In the Shadow of Angels will be released today. Released here being a very relative term. The book is finished and ready for publication, but no one can reasonably obtain a copy of it until at least Monday and probably later. More information on purchasing it will follow.
The back cover copy for In the Shadow of Angels, often called a blurb, has been finalized. I have never attempted to write back copy before, and it turned out to be tougher than I imagined it would be. My goal (as mashed together from dozens of idiot’s guides to blurb writing) was to 1) Use strong buzzwords to evoke mental images. 2) Give a hint at the genre of the book. 3) Introduce characters and hint at the stakes of their situation. 4) Leave the reader with questions that can only be answered by reading the book. 5) By virtue of having achieved steps 1-4, rook them into buying the book (which can hopefully live up to the expectations I have set).
All that in about 150 words, and without giving away anything of the plot. Right. To put that into perspective, I have used more words in this preamble than I used in the entire blurb. But I think I did a pretty good job for a first timer:
“Devin Bryant is a young accident attorney who seems to have it all: Gorgeous wife; Beautiful house; Fancy car; Successful career… But, like everyone else in the town of Ashwood, he also has dark secrets.
When he finds one of his dark secrets, local seductress Jezebel Anders, dead outside his hotel room, he panics. Now he finds himself slipping into an abyss of corruption, deceit, blackmail and murder from which there is seemingly no escape. As the spiral grows to ensnare his wife and friends, all of their freedom –their very lives- are at stake. Their only chance is to work together.
When every choice is more heinous than the last, and even your allies have secrets, the only way out is to slither ever deeper. But if they sink low enough to prevail, will they find themselves trapped forever in the shadow of the angels?”
What do you think?
My first novel, In the Shadow of Angels is complete (as much as it ever will be) and will be released very shortly. After having spoken to a couple of acquaintances regarding editing options, I’ve made the (probably horrible) decision to release the first edition without further editing.
The decision to release without editing is because the likelihood of it actually selling to anyone other than me seem infinitesimally small, so it seems a waste of money. It was suggested that I print copies for friends and family and then just wait. If I sell 100 copies, I will have it edited and re-release it. Don’t miss out on your first chance to own a first edition! Check out the (work in progress) website
My mother has always been a huge fan of Stephen King. I … have not. My experience with his work goes just about as far as the movies that have been created from his works. Some of which have been excellent (The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption jumping immediately to mind), and some of which, not so much (Maximum Overdrive and Maximum Overdrive springing immediately to mind [and yes, it deserves being mentioned twice here]). A quick look on rottentomatoes shows that it’s not just my judgement of the aforementioned titles either; The Shawshank Redemption comes in at 90% fresh, The Green Mile is sitting at 80%, and Maximum Overdrive is a lowly 17% (and I can’t help but wonder how many of those 17% are being quite generous in an award the over-the-top-cheese-fest kind of way).
Being that my mother has been reading King longer than I have been alive, I never really had any desire to read his work. I know that probably seems a bit shallow, but see how it transfers to other forms of entertainment. Can you honestly say that you enjoy the same musical artists as your parents? I’m guessing no, but then again if you are really into classical I could see sharing some common interests. For most of us, though, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and the Everly Brothers probably don’t have a great deal of appeal. I obviously don’t know if those particular artists are ones that your parents listened to, but mine did, and it was and is actively painful to listen to -even today. Elvis’ rendition of the song Blue Christmas remains the most annoying song ever, IMHO, because of 1) the annoying chanty woohing girls, and 2) you have to hear it hundreds of times a year. Every store on the planet earth seems to have this crap in its Christmas rotation.
That being said, that really wasn’t the only reason I didn’t read King. There was also the supernatural aspect. I just don’t find horror or suspense in the supernatural when reading a book or watching a movie. It makes it difficult for me to empathize with a character when they are attempting to deal with the bogeyman rather than dealing with some real -tangible- adversary. Even if that adversary is within themselves; some of the best fiction I have ever read involves a character battling torment inside their own mind. But there is a difference between someone losing their tenuous grip on sanity and, say, a diesel rig suddenly becoming sentient and killing everyone in sight. I’m sure it takes a great deal of imagination to come up with the latter, but, to me, it just isn’t all that interesting to read. I would much rather see a real person facing a real dilemma -in a real world, governed by real laws of nature and physics.
I did attempt to read one of King’s books while I was in high school. That book was It. It is an 1100 page behemoth of a book that I can’t remember a damn thing about. There was a clown named Pennywise -I only remember that because a band later emerged with the same name. I started reading this one somewhere around my junior year (possibly the end of my sophomore year) and finished it probably about the time I was 19. Certainly not a page-turner, at least not for me. And this was at a time in my life when I routinely read Terry Brooks, who, while not particularly original, wrote some relatively lengthy books that I was able to read over a couple of weeks just finding time between school and work.
