Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kirkus MacGowan - The Fall of Billy Hitchings

The Fall of Billy Hitchings
A John Reeves Novel #1

by Kirkus MacGowan

Kindle Edition Available

Product Description (from Amazon)
The John Reeves Creed: "Kill them with kindness. Unless you have a gun."

Book Description:
     John Reeves, an ex-Marine, drives to Myrtle Beach to confront his fiancĂ©e, hoping to repair their damaged relationship. Instead, he finds her unconscious in the hospital, the victim of an unexplained explosion at a local restaurant.
      During his investigation, Reeves meets Billy Hitchings, a teenager who knows more about the explosion than he should. Their questions lead to an ancient legacy best left alone.
     Pulled into yet another crossfire, John Reeves fights to protect his friends and keep a primeval power from falling into the wrong hands.

From the Author
The first novel in the John Reeves series is a stand-alone. Reading the series in order isn't necessary.

About the Author (from author's Amazon page)
     Amazon bestselling author Kirkus MacGowan wrote his first book at age eight about traveling to Mars to find the cure for cancer. He put his writing dreams on hold for twenty-five years and focused his energies on playing baseball. He moved on when he found playing softball with his friends more enjoyable than his pipe dream.
    Since then, he graduated with a B.S. in Psychology, married a woman too good to be true, and moved back to his hometown. He gave up an amazing career waiting tables and now stays at home with his two crazy children. He spends his time writing thrillers and fantasy, playing softball with friends, enjoying the occasional computer game, and wrestling with his kids.
This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

O.Scarlett REVIEW by Tenya
I downloaded this book because the cover caught my eye. I'm not even sure I read the description very closely, and for some reason I thought it was about baseball. I have no idea why I thought it was about baseball, and although I was looking forward to a sports-oriented story, I was not disappointed that baseball was not the theme because this ended up being a simply-written but uniquely styled thriller worthy of the paranormal genre.

The very first paragraph captures the reader's attention. It's a thriller filled with action from the first line, although throughout the book, pages of calm give the reader a break. I was unsure of the constantly switching point-of-view writing style at first, but once I got used to it, I actually enjoyed the device. Each chapter is titled with one of the character's names, noting from which point-of-view the chapter is written. It was not at all confusing. In fact, I enjoyed the few chapters where the points-of-view overlapped the same time period. Perhaps even more of that type of overlapping might have given this book a new sense of cohesiveness. The chapters are short, a fact I found convenient since I tend to read in snippets between loads of laundry or school work. I did not have to back track two or three pages each time I picked it back up to reorient myself.

I really enjoyed the archaeological aspect of the plot, but wish there had been a bit more detail to underpin that part of the story. The story might find a deeper richness if the archaeological and Native American themes were played up. Although some reviewers have commented that they found the characters to be shallow and not fleshed-out enough, I did not find this necessarily true. I found I could see and understand the main characters well enough to really care about what happened to them, especially Billy and his friend. The author’s portrayal of these two young men on the cusp of manhood, their adventures and misadventures, read as an authentic microcosm of young adult life in America.

At the beginning, the reader is introduced to John, the rough and tough security-guard-for-hire. Immediately drawing the reader into his story, the author then switches to Billy’s story. This back-and-forth from one character to another tactic helps build the tension at the beginning of the book as the plot begins to unfold. All the primary players are introduced in some way within the first few chapters, but it takes a while before their connection to one another is fully revealed.

I suppose I could agree with the thought expressed by some reviewers that many of the actions of certain characters make no sense. John’s break-up with his fiancĂ© is caused by his illicit actions with a near stranger in the front seat of his car. I wish it had been some other reason to qualify the breaking of their engagement, but it does establish John’s impulsive and sometimes uncontrolled nature. Therefore, accepting some of his seemingly irrational behavior later in the book is not so difficult. I’m not sure, at least in this reader’s mind, he ever quite redeems himself in spite of all his noble actions. I enjoyed the quirky descriptions of some of the peripheral characters, like the chain-smoking woman who rents out beach cottages and the grumpy girl who works at the burger joint with Billy.

Anytime an author can leave me with my mouth agape because I was expecting the climax of the action and didn’t get it, they’ve really done something. Kirkus MacGowan builds and builds this event, the last great battle so-to-speak, but pulls the rug right out from under the reader in a way that lurches the stomach. I literally felt sick. Then… there’s the slow burn to the finale and resolution of the story. Yes, the end is slightly ambiguous, but the author has given the reader the opportunity to use their own brain to figure out the pieces of the puzzle and complete the picture for themselves.

With flurries of action, danger and thrills, MacGowan has written a good story interspersed with discovery of the underlying mystery, creating a suspense compelling enough to keep the reader going back over and over to finish the read. A lot of fun, eclectic characters fill the pages, their lives woven together intricately in a plot that surprised me in places. Even with the touches of the legendary element and paranormal themes, The Fall of Billy Hitchings is a down-to-earth story about everyday people, the kind we all know.

This book will not be an exercise in stretching your vocabulary skills or something that will spin your brain like a tornado, but it was extremely entertaining, a very promising debut novel. There is more to come from this promising author who, like most of us, will improve with experience and time. I look forward to seeing what Kirkus MacGowan produces in the future.

Note:  I was sweetly satisfied that the reasoning for the title of the book is not revealed until near the end of the story, so do not get frustrated over the title's seeming misfit -- it DOES work!
     There's a good bit of violence in this book.  John gets shot a couple of times and bleeds a lot.  A dog is killed and a few things like that.  Generally, there are some rough characters in the book, but that's the nature of the story.

Genre/Theme:  Modern-day Paranormal Thriller
Reading Level: (by appropriateness) MATURE TEEN to ADULT
Profanity: (by amount in text) MODERATE - just general cursing, not much of the really "bad" words - and not too much throughout the text at all
Sexuality:  OBVIOUS - There's really only one scene (or group of scenes) near the beginning of the book, none of which is overly explicit.  These scenes center around one "bad girl" character who soon falls out of the story.  Other instances of attraction are described, but it is quite subtle.
OTHER:  As mentioned above, there are a good many scenes with violence, including guns and bows & arrows!  This book does have paranormal elements centered around the archaeological artifacts and Native American legend.

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