||Writers Digest Showcase
||Aug 1 2000
Five-star rated action-adventure novel for sophisticated readers who care about the environment.
You've never read a novel exactly like Elephant Gun; part truth, part fiction, adult, gritty, yet thought-provoking and intelligent, trampling merrily over many sacred cows. Real events in today's headlines are ingeniously interwoven throughout the fabric of this exciting action saga.
Will the nefarious doctor in Tijuana actually find a genuine cure for AIDS using his bizarre procedures to experiment on wealthy Americans while running an illegal dope ring out the back door of his clinic? Will his sociopathic partner, a foul-mouthed, bigoted mercenary gleefully murder just one innocent victim too many?
And will a former SAS commando turned African big game hunter manage to survive falling in lust with a beautiful lady animal-rights activist who stumbles across a major criminal enterprise? Can he save her from the mercenary's deadly henchmen and himself from two gay Iraqui assassins hired by an ex-IRA terrorist to blow up a major public facility in Nairobi?
How does the hunter become involved with a tough lady cop, the DEA, FBI, and a sexy Beverly Hills widow in Los Angeles after her HIV-positive son is kidnapped? Will the hunter's ancient Masai tracking skills, a .44 Magnum pistol and a double-barrel .600 Nitro Express be enough to defeat modern, high-tech weaponry during a pitched night battle in the most unlikely environment imaginable?
It all reaches an astonishing climax involving stealth helicopters, snipers, police, news media, wild animals and wild women in Elephant Gun.
She had on a black Gaucho hat with a low crown and level brim, and a silver chain as a band. Her shining black hair was tied back in a loose pony tail, hanging halfway down her back.
Her lacy white peasant blouse was a good choice on this warm spring day, and the scoop neck revealed the top of well-formed breasts. Cinched around her narrow waist was a wide leather belt with an ornate silver buckle. The long grey pleated riding culottes fitted snugly to her hips, then flared out in loose pantaloons that reached just below the top of her knee-high cordovan boots. Unlike so many Spanish horsemen, she did not use the cruel, large roweled spurs. He noticed her flawless alabaster skin was flushed from the excitement, and her teeth flashed in the sun as she laughed. He felt a small lurch in his heart and his pulse rate suddenly increased.
As the horse settled down, it gave one last jump, arching it's magnificent neck, mane flying, kicking it's rear legs high in the air. She stuck like glue to the abbreviated European saddle, and as if in appreciation of the steed's effort, she yelled gaily, "Ole!"
Alan had a flash of feeling that was almost psychic as he captured the momentary picture in his mind. The defined muscles of the horse caught under stress, the curve of it's neck, the field of small white flowers as a backdrop under the impossibly clear blue sky, and the wildness and natural beauty of the woman
made him ache for a camera to preserve it forever. And as quick as that thought came, he changed his mind. No, not a simple snapshot, a Kodak moment. This was a picture you'd commission to a great artist; one who would capture the essence of feeling, the soul, the spirit of the celebration of life.
But the moment passed, and he recovered his composure enough to apologize for startling the horse and rider, and as usually happens when two young, attractive people of the opposite sex meet in such circumstances, soon they had exchanged names and he was invited to her father's Hacienda.
After the proper courtship and their eventual marriage, he and Rita decided that their best future was to start his own company and leave his position with the corporate giant, giving up the perks and pension, and take the risks. Her family wanted her to stay in Spain, of course, since she was still only seventeen, but she wanted to see America, and he had contacts in California, and most of all, they wanted to be alone together.
For the first year, it was very hard, but Rita helped by running the office, being receptionist, typist, bookkeeper and janitor, while Alan was the estimator, scheduler, bid and contract writer, superintendent, materials buyer, gofer, punch list fixer and cleanup crew. He took jobs other contractors were afraid of; asbestos abatement, Division 44 retrofits, EPA-ordered tank leakage cleanup, demolition of tension slab buildings, inner city HUD projects, you name it.
But they persevered, and as his reputation and client list grew, so did the upscale jobs; historical landmark building restoration, luxury hotel remodels, new strip centers and malls.
The day Alan and Rita's son Robert was born she had just turned nineteen and they were well on their way to being one of the top tenant improvement contractors in Los Angeles. Things looked
very bright. Rita had become "westernized", but held on to many of her old country values, which included time out to be with her son. Alan girded his loins for battle daily to deal with the Philistines in his trade. He had a soft spot for his son, however, and welcomed the opportunity to be with his family after work was over. So it was with increasing puzzlement and disappointment over the years they both watched Robert, who had been spoiled with every advantage a young boy could expect, grow more and more into a very unlovable little punk.
It started in grade school, where he stole from the other kids, lied when caught, bullied smaller boys and generally pissed everybody off. Talking to him did no good, nor did the usual punishments in vogue with the social behavior mavens; no TV for a week, early bedtimes, chores and grounding. None of it worked. Robert was incorrigible, and Rita and Alan started arguing about who was to blame. Was it in the genes? Did it carry over a generation? If so, which defective grandparent was responsible? His side of the family or hers? Or was it the permissive society of today? What the hell had they done wrong? The stress put a severe strain on their relationship.