All of this is hardly glowing praise of King. However, my opinion began to change when I started reading 11/22/63.
I recently bought a Google Nexus 7 and was playing around with it when I noticed that 11/22/63 was on it -or so I thought. As I would find out later, the first 50 pages or so were on it, and then it just abruptly stopped. I had to buy it to continue reading it. I was pretty surprised to find myself shelling out the 10 bucks for the digital edition without giving it much thought.
The concept of 11/22/63 is not something that is new to me. In fact I have actually penned a couple of stories with the same premise. One of them, which I remember rather fondly, was a short story where someone went back in time (I either can’t remember how or why -or possibly I never explained it) with the intent to stop Kennedy’s assassination. In my short, Oswald was actually killed well over a year before he would take the life of the president. While I can’t remember if I explained exactly how or why, this led to the Cuban missile crisis actually ending in full scale nuclear war. The U.S.A. and Russia both unloaded their full arsenals on each other. The warring countries in the middle east rose to power in the ensuing chaos. Of course I just wrote that out on a whim, having done no research whatsoever into the impossibility of it all. But it was a wonderful idea to play with.
When I started reading 11/22/63, I was really just curious to see where King would take the same idea. Thankfully the appearance of the supernatural in this book is limited to getting to the past in the first place. There are some ‘card men’ that exist in the past (or near the portal in and out of it), but they are trivial to the story, and really only mentioned at the start and end. Once I made it past the getting to the past portion of it, I was really enjoying the story.
King did a wonderful job of building the characters in this book. At the beginning I was hoping that it would quickly handle the stopping Oswald bit and get right on to King’s imagined view of the future if it had never happened. Instead I found myself really empathizing with the Jake/George character as well as his love interest Sadie. By the second half of the book, I didn’t really care if he succeeded or failed in his attempt to stop Oswald, I just wanted to find out what would happen between George and Sadie. Would he stay with her in the past? Would she join him in the future? Of course that decision wasn’t his to make -the past is obdurate, after all.
Without going into any detail about the book -which I am going to avoid because you really should read this book if you haven’t (perhaps particularly if you’re not a fan of King)- I will say that the story was excellent. The history portion of the story was handled with meticulous detail. King clearly did a great deal of research to make sure of the times and places of events to weave his story around -making it seem all the more real. I am not a huge fan of the way he chose to end it, but when it come right down to it, there are really only three ways that it could end and he chose the one that you would probably never have guessed. I’m curious to see if the movie version will share this ending or if they will go with a much happier ending (which either other option would have been).
I liked the book enough that I asked my Mom what her favorite King book was. She said The Stand. I am reading it now. Hopefully this one will keep me as engaged as 11/22/63 did, and if so, I may find myself reading the rest of King’s work. It really has been much better than expected so far.
I am absolutely incapable of doing an objective review of anything. It is with that spirit that I will now delve into the many mysteries of the HBP. There will be spoilers galore so please don’t read on if you have yet to read the book.
The book seems to have left the entire world with two burning questions, the first being is Dumbledore really dead, the second concerns Snape’s true intentions. I am really up in the air about both.
Rowling has certainly made the books more complex as the series has evolved, but I find it hard to believe that she has added so much complexity to the characters and plot since the first book. While it is true that being wealthy enough to do nothing but work on the novels for the last few years should have given her enough free time to come up with elaborate plots, she hasn’t really done that. The characters have remained pretty static the entire series with only Harry himself appearing to grow in any noticeable way. The only other character growth seems to be in height, as Hermione is still a little bookworm, Ron is still an awkward pansy, Draco is still just an evil little pain in the ass, Ginny, while now having enough charm (read breasts) to attract the boys is still in every way just Ron’s little sister. I suppose Snape could be an exception, but his motives have been in doubt since the first book, he has not changed one bit, though the situations he is placed in may have.
I will address the Dumbledore issue first. The book leaves the possibility that he is still alive pretty wide open. Even before he is killed he is having a conversation with Draco in which he states “Voldemort can not kill you if you are already dead”, or something quite similar. This leaves the possibility that Dumbledore has the ability to fake death an open ended one. Is it possible that Dumbledore knew that he was going to be facing Draco atop that tower and hoped that Draco would not have the nerve to kill him? This would have forced Snape to complete the job as part of his unbreakable vow. But in an earlier book it was explained that the unforgivable spells could only be successful if the one who cast it had enough hatred and desire in them to actually kill. Perhaps Snape didn’t have that desire within him since he is really on Dumbledore’s side, so the spell appears to work yet it is all a clever ruse to keep Draco from performing the act with actual intent? Draco, however much an asshole he is, has still not actually killed anyone and if there is anything that Dumbledore has ever been guilty of it is believing in the good nature of the worst people (Snape for example).
