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Nothing But a Smile
A Novel by Steve Amick
Fiction - Literary | Pantheon | Hardcover | March 2009 | $24.95 | 0-307-37736-9
This is Steve's second novel, published in March 2009 by Pantheon, a division of Random House. Once you get past the sexy lady, here's what it says on the inside flap:
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From the author of the widely praised The Lake, The River & the Other Lake comes the delightful love story of a man and a woman who choose an unconventional way to redefine themselves during and after World War II.

It's 1944 and Wink Dutton, a former illustrator for Yank and Stars and Stripes, has arrived in Chicago after an injury to his drawing hand gets him an unwanted discharge from the service. Renting a room above the camera shop run by Sal Chesterton--the wife of Wink's buddy, still stationed in the Philippines--Wink is surprised to learn how Sal is making ends meet: producing pinup photos for the soldiers' favorite girlie magazines. In fact, she's using herself as a model. When Wink becomes a partner in her covert enterprise, it's the beginning of a collaboration that is both wonderfully sexy and pure, one that blossoms into a subtle and unexpected romance. Their work leads to Wink's reinvention as a photographer and, as the war ends and the business expands, to a shared understanding of the painful adjustments to be made in the rapidly changing postwar world.

Steve Amick's grasp of Wink and Sal's generation is remarkable, as is his fresh take on the period. The triumph of the war's end is tempered by his deep understanding of its quiet undercurrents--the fear of not knowing what to do next, the loss of more carefree prewar selves, the sorrow of mourning soldiers recently dead when everyone else is parading in the streets. In the surprising story of Wink and Sal, Amick has created a beautifully understated love letter to an America of simpler choices that were nonetheless hard for the people who made them.

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Check out Steve's maps of Chicago and Ann Arbor highlighting hotspots seen in Nothing But a Smile

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Click here to buy Nothing But a Smile (hardcover)

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Here's what folks (who aren't even related to Steve) are saying about Nothing But a Smile: ..........................................................................................................................................................

"For readers who've been lamenting that there aren't enough good, smart love stories being written these days, Steve Amick's new novel is a quirky, touching, and at times refreshingly masculine Valentine. As he immerses us richly and authentically in an era essential to the formation of our national identity, he offers us something just as rare: a tale that serves as a reminder, when we need it most, of why America remains a country with a vast potential for greatness.."
--Julia Glass, National Book Award-winning author of Three Junes
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"Amick’s expertly crafted novel combines an unusual love story with an intriguing, atmospheric peek into the American graphic-art world in the 1940s."
--People
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"Steve Amick pulls off quite the trick in his latest novel… his is a tale that feels innocent and pure, a hard maneuver to achieve in these wicked times...pitch-perfect…Amick gives us something increasingly rare: a love story with heart."
--Associated Press
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"Amick’s solid follow-up to The Lake, the River & the Other Lake gives the reader a remarkable portrait of postwar America… Captivating in its detail, and bold in scope…This divine love story is as much about Sal and Wink as it is about America in that era—a great story, well told."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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"Such tough work Amick assigned himself in his second novel: a deep immersion in 1940s girlie magazines and the art of Gil Elvgren, the Norman Rockwell of cheesecake. But the bawdy humor, lavish period detail, hectic plot, and pulp ambience are actually camouflage for a serious inquiry into war, poverty, extortion, misogyny, and free speech. Distinctive, seductive, and incisive, Amick’s coy and sexy tale of American know-how and self-reliance celebrates justice, creativity, and love."
--Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
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"…this is a satisfying slice of lesser-known Americana. Recommended."
--Library Journal
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"Jimmy Stewart and Ann Sheridan might have been the protagonists of this goofy postwar romance... Amick has a gift for creating atmospheres that are both comic and oddly threatening, and he’s adept at layering in nifty references to the period’s pop culture. A charmer. Even the little old lady from Dubuque will like this one."
--Kirkus Reviews
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"As in his first novel, The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, Amick’s greatest strength is his generosity toward his characters."
--New York Times
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"…a serious novel that leaves its readers with a sense that they have remembered, fondly, a time that they probably never knew."
--Ann Arbor Observer
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"This well-crafted tale has interesting characters and a wonderfully sexy plot. Hubba hubba."
--Tuscon Citizen
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"Amick captures the late war and early postwar period with sure strokes. . . . An accurate reflection of an age more innocent than our own."
--Providence Journal
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"(a) kinetic and clever slice of 1940s American cheesecake"
--The Rumpus.com
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"…Amick has created characters we love and obsess over…one of our finest writers."
--Fiction Writers Review.com
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"I couldn’t wait to turn every page…It’s a testament to Amick’s considerable storytelling skills that he is able to tease and tease us for much of the novel, and still make suspenseful and uncertain his totally inevitable and satisfying conclusion. Like a good burlesque show, you know what the end will look like, but it’s exciting and delightful getting there."
--Ann Arbor Current
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The Lake, the River & The Other Lake
A Novel by Steve Amick
Fiction - Literary | Pantheon | Hardcover | May 2005 | $25.00 | 0-375-42350-8
This other one is Steve's debut novel, published by Pantheon in 2005. Here's what it says on the dust jacket:
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Paperback edition on sale May 9, 2006 from Anchor Books, a division of Random House. (For everyone who wanted to keep Steve's map, don't worry--it's inside.)
About this book

