class, readers can smile, laugh, frown and weep; they might even feel blue. But hope springs eternal when humanity runs deep, and the sort of faith that friends have in each other might one day even move mountains. It’s an enthralling read, that really doesn’t want to let go when the last page is turned.

Disclosure: I was given a free preview edition and I offer my honest review.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ivan G. Goldman
The Debtor Class is moving onto store shelves and now being shipped from sites such as Amazon. It's also on Kindle and Nook. It has a much-prized starred review in Booklist, published by the exacting American Library Association. And Publishers Weekly called it a 'gripping ... triumphant read.' If you read it, please write a short review for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or Goodreads. It helps. I feel like a clown putting out this marketing message, but selling books is hard, and I promise you this one is worth a look. Please help spread the word. Booklist predicted this could become a cult classic. Here's the Amazon link. If The Debtor Class isn't at your local bookstore, ask the store to order it.

Friday, May 08, 2015

My friend Tom Dworetzky showed me where I could find some of my old blogs that died when the host site suddenly went under. I think this one from July 9, 2012 held up well - about a NY Times reporter who thought he was 'lucky' because a man set himself on fire. It reminded me of my days as a general assignment reporter.

Tunisian on Fire Spelled ‘Luck' to NY Times Reporter
By Ivan G. Goldman
Emergency personnel and journalists all chase tragedy. The difference, I can tell you from personal experience, is that medical technicians, firefighters, and cops, for example, respond by fighting whatever dark force they’re responding to. The journalist is just there to record it. If someone’s on fire you don’t smother the flames with a blanket. You snap a picture.
            There’s a conflict of interest between the journalist’s career and his/her humanitarian instincts. Because the journalist essentially chases the news that sells, and that is in almost every instance bad news of one sort or another -- fire, flood, murder, mayhem, poverty, disease, disillusionment and death. You want to get ahead? You find yourself some horror. This was artfully portrayed in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, whose paparazzi were odious locusts burrowing deep into the victims' suffering in the hell beneath the fa├žade of postwar Rome.
            I know a fair number of journalists who quit the business over this inescapable set of circumstances, over the continuous chase after whatever is ugly. They understood they weren’t the cause. There’s something within the human psyche that lusts for bad news. But at some point they just couldn’t take it anymore. Journalists at prestige media -- The New York Times comes to mind -- tell themselves they’re above the race to bad news, that they pursue greater ends and seek to get at the heart of things. But do they? In the car yesterday I tuned into NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. Gross’s guest was David Kirkpatrick of the Times Middle East bureau in Cairo. As the interview began she recalled that when he was a Washington reporter she’d interviewed him on a wide array of topics prior to his overseas assignment. Did he, she wondered, get ordered to the Middle East? Or did he volunteer?
            This was his answer. I couldn’t believe I was hearing what I was hearing so I went home and replayed it off the Internet. Yes, there it was.
            Kirkpatrick:  “I volunteered and now I probably am the luckiest journalist working today. I arrived, I was on duty in Egypt beginning in January, I think January 9, 2011. January 10 I arrived in Tunisia where someone had killed himself by burning himself alive and January 14, four days later, the president of Tunisia fled and then the whole region was up in flames.”
            Let's be frank. The answer was hideous, curiously devoid of introspection and reeking of the most simplistic analysis possible. He thanks his lucky stars that someone torched himself just as arrived and then, oh what a gift, the whole region went up in flames. Apparently looking any deeper than this was just not part of his job description and something he preferred not to do. He never seemed to examine the true nature of hiw work or how he viewed it. Dealing only with surface realities, his answer was downright creepy. Apparently if two people had set themselves on fire he'd have been twice as lucky. I have nothing personal against this Kirkpatrick, but if he ever comes to my town I fervently hope he has a run of bad luck.

Monday, February 16, 2015

By Ivan G. Goldman

The Debtor Class, a novel coming in April from Permanent Press, is "gripping," a "sobering and triumphant read about the recent recession’s effects on average Americans," says Publishers Weekly. see full review at

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fear: A Novel of World War IFear: A Novel of World War I by Gabriel Chevallier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I give this a five-star review with no hesitation. Its depiction of World War I from the perspective of a young, aware French soldier is brilliant, gripping, raw, and poetic. There are passages of such brilliance, honesty, and dark beauty that you don't know whether to fly through them or read the sections over and over because you don't want to leave them behind.

First published in 1930, it had been out of print for years. It deserves to be ranked with All Quiet on the Western Front and Red Badge of Courage.

View all my reviews