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This Was Some Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Type Stuff!

 

 

Tennessee author Jerry Harwood earned his education from Baylor School, Samford University in Alabama, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and has enjoyed a varied career – as an educator at both the middle school and college level (including teaching at a Ukrainian University), program director for a counseling center, a camp director, a first responder, worked in Rwanda after the genocide – all of which contribute to his ability to explore the mind of a preteen and the challenges that coming of age anxieties impose. He has published eight books of jokes, then JAM SESSIONS was his debut novel and now he adds TWELVE HOURS ON THE BLOCK – a considerable stretch from his usual lectern!

Harwood steps onto the stage with his keen sense of horror intact in this new novel. With the opening paragraphs we are witness to a terrifyingly gruesome incident as we meet the primary character, Eli. “Eli had been in for less than seven hours when the flaming mattress was tossed over the second-floor balcony. Eli arrived earlier that day with two other inmates. One, set in an adjacent cell, had been all the talk. Eli had seen him during entry as the men changed to their issued uniforms. Eli had considered the large hummingbird tattoo with the wings flowing across the man’s back and down his arms to be sissy and effeminate. Eli had been in cell 38. The other two inmates, including the one with the tattoo, were adjacent in cell 37. The guards paraded by Eli’s cell often that initial afternoon, but his cellmate assured him their slow gate past cell 38 was really to see the man everyone knew as Hummingbird one cell over. Not seeing the attraction, Eli settled in his cot for his first night of sleep in the Sunnydale Penitentiary.’ The incident – Hummingbird flails burning mattresses and a body from his cell and murders a guard by extracting the guard’s heart from his chest.…

With that strong dose of drama the novel takes off, and the plot is condensed as follows: ‘Eli hoped to do his time and get back to living life outside prison. However, that hope faded when he watched a prisoner rip a guard’s heart out and toss the body over the railing onto a funeral pyre of burning mattresses. The landscape of the prison begins to change as more and more strange characters strive for dominance in the anarchy that follows. Eli and his new friend, Tay, must navigate the chaos as the gods of the Aztec creation story emerge over the next twelve hours on the block.’ The story explodes with Hispanic flavor and an extraordinary flair for illuminating the dark side of prison life and myth and fantasy – and beyond! A very fine drama, this!

Jerry Harwood is proving to be a polished scribe, able to brush humor onto his canvas of what in other hands might become a dark prison tale. His dialog between the two friends – Eli and Tay – is full of crackling commentary, and very entertaining at that. This is a firecracker of a novel, one that satisfies on many levels. And with TWELVE HOURS ON THE BLOCK, Harwood elevates his position on the platform of fine writers! Recommended.


~Grady Harp