Posted by Literary Titan
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
Tags: 1920, adventure, amazon, amazon books, amazon ebook, america, author, bank heist, bank robber, book, book review, books, cowboy, crime, criminal, ebook, ebooks, family, fantasy, fantasy book review, farmer, father, fiction, flashback, goodreads, gunslinger, historical, history, jail, jerry hammersmith, jesse james, kindle, kindle book, kindle ebook, Letters to Mary Susan, literature, love, memoir, mystery, novel, outlaw, prison, publishing, reading, review, reviews, stories, thief, war, writing, YA, young adult
Posted by Literary Titan
I do not have a degree in literature but what I do possess is an intense appreciation for books that have the ability to place me on a trajectory towards factual and emotional knowledge and growth .Throughout my formal education, while others groaned about a lengthy summer reading list and opted for Cliﬀ Notes, I looked forward to immersing myself in the lives of the imaginary people in ﬁctional works who took me all over the world in my mind. Authors of every background provided valuable blueprints for my imagination. The feeling that I get when I walk into a library is one of comfort and fascination in knowing that I can look back and instantly connect with the thought and heart of someone who existed hundreds of years ago. The author’s thought remains vibrant through the centuries and I am awed by the commonality of the human spirit through time. Several weeks ago in a small antique shop in North Georgia, I found a treasure called” Ruth’s Sacriﬁce or Life on the Rappahannock“ by Emily Clemens Pearson; I blew layers of dust from the book’s spine. It was an original publication from 1864 with the previous owner’s signature ﬂourishes in the meticulous penmanship of years gone by. In another , I found ‘A Virgin Heart by Remy De Gourmont published in 1925. As I read it and he talked about his location at diﬀerent Parisian landmarks, I searched for photos on the Internet and could more fully share and connect with the experience. I was able to see exactly where those characters were supposed to be almost 100 years ago. These are among my most treasured possessions. What a feeling!
In retrospect, I think I felt overwhelmed by so many former great works and wondered about my own ability to produce a work worthy of literary respect. And perhaps this was the reason why it took me so long to decide upon a topic for my ﬁrst book of ﬁction. Over the years I had considered numerous topics and discarded them swiftly without a second thought. The desire to write a book, however, never ceased. It was encouraged by a desire to never die in obscurity. A book, whether a bestseller or not, lives on. And ﬁnally after many years, a very UNLIKELY TOPIC CHOSE ME. An unexpected oﬀer to work in the mountains of northeast Georgia presented itself. I immediately recognized the area as a potentially gorgeous setting for a novel. Among my many patients were little girls whose western boots announced their arrival over tile ﬂoors with a recognizable heel click strike before I ever saw them. Over time the thought came to me that they deserved their own “Cinderella story”. Hence, the inspiration for Mountain Green Corporate Blue. It just “felt right”.
I have never written a long work or even short essays before. Multiple times I tried to construct an outline for this novel unsuccessfully. What you are reading, I have written extemporaneously or “freestyle “ introducing characters along the way to make a point or to infuse drama and interest. Again, these characters were written without forethought. I did not think about names or character backgrounds. I interface with about 25-30 people a day as an Emergency Medicine Physician. If there was an interesting name( e.g. Quest or Mercy) ,I would jot it down in a notebook for future reference. If someone had an interesting physical characteristic ( ie., Matthew’s mismatched eyes or Michael’s tattoos ) I would make note of those as well.As I wrote the novel, I arbitrarily chose one of the names on the list or any other that came to mind in that moment. And in that instant the character came into being.
I am a very spiritual but not religious Christian in the American Bible Belt. I trusted in the divine nature of the creative process and just “let the words come”. In rereading the manuscript multiple times, I found encrypted messages for myself. I set out to write a Cinderella story with “real people”. The end product is actually an emotionally layered work with a very clear, powerful message that was revealed to me in the rereading period. The predominant message is simple and the key is in the name of the characters. Yes, I think of this novel as a gift from God. Because He is in EVERY human being, He uses us to convey HIS message.
