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Review – Purgatory by Tim Dodge (Podcast)

Purgatory-cover-final-sm I’ve been friends with Tim for a while. I was hunting for something short to listen to on a recent road trip and thought I’d give his story Purgatory a try.

Synopsis:Charles Cunningham, a wealthy real estate developer, dies unexpectedly and finds himself in Purgatory, the place between heaven and hell. Though depressed about his early death, he befriends two other souls doing time there — the writer Edgar Allan Poe and a music-loving deadbeat named Billy. Upon receiving a letter from God telling him he must learn some unnamed lessons before he can go to heaven, he convinces Poe to join him in the portal back to earth. They hope to make up for their past mistakes, but they arrive on earth in the year 2049, 42 years after Charles’ death. Traveling from mid-21st century New York City to Las Vegas, Charles seeks out the daughter he neglected in life, though she is now in her eighties. However, an unfriendly soul from Purgatory follows them to earth. This soul, an employee with whom Charles had an affair and summarily fired, is determined to keep him from winning passage to heaven. She teams up with Charles’ grandson, a debt-ridden gambling addict who has a talent for messing things up. Together, they hatch a deadly scheme to foil Charles’ plan to get to heaven and net the grandson badly-needed money. Charles learns of their plans and enlists his friends to help stop them. Will they succeed?

Production: I dinged Tim on my review of Acts of Desperation for his audio quality. There was no paper rustling. There was some breathiness and he could use a pop-filter. I hope he can invest in some better audio gear for future endeavors. I’ve heard a lot worse, but this will bother some people enough to take them out of the story.

Grade: C-

Cast: Tim reads this himself. He does a good job, particularly voicing the character Billy. It’s largely a straight read.

Grade: B-

Story: This is billed as a “comedy”. It’s only true in the classical sense. There are some smiles here and there. There’s also a bit of tension as Charles, Ed, and Billy try and stop a dangerous plot. My outright favorite part of this story were the interactions between Charles and Ed. Tim nailed the character of Edgar Allen Poe.

The religious aspects of this story are a bit on the “soft” side. This is basically a morality play. We get to watch the characters as they deal with the repercussions of their actions both in this life and the life after. Some of them succeed and others fail. It’s hinted at that the failures will get another try. Makes me wonder what the Hell in this universe would look like and who would be there.

Don’t expect a treatise on the afterlife along the lines of Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife series. Do expect a fun listen with engaging characters and a dash of sci-fi.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I sense that his writing is stronger this go around. If you’re not an audiophile or a religious purest give this a listen. I think most folks would enjoy it.

Grade: B-

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Review – Acts of Desperation Podcast

Today I’m reviewing Acts of Desperation by Tim Dodge.

Synopsis: Ray Davis is newly divorced, going nowhere at a dead-end job in a warehouse, and has almost worked off the debts his ex-wife rang up. Then his underinsured brother’s need for a liver transplant forces Ray to come up with a lot of money, fast. When he attempts to recover the profit he made with an old business partner, Ray discovers that the partner is dead and his investment has fallen into the hands of a drug dealer. The dealer has used the cash to buy a large supply of cocaine; he and his gun are not inclined to return the proceeds. Ray enlists a crude private eye to help him get it back, and he falls in love with Jenna, a beautiful waitress. His struggle to recover the money soon takes him deep into a swamp of crime, drugs, murder and revenge. Caught in a war between rival dealers, he comes to realize that the stakes have risen beyond the woman he loves or the money he needs to save his brother. He’s fighting for his life.

Production: Production is this podcast novel’s weakest point. Tim makes use of music on occasion and while the music itself is okay, the placement is inconsistent and distracting. He was trying to use it to up the dramatic tension during certain scenes and it had the opposite effect. There are times where the music doesn’t fade out when it should, instead stopping abruptly. He also changes his intro music at least once. Finally, I was able to hear paper rattling as he read, though it wasn’t particularly loud. Generally the audio of the reading itself was clean, but the rest of the errors could have been easily remedied.

Grade: C-

Cast: This is a straight read by Tim. He’s got a good voice and uses it to dramatic effect on a number of occasions. It’s definitely more of a performance than a read at certain points and he really gets into it.

Grade: B+

Story: The story kept me coming back in spite of the issues with the production. It’s told from Ray’s point of view, in the first person. It worked well in this case. I kept thinking of Breaking Bad throughout the course of the story, not at all a bad thing. I love stories that take the protagonist and force them into desperate acts, making them come out on the other side a different person. I have mixed feelings about the ending. I won’t spoil it, but I felt like it robbed a little from the overall impact of the story and Ray’s journey. Still, it was a good deal of fun.

I’m not sure if this is Tim’s first novel length work, but it felt like an early novel. There were a few issues with the writing. Some events could have been tightened up and it was a little rough in spots. He hit a few things spot on. Ray’s inexperience with guns and the effect it had on certain action scenes was well done. The character flaws that Ray had were also well exploited.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I definitely recommend giving this a listen. It’s a fun and at times brutal story, especially towards the end. If you’re offended by strong language and violence, give it a pass.

Grade: B