Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Making First Books Look Easy

Nothing Short of Dying: A Clyde Barr Novel – Erik Storey (Scribner)

First books are hard and when the goal is to create a continuing series, it becomes a fine balancing act. It is the literary equivalent of building a house; you want to have a solid foundation, then a strong frame and along the way you start to add the finishing touches that will turn the house into a home.

Novelist Erik Storey has walked that tightrope with his debut, Nothing Short of Dying: A Clyde Barr Novel. Barr clearly has what can only be described as a checkered past that includes time in a Mexican prison, work as a mercenary and to borrow a line from Liam Neeson, a “particular set of skills,” honed to a sharp edge.

The trick for Storey is to give the reader enough of Barr’s backstory so we know who this guy is and what he’s all about, without giving us information overload. Storey manages this well, teasing out Barr’s story to put some meat on his bones and serve us up what’s behind his selfless dedication to family and friends.

Pair this process of giving depth and dimension to the Barr character, with a storyline that moves at a break neck pace fueled by adrenaline and you’ve got a winning formula for a successful series. Barr, fresh from the Mexican prison is looking for a return to the mountain wilderness he loves and the simple life he craves, when a phone call from his sister brings things to a screeching halt.

From there, Barr leads us on a beat the clock adventure to rescue his sister all at a break neck clip. 

Nothing Short of Dying delivers the goods and sets us up well for more to come from Clyde Barr and ranks as my favorite debut novel thus far in 2016.

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