Book, Thriller

A Tissue of Lies by Carole Parkes

TissueOFLiesCover

Tissue of Lies, by Carole Parkes, is a tale that is a unique combination of domestic  family life and a disturbing and engaging  thriller. At times, I was reminded of Irma Bombeck, a domestic icon when I was a child. And at other times I was reminded of James Patterson.

Though making this combination seems like a feat, Ms. Parkes managed to do it will flair. While most would expect that a book about murder and evil would be driven, as it is in most modern fiction, by horrible visions of murder and psychopathic killers. And yet Tissue of Lies is sprinkled liberally with scenes of school parents setting up charity projects and putting on plays. All this surrounded by deception, poisonings, and murder.

 

Julie Simpson is living a charmed life. Her husband has inherited a large amount of money from his parents after their untimely death. She and her husband are deeply in love and they have two adorable, if somewhat precocious, children. Her time is spent happily taking care of her two daughters and working on various projects at their school. But deep in her heart, there is a discordant element in her life. Julie believes her parents are aren’t really her biological parents. What ratchets up her suspicions is a news story about a woman and her husband who had their baby kidnapped years before. Most striking is that the woman who was the subject of the news story looks disturbingly like Julie herself, down to their shared beautiful red hair.

Unable to help herself, Julie contacts the couple. The experience is an amazing revelation; she bonds with them immediately. And despite the fact that she loves the parents that raised her, people she now suspects of kidnapping her, she can’t help but let her relationship with her biological parent’s blossom. The agonizing subterfuge that follows as she keeps one side of her family from the other is very skillfully handled by the author. Dumping her daughters on her parents so she can see her “new” parents, sanitizing her house so there is no trace of her children when she brings her biological parent to her home, preventing her new parents from finding out her other  parents are alive, all of these are disturbing and frustrating elements of the story  and yet they are handled convincingly by Ms. Parkes.

While tension escalates on the domestic front, Julie’s biological mother has her own concerns. Feeling that she’s been deprived of the finer things in life, she works Julie’s desperate need to know her real parents in an attempt to control her and improve her own financial situation. But what no one seems to know, including Julie’s biological father, is that Julie’s mother is willing to take short cuts to get what she wants, including violence and murderous behavior.

Parkes builds up the tension expertly while still maintaining the domestic thread and the two sides of the story act in contrast to enhance the readers experience. The threat that the danger Julie’s mother represents to her marvelous domestic life makes the situation all the more dire. No spoilers here; I’ll only say that by the time your reach the climax of the story, you, as a reader, will have experienced an incredible literary catharsis. Parkes creates a perfect vision of absolute evil and psychopathy.

This is a unique story that will be satisfying for a number of different readers, touching on family values and pure evil. This is not a story to miss.

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Book, fiction, Thriller

“The Railroad” and The Hero’s Journey

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Most of us go from one day to another, seeing only what’s in front of our faces. It’s the way our society functions. We grow up being told that we need to find a career, find a mate, and then everything will be in place for our happiness.

But there is a current running in us that goes against the grain of our ordinary existence. You can find it in eastern philosophy, American films like “The Matrix”, in the writings of scholars like Joseph Campbell. It lives in all of us and, especially in middle class America; we suppress it with a will that renders it comatose. With some exceptions, our parents never told us to “follow your dreams” or “take risks” or “explore the meaning of reality”. If we who ignore that little voice in our ear asking us to find “more”, formed a brotherhood of sorts, most of us, and that includes your author, would be members.

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In the Matrix, Neo chooses the “right” pill, the pill that will allow him to achieve his destiny. Had he taken the wrong pill, he would have been left to an existence that is comprised only of sleep and dreaming. The message here is that what we see as reality is just the opposite: illusion.

For some of us, at one point in our lives, we are not given the choice of whether we experience something that transforms us radically. In my novel, “The Railroad”, the main character, Mike Dobbs, is trapped in the subway, two blocks from the World Trade Center as the towers collapse. In writing this part of the book, I had wondered if I was being a vampire, sucking the blood out of a tragedy that affected the entire world. In the end I decided that it was not that at all, that I had a reason to present this tragedy as a transforming experience.

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On September 11, 2001 I found myself in a north bound number four train. The train lurched to a stop north of the Wall Street station, practically knocking me and my fellow passengers off our feet. And that’s where it stayed for half an hour until we backed up into the Wall Street station, allowing us to climb the stairs to the street. My experiences are the experiences of the protagonist in my book. Mike Dobbs also gets trapped in the subway and experiences most of what I did.

World Trade Center incident. Subway in dust-filled Wall Street station is evacuated.   Original Filename: 64j0v00m.jpgvia Flatbed Web

World Trade Center incident. Subway in dust-filled Wall Street station is evacuated.

That experience gave life to the book and, by extension, Mike Dobbs. For both of us, this experience left deep scars. And with that type of pain comes transformation. At its core, this transformation manifests itself in question and doubt. Why did this happen to me? Why did this happen to my city? How safe am I? Could this happen again? Is there any foundation to my existence that is solid?

That final question really speaks to the most damaging part of being in a tragedy of that magnitude. Security is based on consistency and a sense of place. Once that is taken away, it’s very hard to ever again think of the life in the same way. Like a child who has been abandoned by his parents, victims of tragedy feel, at least for a time, like nothing will ever be okay again.

For Mike Dobbs, his experience scars him deeply. Before his experience in the subway, Mike is a self-centered, high-powered Wall Street executive, about to reap the rewards of years of hard work in the form of a major promotion to an officer spot. Mike lives in his own universe, caring little for other people’s welfare and living off the rush of high stakes business.

When he loses his sense of invulnerability, fueled by his success in business and his wealth, Mike loses his zest for the life he had. He runs to his less than beautiful weekend house, dubbed chez Moosehead after the enormous Moose head left by the former owner. To his surprise this superstar finds that he can’t spend any time by himself. For those who are faithful to the idea of transformation through pain, this is where it begins. For Mike Dobbs, whose life was rooted in self-aggrandizement and adulation, being alone is a kind of hell.

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Living in his hell, Mike hits bottom. He drinks excessively and drags himself through each day. While he doesn’t realize it, hitting his bottom opens him up to a whole new world, a world where all of his assumptions about his life become meaningless.

That is until he takes in Eileen Benoit and her daughter, Megan. Like Mike, their lives have been destroyed; in their case by Eileen’s abusive husband. Relegated to life as a fugitive, Eileen is forced to run to save her daughter from sexual abuse from her father. At first Mike is disgusted that, in the midst of his depression and misery, he’s been saddled with two females that are more damaged than he is.

And this is where the transformation begins. Mike, who has spent years thinking only of himself, is forced to think about a tragedy worse than his; back when he was big deal on “The Street”, Eileen and Megan Benoit would have been “damaged goods” and completely beneath his notice.

What I share with Mike is a similar transformation. Long before 911 I had decided to move to Tennessee to marry a woman I fell in love with. While she and her children were not plagued by the same awful circumstances as Eileen and Megan, I also took on responsibilities that I never would have considered when I lived in New York.

trial by fire

While our “positive thinking” and “self-help” culture teaches us otherwise, I believe that true transformation comes through trial by fire. It’s easy to be safe and decide to take the “wrong pill”. However, like “Neo” in the Matrix or “Luke Skywalker” from the Star Wars franchise, the only path to what might be their destiny is through trial by fire.

I hope you share my story of Mike Dobbs journey: “The Railroad” on Amazon.

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Book, fiction

The Railroad-2nd Edition on Amazon

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    On June 1 the second edition of my book, “The Railroad”, will be released on Amazon, re-edited and reformatted. The book is very personal but it also touches on issues that affect all of us.
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    The book was inspired by a personal experience on the day of what is probably the greatest disaster in U.S. history. Of course I’m talking about 9/11. It’s still strange for me to see myself in an epic disaster but that just proves that these things can happen to any one of us.

    I spent a half an hour in the subway, underground, less two blocks from the World Trade Center as the twin towers were collapsing. Oddly, I didn’t know what was happening, only that the train had come to a screeching halt, so violently that it knocked me off my feet. There was no noise, only occasional meaningless announcements from the conductor.

    I was in the car with approximately thirty other people. It was like standing in a pressure cooker as we waited for whatever the transit authority could come up with in the way of rescue. Needless to say the expectations weren’t high. In the end they came through, doing something that no subway train had every done, backing up into Wall Street Station.

    World Trade Center incident. Subway in dust-filled Wall Street station is evacuated.   Original Filename: 64j0v00m.jpgvia Flatbed Web

    World Trade Center incident. Subway in dust-filled Wall Street station is evacuated. Original Filename: 64j0v00m.jpgvia Flatbed Web

    “The Railroad” begins with this incident setting the stage for the rest of the story. In the book, the protagonist, Mike Dobbs, is in the subway in my place. Unlike me, the effect on his life is devastating and he cashes in his high powered Wall Street life style for a dingy weekend house in upstate New York. Depressed and angry, Dobbs starts to waste away, drinking and watching television. That is until he meets Eileen Benoit and her daughter, Megan. Both are running from an abusive father and husband, Mike Benoit and they find refuge in Mike’s run down house.
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    I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how a real, horrifying event became linked to child abuse in my mind. Writing is an odd thing; the mind makes connections that don’t necessarily follow an obvious path. But after years of reflection, I’m reminded of the worst part of 9/11: the aftermath. Depression was rampant. The parks were filled with victim’s children and spouses, creating small shrines to their lost family members. Candles were everywhere, forming rivers of wax that would pool at the curbs. Every available piece of space on walls, street lamps, and doorways were filled with handbills asking the awful question, “Have you seen this person?”. Each handbill showed a smiling face of someone who was most likely dead. Despite this, the message was that each victim’s family was looking for their loved one, “last seen on the 102nd floor of tower two”.
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    While many people fared far worse than I did, courting dysfunction ranging from full on clinical depression to  PTSD, I also was consistently anxious and immobile. For me and many other New Yorkers, the world had crashed in; the very fabric of our lives was ripped apart. Though most of us were still living reasonably pleasant middle class and upper middle class lives, just below the façade of normalcy lived a feeling of utter hopelessness. It was there in everyone’s eyes and in whispered conversation on the subway or in restaurants.

    For the characters in “The Railroad”, hope is something that is a memory. For Eileen Benoit the roof has fallen in. She is a fugitive, living off the charity of others. Her greatest hope is a shadowy organization that moves fugitive mothers and daughters between safe houses. The lack of hope, the shaky foundations is a metaphor for my experience on 9/11. And like my experience on 9/11, Mike Dobbs and Eileen are forced to transform in ways they never imagined.

    I hope you will share my tale of hope and transformation, “The Railroad”, available on Amazon on June 1st.
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