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Dr. Brinkley's Tower by Robert Hough

Dr. Brinkley’s Tower

Dr. Brinkley's Tower by Robert Hough
Jan 22, 2013 | 424 Pages
  • Ebook $13.99

    Jan 22, 2013 | 424 Pages

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 ”A wildly imaginative historical novel set in the Mexican border town of Corazon de la Fuente, with a nod to the shenanigans of a true-life con artist.” – O Magazine

“Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, the inspiration for this folksy, ingratiating novel, was a real person, although his life was tailor-made for fiction. . . . Hough’s tone recalls Mark Twain in tall-tale mode, but the story is also shot through with threats and portents. . . . In its own smart, seriocomic way, Hough’s novel preaches the virtues of refusing to get screwed again.” The Washington Post

“The prosperity an American doctor’s broadcasting service promises to bring a Mexican brothel town instead produces disaster in Dr. Brinkley’s Tower . . . There’s a dignity to the people in the town, despite their poverty, so readers care desperately when the tower brings its changes. We come to inhabit the town, walking its avenues and smelling the cooking . . . Fans of Gabriel García Márquez will recognize a touch of his lyricism, but this book is firmly grounded in reality. At the core of the richly interwoven stories is the search for the difference between false promise and real worth. Memorable historical fiction.” Booklist

“Hough take(s) all of these characters beyond stereotypes and invest(s) them with humanity and humor. . . . Hough slyly presents a cast of characters largely taken in by their own folly and gullibility.” — Kirkus Reviews

The Governor General’s Award — Finalist

“Hilarious and penetrating . . . Hough is a master storyteller.” — Globe and Mail

Dr. Brinkley’s Tower moves like an extremely well-oiled machine, juggling and nudging forward all kinds of subplots without ever drawing attention to the muscularity required to do so.” –  National Post

“A smooth, entertaining and entrancing [read].” – Toronto Star

“A tapestry-rich, almost magical narrative with dozens of fully realized characters and a vividly detailed world … [Dr. Brinkley’s Tower] is a thing of wonder.” — Edmonton Journal

“An entertaining page-turner” — NOW Magazine

“With ingenious characters and striking scenes, Hough reveals a love of Mexican culture and has crafted a story that convincingly illustrates the emotions of men and women.”  – FFWD

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Author Q&A

         A Conversation with Robert Hough, author of        
Dr. Brinkley’s Tower
A Novel
Published by Steerforth Press January 2, 2013 Distributed by Random House
What was ‘Mexican radio?’
Mexican radio describes an era in which American entrepreneurs, most of them charlatan doctors, built massive radio transmitters just over the border in Mexico. There were no broadcast regulations in Mexico, which meant they could blanket all of north America with a very powerful signal. They would then use these radio transmissions to promote whatever treatment they happened to be peddling.
Who was Dr. John Romulus Brinkley?
Dr. Brinkley started the era of Mexican Radio by building a one-million watt radio tower in a small town called Villa Acuña, Mexico. To go with it, he founded a station called XER Radio (‘The Sunshine Station From Between The Nations’) which operated out of a border town in Texas called Del Rio. It was the original ‘border blaster’ station, the signal so powerful that, in the 1930s, Russians learned English by listening to XER Radio.
What sort of radio station was XER?
In many ways it was a typical rural-American radio station: lots of bluegrass and American folk music, preaching, agriculture reports, pork belly prices, etc. The station ran 24 hours a day, and throughout Brinkley was constantly promoting what he called his “goat-gland operation.”
What was the goat-gland operation?
Brinkley treated male patients with ‘virility problems’ by taking slivers of goat testicle and implanting them in his patients. As bizarre as it may sound, men came far and wide to have this done, and Brinkley grew very, very wealthy. Eventually, though, the IRS caught up with him and jailed him for non-payment of taxes.
Why were you attracted to this material?
In the towns where the ‘border blasters’ were located, the signal was so strong that it broadcast through anything metal: fencing wire, forks, braces, toasters, you name it. As well, at a million watts, radio waves are no longer invisible: the skies above the towns lit up bright green, especially at night. So I always thought it would be a picaresque setting for a novel. Plus, Brinkley is a real scalawag, and who doesn’t like that?
What happens in your novel?
The book describes what happens to the Mexicans living in the town where Brinkley sets up his radio station.  At first, they are all happy that Brinkley has chosen their town for the tower, as it will bring jobs and progress. Yet the signal is so obnoxious that it starts drives them all crazy. Old resentments among the townsfolk are rekindled and they start to fight.  In other words, all hell breaks loose.
Is there a theme to the book?
The action within the book is anchored around a romance, so first and foremost I’d say that Dr. Brinkley’s Tower is a love story set in an exotic locale. Yet I think the book does suggest that if you’re going to monkey with another country’s business, you better be careful.
Is it true some of the action in the book was inspired by the war in Iraq?
Believe it or not, yes. As I was writing the back half of the novel, the war in Iraq was starting to really go south for everyone concerned. So whatever happened in Iraq I put in Dr. Brinkley’s Tower – disenchantment with the liberating forces, hostilities forming, the involvement of mercenaries, the complete breakdown of order. Even I was surprised by how well it all worked.
The novel is very funny. What role does humor have in your books?
In my novels, the first two acts tend to be quite amusing, but things tend to turn a little more serious as I start to get at what the novel’s really about. I feel it’s easier to be poignant if readers are unprepared for the more serious elements of a novel, and a good way to trick them into letting their guard down is to make them laugh.
Finally, the book has a real page-turning quality. Was this deliberate or a happy accident?
I pick up a lot of literary novels, and though the characters and writing are extremely rich, I am often disappointed by the lack of story design. I try not to make this mistake: my aim is to keep people reading late into the night.
For more information, contact:
Chip Fleischer
Steerforth Press
603-643-4787, x303

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