Blueink Review

Randy Harvey’s Thomas Clayton is a well-plotted modern-day noir with plenty of hardboiled characters and crookedness to entertain readers. Set in a small Oklahoma town, the story begins with teen Thomas Clayton (T.C.) losing his family in a tragic car accident. His father’s half brother, oil baron Boats Nichols, whom T.C. despises, is not cut out to raise the boy, so a kind couple looks after T.C. But Boats has plans for T.C., putting him to work as an oil rigger and persuading the boy to try out for the local football team. T.C. grows into a powerful and fearless young man, falling in love with Mar. But her ex-boyfriend, a tough young man, makes life miserable for the pair.

Meanwhile, a local doctor has been murdered and a box of photos has gone missing. Boats and the other powerful members of the clandestine organization Combine scramble to figure what they can do about the incriminating evidence that will clearly send most of them to jail. The implacable sheriff investigates the crime, and as the conspiracies mount, one murder after the other takes place.

Soon, it becomes clear that Boats and his cohorts are being framed by those intent on snatching Boats’ oil fortune. As the story unwinds, Boats imparts a dark secret to T.C. that paints an entirely different picture of the real man whom the young boy once hated.

Author Randy Harvey writes in a terse, detailed and hyperkinetic style that suits the noir genre. In his efforts to spin a thrilling tale, however, he may have sacrificed some credibility by making some of the “good guys” just as coldblooded as the “bad guys.”

Though some readers may find this unsettling, the author’s deft blending of the stylistic elements of noir— dark characters, sparring (if sometimes stilted) dialogue and downbeat small town politics— make for a fast-paced read.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Clarion Review

Four Stars (out of Five)

Randy Harvey’s first novel,

Thomas Clayton, is an artfully crafted coming-of-age tale and a riveting read containing all the elements of a suspenseful first-class thriller. Adversity strikes early and often in Thomas Clayton “T. C.” Gurley’s life in rural, oilrich Oklahoma. At fifteen, T. C. loses his father, mother, and sister in a car accident. Then, his father’s half-brother, Boats Nichols, the owner of Nichols Casing and Oil Company, boots T. C. out onto the street. Even after family friends take him in and he finds a girlfriend, trouble tracks him at school, on the football field, and under the umbrella of the shady business affairs his uncle Boats and his Oklahoma Combine cronies set up to steal land, defraud investors, and even cover up murder.

In fact, Harvey’s novel contains two cleverly integrated stories. The first is told in first person by T. C. and describes his progress from a naive adolescent to a young man with the responsibilities of a husband and father running a business he inherits from his estranged uncle after their reconciliation. The second plot, with the threads of its third-person narrative intricately woven into the first, details the hunt for the murderer of a town blackmailer, the search for the dead man’s incriminating files, and the domino effects as others uncover nasty secrets like incest, adultery, and plots for murder.

The predominance of well-paced dialogue in both stories keeps the action moving. Readers will remain interested as events unfold with surprising twists and turns toward unexpected revelations about key characters and the frontier-style justice that Combine members receive from some unexpected sources.

Harvey’s characters are credible as well. Even Doc Leftan, who “got himself kilt” but never appears except as a corpse, is memorable because of Harvey’s description of him as the town blackmailer. The foul-mouthed sheriff, Lee Bob Whetzel, who is dedicated to bringing murderers to justice but isn’t above planting evidence, seducing witnesses, or stealing laundered money, will not be easily forgotten. Nor will the trio of Pike, Snake, and “the Korean Cowboy,” with their skills in armed and unarmed combat, which they use to ensure the safety of T. C. and his friends when they are threatened by mobsters hired by the Combine group.

In contrast to the desperadoes and dirty dealers, there are the rock-solid members of T.C.’s adopted family—Buck and Rosie; football team friends; Manny and his girlfriend, Tess;and T. C.’s girlfriend, Marylyn. The evolution of T. C.’s character over the span of the narrative is especially well done.

