Although this is a work of fiction, if you have any interest in American history, and the mystery surrounding Jesse James, I urge you to read Letters to Mary Susan: From her Outlaw Father by Jerry Hammersmith.
The story line comes from a story told to the author, by his father. It’s nice when the author’s father ‘appears’ in the book! The author points out that this is a work of fiction, but it certainly leaves you wondering. It has an interesting concept, as it is told in letters from the main character, and his flashbacks through his long life.
The majority of the book is set in a prison. A rather stark prison in the 1920’s. It’s not a prison novel but rather the recollections of his life, by one of the prisoners. The story comes about as he is advised, by the chaplain, to write to his long lost daughter. She grows to know her father, who was presumed dead, through his letters.
The main character is Jim Howard, who started life as Jesse James, and who spent most of his life as an outlaw. The book begins with him in prison at the age of 77. I certainly didn’t wish to feel sympathy for the character. I mean, outlaws are the bad guys. Aren’t they? It is not possible though not to feel a tinge of pity. Especially at the thought of somebody so old, in those conditions.
Jim doesn’t come across as a bad guy so you feel more and more sympathetic as his story progresses. This is illustrated by the fact that he was held in high esteem by others, throughout the various phases of his life. He didn’t always make the best choices, but many of the things that led to him originally becoming an outlaw, were out of his control. Stealing is like a high, which is one of the main reasons he couldn’t stop. This adds to the sadness as he could have had a good life, if he had stopped robbing people.
The chapters deal with his life, and wrong doings, in chronological order through his 3 incarnations; Jesse James, John Allen and Jim Howard. They deal with his life, and what he had to do to survive it, through being an outlaw, cowboy and farmer. He doesn’t try to present himself in a good light, he just tells it like it is, so his daughter can get to know him, and understand his actions.
There are some portions of the book that are a little repetitive. Some scenes are described several times. Also the swapping of first name and surname are a bit confusing. Especially as this is a character who has 3 different names already! There are some sentences where he is referred to as both Jim and Howard which takes some working out. But these are small annoyances and don’t detract from a good read.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a great, interesting, and poignant read.
Pages: 189 | ASIN: B077PH4STR
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Set in the world of Perilisc, Jesse Teller returns to this world with another series sure to captivate readers. The Manhunters series starts off with Song, and tells two story lines that intertwine. Rayph Ivoryfist is an immortal magician that has his own personal demons to fight, but is bound by honor to protect the land and the boy he believes to be the next great ruler. When the prison he built is destroyed and all the evil had brought to justice is released he knew he needed help. Rayph than builds his own army of powerful beings, with his old friend Smear at his side. Parallel to the story of Ivoryfist preparing for battle is the story of Konnon, the father that wants a cure for his daughter’s paralysis. To help his daughter Bree, Konnon must work with his partner Glyss. Together the two of them have a reputation for being unstoppable and deadly. They live up to this reputation, knowing each other inside and out. The two pair’s separate missions will unavoidably end them up together in the town of Song, the question is, who is alive in the end?
Jesse Teller has a way with describing the setting that really makes you feel like you are there. The swamps that Rayph visits, you can almost feel the mud clinging to you, smell the decaying woods and animals used for sacrifices, and feel the tension that the people around the main characters create. The level of detail that goes into settings, also goes into the action. While this is great for really getting into things, those with a weak stomach for gore might not be pleased. Teller describes in detail the torture of some characters, and details the death of many. This level of detail may not appeal to all, but Teller can also detail the compassion and love between two characters just as well. The example of Konnon and his daughter Bree. There is no question about the devotion and love he feels for his daughter, it is relatable and pulls at the heart strings. A father’s undying love and willingness to do whatever he must to save her, no matter what the cost is to himself.
One of Teller’s greatest skills is relationships. Not romantic quest love relationships, but bonds between people and spirits. These bonds draw the readers in sometimes more than the story lines do because they are so powerful and relatable. As I read Song, I felt the bonds that form between Rayph and his army. The magic that makes it so they can all be connected is just a piece of the puzzle, they genuinely build a brotherhood and work as one. Konnon and Glyss while not blood brothers move as one unit together, they are bound and know each other so well there is no need for words. It is a great read for the relationship factor alone. If you enjoy studying and reading about human (or in this case non human) relationship Teller will not disappoint. Through his use of many magical creatures from humans, to fairies, to demons, all working together for a common goal the passion for survival and willingness to put all differences aside for is apparent. Perhaps it is a good lesson for modern society, put our differences aside and work together to defeat the evil looking to rip our world apart.
