Fiction - Literary
354 Pages
Reviewed on 05/13/2019
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Free Book Program, which is open to all readers and is completely free. The author will provide you with a free copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. You and the author will discuss what sites you will post your review to and what kind of copy of the book you would like to receive (eBook, PDF, Word, paperback, etc.). To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

Author Biography

William H. Coles is the award-wining author of 14 books that include six novels, 37 short stories, and 3 books on the art of writing fiction stories. He has written 37 essays on the craft of writing available online, transcribed 31 in-person interviews with eastablished authors, publishers, editors, and illustrators about the successful creation of literary stories. He is the creator of the website dedicated to resources for writers, storyinliteraryfiction, where stories and eductaional material can be accessed and read online or downloaded. His fiction is available without charge online, PDF download , audio, podcast as well as on KINDLE, AMAZON, B&N, eBook and audiobook.
His goal in writing fiction is to provide the best possible stories to readers as an art form at low or no cost and to teach the creation of admired stories that are enjoyed, remembered, and promote contemplation about what irt means to be alive into today's complex world.
He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers' Favorite

McDowell by William H. Coles is the story of Dr. Hiram McDowell. A celebrated surgeon, Dr. McDowell is single-minded in getting what he wants. His climb to the top is not without casualties and is not without some questionable practices. Cold and calculating, there is no denying his brilliance but when tragedy strikes, his world comes tumbling down. Grief and anger put him on a criminal path that will see his life of privilege and wealth all but destroyed. Can Hiram rebuild his life? On the run, Hiram embarks on a journey that will change the very core of him, change the way he lives, but is it enough to rebuild life as he knew it or will he become a different man? This could be Dr. McDowell’s one chance at redemption but will he take it?

McDowell by William H. Coles is a brilliantly written masterpiece of literary fiction. A story that could so easily be true, riveting to read. The emotion pours off almost every page and you can feel it; you can feel the sadness, the humor, the anger at the main character to start with. In the beginning, you really do not like Dr. McDowell and his fall from grace will make you happy but that is the turning point of this story. From there on, the action really picks up the pace and takes you on a journey you will never forget. This book is for everybody. It is full of lessons on life and attitude. We can all learn something here and every reader will take away something different from this book. The characterization is excellent and William H. Coles has created a main protagonist that you absolutely hate from the start but grow to love. Be prepared for an intense read; there is so much going on but every single word is relevant.

Viga Boland

Fans of popular fiction might be inclined to pass over books classified as literary fiction. What a mistake that would be in the case of McDowell by William H. Coles. While a good plot is essential to all fiction, in literary fiction the exploration of character takes precedence over plot. And why not? After all, isn’t it what people do, think and feel…what motivates and demotivates them…that either propels them to climb to the summit of their abilities or plummets them into hell on earth?

This, and what Dr. McDowell, a brilliant, but self-centered surgeon discovers about himself, is what stays with readers after they finish this absorbing story. When we first meet Dr. McDowell, there is little to like about him. His achievements in both business, medicine, mountain climbing and empire building are impressive, but his actions, words, and insensitivity to the needs of his family, friends and colleagues are reprehensible. He is a powerful man and it’s his way or the highway at all times. His only saving grace is his love of his children and the work he does for the poor in Nepal.

But the latter comes under severe scrutiny once a TV journalist, Paige, is assigned to do a series on the high-profile Dr. McDowell. Bit by bit, McDowell’s world falls apart, coming to a head when he removes his grandson, a mass murderer, from life support. Until the very last page, readers will be debating the real reasons for Dr. McDowell becoming a murderer himself by taking such action, action for which, by the way, he ends up being convicted and imprisoned. But it’s over the years following his escape from prison, that through the people he meets while on the run, McDowell comes face to face with himself. What he learns about himself and others leaves readers thinking about life, art, humanity and our place on this earth in ways we may not yet have pondered. It’s a revelation for both McDowell and readers.

There’s an interesting twist to McDowell that will capture the minds of aspiring writers. While McDowell is on the run, and as he talks to more and more people, he begins writing his memoir. What he learns about writing, for example, one has to know what makes people do what they do “to write anything significant,” really hits home. It’s something all writers should know. But do they, in their haste to churn out books with fast-moving plots, always create something “significant” It’s William H. Coles' ability to create something significant, time and again, that has earned him a multitude of writing awards. His bio is impressive; so is his bibliography. Once you read McDowell, you will, like me, be looking for more books by William H. Coles. I can’t wait to get started on the next one in my collection. Not bad for someone who, until McDowell, had forgotten the beauty of literary fiction.

