About the only thing I know about R. A. MacAvoy is that she’s female. Apparently she was born in my (former) neck of the woods in 1949 and attended Case Western Reserve University. This, apparently, allows her to make Cleveland jokes. (It’s okay. The Browns are enough of a joke for most of us.) She now lives in a horse pasture and writes full-time. This book, if I’m not mistaken, was originally published as an Amazon Short in 2005 and sold only as an ebook, entitled The Go-Between, until Sub Press picked it up for a September release.
Ewen Young is a painter by day and a kung fu master by night. His uncle Jimmy is his teacher, and one night, after an art show, several thugs jump him outside as a ‘message’ to said uncle. Soon thereafter, he goes to the kung fu studio and finds Jimmy shot in the head; the man who did it is still there and shoots Ewen in the heart. The next thing he knows, he’s in the hospital, on morphine. But every so often, he — isn’t there. Or particularly anywhere. The nurses accuse him of pulling out his IV, despite the fact that it’s out cleanly. Where is he going? And what’s going on?
This is a really short book — 98 pages — and it reads fairly quickly, as one might expect. It feels like a prequel; like this book was all the setup to explain why Ewen Young will be important in the next volume in which one encounters him. There were so many ideas contained in this book that feel like they should be expanded, from Ewen’s bamboo issues, to his relationship with his sister, and the mere presence of his brother-in-law. Actually, the bamboo and a related bonsai tree only appear in a few scenes but they were appreciated touches of humor in a story that, well, contains a fair amount of death and pain otherwise.
Ms. MacAvoy even admits that Ewen was based on Jet Li, and the story was highly influenced by kung fu films. Readers familiar with the genre will almost be supplying the narration and music on their own. Other than relatively few fight scenes, this would make an excellent movie. Her combination of humor, action, and Zen Buddhism make for a thrilling ride, and the fantastic elements (mostly related to the aforementioned Buddhism) add an otherworldly spice to an otherwise straightforward narration. The adaptation, of course, would require Ewen to heal from his gunshot wound a lot more quickly, in order to flip and kick his way to an appropriate conclusion.
I cannot, unfortunately, find any indication that there will be more in the series. Ms. MacAvoy’s productivity has slowed down over the last ten years, and she does not appear to have her own website. Although it is a complete story in and of itself, I do so wish that we would see Ewen and his family more. As a lead character, I enjoyed him — the seeming conflict between his painting career and his kung fu calling kept me interested, and now that he seems to have some extra powers, I definitely feel that he could sustain an entire full-length novel on his own. 4.5/5 stars.