May 31, 2011

Faculty member's novel draws positive reviews

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- David Anthony will spend at least part of his summer on tour. The rest of it might be devoted to keeping up with the social media demands faced by authors promoting their books in today's online, on-demand world.

Anthony is an associate professor of English at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is also the author of “Something for Nothing,” a new novel available now from Amazon, and in just a few more days from Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.

“Something for Nothing,” set in the mid-1970s San Francisco Bay Area Anthony remembers from his own youth, tells the story of Martin Anderson, whose successful used aircraft business and lavish lifestyle nosedive when the oil embargo hits. Anderson embarks on ever more desperate schemes -- including heroin smuggling -- to keep up with the lifestyle to which he and his family have become accustomed. Through it all, Anthony said, Anderson struggles to find some form of truth and authenticity, something of lasting value, some way to belong somewhere. His continual chasing after the kind of value measured by dollars, though, prevents him from seeing his own confusion as he drifts in and out of a fantasy world informed by pop culture.

Anthony uses some of his own biography to make Anderson’s character. For example, he uses his knowledge of racehorses, gleaned from hours spent at the track watching his father’s thoroughbreds run as a backdrop for Anderson’s search for authentic experience.

“Publishers Weekly,” in its starred review of Anthony’s book, calls Martin Anderson “the most loveable drug smuggler in ages.” Booklist calls Anthony “an author to watch.”

Anthony will appear at about a dozen book signings this summer in support of his book. In Illinois, he’ll visit Naperville. He’ll also stop in Ann Arbor, Mich., home of his doctoral alma mater the University of Michigan. And then he’ll spend a bit of time in northern California, where the novel is set and where he spent his childhood.

Anthony noted that he wrote the novel in approximately six months. A former college classmate turned literary agent helped him place the book almost immediately, and rumors of movie options are in the air.

Anthony’s previous book, the academic “Paper Money Men: Commerce, Manhood, and the Sensational Public Sphere in Antebellum America,” by contrast, was nearly 10 years in the works. In that book, Anthony also examines economic crisis and manhood, both of which, he explains, were central issues in the period’s pulpier fiction and penny press newspapers. He was able to use research conducted for it in his novel, even though the historical setting is quite different.

“I tried to have fun with some of the ideas and concepts from the academic book as I was writing the novel,” he said.

He said he doesn’t feel intimidated at the idea of attending book signings -- after all, he’s a teacher and an academic and talking about ideas to groups of people is nothing new.

What is new, though, is the need to reach out to his audience and to use social media to expand that audience. Anthony’s website features a book trailer, filmed in part at Aqueduct Race Track in New York. He said he is also prepared to be available for online chats, and to use Facebook and Twitter and other social media to promote the book.

“This is a whole new era for book authors, I think,” he said.

Visit, Anthony’s web site, to watch the book trailer and to find out more about the book. To learn more about the Department of English at SIUC, visit