Pages: 319 | ASIN: B074GP13JC
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Einstein’s Fiddle begins with a man abandoning his child on a doorstep of a stranger’s home; the rest of the novel seeks to reveal and understand this man. What was the inspiration for the setup to this emotional novel?
Like my first novel (A History of the World), Einstein’s Fiddle began as a short story. The story form was abandoned quickly – perforce, as soon as Davy abandoned Mitchell. The inspiration for the setup was a simple disturbing question that presented itself: What if someone – no, not just someone – a dad – left his baby boy on a doorstep? The image that first came to mind was of the proverbial unwed mother from earlier decades in this country – desperate, ashamed, alone, afraid, and apparently out of options. The obvious second question followed hard upon the first: why would any person – at least any loving father – do such a thing? And these were questions that led quickly to others – questions of personality, motivation and experience – and my poor powers certainly could not answer them, or sufficiently illuminate the depths of such a father (Davy Calhoun), in a short story.
Davy Calhoun is a multilayered character that is deftly developed. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
The relationship between fathers and sons has been at the heart of my writing from the beginning. It was there in my early stories and my first novel, and it is at the center of Einstein’s Fiddle. The desire for his (or her) father’s love, approval, guidance and acceptance is deep in every child’s heart from the first breath. It is a ‘natural’ yearning and part of each one of us because God put it there. I wanted Davy Calhoun to be a character with whom we all (if we are honest about it) share common ground; and of course – like each of us – he has his own story, his own unique experience and narrative, which I hope makes the book singular and engaging. There are a number of fathers in the novel, all of them flawed and fallen in his own ways – and one particularly outstanding in his degree of fallenness; but my ‘ideal’ father in Davy’s story is the dad in Jesus’ story about The Prodigal Son, a parable which one of the characters in the book’s third section relates to Davy. Perhaps the one ‘driving ideal’ behind Davy’s development is best summed up by something a friend of mine has said more than once: “Love is the most powerful force in the universe – just largely untried.”
It’s hard to not get emotional when reading Einstein’s Fiddle. Did you pull anything from real life or personal experience to use in this novel?
I spent time in all the places where the narrative unfolds – Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco – and I used a lot of my experiences of those places (and the places within those places) in the book. As I imagine any author does, I created whole characters with pieces of people I know or have known. Whenever it worked well in the narrative, I used – call it stole, if you like – real-life stories that friends have shared with me over the years. In the last section, when Davy is in San Francisco, there is a scene near Pier 39, which completely replicates something that happened to a good friend of mine in New Jersey. It was a wonderful gift to me, and I gave it joyfully to everyone who reads Einstein’s Fiddle.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The working title is Thomas, but that could change in an instant. I expect it to be much shorter than Fiddle…but that could change too. I don’t want to say much about it right now, except that it is about a life-changing relationship between a white doctor in Charleston, South Carolina, and the black man he hires to build a stable for his horses. You can safely bet that there will be fathers and sons in this book too…. I hope it will be available in a year or so. I’ve begun to work on it in my head, but I have yet to write the first word.
What kind of man leaves the infant son he loves on a doorstep in a strange town and drives away? With its present set in the summer of 1985 and its past reaching from 1950 to 1974, Einstein’s Fiddle is a dramatic examination of Davy Calhoun’s journey from home to the far country and back. The language and landscape of the novel vary between the existential and familial, tragic and comic, as the non-linear narrative – by turns realistic, lyrical, magical – focuses fearlessly on Davy’s fall, dishonor and redemption.
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A Burning in the Darkness follows Father Michael serving at an airport when he becomes the prime suspect in a heinous crime. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling suspense novel?
Essentially it was the opening set up/dilemma. An anonymous voice in a darkened confessional confesses a murder to Father Michael Kieh. Circumstance and evidence points to the Michael’s guilt but he remains faithful to the Seal of Confession and doesn’t betray the identity of a young witness. Michael’s dilemma is between remaining true to his ideals or saving himself from a long prison sentence.
Father Michael Kieh is an intriguing and dynamic character. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
In relation to Michael, I often asked myself: Is it possible to be so good that it becomes self-destructive? Is it possible to have the same degree of love and imaginative sympathy for the entire human race as one’s family and not be overwhelmed? Even asking the question seems exhausting and tiresome but the answer is self-evident. You would be overwhelmed to the point of physical and psychological destruction. Yet Michael comes close to this form of destruction.
