Town Crier financial columnist Rick Glaze’s debut novel, "The Middle Fork" (Synergy Books), just released, is a breath of fresh air.
Ostensibly written as an adventure story chronicling a kayaking journey down Idaho’s Salmon River, the novel is also a political thriller to a degree, with its characters sparring over hot-button issues like global warming and illegal immigration.
From the viewpoint of an adventure novel, the book is a success. Glaze is an avid kayaker, and it shows in the book's prose, as the ups and downs of floating down a river are captured well. The descriptive passages are occasionally a little heavy on the terminology for those new to the kayaking world, but they never drag.
Glaze's writing style stays appropriately succinct.
The personalities portrayed in the story are clearly defined along political lines. While the main character Jonathan is a little flat, he's described well enough and given enough quirks to allow the reader to identify with him, which suits the first-person narrative well.
The supporting cast is solid as well, albeit a little stereotypical, with the love interest, Sonia, an interesting modification on the typical peppy blond character so often appearing in this sort of novel.
Glaze's misstep surfaces when he tries his hand at political debate. While he aims to present Jonathan as a centrist observer in the ongoing debates that occur nightly when camp is made on the river shore, his right-leaning politics tend to dominate.
Keith, Jonathan's counterpoint, is portrayed as a whiny, bleeding-heart liberal who freezes up when confronted with anything beyond a typical talking point. His weakness undercuts what otherwise could have been a perfectly challenging political subplot.
A key twist at the end takes a potshot at a certain issue close to the heart of many Democrats. Readers should approach the novel expecting something of a right-leaning perspective.
The minor issues present in the novel aren't severe enough to taint the solid base the book rests upon, though. At a well-paced but brief 141 pages, Glaze pulls things together remarkably well for someone new at the novel game, and the book manages to stand beyond the sum of its parts.
As long as you appreciate it for the adventure book it is, "The Middle Fork" is worth the read for anyone seeking an entertaining jaunt they can finish in an afternoon.
Glaze is scheduled to read from and sign copies of "The Middle Fork" 6 p.m. May 15 at Main Street Cafe & Books, 134 Main St., Los Altos.