Tag Archives: overcoming handicaps

An unlikely hero makes the best of his shortcomings

Trouble in Mind, by Michael Wiley. Severn House. 224 pages. Hardcover $28.99.

Mr. Wiley has returned to the Chicago setting to launch the Sam Kelson Mystery Series. His recent books have been set in Jacksonville, where he teaches at the University of North Florida. His Shamus Award-winning Joe Kozmarsky Series was also set in Chicago. The author’s new main character is an unlikely hero battling with handicaps that make his exploits particularly intriguing and sometimes comical. 

Sam’s last assignment on the Chicago Police Force involved a young and highly successful drug peddler nicknamed Bicho (Spanish for Bug). Attempting to lead an undercover narcotics team to make an arrest, Sam exchanged gunfire with Bicho and killed him. Cop and crook had fired at the same time, and the bullet that entered Sam’s brain changed his life.

When Sam is rushed to the hospital, his police buddy, Toselli, breaths enough oxygen into him to save his life.

Two years later, Sam is running a low-end private eye business. He admits to his clients that among his shortcomings is his inability to keep a secret. This is one outcome of the bullet that went into his left frontal lobe. He also is compelled to answer unasked questions and to laugh for no obvious reason. He has trouble navigating doorways. These and other results of his near-fatal wounding are on display throughout the story, provoking sympathy and smirks. His ability to function well enough and his desire to help people makes him a one-of-a-kind hero.


When Trina Felbanks become Sam’s client, his situation quickly takes a turn for the worse. Trina asks him to find out if her brother, a pharmacist, had been dealing drugs. When Sam shows up at Christian Felbanks’ home, he at first doesn’t find any sign of it being a place where drugs are being hidden, manufactured, or sold. However, he does make a shocking discovery: someone has put a bullet hole in Mr. Felbanks’ head. Just as Sam makes this discovery, a SWAT team rushes in and arrests Sam for the murder. Clearly, he has been set up, and his client must have played a role in this charade. Arrested on suspicion of murder, he makes an even more startling discovery concerning his client’s identity.

Who is the murderer and why has Sam been chosen as the fall guy? . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 25, 2020 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 26 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Venice editions, click here:  Trouble in Mind

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Deeply moving memoir traces the arc from disaster to revival

White Man’s Disease, by Paul C. Thornton. Book-Broker Publishers. 244 pages. Trade paperback $19.95.

Here is a surprising, inspirational memoir that is at once highly personal and broadly instructive. Paul, the oldest of six children, was raised in Brooklyn and on Long Island. At school, he showed intelligence, though he sometimes bordered on being in trouble. His academic abilities were recognized, often resulting in special educational opportunities. He excelled in situations where expectations of Afro-Americans were unfortunately low.  whitemansdisease

Three years in the Army gave Paul some special skills and a strong work ethic. He was in a program that allowed him to graduate college upon finishing his term in the military. He was able to go on graduate school, and after receiving a master’s degree he was recruited by the DuPont corporation, where he moved up the corporate ladder steadily. Home was now in Wilmington near DuPont headquarters. He and his wife Dorey were on track for a grandly successful life together.

However, their ascent was threatened by an unexpected discovery: Paul had a brain tumor for which delicate, high-risk surgery offered the only possible remedy. In 1985, at the age of twenty-nine, the future did not look so bright at all.

Paul Thorton’s narration regarding the accumulation of information about his condition, the meetings with a series of physicians include the neurosurgeon who would operate, and the long, difficult recovery, is vivid and emotionally powerful. The life-saving operation left Paul with only one good eye, severely reduced hearing, and minimal control over his facial muscles. This is not to mention the long cranial scar. Brain surgery is not for sissies.



Over time, further surgeries and therapies mitigated these consequences of the tumor excision, but they did not disappear. Paul was not pleasant to look at, and he knew it. Not being able control his mouth and lips, he had trouble eating and had to drink with a straw. He strove to maintain a positive attitude, but despair was as much a battle as his medical issues.

DuPont held onto Paul’s job, and he was able to make the adjustments that put him back on the track of gaining new and higher responsibilities. He and his wife had two daughters whom he loved dearly, but sometimes his workaholic ways created barriers. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the October 26, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 27 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – Thornton

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