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Someone is a few digits short of a hand in Nakadee, Louisiana. What’s worse, someone may be torturing and holding the finger-less victim captive in this small river town. So head of Nakadee Police Department Criminal Investigations Unit Captain Nate Padgett enlists the help of Forensic Anthropologist Lula Logan, Ph.D., whom he feels he can trust since she’s having an affair with his direct report, Junior Detective Devon Lemonde.
Padgett needs Logan to find out if the victim is still among the living. Dead or Alive means the difference between a local investigation or handing it over to the Feds. Meanwhile, Dr. Logan has her own project underway. She’s in town to work on a research project that will tell the story of the enslaved Africans who revolted against their captors in 1830 on a former plantation.
Dr. Logan has her finger on the pulse of the present, a missing fingers case, and that of the enslaved Africans of the past. The question remains, which case will be her undoing.
Just in time for Mardi Gras (February 28, 2017), a story to satisfy your appetite for all things Louisiana Creole-Cajun cuisine.
Served up for your delight,
A Crime Thriller charbroiled in a damning indictment of American society with a side of biting cultural and social commentary on the menu.
“A wine-soaked finger corking a bottle of sherry…”
delivered to the Nakadee Police Department to kick off the soiree. Unsure where to begin an investigation, the head of the Criminal Investigations Unit, Captain Nate Padgett, and his Junior Detective Devon Lemonde invite their resident bones expert to lend them a helping hand.
Lula Logan, Ph.D. (Osteology from UC Santa Cruz), Forensics Anthropologist, Professor at Nakadee University, already has a full plate. Dr. Logan frequently appears on the national lecture circuit at various medical conferences to present “The Bare Bones of Forensic Anthropology” course. In addition, she teaches at the local university while working on a National Park Service research fellowship to determine the life and death of enslaved Africans found on “the old Robert McAlpin plantation” in Natchitoches. The site is rumored to be a mass grave site of enslaved Africans slaughtered in a Nat Turner-inspired uprising in 1830.
Adding to this Bouillabaisse, Dr. Logan is in the process of extracting herself from a dead-end love affair with the CIU’s Junior Detective Lemonde while watering a budding affair with a Republican congressman, U.S. Rep. Ambrose Girabeaux (R-LA).
A ménage à trois made possible by the Police Chief, Allouicious Broussard, who has political aspirations. He also pressures Captain Padgett to close the case immediately. Broussard, Rep. Girabeaux, Tyrell Armstrong, MBE Certified, a chemical engineer, and other town leaders are preparing to meet to finalize a deal that will bring from Brazil to Nakadee a multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline project.
Padgett also needs Dr. Logan to find out if the victim is still among the living. Dead or Alive means the difference between a local investigation or handing it over to the Feds.
Dr. Logan’s quest for justice for the past could take a backseat to the present if she chooses to assist in a crime-in-progress of the butchered finger case.
Enter the Unsub (Unknown subject of investigation) finger-butcher, a possible serial killer who is hell-bent on revenge – but the answer to why is in the mirror held up to the protagonist.
Dr. Logan believes her research will result in bringing justice to the dead. In short, the bones of the enslaved Africans will reveal the harsh treatment they were subjected to, thereby validating the true story of slavery in America.
The locals, former confederates, including Sherry, a student and self-proclaimed white supremacist in Dr. Logan’s forensic class, believes Dr. Logan is stirring up ill-will from the past, and the dead and past deeds should remain buried and covered up. Like most locals, Sherry believes only the “glory of war” should drive the town’s historical narrative.
Dr. Lula says, [she]
“wanted to give voice to the horrors of slavery not as a politician, but as a scientist.”
Yet, it’s Dr. Logan’s own need for validation that takes her off her research path to assist Captain Padgett, a man who didn’t acknowledge her presence or existence upon their initial meeting. Padgett now needs her expertise to solve a crime, thereby validating Dr. Logan’s need for legitimacy.
We learn of this need through her words in a conversation.
“What annoyed her [Dr. Logan], however, was that Sherry accepted Lula as a black ambassador, but not a scientist.”
Dr. Logan has several degrees and fellowships conferred upon her from several universities – including a doctoral degree. Yet, she longs to be validated as a scientist by this young white woman who is her student.
While we, the reader, may not know the identity of the finger butcher, we know of the butcher’s character flaws, i.e., error of judgment, for it’s revealed through Dr. Logan and the cast of characters.
Dr. Lula and others, including a Hollywood production crew that have set up shop, exist in an atmosphere of patriarchy, bigotry, and hate, fall victim to their weakened egos, insecurities, inadequacy, inner demons, false pride, greed, jealousy. Then, they escape through drugs, theft, and seduction in the quest to deem themselves superior.
