Sure, you figure he’s a harmless funny fellow, writing his “Outsidah” columns and making you giggle.
But what happens when you let him write a serious novel? Nothing but trouble.
Doug Brendel, the aforementioned “Outsidah,” has just released a brand-new work of fiction, a 208-page domestic drama entitled “Unintended” — and it’s not at all like the humorous small-town commentary he’s known for.
“For years, I had this somewhat dark, complicated story lurking inside me,” he tells The Local Ne.ws, “and finally I had to exorcise it.”
The story, set around 1950 in Ohio, involves the intertwining lives of a slick white salesman, the conservative woman who falls for him, and a black teenage girl trying to protect her brain-damaged sister.
If that’s not complicated enough, there’s a vengeful spurned lover, a hateful whisky-swilling father, a medical administrator desperate to keep her job — and the mysterious guy blithely assaulting a beautiful mental patient.
“Not exactly a string of jokes about traffic in Ipswich,” Brendel chuckles.
“But for people who enjoy a dramatic novel, I think this will be a good read. By coincidence, it also happens to connect with current events. This story ends up asking questions like Do black lives matter? Do half-black lives matter more? Or less? And do you matter less if you don’t know who your father was?”
Such questions are intensely personal for Brendel.
“Our eldest child, Natalie, is African-American,” he says. “Our second child, Kristofer, is also adopted, but he’s blond and blue-eyed. So questions of racial harmony and issues revolving around birthparents have been part of our family for three decades.”
But will you enjoy the book? “I think the key to answering that question is how you react to the shocking act of violence at the climax of the book,” Brendel says.
“This book really challenges you to decide what you really believe about justice and revenge.”
Meanwhile, the “Outsidah” continues writing occasional humorous columns at Outsidah.com about life in Ipswich. “I haven’t turned off the humor spigot entirely,” he says.
Questions or comments about the Unintended novel can be directed to the author personally via DougBrendel.com.