Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

By Sherman Alexie, Winner of the National Book Award

Junior was born with water on the brain, is prone to seizures and has a bigger head and skinner body than most people. He’s beaten up regularly and only has one friend. Now, in order to escape the life set out for him, he’s going to the rich white school miles and miles away. He’s more of a target than ever before, in fact, he’s a traitor. His  story is a beautiful, shining look at life, at love and coping through all the bad stuff that besets us.
This was a fantastic book.

On the back there is an author recommendation from Neil Gaiman and he says, ‘I have no doubt that in a year or so it’ll be winning awards and being banned.’

One can only hope – any banned book is usually a life-changing one. And this definitely was.

Alexie’s writing style is conversational, abrupt, joking and real, with hidden depths that become apparent the further you read. Junior is a cartoonist so the book is peppered with ironically funny cartoons, depicting people he knows and how he feels.

So many bad things happen in Junior’s life, and at one stage three bad things happen in about as many pages. It was gut-wrenchingly, heart-stoppingly, stomach-churningly sad (and any number of other bodily descriptions). Despite this, however, there is a vein of hope running throughout the body of the narrative (do you see what I did there?). Junior can see a better life for himself and he’s determined to achieve it, despite all the hardships in his way.

Many books about disadvantaged minorities follow similar patterns to this book – a young person is beset by the limitations and difficulties of their culture and home-life, but have the courage to struggle on and rise above it. A lot of these narratives can also be incredibly insensitive, racist and make white culture seem like the saviour as opposed to the oppressor. This book doesn’t try to see the bright side or make excuses or present Junior as some angel child who is out to save his people. Instead, it looks at the things white culture would rather not know about and discusses the social, economic and  cultural life on a reservation in a frank and real way.

Life on the rez isn't explained or excused, instead things just are the way they are. And that’s what I really liked about this book. That it told the truth. That it was honest.

Favourite Quotes (there were so many, I had to limit myself):

We were supposed to be happy with our limitations. But there was no way Penelope and I were going to sit still. Nope, we both wanted to fly.

I draw because words are too unpredictable. I draw because words are too limited. If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get your meaning. But when you draw a picture, then every man, woman, and child in the world can look at it and say, “That’s a flower.”

She was in pain and I loved her, sort of loved her, I guess, so I kind of had to love her pain, too.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