Welcome to the resort town of Weneshkeen, nestled along Michigan’s Gold Coast, where the sapphire-blue Lake Meenigeesis and the winding Oh-John-Ninny River lie within spitting distance of Lake Michigan. This once-quaint village—home of the yearly Sumac Days festival; a legendary bootlegger’s mansion; and excellent locally made sausage, cherry pie, and fudge—has become a complex melting pot. There are townies and old-timers who still inhabit the simpler cottages along the shore; ritzy summer folk who’ve bought up the best lakefront and built view-blocking estates; migrant cherry pickers and wily river guides; there are even a few Ojibwe Indians still around.

It is the summer of 2001, and one of these “original people,” Roger Drinkwater, a ’Nam vet and lifelong resident, is plotting extra-legal revenge against the “idiot boy” jet-skiers polluting his beloved lake, even as he’s pursuing Janey Struska, the take-no-guff deputy sheriff. Mean-while, Mark Starkey, a summer kid from downstate, stumbles into a danger-laced romance with the sexiest rich girl in town; the old-guard cherry farmer “Von” vonBushberger struggles with the legacy of his rapidly changing family; and the town’s retired reverend discovers the Internet in the aftermath of his wife’s death and finds a new friend in his computer tutor, Kimmy, a teenager who is having a challenging summer of her own. These lives intertwine in surprising ways as the summer blooms, becoming a season of crises both actual and averted, and of rewarding human connection. Finally, The Lake, The River & The Other Lake is a moving testament to the homegrown Midwestern view that most people, when really pressed, will do the right thing.

Steve Amick himself is a delightful discovery; his big heart and gift for social comedy are everywhere evident in this novel of good people trying to find their way.

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This way to Weneshkeen
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Take a virtual tour of the village of Weneshkeen. See the sights as you explore the map that appears on the dust jacket of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake (hand-drawn by Steve himself.) Drop by The Wobbly Moose and check out the musical sounds of summer on the jukebox. Find out if you‚re a local, a summer person or a Fudgie. Get recipes of the regional delicacies and learn even more about the characters who make up this little lakeside community.

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Click here
to buy The Lake, the River & The Other Lake
(hardcover)

Click here to buy The Lake, the River & The Other Lake (paperback)

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Click here
to read Chapter One of The Lake, the River & The Other Lake.


