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Local playwright turns to fiction for first novel

In his first novel, local author, playwright and screenwriter Dale Botten offers a compelling story of adventure, romance and danger — one very ordinary man's desire for riches becomes a quest for redemption.

Botten has received accolades and awards for his original plays presented on area stages. "Hate Storm," his screen adaptation of "The Lynchings in Duluth" written by Michael Fedo, won the Catalina Film Festival Screenplay of Merit Award in 2015, and is currently entered in the Cannes Film Festival.

In "A Nice Relaxing Sea Cruise," Botten turns his creative muse to fiction.

When James Hudson III inherits his ancestor's mansion, he finds his imagination, most often in overdrive as it is, shanghaied by visions of a pirate's booty and swashbuckling adventure. But this flight of fancy is not without reason. Legend has it that his great, great, great-grandfather's house holds the secret to finding hidden treasure.

The first direct descendent to bear the exact moniker of the family's token pirate, the house and all its secrets now belong to James. He has only to find the oak chest containing grandfather's diary where the location of the treasure will be revealed — straightforward, in and out, easy enough.

Or so James thinks.

Perhaps it was a mistake to arrive at the 60 years empty house on Halloween with midnight fast approaching, and things that go bump in the night afoot. Perhaps James was still young and foolish enough to think that fortune comes without strings attached, not to mention one dead body and a few ghosts trapped in an afterlife holding pattern.

Perhaps James's biggest faux pas was in naively believing that in the 170 or so years since his great, great, great-grandfather's passing, there weren't others as intent on finding the legendary treasure, as is he. Or neglecting to consider these nefarious treasure hunters might be more suited to the cutthroat skullduggery necessary for such undertakings.

True to his roots as a playwright and award winning screenwriter, Botten's novel is a character-driven tale, exploring the relationships that motivate the action. In his protagonist, James Hudson III, he brings to life an affable if somewhat bumbling school teacher with a moral compass that points ever true — and a penchant for more than occasional wise-cracking. Unfortunately, James seems always to be a step behind the action, leaving him cold-cocked and hoodwinked more than once.

Swept along in the dangerous waters of high-seas piracy, James faces a series of life and death struggles, from his first night in the small coastal town where he goes looking for clues to the treasure, to the jungles of Peru where he finds more than he expected. Only his unwavering virtue, reliance on the Boy Scout rule, and his promise to right the wrongs of his great, great, great-grandfather, carry him through to the end.

A page turner full of action and surprises, peppered with a shaker full of shady ne'er-do wells, unexpected stalwarts, and a damsel in distress to bolster James's courage and stir the smoldering ashes of potential, forbidden love, "A Relaxing Sea Cruise" turns out to be anything but.

"A Relaxing Sea Cruise" is available locally at Globe News, Douglas County Historical Society, Barnes & Noble and Zenith Bookstore. Online outlets include Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Google Books and eBay. Botten is planning a book launch at the Old Norshore Theater in late March or early May — details pending. Visit " target="_blank">curlyvic.com.

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