Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Widow's Son by Thomas Shawver

Today is my turn on the Blog Tour for The Widow's Son. I hope you enjoy my review and the fantastic Q&A with Thomas Shawver as much as I did.

Q&A with Thomas Shawver:
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call 'Breaking the Ice.'

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know)
Personal by Lee Child; and Danger on the Page, A Fiction Writer’s Guide to Sex, Violence, Dead Narrators  and Other Challenges published by ForeEdge, the University Press of New England.

Which song, band, group or music do you listen to that readers would be surprised to know about? While writing I’ll listen, depending on my mood, to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; traditional Irish, or classical chamber music.

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, name it)? Peter Weir’s Master & Commander, based on Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey series, starring Russell Crowe.

Are you more of a Game of Thrones, Walking Dead or Newsroom type of guy? (Combinations are possible) None of the above. Big Bang Theory and The Americans are more my cup of tea.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
Sir Joseph Banks.  Explorer, botanist, bon vivant. He sailed with Captain Cook on the first voyage.

Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream ├ęclairs totally count)
A pint of Guinness.  Shaken, not stirred.

If you had X-amount of money available to you, which rare book would you try to acquire?
For sheer rarity and bragging rights, I’d go for Tamerlane and Other Poems, Edgar Allen Poe’s anonymously published first book. Book expert Nicholas Basbanes refers to it as the ‘Black Orchard’ of American literature. Only eleven copies are known to exist, none in private hands.  The last recorded copy was found in a New Hampshire barn in the late 1980s and bought for $15.  In 1989 Sotheby’s auctioned it for $200,000.  As long as we’re dreaming, an inscribed first edition, first state Ulysses by James Joyce would also make a nice addition to my library.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about The Widow's Son.

One of the things I really like about The Rare Book Mysteries is the focus on the actual books.
What made you pick that particular topic and career for your main character?
I owned and operated a used & rare bookstore for fifteen years that was similar to the one described in the series.

The relationship  between Josie and Michael seems to be threatened when they are both confronted with their ex partners and they reminisce about the past. Is there a potential love triangle or split on the cards?
Bevan likes women—and a lot of women like him.  Vice-versa for Josie Majansik when it comes to men.  Both are somewhat damaged by past experiences that affects their relationships. There’s always an underlying question of trust for them, hence the tension. I can’t see either of them leaving each other now though.  They seem to have weathered the storm.  But one never knows…

Why on earth does he have the infamous 'head' in his secret lair? (Bit big for a lucky charm, don't you think?)
Michael has issues.  Some unresolved.  There is a marvelous cartoon in a recent New Yorker Magazine that I saw long after including that bit in my book.  It shows a young woman speaking into a cell phone while looking at a skeletal head in an opened refrigerator.  The caption reads: “Usually I’d be nervous, but the rest of his apartment is so nice.”

Did you pick the Mormon religion, history and bible to shed light on their complex past and also their own historically important rare books?
Mormonism is endlessly fascinating.  A great many non-Mormons still think of the religion as a cult, while a majority of Saints don’t believe they are accepted as part of mainstream society.  The candidacy of Mitt Romney may have altered those views to a great extent, but the tension remains.  I recently attended a local showing of the Broadway musical “Book of Mormon” which pokes fun at elements of the faith to an outrageous degree.  In the copy of the handbill, however, was a full page ad from the LDS Church.  It read: “You’ve seen the play; now read the book.” Brilliant counter-marketing.

The area of western Missouri (where I live) made for a very unhappy place in the church’s history. The Missouri Mormon War of 1838 was brutal, resulting in atrocities committed by both sides.  It led to the forcible expulsion of Joseph Smith, Jr., and all of his 10,000 followers.  Today the metropolitan Kansas City area (that includes Independence where Smith decreed it to be the original Garden of Eden) claims over 30,000 adherents.

As for books, the collection of rare Mormon tracts, hymns and other historical artifacts is a huge business.  Ken Sanders of Salt Lake City, a great bookman, is the acknowledged expert on the subject.  A few years ago, an early hymn book found in Independence, Mo., went for $250,000 at auction.  A rare first edition/first state inscribed Book of Mormon, similar to the one described in my novel actually was offered to me at my bookshop.  I couldn't afford it, but it set my creative juices flowing to write The Widow’s Son.

Is there anything Michael wouldn't do for the right rare book find?
Michael Bevan is a book seller—not a collector, and certainly not a bibliomaniac (as opposed to bibliophile).  He may drink too much, fool around with the likes of Pillow Wilkes and Sandra Epstein while sharing a house and business with Josie, but he’d never lie, cheat or steal to obtain a book…Although, come to think of it, he did conspire a bit with colleague Gareth Hughes to lower the bidding at an auction in The Dirty Book Murder.  Oh, well.

Is there any chance Pillow will appear in another book?
I really like Pillow Wilkes.  And I really, really like New Zealand. Maybe I’ll visit her in another series—if Josie will let me.

Thank you for answering my questions, especially the slightly unusual ones.
You are very welcome. They were very good and it was fun answering them.


As a bookworm I do enjoy stories with books in the middle of the plot, especially rare or unusual ones. So Shawver's The Rare Book Mysteries series kind of ticks a lot of my bookworm boxes.

Michael Bevan is back with a vengeance and finds himself drawn into a murderous game of  'kill a relative' hosted by a bunch of religious zealots.

Luckily for Michael he has a great support system in the form of an old friend from Left Turn at Paradise, a very old friend indeed. The kind of friend you let stay in your house in a cupboard. (You're going to have to read the book to find out what or who I'm talking about)

Bevan is drawn into the tumultuous and fascinating past of the Mormons, their religion, their important historical religious sites and manuscripts. He accidentally stumbles into a very old vendetta and search for vengeance. A cat and mouse game between Bevan and the only possible suspects begins.Who has turned a leaf and which one of them is a liar?

Of course in the midst of all the murder, stalking and a variety of other crimes, Bevan is still the same old ladies man with an eye for a pretty woman, which comes back to haunt him in quite a unique way in this book,

Once again Shawver manages to weave historical fact and antiquarian treasures with murder and mayhem. At the same time he creates chaos in both love and family life for his main character. It makes for an interesting combination and read.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free copy of The Widow's Son.
To buy on Amazon UK or any other retailer via Goodreads.

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