Review of Scott Overton’s Dead Air

This review is considerably overdue.  My apologies, Scott.

The Amazon blurb:

dead airWhen radio morning host Lee Garrett finds a death threat on his control console, he shrugs it off as a prank—until a series of minor harassments turns into a set of undeniable attempts on his life. The suspects are many—he’s made enemies—and the police are strangely uncooperative. The radio career he loved has turned sour, leaving behind a dwindling audience and the wreckage of his marriage. Then the friendship of a newly blind boy and the boy’s attentive (and attractive) teacher offer unexpected hope. Maybe he can make a fresh start. Maybe he can admit that he’s the source of a lot of his own problems. But when the deadliest assault yet claims an innocent victim, Garrett knows he has no choice—he has to find his persecutors and force a confrontation. The extraordinary outcome will test the limits of an ordinary man. In Dead Air career broadcaster Scott Overton creates the disturbing scenario of an ordinary man whose life is threatened by an unknown enemy.

My thoughts:

I wasn’t in love with the character of Lee Garrett. In fact, I didn’t like him much at all, but that’s exactly the way it had to be for Dead Air to be a successful thriller.

Lee Garrett has made enemies over the years, enough to fill a room with the usual suspects, and his wife left him, taking their two children.  She’s making a new life for herself while Garrett’s disillusioned and jaded and not a bit depressed.  He’s a bit of a schmuck, steeped in a good dose of self-sorrow.  Not an attractive package.

Garrett has his redeeming qualities, though.  The reasons he’s made all those enemies is because he generally tried to do the right thing and exposed their varied douchebaggery in the process.  He’s still in love with his wife, and the friends he has are the dependable kind that come through when the going gets tough.

Then he makes friends with Paul, a boy who recently lost his sight, and Candace, his CNIB counsellor.  As the relationship develops, Garrett learns a lot about himself, and how he is the author of his own misery.

He also makes a staunch ally by virtue of an act of kindness.  He even wins over the detective assigned to his case despite having been black-listed for ruining another officer’s career.

By the time Garrett exposes that act that haunts his life and underpins many of his poor decisions, I realized I liked Garrett, despite his not inconsiderable flaws.  I could even think of him as Lee 🙂

Dead Air is a novel about hard-won redemption and a fascinating character study as well as being a thriller with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the end.

My rating:

4.5 stars out of 5

About the Author:Scott Overton colour high res

Scott Overton hosts a radio morning show on Rewind 103.9 in Sudbury, Ontario. As a broadcaster for more than thirty years (twenty-four of them as a morning man), he knows the world he writes about in Dead Air.

To most readers, morning radio is as much a part of their breakfast routine as a hot cup of coffee. On the air, Scott has become a friend to thousands as he entertains and informs. He brings those same instincts to his writing, with clear prose and honest feelings.

His short fiction has been published in On Spec, Neo-opsis, and anthologies such as Tesseracts Sixteen, Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, and In Poe’s Shadow. He’s also a regular contributor of theatre reviews for a local newspaper.

His other passions include scuba diving and a couple of classic cars.

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The launch of Dead Air, Pontypool, and other Writerly Goodness

Last night was the official launch of my writer friend Scott Overton’s first novel, Dead Air.  I bought my official copy, Scott signed it, officially, I hung out with the other members of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild who came out to support Scott (his official fan club?), and he even got the official CTV interview 🙂

Before I get to particulars, I wanted to share a few more views of the Living with Lakes Centre at Laurentian University where the launch was held.  Yes, that’s the same place that Scott read with John Forrest and Mark Leslie last week for the LUminaries reading series.

I won’t say that I arrived early, but it looked like I had some time to walk around the grounds and I took a couple of pictures of the centre from a different angle, and then another looking out over Lake Ramsey from the centre’s dock.

Upon entering, I immediately gravitated to the huddle of SWG members.  We chatted and caught up a bit before the flurry of purchasing and signing got underway.

There were beverages, but word soon spread that the caterer hadn’t shown up yet.  Ever the consummate showman, Laurence Steven of Your Scrivener Press gathered the crowd and ushered us into the room for the reading.

One of the SWG members had thoughtfully brought cookies and just as Laurie apologized for the lack of provisions, the caterer arrived, the result of an understandable miscommunication.

With that sorted, Laurie made a brief but gracious introduction of Scott and brought him to the podium.

