Book: The Cutting Season by Arthur Rosenfeld
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Release Date: July 2009
YMAA Publication Center has chosen author Arthur Rosenfeld’s The Cutting Season to introduce a new literary fiction category: Martial Arts Fiction. The Cutting Season transplants this ancient, hugely popular, and authentic literary category to an American setting. Along with a thrilling story, The Cutting Season also conveys insights into genuine martial techniques and philosophies.
Dr. Xenon Pearl cuts brains for a living, and he’s as good as it gets. His direct, sometimes abrasive style is forgivable in light of his skill with a scalpel, and tempered by his compassion for his patients and his friends. He is a dutiful son to his widower father, a doting grandchild to a grandfather who was once a rabbi, and he has even met the girl of his dreams. Everything is on-track for this medical golden boy.
The other side of this motorcycle riding, brilliant doctor façade is a side that Xenon (aka Zee) hides even from his father. Secretly trained since childhood by his Chinese nanny, Wu, Tie Mei--herself a martial warrior of shadowy lineage--Dr. Xenon Pearl is also a martial arts expert who loves the sword as much as the scalpel.
Now his past is showing up to literally haunt him. His dead teacher reappears, reminding him that he has lived many lives before…
- I relived the foul stench of city cisterns, the rotting of corpses in the desert, the intoxicating smell of night-blooming jasmine, the musky odor of my own clothes after battle, the ripe and heady aroma of a wife waiting months for my return. My fingertips bore witness to the paper-thin delicacy of azaleas, and the smooth hands of children. My hands recalled weapons I have no name for, spiked ropes and strange maces with bumps and edges like some crazy fruit. I remember the gossamer threads of an industrious spider touching my eye. I remembered feeling holes where once I had teeth.
In this life, Dr. Xenon Pearl must use his skill – to defend the innocent, defeat the Russian mob, protect the woman who loves him, and stay one step ahead of a smart cop; he is set to lose everything unless he can cut just one more time.
“It’s essential that you remember your previous lives,” she said. “Without that memory, you’re doomed to repeat your lessons.”
“You are a fearsome warrior no matter what skin you wear, no matter the shape of your eyes; it’s time to give up the scalpel and pick up your sword.”
“I’m a doctor.” I said. “And the way things look now, I’m a schizophrenic doctor.”
“Your visions always come true.” She said. “You are going to cut the man who burned his wife.”
“I’m telling you to cut him now!”
In the spirit of martial arts tradition, The Cutting Season brings the traditional Asian martial arts novel to our shores, exploring human conflict, desires, and the search for moral certainties.
Do no harm... Honor your teacher... Cut without mercy...
See Arthur Rosenfeld on YouTube as he discusses fiction, philosophy and tai chi.
Finalist – 2007 Book of the Year Award by ForeWord Magazine
Finalist – 2007 USA Best Book Award
Walter Anderson, Chairman & CE0 of Parade Magazine, author of The Confidence Course
A gripping story.. The Cutting Season is far more a page-turning mystery than a martial-arts slam-bang, more James Bond than Bruce Lee. Rosenfeld's medical knowledge and martial-arts expertise reinforce an authority and clarity to the work. Away from the book, I [might] dismiss the living spirit...but as I read, I believed her, heard her: that's storytelling!
Lawrence A. Kane, author of The Way of Kata
Remarkable! Not since Eisler’s terrific John Rain series have I found such a spellbinding and intelligent thriller. Rosenfeld has developed a literary masterpiece with The Cutting Season, forging a complex plot, tempering it with gritty realism, and honing it with wry humor to create a book that’s exceptionally well-paced and incredibly hard to put down. This book has everything that smart readers will want: intense characters, extraordinary events, realistic action, and unique insight into the mysterious world of classical martial arts. I truly hope there will be a sequel. Soon! Very highly recommended!”
Chauncey Mabe, Book Editor of the Sun Sentinel, June 2007
...it's part medical thriller, part superhero origin story, part martial arts novel...The Cutting Season's narrative displays an impressive knowledge not just of martial arts, but medicine, motorcycles and sword making as well.
