April 20, 2008

Blue Vendetta

By Hugh Ellis

BLUE VENDETTA represents my first foray into self-publishing. Thus, internally, I naturally judged it on two levels. If I bought it from a store, I might not be happy. Now, I felt all its problems could be solved by a good editor. One of my issues might not, but it probably does not bother most people. (BLUE VENDETTA suffers from Beautiful People Syndrome. I used to do this once upon a time, now it sticks out to a sore thumb to me. But hey, tons of published books do this.) One issue was that Ellis uses “Marshalls” instead of “Marshals” – of course, this is such a common typo if you put “marshalls” into Google the U. S. Marshals page will be the first entry after the department store. The other issue was the dialogue felt somewhat flat. Ellis tries for one-liners throughout, but they didn’t work with me. Again, however, I felt it could be fixed with the help of a ruthless editor. I did not feel that I was reading the work of someone with a poor grasp of vocabulary and grammar, just that of someone who needed to develop a bit more style.

As for story, BLUE VENDETTA is a standard thriller. Bob’s wife Julie dies due to a policy instituted by Blue Star (a jab at Blue Cross Blue Shield?), their insurance provider. The District Attorney of Allen County, Indiana, Bob tries four men and a corporate entity for capital murder. It’s an entertaining and chilling plot, because health insurance companies do love to deny coverage. (Another sign of the missing editorial process: a saccharine prologue about the history of health insurance should be cut. If Ellis wanted to talk about the historical intention, he could have added a line that put it in a far less insipid way: our forefathers developed insurance to protect against high cost, low possibility problems.) I will also admit this part caused me to do some research on the Indiana government website.

When Bob announced his intention to try for the death penalty, I was confused as to how Julie’s death could be defined as capital murder. Man, does Indiana define capital murder loosely:

IC 35-42-1-1


Sec. 1. A person who:
(1) knowingly or intentionally kills another human being;
(2) kills another human being while committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary, child molesting, consumer product tampering, criminal deviate conduct, kidnapping, rape, robbery, human trafficking, promotion of human trafficking, sexual trafficking of a minor, or carjacking;
(3) kills another human being while committing or attempting to commit:
(A) dealing in or manufacturing cocaine or a narcotic drug (IC 35-48-4-1);
(B) dealing in or manufacturing methamphetamine (IC 35-48-4-1.1);
(C) dealing in a schedule I, II, or III controlled substance (IC 35-48-4-2);
(D) dealing in a schedule IV controlled substance (IC 35-48-4-3); or
(E) dealing in a schedule V controlled substance; or
(4) knowingly or intentionally kills a fetus that has attained viability (as defined in IC 16-18-2-365);
commits murder, a felony.

IC 35-50-2-3


Sec. 3. (a) A person who commits murder shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of between forty-five (45) and sixty-five (65) years, with the advisory sentence being fifty-five (55) years. In addition, the person may be fined not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), a person who was:
(1) at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time the murder was committed may be sentenced to:
(A) death; or
(B) life imprisonment without parole; and
(2) at least sixteen (16) years of age but less than eighteen (18) years of age at the time the murder was committed may be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole;
under section 9 of this chapter unless a court determines under IC 35-36-9 that the person is an individual with mental retardation.

In other words, don’t kill anybody in Indiana. (Really, I don’t condone murder anywhere.)

One chapter I found most interesting was in the beginning, telling of the past of John Markham – one of the villains. I wish Ellis gave some motivation to the other villains (the CEO of Blue Star and a Blue Star bureaucrat). We see only one-dimensional, cartoon figures. The evil deeds of insurance companies are perpetuated by men, and it would be nice to see Bob battle men instead of caricatures of men.

BLUE VENDETTA is a good story, but the execution needs some work. Find out more at HughEllis.com.

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