Michael’s childhood was forged in the horrors of the Liberian civil war, but he chose a life dedicated to the Good. Michael has the moral freedom and strength to be different to his environment. He was a child witness and was protected from harm so he knows the importance of the strong protecting the weak. But we all need a little selfishness to survive. And Michael certainly has a smattering of selfishness because he is not afraid to assert his need for love as a strong-willed lover. But the reader roots for Michael because he refuses to betray his higher ideals. I wanted the novel to justify Michael’s faith in the ideals of putting the needs of others who cannot protect themselves before your own needs. It’s easy to talk the talk on this, but entirely different to walk the walk when you have to make a big sacrifice.
I wanted to write a page-turner novel, but the action explores a deep morality without, I hope, being preachy and self-justifying. It’s also important to me that whether you’re a diehard atheist or fervent believer that you will be engaged by Michael’s character, dilemma and beliefs.
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
I wrote a 5 or 6 page outline which I tinkered around with for a year or so, not sure if it was working as a story. This gave me the main plot and character points. It was more like what they call in the movie/TV business ‘a treatment’. I’m a film school graduate, so it was part of my training. I spoke to a close friend of mine about the story and he encouraged me to write it. (By the way, I work as a cinematographer on TV drama.)
I find a problem in well written novels in that I always want there to be another book. Are you writing another book? If so, when will it be available?
Your kind and positive response makes me want to write another. Most of my time and effort has been spent getting A Burning in the Darkness published. Michael’s story is complete so there’s no room to revisit it. I am working on an outline for another novel. Actually, mostly researching it at this point.
A Burning in the Darkness took me a good 7 years to write. That’s too long! I’d also like to write a novella in the meantime. Maybe 80 to 100 pages. I’d like to be able to do it in about 6 months, but I’m a slow writer.
Sadly I lost my wife to breast cancer 18 months ago. I have three amazing teenage children who are the best thing about my life, but being a single dad and working to keep them fed and housed takes up a lot of time. But that’s my primary responsibility. Nevertheless, my kids are also a powerful source of moral strength and determination. And somehow writers always find the time to write.
A murder at one of the world’s busiest airports opens this simmering crime story where a good man’s loyalty is tested to its limits. Michael Kieh is a full time faith representative serving the needs of some of the 80 million passengers, but circumstance and evidence point to his guilt. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge.
Michael’s loneliness was eased by a series of brief encounters with a soul mate. When she confides a dark secret, he is motivated to redress a heart-breaking injustice. Together they must battle against powerful forces as they edge dangerously close to unmasking a past crime. But Michael faces defeat when he chooses to protect a young witness, leaving him a burning spirit in the darkness.
Michael’s commitment to helping those in need was forged in the brutality of the Liberian civil war. Protected by a kind guardian, he too was a young witness to an atrocity that has left a haunting legacy of stolen justice and a lingering need for revenge. More poignantly there is a first love cruelly left behind in Africa because of the impossible choices of war. When Michael and his former lover find each other once again they become formidable allies in proving his innocence and rediscovering their lost love.
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Fathering the Fatherless is a short, non-fiction story detailing the struggles a man has in terms of understanding and becoming a father. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I wrote the book because my Pastor struck a cord inside of me when he asked me to pray for fatherless spirit. I was like wait, there are hardly any books on this as far as I know. And then within 5 months I wrote most of what is in Fathering the Fatherless. From that I noticed I fell under this pattern of statistics and I needed to change so my children would live a healthier and better life and that I would become the father God called and made me to be. If you look at the first chapter, Statistics of a Fatherless Home, and look at whats going on in this world you can see what I mean.
What is one misconception that you think people have about fatherless families?
Well, writing this book was from the heart as a man growing up without a father I feel I missed out in so much as a child and as a father I lost out on how a father really should be and how to father.
You speak from your own personal point of view in this story. Was there anything difficult for you to write about?
It was hard to talk about me as a father and not having a father as I was growing up.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope everyone will grow and learn from the book and strive to do a better job and teach others how to be a better father.
“Fathering the Fatherless deals with Fatherlessness and what it does to children and The choices we make in there life. What we can do as a dad to fix it.And do better for our Children to come to know they have a father that loves them and wont leave them, You & God.”