Scott first introduced his wife, Terry-Lynne, to whom his book is dedicated, his co-host for his morning radio show, and then he read three selections from his novel.  Afterward, he opened the floor to questions.

Scott spoke of his inspiration, the process of writing the novel, and the interesting things he learned on the way.  He also spoke about the editing process and how he and Laurie had negotiated that.

Overall, it was a very entertaining evening.

But I got this cold, see?  So when I got home, I crawled into bed like the little illen-filled chicklet I am and settled in for the evening.  In cruising the channels, I came across Pontypool.

In the movie, adapted from Tony Burgess’s novel of the same name, a morning radio host (sound familiar, Scott?) is trapped in his radio station while people in the town around him succumb to a strange virus.

Far from the scads of zombie-related virus movies, Pontypool takes a left turn.  The virus is spread in the form of words, and the infected begin to babble and fixate on a particular word or sound.  Through the timely visit of a doctor to the studio, the protagonist learns that it is the understanding of a word that seems to trigger the infection and that speaking in another language is an effective means of evading the illness.

As everyone around them succumbs, the protagonist and his producer are hiding from the hordes and she (the producer) begins to babble, “kill, kill, kill …”  The morning man, twigged by the words of the visiting doctor, begins to try to break his producer’s loop, telling her that kill isn’t kill, that it’s sun, dress, flower, and finally he settles on kiss.  Kill is kiss.

He knows he’s been successful when she says, “kill me.”

I just found the premise fascinating.  A semiotic virus.

You may have noticed me dropping that academic bomb from time to time on my blog, and the reason for it is that I love semiotics.  It’s the study of meaning, to put it simply.  Ultimately all language is invented and arbitrary.  Language is a series of signs or symbols that we chose to mean things so that we can communicate with others and think about them.

We accept that the letters D O G spell dog and that means a certain class of canine quadrupeds that many of us choose to coexist with, but why is it dog and not cap or tree of bazooka?  Who came up with the word and why did everyone accept that this wee beastie should be called dog (and not tomato)?

Two things: have you ever repeated a word to yourself over and over again until the word loses all meaning and just becomes a sound?  Have you ever written or typed a word that you’ve written or typed thousands (perhaps millions) of times before only to think immediately that the word is somehow wrong?  Have you been so convinced of this illusion that you look the bloody word up in the dictionary just to make sure you’ve not gone insane?

That’s semiotic confusion, or uncertainty and may just lead to the thought that it’s not the experience that’s the illusion, but all language and meaning lumped together.

That’s the kind of mind-blowing awesome of a movie like Pontypool.  Not to mention the eerie serendipity of coming from the launch of my morning radio show host friend Scott, whose novel is about a morning show host who receives what turns out to be a very serious threat and finding a movie about a morning radio show host in the middle of a semiotic virus breakout.

Gave me dreams, man …

One last thing, well two really, but they’re related.

I’ve been so busy guest blogging, hosting guests, blogging events, and interviewing that I forgot to mention that Brian Braden of Underground Book Reviews interviewed me last week!  And this week, as the result of the number of comments and likes, he’s posted an excerpt from Initiate of Stone, my work in progress.  Sure, he may have misspelled my name, but everyone does 🙂  Hazard of being me.

So if you want to find out what my WIP is made of, go read for yourself!

Need to curl up with my dog and some wicked cold meds.

Shivering yet? Seasonal chill? No, it’s just Dead Air

An interview with Scott Overton.

Scott Overton is a radio morning man on Rewind 103.9 FM in Ontario, Canada, who blames his off-kilter perspective on years of lost sleep from waking at 4:00am. His short fiction has been published in magazines including On Spec and Neo-opsis, and the anthologies Tesseracts Sixteen, and Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, among others. His first novel Dead Air (a mystery/thriller) is now available from Scrivener Press, while several SF novels are looking for good homes in the publishing industry. When not writing, Scott’s passions include scuba diving and a couple of collector cars, in which he hopes to someday find enough story inspiration to make them tax deductible.

Scott’s webpage is www.scottoverton.ca

An interview with Scott Overton.

