Fargo Burns is the first of four groundbreaking experiments in literary fiction from award-winning New York author Kos Kostmayer coming out on Dr. Cicero books. The eponymous hero of the novel, Fargo Burns, is a 32-year-old, Mississippi-born New Yorker whose life is thrown into vivid disarray following two grave mistakes of fate and judgment.
Mistake #1: Fargo goes mad, violently so, and lands in a mental hospital where he becomes convinced that he has been turned into a dog and that his psychiatrist is Virginia Woolf. Mistake #2: He falls into an affair with the girlfriend of a professional killer.
Shifting between the Mississippi Delta and New York City, “Fargo Burns” dramatizes the turmoil and upheaval of American society at the height of the Vietnam war through a kaleidoscopic tapestry of linguistic experimentation. The novel fuses a profound examination of American violence with a surprising undercurrent of subversive humor. As Fargo struggles to atone for the violence of his own actions, his story touches on race, religion, sex, history, politics, and madness culminating in a desperate confrontation in a dark New York City cathedral. Between the madness he unleashes and the violence he confronts, Fargo Burns finally learns what it means to be a man instead of a dog. It is a lesson that comes at a high price.
Read on for an interview with author Kos Kostmayer and publisher Dr. Cicero Books.
S.R.: Your book Fargo Burns was published on March 1 of this year (congrats!) What have been some of the challenges in publishing this book during COVID-19?
K.K.: My novel FARGO BURNS came out from Dr. Cicero Books on March 1 and immediately ran into some problems involving the ISBN number. Dr. Cicero Books resolved these problems quickly (the problems were not caused by Dr. Cicero Books, but they took it on themselves to swiftly correct a mistake made by another entity). That confusion around the ISBN delayed the arrival of the book for a number of days, and then COVID-19 hit full force across the country. On the day Small Press Distribution (SPD), the company that distributes books for Dr. Cicero, received its first shipment of FARGO BURNS, the Governor of California shut down businesses, including SPD, all across the state. SPD remained shuttered for months, and has only recently begun to operate again. As a result, FARGO BURNS could not be distributed to book stores or made available anywhere other than Amazon, which is to say COVID-19 basically took FARGO BURNS off the market and kept it out of bookstores and libraries for all of March, April, May, and June. Many bookstores have remained closed, and some have gone out of business, but thanks to the good work of Dr. Cicero Books, a number of these problems have been resolved in favor of FARGO BURNS and other Dr. Cicero titles. SPD is up and running again.
In addition, Dr. Cicero Books has worked hard to bring attention to FARGO BURNS and has taken the additional step of listing the book on Ingram, another major book distribution operation, and they have also begun to work with Books Forward in order to promote FARGO BURNS and others books in the Dr. Cicero catalogue. As a further effort on behalf of its authors Dr. Cicero Books brought in Jane Rosch to serve as Managing Editor, and she has taken on the task of dealing with the multifarious issues raised by COVID-19 and the economic meltdown triggered by the virus. Although FARGO BURNS has encountered a lot of the problems that have capsized the publishing world since the onslaught of COVID-19, I count myself lucky to know that I’m in the hands of a publishing company that cares deeply about its authors and their welfare and will do everything possible to overcome the myriad obstacles raised by the pandemic.
S.R.: What has your process been as a writer during this pandemic?
K.K.: As for sheltering in place, that particular activity feels almost natural to someone who writes novels and poems. As for my playwriting career, it is temporarily on hold, and I worry about the fate of theaters in our country. So there it is, I’m writing, and I’m finding time to read as well and have recently immersed myself in the work of a handful of splendid poets, including the great Syrian poet Firas Sulaiman, along with Morgan Parker, Marie Howe, Cornelius Eady, Celia Bland, Tyehimba Jess, Anne Carson and Naomi Shibah Nye. Since I can’t go to the theater, I’ve been reading plays too and just finished reading MIDGET IN A CATSUIT RECITING SPINOZA, an astonishing and deeply moving masterpiece by Carey Harrison that deserves to find its place on stages around the world once this heartbreaking and life stealing pandemic is finally behind us. Finally I think it’s worth remembering that from his place beyond the grave, Brecht continues to remind us that even in times of trouble we will continue to sing; and we will sing about the times that trouble us.
S.R.: What are you working on next?
K.K.: I recently finished a final revision on my novel THE POLITICS OF NOWHERE, which is forthcoming soon from Dr. Cicero Books, and I have also completed final revisions on two additional novels, THE AVENUE OF SAD DAYS and LOST RELIGION, which will be coming out from Dr. Cicero Books over the next 18 months. I’m also doing a final polish on two volumes of poetry and beginning work on a new novel. I’m busy, and I know full well how lucky I am to be able to continue working in the midst of this pandemic. Like everyone, I’m hoping for the best and looking forward to the day when independent bookstores across the country (and around the world) will be able to open their doors and flourish once again.
Dr. Cicero Books
S.R.: What have been some of the challenges as a publisher in publishing a promoting a book during COVID-19?
D.C.B.: Mercifully, the promotion of the book has been under command of our excellent publicity manager, Rhodes Murphy. For me it’s hard to imagine launching a book without a gathering of friends and potential buyers. Luckily people find books, and each other, online – what on earth would we be doing if COVID-19 had struck before the age of the internet?!
S.R.: What’s it like to work on a book during COVID-19?
D.C.B.: Working on a book is always a pleasantly solitary business, although knowing that no gatherings await the finished product is a discouraging thought. But authors and publishers, like prison lifers, are well used to solitary labor.
S.R.: As a small publishing house, how are you working with writers and everyone on the team for each book?
D.C.B.: Very happily—by post, mainly by email, whereby drafts, proofs, cover designs etc., are communicated as usual. This part of the business is unaffected.
S.R.: What projects are you working on next?
D.C.B.: Speaking as Acquisitions Editor, I have three novels (including one by the author of the immortal Fargo Burns) and a half dozen volumes of poetry (by different hands) on the stocks, which excites me greatly, because I live entirely in what I experience as the timeless beauty, regardless of any other considerations, of the books we publish.
Purchase your copy of Fargo Burns here.
Kos Kostmayer is a novelist, poet, playwright, and screenwriter. He has four novels coming out in the next two years from Dr. Cicero Books. In 2020 Dr. Cicero Books will publish “Fargo Burns” and “The Politics of Nowhere.” In 2021 Dr. Cicero will publish “Lost Religion” and “The Avenue of Sad Days.”
Kos recently completed two volumes of poetry, “The Year the Future Disappeared” and “The Marriage Bed,” and he is currently working on a novel and a new play. His plays have been seen in various forms in New York City, Los Angeles, Harare, Toronto, Berlin and at a number of colleges and universities. His work has been honored with the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, multiple Dramalogue Awards, the Pick Of The Fringe at the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival and the Otis L. Guernsey Prize in Drama from the Association of American Theater Critics.
Kos served for many years as Supervising Writer and Field Producer for Big Blue Marble, the Emmy award-winning documentary TV show for children, and has made a number of documentaries dealing with theater and its impact on young people. His poems have been published in a number of magazines, and his work has been translated into Swedish and German. In addition, he was written and produced numerous scripts for television and film, including “I Love You To Death,” a Lawrence Kasdan film featuring Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman, William Hurt, Keanu Reeves, River Phoenix, Joan Plowright, James Gammon and Jack Kehler.
Kos is married to the artist Martha Ferris, and he and his wife divide their time between their family farm in Mississippi and their home in the Hudson River valley.