Saturday, July 12, 2008


by Deborah K. Lauro

The protagonist of HANSELL’S DRAGON is a man who created misery for the occupants of a tiny penal colony of the future in the form of voracious, flying dragons, and subsequently is trying to assuage his guilt by doing good for one person at time.
Alex Collin, the protagonist is a biogeneticist who has lived for 174 years becoming over that time a wise, skilled physician serving outback communities whose residents respect and love him, but would tear him apart if they discovered he is the man who made the dragons who prey on them. The character created by Lauro is a decent guy with a hard edge; he is capable of crushing those who cross him and suffers from the loss of those he has loved over his long lifetime since they do die of old age while he goes on. And, Collin continues his biogenetic experiments secretly creating mammal bodies with computers for brains and souls.
At first I thought Lauro’s account suffered from too much dialogue, then at Chapter 16 (of a 40-chapter book) the quoted conversations slipped more into the background and the descriptions and character’s inner lives engagingly emerged. She is an effective writer and story teller; whenever the plot seemed ready to slow Lauro produced another interesting twist.
There is a love story: a young woman preparing to leave this planet she loves to spend the rest of her life on an austere space station because of her man. Her love is a fearful, suspicious, prejudiced (against computers), narrow-minded man, who doesn't seem worthy of her. Other self-centered and selfish men and women dance across the stage adding depth to the book, and so do blindly loyal robots limited only by their natures and programs.
The author takes us into a different world of exiled criminals, which reminds me of the early days of Australia where the British dumped all kinds of people they wanted to get rid of whether they committed real crimes or not, serious crimes or minor ones. And guess what? Most of the occupants of the free universe live in stark, artificial environments while the supposed criminals live in a beautiful, but dangerous natural world, blocked from access to any high-tech tools or weapons by their distant prison guards, who are watching them from space stations spinning around their planet.
I read this book in its free-online novel form, printing off three chapters at a time and continuing to be propelled by the characters through the story. I would recommend purchasing HANSELL’S DRAGON from an online source, where it is available, as a paperback or an ebook. The free online version that I read suffered from a distracting glitch with little squares replacing quote marks and apostrophes. Despite that I enjoyed reading Lauro’s novel.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I have always been fascinated by the creative process: how my muse sends scenes, lines, plots, and solution to elusive issues out of nowhere into my mind. These flashes of inspiration usually hit me as I am attempting to go to sleep and more usually as I walk each morning in the park where I exercise near my home. Sometimes, of course, I can be reading or watching television or a film when the muse speaks.
In 2004, I wrote a novel, THE ABSCONDER, based on an incident from my boyhood when three young men from Woodside in Queens, in the early 1950s killed a World War II veteran in the process of robbing him at gunpoint. Two of the robber/killers were electrocuted in Sing Sing. I knew the brother of one and the mother of the other, both lived within two blocks of my house. The third fellow, who escaped the chair, had always fascinated me. The rumor around the neighborhood was that he came from a wealthy family who hired a lawyer who got him off. In reality, a little research showed that the third killer was the son of a divorced waitress with no money at all. The judge decided to give him somewhat of a break by sending to prison for 20 years to life. He served 28 years before being paroled.
The third killer was the model for my protagonist in THE ABSCONDER. The difference was that my character was absolutely innocent of the robbery murder as were the other two characters who ended up being electrocuted. In THE ABSCONDER, the three were railroaded by police detectives pressured by intense publicity to wrap up the case.
My protagonist, who had graduated from a Jesuit high school just before his arrest and thus was a pretty smart kid, emerges from 28 years in prison as an accomplished poet. To quote my notes on the character: “He is 46 years old. Youth is behind him. He is into true middle age. Silent, private, fierce (not sullen), fleshless, walking time bomb. A man not to be messed with. A heavy drinker, smoker. In a brawl he would use his fists, head, feet, any blunt instrument or knife at hand. His eyes traveled across those he met, examining them, measuring them.”
To escape the burden of life-long parole with restrictions that make his life miserable and unfree, my protagonist absconds. Unfortunately for him, his parole officer who has retired assumes a role like Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s LES MISERABLE and relentlessly pursues the protagonist with the intention of bringing him to justice by returning him to prison.
The problem with the novel was that my protagonist had become too nice a guy, living too pleasant a life, and in each instance he was found by the parole officer, he managed to escape without doing anyone any harm. That character and plot problem gnawed at me. I was dissatisfied with THE ABSCONDER, but was unable to fix it. AND THEN.
And then, I was walking with my wife in the park near my home not thinking about THE ABSCONDER when the answers to the four-year-old problem poured into my mind. The muse had struck again. I immediately (or a least as soon as I got home) wrote down the solutions. In the near future, I will be doing another rewrite of THE ABSCONDER, which promises to be a much better book as a result.

The next novel I will review is HANSELL’S DRAGON by Deborah K. Lauro.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.