Welcome back to another Write On Purpose book review. Each week, I review a well-written book, highlighting what makes it good from the reader’s perspective and what writing skills and techniques make it an irresistible read. Thus, each review serves both writers and readers.
This week, it's a collection of suspenseful tales called The Apostate and Other Stories of the Contemporary Southwest by J. B. Hogan
The Apostate by J.B. Hogan
Bobby Earl, a desperate boy with psychopathic urges,
sticks a gun to the head of mild-mannered college professor and fugitive Michael and kidnaps him. The police and FBI are on the lookout, but Michael’s hidden past makes attention from the FBI the last thing he wants. His past hadn’t been a problem until now but his predicament has drawn the attention of the one man in the state who would know him for who he really was. A successful rescue might mean death or imprisonment for Michael, but staying in a killer’s clutches is certain doom unless Mary Beth – a sweet but damaged woman-child – can calm Bobby Earl. And time is running out.
What Makes a Great Suspense Story?
Some suspenseful tales focus on high speed chases. Some focus on character struggles. This collection has both. Yes, there are police and FBI investigations, manhunts, and the like. Hogan, however, goes much deeper into the characters and their motivations than many thrillers.
I'll tell you, hanging out (literarily speaking) with a psychopath is unnerving! Hogan brilliantly moves the plot along while still revealing character. The reader is left with a sense of the cold calculation of Bobby Earl, the fear of the professor Michael. Bobby Earl tosses his pistol in the air like a kid playing with a toy. He sticks in the head of the captive professor dealing with the crazy man and his placid girl.
Read an Excerpt of The Apostate
"Michael Wright felt the cold metal against his left temple and closed his eyes. It was a .38, he guessed. A Saturday night special. The only kind the frantic boy beside him probably could afford, or get his hands on. Damn it, Michael cursed inwardly, feeling the short barrel of the pistol drift towards his forehead. . . . This is karma, Michael thought bitterly. Karma. Cause and effect. This was the effect from a cause he, Michael, had caused. Some time, somewhere. And the hammer had come down across the years. He knew he deserved this. He didn't want it anyway."
Setting as Character
One of the things I felt while reading these stories is that the land, the Southwest, reads like a character unto itself. Certainly it has no dialogue, but its essence infuses each story. You can feel the dry desert heat and smell the dirt. Excellent writing.
A good friend of mine lived in the Lordsburg/Deming NM area, and this is the first book I've read that mentioned those places.
Buy The Apostate
About J. B. Hogan
J. B. Hogan's latest book, The Apostate, was inspired by the years he spent in Arizona during the 1980s and 1990s. He currently has over 230 stories and poems published in online literary journals.
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Ronda Del Boccio
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