McDowell

McDowell

by William H. Coles

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504921558
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 07/15/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 472
Sales rank: 1,230,992
File size: 909 KB

About the Author

William H. Coles is the award-winning author of short stories, essays on writing, interviews, and novels in contests such as The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition, among others. He is the creator of storyinliteraryfiction.com, a site dedicated to educational material, a workshop, and examples for writers seeking to create lasting character-based fiction with strong dramatic plots that stimulates thought about the human condition. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Read an Excerpt

McDowell

A Novel


By William H. Coles

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2015 William H. Coles
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5049-2156-5


CHAPTER 1

Hiram McDowell's second wife died in the summer of 1999 a few weeks after her 45th birthday party, debilitated and demented from breast cancer. She left three children — Ann, Sophie, and Billie — for Hiram to raise. Two years later, Hiram married the widow, Carole Mastriano, whom he had met in Denver. She had two daughters, Tasha and Candice, and he bought a house big enough for two families to live more than comfortably. Only his son Billie was at home at this time; his younger daughter Sophie was at school in the east and her stepsister Ann, from his first marriage, was in college.


1999

After two months away, Hiram returned to Denver from a board meeting in Chicago at the International College of Surgeons. He entered the kitchen of the contemporary 8,000 square-foot Pueblo Ranch designed by Eiichi Ono through the side door from the four-car garage. The view of the Rocky Mountains through the panoramic window over the sink made him pause as it always did. He would be climbing again in a few months. He was yearning for the exertion and isolation that always energized him.

His third wife Carole bent over a sweeping granite counter — complete with sink and cook top — preparing dinner. She did not turn to look at him or speak.

"Hey," Hiram said, easing his bag through the door.

"You could have called," she said.

He thought better of responding. Carole practiced clinical psychology and lived in her own caverns of self-imposed hell. He walked the hall to the north wing of the house. He unpacked his bag on his bed and threw dirty clothes in the corner of the room for the maid to take care of in the morning.


Back in the kitchen he put his arms around Carole's waist from the back. She was flabby now; she'd lost all pretense of trying to exercise. "Good week?" he asked, squeezing her slightly then letting her go.

"Do you want dinner?" Carol asked, still not looking at him.

"Sure," he said. Although with jet lag, he didn't know if he was hungry or not.

Carole emptied a package of capellini into boiling water. An electric crock-pot of meat sauce bubbled on an adjacent counter. Always too bland, Hiram thought. She never listened to his advice. And her girls eat anything ... a banana-topped-with-peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise diet mentality.

"Something wrong?" he asked. She busied herself, searching for the strainer to drain the pasta.

"Call the children," she said coolly.

Where was an ounce of kindness? He called into the rec room and the back bedrooms that dinner was ready. Billie, now almost seventeen, came out. "Dad," he said. He gave his father an enthusiastic, masculine embrace.

"I thought you'd be at school," Hiram said.

"Career stuff." Billie grinned sheepishly. That meant he was goofing off somewhere. He was in chronic academic trouble. "Good trip?" Billie asked.

"Nepal, great. Chicago, not good," Hiram said.

Carole's girls came out of a back room together — Tasha and Candice, short and not-so-short, blond and dusky brunette. Billie had a quizzical smile looking at the girls. They all went to the dining room.

"What do you want to drink?" Carole asked everyone. She retreated to the kitchen to fill glasses as everyone took seats. Hiram was pissed that Carole's girls rarely greeted him ... or looked at him. I'll goad them into response.

"How's school?" he said. Carole entered with the drinks on a tray.

"Tasha made cheerleading squad backup," Billie volunteered. Impossible to imagine, Hiram thought. Tasha teetered on the cusp of overweight with legs shaped like ice cream cones. How could she bounce and jump? She'd splat any cheerleader she landed on and she wasn't in shape enough to support a pyramid. Well, he was exaggerating a little. But still, she was a tragedy with a pretty face and a ballooning body.

"You could say 'Hello,'" Hiram said to the girls.

"Leave them alone," Carole said.

"Just civility," Hiram said.

"What would you know about civility?" she said.

"How is school?" he asked the girls.

"It's their break, Hiram," Carole said. "They haven't been in school for two weeks."

Enough of this shit. "Come on Billie," he said. "Get your sticks; we'll eat out." Billie followed him out of the dining room.

In minutes they were on their way.


In the car, he asked Billie about Tasha and Candace, "You messing with them?"

