Thursday, November 30, 2006

Been Awhile....

Yes, it has been awhile since I have been around much sharing reviews and stuff with you. Frequent readers know that I usually get sick every year for my birthday which is just a few days before Thanksgiving. The same was true this year and this time it resulted in that plague known as bacterial bronchitis. I will spare you the details as it was disgusting and is only slightly less so now. Is five days of antibiotic good enough? I kind of doubt it but one hopes that past history is proven wrong.

So, I haven’t been able to work my day job for three weeks now nor have I been able to do much reading for review. For the most part, what little I could get done went straight into stuff for “Mouth Full Of Bullets.” Issue two hits the World Wide Web on December 5 and yours truly will have another “Target Shooting” Column, a number of book reviews and a couple of other items of interest. BJ allowed me to bring in a couple of new features so I hope you will take a look at it when the issue goes live by clicking on I remain extremely proud to be a small part of BJ’s fantastic endeavor and amazed at the support that has been generated in the mystery community.

In the meantime, its back to the recliner with the remote in hand, a box of tissue and the vaporizer running nearby while sleet and snow bounce off my Plano apartment windows. Take care whether you are and feel free to drop me a note here or to my e-mail at

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Reviewing: "Death Is Not An Option" by Gary R. Hoffman

Prescott “Rawhide” Hunters works and lives in Mexico Beach, Florida. His boss, who owns an RV park there is Jimmy Rangus. Fleeing a messy divorce five years ago, Prescott had ended up parking his small trailer at the rear of the lot where it has pretty much sat ever since. In exchange for rent for his spot and a small paycheck, Prescott washes and preps RV’s as well as minor repairs and runs errands for parts and drives them as needed. In short, his job is a gofer which allows him plenty of time to think as well as pursue his other occupation.

He also works part time as a Bounty Hunter. As it happens, two former RV customers are wanted for bank robbery and there is a 20k reward for their capture and conviction. Before long, in a borrowed RV, Prescott Hunter is on the trail looking for the wanted pair. By doing so, he ultimately puts not only himself but also his girlfriend into the target sights of a former arrestee who is plotting his own form of revenge.

The result is an interesting read that moves slowly forward as readers follow a multi layered character through his daily life. Actual bounty hunting makes up a small part of the 213 page novel released through PublishAmerica. Instead, most of the story involves Prescott’s various experiences as a worker at the RV park and the occasional occurrence that seems to possibly indicate someone is stalking him. Those readers expecting more of a TV style bounty hunting experience may be solely disappointed by a novel that features very little bounty hunting and is more focused on relationships and one man’s persistent endurance each day.

By Gary R. Hoffman
ISBN 1-4241-0956-6
Large Trade Paperback

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reviewing: "Fools Rush In" by Sunny Frazier

The heat is on in the San Joaquin Valley which includes the area around the small town of Kearny and its local law enforcement is feeling it. Not just in the terms of the summer weather but in terms of crime and the reports that are generated each time an incident occurs. For Office Assistant III Christy Bristol of the Sheriff’s Department, it means more and more paperwork to process. The last thing she really needs is for her old boyfriend James “Wolfman” Wolfe showing up at work to see her.

Wolfman has recently been reassigned to the undercover narcotics unit and isn’t paying her a social call. His snitch, Johnny Blue, is missing and most likely dead. Wolfman is trying to build a case against a major Methamphetamine dealer named Lloyd Parr. Without his snitch the case is in deep trouble and Wolfman is desperately trying a different angle. He wants Christy to do Parr’s astrological chart. Astrology is important to Christy as she has the gift and appreciates its power. Astrology became a huge issue when Wolfman and Christy were dating and in large part, his lack of respect for it and ultimately her caused their relationship to collapse. Now six months after their breakup, Wolfman focused on his needs only, has waltzed back into her life and expects her to grant him a favor of doing Parr’s horoscope. Not only does he want her to do it, he wants her to make up some stuff to go along with what she really sees to scare Parr.

Offended and disgusted, Christy refuses initially but eventually creates one and assists in the delivery to Parr. Her eight years of working in the Sherriff’s Department as an office assistant never prepared her for being kidnapped by Parr’s crew as he acts on her message from the stars.

This is an enjoyable lightweight cozy mystery that is far as it possibly could be from the Hollywood style image of wealthy drug dealers or the dark world of noir mystery. Flashy images, strings of vulgarities and obscenities, or detailed brutal murders are not the focus here and rarely will one encounter in fiction such well spoken drug dealers. This can not be considered a graphic read on any level and instead focuses on interpersonal relationships of characters and how lives are wasted in false pursuit of drugs and money.

As in her other works, author Sunny Frazier focuses more on the lives of the characters involved and as such, the novel turns on character development, or lack of same, as she illustrates that some characters, just like some people in real life, never had a chance to do anything different with their lives. While some characters never had a chance, her main character, Christy Bristol, finds out far more about herself after her week in captivity than she ever thought possible.

This enjoyable cozy style mystery doesn’t follow the Hollywood or noir formats and as such is a read that works for readers of almost any age. The characters are complicated, the heroine is genuine and interesting as are the sections involving Astrology, and the story moves forward at a stead pace. The result is a good read for the start of a planned series and worthy of your consideration.

By Sunny Frazier
Wolfmont Publishing
November 2006
ISBN # 0-9778402-5-5
Uncorrected Proof

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Reviewing: "Tin Soldiers" by Mark Leonard

Seventeen year old Captain Richard Arthur attends the Maxwell Military Academy in New York state. Vietnam is percolating right along and those attending the academy know that before too much longer they will be over there. It’s a closed warped world, as any military academy is, and they handle everything internally and remain for all intents and purposes, closed off from the public. Even when a cadet falls to his brutal death from the roof off one of the barracks.

Ted Sheridan took a short and very quick fatal dive off the roof. Before long, the often wittily sarcastic Captain Arthur, known by the obvious nickname of “King” to one and all, is placed in charge of the investigation by the brass. An investigation that is rigged from the start and King is very well aware that, like the last time, he is supposed to arrive at the preconceived conclusion acceptable to those in charge. While he knows what the mission is, he doesn’t agree and besides that he really does have his hands full with some of his fellow students who are cracking under the pressure. And what does Ted’s incredibly hot sister want with him and why does she keep showing up in the strangest of places?

What follows is a very twisted novel, part mystery, part humor and completely engrossing. There are parts that are just laugh out loud funny and are guaranteed to definitely offend some folks as this author has absolutely no concerns about the concept of political correctness. That fact along with his repeated use of obscenities both in dialogue and in narration will surely annoy some readers.

However, if you like your reads a little different than the normal run of the mill and don’t mind embarrassing yourself by laughing out loud in public, then this mystery is sure to work for you. Not only is this book certainly not politically correct, it contains a twisting case that is sure to appeal to anyone interested in crime and solving the case. Arthur may be a foul mouthed Sherlock in a military uniform at times, but it is well worth it to tag along for this very good read.

By Mark Leonard
Zumaya Publications
ISBN # 1-55410-268-5
Large Trade Paperback
265 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Book Review: "By The Chimney With Care"

As noted on the back of this very enjoyable book recently released by Wolfmont Publishing, “Tis the season to watch out for thieves, cutthroats, liars, rogues and con artists!” That it is as the holidays are nearly on us and it is also the season to help others. Not that help should not go out year around, but this is the time of year when more media attention is focused and it could be argued that needs are the highest. With all profits from this book going to support the “Toys for Tots” program the twenty authors and publisher should be very proud of what they have created.

In alphabetical order the authors are, Nick Andreychuk, Guy Belleranti, Tony Burton, Carol A. Cole, Herschel Cozine, Margaret Fenton, Suzanne Flaig, John M. Floyd, John L. French, Gary R. Hoffman, Joseph Ketner, Jean Lauzier, Jeffrey Marks, Debra Gray De Noux, O’Neil De Noux, Neil Plakcy, Rob Rosen, Mike Wiecek, John J. Wilson and Frank Zafiro. The result of their entertaining efforts, compiled and edited by Tony Burton and released through his publishing company, Wolfmont Publishing, take the reader on an emotional ride from hysterically funny to incredibly moving and all stops in between. While not all stories can be covered due to the obvious number and space limitations, there simply isn’t a bad one in the bunch.

Starting off the anthology on a humorous note is the short piece penned by Herschel Cozine titled, “The Plight Before Christmas.” Little can be said without ruining the funny read and it is good to know that Ellery Queen is on the case.

Also funny is the short story written by Rob Rosen tiled “Murder In Toddler Town.” The hill is steep, the grass is wet, and clearly the victim fell on his way from fetching a pail of water. Detective Dock isn’t convinced it was all an accident and knows this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened.

John L. French also uses humor well in his story tiled “Surprise Package.” When an elf is dead, the crime scene is at the North Pole or thereabouts, of course Santa would come in a red Jeep looking for P. I. Matthew Grace. After all, he has a body, a crime may have been committed and there are lots of suspects and Santa doesn’t know nearly as much as we were always led to believe.

