Over the years since I began this blog, I have been encouraged to write a book, by readers of this blog who have enjoyed my writing style, and others who have read my poems and the manner in which I communicate in writing. Actually, I already have several textbooks and one non-fiction that is published. But publishing fiction is a different kettle of fish.
Several years ago I wrote a novel of mystery and suspense, in a secluded mountainous area with which I was familiar, but knew nothing of marketing a book. I posted the book on Amazon and there it has languished, although I have sold a nominal number of books. I was gratified when one of the purchasers said it was the best book she had ever read! So, recently I began entertaining thoughts of methods for ‘pushing’ the book, entitled “Missing the Mark.” With great expense along with fear and trembling, I hired a professional reviewer to read the book, and was sure the reviewer would savage my book. Surprise! I received about the best possible review I could have been awarded, so I was vindicated in the work I had done. Please read the review from this professional and also obtain a copy of the book if you wish, either in Kindle or hard book form.
Missing the Mark by John W. Ridley, Reviewed by Priscilla Estes
“…solving the mystery of Jerry’s life had again become all-encompassing.”
A powerful prologue promises a main character who will succeed and retain her high character despite shortcomings, mistreatment, and danger. Ridley successfully delivers Margaret Ann, part Cherokee and Yakima but fully Appalachian, who treats “everyone with respect and dignity, even when wronged by others.”
Deep in the isolated mountains of northern Georgia during the late Sixties, Margaret Ann’s poor but loving family of thirteen concentrates on survival. Margaret Ann yearns for more and gets it via an unexpected scholarship to a local college. She works single-mindedly toward her nursing degree, but then meets Jerry. Margaret Ann’s poverty and innate need to comfort render her “psychologically drawn to him due to his unhappy and needy mien.” Margaret Ann weds Jerry, joins the military reserves, and plunges down a seventeen-year-long marital rabbit hole. Jerry represents all that is bad about Appalachia: poverty, crime, cruelty, family feuds, questionable ancestry, and shanty-shack living. Despite two children with Jerry and a full-time nursing career, Margaret Ann manages to maintain her decency and, for reasons unfathomable, her marriage.
An Appalachian native, Ridley skillfully contrasts Margaret Ann’s love of nature, the seasons, and the elements with Jerry’s ugliness. Lack of dialogue, use of the passive voice, and a third-person narrative lend a removed tone to a character who smolders with passion and wisdom. Some sparks escape when Margaret Ann finally plays amateur sleuth in a convoluted mystery involving her husband and murder, drugs, fraud, and the U.S. Government. Convenient coincidences threaten the ambitious plot, but Margaret Ann persists. She is an admirable, memorable character who fights poverty, mistreatment, and marital misery in a complicated Appalachian mystery that blends the beauty of the mountains with the ugliness of drugs, murder, and misuse of power. A surprise ending channels events toward a possible continuation of the adventures of Margaret Ann.
US Review of Books