Billie was shy about sex. Hiram enjoyed teasing him.

"No, Dad."

"Do you like them?"

"They don't talk to me much."

"They're cows. Don't you think?"

Billie didn't respond.

"You're not doing anything with them, are you? Like ... you know?"

"It's not that way, Dad."

"You sure?"

"I'm not at the house much. They like it there better by themselves."

"Where are you?"

"At school. And with a friend sometimes. He plays guitar."

The club near the stadium had no sign. The speakeasy-like peephole in the door you opened yourself was never used and there were no guards or bouncers, or even a maitre d'. The name "Tritone" in neon green light script waxed and waned in intensity above the bar. They took a table near the deserted bandstand. Billie laid his drumsticks and brushes that he carried in a black-velvet case on the table.

"You been playing with these guys?" Hiram asked. "I've told Ahmad he should let you sit in."

"I know, Dad. But these guys think they're big time."

"So, where you playing?"

"My guitar friend. We're working on a CD."

"You got a studio?"

"He's got a Mac with Garageband. We use his parents' basement."

"How are you going to market it?"

"This is a demo. We're trying to get backing."

"The two of you?"

"We got an electric bass on some tracks. And his girlfriend plays cello."

"In basic blues?"

"Early rock and folk. She's not bad ... she's a music major." They ordered from waitress Sheryl. Hiram knew her from previous visits. He didn't like the size of her nose with dark deep wells for nostrils. She was a little overweight but she had breasts the size of two ripe cantaloupes that enriched his day when she leaned over the table to swipe a cloth over the surface.

"You still in school?" Hiram asked her.

"Naw," she said. "I want to be a masseuse."

Hiram held her gaze for an instant to see if she might be interested but she looked away.


As the band set up on the stage, Hiram waved to get the piano player's attention. Then he held up his Big River harp he took from his side pocket. The piano player flashed a thumbs up.

There were only twenty or so people in the place. It was early.

Hiram finished eating and went to the restroom to clean his teeth with a finger and a paper towel. After the band played an opening number, Hiram approached the bandstand. The piano player stood at the piano and faced the audience. "We have the honor to welcome Dr. McDowell again tonight. A surgeon from the university. He's always welcome here at Tritone."

Hiram mounted the bandstand, whispered to the drummer, shook the hands of the guitarist and the amplified acoustic bass player, and stepped to a standup microphone. They played "Lonely Avenue," in E. The bass player sang. Hiram wailed on harp. Although sparse, the applause was enthusiastic, but Hiram didn't smile. I deserve more than that! After "Stormy Monday" in F, the applause was less than for the first number. The band broke and all the members thanked Hiram for the set.

Hiram sat down, dipping his harps in a water glass and wiping them down with a paper napkin.

"Did you ask him?" Billie asked.

"He put you off." Hiram had forgotten to ask. "Maybe later," he said. "Pissed me off, too. You're twice as good as any of them."

Billie swigged on a bottle of beer, disappointment on his face.

"Don't get down," Hiram said. "It will come together for you."


When they got home, Hiram was exhausted from time differences in travel and was asleep in minutes. Carole entered and stood in the dark, barely visible. "Hiram," she said sharply. "Wake up!" The venom in her voice woke him instantly.

"I know about Rima," she said. "Everyone knows."

Shit. Hiram put his hands behind his head, his gaze in the direction of Carole's silhouette.

"I won't have it, Hiram. It's demeaning."

Hiram wasn't alert yet. "I don't get it."

"You won't deny it?"

"What?"

"You're living with this woman."

"How do you figure? I live here."

"How humiliating."

Hiram let silence isolate them from each other. He finally said, "Look Carole. I've never promised fidelity."

"I've accepted your affairs. But I can't tolerate living with another woman. And a woman of color too."

Hiram angered. Carole's sense of possession irritated him. He was who he was. She'd always known that. She had no right to be indignant.

"I love you," he said, straining for sincerity. It was a marriage of convenience, but he did think he loved her at one point before the marriage.

"Stop it," she said.

"Accept it."

"Don't degrade me."

He slipped down in the bed and pulled the covers over him. "I've never even tried to degrade you." I don't care enough at this point.

"You love her? Marry her."

"She's a comfort to me when I'm away."

"You admit it? And you won't give her up?"

"It's half way around the world. What difference does it make?"

"I'm your wife!"

"Fine. But I'm not changing."

Carole gasped. Is she crying? He couldn't tell for sure.

