Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review: Jack Absolute

(Image from C.C. Humphreys' website: )

Jack Absolute, by C.C. Humphreys is an historical novel set in and around the Saratoga Campaign, which became a decisive turning point in the American War of Independence.

In this novel, Mr. Humphreys expanded the role, so to speak, of the main character in Richard Sheridan's popular play, The Rivals.

The "real" Jack Absolute is furious with his friend Sheridan for turning a romantic escapade in his youth into the romantic comedy of its day. However, before Jack can have it out with Sheridan, he is ensnared in a web of intrigue and ends up becoming General Burgoyne's spy for this new expedition against "those damned rebels." During the course of Jack's misadventure he runs into, or a foul of, several other historical figures such as: Banastre Tarleton, Chief Joseph Brant, Major Andre, General William Howe and Benedict Arnold.

I had the pleasure of attending a seminar and keynote address given by Mr. Humprheys during this year's PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) Conference. (See the 9 and 21 September postings under the PNWA 09 Author Workshop Review Section). So while reading this story I kept in mind a couple of points the author made during his talks.

First and foremost, every scene in the story must move the plot forward. This includes the sex scenes. While it is alluded that Jack has had numerous liaisons, the love scenes described at length form pivotal moments of the story.

Mr. Humprheys cautioned against giving history lessons in historical fiction. Despite Jack's role as Burgoyne's spy, in the military chain of command he is a mere captain. Therefore he doesn't have a view of the "big picture" during the campaign. Jack manages to be present at key points during the battles of Oriskany and Bemis Heights, yet the author limits his narrative to only what Jack personally observes during the chaos and confusion of the fighting.

In a similar vein, Mr. Humphreys doesn't slow his narrative down with extensive backstories, or worse--flashbacks--on Jack's earlier life. Instead, snippets of Jack's past are effectively blended into the narrative. The reader is treated to mere hints about: Jack living with the Iroquois for several years and his murdered Mohawk wife, adventures in India to regain the fortune lost by his mad father and a campaign in Spain--where he came to the attention of "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne.

This means there's plenty of fodder for more Absolute adventures!

So far there are two other Absolute novels: The Blooding of Jack Absolute and Absolute Honor, which are now on my "must read" list.

Note: Due to the cloak & dagger aspects of this 5-star novel, my review is rather general to prevent disclosing plot-spoilers.

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