I greeted the new and sixth Jesse Damon novel with joy. I’ve read Rockwood’s first five and was so glad she found Wildside Press to keep her series going. After I finished reading it, I asked myself why I enjoy Jesse’s adventures so much.
Jess is a paroled ex-con, who was in prison twenty years, from age sixteen, for murder. He didn’t kill anyone, but was literally “holding the bag” in a robbery that ended in murder. Adapting to the outside world has been tough for him, and he is often the “person of interest” whenever a new crime is committed, if there’s a remote chance he could be involved. Then his experience fulfills that saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.”
When Jesse tries to help other people, he usually ends up a suspect, but he keeps on doing it. He feels he can’t explain his behavior to the police because they never believe him. So he lies. Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails miserably.
In a freak car accident that hit a light pole and took out that part of the city’s electricity, he leaves his job at Steel Fabrications about 3 a.m. and is walking home when the police arrest him and show him to a woman who claims he’s the one who tried to hijack her car.
This isn’t the first time he has been wrongly arrested. Parolees have few rights, and this time they don’t even process him according to the rules they should follow. There have been several abductions and murders of women recently in the area where Jesse lives and works. It wouldn’t take much for him to be sent back to prison and be stuck there the rest of his life.
One of his regular tormentors is Carissa Daniles who works for the Rothberg Register and rarely checks her facts. She shows up like a bad penny whenever Jesse is arrested and here she is this time to see him fingered as the man who car-jacked the latest victim. By the next morning Jesse’s photo is plastered on the front page of the Register saying he’s a suspect in the Riverfront Murders. Furthermore she has been dating Belton, the policeman who loves to harass Jesse, and does again, once he’s at the jail.
In the cell with him is Kyle, who was arrested for embezzlement. Jesse helps him calm down so he doesn’t make their situation in a shared cell any worse than it already is.
To Jesse’s surprise both he and Kyle are brought before a judge to determine whether they can be bailed out. Jesse had never had enough money to be released on bail. He had found a money clip the watchman at work must have dropped (he recognized Steb’s clip) right before he was arrested. He found out it contained $3000 when they took away his belongings to lock him up. He’s tempted to use it if bail is set, but keeps to his plan to return it to the watchman.
To his surprise bail is not only granted, but paid, and he is free to go. He discovers that his landlord Jumbo George had sent his lawyer to free him and paid the 10% bond. Jesse is working part-time for George fixing up some old buildings he has bought, so he’ll let Jesse work off what he owes him. Kyle, also released, is angry at his wife and vice versa, and he and needs a place to stay. Since George has an empty, though not yet renovated, apartment, Jesse suggests Kyle talk to him. This works for Kyle, whose first response to getting out of jail is to get drunk. Jesse works out the rental arrangement with George, then takes Kyle upstairs, gets him into bed and covers him.
Jesse has a girlfriend, though Kelly has a drinking problems and sometimes doesn’t want to see him. He loves being with Kelly and her children Brianna and Chris, but Kelly seems now to be using him only to babysit, nor is she telling him what she’s up to while he feeds the kids, helps them with homework, and reads them bedtime stories.
I don’t know that I can explain why I love Jesse. He is so honest about his feelings and so misused and mistrusted. We can all be seen as suspicious at times, but Jesse deals with it constantly, and he doesn’t turn mean, bitter, or manipulative.
So, whenever things work out for him, even briefly, in some (usually unexpected) quarter, I feel so happy. If you haven’t read a Jesse novel yet, try this one, and then go back and read the other five. He’ll hook you. I can’t wait for number seven. I checked and the first five are available on Amazon. Judy Hogan
KM Rockwood draws on a varied background for stories, among them working as a laborer in a steel fabrication plant, operating glass melters and related equipment in a fiberglass manufacturing facility, and supervising an inmate work crew in a large medium security state prison. These jobs, as well as work as a special education teacher in an alternative high school and a GED teacher in county detention facilities, provide most of the background for her novels and short stories.