Scott Skipper


Scott Skipper is a California fiction writer with a broad range of interests, including history, genealogy, travel, science and current events. His wry outlook on life infects his novels with biting sarcasm. Prisoners are never taken. Political correctness is taboo. His work includes historical fiction, alternative history, novelized biography, science fiction and political satire. He is a voracious reader and habitual and highly opinionated reviewer.

Smashwords Interview

What motivated you to become a Smashwords author?
My stuff does not fit the mold for traditional publishing. It's quirky, irreverent and deals with topics outside of the mainstream. When I discovered Smashwords, I got serious about writing again. Since then 99% of what I choose to read I get from Smashwords. I may be their biggest fan.
When did you first start writing?
At about fourteen I submitted my first story for publication to a sci-fi magazine. It was poorly typed on a 1910 Underwood with a broken 'p'. They immediately sent me an acceptance letter and advised that it had been sent to an illustrator. I was flabbergasted and ready to make my fortune. A month later they wrote to say that they had landed a deal with Harlan Ellison and no longer required my work. Although Ellison is a very good writer, I never did forgive the bastard.

In 1985 I had a unique opportunity to take an extended period of time from my day job and I contemplated a career switch. I wrote several stories, published a few articles and completed an admittedly inadequate novel. After a year I decided to go back to work. Fast forward thirty-five years and now I am retired in the age of self-publishing. There's no stopping me now!
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Scott Skipper online

Where to buy in print


The Time Shrink
Price: Free! Words: 3,380. Language: English. Published: September 25, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
A couple from the future believe they can save their marriage if they can go back to a time before their troubles started. The alien marriage counselor's temporal displacement device is their salvation, or so they think. Try this short, hilarious foray into the future of psychoanalysis.
Capital Blues
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 67,010. Language: English. Published: July 10, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
Satire: humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc. (Merriam/Webster) If ever there was a time that government deserved to be satirized, it is 2016. If you think reality has gone crazy, wait until you see how Candidate Jim agitates the crowd, and the world.
Alien Child
Series: Alien Affairs. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 75,460. Language: English. Published: February 2, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
How does a half-alien teenager cope with her over-protective mother, genocidal aunt, Islamic terrorists and an alien follow-up invasion? She copes very well, but it sure gets in the way of her love life.
Alien Eyes
Series: Alien Affairs. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 71,790. Language: English. Published: September 11, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage
The aliens left the entire human race infertile. Carrie Player is searching for a cure in the vast cache of data stored on the reading device that the alien, Deshler, gave her as a parting gift. While the species is dwindling ISIS is trying to hasten the end by unleashing a deadly epidemic on America. To battle the new threat the CIA puts a different woman on the case, a very different woman.
Alien Affairs
Series: Alien Affairs. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 62,180. Language: American English. Published: July 31, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
Alien Affairs is a sci/fi novel in which a forty-something divorcée shows uncanny sangfroid while bantering with an alien bent on exterminating the human race.
Golden State Blues
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 72,430. Language: American English. Published: April 11, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
If you like Donald Trump, you're going to love Governor Jim! See how two troublemakers who met in a bar attempted to save the Golden State through political chicanery and uncommon sense while having a good time doing it.
Face of the Angel
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 59,410. Language: English. Published: June 13, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
Was Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz Angel of Death, really evil? Or was he just misunderstood? For forty years he skulked around South America hiding in plain sight while the world’s best Nazi hunters fell all over themselves trying to find him. Discover the bizarre facts and the astonishing rumors that kept him running throughout his long exile.
The Hundred Years Farce
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 55,650. Language: English. Published: September 30, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Black comedy
The United States invaded México in 1846! What if they never left? See what the world might look like if the Old South had acquired the territory of México before the Civil War. This alternative history covers the period from 1846 to 1946 and indulges in political satire that is more relevant than ever.
In the Blood
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 74,530. Language: English. Published: May 21, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
Who was George Washington Skipper? He was a twice-wounded Confederate veteran who loved the ladies a little too much. He kept moving to stay ahead of his wives and the whipping post until Reconstruction and personal tragedy ran him to ground deep in the woods of South Carolina—with the wrong woman.
The Stainless Steel Coffin
Price: Free! Words: 6,700. Language: English. Published: October 24, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
In the seventies a metal shop just south of Los Angeles received an order for one stainless steel coffin with a glass lid, but that wasn't the unusual part.
Pain Below the Equator
Price: Free! Words: 13,430. Language: English. Published: September 21, 2011. Categories: Essay » Political, Essay » Sociology
This is the frank journal of a six week tour of South America from Buenos Aires, around the horn to Valparaíso, Easter Island and Peru, chronicling the good the bad and the insane of the southern continent.
A Death in Carolina
Price: Free! Words: 3,690. Language: English. Published: July 20, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
A brief fictionalized account of the murder of a deputy sheriff in rural North Carolina on the Fourth of July in 1914 by a descendant of the family containing contemporary photographs and news clips.
Family Traits
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 112,490. Language: English. Published: June 9, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Colonial America, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Black comedy
How did a witness to the beheading of Charles I come to be an Indian chief in Virginia? Read how three generations of mixed blood troublemakers ran afoul of the Governor and their wives in Colonial America.

Scott Skipper's tag cloud

abraham lincoln    adventrue    alien affairs    alien and woman    aliens    aliens and other craziness    aliens breeding with humans    allen dulles    alternative history    american historical fiction    apocalypse heroine    apocalypse virus    argentina    auschwitz    based on true events    biography    california politics    carolina    carolinas    carrie player    cheroenhaka    chile    china attacks    cia action fiction heroine thriller spy    cia female field agent    civil war    colonial america    colonial virginia    crime    cusco    dogon    donald trump    easter island    ebola in the united states    explicit content    falkland islands    fbi abuse of power    fiction historical    genealogy    george skipper    george washington skipper    germany    gothic comedy    graveyard humor    historical 1800s    holocaust    humanity threatened    humor    humor about politics and politicians and washington dc    humor action adventure    humor adult    humor adventure    humor marriage    illegal immigration    immigration    immigration reform    indians    indians of north america    iran nuclear    isis plot    islam and terrorism    islamic terrorists    john wilkes booth    josef mengele    kidnapping    klan    lima    mack brazel    manufacturing    marriage and conflict    mexican war    mexico    murder    muslim american    nansemond indians    nazis    nottoway indians    peru    political satire    politics america    politics and government    putin    ribald tales    roswell 1947    russians    scandalous    scott skipper    slavery    south american travel    spacex    story based actual happenings    story based on actual happenings    strong female character    technology sci fi    terrorist attack    the time shrink    time travel    travel    trump for president    virginia    vladidmir lenin    wiesenthal   

Scott Skipper's favorite authors on Smashwords

Barry Flanagan
Latest book: In Search of Freedom. Published August 31, 2016.
Chris Mason
Latest book: Brezlun. Published October 13, 2012. (5.00 from 2 reviews)
Guntis Goncarovs
Latest book: Telmenu Saimnieks - The Lord of Telmeni. Published August 17, 2012. (5.00 from 1 review)
Peter McKenna
Latest book: Rebel Gray, Mountain Green. Published June 24, 2012. (4.00 from 1 review)
Wendy Bertsch
Latest book: Dodging Shells. Published September 30, 2011. (5.00 from 3 reviews)

Smashwords book reviews by Scott Skipper

  • Mars is a Bummer, Man on July 05, 2011

    More than a great short story, Mars is a Bummer is a potent social commentary. The genre being secondary to the message, this novella will be enjoyed even by readers who never consider reading sci-fi. The writing is first class and technically excellent. I look forward to more offerings from Frank Severino.
  • From the Shores of Morar to the Estrella on Aug. 11, 2011

    In spite of what was said by a self righteous woman in Scotland whose own work is syrupy with unreadable metaphors, I found "From Morar to Estrella" to be a delightful genealogy of the Mc Donalds who emigrated from the Scottish highlands to Nova Scotia and then to Central California. Bill Norin has invested years in combing period newspapers for anecdotal information that not only brings his ancestors to life but illuminates the times and places while revealing his ancestors as saloon keepers, sheep ranchers, wheat farmers and aiders and abettors of the Dalton gang.
  • Secrets of the Golden Gate Bridge on Sep. 06, 2011

    Fact, fiction, humor, nonsense, curiosity, whimsy and scandal in all the right proportion is what you get from The Secrets of the Golden Gate. Knapp has compiled years of serious research and included the craziness he unearthed along the way. An excellent read—you'll be sorry when construction is finished.
  • The Figures on Sep. 28, 2011
    (no rating)
    At least it was brief.
  • The Ultimate Guide to Distinguish a Canadian from an American on Sep. 30, 2011

