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Review: ‘Redemption Road’ by John Hart

Redemption RoadRedemption Road by John Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s enough darkness in this book to cause an eclipse of the sun soon after you begin reading. Elizabeth, the protagonist is a good cop with a good heart that is filled with life-affirming love and infinite grit. Her past was cruel to her and it’s neither gone nor forgotten.

Her story in this thriller will carry you through the darkness stemming from multiple characters whose self-righteous evil is as unflinching as Elizabeth’s heart. Thirteen years prior to the beginning of the novel, a policeman was convicted of killing a young woman and leaving her body on the altar of the church where Elizabeth’s father preaches. Elizabeth, who was a rookie cop at the time thought he was wrongly convicted. As a cop, he has a hard time surviving prison. When he gets out, the killings start again with the same MO. This appears to prove that everyone else on the police force is right about him and that Elizabeth is naive.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is having her own troubles with the authorities over a case she’s involved in. The plot is complex and well constructed, the writing is superb, and the characters have more dimensions, secrets, and agonies than you can shake a stick at. At all times, the notion of a redemption road out of this chaos seems to many as an unlikely nirvana or simply a dead end.

The story is adeptly told and highly recommended.


View all my reviews

Goodbye to Herman Wouk, etc.

Wikipedia Photo

Several years ago, I was surprised to hear that Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War) was still around. According to the news, he died in his sleep today. I think most of us hope to go that way when we’re about 103. I could do without that hat or the beard, but ar 103, I would no longer be runaway material.

I grew up reading this man’s books. I remember seeing The Winds of War minseries in 1983 with Robert Mitchum. My wife and I thought it was an interesting series, but laughingly commented how convenient it was that the Robert Mitchum character seemed to show up whenever anything historic was happening.

I suppose his novels are no longer studied in school. If not, that’s a shame.

My publisher Melinda Clayton (Thomas-Jacob Publishing) writes dark novels. So I had to tell her about Redemption Road (2017) by John Hart. I’m reading it now and have to say that this is one well-written, twisted, dark thriller, and one of the best books in this genre that I’ve read in a long time. It’s called a thriller even though it feels more like Southern gothic. I’ve read 75% of it and wonder if anyone will be left alive or even sane by the end of the novel.

I told Melinda that I thought there’s enough darkness to cause an eclipse of the sun.

Thomas-Jacob has redone the cover of my novel Sarabande to make it consistent with the updated cover of The Sun Singer. Sarabande is the sequel to The Sun Singer and was, I think, the most difficult of all my novels to write. Writing from the point of view of the main character, Sarabande, is difficult for a male author, considering the fact that she goes through two assaults in this book.

I’m not sure it’s really possible for men and women to properly and totally understand their opposite genders in the “real world,” much less in fiction where they are compelled to talk about a character’s thoughts as well as his/her actions. Telling the story was an interesting experience, and I hope I learned from it.

Meanwhile, Amazon is still not displaying the cover pictures for the hardback editions of Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena. I complained to Amazon about it today, noting that Barnes & Noble is displaying the covers.

Thanks to those of you who checked on me here, via e-mail, and on Facebook about yesterday’s biopsy. As I told Montucky, the pre-op visit to the hospital and the paperwork before and after the biopsy took more time than the biopsy. I have some pain killers but really haven’t needed them. The hospital staff was great. Now we’re in a waiting mode for the results which the doctor said would take a week. Reminds me of the Navy’s “hurry up and wait.”

Now, for those of you addicted to “Survivor: Edge of Extinction,” this year’s series has now run its course and you can go back to your normal lives without having to worry about who will be voted off the show during tribal council.

As my alterego Jock Stewart has suggested on more than one occasion, Congress needs to operate with a “tribal council system” in which each month the House or Senate gets together and votes somebody out of office. That would help clean house, so to speak. We need to get rid of the deadwood, the inept, and the insane. That certainly includes the lawmakers of Alabama after they voted in a heartbeat abortion law that shows the men there still consider the woman there as property.




‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’ and ‘Lena’ now available in hardcover

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has just released the hardcover editions of Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena. The first book in the Florida Folk Magic Series, Conjure Woman’s Cat, was released in hardcover last month. The books are also available in e-book, paperback, and audiobook editions.  All e-book editions are also available together in one e-book volume.

Bookstand and hoodoo supplies not included!

Enjoy the stories.


Wow, I’m gonna be rich

Eulalie and Washerwoman

No, I didn’t enter the lottery or the latest Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.

There’s a slight glitch on the title page in the proof copy of Eulalie and Washerwoman. Fortunately, it was easily fixed.

You’ve read about misprints on stamps and how they turn into exceedingly rare collectors’ items that are worth $100000000. I figure this misprinted title page is going to make this proof copy a one-of-a-kind rarity that, say, a hundred years from now, will be worth millions of dollars or euros or whatever we’re spending in those days.

I’m going to hide this copy under a fake rock in the flower bed or some other place nobody would look for it until it’s time to cash in.

