John J. Kelly – Detroit Free Press

First understand this. Dr. Hiram McDowell was once a despicable individual. As Charles Dicken’s wrote in the holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol,” this must be understood or no good can come from this story. William H. Coles has written this tale of a shabby protagonist to show how free will and hubris can ruin a person’s life. From the very first page of the novel we see this talented doctor failing to come to the aid of others in need in his quest to reach the top. Over and over, McDowell makes choices in his life that compromise his integrity and lead him to the height of this medical profession. He is an admired and lauded surgeon, but his heart and soul are black as ink and his immorality ultimately inspires colleagues and friends to try and destroy him.

It is his own failings and fate that topples Dr. Hiram McDowell. His fall from grace, after a family tragedy, is epic, spiraling and surprising. Coles has written a tale of how a once wealthy and successful doctor can eventually lose everything, including his freedom. Written in a spare, concise and highly readable style, you will come to hate Hiram McDowell and then root for his personal redemption. But will he be able to save himself after doing such damage to the world around him? Will he come to recognize that his tragic fall from grace to the depths of despair were of his own making? And will his full story ever be truly told?

These are among the essential questions posed by William H. Coles, an acclaimed and award-winning author of short stories, as well as essays on writing, interviews and novels. (Coles also is the creator of the web site,, where aspiring writers can learn the craft through exemplary examples.) “McDowell” is a perfect example of great writing; a deeply human story that all readers can relate to and learn from. It’s a cautionary tale that directs us to take stock in our own personal choices and decisions. It’s the ultimate human story, told on a grand stage with simplicity and grace.