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  • Last Dance at the Frosty Queen
  • Written by Richard Uhlig
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375891724
  • Our Price: $6.99
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Last Dance at the Frosty Queen

Written by Richard UhligAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Richard Uhlig


List Price: $6.99


On Sale: December 09, 2008
Pages: 368 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89172-4
Published by : Laurel Leaf RH Childrens Books
Last Dance at the Frosty Queen Cover

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On the dock of a lake in a tiny town at the corner of Nowhere & Nowhere, he sits counting the seconds until his high school graduation—at which point Arthur M. Flood intends to leave his hick life far behind in the brown Kansas dust. That's the plan. Until . . . up from the lake's muddy depths swims a girl. She's not a mermaid, but she is the one who shakes up Arty's life, makes him mad and mad for her, and helps him find a pathway to his past, his future, and where his heart truly lies.

Teens will recognize their own emotional landscape in this steamy, funny, coming-of-age tale in which the heart tries to hide, only to be utterly exposed by love and lust, lost and found.

From the Hardcover edition.


I wheel the Death Mobile onto Broadway, my hometown’s main drag, and head west. Pierre, my bosses’ standard poodle, sticks his delighted-doggie head out the window, his tongue flapping. The digital thermometer on the savings and loan blinks 93 degrees—and it’s only May 6. They say it’s going to be a scorcher this summer, and the air-conditioning in my hearse is fatally busted.

A big white banner flutters overhead: harker city, kansas—celebrate our one hundred years this memorial day weekend! Celebrate what? Here it is 1988, and if you’re in the mood for McDonald’s, Chinese food, a movie, or even a stoplight, you’ll have to drive thirty miles north and swing a right at Junction City.

Our Broadway might not have much in the way of shows, the cheesy promotional brochure in City Hall tells you, but we make up for it in our traditional small-town friendliness.

Harker City’s slogan is “1,700 smiling faces—and yours!” Of all the things this burg lacks, dateable girls would have to be at the top of my list. My class, the seniors, has twelve girls in it, right? Three have children, two are pregnant (say what you will, but we yokels know how to entertain ourselves), one is my cousin, one is becoming a nun, one is morbidly obese, and the decent-looking remainders date football players. If you don’t play football in Harker City, you don’t exist (I don’t exist).

I drive past our house, the plain-looking two-story white clapboard with a big front porch. Carrie, my sister, wants to paint the exterior Victorian rose with sky blue trim, but Dad’ll never go for it. Way too flashy. The sign on the lawn says flood & son funeral home, serving harker city since 1922. Dad added this a few years ago, when those awful Larsons moved to town and built a sprawling new Southern Colonial–style funeral home across the street. The Larsons, beaming yuppies with giant white teeth, live in a big house with a swimming pool out by the country club. The “son” in Dad’s sign is my big brother, Allen, whose official title is assistant funeral director, a position that allows him to lie on his bed all day and smoke pot.

My dad, the bald guy who looks like he might be expecting twins, is in our driveway washing his new used hearse. He’s growing that grizzled beard for the Centennial.

Five minutes later, hot wind whips my hair as we zoom past the rusted marquee of the old Chief Drive-in Theater. Town soon gives way to wheat fields as my speedometer hits seventy. The stand-up twenty-four-karat-gold wreath-and-crest hood ornament reminds me that I am driving a genuine Caddy. A gift from Dad on my sixteenth birthday, this black 1965 hearse, with its rusted frame and chrome-draped grinning face with dual headlights, accelerates like a cement truck going up Pikes Peak and gets about eleven miles per gallon with a stiff breeze behind it.

Gleaming in the sun, lined with cabins and trees, Harker City Lake stretches out before us.

I pull off the lake road into the rutted drive next to where we used to live. The mailbox leans way over, the m. flood stenciled on top just barely visible. I see that swallows have nested inside, and that cheers me up a little. The driveway is overgrown with weeds, and I worry that after last night’s rainstorm I’ll get stuck. But the earth feels solid under my tires as I park beside the foundation of our old house. You can still see the char on some of the stones. The fireplace is all that stands and a tree grows out where the kitchen once was. I think about Mom cooking in there and I try to remember her face, but the picture is too hazy. I’m amazed at how small the house must’ve been—seemed so much bigger then. It’s been nine long years since it burned down.