Gene Ching, Associate Publisher, Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine
A brain surgeon swordsman battles with Taoist Jews, Russian mobsters, and his own reincarnations beneath a Florida hurricane. Settle back with a cup of high mountain tea, a bite of gourmet chocolate and this smart martial arts thriller. Rosenfeld has set a refreshing new standard for martial arts fiction.
Dellana, Master Bladesmith
As one of only a handful of full-time female Bladesmiths, I thoroughly enjoyed Arthur Rosenfeld's lively, accurate and beautiful writing about the secret world of blades and the people who love them. The story is strong, compelling, and brimming with romance, mystic, and murder, just the way I like it. It's the rare writer that can hold my interest so intensely.
Detective Jim Dees, Bomb Technician, Former Lt, USMC
The Cutting Season is a fast-paced combination of crime novel and martial art lesson rendered with Clancy-like attention to detail. It is a must read for anyone interested in crime, fighting and romance all twisted into one.
Stuart Charno Shing-Yi Ch'uan master
Not since The Da Vinci Code, have I finished reading a book in two days. Finally, after thirty years of studying and teaching an Internal Kung Fu system, I find a writer who understands the deeper side of these sacred arts... a breath of fresh understanding...
Marilyn Dahl Shelf Awareness
I've been on a mystery-reading binge. July and August are the perfect months for it (as is any month, let's be real), and I have read a slew of them (including the fine The Face of Death by Cory McFadyen). I inadvertently picked a lot of books with beatings, missing body parts and the unnerving phrase "bled out," so when The Cutting Season was next on the pile, with a knife on the cover, I thought it might be time for a British cozy. But a cat was asleep on my lap, and the Brits were in another room, so blades and mayhem it was. I read it in one sitting (with several changes of cats). More bleeding out, more severed limbs, but nonetheless, an intriguing page-turner with a startling opening in an operating room:
"The young boy's soul emerged from his body, hesitated as if getting its bearings, made a circuit of the operating theater, and flitted upward toward the radiance of the halogen lamp like a wispy white pigeon homing in on the sun."
Dr. Xenon Pearl is so shocked at this sight that his scalpel slips and cuts a vertebral artery, and the boy dies. His death was inevitable, for the Russian boy, Rafik, had been beaten beyond saving; no matter, Zee feels tremendous guilt. His second shock comes when he walks out of the doctors' shower room and sees Wu Tie Mei, his former nanny and martial arts instructor--she's been dead for 10 years. He thinks he's hallucinating when she tells him that a big change is coming. He protests, "I don't like change, even when a person long dead suggests it." She basically tells him to shut up and explains what he has to do: mete out justice in a world that has little. "Do your work. It has to be done. Applying justice is nothing to be ashamed of."
Wu Tie Mei also taught him Chinese medicine, making clear to him that a martial artist has to be equally adept at hurting and healing. Zee is more than adept at healing, now she wants him to start hurting. She urges him to get in touch with his past lives, which include being an imperial guard, a monk in the northern provinces and the wife of a ferryman in Guangling. Little Rafik was his former war commander, and the boy's mafiya father, Petrossov, had been a village pimp. Zee's first task is to scare straight the husband of one of his patients, who burns his wife repeatedly. Zee thinks he's going crazy, but soon finds himself on his Triumph Thruxton, sword strapped to the saddlebags, breaking and entering. And cutting. Not killing, mind you, just some meaningful slices along with a warning. And so he starts on his new mission.
There is a lot going on in this book, starting with the hero, Xenon Pearl. He's a brilliant neurosurgeon who lives in southern Florida. He rides a motorcycle and is restoring his father's old Triumph. He has a ponytail. He's mastered secret Chinese martial arts. Perhaps most important, he knows his way around good chocolate (and uses the drug for good, never for evil). There is information on sword-making (and a beautiful bladesmith named Jordan Jones); there are lessons on karma and reincarnation; there is humor. The author, in his acknowledgements, even thanks his personal armorer. What's not to like? Well, the vigilante justice is a bit disconcerting (as is one sex scene). Perhaps that's because retaliation is carried out with a knife--we usually have no problem with Spenser or Reacher and fists and guns. All in all, The Cutting Season is fine thriller with a cinematic shine--you'll have fun casting the movie in your mind.
