by Charles B. Neff
(2012 Bennett & Hastings Publishing)
What does love mean to you? Have you ever thought about a bunch of people thrown together by chance, most of whom seek to give and receive love? If you were the writer telling their story, how would you evolve the plot lines to entice your readers to keep turning the pages? Would you bring all the stories to happy conclusions, or would you break some hearts along the way?
As an aspiring writer, I find all of these questions to be interesting. As a reader, I have learned that every story has its own lessons to teach about the craft of fiction writing. As a reviewer, I have the joy of reading the work of acclaimed best sellers and those who are trying to find their way in the fiction world (like me). In writing reviews, I always hope to communicate the learning that I derive from each story in a manner that will entice readers to also pick up the novel and form their own conclusions.
In the case of Dire Salvation, Charles B. Neff does a fine job of narrating the stories of a cast of characters thrown together by odd murders at a salmon hatchery in Washington State. A slightly challenged youth is arrested for the murder. His half-sister Calla has tried to bring order to the boy’s life, who has existed on the edge of serious trouble through drugs and choice of friends. The local mayor takes interest in the case and Calla. The police team from local and higher jurisdictions have their own interface. The local Ukranian cop, Greg, has a love interest working in Egypt. “How do I feel about her,” he keeps asking, wondering if she will actually come for a visit and if his interest is more than in sex.
The police suspect a known drug dealer, too slick to ever leave a trail to allow prosecution of him. He finds a long lost sister and her son, desperate in their own ways. Some of the police believe he is the murderer. Greg does not.
At the hatchery, a strange couple live in a trailer and care for the facility. The old woman seems irrelevant to the plot. Could she be the chemist who design new drugs?
Charles B. Neff does an excellent job of framing a story with interesting characters. You will enjoy thinking about their inter-relationships, as I did for sure. The story reads easily.
We all learn as we write one story after another, hear reviews, listen to readers, and study the work of others. Writing is a craft like any other creative activity. In reading Dire Salvation, I kept turning pages wanting a clear window into the personality of the characters, some of whom I found to be fascinating. Such a window also provides insight to the author, who must create the characters. The writing style Dire Salvation is highly narrative in nature, as opposed to white space dialogue, internal or external, through which a reader can have that window. In his future work, I look forward to seeing Mr. Neff open his own heart to expose that of his finely-drawn characters.
Read Dire Salvation, then look for future stories from a potentially excellent writer.