Three novels written during Covid!
It started with an email suggesting that I meet Neville Johnston, a retired lawyer from Brockville, who wrote and published three novels during the Pandemic. Three novels sounded interesting, but that was only the start. And as often happens when you’re the Editor of Thousand Islands Life . . . the voyage began!
Who was this author? Was he an experienced writer? What are the books about? These and more were questions I asked immediately after I contacted the author, Neville Johnston. The answers, in his words, were most interesting.
I arrived in Canada from Jamaica in 1959 with $5, my clothes, and a few books to call my own. I worked my way through university (B.A., University of Toronto, 1961) and law school (J.D., Osgoode Hall Law School, 1964), and was called to the Bar of Ontario (then known as the Law Society of Upper Canada or LSUC) in 1966.
I practiced law (Civil Litigation, Real Estate, and Estates) in Brockville for 53 years, for 50 of which I was a partner in the firm of Henderson Johnston Fournier, and during which time I was admitted as a Member of the Bar of New York. In 1973, I was a recipient of the Vanier Award as one of five Outstanding Young Persons of Canada, a distinction later shared by former Governor General Edward Schreyer (1975) and hockey great Wayne Gretzky (1982).
I have had a lifelong passion for words since 1951, when I wrote my first poem at the age of 12. I have published four books of poetry, “Songs of My Seasons”, "Rimes of Passion", "Wild as Whipporwills in the Night", and the "The Chalice Full: Poems for the Common Man."
I have always wanted to write novels, but the demanding ‘mistress’ known as the practice of law denied me the time for such endeavours. Fortunately, since my retirement from law, I have been blessed with time for creativity to fulfill my ambition of being a true “alchemist of words”.
OK, I thought, now let’s see if this guy, as my children say, “is real.” We downloaded the first novel, Burden of Bondage, on my kindle and I started. It took no time at all before I was hooked. Neville Johnston can certainly write and although not a mystery in the regular sense, the book kept me on the edge throughout. At the end, I felt privileged to have entered the lives of each character on every page.
I haven’t started the second novel, but I did have a sneak preview of the third. I asked Neville if I could have an excerpt for TI Life from the newest book. He obliged immediately by sending me a proof copy of the book and suggested that I may like to take parts on Page 113 or Page 119. Well, I cheated and started on page 1, then went on to page 2, and then page 3 . . . and it wasn’t until Chapter 6 that I actually stopped, since I really did not have permission to read the whole draft! But I am chipper, as Book Three is being released in a couple of weeks and that isn’t too long to wait to see who murdered Fred.
All are, or will be, available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com as well as on shopdreamweaver.ca (do a search for Neville Johnston and his books will apprear).
Neville says, “To date, all my books have been independently published; I operate on the belief that if the novels are good enough, they will eventually be found by the established publishers. You know, as in “Field of Dreams”, ‘Build it and they will come’. Until then, I’ll just keep on honing my craft, all for the enjoyment of my readers."
Thank you Neville, for honing that craft in the past two years. Writing three novels in a lifetime is an achievement but in less than three years is an accomplishment, indeed.
We are honoured to provide introductions to all three books. I often say when I review books, that readers should not take my word for it, but if you ask me, I am definitely a Neville Johnston fan!
First Novel: Burden of Bondage, was released in January 2021
A chance sexual encounter between Quamina, a mysterious black free woman, and Lord Alexander Harlan, the wealthy and powerful white owner of the 18th century Jamaica sugar cane plantation Paragon Hall, sets in motion a chain of events that drastically alter the course of history of the Harlan dynasty and their plantation.
Through the clever scheming of Quamina, the fair-skinned son of a slave-girl enjoys the tremendous wealth and privilege of being a Harlan, while his dark-skinned twin brother is cast into the wretched life of a slave.
Sparks fly when a murder at Paragon Hall pits the powerful fair-skinned brother sitting as the Judge against his dark-skinned twin brother.
Second Novel: Road to Oblivion: The Great War of Osbie McDonald, was released in August 2021
Road To Oblivion is an Historical Thriller set in Western Europe on the eve of the bloody Battle of the Somme, in World War One. The plot is interwoven with espionage, murder, romance, deception, manipulation, injustice, and the horrors of war.
Osbie McDonald, a Jamaican volunteer in the British Military, is drafted into the Intelligence Corps and is sent on a special mission to deliver a TOP SECRET communication to the French Maréchal in Chantilly. While on the mission, he has an affair with a beautiful French nurse Marie, who entertains him in Chantilly and Paris, no expense spared. He suspects Marie of spying for the Germans and of murdering a journalist in a Paris art gallery.
Kidnapped by German operatives, he is taken to Zurich and Berlin, where he is repeatedly interrogated. With the assistance of a pretty underground operative, Gerda, and a French undercover agent Inspector Bourque, who has followed him all the way into Berlin, he undertakes a daring escape, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind in his wake as he struggles for survival. At a trial of Marie for treason and murder, shocking revelations are made. Anticipation grips the reader’s mind in the search for answers to the questions: What will be the ultimate fate of the hapless Osbie McDonald? What is to become of his beautiful lover Marie?
Third Novel: The Shadow of the Force will be released in December 2021
The Shadow of the Force is a Crime Thriller set in Toronto, Bern, Florence, Rome, and Paris in the early 1980s. The dominant themes are crime, mystery, suspense, and courtroom drama.
When filthy rich Toronto lawyer Fred Bruni is found dead at his desk in his law office following a business trip to Bern, Florence, and Rome, the coroner's verdict is suicide. But his wife Isolde refuses to accept that Fred died by his own hard.
With the stark realization that she knows 'zilch' about the nature and extent of Fred's law practice, she embarks on an investigation of her own, which takes her to Bern, Florence, and Paris. In Bern, she hires a private investigator, the great Fankhauser, to assist her in the hunt for Fred's murderer, which leads him on a dangerous and deadly mission into the heart of Rome.
What follows is a series of spine-chilling occurrences involving a malevolent international organization and a mysterious secret poison, which both have their roots in the renowned Medici family of Renaissance Italy. The intrigue heightens to fever pitch when the hunted becomes the hunter and the hunter the hunted, with violence and dead bodies strewn along the paths, in a world fraught with fear and terror.
What did you do during the Covid lockdowns? I wish I could say I accomplished as much as my new friend, Neville Johnston, has. However, I know what I will be doing over the holiday season . . . enjoying the three new books in my library – all written close by in Brockville, ON.
By Susan W. Smith, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
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