Review: In Paul Jackson’s debut novel, a small town isn’t what it seems | Michigan Farm News

Review: In Paul Jackson’s debut novel, a small town isn’t what it seems

Category: Opinion

by Mitch Galloway, Farm News Media


Jovial describes a person who is good-humored or full of cheer, according to Merriam-Webster. In the town of Jovial, Mich., people are anything but this.

And that's the point author Paul Jackson is trying to make in this political drama about a community reporter abused by the cops and a misunderstood public that would rather rid itself of make-believe gangbangers — the ones trying to have a good time through harmless pranks — than help a local farmer who needs it.

All of this can only happen in Small Town, USA, in a flyover town that probably has more cows than people.

”The Organic Underwear Conspiracy” is the first novel from Jackson, the former editor of the Michigan Farm News.

In this fast-paced, 372-page story, Jovial is a community that embraces you with open arms only to stab you in the back as soon as you turnaround. The founder of the town, Alan Jovial, has graffiti underwear painted on him as part of a time-honored prank.

But that's not the real crime, the one that should be investigated, pursued, sniffed out by the police.

The real crime is what happens at a town dairy, the one where an animal rights group terrorizes a local farmer by abusing the very animals they are advocating. Hm.

All of this is nice, but local authorities received extra funding to pursue the underwear-on-a-statue pranksters, so that's the bigger issue. Of course.

What makes this an interesting thriller is not only the plot but the protagonist, Garit West.

A young journo stuck in a world with an I-dunno attitude, Garit’s first full-time gig is as a reporter for the Jovial World, miles and states away from home. There, he endures a police assault and is forced to work with a dinosaur editor who couldn't write a coherent editorial if Mike Royko wrote half of it for him.

As a journalist, I've had to deal with the Wallys of the world, the greasy, sleeps-with-his-employees types who demean reporters more than they offer support.

Still, Garit — we, in a way — put up with Wally because finding a good job in journalism is as easy as outrunning a cheetah.

Garit knows this, yet he has to get away from Illinois, where he’s from.

And that's why our hero’s journey begins in Michigan — in Jovial.

It's with Garit that this story’s engine truly hums, and it's with Jackson’s plot and character development that this story truly shines.

Jovial, the word, may mean happiness, in some form. Jovial, in Jackson’s creative mindset, may make you mad because of how realistic this small-town drama plays out. You won’t be disappointed by Jackson’s debut novel.

And that’s something to be happy about.

To purchase “The Organic Underwear Conspiracy,” visit Barnes & Noble or