Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


July 8, 2008

Holdefer reads from new novel for WSUI's 'Live from Prairie Lights' July 22

Fiction writer Charles Holdefer, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and a faculty member in the 2008 Iowa Summer Writing Festival, will read from his new novel, "The Contractor," at 7 pm. Tuesday, July 22, in Prairie Lights Books at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. This WSUI "Live from Prairie Lights" event, hosted by Julie Englander, is free and open to the public.

The event will be recorded for broadcast on Iowa Public Radio's "Live from Prairie Lights" series. Hour-long "Live from Prairie Lights" productions air at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City and WOI-AM 640 in Ames. Listen to the live event via the University of Iowa Writing University Web site

"The Contractor," an American Booksellers Association "Book Sense Pick," is the story of a U.S. government interrogator at a holding facility for suspected terrorists. Margaret Satterthwaite, director of The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University Law School called the book, "An impressive and moving portrayal of the secret detention and interrogation system."

A Publishers Weekly review stated, "Though billed as a critical examination of the interrogation camps run by the U.S. military, this dramatic thriller is more a finely tuned character study of a man in personal crisis. George Young, a private contractor, interrogates prisoners in a remote island fortress known as Omega. Young appreciates the challenge of his job, but dislikes the many uncomfortable strategies he must employ and is haunted by his role in the death of prisoner #4141.

"The professional anxieties only aggravate his personal troubles: a vanished libido, a wife who drinks too much, a young son whom he fears may be homosexual. Holdefer shows a polished touch with detail and dialogue. The rare humorous moment is dry and often tragic, and the interrogations are so vivid as to make the reader squeamish."

David Pitt wrote in a starred review for Booklist, "When a prisoner dies during interrogation, after repeatedly asking the question, 'Who are you?' George realizes that, somewhere along the way, he has indeed lost sight of who he is and what sort of person he is supposed to be. Self-discovery stories are a dime a dozen, but this one is different than most of them. By placing this familiar theme in a new (and very timely) setting, Holdefer gives us additional layers of emotional depth: George isn't just trying to figure out who he is; he is trying to figure out what his country is, and whether he is a good guy or just another terrorist wearing a different suit of clothes."

Holdefer is also the author "Apology For Big Rod" and "Nice." His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, including the New England Review, the North American Review, Paris Transcontinental and Yellow Silk. Find more information at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jan Weissmiller, Prairie Lights,, 319-337-2681; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),