Silence Within the Storm is a fictional drama concerning the interrelationships of seven idealistic college friends as they enter a world choked with self-interest, jealousy, lust, and corruption. They turn to each other for help but find their relationships and values have changed. They are all on paths toward explosive conclusions.
The protagonist of the novel is Tom Barrett. With the help of his best friend, Brad Howell, a very prestigious law firm hires Tom. Tom is very bright, but his middle-class background and education do not comport with the firm’s seemingly strict educational requirements. Tom is initially assigned to the firm’s litigation section. However, the owner of firm’s best client, Howell Industries, pushes the firm to have Tom work on all of Howell’s legal matters. This infuriates the head of the firm’s corporate section, John Lawton. He despises Tom, and plots to destroy Tom’s legal career. With every one of Tom’s successes, Lawton’s hatred for Tom intensifies. Tom’s most important legal challenge of his young career is to adroitly guide Howell Industries through a tricky legal minefield. Whether Tom succeeds or fails, his legal career may be destroyed.
The wife of one of Tom’s college friend, Ellen Walsh, approaches Tom seeking legal advice concerning her marriage to Joe Walsh. She is unaware of Tom’s pledge to Joe during college, nor does she know that Tom is battling his inner desires for her. How long can he resist?
Brad Howell is the scion of one of the cities pre-eminent businesses. Upon college graduation, Brad starts working for Howell Industries. His father starts Brad on a slow track because Bert Howell in unsure at this time if Brad can run Howell Industries. Brad is unsure of himself, as he fears he will disappoint his father. Brad turns to Tom Barrett for advice and support. Tom provides both sage legal and business advice which Brad uses. Brad does not know that his father senses that Barrett is providing all of the guidance to Brad. His father is reluctant to quickly promote Brad, unless and until Brad can demonstrate more initiative and foresight. Brad’s wife, Janet, constantly pushes Brad to assert himself. She also pushes Brad to end his relationships with his college friends, particularly with Tom Barrett. But Brad does not want to end these relationships, as his college friends give him the psychological release from the pressures of his life.
Janet Langley Howell, a rich spoiled brat, chose Brad as her ladder to fortune. She grows frustrated that her husband does not assert himself more. She takes it upon herself to lobby for her husband’s promotions every time she is with Brad’s parents. The more she pushes her husband, the more he turns to his college friends. She also undertakes to ruin Brad’s relationship with Tom Barrett. Every stunt Janet tries to ruin Barrett fails, including constantly referring to Tom Barrett and Ellen Walsh as secret lovers. These failed attempts lead her to conspire with an officer of Howell Industries to set up Tom. She unknowingly includes Brad in her trap, which could result in Brad’s demise. Moreover, with each encounter with her female college friends, she tries to ruin their relationships among themselves. Ironically, it is these same college friends who save her life when Janet is brutally attacked and sexually abused.
At the age of eighteen, David Shapiro legally changed his name to David Shapp. This maneuver resulted in his disgust with this Jewish heritage and culture. He keeps this secret from his parents. Moreover, he advised his parents that he is attending a local university, Sinclair College, which is predominantly Christian. David’s father, Buddy Shapiro, does not understand, nor accepts, David’s attitude and demeanor. While attending Sinclair, David meets and falls in love with Susan Rahn. Both are accounting majors, but Susan is ranked first in her class. After passing their CPA exams, they plan to marry. Susan is Methodist, but David hides this from his parents. The nadir of David’s and his father’s relationship is David’s marriage to Susan. Horrific accusations are exchanged between David and his father. As a result, both refuse to talk to each other.
David starts his own accounting practice. Susan, on the other hand, is hired by one of the best accounting firms in the city. She is on a fast track to becoming partner, but she senses she was only hired to recruit other female accountants. She stays focus on serving her clients. In a bold move, Susan leaves the firm and joins her husband in his practice. She takes several clients with her. She concentrates on the large clients and David on small businesses. One day, David’s mother, Lilly, calls Susan and invites her to lunch. During their meeting, Lilly begs Susan to persuade David to help his father. Susan reluctantly agrees as she knows of David’s deep resentment of his father. David agrees to meet with his parents to discuss Buddy’s business. David tries his utmost to be objective, but the conversation quickly deteriorates into a shouting match. David abruptly leaves. What Lilly, David, and Susan do not know is that forces beyond their control will directly affect their relationships. Buddy has not revealed to anyone that he is being threatened to turn over his business to a gang. One night, three gang members assault him. Buddy is rushed to the hospital. Lilly is stunned and emotionally paralyzed. She turns to her only child, David, for help. David agrees to run the business while Buddy recovers. David realizes that his father’s business is in serious financial trouble. With the help of Tom Barrett, David steers a course to save his parents financially.
Joe Walsh is the consummate non-conformist. Through college and his first job, Joe attempted to change the world for the better. Joe gets a job as a Probation and Parole Officer with the state. He is committed to changing the criminal justice system. But his first client smashes his idealism. The parolee is a convicted murderer. Joe fails to realize this person is truly repentant. Joe treats him with contempt and disgust, never really helping the parolee to assimilate into society. On the other hand, Joe becomes too subjective with another case, a parolee who was convicted of second-degree murder. Joe naively believes the parolee when the latter advises Joe that he was set up and unjustly convicted. Joe plays it too loose with this parolee, as Joe becomes more disillusioned with the system. He becomes apathetic and detached. This attitude carries over in his relationship with his wife, Ellen. She wants to buy a house and start a family. Joe commits the ultimate betrayal of his wife. He secretly gets a vasectomy, assuring that he will never bring a child into this decrepit and self-absorbed world.
Ellen Walsh becomes very concerned about her husband and her marriage. She approaches Tom for help, first to have Tom get Joe another job and secondly to represent her in her divorce. Tom agrees to help Joe, but he tells Ellen he cannot help with her marriage. Tom is too afraid to tell Ellen about his feelings toward her and he is too loyal to betray Joe.
The relationships among these friends were at one time very close. Now all the relationships have deteriorated. Brad Howell believes that if all of them can come together and discuss their differences and feelings, then their relationships and friendships can be stored. They all reluctantly agree to go on a weekend camping trip. However, the weekend turns to horror as they are brutally attacked. Who will survive?
I have finished his book and REALLY enjoyed it. Jim tells a great story. I almost feel like I grew up in St. Louis!
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