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Allie Frost’s debut book I’m With You, is a passionate and gripping novel that draws the reader into her world with dynamic characters and an engaging story line. Ciarán and Remiel are siblings that have lost their mother. Their father has lost his mind due to her death and blames Remiel for the death of his wife. Remiel was born with an unusual gift, the ability to see a person’s death before it occurs. Five years after their mother’s death, their father has put out a hit job on his daughter, saying that she must die for the world to be right again, claiming that Remiel is a demon that kills. Ciarán loves his sister and when he learns of the plot to kill her he takes matters into his own hands and sets out to save her. With the help of an unlikely bunch of strangers, Ciarán and Remiel set out to escape the assassins that have been sent after Remiel.
The novel starts out in Kevlar a city in the realm of Empirya. This is a typical industrial city, similar to the early industrial periods of America. After learning of the plot to kill Remiel, Ciarán literally runs into to vagabonds, Ramus and Valkyrie. Fate brought them together and they help the two siblings escape Kevlar. Once away they are quickly found by the assassins hired to kill Remiel and they add a young prostitute names Camilla to their group. As they travel barely staying one step ahead of their enemy’s they add to their growing company Kaz the circus fire juggler, and Mitzi the librarian. Together they encounter danger and learn surprising things about one another. They bond together in the common goal of keeping Remiel alive and getting her and Ciarán home again.
Allie Frost tells the story from the view of Ciarán. His perspective is insightful for a young 15-year-old boy. While he seems more mature at times, there are defiantly times where his young age is apparent and the other characters’ step in to guide him. Ramus takes on the fatherly role for Ciarán and Remiel while Valkyrie is more the depressing voice of reason that battles internally between keeping to himself and away from trouble, vs doing the right thing and protecting the kids from the dangers after them. Camilla starts off as a very shallow character and through the novel builds into a deep meaningful part of the story line. The same is for Kaz and Mitzi, they evolve from the time they are introduced all the way to the epilogue. The bond that is formed from this unintended group becomes a family. Circumstances of the story give each character a chance to grow and evolve. Frost does an amazing job showing the transformation and growth while keeping the perspective in Ciarán’s eyes.
For a first novel Allie Frost, has created a dynamic world, taking the reader all over, showing a multitude of cultures and communities while keeping all relatable to modern earth. So, while the land is a work of fiction, many of the religious beliefs and cultural references are easy to relate to and understand. I’m With You is a perfect title for the novel as all the characters form a bond and grow together to create a family that Ciarán and Remiel lacked ever since their mother died. This is a captivating novel that will keep the reader engaged from the first page to the last.
Pages: 241 | ASIN: B01MAYT60F
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Proud American is a biography about your journey through life in South Texas; from migrant worker to US solider and then US Border Patrol agent. What was the inspiration behind creating such a thoughtful memoir of your life?
My mother passed away in the summer of 2015. After her passing, I fell into a depression because I felt truly alone in the world. Being the only child of a single parent can do that to a person. I had my wife and kids with me but I still felt utterly alone, and I couldn’t shake it off.
My wife kept pushing me to discuss my thoughts and feelings, but I could not muster up the strength. I didn’t know how to discuss what I was experiencing. My wife suggested that I write my feelings down. For years, my wife has been telling me that she believes I’m a good writer. For years, I’ve been ignoring her compliments.
One night after dinner, she brought a letter to me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to open it. When I did, I saw that it was a letter I had written to her eight years ago. Eight years ago was when my wife and I first started dating, and one night she asked me over the phone, why I had joined the Army. I wrote her a letter and poured everything out on paper. It opened up the floodgates for me. That letter is now the first chapter of my book.
Do you remember what your idea of ‘America’ was as a child?
Because I began working at the age of seven, my idea of ‘America’ was that of tough living. It is hard for one to realize so young that his or her childhood is nothing like that of other kids. We were dirt poor and I had the full workload of an adult at the age of ten.
In time though, everything around me was a constant reminder of what else was possible in ‘America’. I knew there were better ways to make a living. At such a young age, I wanted to learn how to pursue my thoughts or dreams of a better life. I didn’t have time to dream of the next best toy or fun activity. I spent all my childhood dreaming and thinking of how to break my family cycle of picking crops for a living.
How did your outlook of ‘America’ change after your time in the US Army?
