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Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Since I began writing reviews for East Niagara Post, I have had several people drop off books at my house or at work that were written by local people. The book I am reviewing today was loaned to me by a regular at the office of my normal job. I will read almost anything dropped off to me.

Buried in the Altar of the Ark by Dennis LeVick is a thriller that seeks the remains of the Ark piloted by Noah and the secrets that it holds. The book has all the requisite action, drama, love, cliffhangers, and stereotypical evil henchmen that all good thrillers rely on for effect.

When a secret tomb is discovered by American Special Forces, it leads to the possible discovery of the resting place of Noah’s ark. According to deciphered text that is found, amid the ruins of the ship is the secret to the longevity that allowed Noah to live for 950 years. The United States government has a vested interest in controlling this information, if it is true. At the same time, our villain, a human trafficker, believes that he should control it for his own immense profits.

On the surface, this is a fantastic premise for a book. It has the historical intrigue of a Biblical thriller, much like the Dan Brown series. There’s the token antagonist who is out to steal everything for himself, human lives be damned. Reading the back cover, I thought this could be a great book.

LeVick spent 20 years in the Air Force, which gave him a unique insight as to the workings of a military force on site in a foreign country. His detail on equipment and procedures is probably very accurate. He recites some of this information in a comprehensive manner, although it is quite rote and quite dry.

Unfortunately, the book is not very well written. There are some issues with continuity. The author changes verb tense in the same paragraph. At the very beginning of the book, the Secretary of Defense is pointed out to be the first female Secretary, but a couple pages later, the same character is noted as twisting “his” thumbs.

Additionally, the page and chapter setup leaves the reader scratching his or her head throughout the book. There are no breaks for scene changes. We simply read the end of one set of action and the next sentence would be a different set of characters in a different location. This could turn off some readers. As an avid reader, I was annoyed with this constant occurrence. A simple extra space as a break would suffice and give the reader a chance to gather their thoughts.

Character development is a serious issue throughout this novel. They are slapped together stereotypes who have no real depth and do not grow in the course of the narrative. Probably the most egregious example of this is the arch-villain, Dietrich Wolff. A uber-wealthy businessman, Wolff is described as sadistic in the book’s summary. He is a very successful human trafficker. Despite the heinous nature of his livelihood, real people like Wolff are extremely savvy and make competent decisions in order to keep making money while avoiding capture by authorities.

In this book Dietrich Wolff is an aggressive, unthinking behemoth of a villain. Everything he does is spur of the moment, always a spectacular failure, and is undertaken with unbridled fury. A man in his position does not get there by being as compulsive as Wolff is portrayed. You could say he is the Snidely Whiplash of the villains.

The love interest between Mike and Patril seems abrupt and forced, almost like it was added to add another level of danger to the lives of the characters. There was no lead-in to the relationship. The two of them simply started hiding their feelings from each other without ever really interacting with each other. We move too quickly without enough explanation.

The action in the story suffers from the same lack of lead-in and lackluster development. In the three interactions between Wolff or his men and the US team on Mount Ararat, the attack takes place and is resolved in the matter of a few paragraphs. Most unfortunately, after a weak, book-long build up to a final confrontation between Wolff and main protagonist, Trevor Hardinger, Wolff is dispatched in two quick sentences.

As I said before, the premise of this book is simply fantastic. The skeleton of the narrative is there; it just needs a little more meat on the bones. I think this is the perfect example of where having a bonafide editor would be essential. An editor could help take this premise and polish it into a bestseller. There is no doubt in my mind that the story could be that good. This book feels rushed without a lot of substance.

Is this book worth reading? Yes, it is. Could it use some spit and shine? Absolutely. I truly believe that it would be worth the investment for the author to hire an agent and editor to help with this novel. With the right guidance, we could find ourselves watching a movie based on a bestseller written by a Niagara County author.

Dennis LeVick has written a great initial draft with Buried in the Altar of the Ark. With a little more time and energy, this will be a fantastic book to read. I’ve heard that he’s working on a second novel. I sincerely hope he continues to work on making his first book that much better.

+Craig Bacon  encourages anyone with the desire to write to do it as much as possible. Follow some of his writing on Twitter at @hippieboy73.



East Niagara Post is the official media sponsor of Hockey Day in Lockport.

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