Monday, September 5, 2011

A Study in Characterization

It is my task here to describe a transformation in character without giving anything away. Let’s see how good I am.

I just finished reading The Geronimo Breach (more on that in a minute) by Russell Blake, who was one of the first people I started following on my first day on Twitter, July 1.

In fact, one of his other books, Fatal Exchange, was the second Kindle book I bought. It convinced me that there are Indie authors that are quite good. While I’m not a huge thriller reader, I was pulled into the story by a strong, captivating female protagonist and just general good writing.

So, when my reading schedule freed up, I bought The Geronimo Breach and cozied up with my Kindle. About six pages in I was astonished, revolted even, by the character, Al Ross, who I hoped with all my heart wasn’t the protagonist. It isn’t giving anything away to tell you, his first impression on me, and those in his fictional world, was of a drunken, selfish, no-account loser. I wondered what in the world Blake had in mind, but the story was interesting and I trusted him as a writer so I kept plugging along, never really changing my mind about Al.

And then I did. After careful consideration, I’ve figured out the turning point, at least for me, when I began to care what happened to Al. Suffice it to say, I cannot reveal what happened to change my mind – no, my heart – or I’d give part of the plot away.

Somewhere in the last third of the book, I no longer just cared a little about Al - I was suddenly rooting for him. Blake had accomplished the toughest part about writing even when you have a likable main character – making the reader care what happens to him or her – and he did it in spite of starting out with a reprehensible human being. Al is ultimately redeemed, but in keeping with Blake’s style, not in an overly sentimental way. He doesn’t experience a gigantic epiphany and suddenly become good. He does what normal people do. He changes slowly.

I firmly believe Russell Blake will become a literary force, like Elmore Leonard or Walter Mosley. In the meantime, I’ll support him by purchasing his books and, as a writer, I will pay attention to his skill. It’s massive.


  1. Thanks Kathy, you're really too kind. I can't tell you how nice it is to hear these glowing words from you - I know you hold the work to a high standard of expectation, so it's especially gratifying coming from you.

  2. Nice to see my expectations fulfilled, Kathy; I have tipped this author for his skill with veracity ( if you allow links )

    Good when an honest narrative holds its own; and I'm sure a few writers will try to copy this balancing act of sensibilities that the author has used to good effect.

  3. Thanks to both of you. As you can see - I think Russell writes a helluva book. Great training for us writers to read it - but also, just a good read in general.

  4. I haven't read The Geronimo Breach yet, but read your blog and thought of The Godfather, and how masterfully Puzo takes a reprehensible character and makes you root for him early on. I also admire Russell's writing and look forward to reading The Geronimo Breach.

  5. Perfect match-up. I still remember reading it - long, long ago - and thinking "why do I like this guy?" Loved all the bad guys in the Family.

  6. Just reading your well-written review makes me want to dive into "The Geronimo Breach". Unfortunately, I have a ten-month old that makes it almost impossible. Oh, and the fact that I don't own a Kindle. Hopefully, it will be my Christmas present. :-)