I must say that in many ways, the Army actually spoiled me. Although it increased my awareness of the harshness of life and the many challenges that it can impose on a person, it also continued to show me all the many possibilities available should one choose to work hard to achieve a desired goal. This only enhanced what I already believed as a kid. More so, I also learned of all the harsh realities of life and how people in other countries are in a far worse state than most of us here can ever possibly imagine or understand. I knew, after my military service, that we lived in the greatest country in the world. Even with all our faults and deficiencies, there is no comparison.
Being the son of a Mexican immigrant, was it hard for you to decide to become an agent in the US Border Patrol?
My decision to join the US Border Patrol was actually a fairly easy one. I was looking for something that would allow me to continue my government service. It’s important to note that my grandfather had never talked to us about his encounters with the US Border Patrol and thus played no role in my decision.
It wasn’t until after I had become an agent that I realized how my decision had impacted the entire family. It was a strange feeling and continues to be a delicate subject since I still have family that lives in Mexico and have not been able to visit them because of the dangers a visit from me would pose on them and even on me. With the violent cartel threat just across the border, it will be years before I can see my family again.
What is one stereotype that you think many Americans have of Mexican immigrants?
At this point in time, immigration has become a great issue for our country. With that said, the moment one begins to speak about immigration it is quickly considered to be a topic of Mexican immigrants and the ‘negative’ impact they have on our society.
I am an American Citizen by birth, but I do come from a Mexican Immigrant family and am now a Border Patrol Agent. I have to deal with criminals from every background one can possibly think of. As a federal agent, I don’t merely deal with immigration issues. I also deal with the issue of human trafficking and narcotics trafficking. In essence, I’m caught in the middle of the transaction.
I say this because in any transaction, there is a person providing a product and a person purchasing or demanding that product. I have to process undocumented individuals for deportation while at the same time prosecute the US Citizens that are committing the trafficking.
What role do you feel Mexican-Americans play in bridging the gap between these two countries?
I think we must all play the role of actual educators by way of providing facts and not opinions or emotional outbursts. I wrote a story in the book of an incident that happened to me while on the job as a Border Patrol Agent. The gentleman I encountered truly believed that he was above me simply because of my appearance and name tag. I chose to educate him and not escalate the situation with an emotional outburst. After that interaction, I earned the gentleman’s respect and he earned mine by showing me that he had learned the error in his thinking.
I’m a combat veteran who now has to deport people of my own Mexican Nationality because I have chosen to continue serving my country, the United States of America. And yet, I still have to educate people every single day of my patriotism and the struggles I’ve had to overcome in order to achieve the stability I now have.
Education is key.
“Being the only child of a single mother, Sergio was raised by his maternal grandparents in a South Texas region better known as the Rio Grande Valley. This memoir details the upbringing of a poor Migrant worker of Mexican descent having to pick crops for a living since the age of seven. As a way to break from the family cycle of picking crops and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served ten years active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD. After completing ten years of military service, Sergio joined the U.S. Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent, having family in south Texas, and in Mexico gave way to new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.””
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In a charming, short, non-fiction tale we read about the struggles one man has had in terms of understanding and becoming a father. Fathering the Fatherless is written by Todd Johnson who tells us his experience growing up in a fatherless home. He recounts how this impacted his life and shaped the decisions he has made. It is clear that this is a topic that has affected Johnson greatly as he attempts to convey how his life was damaged by not having a father present in his life. Johnson shares statistics regarding fatherless homes and lays out the potential damage that can be done with such a significant absence. Johnson details how he found God and in that Father he was able to come to understand what it truly means to lead and care for children.
The book is a short read and is written very earnestly. Johnson speaks from his personal point of view and lays out his argument that fatherless homes are becoming an epidemic in the United States of America. This is an issue he strongly believes in and he uses quotes from the scripture to remind readers what a father should truly be like. By sharing intimate details of his life Johnson creates a connection with his readers. We learn about his struggles, his poor decisions and the choices he has made in order to better himself. Johnson grew up in a fatherless home and almost inflicted that same pain on his own children. He details how finding God helped him see the potential he was wasting. It is clear that this is Johnson’s mission: his purpose is to enlighten others of their misguided ways and show them a path towards true fatherhood. All he wishes for is a world where children are cared for and loved by their emotionally and physically present mothers and fathers.
While the basis of this book is endearing, the execution needs work. A multitude of spelling mistakes break up poor grammar and fractured sentences. At times it can be difficult to follow what the author is trying to get across to his readers. Statistics are used to support certain points of view, however they’re not referenced properly, which makes it difficult to separate the statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and the statistics provided by other sources. This book would greatly benefit from an editor and proofreader. It has a specific point it wishes to share with others, but that gets lost in the poor execution of writing and style.
