A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Amish is trendy, not as trendy as vampires, but still quite popular. Beverly Lewis and others have made a rather good living writing about the Plain People. A less well known author of this topic is Paul L. Gaus, who still lives in Ohio, my home state. I’m not sure why he uses his initials, unless it’s to fit in with the other Amish series, which are mostly written by women.
I started with Gaus’s first book, Blood of the Prodigal last winter, on a grey, cold day and the mood permeated that book and the next.It wasn’t only the weather that made me struggle with my response to the books, it was the author’s style; his repetition of certain terms, too much detail of trivial things and getting lost in descriptions of clothing, instead of moving the plot forward. He was more interested in showing us how much he knows about the Amish, instead of telling a story.
His third book, Clouds Without Rain, I read in late spring and there was a marked improvement in the writing, he focused on the storyline instead of all the micro details of clothing and work habits. He showed off less. So the positives of his work– a good mystery and the conflicts between Amish and modern culture, shone through. And the droning style of his descriptions, which can detract from the story’s flow has lessened.
The books center on three main characters, who have all known each other since childhood. Michael Branden, history professor at the fictional Millersburg College, who specializes in the American Civil War. Cal Troyer, a pastor who often counsels troubled Amish. And Sheriff Bruce Robertson, the head of law enforcement in the area. There are also spouses, co-workers and friends who are well drawn and as likable as the main three. One of Gaus’s strengths is a good sense of character interaction and showing the meaning of things unsaid. There are often two or three strands of mysteries through the stories and a range of issues tackled, from the typical drug abuse and kidnapping to unusual ones such as genetic disorders. By showing the impact of crimes on the Amish community, we gain a greater understanding of how they affect society at large.
I’ve now read the first six novels Gaus has written and have been impressed with the improvements in his technique. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how the series progresses.
Ohio University Press 1999-present Each are between 180-200 pp. Available in hardback or ebook formats