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Martin, Charles 1969-

Martin, Charles 1969-

PERSONAL:

Born 1969; married, 1993; wife's name Christy; children: Charlie, John T., Rives. Education: Florida State University, B.A.; Regent University, M.A., Ph.D. Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: Fishing, gardening, coaching T-ball.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Jacksonville, FL.

CAREER:

Hampton University, Hampton, VA, adjunct professor of English; Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA, former doctoral fellow; freelance writer, 1999—; has also worked in business.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Dead Don't Dance: A Novel of Awakening, WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2004.

Wrapped in Rain: A Novel of Coming Home, WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2005.

Maggie (sequel to The Dead Don't Dance), WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2006.

When Crickets Cry, WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

With just a few novels published, Charles Martin has gained a reputation for his sentimental fiction with strong Christian messages. A common theme in his stories is bad things happening to good people, who then question God and their spirituality. His debut, The Dead Don't Dance: A Novel of Awakening, was nominated for a Christy award. It features Dylan Styles, who is happily married to Maggie and hoping to gain a college teaching job as the novel opens. At first, his life seems to be taking a happy turn when Maggie tells him she is pregnant, but medical complications set in, the baby dies, and Maggie is left in a coma. Dylan gets the teaching position, but he cannot enjoy it because of what has happened to his family. Becoming severely depressed, he contemplates suicide. He meets a student named Amanda who, coincidentally, also works at the hospital, and she manages to help Dylan through his troubled state of mind. Critics found Martin's writing somewhat flawed, but praised other aspects of his first novel. Tamara Butler, writing in Library Journal, declared the work "competent but lacking in emotional depth." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that The Dead Don't Dance has "competent writing and a poignant plot" that results in an "absorbing read for fans of faith-based fiction."

Martin later followed The Dead Don't Dance with a sequel, Maggie. Taking up the story not long after the events in the first book, the novel has Dylan's wife awakening from her coma, but the couple are then faced with new tragedies. A Publishers Weekly contributor thought that the author adds too many plot twists that distract from the more interesting story of Maggie and Dylan trying to put their lives together after their child's death. The result is a "somewhat uneven" novel, according to the reviewer.

A painful childhood is the subject of Martin's Wrapped in Rain: A Novel of Coming Home. Brothers Tuck and Matthew "Mutt" Mason were both neglected by their parents during their childhood, but they found great comfort in their loving housekeeper, a black woman named Ella Rain. Mutt, unfortunately, suffers from schizophrenia and is eventually placed in hospital care. Moving ahead to their adulthood, Tuck, now a successful photographer, is forced to recall his early life after Mutt escapes from the institution. Ella has since passed away, but her wise words drift back to Tuck from the past and help him through this new crisis. A Publishers Weekly contributor found the "evil characters" in the story too "one-dimensional" and believed the writing to be "hardly luminous," while still considering the book to be a "cut above run-of-the-mill inspirational fiction." More complimentary was critic Tamara Butler, who stated in a Library Journal review that Wrapped in Rain is an "engaging Southern family drama [that] will have crossover appeal for readers of Pat Conroy."

Martin's fourth novel is When Crickets Cry, another hospital drama about a heart surgeon named Reese whose wife ironically dies of heart failure. Afterwards, he is drawn to the case of a young girl who has heart problems that cannot be cured by medicine. "Martin displays some impressive knowledge about medical practice and the workings of the heart, but his Christian message is not exactly subtle," remarked a Kirkus Reviews writer, who observed many overt biblical comments by the book's characters and described the book as "deep schmaltz in the Bible Belt." Other reviewers had more positive remarks for Martin's novel. For example, Cindy Crosby, a contributor to TeenReads.com, admitted Martin indulges in occasional "overwriting," but added that the "small problems [in the narrative] do not detract from the sheer pleasure of the story." BookLoons critic Melissa Parcel declared When Crickets Cry to be a "beautifully written, meaningful story" and "an impressive and insightful novel."

In an interview published online at the Faithful Reader Web site, Martin explained why he writes fiction with such strong religious messages: "Sometimes when I meet people, they seem cold, like their hearts are calloused, covered up in a shell that they've erected to protect themselves, mostly from life. If my books could shake off the scales, smooth the calluses, filter down in through the hurt to the tender meat inside and stir hope, then my stories will have done what I'd set out to do."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2004, Jerry Eberle, review of The Dead Don't Dance: A Novel of Awakening, p. 1545.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2006, review of When Crickets Cry, p. 152.

Library Journal, June 1, 2004, Tamara Butler, review of The Dead Don't Dance, p. 111; February 1, 2005, Tamara Butler, review of Wrapped in Rain: A Novel of Coming Home, p. 64.

Publishers Weekly, March 22, 2004, review of The Dead Don't Dance, p. 58; February 7, 2005, review of Wrapped in Rain, p. 44; July 31, 2006, review of Maggie, p. 50.

Today's Christian, May-June, 2005, Mike Parker, review of Wrapped in Rain, p. 10.

ONLINE

BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (October 3, 2006), Melissa Parcel, review of When Crickets Cry.

Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 3, 2006), Cindy Crosby, reviews of Wrapped in Rain and When Crickets Cry; Bethanne Kelly Patrick, review of The Dead Don't Dance.

Charles Martin Home Page,http://www.charlesmartinbooks.com (October 3, 2006).

Faithful Reader,http://www.faithfulreader.com/ (May 1, 2006), brief biography of Charles Martin and author interview; (October 3, 2006), Cindy Crosby, review of Wrapped in Rain.

Road to Romance,http://www.roadtoromance.ca/ (October 3, 2006), Eileen Key, review of When Crickets Cry.

TeenReads.com,http://www.teenreads.com/ (October 3, 2006), Cindy Crosby, review of When Crickets Cry.

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