The Gorge

 THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “AN UNLIKELY ARRANGEMENT,” BY PATTY WISEMAN AND “HUSTLE HENRY & THE CUEBALL KID,” BY JACK STRANDBURG, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

 

 

 

THE BOOK: The Gorge.

PUBLISHED IN: 2015.

THE AUTHOR: David Armand

THE EDITOR: Susan Swartwout

THE PUBLISHER: Southeast Missouri State University Press

SUMMARY: In his latest literary thriller, David Armand weaves together the stories of an eccentric cast of dark, frighteningly realistic characters, each under suspicion of murdering a young girl, Amber Varnado, whose body is found hidden in a deep gorge at the opening of the novel. Set in southeast Louisiana in the small town of Franklinton, The Gorge follows the colliding lives of Tuller, the murdered girl’s boyfriend, whose suspicious past and his discovery of Amber’s body make him the prime suspect; John Varnado, Amber’s father, a Vietnam war veteran whose violent flashbacks cause brutal outbursts of rage and paranoia; Grady, a young man dwarfed by rickets who prowls the night to feed his strange desires; and Euwell, a man who lives in an old shack near the gorge and hunts for young girls to satisfy his lusts and quell his inner-demons. Armand’s spellbinding story explores the universal themes of desperate love and the pitfalls of false assumptions woven into the tenuous threads of coincidence that connect people in a small town. Masterful, profound, and full of spirit, The Gorge is literary entertainment of the highest order.

THE BACK STORY: I was visiting a gorge in Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton, Louisiana, when an image of a dead body being hidden in the brush just popped into my head. As with my other books, I started asking myself questions about this image: who would put a body here? Why? Would the body be found? This was the idea that drove the plot forward.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Mainly because the pivotal scenes in the book take place in a gorge. Also, place is a very important aspect of my fiction. It takes on the role of a character in its own right.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: This novel is a literary thriller with lots of dark characters and suspenseful, page-turning action.

REVIEW COMMENTS: David Armand is an exceptionally talented young writer that I’ve had my eye on for a while. His new novel, The Gorge, is a suspenseful tale filled with intrigue and surprises, and he knows his characters inside out, just as he knows the sights, sounds, and smells of the landscape in which their drama is enacted. I really admired this book. –Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances and Safe from the Neighbors

Though original in plot and conception, The Gorge shows the clear influence of Larry Brown and Cormac McCarthy in Armand’s creation of genuinely evolved Rough South characters. Grady Bickels emerges, for example, as an even more grotesque version of Lester Ballard from Child of God. Armand’s direct and poetic use of language is quite impressive. –Jean W. Cash, author of Flannery O Connor: A Life and Larry Brown: A Writer s Life Larry Brown meets Tom Franklin in The Gorge, a haunting story that delivers readers a strong sting of southern grit lit. With just the right balance of dark, edgy, raw, and all things lyrical, David Armand dives deep into the sweat-soaked secrets and sins of rural Louisiana. Get ready to enter into the minds of characters you would never want to know in real life, but probably already do. –Julie Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Feathered Bone

AUTHOR PROFILE: David Armand was born and raised in Louisiana. He has worked as a drywall hanger, a draftsman, and as a press operator in a flag printing factory. He now teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also serves as associate editor for Louisiana Literature Press. In 2010, he won the George Garrett Fiction Prize for his first novel, The Pugilist’s Wife, which was published by Texas Review Press. His second novel, Harlow, was published by Texas Review Press in 2013. David’s third novel, The Gorge, was published on October 1, 2015, by Southeast Missouri State University Press, and his chapbook, The Deep Woods, was published in September by Blue Horse Press. David’s memoir, My Mother’s House, is forthcoming from Texas Review Press. David lives with his wife and two children and is working on his sixth book, The Lord’s Acre

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://www.themonarchreview.org/the-marauders-part-1-david-armand/

LOCAL OUTLETS: Barnes & Noble, Baton Rouge, LA. See worldcat.org for library holdings.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: amazon.com, semopress.com

PRICE: $15.00 (paper) $20.00 (hardback).

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.davidarmandauthor.com/contact.html

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An Unlikely Arrangement

THE BOOK: “An Unlikely Arrangement”

PUBLISHED IN: 2011.

THE AUTHOR: Patty Wiseman.

THE EDITOR: Critique groups, publisher

THE PUBLISHER: Small Press – Desert Coyote Productions, Longview, Texas

SUMMARY: Ruth Squire was rebellious, headstrong, fiercely independent, and constantly in trouble; a shocking dilemma for her parents in the late 1920’s. Her antics caused them to consider an arranged marriage to a man she didn’t know. They felt she would settle down and be a properly married woman. The story takes off with Ruthie locked in her bedroom awaiting her fate, surmising she would be sent to a boarding school for women. Throughout the tale three lives intertwine, Peter Kirby, the man she is to marry, Eric Horton, a scheming banker who intends to make Ruth his own, and Ruthie, who takes her fate into her own hands.

Through the differing worlds of high society, middle-class life, and organized crime we follow their story culminating in an engagement, a kidnapping, a misunderstanding… … and a murder.

THE BACK STORY: The story is based on the life and times of my paternal grandmother in the 1920’s, set in Detroit, Michigan where it actually took place. The stories were family folk lore throughout my childhood. As a creative writer I felt the need to fashion a fictional tale about her life. A colorful figure for her time, she followed her mindset of independence, fighting for what she wanted. What transpires through this struggle is a brush with the mafia and secrets long kept that come to light and almost destroy her and the family. My mother gave me most of the information as my father had died twenty years before. Through other interviews and research of the actual time and place the story came together beautifully. What we have is a fast paced journey through a young woman’s struggle for freedom, a woman ahead of her time.

THE TITLE: An Unlikely Arrangement was chosen because arranged marriages during the enlightened era of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ was almost unheard of. I actually wanted to call it “The Arrangement”, but that title was already used multiple times.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: The story has something for everyone. Mystery, suspense, twists and turns, and a touch of romance. Unwilling to compromise the story and distract the reader, the author is able to give the reader a vibrant picture without the graphic descriptions that take you out of the scene. Suitable for young and old alike.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“I literally gasped at the ending. No! This can’t be happening! I want the sequel NOW!”

“Loved this book! It pulled me in from the first page through the end. I’m looking forward to the next one in the series.”