"We'll go on," he said. "But you need to change your attitude. It's best for both of us. And for the kids."

"And I keep taking care of Billie?"

"If you don't want to, I'll figure something out."

"I don't know if I can face the world thinking people know."

"Few know."

"Liar."

"C'est la vie," he said softly.

Carole hissed. "I'm considering divorce, Hiram."

Hiram turned on his side away from her.

"Did you hear me?"

"Your choice," he said.

CHAPTER 2

In Hiram's mind, election as Regent to the board of directors of the International College of Surgeons had lifted him far above the sixty thousand plus general surgeons in the world. But for a number of years, he'd known being on the board was not enough; he had to be president. There were things to do in healthcare and education, and ascending to national prominence as president of the International College would give him the authority he needed.


Hiram had flown first class from his latest periodic visit to the foundation hospital he created in Nepal and was first off the connection to Chicago, where he would lead a conference of state leaders on delivery of healthcare to the uninsured. Once he cleared customs in the U.S. concourse, he went straight to the baggage-claim carrousel of DL 4534. He waited fifteen minutes, reading, replying, and deleting emails on his iPhone until deplaned-passengers arrived for their luggage. Hiram looked for Michael O'Leary, MD, MBA, FACS, from San Francisco, a key member of the College's Board of Governor's executive committee.

He waved to Michael to get his attention.

"I know what you want. Not the right time, Hiram," Michael said as Hiram approached.

"Wrong, Michael. Perfect time." Hiram led Michael to a second carrousel where there were fewer people. They stood hidden by a six-foot diameter concrete support post painted off-white.

"Look," Hiram began. "I need the votes you can deliver."

"I don't sell votes," Michael said, waiting for the conveyor belt to start.

"What will it take?" Hiram asked. "You deserve better in this organization, Michael. You work hard. You've got the skills."

"I'm offended, Hiram."

"Jesus. This isn't a bribe. I'm building a new direction for the College, putting it back as the world leader in surgery. But I've got to get elected first, and then I've got to have new leadership, new ideas, new staff in the right places. You're integral to that."

"You're offering?"

"Executive director."

"I'd have to resign from the board. You trying to get me off the board, Hiram? Is that what's behind this?

"Never!"

"You've tried that before."

"Goddamn it. Not with you. Hey, you've got experience running executive committees. I want you running the organization. Trust me."

Michael bit his upper lip, a habit when he was thinking. "Academics doesn't hold much excitement for me now," he said.

"Perfect time to change."

"But it's a career risk. I need to think about it."

"Christ. You've been wanting it for a couple years. Don't lie to yourself. This is a new career. I'll put you on the President's healthcare task force too. I'll be co-chair in the fall."

"My family," Michael said.

Hiram took Michael's arm to start him walking toward the security exit. "Angie will be proud. And the kids too. You're the right person. Look at the realities. Tom's lousy as director. We need to dump him."

"He's our friend."

"But a shitty director."

"Can you wait a few days?"

Hiram took a deep breath. "I wish. But I need a head count. I've got commitments to make." Hiram paused. "You hail a cab, the offer's gone."

The conveyor for luggage cranked up.

"Well?" Hiram said, looking at Michael.

Michael nodded almost imperceptibly.

"Good choice," Hiram said, concerned with Michael's tentative reaction, his unmistakable lack of enthusiasm. Why is he so hesitant? It's what he's always wanted.

"I wish I could trust you," Michael said. He walked to the head of the conveyor and Hiram left without further words.

Hiram hailed a taxi. Michael had a reputation as ambitious and driven, but a straight shooter, honest, never out of season or over the limit. Hiram wasn't sure he could deliver the directorship. But first I need to get elected, he thought. I'll deal with the wrinkles later.


In the months since their meeting at the airport, Hiram avoided Michael and gave no words of appreciation for Michael's help. Michael swung the seven decisive votes for nomination and Hiram successfully gathered support of the membership. Michael waited expectantly for the announcement of his appointment as executive director.

CHAPTER 3

The night of Hiram's induction into the College, the auditorium bristled with a formal festivity. Dignitaries sat in black robes in chairs lined in four rows on the stage. As the new president, Hiram stood tall, his hands resting on a flag-draped podium facing the audience, his image gleaming from four giant screens suspended from the auditorium ceiling and projecting to the seven thousand plus surgeons and families in the audience. He thanked family and friends. He introduced new officers and honored colleagues. Few could fault his dynamism, his captaincy, his vision, and Michael could not suppress a wave of envy as Hiram outlined proposed changes in the administrative structure. Michael's heart raced.

