Sever The Darkness

Now available on the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Nobles, Sony eReader and Apple iBookstore! Murder, romance, racial unrest, environmental concerns, tourism, and oil interests swirl along the Guadalupe River in this suspenseful novel set in the Texas Hill Country. Sent by his editor to cover the increasing tension between conservationists and developers, journalist Clay Aker unexpectedly encounters Mary Frances Wiley, a classmate now operating a canoe livery and campground on the river. Drought conditions has lowered visitation and her revenue stream cannot support payments on a pending bank loan. She is battling to keep her land from being sold to oil interests bent on using pipeline right-of-way to pump oil across the fragile Hill County. The physical attraction between Clay and Mary Frances causes sexual tension throughout the novel.

Clay meets Sharkbait Guy, an experienced outdoors writer who helps him with his assignment. They discover the body of a brutally slashed teenager on the river. Deputy Sheriff Julio Ramirez is on a personal quest to find his niece who was with the murdered boy while fighting prejudice within the department. Clay, Mary Frances, Sharkbait and Deputy Ramirez team up to uncover the killer and thwart the sale of her land. 

Now available at:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Sony

Sever the Darkness
is an educational novel. The plot holds the attention and keeps the pages turning, but you cannot read it without becoming better informed on the natural resource issues which dominate the political and cultural landscape of the New Bruanfels area. The conflicts between long-time residents and tourists on the River; traditional enmity between ethnic groups; conflicts among the development, environmental and farming interests; the central role of water -- in many ways the New Braunfels situation is a particularly intense microcosm of the challenges confronting the whole Hill Country. Coalson deals with real places --Comal County, the Guadalupe River, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority -- and his descriptions of the infrastructure of them are richly textured, lovingly capturing the ambiance and atmosphere of the context in a way that could only be done by someone who has had long intimacy with the area. The characters are designed to personify the interest groups involved in the New Braunfels issues and they are well-nuanced. It's a good read. Well worth three hours in the hammock on the back porch. All who have spent a few days in the New Bruanfels area will enjoy the tapestry that Les Coalson weaves. All who seek an enjoyable way of learning more of the challenges of natural resource issues in the Hill Country will be rewarded."
- Professor John L. Crompton, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University 

"[Sever The Darkness] rings true. The story has an authentic feel for the river and the characters." - Ellen Posey, owner of Whitewater Sports, a pioneer Guadalupe River outfitter 

"Coalson writes about the stretch of the Guadalupe between Canyon Lake and New Braunfels, where two journalists, outdoor writers like the Advocate's Jason Collins, must solve several mysterious murders. For the reader, the mystery is not who killed the couple rafting the river - we know that from the first chapter - but who will win the conflict over Guadalupe River property: environmentalists, ranchers, tourists, the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, or Petronics, Inc. Oil and Gas.

With subplots of racial tension and romance, this first novel by a former writer for the Edna Herald sometimes stumbles over similes, "Her laughter was like a musical butterfly dancing to an aria," and occasionally supplies an overabundance of information: "There wasn't much in the refrigerator except for beer, tea, milk, wine coolers, eggs, bacon, some salad, pickles, tomatoes, and condiments." But as the hero muses about his own writing, "The newness of the job made it a challenge for him to focus on a story line. There was too much subject matter to cover." The same could be said of writing about rivers." - Reese Vaughn is the book reviewer for the Victoria Advocate. Write her at P.O. Box 118, Seadrift, Texas 77983, or e-mail her at 

"I just finished reading Sever the Darkness. It is a wonderful story and well told. You did a terrrific job of sustaining interest to the very end. You were also adept at interjecting important information about the Guadalupe River and our responsibility to protect our natural resources, in an interesting way throughout."- Pat Montandon is a four-time author and former columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.

"Coalson's novel is set along the Guadalupe River just below Canyon Dam where many local citizens have probably gone tubing. The story runs the gamut from strange murders to falling in love and even has a little bit of a believable ghost story mixed in. Local readers are sure to find it fun to read about places they are familiar with and in the their mind's eye, they will be able to hear, smell and feel the cold spring water, the hot humid days and the lush vegetation that grows along the familiar river. Even the names of cities like Victoria and Houston are included. Through purely fictional, the novel brings readers into a reality based story that will make you have to remind yourself that you can't run up to the place and visit with its characters." - Cyndi Roberson, Managing Editor, Jackson County Herald-Tribune, page 2A, November 19, 2003 edition. 

"Sever the Darkness" is a realistic mystery with a murder as the focus. The realism is in the issues affecting the deaths...(and) environmental threats (along) the river as well as the racial tensions from the Mexican immigrants. 

The story begins with Clay Aker, who returns to his home town and is now trying to put his life back together after the death of his wife and child while working for the military in Central America. His mother arranges an opportunity for Clay to become a journalist. His first assignment is to cover the outdoor opportunities for tourism along the Guadalupe River. Clay fortunately meets an experienced reporter known as Sharkbait who guides Clay with his assignment. Also, to complicate Clay's life, he meets Mary Francis Wiley who he knew in high school since Clay dated her big sister. The physical attraction between these two causes...sexual tension throughout the novel. 

While covering tourism along the Guadalupe River, the body of a teenaged boy is found. The girl that was with him is missing. The girl is of Mexican heritage and the boy is white. Investigating this is the girl's uncle, Julio, who has to overcome the prejudice of fellow officers and his own personal baggage. 

The environmental issues of the rights of people, big business, the tourists, the land owners, as well as the fish in the river are all superbly intermixed throughout the story. There is no one correct solution that is best for everyone. The land owners who to daily fight with...trespassing, and the litter problem helped to establish the realism in this book. Another theme is the threat of big business with the oil pipelines constantly threatening the land, the river, and the people who have lived in this area. The money and power that big businesses control daily upset the balances of nature. 

The character development is super. Each character has a distinct voice and had depth to their personality which makes this novel more realistic. The setting is obviously a passion for Les Coalson as he demonstrates to his readers his love of the Guadalupe River, while educating about the conflicts of a river environment.Coalson has relied heavily on his education and background in natural resources development and business administration, as well as experience in managing recreation programs. SEVER THE DARKNESS is his first novel. The characters are so brilliantly established that I envisage a sequel or a series now about the Guadalupe River. This is definitely a book that I highly recommend to everyone. - Reviewed by Teri Davis, December 2003