Willy Vlautin at the Chuckanut Radio Hour

“Bad luck, it falls on people every day. It’s one of the only certain truths. It’s always on deck, it’s always just waiting. The worst thing, the thing that scares me the most is that you never know who or when it’s going to hit”. – From The Motel Life

The FreeIf you haven’t purchased tickets yet for February’s Chuckanut Radio Hour, go and get ’em straight away! The featured guest this month will be author and musician, Willy Vlautin.  I’m second in line for the Bellingham Public Library’s copy of Vlautin’s newest book, The Free, so I’ll admit I haven’t read it yet, but I just finished his other three novels: Northline, The Motel Life, and Lean on Pete. I loved them and I’m very excited to see the author in person and hear a little from The Free, and I highly recommend him to you.

Willy Vlautin’s writing has been compared to that of John Steinbeck, William Kennedy, and Raymond Carver, with a dash of Bukowski thrown in. It’s high praise, and the comparisons are certainly warranted. A friend recommended Northline to me and I devoured it, and immediately sought out all of Vlautin’s other books and devoured them too. His are gritty stories of down-on-their-luck folks that will likely make you weep, but within all of them a message of hope and the possibility of redemption glimmers. The characters in his books experience terrible disappointment and heartache, and their personal crises build one upon another. The reader, meanwhile, is drawn deeper in and closer to them, achingly aware that things can’t end well, but hoping for something to shift or for a saint to intervene on their behalf. This is good, clean writing with a solid heart, and with The Motel Life in particular, supremely imaginative story-telling. The stories within the story will leave you thirsting.

Richmond FontaineWilly Vlautin is also the singer/songwriter for the band Richmond Fontaine, an alt/country band from Portland, and will be performing musically at the Chuckanut Radio Hour as well as speaking.  While I’m not familiar with the songs of Richmond Fontaine, the library copy of Vlautin’s book, Northline, comes with a soundtrack cd in the back as an accompaniment to the story. The music was written and performed by Willy Vlautin and Paul Brainard, and it’s lovely.

The February 2014 Chuckanut Radio Hour with special guest author and musician Willy Vlautin takes place on February 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Whatcom Community College’s Heiner Theater here in Bellingham, WA. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased in advance at BrownPaperTickets or at Village Books in Fairhaven. Don’t miss this one! But rest assured, if you just can’t swing it – the show will be broadcast on KMRE LP 102.3 FM at 6:00 p.m. on  Saturday, March 1 and again at 9:00 p.m. Sunday, March 2.

—  Jenni

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