Bob Spear Heatland Reviews
This is the first foray into the area of fiction that this superb martial arts publisher has made and it is a home run. A medical/martial arts thriller, this story follows a talented brain surgeon’s trip down the slippery slope of the dark side. Dr. Xenon Pearl finds himself coming to the defense of those he loves and those he barely knows but feels they need a champion. His weapon of choice is a Chinese martial arts sword, but he is a master of any bladed weapon, including the scalpel. This promises to be the start of a great new series. The author is a highly successful author, a martial arts master and teacher, and a subject matter expert consultant for the pharmaceutical industry. He was the perfect choice to begin a new direction with this fiction genre. We rated his book five hearts."
Eleanor Bukowsky Mostly Fiction Book Reviews
Arthur Rosenfeld’s The Cutting Season is a marvelously entertaining blend of many different genres: medical thriller, psychological suspense, fantasy, martial arts adventure, romance, and crime drama, all neatly packaged into three hundred engrossing pages. The hero is a brilliant neurosurgeon, Dr. Xenon Pearl, who secretly practices the fighting techniques that he learned from his former Chinese nanny, Wu Tie Mei. The nanny also passed on to her protégé her vast knowledge of Chinese history and philosophy, as well as the principles of acupuncture and the use of medicinal herbs. Zee, as Xenon is called, is no garden-variety medical professional. He rides a motorcycle, wears a ponytail, savors exotic chocolate, meditates regularly, and generally eschews the trappings of materialism that so many doctors cherish. The author immediately captures the reader’s attention with his electrifying opening chapter. The scene is an operating room in South Florida. Zee is startled when the soul of the eleven-year old boy who is lying on his table suddenly flits from his small body and rises upward. Zee’s scalpel slips and nicks an artery, and the patient is soon declared dead. The child, whose name is Rafik, came into the hospital after suffering a terrible beating. His father is a powerful Russian mob boss named Vlexei Petrossov, and he claims that his son fell off his bicycle, a statement that is patently absurd. Before Zee confronts Petrossov, he sees the ghost of Wu Tie Mei, who has been dead for ten years. She tells Zee, “You are a fearsome warrior no matter what skin you wear.” Tie Mei is warning Xenon Pearl that he is about to confront some tough challenges that will test his mettle both as a doctor and a martial arts practitioner. To prepare himself for what lies ahead, Zee mounts his bright yellow Triumph Thruxton motorcycle in search of Thaddeus Jones, a master swordsmith. Zee learns that Jones died two years ago. However, his daughter, the beautiful Jordan Jones, is a talented craftswoman in her own right who has inherited her father’s skill. Zee asks Jordan to craft a special weapon for him, “a straight sword, double-edged, flexible, with a voice through the air.” She agrees and gradually, Xenon Pearl forges a deep connection with this amazing and unusual woman. As time goes on, Zee wonders: Is he a healer, an avenger, or both? His former teacher reappears regularly, trying to convince Zee that he was a warrior in a former incarnation and that he must fight again to fulfill his destiny. Goaded by Tie Mei, Zee is tempted to exact retribution against those who have harmed innocent people. However, he worries that the visions he has of Tie Mei may be hallucinations, brought on by overwork and too many sleepless nights. Should he trust the police to do their job, or should he take the law into his own deadly hands? What if, by embracing his role as a vigilante, he places himself and those he loves in danger? This is a complex and textured novel, with vivid characters, sardonic humor, violent action, and fascinating riffs on philosophy, medicine, and the mind-body connection. With its well-crafted prose and pitch-perfect dialogue, the story moves along at lightning speed as Rosenfeld describes Zee using his training in the martial arts to make him a better neurosurgeon, comforting a fifteen-year old boy whose father lies in a coma after a possible suicide attempt, bantering with the new love of his life, and using his arcane skills to confront a host of sadistic villains. Eventually, Zee learns that his father, Asher, has kept a crucial secret from him that will change his entire perspective on who he is and what he should do in the future. The Cutting Season is a rich, fulfilling, and passionate work that both entertains and enlightens. It also raises some intriguing ideas about love, family, crime, and punishment, and suggests that “heaven is found inside each of us, and flows from defeating our demons."
The Cutting Season a finalist on the The National "Best Books" 2007 Awards