Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
By Gerald Everett Jones
LaPuerta Books and Media
ISBN: 978-0-9856227-4-9, Sept 2014,
Gerald Everett Jones certainly knows how to tell a story. In his YA novel, <i>Mr Ballpoint</i> he has left behind inflatables and taken on the history of the ballpoint pen. That may not sound like the most fascinating subject for a novel, but the story of the introduction of the Reynolds Pen is fascinating, full of all intrigue, historical events like the “pen wars”, aviator records, and hints of espionage. Milton Reynolds, his son Jim, and Jim’s wife Zelta are all beautifully developed characters whose fictional antics include a significant character arcs and a subtle and engaging interaction between ‘real life’ and fiction. Jones has insider knowledge of the Reynolds, having been an employee of Reynolds Printasign and the Reynolds Group, and having worked for Jim’s son Tom, and he paints a portrait of Milton that is as wild and exotic as it is fun.
The book effectively opens in 1944 and young Jim Reynolds has just graduated from Stanford an has successfully proposed to his beautiful girlfriend Zelta Burrows. The only problem is Jim’s overbearing dad, huckster/salesman Milton Reynolds, who is larger than life and who co-ops Jim to come work for him and help him produce and sell the first biro into North America. Milton and Jim cleverly find a way around the Eversharp company’s patent and between Jim’s quiet engineering prowess and Milton’s audacity, the company triggers a shopping riot, starts the famous pen wars, and keeps the money rolling in even when the pens leak badly.
Milton is larger than life, and Jones seamlessly incorporates an historical perspective that includes World War Two and the Cold War, the operations behind the scenes at big department stores like Gimbels and Macy’s, Milton’s round the world twin-engine propeller flight that broke Howard Hughes’ record. In addition, Milton and Jim’s difficult relationship, coupled with both Milton’s marriage and Jim’s marriage to Zelta, mingles the domestic with the historical perfectly. Engaging, funny, and full of the cross-genre capability that marks all of Jones’ novels, Mr Ballpoint will surprise and delight readers of all ages.
About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com