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Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Aug. 7, 2002 – Chris Gavaler described his seventh novel, "Pretend I'm Not Here," as a "thriller with a strong offbeat female protagonist" in an interview in the online "Newsstreak of Harrisonburg High School," where he taught English for a decade.
Described by readers and reviewers variously as a romance, comedy, mystery, suspense, the story has enough plot and wit to encompass all of the above.
The story's hook is a popular television show with a central character whose job is chaperoning a chosen couple – this trip's beautiful pair is "curvaceous Melissa and voracious Randy" – who are to spend the weekend getting well acquainted at St. Thomas' Lovelund Bay resort. Poor chaperone Ashley Farrell: bodies tend to fall, police tend to gather, and a handsome stranger keeps turning up, all near our heroine. And thereby hangs an action tale of mystery, romance, humor, the "Mob" and the FBI …
Chapter headings are hilarious, along the lines of present-day reality television: "Do you like surprises?" "If you were the pilot of my plane, how would you cure my fear of flying?" "Would you kill for love, and if so, whom?" "What's the most embarrassing thing I could find in your bedroom?"
Gavaler's "Acknowledgments" apologizes to the residents of the Virgin Islands. He honeymooned on St. John in 1993 and "no one shot at us." No doubt, he says, "the police force is a model of integrity and professionalism" – unlike certain unsavory story characters. Despite moving Peter Jennings to NBC, he gets street and place names on St. Thomas right for the most part, and he noted that the resort in question is fictional. Mercifully he forbore to imitate local dialect – perhaps because his characters interacted mainly with bartenders, bodyguards, other resort tourists, and many policemen – one fondly referred to only as "the married cop."
But the story could have been set in any warm resort, and someone reading for the atmosphere of, say, Phyllis Whitney's "Columbella" or Mildred Bailey's "A Lighter Shade of Bleu," may be disappointed.
The story, however, moves right along with plot twists and intentional and unintentional wit, and whether for romance, suspense, or mystery, it's a good evening's read.
Gavaler wrote exclusively poetry before he became an English teacher, according to websites advertising this novel. During the decade he taught creative writing, he began writing fiction as he interacted with students, and he has written in all fiction genres. "Pretend I'm Not Here," appears to be his first published novel.
Published as a HarperTorch paperback original, copies are for sale at Dockside Bookshop on St. Thomas.
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