Hiram McDowell is at the top of his profession, a surgeon admired not only for his skill in the operating room and his contributions to the development of new surgical methods and equipment but also for his philanthropic activities. Add those achievements to his hobby of mountain climbing that includes conquering every 8000 plus foot peak in the Nepalese Himalayas. Sadly, Hiram is also an egomaniac that retains little sense of loyalty or sympathy for anyone other than his children. He’s driven to achieve and is a borderline sociopath. An incident involving his grandson sends his world of wealth and privilege into a nosedive. Can he pull his life out of the fire and rebuild? How will his problems affect his adult children?
In McDowell, William H. Coles demonstrates, with great success, the almost impossible task of mixing a literary style and story with a commercial, character-driven tale that jerks the emotions like no other. I am especially grateful to authors who place verisimilitude and out-right realism into their stories, even when doing so could backfire. In this context, I refer to Coles’ use of “black speak” or “poor, semi-illiterate speak” when situations apply; not only in dialog but also in the narrator’s voice during those scenes! I’m in awe. While McDowell is the main character and overshadows all others, Coles develops every character with their own demons, challenges, and admirable traits, and their interaction with each other and the situations that drive their stories are “real life” to a tee. Readers may remember a TV series and movie called The Fugitive. If you do and loved it, you will surely love McDowell. I remember The Fugitive and loved it. My comparison is primarily to the second half of McDowell when the circumstances surrounding his fall from grace follow an “on the run” storyline. This is authoring par excellence, not to be missed.