“My favorite books are the reads with twists and turns to keep me guessing and Patty Wiseman kept me guessing and still guessing.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: Award Winning Author Patty Wiseman is a native of the Seattle, Washington area and attended The Wesleyan College in Bartlesville Oklahoma. Northeast Texas has been home for the past 35 years, along with her husband Ron and crème lab, Cutter. An avid history buff with a weakness for a good mystery, she created the Velvet Shoe Collection of romantic mysteries, based on the true stories she heard as a child about her grandmother’s arranged marriage in the 1920’s. Fascinated by her rebel nature and brush with the darker side of life, Patty set about creating stories of intrigue and romance.

The 1st An Unlikely Arrangement won 2nd place in Forward National Literary Awards.

The 2nd in the series, An Unlikely Beginning, won 1st place in the Texas Association of Authors

The 3rd, An Unlikely Conclusion also won 1st place in the Texas Association of Authors.

Other awards include: Essay contest 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading

1st place award for short story A Summer Tale with Angie’s Diary

Patty has enjoyed features in Charm Magazine, Piney Wood Live Magazine, and White Oak Independent Newspaper, as well as television and radio interviews.

A civic minded lady, she is a member of the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs – Marshall Chapter, a Lifetime Member of the Worldwide Who’s Who for Professional Women, recently named VIP for 2013, a member and past secretary of East Texas Writers Association, a member of the Northeast Texas Writer’s Organization, and Texas Association of Authors.

She’s an entertaining speaker and is available for speaking engagements where she loves to talk about how ancestry research offers a wealth of ideas for writers.

She like surprises, intrigue, and mystery, and loves sending the reader on a chase with a totally unexpected ending.

Favorite quote “Find out who you are, then do it on purpose.” ~ Dolly Parton

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “Everyone has secrets in their family. I chose to use those colorful snippets to fashion my writing career. What I uncovered as I researched my family history was more intrigue, more secrets, and strong women who overcame unspeakable odds. The books I write champion these ladies as they fought their way through the circumstances they found themselves in.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://amzn.to/1JzXjZP

LOCAL OUTLETS: Walgreen’s, Marshall, Texas

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, or through the author

(www.pattywiseman.com).

PRICE: $8.99 in paperback, $1.99 in Kindle.

Hustle Henry and the Cue Ball Kid

THE BOOK: Hustle Henry and the Cueball Kid

PUBLISHED IN: 2013.

THE AUTHOR:  Jack B. Strandburg

THE EDITOR: Sherry Derr-Wille

THE PUBLISHER: Solstice Publishing – Established in 2008, name changed in 2010. Home in Farmington, Missouri. Very supportive and aggressive in assisting authors in marketing and promotion.

SUMMARY: Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid is a Western humor story taking place in late 1800’s – early 1900’s. Clarence Flannery was luckier than most men his age to discover his life’s ambition, particularly in the unpredictable years just following the Civil War. Born with an unmatched skill to play pool, he left his home in Kansas when he turned twenty-six and traveled throughout the Southwestern United States to make his mark as a legendary pool hustler, with every intention of amassing a fortune in the process.

Clarence needed help for both support and protection, and recruited James Skinner as his partner, along with nine other highly-skilled pool players to assist him in his quest. Wanting to be included in the same sentence as Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great, Clarence changed his name to Hustle Henry, Skinner became the Cue-Ball Kid, and the eleven men would go down in history as The Hole-in-the-Table-Bunch, known far and wide for hustling wannabe pool sharks out of their life savings.

All goes to plan and life has a rosy and profitable outlook, but Henry and his men want more than what pool halls and saloons offer, so they decide to challenge the more affluent clientele on a riverboat. Initially, the venture proves profitable, but the millionaire tycoon and owner of the fleet of riverboats, takes exception, and intends to bring down the Bunch and thrust Henry and The Kid into a life of destitution. Taking along the Kid’s girlfriend, Penelope Henderson, the Kid and Henry flee to South America – where there will be a final showdown.

THE BACK STORY: I wrote this book in the mid 1980’s originally just for fun – just playing around before I even realized I wanted to be a published author. At the time I had no intention of allowing anyone else to read it.  I can’t put a timeline to the publication because it was written, abandoned, resurrected a number of times after realizing it had potential. The bulk of the research for the Old West (what did people wear, how did they talk, etc) came after the editor reviewed the manuscript and provided me direction. I read through a number of books on the Old West and spent a lot of hours on the Internet. During the final revision stages, I added one of two plot twists and a few characters which I (and my editor BTW) agreed improved the story.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Just think Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch and Sundance.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? My book is unique because the main characters are far from tough Old West hombres – frankly they are somewhat wimpy. Anyone who enjoys watching the Airplane movies and Mel Brooks fans would enjoy the book, as well as Western and humor readers.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“As the novel suggests, this well-written novel delves into the activities of some unique characters. An assembled billiard playing team scramble from one escapade to another, finding it is not as easy to hustle as they’d hoped. Take your fill of witty lines, clever semaphores and bathroom talk. Although this is not a genre I normally like, Henry and the Kid meet old girlfriends along the way to ease the man-talk somewhat. Excellent descriptions give the flavor of North America, Argentina and Buenos Aires during the older days of 1908.”

 “I have to give accolades to the author for being unique — I never would have thought of writing a historical western about a pool hustler, of all things! In my opinion the book is one that you can’t take too seriously — it’s meant to be fun and light hearted and the writer accomplishes just that. I think guys would get a kick out of this one.”

“Clarence Flannery fell in love with the game of billiards at the age of eight. At thirty, he faces a dilemma – remain a farmer or follow his dream of easy money. Circumstances bring him to change his name to Hustle Henry and decide to form the best group of pool players around – The-Hole-In-The-Table-Bunch. James Talbot Skinner is a great pool player. He beats other men out of their clothes if they have nothing else to bet. Skinner loves his whiskey, downs three shots after each match. He meets up with Hustle Henry and is christened the Cue-Ball Kid. Their adventures take a down swing, and they take off for parts unknown. Can they figure out just who turned traitor in their former gang in time?”

“Jack B Strandburg sets about with a tale of the Wild West at its heyday, yet these men take on the beginning to settle down West in the early twentieth century. Strandburg’s characters are definitely that, characters. Hustle Henry’s antics on the chamber pot will bring about laughter, while the Cue-Ball Kid’s dour outlook on life seems to have no effect on their partner.”

“Hustle Henry and The Cue-Ball Kid has a nice, easy moving plot, until these two hustlers face up with all their sins in a showdown to beat all showdowns. The ending will have you cackling with laughter and wondering just what these two will get up to next.”

