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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Unspeakable Gentleman - A Book Review

If you read a lot of trash and would like to up your game to say a classic level without compromising your need for speed, may I suggest The Unspeakable Gentleman, an exciting novel published in 1922 by John P. Marquand. 

Believe it or not, this classic is an action/suspense piece with the what might be the first novel with spies, greed, gun-play, high-stakes poker and a beautiful unflinching girl who knows how to load a firearm during a high-speed chase.

It is set in early 1800's and concerns a young man who meets his estranged, much despised father--a man who describes himself with the title of the book--and learns there is more to the man than he's been led to believe. The plot revolves around securing a certain document penned with the signatures of traitors to Napoleonic France--the government of which is pulling out all stops to get their hands on it.

The occasional disparaging use of the "n" word in reference to a good-man-Friday, who is one of the men's slave, is almost shocking as were they not there I might have forgotten I was reading a book written nearly 100 years ago.

I recommend The Unspeakable Gentleman highly. It is a fast and fun read, comes in at about 250 pages and is available for free through Project Gutenberg at

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Stover at Yale - A Book Review

That they called each other, “Old Sport” (whisps of Fitzgerald here) regularly, made it even more fun to read.

As one who likes novels about the social and academic challenges of high school and college, I recently finished reading Owen Johnson's 1911 work , Stover at Yale. Besides that the novel's subject matter fit well with one of my favorite genres, I was excited to read it because a close relative I'd never known attended another Ivy League school in the same general time period as the story in this book and I was hoping to get hints of what college life might have been like for him back then. I was not disappointed.

What probably hooked me was a quote that Andrew Delbanco in the The New York Review of Books refers to F. Scott Fitzgerald as having said about the book, (this is paraphrased, I assume) It is “the textbook of my generation.” That I could download Stover at Yale to my electronic reader for nothing, since its copyright had expired, was an added perk.

Reading Stover, what I learned was that while things were quite different back then, many things have not changed. Much of the text revolves around the protagonist's desire for the other students' approval, including decision to join a society club (aka a fraternity) or not, and his own youthful rebellion and epiphany. For many of us who went to college in the latter Twentieth or even early Twenty-first Centuries, those stories still relate.

Still there are some that do not, like trying out for and making the varsity football team; being seen with a low-class woman and having it splashed across the newspapers; and my favorite, smoking a pipe in your dorm room by the fireplace. That they called each other, “Old Sport” (whisps of Fitzgerald here) regularly, made it even more fun to read.

I'll recommend Stover at Yale to anyone who likes the genre as I do. It is well written and comes in at around 350 pages (my estimate). Be forewarned, it has some blatant unapologetic attitudes towards other classes of people that one can assume was commonplace for the time and place, but may be a bit jarring for the Twenty-first Century reader. If you can get past that fault—and let's all hope those days are past—and take it for what it is, symbolic of its era, you may find you enjoyed this book as much as I and perhaps even learned something along the way. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Steven King's Convenient Dilemma

Steven King has taken a brave step in publishing Doctor Sleep and I applaud him for it. He could have written a very different, very disappointing manuscript that just sucks off the aged-teat of a masterpiece for nourishment. 

Imagine you are one of the world's greatest living writers. You are still very productive and popular. Part of that popularity stems from a novel you wrote nearly thirty years ago, titled Book30+. Book30+ was so great that it was turned into a movie that even more people saw than read the book, making you even more popular. Both the book and movie had satisfying endings, but your fans, to this day, occasionally ask what happened to such and such character (in this case, a sweet little boy from Book30+), despite the novel's age and the strange logic—or lack thereof—of the question.

You know in your own logical mind, it was a book. The characters stopped there, on the last page. But in your heart, you know that's not true. Your characters were, in a strange way, writers know all too well—quite real. One day you catch your mind doing its involuntary writer tricks, imagining just this scenario—the ultimate fate of the little boy. You realize you know the answer! Do you write a sequel? Is it possible to satisfy those untold millions who intimately know the character? Is there a satisfying answer? Isn't it likely that a huge contingent of your most loyal fans will be disappointed?

If you are Steven King and the book in question is The Shining, the answer is yes, you write it. Published in 2013, Doctor Sleep, tells the story of the now adult, Danny, the little boy from the first novel with “the shine.

I just finished reading Doctor Sleep and came away quite content. While not as satisfied with Danny's character as I might have liked—he's not the sweet little boy from The Shining any longer but now a grown man, an alcoholic drug-user with a guilty conscious, who is less than careful with whom he sleeps. The story works well though and references back to many aspects of the original story in the old hotel on top of a mountain in Colorado. Readers will welcome hearing back from Tony, the invisible character who gave Danny advice when he wiggled his finger. Tony has a new friend, who you may like equally, though I must say she reminded me a bit of other protagonists from other King books. Besides Danny, other characters return too, including Dick Holloran and Jack, Danny's crazy father. On the disappointing side, I was sorry Jack didn't play more of a role in the new novel, but I don't imagine King wanted to overshadow his new novel with that old story.

Whatever the case, Steven King has taken a brave step in publishing Doctor Sleep and I applaud him for it. He could have written a very different, very disappointing manuscript that just sucks off the aged-teat of a masterpiece for nourishment. Instead he's presented readers with a whole new story that piggy-backs off the old but is fresh and new. May all writers have the fortune of facing a convenient dilemma like this one day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Improved Back-matter for Sleeping in Snow with Bears - More Plot Disclosure

Here is some new back-matter I've just written for my novel, Sleeping in Snow with Bears. It shares a bit more of the story's plot than prior versions where I was deliberately evasive.

* * * * *

Aimee, Marcie and Boyd, three best friends since college, will do absolutely anything for one another. Their lifelong bond gets sealed one Halloween evening when Aimee is victimized in a horrible sexual assault and Boyd and Marcie step in to take revenge. Unfortunately, things don't work out as planned. Marcie, a brilliant student who wants to be a surgeon, is jailed for the deed and Boyd, a wannabe male model, is facially disfigured and leaves the U.S. for Brazil to learn to fly from an acquaintance who works as a jungle pilot. Still, steel bars and distance can't keep the two apart and Boyd and Marcie find an especially risky way to build a romance. Meanwhile, Aimee's life—initially as promising as her friends'—is falling apart. To numb memories of her assault she's become self-destructive and loses a fiance'. Realizing they must do something to help her, Boyd and Marcie put thoughts of themselves aside and come up with a plan to save Aimee from ruin before she kills herself. Tough under any circumstance, the assignment is especially difficult as one of them has become the focus of nationwide media attention and the other the target of the FBI. Still more challenging, they learn they are vital to an even more important agenda set in motion years earlier by a mysterious spiritual dying man who emulated the American Indian and claimed they will awaken nations if they follow his path.

Sleeping in Snow with Bears is a novel of suspense, action and a touch of romance. It is available in e-book and paperback formats through most major booksellers.

Friday, March 7, 2014

New Video Book Trailer

I've just added a second video to this blog's Book Trailers page. For now, you can see it here. 

This new trailer introduces the themes (some hidden) in Sleeping in Snow with Bears and includes a reading of selected passages. Thanks Google+ Writers Discussion Group for the idea!

For a more traditional music backed book trailer, see the other video I've posted (under Book Trailers tab).

PS Sorry that the guy in the bottom of the screen is such a stiff. Maybe I should make his lips move.