If you got here because I commented and you were directed to this blog, it is because Blogger will not show both blogs. So you can get to my Pat's Posts, by clicking this miscellany, the first blog while this is just about books.

Monday, May 14, 2018

2 novels, The Life We Bury and The Guise of Another both by Allen Eskens

Author Allen Eskens at La Crescent library
This is unusual to combine 2 novels in one post, but in April, Allen Eskens, local MN author, and new to me,  visited La Crescent and  spoke at the library.  It was by far the best talk by an author that  we have enjoyed locally, although I always enjoy meeting authors and learning about them and their writings. This was in the mid afternoon and the crowd was there, packing our small space inside the library, mostly all retired women who mostly had  had read his books previously.  I wondered why retired men do not read, but in our house Jerry prefers to do other activities and has never been the book reader like me.  The week before I was in Sam's Club and noticed "The Life We Bury" which I purchased  because I knew I would be hearing the author soon.  I did not have time to read the book before meeting him, but just out of curiosity I did read the first few pages, and I could not wait to get to it.  I was finishing another book.     Allen talked about his tendencies to daydream finally proving worthwhile as an author, how he was a below average student until he was introduced to drama and acting by an astute teacher.  A Catholic school boy from Nebraska who now lives in MN and had a previous career as a successful criminal defense attorney, he attributes his success to daydreaming, a habit he still has which keeps him taking copious notes about characters as  thoughts run through his mind.  Very interesting and then his success and sense of awe being in the same room with authors like David Baldacci,  etc.  
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
Well, I knew I would want to read more than one of his novels and so was glad I brought cash along as he had a few books for sale and would autograph them, as well as any that we had previously purchased, like mine which I had also taken along for my walk up town.   I like to support authors who take the time to go out and talk with people.  So here I am with Allen Eskens and if you notice cash in my hand, ready to buy a few more books from him, sheesh I never realize how short I am until I see me in photos, although he is about 6 foot tall!  I am a midget!  Enough of my introduction.  The Life We Bury is a great mystery novel, a different perspective and I can appreciate how he has been awarded the Best Debut Mystery by the Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award, the 2015 Edgar Award Finalist for Best First Novel which got him to New York to meet the who's who of mystery writers, ITW Thriller Award Finalist for Best First Novel and the MN Book Award Finalist for Best Genre Novel.   Of course I had him autograph my books, and I really thought I would add them to my collection but I am determined to downsize.  I will be sending them along to a  longtime friend from CA, who reads vociferously too and now lives in NC, he will enjoy these..  

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
Alexander Rupert  is a Minneapolis detective banished to fraud units investigations.  His life is spiraling downward.  He was a Medal of Valor winner ( a police honor) but now under subpoena by grand jury on suspicion of corruption, shunned by other detectives, suspects his status conscious wife is having an affair but seizes an opportunity to resolve a complex case of identity theft.  Alexander encounters a trained assassin, Drago Basta, veteran of Balkan wars with many aliases, who has been searching for James Putnam for years,  The firm Patrio International  is a focus of contacts,corruption, murder and more .  As Alexander pursues his hunches against the wishes of his superiors but helped out by his brother Max, the identity theft and international implications explode from Minneapolis to New York. Alexander become too late smart as the novel winds down and he realizes that running off with Ianna Markova is not wise,  it will cost him his life.   

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.  

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