Sunday, June 19, 2011

INVISIBLE PATH - A Carl Brookins Review

Invisible Path
By Marilyn Meredith
ISBN: 978-1-60659-239-7
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-60659-238-0
2010 Release from
Mundania Press. 224 pages

This charming story from a veteran author is the ninth in her series of Tempe Crabtree crime novels. Tempe is a deputy sheriff in the small town of Bear Creek near an Indian reservation in the mountains of central California.

A young man named Daniel Tofoya is sadly murdered and it develops that while he was a talented and often charming athlete, he could be a nasty bully if the mood took him. There are several possible perpetrators, but as often happens, most attention focuses on a stranger who has come to live on the reservation. The story is complicated by the appearance in town of a small separatist movement, stockpiling supplies in anticipation of a coming explosion of what could be racial and class warfare.

All of this gets sorted out by the patient and wise Deputy Crabtree. With help from her long-suffering pastor husband and exuberant son, Tempe is able to avert several disasters and calm some difficult situations.

The novel is in the classic traditional mystery mode with a lot of emphasis on character development and setting. Relations between members of different races and religious beliefs are very well handled with insight and care. This is another enjoyable and satisfying adventure with Deputy Tempe Crabtree.

Carl Brookins
Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I'm happy to welcome Mark Terry. Mark is a full-time freelance writer, editor and novelist. He is the author of numerous novels including the bestselling DANCING IN THE DARK, THE FALLEN, THE  DEVIL'S PITCHFORK, THE SERPENT'S KISS and others. He lives in Michigan with his wife, two sons, dog named Frodo, and a bunch of  guitars mostly named after Greek gods: Athena, Poseidon, Ares, and Larry. His favorite guitar's name is Layla. His latest novel to feature Homeland Security troubleshooter Dr. Derek Stillwater, is THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. When not writing, Mark runs, bikes, lifts weights and teaches Sanchin-Ryu karate, where he is training a Midget Ninja Army with plans for world domination. Of his writing The Lansing State Journal said, "Terry writes like Lee Child on steroids."

By Mark Terry

I’ve been thinking a lot about characters -what makes them memorable, what doesn’t. I honestly don’t have an answer about why one character will stay in your mind and others don’t. I’m also not 100% sure why some readers – often critics – will complain about a lack of character development when readers rave about how much they like the character.

My oldest son, Ian, who is 17, sometimes seems to have a better grip on the theory of characterization, maybe because he’s still taking high school language arts courses. He’ll babble on about an anti-hero and I confess to being someone fuzzy on the definition. So I looked it up. Wikipedia says, “an antihero is generally considered to be a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards conspicuously contrary to that of the archetypal hero, and is in some instances its antithesis.”

I find that so broad, practically speaking, as to be useless.

For those few of you who watched Stargate Universe (SGU), Dr. Nicholas Rush, played by Robert Carlyle, has been described as an antihero. Which is interesting and sort of helps me understand the concept, but during one of the episodes the military leader of the ship, Colonel Everett Young, kicked the crap out of Rush and stranded him on a planet, presumably to die. As a viewer of the show, I knew he wouldn’t stay down, but I did imagine that if I had been Colonel Young I would have jettisoned Rush out of an airlock or shot him in the head long before Young did. He might have been a genius and the person on board the ship who knew the most about the ship and spoke the language of the Ancients best, but I viewed him as a liability we probably would have muddled along without.

And he was fascinating. Arrogant, brilliant, complicated, rude – a total prick, actually – selfish, self-centered, wandering off on his own agenda, seemingly putting the human beings’ survival onboard the ship completely secondary to his own intellectual interests.

Wandering away from SGU, I think any character we think of as “memorable” probably has to be flawed. Maybe a LOT flawed. In my own thriller series featuring Homeland Security troubleshooter Derek Stillwater, I understand that on the basis of society’s standards, Derek is kind of a menace – a little bit of a vigilante, he doesn’t follow the chain of command, he often breaks the law to accomplish his ends… hell, in The Devil’s Pitchfork he tortured a woman to death (accidentally) to get information he needed. That’s not heroic or noble behavior, and prior to writing that scene I had a huge argument with myself. And my conclusion was that in that situation that’s what Derek would do. Not happily, but extremely reluctantly, with terrible consequences (that come back to haunt him in subsequent books).

That sort of thing’s a balancing act for the writer. And my way of dealing with Derek’s flaws is not to think of them as flaws or even character traits. I just figure out what Derek stands for, what it is his goals and reason for being is, and then put him in situations that test those goals. The character’s there, now let’s see how he reacts.

Put it another way, borrowing from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, Captain Jack Sparrow, rather tired of Will Turner’s complaints and criticisms, puts him out on the yardarm (I guess, maybe it’s the boom) and says, “The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can’t.”

And as the writer of your flawed character – perhaps very, very flawed character – you need to decide what you can or cannot accept.