Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book Review: Mercer Street by John A. Heldt

by M. J. Joachim

Historical fiction meets time travel in Heldt’s books, something that is both fascinating and intriguing. Discovering WWII through new perspectives is exciting and entertaining in Mercer Street. The 1930’s, post WWI and pre WWII, are decidedly interesting points of study for anyone, times that Mr. Heldt details with the utmost eloquence and care.

Having read a few of his books now, I’m a fan and look forward to reading the rest. Mr. Heldt uses what appears to be a formula for writing time travel books, one that becomes fairly familiar and predictable throughout each book he writes. The stories he reveals within the books, however, are dynamic, original, thought provoking and exceptionally written. I’ve learned something new about history and the writing craft in each book I’ve read of his so far.

As we all know, relationships can be complex. Writing about them is no easy task, especially when one includes adequate dialog to emphasize the importance of finer details in the story. Heldt’s dialog and relationship dynamics capture the reader, making one engage like a fly on the wall, often compelling said reader to cheer for the course of events unfolding. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, the story takes a much needed turn you never saw coming.

Using a simple style, without too much embellishment, but just enough, Heldt takes us on a journey with immigrants “escaping” Germany, who develop fond ties to America. Within the pages of Mercer Street, time travelers fall in love with foreigners, a dilemma which ultimately could alter history if characters aren’t careful. What time travel novel would be complete without a little playfulness though, things that don’t necessarily rewrite history, but challenge it a little more than expected?

Professor Bell is a masterfully written character, one we get to know in the first book of this series, September Sky. I’m eager to see what antics he plays in the third book of this series, Indiana Belle. One of my biggest curiosities is whether all these time travelers will meet and exchange notes some day. There’s a book I’m looking forward to reading if Mr. Heldt so desires to write it. A reunion at the Bell mansion, as it were, where everyone takes a journey into the future perhaps, and actually writes history, before coming back to the past…

Whether you are reading Heldt’s books for pleasure, or because you’re a writer looking to improve your craft, you will undoubtedly close Mercer Street completely satisfied. A little dizzy perhaps, because the ending might not be what you expect, but definitely content. Though each book in this series stands alone and on its own merits, easily being read as a solitary book, I recommend you read them in succession: September Sky, Mercer Street and Indiana Belle. Heldt ties them together well in this American Journey Series, which provides even more for readers and writers to learn from and enjoy.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend! Happy reading writing and whatever else you do!

M. J.

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