Although Thomas Clayton is praiseworthy, its title and cover could make a better first impression on potential readers. The title, at first glance, could be for a memoir, a biography, or an autobiography. Even adding the identifier “A Novel” as a subtitle would assist busy readers looking for a first-class work of fiction. As well, the colors of the cover art are too dark to immediately attract browsing readers, a regrettable factor when the novel itself is so worthy of wide readership.

Charles Ray Review

When 15-year-old Thomas Clayton Gurley’s parents and sister are killed in an auto crash in Florida, he is sent to live with his father’s half-brother, Boats, in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Thomas and Boats take an instant dislike to each other, and the boy is sent to live with Buck Hagen, a foreman at the oil rigging company that Boats owns. It is while living with Hagen and his family that Thomas begins to regain a sense of family – and self.

It is also here that his troubles truly begin. In a new high school, he has to prove himself to Boats and to a murderous rival for the affections of Mar, the first girl he’s ever had a relationship with. As Thomas matures, he finds himself in a fight literally for his life, and the lives of those he has come to love, when the questionable relationships Boats has forged with shady politicians and business people comes to light.
Thomas Clayton, by Randy J. Harvey, PhD, is a story that grew out of a few dozen handwritten pages begun by Harvey’s father, Jay L. Harvey, and is dedicated to the story tellers of the Harvey clan, who ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’ Though the author’s disclaimer says that this is a work of fiction, and in no way represents real people, this tightly woven tale of greed, jealousy, and murder could very well have been ripped from the headlines of any daily newspaper. Gripping, realistic dialogue and intricate descriptions of places, events, and people; some told from the first-person viewpoint of young Thomas, and others in the third person, as characters and events sweep past in a torrent of emotion, will have you believing that it is a documentary, rather than what it is – a grand tale told in a masterful style.

The truth, in this book, doesn’t get in the way of a good story, but, by gum, you’ll close it after the last page and swear you just read the God’s honest truth. I read a copy which was provided to me for review, but by jingies, I’d be more than willing to plunk down some hard-earned money for a chance to read it, and I, for one, hope this won’t be Randy Harvey’s last offering.

Kirkus Reviews

Set in 1965, Harvey’s coming-of-age story/thriller tracks an Oklahoma teen who attempts to escape the greed and danger of his hometown. Thomas Clayton, “T.C.” to his friends, evades the clutches of his intolerable uncle, Boats, who became T.C.’s guardian when his parents and sister died in an accident. T.C. is taken in by foreman Buck and his family, and they move to Texas for work, where the teen falls in love with a girl and football. But in Tishomingo, Okla., devious men want to ensure that the boy gets no part of his wealthy uncle’s venture in the oil business. The novel begins as a modest but efficient drama; there are a couple of tragedies, but we see a typical teenage life: T.C. works hard at his job and finds time for sports, friends and his girlfriend. It’s initially baffling when the story takes a palpable shift—Sheriff Lee Bob Whetzel is investigating the murder of Doc Leftan. It turns out that Doc was a blackmailer and had dirt on prominent figures in Tishomingo. All of that dirt is missing, and scheming, threats and more murders are quick to follow, all of which involve the city’s most affluent members—including Boats. The two alternating stories have a clear connection, especially after Boats travels to Texas to see his nephew and discuss his future. But the narratives are also distinct, and T.C.’s life in Texas is considerably less absorbing than in his home state, where the police have a shootout and someone booby-traps a car with a shotgun. T.C. is a worthy lead character, guided by strong principles and loyalty, but the book’s greatest character is perhaps his polar opposite: Lee Bob, a crooked sheriff whose determination in finding a murderer, against all odds, generates sympathy. Harvey stays true to both stories—they merge but don’t overwhelm each other—and everything is brought to a neat conclusion. A good read featuring a delightfully shady character who could have shared top billing with the protagonist.

Kirkus Indie

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