At the other end of the emotion scale is the incredibly powerful tale titled “Popcorn for Christmas” written by Debra Gray De Noux and O’Neil De Noux. Set in a morgue on Christmas Eve, it is a tale of what could have been. If this one does not get you in the heart, you simply aren’t human.

Somewhere in the vast middle between those two extremes are tales such as the one written by John M. Floyd titled “Christmas Gifts.” Dennis Bates has it all and is used to being in power as well as whom to help for his own reasons.

Carol A. Cole’s story “The Bells of Christmas” also revolves around helping others in a way. Criminals are stopping cars and helping themselves to the victim’s cell phones and Christmas packages before escaping by use of a City Cab.

While those detectives are dealing with a mortal problem, the paranormal makes another appearance in this anthology through Gray R. Hoffman’s tale, “In the Chimney With Love.” A few presents are missing from the Wallen’s tree but there really is a logical explanation and heartfelt explanation.

Those familiar with Frank Zafiro’s novel “Under A Raging Moon” (also available from Wolfmont) as well as his numerous interconnected short stories also set in “River City” won’t be disappointed in his story titled, “Three Days of Christmas.” The thief stealing Christmas presents is going to be stopped in the officers involved have their way.

Also putting a hard stop to crime is the theme behind the story “Secret Santa” by Jean Lauzier. Sometimes the best gifts are those that we do not know where they come from and never know who to thank.

The above gives you a small sampling of this excellent anthology as well as glimpse into some personal favorites. Your choices may and most likely will vary. However, you certainly won’t be disappointed in this book as each and every story in it is a good one whether a new tale or a favorite reprint. The result is an excellent anthology dedicated to a worthy cause and a book well worth owning.

Edited By Tony Burton
Wolfmont Publishing
September 2006
ISBN 0-9778-4023-9
Large Trade Paperback
208 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

WLT: Dallas Chapter News

As posted on the yahoo group list the second meeting is planned for Monday night in Richardson. The announcement reads:

"We'll have an interesting program on critique groups. The topic is "Tricks and Treats: Critique Groups"A panel willing to share their experiences and answer questions is: Sally Roberts, Shalanna Collins, Maya Reynolds, Maria Zannini. We have a list of critique groups to distribute, which will later be posted under FILES.

We'll start with a short business meeting and an anouncement of our Guest Speaker program for January 15th.The meeting is at 7:00 at Richardson Public Library, SW corner ofI 75 and Arapahoe. There are two buildings there. The library is the one closest to Arapahoe. The meeting room is in the basement. There is an elevator on the left as you come in the front doors.

The next meeting will be December 18th, also at the Richardson Library at 7:00. The agenda will be to discuss a Chapter organizational structure. Start thinking about how you want your Chapter to run."

Make plans to attend if at all possible.

Kevin R. Tipple (c) 2006

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Reviewing: "The Sweet And The Dead" by Milton T. Burton

Tyler, Texas Author Milton T. Burton distinguished himself with the powerful debut novel The Rogues’ Game. Unlike many authors, there is no slump in his stand alone second novel just recently released titled The Sweet And The Dead. The mystery is complex, the writing is superb, and the read is wonderful.

As the novel opens, it is the fall of 1970 and Manfred Eugene “Hog” Webern is deep undercover in Biloxi, Mississippi. Hog is a retired Dallas County Deputy Sheriff, a good man, and a damn good cop despite the word on the street. It is coincidence and nothing more that he got into some money at approximately the same time his former partner was gunned down and a couple of other nasty things happened. The word on the street is that Hog is dirty these days which makes him a perfect candidate to investigate from the inside the group dubbed the “Dixie Mafia.”

Bob Wallace is a Texas Ranger and a man that Hog has worked with before more than once and a man that Hog trusts without question. Wallace tells him that Curtis Blanchard, one of the chief felony investigators for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety wants Hog to come to Mississippi, hook up with Jasper Sparks, head of the aforementioned Dixie Mafia, and gather enough evidence to bring Jasper and as many others as possible down. Hog agrees for several reasons and before long finds himself deep undercover in a twisting case that seems to know no end.

As in the first book, Milton T. Burton has created another powerful main character full of internal demons and unresolved guilt who is seeking his own form of justice. Another dark hero beset by his own failings as well as the failings of others and yet finds a particular brand of honor among some in the criminal element. Once again, through his folksy storytelling style, the author has created a main character that could be anybody and who goes quietly about his business and would never rise to your attention unless he meant for you to notice and feel his judgment.

This stand alone novel features another complex tale from what could easily have been in the hands of another writer, a simple straightforward story. A hallmark of “The Rogues’ Game” was the author’s ability to create so many shades of gray where one wasn’t sure about character motivations until the every last word on the page. The same is true here and Hog figures out fairly soon that no one can be trusted—maybe not even himself. Nothing is as it seems and nothing is finished until the last word on the page.

The result is another entertaining highly complex novel mystery that results in a simply great read from an author that like his characters, seems to quietly go about his business. He deserves more acclaim than he is getting and his books deserve a place on your reading list.

By Milton T. Burton
Thomas Dunne Books
July 2006
ISBN # 0-312-34310-8
262 Pages

Thank you for reading and as always more next time.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Reviewing: "Night Game" by Kirk Russell

In this sequel to “Shell Games” John Marquez returns and this time he is on the hunt for bear poachers. Marquez runs a Special Operations Unit within the California Department of Fish and Game. Trafficking in bear parts and products of bears, such as bear bile, is very illegal and as such, can be very lucrative. To stop such actions, undercover operations are needed and take considerable time to build cases under intense risk to personnel.

Marquez along with his team have been undercover working a case built from a tip Marquez does not entirely trust. Clearly, somebody is trafficking in bear parts and could be connected to a bear farm and Marquez has managed to gradually work his way into a shadowy network of paranoid sellers. At the same time, he doesn’t trust the snitch who gave him the tip as some of the pieces of information he passed on simply don’t add up.

Along with bear trafficking, El Dorado County California seems to be having a bit of a murder problem. A couple of years ago a murder occurred and Detective Jack Kendall was unable to solve it. Now, another murder has happened and there are links between the two cases. This time a geology student, known for involving himself with pro bear support groups against bear farming, bear poaching and the like while working on his thesis was killed and his body was found in the area known as the Crystal Basin, behind Barrett Lake. Kendall wants to know everything Marquez has in case there is overlap with his case.

What follows is a strong and increasingly complex mystery much in the mode of the books written by C. J. Box. While the locations are different, the issues confronting the game wardens involved are the same. Politics also soon becomes an issue as the heard headed Kendall is much more concerned with his murder case than what Marquez and his team are doing.

As the cases lead back and forth through the high country of California, around Lake Tahoe and through Western Nevada, Marquez and his team quickly become more than characters in a book. They take on a flesh and blood substance as they work to solve a case with far reaching implications while juggling the demands of their personal off the job lives.

While occasionally a little slow in spots, the overall read is good with strong character development, multiple storylines and plenty of action moving the work forward. Readers new to this series should definitely start with the first book “Shell Games.” Not only does it set up the characters, several events including how that case was resolved, are explained in detail in this novel.

Night Game: A John Marquez Crime Novel
By Kirk Russell
Chronicle Books
ISBN# 0-8118-4112-X
365 Pages

More next time and as always thank you for reading my stuff here and elsewhere across the web. Feel free to e-mail me with your comments, suggestions and ideas at

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Book Review: "The Colonel's Tale" by S. H. Baker

It is November 18, 1924 in Marshall’s Bayou, Louisiana as this latest installment in the Dassas Cormier series opens. Being police chief if the absolute last thing on Cormier’s mind. Thanksgiving is foremost in his thoughts and he is really looking forward to his first one since coming back home. He has strong positive Thanksgiving memories and is looking forward to another happy one. The problem is that sibling issues of childhood are never solved and rear up in unexpected ways in adulthood.

For Cormier, he loves his baby sister and really feels his love most when she is far away at her home in North Dakota with her husband Manny Johnson. Word comes via the mailboat that, according to Coralee, there has been a tragic accident and both her and her traveling companion will be delayed in Lake Charles for a few days. Long on drama but very short on specifics, it falls to Cormier on behalf of the family to journey to Lake Charles and find out what happened.

Not that Cormier really wants to go and deal with whatever baby sister is involved in this time, but he is bored out of his mind and he suspects that since the note was addressed to him specifically he is wanted for a reason. Leaving the rest of the family behind, Cormier sets out on the journey. On his arrival in Lake Charles, he finds Coralee is physically fine but her traveling companion Jedidah Gilmore is injured. Not only is he a famous newspaper writer of numerous accounts of his adventurous exploits around the world, he is a witness to a recent crime as well as crime victim himself. More is going on than it appears on the surface and before long Cormier is forced to work the cases as his own to help Gilmore as well as protect his own family.

