Don’t be fooled by the painting of Alexandria on the cover: Local author Abe Dawson’s debut novel "Acedia" offers far more than just a familiar setting.
"Acedia" is a clever and original tale, offering an ample amount of laugh-out-loud humor and thoroughly researched plot lines that keep the reader wondering what will happen next.
Dawson entered "Acedia" into the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest under its original title, "The Earls of Fairlington." The novel reached the general fiction semifinals, which included the top 50 of the contest’s 5,000 submissions. Following the Amazon contest, Dawson changed the title.
The novel begins in 2018, when Travis Morrison has just completed a three-year stint in prison for digging up the grave of William Shakespeare. Looking for fame, he returns to his hometown of Alexandria in order to cash in on his crime. He soon finds the world has changed quite a bit since he’s been gone. He turns to his old friend Bob Green, an obituary writer for a floundering local newspaper, to help him get his story out to the world.
A key part of the novel is Bob’s obsession with Edward de Vere, a man many people, known as Oxfordians, believe to be the true author of Shakespeare’s works. With "Anonymous," a film about de Vere scheduled for release later this year, Dawson made sure his book was out before the movie in order to create some buzz.
“Oxfordians have read it and they’re talking about it,” Dawson said. “It’s good publicity for me.”
The novel also delves into Travis’ experience in a Neo-Mayan society and his other longtime friend Roy, a once successful man who had his heart broken, became obese and moved in with his mother.
Dawson, who hangs out regularly in Del Ray and Old Town, pulled from real life experiences to shape the relationships of the three friends in the novel.
“I wanted to use my experiences with old friends,” Dawson said. “… The fading loyalties, you just kind of get sick of each other.”
Although "Acedia" is Dawson’s first novel, he worked on short stories and took a stab at the novel in his 20s. He then put fiction aside to focus on technical writing. After five years of honing his professional skills, Dawson began writing fiction again in his free time and started "Acedia" in late 2005.
“It was through that first experience where I think I learned a lot of lessons,” Dawson said about his attempted first novel. “I think a lot of people just stop and don’t try to go back to it after that.”
As "Acedia" is set in Alexandria, Dawson references several spots in the area, such as on South Washington Street and on King Street.
“I wanted to have that Old Town theme,” Dawson said. “That’s been my world forever, and people who share that experience love it.”
Throughout the novel, Dawson uses the conflicting perspectives of Travis and Bob to illustrate how people rarely perceive things in the same manner, from the conversation that led to Travis’ incarceration to Roy's condition.
“Nobody quite sees everything the same way,” Dawson said. “I really wanted to capture that.”
Dawson is currently working on the sequel, which will be released in 2012. He plans to do a third novel as well.
For more information on Abe Dawson and "Acedia," visit his website.
Dawson will be having a book signing for "Acedia" at Artfully Gifts and Chocolate at 506 John Carlyle Street on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.