Friday, August 24, 2012

Better Than a Big Screen Production

What makes a “good read”...a “page turner?” It’s easier to recognize than describe. Joe Douglass Trent may or may not define it in a few words, but he knows how to write it. I’d recommend his novel, The King of Silk, because it contains elements I look for in a story, whether fiction or nonfiction.
It’s really a movie playing on the screen of my own mind—one so engrossing, that interruptions including blurring eyesight, a growling empty stomach, and muscles begging for a stretch annoy me.
I enjoy a setting where all my senses open to things I haven’t experienced. In the environs of fifteenth-century Venice, The King of Silk’s protagonist, Michael Patriate, amplifies sensations for me, because, suddenly dropped from the twenty-first century to a different time and place, his perspective never has a chance to become jaded from everyday happenings. I heard a galley’s oars clip the water in a steady, almost sleep-inducing rhythm. Later, I wondered how anyone slept in a ship’s foul-smelling cabin which packed passengers side-by-side on bedrolls, too narrow for stretching.
I like characters who look different from us, but not so much my left brain reminds me this is after all, fiction.  Joe’s imagination produced a colorful assortment—interesting, yet realistic. Great work, but at times I could have used a cast list for reference.
I want to be treated to analogies that enliven scenes: “A fly buzzed over Michael’s head in a loud lazy arc. In the fall the insects headed inside to escape the coming cold. Michael wondered where he could hide from the wrath of ....” It’s especially delicious when a second notice discovers poetic elements embedded in the metaphor. Listen to the soft, almost unstressed vowel combined with a sibilant (s-sound) in insects, inside, and escape; and the hard c (k-sound) in escape the coming cold.
In addition to uncommon words (the novel is peppered with them), I relish words used well: “The crew threw ropes to the dock workers, who pulled them tight and tied them off.  Michael admired the skill in their choreographed activity.”
 I enjoy the unexpected, like philosophical statements woven into an action novel. Joes sprinkles his story with tidbits that may find their way into quotation collections someday. For example, “’It is hard for us to let someone else care for us.’ Felix looked toward Enrico and sighed. ‘It forces us to admit that we aren’t in control as we think we should be.’”
Now you know a little of what I enjoyed in The King of Silk. Order a copy to discover what you look for in a “good read.” One thing we’ll agree on—it will be written by an author who has more than a story to tell. It will be crafted by a writer who, like Joe Trent, rewrites until he or she is certain the words have done their work.
Learn more about Joe Douglass Trent and links to information about him and his writing (including a sneak peak to the beginning of The King of Silk) at  

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson


  1. You are kind, Bernice. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Thank you. But "kind" is reading a disappointing book and saying nothing negative about it. It's exciting to read a book worth telling friends they can buy and get their money's worth. I'm looking forward to your next one. --b