At 152 pages this novel is a quick cozy style read full of atmosphere and setting. The characters are interesting as is the time period covered because the author is able in a quick span of pages to bring the novel to life. Author S. H. Baker moves readers into a world that one does not want to so quickly leave. For seasoned mystery readers, the case is fairly obvious. Even so, the read itself works well on all levels and provides an excellent way to pass the time.

Zumaya Publications
ISBN # 1-55410-300-2
Large Trade Paperback
152 Pages

More next time and let me hear from you either here or by e-mail at

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Saturday, September 30, 2006

End Of September Update

It’s the end of September and finally the weather is finally starting to turn. Had some rains as well as we have had a few cooler days and several very cool mornings so there is hope that the crushing heat is finally over. There is also hope for rain as the weather folks are starting to talk about an El Nino forming out in the Pacific. For North Texas, that usually means fewer artic air invasions and more rain. Rain is in short supply around here with lots of media reports on escalating water restrictions due to the ongoing drought.

Writing wise I haven’t been able to do much as I have been working a lot and reading a bunch. Mouth Full Of Bullets which can easily be found at (nice plug, huh) has turned into a huge success. I knew it was going to be big and that was why I agreed to be an Assistant Editor and among other things, handle all the book reviews for the site. But, even with everything going for it, I had no idea how big it was going to get and how fast. It has been simply amazing.

Site visitor count grows every day significantly and BJ has already filled issue two fiction wise. That issue is slated to come out at the end of the year and issue three is due in March and he is already reading for that issue. Kind of amazing and it couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the paid contributors and their excellent efforts as well as the growing readership of the zine.

Issue two is going to mark a new section within the book reviews part of the zine. As some of you know, I have been writing a print book review column for the print publication SENIOR NEWS for over a year now. That column focuses on books set in Texas or written by Texas authors. It has been very successful which is why I am still there as well as because Editor Michael Bracken actually tolerates me. J

I approached BJ Borg with the same basic idea and suggested that the same thing be done in his zine but instead, to focus on books either set in Louisiana or written by Louisiana authors. The main review section would remain but there would be a sort of Louisiana addition to it. BJ, never one to pass on the opportunity for the hired staff to double the workload, thought it was a wonderful idea.

So, the call went out on the DorothyL list because I didn’t really know of anything that would fit other than the books by James Lee Burke. The call was answered, swiftly and thoroughly, as the calls always are over there and multiple lists were sent to me. I selected a few from each list that were available at my local library and my books to be read and considered for review pile grew like crazy.

The result is that BJ basically has the next issue ready to go and is waiting for me to get my work done. Good thing I have more time as there is the column and two different review areas to fill.

In the meantime, below is what ran in the August edition of Senior News. Enjoy!

A Strong West Wind: A Memoir
By Gail Caldwell
Random House
ISBN 1-4000-6248-9

Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell looks back at the formative years of her life in Texas in this recently released 228 page hardback. The chief book critic for the Boston Globe, she begins her memoir by recounting in great detail her experiences growing up in Amarillo, Texas during the fifties. Books were her entertainment and a love of reading formed at such an early age led her throughout her childhood and remains a strong influence today. A childhood she notes that was marked by her being, “the kid who read too much, talked too little, cried inconsolably over novels even as I maintained a steady grip on my own uneventful life.” (Page 21) A life that has become very eventful and included stays in Lubbock, where she attended Texas Tech, and Austin, where she worked in a bookstore which allowed her to expand her reading library. The book vacillates between Caldwell and her own experiences in the State that shaped her and a stirring tribute to her recently departed father who influenced her so much. The result is an entertaining look into one woman’s journey through some of the most turbulent times this nation has seen.

Off The Beaten Path: Texas (Sixth Edition)
By June Naylor
The Globe Pequot Press
ISBN 0-7627-3540-6

One can never have too many travel books and this latest edition on Texas which is part of their “Insider’s Guide” series is worthy of inclusion for your next trip. All the usual places and cities are covered such as the famous “Cadillac Ranch” (which also is depicted in the colorful cover photograph) as well as lesser known places like the “McKinney Roughs”, (between Austin and Bastrop), the “Dr. Pepper Museum” in Waco, or the “World’s Largest Jack Rabbit”, a ten foot tall statute located in Odessa. Maps are provided throughout the book as are other locations of interest as you plan and make your trip. Also included are places of lodging of various types, restaurants, fun facts about each area in the form of trivia and other interesting reading. Indexed with black and white illustrations, this 281 page paperback guidebook is a wealth of information and is a pleasure to read and work with as well as providing an excellent trip planning guide.

As always, thank you for reading and feel free to comment here or to me at More next time!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

Book Review: "Dangerous Depths" by Kathy Brandt

Detective Hannah Sampson is back in her third adventure and this time dealing with what she believes was an attempted homicide. It was Sampson who was first on the scene when her friend Elyse Henry was thrown into the burning sea by an explosion aboard the boat “Caribbe.” Sampson was asleep on board her own boat “Sea Bird” when the noise woke her up and she investigated. Despite her injuries due to the flames, she was able to rescue Elyse who now lies in the hospital in a coma.

For Hannah Sampson, she believes that the explosion and resulting fire were caused by foul play. Everyone else, including Chief Dun of the Tortola Police Department, believes it was just an accident. Elyse Henry, advent environmentalist especially in regards to the sea turtles and the coral reef, annoyed some of the natives in the British Virgin Islands and appealed to others. With no real evidence other than a gut feeling on Hannah’s part, Dun wants her to move on to more serious and obvious matters such as who is breaking into charter boats and stealing stuff. Hannah is not about to let anything go.

What follows is a rather simplistic but enjoyable read. The second storyline of the break-ins on the charters is rather obvious as is the author’s feelings on environmental issues. Frequently the narrative read stops completely as the groups are portrayed simplistically as either for or against the environment and the reader is lectured. Like the character development itself, the lectures are simplistic and cultural differences regarding native islanders are mentioned but basically ignored.

The main plot line is enjoyable however and holds a couple of minor surprises. Obviously, the author loves the area she writes about and that comes through clearly to the reader when she concentrates on her main plot and the beauty of the area. When that is in play, the story moves forward at a steady pace. Unfortunately, the lectures are frequent and not at all subtle or woven skillfully into the story and thus, stop the action and the reader cold.

The overall result is an average read at best. Simplistic on all levels, this is a pleasant diversion for a couple of hours.

Dangerous Depths
By Kathy Brandt
May 2005
ISBN# 0-451-21493-5
262 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006

Book Review: "The Next Time You Die" by Harry Hunsicker

Named such by a bull headed father Lee Henry Oswald has a name that would stick out any where. This is especially true in Dallas where Lee Henry works as a private investigator. Lee Henry knows the other side of Dallas. The side the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want shown and in the two years since the events depicted in Still River things haven’t improved.

His latest case, as have many others, begins in a bar. The bar is located just a few blocks from the new Dallas Police Headquarters. The air conditioning, the dim lighting, and the beer make it a welcome refuge from the cloying mid September heat. He meets with a Baptist Preacher named Lucas Linville who drinks like a fish and runs a small ministry nearby for the street people. He tells Lee Henry that a
file from his office is missing and the info inside could be embarrassing for a local prominent family. In addition, his office assistant is missing. Are the two things related? The preacher doesn’t want to think so but for Lee Henry it is pretty obvious.

Before he can find out too much more, a couple of thugs walk into the bar looking for his client as well as Lee Henry by name. They mean to payback Lee Henry for something that he was involved with that cost a good friend of his, Billy Barganier, his life. The past is the past and he knows it can’t be changed and that Billy is long in the grave no matter what the thugs say. But, the thugs are the first two of several promising payback.

As he works Linville's case, the second storyline involving Billy and their shared past becomes more and more prominent. Not only does the case go off in unexpected ways but there are links between the two. And while this is going on, his partner Nolan has romance problems and they are supposed to be keeping alive a certain young lady that has her own prominent connections.

The result is a sequel stronger than the original book which can’t be said that often. Gone is the writing workshop feel of the first book as is a lot of the sarcastic humor. This book is darker due to that loss of humor as well as the fact that Lee Henry is not as naive as he was in the first book. This Lee Henry is more of a bitter man seeing deep flaws in enemies and friends alike and not very happy with anyone.

Numerous references are made to events that happened to Lee Henry and others between the two books during the two year gap. This could be confusing to readers picking this novel up as an introduction to the series as the way they are constructed implies a book is missing in the series. Why this was done is questionable as the comments don’t seem to have any storytelling purpose other than to artificially age the characters and reinforce the idea that time has passed.