If you are looking for an endearing, non-fiction read about how fatherlessness has been affecting children in the world, then Fathering the Fatherless by Todd Johnson is a short and sweet read. By seeing past the short-comings the reader can see how much care Johnson has put in to crafting his tale that reads more like an academic paper. At the end of the book there is a delightful interactive section that can help readers identify what fatherlessness is and how it can be addressed. There’s a little bit of something for everyone.
Pages: 60 | ASIN: B06XGHGDT7
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Return to the Madlands follows Arlo in the final chapter of the Mire Man Trilogy and brings to a close Arlo Smith’s wild and messy journey. What was your inspiration for the wild journey you take readers on in this novel?
Trilogies, by definition, usually sum everything that has transpired throughout the course of the story, if not most everything up in the final entry, and while that was of course my drive for finishing the story, it wasn’t necessarily the inspiration behind it. I once considered not writing it at all, and simply leaving the ending to Book II the way it was, sort of like a… “…and he got away” type of ending. Maybe it was out of greed on my own part that I wrote a Book III, because I wanted more of the character, I wanted him to engage more in the world around him at a different time of his life. I wanted Arlo Smith to finally be presented with the fact that death is in his, quite possibly near, future, and what that would mean for him in terms of deciding which one of these new, completely unprecedented paths he would take. I wanted Arlo to be presented with a final choice concerning Constance, and work in also the idea that there are no actual “final choices” in life, or at least there doesn’t have to be. And I think that reflects in a few of the supporting characters throughout the book.
Arlo often meets many interesting people on his travels. Were there any characters that you especially enjoyed writing for?
Arlo’s father, most definitely, considering the parallels of their individual existences and their already established roughness in what they think/thought of each other. I toyed with the idea of writing more for Arlo’s father in a separate novel, or short story, and even considering throwing in a twist at the end of “Madlands” that tied Arlo’s father to a character in a past novel of mine. There’s so much time that has passed since Arlo’s father left him until now, so much history and mystery that anything could have happened. I like to think though that sometimes it’s best to leave the mystery as it is; the idea of ascertaining the truth is not always as romantic as wallowing in the unknown.
Arlo meets his estranged father and forms a tentative relationship. Why was this event important to Arlo’s development?
Arlo’s chaos stems from his youth, and by extension if unintentional or not, his father had a hand in that. At this point in time, Arlo and his father, one has always assumed the worst had happened to the other, and in some ways, assumed they had been dead. So when they finally reunite, neither one of them wants to part with those assumptions because those beliefs have become such an essential part to their existences, that any interruption in said life has the potential to cause an insanity-driven rift. Neither Arlo or his father, in the beginning, wants anything to do with the realization that they are both still alive in the world. But as the story progresses, through intended subtlety and background “what-if’s”, Arlo’s father and Arlo himself in their own way begin to wonder if their reunion is fate, and even if it isn’t, why would that stop them from taking a chance at rewriting their futures?
How do you feel now that the Mire Man Trilogy is done? Did you accomplish everything you set out to?
I think I’ve said what I set out to say. The story’s been told and I don’t have any intentions of returning to Arlo’s world. That doesn’t mean any of the other supporting characters may or may not get a spot somewhere down the line, though it’s mostly unlikely. For me, “The Mire Man Trilogy” is a brief glimpse into the mind and heart of a people-watcher; someone who enjoys the company of people only as much as he can tolerate them. It’s a story within a story within a story within a story, and it could be that, more or less, to anyone who reads it. And even though it was me who wrote the story, I’ll never look at a glass of whiskey or listen to a piece by Miles Davis the same way again. People have said to me that they could never expect Arlo to have a happy ending, and maybe they’re right. I like to think of the ending of the trilogy as a reminder that it’s not important whether or not you leave the world on a happy note, but rather you instill in the people around you, and the people you’ve crossed paths with, some measure of self-inquiry, instead of simply letting the world and everything that it could be, slip through their fingers. Finding life’s answers isn’t as important as never giving up the search for them.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will that be available for readers?
