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I’m a quitter…

It makes the Hub crazy. It embarrasses the kids. But if I’m at a movie I don’t like, I figure I’m already out the ticket price. There’s no reason for me to sacrifice my time too. And I’m outta there. I’ve walked out of movies on many continents, and for many reasons. (Oh, and I slept through My Dinner With Andre, but that was just because they talked. And talked. And… I had a baby at home and I hadn’t slept through the night in months and they were just talking and talkizzzzzzzz.)

Generally speaking, I leave because the movie is unexpectedly graphic, in the sense of people exchanging bodily fluids in more creative ways than I’m prepared to consider. Then there’s the whole guts thing. I don’t like to be reminded about what we keep under our skin, so whenever the alien comes out of the stomach or the chainsaw goes in, it’s time for me to walk. Or if there are clowns. (Then I run.)

I’m bringing this up because I have a similar approach to most books. If I know in advance that it’s going to be a blood-soaked downer without a single “nice” character, I won’t go there.

And yet… And yet. I watched the footage over and over again as planes hit the Twin Towers and people died. I watched the news coverage of Sandy Hook as an entire community suffered the shots that destroyed twenty tiny children, plus six of their teachers, the killer, and his mother. I watch in my car—despite the fact that traffic has been stalled forever and we’ve moved forward at a crawl and I’ve told myself “Do. Not. Look.”—as we inch toward the accident. And at the last minute I do look.

Rubbernecking. [image credit: Reddit] http://i.imgur.com/FR997XU.gif

Rubbernecking. [image credit: Reddit]


Blackspoon by Daniel Eagleton

Click on book image for preview and buy links from Amazon

Click on book image for preview and buy links from Amazon

If you were at the centre of a real-life conspiracy, would you even know it?

Charlie has just smuggled five kilos of uncut heroin back from the war in Afghanistan. This much he knows for sure. He also knows that, after he made it through customs, another solider was caught doing the same as him. And that the military policemen who provided safe passage; one of them has been found dead in an apparent suicide, while the other one has gone AWOL. Is it really possible there’s some kind of cover-up going on? Because even if there is –even if Charlie knew that for sure- who’d believe him? After all, he’s a criminal now. Veteran of a war no one quite understands. Praying, hoping. Waiting for whatever’s coming next.

  • Title: Blackspoon
  • Author: Daniel Eagleton
  • Genre: Thriller/conspiracy
  • Publisher: Amazon
  • Date of Publication: December 4, 2015
  • Number of pages: 201

gold starREVIEW: 3.5 out of 5 stars for Blackspoon by Daniel Eagleton

What makes us look at the train wreck? Why do we watch the movie or read the book or slow the car even when we know that it’s going to end bloody? I’ve heard the theories:

  • It’s Hollywood’s fault. No matter how dark things are, we expect John Wayne or at least Clint Eastwood to swoop in at the end, pound the bad guys, and rescue the good ones.
  • It’s Jung’s fault. He says each of us contains “the shadow”, a safety deposit for our impulses toward depression, suicide, murder. By exploring the way the shadow manifests in other situations—especially in “safe” places like literature and movies—we make our own peace with those internal urges.
  • It’s our fault. Watching or reading about horrific events makes us better people by allowing us to embrace our essential humanity through empathy. (Or at least that’s our story and we’re sticking with it…)

Whatever the reason, I read Daniel Eagleton’s debut (thriller?/character study?/cautionary tale?) novel, Blackspoon, through to the end. And make no mistake, this is a study of a train wreck in slow motion. It follows Charlie, a young RAF soldier, as he starts with one bad decision—agreeing to smuggle 5 kilos of uncut heroin from Afghanistan back into England—and proceeds to make successively worse choices.

We all know a Charlie. He’s not particularly bright or attractive. With his dysfunctional family and lack of education, his decision to become a fighter pilot by enlisting in the RAF is just another symptom of his complete failure to understand his world or his place in it. Instead of a Top Gun, of course Charlie ends up as a “Mover”, part of the crew that loads and unloads the planes. As the situation spirals down, pulling the hapless Charlie deeper into a world of drugs, conspiracy, and death—not only for himself but for those around him—he struggles to figure out his own role.

Still convinced that he’s the hero in his personal story, Charlie decides to get the only writer he can think of, alcoholic journalist Adam Radford, to tell his story. But Radford has his doubts.

‘Right.’ Radford shrugged, winced. ‘It’s just, you did voluntarily smuggle drugs into the country on a military flight. From the war in Afghanistan. Not the easiest one to sugar-coat, that.’

Charlie, however, is sure that it’s all been some huge misunderstanding, and that if he just explains everything will be fine.

‘But you can put that in the book. That I’m, you know, sorry and that. But carrying a bit of drugs, it’s nothing compared to what, you know, the bankers and politicians are getting up to, is it?’

‘Like I say, I’m not sure people will see it that way,’ Radford said. 

‘Why not?’

‘I don’t know. Because the world is an unfair place. Because the rules are different for people like you.’

‘What d’you mean, people like me?’

The character study of the hapless Charlie, the descriptions of his inevitable downfall, the spot-on dialog and place descriptions are excellent. The book is very well-edited and the pace is a steady march to doom.

My real question about the book is what, as a reader, I’m meant to take away. Sure, it’s a story of one bad decision spiralling into a spreading doom. But I never got a sense of any resolution. What happened to the conspiracy? Were the bad guys punished? Did anything change? Could it? Or did we just slow down for 201 pages of a train wreck?

As a writing exercise or a character study, Blackspoon is excellent. As a full novel, it left me wanting more. But I do think that this is a writer who has the potential to deliver much more. I’ll be watching for his next work.

**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


BUY LINKS:

Amazon US | Amazon UK


Author Daniel Eagleton. Born in Oxford, England, raised by a community of teachers, nurses, poets and drinkers. Has lived in New York and London, working as a barman, chef, waiter, projectionist, theatre-usher, home-tutor, DVD store-clerk, receptionist, movie-extra, furniture-remover, factory-worker and pharmaceutical company guinea pig.

Author Daniel Eagleton.
Born in Oxford, England, raised by a community of teachers, nurses, poets and drinkers. Has lived in New York and London, working as a barman, chef, waiter, projectionist, theatre-usher, home-tutor, DVD store-clerk, receptionist, movie-extra, furniture-remover, factory-worker and pharmaceutical company guinea pig.

Author interview and bio:

  1. What was your first car?  The Batmobile
  2. Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly? Buffy. Every time. 
  3. Worst movie ever? Avatar. Was that, like, mass hypnosis or something?
  4. Who would you most like to sit next to on an airplane?  Martin Scorsese. We could discuss the in-flight entertainment.
  5. Who would play you in the movie? Bill Murray
  6. What is the one thing you can’t live without? Fine wine/art
  7. As a child (or now!), what did you want to be when you grew up?  Taller. Or, failing that, noticed by Sarah-Jane Hay, the most beautiful girl in school.  
  8. Are the names of the characters in your novels significant? Always. They dictate how that person will speak.
  9. What is the single biggest challenge of creating the settings in your novels?  Not letting all that description get in the way of a damn good yarn.
  10. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? Write every morning before breakfast. Which is basically impossible, but something to aim for.
  11. What are you working on right now? The Sweet Oil of Vitriol: A Tom Glaze Hit. It’s a thriller about an ex-Mossad operative working undercover in a top London hotel in order to perpetrate the perfect hit.
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