Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: The Nomination

Copyright © 2016, Steven E. Houchin. All rights reserved.

This suspense novel by William G. Tapply employs a story technique I used in my first novel, Linear Descent, that I think of as the "character spiral." If you consider a spiral shape, such as a galaxy in space, it consists of numerous far-flung entities circling a center point, all drawn toward the center. At some point, they swirl inward and converge at that center, crashing together. In a character spiral, the entities are a cast of characters separated by distance, time, or unfamiliarity (i.e. strangers).

In The Nomination, the main characters are out at the edge of the spiral, living separated lives, with only tangential relationship. The center point, or the inciting incident in novelist terms, is the impending retirement of a Supreme Court justice. The president wants to appoint Massachusetts judge Thomas Larrigan, who is considered a Vietnam War hero with a squeaky-clean record. But Larrigan has a secret past: during the war, he abandoned a child bride and a gave away their baby for adoption. He connects with an old Marine pal, Eddie, who knows all about it. Eddie's old girlfriend knows, too, and Larrigan sends him down to Florida to take care of her.

In New York, that former child bride, Simone, is now a dying woman who agrees to let a ghostwriter tell her story. She'd had a brief acting career in the 1980s, becoming a cult celebrity before retiring due to her illness. She has the documents from her past, and a just-arrived package of photos sent to her by Eddie's girlfriend, who has been spooked by his sudden appearance in Florida.

Out in California, former police detective Jesse Church fears for her life after sending a mob boss to jail. After her picture appears in the paper, she goes on the run, but not before receiving a letter from Simone who believes Jesse to be her birth-daughter. So, Jesse heads for New York, thinking the mob hit-men won't find her there.

Writer Mac Cassidy gets the job to ghostwrite Simone's biography. He meets her and leaves behind a tape recorder that she'll use to dictate the story. She has no idea Thomas Larrigan is a judge and that he's been nominated for the high court. But, Eddie has found out about her from his long-ago girlfriend.

And so the characters spiral in toward one another, and the reader anticipates the impending crash that will happen when they meet. Mac has the tapes and photos, Eddie wants to silence Simone and get the photos (unaware of the book project), and Jesse wants to meet her mother and hide out, and the mob is on her trail. The reader has an inkling about what will happen, yet the outcome isn't exactly as expected. All in all, The Nomination is well worth the read. The hardcover is about 300 pages, so not too long.