"LAGUNA is an intriguing mystery peopled by very real characters thrown into a plot filled with twists and hard choices. Author Michael Putegnat has a gift for creating dialogue that is both believable and leads the plot forward. LAGUNA's quick pacing, evocative prose, and intriguing plot lead readers on a journey they won't want to end. There are so many great things to say about LAGUNA."

- Writer's Digest International Book Awards Commentary

     "Putegnat creates an intriguing fictive world. The author populates the story with colorful characters from a broad social palette, providing a subtle rendering of the niceties of corruption."

- KIRKUS

   "Laguna is an excellent book, an easy read, very well written."

- Ron Kauffman
Senior Lifestyles Radio

   "Laguna by Michael Putegnat is a vividly written and gripping novel of Laguna Madre native John Magne and the transformation of his delicate homeland and ranching town into a national reserve and high-priced natural gas field. As Magne manipulates and  strives for power and ownership of the investment, one man and five women stand in his way, persistently interfering with his plans, each with different intent. An engaging page-turner, Laguna is very highly recommended to all general readers of good political fiction for its twists of plot which deftly carry the reader through an ultimately memorable and satisfying conclusion."

- Midwest Book Review

John Magne is the fifth generation of his family to run the million acre family ranch on the Texas gulf coast.  The mad cow disease scare has almost completely curtailed exporting Texas beef and the ranch is facing financial crisis.  John has to resurrect the ranch and the only way he can think of to do it is to drill for natural gas in an environmentally sensitive area.  He hires a man to get the project in the works, not knowing he is a con man who will manipulate every level of government that has to pass on the project.  This hireling is also capable of murder.

Jack Grider is a lackadaisical ex government employee who has written an environmental impact statement that could throw a monkey wrench into the works.  Five women who will do anything to preserve the ecosystem target Jack and manipulate him into putting a stop to the project.

Putegnat has an incredible style that sucks you right into the plot and won't turn you loose.  He spins a tale of greedy corrupt politicians that will do anything for power and money. He also creates lovable characters who want a better planet and the preservation of species, but have the guts to go after the greedy destroyers in their own manipulative ways.  GREAT READ!

- New Mystery Reader Magazine   

 

Great Read! 
    
How often have we all seen or even felt the effects of those who have power, land or money? Does it not seem that because of the station they hold in life that more often than not they are working and living beyond the law that we all call our own? So is the case concerning John Magne, a powerful-fourth generation Texas rancher who is now facing a terrible financial crisis that could well send his family into bankruptcy. In his eyes any means to stop this from happening was fair game.
     However, there are others who also see him and all he owns as fair game as well. Unbeknown to him they are working and not for his best interest.
     Interested yet? You should be.
     In this book by Michael Putegnat we see the savage beast come out in mankind as the struggle for power, money and land is fought. We find some decent, some corrupt and many teetering on the edge in this work. What will be the outcome and who will be the winner? Does greed and murder take it all, or could decency possibly win?
You simply must read this page turner of a book to find out. Very well written.

Shirley P Johnson "Author/Reviewer - Florida" (USA) 
- See all my reviews      (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    

 


"Lies, power, greed, oil drilling, vengeance, a con man, and ties to Congress — author Michael Putegnat’s first novel has all the makings of a can’t-put-down political thriller. Set in South Texas on Laguna Madre, a real-life bay that Putegnat often sails, Laguna is loosely based on real-life events. His second novel is due out in 2007."

- Harvard University Kennedy School Bulletin

Stunned to discover this is this author's very first book, July 29, 2006

The first thing that stood out for me about Michael Putegnat's novel, Laguna, was the author's excellent writing skills. He has the ability to create a vision in the readers mind and employs a clever use of humor. Attractive hooks at the ending of most chapters kept me unable to resist reading at least the first paragraph or two of the next one.

Laguna opens with Octavio Paredes, the missing fisherman, and his wife Anajita. This interesting inter-racial marriage gives glimpses of underlying racism in their families. From there we are introduced to Jason, a sergeant at a police station, and his brother Jack, who is depressed and out-of-work. The hands of fate drag these two brothers into the case of the missing fisherman. Intriguing threads lead back to Jack's old job and his only refuge is his sailboat. However the unexpected romance with Angela brings a ray of relief to Jack's battered life.

