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.

Received donation for a copy of AFTER JEWEL

Today, a woman gave DooRFrame Books a small donation for a signed copy of AFTER JEWEL; and I am so appreciative. As usual, my fav part was signing the copy to her.

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.

First Look — SEA COWBOYS, a novel by Carley Eason Evans

SEA COWBOYS

a novel by Carley Eason Evans

2015 Copyright

All Rights Reserved
1 Chaos

Ben Spillman doesn’t know he is about to fall. The black sea water below appears exactly like the black ceiling above. In between, only the rope is visible. Ben clings to it like a lifeline in that it is his lifeline. He dangles, bouncing his feet against the starboard inside wall as the whole ship lists far to port. The ocean swells are calm; otherwise Ben would not be on the rope climbing down at the end of his shift. Suddenly, he hears Max from the deck: “Ben! Ben!” Then the rope goes slack for just a moment before he’s falling. Ben hears his own screams as he falls. Then, he sees the steel stanchion emerge from the darkness below; he strikes it with a mighty thud and for a split second feels the blood gush from his right temple. Then, he loses consciousness.

Max shouts, “Ben! Ben! Oh god, Ben!” He quickly pulls up what’s left of the rope.

Three other men attached to loops of rope on the deck lean out to look down into the dark. No one can see Ben. No one can even see the surface of the slack water. Each man looks to the other.

Finally, Lon says, “Oh god; I think we’ve lost Spillman.”

Max, Randy and Skip look at one another. Skip protests, “That’s not possible! Spillman’s our best!” Then Skip says the obvious, “My god, he’s got an unlimited master’s license. He can pilot any ship out there!”

Max and Randy nod in agreement, peering once more into the deep black. Randy yells, “Ben! Ben Spillman! Yo!” He hears only the sound of his voice as the ship lists into the sea. Lon ventures, “He must of drown.” Max shakes his head. “No,” he says, “more likely, he died on impact. That’s a long way down, fellows.” Indeed, the Striker Ace is as high as a seven-story building and as long as two football fields. “Maybe,” offers Randy. “Maybe, he managed to grab ahold on his way down. Maybe he just can’t hear us.”

Lon shakes his head. He looks to Max who holds up the frayed end of what’s left of the rope; Ben’s lifeline still tied – not clipped, oddly enough – to the upper deck. “I’m afraid that’s not possible, Randy. He fell.”

The four Sea Cowboys, as they jokingly call their salvage team, grow quiet. Lon protests again. “We have to climb down; we have to make sure.”

Randy vigorously nods in agreement. Max shrugs his shoulders, hands the frayed rope to Lon. “Okay, I’ll climb down. Randy, you get to Captain Lawrence. Have him radio to get the Coast Guard back with a rescue helicopter.”

“Roger. Wilco,” barks Randy and moves off as quickly as he is able.

Before Max climbs out of sight, Lon says, “We’re gonna have to let the main office know. Cindy’s gonna want to get a report, asap.”

Max continues Lon’s thoughts, saying, “And we need to let Rob, Greg, and Pete know, too.”

“Jesus,” says Skip. “I don’t wanna do that.”

“Well, we have to,” insists Max. He hesitates. “Well, we’re probably gonna have to, that is.” Then he climbs down. Every six or eight inches, he ties a rope loop to any nearby sturdy structure, and anchors himself so that he won’t fall like Spillman.

Meanwhile, Lon and Skip follow Randy as he gingerly walks along the deck which is nearly perpendicular to the black ocean below. When they come to the ladder leading to the bridge; each one hooks in and climbs it in the same manner a mountain climber scales an overhang. The effort each makes is enormous. The three men are sweating as they come through the door to the bridge. Captain Lawrence is at the helm. He looks up as they enter. He greets them, “Hey guys. Everything okay? Did Ben find a gash in the hull? Did he find the first row of cars? Are they intact?”

Randy shakes his head. “No sir. Ben fell. We think he’s dead.”

The Captain looks shocked. “He’s dead? You’re kidding me; right?”

Lon says, “No, we’re not kidding! God, why would anyone kid about that?”

The Captain strikes a button on a panel before him, and a claxon begins. He barks, “Man down!” into a loudspeaker. Then, stops. He looks at the three men, drops his chin. “I’m sorry,” he says. “No point to it?”

Randy nods, agrees. “Yes, sir. The fall probably killed him; Max is climbing down now to make certain.”

“Belay that,” says Captain Lawrence over the loudspeaker. He strikes the button again; the claxon stops blaring.

Randy says, “But, Max wants you to get a rescue helicopter from the Coast Guard asap.”

Ben Spillman is a career man; he’s been with the Sea Cowboys since the beginning, over 30 years of service. He leaves a wife and four boys – grown men now. He leaves grand-children, too – three girls, two boys. Max holds back tears as he stands on the bridge, staring out at the black sea.