2014: A Story a Week

Love and War
"Good evening, Miss Henshawe," Nathaniel bowed low over my hand. 
"Mr Evens," I murmured and executed a perfect curtsy.
He took my arm in his and together we strolled along the edge of the dance hall. All about us was laughter and merriment, wine flowing freely and skirts swishing scandalously high as young girls danced with their partners and older men and women watched from the sidelines.
Nathaniel and I did not fit here, our expressions were too grim and neither of us laughed. I managed a smile, but he did not return it. We walked the length of the hall and stopped in a dark corner, the only person nearby was a woman with sherry-red cheeks and an empty glass in her hand. She snored loudly, as if assuring us we were at perfect liberty to talk.
Nathaniel turned to me. "You don't have to give it to me, Clara. Indeed, perhaps you had better take more time to think it over."
"Nonsense, I said I'd help you." I licked my lips and tried to clear the worried frown from my brow. I wondered what we looked like to the dancing throng at our heels. I wondered if they even noticed us. I opened my fan and fluttered it below my chin, the breeze cool on my face, as I did so I took the microchip from my purse. I hoped I looked like a flirtatious young lady full of simpering, air-headed thoughts. I held out my hand.
"Clara, please think this through," Nathaniel pleaded, but I reached forward and took his hand, the microchip going from my hand into his.
Nathaniel closed his eyes. "Oh, Clara." He opened his eyes and smiled sadly at me. "I was sure you would not find it."
"My father would not suspect me. It was unutterably simple."
"You poor fool." Nathaniel drew me close in his arms and kissed my forehead. I felt my heart speed up at his touch. "You have saved my life this night. I do not deserve it."
"If he should ever find out..." I looked up into his dear face. "Nate, he'll punish me severely, but you he'll have executed."
"He will not discover us." Nathaniel drew me closer, although said nothing more to make my worry subside.
"When will you deliver it?" I asked.
"After the dance is over." He turned to survey the hall. "This music grates at my ears, it will be a relief to leave."
"Why do we not take a turn about the gardens?" I suggested. "It is cooler outside and quieter too."
Nathaniel smiled at me, although there was no warmth in it. I shivered. "Certainly, Miss Henshawe. A turn about the gardens would be most pleasant."
I flicked my fan closed and again put my arm through his. He led me back through the dance hall and through the wide open doors at its entrance. The gardens outside were scattered with LED lights, threaded through the trees and lining the garden paths. I breathed deeply and felt better almost at once now we were no longer in the stuffy dance hall. The artificial horizon of the garden seemed to stretch into the distance, although if I squinted I could make out the slight distortion of pixels where the garden dome ended. 
Nathaniel led me along the garden path and I brushed my hand against the camellia bushes as we passed.
"I can't thank you enough," Nathaniel's words were raw. He looked at me with eyes so filled with emotion I felt as if I was only seeing him properly for the first time. "You've saved my life. I am sorry..."
He looked away as if overcome and I pressed his arm tenderly, my heart beating faster. We had spoken of love, Nate and I, but quickly, fleetingly. It was still so new, so wondrous. I would have died for him. And, indeed, I had betrayed my father to save him. The guilt I felt at my betrayal was nothing compared to the joy and relief I felt that his life was now safe.
We continued walking in silence. Finally Nathaniel stopped. He held my hands and turned to me, "Miss Henshawe - Carla - I... I there is something I must confess."
"Yes?" I waited for him to speak words of undying love, to propose marriage, to proclaim his adoration of me.
He dropped my hands and stepped back. "It was not the microchip that would ensure my safety, it was you."
"What do you mean?" I felt cold.
"They want you." His voice was miserable. "To spy on your father."
"Spy on my father?" I echoed. "But the microchip... that was to buy your safety."
"No." Nathaniel shook his head. "That was to buy your allegiance. They have security footage of you taking the chip. I've seen it. They'll turn it over to your father should you betray them."
I drew myself straighter. "Then let them. My father may punish me, yes, but I am not afraid."
"Your father will punish you, but he will execute me." Nathaniel's voice was dull. "You said so yourself. They will have had an agent in the dance hall. And that agent would have recorded you giving me the microchip, no matter how subtle we were, they will have evidence that it passed between us."
"That is why you tried to dissuade me," I gasped. "Oh, Nathaniel, what have you got us into?"
"I'm sorry, my love." He brushed his hair from his face. "But there is a war on and your father is a General. Whether you like it or not, you are a pawn in this game and so am I."
"Can we not run? Make an escape?" I looked about the garden in desperation. I was not familiar with the layout of this particular airship, but there would be escape pods somewhere.
Nathaniel shook his head. "Where to? We are valuable assets to them now. We either spy for them or run and get terminated the minute a camera picks up our signal or our thumbprints are recorded at a hotel. Don't you see, Clara, there is nowhere to run too."
"But spy for them?" I could hardly speak the word. "My father, the war... if we are ever discovered..."
"But we will have each other, my darling. Is that not enough for you?"
I looked up into his face and it was like seeing a strangers. No, I realised, it was not.

Monday, 25 August 2014

What if You Got to Write the Next Wonder Woman?

From BITCH magazine, interview with Amanda Deibert and Cat Staggs on their creation of a one-off story of an iconic DC superhero:

Wonder Woman is such an icon and especially for young women and girls growing up. Do both of you have personal connections to Wonder Woman?
STAGGS: I got into it through the Lynda Carter television show and Saturday morning Super Friends and then comics came in after that. My mother was the comic influence in my household, she grew up reading Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman when she was a kid, so they were shoved under my face from a very early age.

DEIBERT: For me growing up, pop culture characters were used to help train me. There were princesses and Wonder Woman to learn my table manners or anything else my family wanted to instill in me. It was always those kinds of things that were used as role models and examples. While the princesses were fine, it was more interesting to me to want to be more like Wonder Woman because she’s strong and she’s powerful and empowered. Not that there’s anything wrong with a princess and in a way Wonder Woman is a princess. She was always a part of being a role model to look up to growing up, which was really cool. I felt like because I had dark hair and blue eyes that she looked like me, so I was like Wonder Woman, in my little kid logic.

You mentioned watching Lynda Carter on television—how does the issue that you created together show the evolution of Wonder Woman from its origins to present day. How do you think Wonder Woman has evolved and how does your work fit into that canon?
DEIBERT: I think what’s amazing about Wonder Woman is that she’s been around since the ‘40s and is still really current and totally relevant in pop culture and has always been through her many incarnations. I think that speaks so much to what an amazing character she is because each generation has adapted her into representing womankind for that generation. And that’s always worked since she’s such an amazing character and has been so true to her ideals. I think in our story, it’s a modern day Wonder Woman and then it plays into Wonder Woman as an icon, as a role model. It’s very much Wonder Woman fighting and defending the community but also defending the ideal of what she means to each generation of kids coming along which I think is really amazing. All the different incarnations, of course there are different ones that you might connect with more, but there’s enough that there’s something for everybody with her.