Isn’t it an extremely odd coincidence that Dumbledore decides to take Harry to the cave at the precise time that the Death Eaters are going to come flooding into the castle? Did he just discover the Horcrux at exactly that moment in time? Even if he did what would be the importance of having Harry take his invisibility cloak? He takes it off nearly the second they leave Hogwarts, but he is instructed to put it on before returning, why? Was Dumbledore trying to make doubly sure that his death was witnessed by someone that everyone had to believe (what with no one believing Harry the entire last book even though he was telling the complete truth)?
Dumbledore seemed to know exactly how to get to the the Horcrux that they were looking for. Beyond that he knew that he needed blood to open the door, he knew where to find the chain for the boat, and he attempted to stick his hand into the murky green water without a thought. He then decided that his best option was to drink the strange liquid, knowing nothing about it, but told Harry to force feed him all of the liquid. It seems Dumbledore might now a tad more about that cave than he is letting on. Near the end of the book, when the locket appears next to Dumbledore’s body, the note is signed by R.A.B.. So someone had been to the cave before and taken the initial Horcrux, but Dumbledore said that it would take two people to do it. I am guessing that it was Regulus Black that left the note, but who was his partner, possibly Dumbledore? That would have given him all the necessary information on how to get there and retrieve the locket. But why retrieve the locket if Dumbledore knew it was a fake? To get the note which had been left behind all those years ago, in the hopes that Harry would be able to figure out who R.A.B. was.
The book also leaves open the possibility that, since the Horcrux had already been removed, whoever took it could have replaced the liquid in the bowl with any potion of their choosing. Not to mention that if it really was Regulus Black and Dumbledore that were there to take it in the first place, and Black drank the potion, but died a few days later, it could be that Black is not dead at all, but that he too was able to use the effects of the potion to appear so dead as the wizarding community simply forgot about him (that theory really doesn’t hold any water though, as Kreacher would have had to be loyal to Regulus if he were still alive, yet he was forced to be loyal to Harry). At any rate, Dumbledore could have been in that cave previously, broken all the enchantments and set up some of his own. Dumbledore mentioned that he burnt his hand in search of one of the Horcrux items, perhaps it was this one and it really didn’t require any help to obtain, but the potion he left in its place must be administered, since you won’t drink it of your own free will after the first couple of cups. Then again Dumbledore may have been acting as he seemed to lose so much of his physical capacity, perhaps he thought that Harry would not believe him dead unless Harry saw his slow decay before being finished off by an inferior wizard.
I am not making predictions here, I am just saying that it is plausible that Dumbledore is still alive.
Snape is a completely different issue.
Who is Snape loyal to? Which side is he playing? No one will know until Rowling releases the next book of course, but I have my suspicions. Snape is far too evil to be evil. Wouldn’t make for much of a septology if he was simply evil for the sake of being evil. Harry obviously hates Snape and that hate is clouding Harry’s mind. Dumbledore has said, again and again, that he trusts Snape implicitly. Maybe Snape really is on the wrong side but I doubt that. Snape has had many opportunities to betray the order and hasn’t really acted on any of them. Sure he is harsh on Harry, even knocked him down a couple of times while Harry was in pursuit, but I don’t see him as being the villain that Harry thinks he is.
While Harry is pursuing Snape on the grounds of Hogwarts, well when he catches up to him really, Snape does not allow Harry to actually cast an unforgivable spell. Snape actually says “No unforgivable spells for you, Potter.”, or something very similar. Is Snape trying to protect himself? It seems unlikely given the fact that Harry can’t seem to cast a stone in the water at his feet, let alone a decent spell. Why does Snape then go on to tell Harry that he needs to be better at Legilimency and non verbal spell casting? Perhaps Snape knows that without Dumbledore in the public eye (apparently dead) he, Snape, will not see Harry again until the very conclusion of the conflict. Snape just wants Harry to know what he needs to work on.
Being realistic, Harry is a loser. He has never done a damn thing other than survive an attack that his mother seemed to take the major force of. He has never succeeded without the help of several friends. His sudden potion mastery came from Snape himself, who likely knew that there were attempts being made on Dumbledore and made sure that Harry got the potions book with the helpful hints. All Harry can do is use his invisibility cloak (doesn’t it seem odd that he is the only one in the entire wizarding world that has one of those?) and get caught doing it a good half of the time. He is the chosen one why? Oh yeah. Some witch with thick glasses foretold it, though she wasn’t able to foretell being thrown out of a room seconds before it happened, she was able to foretell the fate of all wizardkind many, many years in advance. I’m thinking that Trewlany and Dumbledore may just have picked the wrong kid: A three year old with a crayon would be a more formidable opponent.
