FIFTY YEARS OF FEAR: When living means taking a chance (Dark Lives Book 1)

by Ross Greenwood


Fifty Years of Fear begins and ends with the story of Vinnie Roach’s life. As a young boy of seven, Vinnie lost his memory as a result of a car accident. The story, told from Vinnie’s point of view, follows the events of his life, good, bad, and tragic. Vinnie tells of being bullied as a youth, of falling in love, of relying on his brother, Frank, and of what happens to him as his memory begins to return. We leave Vinnie at nearly fifty years of age about to embark on a new chapter in his life.

Theme of the Book

This is a deep and complex narrative that is about family, love, guilt, and loss. On the surface, Vinnie’s family seems devoted but, like all families, there are depths and secrets not seen by outsiders. The love between Vinnie and his brother, Frank, runs through the whole book and is one of the mainstays of Vinnie’s life. There is the fear that Vinnie feels as a young boy bullied at school and that he never loses, even during the few happy times of his life.

What I Liked About the Story

In many books labeled ‘psychological thrillers’, the characters are one dimensional. They are disturbed or evil or psychopathic. In Fifty Years of Fear, the characters are complex; they are human and not simply props for a plot line to hang on. Vinnie is an extremely well-drawn character. His fear, his lack of social interactions, and his insecurity are all accompanied by a true capacity for love and caring. The relationship between the two brothers is beautifully expressed when Vinnie says “It seemed that sibling life is best explained by the ability to be evil to each other, yet to stick together under threat.” Readers will find that this sentiment is the basis for what happens to Vinnie and to Frank at the end of the novel.

Older brother Frank, a supporting character in Vinnie’s life, was by far my favorite character. He expends much effort in defending Vinnie – not just from bullies in school but from Vinnie’s seemingly inexorable fate.

Mr. Greenwood has also portrayed prison life in clear and accurate detail. The prison scenes are chilling, but even there the reader will find that character is everything.

It is quite difficult to write about this book because of the shocking twists and turns it takes. Let me simply say that the story is in no way disappointing!

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

While the book was very well written, the characters are totally unsympathetic. The reader can feel a bit of sympathy for each character when he or she is first introduced. However, as the story continues and we learn more about the personalities of the characters, this sympathy disappears to be replaced by an intense dislike. The only character to escape this is Frank, the long-suffering brother of Vinnie.

I found it hard to continue reading as Vinnie’s life falls apart with no redemption or hope in sight. I found the book thought provoking but, in the end, depressing.

Final Say

This is not a ‘cop versus psychopath’ kind of thriller and readers who are looking for that in a book will be disappointed. It is, instead, a study of one man’s life and the choices he makes. Could Vinnie’s life have turned out differently? Why did he make particular choices? For readers interested in what makes a life, Fifty Years of Fear is an excellent choice.

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