Brookfield resident Fraser confronts homelessness through first novel

By TOM JOZWIK - Special to TimeOut 

March 9, 2017


Readers of books will always help authors and publishers.

Readers of the book “Faulty Bones,” by Brookfield resident Joe Fraser, will help the homeless as well.

The new novel’s plot “begins and ends with a spotlight on homelessness,” the 63-year-old Fraser said, adding that the book is “not preachy.” Central characters Mike and Amy are homeless and Fraser said that he “wants to invest people in the cause of the homeless.” The novelist, whose more-than-full-time job is as president of Menomonee Falls-based Russ Darrow Leasing, has pledged to donate twice the amount of royalties from his first 2,000 “Faulty Bones” sales to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. “I believe 87 percent (of the MRM’s monetary intake) goes directly to the homeless,” Fraser explained in a telephone interview.

“There are over half a million homeless in this country,” said Fraser, “and about 1.5 million É have used a shelter (such as the MRM provides) at some point in their lives. It is my belief that, rather than rely on government bureaucracies to help the disenfranchised, those who have should take it upon themselves to help those who haven’t. Here’s an opportunity for 2,000 people to invest in this cause with me.”

In a news release, Fraser’s publicist described “Faulty Bones” as “a fantasy romance where love-struck gamblers navigate mobsters and a supernatural force in a battle to get their worlds back on track.” The author endorsed that description during the phone interview and alluded to a counterfeit poker chip scam, pointing out that “bones” is an old-fashioned synonym for poker chips.

Asked about criteria of the romance genre, Fraser, a 10-year member of the Romance Writers of America (a friend urged him to join, citing excellent networking opportunities and seminars), mentioned a pair of principal characters with a love interest - as well as conflict - between them, plus a happily-ever-after ending. “Romance has a broad net,” Fraser remarked, suggesting that the original Jason Bourne movie classifies as a romance, although most might not be inclined to label it as such.

Fraser was interviewed on his 750th consecutive day of walking at least nine miles, he noted. Most of “Faulty Bones,” he said, was written while he was on a treadmill.

Fraser composed the novel between January and May of 2016. “I wrote start to finish,” he said. “The story just flowed, which is unusual for me.” Although “Faulty Bones” will be his first novel in print, Fraser is scheduled to have two more of his fictional books published in 2017: “The Witch of the Hills,” which took some eight years to write, and “The Multitude,” which consumed about three years. The supernatural plays a part in all three.

“Faulty Bones” has drawn favorable commentary from the venerable book-critiquing publication Kirkus Reviews - a magazine that, Fraser contended, can be “scathing.” In a climate wherein “a first-time novelist,” according to Fraser, “could probably write ‘War and Peace’ and only sell 50 copies,” the thumbs-up assessment would seem to bode well for “Faulty Bones.”

Its author, born and raised in Chicago, graduated from what is now the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1976. “In school, I considered a journalism major,” he recalled, but Fraser’s dad recommended business as a safer course of study. Fraser agreed and put aside his pen for many years before going on a “poetry-writing binge” in the 1990s. Book-length fiction followed.

Fraser has been married for 40 years and is the father of two adult daughters. Of his executive position within the Darrow conglomerate, which includes auto dealerships in Waukesha, Milwaukee and other communities, he said, “I’m a businessman by day and writer by night, always striving to keep my analytic and creative sides in perfect harmony.” He added that “a writer needs a lot of social action and a lot of experience” - and said his day job goes a long way toward fulfilling those “needs.”

Fraser’s favorite crafter of dialogue is the late crime novelist Elmore Leonard. He mentioned William Kennedy (“Ironweed”), Cormac McCarthy (“All the Pretty Horses”) and Tom Wolfe (“The Bonfire of the Vanities”) as contemporaries whose writing he enjoys. Fraser cited first-person, present-tense narration as an admired literary device. “I think it pulls the reader in more,” he said.

“Faulty Bones” is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere.