Monday, February 18, 2013

A Lovely, Indecent Departure by Steven Lee (Guest Post, Review)

Parents are charged with teaching their children right from wrong, but above all else is caring for their general welfare and when Italian immigrant Anna Miller loses her fiver-year old son, Oliver, in a custody dispute with his father she does the unthinkable and kidnaps him. They flee rural North Carolina for Italy and with her family’s help disappear into her native homeland. Months pass with no sign of the mother and son. The boy’s guileful and mean-spirited father, Evan Meade, turns to a private investigator when the ineffective efforts of the federal authorities working alongside the local sheriff, Monroe Rossi, fail to track them down. But even as the search draws them closer to Anna, Evan’s true nature betrays itself and the question to what’s in the child’s best interest becomes not so clear anymore.

At the center of the search for the missing boy is Sheriff Rossi, the embattled lawman, a divorced father himself whose black-and-white brand of upholding the law has lent much to his method of parenting. His frustration and obligation to both his community and his estranged family deepens the closer he comes to all of those involved, but at greater risk to his life’s work is the blurring of the line that occurs between law and justice. Stuck in the middle of this is Oliver, who battles his mother and others while trying to come to grips with this strange new world in which he has been thrust. 

Objectively detailed, deftly and gracefully written in a voice that refuses to intrude on the minds of its characters, A Lovely, Indecent Departure is a literary thriller capturing in stark detail an intoxicating world in which modern archetypes are turned upside down. 

Steven Lee Gilbert

Image of Steven Lee GilbertSteven Lee Gilbert was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana but considers his childhood home the green, rolling foothills of East Tennessee and the southern Appalachia mountains, settlement to all sorts of interesting people, composites of which can be found throughout his writing. Most of his adulthood he's spent in the Sandhills and Piedmont of central North Carolina, where he lives now with his wife and family.

Steven received his B.A. in English from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, after which he was commissioned and served four years as an officer and paratrooper in the U.S. Army. While in school he had the pleasure of learning from Wilma Dykeman and in 2007 had the opportunity to work with Barry Hannah, both of which greatly influenced his writing. The next year, Steven was awarded a Durham Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant for Literature. He has also received recognition for his work as a writer from the Tennessee Writers Alliance.

His work has been published in the Raleigh News & Observer, The Independent Weekly, Diabetes Health, and at He is also the author of the blog, Without Envy. A Lovely, Indecent Departure is his first novel.

or visit me at Goodreads,

From the Author (via Amazon)

Author Awards
2007 Emerging Artist Grant for Literature, Durham Arts Council

Thank you for visiting my Amazon Author Page and for considering my book, A Lovely, Indecent Departure. Writing it was a process that covered several years, during which the manuscript underwent many, many drafts and required much patience on the part of myself as the writer, as well as my wife and family.

When in 2007, with their support, I chose to pursue writing full time, I had no real idea of what I was getting myself into. I only knew I wanted to write. Such an endeavor is not without risk and in the months leading up to my leaving my day job, we adjusted our lifestyle and saved what we could to afford me this opportunity. My wife and I talked to our children about doing with less and showed them through example the importance of following one's dream. Even when chronic illness threatened to derail the plan, we helped them to understand that dreams require sacrifice, a life lesson, we hope, they espouse themselves as adults.

 Please visit my website to learn more about this journey, and thanks again for stopping by.

A Lovely Indecent Departure is free to everyone from Tuesday, Feb 19 through Thursday, Feb 21, 2013. 
Click on the book icon below to get your free copy:

To Tell the Truth, Nothing But the Truth
A Guest Post by Steven Lee Gilbert

A writer’s job, I tell my creative writing students, is to tell the truth. So it makes perfect sense when I write a novel about parental kidnapping I had better be prepared to do some ‘splaining.

Readers ask me all the time how I came upon this idea, but I know what they really are asking: Do I have personal experience? The answer I give them is always the same. No, I don’t, but I could have.

You see, many years ago I had the unfortunate duty to watch from the sidelines as the custody battle between my wife and her ex-husband first unravel and then go against her. The courtroom drama unfolded like theatre, with one biased eyewitness after another—my self included—testifying for one or the other of their two behalves. After everyone had their say, the judge disappeared and decided within a few short hours whose interest best served the child. For reasons that seemed (to us anyway) abusive and discriminatory, he ruled in favor of the father. What followed was a difficult time, indeed, for us all, but especially on my wife. It was out of this grief that the notion behind this novel took root and sprouted. (Fueling it was this rant I had then—and still do—against the methods used to of determine child custody, but that is for another time).

One of the most difficult parts to writing is falling in love with a thing long enough to tell a good story. I wanted my wife to be with her son, of that there wasn’t any doubt, but there were a number of problems I faced in turning that heartfelt wish into a story.

The first obstacle I encountered was that I had no idea at all how a person (much less two people) might vanish. Fortunately, I found plenty of references, of which I relied upon two primarily. One was a book about how to disappear completely and the other how to find someone who doesn’t want to be found. Both, not surprisingly, rely a great deal upon luck, but each was a wonderful resource for helping me cook up what happened after Anna took Oliver. Also helpful was my research into adoption, immigration, police procedure and missing children, as these offered critical, real world problems and solutions in the search for them.

The second challenge was creating characters, a protagonist especially, to whom readers could relate and even feel empathy toward. This is one of the best parts of writing: taking a story and filling it with people. For A Lovely, Indecent Departure, the characters I created are more like composites of many people I know or imagine, including myself, rather than singular representations. What was important to me as I wrote the book is the way in which we come to know them, slowly, in small doses, like real life.

Beyond what happens in the novel is how and where I tell it, in this case Italy and the Italian language. I am fortunate to have visited Italy a couple of times and find Florence as fascinating as I hope my readers do. For the language, my wife is Italian (not all similarities are made up) and speaks and writes it fluently.

Of course all of this research, travel and collaboration took time away from the actual writing, so it was more important than ever to keep to a writing schedule. Even then it took years to complete. For me personally though it was worth it.

My Review:

 I enjoyed the book story line. I thought the author did an outstanding job of detailing the mother's struggle with having her son taken away, and her subsequent parentnapping and going into hiding. The book also contains wonderful descriptions of the different cities in the U.S. and Italy where the story takes place and manages to incorporate several different genres in the process; family drama, crime, travel, and loads of action.

The reader could feel the mother's fear about being found, although it seemed that the mother had not gone that far underground in her attempt to hide. You could identify with her anxiety and I sometimes found myself looking over her shoulder for her. The author also did a very good job showing how difficult it is for the child(ren) to adapt to a different culture and language. The surprise ending of the book definitely catches the reader off guard. 

Technically speaking: The lack of translation from Italian to English made it difficult to follow many of the conversations in the book. The characters were well developed and  it was quite easy to empathize with their situations, especially the mother. I also liked the way the author used a new chapter when switching back and forth from character to character. I have come across this technique in other books and I find it works well with certain story lines. One other thing that I really had a problem with was the lack of punctuation in the book. Punctuation is used to help the reader distinguish between characters and I found the lack of it very disconcerting, and a great distraction. 

Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation - monetary or in kind - has been obtained for this post. Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm.

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