During the past few months I have
had the pleasurable task of reading some very good books. They have ranged from
a New Orleans caper, CIA thrillers, crime thrillers, and a young adult
adventure story set in late 12th century England.
I came by this book sitting in an
immense hot tub at the Lake Louise hotel in the Canadian Rockies. Striking up a
conversation with a gentleman, he soon discovered that I was a writer and I found
that his brother, Wayne Grant, was also a writer with two young adult historical
adventures that took the reader to 12th century England and the time
of Richard the Lionheart. Grant also self-published his book and must have hit
a sweet spot in the market, sales have been brisk. Excellent—and so is the
Roland Inness, the young hero, finds
himself in great jeopardy after slaying one of the local noble’s deer to feed
his desperate family. This is a time of great racial hatred between the Saxon
natives, the Danes (and their not to be forgotten forebears the Vikings), the
Welsh, the Irish, and the conquering Normans. The noble kills Roland’s father
for the crime of being both a Dane and the father of the deerslayer. From there
the story begins and Grant weaves in an exciting adventure across the Midlands
of England to the Welsh border. Myself, having been raised on great period
movies like Errol Flynn’s The Adventures
of Robin Hood, I easily imagined the dense primal forests and political
intrigues that color Grant’s Longbow.
There is much here for a young reader to learn about the customs, politics, and
weaponry of this period of England’s history. I was most impressed with his
ability to show the reader how the feudal system worked and how there is a
definitive pecking order to the commoners, squires, knights, nobles, princes,
and royalty—all deferring to each other but each desperately trying to move
their place upward within the system. I especially enjoyed the history of the
longbow itself and how it was condemned as a WMD (obviously not a term at that
time) and forbidden on the pain of death. One could imagine how it was to
change the course of history during the next two hundred years in the centuries
Inness’s adventures changes him and
we watch him grow during the long summer that contains the story. Grant is able
to excite the reader during some very dramatic chase scenes and escapes. This
is a story aimed at young boys but there is also a budding love story between
Inness and his knight’s daughter that even a young girl would find appealing. It
also held the interest of this, how should I say, quite mature young adult. I
highly recommend it.
I met Arthur Kerns at the Mystery
Writers Conference at Book Passage in California a number of years back as he
was completing his first book, The
Riviera Contract. As a retired FBI agent and contract “agent” for a number
of counterintelligence agencies Kerns knows about what we writes.
The Riviera Contract is a good spy
thriller with all the usual characters; Hayden Stone is a retired FBI agent who
is dragged back into a special operation on the French Riviera by an agency
that can’t trust anyone. There is a rich countess and past love, Arab
terrorists, an inconvenient romance with a French agent—and plenty of action.
While the manuscript itself needs a little work and editing, I found the story
exciting and memorable. Good job Mr. Kerns.
In the follow up to Kern’s The
Riviera Contract, The African Contract takes Hayden Stone to the seedier parts
of an Africa that few Americans and Westerners will ever visit –or even want
to. But that’s why there are writers like Kerns. They take us to thrilling places
we can only imagine in our nightmares (how about a black mamba snake as a room
guest). Multi-layered, rich with new and old characters, and gripping locations,
Kerns carries us on a sweeping ride as broad as the African savannah and exotic
as Sierra Leona and Capetown. I enjoyed it immensely.
After the French Riviera and Africa
I needed a book that was more local and Simon Wood’s The One That Got Away fit the bill perfectly.
The story starts in the mountains of
the California Sierra, where a very disturbed man has kidnapped two
irresponsible young women on their way back from Las Vegas. One escapes, one
dies. For a year, Zoe Sutton the survivor and the ONE that got away, is
tortured by her guilt for not staying and saving her friend. That guilt, the
doctor who is trying to help her, and a chance TV encounter that alerts the
killer that Zoe survived, ignites the story. The serial killer (who scars his
victims with a Roman numeral) is stuck with the label “Tally Man” by the media,
vows to himself to complete what he started in the mountains: to find and
capture the one that got away.
Wood presents well-developed
characters and the story is plausible and uses the canvas of San Francisco and
Northern California well. I found that time frames seemed crunched a bit
between trips to the eastern slope of the Sierras, north to Napa and even
further out. But I know the region well so this is more on me than Wood—five
and six hour car drives can kill a thriller. Psychological thrillers are hard
to pull off yet Simon Wood does a good job, fast paced, short and clean – I
I have taken many of Mr. Dugoni’s
master classes on writing and his previous novels fill a portion of my
bookshelves and IPad hard drive. He is thoroughly a master of his world of
crime, criminals, juries and courtrooms. With My Sister’s Grave Dugoni takes a bit of a turn to a cold case that
left one sister wondering for twenty years whether it was her fault her sister
disappeared. When the remains are discovered, Tracy Crosswhite vows to find the
killer and returns to the town that years ago turned its back on her.
Dugoni fully develops the story with
rich characters (most with flaws and secrets) and like a good lawyer (that he
is), leaves clues and a few red herrings about that pull the reader to the
dramatic conclusion. The writing style is confortable, uncomplicated (as a
thriller should be) and well edited. Good job.
And lastly, something just for fun.
Les Edgerton and I share a few things, most especially our love and
appreciation of baseball and the San Francisco Giants. His latest book The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping
is just downright fantastic and tres-tres cool. Les, after more than a dozen
books covering everything from baseball to many things underworld in New
Orleans, knows exactly how to hit that nerve that is both sharp and edgy. His
prose is as crisp and crusty as a backroads Louisiana road-kill and as soft and
mushy as a Café Du Monde beignet.
Pete Halliday is a failed baseball
player (ex-Giant); seems he has this thing for gambling and it cost him his
spot in the rotation and the team. Now in debt to a bookie he needs to get a
chunk of money or suffer badly – and the best way out . . .kidnap the head of
the local Cajun Mafia, cut off his hand, and hold the thing for ransom. And
that’s just the main leitmotif of the story. There’s also the hooker with a
heart of gold, a guy who thinks he’s a real Indian (maybe not), a double-cross,
a classic case of Tourette’s syndrome in the face of some serious killers, and
of course New Orleans. A place that Les says has broken his heart since
Katrina. It is relentless and pulls you under like a fifteen-foot alligator in
the bayou. It is a five star must read.
And by the way all the covers are great!! In my current stack of books to read
are a few indie-published books, a new Baldacci, Connelly’s latest, Silva’s
next, and a two-foot tall stack of World War II books for research on my
upcoming war thriller. It’s a good thing I also have audio books.