Author:Vic Warren

Publisher:Turning Heads

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After a very few pages, a reader of Vic Warren's new novel, Stairway of the Gods, experiences both calm and anticipation. Both feelings arise from the author's obvious proficiency as a writer and his choice of principal characters worth caring about.

Proving that big oaks do indeed often spring from little acorns, Joan and Paul Webster manage to evolve from a casual "pick-up" on a Sausalito houseboat to a 25-year relationship of near heroic proportions. The higher and lower branches of the family tree are appropriately dispatched with a minimum of fuss so that the author can focus his full attention on the central dramatis personae.

Paul is the stereotypical writer who pays the bills in unromantic endeavors while all the time nursing the passion to write the Great American Novel (although it turns out that his eventual novel is anything but American). Joan is a talented art historian who finds more dream-related employment in museums. As befits their status as the protagonists of a romantic novel, both are gorgeous although the author gallantly focuses more attention on Joan's good looks.

Warren paints his story on a large international canvas while at the same time exhibiting an attention to detail that is almost microscopic. Fully equipped with a mastery of metaphor, simile, and alliteration--sometimes combining two of the three as in "the windows wept with the first rain of autumn"--Warren elevates the most prosaic experience into prose of an extremely high order, making the reading experience exhilarating almost regardless of what is happening, which is usually a lot, especially after his romantic novel morphs into a high adventure story.

Warren has a clear sense of irony. After a skilled doctor derides the superstitions of the local community, he invokes the equally spooky Christian deity to assist in the patient's recovery.

The novel is complex but never unclear, detailed but never boring. The author's complete saturation in the venues he writes about, be it California or the Philippines, gives the reader a vivid and comprehensive understanding of where the action is. Just as Paul finds it necessary to become a kind of modern day Ernie Pyle to write his book, Warren writes with the authority of first hand experience.

The side dishes are often as, if not more, delectable than the main course. Joan's sojourn to Los Angeles for a TV interview exposes economically the worst aspects of both academia and show business. Her meeting with an academic adversary teases the reader into one prediction, and then adroitly pulls the rug out.

Although it may seem ungrateful, it must be noted that once the story turns into a cross between King Solomon's Mines and Raiders of the Lost Arc, with the discovery of a cave full of bats, bones, and booty, the author adheres fairly faithfully to the adventure saga template. The bad guys fall like flies, and, of course, the worst is the last to be found.

At times, characters seem either to over react or under react to circumstance. And there are lesser flaws like thinking that the Macy's Day Parade, which occurs on Thanksgiving Day, is a part of "Christmas . . . and everything." At one point, Paul confesses that he shopped only once at Saks Fifth Avenue; he proves it by calling it "Sax." On page 31, Joan's initials are stated to be "JEW." It is not until page 69 that we learn that a woman known previously only as Joan Davis is Joan Elizabeth (Davis) Webster. This is suspense we don't need. Finally, the traps of "further/farther" have not been totally avoided.

If one wants to follow a captivating couple pursue their careers in exotic climes brilliantly described, Stairway of the Gods is just the right way to do it. The book would also probably make a terrific film. A fourth King Solomon's Mines? Why not?

Click Here To Purchase STAIRWAY OF THE GODS