Reviews of The Ticket
In this gripping, clever novel, reminiscent of Scott Smith’s bestseller, A Simple Plan, the author takes what begins as a reasonable path to riches and shows the many ways a sure thing quickly can devolve into uncontrolled chaos. Attorney Channing Booker lives and works in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he spends most of his free time betting on various sporting events and cheating on his wife, Susan. Channing has lost most of his money on bad bets, until one day he buys a lottery ticket at Wally’s Quick Mart and finds he’s just won $241 million. You’d think he’d be overjoyed, but Channing is such a sleazebag that he’s annoyed that he’s going to have to split it with his wife, who he is planning to divorce. He decides to entrust the ticket to one of his drinking buddies, Sully Pendleton, and have him cash it in and then secretly turn the money over to Channing after his divorce is finalized. After all, what could go wrong with that plan? Obviously, everything. But the author’s genius is in eschewing the obvious plot arc and supplying readers with all the many other things that could possibly go wrong, most of them completely unexpected. Threaded within the plot twists are other stories of secondary characters, some hapless, some heroic, that in the end knit together to create a terrific, satisfying read.
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest
Fans of the film and TV series Fargo will relish the wicked plot twists Shackelford concocts in this winning thriller. Sleazy Charlottesville, Va., attorney Channing Booker, a compulsive gambler whose addiction has devastated his assets, gets a chance at a new start when he wins more than $200 million in the state lottery. With his marriage to his wife, Susan, unraveling, Channing plots to keep what her share of the winnings would be from her. He intends to give the winning ticket to a friend who would cash it in and give the bulk of the jackpot back to him after the divorce is finalized. He conceals the ticket in one of Susan’s books, but he’s later horrified to find that the book, Susan, and all the rest of her possessions have vanished from their home. That development sets up a delicious cat-and-mouse story line, as Susan attempts to begin a new life away from Channing, who becomes increasingly desperate to find her and the book before the 180-day deadline for coming forward with the lottery ticket expires. Shackelford makes the most of his intriguing premise.
Channing Booker is a gambler, liar, compulsive cheater, and abuser. His gambling habit and general recklessness have cost him a literal fortune, and it seems a foregone conclusion that they will soon cost him his wife, as well. No longer able to maintain his high-roller lifestyle, Channing’s luck has just about run out when he miraculously wins the Mega Millions $241 million jackpot. But there is one significant hitch. His wife has finally had enough and has left him in the middle of the night—with the lottery ticket unknowingly in tow. Channing knew this day was coming so he isn’t nearly as concerned about the well-being of his soon-to-be ex-wife Susan as he is with finding the ticket before the 180-day claim window slams shut. Channing now must find both Susan and the ticket quickly without any leads, and this thriller soon becomes a race against time with life-threatening consequences.
Although the pace of the novel flows quickly, Shackelford made sure to take the time to develop the minutiae with specificity. Whether it is the precisely descriptive prose that allows readers to smell and feel the wind of the ocean blowing gently on their faces while digesting Channing’s plans to retire to an island or the thoughtfully developed characters that are introduced at a break-neck pace, there is genuinely no portion of the book that is without meaning. Each multi-faceted character is presented with purpose and in some way will play a vital role in pushing the narrative further into an interconnectedness that concludes with a shocking climax. If you’ve ever wondered how much your life and the lives of those around you would change if you won the lottery tomorrow, this tale will give you something to truly think about.
The US Review of Books
I know it is a reviewer’s cliché, but The Ticket is a page turner. Once I began reading, I couldn’t put it down until I learned the fate of 2, 6, 9, 17, 55, 12. Economists are not great forecasters, but I predict that readers of Shackelford's first novel will demand that he supply more titles in the future.
Kenneth G. Elzinga: aka Marshall Jevons, author of the Henry Spearman mystery novels and Mystery Writers of America Edgar judge for the Best Mystery Novel of the Year
The hunt for the lost lottery ticket is exciting, dangerous, and fun. Fred Shackelford juggles a cast of characters who are resourceful, driven, complex, potentially lethal, and always entertaining. The villain, Channing Booker -- the name is a great pun -- is both amusing and frightening in his evil ways. The author works insights about the law into the quick moving plot, and he keeps readers tense about impending dangers. For fans of thrillers and of legal novels, Fred Shackelford artfully marries both genres in this superb début.
John Jebb, author of True Crime: Virginia
In this thriller, a Virginia lawyer’s desperate search for a missing lottery ticket worth millions puts his estranged wife and others in danger. Attorney Channing Booker has just won the lottery, which is a massive $241 million before taxes. But he’s not ready to celebrate just yet. He knows a divorce from his wife, Susan, is imminent, and he doesn’t want to split the fortune. He’ll report the win later with his lawyer friend’s assistance, stashing his ticket in one of Susan’s rare Charles Dickens books. But Channing returns home the next day to find Susan gone, along with some furniture and every Dickens novel. Susan has good reason to leave: Channing, a gambler and habitual drug user, has been physically abusing her. That she’s completely unaware of the ticket doesn’t stop Channing’s hunt for the books. Keeping mum about the valuable bookmark, he enlists the help of loathsome pawn shop owner Billy Scaggs and contends with a nosy attorney at his firm, who assumes Channing is up to something shady. Meanwhile, a sudden car accident threatens to derail Susan’s escape plans. And as Channing’s 180-day period for turning in his ticket gradually diminishes, his despair may escalate into violence. Shackelford (Judges Say the Darndest Things, 2004) provides his story with a dizzying tempo, as he piles on various obstacles for both Channing and Susan. There are perspectives from multiple characters, but they primarily shift between the estranged couple and Lee Barnett, a retired detective who somehow secures evidence of the lottery ticket’s existence. Characters throughout are notable, as even seemingly minor players have solid backstories. But the most indelible are Billy, who’s frighteningly good at tracking down information, and Lee, a flawed potential hero whose pursuit of the ticket involves theft and breaking and entering. The author’s breezy prose is free of obscenities and graphic specifics of brutality, including during the intense final act. Although the inevitable encounter involving the main characters results in a well-earned climax, a romance between two of the players is short and somewhat contrived. Treasure hunters face plenty of hurdles in this entertaining, suspenseful tale.
The Ticket takes you into the mind of a true sleazebag. Channing Booker wins a jackpot lottery ticket one day and loses it the next. This blunder sets off a captivating chase, keeping the reader guessing at every turn. Fred Shackelford, the author and a keen legal mind himself, weaves obstacles throughout, confronting his protagonist with colorful characters that thwart Channing's progress and confound his oily maneuvers. Channing is a jerk, no doubt; so why do we keep hoping he'll win? Maybe, we want a sequel! Beware! The cunning suspense herein will disrupt your sleep. A breathless read!
Janet Martin, author of The Christmas Swap