    Great little piece of work! I didn't know about the clothesline to Russia but I've been to Canada many times and swear the rest is true.
  • Center Fire on March 04, 2012

    Astounding! One of the best stories I've read in years. It's in league with Daniel Silva and Nelson DeMille. Chris Mason has scored an extraordinary coup with his first offering. I can't wait to read his next. Center Fire is a highly polished spy thriller of mind boggling complexity, flawlessly delivered and as sophisticated as any I've ever read. If spies are your genre, get Center Fire now.
  • Jazzberry and Fidget on March 10, 2012

    Chris Mason is brilliant. Jazzberry and Fidget is more than a children's story, it's a delightful little allegory about the shortsightedness of man that will appeal to anyone with a brain, a heart and a sense of humor. Mason's first offering was one of the best spy stories I ever read and this is the best fairytale. Please keep them coming.
  • KVSPARROW: A Shadow Wars Novel on March 17, 2012

    A very different slant on a spy thriller. Actually, thriller isn't the right tag. KVSPARROW is a textbook. It's a window into the often tedious life of a convincingly real operative. One believes the author really is—or was—a spook. The realism is phenomenal although admittedly less than exciting at times but he warned us of that from the start. Even the sex scene is reduced to "It's nobody's business but ours."
  • Castle In the Clouds on March 19, 2012

    A well crafted book with good character development especially a villainous sister of the main character. It's rather like an episode of Masterpiece Theatre. Having said that, I didn't finish it. It's simply not my style but those who gravitate to this genre should not be disappointed.
  • The Keeper on March 26, 2012

    The Keeper is a haunting tale of Indian mysticism, impossible love, dark secrets and transcendence on the rock face. Written in a telegraphic style it pulls one across a wide terrain of emotional landscapes. When an author knows the reader well enough to make him squirm he has truly found his voice. John Kalnay tells a very potent story.
  • Havana's Secret on April 07, 2012

    Mr. Goncarovs has a first class piece of work on his hands. Havana’s Secret weaves seemingly unrelated events into a convincing explanation of a century old mystery. The veracity of the narrative is uncanny. The reader becomes convinced that he is reading an eyewitness account of the outbreak of the Spanish American War. If historical fiction is your genre Havana’s Secret is for you.
  • Once More, From the Beginning on April 14, 2012

    The Old Testament defined from a feminist viewpoint. I loved every irreverent minute of it. Ms. Bertsch has plenty of wit and a pointed explanation for all those odd passages that you previously had to take on faith.
  • Convergence of Valor on April 18, 2012

    A stunning piece of work. Mr. Goncarovs displays three great gifts: a talent for meticulous research, a fluid, original style and the ability to recreate a period and place. The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine successfully used in war time. It has only recently been recovered from the bottom Charleston Bay, and as one who has seen the wreckage, I can say that I learned more about that bold Confederate experiment from Convergence of Valor than I did from examining the original artifact. As a writer of historical fiction Guntis Goncarovs is first class.
  • Caumsett on April 22, 2012

    J.T. Kalnay has the eerie ability to put names and faces on the demons wailing in our souls. Then he dredges them from the murky past and installs them on Long Island. This paranormal tale pits an very ordinary man against a ghost driven by hundred year old remorse over lost love and betrayal, demonic possession, accelerated aging and his wife. The cards are certainly stacked against Bill Jones. This is an astonishing story that keeps you guessing until the end.
  • Mrs. Bambi Knows on April 30, 2012

    I've said it before—Chris Mason is brilliant. Mrs. Bambi Knows is an easy going story of an anonymous local hero with a dark side. Mrs. Bambi is the advice columnist from Hell who is also a mysterious philanthropic single parent with a bevy of friends who happen to all be lesbians. Confused? Of course you are. That's why you must drop everything and read this book now.
  • Wild Sands on April 30, 2012

    Chris Mason seems to be able to write anything. Wild Sands is his fourth offering none which bear the least resemblance to one another. This is a relationship story wherein we are forced to deal with a single workaholic male who inexplicably refuses to sleep with a gorgeous woman who throws herself at him. Even his father pronounced him crazy. The problem is that he is creeping along the precipice with two women who run a bed and breakfast inn—one beautiful and outlandish, the other introspective and demure. The double bind is delicious. Poor Jason is just not equipped to deal with it.
  • Scoundrel! on May 10, 2012

    “Scoundrel” is the American Revolution through the eyes of the most amoral, self serving, duplicitous, lying, cheating, thieving, ass licking miscreant in American History. General James Wilkinson narrates the war from an insider’s candid perspective. He reveals every wart, defect and wild hair residing on the lily white hides of our Revolutionary heroes, including his own. The story is clever, irreverent, humorous and convincing as it follows the career of a relatively obscure player in the revolutionary drama. You will find “Scoundrel” in the vein of Rousseau’s “Confessions” and Casanova’s autobiography but infinitely more readable. I might go so far as to call it the “Catch 22” of the revolutionary period. It’s a great piece of historical fiction that, were Stanley Kubrick still alive, would look great on the screen. I got a surprise at the end when I read Keith Thompson's bio and realized that he probably based his Wilkinson character on himself.
  • The Pattern on May 18, 2012

    Can a video game hijack an airplane? Slightly juvenile programming genius, Craig Walsh knows it can and he knows he's responsible. What he doesn't know is how he's going to purge the virus from the autopilot software on every plane in the world. The Pattern is a brilliant piece of techno-sleuth drama with a perfectly balanced love angle. Mr. Kalnay has excelled with his character development in this 1990's period piece that is an ominous omen of the 9/11 attack. Once I took the hook I couldn't put it down.
  • Dodging Shells on May 25, 2012

    There will probably never be a better war story than All Quiet on the Western Front, but Dodging Shells deserves to be on the same shelf. Ms. Bertsch has produced an extraordinary piece of work with this WWII tale told as a series of letters from a Canadian soldier to his twin sister. It’s a poignant, funny, honest and brilliant way to tell the story of the author’s father’s experiences as he and his Canadian comrades in arms fought their way from Sicily to northern Italy. Sometimes Corporal, sometimes Private Tommy Smith had a checkered military career fraught with chronic hunger, discomfort, disasters and constant danger which he candidly shares with sis. This isn’t just a war story, it’s a human story, and a world class piece of literature.
  • STOLEN IN PARIS: The Lost Chronicles of Young Ernest Hemingway: The Indian Girl He Couldn't Forget on June 02, 2012

    This is the only book I ever bought for the cover. I was browsing for something to read and saw the same Indian maiden that I used on the cover of Family Traits. Figuring that we had something in common, I downloaded the sample, liked it and returned to buy the whole book. Imagine my consternation to see that the cover had been changed. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing story, ostensibly the first person account of a summer spent with his family on the Michigan Upper Peninsula. I do think that Mr. Wyant has captured the voice of adolescent Hemingway. The Lost Chronicles has the same feel as the short stories he wrote that were set in the same area. Young Ernest has several rites of passage: first drink of whiskey, first shave, first Indian girl. I came away wishing for more of Prudence, the Indian girl, but that may just be my prurient nature. This quirky little tale will appeal to all Hemingway fans as well as fans of juvenile trysts with Indian maidens.
  • Rebel Gray, Mountain Green on July 01, 2012

    It Can't Happen Here! Imagine a raid on a bucolic Vermont town by a wayward squad of Confederate Cavalry. Imagine "The Mouse That Roared" and "The Russians and Coming..." Imagine what it might look like if General Sherman invested Mayberry and Andy and Barney's great-grandfathers held him at bay with pitchforks. Absurdity is the beauty of this fictionalized account of a true event wherein a band of seasoned Rebel soldiers, at the instigation of John Wilkes Booth no less, capture a small town near the Canadian border and are resisted by carpenters, hostlers, bankers and boys. Rebel Gray, Mountain Green is a fabulous tale written in a superb clean and honest style, meticulously researched and richly illustrated with period images. Peter McKenna excels in character development and dialect. This is a story after my own heart and I'm green with envy that I didn't write it.
  • Wild Bill Hickok; The True Story Of His Last Six Weeks on July 24, 2012

    I'm sorry to say that I had to put this one down. This book is ostensibly based on a journal kept by a young fan of Wild Bill when he traveled to Deadwood to meet his idle. The journal is claimed to be written in old west dialect. I'll take that on faith, but I've never heard anyone talk the way this dialect reads. That's what put me off. The jargon is too heavy and the pace dies with the Hickok fan's girl friend (and she came on to him a little too boldly for credibility) trying to improve his manner of speaking. I wish Mr. Goldstein would redo this book and tweak the dialog. I'd love to give it a second chance.
  • No Plans for Love on July 27, 2012