Wonder Woman’s identity is so tied up in feminist politics. Looking back to the iconic Ms.cover, does feminism and having a feminist identity play into your issue and work on Wonder Woman?
DEIBERT I would say yes. The message in our particular story is definitely one about equality. It’s definitely about being true to yourself and not worrying about what other people or society thinks about you which I think has an underlying message that certainly applies to women and an inequality that still exists today. She is an iconic character for a reason and I think that anyone who works with her or around her is going to be influenced by that. Always.

(Read the full interview here)

Interview with Jeffery G. Roberts, Author of 'The Healer'

A big thank you to Jeffery G. Roberts for agreeing to an interview with me! In this interview, he discusses his inspirations, his current work as well as his childhood ambition of being a horse. Please enjoy! ~ Rachael

1. What are you writing at the moment?
I just finished an alternative history short story,"When Stars Wept", and I'm working on novel # 8, "The Horror on the HMS Cottingly".

2. What is your favorite genre to write in?
I try to diversify, to gain experience and hone my craft. Science fiction is what I love most, but I've written horror, fantasy, fantasy/comedy, and 1 attempt at a romance short story, "Karma's Rendezvous", which I think turned out quite well.

3. Who inspires you most as an author?
Probably Ray Bradbury and Douglas Adams. And of course, my Dad, who wrote for radio after WW II; a show called "Duffy's Tavern".

4. What is your history? Have you always been a writer?
I was born in New York City, raised on Long Island, then on to S. Florida. I attended Northern Arizona University, where I received a B.Sc. degree in writing, then a Master's in American history. To supplement my income, I've done a plethora of odd jobs. Probably not much different than most writers.

5. What is your favorite thing about self-publishing?
Speed. I use With the new P.O.D. form of publishing, I don't have to wait 5 months for an elitist in New York or LA to tell me my work isn't exactly what their agency is looking for. (It never is!) Then, when I think of how many times "Gone With The Wind", "The Shining", or "Harry Potter" were rejected, I feel much better that I can self-publish, and it's available world-wide in about a month. Aren't literary agents supposed to recognize talent? Isn't that their job? Oh well - another myth busted.

6. How did you discover self-publishing?
By having subscribed to's newsletter, and that's how I took the publishing plunge with them. Very pleased, too.

7. What do you do to promote your book?
That's the only drawback to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing - you have to promote your work yourself. I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and I subscribe to a few book promotion services to help spread the word of my work. I also periodically put my book cover, blurb, and a purchase link, on my Facebook page. And once a month I put it on about 50-60 book promotion pages on Facebook. Also word of mouth, family & friends, etc. I've only scratched the surface, as THE HEALER was just published in January, 2014. Yes, there are firms you can pay $6000, who will cover the Earth with your book, like Sherwin-Williams paint. But who's got that kind of money hidden in the cushions of their couch? I know I'm still looking!

8. Have you ever had a bad review? What's the best thing to do when you get one?
So far, aside from rejections, which every writer gets, I've gotten a 3-Star review, though the reviewer liked my book. But I've also had a 5-Star review, as well. What to do when you get a bad one? Go in your bathroom, put your face in a pillow, and scream obscenities in 4 different languages. Then find the biggest piece of chocolate cream pie and a glass of cold milk. Works for me!

9. Where are your books available?
At, Amazon,com, Barnes and Noble, I-Tunes, Kobo, and any retail bookstore with an online presence. Just make sure it's Jeffrey G.  Roberts, "The Healer".

10. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My Mom liked to recall a story about how my Dad once went on a business trip. I was about five. And he told me I was now the man of the house until he got back. And I burst into tears! When asked why, I told him I didn't want to be the man of the house - I wanted to be a horse! Luckily, I have no recollection of this bizarre incident. This is a good thing. But as I got older, and had given up the dream of changing species, I believe I wanted to be a test pilot. Never happened, but I did solo in 1968; and my Mom, Dad, my dog, and I, had many happy times flying all over the country in my Dad's plane. He was a great influence on me, as he was a decorated Spitfire ace in the R.A.F. during the Battle of Britain.