Raanan Geberer

McDowell: A Novel by William H. Coles is about Dr. Hiram McDowell, an “alpha male” if there ever was one. He heads a Department of Surgery, plays rock guitar, climbs mountains in the Himalayas, runs marathons, has established a hospital in Nepal, and has been elected president of the International College of Surgeons. At home, however, it’s a different story. He acts callously toward his wife, doesn’t care if she knows he has another woman in Nepal, and is only involved superficially with his children’s lives. Now, another surgeon, whom McDowell passed up for executive director of the College of Surgeons, and an aging TV reporter, who’s anxious to prove she’s still relevant, are both on McDowell’s trail, independently of each other. They’ve discovered irregularities in his laboratory and financial improprieties in his charity in Nepal, as well as false statements in his autobiography. And that’s only the first step in his problems—problems that eventually will make him a fugitive on the run.

McDowell by William H. Coles is an extremely exciting, well-written novel. The medical information, such as it is, is written in a way that laymen can understand. Coles does a good job of taking us into the world of elite upper-class professionals, where ambition and international travel take a front seat, but family unfortunately takes a back seat. We’re not really sure why McDowell is so driven—late in the book, when someone asks him why money and prestige are so important to him, he draws a blank—but he was likely raised that way, since his family was wealthy enough to own a stable of race horses. McDowell has no easy answers; he doesn’t undergo a miraculous transformation into a “good person.” In every way, however, I would recommend McDowell. An excellent book.

Ruffina Oserio

McDowell by William H. Coles is a literary fiction read that features crime, family, and one man’s epic fall from grace to grass and his pursuit of meaning, inner freedom, and redemption. Meet surgeon McDowell, an arrogant and selfish man who only thinks about himself and his children. But as life always has a way of putting people where they belong, he soon loses his wealth and reputation and his career falls apart, thanks to a grandson who commits a series of murders and yet fails to take his own life. This leaves the family with a vegetable. But then the grandson dies in a mysterious way, and all hands are pointing at McDowell. Read on to experience the family drama, the intense suffering, and how he will make one last attempt to redeem his life after his conviction.

William H. Coles has written a story that has a lot of entertainment for readers. It is also one that comes with powerful lessons on love and giving. I enjoyed following the journey of the protagonist, watching him descend to the lowest level of society to learn meaning and the real purpose of life in unlikely places. The story is beautifully told, in elegant and crisp prose that will entice readers to keep reading on. The writing features beautiful passages that unveil strong emotions. The story is both emotionally and psychologically charged and readers will love the way the conflict develops and how it drives the plot forward. McDowell is a great story from a master entertainer, a story with powerful lessons for life.

Christian Sia

McDowell by William H. Coles is a family saga that follows the life of a selfish and arrogant surgeon, who suffers an epic fall from grace, and the path he travels to redemption. McDowell cares for no one but his children. But then he loses everything when his grandson commits multiple murders and fails in his suicide attempt, which leaves him paralyzed mentally. But the boy dies in very unusual circumstances and McDowell gets a conviction for second-degree murder. He is jailed. Now watch as he escapes and lives as a fugitive, pursued by the authorities and a reporter who is just too eager to interview him before the police catch up with him. Watch as he learns the virtues of humanity the hard way, by taking a path trodden by those he despised when he was powerful and rich. It’s a story that follows a man’s transformation, and his somewhat spiritual odyssey to a life that has meaning.

William H. Coles has created a compelling character in McDowell, a character forced to embrace the essence of humanity by harsh circumstances. Can he really find redemption? It is fascinating how the character evoked powerful emotions in me and how those emotions evolved as I read on. At the beginning of the story, I detested this character, but his inner journey brought me around and, instead of a sense of revulsion for the man he was, I learned to look at him with sympathy. Here is a story that is character-driven and that explores what is essential in human nature. It is a story that is filled with powerful lessons while entertaining readers hugely. I was completely drawn into the dynamics of the story and read through it non stop. Great story, awesome characters, impeccable plot lines.

Sefina Hawke

McDowell by William H. Coles is a literary fiction novel that would appeal most to a diverse audience of young adults and adults who enjoy mystery thrillers. McDowell is an arrogant surgeon and father of three who has a distinguished career. That all changed when his grandson goes on a massive killing spree that only ends with his failed suicide. When the young man dies under suspicious circumstances, McDowell becomes a suspect. McDowell quickly finds himself convicted of second-degree murder and becomes a fugitive. While on the run, McDowell works to set up a new identity and finds himself having to begin his new life at the lowest level of society. Will McDowell's experiences as a lower class member of society help him to grow as a person or will he remain set in his selfish ways?

McDowell by William H. Coles was a book that reminded me of the Marvel movie Doctor Strange with how both main characters were arrogant surgeons who seemed to not give much thought or care for those that did not directly affect them. However, this book sets itself apart from Doctor Strange with how McDowell not only lost his career, but also his freedom due to being convicted for his own grandson’s murder. I enjoyed the way that McDowell developed and grew as a character during the course of the book; his journey away from arrogance truly allowed him to undergo massive amounts of character development and introspection. I personally found the way the author ended the book to be both surprising and realistic.

