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‘Primal’ by Deborah Serra

THE BOOK

With everything at stake, what are you capable of?  What if the worst happens and you are not a policeman, or a spy with weapons training and an iron heart?

 In this gritty crime thriller a family vacation takes a vicious turn when a fishing camp is invaded by four armed men.  With nothing except her brains, her will, and the element of surprise on her side, Alison must kill or watch her family die – and then things get worse.

A family vacation to a Lake Superior fishing camp turns ugly when the camp is invaded by four heavily armed men running from the law. The Burne brothers do not realize that one of the campers, thirty-year-old Alison Kraft, was sick, and so, when they burst into the lodge and pulled all of the hostages together she was not among them.

Outside the lodge, in the darkness, Alison stands, paralyzed watching in the icy drench of the pounding rain. This gentle woman is left with only her wits, and the element of surprise, to battle for the life of her husband and her child. She is alone. She will win, or they will die.

THE AUTHOR

Picture of author Deborah SerraDeborah Serra has been a screenwriter for twenty years and was recognized by the Writer’s Guild for her long term continuous employment. On assignment, she has written ten TV movies and numerous TV episodes, including two years as a staff writer for NBC.  She has sold two original feature films, completed two more on assignment, and optioned two others.  One is currently in active development.  She has been hired for production polishes on several films.

A complete biography of Deborah’s extensive and comprehensive work in the field of screenplay writing, for both the large and small screen, can be found here.

Deborah has taught writing at the University of California, San Diego, Wofford College, and continues to teach at writers’ workshops and conferences nationwide.

She has now turned her attention to writing novels and was a recipient of the 2012 Hawthornden Literary Fellowship, whereby she was invited to spend a month in residence in Scotland, writing.  Her first novel was a semi-finalist for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Award, given by the Faulkner Society in New Orleans, LA.

Although born and raised on the East Coast, Deborah has lived for many years in Southern California with her husband, three children, and several family dogs. She is currently working on two other books — a humorous travelogue about trips she has taken with her sister, and a literary novel that ties into her passion for science, exploring such themes as consciousness and free will.

The language, metaphor, and imagery of the prose matters a great deal to me. Some fiction writers rely solely on plot to carry their audience and I know that works for them. For me, there is nothing more important than a perfectly pitched image that you feel, that makes you grin, or cringe, or choke; this is what adds depth to the experience of a novel, and I always strive to create a sentence, or to a clothe a moment, with words that convey an emotion on their own – so the journey is richer.

Primal started as a screenplay and grew into a novel. The original story was written as a protest. When I started in screenwriting there was a tacit understanding that women couldn’t write hard action. If you wanted an action, thriller, or a gritty story you needed to hire a male writer. Well, that just annoyed me. I could write anything. So, I wrote Primal and I had my agent send it out under gender neutral initials so producers and studios would not know it was written by a woman. And, guess what? I had numerous offers. It really helped to break that glass ceiling of stereotypes.

WORDS FROM THE BOOK

Maybe you can learn something from a trip to hell if you survive with your world intact.

She has killed to save her family and now they’ve left her because she’s a killer.

She thinks if there is a God, and he was intent on creating monsters, the least he could do was make monsters look like monsters.

…. While I agree there are those who do not deserve to live, humans are fallible, the legal system is fallible, and so we cannot implement permanent solutions with fallible hands.

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK

“The Most Dangerous Place On Earth Is Between A Mother And Her Child”

Primal by name and Primal by nature, just about sums up this skillfully written, high octane and intensely powerful psychological thriller.

Primal love, longing, fear, hatred, loathing, violence, survival, retribution … the adjectives just keep coming to mind, to evoke the descriptive power, intensity and sheer strength of the writing, which held me mesmerised and in thrall, from the very first, to the very last word and beyond.

This is a perfectly plotted and plausible illustration, of just how one single moment in time, as an innocent bystander, can set in motion a chain of actions, which can change lives forever, damage the very fabric of a family with events which are so ferocious and stir up such raw and fierce emotions, that the consequences can chill to the bone.

An intriguing, well drawn, totally believable and unforgettable cast of characters, wove a plot and dialogue so full of realism and intensity, that I was constantly on the edge of my seat and engrossed, with the adrenaline pumping, as I tried to anticipate their next move.

