Thursday, July 30, 2009

Seth Harwood's 'This Is Life' & 'Czechmate'

If you haven't already listened to Seth Harwood's first Jack Palms Novel, Jack Wakes Up, you should. It's well worth your time.

I've reviewed it here, and I couldn't wait to hear the rest of the story, told in Jack Palms II: This Is Life, and Jack Palms III: Czechmate.

JPII picks up a few months after JWU, and launches back into the action before you've got time to smell the scent of arson in Jack's house. From there until, well, the end of JPIII, the pace doesn't let up.

Harwood takes his washed-up, deadbeat actor Jack Palms, who is just trying to make something halfway respectable out of his life, and hurls him back into a world of gangsters, corrupt cops and politicians, and international crime rings. With every chapter, the tension is notched up, again and again. Jack Palms realises that its not enough for him to have once been an action hero on the silver screen; this is life, and if he's going to survive the mess that he's got himself into, he's going to have to become that hero.

Harwood is a remarkable writer, blending an action-packed thriller with a surprisingly hard-hitting emotional drama, as Jack Palms struggles with the demons of his past, of his failure, and of who he wants to be. As sequels go, JPII takes this series in a very satisfying direction.

JPIII: Czechmate, is the logical conclusion to the trilogy, and sees the return of the ex-KGB Czech gangsters from JWU. Now on the run from the police and the feds, Jack Palms and the Czechs set out to deal with the unresolved issues from the first two books, and bite off more than they can chew.

JPIII has some of the best action sequences I've heard in all the podcasts I've listened to, including a fantastic chase sequence through San Francisco's Chinatown, as well as what is possibly the smartest grift scene I've heard since Drew Beatty's Lost Gods, when Jack Palms pulls a bit of Jack Nicholson out of his hat. Great writing, great performance. Had me laughing out loud and cheering (which looks a bit odd in public...).

I was also very pleased to hear multiple voice talents in the mix in these two books, especially in the female parts, which lends the storytelling a lot of credibility. Harwood remains light on the sound effects, lending a gunshot here and there, but mostly lets the story tell the story, and at this he excels. The choice of the present tense as his dramatic medium works well, giving the book a sense of immediacy and urgency that suits the conflict.

These books are a great listen. The plotline is complex enough to throw twists at the reader on a regular basis, the writing is punchy and delivers an extra emotional kick in the guts where it's needed, and the audio production is well above par.

Both these books are complete and available for free from or (or just click on the images above).

I'm giving This Is Life and Czechmate 4.5 Stars each.

Nice work, Seth. Next stop: Young Junius.

Jack Wakes Up is available from, and can be found in bookstores across the USA.

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