Official Review: Mountain Dew Trilogy II: Cheat River Gang

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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Miriam Molina
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Official Review: Mountain Dew Trilogy II: Cheat River Gang

Post by Miriam Molina » 07 Sep 2018, 13:29

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Mountain Dew Trilogy II: Cheat River Gang" by Harold H Milton.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads.

-John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
Mountain Dew Trilogy II: Cheat River Gang unfolds in the environs of Cheat Mountain, West Virginia, during the time of the Prohibition. Revenue man Tom Bell is working undercover. He finds employment with the mountaineer Lige Burton, cutting timber for mine props with fellow-worker Jim Debassius, an Indian. His real job is with the federal government, and his mission is to track the Cheat River Gang, manufacturers of mountain dew. (Long before the soda was created, mountain dew pertained to illegal alcohol, usually rum or whiskey. It was also called moonshine.)

As Tom gets to know the Burton family and the rest of the mountaineers, he is increasingly won over by their way of life. He relishes the beauty of the mountains, the sincerity of relationships, the simplicity of their traditions, and the thrill of hunting. More importantly, he is inexorably drawn by the beauty and charm of Jane Burton, daughter of his boss. Tom feels guilty about hiding the truth from her and lying to her family. Will Tom choose to abandon his mission and stay with his beloved, or will he wield the long arm of the law?

If you want to go back in time and explore Cheat Mountain, hunt for wild game with an Indian and his exciting bag of tricks, and be privy to a gentle budding romance, read this book. If you are one who craves fast and furious action and twists and turns galore, this book may not be a good fit.

Harold H. Milton (born 1913, died 1997) wrote this trilogy and many other books way before he received his GED in 1993 when he was 79. He was never able to publish them in his lifetime. His niece Janice Blanton, whom he adopted when she was five, started publishing his works in 2017 as a token of her love and gratefulness. Despite his lack of formal education, Harold loved to write; he started writing in his twenties, and this trilogy was one of his earlier pieces. His character Jane was inspired by his wife Jane Romeo, a native West Virginian.

The language is that of the 1920’s, the dialogue is “mountain speak,” and the setting is faithful to the truth as relayed to Harold by his mountaineer friends. Despite the old-fashioned style, the book is an easy read. (However, do watch out for regional terms like “purty” for “pretty” and “shore” for “sure”!) Harold does not lack for words to describe the grandeur of the mountains and natural wonders of West Virginia - the magnificent trees, the sparkling streams, the majestic sounds of forest animals. Such fascinating imagery is this book’s selling point.

However, hardly anything happens by way of the plot. Many of the scenes are everyday events at home – meals, mundane conversations, playful ribbing, and household chores. The conflicts are mostly in Tom’s mind as he vacillates between revealing his true identity and keeping his mission secret.

The book doesn’t give a background of how the story started, so the reader is left to guess. It is fortunate that I got to read a review of the first book, so I was able to find my bearings. It may be good to include a paragraph or two about the first installment. This book itself ends abruptly, although the denouement isn’t unsatisfactory at all. The reader would want to follow the story to the final book.

The book includes a lot of pictures of the Milton family. While the story has nothing to do with them, except that Jane Burton was inspired by Jane Milton, it is fascinating to see pictures of the past. There is a need to choose only the better ones, though, as sixty pictures are too many to hold the readers’ attention, and may in fact, get annoying. The pictures themselves are randomly arranged, without a clear organization to them. Some are even duplicates.

I don’t think the original manuscript was subjected to any editing, for multiple errors abound. Homophones like assent, accent, and ascent are interchanged. Punctuation marks are many times misused. “Its’,” a non-existent word, appears regularly. There are many misspellings, misused words, and subject-verb disagreements.

The book is one continuous piece of text; there are no chapters. While I did not find this a problem, inserting chapter breaks may be beneficial for an easier reading flow, especially if a reader has to put down the book for a while. These breaks will give the readers pause to reflect on the past events and anticipation for what is to come.

As it is, the book merits 2 out of 4 stars from me. I’d like to see a thorough editing of the text, a more creative use of selected pictures, and cleverly placed chapter breaks. Then, the book may likely climb to a perfect 4 for nature lovers and those who believe that love can move mountains.

