A Conversation with Brian Boger

January 17, 2014 


When I first picked up Southern Fate I thought because the author was an attorney it was just another legal thriller, but the opening didn’t neatly fit into the thriller formula.  I read on thinking perhaps it was a mystery but the first body didn’t show up until Chapter 9.  Obviously not a mystery, so I read on and suddenly it swept me up and blew me away like a hurricane.  The genre was literary and quintessentially Southern with elements of both mystery and thriller.  The novel centers on the inner story of a South Carolina attorney Frank Rhodes and the journey to his fate and fortune.

Introduced as a rather pathetic character Frank Rhodes is an accident prone klutz and a mediocre lawyer whose only passion is hunting and fishing.  The only thing making him worthy of attention is his extreme good looks.   Suddenly things change for Frank in a big way when he lands a windfall judgment instantly propelling him into the national spotlight.  On the road to money and fame he soon learns the bad news his wife is leaving him for another women.  And things get complicated quickly when a serial arsonists plaguing the city with one of the first victims being a member of Frank’s non-traditional family.  Meanwhile his brother teaches him an unorthodox method on how to get develop rhythm to thereby overcome his clumsiness, a lifelong affliction.

There is much going on in Southern Fate with numerous subplots.  The book is full unexpected plot twists and Boger takes the reader into areas past traditional Southern writers feared to tread.  He incorporates several popular motifs commonly found in Southern literature including sense of family and sense of place.  However we see some newer motifs developing. For example the non-traditional family and same sex relationships.  At a young age Frank’s father was killed by a burglar.  His mother and another single windowed mother with a son of similar age merged households to form a non-traditional family headed by two women.  While these women are heterosexual another non-traditional family with young children taking root when Frank’s wife leaves him for her same sex lover with young children.  These types of non-traditional modern family models are uncommon in traditional Southern literature but realistically capture today’s society.  Lesbian relationships have rarely been openly presented in such openly fashion and again capturing the dynamics of today’s modern families.

Another traditional motif is the sense of place.  Southerners are exceedingly proud of their region and as social historian Carl N. Degler once described the South as a region “where roots, place, family and tradition are the essence of identity”.   All of which are apparent in Southern Fate which in this jet age moves from Columbia to Charleston, New York, the Bahamas and Costa Rica.  However, make no mistake the stories beginning, middle, and end are deeply rooted in Columbia, and Boger does not spare the details of Columbia’s rich Civil War history recounting the tales of Sherman’s march.  Indeed the ghost of the War against Northern Aggression and the horrors Columbia faced under Sherman conjures up a deus ex machina villain the serial arsonist.  Like Bo Radley suddenly arriving on the scene and not a moment too soon.

This is perhaps the books one major shortcoming.  We never get to know the villain or his motivations only that he has targeted women belonging to the Daughters of the Confederacy in the name of Sherman.  There are no red herrings or clues to suggest anything about the character and his motivations.  The villain emerges in the end and disappears in a puff of fire and flames.  As a reader in the end I was left frustrated with too many questions as was Frank.  Perhaps this was the author’s intent.

As social issues and politics evolve with time so does a society’s literature, and Southern Fate stands as an exemplary work of modern Southern literature.   The author is a practicing attorney, the father of three.  He and his wife live in Columbia where he studied law.  He also holds a degree in English from the University of Virginia.  Brian Boger pushes the boundaries and thereby expands the conventional motifs placing him among the vanguard of new Southern writers.

I would dare suggest being on the future lookout for Brian Boger.  He expects to release his second title in 2014.  When asked about the project, he says “the working title is Champagne Friday.  It’s another legal thriller type book with some (surprise) literary themes like loss, redemption, vindication, and young men leaving their Bacchanalian Rite of Passage behind them for good women.  It’s a humdinger of a book developing strong female characters appealing to a broader female audience.  The women are cool.”

If the women are anything like the men of Southern Fate it should indeed be a humdinger.  Southern Fate is an incredibly delightful read, rich with local color and chocked with quirky characters.  Boger’s voice and style are a cross between John Gresham and John Brendt.   The state capital Columbia might want to get behind their adopted favorite son because Southern Fate could very well do for Columbia what Midnight In the Garden of Good Evil did for Savannah.

A review of The Master

September 23, 2012 

Freddie Quell is a drunken sailor with a combat related stress disorder and a drinking problem played by Joaquin Phoenix.  He returns from World War II after a stint in the South Pacific unable to hold down a steady job drifting on a course of self destruction.  He washes up on a boat sailing from San Francisco to New York under the direction of Lancaster Dodd founder of the Cause a sci-fi cult doctrine espousing time travel back to former lives to cure current ills.  The character Lancaster Dodd was inspired by and loosely modeled after Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.  While The Master is supposedly Quells story Dodd’s equally compelling biography competes for top billing.

Dodd seems to believe he and Freddie Quell share a past and manages to endear himself to the misfit.  While Quell is initially skeptical of the charismatic Dodd’s teachings he remains open and submits to a “Processing” a first step analyses.  The Cause “process” is eerily similar the Scientology Dianetics, L Ron Hubbard’s belief that individuals can free themselves of mental disorders and phobias by facing the traumatic incidents or “engrams” that block one’s mind.  Quell grows into a believer indeed a Dodd protector and bodyguard until the son Val Dodd (played by Jesse Plemons) exposes his father as a fraud.  Dodd sets out to cure Quell of his alcoholism or perhaps more to brain wash in an attempt to gain complete submission to the Cause.