If Harry Potter, the most inept wizard since Rincewind, is actually the ‘Chosen One’ then it is a pretty dark day in the wizarding community. If I were the wizarding gods (if they have them, of course) I would have chosen someone more like Hermione Granger. At least Hermione can perform the simplest of spells, even some of the more advanced ones. Harry, on the other hand, was able to call a Patronus at the age of 13, yet somehow completely forgot how by the age of 16. Harry doesn’t even know how to repair his own bloody nose. How sad is that? If Harry actually defeats Voldemort in the final book it is gonna take a lot of doing, considering the fact that he seems to know about five spells, only one of which is used for offense, none of which have the ability to kill. Unless the grand finale involves Harry standing around singing old Beatles songs, since, All You Need is Love. As luck would have it, that is all that Harry has. No skill, no ability, but he can love…Where was that three year old with a crayon at again?
My erratic (well not so erratic, considering its frequency) weekly posting seems to continue. I have no explanations so please don’t ask.
• First up today is the death of Johnny Carson. Being only 30, I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge of the span of his career. What I do know is that my Father once either took a night off at work, or came home early (twenty-five year old memories aren’t perfect) to watch Carson sing the song Rhinestone Cowboy. The only thing that I can actually remember from the show that he was so famous for is a line that was not even spoken by him, but by Ed McMahon, “I have in my hand an envelope, a child of four can plainly see these envelopes are hermetically sealed. They’ve been kept since noon today in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnalls’ porch”. That was the bit that they used to start the “Carnac the Great” skits, which is really all I can remember of the show. Well, along with some of the lame insults that he would hurl at hecklers during that skit. Strange and obscure stuff along the lines of “May unwanted house guests arrive and drink milk directly from the carton”. I was very young when I saw these shows and I remember that the lame curses were far funnier than the skit itself. I had always attributed that to my youth at the time, but in googling up some of the old dialogues I found that the lame curses were the only thing that made it memorable.
I think that most people in my generation (born in the mid seventies) know who Johnny Carson is/was, but remember him more for the parodies of him that Dana Carvey did on Saturday Night Live. They were, of course, exaggerated, over-the-top takes on Carson for sure, but it is strange that I think that Carvey (in makeup) looks more like Carson than Carson ever did. That is probably just me.
The reason that I think we need to pay a bit of respect to Johnny is that I can not think of any other entertainer, in any genre, that was able to keep so many adamant fans for three decades. In the channel-surfing world of today it is difficult for anyone to maintain and audience for a couple of years, let alone doing a stretch like Carson did. He stepped down not necessarily at the height of his career, but while he was still hugely popular, and he never did a comeback. He had his run, he was happy with it, he retired to live outside of the public eye. No comeback tours, no cameos in movies for a quick buck, he was done. I can’t think of any other celebrity that ever rode the wave so high, followed it to the beach, then simply walked away -Completely and Forever-. I’ll bet that his phone was ringing until the day he died with offers for movie cameos, tv spots, radio commercials and etc. and he never did any of it. Whether it was his pride, health or other that kept him from doing it, that leaves the world to remember him at his best. As it should be.
• I finally finished reading The Da Vinci Code several days ago. I was only reading the book based on a whole lot of reviewers saying that it was like the second coming of Christ. As it turns out, Christ’s second coming was not quite what I had expected.
The Da Vinci Code is of a genre that I never read. I am not sure if it would be classified as a thriller, mystery or action novel, but I usually only read fantasy or horror, this was certainly neither of those. The book just casually picks you up, then throws you into the maelstrom that is the story. I am not going to talk about the plot at all, since my wife is now reading the book and actually reads this site. What I will say is that I was fully immersed in the book until about page 370. It was moving so fast that I had read more than half of the book and still thought that it was just the introduction (a far cry from the trudging through the swamps for a month that you get used to in fantasy novels). I really thought that it petered out a bit towards the end, but that might be a personal issue.
The book does a pretty remarkable job of mixing the historical information into the story, though there were times that I felt like I was reading a lame history book; Who the hell cares if the glass pyramid outside of the Louvre has exactly 666 panes of glass in it if that fact is not going to be important later? Many historical buildings are tied into the story, probably just because the guy spent so much time researching them that he had to put all of them into the book, regardless of how well they tied into the flow of the story.
