Poodie James

a novel by Doug Ramsey

Synopsis

Poodie James uses intelligence, charm and hard work to overcome his handicaps and achieve independence in a place he loves. He cherishes the rugged beauty of his valley and the kindness of the people who live in it. Most of his fellow citizens see him as a character or a curiosity, but the most powerful man in the valley thinks Poodie is a threat.

Launching a bizarre campaign to jail the little man or drive him out of town, the mayor doesn't reckon on the opposition of his police chief or the appearance of a figure from his own shadowy past. With the foothills of the Cascades, sweeps of orchard land and the mighty Columbia River as backdrops, Poodie James is the story of a man's struggle to win against prejudice and the abuse of power. Poodie challenges the Columbia and plays a heroic role in a fiery train wreck. But can he escape the dark force that seeks to destroy him? Poodie James, Engine Fred, Pete Torgerson and the canny publisher Winifred Stone are indelible characters in this taut, atmospheric novel.

Excerpt

Harry Truman receded, smiling and waving from the observation platform. To Poodie James, the three o'clock August sun glinting off the President's glasses looked like light flashing out of his eyes. The train dissolved north along the Columbia past the packing sheds, through the orchards thick with ripening apples, into the foothills baking brown in the August afternoon. During a pause in the campaign speech, Cub Bailey had yelled, "Give 'em hell, Harry," discomfiting some in the crowd, amusing most. When the train was gone, people stood on the platform and around the depot, talking in the heat, then moved to their cars or walked up into town. Poodie lurched along in front of his wagon, grinning under the tatters of his straw hat, aiming guttural sounds of greeting at everyone who passed.

"Look at that little bastard," the mayor said to his police chief, "an embarrassment to the town."

Poodie was thinking that when he got to the pool he would float a while before he started the swimming lesson. The children loved to watch him float on his back, take a mouthful of water and squirt it straight up. They always laughed. Whales squirt up like that, he thought, but the water spouts out of the tops of their heads. He liked to think about whales, liked to read about them. They're so big, he thought, and they can move so fast, so easily, through the water. Poodie was thinking about swimming across the Columbia, how he had to keep moving at an angle against the current and pull hard or he would end up too far...

"Fascinating characters vividly brought to life in a setting of the Columbia River country in a time now vanished. The writing is unfailingly exquisite, the story irresistible."
– Gene Lees

About the Author

Doug Ramsey, the author of Poodie James, is a novelist, biographer, print and broadcast journalist, news executive, educator of professional journalists and blogger. He is also a well-known jazz critic and has contributed to numerous periodicals including Jazz Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. He is included in Who's Who In America. Ramsey is at work on a new novel.

More on Doug Ramsey

Praise

"To write believable fiction about a deaf person's thoughts, actions and feelings requires extraordinary insight and sensitivity. What Ramsey has achieved in creating the character of Poodie James is remarkable."

– Les Rudy
veteran educator of the deaf

"Ramsey examines the nature and saving graces of truth and friendship when innocence is under attack by injustice, fear, guilt, suspicion and the abuse of power. The central characters, Poodie James, Engine Fred and Pete Torgerson will be your mental companions for a long while."

– J. Michael Yates

"Doug Ramsey is the John Steinbeck of apple country. Rich with sweet detail of the unique landscape of Washington State, Poodie James pulses with Steinbeck's sense of character—the hurt ones, their tormentors, and everyone in between. This novel will take your heart."

– Jack Fuller
author of The Best of Jackson Payne