That is, however, a minor quibble. The novel is another enjoyable read that will be very familiar to residents regarding the dark side of the city as well as the moneyed elite. Such concepts almost become a character into themselves as the mystery unravels through the interplay of complex characters, multi storylines, and plenty of action. Like Still River author Harry Hunsicker has provided readers another strong novel that is well worth your time and investment and one that can be read as a stand alone if one so desired.

The Next Time You Die: A Lee Henry Oswald Mystery
By Harry Hunsicker
A Thomas Dunne Book
July 2006
ISBN: 0-312-34850-9

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Satire and Crime in "ARTRAGE" by Everett Aison

“Van Zant closes his folder and looks at Mace, who remains silent
and impassive.
‘A blue-collar kid who makes it as a top lawyer and a serious
collector. . . trashes a forty-one million dollar Picasso. Mr. Carlson,
you are on the cutting edge of inconsistency.’” (Page 24)

There is no question that Mace Carlson did the shocking crime. The hard part is the why. Also hard is the fact that in this review, it really isn’t possible to say what the crime was without blowing the book. Even though, for the reader, the crime happens early on, to know in advance the specifics of the crime would remove some of the shock value. Suffice it to say that the crime is intense and no humans or animals were hurt by it.

Emotions are something else entirely. Mace’s action propels him into a prolonged stay at the Rothko Suite of the New York Police Department’s Art Crime Unit. With much of his time spent in solitary confinement, he has a lot of time to contemplate his action. He also has plenty of time to contemplate how his action has affected others including the son of his former lover. His case provides the fodder for a media firestorm as his action becomes a polarizing statement for both sides in the art world.

Part satire, part crime novel, the resulting read is a mesmerizing book that pulls readers along at a frantic pace. Occasionally, very graphic in terms of language, this is a novel that considers the current art world and finds things less than satisfactory. Rich in depth and character, the novel works on all levels and as a result is a very good read I wish I had read sooner.

Book Details:

Everett Aison
Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Studio
Large Trade Paperback
ISBN# 1-929355-25-4

More next time and should you have a comment, suggestion or idea, please comment here or e-mail me directly at Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Book Review: "Under A Raging Moon" by Frank Zafiro

It’s the fall of 1994 as this novel set in the city of River City, Washington opens. A gunman is robbing convenience stores all over the city. Nicknamed “Scarface” for the obvious scar down the left side of his face, he has just struck again.

Fourteen year veteran officer Thomas Chisolm who is also the current field training officer for rookie Maurice Payne is near the scene. They respond as do other units while the suspect flees through a dark construction yard. Ultimately, the suspect gets away but not before managing to wound Payne. As Chisolm notes, “He couldn’t stop wondering how much worse it was going to get.” (Page 13)

For the men and woman of the River City Police Department it is going to get a lot worse. In addition, to what goes on in their personal lives, things on the job are going to get worse. As the days and shifts pass, “Scarface” continues a rampage that quickly draws increasing media scrutiny. Add in internal political pressures and the everyday stress of the job, it isn’t surprising that while some thrive, others collapse under the weight.

The result is a riveting 299 page read from start to finish. Author Frank Zafiro paints a broad canvas depicting a number of character lives both in terms of the police and the criminals. In so doing, it becomes clear early on that the author’s personal knowledge is clear and relevant to his novel and not gained from watching television. By using so many characters and their stories, which are so intertwined in most cases, the author is able to depict not just life on the job but the toll it takes the personal life of the characters

That added character development does not hamper the story line. While the main story line is the hunt for the notorious “Scarface” numerous secondary storylines are created and not all are completed in this novel. A sequel is clearly planned, not only by way of the novel itself but by inclusion of the first chapter of the sequel at the end of this book.

This is a fast paced riveting novel and one that tries to bring the complexity of police life home to the reader. With rich complex characters, a powerful plot line, numerous secondary storylines and strong writing, the book succeeds on all levels. The result is a good read and the sequel can’t come out soon enough.

Book Details:

Under A Raging Moon
By Frank Zafiro
Wolfmont Publishing
June 2006
Large Trade Paperback
ISBN # 0-9778-4021-2

More next time and as always let me know what you think either here on the blog or directly to me at

Monday, September 04, 2006

Book Review: "Seven By Seven" Edited by Charles A. "Tony" Burton

When this anthology was first proposed, I withdrew from submitting to it because I believed it was a topic done to death. As a reviewer, a month does not go by without an author querying me about reviewing his or her new book involving the seven deadly sins. Of course, there are the movies with too many to name here. Then, as well, was the Prime Time Live Special last fall on the subject and I believe Dateline did one as well early last spring. Still, I was interested in the general idea and interested to see how it would be executed.

After an interesting forward by G. Miki Hayden and an introduction by editor Charles A. “Tony” Burton that amazingly manages to never once mention Dante or for that matter Shakespeare, (both considered well known writers on the subject to put it mildly) the reader gets to the short stories and numerous black and white illustrations. The first sin to be considered is “Lust”.

The highlight of the section is the story titled True Colors” by John M. Floyd. The backdrop of a workplace shooting is complicated when the investigating officers can’t understand the witness clearly. But, at least they do have a witness.

“Gluttony” follows next and is showcased by “Refrigerator Raid” penned by Kimberly Brown. Hunger can drive one to do stupid things as Bennie and Clive soon learn.

Most of the stories in this anthology aren’t funny and aren’t meant to be. This is not true in “Catnapping” written by John Floyd. It is the highlight of the “Sloth” section and provides an answer about how to solve the annoying problem of the wife’s cat. It might just be the solution for other things as well.

Seeking personal solutions is also a component of the highlight story of the “Greed” section. Written by Deborah Elliott-Upton, “Money For Nothing” immediately reminds one of the song. In this case, the chicks aren’t free and will cost big time.

Taking a different track on the same background idea is B. J. Bourg in his story “Shot of Anger” located in the middle of the “Wrath” section. Bourg’s story takes dead at unfaithfulness and manages to twist reader expectations right at the end.

Frank Zafiro in his story “Wish” details the hopes and dreams of one man. The highlight of the “Envy” section considers what all of us have contemplated more than once.

The final sin covered is “Pride” and the highlight story for this reader is “Montgomery’s Marvelous Time Machine” written by Kimberly Brown. As she does in each section, Kimberly Brown weaves a tale much different than expected in an anthology of this type and yet her tale always fits the theme very well. This particular story revolves around a device mentioned in the title and the consequences of using said device.

In addition to the authors mentioned above, authors Sunny Frazier, (who soon will have her own novel out from this publisher) and Gary Hoffman have stories in each section as well. Author Frank Zafiro also has a novel currently out from this publisher titled “Under a Raging Moon” which will be reviewed here and elsewhere in the near future.

The 49 tales in this book along with the numerous illustrations provide a quick fun read. The highlighted stories were my personal favorites and your results may vary.

Book Details

Seven by Seven: Seven Deadly Tales Of The Seven deadly Sins From Seven Deadly Authors
Editor/Publisher Charles A. “Tony” Burton
Wolfmont Publishing
April 2006
ISBN# 0-9778-4020-4
Large Trade Paperback

As always, more next time and your comments, suggestions and thoughts are always welcome here or may be sent directly to me at

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Book Review: "The Case of Emily V." by Keith Oatley

In this intriguing novel scheduled to be released in November, the year is 1904 and the main setting is the city of Vienna. Emily V. is beset by anxiety and fear. We know this from her own journal which over the course of the book reveals the horrible cause of her angst. Angst that she is trying to alleviate by seeing an analyst by the name of Sigmund Freud. It was her friend’s idea and soon both her, Sara, and Emily may have cause to regret it.

While anxiety and nervous collapse have Emily in their grasp, melancholia (depression in the modern vernacular) has once again claimed the fabulous mind of Sherlock Holmes. In seeking to aid him, his loyal friend and chronicler, Dr. Watson, has been researching the works of Sigmund Freud and would very much like to consult with him. Fortunately, for Dr. Watson that possibility soon comes true through an unlikely way. It seems that a British Diplomat has been found dead and the case which will lead the pair to Vienna could very well be the first of many cases offered to Holmes by way of his well connected brother, Mycroft Holmes.

Over the course of the novel, these situations slowly come together and provide the reader an excellent mystery of depth and substance. The characters and time period covered come alive for the reader in a way few books, especially first novels do. The author provides a richness of depth, not just in terms of Holmes and Freud, but for other characters as well. No one is stereotyped and all characters involved play important roles throughout the course of this novel.

When originally released in England in 1993, this novel won the “Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book.” As noted in the press release regarding the book and the author, “They felt that his gift’s for credible plotting and strong, assertive prose were outstanding and they offered the prize unanimously.” It is a good book and well worthy of your consideration.

Book Details

The Case of Emily V.
By Keith Oatley
Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press
Expected Publication Date: November 2006

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fighting madness in "A Dream Of Drowned Hollow"

For college student April Rue Stoner, life is becoming increasingly complex and it isn’t just college. Something is happening to her and she doesn’t understand it. She seems to sense and see things in the Ozark countryside in ways that others do not. The trees seem to actually “talk” to her and her abilities don’t stop there. What she sees makes her question her own sanity until she discovers that she can photograph what she alone sees and show others.