“I highly recommend Hustle Henry and The Cue-Ball Kid for all who love a great western tale, and a good laugh.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jack Strandburg has been writing in one form or another since his teen years. He is a multiple degreed professional (Accounting and IT) with over 33 years business experience. He retired in 2009 and spends most of his time writing. Given his background in IT, he dedicates a lot of time (sometimes too much) developing a story writing process which he hopes will eventually minimize the time from the idea to finished manuscript. Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid is his first published novel, and although written in the Western Humor genre, his goal is to write and published primarily in the mystery genre. He is currently revising his first mystery novel as well as a novella, also a mystery with a supernatural twist, which originally started out as a short story. In addition, he is working on the outline for a second novella, as well as collecting notes for three or four other ideas. He is married with two children, two grandchildren with another on the way. He was born and raised in Northeaster Ohio, but currently lives in Southeast Texas, courtesy of multiple company transfers. He enjoys playing golf and exercising in his spare time.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Writing is by far the most challenging and often frustrating activity I’ve ever done, yet is the most rewarding, especially when I can read a manuscript and say, ‘now that’s pretty darn good.’ It’s impossible to measure all I have learned about writing, what works, what doesn’t work, all I’ve read and studied, and of course through the act of writing itself. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m not sure which, because I’ve learned so much over the years, I keep needing to go back and revise my works in progress, because what I thought was good writing five or ten years ago, simply won’t fly by my standards of today. I expect that will continue.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Here is the link to the book’s Prologue on my website) https://jstrandburg.wordpress.com/2013/08

LOCAL OUTLETS: N/A

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hustle-Henry-Cue-Ball-Jack-Strandburg-ebook/dp/B00BJ83O5K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385144732&sr=8-1&keywords=hustle+henry+and+the+cue-ball+kid

Solstice Publishing:  http://solsticepublishing.com/hustle-henry-and-the-cue-ball-kid/

PRICE: $2.99 (E-book); $11.99 (paperback)

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email address: jstrandburg@comcast.net

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Author.JackS/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jackstr952

Weather Report, Feb. 22

THIS WEEK’S FEATURED BOOKS, “SOPHRONIA L.,” BY TIM BRIDWELL, “HINENI,” BY JOSHUA MENDEL AND “THE KUDZU KID,” BY DARRELL LAURANT, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, FEB. 23-MARCH 1

This week features a murder mystery, a quirky novel about the Old West and a somewhat unique romance/memoir hybrid.

“HUSTLE HENRY AND THE CUEBALL KID,” BY JACK STRANDBERG.

This one is just for fun, as author Jack Strandberg cheerfully acknowledges. What he’s done is take the cinematic classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and spin it into a pool-shooting parody.

Jack sets the scene: “Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid is a Western humor story taking place in the late 1800’s–early 1900’s. Clarence Flannery was luckier than most men his age to discover his life’s ambition, particularly in the unpredictable years just following the Civil War. Born with an unmatched skill to play pool, he left his home in Kansas when he turned twenty-six and traveled throughout the Southwestern United States to make his mark as a legendary pool hustler, with every intention of amassing a fortune in the process.

“Clarence needed help for both support and protection, and recruited James Skinner as his partner, along with nine other highly-skilled pool players to assist him in his quest. Wanting to be included in the same sentence as Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great, Clarence changed his name to Hustle Henry, Skinner became the Cue-Ball Kid, and the eleven men would go down in history as The Hole-in-the-Table-Bunch, known far and wide for hustling wannabe pool sharks out of their life savings.

“All goes to plan and life has a rosy and profitable outlook, but Henry and his men want more than what pool halls and saloons offer, so they decide to challenge the more affluent clientele on a riverboat. Initially, the venture proves profitable, but the millionaire tycoon and owner of the fleet of riverboats, takes exception, and intends to bring down the Bunch and thrust Henry and The Kid into a life of destitution. Taking along the Kid’s girlfriend, Penelope Henderson, the Kid and Henry flee to South America – where there will be a final showdown.”

Sound kind of familiar?

“THE GORGE,” BY DAVID ARMAND

Storytellers often depict Louisiana as a spooky and mysterious place, and David Armand plays off that brooding quality in his latest literary thriller. “The Gorge” weaves together the stories of an eccentric cast of dark, frighteningly realistic characters, each under suspicion of murdering a young girl, Amber Varnado, whose body is found hidden in a deep gorge at the opening of the novel. Set in southeast Louisiana in the small town of Franklinton, The Gorge follows the colliding lives of Tuller, the murdered girl’s boyfriend, whose suspicious past and his discovery of Amber’s body make him the prime suspect; John Varnado, Amber’s father, a Vietnam war veteran whose violent flashbacks cause brutal outbursts of rage and paranoia; Grady, a young man dwarfed by rickets who prowls the night to feed his strange desires; and Euwell, a man who lives in an old shack near the gorge and hunts for young girls to satisfy his lusts and quell his inner demons. Armand’s spellbinding story explores the universal themes of desperate love and the pitfalls of false assumptions woven into the tenuous threads of coincidence that connect people in a small town.

“AN UNLIKELY ARRANGEMENT,” BY PATTY WISEMAN

At some point, this Texas-based novelist found herself thinking that her grandmother’s life story sounded like something out of a novel. So she decided to make it into a novel.

“The story,” Patty writes, “is based on the life and times of my paternal grandmother in the 1920’s, set in Detroit, Michigan where it actually took place. The stories were family folk lore throughout my childhood. A colorful figure for her time, she followed her mindset of independence, fighting for what she wanted. What transpires through this struggle is a brush with the Mafia and secrets long kept that come to light and almost destroy her and the family. My mother gave me most of the information as my father had died twenty years before. Through other interviews and research of the actual time and place the story came together beautifully. What we have is a fast paced journey through a young woman’s struggle for freedom, a woman ahead of her time.”

 

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Sophronia L.

THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “HINENI,” BY JOSHUA MENDEL AND “THE KUDZU KID,” BY DARRELL LAURANT, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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THE BOOK: Sophronia L.

PUBLISHED IN: 2014 (December)

THE AUTHOR: Tim Bridwell

THE EDITOR: Casey Murphy

THE PUBLISHER: Folded Word Press, a small literary press based in Meredith, NH. Their motto: “Exploring the world, one voice at a time.”

SUMMARY: Sophronia Lambert, a schoolteacher on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, lives a quiet life—that is until Nantucket whaling captain James Folger comes ashore. Realizing he is the man who killed her deaf brother, she decides to pursue vengeance—first at home, then at sea—sailing to the far side of the world as his bride.

As she grapples with madness and morality, Sophronia’s quest mirrors that of her island community: to find a way forward amidst the pressures of a brutal industry, a nation mired in Civil War, and a past darker than the ocean’s abyss.

THE BACK STORY: I like writing about people in foreign environments, far from home, yet I’ve been goaded to explore places and characters familiar to me. The place I am “from” is Martha’s Vineyard Island. Raised year-round on the Vineyard, it never seemed like a place I would want to write about; there were always more interesting places for me, and they were all off-island.