Widely Scattered Ghosts

I dedicated my new short story collection to my granddaughters. They don’t know it yet because they’re seven and ten and not old enough to read ghost stories. So, I sent two signed copies to my daughter and she said she’d hide them until the girls are old enough for some like-weight spooky stuff. By the way, I posted a brief excerpt from one of these stories on my web site here.

Dark Arrows, Dark Targets

This is the working title of a new novel based on the Pollyanna character you met in Lena. However, I haven’t made a lot of progress with it other than researching 1940s women’s clothing and the kinds of bows and arrows that were popular in the early 1950s.

I’ve never been able to write when anything stressful is happening. This time it’s a scheduled biopsy on Thursday. I’ve been worrying about the negative results of a blood test for months and now it’s gotten bad enough to see what’s causing the high number. It might be, you know, or it might not.

As usual, the characters want to know just what the hell I’m doing when I’m not working on their stories.

Mother’s Day

It’s raining here for Mother’s Day, but since I’m a dad, that’s not my problem. I did wish my daughter, who lives faraway in Maryland–where there’s a 47% chance of rain–a happy Mother’s Day AND one of my granddaughters a happy birthday.

If you’re a mom, I hope the weather is wonderful wherever you are.






Almost time to release two more hardcover editions

My publisher Thomas-Jacob and I have been waiting for the proof copies for the upcoming hardcover editions of Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena. (The hardcover edition of Conjure Woman’s Cat came out about a week ago.)

Waiting for proof copies is like waiting for Christmas. We know what they look like on the screen, but we have to approve the physical book before the books can appear on online sites or in bookstores.

The proof copies arrived today and they look great. They might need a tweak or two, but they’re about ready to go. Next, Thomas-Jacob will be working its way through books by authors Smoky Zeidel, Sharon Heath, Robert Hays, and Melinda Clayton.

Hardcover editions survive the wear and tear of readers checking them out from a library. Many readers, including me, like hardcover editions of books we consider “keepers.” They last longer.

I’m happy that I have a publisher that can worry about all the details of turning a manuscript into a book. I’ll let you know as soon as the hardcover editions of Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena are available.



A few books for your to-be-read list!

The Time of The Tower 

On the current political and social climate. . .

“You can feel it in the air too. I know you can. There is an almost electric buzz that takes a seat in the back of the head, like an uninvited guest at a family reunion. It takes up space and makes you carry around maladaptive behaviors like a child’s blanket. It’s uncomfortable, it’s ill-fitting, and like that uninvited guest, it infringes on your plans and keeps you from being the person you truly are. And you just can not get it to leave. For those of us who are empaths, it buzzes harder, burns brighter, and every Tweet and every headline sting like daggers. That uninvited guest has taken a place on your couch after the reunion, slide their shoes off, and said they need a place for a while, do you mind if they stay?”

Source: The Time of The Tower ‹ Conjure and Coffee ‹ Reader —

I enjoy reading Conjure and Coffee even though the writer and I are in vastly different age groups and approach magic in somewhat different ways. I’ve highlighted this post about The Tower because whether you’re intuitive in any way, it’s likely that the upheaval in our country has an impact on you and even brings ominous thoughts about the future.

I prefer this Thoth Tarot image to that of the Rider-Waite deck.

Using the Thoth Tarot, I see the Tower Card as less apocalyptic than this image in the Rider-Waite deck suggests. Perhaps we face the destruction of outdated modes of thinking rather than the violent upheaval of mobs and armies. Nonetheless, many of us, empathic and otherwise, intuitively and logically and emotionally sense dangers all over the current times.

My worry is that the debate seems to be getting more polarized rather than one aimed at unity and consensus building. Sometimes I think the two major political parties are trying to outdo each other in pure craziness. If you dare to get in a discussion online about anything from a moderate perspective, you’ll be attacked by extremists on both sides of the issue. The scary thing is, all the people in each group sound the same, like they’ve been brainwashed and all they can do is repeat the programming from the mother ship or whoever they respect.

Okay, I’ve strayed off from the focus and intent of the “Time of the Tower” post because I see similar kinds of messages in the cards about more discord rather than less. How do we diffuse the rhetoric and the hatred and the “my side right or wrong”?

The phrase “blessed are the peacemakers” comes to mind, and I guess that’s better than arguing and trying to win.



What’s a writer’s first goal: sharing ideas or making money?

“Recently, though, it occurred to me that the end goal for aspiring writers always seems to be ‘getting a book deal’ or ‘getting published,’ and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I might not be entirely happy about that.” – Paul Hogan in his writing newsletter “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives.”

Hogan, a successful writer, writing consultant, and blogger at the granddaddy of literary blogs (Beatrice) finds it interesting that a lot of people pick up hobbies such as painting or guitar playing with no thought whatsoever of becoming an illustrator, performer, composer, or anything else that has to do with making money. Yet, when people decide to start writing, they soon turn toward the question of becoming a professional one way or the other.

If this is your number one goal, you might be putting the cart before the horse.