    Sherry Winette is a young woman who has a difficult life and is overly fond of potato chips. Being raised by a dysfunctional, unwed mother and never knowing who her father was has made her supremely independent—perhaps too independent for her own good. Then, out of the blue, her beloved but estranged grandmother dies and leaves Sherry the house where she lived until she was hauled away by her mother to avoid a threat of molestation. At nineteen she is finally free of her mother’s hellish grasp and ready to start a meticulously planned future in her own, completely empty house. Enter handsome Mark and wealthy Elena—Mark instantly falls in love with Sherry and Elena tries to kill her, her parasitic mother reappears and those plans crash all about her. No Plans for Love is a well designed story full of suspense and emotion. It’s more mystery than romance and more general interest than chick lit. It got me hooked and I’m a crusty old man.
  • Two Matadors on July 31, 2012

    Brilliant! Antonio Castañeda de Castilla knows everything there is to know about bulls and women. As had been foretold by his gypsy wife, he meets a young American in the bull ring at Sevilla who he persuades—with copious amounts of rare wine—to record his biography. In the course of one night the old matador relates to his mesmerized chronicler the story of a remarkable life—a life of love lost, regained and lost again. He tells of a life brimming with lust, danger, and circuitous twists of fate and faith. Antonio is a twin, an indomitable spirit, a hero, a betrayer, a victim, an adventurer and a tireless voluptuary. This story has shades of Death in the Afternoon, Prince and the Pauper, and Amor en el Tiempo de Colera. Marcus McGee's prose is phenomenal. I was hooked in the first paragraph.
  • The Weeping Empress on Aug. 03, 2012

    Imagine a modern housewife and mother wakes under strange skies, the last thing she remembers is having a glass of wine while she loads the dishwasher. When she is fully awake she finds that she is in the midst of a battle. Two samurai warriors are attempting to save a cluster of refugees from a larger band of warriors. What else can she do? She joins the fight. Chiyo discovers that she is in Dashkalil, which is curiously similar to feudal Japan. The two samurai conduct the refugees and Chiyo to “safety” and along the way they develop a bond with the mysterious foreign woman. They train her in the use of the sword and as word of her mercenary exploits spread it is rumored that she is fulfilling a prophesy of the Sacerdotisa cult. Sadie S. Forsythe has created an extraordinarily imaginative story and executed it masterfully. It has shades Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian series, Poe's Tale of the Ragged Mountains and even The Twilight Zone. It is reminiscent of the work of Robert Heinlein and Ursula K. LeGuin. The Weeping Empress challenges categorization. It is certainly action and adventure. It’s perhaps science fiction and might be thought of as fantasy. It even hints of historical fiction and psychological thriller. I can’t praise it enough. It’s simply brilliant.
  • Legitimate Issues on Aug. 07, 2012

    Legitimate Issues is a slick story set in contemporary London. A pair of identical twins complicate a hit man's job. A greedy lawyer is sucked into the web of intrigue cast by a ruthless tycoon and Chuckles, the dog, makes a new friend. This is fast paced, light and funny. Cassandra DeBrown has a gift for characters and felonious machinations.
  • The Point on Sep. 18, 2012

    Multifaceted Intrigue The Point has as many facets as the amazing lighthouse lens which is one of the several illustrations in this irresistible tale. Sierra is the winsome, beautiful, slightly spinsterish keeper of a hundred and fifty year old lighthouse on a remote piece of the fog bound California coast. Charles Ginetti is a rich, somewhat nerdy Silicon Valley entrepreneur and definitely not a sailor. However, when his father dies leaving his beloved sailboat and ship's logs, something powerful compels Charles to sail alone from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. A Pacific storm wrecks him at the Pigeon Point lighthouse which is completely isolated from civilization as much by its remoteness as the stormed damaged road. Sierra and the Portuguese couple who assist her reluctantly give him shelter until he can find a way back to reality. But does he want to go? The events that carry The Point to its stunning conclusion are a brilliant meld of romance, adventure, loss, redemption, wit and the paranormal. JT Kalnay has outdone himself. Do not miss this one.
  • The Undeclared War on Sep. 24, 2012

    Police chief, Jonas Petraitis desperately tries to protect his family, friends and all the peaceful citizens of Kaunas, Lithuania, from the rape and plunder of Stalin's Red Army. Meanwhile, partisans hide in the forest committing acts of sabotage as their meager arms allow. Many people would be hard pressed to name the Baltic States and some would assume Lithuania was always one of the Soviet Republics, but that's not the case. Lithuania is an ancient kingdom and was an autonomous republic at the outbreak of World War II. That came to a tragic end when Hitler and Stalin conspired to divide Eastern Europe between their spheres of influence. This chilling account of the Soviet occupation of the Lithuania reads as if an eyewitness was telling it. Barry Flanagan has captured not only the terror of the occupied citizens and the brutality of the marauding Soviets; he also transports us to the place where it happened. The imagery, the detail, the street names, the descriptions of the buildings fools the reader into believing he has seen the places where the story unfolds, and the characters are flesh and blood people who might just knock on the door at any time to share a glass of vodka. The Undeclared War is a masterwork that ranks with the historical fiction of Jeff Shaara and Ken Follet.
  • Heroin Guns on Oct. 13, 2012

    Vince and Cat are under deep cover in Afghanistan. Vince's persona is Kochi, a humble Pashto speaking Muslim with a switchblade in his turban. Cat finds a burqa the perfect disguise that can even conceal an AK47 when necessary. Vince is haunted by the terrible role that heroin played in his childhood. Cat is the quintessential heroine who can cut a mujahidin's throat, hack a computer and fix tea without breaking a sweat. So when a tribal warlord plots to topple the Afghan government and frame the American president, this unlikely husband and wife team is dispatched by the ultra secret PSF to thwart the scheme. Since drug money finances the plan, Vince's moral outrage is making him reckless. Fortunately, Cat has his back. Heroin Guns is slick and gritty at the same time. The characters are engaging. Action leaps from every page leaving the reader anxious for more.
  • Telmenu Saimnieks - The Lord of Telmeni on Oct. 21, 2012

    Telmenu Saimnieks - The Lord of Telmeni has four things that appeal to me. The first is the work of Guntis Goncarovs, the second is historical fiction, third is genealogy and since reading Norman Davies' massive Vanished Kingdoms, I've been intrigued by the teetering fate of the Balkans. This story compiled of family lore and personal exploration tells of the shameful treatment of Latvia at the hands of the Germans and the Russians around the time of the First World War. Mr. Goncarovs' handling of the matter is intensely personal. His characters thread their way through the dichotomy of shifting alliances balancing loyalty and survival with duty and independence. The fate of the three small and fiercely proud countries that were trapped for decades between the maws of their bellicose and voracious neighbors is a compelling story for anyone with a fondness for history. This tale of the struggles of the Vechi family during a time of crisis is not only moving and unforgettable, it's a fast paced and powerful war story. has four things that appeal to me. The first is the work of Guntis Goncarovs, the second is historical fiction, third is genealogy and since reading Norman Davies' massive Vanished Kingdoms, I've been intrigued by the teetering fate of the Balkans. This story compiled of family lore and personal exploration tells of the shameful treatment of Latvia at the hands of the Germans and the Russians around the time of the First World War. Mr. Goncarovs' handling of the matter is intensely personal. His characters thread their way through the dichotomy of shifting alliances balancing loyalty and survival with duty and independence. The fate of the three small and fiercely proud countries that were trapped for decades between the maws of their bellicose and voracious neighbors is a compelling story for anyone with a fondness for history. This tale of the struggles of the Vechi family during a time of crisis is not only moving and unforgettable, it's a fast paced and powerful war story.
  • Brezlun on Oct. 22, 2012

    Some time in the long ago future a starship seeded a terraformed world with four distinct Earthly cultures. Millennia later the last remaining android Mediator between that planet and it's creator is failing. Chass is determined, contrary to his mandate, to reestablish contact with the mother ship. Miako, a somewhat timid flautist, is reluctantly recruited to accompany the Mediator on his quest to rebuild his defunct communicator from components stashed in archives of the four cultures. Before Chass reaches his goal he gathers a Tolkien-esque entourage and is pursued by deadly religious zealots who consider his quest blasphemous. Brezlun is in league with the sci-fi of Ursula K. LeGuin. Chris Mason's prose is a joy to read and the depth of his invented cultures is uncanny. This is one of those stories you want to never end, and in fact, the door may have been left open for a sequel. We can only hope.
  • The War Widow on Nov. 23, 2012

    A masterful piece of work! The War Widow is the story of the Nuremburg trails so one wouldn't expect the ending to be a surprise, but it is. Mr. Durham has woven multiple threads of intrigue into his finely executed version of a familiar piece of history. His knowledge and expression of military life propels the reader right into the scene and the character development is top notch from his handling of Herrmann Goering to the despicable Colonel Gaffner. The reader feels as though he's known these people all his life. The prose is compelling, the pace brisk and, as I said, the ending jerks the rug out from under you.
  • Charleston Murders on Dec. 04, 2012