Being that the book is called The Da Vinci Code, and being that all of the clues that were left were actually written down, I actually solved a few of the codes in my head several pages before the primary characters did. Not that I am a genius or anything, but there are only so many ways that one can simply use letters to create codes. The first one that I had solved, long before the primary characters, said “O! Draconian Devil”. The book is called The Da Vinci Code, FFS, wouldn’t Da Vinci be what you are looking for in the lettering? I did, as did probably everyone else that has ever read the book. Imagine that, it is an anagram for Leonardo Da Vinci. I really did my best to not solve the word puzzles in my head after that, thinking that I might inadvertently stumble onto the ending without reading the book. That was, thankfully, not going to be an issue.
The ease of the first couple of codes made me question whether the rest of the world was simply stupid, however, the codes got more advanced. The codes, in fact, got so advanced that that they weren’t even codes anymore. The codes became an issue of interpretation of sentences. That is where it started to get out of my hands/mind as far as trying to solve the puzzles myself anyway.
Without going too much further into description of the book, I will say that I liked it. I didn’t particularly care for the way that it ended, but it was an ending. I am now of the camp that believes that it was only a best-seller for the sake of the religious overtone. The novel Angels and Demons is a previous work from the same author (which I have ordered online) that is supposedly a much better book. After finishing that one, perhaps I will be able to give the author some props, who knows.
I decided that I better go ahead and throw something up here today, lest you all think that I died a horrible death and was not able to slap together a post in the last week.
The Christmas Holiday is always a pretty hectic time in these parts, especially this year. I had ordered a gift for the wife through amazon.com (which is not linked to or capitalized because I am a bit pissed at them right now). A couple of days later, I got an email saying that the item was ‘delayed in shipping’, but not to worry it would still be here in time. Of course the next email that I received from them said that it was out of stock, and wouldn’t be getting here at all. That sort of thing really sucks. Especially if you are like me, and don’t want to set foot in a department store anywhere between Thanksgiving and New Years, but I really had to in this case.
The item in question was not even any sort of a ‘white elephant’, it was just the ‘Titans’ expansion to Age of Mythology. While I was not able to find the expansion at the local Wal-Mart, I was able to find the gold edition of the original game, which included the expansion, and that was what I bought (it did cost a lot more than the expansion, but I needed it at that point). This is where doing your planning at least a couple of weeks before Christmas could really have helped me.
Angry Amazon stories aside, Christmas went pretty well. I did buy the latest Harry Potter DVD for my wife, while she instructed her Parents to buy the same for me, so we now have two copies of it (I kept my receipt just in case something like that were to happen, so it is not that big a deal). We all seemed to enjoy the day, it was a pretty good Christmas.
My wife gifted me the second ‘Roller Coaster Tycoon’ (well, the ultra, mega, version, with all of the expansions) game, which has been draining away most of my waking hours. The second RCT game has gotten rid of a lot of the issues that I was having with the first, but it has left a lot of them as well. I just enjoy the second version more since they give you scenarios where you don’t have to make any money at all, don’t have to have a good park rating, just have to have exciting coasters, and you don’t have to pay anything to build them. That was the whole reason I wanted to play the game in the first place, I wanted to build gnarly roller coasters and see if anyone would go on them. I did have a lot of deaths on my first couple of attempts, but who knew that you actually needed to put brakes at the end of the run?
The Christmas haul also had some socks and underwear. While, ten years ago, I would have hated to see such items as Christmas gifts, this year I was totally stoked. The wife managed to find some of the underwear that I failed to find in both an internet search, and a local store search. Add to that that the wife has been searching for said underwear for several weeks with the holiday approaching, and never found them. Imagine my excitement when I opened a package to find 8 pair of underwear! I may never have to buy underwear again! Well, that is certainly not true, but I am starting to think that, since the underwear are so hard to find, I may only wear them on special occasions from this day forward. Of course that is the type of bold statement that you could make if you weren’t married. For some reason, women seem to think that you should be wearing underwear every waking moment. Unless, of course, they are horrible sluts, in which case they might get confused if you offer them underwear.
One more thought for today, I have recently started to read the book “The DaVinci Code”, and I find the first few chapters to be a tad boring. I know that it has glowing critical acclaim and all, but it is (so far) seeming to be some sort of a history lesson. I am sure that there will be action in it at some point, but for now I am reading it solely because it has so much buzz about it. Perhaps every mundane factual mention in the first few chapters will come into play in the end, I don’t know. I will say that it has me intrigued enough that I want to to turn the page to see what happens next, and that is the hallmark of a good novel. I sure hope it starts to happen soon though, else I might just start to think that whatever is going to happen will happen whether or not I am reading about it..
