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UC Professor's Novel Featured in New York Times

Leah Stewart's sixth novel, 'What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw,' explores love, loss and adventure.

Date: 6/12/2018 12:00:00 AM
By: Anne Bowling
Phone: (513) 556-4350
Photos By: Headshot by Jason Sheldon

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Image of Novelist Leah Stewart

Looking for a perfect summer read? Look no further than Leah Stewart’s “What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw” (Putnam). The novel was hand-picked by reviewer Sarah Dunn from among a bumper crop of summer fiction to be featured in The New York Times Book Review this month. 

The novel is the sixth penned by Stewart, who also teaches creative writing and serves as head of the Department of English at the University of Cincinnati McMicken College of Arts & Sciences. Her career as a fiction writer began in 2001 with publication of the thriller “Body of a Girl,” which The Philadelphia Inquirer called, “a remarkable debut…the beginning of a special career of notable novels.” 

Following that prescient review came more titles—and more accolades—culminating with Stewart’s current “Charlie Outlaw,” a story of two actors whose careers intersect as one ascends to fame and the other watches fame fade. The novel features the eponymous Charlie Outlaw, who flees to a remote island to escape the spotlight and ruminate on a break-up with his actress-girlfriend Josie Lamar—and how his actions may have brought it about. For her part, Lamar, 41, struggles to make peace with the fact that her career is waning, and with it the heroic, cult TV character of Bronwyn Kyle, who was indelibly tied to her identity. 

Picture of Novel Bookcover, What you don't know about Charlie Outlaw

When Charlie finds himself in danger of the kidnapping variety, Josie finds an opportunity to return to her identity—and be a hero in real life. The story is a foray into the world of acting—a world only a small percentage of the population gets to experience. 

“For a reader who—like this one—ocassionally thinks, Why would anyone in is or her right mind want to be an actor?, Stewart’s novel offers some answers,” writes Dunn in the Times review. “There’s…the joy of slipping into someone else’s skin—of experiencing situations and emotions the rest of us go to considerable lengths to avoid.” 

In this way Stewart mines the best of both dramatic worlds—the tension of tight plot twists and deeper dimensions of love and loss in a story Entertainment Weekly called, “More than a glitzy Hollywood tale…it’s a surprisingly insightful, even poignant meditation on stardom.” 

Read the review here.

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