Five Windows

Jon Roemer

published by Dzanc Books
182 pages
paperback 9781945814945

September 2019

Dzanc | Amazon

A new novel exploring rapid, aggressive change in a legendary American city.

At a busy intersection on a San Francisco hillside, an overworked book editor looks up long enough to watch a trio of houses go up in flames. Once the smoke clears, he becomes increasingly concerned by what he sees out his windows and starts asking questions he never bothered with before.

Is the encampment in the park responsible for the fires — or are his new upscale neighbors somehow to blame?

Has the man upstairs even bothered to notice — or is his time better spent battling with his boyfriend?

What’s his own ex-wife doing, resurfacing now just when things are getting tense?

Is everyone safer with more fire trucks around?

And a block down the hill, is the new mixed-use project the perfect urban remedy — or will it do more damage than anything else?

By the time the duplex across the street catches fire, questions start hitting even closer to home, including his own role in the neighborhood’s upheaval.

Inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Five Windows is the story of man with a view of his neighbors’ troubles and the prism that reveals his own decline.

“harrowing, hilarious, and strangely heartfelt…” – David Dario Winner at The Brooklyn Rail

“Has the same technicolor quality of the original Rear Window” – Wendy J. Fox at BuzzFeed

“Quite a read, I can assure you…” – Nick Schenkel at Purdue’s NPR affiliate WBAA Public Radio

“Jon Roemer swaps the bohemian Greenwich Village of Rear Window for tech-frenzied San Francisco in his quick-paced novel Five Windows, which offers a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller. In this recasting, the unnamed narrator, a small-press editor, doesn’t suspect murder. Still, when not ‘chained to his desk,’ he indulges his curiosity about the mysterious malfeasances on his block. Explosions rattle nerves and windows; fires rip through old buildings; neighbors collect in jagged standoffs. Suffused with unease, Five Windows casts its sharpest light on alienation and its spoils. The book’s quiet strength comes from the details of a city shifting beneath the feet of its inhabitants—and the irreparable fissures this creates.” – Lynelle George, Fall fiction picks, Alta California

“Jon Roemer writes beautifully, squeezing detail and meaning into finely wrought sentences, working best with the difficult zone of what’s not on the page. If you’re an experienced reader who desires brief, thinky books with small dashes of absurdism, Five Windows is the one for you… [The book also] captures the changing face of the Bay Area extraordinarily well. Five Windows does that with humor, patience, and enormous skill. It’s a bright little gem from a promising, thoughtful writer.” – Katharine Coldiron, Book and Film Globe

“a Russian Doll of confounding contradictions: still but energetic, deadpan but tragic, obscure but utterly engaging. There is really nothing like it.” – STATOREC

“A disquieting take on Rear Window set in contemporary San Francisco… Like Hitchcock, Roemer excels at establishing and then deepening the reader/viewer’s unease—but his interest is less in the plot complications that fuel Hitchcock’s film than in the psychological drama unfolding within the apartment as the publisher’s life implodes. Roemer’s achievement here is to discomfit the reader without sacrificing the story’s fundamental realism. This book reads, often, like a dystopian novel, but—disturbingly—it’s one set in a dystopia we already live in. A frightening fable about the watcher and the watched.” – KIRKUS REVIEWS

“Jon Roemer knows his way around a sentence. From the first line through the last, readers feel they’re in the hands of an accomplished craftsman. Roemer’s writing is nuanced, controlled, and full of surprises. FIVE WINDOWS follows a reclusive editor, obsessed with his neighbors and the turmoil of San Francisco in the throes of gentrification, but trapped inside a fishbowl of his own design. Roemer writes with an intimacy that becomes almost claustrophobic as our protagonist flirts with madness and the plot spirals toward its apocalyptic climax. An impressive, engrossing debut from a bold new voice.” – ALIA VOLZ, author of Home Baked: My Mother, Marijuana and the Stoning of San Francisco

“Darkly funny and surreal, FIVE WINDOWS is a timely, page-turning debut about alienation and breakdowns communal and individual.” – VANESSA HUA, author of River of Stars

“At once terse and elliptical, confidant and doubtful, the Hitchcockian narrator of FIVE WINDOWS lives in the San Francisco where history clashes with the contemporary, tech-rich neighbors step over the homeless living in tent villages, and where divorces are buy-outs and you can sue your neighbor for blocking your view. Like the slippery narratives and realities of Kazuo Ishiguro, Jon Roemer’s psychological thriller reveals the loneliness of a crowded city in which everybody sees their neighbors all day long and haven’t a clue who those neighbors are. It’s a gripping whodunit with an antihero as lovable and detestable as Travis Bickle, Tyler Durden, and John Cheever’s Swimmer. – BRIAN D. BOULDREY, author of The Boom Economy and Monster

“Jon Roemer channels Hitchcock in this noirish stunner. An indie publisher watches with increasing horror as his San Francisco neighborhood is rattled by small explosions, fires, domestic disputes, demolition, gunshots, broken windows — a sinister series of skin-prickling accidents coming ever closer to home. In Roemer’s hands, the online “world of whispers” and the outside timeline of strange occurrances merge into an uncanny approximation of our times.” – JANE CIABATTARI, author of Stealing the Fire

“Roemer toes the line between realism and dystopia, with our protagonist’s problems looming as large as science-fiction monsters despite their nauseating resemblance to reality. Five Windows is a reminder that the only thing that separates our world from a dystopia is the way we choose to see it..” – LEAH GOGGINS, Call Me [Brackets}

JON ROEMER is a writer, editor and publisher based in San Francisco. He is founder and senior editor of Outpost19, an award-winning book publisher. He’s been a San Francisco resident since 1991 and an explorer of urban change ever since. Roemer studied literature and fiction writing at Northwestern. Pronouns: he/him/his. Contact Jon here.