I awoke this morning at about 6:30, which is far earlier than I really wanted to get up on my one day off, but was not able to get back to sleep. We recently put up a thick curtain over the south-facing window in the bedroom, which a street light was shining through to keep us awake, but have only a blind over the west facing window. Long story short it was bright as noontime in the bedroom by then, I find it difficult to sleep when it is light out. Thus I am groggy and feel like crap in general. I did manage to finish the book that I was reading, however I am not sure if it is a contributing factor in my current mood.
John Saul’s Black Creek Crossing was the book that I finished reading this morning. For me to criticize an author’s writing is much like being the one legged man in an ass kicking contest, but I am not going to let that stop me this time. There will be some spoilers in this, keep that in mind if you ever plan to read it.
I have read a lot of Saul’s work, mostly in my late teens/early twenties, and one thing that I can say for them is that they read pretty well. The flow is usually pretty good, due in part to the fact that you know what is going to happen long before it ever does. His descriptions of places and people work pretty well also; quick enough to not bore you but complete enough that you can recognize places or characters by name. The prose itself is straigt forward and not cluttered with a lot big words for the sole purpose of showing off his vocabulary. With the exception of the overly dramatic prologue, and other such examples littered throughout the book, there is not a lot to complain about in the writing. Saul certainly isn’t Dickens, but he can get the story across in a pretty fluid way, in my opinion anyway.
Now just to note a few of the major problems with the book. The story about the teenager being picked on and getting revenge on his/her tormentors is certainly in at least half of all of Saul’s books. The “horrible things happened in the house in the past, and they happen to the new family that moves in also” premise has been done to death, by Saul. Most all of his books start with a family moving into a house, then something within the house or the community making the new occupants relive the old horror. The family that moves at the beginning of this book at least includes both a mother and a father, often in his books it is just the mother and a single child. Of course the father in this story is an abusive, incestuous alcoholic, so not much of a stretch to not consider him a father.
I am not going to go into any more of the similarities between this book and others that he has written, if you have read any of his other work you already know, if you haven’t it would take only the first chapter of any of his work to see it. He writes what sells, more power to him.
one of the issues that I really had with the book was with the demeanor the main character (Angel)’s parents. The father (Marty) was being portrayed as a very abusive and controlling man. There were at least a couple of occasion where you were led to believe that he was being physically abusive to his wife, albeit offscreen. This physical abuse, as well as most of the verbal abuse, was happening while he was drunk, which was most of the time. In one scene he actually raised a beer bottle with the intent to hit his wife with it. Yet, for some reason, there are several times when the wife (Myra) yells at him and he cowers like a little puppy. That is not the behavior of any of the abusive alcoholics I have ever known, it also made me certain that the father was no threat for the duration of the book (which was bad since he was the only variable I hadn’t explained within the first twenty-five pages).
Now, just to nit-pick. The novel is 358 pages long, that is including the prologue and epilogue. There are 47 chapters, that means that the average chapter (including the prologe and epilogue) is just about seven pages long. Many of the chapters are less than four pages long, and one would have been less than one page were it not for the white space for the chapter heading and the blank space at the end. Throwing all copyright and fair use laws to the wind, I will quote chapter 46 for you right here:
SETH BAKER CAME AROUND THE BEND IN THE ROAD and saw the house that stood at Black Creek Crossing looming against the night sky. Even though there were lights on, the house had a look of terrible foreboding about it, and as he made his way across the lawn, part of him wanted to turn away and go somewhere else.
But there was nowhere else to go.
Not after what had happened in his house.
As he approached the front door, the awful sense of foreboding grew stronger, and he paused at the door, which was standing wide open, and listened.
A silence seemed to emanate from the house, a silence that felt as if it was about to swallow him up. Once again he wanted nothing more than to turn away, to leave whatever was inside the house undiscovered, and again he knew he could not. Steeling himself, he stepped over the threshold into the living room.
The television was still on, but somehow even its droning didn’t dispel the strange sense of silence that imbued the house.
Knowing he didn’t want to see whatever it was that lay beyond the living room, but knowing there was no alternative, he moved deeper into the house.
He found Angel at the bottom of the stairs, staring at the bodies of her parents, who were lying on the floor-her father on top of her mother-in a pool of their own blood. Myra Sullivan’s eyes were open, and as he looked down at her, Seth had the uneasy feeling that she was looking back at him. Turning away, he looked at Angel. “It happened at my house too,” he said softly.
Angel gazed at him, and for a second Seth wasn’t sure she even saw him. A moment later, though, she spoke, her voice hollow:
“I know what we have to do.”
Seth said nothing and when she led him out of the house, he silently followed.
They crossed the lawn to the road, and instead of turning right, toward the trail that would lead them to the cabin hidden in the cliff, Angel turned left.
Once again, Seth followed….