Some years away from the States, I began thinking of what makes the Vineyard unique. The first thing that stood out for me was the island’s 19th century deaf community, far larger than anywhere on the mainland. There seemed to be no stigma attached to the condition, with rates of intermarriage between deaf and hearing partners equal to the norm. Their homegrown sign language was widely used by all islanders. Martha’s Vineyard was also highly involved in the whaling industry, from Edgartown, its whaling port to the east, to Gay Head (Aquinnah) on the far western side, home to the Wampanoag tribe with their renowned harpoon skills.

Consolidating these elements, I chose the years 1864-1865, when the Vineyard was touched by—yet still largely buffered from—the American Civil War. Petroleum, discovered five years previously in Pennsylvania, had already begun to replace whale oil in the world’s lamps, contributing to the decline of the once great whaling industry, thus imparting a bit more pathos to the novel’s unfolding voyage.

A great part of my research I garnered from journals, town censuses, maps, and the logbooks of whaling ships, though material filtered through from seemingly unrelated documentaries I had watched, or articles I had read. They may not be aware of it, but my characters recount phenomena such as dark matter in the heavens or the Ganzfeld effect of perceptual deprivation—it all depends on what I was immersed in at the moment.

WHY THIS TITLE? For me Sophronia L. seemed to suggest a document, like a psychological case study. Her last name, “Lambert,” appears throughout the book, with chapters named for her, Uncle Keziah Lambert, and late brother Jonathan Lambert. In the last chapter, taking place seventy-seven years later, the narrator mentions that history has been kind to her, referring to her as “Sophronia L.” for the sake of discretion. I like when the significance of a novel’s title is revealed at the end. It always feels like a bonus to me.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? While not a straightforward historical fiction novel, the history here is solid—I went to great lengths to ensure that. The history of the deaf community on the Vineyard might be of interest as well, as it was a truly unique enclave of tolerance. For a literary fiction audience, the novel has a mosaic structure through its sixty-four chapters, presenting the narrative in third, first, and even a bit of second-person point of view (the opening and closing chapters), which makes it a bit different, I guess. There is also a mystery element, I have been told. There are many ways to engage with the novel.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The safe and sunny island of Martha’s Vineyard would seem an unlikely place for premeditated murder and vengeance of an epic and biblical sort, but in this absorbing novel Tim Bridwell takes us back to the 19th century, and there finds the Vineyard’s heart of darkness. Sophronia L. is both sea yarn and crime novel, reminiscent in its sweep and darkness of The Innocent Voyage (A High Wind in Jamaica).”  —  John Hough Jr., Little Bighorn: A Novel (Arcade), Seen the Glory & The Last Summer (Simon & Schuster)

“Tim Bridwell shows again why old New England and its historic whaling industry is a perfect backdrop for a mysterious thriller. Beautifully referenced, historically illuminating, and eerily imaginative, Sophronia L. will hold your attention long after the last page is read.” — John McCaffrey, Two Syllable Men (Vine Leaves Press) & The Book of Ash (Boxfire Press)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Tim Bridwell was raised on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. He graduated from Emerson College with a BFA in film, and is a 2016 MFA in Writing candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. He wrote and directed the feature film Rendezvous in Samarkand and short HAZE (featuring Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers), both shot on location in Morocco. His screenplay of Sophronia L. won the “Award for Excellence in Screenwriting” from Cinema City, and the “Golden Lion Award” at the George Lindsey/UNA Film Festival. A trumpeter, he was a founding member of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Tim is a member of the International House of Japan, in Tokyo. He lives in Paris with his wife and two children.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I am quite happy how the character of Sophronia comes across in the book: a woman raised on Puritanical theology, having few opportunities open to her as a woman, and suffering from mental illness, Sophronia is resolute in her feminist vision. She holds true to her vow to stand up to those who would wield their male privilege against women and children. Of course Sophronia’s free thought has been nurtured by the tolerant community that raised her; I would like to believe utopias like that can still exist in this big bad world of ours.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Chapter 55: Jonathan Lambert

The light from the whale oil lamp is weak, a dense amber robbing the hue from Sophronia’s long, auburn hair, rendering it ashen. So dim is the Captain’s cabin, she cannot even discern a red thread from black. She crosses from the sofa to Folger’s vacant desk. There, mounted to the bulkhead, the lamp pivots within concentric rings, allowing for the ship’s pitch and roll. Turning a tiny brass wheel—searing to the touch—she screws up the wick. With all the oil aboard, stingy Folger never burns a flame higher than is needed to keep his lamp alight; Sophronia finds herself walking in baby steps for fear of inciting a draft capable of extinguishing his vulnerable flame. The fire blazes now—as is her will—blackening the last third of the glass chimney.

Sophronia lifts the glass and lights a candle from the flame. Fire, so easy to spread, is difficult to extinguish, she considers. That is how such a tiny flame can taunt us so, for it coaxes us, soliciting our complicity in its lustful quest for conflagration; perhaps this is what we crave as well. Sophronia recognizes the second shadow joining her there. As she walks to the sofa, her silhouette creeps ‘round the cabin; placing the candle on the floor sends her darkness leaping up the bulkhead behind, swelling to dominate the overhead. She settles herself on the sofa with sewing kit ajar. Folger has been in the bedroom for so long she assumes he must be sleeping; she no longer needs to keep checking the door with such vigilance. Surprising how lax Cap’n can afford to be, considering he remains the target of a shipload of mutineers.

She plucks the stitches from one side of a throw pillow and removes the stuffing: a child’s waistcoat, wadded-up tightly. She lays it on the sofa, pressing its wrinkles flat with both hands. Of course, it was by her grace alone that the scoundrel has been allowed to persevere. Admiring the unfinished piece of brown cotton beneath her palms, she imagines its missing collar and sleeves, always intended to be a coppery madder brown. What a handsome color.

So much daydreaming. Sophronia hasn’t heard the Captain enter from the bedroom. He’s there now, positively scowling at the small waistcoat, as if it wore a face, grimacing back at him. A tuft of his gray hair falls forward, square jaw clenched, beard quivering.

“Who’s that for?”

“Jonathan.” As that name leaves her tongue, so follows the realization: now it is all over. Her stratagem, for its many failings, can no longer be pursued, for Jonathan Lambert’s sister sails on this ship and that can mean only one thing: vengeance has come calling. Unmasked in the dancehall, couples can never be what they once were, for better or worse. One can quickly re-don the mask, but the fact remains …an image in one’s memory.

