Jess is a coming-of-age novel about a young high school student whose family moves from a mid-sized Iowa town to a large city in the mid-south. Originally intended to be a young reader’s book, Jess’s ever-present problems soon become pretty adult as he and his two new friends struggle to do what is right life and their inner-city school. The lesson resounds: good choices come from good environments.
Dead Man in a Lincoln is set in a small Iowa town and built around the local sheriff, his family, and best friend. As the characters entwine themselves in the case of the dead man, there are surprises along the way that ultimately links everything together. It’s the “story within the story” that makes the novel special as it captures the uniqueness of Midwestern psyche, and explores traditional belief systems concerning the existence of God. Dead Man in a Lincoln is somewhat dark, somewhat sophomoric in its humor, somewhat super-sensory, and somewhat thought-provoking.
Reform School! was printed in 2009. It spoke to the problems of public education and offered ways to fix the system. The book was self-published, the editing was not good, and frankly, it fell far short of expectations. There should be a second edition, but the ideas remain: 1) Public education should be available to all, but students must earn the right to receive their education. 2) Students earn this right by following the rules and not distracting the rights of other students. 3) Public schools are top-heavy with bureaucracy; put every educator in a classroom for at least part of the day. 4) Develop a program that pays students to go to school. 5) Use technology to make classes match the times. And, 6 Set common, nation-wide achievement standards, but let teachers teach their way.