If you have come across the book Blaze In, Blaze Out by Joseph Lewis, but have not picked it up yet, be forewarned that you will get more than you think you are from the synopsis and less at the same time. It is literally 2 stories clashing all the way through. The clash is due to the divergence of the plots that would appeal separately to different audiences with such a minor overlap as to be negligible for true reader enjoyment.
The synopsis only gives you half the plot. Usually, that’s a good thing, you don’t want to know the whole story without reading. However, you do not want to pick up an action- thriller to find out it is all romantic comedy dialogue, nor do you want to pick up a sci-fi adventure to find that it is a real world drama. Most readers want to have mostly what they think they are getting when they pick up a book. So if you advertise a thriller or romance or sci-fi then the majority of your plot should be inline with that.
I honestly have been processing how I want to review the book for a whole week…..I really feel like the author intentionally ran a scam on readers….and I do not like how he presents the coming of age part of the book when the book is geared toward adults….there are some topics in the book that I feel are valid and important, but I think his tactics are appalling ……
Additionally, the story is unbelievable! It really is. It is like a really bad soap opera. You have to accept that Waukesha is the most unlucky city in America and that they have the highest concentrations of natural born heroes, while having the most violent disasters. It just makes you shake your head. The true art of fiction is to tell a tale so real as to make the reader believe in the truth of it. In that regard Lewis completely misses the target, I am not even sure that he found the range, he certainly didn’t stay in the proper lane.
The “action/thriller” part of the book apparently had a good enough outline to get Black Rose Writing to agree to a publishing contract, but the outline is really all that exists in that part of the plot. The whole story of the two local cops from Waukesha that are included in National Task Forces and their current dealings with an Ukrainian drug crime boss, who puts hits on them, is told in a very efficient manner so that it does not interfere with the author’s true passion, the boys’ story. This supporting plot of the story is where the author puts all his focus and attention, it shows and it terminally damages the supposed main plot and the book.
Almost from the beginning, the author starts inserting his preferred story into the marketed plot, confusing readers and repeatedly referring to “their story” and its events as something that everyone knows about. setting the self-destructive tone. I still do not have all the boys straight in the story, in spite of the fact the boys and their story seem to be Lewis’ primary focus. He does a disservice to the boys and their story, as well though. He does not seem to be a natural storyteller, he does seem to have a sincere desire to get some topics out in the open, in his mind at least. His delivery is tragically lacking and on some levels appalling.
I am not sure if Lewis has ever even read a good action thriller book, he doesn’t seem to have the basics of what readers of the genre expect. He includes too many details about weapons and “toys” that do not make up for the vagueness and shallowness of the thriller plot. He admits in his foreward or acknowledgments that he is neither a hunter or fisherman, he doesn’t seem to truly socialize with many that are, as his handling of those components are poorly related. Sure outdoorsmen might among themselves brag down to the serial number about a new “toy” they do not focus on that detail when they are “outdoorsing”. He should listen to more of their tales about actually hunting and fishing, which are more about the prey and the “actions” of getting or losing said prey.
In spite of his shallowness for the marketed plot of the book, his real plot was just as damaged as his pretense. His story of the boys, all of whom suffered trauma, mostly sexually, was totally exploited. All the boys that you actually meet in the story have all spent at least a few hours kidnapped into a sex-trafficking ring that, of course, these two cops were the heroes of bringing down, that is how Lewis’ gets to tell their story, they are the previous heroes. And honestly, maybe that is the story that he should have written instead of this one. Though it may be that the publishers turned down his stories of the boys, and I wouldn’t blame them.
This is not that stories of sex-trafficking of minors should not be told. Nor, is it that stories of gay adolescents coming of age shouldn’t be told. It isn’t even that those two topics can not be told together, it is in how the author chooses to tell the story that I find fault with. I felt like the scenes with the boys always had a sexual undercurrent to it. I felt that every physical interaction between the boys, regardless of sexual orientation, was sexualized. Most importantly, I felt lied to. The most the boys get mentioned in the synopsis is
“O’Connor planned on attending a high school soccer game and then head to Northern Wisconsin for a fishing trip with another cop, Detective Jamie Graff and four teenage, adopted brothers: George Tokay, Brian Evans, Brett McGovern, and Michael Two Feathers.”
There is no mention of their past traumas or their sexual orientations and coming of age aspect of the story, nothing that lets the reader know what they are really getting into when they pick up the book. If either topic were just a passing comment then no harm, no foul. But, when they are the focus of the book, that is at best lazy, irresponsible, inept or at worst deceitful, conniving, manipulative. Either way it is unacceptable. The author and publisher have done a disservice to reader and to the topics of the book.
*Copy Received For Review.
**Cover via Amazon.com