    Meet Alexis Dorchester, Charleston socialite, heiress and pampered Southern Belle. Her husband is gay, the love of her life is a black eunuch, her son is a mulatto, her father is a murderous bigot and her servants are her stepsiblings—certainly colorful living arrangements. Charleston Murders is a tale of segregation, treachery and mayhem that covers the time period from the 1920's to present. It is told in the form of a deathbed confession and it's rather long, so it was surely a slow painful death. The narration is a folksy southern dialect which initially put me off, but in very few pages it began to speak to my inner redneck. I continued avidly to the climax of the story then I began to hope for a merciful death. It's a very good book until the aforementioned climax, then its voice changes and it becomes somewhat maudlin and self-indulgent. In my frank opinion it would be improved were it pruned by about twenty-five percent.
  • The Hunley: The Civil War’s Secret Weapon on Dec. 28, 2012

    By the title we enter expecting to read about the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime. However, the reader is quickly following multiple subplots that give one to wonder how, or if, they are connected—they are. The historical facts presented stretched my knowledge of the Hunley and I began to have doubts until I did more research and found that by and large, except as disclaimed, Mr. Kerr is pretty well on target. So, I've learned some fascinating history and that's always a good thing. The Hunley: The Civil War's Secret Weapon is a very well executed piece of historical fiction with extraordinary character development. The period settings are generally first rate and the depiction of human drama during a catastrophic time is done remarkably well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it for all fans of history. In my personal opinion, it's a bit overpriced at $5.99, but then again, I'm a crusader for the $2.99 e-book. If you enjoyed The Hunley, you will surely also enjoy Convergence of Valor by Guntis Goncarovs which deals with the same topic from a slightly different point of view.
  • Memoirs of a Reluctant Archaeologist: A novel on Dec. 30, 2012

    Elise Marquette, archeologist/anthropologist, with a passion for human bones, is stuck in a "go nowhere" job doing archeological assessments for oil companies and the military. Her days are spent mired in conflict with workmates, bureaucrats safety managers and the myriad of regulations that kill productivity in twenty-first century industry and degrades the quality of life itself. Elise's dysfunctional family rates twelve on a scale of ten and she has resigned herself to a life of lonely celibacy—and then there's that comfort food thing. It looks like Elise will being spending all of her days trudging around with the mosquitoes under the blazing sun on the prairies and through the muskegs of western Canada, forever, wearing a day glow vest, hardhat and steel toed boots while lugging a ream of safety forms. Then she spends a single afternoon in Galway with an Irish archeologist named Gavin. This is not a romance. I don't read romance. It is frankly a memoir, fictionalized I presume, and I surprised myself by becoming engrossed so early in the story, but then again, it has many things I like: archeology, wit, government bashing, and bears. Memoirs are by definition a first person narrative and it is the strength of Elise's character that makes this book irresistible. She is a cynical, foulmouthed, girl-next-door that the reader, of either gender, simply wants to get to know. For those who have tried to do business in the brave new world of over-regulation, Elise is a kindred spirit. For those who haven't had the pleasure, this is an insight into the absurdity of modern society. Everyone will relate to her trials with co-workers and family. It's a quirky story that's well worth the price of admission.
  • Obsession For Vengeance on Jan. 28, 2013

    JT Kalnay is such a romantic guy that in one of his books even dead people fell in love. Imagine my surprise to find that he wrote a book about pure evil! Meet Hank Adams, perfect psychopath. He is a serial rapist, mass murderer, computer hacker and domestic terrorist. With his partner, Elsa—big breasted blond nymphomaniac—he commits a series of terrorist attacks that are eerily prognostic of the 9/11 attack. Obsession for Vengeance was written in the early nineties, but describes more than one event similar to things that actually happened in the years between then and now. The depth of JT's military knowledge lends credibility to this tale of one maniac's obsession for vengeance against society and a woman. It also serves to demonstrate some rather gaping flaws in our military and political thinking. If you like a little apocalypse now and then, Obsession for Vengeance is a sure bet.
  • The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley on Feb. 14, 2013

    At the site of a Civil War battle that had a miraculous outcome, survivor, James Kirkland Pilley, built a house. When the house burned the basement was intentionally flooded and the grounds dedicated as a park. Nothing strange in that, is there? Or is there? Years later the Garden Society donates funds to renovate the park, especially to dredge the pond which has become little more than a swamp. That's when a hapless code enforcer learns the ghastly truth of what lies beneath the duckweed and muddy water of Pilley Pond. This delightfully gothic little tale by rights should be read on a dark and stormy night. It's brisk, folksy style complements the eerie story it tells. Randy Attwood has cleverly conceived and executed his supernatural tale. I haven't enjoyed a story of this genre so much since I last read Poe.
  • Hitler Stopped by Franco on March 05, 2013

    Nothing Less Than Superb Burt Boyar and his late wife had extraordinary access to intimate details of an obscure piece of World War II history. Most Americans' view of Generalísimo Franco is of an implacable Fascist dictator who ran Spain with an iron hand for nearly forty years. That may be true enough, but "Hitler Stopped by Franco" shows us that he had another facet. Imagine being the supreme leader of civil war torn, impoverished and helpless Spain with divisions of Wehrmacht amour parked on your border and Hitler continually whining, cajoling and demanding access to Gibraltar through your sovereign territory. With Spain totally defenseless, Franco had to play the ultimate cat and mouse game. He had to convince Hitler of his friendship, and that he would join the Axis 'any day now' while he kept relief coming from the Allies with assurances of maintaining strict neutrality. For three years he managed to walk this tightrope. The Boyars were able to interview actual players in this tableau who were present at high-stakes meetings with the world's most dangerous men. The depth of the research behind this story is uncanny. Written in the form of historical fiction, this fascinating history reads like a suspense novel. The characterization of Franco will give the reader a new perspective of the man who saved Spain twice. I cannot give this book enough praise.
  • Blessed on March 13, 2013

    "Blessed" is the memoir of a truly remarkable person. Burt Boyar has led an enviable life. After serendipitously becoming close friends with Sammy Davis, Jr., Burt abandoned a successful career as a Broadway columnist to form a three-way collaboration with his wife, Jane, and the ground-breaking entertainer, the fruit of which was the autobiography of Sammy Davis, Jr. Horror stories of five years of toil and more years of editorial battles sent chills through this writer's veins, but eventually, the result was a bestseller, "Yes, I Can". Then a nine-month sojourn in the south of Spain to research a new book led the Boyars into the bizarre coincidence of having the daughter of the fascist dictator, Franco, for their landlady. Spain captured their hearts, as it does to so many, and nine months turned into twenty-eight years, the product of which was a novel about Franco putting a stop to Hitler's designs on Spain and Gibraltar. The source of the material for "Hitler Stopped by Franco" came from the extraordinary access that the Boyars had with the Franco family—talk about luck! As an afterward, "Blessed" ends with a posthumous letter to Sammy in heaven wherein Burt details the frustrations he is experiencing in his attempt to turn "Yes, I Can" into a major motion picture. Again my blood ran cold. Memoirs seldom grab my interest, but "Blessed" tells a great story. I had the enormous good fortune to meet Burt when he graciously received my wife and me in his West LA home. Rarely have I had the opportunity to meet a person so full of wit and charm. He shared anecdotes from his amazing life with us for a fascinating hour, at the end of which it wasn't Burt who rushed us to the door, like fools, we had to be elsewhere. "Blessed" brims with joy, frustration, a little sadness, humility, warmth and all of the heavy hitters of the post-war era. I got to meet Burt in the flesh. Now, I invite everyone to meet him in "Blessed"
  • I Took Panama: The Story of Philippe Bunau-Varilla on March 27, 2013

    A feisty little French engineer named Philippe Bunau-Varilla inspired by the enormous success and prestige derived from the recently completed Suez Canal, became obsessed with the building of the Panama Canal. Obsessed to the point of fomenting the Panamanian rebellion against Columbia and financing it with his personal fortune—a fortune made in the failed attempt by France to dig the canal. This examination of the building of the canal is seen from a unique point of view. Bunau-Varilla's audacity, determination and ingenuity is a lesson in perseverance, without which the Panama Canal could very well have been German. Consider the ramifications of that!
  • I Took Panama: The Story of Philippe Bunau-Varilla on March 27, 2013

    A feisty little French engineer named Philippe Bunau-Varilla inspired by the enormous success and prestige derived from the recently completed Suez Canal, became obsessed with the building of the Panama Canal. Obsessed to the point of fomenting the Panamanian rebellion against Columbia and financing it with his personal fortune—a fortune made in the failed attempt by France to dig the canal. This examination of the building of the canal is seen from a unique point of view. Bunau-Varilla's audacity, determination and ingenuity is a lesson in perseverance, without which the Panama Canal could very well have been German. Consider the ramifications of that!
  • Yo Tomé Panamá on March 27, 2013

    Un ingeniero francés, pequeño y belicoso, llamado Philippe Bunau-Varilla, inspirado por el enorme éxito y el prestigio derivado del recientemente completado canal de Suéz, se obsesionó por la idea de construir el canal de Panamá hasta el punto de fomentar la revolución independista contra Columbia (financiándola con su fortuna personal—fortuna ganada durante el intento fallido francés de excavar el canal). El análisis sobre la construcción del canal se hace desde un punto de vista distinto. La audacia, determinación y habilidad de Bunau-Varilla es una verdedera lección de perseverancia sin la cual posiblemente el canal panameño hubiera sido controlado por Alemania. ¡Considérense las ramificaciones de esa posibilidad!
  • Uncontrollable on April 15, 2013

    Buenaventura García, 101-year-old Spanish anarchist, narrates his life story to his great-grandson. Forced into exile by the Spanish Civil War, he begins a journey that lands him in nearly every prison and labor camp in Europe and Asia. The story reaches its climax in a metaphysical experience induced by hallucinogenic mares' milk offered by a Siberian shaman with whom he was having a sexual liaison in the Soviet Gulag. "Uncontrollable" and I developed a love-hate relationship. It is an intriguing tale, well paced, and Buenaventura García offers the reader a highly engaging narrative. It is, however, told with a British accent where one would expect the voice to be Spanish. From a personal viewpoint my inner anarchist could only bond with part of Buenaventura's politics. He longs to exist in a Utopian sort of workers' paradise free of government, free of capitalism, free of property, free of religion and never questions the validity of the concept despite witnessing firsthand the abject failure of the Stalinist model. Late in life he survives on reparations from both the Spanish and German governments but apparently sees no hypocrisy in this. The book ends with a series of bizarre twists that leave the reader's head spinning and wondering if somehow he had ingested some of the shaman's mares' milk.
  • Invisible Scars on May 09, 2013

    A beautiful Texas oil heiress, a Spanish Duke, an inconvenient relationship, the emotional damage of the Civil War; Invisible Scars weaves a spellbinding web of binds and double binds, loss, redemption, fabulous wealth and anarchy. America Harvey makes a big mistake by marrying her childhood sweetheart, the result of which is the loss of her only child. She flees with her despair all the way to the south of Spain where she and el Duque del Castillo de Tarifa fall irreconcilably in love despite his wife, eight children and unwavering, divorce forbidding Catholicism. This is the story of a remarkable heroine who endures adversity, is left bereft and ultimately triumphs. The story is complex and encompasses the time from the Spanish Civil War to the post-Franco era. Besides being a love story and a war story, it offers a window into Spanish culture, going as far as to present the dialogue with the idiomatic flavor of the Spanish language. Burt Boyer had intimate access to Spanish nobility and he comes to this extraordinary piece of work with impeccable credentials. Invisible Scars is a brilliantly conceived and executed tale of epic proportions.
  • Grey Tide In The East on June 24, 2013

    Outstanding! "Grey Tide in the East" brilliantly depicts how the whim of an Emperor could easily change one detail of history resulting in global consequences. Andrew J. Heller meticulously and intelligently describes the likely outcome of World War I had Kaiser Wilhelm II decided not to attack France through Belgium. This well researched tweaking of true events reads plausibly and convincingly, and examines the ramifications of that single, possible, alteration of fact from a worldwide perspective. This book will appeal to all who are fond of history, alternative history, historical fiction and the Great War. This story craves a sequel.
  • The Flats on July 07, 2013

    A loner, not good in relationships, has his life complicated by larger than life events completely beyond his control. He retreats to the derelict confluence of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie in the heart of decaying Cleveland. There he insulates himself for eighteen years until the world begins to creep into his rustbelt fortress. The Flats is a story of wrestling with demons both internal and external and how one engaging survivalist deals with them. Written in a bold, multi-viewpoint style, The Flats jumps off the starting line and never looks back. This may be JT Kalnay's best to date and that is a pretty big statement.
  • When The Fox Dies Even The Rabbit Weeps on July 10, 2013

    A wise-ass Italian-Jew detective from Chicago on temporary assignment in Shanghai in 1930 witnesses the kidnapping of a blue-eyed Chinese girl on his way to work—then the story really gets exotic. "When the Fox Dies Even the Rabbit Weeps" is one of those character driven mysteries that you fall in love with in the first five pages. Detective Jake Puccini has four days left in his unprecedented, and unwanted, detective exchange between the Chicago and Shanghai police—four days to solve a serial murder case, a faked suicide and the aforementioned kidnapping. His savvy and irreverent voice engages the reader and never lets go. Edgar Bailitis has concocted a tale on par with "Chinatown" and if we could resurrect John Huston I'd stand in line to see the movie. This enormously complex plot is kept orderly by a constant banter from the protagonist with the reader. Jake never lets us lose track of a single red herring or shady character as he races to untangle his conundrum while the clock ticks on the term of his unpleasant exile in the multinational protectorate of Shanghai during the inter-war era. This book is for fans of mysteries, detectives, spies, miscreants, gangsters, and of course, history.
  • To the Shores of Tripoli on July 15, 2013

    Face it! The United States is at war with Islam and has been since 1802. That was when Thomas Jefferson sent the Marines to Tripoli to put a stop to the depredations of the Barbary Pirates. I would like to thank Colonel Jonathan Brazee, USMC (Ret.) for illuminating a little known piece of American history. Most of us are vaguely aware that this distant war was the genesis of the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps but what actually happened is usually left unsaid. The depth of Colonel Brazee’s research is evident from the first page. He describes in convincing detail the campaigns of the war through the eyes of three fictional characters and a narrator. Each player has a unique voice rich with period dialect, which admittedly is a bit thick at times, but nevertheless adds much early nineteenth century nuance. (I even learned some new words.) The pace is excellent and I was frankly glued to the narrative. I appreciate the history lesson and highly recommend it.
  • If the South Won Gettysburg on July 30, 2013

    "If the South Won Gettysburg" is a fascinating tale in three parts. It begins as a meticulous retelling of the beginning of the battle then turns into a highly plausible description of how events might have developed had Lee listened to Longstreet’s suggestion of a flanking maneuver. The resulting invented troop movements and skirmishes read like truth. The outcome as told by Mark Nesbitt appears to be precisely how things would have been if one decision by Lee were taken differently. The third part of the story is a rapid narration of subsequent worldwide reaction to a Confederate victory. All speculation feels reasonable and logical. This is the type of cerebral exercise that history enthusiasts will find intriguing and amusing. Plus, there is a message that twenty-first century readers would be remiss to ignore.
  • Yes I Can: the story of Sammy Davis Jr on Oct. 03, 2013

    Yes I Can is, first, the story of a remarkable entertainer as told to his close friends, Jane and Burt Boyar, in the 1960’s. It is also a frank, painful and intimate exposé of racism as it existed during the lifetime of Sammy Davis, Jr. as well as an insider’s look at the day-to-day lives of the brightest luminaries in show business. The twenty-first century reader who is sufficiently padded with years will recall with dismay the days of institutionalized segregation. Although it has diminished, racism has by no means vanished and it may well be resurging in our society that is increasingly diverse and polarized. Sammy Davis speaks personally and honestly of the racial attacks coming at him from both white and black societies, beginning with his childhood in Harlem through the Civil Rights era when he was one of the most loved and highest paid entertainers in the world. Burt Boyar’s uncanny excellence as a writer leaves one marveling at how any author is able to capture such depth of emotion using another man’s voice. Yes I Can is told as much in Sammy Davis’ hip lingo of the Jazz Era as in his extremely articulate English that belies his total lack of formal education. This is a fast-paced story that takes no prisoners and challenges the reader to keep up as the pages fly and insights unfold into the life of a performer without equal.
  • Angels in the Darkness: A Family's Triumph over Hitler and World War II Berlin, 1935-1949 on Oct. 19, 2013

    Angels in the Darkness is a stunning achievement resulting from felicitous access to remarkable primary source material. This is the memoir of a woman who was ten years old in 1939 and living in Berlin. The Bolle family was wealthy, well-known and respected, living in the prestigious suburb of Dahlem from whence Jewish families began to flee after the Kristallnacht, and into those derelict houses first came high-ranking Nazis, and later American officers. Jutta Bolle went to school with Himmler’s daughter and Field Marshall Keitel lived around the corner! The insight Jutta shares about the family’s fear of the Nazis, the terror of the bombing and the arrival of the Russians is both warm and chilling. Her voice is real and carries the reader right into the events that she witnessed with her description of daily life in wartime Germany. She is both engaging and appealing, and her narrative strips bare many popularly held ideas of this formative period of human disaster. Lisa Farringer Parker’s masterpiece will engross history buffs, war story aficionados, and human-interest fans equally. It’s an unforgettable read!
  • Lena's Bequest on Jan. 03, 2014