Scott Overton is a radio morning man on Rewind 103.9 FM in Ontario, Canada, who blames his off-kilter perspective on years of lost sleep from waking at 4:00am. His short fiction has been published in magazines including On Spec and Neo-opsis, and the anthologies Tesseracts Sixteen, and Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, among others. His first novel Dead Air (a mystery/thriller) is now available from Scrivener Press, while several SF novels are looking for good homes in the publishing industry. When not writing, Scott’s passions include scuba diving and a couple of collector cars, in which he hopes to someday find enough story inspiration to make them tax deductible.

Scott’s webpage is www.scottoverton.ca

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Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to visit Writerly Goodness in advance of Dead Air’s launch on October 11, 2012 (Living with Lakes Centre, Laurentian University – be there or be … oblong).  I’m very pleased to have you with me, if virtually.

WG: For those of my readers who may not know what your novel is about, could you give them a brief synopsis?

Scott: Sure. It’s about a radio morning man named Lee Garrett who makes a joke on the radio about a neo-Nazi gang and a few days later he finds a death threat left for him. Then a series of incidents of mischief and vandalism turns into outright attempts on his life. Someone wants him dead, and he doesn’t know who or why.

WG: Where did the idea for Dead Air come from?

Scott: I’m a morning radio broadcaster myself, and I was struck by the vulnerability of even small-scale celebrities. People think they know us, but we don’t know them. And it’s very easy to make an enemy without meaning to, or even knowing that you have. I also wanted to explore how an ordinary person would try to cope with such a devastating threat (as opposed to some Hollywood hero who’d just get a gun and blow the bad guys away).

WG: Writing process is a personal interest of mine.  Would you be able to speak to your process in writing Dead Air?

Scott: It took at least five years to write the first version of Dead Air because I was working full-time and was involved in quite a bit of charity work. I worked on it whenever I could: evenings, weekends, and vacation time, but was impossible for me to stick to a routine because of my other commitments. Fortunately I have an upstairs room that became my study and interruptions were discouraged (even when I was hogging the family’s only computer!)

My writing habits are better now, though I still can’t tolerate any distractions or listen to music. I don’t know how writers can do that and still feel the rhythm of their words.

WG: Dead Air is a thriller, but you’ve had a fair amount of recent publishing success in another genre.  If readers would like to find more of your work, where would they look?

Scott: Everything else I’ve written would be considered science fiction or fantasy, though often with thriller elements. I’ve been fortunate to have seven short stories published and, as a Canadian, I’m particularly proud to have been published in the two top Canadian SF magazines, On Spec (twice) and Neo-opsis, as well as the quintessential Canadian SF anthology series, Tesseracts (I have a story in the latest edition, Tesseracts Sixteen). So I feel like that’s the Triple Crown of SF in our country. Now I really hope I can get my SF novels published.

WG: How did you first start writing?

Scott: I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a child, and briefly tried to write full-time in my twenties, but couldn’t stick with it long enough to break in. I’ve always been determined to become a published author, so when I came up with the concept for Dead Air I just went for it, and I’ve been writing consistently ever since.

WG: Getting back to Dead Air, how did you get your contract with Laurence Steven of Your Scrivener Press?

Scott: I’ve always had a lot of respect for the quality of the manuscripts he chooses and the books he produces. My friend and mentor, Sudbury author Sean Costello, spoke highly of his own experience working with Laurence. Scrivener Press is also a recommender for the Ontario Arts Council’s Writers Reserve grants. I applied for a grant to rewrite Dead Air, Laurence recommended it to the OAC, and when the MS was ready I submitted it to Laurence. I didn’t get his answer for about six months, but he says that was because he was trying to work out the timing of the publication. He’s a busy guy.

WG: Finally, aside from your launch on October 11, are there any other upcoming events you’d like to promote, and where can readers purchase your book?

Scott: I’m sure I’ll be doing more readings and book signings at Chapters and places like that, but nothing has been scheduled yet. The book is available directly from Scrivener Press (though the web site’s a little behind on the direct purchase linkage), and I understand it’s now in stock at Chapters in Sudbury and likely Coles, too. Online it can be ordered through Amazon and Chapters-Indigo.

Scott, thanks for joining me 🙂

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Don’t miss the launch of Scott Overton’s thriller Dead Air! Thursday, October 11, 2012, at the Vale Living with Lakes Centre, 6:30-9:30 pm: free admission and refreshments. (Scott will be reading from the book at 8 pm.) More info at http://www.scrivenerpress.com/default.asp?id=580