By doing so, she can visually prove what she has seen to have happened in the past or what will happen in the future. In this case, her photographs don’t lie and she can use them to show others that she is not mad. While she is able to see her long deceased mother at a nearby pond which brings her tremendous joy there is a flip side to her powers. She can see dark forces at work and she can see a possible nightmarish future where the land is destroyed and friends and family are dead. All done because of a greedy, developer determined to wreak havoc on the environment.

In this 532 page novel which won the “Andre Norton’s Gryphon Award” April Stoner seeks to save the land and all that it contains from a horrible fate. The land and its creatures are magical and so too is the author’s obvious love for the Ozark region. It is rare to read a novel that so powerfully captures the beauty of a region and the need to practice conservation and proper stewardship of the land. In a novel that gradually moves forward as months and years pass, the author weaves a spellbinding tale that entertains while reminding readers that once the magic is gone, it is gone forever. Destruction in the name of progress is never a good thing and sometimes the magic in the land fights back.

Book Details:

A Dream Of Drowned Hollow
By Lee Barwood
Double Dragon Publishing
Large Trade Paperback
ISBN #1-55404-320-4

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Upcoming Kick-Off Meeting

A group of Dallas-area writers is considering forming a local chapter of the Writer’s League of Texas (WLT). WLT is a nonprofit organization whose primary purpose is to provide a forum for sharing among writers, to help members market their writing and to promote the interests of the writing community.

WLT has approximately 1,500 members nationwide. Membership benefits include a quarterly newsletter, 20% discount on books and tapes, discounts on classes, retreats, workshops, conferences, and traveling courses available throughout the state. The current traveling course is: On Writing Memoirs. If you've ever wanted to be part of the largest writing organization in Texas, now is your chance.

Formation MeetingWednesday, September 20th 7-8:30 PMChristopher Parr Library6200 Windhaven Parkway PlanoInformation for the library is (972)

If you have any questions, please contact Laura Seaborn at

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Mid August Update

It is August in Texas and a month I truly hate. The 100 degree days seem endless as is the running of the air conditioner and the air outside isn’t fit for man or beast. At least football is starting though I believe preseason is entirely too long in the day of the year around athlete. With all the mandatory voluntary minicamps in the off season, it seems to me that the preseason could easily be shortened to two games and then the for real games would start. But, sort of like true income tax relief, as long as the owners make money off the deal, it won’t happen.

As some of you may have read elsewhere I am the new Book Review Editor for the new website “Mouthfull of Bullets.” I will also be doing a column there titled “Target Shooting” in which I talk about the business of reviewing, and make no mistake it is a business, and a few other things. I am really looking forward to the opportunity which came about because author BJ Bourg asked me to be a part of it after reading so much of my work over the years. You can see the submission page and not much more right now at and the first issue will be up in early September.

This new venture does not mean I am giving up my column in Senior News. Far from it as I am very pleased with how things are going there. Just a reminder—Senior News is a print only venture and is available in Texas on some newsstands located in grocery stores as well as by mail for $12.00 a year. In case you missed it, below is a copy of my July column.

Challenger Park: A Novel
Stephen Harrigan
Alfred A. Knopf

Austin author Stephen Harrigan has followed up his novel “The Tales of the Alamo” with an engrossing tale of a shuttle flight and the astronauts and support staff that make it all work. Set several years ago, before the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia, the novel chronicles a mission more than a year in training and execution. Lucy Kincheloe has been picked to fly on that mission and though she yearns to fly in space, she is mortal and beset by earthbound problems. Her young children need her, especially her asthmatic son, her marriage is crumbling, and she is attracted to Walt Womack, head of the training team and symbolizing everything her astronaut husband is not. On top of all that there is the mission, a mission that has tremendous danger and will force her to confront everything she knows and believes as it tests her ability to survive. The result is a complex and very enjoyable read where an author attempts an epic type tale and succeeds tremendously.

Eyes of the Storm: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: The Photographic Story
By The Dallas Morning News
Taylor Trade Publication

Following a short section of small essays about the two hurricanes and their impact by writers and editors of the paper, are the colorful and intense photographs that tell the tale and make this book so good. The focus is primarily on the people involved and depicts survivors, either in solo shots such as the identified woman on page 20 sitting stoic in the Superdome, or the mass group of survivors photographed on page 47 as they wait for a National Guard truck to rescue them. That photograph is in stark contrast to the proceeding page featuring the photograph so many of us have seen of flooded school buses which were never used. There are photographs that serve to haunt as well. One depicts an empty wheelchair washed up on the sand on a beach off US Highway 90 (page 53) or the obliterated apartment complex with some rubble still burning in Long Beach, MS on page 55. Throughout the excellent book, which closes with a brief summary of the background of each photographer, are the many photos that showcase the best of the human spirit.

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a line at or here on my blog.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Book Review: "Absent The Soul" by B. J. Bourg

In the interests of fair disclosure I have to admit it that I not only respect BJ Bourg but I also consider him a good friend. While I got to know him because we were on several lists together, I also saw how he interacted with others. BJ is one of those rare folks that has a wealth of knowledge and isn’t afraid to share his knowledge with others. As will soon come out publicly, we are working on a couple of projects together. I received and read his book long before the other things came up. Like in all my reviews, the final judgment as to the quality of my reviews as well as the books themselves is up to you, the reader.

Reviewing an anthology or a collection is tough. Unlike a novel where one sets up the premise of the book and then comments on how the book works, an anthology or collection can’t be reviewed that way. Instead, the reviewer has to look for not only an overall theme of the work but two or three stories that illustrate that point.

“Absent The Soul” is a collection of short stories revolving around the theme of murder. Told through various character viewpoints, the stories often reflect the repercussions of murder on the families involved. It is hard to pick out any as being better than the rest as they are all very good. However, here are some selections which clearly are based on my own particular tastes.

“A Picture Perfect Murder” works off the idea of a cheating spouse as does many a country western song, movie of the week, or true crime book. Here murder is inspired by the cheating spouse and the story gives rise to the real question as to who is the real victim? The same premise or idea is also skillfully worked a few pages later in the story, “Hell Hath No Fury.”

It isn’t just spouses that serve as impetus to these stories. Children do too and one of the more powerful examples can be found in “My Daughter’s Keeper.” Sometimes speaking for the dead crosses boundaries with huge life changing implications for all. At nearly 40 pages in length, this story builds with relentlessness until that final shocking twist.

Another of the longer stories is “A Badge Like Mine.” A cynical internal affairs investigator finds out that a simple abuse case can lead to murder.

The final story packs a punch unlike any of the others. “Heartbeat To Hell” slides over the genre line from suspenseful mystery to horror for this reader. A category that I don’t read but before I knew where the story was going, I was two pages from the end. I couldn’t stop there and I promise this story will leave you shaking.

So, there you have it. My selections from a highly entertaining collection that stretches boundaries and view points. While murder is the common theme in each story, the repercussions of murder are a constant background component. From shattered families to honest investigator cops who may be driven to cross the line into vigilantism, to the cynical cop burned out cases ago and everything in-between, the repercussions are huge. In each story character development is highly effective as is the premise and plot which as a result brings the story alive for the reader. You can’t ask for much more and that makes this book good stuff.

Book Details:

ABSENT THE SOUL: A Collection Of Short Mysteries
By B. J. Bourg
Epress Online
Large Trade Paperback
ISBN# 0-9708635-6-X

Kevin Tipple © 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006


My story "Opportunity Knocks" has been accepted for the September issue of the WRITER'S POST JOURNAL." I'm thrilled and can't wait for it to come out. You can read more about the journal at

I may have something else to announce in a few days that I am equally excited about but I have to wait for permission. Suffice it to say, I am really excited about this deal as well.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Reviewing: "Old Silver" by Carl Brookins

Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney return in this top flight cozy mystery set for most part on the waters of Lake Superior. It is there that while sailing with friends Mary Whitney during a snorkeling trip finds and brings to the surface an old metal plate, probably from the boiler, stamped with the word “Amador” on it. Little does she know that it comes from a ship that sank during a storm in 1905 and theoretically went down somewhere off Sand Island which is nowhere near where she has recovered the plate.

Packed with cargo and family heirlooms of the deVoles the sinking caused a search to be mounted more than once but nothing was found. By finding the plate, Mary has stumbled across an old mystery and possibly a reference point for the shipwreck. The ship went down 100 years ago taking some dark secrets with it. As Mary and Michael start asking a few questions and a person cataloging a recent donation of papers from the family is killed, it becomes clear that there is certainly at least one if not several secrets that someone is trying to keep hidden. Whomever is behind the scenes orchestrating events seems to be willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to prevent them from coming out.