    Gardening was all that Lena had in mind when she rented an isolated house in the empty flatland of Northwestern Ohio. That changed abruptly the day an elderly stranger with an eastern European accent startled her while she was tilling the soil. That unnerving event set in motion a deadly treasure hunt populated hick sheriffs, a Russian mobster and his rapine grandsons, spies, refugees and the specter of her absent father. Karl, the mysterious stranger, fed Lena, in tidbits, a story of her late father’s astounding life and unlikely bequest. Lena is a very capable young woman with street smarts who never really trusts Karl, as well she shouldn’t, but the lure of a treasure hunt and the credibility lent to it by the attention of mobsters tempts her to go along. Karl insists that the search must begin in New York City where Lena is stunned to learn that she owns healthy bank accounts and a midtown apartment. Then the trail gets hot. Lena’s Bequest is told in flashbacks to Stalin’s purges in the Ukraine. The story of her father’s escape from murder, starvation, deportation and his eventual flight to the west is a disturbingly truthful look at the conditions in, and as a result of, the Gulag. How the atrocities of those decades of institutionalized starvation, slavery, torture and murder might impact a modern woman grappling with life in twenty-first century America is a highly plausible and fascinating tale. Paul Ross has an extremely well written and researched book that will appeal to history lovers, fans of action and suspense as well as readers who like a strong female lead character.
  • The End of Texas on March 20, 2014

    This is not really a novel. It is a philippic written by a far left radical who quotes history selectively to further his agenda. Juan Batista is a pseudonym and I for one think that if you write something intentionally inflammatory, you ought to put your own name on it. When the book finally devolves into its alternative history aspect it is a worst case of a story being told not shown. The writing is conversational, in fact preaching. In its context, it is well written with relatively few errors although the eBook edition has many formatting issues. The content, however, insults the intelligence of the reader. The author states en clair that if you are born white you are a racist. He proudly asserts that his ancestors resided in the territory that became Texas before Sam Houston and Stephen Austin arrived. If that is so, why does he still insist that he is a Mexican after correctly proclaiming that Mexican is not a race but a nationality? My ancestors were Indians who joined the mainstream and became unhyphenated Americans. The writer wails endlessly over how poorly minorities are treated in the United States but cannot embrace the simple truth of join the mainstream or self-marginalize. He further asserts that all who disapprove of the government are traitors, but as a self-proclaimed expert in history ignores that band of traitors who founded this country. I laughed aloud when I read his statement that nobody manages health care better than the government. But the most contemptible, mindboggling contention made by a seemingly intelligent and educated—if myopic—individual is that somehow the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution is not a guarantee of states’ and individuals’ rights, but is a license to expand the federal government. I recommend everyone read this book to understand more fully the real threat today to the American way of life.
  • Pacific Paradox on April 21, 2014

    Beresford Branson is the quintessential upper class twit. As second son of a baronet, he is ineligible to inherit his father’s title so happily he drinks, chases girls and careens his MG through the hedgerows until Sir Branson decides he must be “blooded.” Exiled to the South Pacific for three years with a modest sum of cash, Berry must learn to make his own way or else. On landing in Tahiti he confirms his suspicion that not being French, he is forbidden to work, thus he makes his way to Pago Pago working as a deckhand for an American family, thence to British Samoa where he finds unrewarding employment. However, he is mugged and mystified as to why his American friend and benefactor from Pago Pago is threatening his life over a post office box number in Sydney. Enter Josh Noble, entrepreneur and business partner with Berry’s father, who puts the young dilettante to work peddling cassava across the South Pacific. Calling on Guadalcanal at the outbreak of war in the Pacific, Berry is one of two white persons who opt not to evacuate, instead volunteering as coast watchers for the Allied cause. Pacific Paradox is an absolutely delightful book that lets us sail along during the coming of age of a bon vivant who ultimately spends two years living in caves while spotting Japanese troop and ship movements. The attention to historical detail with regard to the battles for strategic Guadalcanal shows Kev Richardson’s depth of knowledge. His prose and pace are excellent and characters well developed. The end is both true to life and satisfying. I am going to look into something else by Kev Richardson.
  • Hitler's Children on May 10, 2014

    When Carlos the Jackal joins forces with the Red Army Faction (RAF) with the intention of toppling the West German government, Inspector Rainer Lombach of the Anti-Terrorist Task Force is stretched to the breaking point. He is forced to deal with two murders, a high profile kidnapping and a hijacked airliner while balancing reconciliation with his estranged wife. Then Carlos and his multinational gang plot the coup de grâce. Hitler’s Children is a true to life tale of terrorist activities in Europe during the seventies. The realism of Ralph Young’s story shows tremendous depth of knowledge of the topic and the setting. The characters and the plot are richly developed making this is a first class detective story. The prose is excellent and flows beautifully, there is however, just too much of it. My personal taste tends toward fast-paced fiction and there were times when I became impatient reading details that I believe were not necessary to advance the story. Those who love to be drawn into the scene by intimate description will be delighted with the sumptuous minutiae. Hitler’s Children is a very interesting read no matter your pace preference.
  • Pirates or Patriots on June 08, 2014

    What if your uncle told you that he and your father killed Bonnie Parker? Jeb is naturally skeptical of this and some other tall tales about Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson, but he has been tasked with writing a book and he is a history professor, so he delves into these matters, if somewhat reluctantly. Well, it seems that three English brothers, left with no means of support, join the King’s infantry only to desert when faced with the prospect of fighting in the War of 1812. When privateers attack the ship on which they stowed away, they are faced with the prospect of hanging or joining the pirates. The choice is simple and they soon discover that being in the employ of Jean Lafitte is not a bad life. Enter Charlotte, down on her luck and destitute in New Orleans. Ephraim, spellbound by her beauty, literally bumps into her, but fails to prevent robbers from stealing all her possessions. Then the governor decides it is time to sweep the pirates from his state at the same time that the British attempt to enlist Lafitte’s assistance in their invasion of New Orleans, the loss of which threatens the entire Union. This complex and compelling story of a man discovering the astonishing truth about his ancestors, and a pivotal battle in the history of a young country that actually took place after the end of the war, is a masterwork of tension and suspense. L.D. Watson has brought the period to life and carries the reader to the French Quarter before there was a statue of Jackson in the square that bears his name. The prose is magnificent, the characters wonderfully developed, and the aforementioned tension, keeps the pages turning. I was hooked from page one, and happily, the ending makes it clear that there is sequel in the works.
  • The Declaration: Tales From a Revolution - South-Carolina on July 23, 2014

    Katie Harris, near modern day Charleston, is helping her grandmother clear her house in preparation for moving into a nursing home. Starting in the attic Katie finds an ancient trunk bearing the name ‘Elizabeth Harris.’ Inside she finds letters and documents dating to the Revolutionary period. An historian from the university arrives to authenticate them and uncovers an even more earth-shattering and plan changing discovery. Nearly two-hundred and fifty years earlier Justin Harris ekes a living on his tobacco farm on the same piece of land that Katie’s Gram occupies today, however, his dreams of peace and prosperity are haunted by the growing rebellion. Risking all by joining the Whigs’ cause, Justin earns a commendation for his heroism in defense of Charles Town, but it comes with hefty price. This homey tale continues relating the stories of two generations of the Harris family separated by more than two centuries. Being a fan of both history and genealogy, this book had much appeal for me. I am also greatly enamored of Charleston and the Low Country in general, so all aspects of The Declaration were calling me. However, I must offer a constructive criticism: the dialogue is unconvincing. The characters never speak to one another without referring to each other by name. If a husband and wife are talking, how frequently do they call each other by their proper names? I was particularly bothered by the conversation of the slave, Terrance, who spoke like he had been educated at Eton and referred to Justin as “Mister Harris” instead of “Massa.” Ignoring the overly formal speech and the political correctness, Lar D.H. Hedbor’s Declaration is worthy of attention.
  • Final Victory on Aug. 17, 2014