Hiram closed his speech: "And finally, it gives me great pleasure to announce that yesterday the new executive director of the College has officially been appointed. His experience as a board member will be invaluable. He is cherished for his academic contributions. He has an MBA and is chair of one of the most influential departments of surgery in the world. Please honor his appointment with a round of applause. Dr. Tom Gardner."

Michael's insides trembled. He'd been passed over. Hiram had welshed on a promise; Michael silently vowed to crush him. He'd have to wait for the opportunities, but he would relish seeing Hiram suffer lifelong.

* * *

In the lobby after the meeting, Michael avoided colleagues who would know him. He recognized the attractive middle-aged TV journalist who approached and cornered him near the exit. Paige Sterling. He'd seen one of her TV segments on Week's End about excavations of the bones of a medieval king. She was a top news celebrity — fashion conscious, a curt interrogator, and champion of women's rights and minority representation. She stepped up and held out her hand that he shook. She had a firm grasp.

"You're Michael O'Leary. They told me at the information desk."

Michael stared. He disliked aggressive reporters, especially women.

"What's the direction of the College with new leadership?" Paige continued.

"It's not an appropriate question for me, Ms. Sterling. Ask the new President."

"I apologize," she said. "I was told you were, as chair of the executive committee, among those who nominated and supported Dr. McDowell for the presidency." She can't get an interview with Hiram, Michael thought. I'm second best to fill airtime.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from McDowell by William H. Coles. Copyright © 2015 William H. Coles. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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McDowell 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
WriterJohn1960 11 months ago
First understand this. Dr. Hiram McDowell was once a despicable individual. As Charles Dicken’s wrote in the holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol,” this must be understood or no good can come from this story. William H. Coles has written this tale of a shabby protagonist to show how free will and hubris can ruin a person’s life. From the very first page of the novel we see this talented doctor failing to come to the aid of others in need in his quest to reach the top. Over and over, McDowell makes choices in his life that compromise his integrity and lead him to the height of this medical profession. He is an admired and lauded surgeon, but his heart and soul are black as ink and his immorality ultimately inspires colleagues and friends to try and destroy him. It is his own failings and fate that topples Dr. Hiram McDowell. His fall from grace, after a family tragedy, is epic, spiraling and surprising. Coles has written a tale of how a once wealthy and successful doctor can eventually lose everything, including his freedom. Written in a spare, concise and highly readable style, you will come to hate Hiram McDowell and then root for his personal redemption. But will he be able to save himself after doing such damage to the world around him? Will he come to recognize that his tragic fall from grace to the depths of despair were of his own making? And will his full story ever be truly told? These are among the essential questions posed by William H. Coles, an acclaimed and award-winning author of short stories, as well as essays on writing, interviews and novels. “McDowell” is a perfect example of great writing; a deeply human story that all readers can relate to and learn from. It’s a cautionary tale that directs us to take stock in our own personal choices and decisions. It’s the ultimate human story, told on a grand stage with simplicity and grace.
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
“The motives and means of McDowell’s death will always be front page interest,” Utah author William H. Coles, MD is a retired Ophthalmologist whose medical career was internationally lauded for his expertise as an ophthalmic surgeon specializing in ocular injury repair and reconstruction, a professor and chairman at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine, a Regent for The American College of Surgeons, president of the Association of University Professors in Ophthalmology, and lecturer on mechanistic biologic ophthalmic research and ophthalmic surgery internationally. Preparing for his career as a literary fiction writer Coles studied in more than 100 courses and workshops with more than seventy-five authors, editors, and teachers and created storyinliteraryfiction.com, a website with resources for fiction writers, illustrators, and avid fiction readers. He has published ten books - five novels, collections of short fiction and three books on the writing of fiction stories. He has also garnered honors for his participation in the arts – jazz piano, antique art, museums, and historic preservation. After reading MCDOWELL and absorbing this consummate novel of the rise and fall of one man’s existence, read the book again – this time to bask in the brilliant prose and, yes, poetry, written by an author whose name should be on every list of significant contemporary writers. William H. Coles blends his depth of knowledge about medicine with his extraordinary sensitivity to philosophy and the true meaning of life as it can be lived, abused, fractured, and redeemed – all in the story of one Hiram McDowell. Cole’s election to open his story on the snowy mountains in Nepal in 1981 does more than capture the reader’s attention with a scene and deed that overshadows the theme of the book: it gives immediate evidence of the polished prose that fills every page of this book. ‘The sky cleared briefly before daybreak. The sharp, bitter winds eased somewhat, but the negative forty-degree temperatures penetrated to the bone. Hiram McDowell lifted the flap of a one-man tent to look in on Erick Woolf, who turned his head, his beard tinged in frost-white from his labored breathing; Woolf lifted his goggles, his pale blue eyes opaque with fatigue. “You ready?” Hiram asked. Woolf shook his head “no,” trying to smile but his face remained motionless. Hiram took off his outer gloves, freed up an oxygen tank from Woolf’s backpack, and placed the mask on Woolf’s face. Woolf rallied after a few minutes of oxygen. Within half an hour, with four other climbers, Hiram and Woolf started for the summit. Woolf’s fatigue slowed progress and after an hour they soon fell behind the others. The wind gusts increased. Woolf sank into a sitting position a few yards from a slope of snow and ice. Hiram steadied himself on a steep vertical. For a few seconds, the visibility improved, but he saw no one. “Go,” Woolf called to him, his voice husky dry. “I can’t do it.” With only slight hesitation, Hiram waved his agreement. He had only two hours or less to summit before their oxygen supply ran low. And Woolf was too weak to go on; the rest would strengthen him. ..etc' Coles is most assuredly one of our finest American authors, an artist in line with Ian McEwan, Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, et al. Highly Recommended! Grady Harp
ReadersFavorite4 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Sefina Hawke for Readers' Favorite McDowell by William H. Coles is a literary fiction novel that would appeal most to a diverse audience of young adults and adults who enjoy mystery thrillers. McDowell is an arrogant surgeon and father of three who has a distinguished career. That all changed when his grandson goes on a massive killing spree that only ends with his failed suicide. When the young man dies under suspicious circumstances, McDowell becomes a suspect. McDowell quickly finds himself convicted of second-degree murder and becomes a fugitive. While on the run, McDowell works to set up a new identity and finds himself having to begin his new life at the lowest level of society. Will McDowell's experiences as a lower class member of society help him to grow as a person or will he remain set in his selfish ways? McDowell by William H. Coles was a book that reminded me of the Marvel movie Doctor Strange with how both main characters were arrogant surgeons who seemed to not give much thought or care for those that did not directly affect them. However, this book sets itself apart from Doctor Strange with how McDowell not only lost his career, but also his freedom due to being convicted for his own grandson’s murder. I enjoyed the way that McDowell developed and grew as a character during the course of the book; his journey away from arrogance truly allowed him to undergo massive amounts of character development and introspection. I personally found the way the author ended the book to be both surprising and realistic.
ReadersFavorite3 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite McDowell by William H. Coles is a family saga that follows the life of a selfish and arrogant surgeon, who suffers an epic fall from grace, and the path he travels to redemption. McDowell cares for no one but his children. But then he loses everything when his grandson commits multiple murders and fails in his suicide attempt, which leaves him paralyzed mentally. But the boy dies in very unusual circumstances and McDowell gets a conviction for second-degree murder. He is jailed. Now watch as he escapes and lives as a fugitive, pursued by the authorities and a reporter who is just too eager to interview him before the police catch up with him. Watch as he learns the virtues of humanity the hard way, by taking a path trodden by those he despised when he was powerful and rich. It’s a story that follows a man’s transformation, and his somewhat spiritual odyssey to a life that has meaning. William H. Coles has created a compelling character in McDowell, a character forced to embrace the essence of humanity by harsh circumstances. Can he really find redemption? It is fascinating how the character evoked powerful emotions in me and how those emotions evolved as I read on. At the beginning of the story, I detested this character, but his inner journey brought me around and, instead of a sense of revulsion for the man he was, I learned to look at him with sympathy. Here is a story that is character-driven and that explores what is essential in human nature. It is a story that is filled with powerful lessons while entertaining readers hugely. I was completely drawn into the dynamics of the story and read through it non stop. Great story, awesome characters, impeccable plot lines.
