To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel, by Scott Semegran

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Scott Semegran and Mutt Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After being asked by the author to read and review this piece, I was eager to see what he had to present. Set in Texas, Semegran’s storytelling was sure to mix nicely with the Southern flavour of this book. J.D. Wiswall is a pie-eyed young man from a small Texas town. When he arrives in Austin, he’s secured a government job at the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits. While a clerk job, J.D. finds it rewarding to help those in need. Working alongside a number of quirky individuals, J.D. soon learns of a contest being launched to help create cost-saving measures within government departments, with a prize of $10K to the winner. While J.D. is quite eager to win the prize, he learns that his Unit 3 colleagues have a pact whereby they will all share in the spoils. As the novel progresses, J.D. and his colleagues each receive time in the narrative to show their personal struggles, all aimed at accentuating how they could use the money for themselves. An accidental ‘epiphany’ by the drunken unit manager appears to solve the problem, which could ensure the Unit 3 team is that much richer. During a visit to the Governor’s Office, the chance for significant publicity trumps anything else, perpetuating a misleading set of facts spread at the hastily arranged press conference. Amongst the reporters on scene is one with a penchant for investigative work, who sees an opening that could blow the entire set of jaded facts out of the water, as well as reveal a long-held secret the governor has been keeping. An interesting novel that is sure to keep the reader forging ahead until the final revelations come to pass.

I was quite pleased to have Scott Semegran reach out and ask that I partake in reviewing this piece. While not weighed down with a great deal of drama or monumental character development, it does offer the reader something significant into which they can sink their teeth. J.D. Wiswall proves to be an interesting protagonist, whose blissful ignorance works well as he makes his way to the big city. He fits in nicely with his handful of fellow clerks in Unit 3, all of whom have their own backstories. In fact, it is Semegran’s ability to present these backstories and build on them through subsequent chapters focused away from the office that makes the story interesting for all. From a matriarch who tries to keep her sizeable brood in order, to single mother whose son is anything but angelic, and even a street-racing giant who enjoys being mute when it serves him well, Semegran flavours the story effectively with these individuals. The ‘dysfunctional family’ of Unit 3 promises to keep the reader wondering and eager to learn more. Toss in some political corruption and a journalists who refuses to accept anything for what it appears to be, and Semegran has woven together a novel that reads as easily as the curious reader could like. The format of the piece works well, choosing to entertain the reader from the get-go, and does not steer away from humorous antics. Those looking for something a little lighter need cast their sights no further than Scott Semegran’s latest piece. And what a curious title, which will lure in another pack of curious readers as well.

Kudos, Mr. Semegran, for permitting me the chance to read this piece. I may have a peek to see what else you’ve published, as I am sure to be just as entertained.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: