Tuesday, June 28, 2022



Rook is based on the true story of Al Nussbaum. To his unsuspecting wife, Lolly, Al is a loving, chess playing, family man. To J. Edgar Hoover, he is the most cunning fugitive alive. Al is the mastermind behind a string of east coast robberies that has stumped law enforcement. After his partner, one-eyed Bobby Wilcoxson, kills a bank guard and wounds a New York City patrolman, Al is identified as one of the robbers and lands on top of the FBI’s most wanted list. He is forced to flee his hometown of Buffalo, New York as the FBI closes in and Lolly learns of her husband’s secret life. One million wanted posters are printed and The Reader’s Digest offers a ten-thousand-dollar reward for Al’s capture. While Al assumes another identity and attempts to elude the police, Lolly is left alone to care for their infant daughter and adjust to her new life as ‘The Bank Robber’s Wife’. Friends, family, and federal agents all pressure Lolly to betray Al. While Lolly struggles at home financially, with unrelenting FBI agents, and her conscious, Al and Bobby continue to rob banks, even as Bobby grows more mentally unstable and dangerous. Al has only two goals: avoid capture and steal enough money to start a new life with his family. Returning to gather his wife and baby is suicidal, but as Al said, he’d only stick his neck in the Buffalo noose for Lolly.

Book Details

Title: Rook
Author: Stephen G. Eoannou

Genre: fiction

Publisher: Unsolicited Press (June 28, 2022)

Print length: 300 pages



A few of your favorite things: at the height of the pandemic, I decided I didn’t have enough stress in my life and bought an 1865 Victorian in Buffalo’s lower westside. Old homes are never “done”—there’s always something that needs to be repaired, replaced, renovated—but two of my favorite rooms in the house is the cupola and the library. To get to the cupola, I have to climb a set of steep, winding stairs. The stairs are tough. When people come over and want to see it, tours are given early in the evening when everyone’s relatively sober. Windows face all four sides, of course, and the space has great natural light. I have views of the Niagara River and a 19th century armory that looks like a castle. My office is up there. It’s a great place to work and daydream, which is part of a writer’s job. So, technically I’m working when I stare out those windows. My other favorite room is a parlor off the dining room that I turned into a library. It had this bare wall about twelve feet long and twelve feet high that was begging for bookshelves. I found a picture online of an 1870’s English bookshelf and found a guy who could reproduce it. Now I need chairs and curtains. If you want to see it and don’t mind sitting on the floor or the neighbors peeking through the window, swing by. But, like I said, if you want to see the cupola, we need to do that before we sit on the library floor and start drinking.

Things you need to throw out: I hired my cousin’s friend, Fast Freddy, to do the home inspection when I bought the house. I was following Freddy around taking notes on all the things that needed to be repaired or replaced. We were down in the basement and Fast Freddy asked if I knew what I had down here. He asked me a couple times, not waiting for me to answer before asking again. Freddy grew more excited each time he asked. I was growing excited, too. What did I have down here? A stop on the Underground Railroad? Some rare example of a 19th century basement? Hidden money in the walls? No, Fast Freddy explained, what I had in the basement was the history of wiring. This is not necessarily a good or safe thing. So, yeah, I got some wiring that needs to be pulled and thrown out if you want to give me a hand.

Things you need in order to write: sleep. I write from five to seven in the morning before I go to my day job. Those are the best two hours of my day. But if I’m out late the night before or stay up late binging something on Netflix, it makes it tough answering that bell at 4:45. If I do sleep through my two-hour window, I’m miserable the entire day. Luckily, I grow bored easily if the movie or series isn’t written very well, and I’m getting too old to have many late nights anymore. Happy Hour is much more appealing these days. So, there’s that.

Things that hamper your writing: time. For the first time in my writing life, I have enough projects to be a full-time writer. I’m marketing and preparing for the launch of my debut novel Rook, which drops in June from Unsolicited Press. I’m finishing the final edits for my second novel Yesteryear, which will be published in 2023 by SFWP. I’m polishing what I hope to be my third novel with the working title of After Pearl. And I have a fourth novel already mapped out that I’m anxious to start.  That two-hour window starting at 5am isn’t big enough to accomplish everything I need to get done. I think the only answer is lottery tickets—scratch-offs, MegaMillions, PowerBall.  One of them has got to hit. When it does, I can sit in my cupola and write and daydream all day. I might even buy a chair or two for the library. I’m not sure about buying library curtains, though. I like waving to the neighbors.

Things you love about writing:
I love reading something I’ve written and being surprised, wondering where that came from. I love polishing sentences and pushing words around the page until it’s just right. I love writing something that makes me laugh while I’m writing it, and it still makes me laugh when I’m rewriting it.  I love when strangers tell me they love my books.  I love how I’m completely focused and I’m aware of nothing around me when I write. Jesus, I’m such a nerd.

Things you hate about writing: not a damn thing. It’s a gift. It gives meaning to my life. It defines who I am. It’s the only thing in the world I’m even a little bit good at. Writing, rewriting, editing, line editing—I don’t consider any of that work. If you’re going to push me in a corner and make me answer this question, I’ll say I hate when publishers and publicists say I need to work on my ‘brand’. I have a brand? I don’t even know what that means. Am I ketchup now? A can of tuna? I’m just going to be me and call that my brand. My brand? Jesus, just shoot me.

Easiest thing about being a writer: you can do it anywhere. When I was traveling all the time for work, my short story collection Muscle Cars was edited at the end of various Marriott Hotel bars up and down the east coast. Rook was written in the attic of my old house on Lafayette Avenue. Yesteryear was written mostly in bed. After Pearl was written during the pandemic as a means of escape. All you need is your laptop or pen and paper—except I can’t read my handwriting anymore. The other easy thing about being a writer is it’s your easy excuse for all your failings. You look crappy in public? “It’s ok, he’s a writer.” Had too much to drink at a party? “It’s ok, he’s a writer.” Socks don’t match? “It’s ok, he’s a writer.” Being a writing is a free pass for all your social short comings. Oh, the lies I tell myself . . .
Hardest thing about being a writer: it takes a long time, at least it did for me. I started writing in the 80’s, about the same time Chabon and Brett Easton Ellis were coming on the scene. I thought I’d be like them and have my first novel drop before I turned thirty. That sure as hell didn’t happen. Rook will be published a month after I turn 59 and Yesteryear is schedule to launch on my 60th birthday. I’m no Boy Wonder. But, you know, I didn’t quit. I take pride in that. I kept working at my craft, trying to improve. I absorbed twenty-five years of rejections like they were body blows, which they were. Pretty soon you outgrow having ‘potential’ and you have to produce something of merit. I’ll never be a Chabon or Brett Easton Ellis. I don’t have the talent, the gift. But I got something. I’m really interested in seeing where it takes me now that I’m on my way. And if this is it? If Yesteryear is the last book published? If After Pearl never finds a home? That’s okay. I’ll still be getting up at 4:45 to write even if no one will read it. Unless those lottery numbers hit. Then I’ll get up at seven. In Greece.

Things you love about where you live: the last line of my current bio is, “Eoannou lives and writes in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, the setting and inspiration for much of his work.” That’s a lie. It’s the setting and inspiration of all of my work. The majority of Rook and all of Yesteryear are set in Buffalo. And those stories in Muscle Cars where the setting is never specified? Yeah, that’s Buffalo, too. I don’t fully understand the connection I have with this physical place and my creativity, but it’s there and it’s real. I enjoy writing about this town, its history, its characters. I’m creating my own fictionalized, romanticized version of this city. This reimagined Buffalo links my books and acts not only a backdrop but a character in my work. All those places I mention in my stories—The Lafayette Hotel, The Statler Hotel, Al Nussbaum’s house, Fran Striker’s house, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Voelkers, The Kitty Kat (now Eddie Brady’s) are still standing. Okay, Voelkers is about to be torn down, but it’s still standing as of today. I sit in those bars or walk through those places or just park outside and start daydreaming, imagining, and I get inspired. It’s a great town filled with great stories and ghosts that speak to me. It also has cold beer at reasonable prices. You should come visit, help me pull wire out of basement.
Things that make you want to move: I like Buffalo winters. I like the way the city looks blanketed in snow. I like walking the dog in all that white silence. I like writing winter scenes. I like all these things until about Valentine’s Day. Then I’m done. I’ll never move away from Buffalo. This is the place that inspires me. I feed off its history and architecture and my own family history here. Having said that, I can see becoming a snowbird as I get older, spending February and March someplace where I don’t have to scrape ice from my windshield every morning. I’ve got my eye on Greenville, South Carolina. My good friend and novelist Ashley Warlick is an owner at M. Judson, one of the coolest bookstores around. I’ll talk her into hiring me for a couple months out of the year. I’ve got retail experience. I always say the only job I was ever good at besides writing was stockboy at my dad’s liquor store. I guarantee if I cash you out at the bookstore, I’ll greet you, thank you, count your change back, and place all those George Washingtons in your hand facing the same way. That’s the way it was done at Thruway Liquors in Cheektowaga, New York. Of course, if one of those scratch-offs, MegaMillions, or PowerBall tickets hit, screw that bookstore plan. I’ll be spending winters in Greece.

Things you always put in your books: my grandfather’s restaurant, The New Genesee. It plays a prominent role in Rook, Yesteryear, as well as my work-in-progress, After Pearl. Here’s the funny thing: I’ve never set foot in the restaurant. My grandfather died and the New Genesee was sold before I was born. The building was razed. My dad was a great storyteller, especially when he had a couple drinks, and my mother wasn’t around. I loved hearing his memories of growing up living above the restaurant and all the characters that came in—Lefty The Dog Thief, boxing champion Jimmy Slattery, the prostitutes from the brothel down the street. I drank those stories in then and they’re coming out in my fiction now. I always say my best stories are my father’s stories. It’s a shame he passed away before I was published. I think he’d get a kick reading the stories he used to tell. I bet some of them were even true.

Things you never put in your books: well, I don’t think it’s possible to say what you will never write about. Each story has its own demands, and the characters are the ones really calling the shots. However, it’s hard to imagine me ever writing about a child’s death or disappearance. I’ve always been that way. I used to teach at the College of Charleston with Bret Lott a lifetime ago. I remember when Reed’s Beach was published. The novel deals with the death of a child. I went to Bret’s reading and book signing, but I never read a word of that book. Couldn’t do it. And this was three or four years before I even had kids. In one of my seminars at the Queens University of Charlotte’s MFA program, somebody—maybe it was David Payne or Pinckney Benedict—told us that to achieve truly emotionally impactful writing, we should write about what scares us, to push ourselves to honestly confront our demons. Maybe someday I will, but I think stories about children who are harmed are someone else’s stories to tell, someone braver than I am.

Things to say to an author:
1.     This was the best book I ever read!
2.     I can’t believe this book is even better than your last one!
3.     You look so much taller in person than in your author photo!
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book:
1.     It took you that long to write that? (No. It took me to this point in my life to be able to write that.)
2.     You actually make money writing that kind of stuff? (Yes, but not enough to afford a hitman to get you to stop asking stupid questions once and for all.)
3.     Can I get a free copy of your book? (Jesus, just pay the fifteen bucks.)
Favorite places you’ve been: Greece. I’ve only been once with my son and ten of my cousins. It was the Eoannou Traveling Circus. There were misadventures galore. We thought we saw a merman emerge from the sea, but it was just our waiter who decided to take a swim. We somehow managed to get a minivan wedged between two buildings in this impossibly narrow mountain village road—I think it was a paved goat path. All the neighbors came out to watch and shake their heads at the stupid Americans. And, we inadvertently skipped out on a 900 Euro bill, which we eventually paid when they caught up with us in Santorini. If that wasn’t enough, I got to see my grandfather’s village (Yeah, that grandfather from the New Genesee), meet cousins I never knew existed, and found the humble little house where my father was born. I brought back a lot of great stories from that trip, but I don’t think we’re allowed on the island of Evia anymore. I swear I thought my cousin paid that bill.
Places you never want to go to again: I liked India and was grateful that I had the opportunity to go. I enjoyed the food, and the people were kind and gracious. The Taj Mahal was as beautiful as the pictures. But there are other places I’d rather go: Belgium, to visit my Uncle Steve’s grave in Henri-Chapelle Military Cemetery, Germany, to show off four years’ worth of Kenmore West High School German language skills, Australia to visit my Andromidas cousins. I tell my kids, whenever you get a chance to travel, go. You never know when you might get another chance and what stories you might bring back with you. Like I said, India was great. Remind me to tell you the leper story and the naked baby story the next time I see you.


Stephen G. Eoannou is the author of the novels Yesteryear (SFWP 2023), Rook (Unsolicited Press 2022), and the short story collection Muscle Cars (SFWP 2015). He has been awarded an Honor Certificate from The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and won the Best Short Screenplay Award at the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival. Eoannou holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and an MA from Miami University. He lives and writes in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, the setting and inspiration for much of his work.
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