A native of the Chicago area, Dave Boling is a journalist in Washington state.
His first novel, "Guernica" is being published in 15 territories and 13 languages, with an English-language edition sold world-wide. It won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association award for fiction for 2009, and was a Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection. Waterstone's (UK) selected it as one of 12 "New Voices" novels for 2009. Also in the UK, it was selected as one of Richard and Judy's Summer Reads of 2009. It was voted the favorite of the eight summer read selections by a poll of readers and viewers.
PNBA AWARDS COMMITTEE on 2009 Fiction Award winning "Guernica"
"... the novel is about loss, but also about loss's counterpoints, love and endurance. The description of the bombing of Guernica is so moving, detailed and sad that it becomes almost unbearable. By this point in the story, we're so familiar with the families of the town that we are pulled to the depths of their tragedy and pain. ... ultimately, this is a universal story. Through art and the historical record, Guernica is emblazoned in memory, enduring as an expression of individual and collective outrage."
THE WASHINGTON POST
"A written mural of love in troubled times ... it has many marks of a skilled journalist finding his way into the subtly different prose demands of fiction. That Boling's first effort has brought so
many notable characters to life in such realistic settings is praiseworthy."
LOS ANGELES TIMES
'' ... rich stew of a novel ... Boling has created a multilayered saga about love, family loyalty and the fierce patriotism of this indomitable region."
THE TIMES (London)
"... a wholly absorbing epic about a community caught up in one of the worst moments in the 20th Century's fight against fascism."
From the Richard and Judy selection --
JUDY: "The first half of Guernica is a funny and charming tale of small-town life that brings to mind books like Captain Corelli's Mandolin and The Island, and like those two books, there's a serious focus at it's centre. The characters are so vibrant, you really believe in them. I felt like I was experiencing every victory and heartache as if it was my own. Rarely do y ou find a book that you can recommend unreservedly, but this is one of them. Read it."
RICHARD: "Guernica became a byword for the first experiment in Nazi terror bombing in 1937 when the town was razed to the ground allowing Spanish nationalists to overrun it. The tension mounts as the story nears the infamous atrocities on helpless civilians. The book is both captivating and transporting, as well as having a real heart and an important message of resolve in the face of evil."
From WOMEN'S OWN Magazine
"Boling [writes] with a reporter's eye and a novelist's heart and
imagination.... [A] wonderful and thought-provoking
mini-epic packed full of fascinating, little-known
European history, rich characters and empathy for the civilians
who paid the awful price when a savage civil war visited them.
[R]estrained yet evocative prose. ...Boling deftly reveals the unique and colorful cultural traditions that defined the Basque people from that era."
"...in his own way, with words instead of brushstrokes, Boling too paints a sprawling mural, a meditation on a family irrevocably disfigured by war."
THE SEATTLE TIMES
"Boling's 'Guernica' ... is an engrossing, dramatic family saga filled with engaging characters and resonant details of rural Spanish life. The fierce pride and independence of the Basque people is captured in its pages, as are their cultural traditions.
THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
"... Guernica is an old-fashioned novel in the tradition of Michener and Irving Stone, with rich and memorable fictitious characters loosely stapled to historic events. Author Dave Boling has taken on a huge and ambitious tale."
THE INTERNET REVIEW OF BOOKS
"Enhanced by Boling's knowledge of Basque culture, this is a convincing fictionalization of an infamous act of war.”
"A wonderfully satisfying read which I strongly recommend"
QUEEN ANNE BOOKS REVIEW
"As Boling tells the story of Guernica and her people, he also tells the story of human suffering, heroism, and amazing fortitude. The Basque culture is portrayed in all its beauty, and the countryside of Spain is described so well that you can see, hear, taste, and smell it."
BOOKS AND MOVIES.TODAY.COM REVIEW
“As you read this marvelous story, you can feel the emotion and joy of the Basque culture as it spreads through the community via its music and religion, the sadness and despair after the attack on Guernica, and the characters’ fortitude as they try to recover after losing their loved ones and then attempt to rebuild their town and their lives. I highly recommend this exceptional novel about one of the world’s great tragedies.”
THE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY
TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE FEATURE ON "GUERNICA"
Debut novel by sportswriter came to life on the sidelines
By Debbie Cafazzo
Every writer’s muse is different. Some find it difficult to summon words from the keyboard without a cup of coffee at the elbow. Others require a cone of silence. Still others like to fill their head with tunes blasting from an iPod.
But Dave Boling, a sports columnist, does some of his best work surrounded by the chaos of competition – bands blaring, fans cheering, athletes shouting across the locker room.
“It’s a matter of discipline and focus,” says the 56-year-old Boling, who has been with The News Tribune for a dozen years. Working as a sportswriter up against tight deadlines, he says, gives him the ability to “wall out distractions.”
That ability explains – at least in part – how he was able to construct his first novel while on the road following the Seahawks, the Sonics and the Mariners.
He wrote portions of “Guernica” – a 361-page work of historical fiction set to debut Tuesday – in airports during layovers, on long flights and in hotel rooms. Instead of heading for the bar after a game to conduct a post-mortem with other sportswriters, Boling slipped back to his room and entered a world of family, fidelity, romance and survival set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.
BASQUE CULTURE EXPLORED
“Guernica” tells the story of an extended family of Basques, a proud minority group with its own language and strong democratic traditions. The Basques have occupied the coastal areas and mountains of north-central Spain and southwestern France for centuries.
