As promised, here is my review of novelist Shane Joseph’s latest book In the Shadow of the Conquistador. But first a little bit about Shane Joseph in his own words.
Shane Joseph is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers in Toronto, Canada. He began writing as a teenager living in Sri Lanka and has never stopped. Redemption in Paradise, his first novel, was published in 2004 and his first short story collection, Fringe Dwellers, in 2008. His novel, After the Flood, a dystopian epic set in the aftermath of global warming, was released in November 2009, and won the Canadian Christian Writers award for best Futuristic/Fantasy novel in 2010.His latest release is In the Shadow of the Conquistador, a novel set in Peru and Canada. His short stories and articles have appeared in several Canadian anthologies and in literary journals around the world. His blog at www.shanejoseph.com is widely syndicated.
His career stints include: stage and radio actor, pop musician, encyclopaedia salesman, lathe machine operator, airline executive, travel agency manager, vice president of a global financial services company, software services salesperson, publishing editor, project manager and management consultant.
Self-taught, with four degrees under his belt obtained through distance education, Shane is an avid traveller and has visited one country for every year of his life and lived in four of them. He fondly recalls incidents during his travels as real lessons he could never have learned in school: husky riding in Finland with no training, trekking the Inca Trail in Peru through an unending rainstorm, hitch-hiking in Australia without a map, escaping a wild elephant in Zambia, and being stranded without money in Denmark, are some of his memories.
After immigrating (twice), raising a family, building a career, and experiencing life’s many highs and lows, Shane has carved out a niche in Cobourg, Ontario with his wife Sarah, where he continues to work, write, and play in a rock band.
Shane Joseph, believes in the gift of second chances. He feels that he has lived many lives in just a single lifetime, always starting from scratch with only the lessons from the past to draw upon. His novels and stories reflect the redemptive power of acceptance and forgiveness.
Shane Joseph’s latest novel, In the Shadow of the Conquistador. deals with people’s expectations when they are young, what they do to attain them, and coming to grips in middle age with the results. Joseph’s two main characters, long-time friends George Walton and Jeremy “Jimmy” Spence meet as school children living in Toronto’s east end. George is aggressive and Jimmy is withdrawn. However, the two become close friends, with Jimmy, like the novel’s title, living in George’s shadow. A third character, Denise Langevin, whom both men love but only one marries, keep the two men connected, sometimes in mind only, with several separations, sometimes due to job locations, sometimes due to their personal conflict. There is also a fourth “character” – the novel Conquistador, written over the years by George, which is inserted as a parallel to the main story. Conquistador is Spanish for conqueror and lady-killer, both of which apply to George’s modus operandi going through life. George’s novel tells the story of the Spanish conquering the Incas in Peru in the 1500s, particularly the Spanish leader, Francisco, who like George, is compelled to conquer – in his case – the Incas.
The novel begins with the two men, now middle-aged, meeting in Lima. Peru, at George’s request, after a 20-year separation. Ostensibly they are there to climb the Andes Mountain to the Machu Picchu, an historic site from the Incan reign before the Spanish conquest. As they hike the treacherous route with their guide Valdez, Jimmy’s and George’s past parades before them, taunting and terrorizing them. In Lima they meet two women, Ali and Bea, 15 years their junior. Ali is a spitting image of Denise and shy Bea has a large facial scar. The inevitable seems to be building up, but just when you are expecting it, Joseph adds a few twists.
Joseph intertwines this past with the present, each driving the novel forward. The reader learns that George is a womanizer, to extremes, and that trait cost him a possible political career, his career in academia and his wife, Denise. Denise turns to Jimmy, but he is a control freak and as neither man let her “do her own thing” she leaves them both and returns to her native Montreal where her mother is dying.
The difficult climb up the mountain, done in spurts over several days acts as a catalyst for George and Jimmy to sort out the consequences of their lives. As they interact with each other and the two women, both learn that you can’t always get what you want in life, but the alternative can be a better road to take, or if you live too hard and selfish, sometimes it is too late to do anything but accept the consequences.
Joseph continues to write a compelling story with real-life characters that readers can relate to. Only one negative – I wish the actual years for the past would have been headlined at the beginning of each pertinent section as I got confused a few times, especially when Denise and Jimmy meet after seven years of not seeing each other and Denise has aged, but the timeline is not as far along as I thought. The only dates are the ones at the top of Denise’s letters to her mother and the odd reference by Jimmy to starting university in 1968. And I never did figure out exactly where in middle age George and Jimmy are when they meet in Peru.
But dates aside, I suggest reading In the Shadow of the Conquistador in one or two sittings to get the most out of it.
Sharon A. Crawford
Author of Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point
Shane’s books are available in the usual online places like amazon.com. He is also on Goodreads .
Read Shane’s blog posts Also included here is a list of Shane’s published books.
Shane’s recent guest blog post on Shannon J. Thompson’s blog
Book Review by Sharon A. Crawford at Indigo Chapters
For more information about Shane’s books and where they are available go to his publisher’s website.
Shane Joseph’s book is one of two being launched by Blue Denim Press Saturday, November 21, 2015. For more details, check the flyer below: