My life has changed quite a bit since taking the reins as book reviewer for the Herald-Banner. Authors from all over Texas are sending me books in both physical copies and e-book formats – so many that I’m tripping over them in the darkness while walking around my writing studio.
As of today, I have three months’ worth of novels to read (one per week) with more on the way, but I’m not complaining. They smell terrific! Also on my literary to-do list is finishing “The Catcher In The Rye” at some point. It is the only book that I started reading but never finished, and now, as an adult understanding much more about writing and modern literature, I’ll try again.
My review for this week is “Brothers Of Blood” by Tristan Drue Rogers. Although this type of book is way beyond what I’d normally recommend for my Sunday audience, I decided to share it because he lives in Denton – I refuse to deny exposure to any of my local literary brothers and sisters.
The synopsis reads:
Belle Whynecrow and her oldest brother, Beau, attend their father’s funeral, inciting a bloodlust in Beau that trickles down onto his impressionable little sister. Eventually, Beau’s antics lead him to prison, causing their mother to flee the state with Belle, so that they may lead a simple life.
All for naught, Belle obsesses over the teachings of her oldest brother, awaiting his arrival as she creates her own brotherhood, leading each additional brother to victory over a string of terrible crimes. When Beau finally shows up at her doorstep, he does so as a devout man of God, looking to prove to his family that his time in prison changed him for the better.
This doesn’t bode well with Belle, who begins crafting a plan that could lead Beau headfirst into or against the brotherhood that his sister built specifically for him to thrive in.
First of all, this is Tristan Drue Rogers’ debut novel after years of doubting his future in professional writing. I applaud his bravery for offering this story as his first.
This is not a book for casual readers, nor would it be recommended for anyone younger than 18. It is as gritty as they come! Beau (referred to as big ‘B’) and his child sister (referred to as little ‘b’) immediately engage in the activity of what they consider “stalking” soon after their father’s unfortunate death.
Their mother, struck with both grief and medical issues, rarely exits her bed, which leaves the impressionable Belle to seek guidance from her twisted, older brother. Although elementary-school aged, Belle complies without ever questioning Beau’s sanity. Stalking turns to even more crimes – violent ones – quickly.
This book is reminiscent of “A Clockwork Orange” if it occurred in modern times, with a female protagonist (or antagonist depending on your point of view). It’s a trip into the human psyche intended only for the courageous and curious.
Rogers’ talent as a writer becomes bolder and more apparent with every page, as Belle grows older and is left to her own devices. It’s a horrifically realistic picture of a fraction of today’s youth without parental influence.
Another notable feature is that most of the dialogue in the novel is written in street slang, of which I possess only basic knowledge. (I referenced the urban dictionary on more than one occasion for clarity.) This is not a strike against the book by any means, as language in the best of modern literature evolves over time; if you need reassurance on my opinion about that, just read Herman Melville.
Although the main character comes alive with cruelty and heartlessness, that doesn’t mean this book lacks any heart of its own. There are genuine moments of love as Belle cares for her ailing mother. The reader is asked for patience, though, as the story spaces out the glimpses of human affection among numerous scenes of violence . But it seemed to make those kinder moments that much sweeter.
When I sat down to talk with author Tristan Drue Rogers (and praying he was nothing like his literary alter-ego), I was curious about the influences behind the characters in his dark, coming-of-age tale.
“Belle was just an amalgamation of what type of women I wanted to see in stories that are so often written by men,” he says. “She’s a tough cookie, a leader, but also horrifically flawed. I’ve desired to write classic characters like Sherlock Holmes or Scout Finch. So Belle Whynecrow is my attempt at a long-lasting antihero with literary merit. I hope I’ve achieved that.”
Rogers reveals his own childhood experiences was a blueprint for the story itself.
“I had fears of what the real world encompassed,” he explained. “I thought it was filled with evil, and that the good guys lost. My writing is deeply personal, but I wanted to realize [in this story] what a world would be like if my younger self was right.
“I also wanted to see if I could make a good story about friendships, family and connections while throwing in some inspiration from the troubled youth of my generation. I’m sure you’ve seen them in the news.”
Indeed, we have.
Look for “Brothers of Blood” at your local bookstore or find it online at this direct link: https://amzn.to/2PeFESB. It is published by independent Texas publisher Black Rose Writing.
C. Derick Miller is an author, songwriter and poet born and raised in Greenville. A father, grandfather, avid reader and Friday night karaoke addict, he has a soft spot for Texas authors, books and publishers – and an even deeper love for local artists. Miller is the co-founder of the Hunt County Writers’ League. To suggest a book for reviewing, to inquire about Miller’s own published novels, or for information about the Hunt County Writers’ League, email Miller at email@example.com.