“Who?”

If the Lord walks by her side then she may have a chance. She has felt Him there with her so far; now is no time for doubt. Sophronia proceeds with caution. A falsehood. “Paolo… the cabin boy.” She kneads the wrinkled garment. “It was meant for him.” What was meant for him? Poison? No, that was meant for you Folger. She really shouldn’t use that poor boy’s name in her ruse, Sophronia considers too late.

Before she can judge the merit of this lie, Folger snatches it from her hands, wadding up the brown fabric in his fists. “Best over the side with this, too.” He exits, making his way up the aft staircase. Something about that name, Jonathan…

On deck, Folger approaches Second Mate Swain standing first watch near the ship’s bow. The waistcoat is bunched in Folger’s

weathered fist, the feel of clean fabric quite agreeable against the skin.

“Swain…”

Swain flinches, bracing himself as the Captain approaches. Ever since their failed mutiny attempt, Swain and Third Mate Smith have been on tenterhooks, heedful of their Captain and the likelihood of reprisals. Both men have had their watch rotations canceled and, until further notice, have been put on fixed watches. At first the assignment of night watches seemed a purely punitive measure; Swain was given the 20h00 to 00h00 first watch and Smith the 00h00 to 04h00 middle watch—both starboard side. The more Swain thinks about it, and considering how Folger’s mind works, the more sinister the whole affair seems to him. On larboard watch with both mates, Folger has selected only foreigners, Chileans and Western Islanders, none of them very proficient in English nor credible as witnesses, should the need arise. At midnight, as Swain is relieved by Smith, the Captain could easily send them both over the side—that open starboard side adapted for cutting whales—snare them to some ballast, for instance. The Captain has demonstrated to all aboard his ability to lift the blacksmith’s anvil above rail; that would easily send two men to the bottom. The ‘Gees would likely have fallen asleep at seven bells and the Chileans be half an hour late for their watch, giving the Captain a good hour free of witnesses. Folger has arranged the perfect crime; what makes it so perfect is that this scenario has already been played out many times in the mates’ heads without the Captain ever having to lift a finger. He has created an oppressive pretext, Swain judges.

“Captain Folger,” Swain answers, quickly stepping clear of the ship’s side as a precaution.

“Do you remember back on your first voyage… that insolent lil’ snip of a cabin boy.”

Swain guards his silence. Where will this be going, or more likely, where will this be taking him? At the moment he is alone on deck with Folger. Eight bells, which brings on Smith, is still twenty minutes off. The Captain is early, uncharacteristically off-schedule.

“Oh, you know who I’m talking about, you do,” implores Folger. “You threw him over for me.”

“Yes,” of course Swain remembers something as heinous as that. “It was Jonathan… the family name I can’t recall though.”

The Captain’s eyes widen. “I believe I do.” The Captain tosses the waistcoat over the side. Swain watches it ride the ship’s wake back, weaving and bobbing, spinning and rolling in the spume like a child’s toy as it outpaces Folger, now creeping aft towards the skylight. The Captain peeks in on Sophronia below, sewing by candlelight.

Sophronia Lambert. Keziah Lambert. Jonathan Lambert. So damned-many Lamberts.

On the roof of the after-house, near the starboard boat, the Captain finds a wooden line tub; within, harpoon line is neatly spiraled. He slings the heavy shot of manila cordage over his shoulder and heads below.

Bursting through the door Folger catches Sophronia off-guard, doubled over as if concealing something, though her arms cradle nothing. He throws the coiled line down on her, dropping her to the floor under its weight. Pinning her there, he stuffs the cushion cover into her mouth as a gag. The first loop of rope he runs between her teeth and around the back of her head, secured with a quick overhand knot. Employing an elaborate series of chain hitch knots, he ties both her arms together as one, arching her shoulders back. Working methodically, he continues this pattern down her legs until she is effectively crippled, twenty-one knots running head to heel.

The Captain pauses, still straddling her prone body from behind, pressing hard against those bulbous knots and the stiffness of the taught rope; he feels a tightness, a thrum, a tumescence in his crotch. This is something he feels only with women like this, like she is now and the others were before. He grinds himself down upon the rope; her body soft below, gives under his weight, drifts with the shifting of his pelvis, moving in slow, spreading circles. Only like this, in these times, does he allow Spermatorrhea to occur, not holding back, for it is an inevitable consequence, not a willful act like that committed by Onan, son of Judah, who elicited the full wrath of the Lord when he spilled his seed upon the ground. For Folger it all happens in a haze, a veil of ecstasy, affording him a few, brief moments—sacred moments—to vacate this foredoomed body of his.

Water purifies and water removes; it flows from here—the present—to another place, flowing into the future, as does time. Cleaning himself up at the washbasin he can see through the open bedroom door to Sophronia’s ankles and that 21st knot. Washing down his male organs beneath the pitcher’s cascade, Folger considers that he has never once used these parts for the purpose God intended. They never quite functioned in that capacity, so there was really no use in trying, was there?

Water… it had always been kind to him; the more water he could put between himself and his problems, the better. Problems far behind and far below the surface were easily forgotten: water has always had that property. The Captain imagines the river Lethe, waters of oblivion running through Hades, bestowing forgetfulness upon all who drank from them. How kind.

An enormous amount of water lies between him and Nantucket.

As he exits the cabin, the first two bells ring out above. He double-locks the door: third and fourth bells. In his pallid fist he clenches the key, climbing the aft stairwell under the fifth and sixth bells. He steps on deck, pausing in reverence as the last two bells sound. Eight bells of first watch: it is midnight. As the Captain approaches, Swain slips behind the foremast, offering scant protection for one so stout as he.

“Second Mate, I’ll relieve your watch.”

“Captain, it’s not my watch,” Swain wags his finger to Third Mate Smith, just coming forward.

“Smith stands middle watch now,” Swain says.

The Third Mate approaches. Sighting the Captain, his steps slow, a slight hobble emerges in his gait, vestige of an injury long healed.

“Evenin’ Captain.”

“Smith, I’ll have your watch tonight.”

Caught completely heedless, Smith tries his best to read Swain’s anguished features.

“The wife… a bit ill actually. I prefer to leave her to her proper recovery,” the Captain says, softening his demeanor.

“Nothing serious, one hopes.”

Folger’s left eye twitches a wild spasm, which he quells with a wink.

“Nothing for you to worry about.”

