The action takes place in the present tense, giving an immediacy and added suspense to already alarming situations. Much of the plot is moved forward by dialogue, and what dialogue it is! Witty, snappy, satiric, funny, anything but dull. Each of the four main characters has a distinctive conversational style, but the women especially shine. From Linda’s broken English to Melanie’s fluid charm, each can deliver a verbal punch when the situation calls for it. It’s a pleasure to read a novel that so celebrates the intricacies and art of the verbal take-down.”
The Midwest Review of Books issues a rave rating for The Blind Pool
Midwest Book Review
“In a deftly crafted and riveting novel that is based on an all too believable ((in these times) premise, “The Blind Pool” showcases author Paul McHugh’s genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling of the first order. The stuff from which blockbuster movies are made, “The Blind Pool” is an extraordinary read, and unreservedly recommended for community library collections.” – The Midwest Review of Books
The Blind Pool is highlighted in The San Francisco Chronicle
Former Chronicle colleague/outdoor writer/novelist Paid McHugh’s new book is “The Blind Pool,” a thriller about a Russian crime ring that makes its way into the United States and conducts business out of a Texas prison. (This is not an account of Vladimir Plain’s vacation.)
Dan Rather calls it “a tight, taut thriller by a terrific storyteller. The political headlines of today make it timely as hell.” A blurb from anyone as well-known as Dan Rather is sought-after, to say the least. So I asked McHugh how he got it.
When McHugh published a journalism murder mystery, “Deadlines,” in 2010, he asked a friend on Rather’s staff if she could show it to him. He was just heading to Africa for a story and needed something to read on the plane. Which led to a very positive blurb that began with, “Every reporter worth his or her notepad is a sleuth at heart.”
A few months later, McHugh learned that Rather was appearing in South San Francisco, he bought tickets and a box of See’s dark chocolate marzipan to give to Rather as a thank-you. The gift begat a sporadic correspondence. But as Dorothy Parker once said, candy is dandy, the climax of the book happens to be set in rural West Texas, Rather country.
Editor of the San Mateo Daily Journal weighs in on The Blind Pool
It deals primarily with Russian oligarchs and connections deep into the U.S. government and even private prison system, out of which an organized crime ring operates. While the book is not political, there are shades of “ripped from the headlines” in that much of our nation’s attention is on possible Russian interference into our political system.
McHugh said he finished a draft of the book in 2015 and also wrote what could be considered now as a prequel. Though his themes were speculative back then, reality took over.
“As though a chrome ball on the roulette wheel bounced straight into the slot that I happened to bet on,” he said.
While thrillers typically don’t land on my nightstand, the book keeps the reader going back and forth between scenes and characters diving further into the underbelly of the international crime organization. While there is humor in the book, it is completely natural and compelling and serves to break up the rising and falling tension and, quite frankly, horrible circumstances and the protagonists’ struggle to survive and “beat the bad guys.”
Mendocino Beacon runs the story of McHugh’s local writing history
My pro writing began in Albion, was matured in Mendocino, and fed on local issues emanating from Fort Bragg. I was initially trained as a poet. But when I came here, I felt stunned by how many amazing environmental and outdoor adventure stories went whisking on by with zero mention in the regional media — particularly the dominant outlet, the San Francisco Chronicle. So I gave myself an assignment: What if I tried to write about such things, and do so as if I actually knew how to be a journalist?
Worked like a charm. First story I wrote was about unpaid environmental activists who labored by hand to clear old logging debris from the Albion River, so that salmon could again ascend to traditional spawning gravels I contrasted that with a gyppo logger’s flagrant abuse of a “diseased” diagnosis from a forester buddy to cut down healthy redwoods in a residential area of Redway, on a bend of the Briceland Road. I sold that tale for $50o bucks to “California Living” magazine.
Coastal paper praises “prescience” of The Blind Pool
If elements of his book make him look prescient, McHugh can thank the Panama Papers, which uncovered a vast conspiracy of behind-the-scenes criminal behavior undertaken by powerful people on a global scale. The narrative thread of his thriller, which features flawed heroes battling international criminal forces, could have been pulled directly from news reports of the Panama Papers. His Russian villain even receives citizenship from Malta — the same island nation in real-world turmoil after the death of a journalist who worked to unearth the Panama Papers.
Kirkus is thrilled by The Blind Pool
A military veteran’s unpleasant encounter with a biker gang prompts an investigation into criminals using a Texas prison for their own gain in this thriller.
Dan Cowell and his common-law wife, Linda Parker, are enjoying a relaxing life in Key West, Florida. At least until Dan tries stopping bikers from tormenting an elderly couple on the highway, ending with both him and Linda beaten and humiliated. Dan’s friend and fellow Navy vet, Carl Blackadar, who does °discreet” government work, suggests tracking down the gang. This would benefit Carl as well Dan can ID the main assailant, Tank, whose gang Carl has linked to international theft and murder. Dan agrees; later, his eyewitness status is the likely motive for an assassination attempt against the common-law couple. The two men begin in Ecuador while Linda and her ex-journalist pal (and Carl’s girlfriend), Melanie Olson, investigate the matter separately. Mel believes she’s found Tank in a Texas jail, where the women travel under the pretense of writing a magazine article. Something is dearly wrong with the prison: How can Tank be in other countries if he’s locked up, and why doesn’t Linda recognize him? Things escalate when Dan and Carl get word that the two women have disappeared. McHugh’s (Deadlines, 2010, etc.) novel is brimming with action. Scuffles are quick and startling, while realistically varying in outcomes: some of the fights the good guys win; some they lose; and some involve frying pans. Characters have just as much impact, especially the women; Linda, a Moskita from Honduras, proves a formidable opponent against any attacker. The story initially bounces the perspective between the paired-off characters, but as they gradually split apart (for different reasons), the scenes shorten and the pace increases. Nevertheless, the author adeptly depicts the environment; at the prison, the women trek through “corridors that cradle” a dank musk “of male sweat as well as hints of feral vapor, stale urine and vomit, all laced by a turpentine reek of Pine-Sol.”
Tight action sequences and a high-energy plot that readers should relish.
From Kirkus Review
Los Angeles Times (Spanish Edition) champions Latin dimensions of The Blind Pool
Throughout his career as an author, McHugh has focused on a rejection of stereotypes. So he endows his characters with complex characteristics, such as internal conflicts, wrong decisions and difficult confrontations. Such particularities brilliantly stand out in the female figures who inhabit the author’s stories.
“I’ve always believed that if you want to have a funny Latin male figure, do not make him Cantinflas. If you want to present a sexy Latina woman, do not make her a Carmen Miranda. Instead, what you should do is understand the culture of the characters, their background, and then proceed to flesh out a recognizable human being and make that character breathe. What I wanted to do with the women (in The Blind Poor) was to make them totally human and real, give them their own set of strengths and vulnerabilities. Not make them impeccable, but rather allow them to make mistakes, “says the writer.
El Comercio is captivated by steady beat of surprises in The Blind Pool
Jorge R. Imbaquingo
The construction of McHugh’s narrative is as complex as the weaving of a Manabi hat. “The Blind Pool” is like a mosaic, with the big picture composed of the chips of smaller stories. They are united by a common theme, though: the hunt for a villain who controls a vast network of corruption. This is a very Latin way to tell a tale. Latin literature often employs a fragmented, even baroque narrative style to reveal parallel or circular realities.