Harris wins his second contest

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November 12, 2013

Thorazine Beach

By Bradley Harris

Anvil Press

127 pp., $16

Reviewed by Tyler Gabrysh

In this private-investigator-driven intrigue, dialogue proves hard hitting, wise ass, rarely subtle and never dull. Action isn’t far behind despite events often cloaked in unknowns and half-truths.

Working  in the disparate socio-economic divisions of Memphis, Jack Minyard is a transplanted Canuck who experiences both ends of the economic spectrum, although pretending to hobnob in ritzy clubs is about as good as it gets.

Generally he scrapes by in the trenches of uncomfortably long stakeouts (in car and in thicket), and eking it out in a series of shabby motels with suspect clientele who likewise call such places home. Life for him is an unravelling carpet. And not in red. Now 60,  a recovering alcoholic, and Thorazine user (to ‘even things out’), Minyard has also been ditched by wife Lynette, and that’s not all. His diet is terrible, portliness reigns, and his name is still smeared (innocent or not),  from a money laundering and fraud scandal a while back.

Whether this history is presented in Ruby Ruby, the first of a series based on our lead character is unclear. That book by  Harris won the 21st Annual International 3-Day Novel Writing Contest. What’s even more impressive is that Harris became the only repeat winner with this book in the 2012 competition.

The main characters of Thorazine Beach all chide Jack (thanks in no part to his weakened confidence), but they also care about him in ways more often implied than expressed. Readers witness the sass of Starbucks shift supervisor Nicki Jenks and MacDonald of the Memphis PD, another attitudinal character Jack works for (with promise of nebulous payment). He’s never fully privy to his assignment but it’s one he’s fully counted on for.

Brutish Eileen at Red Line Investigations occasionally throws him a bone, however he’s technically not an employee. And though he receives praise for breaking big on a big bucks insurance fraud, no takers at the office on his ‘my treat’ after-hours celebration offer.

Unknown to him, she arranges a meeting with Barbara Jean McCorkle, a church zealot, casserole-making, uppity, cringe-worthy sort of lady. She already knows Jack, wants his help on her own case concerning sudden money-bags husband Clayton, but becomes unsettled when he presses her for concrete details.

Even though readers will root for Minyard as Minyard finds his backbone, the novel has its weak points. The chapters do not run sequentially (though they provide us a brief heading of calendar date, time, and location). This does unnecessary disservice to the narrative, as one frequently needs to flip back for reference.

Further, the wrap up of characters with plot is hurried and feels inconsistent with the in-depth story line and pacing that preceded it. Still, I’m curious to find out what’s next for likeable Jack Minyard.

Tyler Gabrysh (www.tylergabrysh.com) is a writer living in Victoria.

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