Saturday, December 8, 2018
Book Review: 'Brownout - 666: or the Real Meaning of the Swastika' by John Richard Spencer
“Teaching …is sort of like being a policeman without a gun, surrounded by criminals.”
Author Mr. John Richard Spencer appears to be making his literary debut with this book BROWNOUT-666. There is no biographical data available so we can only imagine the depth of experiences that allow him to write such a vivid novel about strange circumstances.
One aspect is certain: without taking a breath John jumps into his chosen setting of the Philippines and sets the tone for this intriguing story – ‘An uncanny tone pierced the stifling tropical air. A brilliant flash tore the firmament asunder. Then, amidst the blasted debris, a deafening cacophony arose. The sudden arrival of a rocket-propelled grenade was all too apparent. Chilling screams and the acrid smell of burning flesh accompanied the shattering of glass. Smoke billowed from the second-floor balcony of the Intercontinental while a line of tanks cautiously surveyed the scene from the Paseo de Roxas. Swirling overhead in elongated circles WW II vintage warplanes, known as Tora Toras, were bombing Malacanuang Palace. The December sunshine competed with flashes of artillery fire while rebel soldiers took key installations, one after the other. It was the second day of the coup against the yellow lady, Cory Aquino, who in 1989 was at the zenith of her power and folly. The wish of death had been palpably hanging over this otherwise idyllic paradise for a good many years. From high on verdant hills the fortresses of the privileged and wealthy gazed nonchalantly on the slums of the others below. Priests in their pulpits preached brotherly love, countless unwanted babies made their way into the world, the armies of beggars looked as hopeless as ever and virtually anything could be bought, or arranged, for a price. Yes, for the Philippines, it was almost business-as-usual. Somehow rising to his feet in the blinding dust, the thirty-something, six-foot tall and slightly muscular Rick Daly strode over the detritus of the balcony and slipped inside the body of the building. He was too dazed to speak. He merely nodded in an inane fashion at every movement or gesture directed his way. After fifty meters or so an immovable obstacle made its existence known. The bar, surprisingly, still boasted intact bottles of whiskey along with surrogate promises. Habit or shock caused Rick to grab the first full bottle and pour a generous portion down his throat.’ And so we meet the central character of this book.
John’s outline of the plot reveals not only story but also his philosophy: ‘In the land of flaunted sex, money, and flexible rules, an ambitious but lonely Rick Daly faces his demons. Rick Daly has established a business in the exotic surroundings of the Philippines, while simultaneously discovering Marilyn Delgado, the woman of his dreams. However, a clash of cultures and his own naiveté lead to disaster. Falsely accused of a sexual crime, Rick loses both his freedom and his business. To add insult to injury, a prison escape merely amounts to switching jails. In a world where the rich prosper, honest individuals are forced to the wall, and a cynical disregard for all but the dollar is destroying society from within, crime soon follows punishment for Rick. Close to losing his soul, will Rick's ultimate success in drug and arms dealing finally lead him to face up to reality?
The flavor of the book is achieved by John’s survey of a high octane adventure, which will takes us into a sea of cultural and ethical flashpoints, while exposing huge cracks in the world’s political and social order, supplanting it all with erotica that adds its own flavor to the story. There is a screenplay potential within these pages. Recommended.
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.