Another 5 star review of my novel GASSED: a tale of the war to end all wars

Perhaps the most damning remark one could issue about a contemporary novel is to label it “old-fashioned.” However, in her new work, Gassed, a story about the fortunes of a WWI infantryman fighting for his life in the trenches, followed by an equally difficult struggle to heal upon being shipped home blinded and burned by Yellow Cross, Carley Eason Evans has given a startling vibrancy to the idea of being old-fashioned. Writing in the hullabaloo of 2017 she has managed to bring to life a distant era while simultaneously creating a story with the feel and cadence of a work that was composed in the earlier era by someone like Edith Wharton. War is hell, as we all are aware, and when shells are bursting all about them soldiers turn the air purple with curses that edit out none of the words forbidden in polite company. However, in novels like All Quiet on the Western Front such words do not appear. Indeed, it was Norman Mailer in The Naked and the Dead who pushed the boundaries by the then daring ploy of allowing his soldiers to say “fug” as a substitute for a word we all know very well. All too soon no word was taboo.

However, without any diminishment of the horrors of warfare Ms. Evans has placed us shoulder to shoulder with embattled men who utter nothing stronger than “Bloody hell!” as friends are smashed to bits by artillery and grenades. By using the “accepted language” of an earlier time I find she keeps us more deeply immersed in the story than if she had “modernized” the battle talk. Her work is as “old-fashioned” as that of Erich Maria Remarque.

With her hero assigned to a North Carolina sanatorium to heal his burned body and recover his sight, the second half of the book is a gentle, uplifting love story laced with all the expected restraint faced by all but the most sexually aggressive young Americans of that historical period. Immersed as we are in the libidinous sexual games played in contemporary TV and movie dramas, those seeking a bit of relief are sure to find comfort in the lovely, rhythmically paced romance that blossoms like a blood red rose between the wounded soldier and a lovely girl who is fighting to recover her own life from the “white plague.” Readers may well hear violins softly playing in the background as the lovers and their co-conspirators clear all obstacles that stand ready to thwart romance.

The novel also is graced with numbers of “flashback” scenes watching the lovers-to-be grow from childhood into full-blooded young Americans of the 1917 era where their individual stories marry beatifically.

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GASSED: a tale of the war to end all wars

My latest novel is GASSED: a tale of the war to end all wars. GASSED is set in WWI, in the trenches of no-man’s land in France, in Lepanto, Arkansas, in Lucama, North Carolina and in a sanitarium outside Asheville.

GASSED is a tale of war and love, discovery and loss.

Jeff

Feb 10, 2018Jeff rated it it was amazing

I’ve known Carley for at least a decade, now (I think), and have followed the evolution of her as an author all the way from her first novel. Gassed is her best work, so far.

My knowledge of WWI is slim and sketchy. I always seem to remember what sparked that war, the infamous assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, right? But I don’t know much more than that.

But while this book is set during that war, and events surrounding it. I don’t think it’s really about that war. This book is about humanity and love. That’s what I got out of it, at least.

We follow the life of a young soldier named James Allen Lawton. As the book begins, he is already suffering from the results of a mustard gas bomb that hit his group of soldiers. He was unable to get his mask on quick enough, and is temporarily blinded.

But then we flash back. Back to his childhood, back to his entry into this war. Back and forth we go as we explore the life of this young soldier, and what made him the person he is.

His mother died during childbirth, so the entirety of his youth is spent with only a father, who did the best he could to raised his son. My favorite chapter in the book is the one where his father, at some considerable expense, bought young James Allen a ukulele for his birthday. James Allen didn’t quite know what to do with it, at first, but eventually learned to play it well, and then graduated to guitar, at which he excelled.

His experiences in the war are heart-rending, as he meets and loses companions in the horror that is war. As I read this book, I was reminded of the opening themes of all of the Fallout video games. “War. War never changes.” Eventually, James Allen decides that he would rather not even know the names of the other men with whom he is serving, because they probably won’t be around very long, anyway.

After James Allen is hit with the mustard gas, he is transported to a medical unit. James Allen’s injuries are serious enough that he is given an honorable discharge and sent back to the States, where he is placed in a rehabilitation hospital where a number of people are being treated for various illnesses.

Earlier in the book, there is a seemingly random chapter about a young girl named Julie, growing up with a somewhat abusive mother and a father who loves her dearly. Eventually, the father dies of what was then called “Consumption.” We know it now as Tuberculosis. Unfortunately, Julie is infected with it, as well. Her mother, not caring in the least for her, dumps her at the doctor’s office and leaves. The local doctor cares greatly for Julie and pays for her to be placed in the same hospital where James Allen winds up.

James Allen and Julie meet, soon after he arrives, although he cannot yet see her. They become friends, and she leads him on walks through the outdoor surroundings at the hospital, describing the scenery to him. She always wears gloves and a mask, for fear of infecting him.