I grab a Snickers from the glove compartment. It’s soft from the heat and when I tear it open, the chocolate runs. It’s been raining like crazy all spring and the water is nearly up to the road. I amble down to the small floating dock with Pierre and sit and nibble the Snickers while he marks the cattails. It’s windier out here than in town, and the bouncing platform makes me horny. I lie back and stare at the cotton-ball clouds and listen to the water slap the wood. I imagine I’m on a giant water bed with Olivia Newton-John rocking and riding me. My eyelids grow heavy.

From the Hardcover edition.
Richard Uhlig

About Richard Uhlig

Richard Uhlig - Last Dance at the Frosty Queen
I’d love to say that I grew up reading Cervantes and Tolstoy, but I didn’t. I grew up watching The Munsters and Hogan's Heroes. God, I hate to think how many hours I spent in front of the TV as a kid. I didn’t become a serious reader until after college. Now when I meet people who don't read books, I want to say to them, “You're missing out!” I really think it’s their loss. I don’t mean that in a snobby way either, or because I'm a writer. It’s too bad they’re not taking part in perhaps the most satisfying form of entertainment, enlightenment, and adventure.
I started out writing screenplays because I grew up on film and television, and it was just the mode of storytelling with which I was most familiar. It wasn’t until after I attended film school, and had a couple screenplays produced, that I discovered I actually enjoyed books more than movies. Part of what took me to books was my frustration with the Hollywood system. At the time, production companies were interested in movies that were more like a one-note joke, and had almost nothing to do with the human experience. In fact, my agent pleaded with me not to write “character studies.” I remember one afternoon I was trying to write a “marketable” screenplay in the Beverly Hills Public Library. Stuck trying to stretch a concept into a screenplay, I happened to look over at the bookshelf and saw a novel entitled Mrs. Bridge. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. It was a wonderful portrait of an upper-class housewife in the 1940s–a character study. I think that was the beginning of my love affair with books.
Reading and writing books is wonderful because it’s so personal–it’s you, alone, taking in what the author has written. There's no laugh track to tell you something is funny, no composer writing songs to tell you when to cry. It’s you and the written word. The author provides you images, dialogue, and plot, but it’s up to you, the reader, to fill in the details based on your own experiences.
I wrote my first young adult novel without knowing there was such a genre as young adult. I just wanted to write about experiences that paralleled my own. The teenage years are high drama, fraught with pressures and conflicts: you're trying to find out who you are, you're discovering romantic love for the first time, you're trying to deal with what your body is craving against what society is telling you is not acceptable. What’s more, you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do with your life.
I tend to write about my native state of Kansas. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I mean, I live in New York City, which is certainly more polyglot, more dynamic, more everything. But a very small town in Kansas is where I came of age, where my adolescence took place. But there’s another reason, I think. When you live in a small town, you know virtually everyone, and you know their life's story. That intimate knowledge of your neighbor can be comforting and also stifling. A person can be too easily labeled and dismissed. But, on the flip side, everyone knows you, and that makes you a celebrity in a way. It’s like that adage: it’s better to be talked about than not talked about. I think it’s ironic that, while growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of Kansas, and now I write about it. I guess, on a very simple level, I’m trying to make sense of where I came from.
When I started writing my first novel, I found it incredibly difficult. I didn’t know what I was doing and I spent days tweaking each paragraph. I thought I had to sound literary and highly intelligent. After about a month, I realized it was going to take my years to finish this thing. Struggling with a way to speed the writing up, I came to the conclusion I had to get out of my own way. So, I dropped all literary pretension–I was going to write the way I spoke, and just let it fly. I also decided not to use the computer for the first draft. I found that blinking cursor made me nervous. I retired my laptop computer to the bottom desk drawer, took out a legal pad and pen, and just kept the pen moving. I filled dozens of those yellow tablets with my scribbling–and the writing came to life. Soon my characters were telling the story, not me.
I still write first drafts by longhand. Later, I enter it into the computer and then I edit and edit and edit. Computers are great for that. But I found them too cold, too removed, too impersonal for writing a first draft. That first draft should come from the heart, through the hand, and onto the page. It should be intimate, like, well, reading.


“Uhlig’s evocation of small-town life is perfect . . . echoed in changes, at turns poignant and dramatic.”—School Library Journal

“Raging hormones, angsty rants and reckless behavior fuel this accomplished black comedy.”—Publishers Weekly

From the Paperback edition.

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