* * *

Returning to his Menemsha workshop, Keziah drops his bag to the floor, raising plumes of sawdust. He tosses his coat on the workbench, clearing a halo of shavings, sent airborne around it. The dust settling about him, Keziah skims the pages of his notebook, trying to make sense of it all: Folger, the three wives, and now his niece. If only he could connect one event to another, one person to another. The question that nags him the most now is, how could Sophronia have been dragged into such a dangerous affair as the result of a chance meeting; a stranger stops in an unfamiliar town to ask for directions, yet bypasses the local post office altogether, heading instead for a primary school. Is this the sort of thing a man does by happenstance? Can it be by coincidence that the man who murdered Jonathan Lambert meets his sister on a random stroll, all the while seeking out his victim’s uncle?

Keziah crosses to the far corner of the workshop. From deep

inside the storage bin he pulls a stiff canvas duffle. Across the workbench he spills out Jonathan’s possessions, presented to him that horrid day on Osborne’s Wharf by the Eliza Jane’s mate. At the time he was offered only three words; a mere three words to serve as both explanation and justification: “lost at sea.” On the bench before him are Jonathan’s shipping articles, a jaundiced, dog-eared sheet of paper signed by Keziah, Folger and the boy. No surprise his nephew’s lay or share of the whale oil was a paltry 1/250th. Buried in the scrawl of longhand he finds the phrase “payment of all sums contingent on contractee’s physical presence amongst the quick, and on American soil.” That conveniently ruled out the dead and deserted amongst his ranks, allowing Folger to cut himself a little bit bigger slice of the pie …all said and done.

Then there was Jonathan’s knife, hopelessly rusted over in its brittle, desiccated sheath; once a keen and handsome blade, it was a gift from Keziah on the day he shipped out. With it, came some advice; the moment you feel death along, your hand should have already found this knife: to remain alive, this is the reflex a sailor must possess. If you feel yourself fouled in line—be it harpoon cordage fast at a whales’ back or some odd scrap of rigging cutting through your leg, pulling you over the ship—your arm must already be one with the handle, blade moving towards its target. Keziah thinks of the greater implications of those words, for the same reflex could have caught that bastard Folger off his guard and plugged well through.

What else did the boy leave behind in this world? There is a paltry ball of twine, likely assembled scrap by scrap from oakum, strands of old rope picked apart and used for caulking the ship’s seams. Keziah remembers the tedium of caulking a leaky old ship with this oakum soaked in pine tar, pounded into the seams using chisel-like caulking irons and huge wooden mallets. Occasionally the ship would be turned on its keel, hove-to on its side so they could caulk below the waterline.

The last item there was surely dearest to Jonathan: an oval brass locket and chain. Keziah watches his delight grow, his face reflected off the shiny brass cover. He races to his desk where a matching locket has hung for months; framed within is a tintype photograph of Sophronia, the sepia tone faithful to her hair’s natural hue, he judges, though the image is hazy at best. On the eve of Jonathan’s sailing, Sophronia entrusted one locket to the boy and another to Uncle Keziah.

He brings his locket back, laying it side by side with Jonathan’s, as if reuniting someone with someone and not merely some things. He opens Jonathan’s locket.

The photo is missing.

* * *

Standing on his bed, the Captain dislodges a small gray oval wedged beneath the telltale compass on the overhead. It is a photograph of a young woman, confiscated some years ago from the men in the forecastle. It seems this tin oval was quite coveted for the absolute perfection of its subject. For Folger this woman didn’t just represent a comely visage—the object of every man’s fancy—for him she was Woman, source of life, protector of us all… the she referred to when a man speaks of his ship. In spite of its bleary quality or perhaps by virtue of the same, this image transcended one of any specific woman. It was the ideal. He had cherished it all these years as a talisman, and so, had situated it beneath the dial of the compass to guide them to safe and prosperous waters.

When he met Sophronia by chance that day—chance or fate, he is not so sure of now—her pure beauty recalled the ideal pictured here, effectively overwhelming the Captain. Somehow, to have this woman watching over his voyage just felt right, regardless of how repugnant the principal of a whaling wife seemed to him. Turning the photo over, he reads the inscription barely legible upon the back. Only now does the word make sense. Now it is clear to whom this photo belonged and of whom it depicts.

A sudden melancholy curtails his elation, drains him, drops him to the edge of the bed, where he sits low and bone-weary. He has just lost his guardian angel: the she of his ship is just another bitch. Just like the others. The Captain’s lips tremble as he says their names aloud for the first time, muttered in monotone, sacred, like a Latin prayer: “Eliza. Mary. Sarah.” All vowed before God to love him. All lied.

Folger’s mind goes blank, and in that void, a whisper, a familiar voice, and a name: Rachel. “Rachel,” he repeats, his voice crisp and clear; hearing it outside his skull like that makes it easier to believe that she actually did exist. He hadn’t spoken his mother’s name since the day he buried her.

Now this one. The Captain rubs the backside of the photo with his calloused thumb, as if it were possible to just erase the word there, scribbled in pencil by a boy’s hand: “Sister.”

LOCAL OUTLETS: If you find yourself on Martha’s Vineyard, there is no better place to pick up a copy of Sophronia L. than the wonderful Bunch of Grapes Bookstore. http://www.bunchofgrapes.com/book/9781610191050.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Sophronia L. is available from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, of course, but why not support your local bookseller and order through Indiebound? http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781610191050

PRICE: $17.50

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

http://www.timbridwell.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TimBridwellAuthor/?ref=hl

Twitter: @bridland

Hineni

THE BOOK: Hineni, My Walk Into Beautiful Life.

PUBLISHED IN: 2014.

THE AUTHOR: S. Joshua Mendel.

THE EDITOR: Penelope Jewell.

THE PUBLISHER: Ebookit.com, E-book version. Paperback version produced upon demand from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, etc.

SUMMARY: In Hineni: My Walk to Beautiful Life, the author chronicles his journey of healing and personal growth; learning to understand and accept himself as a gifted, hypersensitive, and gay mystic.

Mismatched to the norms and demands of his family, home religion, peers, and society, the author was a depressed, immature, and fearful recluse for 26 years of his life. Contemplating suicide at age 21, he heard a Voice. Learning to listen and follow that Voice, the author set upon a four-decade journey of recovery and healing, employing a range of traditional (and untraditional) religious and spiritual thought systems. In a Vision, this nontheist, birthright Jew realized to his surprise that The Voice guiding him on his journey was Jesus.

Hineni: My Walk Into Beautiful Life is an intensely personal and frank autobiography; an ethical will of how the author became a whole, human being, and what he learned and is still learning on his journey.

THE BACK STORY: Beginning in January 2013, my internal Guide (aka The Voice) “said” to me: “You need to write about your life!” This was not a casual thought but an ongoing Call that would not leave me. I would hear this throughout my day and later, it would wake me up at night!

