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Watauga Democrat alum pens thriller

Article Published: Apr. 26, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Watauga Democrat alum pens thriller

Former Watauga Democrat reporter John O'Dowd has released a new action thriller.

'Mahko's Knife' by John O'Dowd

John O'Dowd is a former Watautga Democrat reporter, but he hasn't put away the keyboard.
O'Dowd has released a new thriller novel, "Mahko's Knife," for electronic reading devices, combing his love of craft with emerging technology. The novel features the character of Mahko, inspired by O'Dowd's experiences as a former military officer. When crime boss Juan Martinez kidnaps two teenagers in revenge, Mahko Anaya tracks them to the Copper Canyon of Mexico.

Mahko, a former Army Ranger with Apache blood, pits his military skills, ancestral spirit, and endurance against a band of ruthless killers. One of the teenagers, Mahko's son, has been a good student--a and between the two of them, they unleash a fury as cold and cunning as a pack of wolves.

"I started this whole e-book project as an experiment," O'Dowd said. "In addition to a fast and easy way to get my book out, I am convinced that in less than 10 years, paper books will go the way of LPs and 45s. Like 8-Track tapes and the Beta format for your VCR, the only way you will be able to find a paper book is in an antique store or one of the new pseudo-60s 'book stores' sure to pop up in strip malls selling rolling papers, ceramic pipes, posters of Bob Dylan, lava lamps, LPs and, in dusty shelves against the wall, 'books.' Newer staff will have to be taught what they are so that they can discuss them with incredulous post-Gen-X customers."

O'Dowd, who now works as an advocate for the disabled in Vermont, is currently working on a sequel, in addition to a new mystery series. He plans to continue exploring the e-book audience made popular by Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, the Apple iPad, and other electronic devices.

"With e-books, you can load your backpack, purse or briefcase with a veritable library of material, hundreds of books in a few inches,'" O'Dowd said. "You can carry classics from 'Moby Dick' to 'The Old Man and the Sea' to 'Mahko's Knife' in the space of a notebook. With the right software you can translate your own desktop and carry it with you."

A former tank unit commander, military lawyer, and paratrooper, O'Dowd left the Army to go into private law practice. Not even the skills he had learned as a graduate of the Air Force's Unconventional Warfare School and the Army's Airborne, Ranger and Jungle Expert schools, could prepare him for dealing with angry divorce clients. When he had milked all of the fun out of the practice of law that he could stand, he moved to Boone and went to work as a general-assignment reporter, winning three state press awards before writing "Mahko's Knife."

"I feel like a pioneer," O'Dowd said. "I know that I'm following in the digital footprints of others, but I'm still out front. I suggest that everyone buy digital books. It's easy, multiple formats, it's cheap and you don't kill trees."

"Mahko's Knife " is $2.99 in various e-book formats. To learn more, visit O'Dowd's blog at

'The Serpent and the Hummingbird' and 'Incident at Tuckerman Court' by Wilson Roberts

Former Lees-McRae professor Wilson Roberts has released two books. His novel "The Serpent and the Hummingbird" combines elements of science fiction and thriller genres, drawing on serpent-handling Pentecostal church services in the North Carolina mountains. An artificial-intelligence researcher, a waitress, a self-ordained minister, a church recruiter and a disbarred lawyer round out the cast of characters.

Roberts has also released "Incident at Tuckerman Court," set in Massachusetts, as a romantic thriller. A political science professor is brutally attacked, leaving him blind in one eye. His marriage, his daughter's safety and his economic security are threatened in a world now gone two-dimensional. Roberts previously released the supernatural thriller, "The Cold Dark Heart of the World." The books are available in print and digital copies.

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