Stuart Black, ad exec turned author has his first book out - SHALLOW WATER - in September 2009, published by Sid Harta Publishers.
It is the story of a down to earth Australian builder and would be musician Brad West, who, by marrying the beautiful Jemma Beckford, gets a wife and her very wealthy and dysfunctional family. The tension between Jemma and her sister Rose is exacerbated when Jemma, who considered herself heir apparent to her father's wealth and companies, sees control of the company and therefore the family fortune, willed to her older, more stable sister. In a rather unexpected conciliatory gesture, Jemma invites Rose, her stuffed shirt of a husband Charles and their son on holidays in Australia with Brad and herself. On a diving tour a body is found.
In the media kit that came with this book the author says about the motivation: 'It was when I heard why the siblings in a wealthy family I knew weren't talking to each other, that I began thinking about the subject matter of SHALLOW WATER. The role money played in the lives of these people seemed so different to the role it played in ordinary families, it made me wonder what the consequences of such a different value system might be.'
That motivation explains a lot of the characterisations. Brad, the knock-about builder, close to his own family, he's a very typical sort of an Aussie bloke. Jemma, on the other hand, is portrayed as a classic wealthy, party-girl, spoilt brat. Interestingly enough, her sister Rose is less brat and more somebody a little sad, over-controlled and guilty about something - right from the start. The family background of the sisters is expanded upon throughout the book and there's a very stark contrast built up between them and Brad. SHALLOW WATERS uses the characters as the central focus, rather than the crime itself. There is a police investigation into the death, and whilst this proves a catalyst in a number of resolution points, the concentration of the book is definitely on the motivation rather than the resolution.
Brad's very much the hero of the piece and occasionally he does seem too good to be true for this reader's taste; Jemma on the other hand is mildly interesting, but again just a little stereotypical to engender much strong reaction either for or against. There are some odd procedural points in the narrative which just need to be accepted for what they are, given that the book isn't the tale of a police investigation.
SHALLOW WATER is a first novel, and being a character based book, has less of a paced and driving imperative than a reader would expect from something more procedural or thriller based. There are a series of revelations about the girl's background; there's a subplot of threat that had an interesting twist to it; there's a resolution to the death; and a neatly tied up happy ending. It would be fair to say that a number of the plot elements are not that unusual in this sort of a book, but they are delivered well within the characterisations and the storyline. SHALLOW WATER delivers up a story of death in a very non-confrontational manner which readers who prefer less gore and more character based; family, love and life stories will undoubtedly appreciate.