After contacting the Coast Guard to secure the helicopter, Captain Lawrence offers his office so that Randy can relay a message via the ship’s satellite phone. Randy waits for the phone to connect to the mainland. He knows there is a 20-second delay between when he speaks and when Cindy hears him. He’s careful in his approach.

“Cindy? Over.”

“Yes. Over.” responds Cindy, seconds later.

“Randy here. Over.”

“Hey Randy,” she says. “What’s up? Over.”

Randy swallows; his tongue is so dry it seems glued to the roof of his mouth. He starts, “We’ve had an accident.” He waits for the signal to reach Cindy. He hears her sharp gasp before he continues, “Ben Spillman fell.” He waits. “We think he’s dead, Cindy. Over.” Randy doesn’t hear any response, so he repeats. As he begins, he hears Cindy’s voice, “Did you say Ben’s dead? Did I hear you right? Ben Spillman? Over.”

“Yes,” confirms Randy. “Ben Spillman’s dead. Well we think he’s dead. His line broke; he fell from just inside the deck into the cargo hold not more than an half an hour ago. We’re waiting on a rescue helicopter now. And Max is climbing down to him now. Over.”

“Oh god,” says Cindy. “I’ll need to call Jane. How am I going to tell Jane that her husband is dead? Over.”

“I don’t know, Cindy.” Randy weeps quietly. “Do you want me to call her? Over.”

From the distance, Randy hears Cindy say, “Well you know her better than I do. It might come easier from you. Over.”

Randy nods to himself. He speaks into the satellite phone, “Okay, Cindy. I’ll call her. Over.”

“Do you need her telephone number? Over.”

“No, it’s stored in my cell phone down in my berth. Over.”

Cindy says, “Tell Max that I’m so sorry. Over.”

“Thanks. Will you let the big guys know? Over.”

“Yeah, sure. Over.”

Randy says, “Signing off.”

“Okay,” says Cindy. “Over and out.”

Randy puts down the satellite phone, and steps out of the Captain’s office. He doesn’t say anything; instead, he walks out of the bridge and starts down the ladder, hooking in again so as not to fall himself. What happened to Ben’s climbing gear? Why wasn’t he anchored to the inside hull?

He reaches his cabin about ten minutes later. He steps in, and holding on to various fixtures, he pulls himself around the small enclosure. He finds his cell phone in a drawer beneath his berth. He turns it on, finds the Spillman’s home telephone number. He scribbles it on a slip of paper which he stuffs in his front pocket. He leaves his cabin, goes back to the Captain’s office, walking by both Mr. Lawrence and the Sea Cowboys.

He listens as the Spillman’s phone rings and rings. Finally, a connection.

“Jane? Over.”

“No, this is Rebecca. I’m her granddaughter.”

Randy says, “You have to say ‘over,’ Rebecca.”

“Oh, okay. Over.”

“Rebecca,” begins Randy. “Is your grandmother at home? Over.”

“No sir. Over.”

“Do you expect her soon? Over.”

“In about half an hour, maybe. Over.”

“All right,” says Randy. “I’ll call back. Over.”

Rebecca asks, “What’s wrong? Over.”

Randy refuses to answer. He knows if he speaks again, his voice will betray him. He shakes his head; tears sling from his eyes. He suddenly thinks he shouldn’t be the one to tell Jane this anyway. Max is the one; he’s closest to Ben.

“What’s wrong? Over.”

Randy gives Rebecca only silence. He hears her once more, “What’s wrong? Hello? Hello? Over.”

“I’ll call back. Tell Jane. Over.” And he hangs up the satellite phone.

Randy steps out of the office. He leans against the wall, suddenly exhausted. He realizes it’s very early still; the night sky remains dark.

One of the ship’s crew – Randy doesn’t recognize him – comes onto the bridge. “Captain Lawrence, sir; we didn’t strike anything. It’s the starboard ballast tank sir. It failed to refill so we’re listing. We’re definitely capsizing sir.”

“The first chapter intrigued me.”

Another reader of mine told me on Friday that she’d gotten through the first chapter of AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL and was intrigued by it. She said, “Your novels keep getting better and better.”

“Oh,” I said, “you’re liking this one –.”

“Yes,” she said, “I’m liking it a lot.”

“I liked it. You surprised me.”

My friend who purchased GANI & SEAN last Saturday morning told me at breakfast this morning — one week later — that “Yes, I liked GANI & SEAN.” Then she smiled and said, “You surprised me there at the end.”

“Oh,” I said, “you didn’t see that coming?”

“No,” she replied. “No, no; I didn’t.” And she grinned.

“Oh, that’s great,” I said. I added, “I think you’ll like the sequel even more.”

And we went back to our coffee.

“I Need Something to Read”

Five of my more favorite words strung together are: “I need something to read” but six of my most favorite words strung together — that follow closely after the first five words — are: “I want to read your book.”

These two phrases — uh, sentences — were “heard” by me via text yesterday, and this morning my friend — one of my readers — bought my novel GANI & SEAN.

I signed it to her, “You know I love you.”