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Can a libertarian curmudgeon survive in a post 9/11 America? Is it possible to create the perfect meal on a Baby Q grill? Will Elaine finally succumb to her innermost desires? Check out my novels - which I am excerpting to separate blogs as I write them. Just click on my Profile button to access their links.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another Man's Poison - Simon John Cox

tur·gid (tûrjd)
1. Excessively ornate or complex in style or language; grandiloquent: turgid prose.
2. Swollen or distended, as from a fluid; bloated: a turgid bladder; turgid veins.


[Latin turgidus, from turgre, to be swollen.]

"Another Man's Poison", by Simon John Cox, is a perfect example to give whenever you want to describe the word 'turgid'. His first novel, AMP is a difficult book to review. It wants to be a psychological thriller - and it wants to be an expression of auctorial angst. Unfortunately it delivers on neither promise; I would not recommend this book to any reader because of aforementioned failure.

There are four main characters within the novel, the madman, the pregnant spiritualist/herbalist, the police captain and the dedicated doctor. Of these four, only one has a revealed background even approaching the level needed to support a description beyond 'cardboard cutout'. The madman, whose viewpoint we get to 'enjoy' for the first few chapters, initially comes across as a laborer who cares about others, but who has a minor quirk whereby he feels the need to 'prosletyze' his beliefs/faith to others. We do not really get any description of this until much later in the book - by which time the point of view has switched to that of the dedicated doctor.

This initial playful tease at understanding the madman is followed by an abrupt and un-signalled switch to that of the pregnant herbalist/spiritualist. And in doing so, the author chooses to step a bit back in time so that her story overlaps the madman's by the part of a day. This switch is disconnecting and forces the reader (at least, it did so to me) out of the flow of the story. Then, we discover that the new main character does not really 'see' the prior character any clearer than the original character 'saw' himself. Further, we get a stereotypical view of a woman being innocent enough to deceive herself - this despite 'spiritual' warnings, given in so vague of terms as to enhance her ability to continue to ignore them - of the dangers of the madman to her.

Again, after pushing the story so far, the author chooses to switch, just as abruptly as the first time, to the point of view of the police captain. And, as before, we get to jump back a bit in time, now to around that when the madman's story initially started in the novel, so that we could suffer the same set of circumstances from their point of view - oh joy! Be still my beating heart! (I'll explain why that was no pleasure towards the end of this review.) While the captain - surrounded by his crew of officers with whom he is chasing the madman - has plenty of opportunity to grow as a character, to enhance and/or change his views or his character, he too suffers from the inability to burst forth from his cardboard mold. And by now we understand that the author is trying to write a 'Great American Novel', replete with overwrought imagery and deed psychological isses. (Well, not 'quite' a GAM as the author is British.) Unfortunately he pays more attention to his descriptions of the landscape and the other cardboard cutout characters than he does to the story itself - which is how so many GAMs end up failing to reach their goals.

Finally, we get to the fourth point of view - and here we discover the 'one thing' which gives any semblance of meaning to the suffering the four main characters have undergone - and which should have given meaning to the suffering the reader endures. I cannot tell you the 'one thing' because it would give away *every jot and tittle* of the story. While I hope to spare others the tedium and suffering of reading this book, I have to assume that there are a few people out there who might actually like this kind of writing and I'd hate to deprive them of their pleasure. So to the two of you, you'll just have to buy it.

Back to turgidity. By now you probably have figured out that AMP has lots of 'filler' in the form of nearly 'purple' prose and excessive descriptions of scenerey and unimportant characters. You may have even guessed that we get far more 'viewpoint character' introspection than the story needs. What you don't know is that the author has gone beyond what you might find in a Jane Austen or Charles Dickens story to the level of a Victor Hugo novel. Now, Victor Hugo can pull this off, as can Austen and Dickens - this author cannot. This leaves the reader not only suffering from a pointless novel, but compounds that suffering by stretching the suffering for hours beyond that which a reasonable novel might take.

Save your money - even for less than $3.00, this book, "Another Man's Poison" by Simon John Cox, is a waste of good money.


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