There are some books you read which really tell you a ton about the author and how they have grown. Roadside Attractions is that book for friend of the show, Eric Lahti. Come with me as we talk about what I liked about the book!
I will give you a hint. I love good characters and amazing dialogue.
Want to know more? Check it out here!
-Bryan the Writer
Welcome to all things writing, I am, as you know, your host Bryan Nowak.
This is the most exciting week I think I have had since November of 2019. This week marks my return to my normal pattern of shows! Yep, on Friday morning I will be heading down to Winston Salem, NC to attend ConGregate 7 which is held along with DeepSouth Con 59. As a matter of fact, the day this show is released, I will be at the con, so no, this Is not live. Although I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that none of my shows are livestreamed.
Again, I cannot hit this point enough. If you have never been to one of these Cons, you are missing out. But I will warn you, they are addicting. Once you start going, you will likely never stop. It will become somewhat of an obsession with you.
It is hard to describe what Cons are like. It is a bit like finding another family you did not know exists with all of the odd little aspects of your life. If you love Scifi, there are Scifi Cons, there are horror Cons for all of you horror fans out there. How about mystery fans? Yep, got those too. Head out this year and hit one. You will be glad that you did.
But, don’t blame me if you are hooked.
Looking at the almighty statistics for the show this week, I came across two interesting things. The first is that the cities I the top spots have not really changed at all. The second interesting thing is that the shows I did with Sammi Parish is almost eclipsed by the show I did with Ronald Malfi in terms of numbers of downloads.
This week I am doing something a little differently than I normally do. You know that normally I talk about some aspect of the writing life. But in the past I have had the amazing honor to bring you something different.
Recently I read a book by a friend of the show who has not only been on the show before, but given me some content to talk about in the past.
I am a fan, I do want to make that perfectly clear since many of you who have listened to the show before will instantly recognize the name Eric Lahti. He was on the show back in July of last year (almost a year to the date of this show) and it has taken me until now to get his book done. At the time we were talking about his upcoming book Roadside Attractions and how I had just pre-ordered it. I mean, I had to. That was an absolute must.
I mean, how can I simply just not buy a book from an author who has had such an impact on me? I mean, of course I love the Henchmen series, Greetings from Sunny Aluna, The Clockman, but before I get into what makes Roadside attractions work for me, I want to talk a little about why this author, and really Ronald Malfi work for me too.
For that conversation I need to go back to my first book, No Name.
I will be the first to admit that No Name is a pretty rough book around the edges. I am nine books past that first step down the road of being an author, and yes I am counting the unpublised ones in work, and it occurs to me that everyone has to start someplace.
You cannot, dear writer, start out from the position of a NYT best selling author. That is not realistic. You need to work on cutting your teeth in the literary world.
While I have never gotten a review like someone telling me to never write a book, or that I need to back to grammar school, I do know people leave those reviews out there. And I will add, that if you are a person who leaves reviews like that, don’t bother. Most authors don’t read them anyway. But let me get back on point.
If you are picking up someone’s first book, please take it all with a grain of salt. If it is a good story, please understand that great writers are not born. There is a whole process we all need to go through.
So too with Eric Lahti in his earliest works. But he has consistently grown as a writer I think. I even will point out that during his clockman and greetings books, he seemed to really explode as a writer in terms of him experimenting with ideas and concepts. I think those books are great anyway, but I also think that he really did grow some major muscles during those books.
Which leads me to why I love his work and why I love all work that falls into a certain category. That is what I would call authors who are experts in the willing suspension of disbelief.
Yes, I am borrowing that term from theater for those of you who are interested in theater. A willing suspension of reality is what actors and directors will commonly refer to as the phenomenon where the audience suspends their natural tendency to look at the actors as merely pretending and accept them as actually being the play they are in. Like they are not just simply watching a play, but living it, experience it.
Let’s take that idea and apply it to literature. What does it meant to us who are reading a good book? Well, simply put, it means that we are willing to let go of ourselves and emerse ourselves into he world of the book we are reading.
But isn’t that the point of great reading? We are supposed to dive into those pages and become part of that world we are reading. It is not enough to simply read the words on the page, we have to live them ourselves.
That is the function of story and not the function of grammar, I would argue. And yes, there are those of you who will send me hate mail if I did not point out that bad grammar can detract from readability and take you out of the story. Yes, I will grant you that. But hear me out.
For the most part, a well told story is all you need to put together a good book. However, In the latest offering from Eric Lahti, he has it all. Fantastic story telling, a well edited book, and a kick butt cover. This is it, the whole package man. I have been a fan from the beginning, so it is so great to point out that this is his best book.
When we come back in a minute, I will tear apart this book and give you the details. Just kidding, mine is a signed copy, I will not damage it. Be right back.
Okay, so, as I have hinted, Roadside attractions is a great book. Why?
Let’s dive into this book one layer at a time and go through it. First off, there is an amazing cover. Eric is a multi-fascited artist and I would be remiss if I did not point out that his covers are usually pretty amazing. He is one of the guys who has encouraged me to try my own hand at designing my own covers in the past.
This is a uniquely Eric cover. The elements do what they need to do in that they present all the elements which make it a book you would automatically want to pick up. There is a certain sex appeal to the cover while also retaining that dangerous look of an occult symbol. Couple that with the elements of the title Roadside Attractions and the way it is presented, you have a cover which makes you want to take another look.
