Some of you know my childhood story, but there is a nice twist to it that happened this past weekend.
In my early elementary school days, I struggled mightily. I didn’t talk much, but when I did, I struggled. I had a stutter. Back then, our report cards listed areas where we needed improvement. I remember my father telling me that I had “too many sawbucks” where teachers would place an X in the column where improvement was needed. I remember wondering what area didn’t need improvement, because there were more Xs than blanks in the columns. I think this accounted for a lack of confidence and my need to seek approval, especially from authority. Still do, to some extent.
I remember my third grade teacher muttering under her breath that I was “just another Lewis kid!” I had wondered . . . still wonder . . . what that meant. Yes, there were ten of us and eight had gone through the school ahead of me, so . . .?
We were poor. I had jeans that had patches upon patches. Bikes for gifts that were hand-me-downs. Dad would spruce them up with a new coat of paint and a new tire, but I pretty much rode what my brothers Jack and Jim rode before me. About the only thing “new” that I received were books. I loved to read despite the fact that I was placed into the lowest reading group- the Blackbirds. I knew where I was and I knew who I was with. No mistaking that fact. But again, I don’t know why, since I loved to read. Still do.
I say all of this not in disgust or sadness. For the most part, my brothers and sisters and I were, and are, happy. We had each other and I think that’s how we survived. Mom had a nervous breakdown . . . at least that’s what I was told. I was really little at that time. When one of my sisters asked dad why he didn’t get help for her, his answer was that “some mom was better than no mom.”
In fourth grade, magic happened. It was like someone waved a wand like in a Harry Potter movie. That’s about as apt a description as I can provide, because what happened didn’t make sense then and it still doesn’t make sense now.
I had Mrs. Nancy Mehring as a fourth grade teacher. She smiled. She loved everyone and everyone loved her. She had two fingers missing on one hand and there were girls in my class who would fold their hands in such a way as to resemble her because they wanted to be like her. She was that loved.
For whatever reason, Mrs. Mehring saw something in me that others before her either didn’t see or refused to see or didn’t take the time or the trouble to see. Mrs. Mehring called on me for answers. She called on me to express my opinion. Sometimes if a dispute rose in class, Mrs. Mehring would ask me to help solve it. My classmates began looking at me in a different light. Heck, I began looking at me in a different light.
As I said, I have no idea what she saw in me. I have no idea why she treated me differently than I had been treated previously. I think she was responsible for me losing my stutter. I think she was responsible for me getting out of the Blackbird reading group and into the Bluebird reading group.
It was all Mrs. Mehring’s doing. In sixth grade, I had a similar experience with Sr. Josephe’ Marie Flynn. They made school fun. They placed me on the road to turning me into the man I am today and for that reason, I am forever thankful. They turned my life around. It was the impact of one . . . actually two . . . that saved me. Yes, I chose that word intentionally, because I don’t know where I’d be if they hadn’t come into my life with they did.
This past Saturday, I went back to my hometown, West Bend, Wisconsin, for an Author Showcase. One of my teaching and coaching buddies from a hundred years ago, Kerry, showed up. My niece and her daughter showed up, and my nephew showed up. My brother Jack and his wife, and my sister Judy showed up. An elementary classmate, Rita, show up. I had two former students who are now dear friends show up with their wives and their kids. My high school English teacher, Fr. Bruce, showed up.
And so did Mrs. Nancy Mehring, my fourth grade teacher!
I was humbled and honored to have all those folks show up. It touched my heart. I’m still smiling at the memory. My last book, Spiral Into Darkness, is dedicated to both Mrs. Mehring and to Sr. Josephe’ Marie because of what they did for me. Ironic that the title of the book is what it is, because instead of spiraling downward into darkness, they lifted me upward into light. I thank God they did.
I only hope that in the forty-three years, and in the one or two I have left in education, I have been able and am able to do to others what Mrs. Mehring and Sr. Josephe' had done to and for me. I can only hope and pray that is the case. I believe we need to pass on to others the good that has been done to and for us. That is part of the circle of life, I think. The impact of one . . . or two . . . can and did have such a profound effect on a life. They had a profound impact on my life. I pray that I might do the same for others. Something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!
To My Readers:
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Spiral Into Darkness has been nominated for Top Shelf Book Awards! That is quite an honor! I’ll find out more in late November or early December.
Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Review had some wonderful things to say about Spiral Into Darkness:
“Joseph Lewis excels in building more than just a 'whodunnit' mystery. His is a novel of psychological suspense that weaves a 'cat-and-mouse' game into the equation of dealing with a killer who is much cleverer than anyone he's run up against in his career as a detective. Tension builds in an excellent, methodical manner as Lewis creates a scenario that rests firmly on not just the actions of all involved, but their psychological foundations. The result is a powerfully written work of psychological fiction that is highly recommended not just for mystery and police procedural readers, but for those who appreciate literary works well grounded in strong characters, plot development, and emotional tension. Great buildup, great insights, great reading!”
Readers Favorites wrote:
“If you enjoy thrillers, especially psychological ones, Spiral Into Darkness by Joseph Lewis will grab you good and proper in the opening two chapters. You will find yourself avidly turning pages as a serial killer accosts his victims, confirms their identities and blasts away their faces with a .38 pistol. If you are interested in both the good and bad sides of humanity and why we each turn out as we do, Spiral Into Darkness won’t disappoint.”
Best Thrillers wrote:
“The Bottom Line: A thoroughly compulsive police procedural by one of America’s most promising new writers. Joseph Lewis, author of our Best of 2018 pick Caught in a Web, is back with another crime thriller featuring world-weary Milwaukee detective Jamie Graff . . . While Lewis savagely explores romance, drama, and sexuality with his wider cast of characters, Jamie’s interpersonal life is refreshingly free of drama for a cop, enabling him to be the determined, resourceful rock capable of cracking the case. The result is a thoroughly compulsive crime thriller.”
And, Spiral Into Darkness has made it into the Top 50 Indie Books by Reader’s Choice!
You can find Spiral Into Darkness on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm and on Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spiral-into-darkness-joseph-lewis/1129937958;jsessionid=0C9F7881E2F56139FAD36435022CB35D.prodny_store01-atgap18?ean=9781684332090
Best Thrillers had previously reviewed my book, Caught in a Web. It was named as a PenCraft Literary Award Winner for Thriller Fiction! Best Thrillers called it “one of the best crime thriller books of the year!” I am both proud and humbled.
You can find Caught in a Web on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696 or on Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/caught-in-a-web-joseph-lewis/1128250923?ean=9781684330249
Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis
If you do read Caught in a Web, Spiral Into Darkness, or any of my other books, please leave a rating and a review. I would appreciate it. Thanks for this consideration!
Spiral Into Darkness:
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm
Caught in a Web:
The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.
Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696
Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
A 14 year old boy knows the end is coming. What he doesn’t know is when, where or by whom. Without that knowledge, neither he nor the FBI can protect him or his family.
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11 year old Brett McGovern, and 11 year old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis