Book Report: Trevis’ second novel as good as first

Not long ago I raved about a first novel written by a neighbor down the road at Lake Elmo. His name was Jim Trevis.

A marketing communications executive, this first book was “A Mile of Dreams,” a coming of age novel about Joe Mitchell growing up on a dairy farm.

Now I have to rave about Trevis’s second novel, “A Very Good Man” (Xlibris, n.p.)

Unlike many self-publishers, which is the way so many accomplished writers are now going, Trevis did not write another farm novel, despite his initial success.

“A Very Good Man” takes place in the halls of industry.

Its hero is John Tatum, a marketing v.p. for Hamilton Pharmaceuticals, a small company that is on the brink of introducing “Multi-Zan,” a drug that puts multiple sclerosis into remission.

As the novel opens, Trevis writes that Tatum “found the rope with which he intended to hang himself in the garden shed.”

Why would a successful marketing guru with a hot product to sell want to do that?

Because his only son told him he wished that he would become a very good man, after which he died.

And why would a young son die? Because he was in an auto accident, which also killed his sister and mother, the driver.

Why was the mother driving?  Because she had just found out that John Tatum was having an affair with a business associate and she was taking her kids and leaving their home.

So this is a tale of guilt and redemption, expertly told against a background of corporate America, about which author Trevis knows a great deal.

T.S. Eliot said “April is the cruelest month.” Not true.

March is definitely crueler, with unexpected snow storms, chilling winds, housebound folks crazy to get outside after the long winter.

Fortunately, for the housebound March has been kindly for publishing books that get readers outside in their imaginations.

This month I’ll be reviewing true books of adventure.

One is about naturalist-explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, the model for Indiana Jones, but more of him in a subsequent week.

Today’s adventure story is “Between Man and Beast,” by Monte Reel (Doubleday, $26.95) and it’s a crackerjack book about Paul Du Chaillu, an explorer who journeyed to far-off West Africa in 1856.

He wanted to shoot a gorilla, reputedly the biggest monster on the planet.

The closest animal to a human being.

It took him three years, but Du Chaillu succeeded.

He came home to the civilized world, with the hide to prove it.

He wrote a book, which became a bestseller and created a firestorm of controversy  in Victorian England and elsewhere because it coincided with the debate between the science community and fundamental religionists over Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Everything is going along swimmingly until along came a more seasoned explorer, who published an accusation that Du Chaillu had made up the whole story.

Because Du Chaillu was a fanciful sort and had little experience as a professional explorer, the public believed the accusation and our erstwhile young hunter’s reputation went south, leaving him so poor he had to sell the artifacts from his first trip to West Africa.

Undaunted, he prepared himself to go again, learning skills from professionals, stocking his boat with special exploration equipment, determined to do it all over again and regain his reputation.

The book concludes with his second voyage where things go wrong, an angry sea, ruined equipment, etc.

How Du Chaillu perseveres makes up the end of the book.

Reel adds an epilogue that suggests that his adventures were inspiration for books like “The Lost World,” by Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a friend of Du Chaillu.

Editor’s note: Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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