Truck drivers don’t often get to play the hero in popular fiction, which immediately gives author Argent Amos’s CALIFORNIA ROLL (A Paranormal Journey) a fresh feel. Protagonist Noah Sowles is a frightened old man at the beginning of the book, afraid to spend a night alone in his rig. Nearly 70 years old, he’s still guided by the ghosts of his youth: his father’s disappointment when Sowles refused to fight in Vietnam, and his mother’s deep-rooted Christian faith. Sowles’s parents are long gone by the time the story opens, but their memories are all he has left; his chances of finding love and starting a family of his own have long since passed.
Sowles’s world is upended when he is kidnapped and taken to an illegal marijuana farm in Northern California. The farm’s enigmatic host, Fin Scully, treats Sowles to a feast of wine and lobster tails, urging him to transport a truckload of drugs into Mexico. When Sowles refuses, he is tossed into a torture chamber. The trials, tribulations, and temptations of Noah Sowles are biblical—echoing Satan’s temptation of Jesus, or the extreme sufferings of Job. Indeed, Fin Scully might be the devil himself, and he puts Sowles through the wringer before the old trucker agrees to play a pawn in Scully’s plan. This leads to the most enjoyable section of the book: Noah’s road trip with a racist henchman named Aaron. The story takes on a “buddy film” feel at this point, blending the humor of “48 Hours” with the serious racial topics of “In The Heat Of The Night.” Amos imbues CALIFORNIA ROLL with a ’70s vibe that mines raw material from blaxploitation cinema. Aaron eats bad truck stop sushi and falls ill, giving Sowles a chance to escape Scully’s devious plan. The climax is a bit underwhelming and repetitive, so hopefully Amos’s next novel will be more tightly edited. Overall, CALIFORNIA ROLL is a gripping thriller with a truly original protagonist. Amos combines elements of Walter Mosley and Raymond Chandler to forge a unique literary voice.
Argent Amos’s CALIFORNIA ROLL (A Paranormal Journey) is a unique and intriguing story helmed by a blue-collar Everyman who transforms into an action hero (and possibly a pawn in a demonic game).
~Rob Errera for IndieReader