Friday, May 18, 2012

Only the Truth

When Billy Ray happens upon a befuddled little waif with a red suitcase standing by the railroad tracks, he approaches her. The girl’s name is Charlene and she asks Billy Ray if she can go home with him. He picks up her suitcase, takes her hand, and they walk the three miles down Makin Road to Billy Ray’s house.

Except for Big Dog, Billy Ray has no family. He’s lived his entire life in the same house on Makin road. Billy Ray’s daddy died before he was born and his momma shortly after. His aunty moved into their house and raised him but she passed on when Billy Ray was only fourteen years old, leaving him to fend for himself. Charlene fits right into Billy Ray’s uncomplicated lifestyle. They settle into a routine, unencumbered by past deeds or future longings—a life lived entirely in the present and bound by simple pleasures. But when an old man moves into the house across the street, the past rears its ugly head and life is forever changed. After the old man dies, Billy Ray must confront Charlene’s past and solve a mystery to save her life. The literary whodunit that follows draws the reader into a series of plot twists and turns that lead to a stunning end.

I like Pat Brown’s nonfiction, especially The Profiler: My Life Hunting Psychopaths and Serial Killers, one of the best memoirs I've read in a long time. I was curious if her novel could stand up to it, and it did. Only the Truth, written in a similar spirit as John Grisham’s The Painted House, is a memorable read guaranteed to hold the reader’s attention from the first page to the last. It is a simple, honest story of unconditional love and loyalty. Billy Ray and Charlene have no preconceived expectations, no desires beyond their life together, and they share a mutual adoration cloaked in naïveté. Their small town of Whitfield Glen could be any “Smallville,” U.S.A., plucked out of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesberg, Ohio, or the small Mississippi towns of Eudora Welty. Brown’s characters have a depth and richness that are increasingly absent in contemporary fiction and she weaves a compelling mystery into the fabric of Billy Ray’s and Charlene’s relationship.

Pat Brown is nationally known for her work as a criminal profiler. She is the CEO of The Sexual Homicide Exchange and president of The Pat Brown Criminal Profiling Agency. Her latest book, 
How to Save Your Daughter's Life: Straight Talk for Parents from America's Top Criminal Profiler will be out in August.

Only the Truth is available as an e-book from Amazon. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brad's Gift

When I think of Brad Meltzer and heroes, The Justice League and Identity Crisis come to mind and I conjure up images of  SUPERHEROES like Superwoman, Hawkgirl, and Wonderwoman (in all fairness I guess I should mention Superman, Cyborg, and Batman). But Meltzer’s latest book, Heroes for My Daughter (Harper Collins, April 10, 2012, $19.95), isn’t comprised of fictional heroes—it’s cut from the real thing.

Meltzer has assembled the remarkable stories of fifty-five exceptional people. These accounts are not about individuals of great wealth or enormous power. They are not about people who are driven by political ambitions or who seek personal fame. They are stories of people with indefatigable will, perseverance, and selfless pursuit of the things that are good and right in our world. These are people with limitless inner strength and the courage to stand up for what they believe. They are the very people that Meltzer wanted his newborn daughter to emulate—individuals who embody strength, compassion, ingenuity, empathy, creativity, and perseverance

In his heartwarming introduction Meltzer tells his newborn infant girl, “I didn’t want just one thing for you. I wanted everything. If you needed strength, I wanted you to be strong. If you saw someone hurting, I wanted you to find the compassion to help. If there was a problem, big or small, that no one could solve, I wanted you to have every available skill—ingenuity, empathy, creativity, perseverance—so you could attack that problem in a way that no one else on this entire planet had ever fathomed. And that would be your greatest gift, Lila: That no one—and I mean no one—would ever be exactly you.”

Meltzer tells us why Agatha Christie changed his life. He lets us know the reason why Carol Burnett tugs her ear lobe at the end of each of her performances. He inspires us with the story of Helen Keller (did you know that she graduated Cum laude from Radcliffe and wrote twelve books?). His most poignant vignettes, however, are portraits of the women who have played the most important roles in his life—his wife, his mother, his grandmother, and Sheila Spicer, his ninth grade English teacher.

We need role models for our children. We need role models for ourselves, too. That’s the beauty of Brad Meltzer’s new book—it’s a childrens’ book for adults and an adults’ book for children. He even leaves space in the back for his readers to record the recollections of their heroes.

Meltzer said it best in Identity Crisis. “One of the things I cared most about was letting the reader feel that all of the heroes’ stories—all of them—happened in a shared universe. They’re legends in a complex, interconnected world—the tapestry of continuity that ties our own lives together.”

Thank you, Brad, for your inspirational gift. You’re my superhero.