Here's something that makes me really uncomfortable: colleagues asking me to read and/or review their books, especially when they're fiction.
Not because they're not good writers, most of them truly are. Because the first truly tough news editor I ever worked for said something that's stuck with me over the years: "inside every good reporter is the great American novel, and that's where the d**n thing should stay!"
He wasn't much for subtlety, but he left an impression. So strongly that I've run from the idea of writing anything remotely book- length.
Since beginning The Outdoor Wire, I've read the work of many real
writers in outdoor journalism. And I enjoy reading their work. That's the other reason why I get nervous reviewing their work. I think I have as much in common with real
writers as butchers do with surgeons.
Until recently, James Tarr wasn't one of those guys.
Don't get me wrong, he's a good writer- very good. And he's a great storyteller. Sitting with him at any writer event meant great - and occasionally ribald- stories of his colorful past.
When I overheard someone asking about "his book" I asked what he'd written. Expecting a "Guide to the Colt Revolver" -type book, I was surprised to learn it was a detective novel entitled "Whorl".
Then he asked if I'd like a review copy. At that point, I had no choice but to accept.
And I'm glad I did.
Be prepared for some second looks at the title. But don't let that keep you from giving "Whorl" a try.
From the first chapter until the last graf, I was intrigued by the plot, engaged by the characters, and surprised by his breadth of knowledge. In fact, when I finished "Whorl" I complained to Tarr about his leaving me wanting more. He accepted the compliment, and explained that, while he didn't "really" have any plans, he wanted to leave at least the chance of a second book.
Hopefully, he's sitting in front of his computer looking for more inspiration, because I'd like to see if he can top this one.
His ability to interweave a somewhat dispirited part-time armored car messenger, a hard-charging FBI fingerprint technician, a stripper (decidedly missing the usual heart of gold of a "soiled dove") and a threatened bureaucracy into a believable plot showed imagination that makes me wonder if he might occasionally "embellish" his personal stories, too.
A grasp of fingerprint technology -and a potential hole in this supposedly "foolproof" detection method- had me wondering if there really weren't hundreds of wrongfully convicted "criminals" helping overload today's correctional facilities.
And his choice of a title took away any doubt about his wicked sense of humor. You'd be surprised how many people glance at "Whorl" and instantly substitute "i" for an "e". That simple letter substitution caused more than one casual passerby to do a double take, stop and pick up the book.
After skimming a couple of pages several asked to borrow my copy. It'sbeen out- and back- a couple of times -although I had to be less than subtle getting it back the last time
And I'm a lot less inclined to loan this one than most, because the note he wrote on the flyleaf isn't just funny, it's almost
enough inspiration to convince me to sit down and give fiction a try.
You can't read his inscription, but you can read "Whorl."
If you're looking for a weekend read that will have you alternately laughing out loud and scratching your head wondering what's going to happen next, I'd say it's worth the time.
It's available on Amazon (paperback only, $17.95) Books A Million and other online retailers.
Get your own. You can't borrow mine.
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publish Date: November 2016
Page Count: 494