Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Bankster Chronicles / Dave Jewett

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller/Dystopian

Approximate word count:

Edge of Darkness: Book One of The Bankster Chronicles 95-100,000 words

Darkness Descends: Book Two of the Bankster Chronicles 80-85,000 words


Edge of Darkness: Book One of The Bankster Chronicles
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES

Darkness Descends: Book Two of the Bankster Chronicles
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Dave Jewett describes himself as “a student of history and money” with “a background in economics, monetary systems, rare coins, and precious metals.” Edge of Darkness: Book One of The Bankster Chronicles and Darkness Descends: Book Two of the Bankster Chronicles are his first novels. He lives in Eastern Washington.


These two volumes chronicle the history of money and modern banking in novel form, starting from about 1650 AD and continuing into the future.


Although the end of Darkness Descends, volume two of The Bankster Chronicles, leaves the possibility open for another volume, it makes sense to look at the first two volumes as a single unit. The first volume, Edge of Darkness, ends in a cliffhanger shortly before this epic story reaches our current time, and is historical fiction. Volume two picks up from there, and for much of the story fits more within the dystopian genre.

These books present a challenge in knowing how to evaluate them in a review. With a typical novel, I’d look at two major areas: the overall story (plot, characterization, flow, on so on) and  specific areas relating to technical writing issues or style that are especially good, bad, or different enough from the norm that a reader should be informed so he or she can judge based on their own taste. However, this series purports to be more. The introduction says, “This is the story of the Dollar's death. It's about the real world - the real world of banking and how it affects each of us in our daily lives.”

The premise is a good one. Take a subject considered boring by many, yet valuable (even necessary) to understand, and integrate the basics into an entertaining story. If this was a non-fiction book, I’d also be looking at the facts and, if in dispute, at how well the author makes their case with verifiable facts and legitimate sources. I’m not sure that’s fair for fiction, but feel like I’d be remiss to ignore it in a book that purports to be largely real.

As the author says in the introduction, this story is complex, not just because of the period of time it covers, but because of the number of characters and sub-threads to keep straight. When viewed as pure fiction, the overall story is a good one. It has everything: good guys and bad guys, romance, intrigue, plenty of conflict, and even when you know where it is headed, you want to see how things play out for several characters who you’ll come to care about. The author uses clickable footnotes in the Kindle version (not exactly common in fiction) to define acronyms (possibly better explained in the main text) or to give more detail on technical concepts than is needed for the story (an excellent idea).

It isn’t uncommon for me to think the basic story in a book is good, with lots of potential, but that it falls well short of that potential due to issues at a very low level (typos, bad grammar, or distracting writing tics). These books, for the most part, don’t have those issues- with three exceptions. The first is an annoying habit of using the word “click” in a sentence by itself to denote the end of a phone conversation. We’ve read the dialogue where the parties have said their good-byes. We understand the phones get hung up. There were other situations like this, where we’re given too much detail, whether in description or action, than we need. The “click” for hanging up the phone was the most flagrant and frequent. Second was an overuse of ellipses to … um … you know? … show pauses in dialogue. Used sparingly to indicate something about the speaker’s state of mind, this is okay, but when overused, it becomes ineffective.

My bigger issues were at a higher level with several being issues that a good content editor would have caught. When several different unrelated story threads are going on at one time, keeping track of when something was happening was sometimes difficult because scenes seemed to be out of order chronologically. The best and most flagrant example of this was one scene, done from one character’s point of view, followed by other scenes, and then the same event as the first is repeated from another point of view. This issue of repeating things we already know was a frequent problem. Other examples are starting two different chapters off by repeating text from the same press release and giving a long and detailed description of a meeting room used for congressional hearings multiple times with very little difference from time to time. Describe it once, if needed. The reader will get a picture in their mind. Then say something brief so we’ll recall that picture (“it was in the same meeting room as the last hearing”) or, even better, assume we’re going to get the same mental picture of all of these meeting rooms after describing them once.

As for how “real” this story is, you’ll have to decide yourself. Some of it is undeniably true. Some of it is the author filling in the gaps with variations on the same old conspiracy theories. Multi-generational conspiracies with hundreds, if not thousands of people having at least partial knowledge without it leaking out is something I’m prone to disbelieve.


