Posted by Literary Titan
Brownout – 666 follows Rick in the midst of a struggle to find a way to live a normal life in a dark and unforgiving world. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
My inspiration for the setup behind this novel primarily came from my sojourn in the Philippines spread over several years. I always told people that one day I would write a book about the country, its people and its culture and that I would call it “Brownout.” I added the “666” moniker to the title as any search under “Brownout” brought up thousands of books about electricity. As large portions of my novel were based on real events and people I could have written a nonfiction work instead. However, I didn’t want the potential for libel suits hanging over me so I chose fiction. The American and Australian settings of the novel came about as I wished to explore the socio-political ethos of those nations and their relationships to the bases of world power. I introduced the American setting as a subplot that tied up with the central one at the end.
Rick Daly is an interesting character that faces many challenges in life. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Some of the driving ideals behind the central character, Rick Daly, were related to sexuality and its abusive and non-abusive forms. As he matures Rick learns to become less selfish and earns some degree of redemption. Rick has been confused about Right and Wrong and gradually arrives at what he calls “the fair thing principle.” Rick grew up in the seventies and eighties in an Australia with a fairly aggressive sexual culture. An example of looking back at this culture from the standpoint of the present day is the internationally well-known podcast, “The Teacher’s Pet,” by Hedley Thomas of the newspaper, The Australian. Apart from examining a cold case disappearance and probable murder, the podcast looks into alleged teacher/schoolgirl sex rings at several high schools on Sydney’s northern beaches, one of which I taught at (Cromer High School). Rick loathes hypocrisy, the stupidity and gross unfairness of many authorities. Governments and courts often seem overly influenced by cultural and political fashion.
This novel expertly uses history to tell an engrossing story. Was history an important aspect for you in this novel or did this develop organically while writing?
As a former English and History teacher I have always been fascinated by History and its links to the present day. The changing attitudes to sexuality throughout historical and contemporary periods necessarily came to the fore as Rick becomes caught up in them.
I have long been a student of the Holocaust and the Third Reich and, as history is always written by the winners, I appreciate how difficult it is to arrive at even an approximation of the objective truth. While in no way do I condone the many crimes of the Third Reich I find myself bemused at how any attempt to examine this era can so easily be shouted down if it differs ever so little from the official version. The Holocaust was a terrible event but it is no more sacred than are the other mass killings or genocides that occurred before it or since.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In addition to this novel, I also have a published work of non-fiction about child loss and grief. It is called, “Waiting for a Miracle – Life in the Dead Zone.” As for my next book, I haven’t decided whether to work on another novel or non-fiction piece. In either case it won’t be available until next year at the earliest.
In the land of flaunted sex, money, and flexible rules, an ambitious but lonely Rick Daly faces his demons.
Rick Daly has established a business in the exotic surroundings of the Philippines, while simultaneously discovering Marilyn Delgado, the woman of his dreams.
However, a clash of cultures and his own naiveté lead to disaster. Falsely accused of a sexual crime, Rick loses both his freedom and his business. To add insult to injury, a prison escape merely amounts to switching jails.
In a world where the rich prosper, honest individuals are forced to the wall, and a cynical disregard for all but the dollar is destroying society from within, crime soon follows punishment for Rick. Close to losing his soul, will Rick’s ultimate success in drug and arms dealing finally lead him to face up to reality?
Posted in Interviews
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Posted by Literary Titan
Rick Daly is in the midst of multiple battles–the least of which is the struggle to finally find a way to be happy, settled, and live a normal life. Working and trying to establish a business of his own in the Philippines, Rick Daly meets and unwittingly falls head over heels in love with the young woman he hires to be his secretary and sidekick. When he realizes he loves Marilyn and wants to change his wild ways, he finds that his past is looming closely and threatens his relationship as it tests his loyalty to Marilyn and their, now uncertain, future.
John Spencer, author of Brownout, is clearly a fan of world history. His novel featuring Rick Daly is woven intricately in and out of historical truths. In addition, Spencer even tackles the controversial issue of the Holocaust and the doubt surrounding its existence. Spencer covers a broad range of events and drops his characters and their various subplots strategically into these events from the book’s beginning to its surprising finale.
Brownout incorporates numerous storylines which are, at times, difficult to follow. The bulk of the novel is based on Rick Daly’s life in the Philippines and his relationship with Marilyn, a woman who strives to remain true to herself and her beliefs but sends Rick many a mixed message during the course of their relationship. Spencer’s writing relies heavily on the reader’s penchant for sexual situations as these scenes are prevalent throughout the book, giving the overall book as much the feel of a romance novel as a work of historical fiction.
I feel it’s worth mentioning that the intimate aspect of the relationship portrayed between Rick and Marilyn is complicated at best. As much as Marilyn maintains that she will remain a virgin until she is married, she feels torn between keeping her word and satisfying Rick. I was quite taken aback at Rick taking advantage of Marilyn and violating her trust.
The parallel storyline involving Chris, Rick’s uncle, and his children is a tragic one and is more engaging and engrossing than Rick’s plot. I found that my attention was held much more readily while reading of Chris’s heart-wrenching loss and the immense struggle he faces with each of his children. As I read, I continued to anticipate that Chris would be a more prominent part of the book’s overarching plot and was disappointed that his family’s drama was not more fully explored.
While Brownout is exceptionally well-written, I felt that the subplots were somewhat disjointed. Each of Rick’s subsequent and fleeting relationships added depth to the story but simultaneously added an air of confusion. While all of Spencer’s characters are rich and well-developed, the connections between them seem lacking. The historical accuracies are spot-on and related via Spencer’s characters in a way that makes them conversational and engaging. Readers who appreciate historical fiction and seek an element of romance will find Brownout to their liking.
Pages: 503 | ASIN: B07GGYBJY1
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