Writing is hard, at least it is for me. The first piece I ever sold was to Reader’s Digest a long, long time ago. It was an article about how, as young boys, my friends and I tried to sneak baseballs from my home town’s minor league games to use for our own games. The piece was called “Shagger!” and it won a First Person Award. It also produced a check for a princely sum, even by today’s standards. My wife, Lisa, and I celebrated by dining in a fine restaurant in Iowa City within walking distance of our upstairs apartment on Church Street. The place was called “Magoo’s” and it had no windows and the outside was painted orange. Rumor was the owner had murdered his wife. It was a classy joint, and we dined on pizza, popcorn, and a pitcher of beer.
It occurred to me that all I had to do to be a successful writer was to write something, send it off, then wait for the check to show up in the mailbox. Several rejections later from the fine folks at RD disabused me of that pipe dream. Anyway, dear readers, I promised you a synopsis of my first commercial, mainsteam novel, Signs of Struggle, so here it is.
Thomas O’Shea just wants to be left alone after his wife and two daughters are killed in a fiery wreck coming home from Christmas shopping in Atlanta. At first, he toys with suicide, then tries to get on with his life in Belue, Georgia. But it doesn’t work. Too many painful reminders of his lost family. So, after eighteen months, he sells his business, house and lake house, ski boat and Porsche. Then he gets in his pickup truck with Gotcha, the family’s English Bulldog, and drives straight through to his home state of Iowa to heal, to regroup, to live again.
Meandering through the countryside one May morning, he is nearly run off the gravel road by a speeding, skidding Corvette. Shortly after, he sees a beautiful, bloodied, screaming woman sprinting down the lane from her farmhouse. He tries to ignore her. He has his own issues, after all. But he stops to help and she leads him to her dead husband, victim of a farm accident. But Thomas wonders if it really is an accident, especially after he finds out that the owner of the Corvette is the dead man’s “evil” brother. What was the bad brother doing so near the accident scene? Why was he speeding away? Thomas begins nosing around, being a bit of a pest and a smartass. He keeps asking questions and tough people keep trying to discourage him. His nebulous Special Forces background proves useful as he tries to get to the bottom of the farmer’s death. In the course of his quest, he meets an array of colorful characters such as Lunatic Mooning, the laconic Ojibwa Indian owner/bartender of The Grain o’ Truth Bar & Grill. He also runs into the lucious Liv Olson, divorced English teacher at the local high school.
Thomas uncovers multiple murders, sexual depravity, suicide, and the core of the corruption, a $32 million fraudulent land scheme. During the course of his story, Thomas struggles with his faith, his gravitation to alcohol, and a long-dormant tendency to enjoy violence.