The book was published by Kyanite Publishing and the
The tagline on the top reads, Dead. Sexy. And about to unleash hell. Dead, Sexy, and unleashing anything is always an attractive thing to say.
Let me read you the back of the book.
READ BACK OF BOOK
I love how the backmatter of the book does a great job in building that suspense. That is what good back matter should do. Really it creates a sort of contract with the reader. In many ways it is literally an opening paragraph to the book.
This makes you want to open that first page and read a few pages.
I know that as an author I have really hit a mark with someone if they read the back of my book and let out little unconscious “Ohs”, “umms”, and “huhs”. That tells me they are interested enough to keep digging a little. Like finding a small bone in the back yard that you cannot help but continue looking for what is connected with. That is what good back matter should do for you.
Eric is a master at this, as the back of this book should tell you.
Let me stop there for a moment and draw some attention on the title of the book itself. “Roadside attractions”. It calls into memory certain thoughts and ideas which are unique to Americana. Almost all of us can recall roadtrips with our parents which, at some point, had us stopping at the alleged largest ball of twine in the world, a collection of mummies mysteriously found in a cave, or the largest collection of mannequins in the Midwest. That is what roadside attractions are all about , aren’t they. It is imagery at its best. We can see the cheesy displays, the over-the-top music being played on a loudspeaker which was not intended to play music. The smells of disuse, mold, and counter clerks who once had dreams and were not questioning all of their lifes choices as they sit behind the counter of a store selling cigarettes to kids with fake IDs in a town whose population changed with every month as drifters moved into town and then kept moving. That is what makes this title great. We can all easily digest it.
Then there are the characters. Oh, the characters.
The book starts out with a murder. Not even a well timed and well executed serial killing. It is a sort of dirty and dingy execution out in the middle of the desert where one of the characters was killed. This first character, Jennene, is really a sad girl. She lived a sad life filled with many regrets. Don’t get any grand illusions about her reaching some sort of catharsis. She carries her inner demons with her and one gets the impression they will continue to haunt her, figuratively and literally, well into the afterlife.
The two ghost hunters, Char and boyfriend Jordan. The two are committed and devoted to one another. Their relationship alone carries with it a certain power that really is difficult to overcome by the forces they are pitted against. Never underestimate the power of two people’s love for one another. That power alone is what gives them the strength to overcome the biggest blows when the going get touch.
Char is the more grounded of the pair. She understands her own power and both fears and is connected to it. That understanding ensures she is restrained in simply unleashing her powers willy nilly. Jordan is a huge tech nerd which parried his tech skills into creating weapons and tools for ghost hunting by modifying toys.
Now, if you are picturing someone running around with a nerf gun which is modified, you would be right. And yes, that sounds silly, but it works in this world Eric has created. The modified weapons really fit in this context. Jordan and Char do not have deep financial pockets to pay for these really expensive electronics so Jordan makes it all work with what he has. He is an improviser to the Nth degree and uses that skill in his mode of combat.
There are a couple of demons in the story line who behave the way you would expect demons to behave.
I would be a terrible Christin if I did not say something. As I have pointed out many times on this show that I am a Christian and I do take issue with his characterization as hell. Basically, it is biblically unsound. Eric is giving you more of a modified Dante’s inferno style of hell. In reality the bible really only says that hell is the absence of God and when it talks about the unquenchable fires of hell, even biblical scholars really argue what exactly that means. For example, the fires of hell could refer to a burning, as in longing, for a communication with God which is not possible any longer. Hence the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
So, if you are inclined to nit-pick based on theology, hold your pen in check. He took a lot of creative licenses with this where scripture is concerned and while I disagree with certain points, that does not mean I did not thoroughly enjoy the read.
See, again, willing suspension of disbelief. This is a fun ride with characters that are somewhat over the top and then sometimes completely down to earth.
As in real estate, location, location, location. A good amount of this book takes place in a fairly small area. Instead of concentrating on the sweeping vistas of the desert southwest, Eric draws us into this tiny, dusty, drive by town. Its only real claim to fame is a thing called The Terror. And yes, if it sounds like a tourist trap, you would be 100% correct. And this is why the book is titled the way it is.
But, if you are a person who needs sweeping vistas like in a terry brooks novel, you will find yourself wanting since Roadside Attractions really does focus on the characters and their interaction.
Dialogue in this book is 100% always on point. Jordan’s witty banter and the demons sardonic and mission driven tone are counterpointed perfectly. The balanced and playful way the dialogue plays out is the key to this operation and handled with such expertness that you would be remiss if you passed on it. For example, let me read to you a short section that I think is uniquely Eric Lahti.
I think you can agree that the writing is masterful.
Look, I could drone on about this book. Needless to say, I give it 5 stars. Get out there and read his books. Yes, there are some things in there that you may or may not agree with. Eric is cynical where organized religion is concerned and he does get political at times, but don’t let that get in the way of a pretty amazing ride.
Well, that is it for this episode of all things writing. Next week I will be out of town at a book show, no less. Hopefully I will have some great new things to talk to you about. I am working on bringing a couple of interviews for upcoming shows since I know you don’t want to listen to me babble on all the time.
Remember that if you want to sponsor the show, contact me at my e-mail. Also, if you would consider a donation to the show through paypal, that would make my day and I will say your name on the air. I don’t care how much or how little it is. Any amount helps.
Remember to hit that like button so you know when the next show is out there for the world to see. Until next time, this is Bryan the Writer, signing off.