I made up a host of reasons and excuses for not writing; for example: “I’m a nobody.” “Nobody wants to know the maudlin events of my pitiful life!” “That would be a big job.” This was a big dodge and a holdover from my childhood: “We don’t air our dirty linen in public!” (sigh…)

As noted in my book, it becomes excruciating for me not to listen. One day in March 2013, I remember myself opening my arms, looking up to the sky, and saying: “OK I give up; so what do I write about?” To my surprise (and why do I still get surprised?), six subjects popped into my mind: 1) God; 2) Religion, Rite and Ritual; 3) Sex, Love, and Intimacy; 4) Health and Disease; 5) Life and Death; and 6) Poverty and Wealth. Six months into this effort, I heard: “You forgot something: Work.” (At the time, I thought: “What the heh, what’s another six months?”)

WHY THIS TITLE? I completed the first draft of the book (what my author friends call “the barf draft”) in late March 2014. It was a set of essays over 350 pages long and with hundreds of footnotes. My initial readers told me that there was much good (even amazing) in what I wrote, but it was not a good read. In its present state, few would take the time to glean the wheat from the chaff. One friend told me that the working title I had for the book was confusing and dead wrong for the content.

I didn’t want to hear those comments. . . and I didn’t want to rewrite something I had just spent over a year writing! But I must have been willing to listen. I was on a bus, thinking about the comment on the title of the book. All of a sudden, the word Hineni came to my mind.

The Hebrew word Hineni (“hee-nay-nee”) is found in numerous places in the Bible. It is often translated into English as “Here I am, Lord”. Hineni is the response a number of biblical figures give God when they are called to carry out something important, and often, important. Often, that Call is something that makes no rational sense. But it is compelling!

In retrospect, The Voice was telling me a lot more than a better title for the book. It was telling me that I had reached a state of Grace in the writing. From now on, this book would be Co-created. The Voice was not a bit shy in taking over the editing and creative processes. Vignettes that I had shoved in the back of chapters came forward as the drivers of the narrative. By the second chapter, I realized that Hineni was going to become the story of my life; not some dry collection of topical essays. This is a lot of words for a process that went quickly and Grace-fully. I rewrote the entire book in three months!

The “second half” of the title revolves around my Hebrew name, Chaym Shayna. That name translates into English as “Beautiful Life”. Growing into the truth of my name is the touchtone and gift of what I call my uncovery.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This book is my testimony to the Truth that no matter how disabled and/or scarred one might be by nature, nurture, interactions with others, and life events, there is the possibility to “uncover”; to heal. More than that, there is the amazing potential to use that experience in the healing of others and this world. This healing; this gift does not from the head or from logic. It comes from a courageous opening to Spirit. . . Hineni.

The connection with Spirit is aptly named Grace, which I do NOT see in a religious context. Grace is the ability to let go and enter into an indescribable connection with Everything. I think my book shows that Grace is the natural state that exists for everyone. Nothing and no one can destroy this Truth. . . if you judge by my life, not even that person. My deepest hope is that in reading this book, the reader will find that Connection within themselves, and follow no matter how strange the Direction they receive. As I demonstrate practically in numerous places of the book, that’s when the miracles start happening!

After I wrote the book, I realized that having a mystical mind was a closet more hidden and denied by me than being gay. It is also far more misunderstood in our society. We have such mistaken notions about mystics. . . we think they are perfect people who always know the answer, say the right word, and always do the right thing—the first time. They don’t have feelings beyond love (they never get angry), and they don’t have normal human urges, including sexual feelings. My book—my life—shows that mystics are fully human, with all that that entails. I think it also shows that “being spiritual” and living full out in this world need not be in conflict.

Finally, from my editor, Penelope Jewell: This book can start a reader thinking about places s/he have been spiritually, as well as the places s/he might go. The author clearly shows that life is a journey; not a destination. That the tools and guides on that journey are personal integrity and inner guidance. And that any time or effort spent learning in any community or spiritual discipline is never a waste, because any and all efforts and understanding get incorporated in who that person is becoming. . . and we are all “becoming” until we leave the planet.

The reader is encouraged—and challenged—to ask what s/he knows and believes on the basic questions of being human. . . being a spiritual being having a human experience.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“While categorized as a gay book, Hineni is a good read for anyone on or open to an epic spiritual quest. You will most assuredly find resonance somewhere in the text and dare I say become a better person in exchange for the time you spend with it. Who can’t relate to outsider status, addiction (in this case to money), butting heads with family, and breaking away from parental influence. While Mr. Mendel dances frequently with self-importance, he mostly delivers on being a new age mystic, healer, and guru. A book that can unabashedly transform lives.”  — Michael Benson, LyBrary

From Amazon:

“Josh writes of his life openly and with honest clarity. His has been a life of learning which can teach us much if we open to listening and learning. Put your own words to the truths he shares and carry them forward in your life.”

“This book is both insightful and inspiring! I could not put it down until I read every last page from start to finish. In this masterpiece of a biographical journey, Joshua Mendel opens one’s mind in a very honest, thought provoking and poetic reflection of his life. He writes from his brilliant mind, depth of knowledge and experience (as well as sharp wit) as he is clearly a very spiritual being who speaks from the depths of his heart, of his many adventures, experiences and spiritual growth as a human being.”

“A frank and beautifully written account of self-discovery. Along the road to find out how to connect to life in a spiritual way, Mendel makes some unusual discoveries. As a refugee from a mid-western Jewish suburb, this book reminded me of why I needed to strike out on my own and meet a bigger world. But as Mendel makes clear, learning to live passionately and truthfully can be a long and sometimes dirty process- like digging in a mountain to find a diamond. Read it!”

AUTHOR PROFILE: This is my first and perhaps only book. However, I maintain a regular blog on my website, http://www.hinenibeautifulife.com.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I published this book for a number of reasons. First and foremost, The Voice told me I needed to do that! Second, IMHO, we read too much about the lives of the rich and famous. While entertaining (and everyone has moments of challenge and inspiration in their lives), I don’t think these chronicles help most of us, or very much. In these books, we regular schlubs rarely see a clear path or a challenge to our own growth. Many readers have told me that my story is their story. That in reading the book, they have grown in their own life. . . and are being challenged to do so.

“Spirituality” is an inside job. My hope is that in reading my book, people will realize that. . . and become willing to do the work to make themselves and this world a place of peace, joy, and beauty!

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Samples can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (Type “Hineni My Walk” in the search line.)

LOCAL OUTLETS: None at this point. If you are in the Cleveland, OH area, I have some books for sale. You can save on taxes and shipping that way.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Ebookit (electronic version only), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google. PRICE: The ebook version is $9.95; $15.95 for the softback paper version.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: My website http://www.hinenibeautifulife.com offers a portal for sending me questions and comments.