That is punctuated exactly as it is in the book. I am not very good at sight typing though, so I may have a misspelled word in it. The strange capitalization at the beginning is also just like it was in the book. For some reason the first line of text in every chapter was all in caps. Why? I got no idea. This was the shortest chapter in the book, but not by much. There were several chapters that were just a bit longer than this one, and many of them did basically the same as this one; it doesn’t tell you anything at all. This particular passage isn’t really necessary in the book at all, why emphasize it by calling it a chapter?
The little passage here does illustrate the overly dramatic thing I was talking about though. The fact that he separates a couple of lines into their own paragraphs, most notably “But there was nowhere else to go.” and “Not after what had happened in his house.”
It kind of puts me in mind of the writing I did while I was in my teens, of course the lines set that way gave me goosebumps when I read them back to myself, in reality they don’t seem to have that effect at all, or perhaps they do but only for a much younger reader.
To end this before (hopefully) the friend who bought the book for me and got it autographed takes me off of his christmas list, I will just say that it is a John Saul novel. If you have never read anything by Saul, Black Creek Crossing is a pretty good example of his writing. It has been a long time since I have read the other books that he wrote, and they honestly blend together in your mind since they are all so similar, but I do believe that you should read at least one of his novels. Saul doesn’t seem to posess the unlimited imagination of someone like Stephen King, but the one story that he has been telling (over and over again) over the course of his career is worth a look.
Were I to pick one of Saul’s novels to recommend, this one probably wouldn’t be it. If pressed I would probably recommend Black Lightning even though the reader reviews just shred it. Black Lightning is a serial killer story though, and I think a lot of the reviewers were serial killer buffs. At any rate, Black Lightning was one of only a couple of Saul’s works that I didn’t know the ending of within the first twenty-five pages, in fact I recall still being guessing until near the end.
• Nothing else of note to speak of today. Tune in next time to see if I am indeed removed from my friend’s christmas card list.
Well, Yesterday’s post actually resulted in two emails. While I would like to think that it was all a result of myself writing better, or perhaps more controversial, things, that is certainly not the case. Both of the emails were asking me the same question: If you don’t really like John Saul, why have you read so many of his novels?
I expected this question to come from Flux at the BlackChampagne website when I originally wrote the message to him. When he didn’t actually ask the question, I kind of gave up on looking for an excuse to give him. Then, when two people emailed the question that Flux never asked, I was forced to start to try to come up with a reason why. I have found that reason, basically put, I don’t know.
The year was roughly 1991, I was riding with my oldest brother from Oregon to Arizona. Speed limits at the time still being in the 55mph range on much of the road, while being 65mph on others, it was taking us a while to get there. The only tape that we had in the car, at least the only one that I would agree to listen to, was Europe: The Final Countdown. That was what we listened to for about 20 hours of driving time and it really, really, really got old.
My mother, while we were at her home in Arizona, offered us a book-on-tape version of Saul’s first novel “Suffer the Children”. Being that myself and my brother would rather die than to listen to that godawful ‘Europe’ music again, we took it and plugged it in as we were leaving Phoenix. The strange thing is that I am not able to find anywhere on the official John Saul website that there was ever a ‘book on tape’ version of that story…ever… I know that this was the story that I listened to, and I know that it really did sound fresh, but I was also about sixteen, and I didn’t really know anything about anything. Of course that knowledge (the knowledge that you never knew anything in your teens) really only starts to come to you much, much later.
Probably about four years after the previous incident, I realized that I actually wanted to read the works of Saul. It was certainly not an ‘epiphany’, or anything of that sort. I just happened to check out a book at the local library, by Saul, and read it. The book-on-tape versions of the books are either far better, or I have really low standards. At the time I was living with a dear friend, and we would kind of juggle the books to make sure that we were both able to read them before they had to go back to the library. It was during that period that I read every novel that Saul had ever written.
There are certain requisites one must reach before becoming a ‘good author’. Saul, in my opinion, did not meet a single one of those requisites. What Saul did do was keep me reading his books.
So, here we are, many years later. I have read every book that Saul had written, prior to the “blackstone chronicles”, of course I read that all as well. The thing is that some combination of age/experience in life tells you what is going to happen long before the question ever comes up. I, now, have an autographed copy of Saul’s latest novel. I will read it, every page. Not just for the story, but for the fact that a very dear friend bought it for me.
The other question, via email, was regarding the dual watch photos that I placed in yesterday’s update. The question was; “are you sure about the prices you attribute to each watch?”.
The answer is pretty simple, “NO”.