'The Healer' Synopsis:

What happens when a 22nd century doctor on sabbatical to Mars, suddenly finds himself - through terrorism - 168 years and 150 million miles from his loved ones? He is now on a violent & primitive world - ours! How will he survive in modern day Anchorage, Alaska? Moreover, how will he heal the sick using 2181 medical technology, without risking exposure of his true identity? But while he dreams of someday returning to his own time, and family, he has no choice; for he is - THE HEALER.

Author Bio:

I was born 2/24/49 in New York City. I act 12, so it averages out to an age that's more respectable for me. I was raised in New York and S. Florida. I attended Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, AZ. I currently reside in Tucson, Arizona. I guess you could consider me an ambivert; part introvert, with just a teensy bit of extroversion. I'm definitely a type "B" person. Enya and Ray Lynch are 2 of my favorite musical artists. Writers are readers, and I'm no exception; I have about 500 books on all different subjects and genres. I've always been a student of the weird, the unexplainable, and the mysterious. I live in a state famous for UFO sightings. If they ever come for me, I have a strategy: I'm going to tell them I gave at the office last year. Maybe they'll leave me alone. I love studying the future, as well as the past. It's the present I don't care for! What can I say - I'm a Pisces.

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The Troy Game Book Three – Darkwitch Rising

By Sara Douglass


That was my reaction upon finishing this book. In my reviewof the second, I mentioned that the books are labyrinthine like the Game itself. That you’re constantly figuring out what’s happening and you can’t believe a lot of what characters tell you. This book was so full of twists and turns and startling revelations that I finished it in a matter of days. It was incredible.

Cromwell has died and Charles II is back on the throne of England. In this new world, Cornelia, Brutus, Genvissa and Coel are back, and Asterion too. Cornelia is destined to become Asterion’s whore and Genvissa is held in Asterion’s clutches and has changed from the confident and snakeish woman she once was, into a creature who may just be willing to assist Cornelia in her pursuit of becoming Mistress of the Labryinth.

Brutus and Coel have been reborn as Charles II and his friend Louis De Silva. These two men have at last put to bed the hurts of the past and are now committed to aiding Cornelia and everything she stands for.

There are so many exciting things that happen in this book that its hard not to blurt them out. Perhaps most exciting of all is that Cornelia finally becomes her own person. She stops allowing Brutus and the Game to dominate and manipulate her. Instead, she does what is right for her and right for the land. This leads her to many decisions which would once have seemed inconceivable, but made perfect and logical sense as the narrative progressed.

Asterion too develops as a character and it is in this book that we first begin to see him as an actual person as opposed to an malevolent monster intent on destroying the world. In this book, we begin to realise why he carries such hatred within him and what it is that truly drives him to commit such atrocities. Like Genvissa, it becomes apparent that nobody is irredeemable.

In this book, Genvissa also completely transforms from the self-satisfied and confidant woman she once was. She pays for the hurt she caused the land and, for want of a better phrase, becomes one of the ‘good guys’.

In this book too we are introduced to the Realm of Faerie and the Lord of the Faerie. There was some allusion to this in the second book, but in this the third it is much more apparent and important.

The narrative is becoming increasingly complex, however, so I shall have to read the fourth and final book soon before I forget everything that’s happened.

This has definitely been my favourite book of the series so far and I cannot wait for the next one. They didn’t have the fourth book at my local book shop, so I’m going to have to have to either buy it online and wait days for it to show up, or get it instantly on iBooks. Except then I won't have the complete set in physical form... which would irk my sense of neatness and order very much.

Favourite Quote:
"We all wish," she said softly, "and yet all wishes ever achieve is to expose our sorrows."

Friday, 22 August 2014

Divergent: The Movie

I finally watched Divergent the other day. I thought the book was average, mostly because I kept finding all these holes in the dystopian society Roth created (for instance, the factionless would have kids. So what happens to them? Do they get adopted into the factions? Or perhaps the factionless are neutered? In which case, WHY ISN'T THIS MENTIONED? IT'S KIND OF A BIG DEAL.)

The movie was pretty good actually (even if Tris (played by Shailene Woodley) was so obviously wearing make-up despite being Abegnation, the faction that despises vanity.) It sticks very closely to the story for the most part, so if they continue on with the series, I think I'll just watch the movies. Because, two words: Theo James.

