The Gravel Road by Glenna L. Redcliffe: A review

Many of us who love language and reading have probably dreamed of writing a novel, maybe even the Great American Novel. Most of us never act on that dream and so those who do are in a special category and deserve our respect. It must take a certain amount of courage, not to mention purposefulness and perseverance to stick with the task of writing that book and then sending it out into the world, hoping that it will find an audience. I freely admit that those are all qualities which I lack.

These days, many first-time authors are taking the self-publishing route to getting their work out. It is a chancy course to take, because a book without one of the publishing houses behind it to publicize and bring it to the attention of the reading public already has two strikes against it and the possibility of it ever finding an audience are slim indeed.

And yet that is the path that Glenna Redcliffe has taken with her first book. It is a self-published spy novel/psychological thriller featuring a strong female protagonist in Samantha Albright, "Sam" as she is called throughout the book.

Sam has a backstory of a violent childhood in rural North Alabama which she has sought to escape first through an ill-advised early marriage and, after the marriage ended, through education. She is in the final semester of working on an accounting degree in an Alabama college when she becomes involved with a professor who may not be quite what he seems. 

Subsequently, she is approached by a U.S. intelligence agent who seeks to recruit her to become an informant concerning the activities of the dodgy professor. She accepts the challenge and thus begins her dangerous adventure as a spy playing cat and mouse with man who may well prove to be the embodiment of evil.

Her adventure takes her to some exotic locations as she tries to get the information needed to stop what could be a bioterrorism catastrophe. She shows an unexpected aptitude for the task and one doubts that she is ever going to finish that degree in accounting.

One piece of advice that the so-called experts always give fledgling writers is that they should write about something they know. Redcliffe has taken at least some of that advice to heart in that most of her novel is set in Alabama where she grew up and where she earned an accounting degree from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Moreover, according to her biography at the end of the book, some of the events in the book may be based on her own childhood experiences.

Her idea for her plot was an interesting one. The execution of the idea showed her inexperience. The novel is much too long at 460 pages of very small print, much too wordy. Conversations between characters seem to go on and on - and on - for pages without really advancing the story. "Brevity is the soul of wit" wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet. And Shakespeare knew whereof he wrote.

I suspect the wordiness is just one of the many pitfalls of the self-published novel. What was really needed here was a disinterested and ruthless editor who would guide the writer to streamline her story and help it to move along more quickly and cleanly.

Nevertheless, this was a creditable first effort and I hope the writer will try again, perhaps with the further adventures of Sam.    


  1. I'm not much of a fan of self published novels because they tend to be sloppy (e.g., poor grammar, etc.), but the few I have read have had potential. I'm glad that you found such was the case with this one.

    1. It does show some potential and one doesn't want to discourage a first-time author; especially since the author is a blogger-friend who asked me to review her book.

  2. How did you come across this novel?

    1. The author, who is a blogger that I follow, asked me to review it and sent it to me.


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