I have never bought a Rolex, ever, and I don’t plan to…
This person’s issue was with my saying that the ‘armitron’ was under a hundred dollars, while the Rolex was over a thousand… Well, it turns out that I chose the wrong ROLEX to pick on. The Armitron watch in the photo is still under a hundred dollars, the ROLEX watch is (prior to my previous beliefs) only about 800. Thank you for clearing that up. So that, the Rolex, watch will keep time only 8 times better than the three-dollar watch that you can get at the local 7-11. To follow that up, your average cheap-ass-watch can keep time, being off by only thousandths of a second, for years. The more expensive watches have to be repaired by ‘jewelers’, the name itself cost money.
Buy the cheap watch and there will be no need to negotiate later,.
First off, I just want to go ahead an mention that I only waited until the fourth day of the month to get around to changing the date on my watch. That might be a new record for me. My watch is very often a day off just because I am too lazy to change it. Not that I am necessarily too lazy to take the fraction of a second to actually change the date, more that my watch has a certain issue when I try to do it (or I have an issue with the watch, or both).
The thing about watches is that if you happen to be a man, and not a metrosexual type man, you only really need one. That being the case, you want to have one that is quite durable, yet that looks respectable enough to wear in semi-formal wear; A plastic digital watch doesn’t look very good when you are trying to dress nice. This leads to you (hopefully) having a watch that is much like mine (which is an Armitron. Of course the website does not let you actually browse through the designs, except by category with a representative picture of each, which makes that link all but useless.), for those on a budget, or a much more expensive one that is just as utilitarian (of course the link to Rolex is every bit as useless as it does the same “Flash Navigation” crap that makes it impossible to link to anything within the site.).
For your consideration, I offer the following two photos. I apologize for not being able to get them to the same size, but the Rolex got too blurry when I sized it down, as did the Armitron when I tried to size it up.
Now, I know for a fact that the Armitron is stainless steel, not just the back of it, but the band and everything else as well. I know that because it has been on my left wrist every single day for about three years. The Rolex appears to be damn near identical to the Armitron, so I am going to go ahead and assume that it is also made of stainless steel.
The stainless stell allows me to dip my hands into heavily bleached water without fear of damaging it, makes it quite easy to clean, and also gives it a simple silver and black look that you honestly could not get with your average Swatch. The fact that blood rinses neatly off of it is something that I really adore, but that may be just for people in my chosen profession.
I can wash the blood of of the watch once the day is over (much like washing your hands) and wear the same watch out to dinner in semi-formal wear. In fact, I am pretty sure that I was actually wearing this watch while I was at my Wedding. As for the fact that the Armitron watch in the photo is under a hundred dollars, while the rolex in the photo is over a thousand, I got nothing. Some People (idiots) will simply pay more for the name. I am glad that I am not one of them.
I have gone way, way off topic here, I will try to get it back into focus now. I don’t like to change the date on the watch because (on any watch that is a chronograph) you have to pull the winder (or what used to be a winder) out about half way to get to the part that changes the date alone. Nearly half of the times I try, I pull the damn thing out too far and end up messing the minute hand on the watch up. That is really not that big of a deal, but I do like to keep my watch as close as possible to three minutes ahead of actual time. I suppose that is yet another one of my weird obsessions, but it does pretty much gurantee that I am to work a minute or two early, and since I never leave work until at least five minutes after (as a precaution), I am guranteed to never arrive late or leave early.
• I sent an email to Flux over at BlackChampagne.com a couple of days ago. It was a pretty simple, short email, in which I just pretty much ripped on John Saul. Of course, as luck would have it, he went ahead and posted my email, then linked to my site. I am not opposed to that in any way, I mean you don’t really start typing on your own site if you aren’t looking to have people read it. Posting your thoughts in such a (potentially) public venue will make it so that a lot of people read it.
In case anyone out there actually reads both his site and my site, I want to make one point clear. I have read over 20 John Saul books, the most recent was the 6 book series called The Blackstone Chronicles (I do apologize for not linking to the amazon.com or other sellers of the books, but those reviews are pretty harsh…Albeit deservingly so). Most every book that Saul wrote I read before I had come out of my teen years. I read the “blackstone chronicles” only because I felt an obligation to read the rest of his work. I knew then, as I know now, that the ‘Blackstone Chronicles’ was a direct attempt to rip off the Green Mile serial series that Stephen King did.
I would likely not even be reading this latest Saul novel were it not for the fact that a friend took the time to buy a copy of the book (in hardcover) and got the author himself to autograph it, with my name in the message. It is not even formulaic crap, no, to call it formulaic would imply that he uses a formula. He doesn’t seem to use a formula at all, instead he just writes the same damn story, over and over again, changing names where necessary. But, that is why I actually quit reading Saul in the first place.
I don’t have it in me to bitch any more about this subject, but trust me, I stand behind my decision that Saul is not a real author.