From The Dissolve:

Divergent takes place in that favorite setting of storytellers looking to make allegorical statements about How We Live Now: a dystopian near-future. Laid out, as these things must be, via opening voiceover narration, Divergent’s world is built on the ruins of Chicago, which no longer borders Lake Michigan, but rather a vast swampland separated from the city by a towering wall, erected by someone, at some point in the past, to keep out something. It’s never clear what threat exists on the other side of the wall; what is explained, over and over, is that this future society is built on a system of factions in which all citizens must dedicate themselves one of five established values/lifestyles: Abnegation, dedicated to selflessness; Erudite, dedicated to acquiring knowledge; Dauntless, dedicated to bravery; Amity, dedicated to kindness; and Candor, dedicated to honesty. Anyone not conforming to one of the five become the untouchable caste of this society—the cleverly named “factionless”—living without purpose or protection.

Divergent’s heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley), lives in fear of becoming factionless when she learns, via mandatory testing that determines optimal faction placement, that she is Divergent, displaying qualities of multiple factions. Warned by her tester that this is rare and extremely dangerous, Tris is pushed to hide her condition and just conform to a faction, any faction. She chooses Dauntless, the soldier class, whose members spend their days performing feats of bravery, wearing cool black clothes, getting tattooed, and running everywhere they go. She keeps her Divergence secret throughout her physical training—which involves lots of hand-to-hand combat, weaponry, and jumping or dangling from great heights—but it becomes harder to hide when she has to enter chemically induced “fear landscapes,” which her condition lets her manipulate. Her unusual aptitude catches the attention of her aloof yet hunky trainer, Four (Theo James), who becomes her protector (and love interest) when it becomes apparent that Divergents are being targeted by another faction for the threat they pose to a brewing inter-faction war.

(read the full article by Genevieve Koski here)

The Troy Game Book Two: God’s Concubine

By Sara Douglass

These books are quite long, so it’s difficult to give a good synopsis of them – particularly as so many new characters are introduced. But here is my attempt...
It is the eve of the Norman invasion of England and Edward the Confessor is on the throne, Cornelia re-born is his wife and Brutus re-born is the Duke of Normandy, about to invade.  All the players in the Troy Game attempt to gather allies and form strategies. But the Game has been left alone for two thousand years and it has grown aware, sentient and devious. Who is the true enemy? Asterion? Genvissa? Or perhaps the Game itself as it manipulates their lives?

The second book was just as gripping as the first and several interesting developments take place. As characters, they all develop greatly and several dark secrets are revealed throughout the course of the narrative.

One thing I like about Douglass’s writing style is that you can never really trust any of the characters except, perhaps, Cornelia. They all make mistakes and assumptions and even when you think things are one way, another character will come out and tell you that actually no, it’s this way. The story is just as labyrinthine as the Troy Game itself.

The historical elements were also well used, particularly as the historical characters in the second book were a little more familiar to me. This reinterpretation of history is skilfully done and, besides the fantastical elements, is greatly accurate.

Cornelia and Brutus’ relationship is developed more in this and Cornelia is very much in love with Brutus for the entirety of the novel. It is this, perhaps, which still rankles for me. Brutus has been nothing but cruel to Cornelia for as long as he’s known her, at yet she fancies herself in love with him. It feels a little predictable, this relationship of theirs, and not particularly believable. Cornelia has grown in maturity since the first book, but she is still na├»ve. That said, however, she grows in power and in her relationship with the land, actively trying to thawt Asterion in his quest to find the Kingship bands that will allow him to rule the Game (I told you the story was complex). I like Cornelia. She is such a complicated character and, her feelings about Brutus aside, she is entirely believable – a curious mixture of vulnerability and bravery.

Genvissa too is delightfully evil. She is utterly selfish and concerned only with retrieving the Kingship Bands and having Brutus by her side so they can complete the Game. But Asterion is determined to stop her and in this book he comes closer to her than ever before. You actually feel sorry for Genvissa, which is saying something.

I don’t think I enjoyed this book quite as much as the first, but I’m still very much looking forward to the third. It will be interesting to see where Douglass takes it and how all the characters develop after being re-born in new lives for a third time.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Excerpt: Night Train Express

By Ed McGinnis

Publication Date: June 26, 2014
Print Length: 263 pages


Spring, 1989.

Jack Harrington—actor, Vietnam veteran, business associate of Los Angeles underworld figures--finds himself in a precarious position: at least two people are trying to kill him. He knows who one of them is. But the identity of the second would-be killer is shrouded in mystery and that killer is targeting others as well.

    The deaths seem unrelated to one another and to an earlier attempt on Harrington’s life…at first. Until Jack Harrington connects the crimes and races against time to follow the bloody, serpentine trail back to its very unlikely genesis: the chaotic Southeast Asia of nineteen years earlier and the involvement of Harrington and others in a fateful--and fatal—subplot of the Vietnam War.

