KAYE TROUT'S BOOK REVIEWS 1

I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

AMERICAN SPIRIT by John Janda

Academy Press CA
2122 Plumwood Ln, Santa Ana, CA 92705

www.ArizonaTerritory-1878.com
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 1601450311, $13.95, 192 pp.


About this novel? . . . I quote from the back cover:

"An Everyman story, a mystery (you be the judge of what really happened) and a love story, American Spirit extols the moral victory of one man, Mort Lewis, brought to trial in 1878 on the American frontier for a capital crime he didn’t know whether he committed or not."

How this story is told is one of its appealing features. John Janda starts and ends with transcriptions from the personal reminiscences of Vernon P. Eggers, Marshal of the Cochilla Township, Arizona Territory in 1878 and here’s an example . . .

"Enough beatin’ around the bushes, though. Now I will tell you what happened with Mort Lewis, much as I know leastwise, ‘an maybe you’ll be the one to untangle that. Oblige me no end if you did.

"It all began in mid-February of seventy-eight, like I said, one of the coldest months I do remember from Cochilla days. Clouds boilin’ in off the plains had laid down three big snows already that winter, but each new day rung in colder and grayer than what went before. Until one day . . ."

And in conclusion . . .

"An’ who knows? Might meet up again after with Mort Lewis an’ finally get some answers as to what really happened there in Cochilla back in seventy-eight. Ha! That’s a joke, son. Right there, that was a joke."

We know that Mort was arrested for the murder of Jeff Landry and while awaiting trial, he thinks back upon his life–the heart of this story. More important than the answer as to his guilt or innocence, which I could not surmise, was his personal revelation that we all choose when to die and that this was his time . . . quoting from page 124.

"He felt his mother’s warm presence with him now in the cell, knew her death truly was her own choice, freely made, but not from loving him any the less and not from running away. A greater purpose must have lay ahead of her, a reason ahead of her, pulling. The same must also have been true for his son. And if his son truly was blameless, then so was his mother.

"He knew a smile crossed her face now and lightened her heart, for him having faith and having forgiven her.

"His mother’s death, his son’s, the young trooper’s death outside of Vicksburg; everyone free, everyone knowing ahead, choosing when to die. Even children knowing, understanding, children like himself."

Whether he was innocent or guilty of the crime, he followed his belief that it was his time to die.

American Spirit is well-written and edited, has an attractive cover designed by Lucas Novak, and I think you’ll enjoy John Janda’s writing expertise and style. John has a B.A in Government, M.A. in History and has taught and taken graduate studies at the University of California, Irvine. He has twenty-five years apprenticeship in Southern California creative writing workshops and another novel in the works, The Clamor of Fife and Drum. Good luck, John.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - December 7, 2006


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