Sitting on the outside looking in, I could almost feel the tension and intensity of the moment when Alison realises that Hank and Jimmy are in terrible danger, with the threat of their deaths being dangled as bait, in an attempt to make her capitulate and give herself up to her fate, along with her family and their camping companions.

However, this disparate, desperate and dysfunctional family gang of four brothers, completely loyal to each other in an almost unrestricted, cruel and lawless way, totally underestimates just what lengths Alison will go to, to protect and save the ones she loves. Using new found skills and a strength that she doesn’t know she possesses, her retribution and vengeance, against these would be assassins knows no bounds or limits in its violence and finality … Alison is not about to take prisoners!

Having been an only child, Alison, a normally mild mannered and quiet teacher, lives in her insular world, shying away from even her husbands large and boisterous family and the emotional demands that makes on her. However, not even the power of family connection can prepare any of them for the intensity of the  reactions which Alison exhibits in the aftermath of that fateful day. Even though physically her body has healed, her personality seems changed almost beyond recognition and her mind is honed into a constantly alert and defensive state, her senses more acute, focused and single-minded in her belief that the family’s ordeal is not yet over.

Despite Deborah introducing a couple of stabilising and calming characters to the mix, who mediate between the couple and try to reassure Alison that her constant fears are unsubstantiated, to husband Hank, it begins to look as though Alison has completely forgotten that both he and Jimmy are also constantly re-living the terrible events, of what started out out as quality family bonding time together and resulted in them all seeing things which will be indelibly etched on their consciousness forever. Just when it seems that the family are destined to separate and be irrevocably ripped apart at this crucial time in their recovery, Alison discovers that her female intuition, or mothers survival instinct, call it what you will, has not left her and that all her fears culminate in one last and very final chapter in the story, when her resolve and energy reserves will be put to the ultimate test, before she can relax and allow her mind and body to recover, as she refocuses on her family, safe in the knowledge that she has done her duty and been prepared to lay down her own life to protect the ones she loves and holds most dear.

Deborah has seamlessly adapted her screenwriting skills into writing a novel replete in observational details, full of mature and thoughtful dialogue, deep and emotional thought and containing excellent storytelling techniques in short and ‘punchy’ chapters, very reminiscent of the scenes in a film.

I can definitely see why ‘Primal’ might have started life as a screenplay and personally I think, that with the right cast, it has the makings of an excellent film.

As this book was a review request, a PDF of ‘Primal’ was sent to me by its author, Deborah Serra, free of charge.

This in no way influenced any comments I may have expressed about the book, in any blog article I have posted. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 5 out of 5.

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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6 comments
    • Hi Nikki,

      For me, this was psychological thriller writing at its very best.

      Any book that has me looking over my shoulder and jumping out of my skin in all the right places, is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

      It was totally absorbing and believable and would definitely be great film material.

      If you get the opportunity, you really should check this one out.

      Thanks for stopping by, I hope that you are well and enjoy your Sunday.

  • Primal sounds like a great psychological thriller Yvonne. Isn’t it crazy how a single moment in time can change a life forever? Alison sounds like a multi-faceted character, and like you mention, this sounds like it would play out nicely on film. Wonderful review!

    • Hi Naida,

      I like the word multi-faceted, wish I’d thought of that one, it sums up Alison pretty well.

      I think that the storyline, taken as a whole, really does illustrate just how one seemingly insignificant decision or action, can change not only your own life, but the lives of so many people around you as well.

      ‘Primal’ all stemmed from the simple idea of taking a family holiday and resulted in death and destruction way outside of any imagination.

      It certainly bolsters the view that we should all make the most of everyday, as we none of us know just what might be waiting for us around the next corner!

      I hope that you are well, it seems like ages since we last spoke.

      It is a cold and wet Sunday, here in Somerset, UK … I hope that you are enjoying your day so far.

    • Hi Joy,

      ‘Primal’ definitely has the makings of a good film. I have been trying to think of an existing film that I could use as a comparison, but as is always the case, ideas are always illusive when you actually need to recall them!

      I thought it was also interesting that Deborah felt the need to publish under a gender neutral name, after her negative experiences in the screenwriting industry. It just goes to show how things have moved on, as there are a whole raft of excellent female authors out there, writing some pretty gritty action thrillers, Deborah included.

      They don’t come much more gritty than ‘Primal’ and I certainly wouldn’t want to go through any of the scenarios that Deborah has subjected Alison and her family to, in the book.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by, I always appreciate the comments which are left.

Written by Yvonne

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