Opposite in tone and style from his novel, “The Case of the Greedy Lawyers,” humor is in short supply in this cozy style novel. Most of the violence happens off scene with the majority of the focus on asking questions from a variety of sources and suspects. This novel slowly builds a chain of clues together as Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney hunt for the shipwreck itself as well as the family secrets. The result is an engrossing 259 page read in large paperback with a great depth of detail, rich characterizations, and a very good mystery tale.

Book Facts

Old Silver (A Michael Tanner & Mary Whitney Mystery)
By Carl Brookins
Top Publications, Ltd. Co
Large Trade Paperback
ISBN# 1-929976-32-1

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Book Review: "The Hard Way" by Lee Child

This tenth novel in the series plays on two of Jack Reacher’s known quirks as well as on an underlying theme that has existed throughout the series. In this novel all three items are used to create a fast moving 371 page thriller and another very good read.

Along with his uncanny ability to know exactly what time it is without a watch, Reacher has always had exceptional powers of observation. Something that worked very well for him in his past life as a military policeman as well as his current life which is sometimes indefinable. As the novel opens, Jack Reacher is sitting outside a New York café late in the evening and sees a rather unremarkable man drive off in an expensive car with a somewhat distinctive license plate. Unknown to him, what he witnessed was a ransom payment for a kidnapping.

Shortly after returning the next night to the same café, Reacher is contacted by an individual who would like to know what Reacher saw on behalf of his employer. Intrigued, Reacher agrees to accompany his inquisitor to the legendary Dakota hotel. There he discovers that a band of mercenaries led by Edward Lane have taken up residence there and they want to recover Edward Lane’s wife and daughter as well as eliminate the kidnappers as brutally and painfully as possible.

Vengeance and retribution aren’t unfamiliar concepts to Reacher and he certainly understands the need to eliminate threats. Reacher isn’t impressed with the idea of mercenaries or of the government’s use of them for contract work. He is even less impressed with the group that Lane has around him as it is clear that while they may have been very good in their day while serving in their respective military units they aren’t very good now. As the kidnappers escalate their demands and he learns more about the mercenaries shared history, he wants to walk away. But, the wife and child are non combats and there is no way he isn’t going to help them.

What follows is another good Reacher read. As he works the case, he discovers more angles and machinations than he expected along with another short term love interest. Little is done to add to the complex character of Reacher and for those that have read the series, none is really expected. What is expected in a Reacher series novel is a fast paced intensive roller coaster of a read where one knows Reacher will win out in the end. That’s exactly what happens and this novel, while an installment of the series, also provides an excellent stand alone read.

Book Facts:

The Hard Way
By Lee Child
Delacorte Press
ISBN #0-385-33669-1
371 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Book Review: "Where Dreams Die Hard" by Carlton Stowers

Having chronicled so much disaster, destruction and unspeakable horror committed by people against other people during his extensive writing career, Texas author Carlton Stowers was looking for something simpler in the wake of the 911 tragedy. As he writes in the preface of the non fiction book “Where Dreams Die Hard” on page XIV:

“When a young editor argued that what those of us under her charge had to provide readers was more ‘red meat,’ more hard-hitting, finger-pointing controversy, I rolled my eyes and began considering my leave-taking. Though fully aware that there were endless fakes and frauds needing exposure and countless crimes begging courthouse justice, such tasks no longer interested me. It was time to let someone else try to sort reason from the unreasonable, spend days in the company of devastated victims, and chronicle the social ills for which there seemed no cure.”

His quest was for a Norman Rockwall type America if it still existed. Where folks still cared about each other regardless of political or religious affiliation. Where crime was not a problem and where red meat referred to what was on the grill and not something literary.

He found what he was looking for in the small town of Penelope, Texas located about an hour south of Dallas. Penelope has a population of 211 and eagerly and actively supports their six man football team the Penelope Wolverines. As sports fans may know, six man football has seen a revival the last few years in a number of states including Texas. Much of the book covers one season in the life of the town both for the players, their families, and the surrounding community.

While he chronicles the struggles of the 2004 team, author Carlton Stowers does much more than that. Writing about the months before and after the season as well, the town of Penelope and its citizens are brought alive for the reader. Mr. Stowers’ folksy style works wonders in this regard as the words flow and skip from point to point much like in regular conversation. Along the way he touches on the history of six mean football, the economy of small town Texas and such basic fundamentals as how to impart responsibility to today’s youth among other topics. This is not a lecturing or antiseptic read but more of a good friend talking about life as he sits next to you on your front porch.

The result is an excellent 205 page read that provides a look at basically slightly more than a year in the life of a small Texas town and its citizens. The bad, the good, and everything in between are covered. At the same time it becomes uplifting as one knows no matter how bad the world news gets, folks that live in Penelope, Texas and thousands of other places are taking it one day at a time, prospering in their own way, and helping each other everyday. A little of that attitude goes a long way and Mr. Stowers book is a very refreshing and enjoyable read.

Book Facts:

Where Dreams Die Hard
By Carlton Stowers
Da Capo Press
ISBN 0-306-81404-8
205 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Blog Update

I know it has been a long time since you saw my work here or elsewhere. This hasn’t been a very good summer and not just because the drought continues, the level whatever air pollution continues, the one hundred plus degree heat continues, or the many other joys that make up living in north Texas during the summer. Things have been rather rough here on a personal level.

Without going into great detail, I have had some health issues that for a time became very severe. This cost me my ability to work this summer which has been devastating economically as well as robbing me of the opportunity to work with some very special kids and staff. I was thrilled and honored to be selected to work in the program and devastated when roughly a week and half into the program had to leave for health reasons and despite later trying once more, was unable to return.

I knew I didn’t have a choice but still it hurt. And being forced into staying home on mandatory bedrest when one can’t read because of blurred vision, dizzy spells and other problems isn’t much fun either. Not only did this totally mess up my writing schedule for more than a month, it has also prevented my being able to read and review the many books which had been sent to me since mid May. And while many of you are on different calanders and are wondering why does he consider the summer over, remember here that teachers go back August 2nd and students go back August 9. In roughly ten days, I have an orientation meeting to go to for the coming school year.

So, yes, the summer is pretty much over.

The good news? Well, I have seen no relatives that I know about on any daytime TV talk shows. I have never met the numerous women who apparently do not know who the father was/is. I am more convinced than ever that I will not make a certain icon’s TV show because I am a male that knows how to use all major appliances, never has cheated on my wife, knows no one in Hollywood, and never jumps on the furniture.

All that and the fact that getting movies by mail is a really cool thing.

The meds finally seem to be working or maybe I have adjusted to them and things are very, very slowly getting better. I’m able to sit up and read again which is extremely neat. I also have some reviews that were written before things got really bad and those will get posted soon. Things are turning around slowly but surely and the key here is not to do too much too fast.

I also want to thank the many folks who, as word leaked out from me or from friends in the writing community, expressed their heart felt prayers and wishes both publicly as well as in private e-mails. I have tried to thank on lists and off when I could as the situation developed. I may have accidentally missed a few. Please know that all were much appreciated and that hopefully, it will soon be just a bad memory.

Kevin R Tipple © 2006

Monday, June 05, 2006

Reviewing:"The Case Of The Greedy Lawyers" By Carl Brookins

You many not have been aware of it but Minneapolis is the home of Private Detective Sean “No Middle Initial” Sean. Yes, you read that right. His first name is his last, he has no middle name, and maybe that is why he looks at everything just a little differently than most would. He’s short at just five foot three, known for wearing his red Keds even when wearing nothing at all, and is good at what he does no matter what the might be. He also has a sense of humor except when one of his clients gets murdered.

Except she really wasn’t his client. She drifted into his office one day, hardly said a word, told him she would have to give things some more thought and left. Sometime later she was found dead. For Sean, after being asked to identify the body, he isn’t ready to let the police take over. He begins to investigate with all trails leading back to a huge law firm with a name that sounds like many publishing houses all put together. As he digs, violence begins to erupt and it becomes clear that his wise talking PI is being used as a pawn in someone’s power game.

This book is a very enjoyable read from short to finish on two different levels. On one, it is a send up of all the classic detective novels. With allusions to other books and characters and how they would react, the read is often very funny. The author clearly has a knack for puns and delights in naming so many things after various publishing houses. Many of them seem to be villains in one form or another which increases the amusement factor especially for those working in the writing profession.

On another level, the read is a typical detective story with occasional violence, a beautiful woman in his life, and all the rest including a complicated and intriguing case that slowly becomes clear. The story line moves forward at a steady pace and features a character that is unique and entertaining. Misdirect ions are many and what appears obvious in the middle part of the novel is far from certain by the end.

The result is an entertaining roller coaster of a ride and one very good novel. A fun fast read, one can only hope that more adventures are planned for the detective with no middle initial.

