The first is Dog Christ by Lucian Morgan. I don’t believe the judges for the award care too much about formatting issues and other general editing malfeasance. It’s a good thing because this one needs some work in that regard. But other than that, this was the maybe the most compelling of the three, one of the best hooks I’ve ever encountered.
I loved it. As it begins, I thought it was going to be a story about some sort of ancient structure, the way it was worded.
The Man and the Woman live on the side of a mountain in a house built entirely of stones brought by ships from Italy. There are no stones left in Italy because of their house. Silkworms have perished from the earth making curtains for their windows.
The author continues to describe the construction of the stone house and it becomes apparent it is no ancient structure, (and I wasn’t too sure when there were first “curtains”) but a modern house built by a couple, Lillian and Otto, on the side of a mountain. The house and view is described in such a humorous way, that I was hooked, despite the lack of whitespace (i.e. the second paragraph of the first chapter is quite long). Lengthy paragraphs are usually not encouraged, especially on the beginning page of a novel, but the editing issues and non-whitespace issues can’t undermine this author’s very funny, and fresh voice.
What Jonathon Franken does to the middle class, this author does for the nouveau riche. I am particularly fond of this – poking fun at individuals who feel they must conform in some way to ever-changing values.
It’s clear Otto has made a lot of money and he’s the kind of character we love to hate, and his wife Lillian, a fool we can hardly suffer. What isn’t clear is the narrator, who is he, and how does he fit into the household? At first, I wondered if it could be a dog (because of the title) but no, it seems he is a disabled individual, in a chair, though he can walk a bit. It isn’t spelled out and I want to know.
It was a great excerpt, I read it twice, thinking I might pick up some additional clues about the narrator. But it still isn’t clear to me. It seems he is the son of Otto and Lillian, but then why does he live in the garden shack? I can’t wait to find out.
The last excerpt of the three finalists is I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith. The editing and formatting in this sample was very precise, but that’s where it ended for me. It is historical fiction and begins around the time the Senators plotted the demise of Caesar.
It seemed contrived to me. It didn’t seem believable. Normally I’m not a fan of historical fiction anyway, but occasionally I have tried it and liked it. The writing didn’t grab me as much, although it’s good. Likely other readers who like this genre will appreciate it more than I did.
When I read East of Denver, I was sure it would be the one I would vote for. But I ended up voting for Dog Christ, by a tiny margin. I think this book is a winner.
We’ll see. The winner will be announced on Monday, June 13th.