My favorite authors are people that I admire and respect, who just so happen to also be talented writers. Vince Flynn, my very favorite author of all time, was a better man than writer, which is really saying something considering he had more than a dozen bestselling novels to his name. The same is true for Brad Thor, Kyle Mills, Brad Taylor, Gayle Lynds, Joshua Hood, Ted Bell and Daniel Silva.
Recently, I got to know another author. Long before reading any of his books, I was a fan of him as a person. Roger Blakely is a really good guy. He spent three decades in the army, and is now living a quieter life full of online chess and volunteer work at his local Air Force Museum.
Along with covering the big names in the genre, I really enjoy reading and getting to know indie authors as well. Some readers are turned off by indie authors, but before you decide that not having a mega-book deal means you aren’t a talented author, first know this – Vince Flynn self-published his first novel after getting more than sixty rejection letters. Kyle Mills was rejected enough times that his bulletin board, where he kept the letters posted, fell off the wall. Tom Clancy, John Grisham and many, many others nearly missed getting their books published.
The bottom line is this: The powers that be in New York can’t find every talented author. They just can’t, period. So, every once in a while I do an Indie Author Spotlight to help connect readers with good, but unknown, authors.
Honesty has gotten me this far, and you can bet that I’ll tell the truth no matter what. Therefore, there are authors I like as individuals, but I can’t endorse their work because I don’t find it to be quite up to par. If I don’t really enjoy a book, there is no way I’m going to suggest other people spend their money it.
So when I finally reached out to Roger, who graciously sent me his books, I had only one thought running through my head: Gosh I hope he can write, and that these books don’t suck.
Today, I’m happy to say that after reading his first two novels, I’m thoroughly impressed. Roger Blakely can flat out write. His books are unique and entertaining, as is his series protagonist, Artemus Newton.
Blakely opens CHIEF with a scene from 1945, bouncing the story back-and-forth between past and present time. The Reader soon gets to know Artemus Newton, who is newly retired from a long career in the Army and adjusting to life as a retiree.
Setting up shop in his new apartment located in Arlington Heights, Illinois, which he shares with his cat, Gus, Artemus plans a relaxing and uneventful life for himself. He has no debt and no desire to own a home. The cozy two bedroom apartment is enough for him, thank you very much. He’s not rich but with his retirement money, which he plans to supplement with a boring part-time job, he figures he can live out the rest of his life in peace.
A recliner chair and fridge full of beer, and of course his trusty feline friend, are all Artemus needs to be happy. Thirty-plus years in the military is a long time, he’s ready to live a quiet life and just relax. A simple plan, but a plan nonetheless. Or so he thought.
As fate would have it, Artemus would soon be living a life completely the opposite of what he had envisioned for himself. During his thirty-two years in the army, not once did he engage an enemy on the battlefield. He never truly saw combat. Thirty-two years! Yet just days into his retirement, Artemus comes face-to-face with the barrel of a gun, escapes danger and uncovers a massive terrorist attack aimed at America.
After serving his country for thirty-two years in the United States Army, Artemus Newton finds himself defending it for the first time just a few days into his retirement.
Why I loved it
First and foremost, every good writer lives by the saying “write what you know.” In this case, Artemus Newton is Roger Blakely – minus the terrorists and action-packed retirement. Everything else about Artie, though, is true to the author. That must be why Artemus is such a likeable character, and someone the reader will immediately bond with and root for as the bullets start flying.
Roger can really write, too. He unitizes a unique storytelling format to keep the plot moving along at a fast pace. He switches between characters well, and perfectly uses flashback sequences to enrich the story and characters without going overboard or making it difficult to follow. To the contrary, the flashback scenes are fun because it allows the reader to better understand the characters and what makes them tick. This style allows the reader to jump right into the story, filling you in as you go. It’s a lot like how a movie would play out, which is one of the reasons I so enjoyed it.
Why you should read it
Artemus isn’t like any other protagonists in the genre. The closest character than I can think of to compare him to is Bruce Willis’ character in the movie RED. In fact, I pictured Willis as Artemus as I read the book, but even that isn’t quite right. Not only is Newton fifty-years-old, but the fact that he isn’t battlefield tested or an athletic freak of nature makes him a true underdog, and everyone loves to root for the underdog.
Thrillers typically require the reader to suspend their disbelief, which I’m totally fine with, but Artermus Newton might be the most realistic leading character I’ve ever read. Nothing about him screams tough guy, but he’s got heart and a strong sense of what’s right and wrong, and he uses that to stand up for his country when he’s needed most.
Look, I love the big named authors too. But at the end of the day, chances are that if you read a lot you’re going to run out of new offerings from your favorite novelists. Or maybe you’re just looking for a quick, fun read to hold you over until the next big release. The top political thrillers are all coming out this summer beginning in June. That leaves a few months to find other good books to fill your free time with, and I recommend starting with Roger Blakely’s CHIEF.
Author: Roger Blakely
Series: The Artumes Newton series, book 1.
Release Date: Out now. Order CHIEF from Amazon today!