They spent time and money on self-help books, therapists, counseling. They tried rewards for good behavior. When Robert
received his daytime driver's permit, Alan bought him a new Mustang convertible as a reward for passing the tenth grade. Robert went out for his first solo drive after being admonished to return before dark as his license restrictions said. At two-twenty a.m., they received a call from the Santa Monica Police saying they had Robert in custody for DUI as well as reckless driving for drag racing down Chataqua Boulevard, resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. Robert lost his Mustang for that. While on probation he was caught boosting a Corvette a few weeks later. He had Marijuana on his person, which helped a lot.
Two months after that, just when the Stoddemeyers thought things couldn't get worse, it did. Alan had been feeling poorly, but he figured it was mostly due to the stress of running the expanding company, juggling all the projects and trying to live with the extra stress Robert caused. The doctors told him no, it's lung cancer, and the prognosis isn't good. It was advanced to the point where chemotherapy probably wouldn't prevent his death, but they'd be happy to take his money trying for as long as he could hold out. Alan didn't tell Rita right away. She had enough to deal with. But eventually, his condition got so bad all he could do was cough, and he couldn't work, so he had to have the dreaded "Talk."
He signed over everything to her prior to his last days, and advised her to sell the company while they still had some ongoing jobs. Rita said, "Listen, Alan. All we really have to sell is some potential clients from the Roladex. You are the company, and your clients, like most, are whores who'll jump to the next bidder without a second thought. Your ability to solve architect's mistakes and still consistently come in under budget and on time is our only real asset."
But then she added, "On the other hand, all the years I've worked at your side I've learned your methods, prepared bids, and know the contacts and subs. And I've walked enough jobs with you that I think I could continue running things with some good project managers and supers."
He looked at her a moment and nodded agreement.He'd help her find the right men, ask some hard questions, check references with her. He told her: "You know, of course, a woman that looks like you is going to have a hell of a time getting respect from the assholes in this business. Most of those jerks will only see you as just another sex object."
. She knew she'd have to be stronger and tougher than ever to do this and handle Robert by herself, but she was never one to be afraid; of a wild bucking horse, or the cutthroat business world. They finally found an older, solid man to act as company Director of Operations, and he took a lot of the burden off Rita's shoulders, calling her only when necessary.
Alan died quietly, and it was a sign of the reputation he'd earned that at his funeral, a host of contractors, many of which had been his competitors and often bitter rivals, showed up to pay respects. Rita received many kind words from them as well as Alan's subcontractors, clients and friends.
She also received several clumsy inquiries as to whether she'd like to get together for a drink sometime and talk, about construction, of course, and if there was ever anything they could do for her, you know.
Robert Stoddemeyer was now spending his days sitting in front of the giant screen TV in the game room. He was so tired all the time he could hardly force himself out of bed, but he usually got up about eleven in the morning anyway. Once a robust 195 pounds, he was now down to 153. His mother kept him inside and worried constantly that some germ would get to him. With no immune system, he wouldn't have much of a chance. Once, he easily lifted sheet rock and bundles of steel studs when he worked for the company, but now it seemed an effort to pick up the TV remote, or work the joystick on the Nintendo. Now, he just hung around feeling sorry for himself.
He stood in front of the refrigerator with the door open, more out of habit than hunger, thinking, Man, this is boring. But at least I'm not back inside doin' hard time. If I have to die, it'll be in relative comfort. Of course now Mom has another shit-for-brains idea to send me to this new clinic. I smell a con here, and I oughta know. If the place is legit, why locate in TJ? But I really don't give a shit anymore. Anyway, what the hell do I have to lose?
His mother came into the kitchen, her nose wrinkling at the odor of unwashed male.
"Robert," she said, "Let's get ready to go. Please take a shower and put on the clean clothes Juanita has laid out in your room. And for God's sake, pick up that mess in there."
Robert looked wearily at her. "Aw, Mom. Jesus Christ. You know this bogus clinic is going to be, like, totally just another
waste of my time and your bread."
Rita folded her arms. "Oh. You're suddenly concerned with my money now? Too bad you weren't so conscientious when you were stealing from me, or calling from jail to be bailed out. And you
weren't very worried about the thousands of dollars I spent paying back people for things you stole. Maybe you've given up on yourself, but I haven't. Mothers don't do that. After all I've been through to keep you alive this far, I'm not going to concede yet. And, listen to me, young man. When you're in my presence, you will not swear. Show some respect to your mother, you hear?" Robert sighed and slowly got up.
"Yeah, yeah. Hell, you don't even go to Saint Theresa's on Sunday any more. What's the big deal."
