Imagining Memory: Cameron MacKenzie, Tim Fitts and Susan Barr-Toman

Join us for a reading and discussion with Cameron MacKenzie, Susan Barr-Toman, and Tim Fitts!

"I am not the revolution...I am the instrument of another hand." So does Francisco "Pancho" Villa begin the tale of his rise from thief to warlord to the revolutionary leader of northern Mexico. By turns a confession and an act of seduction, The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career chronicles a country remaking itself through blood and violence, giving shape to the boy who would dare to step from anonymity into power through the inexorable force of his will.

An exile at 16 after the murder of his family's landowner, Villa begins a journey through dusty desert villages and barren mountaintop camps where his principles are formed and tested by endemic injustice. Building a group of outlaws around him, Villa begins to wage a war on the landowning dons that control the state, but as the savagery increases and the betrayals multiply, the ascension within Villa's command of the mysterious and sadistic Rodolfo Fierro puts Villa's ideals, and his vision of the future of Mexico, to the test.

Luminous, disturbing and powerful, The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career weaves history and drama into a driving tale of ambition and brutality, insisting that those who would remake the world must first set fire to the old.

Praise for The Beginning of His Excellent & Eventful Career

"The Beginning of His Excellent & Eventful Career is a fully realized novel about the Mexican revolution and Francisco “Pancho” Villa, the man who began it all. Cameron MacKenzie’s knowledge of Mexican history is extraordinary. So is his ability to weave that history into a fictional tapestry that reads as a novel should … as fast as Pancho Villa’s galloping horse. This is a remarkable debut by a remarkable writer."
—Pablo Medina, author of Cubop City Blues

"Cameron MacKenzie has fused historical narrative with firstperson memoir and the result is a tremendously compelling (and terrifying) amalgamation—part historical novel, part soliloquy, part sadistic bandit’s bildungsroman.… melds myth and legend, memoir and fiction to create an astounding psychological portrait of Villa … theater of cruelty meets American Psycho.… MacKenzie doesn’t soften the terrible facts of history … gives us the internal theater of the Mexican Revolution—ghastly cruelty, exuberant violence.… Villa’s psychological journey is a map governed by the facts of history. The result is a memoir that sounds like a war lord’s confession … a significant and troubling achievement … that allows for a gripping read."
—Marion Wrenn, co-editor, Painted Bride Quarterly

Cameron MacKenzie's work has appeared in Able Muse, The Rumpus, SubStance and The Michigan Quarterly Review, among other journals. His short fiction was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize, and his collection of essays, Badiou and American Modernist Poetics, was published this year by Palgrave Macmillan. His novel The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career is just out from Madhat Press. Cameron teaches English at Ferrum College and reviews books for Roanoke Review. He lives in Roanoke, VA.

Susan Barr-Toman leads Mindful Writing workshops and retreats, in which participants connect with their creativity through meditation, writing exercises, and sharing. For nearly a decade, she has taught creative writing through her workshops, as well as undergraduate and graduate classes at Temple University and Rosemont College. Susan holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her debut novel When Love Was Clean Underwear was selected by Ann Hood as the winner of the Many Voices Project’s Fiction Prize 2007. With her sister artist Sarah Barr, she published the children’s picture book Mary Mulgrew, What Did You Do? A Pushcart nominee, her work has appeared in Watershed Review, r.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal and Literary Mama among other. As an essayist, Susan writes about love, loss, and mindfulness. Her short story “Town Watch” was anthologized in South Philly Fiction.

Tim Fitts is the author of two short story collections, Hypothermia (MadHat 2017) and Go Home and Cry for Yourselves (Xavier Review Press 2017).  His novel, The Soju Club, was published in Korea as a Korean translation.  Fitts has published over twenty-five short stories in journals such as Granta, The Gettysburg Review, CutBank, The Xavier Review, Shenandoah, among others.  He also co-founded the Philly Homebrew Reading Series. Fitts also shows his photography work at the Thomas Deans Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.  His work has been exhibited internationally and is featured as background photography on the television series, Black Lightning.

Event date: 
Friday, October 5, 2018 - 6:00pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941196618
Availability: Available to Ship
Published: Madhat, Inc. - March 5th, 2018

Badiou and American Modernist Poetics (Pivotal Studies in the Global American Literary Imagination) Cover Image
ISBN: 9783319950273
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Published: Palgrave Pivot - August 13th, 2018

Hypothermia Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941196427
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Published: Madhat, Inc. - February 6th, 2017

Go Home and Cry for Yourselves Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781883275273
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Published: Xavier Review Press - September 28th, 2017

When Love Was Clean Underwear Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780898232431
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Published: New Rivers Press - October 1st, 2009