Sweet Angela, the green-eyed daughter of Sophia Poole, is more than she seems. She gets that from her mother. Sophia, no ordinary elderly lady, holds an emotional secret.

John Mange, his wife and two sons are facing financial loss on a grand scale. But nothing small in this family has been done in more than four generations. Greed runs deep in John's genes and like his forefathers, he stoops to unspeakable levels to get what he desires most.

Enter Fester Stubb, a former IRS tax fraud specialist is employed by John Mange. John doesn't yet know it, but he has just made his biggest mistake.

As you can probably tell by the list of characters, the back cover statement accurately describes the setting for Laguna as a place where "power and greed are the new religion and love is an accident".

This book invokes political scams and rich men's schemes, harbored loves and dedications that control women's lives - and my favorite of all themes - the love and desire to protect the environment. I love the good verses evil scenario set out from the start. Here we have greed working against vengeance with the backdrop of romance and the need to do what is right. I was stunned to discover this is this author's very first book. It is of excellent quality with writing skills I have seldom seen.

The characters are made to appear so real. No one in particular is a "hero", yet they all play a heroic part in some way - each without knowledge of what any of the others were doing. It was a great example of what each of us can do by playing an active role.

In his real life, author Michael Putegnat is familiar with the political arenas and enjoys sailing. He also comes from a long line of Texans; his family has lived in the state for 5 generations or so. Because of this, his book comes alive for the reader with seemingly little effort on his part.


~ Book Reviewer: Lillian Brummet - Co-author of the book Trash Talk
Lillian (Canada) - See all my reviews


"Creating an intriguing adventure filled with realistic characters, Putegnat brings the reader on a thrill-packed ride through the landscape of his novel, building up the suspense right to the last page. 'Laguna' is filled with twists and turns and unsuspected outcomes. It is guaranteed to put you on the edge of your seat and keep you reading for hours. "


The opening paragraph of Michael Putegnat's 'Laguna' portrays an egret hunting for minnows before being torn apart by a Peregrine falcon. A character who observes this transference of power considers the nature of justice, concluding that it only takes one moment for the predator to become the prey.  This sequence sets the tone for the rest of the novel, which depicts a power struggle that spans generations.

'Laguna' tells the story of an influential Texas family on the brink of demise after accumulating a million acres of land over four generations through any means necessary. In order to save his family from financial ruin, the patriarch, John Magne IV, is willing to upset the ecological balance of the coastal bay that makes up the Laguna Madre by drilling for natural gas.

His sense of entitlement clearly comes from being born into a family with the motto, "Forward by all means." The Magnes are described as thinking of their land as a, "separate country: independent and self-reliant." Opposing his efforts are a group of women with separate and converging agendas and two brothers who are unwillingly pulled into the drama.

Balanced against the dark underbelly of politics and investment banking, 'Laguna' explores current environmental, social and racial issues in South Texas while touching on the history that made the area what it is today. Putegnat acknowledges that the region changed hands many times over the centuries, describing it as, "a land under occupation. The Spaniards, the French, the Texicans, the Confederates and now the Americans - each adding a new twist on the culture. To many of the poor it seemed as if the 'outsiders' were merely a parade of different players who would come and go, but the hacienda remained. There was resentment for those who tried to change it and these were nearly always the late comers."

Since the author is a fifth-generation native of the region where he has set his debut novel, he is able to draw an authentic picture with an eye for detail. Creating an intriguing adventure filled with realistic characters, Putegnat brings the reader on a thrill-packed ride through the landscape of his novel, building up the suspense right to the last page. 'Laguna' is filled with twists and turns and unsuspected outcomes. It is guaranteed to put you on the edge of your seat and keep you reading for hours.

- Book Pleasures Reviews (Mary Simmons)

 

     An old man’s fishing boat is found washed up on shore, with bait still on his hooks and blood on an oarlock, but no body has been found.  What happened to Octavio Paredes?  Intertwined with the search for this missing person is a rich patriarch trying to save his family’s fortune by developing a gas field under his ranch, corrupt political figures trying to ensure they get re-elected, a con artist trying to make a killing through stock market manipulation, a group of environmentalists trying to preserve endangered species in the area, and a lonely man in the centre of it all, searching for meaning in his life.

     This first novel by author Michael Putegnat brings together this cast of characters through a series of initial chapters, each introducing a new character and a new plot thread.  While somewhat disjointed at first, the subplots soon intersect into a well-paced story that draws the reader deep into the story.  Excellent characterization brings the story to life and the lush imagery of the Laguna Madre landscape makes one feel as if one were truly walking through the story.

    I found this book to be well worth the time- an exciting storyline retold by a skilled story teller.  I look forward to the blockbuster movie that I think this book is destined to become.

Reviewed by Kevin Aguanno
TCM REVIEWS

 

Michael Putegnat...this new but incredible author...

First off, Laguna, by Michael Putegnat, isn't the famous Laguna in California – home of artists, craftsmen, and the famous song 'Hotel California'. This Laguna is in Texas, and it's quite possible most Texans never heard of the other one, or the Californians of the one in southern Texas. But regardless of the name, Mr. Putegnat has written an insistent first novel describing the complex machinations of greedy politicians, con men, and the wealthy – who always seem to want more (except that this time it's to save an empire already established). Laguna will be revered by environmentalists and probably quoted by anybody despising dishonesty in public office. It's a fine murder-mystery, and a big welcome is due to Michael Putegnat for both the presentation and the content of his initial effort.

Laguna starts off slowly, setting the scene with environmental perfection as well as introducing the first character – but it snowballs from there. Gradually we learn that the wealthy John Magne IV, who owns a huge ranch in southern Texas on the Laguna Madre (a body of water before the channel and then the Gulf of Mexico) is overextended on his loans from the bank, and the ranch is in serious financial trouble. His only hope of keeping the huge mass of land and the hacienda together is drilling for oil in the Laguna; which is also the habitat for much wildlife, with the tall grasses near the shore a source of shrimp for the livelihood of many fishermen.

Stir together a con man, corrupt politicians, murder both new and old, laws skewed to accommodate need, environmental concerns placed on the back burner, greed and dishonesty in high places and you'll have the story of Laguna.

Michael Putegnat makes the usual errors of a first-time novelist: In Texas, with Mexico so close, Spanish is almost a second language. But both Mr. Putegnat and his editors (also from Texas) seem to forget or ignore the fact that his books will also be distributed far to the north as well, where the majority of people are not familiar with the language. So any lengthy quote in Mexican could perhaps have an English translation following it in parenthesis. The final line in the book obviously has something to do with justice, and probably translates as 'At last, justice!' But it might have been followed with a line in English such as 'Indeed, justice was finally served' or something similar.

Also, Laguna Madre (and what does 'Madre' mean?) is probably a lagoon, but nowhere in the book is that explained – unusual when the whole novel is titled for a body of water which isn't, as in California, a town. However, the power of the writing surpasses these
errors, and Mr. Putegnat makes no bones about highlighting corruption. Even though it's supposedly fictional, anyone intelligent knows it's actually all too prevalent, and writers are among the few who are attempting to educate the public enough to revolt.
Michael Putegnat has given us an entertaining murder-mystery – rife with underlying truth.


Alan Paul Curtis

Who-dunnit.com

(Who Dunnit: Dedicated to the art and craft of the mystery)

 

Michael Putegnat’s excellent novel consists of short chapters that give a wealth of information on the character of each particular chapter and which end with a punch that ensures continued reading. For the last several chapters I simply could not put the book down. I found this story reminiscent of a John Grisham legal and political bestseller with intrigue and suspense all culminating in a spectacular conclusion.