Within a few weeks, he recovers his sight, and continues to fall for Julie. Even though she is dying, he asks her to marry him, to which she agrees.

That’s as far as I will go in telling the story. Too many spoilers, already, I guess. But I was captivated by the character of James Allen, and then by Julie, as well. As I stated earlier, I believe this to be Carley’s best novel, so far. The only criticism that I might have at all is the placement of the final chapter. I wonder if it might have been better to end with the previous chapter, that concludes with james Allen finally singing the song that he had been trying to write for Julie.

Read this book. I think it deserves to be a best-seller. I can even see it as a movie. Maybe Ryan Gosling plays james Allen, and Rachel McAdams could play Julie. I know. They’ve already done The Notebook together. But still . . .

I AM SOFIE

Published my latest novel this week. I AM SOFIE is my first historical novel, based on the diaries and letters of Hans and Sofie Scholl, two young people who stood against Hitler. These Munich University students along with their circle of friends and their professors formed the Weiss Rose — the White Rose — movement. Together they wrote six leaflets which they distributed across Germany and parts of Europe, calling upon ordinary Germans to rid themselves of their stupor and complacency and resist the Nazi Party and put an end to the atrocities.

I usually don’t publish on Kindle, but this volume is available as an e-Book as well as a trade paperback.

Additionally I am publishing a “special edition” which will contain color maps in an appendix.

Journey In the Mind of A Madman, a review of AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL

By J. Bickley on March 21, 2015

How does the mind of a serial killer work? Max Peterson gets a frightening glimpse of it as he interviews notorious killer, Richard Mock, who has renamed himself David Stone.

What I like about As From A Talented Animal is the ambiguity of the “killer.” The book is presented from the perspective of three different people, the journalist Max Peterson, the alleged killer Richard Mock/David Stone, and the prison guard Felix.

As Max interviews and learns more about Mock/Stone, the tale gets more chilling. For one thing, there is much question about whether Stone even committed the crimes. You see, he has confessed to 30 killings over a number of years. He has been convicted of eight of them, and is serving a sentence in a mental institution. The reason he was only convicted of eight of the murders is that his confession didn’t match up well enough with the other 22.

The problem is that he sporadically announces that he never killed anyone. But who is claiming that? Stone or Mock? He claims (along with the psychologist), that Stone is just a pseudonym, made up by Mock. But Max Person swears that he can tell which one he is talking to by “something in the eyes.” At one point, Max is pretty well convinced that Stone is telling the truth when he says that he never killed anyone. As the reader, I’m never quite sure.

The book is a gripping journey through the mind of a madman. Did he kill or not? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

Hard at fun work – the joys of writing

I keep waking in the middle of the night with a thought from my main character. He wakes me to nudge me into the living room where I open my MacBookPro to write whatever it is he wants to say or better yet do!

Another Re-Write of AFTER JEWEL

Just uploaded another re-write of AFTER JEWEL; awaiting proof. I’m excited this novel continues to grow — it appears to get better each time I tackle it. 

AFTER JEWEL is an important work for me in that it is based on my grandmother and on my family — loosely, to say the least. However, the emotion within the book is true.

I hope it will touch you as it touches me.

“Packs a terrific wallop” — A Mini-review of AFTER JEWEL and of the writer

From a fan via email:
 
“After a long hiatus I got back to After Jewel this evening.  I read Chapters 5, 6 and 7.  When I got to the end of 7 I was so deeply moved that I had to put your book aside.  I couldn’t see the pages anyway from the tears in my eyes.  Even now, writing this to you I have to blink them back.
 
All three of those chapters are deeply engaging… (Spoiler omitted)…
 
Your writing is, in many places, exceptional in its ability empathically to engage the reader.  Your dialogue–simple, descriptive, spare, honest–still packs a terrific wallop.”

Double Feedback

Today I received positive feedback on both GANI & SEAN and THE ONLY THING ( Book Two: Gani & Sean ) its sequel. The first reader — a true fan of my novels — wrote an email to me stating that GANI & SEAN is her second favorite of my books — THE EIGHT-FOOT BOY being her favorite. She’s ready to read THE ONLY THING which she will purchase from me tomorrow.

The second person to give feedback just finished THE ONLY THING and has read GANI & SEAN too.

“I think you’ve found your genre,” he said.

Crime.

A Little Story behind the story of THE ONLY THING

We are sitting in Waffle House, perusing an issue of THE ECONOMIST. I spot an article about drug gang violence and murder rates in Mexico and South America. The article mentions a 70 year old woman who hires a hit man to exact revenge on a group of thugs after the gang breaks her grandson’s arm because she refuses to pay protection money to the cartel.

I start a novel that evening, but it comes to nothing. I can’t wrap my mind around ‘the rest of the story.’

Until, that is, I write GANI & SEAN, my novel about assassins.

Once I have my assassin created, the story of the grandmother in Mexico becomes THE ONLY THING: BOOK TWO: GANI & SEAN.