I might speculate that with traditional writing and diary keeping being less of a fad these days than they were in our parents’ and grandparents’ and great grandparents’ eras, people don’t generally perceive writing as a form of recreation. While painting and guitar playing are a form of communication, people als0 see them as relaxing ways to play. Somehow, writing as relaxation falls away in people’s minds. They see it as communication. And not long afterwards, a way of making money whether they have a monetized blog, write freelance articles, or turn to fiction.

Hogan thinks aspiring writers will be happier if they are less frantic about making money and more interested in deciding why they are writing. He suggests discovering your passions (and possibly yourself) and developing those as something you wish to share with others. Is all this fulfilling? If so, then perhaps it leads to something that makes money at some point. If a writer begins that way and ultimately becomes a professional, s/he might be better off in the long run–and happier on his/her way to wherever that passion might lead.

An article in The Guardian “Writing at risk of becoming an ‘elitist’ profession, report warns” notes that working writers’ incomes are continuing to fall making it more necessary for professionals to be subsidized. The subsidy usually comes through the writer’s primary job and/or from the money brought into the household by a spouse or other partner. One point of the article is that people with lower paying jobs won’t have enough money to subsidize the kind of writing schedule required to a professional author.

The falling income part of the equation might make writers focusing first on profits and salability to be frustrated and frenzied than those who begin by developing and sharing passions before becoming overly concerned about writing income.

Hogan makes a good point when he suggests that getting a book deal shouldn’t be the first thing on an aspiring writer’s TO DO list.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s novels include The Sun Singer and Conjure Woman’s Cat.



Our writing takes us back to our childhood

“Other than childhood, what was there in those days that is not here today?” – St-John Perse from “To Celebrate a Childhood”

Perse is not well known today. I know his work because my mother bought a copy of one of his books in 1944, and I found his memories of childhood to be similar to mine in tone as I left home, grew older, and thought back to those formative years before I grew up and started losing my innocence.

Photo by Kal Visuals on Unsplash

If my parents were still here today, they would tell you that I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the Pacific Northwest into the Florida Panhandle just before entering the first grade. If the acronym had been around in those days, I would have been shouting WTF–and probably incurred the wrath of everyone!

Oddly enough, Florida won me over. I “blame” the Boy Scouts and their camping trips for this as well as friends who had beach cottages, and my mother, too, who organized family day trips to all kinds of tempting places.

Florida has been showing up in my work of late. I set my first novels in Montana and then placed a satire in Texas. But I finally came home, and I guess I think of Florida that way now, and concentrated on the world where I grew up. My childhood in Florida was actually quite good once I started looking around at the neighborhood and finding an environment I liked. Basically, I grew up on the beach and in the piney woods.

Now, as those days draw me back now in my fiction, I wonder how many other authors discover that not only can they go home again, but that that is where their most powerful inspiration can be found. Childhood is such an impressionable time that it variously haunts us or inspires us for the rest of our lives. So many people are writing memoirs these days as though the writing itself helps them understand where they came from and what happened there. We do that in our stories as well.

Then, as now, I was struck by the conflict between the land and its beauty and the politics of Jim Crow. That disconnect still makes no sense to me. So, I write stories about it and try to figure it out. I have a feeling a lot of other writers are doing the same thing in fiction and nonfiction. We want to understand what turned us into the people we are today. Nature? Nurture? Probably both. For all I know, fate dragged me to Florida so that I would one day write Conjure Woman’s Cat.

That’s probably not the case. For one thing, I don’t believe in fate. But I do see that childhood wields a lot of power over us and that try as we might, we can never really escape it–supposing that we want to. I don’t want to, though I once did. Stories from a writer’s childhood are always there waiting to be told, to influence what s/he writes many years into the future. Those stories hold a lot of power over us and, frankly, life is much easier if we listen to them and share them with others.









The ‘Rules’ on Writing Inner Thoughts in Books

Sometimes a disagreement gives me pause to explore how I see a certain style of writing and why. In this case, a member of my critique group and I differed on the use of italics for inner dialogue, or thoughts. He hates them. I use them. It has caused some strong discussion. (Yes, we remain good friends.)

Source: The “Rules” on Writing Inner Thoughts in Books ‹ Indies Unlimited ‹ Reader —

Basically, how you approach a character’s thoughts comes down to personal preference unless your work is going to a publisher with a strong editor and/or a strong style sheet.

In my novel Conjure Woman’s Cat and its two sequels, I used italics to indicate that the cat was using telepathy to talk to the conjure woman. My editor thought I didn’t need to do that, but I didn’t want to go through entire pages of “thought speech” with “Lena thought” and “Eulalie thought” tied onto all the lines. That might make readers think they were just thinking about those things when they were communicating them.

Italics becomes a bit of a problem when passages become lengthy. It’s generally considered harder to read–or a “put off” to readers–when it covers entire pages.

This piece in Indies Unlimited is, I think, a catalyst for us to think about what we’re doing when we write.