K.C. Finn

McDowell is another high quality work of literary fiction penned by author William H Coles, this time focusing on themes of privilege and the fall from grace. Our central character is the titular Hiram McDowell, an acerbic and selfish man who cares only for his immediate group of close family. A renowned surgeon, McDowell’s downfall begins when his grandson commits a heinous crime and is soon after found dead himself. The bottom falls out of the surgeon’s world when he finds himself jailed and relearning the true nature of humanity by experiencing life from a totally opposite angle to the world he was born into. What results is a powerful tale of transformation and a shift in perspective.

Author William H Coles uses his powers of character creation to tell a tragedy of epic proportions in this excellent addition to his body of work. McDowell, though highly despicable, is an engaging anti-hero to follow, full of scathing unpleasantness and arrogance, which makes his powerful fall all the more impactful. There’s fantastic atmospheric work and description throughout, but the plot really gets going once the fall occurs, at which point the emotional journey deepens and the philosophical and literal lessons of life are learned. Though this is largely a harrowing tale, the overall message is one of appreciation for the lives of others, their diversity, their pain and their perspectives, which makes for a brilliant reading experience. Overall, I would highly recommend McDowell for its literary prowess and startling emotional depth.

Jamie Michele

McDowell by William H. Coles is an engrossing piece of literary fiction surrounding the rise, fall, and ultimate redemption of Dr. Hiram McDowell. McDowell is both the story's protagonist and, as he truly is his own worst enemy, also the catalyst for his demise. This snowballs from years of narcissism, callous behavior, and a 'win at any cost' attitude. He's blameless in his own eyes. Blameless for failed marriages, for his vengeful colleagues, and for the frailty of his own family—which catastrophically manifests itself in the most violent way. The clank of bars isn't enough for Hiram to see the error of his ways, but when he disappears into the refuge of the wilderness, the harsh realities of where he's come and the things he's done are nearly insurmountable...even for an experienced mountaineer.

Was I meant to hate Hiram McDowell before his journey of redemption began? I don't know, but hate wasn't something I felt for him. In fact, as a character, he's probably one of the most interesting I've come across in a long, long time. At first, I thought he was projecting an existential nihilism, but he cares about the good he has in his life far too much for that to be the case. When he loses all of it, not only does he care, but he refuses to take any accountability. The story of McDowell by William H. Coles is a character-driven narrative with a transcendental redemption arc. The people he meets, both good and bad, are perfectly fleshed out by Coles. This is quality literary fiction that, having been written at any other time than now (when millions of books are released per year), would have become required reading. It's that good.

Romuald Dzemo

I became a strong fan of William H. Coles after reading his novels The Surgeon's Wife, The Spirit of Want, and Guardian of Deceit, so when I stumbled on McDowell, I knew it would be another spellbinding and well-written story. I wasn’t wrong. It is the same powerful and unique literary voice, focused and steady. With his unique style and signature, Coles creates another compelling character in Hiram McDowell, a successful and respectable surgeon, a man with a dubious character that quickly drives his peers to resentment and makes them want to destroy him. Becoming a member of the President’s cabinet is something very coveted, but a crime is about to sink McDowell. Can he muster up enough fight to restore a reputation that is so badly damaged?

William H. Coles has the unique style of inventing characters from the medical world and he writes so well about them that readers feel as though they are watching medical professionals confronting the challenges of their profession. The characters are sophisticated and elaborate, each with a solid background and a personality that is well defined. The prose is always impeccable, with descriptions that hit home with stunning clarity. Just in the opening lines, the protagonist is introduced in action and elements of the setting are captured in a vivid picture: “The sky cleared briefly before daybreak. The sharp bitter winds eased somewhat, but the negative forty-degree temperatures penetrated to the bone. Hiram McDowell lifted the flap of a one-man tent to look in on Erick Woolf, who turned his head, his beard tinged in frost-white from his labored breathing; Woolf lifted his goggles, his pale blue eyes opaque with fatigue.” McDowell is suspenseful and hugely entertaining, a novel that explores human nature and confronts readers with the dilemmas of the protagonist. This author knows what it takes to rattle the nerves of the reader.

Rabia Tanveer

This is the story of a man named McDowell, who had everything he ever wanted. Whatever he wanted, he achieved and he was proud of it. Envied by his peers, he was arrogant and selfish, but not with his family. He truly loved them and wanted the best for them, so when his grandson commits murder and then fails to commit suicide, McDowell’s life comes to crashing to a halt. His grandson, Jeremy, is now paralyzed and living a life worse than death. However, when his grandson dies under suspicious circumstances, McDowell is arrested and is now awaiting his sentence. But he is not a quitter; he is a fighter and does his best to escape his fate. He runs away from prison and starts a journey in which he learns his flaws and faults. He learns what life is in the hardest of ways and discovers that he is not as invincible as he thought he was.

