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_tipple@att.net

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_tipple@att.net

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006