The Night Train Express, carrying a bizarre cast of fellow travelers with fatally conflicting agendas, is gathering speed. Jack Harrington will require all of his intelligence, charm and acting skills, his connections in both high and low places and his hard-earned street smarts—as well as a great deal of luck--to avoid being crushed beneath its wheels.


Late on a Saturday night in Los Angeles, breezy and humid.
1989 was three months old.
Harrington had spent the night drinking Irish whiskey with a suicidal screenwriter, an out of work session drummer and a vacationing New York call girl in a dive bar on Van Nuys Boulevard. After the third round, he’d begun pretending that he was the Bogart of In A Lonely Place. Jack Harrington had a lot of experience at pretending. It was his job.
Jack pulled into the driveway of his house now. He sat in the Maserati, listening to the radio. Decompressing. KLOS was playing the Doors’ “Strange Days”. Jack had seen the band at the Whisky on The Strip several times as a teenager: strange days, and happy days, long gone now.
The red ’69 Ghibli SS Spyder, bought off the showroom floor when Harrington was nineteen, young and flush enough to spend money without worrying about consequences, was one of the few things that remained from that time in Jack’s life.
He was renting a house at the back end of a cul de sac off Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. The house was small, old and unremarkable. No vistas of the valley, or of much of anything else. But the place was private, secluded in a woodsy little corner of the hills that straddled and separated Westside Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. The neighbors included deer, coyotes, the occasional bobcat and two adult film actresses.
A detached stone garage, rarely used, was located some fifty feet from the house. Jack preferred to leave his car parked in the driveway. As he stepped from the Ghibli and began to walk toward the house, Jack Harrington heard a odd, familiar whispering sound. The unwelcome visitor from the past reached deep into his subconscious and kicked him in the stomach.
Seconds later Jack lay on the ground, dazed and hurting. He looked on in amazement as the Ghibli, strangely intact, rose ten feet into the air in a horizontal position, as if riding an invisible magic air-carpet. The car dropped back to earth with a jarring crash. The front hood and the factory hardtop blew off, cartwheeling in different directions into the brush. Harrington ducked and covered as the windshield and windows blew out in a tinkling shower of shattered glass. Flames shot from the cockpit, lighting the black Valley night like a 4th of July fireworks spectacular.
Through ears that buzzed like a massive hive of angry bees Harrington heard a scream—his own—echo through the hills, competing with the hiss and groan of the Maserati’s expiration. A spreading wave of heat generated by the automotive funeral pyre rolled over him, slapping his face. Triggered car and burglar alarms sang out throughout the neighborhood, accompanied by a chorus of barking dogs and the faint whine of distant sirens.
Jack stood, cheeks stinging, legs wobbly. He ran, limping, to the smoking ruin of the vehicle. He reached into the jagged hole of the glove compartment, retrieving his nine millimeter Browning. Taking cover behind a stone wishing well, gun in hand, Jack scanned the immediate vicinity and beyond, mind racing faster than the Ghibli ever had.
The destruction of the Maserati, Harrington knew from having witnessed this sort of thing before, in another life far away, had nothing to do with the gas tank or with any catastrophic engine failure.
It was a bomb. Or more precisely a plastic charge.
Jack’s eyes welled with tears. He was dizzy, nauseous and disoriented, back throbbing, shirt soaked with perspiration in the cool night. Jack Harrington remained rational enough to consider the motive behind his near-death experience, the identity of his would-be executioner…

