Saturday, November 23, 2013

Frame 232 - A Jason Hammond Novel 1 - by Wil Mara

This is a fascinating book about what might happen if you discovered your mom was the Babushka Lady, a woman who is thought to have filmed Kennedy's assassination and whose identity was never discovered.  Sheila Baker finds a film in a safe-deposit box after her mother's death that reveals not only that her mom was the Babushka Lady, but that she caught another shooter on film.  She kept it hidden all these years to protect her family, but now Sheila has to decide what to do with it.  She turns to billionaire Jason Hammond, a man known for solving mysteries and getting to the truth, no matter the cost.  Someone discovers what they have and they end up on the run for their lives, trying to solve the mystery of who the second shooter was while evading the assassin hot on their trail.

I loved this book!  I have long been fascinated with Kennedy's assassination, ever since I took a college course focused on it, so I was very excited to read this book.  It did not disappoint!  I loved the action.  The talk about the conspiracies was fascinating and I loved the varied viewpoints as we discovered different facets to the conspiracy.  I also liked the emotional aspects to the story, as Sheila ponders what her mom went through carrying this secret and Jason struggles with past grief he just can't seem to get over. I also liked the spiritual discussion Jason and another character have about choosing not to blame God for misfortunes and living with purpose.  I am very excited for the second book in this series as we follow Jason Hammond's future adventures, due summer 2014!

I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Q & A with Wil Mara, author of

Frame 232


What inspired you to write a novel around the assassination of President John F.


I have always been fascinated by the assassination, which, obviously, was one of the most pivotal and

enigmatic events in American history. And when I heard about the ‘Babushka Lady’

---one of the few people in Dealey Plaza that day who remains unidentified---

and the possibility that she may have filmed the shooting, an idea came to mind that

seemed too good to disregard.


How much research did you do for this project?

An unbelievable amount. I spoke with assassination experts, read literally hundreds and books and

articles, pored over countless name it. My goal was to write a fictional story around

the established facts rather than alter the facts to serve the story. Thus, I had to know pretty much

everything. I ended up loading my brain with more data than I really needed...but I didn’t mind.


How has your research informed your own theory of what happened during the JFK


My personal theory, prosaic though it may be, is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. If you want to be

convinced, get your hands on a fairly rare book called Lee, which was written by his brother, Robert.

Once you understand the mind behind the eyes that looked through that rifle scope, you will be


4. What have you learned about the real Babushka Lady?

She was wearing an overcoat, glasses, and a head scarf (i.e., a babushka), and

was standing about thirty feet from the limousine when the president took the fatal shot.

Most assassination experts believe she was also holding a camera---very possibly a film camera.

If so, and if she had a reasonably steady hand, then she probably took the best

moving images of the assassination; even better than the famed Zapruder film. Plus, she was

standing opposite Zapruder, which afforded her a unique angle. And yet, we don’t know her name,

and her film has never surfaced. And here’s the most important part about her in relation to Frame 232

---she was a real person. I didn’t invent her to serve the story. If you do a Google search, you’ll find her

5.What is the significance of the title?

Simple---once the Babushka film is analyzed, the key moment that helps our heroes move

forward with their investigation occurs on frame 232.

6.What role does your Christian faith play in your writing?

It is embedded throughout this story, in a fashion both subtle and direct. I was raised

Christian and have been a firm believer all my life, so my belief system is threaded into

just about everything I do. Anyone who carries even the most fundamental faith will recognize

the important elements in this book. The most obvious example belongs to the main

character, who recurs throughout the series ---he is suffering a deep crisis of faith, and the core

of that crisis should be familiar to even the most devout follower. We are human, plain and simple,

and as such we experience doubts about the Lord in our lifetime. So it won’t be hard for anyone

to connect with him.

7.Describe the role of faith plays in your main characters, Sheila Baker and Jason Hammond.

Does this change as the story progresses?

With Sheila, you’ve got a very goodhearted person who is experiencing a critical change in her

worldview ---she is coming out of the ‘money is the most important thing in the world’ phase and

beginning to understand that there are much higher priorities. This isn’t to say she’s trumpeting the

virtues of poverty (she still understands that it’s important to live within a certain comfortable and

respectable standard). But she’s figuring out that money isn’t what a person should worship

---it’s something altogether different. And there is a traceable and, I think, very satisfying arc to

her story in this regard. As for Jason, he suffered a tremendous loss years earlier, went through

a protracted nightmare period, and is starting to come out of during the events of Frame 232.

An encounter with a very unlikely source helps him to turn the corner and begin a path to renewed

promise---but even so, the journey ahead is going to present serious challenges for him.

The good news, though, is that he has not abandoned the Lord altogether. If he had done that,

there wouldn’t be any conflict within him in the first place.


What lessons do you hope readers will come away with after reading

Frame 232?

I can’t interpret the story for anyone but myself, but there are a few themes at work that strike me as

particularly valuable. One is that God’s path is always the right one in the end, even if it seems

unimaginably rocky at times. Another is that tragedies occur in every life, that these misfortunes usually

happen for a reason, and that the reason may not be apparent for some time. A third is that we

need to treasure our loved ones for as long as we have them around, because they can

disappear in a heartbeat. Also, it’s important to keep getting out of bed and moving forward every day

because life is a gift, and God does not favor those who waste their time and talents. If you are

blessed with ability and resources (and Jason has plenty of both), you should use them.


What do you have planned for your future Jason Hammond books?

Jason will be tackling other high-profile (and, later on, some lesser known) mysteries as the series

progresses. Readers will also get to follow his ongoing struggles as he rebuilds his faith and gradually

assembles his ‘new normal.’ Plus, we’ll further explore the lives of those around him (including a

budding love interest, who will appear in the second book). It’s also worth noting that not every

book in the series will follow a strictly linear chronology. The one I’m writing now, for example (The

Nevada Testament) begins about six weeks after Frame 232. The one I’ll write after that, however

(Gardner Island), occurs before the events of Frame 232 and will feature, among other things,

some of Jason’s darker and more harrowing moments.


What would you like to say to Christian retailers to help them promote Frame 232?

I have tried like mad to strike an ideal balance between solid, suspenseful storytelling and the delivery

of worthwhile Christian messages without being over -the-top preachy. All the books in the series, while

undeniable in their Christian content, are suitable for the mainstream market as well and thus should

find a broad audience. It is also important to note that they were designed not just in regard to what

they offer, but what they don’t offer---readers will not have to deal with inappropriate language,

gratuitous sexual content, brazen violence, or any of the similar nonsense that characterizes so many

other forms of contemporary storytelling. The subject matter might be somewhat advanced in places,

but it can be safely absorbed and enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

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