Rita was silent a moment. Yes, it's true, I've drifted from my faith. Partly because I find myself in strong disagreement with the church concerning contraceptives and certain types of abortions, but mostly because I'm just so tired of...everything. In a fit of anger Alan had once said something very hurtful after finding out their son was caught for the fourth time dealing drugs in Junior High. In disgust, he said, "If ever there was a good argument for birth control, Robert's it."
She chastised Alan at the time, telling him that was a horrible thing to say about his own son, but a small part of her wondered what their life would have been like without the constant stress and worry because of Robert. Maybe Alan would still be alive. No, that wasn't fair, either. It'd been the cigarettes, plain and simple.
She pointed a finger. "Robert. You could have your whole life in front of you yet, if we can just find an answer and turn this thing around. You're young. You could start all over. Please don't fight me on this. You're all I have now."
Robert threw up his hands as he walked slowly out of the room. "That's right, play the dead Dad card. God. If all you got is me, then you're really pathetic."
Rita watched him painfully climbing the stairs. She had to blink a few times as she turned away from a sudden burning in her eyes. Sometimes the guilt and despair overwhelmed her.
Elephant Gun: Professional Review
C.L. Barker review of Elephant Gun-
This book is like one of those packages you get from a distant relative at Christmas, something you expect will be an ordinary present exhibiting little thought or originality from one who doesn’t really know your tastes. But then you open it and find, unexpectedly, it is a real treat. The big surprise is inside, the depth and direction of the book somewhat camouflaged by the cover and title. You find the plot is not really about that, but a series of ever more exciting situations and interesting characters who interact throughout the thread of this highly unique story. Without going into descriptive detail, it brings together a myriad of people’s lifestyles, cultures and attitudes with a complete spectrum of emotional experience: danger, fear, greed, power trips, corruption, egomania, romance, lust, filial devotion, nostalgia, the list goes on. You may, if you’re a normal person, find your throat constricting or be shocked at one moment, then the next, be laughing at the unexpected humor from some of the characters that runs throughout. I also felt a certain empathy for the characters as they faced difficult challenges in their lives brought about by their own well-meaning but ultimately bad decisions. How many of us have not been there? The protagonist, Eric, seemed so human with his faults and insecurities, an unlikely hero compared to a Schwartsnegger or Stallone, but conversely, I could see him as a genuine person rather than just another macho character. His inability to cope well with the complexities of today’s modern technological world and the burden of old failures and mistakes that haunted him rang an uncomfortable note, perhaps too close to home, at least for me. The mercenary villain, Jack, surprisingly, evoked a certain twisted charm as well with his off-center attitudes and occasional funny sarcasm. Also, for the social study crowd, there is a wealth of real information woven into the story line, revealing much about the lives of African citizens, ecology, the drug trade, AIDS research, street gangs, law enforcement and mercenaries, and it all has the ring of authenticity from one who has first-hand knowledge or at least knows enough to research and check facts.
My criticisms are few, mainly that the cover and title may have been a poor choice and does a disservice to the quality of the author’s high level of imagination and creative plot development, as the elephant gun mentioned is more a family heirloom with it’s own history, a connection of generations past when life was so much different than merely a symbol of man’s imperialistic aggression and ignorance of the balance of nature. There were some rather gory battle scenes that might turn a few readers off with too much realism, but it is done in a natural, uncontrived context, unlike the shocker/horror genre so prevalent today. This story’s continuity and plot development comes together a bit slowly at first due to it’s complexity, setting the stage for later events, and could perhaps have been edited down, but it soon develops at a rapid pace that drew me in as it escalated into a suspenseful and very imaginative climax. All in all, the pluses far overshadowed the minuses. I liked this author’s daring effort and different approach and would highly recommend it to fans of this genre. I have read many so-called best sellers that were not nearly as much fun and satisfying.
“Tightly written style, an imaginative premise, extreme action....there’s so much more to the scope of the adventure that I was unable to put it down, reading into the early hours of morning.”
- John Carter, author, screenplay writer.
Doctor likes it
“Here is a book that was done right. Plot twists, unexpected developments that do not follow the shopworn formats of most commercial fiction, make the story a challenge to your intellect and I happen to like that. Simplistic plots and thin characters are all too common nowadays. I highly recommend it, not only to men who like action, but women who like romance and adventure. ”
- Dr. R. J. Villegas, PHD, CTU Learning Center
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Reader Reviews for "Elephant Gun"
|Reviewed by Thomas Sutherland
|Great book! Makes you think, laugh, get ticked off, but mainly it entertains you. I got into it and literally couldn't put it down. Worth reading again, and I say that about very few books.|
|Reviewed by Clive C.
|Funny, exciting, unique plot. Great characters, author has exceptional insight into todays sociological and environmental problems as well as human relationships. Not a book for shallow readers, it challenges you to think as well as giving great enjoyment. I reccommend it highly.|
|Reviewed by Steve Edwards
|One of the most entertaining books of it's type I've ever read. A hell of a ride!|
Phillip E. Carpenter