In referencing Mountain Green Corporate Blue, Matthew asks Quest, the daughter of Delilah, the meaning of the word bastard. At that moment, Matthew’s life changes and his own life quest begins. A link is established between the circumstance of Jesus’ birth and his own. We are then introduced to Grace Collier (P.19) in the innocence of her youth and we see her eﬀect on the other characters as the novel progresses. She represents the spiritual Grace and graciousness that we either accept or reject throughout life. Her spirit infuses all of the other characters and points them towards introspection, change and goodness. Grace meets Matthew as a young woman and he is immediately engaged by her charm , innocence and dedication to family and wants her in his life immediately and forever(P.74). This represents our open acknowledgment of the need and power of grace in our lives and once we see the warmth and power of its presence we want to possess it immediately and forever. Their marriage ceremony revolves around obtaining a bible that is important to Grace. It has been in her family for centuries. This intimates that with the acceptance of Grace comes the Quest for the Word (of God). It is a life journey that has been travelled by many over time. Randy Duncan is the only true Prince in the story. His goodness and kindness shine through irregardless of socioeconomic status and he has been a helper since his youth ( we see his interaction with Caroline when they were teenagers in ﬂashback). Because of his abundant warmth he is the only male character associated with the white stallion most commonly associated with kings and princes in literary fairy tales.
Note that several of the main male characters have the names or name derivatives of the Apostles – John, Matthew, Marcus, Lucas, and James. Michael, the mechanic , represents the evilness of Michael the Archangel who fell from Grace. A young James Fleming approaches an antebellum home (P.225) and within he is delivered the Mercy he requests in a spiritual as well as a worldly form. Note that the maids watchful over Mercy are Mary and Maggy as she heals James’ feet. This is a subtle reminder of the power of Mary Magdalene’s humility. To reiterate, this was without prior planning.
Matthew’s sister’s name is Angela. She has the innocence of an Angel and Grace reassures her that love comes to angels. Rose, the secretary, has the enviable physical attributes of life but ultimately we see that this is irrelevant in the face of the absence of true spiritual Grace. Thus we see the radiant Rose wither as the story progresses.
After interesting conversation over dinner, a troubled Marcus ultimately ends up in Delmonico’s Restaurant and meets Trinity, an African American female physician. She is in a sector that is usually “not on ( his ) radar). Her name is important. This signiﬁes that the Holy Trinity is ever present but not always apparent and comes to us through unexpected encounters and unlikely individuals. Note that Trinity Fleming is a physician like the Great Physician. The music in the Operating room is “Coming Out of the Dark” that nods to spiritual awakening. Jerome, the medical student , reminds us of the love in infatuation. The blessing bestowed on Trinity actually happened to me and was quite moving and emotionally overwhelming. In this context, this encounter reinforces the power of prayer. Marcus becomes closer to the Holy Trinity through Trinity the physician. After all, God is in ALL human beings and her positivity is what is cultivated by the Holy Spirit and Marcus is in dire need of that.
Kenny Lowery’s suicide is representative of the lonely futility many black males may experience in a world that does not support or reaﬃrm their inherent worth irregardless of education, talent or ability causing his backward spiral away from Grace. He commits suicide in the presence of Trinity. Her name may make him think in his ﬁnal hours of a God he may think has forsaken him.
James Fleming, Trinity’s adoptive father, demonstrates the inherent goodness and sense of decency we should all cultivate irregardless of an individual’s color or race. He exempliﬁes the power of sharing wealth on all levels so that the next generation will proﬁt.
And lastly, Justice and Sloan. Trinity’s work as a surgeon is respected by Sloan and he saves her by enlisting the help of a member of the established Church. This signiﬁes that even though one has fallen (Sloan was a drug dealer), there is the potential for goodness and grace in all of us. It is possible to obtain inner peace and justice in life simply by being of help to another and the established Church has been promised to us as a source of comfort and support throughout each of our individual journeys.
My thanks to all of you who have read Mountain Green Corporate Blue. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. And of course, I look forward to entertaining you with the sequel VERITAS.
Author Website: ljsaunders.love
Posted in Interviews
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