Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Second Watch
J.P. Beumont Novel
J. A. Jance
William Morrow
September 10, 2013 / ISBN 9780062134677

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

After The Fire
A Memoir in Poetry and Prose
J. A. Jance

William Morrow
September 10, 2013 / ISBN 9780062293978

The latest books by New York Times best-selling author J.A. Jance have very powerful themes. The mystery, Second Watch, is a J.P. Beumont novel in which the main character delves into his days in Viet Nam. Her second book, a re-release, After The Fire, is the author's memoir in poetry and prose about her years trying to save her alcohol addicted husband. Jance's writing style engrosses the reader in a storyline line that is full of insightful material surrounding her personal experiences.

She is a pioneer for working mothers because she overcame the attitude that women could not be mystery writers. Working Mother President Carol Evans said in June that "we've come so far;" yet Jance is a reminder of those women who had to fight the uphill battle in their careers. After The Fire has two references to her being shunned from the writing field. Jance tells of her husband being allowed into a creative writing class, in 1964, at the University of Arizona, while the professor refused her admittance because she was a woman. Instead of comfort, her husband commented, "There's only going to be one writer in our family and I am it."

Another prose in the book, entitled "Shifting Gears," tells of the slow change in attitude from the 1950s to the 1970s. It powerfully notes, "The vast majority of women from that era came complete with a panoply of mixed messages. This was a time when girls who wanted to become doctors became nurses; girls who wanted to become engineers became high school geometry teachers; girls who wanted to become ministers became ministers' wives; and girls who wanted to become writers married men who were allowed into creative writing programs that were closed to women."

Jance directly commented that even today there is still an uphill battle for some women. Her granddaughter's university advised her not to be an engineering major but to major in sociology. "Today those kind of messages are still there but they are not as blatant as it was with me. The good news is she chose to be an engineering major, one of four women out of a class of 47. Because she is at the top of her class the boys always request her to be in their study group." The lesson being today brains and grades overpowers any sexual bias.

But that was not always the case, and Jance acquiesced for fourteen years before starting her writing career. When she started writing, she was a single mom with two children, selling insurance to survive. To achieve her dream she was able to write only between 4 am to 7 am. Her on the job training was with her unpublished first book that taught pacing, dialogue, and expository writing.

Her first fictional novel features the character "Beaumont," her famous male Seattle police detective. Her first publisher listed her name as "J.A." Jance because of the belief that a female, during that time period, could not write a police procedural and would not appeal to the male readers, since these series of books had to be written from a male point of view. In fact, for her first six books there was no cover picture and no biography.

Looking at her fan base, it is obvious that she appeals to both male and female readers and no longer has to hide her identity. Now forty-six books and four series later, her just released novel, Second Watch, also includes a part of the author, or as she refers to herself, "writers are re-cyclers. There are huge pieces of me in my books." Jance is hoping that those reading her books are entertained but also are impacted by important issues.

Intertwined in Second Watch's fast paced murder plot are the potent issues of alcoholism, losing a loved one to the Viet Nam War, and the attempt to solve a cold case. The other release, After the Fire, is a memoir that chronicles her first husband's alcohol addiction, and her ability to rise above these dark times.

In both books Jance is able to create a storyline that is poignant and captivating. She does not lecture, and instead insightfully crafts very powerful plots. In reading her books people can get a glimpse into who she is and where she has been. Whether in biographical form as in After The Fire, or through her riveting characters, as in Second Watch, she writes about those who struggled with a problem and stood up to it without making any excuses.

Reviewed 2013