Review - Front Porch Prophet - Raymond L. Atkins

front porch prophet Synopsis

What do a trigger-happy bootlegger with pancreatic cancer, an alcoholic helicopter pilot who is afraid to fly, and a dead man with his feet in a camp stove have in common?

What are the similarities between a fire department that cannot put out fires, a policeman who has an historic cabin fall on him from out of the sky, and an entire family dedicated to a variety of deceased authors?

Where can you find a war hero named Termite with a long knife stuck in his liver, a cook named Hoghead who makes the world's worst coffee, and a supervisor named Pillsbury who nearly gets hung by his employees?

The answers to these questions can be found in Sequoyah, Georgia, the home of A.J. Longstreet and his lifelong friend and sometime adversary, Eugene Purdue.  Share in the relationship between these two men as they experience Eugene's final days.  Observe their friendship as they explore the concepts of fidelity, brotherhood, mortality, and euthanasia from a decidedly Southern perspective.

Take this gripping journey to North Georgia and witness A.J.'s inner struggles as he confronts the realities of Eugene's impending demise. Accompany A.J. on his journeys to the past as he revisits the people and places who made him what he is.  And join him as he makes the decision that will alter his life forever.


When I received an email saying that review copies of Front Porch Prophet were available, I thought the plot sounded very engaging. I was not expecting the tremendous story I found in these pages. By far one of my top reads for 2008, The Front Porch Prophet is a tale that grabs you tight and doesn't let up till you've reached the end.

In the small town of Sequoyah, Georgia you'll find many of the things that come to mind when you think of a close-knit Southern community. Everyone is connected whether by blood, marriage or the fact that if you're hungry the only place to grab a meal is the restaurant with a sign in the window that may proclaim it, "The Jesus Loves Tator Tots Drive-In" or "The Christ Died For The Best Fried Chicken In The County Drive-In". The spotlight, however, mainly highlights the long and sometimes turbulent friendship between A.J. Longstreet and Eugene Purdue. These two men are more different than oil and water, but they've been through it all together and after a falling out they are being brought back together on the top of Eugene's Mountain, where you need to be wary of ricocheting bullets and a predatory dog who watches you like a sniper. But it's not a happy reunion between these friends because Eugene is looking death square in the eye, and he needs his friend A.J. to help him tie up his numerous loose ends. Can these friends come together and find whatever it is that made them pals all their lives? Can A.J. right all Eugene's wrongs and help him through the gates of heaven? And will Eugene end up accidentally blowing his mountain up some night?

Front Porch Prophet was an unstoppable read, narrated wonderfully by A.J. Longstreet, we are pulled straight into the drama of his life. Raymond L. Atkins uses brief trips down memory lane to help layout the history of his characters and to establish the many relationships found in this story. The two main characters are brought to dazzling life, surrounded by an amazing cast of secondary characters who are as integral to the story as they are strange. The author clearly has a knack for character development, there are times when I had trouble believing these were actually fictional people. The writing is further enhanced with clever dialogue that makes you both laugh and sigh.

Pacing and plotlines are both very strong, Raymond L. Atkins writes as though he doesn't want his reader to stop for a breath. And indeed that is how I felt while reading, even with many chapter breaks and steady changes in environment, I never felt like stopping. You could say that Front Porch Prophet is a very character-driven story, but it is also extremely emotion-driven. While you wouldn't expect a novel with two southern men to contain or present much emotion, this book fairly bursts with feeling. It is near impossible not to become connected to the people involved.

Front Porch Prophet is an incredible novel that explores many different issues including death, family, remorse and forgiveness. But the aspect I felt most, was the power of friendship, and how it moves beyond just knowing and liking someone and changes into knowing their soul and how they have altered and enhanced your life. This is an engaging and powerful read that has been made more tangible by the addition of everyday events and humour. I cannot recommend Front Porch Prophet highly enough and I look forward to many, more novels from this talented author.

About The Author

Raymond L. Atkins resides in north Georgia with his wife.  They live in a 110-year-old house that they have restored themselves and have four grown children who drop by from time to time.  Raymond has had a variety of occupations during the past 35 years, but now that the children are grown, he is pursuing his lifelong ambition of being a novelist and writer.  His hobbies include reading, travel, and working on the house.  His short stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. 

His humorous columns appear regularly in The Rome News-Tribune, Purple Pros, and Memphis Downtowner Magazine.  He is a contributing editor to both Maintenance Technology Magazine and Lubrication Management and Technology.  He is a regular contributor to the National Creative Society newsletter.  His first novel—The Front Porch Prophet—was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 and is available at your favorite bookseller.  His second novel—Sorrow Wood—will be published by Medallion Press in August of 2009.

Author Website

Published by Medallion Press

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Rachel said...

This looks like a great read, and I'll be adding it to my To Be Read list. I think at times it's hard to find unique pieces of work, but it looks like this is one!

Maree said...

Sounds like a great read _ I love great characters like that!

naida said...

this sounds very interesting, great review!
I like how you say 'this book fairly bursts with feeling'.

Sherry said...

OK, I'll bite. I like real Southern novels with humor.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't lucky enough to get a review copy, but this book definitely caught my eye... I'll be taking a closer look! ... great review

Book Zombie said...

I'm so glad I read this, but I don't think I can wait till next summer to read his next book!!

That's the only bad thing about finding this book LOL

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Thanks for the review! I hadn't heard of this one, but I love Southern lit and don't read many from the male point of view, so I'll be really interested to read this one!