For my sins, I am a member of a group of authors who live in my local area. I say they live there, but one of them moved away last year, heading to the south coast. In spite of that he still keeps in touch and he has given me some useful feedback recently on my latest draft of Borderline. This is John Holmes, author of the book I’m going to review here.
The group’s aim is to be supportive of its fellow members and occasionally to participate in joint ventures that help to promote our books. In spite of being a member for a few years now, I realised recently that I’d only read a couple of books by the other members. Some of them, I’m sure, won’t tick boxes for me – we all have our preferences, don’t we? Even so, it seemed only right that I should dip my toe in these waters instead of hanging around the shoreline and just admiring the view.
When looking at the range of books available from the group, John’s had grabbed my attention, so I’d had my eye on some of his titles for a while. I downloaded Legacy and a Gun last November in anticipation of making a start on it. As it turned out, it’s only in the last couple of weeks that I got round to reading it.
My experience of John is that he’s a very thoughtful man. I don’t mean in the caring and considerate way (although I’m sure he is!), but that he is analytical and ponders things very carefully. It was one of the reasons I asked him to beta read for me. But my awareness of that also gave me a something of a heads-up about the kind of writing I was going to experience.
Legacy and a Gun is billed as ‘a novel in 103 scenes’, which does give an indication of the style of the book. Incidentally, as I bought my copy on Kindle, I didn’t dwell too much on the cover. As you’ll see now it’s in front of you, the author’s name has a neat little style of its own. I wish I’d noticed (and appreciated it) earlier.
Reference to a gun in the title has the potential to suggest action. There is action and, when it comes, it takes you by surprise, enhancing the sense of danger and urgency. But those scenes don’t crop up frequently. Perhaps because of that, when they do come, they jolt you, and that’s a good thing. Action and violence can become mundane if they’re used excessively.
That said, the themes of the book aren’t action and violence. Told from the point of view of a one-time minister in an overthrown government, those 103 scenes serve to reflect on his past life, contrasting it with the one he now lives in exile. An exile, incidentally, where he spends a lot of time looking over his shoulder for the unseen threat of retribution from the old country. But there’s more to it than that. His reflections also cover his marriage, the corruption of government and power, and the impact on the people ruled by those governments.
Like I said, the book is a thoughtful one. At times it runs the risk of being too thoughtful, as the protagonist approaches everything in a very matter-of-fact way. And yet there is tenderness there, and anger and frustration. And fear. Just the right balance of it all. It’s not a page-turner, but it’s not a slow book either. The chapters are short, which helps the pace, and each one is a complete episode in its own right. Perhaps more cliff-hangers would have lifted the pace, but I don’t think they were necessary. This collection of scenes gradually builds up to an appropriate conclusion, leaving this reader thinking long after I’d finished reading it.
If you’ve missed this book and want a copy yourself, click on the image above. If you want to know more about the author, you can check out his website here.