Jack Waters

Written by Scott Adlerberg
Review by John Kachuba

Jack Waters is a professional gambler, the indolent son of a Confederate war hero who died at Shiloh when Waters was a baby. The shallow Waters lives by only two moral principles: never allow cheaters to go unpunished, and never fail to pay a gambling debt. Adhering to the first by stabbing to death a young man who cheated at poker turns Waters into a fugitive from the law. Fleeing to an anonymous island in the West Indies, Waters beats the despotic ruler of the island in a game of poker, but the man refuses to pay his debt. Waters joins with a rebel insurgency to try to reclaim his money from him.

The novel is based on an interesting storyline, but it never fully delivers. Much of the action is off-page. A crucial part of the story, in which Waters and the wife of the American ambassador are in danger of losing their lives by rejoining the rebels, never appears on the page; all the reader sees is the aftermath of their decision without knowing what happened. There are also some intriguing puzzles whose answers are, again, off-page. Examples of this are the scenes in which Waters and the rebel leader give each other naked massages. These scenes more than hint at homosexual relations, but that theme goes unexamined.

The elements of an engaging novel are all here, but the work suffers from a lack of content editing. Tighter editing in that regard would have created a more gripping narrative.