Gary Broughman’s Indie Book Watch
As in so many corners of our culture, diversity is now the name of the game in book publishing. With that lead I could go almost anywhere. I could compare books on paper to ebooks, or describe the hierarchy of nonfiction, fiction and poetry, or the way independent book publishing is following the path of the music industry to get the best talent to the public without permission from institutional gatekeepers. But my focus today is on genre novels vs. contemporary cultural fiction.
The novel I’ve chosen to highlight in this column, Alligator Pool by Joan Hartwig, stands firmly in both camps. On the surface, it appears Ms. Hartwig has written a spellbinding mystery/suspense novel, but the attentive reader with come away knowing this is also a story about people in our culture who will do almost anything to protect profits—including murder and the destruction of the Everglades ecosystem.
One quick caveat: No honestly rendered, high quality book is easy to write. But at least the would-be genre novelist has a formula with which to begin. As an editor who often works with novice writers, I see many for whom the great challenge is how to put it all together. They decide they want to write because they have all these “really interesting stories” but have no idea how to combine them into a cogent whole. I call this having a box full of pretty ornaments but no tree on which to hang them. If your novel is a detective story, a mystery or a romance, there are certain known elements your book should include. You can look them up online or read a book or attend a workshop on your genre. You still might write a terrible book, but if you follow the designated path you’ll at least include all the proper touchstones.
Now, just to be clear, Ms. Hartwig is no novice writer. A retired PhD college professor at major universities, she has published books and essays on Shakespeare and other Renaissance literature. Alligator Pool is her first novel. It took her awhile to complete the 214-page volume, but the wait was well worth it. Alligator Pool is both entertaining and instructive. One comes away unsure whether to hate her villain—South Florida sugar baron Jorge Fuegos—because he murders people or because he is murdering the Everglades. The answer may be both, but my impression is that deep in the author’s heart it’s the Everglades.
Of course, there’s also the poor alligators sickened by the pollution the sugar company is pumping into the Everglades. Fuegos and his comically inept hired killers try to pin the murders on the reptiles, but hero Luke Palmer, a dedicated and forceful photojournalist, will have none of it. To solve the crimes and stop the murders—of people and the Everglades—Palmer puts his own life in danger along with several of the beautiful women who always seem to be pulling at his shirttails.
Alligator Pool is full of suspense and dangerous moments which leave readers holding their breath in sympathy for Ms. Hartwig’s “good guy” characters. Yes, we know who wears the white hats and who wears the black, but that’s OK. A clear moral compass is one of the many touchstones for a well-crafted mystery/suspense story, and the author has deftly placed all the required stops along her fictional path—which in this case is often the beautiful waterway known as the Everglades.
Alligator Pool is published by iUniverse and priced at $15.99. It’s available online at amazon.com and barnes and noble.com, or by request in most bookstores. If you’d like to have a signed copy directly from the author, contact me at my email address below and I’ll see if I can hook you up.
Gary Broughman is a professional writer and editor. His independent publishing company is CHB Media. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.chbmediaonline.com
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