Monday, May 01, 2006

Meet Joe Box......

A few years ago I met an unforgettable human named Joe Box. Joe is a Private Investigator and true Kentucky gentleman transplanted to Cincinnati OH. But a Mike Hammer clone he isn't. Joe is tall and a little gangly, not a bit stylish. Most of the time he doesn't know where his next buck is coming from and his lifestyle demonstrates that. He lives in an el cheapo apartment, drives a classic clunker, and his clothes look like he shops at the Salvation Army store. Joe's life experience is written all over the lines and angles of his face and flickers in the depth of his eyes. He's the kind of man you can't tear your eyes away from once you've met him, not because he's handsome but because he's so damn charismatic.

Joe Box may not look like much but he's rough and tough and hard to bluff. He knows evil and what drives men to crime and cruelty. Joe comes from a hard scrabble childhood and he lived through Viet Nam, sort of. For a big part of his adulthood he drank too much. Sometimes his hands shake just thinking about how a bottle or glass would feel in them again and his mouth waters just imagining the taste of liquor burning down his throat. But Joe stands firm because the ex-Viet Nam vet and alcoholic recently turned his screwed up life over to Jesus. His was not one of those easy, sweet and gentle transformations you read about in Christian magazines. He had to be torn down first, ripped apart and reassembled like an old stone building. I love Joe like a brother, root for him, pray for him. I want so much to see more of his delightful self effacing humor, to laugh at the southern Kentucky homilies he learned at his Granny's knee. More than anything I hope Joe wins the fight against those internal and external demons that want to see him fail.

OK, now I must confess. Joe Box is the main character of a series of books. But Joe is as real to me as any person I know. He's like Father Ralph in The Thornbirds, or Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath -- a character so fully developed, appealing and deliciously flawed that they never leave a reader's mind forever. The first in the Joe Box series has haunted me for several years now. The book was so entertaining, so surprising with it's flashes of humor and horrifying bad guys. And standing tall -- or trying to -- through every shattering page was the man I've described today, Joe Box. Even when hammered to his knees by life, Joe Box stayed true to everything he ever held dear.

John Robinson writes the Joe Box mysteries. He's one of those writers I envy, one of those still unfamous writers I talk about here from time to time. Readers weary of the same old genre clones, discriminating readers who appreciate good writing as well as intriguing stories, might find what they crave in Joe Box. And don't let Box's newfound faith put you off. Neither Robinson nor his hero are preachy types. Just the opposite, actually. Box has more rough edges than most Christians want the world to see.

And Hollywood needs to discover Joe Box too. Joe Box doesn't cuss his way through life like so many heroes do. He's not a womanizing rakehell. But Joe's life has more excitement, intrigue, danger, and action than Hollywoood will know what to do with. Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt probably would not be good choices to portray Joe Box. He's more a Liam Neeson type.

John Robinson's website is and don't forget to check his personal blog there. He's new to the world wide web and its potential, so be kind. I have the first edition of his first book in the series and nothing on God's green earth will part me from it. Robinson is working on a retitled second edition now and that one will have a permanent place on my bookshelf also. Like Joe Box, John Robinson as writer is one of a kind.

1 comment:

Nancy Mehl said...

Glad to see this tribute to Joe Box (and John Robinson). Way to go, Laurel.

John's books should be flying off shelves everywhere. Anyone who says they love to read should take the time to discover this rare talent.

John Laurence Robinson is one of those writers who make me proud to be a part of the literary family.


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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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