“Myers” SPR ★★★★ Review

“A gripping mystery that exposes the grim repercussions of trauma and war. Lee’s masterful draftsmanship stretches this dense plot in a number of different directions. He depicts the historical context such that every interaction holds an ominous weight, while the insightful narrative reflections feel visceral and revelatory. The novel is also an exceptionally well-penned police procedural, with all the elements of investigations, red herrings, and tense standoffs that fans of the genre expect. This is a strikingly told novel, by an obviously talented author, that places a lens on an American era with so much left to teach us.” Self-Publishing Review

Click on the image above to order a trade paperback, eBook, or hardback of Myers, which is Volume 1 of the Myers/Benton Chronicles

Self-Publishing Review in full:

A gripping mystery that reveals its villain long before the final page, Myers by Jeff Lee is a character-driven thriller that exposes the grim repercussions of trauma and war, showing how the severe residual trauma and haunting memories of survivors can have their own terrible repercussions.

Plunging readers into a wind-blown, easily forgotten part of America (Lewes on the Delaware Bay), the novel is an exposé of violence, history, and family. The story pits two such souls against each other, the town’s police chief, Karl Myers, and Jerry Peterman – a soldier who never really stopped fighting, and who has forgotten any language but domination. Myers has been shaped by his time in the military too, and must quell his own violent demons triggered by a town full of Whites Only signs.

The relationship between Jerry and his son Greg is hard to witness from the very first scene, in which Greg’s eagerness to please, buttressed by a quiet nameless fear, is brushed aside and battered by his father’s unwavering tongue for discipline and degradation. The treatment of Vivian at Jerry’s hand is even more gruesome and cruel, defined by relentless psychological abuse that his wife has numbly accepted as her fate.

Demonstrating the author’s flexible pen to capture authentic tones of childhood, Greg, Moses, and Pattie whimsically leap off the page, but their lives teeter dangerously on the edge of innocence, as they wrestle with early and painful understandings of racism, morality, and loyalty. Moses’ death is the bloody heart of this novel’s premise, and as is the case for many great novels, readers are given far greater access to this piece of action, giving the book both structure and poetry.

Lee’s masterful draftsmanship stretches this dense plot in a number of different directions, just as the bonds of family are pulled to the point of breaking. He depicts the historical context such that every interaction holds an ominous weight, while the insightful narrative reflections feel visceral and revelatory. Additionally, the novel is an exceptionally well-penned police procedural, with all the elements of investigations, red herrings, and tense standoffs that fans of the genre expect. At times, it seems like the clues should more obviously solve the case for Myers, but the tension is still gripping.

While Lee’s language choices are dexterous and clever, the writing may at times be more purple than necessary. By packing every sentence with multiple adjectives and richly painted moments, the reader isn’t given room to imagine moments for themselves, or connect the dots of emotion. It can also be somewhat tiring, regardless of how well-crafted the prose happens to be. Some of the conversations are similarly explicit, dragging on past the point of purpose, and while these interactions do add to the colloquial flavor of the novel, there is still chaff to separate from the wheat.

As a whole, this is a strikingly told novel, by an obviously talented author, that places a lens on an American era with so much left to teach us.

Blogger’s Notes:

The Blogger, Gentleman Writer, and author of Myers

I am a husband, friend, retired educator, and to coin a phrase: a gentleman writer. My vocation for the past several years has been that of writing under the pseudonym of Jeff Lee in a manner analogous to that of a gentleman farmer: I write because of the sheer joy that writing engenders.

Recently, I encountered a comment attributed to Annie Proulx about her book, Barkskins, saying it is “kind of an old-fashioned book … It’s long; it has a lot of characters … It’s different, but I think people probably miss those books that were written some time ago – the big book that was written with care.”

Proulx’s description awakened me to the fact that I had already written “kind of an old-fashioned book” in volumes 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Myers/Benton Chronicles, which I had written with the intention that they be read as one work. The result is A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet, a “kind of old-fashioned book” long enough to challenge a serious reader’s perseverance. A serious reader will recognize the homage A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet pays to 19th and early 20th Century novelists and to exotic settings. 

The goal of crafting such a book was unknowingly born in 1956, when at the age of 9, I discovered two novels: Stevenson’s Treasure Island and DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe. At 11, during my first exploration of a high school library that had been left behind at a newly configured junior high, I encountered Conrad’s The Shadow-line, which cemented my lifelong devotion to the novel: the longer and more intricate the telling the better!  

Myers is the first story in the M/B Chronicles, provides the backstory for A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet, and introduces the setting of my beloved Lewes, Delaware. If I live long enough, I intend to pen more novels for the M/B Chronicles set there, but in the event I don’t, I’ve written and self-published volume “last:” 24 Minutes, which is set in Lewes on the eve of the 2016 Presidential Election.

I set Myers in 1955 in Lewes on the Delaware Bay, and believe the novel meets James Ellroy’s characterization of Noir as the wrong man and the wrong woman in perfect misalliance. It’s the nightmare of flawed souls with big dreams and the precise how and why of the all-time sure thing that goes bad … it canonizes the inherent human urge toward self-destruction.

Myers is a murder mystery that is less about “who done it” than it is about exploring the trauma of a world still reeling from the fallout of World War II in an American town that has yet to resolve the fallout of the Civil War. I have attempted to write with sufficient attention to detail to enable readers to imagine the choking, claustrophobic lives led by some wives and sons of war-traumatized veterans. I hope readers will also feel a distinct sense of time so that 1955 will come to life for them in a profound way. 

The copyright-free image of Karl Myers is from Pixabay. The image of Jeff Lee is the property of the blogger and may not be used without specific written permission from Jeffrey Lee Byrem