The Case of the Greedy Lawyers
By Carl Brookins
Five Star
ISBN 1-59414-319-6

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reviewing: The Man From Yesterday: A Jack Lehman Mystery by Seymour Shubin

The mind can be a tricky thing. The name of someone you just met might escape your remembrance while at the same time the name of some classmate in elementary school from decades ago can’t be forgotten. How many of us have forgotten our home phone number from time to time? For retired Detective Lieutenant Jack Lehman it seems to be happening more and more.

As the novel opens, he knows one thing for sure. A former snitch of his, the name he can’t remember, reached out and by phone told him that a big heist of over a million dollars had happened. The phone call had come after a long night when he was tormented by the fact that he simply could not remember the name of who his favorite late night talk show host was as he watched him on TV. He was still more asleep than awake when his snitch called and now, as he sits in front of Captain Hewitt, who runs his old 32nd District, he is humiliated and embarrassed.

As Captain Hewitt points out, while Jack can’t remember the name, a heist that big means the police should have heard something. Jack knows that is true but he also knows the call happened. Driven by a need to prove himself as well as to dispel the notion that he is nothing more than a senile old man, Jack begins to work the case. A case that leads back to the past and scores unsettled. Beset by his own memory problems and the assumptions of others, including his family that he is suffering from senility or early stage Alzheimer’s, Jack continues to push the case with little outside help others than from writer Colin Ryan who believes the former Lieutenant is on to something that could turn into a book for him.

While the novel does shift in point of view occasionally, the story is told primarily from the viewpoint of Jack Lehman. In so doing, the reader is treated to the viewpoint of a man who knows his memory is weakening and yet at the same time is sure that there is a case. A case that while shadowy and vague has some substance to it if he can just start pulling the pieces together. He also knows how others, including his family, feel about him and know that because of those assumptions, they aren’t going to take him seriously. That pain of self awareness as he rages against the dying of the light flows throughout the entire novel.

Featuring a complex central character dealing with the efforts of aging on so many levels, this novel becomes an engrossing story that works across the board. It becomes easy to cheer each success Jack has and suffer the agony of each setback. This book, much like “Witness To Myself” also from this author, pulls the reader into a world of personal pain and obsession where the character is on a hunt for vindication.

Book Facts:

The Man From Yesterday: A Jack Lehman Mystery
By Seymour Shubin
Academy Chicago Publishers
ISBN #0-89733-529-5

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Monday, May 29, 2006

Reviewing: Witness To Myself by Seymour Shubin

Adolescence is a hard perplexing time ripe with strange thoughts, strange feelings, and impetuous actions with little consideration of the consequences. It certainly was fifteen years ago for teenager Alan Benning. His family, on vacation in Cape Cod by way of a large motor home, had no idea what he thought or felt. The family was well off, his parents were conservative and Alan, with no one to talk to about life and his feelings, began to hate and fear himself. That hatred and fear of himself grew and grew after the incident in the woods near the beach during that vacation.

In the present day, Alan, now thirty is a successful lawyer with a steady girlfriend, Anna, a loving cousin, and an obsession about what might or might not have happened that fateful day fifteen years ago. Driven to know, he begins to unravel his own perfect life. A life that appears to be perfect but hides so many dark secrets that he is not sure of what actually happened back then.

Author Seymour Shubin has weaved a complete tale about the human spirit. Shifting in point of view between Alan and his cousin the author paints a picture of obsession. Not only is Alan obsessed with what he might or might not have done but the cousin has his own obsession. The cousin’s need isn’t as obvious early in the novel but the end of the book it is clear that his own obsession is just as strong.

It is also clear that the author is commenting on the nature of mankind. Those little things that surely lead to disaster. Those little things, unnoticed or unremarked at the time and yet become telling through the use of hindsight. The signs were obvious, as they often are, and unnoticed until long after the fact. The author makes this point throughout the work as he weaves complex multifaceted characters throughout the tale.

The result is a fast paced intense read. While only 250 pages in paperback, this isn’t a beach book and far from it. This is a book that rapidly becomes a real page turner as it pulls the reader into a world not unlike his or her own. This is a book that one doesn’t want interrupted and is sorry to see end. Intense and driven, the book doesn’t let go until that final phrase “the end” and even then lingers in the mind.

Book Facts:

Witness To Myself
By Seymour Shubin
Hard Case Crime
ISBN #0-8439-5590-2

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Reviewing: Nothing But Trouble: A Kevin Kerney Novel

This latest Kevin Kerney novel finds Kerney and his family at a cross roads. The Santa Fe Police chief knows that his current lifestyle is not working. With his job in New Mexico and his wife Sara currently assigned to the Pentagon he is unable to see her or his three year old son Patrick as he wants too. With the nation at war and Sara unable to leave her job and not wanting to either, Kevin is beginning to think that it is time to move on.

Moving on is also a concept he also feels should apply to his former friend Johnny Jordan. Johnny always had one scheme or another going while he chased women and drank to excess. That hasn’t changed but the schemes have gotten grander. This time he intends to produce a modern day western and wants Kevin involved as a technical advisor for old times sake. Though suspicious of Johnny’s real motives, Kevin needs a change of pace and decides to accept the proposition.

Before long, Kevin finds himself deep in a murder investigation that may have links to illegal immigrant smuggling and organized crime. He is also deep into parenting as Sara is off to Ireland on a far reaching investigation of her own that first began several novels ago involving desertion and smuggling. Kevin juggles both and before long, finds himself failing at all of it.

This latest book in the series, that 10th overall, clearly is a set up for the next one. Fundamental changes in their lives are happening and neither Sara nor Kevin is very sure about where their professional careers are headed. A story plot that could have been exploited and yet is not given nearly as much attention as the focus is primarily on the details of how to make a movie.

Those details, which are extensive, one could reasonably expect to be key in resolving the investigation aren’t. Instead, they provide long breaks in action throughout the book and do not provide any more information than one could gleam from watching one of the many Hollywood coverage shows. They seen to serve no real purpose other than to fill pages and boost the word count.

However, when author Michael McGarrity allows the characters to do what they do best, both Kevin and Sara move steadily forward carrying the novel forward in their separate cases. As always, in those sections the result is a good read that captivates the reader and provides strong entertainment especially in regards to Sara’s case.

The overall novel is a bit of rollercoaster read as it bogs down in several spots and moves smoothly at a rapid pace in others. While average for the series, McGarrity’s work is better than most others on their best day and that certainly is true here.

Book Facts:

Nothing But Trouble: A Kevin Kerney Novel
By Michael McGarrity
ISBN# 0-525-94919-X

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Reviewing: "Laguna" by Michael Putegnat

Texas has a long history of very wealthy landowners controlling not just their land, but the way of life for the local people in the area. Some have acted like benevolent dictators while others have seen themselves as gods who should have every whim catered to without question. John Magne IV certainly fits the latter category.

The current patriarch of a family that has always gotten their way over the decades is faced with a dilemma. Not only are his grown children less than helpful in keeping things going but he sees his empire beginning to crumble. Loans are coming due and the local banker is getting a bit big for his britches. But John Magne IV has a plan to deal with all of it. He wants to drill for natural gas as he believes a field lurks beneath his land in the Laguna Madre. The resulting financial windfall, if the gas is there, will restore the family’s financial footing and increase their power base considerably.

To make it all happen, he will need help and return on favors and deals he has made over the years with politicians and regulators as well as the money men. As he puts the wheels in motion on plans he has made, so do others with their own plans either is support or against John Magne IV and his interests. The result is an interesting read with shades of Greek tragedy and hubris that spans a number of interrelated characters and generations of family members.

While the read is interesting and the attempted tale is grand, this novel could have been so much better. A slick marketing package does not make a good book. Instead, it creates an illusion of what the book will be and when the book fails to reach the marketing hype, disappoints the reader. Such is the case here.

More than any thing, a strong editor would have been able to cut back on some of the overwriting of dialogue and scene as well as streamline the work so that it moves forward at a better pace. Despite the often cited blurb found on all promotional items, book jacket, etc. the author does not have a “crisp writing style.” The novel drags at numerous spots and the pace throughout work is uneven with sudden starts and near stops.

Dialogue sections are most often the problem throughout the novel as they frequently read unrealistically, both in terms of stilted prose as well as going on much longer than normal human conversation. They are also used as info dumps and serve to bring the action to a virtual standstill. At the same time, the narrative sections provide some of the best writing and serve well to move the story along. Not only do they do that, but especially in the sections detailing the region, showcase the author’s clear experience and appreciation for the natural beauty of the area.

The result is a rollercoaster of a read that serves to disappoint in that the author tried to do so much. This is a grand book in terms of various storylines covering various generations with numerous small subplots. Several of such should have been eliminated which would have resulted in a radical structural change but yet a much better book. Like many books that are released though publishing houses where authors share the financial costs of publication, this novel could have been and should have been so much more. It certainly never lives up to the hype of the promotional materials this reviewer received, nor does it ever answer the teaser questions posed in the materials. Taken for what the novel actually is, this work becomes an average read at best.