The Kudzu Kid

Kudzu Kid 2THE BOOK: The Kudzu Kid.

PUBLISHED: 2014.

AUTHOR: Darrell Laurant.

EDITED BY: Joe Coccaro.

PUBLISHER: Koehler Books, Virginia Beach, VA.

SUMMARY: After hotshot investigative reporter Eddie Fogarty overreaches on a story and is fired by his large metropolitan daily, the only bounce-back job he can find is editing a weekly newspaper in backwater Southside Virginia. In that unlikely and alien setting, he finds culture shock, redemption, romance, and the biggest story of his life.

Darrell LaurantTHE BACK STORY: Despite spending more than 40 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and columnist, I never took a journalism course in college. Rather, my training was provided by my first newspaper job, with the West Columbia/Cayce Journal in Lexington County, SC. This left me with a warm feeling for journalism on the gut level that never left me.  Perhaps “The Kudzu Kid” is my way of giving thanks.

WHY THIS TITLE? Kudzu, as you may or may not know, is an imported vine that has literally overgrown large swatches of the American South.  When Fogarty decided to begin writing a column, he called it “The Kudzu Kid” because he saw unmistakable similarities between himself and the plant — like kudzu, he said, “I come from somewhere else, I’m really annoying, and I cover everything.”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? First of all, I hope, for fun. Although this book has gangsters, a murder or two and even a few witches, it is less about the plot and more about the characters. And as a former newspaper columnist, I couldn’t help but inject humor everywhere I could. The idea is to tear down the original Fogarty –angry, arrogant and dismissive of small town life and culture — in order to rebuild a better version. Moreover, at a time when so many Americans are willing to castigate and demean “the media,” this book shows that profession at its best and most courageous.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Like Eddie Fogarty, I was a northerner (raised in Syracuse, NY) who was drawn south by the newspaper business. After the West Columbia/Cayce Journal, I worked to Charleston, SC and then Lynchburg, VA as a sportswriter before becoming the local columnist for the News & Advance in Lynchburg. Prior to The Kudzu Kid, I wrote two non-fiction books, Even Here (about a series of murders in Bedford County, VA) and A City Unto Itself: Lynchburg, VA in the 20th Century. My wife Gail and I moved to Lake George, NY last year to paint (her), write (me) and take care of my 91-year-old mother.

For the sake of full disclosure, let me add that I am the founder of Snowflakes in a Blizzard.

REVIEWS:

“Very well written with authentic views of the newspaper world of large and small towns along with their cultures of politics, corruption and crime. A little bit of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll adds to the feel of real life. The believable story of a broken career, a landfill relocation dilemma and a world inhabited by some quirky characters creates compelling reading.You might think you know how it’s going to end, but you have to read it to see if you can tie up all the loose ends.” — Liz Mitchell.

“There are so many reasons why Darrell Laurant’s ‘The Kudzu Kid’ is a great read that it might be impossible to list them all. But I’ll try.First of all, his novel about a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper in New Jersey who winds up as the editor of a small-town Virginia weekly is true to life. As a former reporter for newspapers in the Cleveland suburbs who wound up editing an Upstate New York weekly for a few years early in my career, I can say without reservation that Laurant has deftly captured what it’s like to run a small-town paper as an “outsider.” His lead character, Eddie Fogarty, is never going to be accepted as a local not only because he’s “not from around here” but also because he’s a Yankee in a part of the country that still refers to the Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression.”

In my case, I was a city kid dropped into the middle of dairy country and the first time I heard the term “cow pie” I thought it was the quaint way people there referred to a hamburger or maybe meatloaf.
Like Fogarty, I also tried to install my ideas of “big city” journalism on a community that really wanted nothing more from its newspaper than columns written by local correspondents about who went where for Sunday supper and pictures of proud hunters posing next to dead deer. Like him, I wasn’t all that successful.
Secondly, Laurant also captures what it’s like when actual news breaks out in a small town; news that is going to affect people you know and may even like. The publisher of the fictional Southside Echo warns Fogarty that the bigger the newspaper the easier it is to write about people who are caught up in circumstances that might lead to their disgrace. Writing for a small town newspaper, however, makes telling those stories not only hard but also heart wrenching in some cases because they aren’t anonymous names on an arrest warrant but your neighbors.
Laurant has an easy writing style, honed to a fine edge by his own years spent as a journalist, and his tale of Fogarty and the community he covers flows easily from page to page. There are multiple story lines in ‘The Kudzu Kid’ but the reader doesn’t get lost following them. This is a tribute to Laurent’s ability to tell a story in a seamless fashion. He blends stories about sexual improprieties, small-town politics, and even a little romance into a narrative that never leaves the reader wondering what’s going on.
His characters also read well: No super heroes, no Amazon warriors or supremely evil villains populate the pages of his novel. Instead we see regular people going about their business in a believable way. It’s easy to relate to them: The arrogant big city reporter turned small-town editor; the dreamy poet who never quite left her hippie days behind; the cranky sheriff and the local politicians who see nothing wrong with getting their share of the government pie are all folks you might meet at the grocery store or have a cup of coffee with one morning.
Just as important is the fact that the news events Fogarty covers as the editor of Laurant’s fictional weekly paper are equally true to life. Some authors might inject a terrorist into the mix or maybe a fantastic plot to focus the world’s attention on a small Virginia town. Laurant doesn’t do that. Instead, he makes his readers care about a dead body found on the side of the road, a football team trying to make the state championship game for the first time in a very long time, and the prospects that the county might have to spend a fortune building a new landfill.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some danger involved when Fogarty turns his attention to some of these issues. The dead body, for example, was a murder victim and the proposed new landfill might have some pretty shady characters involved in its construction.
I could go on but I won’t. Let me just say that this is a truly excellent novel, written with care and precision by an author who knows his way around a newsroom and who, more importantly, doesn’t waste your time dragging in a lot of extraneous details that wouldn’t help the narrative but would slow you down.I highly recommend ‘The Kudzu Kid.’ — Michael Billington.
AUTHOR’S COMMENT: The best thing about this book was that it gave me the chance to use a lot of great stories I had accumulated during my years in newspapers. As we know, very few novels are all fiction.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: Available on Amazon.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Givens Books in Lynchburg, VA, Baines Books in Appomattox, VA.
OTHERWISE: The Kudzu Kid is listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
PRICE: $8-$14 in stores, $10 on Amazon, $3.99 on Kindle.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Please do. You can reach me at writersbridge@hotmail.com.