The Bootlegger’s Legacy by Ted Clifton takes the reader on a wild ride through Oklahoma’s bootlegging history.
When Patrick Allen, an old-time bootlegger, dies and leaves his son Mike a cryptic letter hinting at millions in hidden cash, Mike and his friend Joe follow the clues. They end up traveling through three states and half a century of history.
The mystery starts with a key, embossed with the letters CB, and a puzzling reference to Deep Deuce, a neighborhood once filled with hot jazz and gangs of bootleggers. But what’s really at stake? Money? Memories? And can Mike handle learning the truth about his father?
The premise of the story promises to make for an exciting read. Bootleggers, and criminals in general, appeal to many fiction readers who like to pretend to live on the edge. It makes for a wonderful escape into a fascinating, dangerous, and strange world filled with characters your mother warned you about. Most readers will only ever interact with these types in make believe, but while the ride lasts it’s a rollicking good time.
This isn’t simply a treasure hunt for a secret stash of cash. It’s also a quest to find out more about Pat Allen. His son knew him simply as a dad and owner of a hardware store. However, as Mike and Joe dig deeper into Pat’s background, they unearth troubling information that weighs heavily on Mike’s mind. Family secrets help readers relate to the main character. Not all of us have a bootlegger in the family, but more than likely we have at least one questionable member that most would rather forget.
Having the key ingredients for an exciting novel is only part of the battle. Execution is vital. The Bootlegger’s Legacy is good and it’s entertaining. But it falls short of greatness. The author bogged down the story with too much telling and overwriting. Here’s an example:
Mike looked dejected. He was quiet. It was evident that this was hard for him to take. His expression reflected something worse than just disappointment.
The author used four sentences to tell how Mike felt instead of showing hiss mood. Readers can forgive a small amount of telling. Unfortunately, the author slips into this quirk way too much dulling the excitement level that should be present in crime fiction.
To compound the problem, the author wrecks the pacing by including scenes that don’t advance the plot forward. For example, it’s unnecessary to describe how characters get from point A to B. The author needs to know these details like this, however, many readers don’t and more than likely they don’t care.
It’s unfortunate since there are kernels of proof that the author has marvelous ideas and the knowledge to create a thrilling novel. This is why it’s imperative for authors to work with a developmental editor, not just a proofreader, to tease out the greatness and eliminate problems.
All in all, The Bootlegger’s Legacy misses the mark of greatness but still makes for a decent read.