Laguna: A Novel
By Michael Putegnat
Synergy Books
ISBN #1-933538-19-8
$21.95 US

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The siren's song in "Sorrow's Anthem"

Building upon the series that began in “Tonight, I Said Goodbye” author Koryta brings back private investigators Lincoln Perry and his partner, Joe Pritchard in another excellent read. This time around, Lincoln Perry is driven to help an estranged friend and it could cost him in ways he never saw coming.

Years ago when Lincoln was on the Cleveland Police Force he was put into a very difficult position. He could ignore his old friend’s criminal activities or he could work him like any other suspect. Lincoln chose not to prevent his childhood friend Ed Gradduk from going to jail. That decision severed a friendship, marked Lincoln as an outcast in his old neighborhood, and changed both lives forever. With Ed in the news and on the run from charges of arson, murder, and others, Lincoln sees an opportunity to try once more to save his friend from himself as well as assuage his own guilt.

Minutes after finding him, Lincoln is powerless to save him as Ed dies in a confrontation with police. But, just because he died does not mean the case is over. It just means Lincoln feels even more guilt and now he has to deal with a grieving mother, former friends that hold him responsible and a trail that has few answers now that the man that could give them is dead.

As the bodies began to stack up and houses burn in the old neighborhood, Lincoln is forced to relieve a childhood that he thought he understood completely. Decisions made decades ago have come back to haunt those alive today and it becomes a real question as to whom will survive the repercussions.

As he did in the first novel, the author weaves another complicated and compelling read. The pace moves along steadily without a wasted word or thought as Lincoln works the case. Back story sections are brief, to the point, and provide not only information, but rich character detail. Such transitions are done well and do not serve as information dumps as routinely happens with lesser authors.

While this is second in the series, it certainly could be read independently as a stand alone. There are brief references to the earlier novel but the information shared would not harm the enjoyment of that read. This is another excellent novel from the author and does not fall prey to any of the normal second novel weaknesses.

Sorrow’s Anthem
By Michael Koryta

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Haven't we figured this out yet?

Sometimes that moment, that tipping point, where everything begins to go inexorably downhill is obvious. Sometimes it isn’t. For Nick Conover, CEO of Stratton Corporation, the moment isn’t clear though he knows that things aren’t going well. His knowledge is just the tip of the proverbial tip of the iceberg and he has no idea how bad or how fast his slide downhill is going to be.

He knows he isn’t liked by his employees or the community at large and things aren’t much better at home. Nothing has been the same since his wife died. His teenage son, Lucas, hates his guts. His daughter, Julia, still loves him but things aren’t the way they were. The fact that someone keeps vandalizing their house in the expensive gated community doesn’t help matters. Having “No hiding place” written on your walls in spray paint is never a good thing. The vandalism seems to point to a faceless nameless former employee, one of many recently laid off as Nick has struggled to save a business which has recently become a small part of a much larger business empire.

With the local police force unwilling to find his vandal, Nick arms himself to protect his family. Before long, a trespasser is dead, Nick is part of a conspiracy to cover up the death and all sense of control Nick had over his personal as well as his professional life is lost.

Like most thrillers, character development is somewhat limited in this work. Most of the character development is done through back story detailing various momentous moments in Nick and his family’s past long before the period of time the novel event’s actually happen. These events aren’t complicated and are rather straightforward as well as gradually revealed throughout the course of the book.

As in most thrillers, several enemies are clearly identified early while others are revealed later in such a way to reduce the entire novel to us vs. them situation. That certainly is true here as Nick struggles mightily to defend not only himself, but his family from assault. At the same time as his actions continue to invite more trouble into his life, he attempts to bridge the gap between himself and Lucas in order to save Lucas from a clear path of self destruction.

The result is an entertaining fast moving read that pulls the reader along at a rapid clip. The novel does not pretend to be anything more than it is--a fun read. It serves that purpose well and reinforces the idea that so many folks still have yet to learn. The cover up is always worse than the crime.

Company Man
By Joseph Finder
ISBN# 0-312-31916-9

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Friday, April 14, 2006


Its been a rough stretch. The computer blew up, the wife has been in the hospital, and lots of other stuff that wasn't much fun. But, things are looking up and I hope to be back going strong again soon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Computer death

Its ugly and painful. Monday evening my computer died in a flash of light and a puff of smoke. It is no more. Thanks to filters at my local library, I can't access my e-mail or my groups. So, it might be awhile before I can do much of anything.

Will post reviews when I can.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Scattered Musings

Kevin’s Corner

Well, it has been awhile, hasn’t it? It wasn’t exactly my plan to disappear from these parts for all intents and purposes for over a month. But getting sick and some personal issues, along with Spring Break for my sons and working for a living, have all conspired against me. So, while my online presence here and elsewhere isn’t quite as vocal as normal, I am still around.

One of the things I was recently involved with was serving as a Judge for the Derringer Awards. The Derringers are awards given out by the Short Mystery Fiction Society for the best in the field of Short Mystery Fiction. Again this year, I was honored and privileged to be a judge for the initial screening process. There were a number of judges with varied tastes in reading materials and the ones that scored best will be presented to the entire membership for awards consideration.

I was also recently informed that a part of my review for the novel “Pier Pressure” by Dorothy Francis was selected to be placed on the back cover of the paperback. The review dates back to when I was still working for “The Blue Iris Journal” and as such mentions that online publication. As many of you know, the site has been on hiatus for quite some time but I still hope it will come back as that was where I got my reviewing start. Elizabeth Burton took a chance on me and as they say, the rest is history.

Speaking of history, Texas History plays a huge role in two of my reviews in the March edition of SENIOR NEWS available in various locations around the great state of Texas including Whole Foods stores in Plano and Dallas. This month my review of “Blood Kin” by Henry Chappell is the lead and concerns a young man named Isaac Webb in the days and years after the fall of the Alamo. This is a young man who begins the novel incredibly naïve and as he rises in the ranks of the Texas Rangers and becomes chief negotiator with the local Comanches, becomes a more and more complex character as does Texas around him. This is a very strong read that provides a far different vision than the normal stereotypes on all sides.

Also reviewed this month is “Last Chance In Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth” by John Hubner. We all have a stake in the Texas justice system regardless of the age of the person involved. This book, base don the author’s incredible access to files and inmates provides a rare opportunity to see behind the gates at what brought the young offenders into the program and how they may or may not be able to turn their lives around.

That is about it. The skies are darkening rapidly here and I think I hear the rumble of thunder above the din of yet another video game down the hall, so I better get moving here.

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note here or at with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Book Review: "High Priestess" by David Skibbins

Warren Ritter returns in the sequel to “Eight Of Swords” and like any really good sequel, it is always better to have read the first book. I did and if you haven’t, you really should read it before you read this one because things will be ruined otherwise.

As Warren discovered, while one can have a life on the run, it really isn’t possible to escape everything from your past. Plastic surgery can change your appearance. But, you still have your memories. You also have your habits and eventually if you stay in one place too long, you will become known to folks that you thought were long gone from your life. You might even think that at least some of them are dead since it has been more than thirty years. Such is the case for Warren when a man calling himself Mr. Hightower sits down at his sidewalk tarot table. As their discussion turns, Warren realizes that Mr. Hightower knows all about Warren’s past and is more than willing to use it against him.

What Mr. Hightower really wants is Warren’s help. When you are the leader of a local Satanic Church, you know that law enforcement isn’t going to take you seriously. People in his church are dying in what appears to be nothing more than rather bizarre accidents. Those accidents, if they were accidents, don’t explain the death threats Church leadership has been receiving. Not only is the man calling himself Mr. Hightower a target, there are others. Because of past events (read Eight Of Swords) Mr. Hightower believes Warren can help and intends to disclose Warren’s past if he won’t.

Warren, along with strong political beliefs about the past as well as the state of America today, is just a bit bored as well. Things have just been a little too stable for him lately and the pressure of that stability is wearing on him. He is dating and trying very hard to get his psychological house of cards in order as well as resist the lure of running again. Hightower didn’t need blackmail—Warren would have done it for free. The fact that Hightower is also willing to pay him for his troubles is a nice bonus.

Warren agrees and soon starts asking questions in all the wrong places and finds himself in real trouble. But, this is Warren Ritter. He has a unique outlook on everything and there is a method to his madness. The reader knows that not only will he get out of it but that his solution in this fast paced cozy style read will not be ordinary.

As in the first novel, politics and the state of the country are constant background themes to the work. So too is the concept of evil and the forms it may take. Neither thematic backdrop, though always subtlety present, detracts from the main engrossing mystery. Instead, as in most good novels, such issues work to enhance character development and the read. Such is the case here, which builds upon a strong first book to provide another mighty good read.

High Priestess
By David Skibbins
Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martins Minotaur)
ISBN# 0-312-35233-6

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note here or at with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005