R. D Ronald confesses to a having spent time in various jobs throughout a career in business and then spent time in prison after turning to crime to pay the medical bills for his sick wife. 'Renee became ill shortly after we married, the treatment she needed was expensive. An opportunity came up for me to run a cannabis farm - the extra cash would make the difference to Renees care, so I accepted. Renee was optimistic about her treatment, but sadly she didn't make it. Not long afterwards, I was busted and sent to prison.'
Work on his debut novel, The Elephant Tree was largely undertaken while he was inside. 'Being locked up 23 hours a day focuses the mind. I'd always loved reading and got to hear some crazy stories while in jail. In the end writing was an outlet, a way for me to keep my mind occupied. My book touches on some of the issues that have affected me, but is not autobiographical. It does challenge readers however. Life is never clear cut about the line between good and bad. This is what I wanted The Elephant Tree to say, ultimately.'
Review from Elite Online Magazine:
The Elephant Tree is R D Ronalds first novel; a vivid, compelling and often breathtaking story which spans a few months in the lives of main characters Scott and Angela. The setting is the fictional city of Garden Heights, which culturally is neither British nor American, but settles snugly in between.
The characters are casually introduced and relationships and personalities are established. Much of the book takes place in a criminal underworld which refreshingly is neither glamorized nor vilified, but simply presented to the reader to come to his or her own conclusion; the characters, likewise. Scott is a low level drug dealer and Angela the daughter of one of his associates. Criminal acts are committed often in a carefree manor, but as further insight is unveiled, we begin to discover who they really are making it possible for empathy and understanding for a reader who has never walked a similar path through life. Back story is interspersed with current plot development to establish how Scott and Angela come to be in the situation we find them in as the book opens, and to comprehend their decision making as circumstances spiral out of their control.
The writing style is modernist, yet unique in the way curious metaphors are conjured to bring already fascinating scenes even further to life. Do the words leap further from the page or is the reader sucked deeper into the world of Garden Heights? Perhaps one for the individual reader to judge for themselves.
As for genre, thats a little difficult. There is crime, sex, drugs and violence, but to write The Elephant Tree off as just another crime or drug based book, would be to miss out on so much of the subtle character and plot intricacies that really embed this debut novel into the readers consciousness. One thing that struck me as I progressed from chapter to chapter was the depth of the carefully woven sub-plots, which have enough substance and intrigue to stand as out as fascinating works of their own.
This is a book I not only hugely enjoyed, but one I plan to read again very soon, as I feel there was a lot more lurking below the surface that may become even more apparent second time around. Undoubtedly I give the Elephant Tree a five star review, and after talking with the author I cant wait to see what comes next in the Garden Heights series.