How much would you risk to maintain your integrity? John Paul McKinney’s novel, Charlie’s Angle, explores concepts of integrity and commitment within the boundaries of a clever, original, character-driven story. I don’t want to oversell the theme, because this isn’t an afternoon television show with a lesson attached. McKinney’s novel is good adult drama.
Charlie Brannigan is a principal in a small-town Wisconsin high school. He faces two challenges that inform each other. His wife suffers from a serious illness, so Charlie needs his job. And, Catherine Newsome, a prominent member of the school board, has asked for the resignation of one of Charlie’s teachers. Catherine’s son Tommy flunked math. Tommy is a star athlete, and the failing grade has consequences. The stakes escalate when Charlie discovers that the stars of the team engaged in hazing ceremony.
Integrity is easy when the cost is small. And the Newsome family has clout. McKinney’s tale inserts the essence of power ypolitics into the nuts and bolts of his plot. Couple this with a deep understanding of human behavior and the attending motivations, and you have a drama worth reading. McKinney is a fine author, and this is a wonderful novel.
The story’s setting is important. If you grew up in a small town, you’ll recognize Waumeka. Between Charlie and his town, a kind heart runs through the spine of this tale, which helps balance the disturbing and realistic political machinations that occur. Charlie is a good guy—a principal with principles—and you find yourself rooting for him. (Five stars out of five)
Note: I just learned that Charlie’s Angel took third place for literary fiction in the CIPA Awards (Colorado Independent Publishers Association). Kudos to Mr. McKinney!