 *****Laguna is a story where extreme wealth equals extreme power or does it? John Magne is a fourth-generation Texan with great land wealth. He is nearing the end of his family’s dynasty of land in the Laguna Madre unless he can figure out a way to generate more money from his ranch. With an attitude of Manifest Destiny and the end results far outweighs the means to get there Magne puts himself above the law and sets out to do what it takes to save his heritage including greasing political palms and applying power and pressure wherever needed as he sets about to drill for gas on his land regardless of the human and environmental consequences. Drawn into the legal and political scenario are two brothers, one who is seeking an answer and one who is running from it, and five women who have very different reasons for trying to stop Magne from succeeding in his forward, by all means motto.

Reviewed by Barbara Stabler
Huntress Book Reviews


Most detective novels have a hard-boiled Philip Marlowe-style protagonist on the case. In Laguna, by Michael Putegnat, the reader is the detective and the stakes are high. The story is about a wealthy and powerful five-generation ranching family, with connections from Washington, D.C. to Wall Street, that tries to impose its will and build a natural gas field in the delicate ecosystem of the coastal bay called the Laguna Madre. Against overwhelming power stands an unwilling and unwitting ex-bureaucrat, with a deep aversion to conflict and a record for running from it … and five determined women.

Putegnat is a Brownsville native who found inspiration all around him while creating the story. “A few years ago I took up sailing and discovered the amazing beauty and diversity of the Laguna Madre and Gulf of Mexico. They provided a grand landscape for the story,” he told The Monitor in a recent interview. “The giant ranches of South Texas, and their history of grants of land from the King of Spain, served that theme as well,” he said.  “The real life stories of how lands changed hands, the intrigues, rivalries, and revenges that I had heard about while growing up in the Valley made an impression and have seeped into Laguna.”

Putegnat has always written, but rarely shared it with others. This is his first published book.  “When I was in my mid-fifties, something fundamentally changed, and I no longer cared if anyone thought I was a good writer,” he revealed. “While I had begun maybe a dozen novels, I had never gotten much past page 20. At the beginning of 2005 I resolved that I would not start another story until I finished one. And so, Laguna was begun and three and a half months later, finished.”

While Laguna may have been written quickly, Putegnat took painstaking time to ensure the story worked on multiple levels. “Novels have much that must be coordinated to control the action, the consistency of the characters behavior, the underlying facts, such as time, coinciding events, schedules, and basic setting issues,” he said. “To handle this I built charts and spreadsheets that show all the action, characters, and places against a backdrop of time. This organizing function takes quite a lot of time and focus.”

His unique approach to the mystery/suspense genre is intended to draw the reader into the story more.  “In Laguna the reader is the detective who interprets clues, and there is a definite string of them to tease then satisfy the reader,” the author said.

“The characters are intentionally drawn to be as recognizable as possible. They have histories of their own, and all are a little broken but (they) press on.”
Putegnat says he writes with the reader in mind and promises a pace that will keep the pages turning.

As for his themes of environmental endangerment, he feels the book is timely.  “It is a story that seems to spring out of today’s headlines, touching on political corruption, greed, the environment, personal courage, and the consequences on our culture from the cheapening of the simple truth,” he said.

Although his work is fiction, he firmly believes his message matters. “Too many people are now empowered and sensible to the short term thinking of polluting industries to let our Laguna Madre go the way of the Love Canal. But we do need to continue to pay close attention to our environment.”

- McAllen Monitor
Martin Winchester, critic

    "Greed, corruption, conspiracies, environmental issues, murder and vengeance. [Laguna] has something for everyone. A stunning first novel by Michael Putegnat, this story has more characters and subplots than any I’ve read in a long time.

   John Magne and his sons, Junior and Clint, were powerful ranchers with entangled ties to Congress. Enter con man, Festor Stubb and his chronies. But who is conning who? And where does Jason and Jack Grider fit? Octavio Paredes? And the mysterious Angela? Laguna Madre, a delicate coastal bay, is the setting for this tale. Will they be allowed to destroy the ecosystem by drilling into a natural gas field?
   Or will they be stopped in time? And by who?

   The characterization and intense dialogue will leave you hanging until the final action packed chapters.
I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down.  Mr. Putegnat…keep writing!"

