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Mystery of the Month for 1st October 2012 TURNING ANGEL by Greg Iles

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Showing 101-125 of 236 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 9:08:15 AM PDT
The other 2 don't have a lot of sex in them, even indicated.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 10:57:59 AM PDT
Based on your explanation of right brain / left brain vs sex - I'm going to suggest you NOT read the book that follows this one. It is called THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL. If we think Kate is a bit depraved, she's a nun compared to the bad guys in that book! And, yes, I listened to every word. I will admit to being a bit uncomfortable at times. (Ooops! Does this mean my Pollyanna badge is tarnished?)

I have to admit, I'm not much for looking for themes in a book. I don't think I EVER would have correlated that statue to "someone is always watching." In school, I would hear the teacher expound on some hidden meaning in the books and plays we were supposed to read for class and often I wondered, "I wonder if the author knows that?" Just once I'd like to hear the author of a book describe the hidden meanings he put into a book. (Dare I send Greg Iles just such a question? I think I WILL!)

Maybe when James gets back (after all HE is the real leader of this discussion with Barb - I'm supposed to be a stand in temporarily) he can address this question. I guess I don't see stuff like themes and hidden meanings unless something is so blatant! Parrellels I usually see. Such as Kate/Drew and Mia/Penn. We have two girls with similar abilities and talents and even families. They are both smart and do well in school and seem to have friends at school. Yet, they mannifest their problems in such different ways. Even comparing Drew and Penn; they also have similar backgrounds, childhood experiences, success in adulthood, both well respected in their community. Why does one pick up with an over-the-top teenage sex kitten and the other, when offered a similar opportunity, does not?


In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 11:00:11 AM PDT
Keefer, how does the statue look? No, she looks sweet - very old and weathered though. Google Turning Angel in images. You'll see. And the cover of the book has a photo of her.

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 11:19:59 AM PDT
There are several interrelated theme statements in the first half of the novel. I confess I stopped taking notes about halfway through.

p. 3 "Fear stops us [from crossing the line] more often than wisdom."
p. 26 Drew's mother, "You never know what's cooking in someone else's pot."
p. 69 "...we're all capable of anything in the interest of self-preservation."
p. 158 "You can do what you want to do, or you can do what's right. And the two aren't ever quite the same."

It seems to me that these apply to every major character in TURNING ANGEL, but particularly to the two couples--Drew and Kate vs. Penn and Mia.

Without going into the second half of the book, about which I have some major questions, did anyone else get the creeps over the amount of risk Penn was putting Mia into? Admittedly, she's unusually mature and competent for her age, but she's 17 years old. Few teenagers have the experience to deal with danger concentrated on them.

And his daughter? With someone literally gunning for Penn and Drew at the football field, Penn must know his identity is known to the blackmailer, even if the killer is a different person. Why does he assume that the person won't come after his daughter?
It doesn't seem to me that Penn is as concerned as he should be about the safety of those about him.

Linda S.

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 11:32:27 AM PDT
L. M. Keefer says:
Linda S:

Yeah, I couldn't believe what Penn was asking Mia to do. And then she'd volunteer to do something stupid like ask the Croatian guy some question when it appeared he might be involved. Right after the Croatian guy talked to Penn, the Asians showed up at the hotel and grabbed Mia and shot up the place, right?

Yes, someone was obviously following Penn and invading homes to kill people--the Professor couple, the Deputy outside his home so why wouldn't Penn think he was safe at home? Of course, he did ask his dad to take his daughter out of town but it was kind of late in the game.

Mia volunteered to do some crazy stuff, too, that Penn didn't try to talk her out of.

The author likes short names for his main characters: Drew, Penn, Kate, Mia

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 11:40:55 AM PDT
Several questions have been posed about reading the Penn Cage books in a specific order. Well, Greg Iles actually addresses this very question on his website! I include a link here:


Posted on Oct 9, 2012 11:46:13 AM PDT
I should have said in the 3rd one I haven't seen sex yet. Not really in the first one.

Author's intent is only one factor in analysis of that work. One point is that all artists reflect their times and show them to the people who are enmeshed in them. The artists point out the forest while non-artists see trees. the artists are mirrors and may be reflecting something the artist himself might not see.

Another point is that when later readers examine those books, it will be in terms of the author's times in addition to the reader's time. Let me give examples from the Golden Age: in many of the Classic British books of the 30s (with some slop on either side. Times change; authors don't necessarily) one may see casual anti-Semitism. As a post Holocaust reader, I could be horrified, but I note it and then go on, without the offense that I (nonJew) would feel in a post WWII book. OTOH, one may look at those anti-Semitic attitudes as showing the artist's showing the enormous amount of middle and upper class anti-Semetism in Britain at the time.