Adult language and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ** Two stars


Walter Knight said...

Conspiracy theories? Um, you know . . . even the paranoid have enemies.

Dave Jewett said...

I appreciate your willingness to read my novels and provide this review, especially since you gave so much thought
to writing it. There is much that I like about your Appraisal, particularly
your statement that “. . . when viewed as pure fiction, the overall story is a good one.”

When writing this story, I made several important decisions along the way. One of the biggest was
whether to provide real-world supporting evidence to support a ‘conspiracy’ theme. And in fact, my first draft contained
considerably more factual evidence to this effect.

But then I stepped back to look at my objectives: 1) to bring the reader close to characters, so that the reader
could experience the pain and suffering brought about by our system of money, 2) to teach
how paper money is inherently corrupted, with the corruption inevitably leading to economic and human pain,
and 3) how evil people are attracted to the kind of power inherent in paper money.

My goal was to get the reader involved in the characters – emotionally.
This is a very different objective from the purely fact-based books, such as Creature from Jekyll Island.

Thus, to include actual evidence of conspiracy would have distracted from my primary objective: which is to give the
reader an emotional connection to characters, and to the characters’ experiences. But I didn’t avoid
providing evidence. Instead I chose to embed the evidence within fictional elements of the story – it’s there,
but it’s not always obvious that the fictional evidence has a real-world corollary.

There are a few cases where unrelated threads are presented out of chronological order. This was
done to maintain a constancy of character development and underlying theme. I think
the best example is where I carry the theme of so-called free trade from 1992 to 1994,
and then I jump back to 1992 on an unrelated thread. By taking these out of chronological order,
it allowed me to (again) maintain a constancy of theme and characterization – hopefully
making my work of ‘fiction’ more engaging to the reader.

Per your observation, I did indeed depict some scenes from different points of view. But please know
that in at least one instance, the additional POV gave (indirect) actual evidence of conspiracy.
And in all cases of multiple POV, they were provided because the
scene impacts each character differently – in ways that I wanted the reader to grasp.

Your observation about multiple descriptions of the same meeting room (on Capitol Hill) is accurate. This
was clearly an unwarranted excess, and may distract some readers from the pacing of the story.

One of the things I value most about your review is its constructive nature. Importantly, it provides a forum
for me to articulate the trade-offs I made in the telling of this complex story. I think the big
one was around fact-based evidence vs. evidence embedded in fiction. But there were other trade-offs as well,
such as placing economics teachings and character development before chronology.

I sense a conflict within your review. Specifically, your two-star rating vs. your statement that “. . . when viewed
as pure fiction, the overall story is a good one.” This conflict suggests that my story succeeds on
yet another level – it brings an uncomfortable doubt to the reader’s mind, and makes him think!

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks Dave,

I appreciate your comments and I'm sure my readers will as well. I wanted to respond to your last paragraph.

You're correct to sense conflict although it goes beyond what you theorize. I almost always feel conflict when writing two star and often a three star reviews because those books have positives. More often than not there is a good story, but problems with the execution. Sometimes the problems are purely technical (inadequate copy-editing and proofing), which wasn't the case here. Other times they are matters of technique which make the story drag at times or hard to follow. That was the situation here, with the changes in point of view and the story doubling back on itself.

I think you were correct, from a story standpoint, to cut some of the "real-world supporting evidence," but I didn't think you went far enough, which is why you needed to double back on the story. The "real story," as you saw it, got in the way of telling the fictional story, which is what I was trying to evaluate. Had there not been the subtext of "the real story," the rating would have been the same.

The conflict I don't normally encounter is explained in the second paragraph of the review. I didn't think I could ignore the subtext, nor did I feel it fair to evaluate what is fiction based on how well it makes a case for being true. Instead I raised the issue (otherwise it would just have been the elephant in the room), ignored it for purposes of judging the story, and left it to readers to draw their own conclusions, although I did raise my main concern. My "uncomfortable doubt" was in how to address this subtext without letting it get in the way of reviewing the fictional story.