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Author: Phil Harvey

Publisher: Lost Coast Press

ISBN: 978-1-935448-11-2 (PB)

ISBN: 978-1-935448-18-1 (e-book)

Approach this novel through its setting: Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world, notable for its cold temperatures. It is the northernmost of the five Great Lakes, and deep, as deep as 1,332 feet (733 below sea level), the second lowest spot in North America. The water 660 feet down remains almost constantly at 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Above ground, on shore, in the winter, the air might be 20 degrees below zero. Bordered by Ontario in Canada, and northern reaches of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin in the United States, Lake Superior is largely in forested wilderness, and “wild” describes the 20-foor waves that crash onto the enormous rocks during storms. I have a watercolor painting of this lake’s fury in this very room where I write. It recalls the day my dad took my mother, brother and me, on skis, to Lake Superior’s edge in March when the ice was breaking up with horrendous booms, cracks and crashes. You can find videos of similar scenes on YouTube. Have a look before you start SHOW TIME. Then try to settle in:

Seven people are purposely marooned on uninhabited Peshekee Island one mile wide, seven long, in the middle of Lake Superior (at max 160 miles wide, 350 miles long). They have less food than they will need, by arrangement with the producers of “reality” television. Some have weapons. Hidden among the forested acres are dozens of cameras and microphones, and at regular intervals drone monitors swing over the island. The producers want everyone in the world to watch the conflicts that arise through the winter months. The campers’ goal is not just to survive, but to make money, $400,000 each if they don’t bail out or cheat. The TV folks need to bolster their ratings; the seven people willing to risk their lives are promised bonuses if the ratings go up. The plot of SHOW TIME revolves around the participants’ desire to make the adventure more dramatic than it is on Day 71, when they secretly plan to fake a murder. Meanwhile, the producers must please the Emir of Pan Arabia, a “super subscriber” who can dictate content. He wants to see more sex. There are many others paying $10,000 to watch 24/7. It’s life or death on the island and in the studio.

Seven personal histories, horrific and touching, are gradually revealed through the island dialogue. That’s quite a remarkable achievement, as the exchanges are spare, essential to maintaining the edginess of the present. The tale also looks forward with its advanced technology befitting the covert actions that become necessary. Especially cunning is the one-man submarine. Yet the tools that count most are knife and stick.

I chose SHOW TIME in hopes of recapturing a sense of place. Phil Harvey does a masterful job of putting the reader in touch with raw nature, down to a spider’s web. The first big thunderstorm gave me goosebumps. But his main effect is to depict human beings discovering their own rawness when given an opportunity to turn their lives around by becoming prey to each other. The author states in an interview (in the publicity packet) that, in our society, violence and death are exploited as entertainment, and our policymakers encourage violence to keep our appetites for violence satisfied.

Most of my friends watch the world news and despair over the greed, bloodshed, and starvation revealed nightly. I found SHOW TIME valuable as a reminder that there are probably billions of people hooked on lust, mistrust and violence, provided continuously by profiteers manipulating the visual “arts.” One might ask if those of us devoted to print mysteries and thrillers are addicted to violence, too. I honestly believe that the designation “fiction” is a wall that keeps us from being sucked in. But it could be argued…

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