More on "did the author intend" topic. Artists sometimes do things deliberately and sometimes instinctively because "it feels right." Later analysts simply define how and why those instinctual choices work.

Many more pairs exist! Drew and his wife stayed together for the sake of their child. I think it is Penn's mother who early on says how stupid that is. Mia's parents separate with no true harm done to the child; in Kate's case it is disastrous. One thing is that Penn never cheated on his wife. he may have looked, but he never even paid a little grab titty. He is also faithful to his girlfriend even.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 11:50:12 AM PDT
I think as soon as Penn realized his child was in jeopardy, he was going to move her out of town. All the action in this book happens in a very few, very crowded days. And during this time, almost everyone is getting whiplash from the revelations and the events themselves.

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 11:55:42 AM PDT
I went to the site Kathy provided and also found warnings about his novels by Greg Iles!

"If you are easily offended by strong sexual content or violence, a few of my books may be too much for you. Those same few are not recommended for young teenagers. Below is a bit of a warning.

Sleep No More (Highly explicit sexual content and depravity.)
Mortal Fear (Highly explicit sexual content and violence.)
Turning Angel (Explicit teen sex and drug use.)
Blood Memory (Child abuse, rape, repressed memories of incest.)
Dead Sleep (Recall of rape.)"

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 12:06:39 PM PDT
We might want to consider this later, in the context of the whole book, but how essential to the plot is it that Shadrack Johnson, the District Attorney, be African-American? Would a Caucasian prosecutor with political ambitions behave any differently? If not, why does Iles add the race card?

Linda S.

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 12:18:27 PM PDT

One time when Ernest Hemingway was asked about all the levels of symbolism in THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, all the different interpretations, and what he'd intended, he said that the author has to be given credit for putting the various meanings there, even if he'd not realized it when doing so. And William Faulkner was quoted once about author's not consciously using symbols, that they emerged only after the writing was complete. Interesting point, I thought.

Linda S.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 12:54:07 PM PDT
A lot of Penn's interest seems to be directed toward race relations and bettering them. Had Iles made the DA white, I just don't think the story could have been as powerful or interesting. I don't think a white man would have had the same motivations ole Shad had. Therefore, the conflict would not have been near as interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 1:12:54 PM PDT
To not talk about race in Mississippi is to ignore the elephant in the room. Like Faulkner, Iles presents race in its historical and immediate context. From the beginning of the first book, Iles reminded me of Faulkner (his books even smell like Faulkner's).

The easy answer as to why Johnson is AA is that he was in the preceding book. The reason this works thematically is many-layered.
Aalthough a returned native son like Penn, Johnson has carpetbagger overtones. He is someone who had to leave Natchez to succeed, like Penn. Both are lawyers. In fact, Penn and Johnson are one of the many pairs Iles establishes. Penn loves both the whites and the AAs while seeing them clearly. Johnson despises the whites while envying them, and he despises his own people. Penn has political advantage and a lot of what is called "juice." Johnson is shaky politically and doesn't really have juice. The easiest way to see this is to look at each man's allies, AA and white. They also are in pairs (on each side).

Although it would have been a waste of a good persona, Iles could have had a crap DA who was white. Then, however, how could he have made his point about how the Civil Rights Movement because of defects in leadership? (This was written before Obama began running for President.)

I think Iles is an excellent writer and I am going to read everything he writes. Despite all the complexity and layers, he is an extremely efficient writer and uses characters, setting, plot, and ornament in multiple ways.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 1:14:55 PM PDT
L. M. Keefer says:
Kathy and all:

I keep hearing Morgan Freeman's voice when I hear the African-American atty talk...although I picture him taller than Morgan and with a thinner face. Long and lanky like A. Lincoln...

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 1:17:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 9, 2012 1:18:12 PM PDT
L. M. Keefer says:

What's ornament? I'm asking because of ignorance.

Some examples from the book?

If Johnson dislikes whites and his own people, who does he like? Just educated AA's like himself?

The pairs thing is interesting.....

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 1:26:40 PM PDT
L. M. Keefer says:

Has anyone thought this would make a good movie--without all the sex of course. And if so, who would you cast?

Drew I picture as blonde, clipped tailored--kind of young Robert Redford look. Kind of quintessential southern jock turned doctor. Drew is GQ--let's see who's near 40ish and really gorgeous and somewhat All-American looking?

Penn I picture dark haired with blue eyes--not so groomed but still tailored. Young Kevin Costner type, perhaps. Not striking, but good looking. Understated handsome. Like the quarterback who married Giselle Bundchen. Tom Bradyish but darker locks.

