Friday, July 17, 2009


IN DEEP WATER is an historical novel by Dr. Barry Callen. Family, faith, fear and fortitude fill it with adventure, love, patriotism, and the conflicts of peace and war. I read it recently when I had a few days to sit down and spend some time reading.

This 2009 volume rumbles with violence and virtue, fear and faith. You can hardly read it without asking some serious questions and facing some challenging changes. For me, it raised questions. For example, someone asked whether a Christian could write a novel. I hardly understood the question because they do all the time [I love watching Janet Oke’s stories of love and life on Hall Mark Channel.

I saw no reason for the person to question Barry Callen writing a novel, although I wondered if he could create enough vulgarity and steamy scenes to satisfy the unsatiable appetites of current book reviewers. Could this lifelong Academician handle the writing differences required for entertaining reading.

Like other of Barry’s books, this story comes out of Barry’s real life in northeast Ohio. Growing up as the son of a WWII Merchant Marine, Barry uses the known facts to weave a story line about a WWII Submarine Commander Christopher McCord and the significant role he played in that war. Barry fills his story line with historical events from World War Two and produces a highly readable, thoroughly gripping, novel.

Although gifted with words, could Barry, the Christian scholar who carefully measures every word before putting it on paper, write with the terseness, the action, the gripping pathos, and the blood and guts that evidence the life of violence and fear? He doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

Yet, I would hardly expect Barry Callen to waste his brilliance on a merely entertaining story; would you? So, mix into this story a healthy measure of the deep and weighty issues of War and Peace and read of humanity struggling with its lowest common denominator.

Is it possible to adequately entertain the reader without wandering through the violence and vulgarity of the crude and the rude? Can you mix an entertaining story with a serious theme and hook a reader who is looking for something a mile wide and an inch deep?

I began my reading with more than a little skepticism and a few questions, even after Barry described his story line. I began with a prior appreciation of Barry’s previous writings; I had a special interest in how he would frame the issues of war and peace--a theme about which I am passionate. What I found was a story line that quickly snatched me up, carried me out into the rolling surf, and held me.

On a negative note, I found more editorial errors than I expected to find in a publisher of this stature (it is quite a miracle to produce an error free book). In a few instances I had to go back and re-read some of Barry’s sentence structures to get the flow of the sentence. It is not as easy as it sounds to transform an academic writer into a novelist that sometimes wads up all the rules of grammar and throws them at you one spitball at a time. Occasionally I found the steady cadence of the tediously detailed historian-philosopher coming through--typically Barry--(but we love you)!

What really came through was a gripping adventure, filled with images of pathos and intense emotion--a wonderful story line filled with adventure, heroism, patriotism, and faith. I could readily identify with my own WWII experiences. Barry drew me into his story, left me fully understanding throughout, but never made me wade through layers of muck and sewage to get there.

He shined his spotlight into many darkened corners and filled a wide range of nuanced niches of thought that both touched my emotion and overflowed my mind. Was I satisfied with my reading experience? You bet I was--abundantly. I was royally entertained by a host of characters with whom I easily identified.

However, just when I thought I had the story neatly packaged and ready to wrap--just when I thought I knew the full story--that’s when Barry threw me a curve ball--two surprises shaped the conclusion.

I began with personal interest in both the author and his theme. I waded through a few tedious spots, and was well rewarded with a warmly human story of this wartime family. As I finished, I carefully wiped the tears lest an observer see them running down my cheeks and glimpse my soft side.

From Warner’s World, thumbs up for IN DEEP WATER, Barry Callen’s newest book and first novel,

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