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Wednesday December 11th 2019

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Hobbes in the House: Decent job on ‘Roaches’

By DWIGHT HOBBES

What is a more repulsive household nuisance than the cockroach? On top of which, these nasty insects infest everywhere, into everything and are hell to get rid of. 

Samuel J. Kapelac’s suspenser “Roaches” (Xlibris Corporation) takes things a fresh-crawling step further.  

Imagine this scuttling, hard-to-kill pest as something much more serious than an annoyance.  As a threat to human life. A creature whose venomous bite kills.  Within a few hours. Wielded by a deranged misanthrope with an imagined axe to grind, hell-bent on homicide.   

The author relates, “Once in the confines of the basement he unlatched a cage that contained the deadly ‘spracata cucaracha’.  With a pair of long forceps he picked up from a nearby counter, he placed two of the cockroaches into the small case and snapped it shut.  He muttered some nonsense under his breath and proceeded upstairs. To most people John Harper appeared to be a stable man. He was an educated, neat, congenial, well-dressed man. A pillar of stability. On the inside he was a mad man.” Indeed, a 24-karat candidate for the funny farm.

Admirably ambitious, Roaches marks a viable if ultimately serviceable debut by this Minneapolis businessman trying his hand at writing.

Kapelac, vital to the craft, strikes the reader’s interest at the outset and sustains it an even clip, unfolding the story at a measured pace, sustaining a gradual build. He draws distinct characters, has a good touch with imagery.

Jill, wholesome enough to have stepped out of Norman Rockwell painting, is smart with a pleasant disposition, perceptive and, true to her scientific calling, curious as a cat. She also frustrated, holding a freshly minted Masters in Entomology with nowhere professional to hang it on the wall. So, she settles for a job as a secretary at a bank.  Ironically, it gets her much closer to bug research than she ever bargained for when she winds up working for Harper.  Before long, her oddball boss turns out to be of more consequence than just some eccentric.  

Following up on a few hunches, before she knows it Jill following up, is before she knows it, up to her neck-deep in danger she was too busy looking for to see coming.

The proof of any story is whether you care about the characters and are invested in the central conflict. Accordingly, Roaches passes muster. And, in fact, would work well as, say, a SyFy television movie. Especially with the obligatory love interest and the formulaic arrival of a private eye to help get the goods on this madman. However, it would’ve strongly benefited from some basic editing. First to economize the wordiness. And to correctly format the characters’ conversations – when one speaks, the rule is to indent for a new paragraph.  So that congested word flow doesn’t clutter the page. Dialogue Writing 101. The tone is stiff, pedestrian, the romantic goings on sophomoric to the point of being clumsy.

Samuel J. Kapelac does a decent job his first time out.  Imaginably, a bit of experience under his belt, he’ll do better a second time around.

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