ReadersFavorite2 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite McDowell by William H. Coles is a literary fiction read that features crime, family, and one man’s epic fall from grace to grass and his pursuit of meaning, inner freedom, and redemption. Meet surgeon McDowell, an arrogant and selfish man who only thinks about himself and his children. But as life always has a way of putting people where they belong, he soon loses his wealth and reputation and his career falls apart, thanks to a grandson who commits a series of murders and yet fails to take his own life. This leaves the family with a vegetable. But then the grandson dies in a mysterious way, and all hands are pointing at McDowell. Read on to experience the family drama, the intense suffering, and how he will make one last attempt to redeem his life after his conviction. William H. Coles has written a story that has a lot of entertainment for readers. It is also one that comes with powerful lessons on love and giving. I enjoyed following the journey of the protagonist, watching him descend to the lowest level of society to learn meaning and the real purpose of life in unlikely places. The story is beautifully told, in elegant and crisp prose that will entice readers to keep reading on. The writing features beautiful passages that unveil strong emotions. The story is both emotionally and psychologically charged and readers will love the way the conflict develops and how it drives the plot forward. McDowell is a great story from a master entertainer, a story with powerful lessons for life.
ReadersFavorite1 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Raanan Geberer for Readers' Favorite McDowell: A Novel by William H. Coles is about Dr. Hiram McDowell, an “alpha male” if there ever was one. He heads a Department of Surgery, plays rock guitar, climbs mountains in the Himalayas, runs marathons, has established a hospital in Nepal, and has been elected president of the International College of Surgeons. At home, however, it’s a different story. He acts callously toward his wife, doesn’t care if she knows he has another woman in Nepal, and is only involved superficially with his children’s lives. Now, another surgeon, whom McDowell passed up for executive director of the College of Surgeons, and an aging TV reporter, who’s anxious to prove she’s still relevant, are both on McDowell’s trail, independently of each other. They’ve discovered irregularities in his laboratory and financial improprieties in his charity in Nepal, as well as false statements in his autobiography. And that’s only the first step in his problems—problems that eventually will make him a fugitive on the run. McDowell by William H. Coles is an extremely exciting, well-written novel. The medical information, such as it is, is written in a way that laymen can understand. Coles does a good job of taking us into the world of elite upper-class professionals, where ambition and international travel take a front seat, but family unfortunately takes a back seat. We’re not really sure why McDowell is so driven—late in the book, when someone asks him why money and prestige are so important to him, he draws a blank—but he was likely raised that way, since his family was wealthy enough to own a stable of race horses. McDowell has no easy answers; he doesn’t undergo a miraculous transformation into a “good person.” In every way, however, I would recommend McDowell. An excellent book.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite Fans of popular fiction might be inclined to pass over books classified as literary fiction. What a mistake that would be in the case of McDowell by William H. Coles. While a good plot is essential to all fiction, in literary fiction the exploration of character takes precedence over plot. And why not? After all, isn’t it what people do, think and feel…what motivates and demotivates them…that either propels them to climb to the summit of their abilities or plummets them into hell on earth? This, and what Dr. McDowell, a brilliant, but self-centered surgeon discovers about himself, is what stays with readers after they finish this absorbing story. When we first meet Dr. McDowell, there is little to like about him. His achievements in both business, medicine, mountain climbing and empire building are impressive, but his actions, words, and insensitivity to the needs of his family, friends and colleagues are reprehensible. He is a powerful man and it’s his way or the highway at all times. His only saving grace is his love of his children and the work he does for the poor in Nepal. But the latter comes under severe scrutiny once a TV journalist, Paige, is assigned to do a series on the high-profile Dr. McDowell. Bit by bit, McDowell’s world falls apart, coming to a head when he removes his grandson, a mass murderer, from life support. Until the very last page, readers will be debating the real reasons for Dr. McDowell becoming a murderer himself by taking such action, action for which, by the way, he ends up being convicted and imprisoned. But it’s over the years following his escape from prison, that through the people he meets while on the run, McDowell comes face to face with himself. What he learns about himself and others leaves readers thinking about life, art, humanity and our place on this earth in ways we may not yet have pondered. It’s a revelation for both McDowell and readers. There’s an interesting twist to McDowell that will capture the minds of aspiring writers. While McDowell is on the run, and as he talks to more and more people, he begins writing his memoir. What he learns about writing, for example, one has to know what makes people do what they do “to write anything significant,” really hits home. It’s something all writers should know. But do they, in their haste to churn out books with fast-moving plots, always create something “significant” It’s William H. Coles' ability to create something significant, time and again, that has earned him a multitude of writing awards. His bio is impressive; so is his bibliography. Once you read McDowell, you will, like me, be looking for more books by William H. Coles. I can’t wait to get started on the next one in my collection. Not bad for someone who, until McDowell, had forgotten the beauty of literary fiction.