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Mountain Dew Trilogy II: Cheat River Gang
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Post by Bianka Walter » 16 Sep 2018, 17:07

I love that his niece wanted to honour him posthumously. It makes for a special book. The errors you suggested are easily correctable, and I hope she takes your suggestions to heart.
I do love reading your reviews, thanks, Miriam :)
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Post by Miriam Molina » 16 Sep 2018, 18:45

Bianka Walter wrote:
16 Sep 2018, 17:07
I love that his niece wanted to honour him posthumously. It makes for a special book. The errors you suggested are easily correctable, and I hope she takes your suggestions to heart.
I do love reading your reviews, thanks, Miriam :)
Thanks, Bianka! The gobblers make a wonderful appearance in the book. You will love horseback riding with the characters; I presume you do a lot of riding. Jane rides better than Tom here. I myself can only ride a stationary horse, and only for the photo-op, LOL!

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Post by kandscreeley » 16 Sep 2018, 19:15

Wow. This one is not for me. Not enough happening. No chapter breaks. Rookie many errors. Thanks for the review and making it through this one. I'll pass.
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Miriam Molina
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Post by Miriam Molina » 16 Sep 2018, 21:07

It's a book you will want to read for communing with Mother Nature. If you are one for action, though, this would be a sleeping pill.

Thanks, Sarah! It seems you won't be doing the Dew.

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Post by Debjani Ghosh » 16 Sep 2018, 22:51

As you suggested, those looking for fast-paced action should skip this book hence, I will be doing the same. Thanks for the insightful review!

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Miriam Molina
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Post by Miriam Molina » 17 Sep 2018, 20:41

Debjani Ghosh wrote:
16 Sep 2018, 22:51
As you suggested, those looking for fast-paced action should skip this book hence, I will be doing the same. Thanks for the insightful review!
It seems you are one for the fast and furious. Ditto for me.

Thanks for sharing your two cents, Debjani Ghosh!

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Post by jcoad » 17 Sep 2018, 22:01

Sounds like it is a mess. I think I will pass on ramblings written a long time ago. The premise sounded really good as I love historical based book where I can "learn" something but this one sounds like too much work. Thanks for the honest review!

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Post by Miriam Molina » 18 Sep 2018, 04:45

jcoad wrote:
17 Sep 2018, 22:01
Sounds like it is a mess. I think I will pass on ramblings written a long time ago. The premise sounded really good as I love historical based book where I can "learn" something but this one sounds like too much work. Thanks for the honest review!
I would not call it a mess. It has some merit and may even shine if the right adjustments could be made. Harold created some vivid images with his words. I could almost see Julie Andrews belting out, "The hills are alive ..."

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jcoad.

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Post by Helen_Combe » 18 Sep 2018, 07:17

Great review. Pity he didn’t get a chance to publish them himself. It sounds like his draft was published as was.
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Miriam Molina
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Post by Miriam Molina » 18 Sep 2018, 16:47

Helen_Combe wrote:
18 Sep 2018, 07:17
Great review. Pity he didn’t get a chance to publish them himself. It sounds like his draft was published as was.
The books were published twenty years after he was buried. His daughter (whom he promised to buy a white grand piano for from his expected book royalties) died at nineteen. His wife also died ahead. So he and Janice became really close, especially as she was a nurse and cared for him until he passed.

I still hope Janice could work on the books. For someone who only reached grade eight (when he started writing), the man had talent.

Good luck on the job hunt, Helen!

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Post by Allyseria » 19 Sep 2018, 15:19

Thank you for your review. I don't like books with no plot and only shows scenes of everyday events so I think I'll have to give this book a pass.

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Post by Miriam Molina » 20 Sep 2018, 02:38

Allyseria wrote:
19 Sep 2018, 15:19
Thank you for your review. I don't like books with no plot and only shows scenes of everyday events so I think I'll have to give this book a pass.

There's a plot alright, but the pacing is super slow. The author was more interested in sharing about mountain life and culture in the 1920's.

Thanks for your two cents!

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Post by Eva Darrington » 23 Sep 2018, 11:18

I was so taken by your lovely review that I winced a bit upon reading about some of the book's problems. I am not as forgiving as you were on books with no structure. I always enjoy your reviews, though I will skip this book.
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Miriam Molina
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Post by Miriam Molina » 23 Sep 2018, 15:45

Eva Darrington wrote:
23 Sep 2018, 11:18
I was so taken by your lovely review that I winced a bit upon reading about some of the book's problems. I am not as forgiving as you were on books with no structure. I always enjoy your reviews, though I will skip this book.
Awww, you are so sweet! I admit that the author's back story and the posthumous publication factored in my assessment of the book's merits.

Thanks, Eva!

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