The attentions of Samuel Nazarian III, universally known as Snazz, were presently focused upon opposing groups of U.S. Marines and Dominican rebels.
The miniature cast iron figures, custom-made and hand painted, battled their way across the highly detailed mock-up of central Santo Domingo that occupied Nazarian’s broad desktop.
Snazz grunted and tensed, looking up with a start. A figure—neither miniature nor of cast iron–had appeared suddenly in the wide, tiled archway in front of him.
“Jesus Christ,” Snazz said, exhaling.
“Close.” Jack Harrington walked into the room, chewing on an unlit Partagas. “But no cigar.”
Nazarian said: “Out creepy-crawling Benedict Canyon again? Reliving those youthful glory days as a ‘Manson Family associate’?”
“I wasn’t exactly Tex Watson. I was just there for the dope and the girls. And I just happened to be in the neighborhood tonight.”
“Pricing properties, in the event of a miracle comeback? Don’t hold your breath. But since you’re here…” Snazz indicated the desktop battlefield with a wave of his hand. “Reenlist and join the fun. I’m recreating the U.S. police action in the Dominican in ’65. You could be dictator Juan Bosch. You already dipped into my humidor, I see. I could rustle up an appropriate uniform, complete with epaulets.”
“No thanks. I’m all grown up now. And I’m having enough trouble being myself.”
“Maybe your agent will call and you can be someone else for a week or two. Thug Number Three on Murder, She Wrote, say.”
“Speaking of murder,” Jack said as he sat down in a plush white chair. “Someone tried to kill me last night. They succeeded in killing my car. I was very fond of that car.”
“Tried to kill you?” Nazarian repeated, arching a dark eyebrow. “Doing acid again, are we?”
“The car blew up. I almost blew up too.”
“Heard about the Ghib. It made news; well…page 34 in the Times. Vehicle fire of unknown origin. No mention of any ‘explosion’. Van Nuys and Valley Bureau investigating, et cetera and ho-hum. Didn’t say anything about the owner being in the vicinity at the time. That why your face is all red? Thought maybe you had a blood pressure issue.”
“LAPD doesn’t share all the details of their cases with the media. And I’m not Joe Citizen. I didn’t need the cops to share the unnatural cause of the explosion with me. C-4. A perfect dose, perfectly placed. And who happened to be a munitions expert in his Army days? You did. Coincidentally.”
“You’re paranoid, buddy. Haven’t blown up any cars lately. Got better things to do.”
“Yeah,” Harrington said, nodding at the toy soldiers. “I can see that. And if I was gonna sell your hairy Armenian ass to the DA or the feds, I would’ve done it by now. Before I was threatened with a 90-day contempt of court gig. For refusing to talk about my former friend Sammy to a grand jury. But then I hear that you’re concerned about this and that. About me writing a book. Knowing too much about too many things. And now this ‘incident’ last night…”
Nazarian sipped twenty-five year old Macallan from a heavy Waterford crystal glass. “I’m as worried about you and that grand jury as I am about the ocean temperature in Cabo, asshole. You can’t tell them anything. You don’t know anything worth telling. Last I heard the book you were allegedly writing was a novel, not some journalistic expose. Judging by what I’ve read of your previous work? The critics will kill you—and your latest attempt at a career—before anyone else does.”
“Stop trying to have me taken out, Snazz. I’m no threat to you.”
Nazarian said, “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, man. And neither do you. Now if you don’t mind; I’ve got an insurrection to put down.”
“All right. If that’s the way you want to play it.”
“Play WHAT? Am I speaking Armenian here, or are you just brain dead from the drugs and alcohol?”
Harrington stood, crossing the room to a framed painting hanging on one wall. “A unicorn? You lend the dogs playing poker on black velvet to the Getty Museum?”
He flipped up the hinged painting. The unicorn had concealed a wall safe and a set of numbered buttons. Snazz looked on impassively as Jack tapped in the safe’s access code, opening it. He removed a folded extra-strength black garbage bag from a jacket pocket.
Jack began to stuff the contents of the safe into the bag. Neat, banded stacks of $100 bills. A small burlap sack cinched with a leather thong: precious gems liberated from a jewelry store on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Hot rocks cooling, to be fenced through jack-of-all-trades Snazz.
“Product on the premises? Getting careless in your old age.”
Nazarian shook his head, his right hand moving beneath the desk. “You disappoint me, Jack. Ripping off your friends. And what’s the point, really? Gonna run off to Fantasy Island, live happily ever after? De plane! De plane! Fuck that. You got a better chance of drowning in the L.A. River during an August drought.”
Jack smiled. “You were right about the Wee Willie Webber home video and merchandising. There really is a gold mine in nostalgia.”
“Everyone loves the good old days,” Snazz said. “In retrospect. Because everything looks better from a distance. Well, almost everything. Not you and my two ex-wives.”
“Only trouble is, you screwed me out of my royalties. Because that’s the kind of ‘friend’ you are.”
“Did I? Litigate, then. Everyone else does.”
“I’m not everyone else.” Jack twisted the trash bag, tying it shut. “And it looks like there is such a thing as a retirement pension for old child stars after all.”
“Maybe. If they live long enough to collect. Former child stars tend to have short, unhappy lives.”
Snazz lifted a nine-millimeter Glock 17 from beneath the desk. Jack was already pointing a U.S. Army issue .45 at him. The two men glared at one another in silence for several seconds. Finally Snazz Nazarian’s heavy, black bearded face broke into a grin.

Finish reading the first chapter here.

Where can you purchase the book? 

