|Author Allen Eskens at La Crescent library|
|First novel published 2014|
Well I sat there listening to him and thinking, "great just what I need another author whose books I will be buying" and thinking about my over full shelf of books I already have to read, but oh well, as he explained one novel a year is about his limit and how he tries to write about what he knows, how some of his life experiences make their way into the novels, and how he never set out to be an author nor to write a detective crime series but that the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th novels just flowed that way featuring the detective Max Rupert, who actually appears at the end of The Life We Bury, his first novel. What a great novel, and certainly not one I would have ever been exposed to were it not for this appearance. We learned that it is currently under consideration for film, aka movie production. It was amusing when Allen said that once a book rights are sold to a film production company it becomes like selling your used car, you relinquish all rights and decisions to the film company. His analogy of seeing your former car come down the street with painted fins and teeth was humorous as were several of his revelations about going to New York as a recognized author and meeting authors of renown, James Patterson, etc or merely being in the same room.
|Back cover, 300 pages paperback|
The opening to the Life We Bury draws a reader immediately, " I remember being pestered by a sense of dread as I walked to my car that day, pressed down by a wave of foreboding that swirled around my head and broke against the evening in small ripples. There are people in this world who would call that kind of feeling a premonition, a warning from some internal third eye that can see around the curve of time. I've never been one to buy into such things. But I will confess that there have been times when I think back to that day and wonder: if the fates had truly whispered in my ear--if I had known how that drive would change so many things--would I have taken a safer path? Would I turn left where before I turned right. Or would I still travel the path that led me to Carl Iverson?" These are the thoughts of Joe Talbert, the main character and this novel is written in the first person, Joe is on his way to University of MN, to complete college despite everything against him all his life. His mother is a no account alcoholic who tends to blame her sons for her difficult life, he leaves behind his 18 year old autistic brother Jeremy, but events will change that. Interesting that Allen Eskens does not go into depth to physically describe his characters. I wondered about that when he mentioned it, but I found while reading that but actually prefer to go with my thoughts. He mentioned in his discussion that he only describes what may become pertinent at some point, such as that Jeremy is better looking that Joe. Carl Iverson will become the center of the novel as Joe struggles to complete an English assignment writing about an older person's life. Joe will choose to go to a skilled nursing facility and after a struggle be given the chance to talk with Carl, who is a convicted murderer serving the final days of his sentience as a terminal cancer patient, Joe will learn more about Carl's life as a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and in the discussions talk to Carl about his own late grandfather and his death, something Joe has never spoken about with anyone. The other characters major to the novel are Lila Nash,Joes' apartment neighbor; Crystal Hagen the teenage girl purportedly murdered by Carl,;Carl's only friend Virgil; Andy Fisher, Crystal's boyfriend; Doug Lockwood, Crystal's stepfather; Danny Lockwood, Crystal's stepbrother, Berthel Collins a public defender law clerk when Carl's case was tried; Boady Sander a law professor of the Innocence Project, and Max Rupert, the Minneapolis police detective. There are other incidental characters but I did not note them. As it turns out I will be developing a matrix because this author uses some of these characters in subsequent novels, such as Max Rupert, the detective.
A few quotes from The Life We Bury, Page 7, "maybe she knew who my mother was and figured that no one can change the sound of an echo.." Page 31, "The archive room had the feel of a tabernacle with millions of souls packed away on microfilm like the incense in tiny jars, waiting for someone to free their essence..." Page 61, "but as a sinner needs the devil, I needed a scapegoat, some one I could point at and say, 'You're responsible.".
Page 89 struck me, as about the 3rd time in the novel that the message, "I wasn't there, I had no say in what was or wasn't ok" There is a theme of not to judge unless you were there and maybe not even then, Carl teaches Joe this lesson again on their first meeting.
Page 193, " But in the end there's no hole deep enough. No matter how hard you try there are some things you just can't run away from"
Page 195 indicates that this life is our heaven, " if I didn't live my life as if I was already in heaven, and I died and found only nothingness, well...I would have wasted my life. "
This is a great book, 5 *****, my only disappointment, just like life, Joe and Jeremy's alcoholic mother seems to get by with short changing her sons. When Joe has to bail her out at the beginning I kept hoping he would not and would just walk away, but he is a better person than her.
The Guise of Another published in 2015 , 265 pages paperback, is the debut novel featuring Max Rupert, the Minneapolis detective but introduces Max' brother Alexander Rupert. This is when I realized I would develop a matrix of characters to track their appearances in the novels. This novel opens with a tryst between to people married to others and their foolish sexual activities that ruin their lives and kill James Erkel Putnam, driver of the Porsche who turns out to not be James, thus giving the title meaning.
The opening of this novel, "That night, there were a few things that the man knew to a religious certainty. He knew that he's soon be having sex with the woman sitting in the passenger seat of his Lexus. He knew that neither his wife nor the woman's husband yet suspected their infidelities. And he knew that any whisper of guilt he may have felt would soon be silenced by the tumult of their act."
|Back Cover Guise of Another|
Page 25, " Alexander's fall from grace. Their recent conversations skipped like stones across the surface of their lives, never finding depth, never touching the trouble that had been visited upon Alexander."
This novel is another 5*****. I could not wait to begin reading the 3rd.