Kate just looks like the girl next door--attractive babysitter. Mia I picture gorgeous blonde with a bit of edge. Again, cover girl looks but wears edgy clothes sometimes.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 1:54:47 PM PDT
M. Bernstein says:

Incest angle, more like a question than an assertion
Kathy, looking for a father, finds Drew and takes him to bed.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 2:15:04 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 9, 2012 2:19:38 PM PDT
Ornament is a very old literary term. it means the decorative elements in poetry or prose. Sometimes it can refer to the words chosen, sometimes to figures of speech, sometimes to symbols. As long ago as Horace (2000 years), the rule was given that the good author shouldn't use ornamentation unless it reinforces his meaning.

Warning. Hold on because if you dislike your teacher you are going to hate me.

For example, consider the title Turning Angel. He tells us about it. He doesn't tell us about its origins (huge Natchez Drug Company Explosion which results in deaths of many people. Owner of the Drug Company put the monument up for his 5 employees, including a young girl.) [doesn't that work a lot of ways]. It is very old, in a cemetery that has Catholics, Jews, and Protestants sepgregated [older human conflicts that cause wars related to ethnicity and "race."]; however, the only AAs are the slaves and servants singled out for special service AND they have no headstones or monuments.

Next, the angel is said to appear to turn because at night when cars drive by on Cemetery Road their headlights shine upon the monument and to some it appears to turn as their car passes by. Metaphors and theme reinforcers galore here.

I think in this book, the cemetery is a focal point around which Natchez and this story about Natchez rotate/turn. And, Penn's wife is buried there.

Then, note that the angel statue itself cannot really see anything at all, straight on or turning.

Now, let's consider what turning means. According to
1. the act of a person or thing that turns.
2. an act of reversing position.
3. the place or point at which anything bends or changes direction.
4. the forming of objects on a lathe.
5. an object, as a spindle, turned on a lathe.
6. an act of shaping or forming something: e.g., the skillful turning of verses.

[I can do it if you insist.]

Every single one of those definitions can apply to the book when combined with the word angel as the literal monument itself, as a religious Angel such as found in the Bible, the literal meaning of angel (messenger), our concept of having good and bad angels, and the many, many literary and musical and visual uses of Angel as a name.

Urban dictionary has this definition of Turning Angel: "A long way to say someone is dying." That works.

Remember, Iles is a professional musician. A song by Nightwish has a line: ""I'm in love with my lust turning angel wings to dust"? That works

And we also have the concept of turning used in many phrases that apply:

Turning point
Turning away.
Turning a blind eye (like the statue's)
Turning the other cheek.

I can keep going like this for a while but shan't.

I think the title means all those things at the same time. That is why I say he is both a complex and efficient writer.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 2:18:53 PM PDT
"If Johnson dislikes whites and his own people, who does he like? Just educated AA's like himself?"

Well, one answer is that he likes no one but himself. Slightly more complex is that he hates everyone because he hates himself.

And, I think because of his character in the earlier book, THE QUIET GAME, everyone in town knows what a nasty piece of work he is. There are some good reasons why some many AAs voted against him in the previous election.

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 2:22:55 PM PDT
Okay. Did I go too far and now everyone hates me and they won't let me play anymore?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 2:22:58 PM PDT
I did TOO!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 2:24:31 PM PDT

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 2:27:54 PM PDT
NO! You did NOT go too far!
Very interesting!
Thanks for all of it!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 2:42:54 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 9, 2012 2:45:28 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 3:28:45 PM PDT
L. M. Keefer says:

No, I loved it. Very little offends me, so don't waste time worrying about that. Sorry I wasn't reading this post: I was eating (whole grain muffing with 1 T of natural peanut butter and honey--200 calories) , pinteresting, exercising and talking on the phone, taking a, I'd have to know a little more of Isles the author to know if he has the depth to put all of that in there. The cemetery's history is unusual. I forgot Penn's wife was buried up there.

I mean the angels in the book--Kate and Mia--were turning into women who weren't angelic, seducing married men, women of the world, turning to drugs/pot etc. They were losing their innocent angelic nature.

Magnolia, a bunch of us teach on this thread, so we like teachers. And any parent who home schools and likes it is a natural teacher, I'd say. You can teach me anytime.

Now Horace is a person I've never quoted. Groucho Marx, yes, but Horace no. Where did you learn about Horace? Your ancient history studies.

Mr. B, you said something about Kathy having an incestuous relationship? OUR Kathy? I'm shocked! No, I knew you were talking about Kate.

It seems like the good people don't see stuff they should, and the bad people are always looking for ways to hurt the good people. They make a point of seeing stuff that furthers their agenda.

I'm surprised Isles doesn't bring in the Angel's interesting history as that would add richness to the book--but maybe it would taint the angel's image. He wants us to think of it as an observer--not to atone from some bad drug company harming its employees. Although it was an accident or was it negligence?
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Initial post:  Sep 17, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 5, 2012

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