Thursday, January 17, 2013

Aric Davis Takes Rough Men On A Ride

Rough Men
The worst nightmare of any parent isn't to outlive a child. The worst nightmare of any parent is to lose their son or daughter to a senseless violent crime, and then not being able to count that child among the innocent. For author Will Daniels, the news was almost too much to bear. His son Alex was guilty.

There were three of them that went into the credit union, all of them armed. And by the time all three assailants left, more than a half-dozen people would be critically wounded or killed. The first victim, a loan officer who attempted to trip the silent alarm, was shot by Alex. The last victim, Alex, would be discovered days later in an abandoned barn, shot in the head and burned beyond recognition.

For Daniels, the news crews and public outcry were surreal compared to the unshakeable feeling that he had failed as a father. The same dark lure that he himself had barely escaped had come back to claim his son and, despite leaving that life so far behind, Daniels feels compelled to seek out answers.

Rough Men is an adventurous crime thriller by rising author Aric Davis.

Although devoid of the tenderness Davis has shown to a litany of broken characters in A Good And Useful Hurt, Rough Men is an action-driven crime adventure with a reluctant protagonist who brushes up against punks, thugs, and members of the vicious transnational criminal gang, MS-13. The book packs a punch despite some rough edges and delivers on the author's signature blend of intensity and empathy.

"Rough Men came out hard, fast, and mean, and that attitude was meant to rip off of the page. I was coming off a rejection on a novel that I’d worked on for months," says Davis. "More than anything else, it got me back in my wheelhouse. 'Writers write' is the oft repeated mantra in the book, and I was trying my damnedest to write. The sessions at the laptop saw my ears covered in headphones, while raucous punk rock played too loudly."

Struggling to produce a third novel that would be accepted is something author Davis shares with his fictional counterpart. Like Davis, before the horrific atrocity consumes his life, Daniels is an author who questions his own success and struggles with bouts of self-doubt and writer's block.

"There is definitely a little bit of myself in the Will Daniels character, although it does seem that my subconscious may have been a bit too forthcoming with some of the details. I do feel like an accidental writer, and I did struggle with a submission sent off to my publisher prior to Rough Men, so at least in those two things, we are similar," said Davis. "Like Will, I struggle with being an accidental writer, and it makes it very easy to second guess myself. To be perfectly frank, I often have nightmares of having the rug pulled out from under me, and of being told that this was all some bizarre mistake."

Rough Men is a reverse transformation with ample redemption.

There isn't any mistake. Although Rough Men doesn't necessarily ascend to the caliber of his previous novel, literary prowess and real life grit shine throughout most of it, with occasional flashes of brilliance. Davis continues to show real promise as a writer for his generation, unafraid to take a hard look at life but without sacrificing humanity.

Where it pays off in Rough Men is that the story does rip off the page, establishing the fictional Daniels as a conflicted author barely able to cope with past, present, and future circumstances. Daniels doesn't like the man he was and had worked hard to distance himself from it, but neither is it in his nature to surrender to the softer and insulated trappings of life that he has created. He has to take action, away from the prying eyes of media and police proceedings. His son Alex may have turned dark, but it doesn't lessen the responsibility of being a father or dull the hurt of hearing that his son was murdered.

Aric Davis
"There is always another side to these stories, and as easy as it is to dislike those who were closest to one of these time-bomb individuals, it was a rock I wanted to overturn," said Davis. "I'm not sure it is a rock I want to look under again."

This rock takes Daniels, his brother, and a former associate who hasn't completely opted out of a hardened lifestyle. The three of them commit to following the trail wherever it might lead. In this case, it leads to a series of subcontracted criminals, including MS-13, which is known to let other gangs take all the risks while they extract the rent.

While the climatic action culminates into a furious confrontation on the eve of a brutal Michigan super storm, the clipped post-climax wrap-up might baffle some readers as Davis admittedly takes a literary leap to establish a trail end. This leap, along with another seemingly misplaced scene that offers a nod at the spiritual or supernatural (but one still appreciated by fans of A Good And Useful Hurt), disrupts the otherwise fast-paced and potent work. Fortunately, it's not enough to malign the merit as a must-read stopover for Davis.

Rough Men By Aric Davis Shoots Up 6.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

There is plenty to look forward to from Aric Davis. On the heels of Rough Men, Davis will be releasing a Kindle serial called Breaking Point. The first chapter will be released in March, with subsequent chapters released every two weeks. The serial is a prequel, of sorts, to another book to be scheduled for publication by Thomas and Mercer in July.

He already has other projects in the works, having given up his occupation as a tattoo artist in order to turn his attention to being a full-time writer and novelist. You can also meet him in person at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Feb. 26 and at Bouchercon 2013 in Albany, New York. His is open to other appearances within a reasonable drive from Grand Rapids.

Rough Men by Aric Davis is available at Amazon. You can also find Rough Men at Barnes & Noble. His first two novels, Nickel Plated and A Good And Useful Hurt, are available as audiobooks on iTunes. It is only a matter of time before Rough Men joins them there too.
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