Middle Child Press: June 2011

6.30.2011

Ankh Speaks: Hollowstone (2011) ~ a Review

I had the honor of being asked to do a review of Dennis R. Upkins's debut novel Hollowstone.  This is my first ever official book review, and I was very glad it was this book, particularly because I am a huge, huge fan of this man.

Upkins tells us the story of a young nerdy black man named Noah Scott who plays the violin and goes to church (earning him the nickname "Altar Boy").  Noah is also a brilliant student whose grades land him in a prestigious, exclusive, elitist school of spoiled, selfish rich kids who get away with everything - drugs, rape, even murder.  And for Noah, what starts out as simply dealing with annoying classmates eventually turns into a literal life-and-death struggle.

At first I was surprised by the characterization of the students and the choice of setting, but then I realized it made perfect sense.  In order for Upkins to discuss issues of violence, substance abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism, he needed a place where they constantly came to light yet often ran unchecked.  And when writing young people, Upkins often captures their voices perfectly and quite humorously.

But one of the most fascinating aspects of Upkins' writing style is a glaring lack of filler.  It's as though he never takes a rest; every paragraph is made to count, every chapter carries the momentum forward still.  His pacing is astounding; he keeps the reader on the edge and oblivious to the passing of twenty to thirty pages in a row.  Moreover, mystery/suspense is definitely his genre; I never ceased to be amazed at how writers like him can so definitely handle the numerous details which weave together a cleverly tangled web.

Deftly blending the realistic with the supernatural, Upkins presents a delightfully entertaining read and an overall impressive debut.

6.14.2011

Ankh Speaks: Plotline No-No's for the New Decade

Ladies and gents, 2010 has been over for some time now; the first decade of our new century is complete and we need to talk creative strategy for the next.

To say that our popular media - and even independent media, unfortunately - has become formulaic is a gross understatement.  We have an almost pathological lack of outside-the-box-thinking going on.  And when people genuinely make an effort to do something new, either one of two things always happens:

One - the audience realizes after the first third of the film or the first season of a show that they've been bamboozled and whatever diversity/creativity they were enjoying was strictly there for luring, not longetivity (Heroes comes to mind).

Two - the moment the audience recognizes the creators' daring and brilliance, the audience also realizes the show is going to be canceled ASAP, or the film will have several crappy sequels.

We've simply developed a sense for these things.