We see how far we’ll go to invalidate others through these characters while seeking validation and legitimacy.
These characters play a zero-sum game with rules so easy it’s child’s play.
Case-in-point, in this current political climate, a 7-year-old, Toby Smith from Arkansas, saw through this political game and exposed how our culture seeks to invalidate others to validate one’s supremacy.
Smith to Sen. Tom Cotton:
“Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important to people who are in Arkansas who like Mexicans, like me, like my grandma,” Toby Smith (Town Hall meeting, Arkansas, February 22. 2017)
After reading “Severed,” 358 pages, unmasking the finger butcher didn’t come easy but solving the mystery of our society’s dysfunction was a cinch. We humans, especially most Black Americans, are so busy looking for the ruling class to validate our existence. As a result, we leave the important stuff undone. Work that would provide a route to legitimacy and self-actualization.
Instead, like Dr. Logan, we do the bidding and work of the ruling class to seek validation which usually nets a pat on the head.
Fortunately for us readers, we’ve learned through our literature about the critical choice. We know our characters can choose between the “good but hard path” or the “bad but easy one.” But, unfortunately, the latter always brings a tragic ending.
Although “Severed” is a crime thriller and an entertaining whodunit, I recommend it as a self-help book to readers who are seeking to get out of their own way to become their best by validating their own talent.
Often, we will seek validation from others to feel good about ourselves without recognizing the destruction that we leave in our wake.
We’ll leave our noble causes by the wayside to join in or something that isn’t worthy of our time just win the approval from someone who doesn’t matter.
“Severed” allows us to experience the ramifications of the decisions we make, especially when the means never justify the end.
“Severed” forces the reader to separate goals from motives and determine which goals serve the greater good and which serve the weakened ego. The latter, we learn, always brings chaos, death, and destruction, whereas the former adds meaning to our lives and advances civilization.
Food for thought
You’re at your favorite supermarket. There are aisles and aisles of edible perishables, but your job is to pick up some staples – milk, butter, bread, and maybe some breakfast cereal. But of course, you can’t leave the store without your favorite goodie.
You walk up and down the aisles, but you can’t find it. Frustrated, yes, but you will not leave without it. You see a store clerk and ask about its whereabouts. The clerk says they moved it to the middle of the center aisle. They’ve positioned your favorite, and obviously, everyone’s ideal comfort consumable to move some of the unpopular products. No matter which side of the aisle you enter, you must pass by a lot of other goods to get it to it.
Now that’s power.
How did this product become empowered to practically fly off the shelves, taking with it other less desirable products? The answer is simple. You and everyone else has been seduced by its packaging. Your favorite goodie is packaged to be desirable first, so it will become a lifetime habit.
Think about it. The fact that it’s so popular and we’re so human means this product feels like an intimate hug wrapped in (fill in the blank). How does it taste? Smell? What’s the texture? – How does it feel in your hands? Does it fit perfectly between your fingertips? Do you rub your fingers together after consuming it to brush away the crumbs or do you put it to the tip of your nose for one last whiff of the delectable treat before it’s all gone?
What are the dominant colors? What colors did the designer select to accent and highlight the package to communicate? Is it sealed, to heighten your anticipation when you attempt to open it? Can you re-seal it once you have one or two, or does it remain open as to entice you to finish the whole package in one sitting?
Finally, how does it introduce itself?
“The Kid in you remembers”, “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever”, “Because You’re Worth it”
OK, those memorable lines belong to snack and beauty products, but isn’t your novel a consumable treat for the mind? Why aren’t taglines such as those used to communicate to your audience what’s in it for them (WIIFM)?
So many novelists don’t realize their book is a consumer product package with benefits. Look up the definition of consumer product package – you will see the similarities between a novel and let’s say L’Oreal cosmetics or Little Debbie baked goods.
For example, think about your last reader’s description of your book?
‘Satisfying, so good, intriguing, riveting tantalizing.’ Did she follow-up with, “I devoured your book, I want more”?
Take cues from your readers. They may not have to open a box or tear open a bag to get to your novel, but they will devour it like it’s a Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pie.
Determine what you’re really selling and market it. Does your novel send a message of hope, determination, courage, and protection, et al.?
Instead of trying and failing miserably at marketing a novel like non-fiction book that uses facts as a selling point, promote the experience, the feeling it produces or the lesson it imparts. Promote a message that will set it apart from the 50,000 * other novels published each year.
Marketing gurus called this term Unique Selling Proposition. Don’t get caught up in the name, however, just find out what is at the heart of your novel and promote the heck out of it.
*Bowker (Books in Print) reports 50,498 fiction titles were traditionally published in 2013. Self-published titles take that number higher. Bowker reports 1 million titles were non-traditional publications.