A Coward's Guide to Oil Painting - Book Review

A Coward's Guide to Oil Painting

Author: MM Kent
Genre: Fiction - Mystery - General
Publisher: Wings and Roots LLC
Date Published: July 15, 2020
ISBN-10: 978-1-7350812-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-7350812-1-2

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Book Review of :  A Coward's Guide to Oil Painting


MM Kent, author of A Coward’s Guide to Oil Painting, is a genius. Not only is he a recognized painter in the world of art, but also a creative wordsmith. His novel begins with an explosion. Set in 1969, the plot weaves from West Texas to New Orleans, Mexico, and back to Texas with minute details that make the storyline believable. It is obvious that the author is well acquainted with his settings and the historical timeframe of the era of free love, civil rights, politics, race relations, and the Vietnam War. Perhaps he even lived in some of the scenes he narrates. It should also be noted that the novel’s captivating cover is a creation of Kent’s extraordinary grasp of art.

Kent’s character, Blaine Grayson, is believed to have been killed when his small private plane loaded with Mexican marijuana crashes in a bleak West Texas cow pasture. The story then gives a glimpse of Blaine’s back story as the scene shifts to his younger brother, Cliff, and his brief, life-changing encounter with a woman whose identity he failed to get. The saga continues with the two main characters, Mariah and Cliff, alternately telling their stories as they independently set out to learn the truth about Blaine’s airplane accident. During the search, Mariah poses nude for painting and sculpture classes, while Cliff paints in watercolor and later in oils.

Kent is a master in developing believable characters, as in:  “A tall gaunt man…the image of a funeral director or a riverboat gambler, pale-skinned… in a black vest, crisp white long-sleeved shirt, black slacks and shined shoes.  A large bent nose, wire-rim glasses, and a New York accent….”  Both Cliff, a young high school graduate running from the law and Mariah, a wild hippy chick, are complex and believable. They each advance the plot with alternating action, flashbacks and mysterious surreal experiences. The author weaves artistic theories, terms and techniques to create multiple layers of meaning like a palette knife painting including marijuana smuggling, murders, greed and grief. Sensuous action, music lyrics, luscious landscapes, Spanish language and delicious Mexican dishes make a spicy mixture, but when Mariah slides a slimy oyster down her throat and gags, “It comes back up, and [she] chase[s] it across the table with a napkin, snagging it before it heads to the floor.” White-knuckled action may get under the skin and into a reader’s nightmares but the bleak shadows of despair and mayhem are highlighted with quirky humor. A background quest for romance, a kidnapping, political intrigue and murder combine to bring the story to a roaring, twisted climax.

The visual imagery expressed in a painting and the mental imagery evoked by coherent writing are both forms of imaginative communication. Rarely does a visual artist/creative writer successfully accomplish both as well as Kent has done with A Coward’s Guide to Oil Painting. 

Reviewed by: Carole W

About MM Kent


MM Kent is not just another old man telling lies. As a professional artist for 34 years, he's exhibited work in fourteen states and won awards on both coasts. Kent draws on his experience painting in the naturalish traditon to infuse his debut novel with the kind of art lore an author can only acquire from first-hand experience. An athlete and grandpa, both a skeptic and a romantic, Kent lives in Fayetteville Arkansas with his wife, Anne, his painting studio and his garden.

Visit http://www.mmkent.net for more information on MM Kent


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