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DIRT: An American Campaign door Mark…
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DIRT: An American Campaign (editie 2008)

door Mark LaFlamme

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831,732,929 (3.5)3
Gov. Cotton is a contender in the presidential race, but one dirty secret threatens his ambitions. His grieving son has removed the corpse of his bride from its grave and disappeared. Mercenary Thomas Cashman's mission is to find young Calvin Cotton. By the time the search is over, there will be dirt on everybody's hands.… (meer)
Lid:booklocker
Titel:DIRT: An American Campaign
Auteurs:Mark LaFlamme
Info:Splinter Press (2008), Paperback, 292 pages
Verzamelingen:Jouw bibliotheek
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DIRT: An American Campaign door Mark LaFlamme

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Graveyards, resurrected love, backroads intrigue – these ingredients cause no great stretch of the imagination for a confessed fan of fellow Mainer, Stephen King, and his predecessors, including Edgar Allan Poe.

Like King, LaFlamme is a tricky writer. He lures you in by seeming ordinary, but there is something residing in his texts, in his characters’ dialogues and inner monologues, that goes beyond that threshold of normalcy and expectations. Before I know it, he’s got me again. This is not an unhappy thing. The pages have to be turned, but this is a pleasure, as the story plays out before me – he’s done all the work. I cannot turn away until finally I reach the end.

This was true of the first LaFlamme book I read, The Pink Room, and remains true of his latest, Dirt. What makes this guy from Lewiston such a crafter of thought-provoking page-turners? I can only guess that it’s this – he is not afraid of hard work. This is a man who spends day and night pounding the crime beat for the Lewiston Sun Journal. Off the news desk, he writes books and short stories, which the rest of us get to read. He is not going to waste our time.

The greater world hasn’t picked up on him yet. He’s still mostly ours at this point, here in the state of Maine. This doesn’t stop him from weaving more widely traveled threads into his work.

In Dirt, LaFlamme focuses through the lens of the all-too-familiar worldview of the American Presidential campaign. Don’t look for the all-American glamour that comes from power in this story. It’s buried under dirt.

Maine Governor Frank F. Cotton is raging up through the ranks as a distinguished contender for the Republican nomination. His image is that of hardy Maine stock, hard-working, honest, stern but engaging. The press knows his son Calvin as a recent widower and a staunch white-collar environmentalist, a lawyer who pushes back against the big boys his father pals around with. What the press doesn’t know, and what Frank Cotton doesn’t want them to find out, is that his grieving son is also unable to wrap his mind around the death of his wife, Bethany.

While Frank Cotton has been running his campaign state to state across the country, Calvin Cotton has very quietly lost his mind, and fetched his lovely bride from her funereal box for one last lovely New England winter getaway.

It is Thomas Cashman’s job to fetch them both back, as privately as possible. He can’t think of anyone better to help than Billy Baylor. In his role as best-selling novelist, Baylor explored the theme of love after death thoroughly and repeatedly, until his career was interrupted by the death of his wife and young daughter in a random accident. Since then, Baylor hasn’t had much of a thought about anything but misery and beer.

Governor Cotton calls Cashman. Cashman finds Baylor. Together they track Calvin and Bethany, with the hounds of the press at their heels.

If you open one box of worms, you often find another. And another. And another. And boy do those worms like dirt.

I won’t ruin it for you – read it yourself. ( )
  msouliere | Jun 9, 2010 |
Dirt: An American Campaign is a high engery, fast paced novel about grief, personal connection, and political corruption. Governor and Presidential candidate Frank Cotton (no relation to the Frank Cotton in Hellraiser, of course) is in a peculiar situation just at the dawn of his potential election as Republican candidate for the Presidential office. Mr. Cotton is not quite topping the polls and is having trouble with his son Calvin, whose wife just recently passed away. You see, Calvin stole the corpse of his wife and took off with it. What a scandal that would make for the Presidential hopeful.

Enter Thomas Cashman, an ex-military man and CIA agent who is sent on a mission by the Cotton administration to stop Calvin before the press and public get wind of the Cotton family grave robbery. Cashman is just the kind of guy I like-- humorous and down to earth, but without pretense and willing to do what needs in order to be done to be successful at his job. To help get into the mind of Calvin, to better understand and predict him, Cashman employs the help of an alcoholic ex-writer named Billy Baylor. Baylor is somewhat of an expert in what would make a seemingly normal man do something so grotesque because that was the sort of thing that he wrote about before losing his wife and daughter in a car accident.

There is, in fact, a large list of characters: a small time reporter, an environmentalist lawyer, a cemetery attendant, numerous Presidential hopefuls, whole political administrative teams, two news reporters hot on the trail of Calvin, and roadside scoundrels. What connects them is politics, protecting and exposing people, or just the need to seek self gain. There is little difference between the politicians who take joy in destroying their rival’s life and the bullying bikers in the grocery store parking lot.

Every chapter is short, giving a sense of immediacy to the novel. Though the chapters are short in length, I do not feel as if the book is lacking in detail or story. LaFlamme manages to say it all and say it wonderfully within his tightly packed sections. The way that the book flips from one person to the next gives the story a fast pace that made it even harder for me to put the book down at the end of the night.

It was difficult for me to find a ‘good guy’ in this novel, but it was likewise just as hard for me to find a ‘bad guy’. The characters in Dirt are simply people, each trying to get by, neither good nor evil. Everyone has a secret, something dirty in their past. When all of the dirt starts to come out, no one can stop it. No one is left unexposed.

I can almost guarantee with total certainty that you will not see the ending of Dirt coming. LaFlamme throws one twist at you before delivering the final dizzying punch. ( )
  morbidromantic | Mar 14, 2009 |
DIRT: An American Campaign is the latest book available by Mark LaFlamme. The first chapter is available for viewing on BookLocker. It was the strength of the writing in this chapter that made me want to read it.

Governor Frank Cotton is a Republican hoping to be named as the party’s candidate during the presidential primaries. The novel follows a mercenary’s search for Calvin Cotton, Governor Cotton’s son, before Governor Cotton’s opponents (and the media) get wind of Calvin’s grief-filled actions. The grave robbery of Calvin’s wife could bring down Governor Cotton’s campaign. Thomas Cashman, the mercenary, brings along drunken novelist Billy Baylor to help track down Calvin across several states.

This political thriller is fast paced and I was able to read it in a few days. LaFlamme was able to keep the book set in the present day with subtle references that aren’t likely to make the story feel dated in coming years. There are lots of characters on Governor Cotton’s campaign staff that come and go but are easy to remember when they reappear. The scenes between Billy Baylor and Thomas Cashman were the heart of the story for me and make up most of the novel. Their encounters with Calvin showed their strength of character. Both of them treat Calvin with respect when it would be easy to write him off as mentally disturbed.

On a deeper level the novel asks the reader, “What would you do to fulfill your ambitions?” Several of the characters come to a crossroads and must decide if they are going to take the hard, honest way, or the easy, questionable path.

An interview with Mark will be available on my site December 17th at http://www.amberstults.com/?p=675. ( )
  astults | Dec 16, 2008 |
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Gov. Cotton is a contender in the presidential race, but one dirty secret threatens his ambitions. His grieving son has removed the corpse of his bride from its grave and disappeared. Mercenary Thomas Cashman's mission is to find young Calvin Cotton. By the time the search is over, there will be dirt on everybody's hands.

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