A native of South Carolina, Greg M. Dodd is a former IT professional and coffee shop owner. His three novels, each unique in style and story, have received a total of five independent publishing book awards. Having crafted relatable, realistic, and sometimes humorous character-driven stories in the Christian fiction genre with "A Seed for the Harvest" (2014) and "The Gills Creek Five" (2017), Greg explores coming-of-age themes in a 1974 summer beach setting in his latest novel, "The Sea Turtle" (2023). Greg lives in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife and two dogs.
“Dodd’s writing is lucid and engaging. Just as the island setting is densely imagined, so, too, are the book’s characters carefully and precisely observed; Ran’s first-person narration is sustained and observant, offering a wry, pleasurable foray into an adolescent mind.”
– Kirkus Reviews
Dodd presents a novel about the unexpected pivotal moments and pleasures of growing up.
In 1994, Thomas Ransom “Ran” Fox Jr. looks back two decades to when he was 12 years old and sent, reluctantly, to spend the summer with Aunt Sarah and Uncle Breland on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. With no friends in the area, a gruff uncle who appears resentful for no identifiable reason, and—worst of all—no working television for easy entertainment, the subsequent three months seem like they’ll be irredeemably bleak (save, of course, for Aunt Sarah’s excellent peanut butter and banana sandwiches). Then Ran meets Joey, a local boy his age who not only helps Ran finish his yard work in half the time, but also introduces him to an intricate ecosystem of summertime adolescent adventure. Suddenly, there are girls to be kissed, sunrises to wake up early for, and arcade games to play at local hangout King’s, where he can enjoy snow cones (“You can try all our snowball flavors!” says the girl behind the counter there. “They’re really just snow cones, but we call them snowballs”). There are also complicated family histories to confront—including one that explains Uncle Breland’s initial resistance to having Ran come to stay. Dodd’s writing is lucid and engaging. Just as the island setting is densely imagined, so, too, are the book’s characters carefully and precisely observed; Ran’s first-person narration is sustained and observant, offering a wry, pleasurable foray into an adolescent mind. The story itself isn’t always surprising, but this is part of its allure, as a pleasant nostalgia becomes apparent in individual plot points (Ran's hopeless crush on older girl Heather Altman plucks especially familiar strings) to the chapter titles lifted from old 1970s songs (“Drift Away,” “Smoke on the Water,” “What's Going On”).
A lively coming-of-age story that’s sure to resonate with anyone who looks back fondly on their childhood summers.
Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2023
Page count: 239pp
Publisher: Rolos Tuesday
Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2023
Dodd (A Seed for the Harvest, 2014) tells the story of five men brought together to form an unlikely book club in this Christian three-act play.
Dane is a divorced English teacher with an unpublished novel. When he started a Christian book club for men in the classroom of a church in Columbia, South Carolina, he had no idea what sort of characters might show up. Rett, it turns out, is someone he knows: a garrulous former pastor with whom Dane attended college but who has since undergone a faith journey that he can’t stop talking about. Sam is a veterinarian transplant from England who has trouble picking up on social cues, which is why he’ll happily natter on about the most recent enema he’s performed on a cat. Overweight, 24-year-old Emile doesn’t have a “job-job, like most people,” but rather spends his time on “tabletop fantasy role-play games, like HeroQuestand Feng Shui.” Emile balks at the length of the selected book. Most colorful is Martin, the loquacious and oft-drunk jokester whose wife thinks he’s at the AA meeting down the hall. Dane has his work cut out for him attempting to herd these cats into a functional book club. Martin needles, Rett butts in, Emile complains, and Sam loses the plot. But as the discussion moves to the text and beyond, Dane finds this collection of odd men to be a surprisingly fertile community. Faith, fears, and failing marriages all come up as each man slowly drops his guard and bares his soul. Dodd excels at the sort of dense, colorful dialogue necessary to sustain a play about a group of men in a room. Each of the five primary characters is so present and alive in their speech that the reader can easily picture them without the need of an actor to embody them. The standouts are Emile, with his halting, slangy utterances, and Martin with his hammy verbiage. The latter gets all the most writerly lines: “Regret is the fuel that drives our desire to get it right the next time. You take away all regret and we end up stumbling through life frying chickens at a KFC.” That isn’t to say that there isn’t some fat in the cross talk that could have been trimmed. Additionally, the fact that the book group is reading Dodd’s previous book, A Seed for the Harvest(“It did win a medal for Christian fiction in some independent publisher book awards last year,” plugs Dane), walks a fine line between metafictional wink and authorial self-indulgence. The Christian angle, while present, is not as heavy-handed as one might expect, and there are some thoughtful discussions on the nature of faith even if they end up in predictable places. It’s the character dynamics that really keep the reader turning the pages, however.
A thoughtful, funny play about men from a Christian perspective.
Pub Date: May 15, 2017
Page count: 162pp
Publisher: Harvest Chronicles
Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017
"Jim the Boy" by Tony Earley
Favorite line from a book
"She pulled the heaviness that had once been grief behind her like a plow."
THE GILLS CREEK FIVE: Red City Review, 1st Place (Christian Fiction), 2017
THE SEA TURTLE: Firebird Book Awards, Winner (Coming of Age), 2023
A Seed for the Harvest: Independent Publisher Illumination Book Awards, Silver Medal (Christian Fiction), 2015
THE GILLS CREEK FIVE: CIPA EVVY Awards, 1st Place (Humor), 2017
THE GILLS CREEK FIVE: Independent Publisher Illumination Book Awards, Silver Medal (Christian Fiction), 2018
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