“Detective Charlie Baker was not in a good mood.” Thus begins the story. What to call Double Service? A World War II mystery? A love story? Rather than give a proper review, I’d like to delve into the editing process behind this book, given that I, Trent P. Lewin, edited the thing. That’s right. Me. And yes, that means I’m totally biased about the thing, so there!
I edit naked. True story. There is something liberating and breezy about sitting down at your computer sans clothing and imagining the mental processes of Art Browne (known on the cover of Double Service as A.H. Browne). It allows you to commune with his body and mind, even from far away, almost as though he were there tickling your fanny as you make your way through 205 pages (twenty two chapters) of this novel. Fanny-touching aside, I would like to note that not a sip of alcohol touched these delicate lips as I delved through the book over some several weeks. There is a good reason for that. I, intelligent and Canadian as I may be, wanted to concentrate on what the heck was happening in the story – and despite that smart-ass Canadian-ness, I could never quite figure out what the mystery was. This is a whodunit, with plenty of culprits and potential evil-doers – but picking the right one? Good luck.
As I read through the opening chapter, it became abundantly clear that the most singular character in the story was Warrant Officer Lewin (no relation). Described as a short but muscular individual with hard hazel eyes and a nose that looked to have been broken a few times, Lewin was incredibly lovable, very masculine, likely endowed with a massive member, and possibly the crux of the entire story. You’d have to read the book for yourself to understand.
What occurred to me most about this book during my various editing gyrations was that several important conventions (clichés?) were absent. There is one in particular, relating to the overall love story (which is done very well and tenderly – I love you Art!) that stands out. I won’t spoil it. I can’t spoil it. I want to spoil it… No! I won’t. By the way, I write my book reviews naked too. It alarms the family, but they’re used to it now. Anyway, what Mr. A.H. Browne has done here is to keep me guessing, as it relates to the big picture and to the motivations of pretty every main character, and that’s not an easy thing to do in this the age of narrative overload, where we see pretty much every permutation of every archetype on a regular basis. I have to say, this unpredictability was the thing that kept me at the editing process.
The characters? Sterling. Detective Charlie Baker, in particular, is our hero (that’s not a spoiler). The ride he goes on is difficult, painful, and uncertain, but he plays to a certain grist rightly attributed to British culture circa World War II that smacks of truth. This a man that does, but one faced with a mystery that thwarts him at every turn, until the truth comes crashing down on him in the most unexpected way, and in the most unusual setting. I had a real liking for his righthandman Billy, too. And of course the love interest was captivating, but I don’t want to at all delve into spoiler territory here… Just saying. The other string of characters creating a long line of information that adds to and subtracts from the story is fantastic – topped by the overtone of those wretched Nazis, of course. Join that with a realistic setting in World War II London (Mr. Browne, I think, has done his research here), and you have a fun read.
My wife assures me she will be reading this book next, but fully clothed (she is barbaric that way). There is no accounting for taste!
At any rate, I am proud to have helped Mr. Browne with this novel. In honour of his accomplishment, I’m giving away two copies of the book – but at a price of course. Your job is but to write a ten-word short story on any topic. No more or less than ten words. Be striking, be funny, be wonderful, be provocative, be anything. A copy to the two most memorable stories that are produced! I’m giving everyone until the 31st (that’s one whole week!) to come up with submissions. Just write them up in the comments section. I promise not to judge naked. Promise promise promise!