    Wade Brogan, Jr., hard-bitten San Francisco detective, suspects that dementia is the source of his failing father’s fanciful tales about his career in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps during the development of the atom bomb. Then a Russian derelict, well-padded with years, is found dead in a Tenderloin flophouse. His room is stacked with shoeboxes full of yellowed documents, many of which bear the fading red stamp, “Top Secret.” The shroud of skepticism drops from his father’s ramblings about his mother having been a Soviet spy. Over an evening of beers he shares with his fellow cops the story of how the Japanese and the Russians nearly vaporized the City by the Bay but for the frantic scrambling of Wade Brogan, Sr. It is a little known fact that the Manhattan Project assembled four nuclear weapons before the end of the Second World War. One, of course, was tested at Trinity Site, New Mexico, and one each were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as we all know. The last was held in secrecy for use in the event that Japan did not unconditionally surrender. Phillip Bosshardt postulates how close to catastrophe we might have come if the Russians and the Japanese had cooperated on information gleaned from the sieve-like security surrounding America’s mad dash to perfect an atom bomb. This epic length saga tells a chilling tale that rings true at each convolution of plot. The historical backdrop is expertly woven, the characters fully developed and the pace nearly perfect. All fans of historical fiction and alternative history are going to love Final Victory.
  • A Dead-Game Sport on Dec. 19, 2014

    Riley Grannan was a bookie. He so excelled at his craft that he could earn a fortune in an afternoon, or lose one. Eleven-year-old Dayton Shannon was the motherless son of an abusive father until his Uncle Tom agreed to teach him the ropes of bookmaking. Dayton had a natural affinity and his uncle taught him well enough that the renowned Riley Grannan hired him to assist in his betting operation. At the age of twelve Day got to travel the racing circuit, see the world and earn more in a year than in a lifetime of shining shoes at the train station. This is the most peculiar book that I ever enjoyed. Many years ago I learned that horseracing is not only a beautiful spectacle, but it is a beautiful way to lose money. Since I shun the odds makers much of the bookmakers’ jargon was lost on me—I don’t even fully understand the title—and I can’t deny that one-hundred and twenty year old racing statistics are an arcane topic, but this story is irresistible. It is told from multiple viewpoints that at times made it hard to remember who was telling the story, and it is not conventionally edited, but none of that detracted from my enjoyment. The characters carry this tale of high stakes, fast living, corruption and redemption in the 1890’s. It is a nostalgic look at racing from the standpoint of that often-unsavory character, the bookie.
  • Pursuit of Passy on Dec. 19, 2014

    Peter Claydon, Flight Lieutenant in the RAF, nearly walked in on an SS beating and murder of a British radar technician. A French Nazi collaborator with access to top secret radar technology and two German thugs were attempting to beat classified information from the hapless Englishman. Claydon stumbles upon the scene seconds after the shooting—nearly getting himself shot—and receives a message from the dying man. The message excites a great deal of interest in the intelligence community. Then, a week later, Claydon spots the same French turncoat in the background of a photograph taken from the body of a Luftwaffe pilot. Being the only person able to recognize this dangerous traitor, Claydon is assigned the task of assassinating M. Passy. He is then sent back to France in the company of the daring M. Carnac to locate and eliminate this threat to the secret of that vital new defensive weapon, radar. This extraordinary story has an equally extraordinary history. D.M. Crook was the grandfather of the modern day publisher of Pursuit of Passy. He has chosen to offer this magnificent book for free which deeply puzzles this reviewer. It is a noteworthy piece of fiction with intrinsic value and I would have been happy to pay for it. In league with Fredrick Forsythe and Ken Follet, Pursuit of Passy is a great book that deserves commensurate attention.
  • The Marmo Method Modelbuilding Guide #4: How To Make Your Own Decals on May 11, 2015

    If you are a serious model builder, you need this book. You will benefit from it even if you only want to learn about tweaking and printing high quality images. Richard Marmo, professional model builder, also offers comparative insight into various types and printers and reveals a secret about how to save money on ink cartridges. There is also a brief Photoshop tutorial that taught me a thing or two. Make Your Own Decals is a very interesting and informative ‘how to’ book that is written in an engaging conversational style with warmth and humor. It offers a lot more than how to make your own decals, although the depth of that topic is vast.
  • Flashman and Madison's War on July 02, 2015

    Captain Thomas Flashman was a self-confessed coward. He unwittingly found himself fighting the upstart Americans alongside of Iroquois warriors on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes during the war of 1812—Madison’s War. Although cowardly, Flashman was cunning and managed to present himself in a good light to superior officers. This has the unfortunate effect of keeping him on the front lines. While trying to prevent an enraged warrior from cleaving his skull with a tomahawk, he accidentally converts the savage Indian into a faithful friend who watches his back and spares him from numerous life threatening encounters. Simultaneously the tide of the war in America turned against the British and the European conflict with France suddenly ended. This happy news meant that Continental troops would soon relieve the beleaguered British forces in Canada. Flashman saw a route home to England. But his hopes were cruelly dashed and he returned to the solace of the Mennonite girl who he rescued from an abusive husband more than twice her age. Flashman and Madison’s War is an easygoing book that I originally branded as slow, but I persevered and soon fell into the story’s pace. The character Flashman is an engaging creation who will set his own hook in reader’s interest. His unabashed self-assessment that he is a cowardly lying opportunist who wants nothing more than to stay alive and enjoy living to the fullest, quickly endears him to the reader. Robert Brightwell has retold an obscure part of an obscure war from a British point of view with remarkable accuracy and detail through the eyes of a fictional character with real charm. This is the fifth installment in a series of Flashman’s memoirs. It stands alone but some may prefer to start at the beginning.
  • City of the Saints on Sep. 06, 2015

    Captain Richard Burton, renowned English explorer and student of world religion, accepts an invitation from Brigham Young to travel by coach through Indian territory to visit Salt Lake City. Before he can depart Washington, DC, the British consul summons him to a meeting with the Secretary of State who convinces Burton to go via New Orleans and investigate rumors of a slave insurrection to be incited with the aim of triggering the Civil War. Naturally, the adventurer accepts. On arriving in the Crescent City he falls in with a trio of drinking buddies who style themselves the ‘Saints’ because their given names are Patrick, Louis and Augustus. Clearly saints they are not, but with their help and hindrance, Burton becomes embroiled in a murder, a voodoo ritual, a duel and indeed a plot to incite a slave uprising. In City of the Saints, Matt Isch weaves a tale as twisted as the delta, yet one that is closely aligned with actual events. The reversals, dead ends and red herrings keep the reader engaged, as does the witty first person narration. The Burton character is highly engaging and it is easy for the reader to identify with him. The setting is also delicious. One can see, feel and smell the Old Quarter as it was on the eve of the Civil War. The pace of this book is as languid as a bayou on a summer afternoon, which would usually turn me against it, but here it works and I found myself savoring the slow walk to the cool refuge of the barroom where the Saints plus Burton reviewed the revelations of the day. A final observation: some of the dialogue sounds a trifle too modern for the period, however, it can be forgiven and the story enjoyed for its pure goodness.
  • A Brother's Oath on Oct. 26, 2015

    The scorned second son of a nobleman in fifth century Jute-land abandons his youth of wealth and comfort for the life of a sea raider, but he swears a blood oath before Woden that he will return and save his brother’s life as his brother had done for him. Horsa, the younger brother finds wealth, power and adventure on the stormy northern sea. He also makes powerful enemies. Hengest’s hope of familial bliss is dashed when a powerful king enlists his loyalty, and by code of honor, he must leave his family to accompany the king on his quest to unite the tribes. Unbeknownst to him, Hengest makes a potent enemy as well. A Brother’s Oath is great tale of swashbuckling in pagan times when monsters of Grendel’s ilk howled at night outside the mead halls. I’ve been a fan of Hengest and Horsa since they were first introduced to me in Norman Davies’ history of the British Isles, aptly title The Isles. These two have inspired tales the like of Beowulf and Hamlet. Chris Thorndycroft has done a fine job of adding some new flesh to their bones in A Brother’s Oath. It is a fun and easy read written in straightforward, if a touch too modern, prose. Mr. Thorndycroft also gives us a peek at the further adventures of those fifth century funsters with a preview of an upcoming sequel.
  • A Warlord's Bargain on Feb. 28, 2016

    In book two of Chris Thorndcroft’s trilogy, Hengest and Horsa have relocated to the British Isles where the power vacuum of post-Roman Britain creates a world run by warrior chieftains and petty kings who enrich themselves by sanctioning piracy and extracting tribute, which is right up our heroes’ alley. However, the mantle of Christianity having been left by the Romans shines a disapproving light on the pagans from the continent, but Hengest and Horsa are able to arrive at a fragile truce with the powerful Vitalinus to fight as mercenaries against the Picts in return for control over a large swath of territory. As part of this negotiation Vitalinus insists on marrying Hengest’s young daughter who doesn’t like the idea at all, and she has the means to do something about it. Mr. Thorndycroft’s knowledge of his subject is vast. The scene settings and historical references carry the reader right into the fifth century. The story line follows several routes and leads the us to the edge of a cliff. At least this reader will be forced to the final installment to discover how all these things unravel. A Warlord’s Bargain is a feast for the imagination.
  • Dawn of the Unthinkable on April 09, 2016

