June 30, 2005 — 23 Sivan, 5765

Self-published author defies the odds

By Stuart Nulman
Tribune Correspondent

An Eye For An Eye
By Alvin Abram
Published by AMA Graphics
428 pages, $32.75

MONTREAL – Author Alvin Abram is a one-man book publishing success story. When Abram, a graphic designer by trade with a knack for storytelling, was sidelined for three months after he suffered a heart attack in1995, his wife decided he should transcend his storytelling abilities onto paper and enrolled him in a creative writing course at York University.

Two years later, after developing his skills as a writer, Abram self-published his first book, a collection of six true stories of courage and survival during the Holocaust called The Light After The Dark. The book sold more than 3,000 copies and since then, Abram has published five other books, including mysteries, short story collections and Holocaust books, all of which have become bestsellers and has amassed more than $100,000 in total sales. He has made numerous personal appearances as a result of his books, including signings, lectures and live storytelling sessions. And the amazing thing is that Abram has accomplished this all by himself as a self-published author, without the aid of a major publisher or literary agent, which in the book publishing industry is quite rare.

But the main thing to remember is that Abram’s books have created a following because of his skills as an effective storyteller, which is quite evident in his latest book An Eye For An Eye.

The story takes place in Poland between 1921 and 1946 and involves the Ackerman family, in particular Joseph Ackerman, the son of a Lodz tailor. He is a rebellious, idealistic member of the local Communist Party. When his pregnant wife Miriam is found severely beaten (and later dies of her injuries after giving birth to their son, Aaron), it’s the start of a long pursuit by Joseph for his wife’s killer, not to mention the string of tragedy, heartbreak and revenge that will befall the Ackermans. Add to that an illicit affair that Joseph’s sister Rachel has with Janusz Zwonarz, a Polish Army officer who is Catholic, and results in the birth of a child out of wedlock.

This entire saga is told within the context of pre-World War II Poland, as well as the Nazis’ blitzkrieg invasion of Poland that starts the war, the ferocity of the Holocaust against Poland’s three million Jews, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the subsequent liberation of the concentration camps.

Although An Eye For An Eye is billed as something of a mystery, its greatest strength lies in the historical narrative that envelopes the story; in fact, it’s more of a tragic tale. Abram’s strong abilities as a storyteller, combined with his penchant for historical detail, makes this book quite gripping to read. His vivid, graphic descriptions of the stark, violent antisemitism of the Poles; the wholesale slaughter of the Polish Army by the Nazi Luftwaffe and Panzer divisions in the early days of the war; the brutal, draconian methods of torture employed by the Gestapo to extract information from civilians; the valiant battles during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and how Nazi policies reduced respectable Jewish citizens of Poland to its barest minimum of human existence really stands out, and transforms the book from a mystery to a topnotch historical novel.

An Eye For An Eye is a well-told history lesson wrapped in a novel. It is to Abram’s credit that he has successfully defied the conventions of the book publishing industry to create a devoted readership with his string of self-published books that are a treat for those who like to read a well-crafted, historically-accurate story.