Harm's Way by Alan Annand – Book Review
by Val Tobin
Originally published December 17, 2012 on Suite101
Republished on SNGS January 5, 2014
Those familiar with author Alan Annand's more recent works (Scorpio Rising, Hide in Plain Sight) will want to investigate his earlier work, Harm's Way. Not just an entertaining read, Harm's Way marks an important turning point in Annand's novel-writing career. During the creation of Harm's Way, Annand changed his writing process, and the result is a tight, strong story that has solid, well-developed characters, and plenty of action.
A Difficult Child of a Story About a Difficult Child
Annand, who agreed to an interview with Val Tobin about his novel, described coming up with the idea for the book as like giving birth to a difficult child. His process was influenced by Syd Field's books on screenwriting. Harm's Way was conceived as a single-sentence premise on index cards, and Annand made use of index cards for laying out the acts and scenes. This helped him to develop a coherent and intricate plot.
Harm's Way tells the story of Lee Harms, a private investigator who is asked to take on an unsavory and life-endangering case. The daughter of an aspiring politician is missing and her father wants her found without involving police or the media. The entire mission, should Harms choose to accept it, is to find the girl and drag her to rehab in England. This is to be done despite the fact that the girl does not want to be found, and has surrounded herself with violent criminals, including a coke-dealing boyfriend, who don't want to let her go.
Montreal, the Smell of Death, and Moosehead Beer
As always, Annand includes vivid detail, and this gives the novel it's sometimes gruesome charm. Through the eyes of the main character we receive a virtual tour of Montreal. A former resident, Annand capably writes what he knows without allowing the setting to divert focus from the story. But it is the details about the characters that make the story a fun and interesting read.
Harms drives a Mustang, festooned with scented pine trees and permeated with incense to cover the smell of the former owner who died in it on a hot summer night. Harms is also a Moosehead Beer drinker, six feet tall, and an Aries with a blood type A positive. Annand, an astrologer, incorporates his knowledge of it into Harm's Way, but not to the extent that he did in Scorpio Rising. Lee Harms is a different man than Axel Crowe.
Harms Versus Crowe
According to Annand, Lee Harms is a risk-taker physically, emotionally, sexually, and if he has a religion at all, it is animistic. Axel Crowe is more of a Buddhist, and although he's prepared to take risks, he does so only in order to pursue a path of dharma. He's not into gratuitous sex and violence.
That Harms is less mature than Crowe isn't a bad thing though Harms's attitude toward women might make some female readers cringe. He is, nevertheless, a three-dimensional character worth following. When asked if he would ever contemplate putting Harms and Crowe together, Annand responds, "Not anytime soon." But he doesn't rule it out, and I think they would make an interesting mix.
Dangerous Fun Not for the Whole Family
Harm's Way exemplifies Annand's tight, fast-paced literary style, providing the reader with a novel that is not only fun to read, but fun to read more than once. The first time, you read it quickly, to find out what happens next, who lives, who dies, who does what to whom. The second time, you read it for the joy of discovering the little things you missed when you raced through it the first time, and those things make returning again to the scene of the crime worth your while.
Annand says that he developed a daunting checklist that he needs to fulfill before he considers his novels finished. This includes creating believable characters with compelling motivation, a logical plot with sufficient twists and turns to intrigue the reader and yet still have them guessing until near the end ... and a certain amount of action, humor, and sex.
He accomplishes all of that in Harm's Way, with emphasis on the action, humor, and sex. This is not a novel for the young, the young at heart, or even the faint of heart. But if you feel up for something risqué and tantalizing that will get your heart racing, then have the defibrillator at the ready, crack 'er open, and enjoy.
About Author Alan Annand
Alan Annand is the author of five published novels. He produced two children's animations and has contributed articles to a variety of astrological magazines. He lives in Toronto, where he divides his time between his writing, meeting with clients, and giving classes on palmistry and Vedic astrology. Annand speaks at astrological conferences and New Age gatherings, and has appeared on CBC and CTV. He was also a guest on several radio programs.
Annand gives fans of Lee Harms hope that he will return in a future novel, though Annand has nothing concrete on it at this time. Annand's most recent project is Al-Quebeca, a mystery thriller featuring a female homicide detective.
Image: Cover of Harm's Way by Alan Annand, Courtesy of Alan Annand
Annand, Alan. Harm's Way Toronto: Sextile.com, 2011.
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