McDowell by William H. Coles is the thrilling tale of a man who thought he had it all until his life came crashing down and suffocated him. McDowell is a powerful and compelling story that had me sitting on the edge of my seat and wanting to know more. His character development was intense; he had a complete 360-degree change in his personality and, surprisingly, it didn’t sound forced. The author brought about the change slowly and gradually so that his transition from an arrogant man to a humble one was believable. His change was almost spiritual in nature, which added another dimension to the story and made it even more interesting. Apart from McDowell himself, I enjoyed how the story flowed seamlessly and compellingly. The pace was fast, the characters were believable and the overall atmosphere was perfect for keeping me invested in the story until the very end.

Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Review by Lisa Brown-Gilbert for McDowell

William H. Coles’McDowell doses readers with literate medicine for the mind and soul, with a distinctive and engrossing work of dramatic fiction that craftily embeds a story of self-discovery within the world of the modern medical profession. It delves into the life and psyche of surgeon Hiram McDowell, a medical professional at the pinnacle of his success who dwells at the lowest points of morality.

From the story’s outset, readers will find they are immediately engrossed in the life of protagonist Dr. Hiram McDowell. He lives a dual existence in his world which teems, with wealth, opportunity and privilege. To the outside world he wears the facade of an ambitious humanitarian and expert in his field, but to those who know him more intimately he is morally flawed with only his own interests and needs at heart. Altogether, McDowell severely lacks in common human decency; he is crude to his family, ignores and openly cheats on his wife, looks only to serve his goals within his profession, revels in deceptiveness, steps on the toes of colleagues and misappropriated charitable funds. Moreover, the focus of the story is not just mainly on McDowell; it also brings into focus his family dynamic and the effects that his behavior therefore has on his family, particularly his two closest children.

Ultimately, he makes enemies out of those that once trusted him and perpetuates conflicts of self- esteem within those that attempt to love him. An almost seemingly hopeless cause, it piques the curiosity to see where things go for him. Eventually McDowell’s moral deficiencies become his complete downfall and he is consequently forced to live a life of poverty and solitude with his wealth, fame and power far removed from his life. Forced to live as an itinerant fugitive, and meanwhile, surviving by his wits, he gradually learns, to humble himself and become a more humane human for his survival among everyday folk.

Wholly, enjoyable McDowell was a richly realized and realistically detailed read that was character driven and moved at a balanced pace. Hiram McDowell turned out to be a strongly posed, despisable and simultaneously engrossing character whose ethical flaws catalyzed his journey to his self discovery. Overall, author William H. Coles writes with a literate aplomb that is both evocative and entertaining especially when it comes to detailing aspects of the medical profession and facets of human nature. My only contention about this read is the presence of some minor editing issues. But, issues aside, this was a worthy read and I do recommend it.



A novel follows a surgeon who possesses all the material comforts anyone could want, but harbors a deep lacking in his soul.

When readers first meet Hiram McDowell, he is leaving a hiking partner for dead and trying to make it back down a mountain in Nepal in 1981. It’s hard to judge if McDowell is simply callous and cruel or whether this is an issue of survival. Everything readers learn about him in the next few chapters, though, shows he is a pig who treats women like objects and deceives his third wife, Carole Mastriano. He’s also power-hungry, cheating a colleague, Michael O’Leary, out of a post on his way to becoming president of the International College of Surgeons. The one soft spot he has is for his three kids: Billie, who gets in trouble with one of Carole’s daughters; Ann, who copes with a turbulent marriage and mean children; and Sophie, who seeks to find her professional footing as a photographer. The tales start to converge when Paige Sterling, a journalist in her 50s fighting sexism at her network to keep her job, is assigned to cover McDowell’s story. Tragedy befalls the family when Ann’s son Jeremy goes on a killing spree, which leads to McDowell’s ultimate downfall when he is convicted of murdering the culprit in his hospital bed. McDowell escapes from prison and begins an unlikely association with a bookstore owner named Maud and her family. That gives him a chance at spiritual redemption while Sterling and the police try to hunt him down. Coles (Sister Carrie, 2016, etc.) has a knack for creating distinct characters. From McDowell to the members of Sterling’s crew in Nepal, they all have their own personalities. No player is wasted as a mere plot device. The author also expertly weaves together varied threads, though there are certain points where the story jumps forward past important action. But Billie revealing his indiscretions and his desire to be an artist; Sophie struggling to find herself after her partner is murdered; Ann navigating her marriage; and Sterling using unexpected opportunities all dovetail well with McDowell’s arc.

This worthy tale delivers an epic feel and strong characters.