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Selected as a 2006 Michigan Notable Book
Click here for more information.
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Selected as a “Book Sense Pick” for the month of May 2005
by the American Booksellers Association.
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Here's what folks (who probably wouldn't even want to be related to Steve) are saying about The Lake, the River & the Other Lake:
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"The last writer to celebrate the charms of rural Michigan with equal panache was probably Ernest Hemingway."
--Los Angeles Times
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"(a) wonderful novel...Behind all the shenanigans of Weneshkeen's citizens lie the terrible old familiars of fear and loss, and they give this gentle novel a weight that makes it worth cherishing. You won't find Weneshkeen on any real map, but when you come away from The Lake, the River & the Other Lake , you'll know you've been to the real world all the same."
--The Washington Post
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"...easygoing, rambunctious...With the whoosh of a Jet Ski, the author zooms around half a dozen clusters of Michiganders...Amick is best when relaying unflashy adolescent angst...the thrill for the initiated is to tag each signpost of hallowed holiday ground. When Amick writes, "Nobody actually enjoyed Sumac Days, but it was a tradition"--or when he mentions Vernors ginger ale in passing--you think with a contented sigh, "Ah yes, that's my Michigan." Even if your Michigan happens, lately, to be Fire Island. Proust isn't the only one who had a madeleine moment."
--New York Times Book Review
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"Few first novels manage to satirize their milieu with as much affection."
--Baltimore Sun
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"The Lake, the River & the Other Lake is a comic novel with a dark and thoughtful edge, which is the mark of all good comedy."
--Chicago Tribune
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"It's a summer well spent in Amick's amiable company."
--San Francisco Chronicle
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"The town of Weneshkeen, Mich., on Lake Michigan's Gold Coast, may be little, but a heck of a lot goes on there. This smart, punchy first novel is a smalltown soap opera, burning and churning through the summer of 2001. Amick develops a group of disparate characters, each one with a dilemma to solve or an axe to grind, and then passes the story line from one to the next in a game of literary tag...Bitterly comic and surprisingly meaty, this roiling tale of passion, anger, regret and lust is dark fun..."
--Publishers Weekly
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"Summer people, townies, migrant workers and an Indian jostle one another in newcomer Amick's fond, wise and thoroughly enjoyable look at a gentrifying midwestern vacationland. The increasingly upscale resort and farming village of Weneshkeen sits somewhere south of the Michigan Hamptons, occupying the land between little Lake Meenigeesis and nearby Lake Michigan...Should be tucked into every Midwestern beach bag."
--Kirkus Reviews
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"Amick's thrilling first novel offers an entertaining look at people who 'have a lot of junk going on.' Set in the upper Michigan lake town of Weneshkeen, where tourists mix with locals in a series of clashes that move from the hilarious to the heartfelt...Amazingly rich and colorful, the writing flows so smoothly that one's only regret might be that the novel has to end. Highly recommended."
--Library Journal
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"Each May, over the past few years, I have decided on a "Summer Read"—not a forgettable beach book, but a novel that is as entertaining as it is original, well-written and full of laughs. This year, I have made my selection and it is only February; yet I can't imagine a more all-around fun read than Steve Amick's The Lake, The River &The Other Lake. In a world of increasingly corporate-driven fiction, this big lug of a novel displays Amick's fingerprints throughout, beginning with his hand-drawn cover map of his Lake Michigan town, Weneshkeen, where all the men are a bit goofy, all the women are just a bit less so, and all the children are a bit troubled. Written in the rollicking spirit of Richard Russo's small-town nutsy-ness, Amick's comedy of errors describes one summer in which a Native American resident keeps sabotaging rich kids' noisy jet skis, two neighbors go to war over a common border, a cherry grower's family grows by foreign numbers, and rumor has it that David Letterman, no less, might be moving in. Of course, there are plenty of funny novels; Amick's book distinguishes itself by the interplay between the characters, and between the author and the characters. For the reader, it's all a pleasure."
--Steve Shapiro, Rainy Day Books (Kansas City, MO)
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"I love The Lake, The River & The Other Lake by Steve Amick. I love the rich mix of characters in the village of Weneshkeen, so alive and varied—their lives tumbling over one another and the narrative voice which has an energy and originality and humor that carries the reader on a wonderful ride, both heartening and real."
--Susan Richards Shreve, author of Plum & Jaggers
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"A delightful depiction of all the underlying tensions, joys, and sorrows in a small community on Lake Michigan, where the real residents resent the summer visitors, but also know they depend on them for income during the season. I hope we will meet some of them again in a follow-up novel."
--Nicola Rooney, Nicola's Books (Ann Arbor, MI)