Tonight: East End Book Exchange to host local writer Mason Radkoff


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When Jeffrey Condran and Robert Peluso started their own publishing company — Braddock Avenue Books — last year, they had certain types of manuscripts in mind.

“We’re both writers and college professors and avid readers of contemporary literature,” Mr. Condran said. “We felt a lot of good books were being rejected from New York publishing. And we wanted to provide an opportunity for good books that weren’t finding a home in what can be a very tight publishing market.

“We’re not in it to make a tremendous amount of money. It’s more living the literary life and creating things that are culturally valuable. It would be nice to make money. But we’re more about producing books that are worth reading.”

Their latest book is “The Heart of June,” the first novel by local author Mason Radkoff. It hit the bookstores this morning and will be the subject of a book launch this evening at East End Book Exchange in Bloomfield. Lesley Rains, owner and operator of the book exchange, hosts a number of events such as this, where bibliophiles parse paragraphs with authors.

“The response has been universally positive,” said Ms. Rains, who opened the bookstore almost a year ago. “This is [Mr. Radkoff’s] first novel, but he’s attended other events before and we’ve seen a healthy response on our Facebook page, so we’re expecting a good turnout.”

Ms. Rains said Mr. Radkoff will be on hand to read from his book, discuss it, and sign copies for customers.

Mr. Radkoff, 51, of Point Breeze, has a day job an associate at Strada Architecture. It took him more than four years to produce his first novel.

“This one hit me when I turned 40,” he said. “It started with a character, my protagonist, named Walt. He came to me out of the blue. I could feel this guy and I knew that he had a story to tell.”

Walt’s existence was a bit of a surprise to Mr. Radkoff.

“I always thought a logical approach to writing would be to write a lot of short fiction and work my way to a novel,” Mr. Radkoff said. “But then I thought, ‘What the hell, I’m not getting any younger. I’ll just forge ahead with the novel.’

“Writing a novel is a curious endeavor. No one asks you to do it, and yet it’s pretty consuming. I felt passionate about it, maybe a little obsessed with it sometimes. I kept it in my mind all the time, with the characters running around in my head. So I tried to get them down on paper when I could.”

The guys at Braddock Avenue Books had heard about Mr. Radkoff’s work and reached out to him. “The Heart of June” is their publishing house’s fourth effort.

“I loved working with Braddock Avenue Books because they truly care about the work,” Mr. Radkoff said. “They’re big believers in literary fiction. I met with them at 6 o’clock on a Friday evening to go through the book. … I got home at 4:30 in the morning. That’s how invested these guys are.”

You can invest for yourself at 7:30 p.m. at the East End Book Exchange, 4754 Liberty Ave. There is no cover charge, though you might want to purchase a book while you’re there.

You also can sample some of Mr. Radkoff’s short stories at his website, masonradkoff.com.

Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com


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