Freddie Quells passes time as a member of the cult family but his manner and actions come into frequent conflict with others.  Quell’s loyalty to Dodd seems conflicted despite his violent defense of the crackpot.  Wracked by the memories of a youthful romance Quell finally realizes Dodd is con-man and stages his escape from Dodd’s hold.  He participates in a motorcycle game driving off into the Arizona sunset failing to return.  Years later Dodd tracks Quell down from his newly established London school and beckons Quell to join him.  Upon arrival Dodd as The Master demands Quell’s complete submission to the Cause.  The film climaxes with two men competing free wills clashing before departing.

It’s a complex surreal tale with Quell’s sexual libido frequently surfacing.  The cinematography, costumes and sets are superbly and amazingly authentic and true to the 1950s era.

The Master was written, directed, and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson.  He has written and directed six feature films: Hard Eight (1996), Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), and There Will Be Blood (2007). He has been nominated for five Academy Awards, There Will Be Blood for Best Achievement in Directing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, and Best Adapted Screenplay; Magnolia for Best Original Screenplay; and Boogie Nights for Best Original Screenplay. Anderson has been hailed as being “one of the most exciting talents to come along in years” and “among the supreme talents of today.”  The Master had its premiere at the 69th Venice International Film Festival.  Anderson compared Phoenix’s commitment to that of Daniel Day-Lewis for his level of concentration stating that Phoenix got into character and stayed there for three months.

This is the first film of 2012 receiving Oscar buzz due a large part to the Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Both may contend for Oscars as best actor and best supporting actor.

Poet and hip hop artist MV hits his mark

August 19, 2012 

Michael Victor Whatley, Jr., also known as MV, a rising poet, hip hop artist and playwright, was recently on the streets selling advanced copies of his self- published book of poetry Trying To Be Grown and caught the attention of Washington Post reporter Peter Hermann.  Profiled as a curios oddity, an “out of the ghetto” success story, the Post headline touted Former D.C. rec-league star turns to poetry to escape urban neighborhood and crime.  It is debatable whether MV’s biography represents an escape, moreover it’s a narrative illustrating a young man rising above environment discovering his talent and building upon it with self-reliance and discipline.

A DC native MV is a Speech and Theater major entering his senior year at Tennessee State University in Nashville.  He is one of many fortunate young men who thrive despite the adversity and crippling influences associated with growing up in the inner city.  Like most young men MV was drawn to sports hanging out at the Rosedale rec where he earned a reputation as an accomplished athlete.  At the same he was developing another interest in the written word.  He credits football with distracting him from being sucked into the street life and the neighborhood drug trade. Thanks to his aunt, grandmother and vigilant parental guidance that other interest ultimately held sway over his life and future.

At age 21 MV stands 5’7’, 125 pounds with a slight build, a brilliant smile, inquisitive eyes, and a gregarious and engaging personality all of which makes him more suitable for the stage than grid iron.  While his brief biography may be of interest it is his growing body of compelling work that deserves more scrutiny.  It reveals the essence of MV going about the business of an artist mastering his craft.  He speaks of the influences of Mos Def who rose from hip hop to stage and screen and a particular affinity for the most notable and influential rapper Nas.  MV’s book of poems Trying to Be Grown captures the experience of the young urban black male coming of age and undergoing the sometimes perilous transformation into manhood.  He speaks of loneliness, love and lust while trying to find his place in the world.  His poetic voice is tender and vulnerable at times introverted and deeply personal alternating to the outspoken and combative critical of the world around him.

Like poetry his music captures in form and feeling the hip hop genre’s elements of story-telling, subject matter, creativity, word play, metaphors, and delivery.  At this stage in his development–a raw talent undergoing maturation he’s moving towards mastering the art form.  While his work is sometimes punctuated with the raw underground qualities of the profane and the sexually explicit he is evolving toward a more artistic and sublime sound.  That evolution is evidenced on his Youtube channel mikemvw21.  Rhythmic hypnotic sounds abound on his new mixed tape titled Vol. 7.  Pride scheduled to drop September 7th at Datpiff.com.  Already a number of singles are generating buzz including Desperately WaitingOn my job, and Makes a songTrying to Be Grown is also scheduled to become available on Amazon September 7th.  MV has already attracted the attention of some major recording labels and hopes to break out in the near feature.  Meanwhile his play The Good Die Young expects will be staged by a university troupe this academic year.

With entrepreneurial hustle MV is following in the foot steps and tradition of great Black poets like the young playwright and poet Langston Hughes who made his mark self-publishing and self peddling his works as well.  MV is enthusiastically taking on the challenge of marketing and building a platform necessary for today’s digital market.

MV returned to his old neighborhood this summer greeted like a hometown celebrity by proud friends and family.  And to hear him talk, his native Rosedale and DC are forever with him–having never escaped, but away only a sabbatical.

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