    An unremarkable creature of habit has his credit card refused at the convenience store on his way to work, and is forced to return home to get some cash so he can buy his daily Diet Dr. Pepper. He walks in on a home invasion in progress and witnesses his wife’s murder. Fast forward to his second marriage and routine life as a property manager for the government and a couple of part time jobs. Blaming money for his pathetic state, he decides to invent a social system without it. His Utopian essay fails to find a publisher or any interest from the dozens of dignitaries to whom he sent it. Finally a black political science professor and a Latino union organizer join him to promote the concept. This socialist’s wet dream is the second worst book I ever finished. Its pace is geological and I agonized for many days, skimming at times, to see if the author was going to say, “April Fools” at the end. He didn’t. One must conclude that James Concannon actually aspires to live in a communistic society where parasites are provided with a comfortable standard of living and productive people are rewarded by being able to choose an upgrade on their free vehicle. Of course, it is all made possible by robbing the rich. The book is free, so I presume it is meant as propaganda, however, when even the Soviet Union couldn’t make it happen, people should realize socialism is a futile philosophy. The prose is articulate, but the characters are bland to the point of being maudlin, and several of them play no part in the plot. I am not one of the point of view police, but the writer engages in the most egregious head hopping I’ve seen—often multiple times within a paragraph. The story ends without even telling the reader what happened after the plan was implemented. I guess we have to stand by for the sequels. I apologize to Mr. Concannon for writing such a negative review, but this book deserves it on multiple levels.
  • Enemies on May 14, 2016

    Absentmindedly, Brian MacLennan left a bundle of sketches, that he drew during the Great War, in a hotel lobby. Jürgen Stern, in Canada on business, discovers those sketches and get quite a shock. Fifty years earlier he had taken one of them from the body of a Canadian soldier who he had killed in France. Apparently their lives had crossed paths more than once. The memories return of the mud, the vermin, the mindless killing, the deprivation and the mangled bodies, but the drawing he holds in hands makes him determined to meet his former enemy. Richard Barnes has written more than a war story. Enemies is a story of redemption. It vividly recounts the horrors and futility of the First World War from the viewpoints of a young Canadian and German soldier. Then it takes an anecdote that the reader may think is merely filler, and turns it into a remarkable turn of events that restores honor to man wronged after fifty years.
  • Buried Appearances on May 17, 2016

    Growing up in a Dutch enclave in Michigan, Skylar endures the stigma of her grandfather’s Nazi collaboration. The pressure coming from the community drives her mother to abandon her as an infant, which pushes her father to drunkenness and eventually suicide. Ten years after the death of the grandmother who raised her, a letter arrives from Holland. Unable to read Dutch, she takes it to a friend of her late grandmother who not only translates it, but tells Skylar a remarkable piece of information that cast a new light on the wartime deeds of her infamous grandfather. Not only is it possible that her ancestor was innocent of the calumny heaped upon him, but orphaned Skylar may have cousins living in Holland. Since she was out of work anyway, she decides to use some of her inheritance to finance her quest for the truth and her family. What she uncovers in Holland changes her life. D.E. Haggerty tells this story through the voice of Skylar Dewitt, foul-mouthed misfit and deeply troubled young woman with abandonment issues, and that voice is irresistible. Her candor and insight endears her to the reader from the opening sentence. Ms. Haggerty’s knowledge of wartime Holland lends truth and realism to Skylar’s search for an answer to her family’s burden. History fans as well as genealogy researchers especially will hang of every word, even those words that are somewhat obscene. With a lightning pace and plenty of twists, Buried Appearances is a fantastic read.
  • The Wheelman: How the Slave Robert Smalls Stole a Warship and Became King on May 29, 2016

    Robert Smalls worked as a wheelman on coastal vessels with his pay going to his master. One day in the midst of the Civil War he and a crew of conspiratorial slaves, including their families, stole the Planter from under the noses of the Confederate sentries and took it out of Charleston Harbor, past Fort Sumter. Smalls tricked the gunners in Sumter by sounding the coded signals that convinced them he was the rightful pilot of the vessel. He steamed straight to the Union blockade and surrendered the Planter. For this he was made a captain and later a general in the Union Army. He participated in numerous battles, and after the war, became the de facto king of Beaufort County. His accolades include convincing Lincoln to allow black soldiers into the Union Army, serving in the South Carolina legislature, the federal House and Senate and organizing a Negro band in the quaint town of Beaufort. The Wheelman is told in vignettes by a long series of storytellers, including a modern day narrator with a huge load of excess baggage. This is a fascinating historical novel that delves into the evils of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, twentieth century racism and close, personal racial attitudes. It also confronts internecine crises—suicides and mental illness. Mr. Evans has written a novel that relates an historical event with intimate knowledge of the setting and the attitudes of the players. He interweaves modern places and events with murky connections to the past. This is brilliantly done. I applaud this book, and in my mind’s eye, I saw every scene. It is a masterful work. In addition, for the first time in many months, I have read a book, whether self-published or traditionally published, in which I saw not one error.
  • Finding Billy Battles: An Account of Peril, Transgression and Redemption on June 18, 2016

    William Battles grew up fatherless in Lawrence, Kansas. At an early age he embarked on a career in journalism, which took him to Dodge City where he fell in with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. A chance encounter with a family of desperados earned him the enmity of one Nate Bledsoe for the accidental killing of his mother. Bledsoe and his gang haunt Billy Battles with murderous intent. After marrying and having a daughter, Battles’ familial bliss is unsettled by the blood feud with Bledsoe, culminating in a shootout at the homestead at Battles Gap, Kansas. The aftermath and subsequent adversity drive the tortured Battles to escape his past by fleeing to the Orient. This first installment of the life and times of Billy Battles, supposedly based on his own journals, is a first class tale of the late nineteenth century. The setting is convincing and clearly well researched. The historical characters speak in true to life voices and well-known events, such as the shootout at the OK Corral, are related with the verisimilitude of a firsthand account. The prose is also excellent as one would expect since the author tells us he is a professor of journalism. Therefore, this reader finds it baffling—nay, inconceivable—that the editorial style is so unorthodox. Having multiple speakers within the same paragraph caused much confusion. Mr. Yates must also hold a PhD in colloquialisms. Nowhere will you find more old-fashioned words and sayings as in Finding Billy Battles. Despite these peculiarities, it is quite a good story, although occasionally slowed by a slight excess of detail.
  • Demonic on July 13, 2016

    Mild mannered Bill Watson, accountant, met a new workmate named Mary Stewart at a time when terrorists were bringing nuclear bombs across the Mexican border. The police issued an order to evacuate San Diego before a device detonated, which knowledge is never explained, nor why the terrorists didn’t push the button as soon as the order issued. Nevertheless, Bill and Mary, thrown together when her car breaks down, make it to the Salton sea before they see the mushroom cloud beyond the mountains. About that time they are attacked by a band of terrorists, and Bill, who has been hearing strange voices, transforms into a demon and slays the terrorist and Mary beheads them. Okay, I was ready to brand this the silliest piece of crap I ever encountered, but I had told the Rave Review Book Club that I would review it, so I soldiered onward through one more chapter. When an innocuous guy known as J.C. begs a ride to Las Vegas with Bill and Mary, who are on their way to Montana to find Bill’s family, insists that Bill meet his father, I began to see where this might be going. J.C.’s father, Dom Emmanuel, rents a penthouse above the Bellagio—a hundred miles above the Bellagio. At this point the story devolves into parallel universes, dimensional portals, doppelgangers, shapeshifters and myriads of monsters called enforcers. Demonic is a dark fantasy with a strong cosmological component that is set against a theological theme exploring the nature of God. I would rate it higher if I were into that. I am not, so this read was somewhat painful for me, although I pushed through to the end. The rationale of the multiple universes is thoughtfully constructed and the convolutions mind-twisting. Each character has hundreds of iterations, each universe has variations that make it hard to keep track of where we are, except for the mega-evil universe where Bill has assumed the role of the demonic Gaius Claudius Caesar who intends to crucify the entire population. Since the characters have so many incarnations, it is impossible to know which one we are following. Their names even change inexplicably—hell, everything is inexplicable in this book. Bill’s wife started as Audrey, but switched to Arlene about half way through, and I never did understand if that was intentional, or a mistake. One more quirk that baffles me. The first chapter seems to be part of another story. It ends with a character named Sam getting shot, but we never see Sam again. The writing is solid, if not really outstanding, but there are a dizzying number of viewpoint shifts, some quite jarring. Mr. Morgan’s book is a unique piece of work. If you don’t have a problem with characters flying through space and dispatching hordes of monsters and demons with mystical weapons, Demonic might be for you.