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Image of Ed McGinnisAuthor bio:  
    Ed McGinnis is the author of the novels Night Train Express,The Blue Route and Wildwood. He grew up in the shadow of the Blue Route, on the deceptively mean streets of suburban Philadelphia, where he encountered the sort of real-life characters that inhabit his fiction: shady politicians, pragmatic cops, outlaw bikers, drug dealers, gamblers, mob figures, murder victims and killers. He has worked as an ad agency copywriter, technical writer and editor, in market research and in various capacities in the hospital and health care industry. Ed lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Book Review: Aquaman Volume 1 - The Trench

Story by Geoff Johns Art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

In this, the first volume, Arthur Curry (Aquaman) has decided to make a life for himself and Mera on land. But he still feels a need to prove himself, to show that Aquaman is a true superhero, not a joke. So when terrifying creatures from the deep venture onto land and decimate an entire town, Aquaman and Mera are determined to save the few possible survivors and venture down into the depths of the trench to do so.

There, Aquaman is forced to make a decision – to end a species or save the humans. In doing so he will uncover a secret about Atlantis that will change all he thought he knew about its destruction.

This was a pretty incredible first volume, I have to say. And in no small way this was due to the art. It was breathtaking. From the trench monsters, to Aquaman and Mera, the whole story was presented  in all its beautiful, terrifying, glory.

I hadn’t read much about Aquaman before, but this first volume gives some back story allowing new readers to become familiar with Aquaman’s past and his being raised by his human father on land, whilst his mother remained Queen in Atlantis. Indeed, prior to reading this the only thing I had knew about him was that he is supposedly ‘the worst of all DC superheroes.’ It’s amusing, therefore, that constantly throughout the story, Aquaman is having to deal with sneering comments, fish jibes and the perception that he is redundant, a joke. He endures and continues doing what he knows is right, with Mera by his side.

Mera herself was an interesting character too. Her backstory is a little less looked at than Arthur's, although her character is no less complex and interesting. One thing I did notice, however, was that she was constantly deferring to Aquaman and asking him questions, even though presumably she would have more experience with ocean matters having grown up underwater. She is far less forgiving than Aquaman, although no less ready than him to make a life on land. And, although her superhero costume was completely skin tight and clevagy, she didn’t allow herself to become an object. In the later part of the volume she even breaks a man’s arm for trying to touch her without her permission. 

That said, in the above cover her breasts are both prominently displayed when physically that position would surely be impossible or at least incredibly uncomfortable? I tried to bend that way and nearly sprained my shoulder. Or maybe she just has shoulder blades bulging with muscle. I've been staring at it for so long I can't tell anymore.

On the whole, an enjoyable introduction to one of DC’s most laughed at heroes. That said, you won’t ever be laughing at him in this. Somehow, he’s completely cool.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Book Review: Victory

By Susan Cooper, Published 2006

Susan Cooper is most recognised for her Dark Is Rising sequence. I read it several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Which is why when I saw this book in a second hand book shop (and in beautiful condition) I had to get it.
Victory tells the story of two eleven year old children born centuries apart who are curiously connected.

Molly Jennings lives in the present day and has recently moved to America with her mother, step-father, step-brother and new baby brother. She misses England terribly and wants nothing more than to return.

Both children are connected through history by a piece of the ships flag that Sam saves and one of his descendants hides in a book which Molly finds years later.
Cooper explores several themes in this book that are relevant to all children, particularly change and loss. The story is intriguing and sensitive, and also informative in its historical depiction of Lord Nelson. In her Author’s Note at the end of the book, Cooper writes, ‘Perhaps I wrote this book only for the chance of meeting one of my greatest heroes, just as I was lucky enough to meet Shakespeare in a book called King of Shadows and Merlin, long ago, in a sequence called The Dark Is Rising. Writers are fortunate people.’ Yes indeed, as are readers.

I enjoyed Molly’s segments more, particularly as her own troubles of being separated from the familiar and her shyness around strangers are all emotions I felt myself as a child. I also liked the comparison of Sam and Molly's separate struggles. Even though Sam and Molly’s lives were so different, the struggles they faced remained the same – being taken away from home and having your life take a different direction than the one you thought it would. Their struggle and their ultimate acceptance and even  joy in their newfound situations are both relatable to each other.

I very much enjoyed this book for the most part. The only thing I found a little incredible was that Molly, her grandfather and stepfather, all seemed to accept the notion of mystical activity in regards to the ships flag and Molly’s finding of it. Molly I could believe would accept it, I found it a little hard to believe that her stepfather and grandfather would also. Adults are rarely quite so trusting or imaginative - in fiction, anyway.

On the whole, however, a lovely read.