- Simegen Reviews 

     "Laguna reminded me of East of Eden with all the multi-generational, countryside, revenge and rivalries. The book really started churning for me with Jack and the sailing chapters, then they really whizzed by and the story had everything, literally! A truly rollicking read with a lot of history, ethnicity, regional and enviro stuff, and the backdrop of family, Wall Street and Washington. Good job, I can’t wait for the next one!"

 - Harry Mizrahi
New York City

"Putegnat's crisp writing style, mastery of local detail and historical accuracy paints an intriguing picture of lowland South Texas that will remind readers of two other Texas Scribes, Larry McMurtry and A. C. Greene."

- Don Willet, Historian and editor    
Invisible Texans: Women and Minorities in Texas History
Texas A&M University, Galveston, TX   

"    "I hate it! I could not put it down."
     "You know that feeling where you are at the point in the story where you must read on to find out the end and it won't let you sleep until you do?  That's this book.  What a great read! The perfect beach book."

- Saul Levin, M.D.
Washington, D.C.

   ""An exquisite and complicated story masterfully woven by an author of uncommon brilliance, creativity and imagination: a ballet. The author is a master of language, sometimes  surprising, often subtle, always delightful."

- Fr. Armand Mathew, O.M.I.
Brownsville, TX

  "As current as today’s headlines, Laguna by Michael Putegnat reflects the need for oil and natural gas and the role those energy resources have always played in Texas, a State whose budget has risen and fallen with the price of oil since the 1930s. The author, a fifth-generation native of Texas with extensive executive experience, has written an intriguing story about a ranching patriarch who is forced to transform an environmentally delicate coast bay, the Laguna Madre, into a natural gas field to keep his family from financial ruin. In the process, this takes him and his small town deep into Washington politics and New York investment banking circles. This reflects much of the author’s own experience and it greatly enriches an intricate story of personal, community and national objectives. One hopes this novel will emerge from among the many others being published these days to gain the kind of attention it deserves."

 - Bookviews

       "Laguna was wonderful...all the aspects one deserves in a novel: suspense, mystery, romance and a surprise ending.  I must tell you that I do not spend much time reading novels due to all the required reading I must do.  However, I started the book on a flight and I couldn't put it down. I have never been so pulled into a book. The sentences seemed to have a rhythm where the words flowed and before I knew it another page was turned. I look forward to the next one."

- Virginia Wood

Stranger than Fiction

BY NICK KEPPLER
Houston Press

Courtesy of Synergy Books

Michael Putegnat
Pablo Picasso once said that art is the lie that tells the truth. Michael Putegnat would probably agree. The Brownsville public policy and computing consultant chose to write a novel to explain how oil politics affect Wall Street, Washington and Small Town, USA.

"All I could show was the numbers coming in," Putegnat says on why he didn't write a nonfiction book. "And nobody seems to pay attention to facts anymore."

His debut novel, Laguna, is the story of the heir to a Texas oil dynasty torn between his personal ethics and the spread of his family's empire.

"It's really about the Shakespearean themes of greed and corruption," says Putegnat. "I just put it in that setting so Texans would relate to it." Still, Laguna is meant to reflect the current political and business climate, where greed and corruption are cynically accepted, he says.

"We just smile and nod so much anymore," Putegnat says. "When politicians get trips to Scotland to play golf, we pretend it's not a bribe. We know they're lying and we accept it. We suspend our disbelief like we would reading a novel." See Putegnat actually read a novel, when he reads from Laguna at Murder by the Book.

Reader Review

"My recommendation: Buy Laguna for the beach this summer but don't dare start reading it. If you do, you won't put it down until you are finished!  Octavio Paredes, a Laguna Madre fisherman mysteriously disappears. At the same time, Jack Grider quits his job with US Fish and Wildlife when an environmental report is forcibly altered by his boss. John Magne is the patron of the large ranch affected by the report and is about to drill for gas. His political maneuverings remind us that the 15th century Spanish legacy of corruption in Texas is alive and well. The book is fast paced and an enjoyable read."

- Beck Spelce
Austin, TX