Peffer’s Newest Novel a Part of Publisher’s Summer Book Club

“Grace Liu has been having nightmares these days.” With these words Randall Peffer, Instructor in English, opens his new book “Old School Bones,” which recently won the Bleak House Books summer book club selection award. The Bleak House Books club will distribute signed copies of “Old School Bones” to its members when the book comes out in early June. A story of a gruesome murder and secret societies, Peffer’s book bested those of seven other well-known mystery authors in securing the award. The honor was awarded to the author who tallied the most votes on the Bleak House Books website. Peffer tackled this issue “one vote at a time” by asking his students and friends to go online and vote for him. However, this method was nearly thwarted when the website recognized everyone within the Phillips Academy network as the same user and did not allow many people within the network to vote. DeJesus said that Peffer read the book’s opening scene to his English 200 class, which got DeJesus excited about the book. Dominic DeJesus ’10, one of Peffer’s students, solved this problem by creating a Facebook group called ‘Peff Rules!,’ which encouraged students to submit their votes via email. The Facebook group, which provided new instructions about the voting system, now has 77 members. According to DeJesus, he created the Facebook group because Peffer did not get a chance to tell everyone he knew about his book, so DeJesus wanted to bring it to people’s attention and get them to vote. Furthermore, three of the other contestants had links with Exeter, so DeJesus emphasized the spirit of Andover Blue, voting for Peffer, on the Facebook group page. The rest of Peffer’s sixth period English 200 class, the group’s officers, rallied together and encouraged people to vote. On March 18, the polls closed and Peffer was announced the winner, unsurprising given his strong lead on March 10, with 45.7 percent of the votes. Peffer said the “electronic phenomenon” of the Facebook group helped to rally students to vote and brought awareness to the award. At first, Peffer said that he did not like the idea of the contest, but then he thought that this award would “get his name out there” and earn him some “street cred.” Peffer will also participate in an online dialogue with the book club’s readers. Peffer said that his publisher, Bleak House Books, supports “riskier” books, but its books “have been winning awards left and right.” Sabina Murray, author of “Forgery,” described Peffer’s book as “a true page turner, ‘Old School Bones’ never lets off the pressure, never slacks in its dizzying, fierce panic.” According to Peffer, his book is modeled after a boarding school such as Phillips Academy. The book’s main character, Gracie Liu, is a 17-year-old female student at a prep school when her best friend, Liberty, commits suicide. However, Gracie suspects that it was not a suicide but a murder. The book also involves secret societies and fraternities, which, according to Peffer, used to exist at Phillips Academy. Peffer said that in his book, “secret societies lead to conspiracy, mayhem and murder which boils down into the ordinary lives of people in Cape Cod.” When Gracie begins to research secret societies for a history research paper, she receives a threatening and racist message from a secret society called “Red Tooth,” which she suspects killed Liberty. Peffer said that this event in the story “predicts the racist nonsense that happened at St. Paul’s.” Peffer has written two other novels, “Killing Neptune’s Daughter” and “Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues.”