Scott Adlerberg

Broken River Books

January 17, 2018


Sometimes, you become a hero without really meaning to.

At the turn of the last century, Jack Waters is living his best life. A resident of New Orleans, Waters spends his days making his living playing high-stakes poker. He lives a life of comfort in his family estate, having dismissed almost all the servants and letting the grounds become overgrown. He is known as an honest, even-tempered man who lives only to play an honest game of cards. This was the life that Jack had always wanted, and it was good.

Jack’s life turns on a dime when, in a blinding rage, he kills a man that he catches cheating him during a poker game. Running for his life, Waters uses his connections to find refuge on a Caribbean island. Things are working out well in his new home: the tropical island is reminiscent of Jack’s old home in Louisiana. He plays cards with the wealthy landowners, and spends his free time riding alone in the rough rural areas. As a man of leisure, Jack has no interest in the ongoing political strife of his new banana republic home. But both the rebels and the government officials take notice of the newly arrived American who associates with both the rich and poor, yet refuses to fight for either side. Again, fate intercedes in Jack’s plan of non-commitment. And once again, it happens at the card table. After winning a hand against General Hernandez Garcia Napoles, Waters rightfully demands his winnings of 34,600 pesos. Of course, the corrupt general refuses to pay.

Once again, Jack Waters is sent into a blinding rage by others who refuse to respect the rules of gambling. With no way to pry the money owed him from the corrupt ruler of his new island home, Waters is left with no choice but to throw in with the island’s rebel forces. The rebels want to win political reforms. Waters just wants to beat the man who owes him money.

With his novel JACK WATERS, Scott Adlerberg gives us the classic money-motivated Han Solo character, and moves him to a 19th century tropical island. And it totally works. While in it solely for the money, Waters ends up playing a key role in toppling a corrupt foreign power. What keeps the story from being a recycled trope is Adlerberg’s wonderful storytelling. Told in a style that reminded me of the classic adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson , the book is fast moving joy to read. It could be because I read it in Minnesota in mid-December, but reading about Jack’s swashbuckling adventures on a tropical island proved to be a breath of fresh air. Or a nice tropical breeze.

The book is more than just poker, horses, and freedom fighters. Adlerberg is clearly not interested in a paint by numbers adventure. The story moves in interesting, unexpected ways. While the storytelling style harkens to adventure novels of the past, the plot hurtles into an unexpected, but very satisfying conclusion.


Dan Malmon