Why did Boling choose to write about the little-known Basques?
“Fresh out of college, I married a lovely Basque girl whose grandparents had come from Biscaya (in Spain) to herd sheep in the mountains of the American West,” Boling says.
His in-laws introduced him to the pleasures of spicy Basque food and red wine, and tried to teach him their folk dances. They also taught him about their strong familial allegiances and their long history of oppression.
Boling’s fictional family is anchored by patriarch Justo Ansotegui (pronounced WHO-stow an-SOT-a-ghee). Ansotegui is the strongest man in Guernica, with a beautiful daughter, Miren, who is beloved by the entire village, as well as by the newcomer who marries her, Miguel Navarro.
But the family’s strength – both physical and spiritual – is severely tested when their town is bombed by the Nazis.
The bombing of Guernica, which took place on April 26, 1937, was a sort of dress rehearsal for German air power on the eve of World War II. The Germans were in Spain supporting the Fascist army, led by Francisco Franco, who ultimately won control of the country and ruled as its dictator until the 1970s.
The bombing shocked the world and inspired Pablo Picasso, a native of Spain living in Paris, to create one of his best known paintings. Picasso’s disturbing black-and-white mural, “Guernica,” is a powerful icon, offering a stark statement on the horrors of war.
Boling believes more people are familiar with the Picasso painting of Guernica than with the historical tragedy that inspired it. He weaves the fictional story of the Ansotegui family with the story of Picasso’s painting.
Boling, along with many historians, sees the bombing of Guernica as an act of terrorism. He wants readers to make a connection between that long-ago atrocity and the modern world.
In “Guernica,” the Ansotegui family experiences great joy and heartbreaking sorrow. But by the story’s end, Boling hopes he has offered something more than raw emotion.
“Readers finish with a sense of hope,” the author says. “I hope they can apply it to what we’re dealing with on a daily basis.”
A PASSION FOR WRITING
Olympia author Jim Lynch has known Boling for years. Both once wrote for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane. But “until he told me about his idea for a novel, I don’t think we had one conversation that didn’t involve the Seahawks,” Lynch says.
Journalists often harbor dreams of putting their writing talent to work on a novel. But, says Lynch, “I’ve never heard one sound so passionate about wanting to tell one particular story.”
Lynch read Boling’s original draft of “Guernica,” expecting to see the usual rookie mistakes. But instead, what impressed him was “how fully imagined the story already was and how vivid and powerful its climax felt.”
Lynch offered a few suggestions on pacing and character development, then put Boling in touch with his agent. Weeks later, publishing rights were snatched up. “Guernica” will be published in the United States by Bloomsbury and in Britain by Picador.
“We obviously publish quite a number of first novels,” says Charlotte Greig of Picador. “But this one certainly jumped out at me as something very, very special. The humor, emotion, the epic scale of it, the period of history it covers and the delicacy with which Dave writes about such traumatic times – all make it stand out above the crowd.”
The book also has publishers in Spain, Germany and elsewhere. Boling has been selected as a Barnes & Noble “great new writer,” whose book will be displayed in a place of prominence in the chain’s stores.
“Guernica” has already earned a favorable review from Kirkus. It also has been mentioned in the Los Angeles Times book blog. Boling’s publishers have him scheduled for book tours in the U.S. and Europe.
“Things rarely happen this fast in the publishing business,” says Lynch, whose first novel, “The Highest Tide,” was published in 2005. “Even the most successful authors usually endure years and years of revision and rejection.”
But Lynch says Boling’s secret was coming up with a story that
he was driven to write.
“It’s always surprising and exciting when you come across a first novel that is this accomplished,” says Kimberly Witherspoon, Boling’s agent.
What makes “Guernica” a standout, she says, is Boling’s ability to “find a perfect balance between human stories and authentic detail. You are drawn into these characters’ lives and what you learn about Guernica is effortless.”
Boling is humbled by his seemingly instant success. Three years ago, he started writing the novel as a challenge to himself – just to see if he could do it.
“In less than a year, I went from having a finished manuscript in my lap to finding an agent, to getting outrageous international deals, to having it published and in stores,” he says.
Boling has some ideas for more novels. But he says literary and financial success won’t lure him away from sports writing. He loves switching between newspapers and novels.
“I love the change of pace,” he says. “It’s like crop rotation. You get to write differently.”
Two excerpts from “Guernica” by Dave Boling
MIGUEL AND MIREN MEET
“Miguel was stunned to watch a girl so feathery and deft that she could dance on the lip of a wine glass. It was not stemmed crystal or a delicate flute, but it was nonetheless glass, and she danced so joyfully atop it, oblivious to the possibility that it could shatter beneath her. She not only didn’t break the glass, but she didn’t spill a drop of wine, either.
A final leap, on and off, coincided with the last bar of music, and a greater cheer echoed across the courtyard. Accepting the applause with a deep curtsey, Miren retrieved the wine glass and drained the deep-red contents in a single gulp. She saluted the cheering crowd with the empty glass and licked her lips in theatrical enjoyment of the wine.
Miguel closed his eyes and reminded himself to breathe.”
BOMBING OF GUERNICA
“Sheep ignited and their wool burned black as they tried to butt their way out of the pens.
A large bomb had taken out several oxen and farmers, leaving Xabier trying not to fall on their slippery remains.
Bullets from fighter planes whistled and thudded indifferently into humans and animals.