Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Book Review: 'Head Shot' by Jeffrey Poston

New Mexico author Jeffrey Poston, with an electrical engineering degree in laser optics and military experience as an Air Force officer, comes to this suspenseful thriller HEAD SHOT: AN AMERICAN TERRORIST SHORT STORY with a solid background in publishing his highly acclaimed four Jason Peares Historical Westerns as well as his adventure thrillers, but having not read those, this reviewer comes to Jeffrey's work in this novel - and it is one of the most poignantly important novels about life as we are experiencing it in the US (an the world) yet encountered. This man writes with the passion of a crusader but never steps away from allowing his story speak on its own.

In an interview about the release of his initial novel in this American Terrorist series, stories about police shootings and racism and the constant threat of the terrorist mode, Jeffrey offers some pungent insights that bear sharing here: the debut of AMERICAN TERRORIST came at the height of the civil strife between police and citizens. Was that a coincidence or a message? `It was coincidental only in that media coverage of the civil conflict ramped up significantly in 2014. We have to keep in mind police shootings have been occurring for many years, and it's a complicated social problem, especially with the media focusing primarily on white-black shootings. My concept for American Terrorist came from a real event - my encounter with police in 2007 - except, of course, I didn't get shot. So I ask the question, what would happen if a law-abiding citizen went berserk or insane after an encounter with police or federal agents? Black History month isn't only about distant history. Sometimes, it can be about just-last-year history. I wrote American Terrorist before the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the related unrest that sparked a vigorous debate about law enforcement's relationship with African-Americans and police use-of-force doctrine nationwide. I wrote the novel because ten years ago I was jacked up by police, and for ten years I've been dealing with the trauma of that experience. So I decided to write a novel about the event because writing is my way of dealing with my own trauma. Of course, I didn't get shot or tortured or even beat up. But loss of dignity hurts for a very long time. That is the essence that elevates such violence from an individual assault to a collective racial issue. Of course, a good novel needs plenty of action, suspense, and plot twists. So what if an innocent Black man was assaulted by federal cops who take everything from him? What if he goes berserk and decides to do to them what that they did to him? But what if he is the only person in the world who can find a missing child who will surely die if he doesn't find a way to work with the same police who destroyed his life? This is a work of fiction, but the perceived violence of police against non-white citizens is a complicated topic. What I've tried to capture in this story are the thoughts and feelings and fears of a wanted man trying to deal with the loss of his family, his dignity, and his very reason for living.'

There could be no better view of the power of this novel than just stated. The author's synopsis distills the story well: ` While tracking a CIA informant who has information on an international cabal known only as Atlas, Carl Johnson—the American Terrorist—stumbles upon a sinister test program to control police through high-tech behavior control. He soon learns that Atlas is leveraging the media, corrupt officials, and our basic desire for security and freedom to attempt the assassination of US President Shirley Mallory and achieve world domination. Everything Carl thought he knew about police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and the lengths to which people will go for power and greed gets turned upside down again. He has mere hours to save millions of American lives, but will have to take on elite units of the Chicago PD and Atlas mercenaries first.'
Jeffrey's writing style matches his storyline, as is obvious form this in medias res opening paragraph: ` Carl Johnson, famously known as the American Terrorist, sat in a trendy Chicago coffee shop watching his CIA informant exit the mailbox store across the street. The store was part of an old brick strip mall with big glass windows. Posters depicting mail services, color copies, business cards, and a myriad of other printing services covered almost every square inch of the windows. It was the perfect place for the informant to covertly study the coffee shop because no one could see him behind all those posters until he stepped through the metal-framed glass front door.’

This tension, matched with parody and sharp-witted humor, spills off every page of this exceptional novel. It is a must read for all citizens querying the concept of terrorist acts and the universality of evil and governmental response. Very Highly Recommended! Grady Harp, January 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.