Currently, I’m working on another volume of poetry and short stories alongside a novel. My fourth volume of poetry/short stories is titled “Slaughterhouse After-Party” and the novel is tentatively titled “He Showed Me All the Neon Tombstones and Together We Embraced the Abyss”, which is written in episodic form, in that each chapter deals with a different story in the life of the main character, who writes obituaries from the point of view of the deceased. Every chapter has to deal with a different client/family. The main character also has horrible anxiety and depression, for which he takes medication for. That medication has had a strange side-effect in that it more than occasionally causes him to hallucinate a version of himself, calling himself Chauncey, speaking in an English accent, with skin painted over its entirety, a deep, royal blue. Chauncey basically exists with the intention of mocking or critiquing every move the main character makes. So there’s some psychological bafoonery at play, along with the melancholy, always-present scent of death. Neither of these two books will be available for a while…maybe not for another year or two, depending on the stability of my own particular sanity.
A decade or so following the events of “Paradise City”, Arlo Smith finds that he is still somehow clinging to life. Fueled by the revelation that Constance may also still be alive and waiting for him somewhere out in the world, Arlo Smith, now feeling older than ever, decides to make one last stand against himself. Obliging to the last wishes of a recently-deceased love one, and perhaps succumbing to his own obsessions, Arlo embarks on an open road quest one last time in hopes of finding what he’s been searching for since that fateful day near the end of his high school years. What he discovers is an unexpected , and obligatory companionship with his estranged father, self-exiled in a lonely Nevada town, and more revelations that could either cement his perception of his very existence, or tear it down completely, rendering him beyond saving. Feeling the promise of death in one direction and the lure of Constance in another, Arlo is forced to decide to stay or leave… to obey the itching bones of his lusts, or to do what is right… and finally put to rest what may have started him on his path to damnation all those years ago.
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Echo is a coming-of-age story that explores many different things a young girl could encounter on her journey through life. What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story to convey the innocence and growth of Echo?
I think the main issue for me is the daughter’s need for a father. A good father enables a young girl to define who she is, her attitudes to men, and how to protect herself. Echo was confused which meant her feelings and responses to men could be misinterpreted, which Gareth recognized but JF didn’t. These two men represented the good and the bad. Secondly, she has to separate from the mother and this always involves anger and to some extent a rejection of the mother until she feels secure in her own skin and can accept her mother for who she is, including her failings. I made Echo very feisty and I hope, funny. Her sharp observations of the adult world are, to some extent, based on my work as a therapist with young women. There’s a lot of pain in their humor and vice versa. It’s also about the loss of childhood and taking on the responsibilities of growing up. Thirdly, the importance of a female friend. Maddy gave Echo a good role model of how supportive a good family can be as she works through the trials and tribulations of growing up.
Echo tells the story of her life as an adult looking back. Are there any emotions or memories from your own life that you put into Echo’s life?
It was based mainly on my therapeutic work with young women at university. A therapist is told so much! We’re safe and they can tell us stuff, they wouldn’t tell anyone else. Her sharp humor is a little like me. I sill have that in me…
The story takes place on a farm in Wales and in London, England. How familiar are you with those areas? Why choose those spots as the setting for your novel?
I’m half Welsh and I live in Bristol, near Wales. To cross from Bristol in England to Wales, one goes via the Severn Bridge which goes right over the River Severn. The bridge is massive, a magnificent piece of engineering. The Severn is awesome, its flow, power and danger is as described. It fascinates me. [Check out my Pinterest for the settings of Echo] I did used to go to Wales every summer and the description of the farmhouse is based on a real one. After I’d written Echo it occurred to me that the river was like a metaphor for the difference within me of being Welsh and being English. One wild, the other fairly sophisticated and urban. I also lived in London for twenty five years and I know it well. It’s as described.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when can your fans expect it out?
I’m in the process of finishing my third novel. It’s called History Repeats Itself or Big lies: Small truths. It’s a sequel to my debut novel, Between the Shadow and the Soul. which is about a young woman snatching a baby. History is about an undercover agent and is set against the crash of 2008. It’s both psychological and political and explores the nature of lying and self-deception! I’m looking to finish it by Xmas.
Echo is growing up. She’s sharp, quirky, funny, with a snippy relationship with her mother. She finds life, especially men, a challenge. From meeting her first and only love, finding out about her missing father, her obsession with a Welsh poet, and a disastrous experience with a therapist, life is a problem. But problems require solutions and Echo is determined to find her own. Using imagination and humor she finds a way to get her own back. Written in her own words, this is a magical tale of desire, fantasy, and revenge, which reveals how one woman played one man at his own game and got away with it.
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