Saturday, July 31, 2010

Barry's Reviews: "Hard Tack" by Barbara D'Amato

HARD TACK (1991) by Barbara D'Amato

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Journalist Catherine "Cat" Marsala is torn when Hal Briskman, editor of Chicago Today, approaches her about doing a story for the publication. As a freelancer and, the reader gathers, as someone who prides herself on being professional, she welcomes a paying assignment. As a non-swimmer who nearly drowned in childhood, the assignment worries her.

The assignment consists of boarding the yacht of a wealthy businessman and his wife on Fourth of July weekend and sailing around Lake Michigan with them and a group of their wealthy friends. "Get a lot on how you sail a boat," Hal tells her. "How the very rich live. Are they really different from other people? Do they have class? What is class? What do they eat? Do they wear diamonds at the wheel? Brush their teeth in champagne?"

If Cat didn't accept the assignment, there would be neither a book nor this review. (Saw that coming, didn't you?)

Her hosts, the owners of the yacht Easy Girl, are Will Honeywell, president of the manufacturing company Honeywell Furniture, and his wife Belinda. Their guests include their son Bill and his friend Mary Shaughnessy, a second-year student at Yale Law School; Dr. Daniel Silverman, sports medicine specialist; Belinda's brother Dr. Greg Mandel, a well-known Chicago surgeon, and his wife Twinkie, who owns a successful jewelry boutique; Takuro Tsunami, an engineer; Bret Falcon, a young Broadway star who hopes to make it in films, too; and Chuck Kroop, another furniture manufacturer who, along with the Honeywells, financed Bret's successful Broadway musical Off and On. Also aboard is a young man named Emery Langmar, who is the yacht's sole crewman, and who waits on the guests as often as he deals with nautical matters.

Cat's fears that she might be regarded as an unwanted outsider are quickly disposed of; the Honeywells and most of their guests treat her cordially. The Honeywells and some of the others teach her the fine points of sailing, and she takes to it enthusiastically. But, as a reader might expect, tensions develop among the guests as their voyage goes on. Twinkie Mandel, for instance, is quite flirtatious, which doesn't sit well with her husband. Chuck Kroop, in particular, is coarse, overbearing, and fond of inappropriately touching the women aboard--especially Twinkie.

Greg eventually confronts Chuck, and a violent fight erupts. Chuck turns murderous, and is only subdued when Daniel Silverman forcibly administers a shot of Valium. He's then carried to the master stateroom and locked in. The Easy Girl encounters a dangerous night of stormy weather during which nobody gets any sleep save for the narcotized Chuck. Those who needn't be on deck congregate below, most in the area of the galley. This gives them a good view of the door to the master stateroom.

So when Chuck is discovered with his throat cut, it seems at first reasonable to assume he committed suicide. The nature of his death and the nature of his wounds suggest otherwise. Suicides don‘t usually cut their own throats--even when they're not loopy from a shot of Valium. They find quicker and less painful methods of killing themselves. But how could it be murder when nobody saw anyone enter or leave the stateroom? The impossible aspect of the situation makes it all the more chilling to Cat, not least because the yacht is becalmed after the storm and its motor will not start because of water in the fuel line. Its communications equipment has been sabotaged. She and the others are thus trapped on a boat with an unknown murderer.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, impossible crime stories--which category subsumes locked-room puzzles--are my favorite types of mysteries, whether sedate or hardboiled. I'm a sucker for them, though unfortunately some of them suck. Hard Tack is not one of those. I found it quite entertaining, even if the locked-room murder method, when finally revealed, strained credulity as many such methods are wont to do. Cat Marsala's first-person narration is lively, leavened with humor that's sometimes sassy but seldom snarky, and maintains a good pace. (I knew I liked her when, in the first chapter, she said she had packed two novels to take along on the trip: John Dickson Carr's The Three Coffins and The Judas Window.) In keeping with the tradition of many Golden Age mysteries, Barbara D'Amato provides the reader with a sketch of the Easy Girl and its below-deck layout.

The caveats? The murder doesn't occur until a little more than halfway through, the lead-up time being devoted to character interaction and development, and a lot of discussions about the fine points of sailing and what kinds of conditions sailors encounter and how they contend with them. (D'Amato provides a glossary of nautical terms at the back of the book.) Some readers may grow impatient, especially if they're landlubbers. I'm one of those, but I was neither impatient nor bored. Besides which, some of the information is crucial to the murder's solution.

All things considered, Hard Tack is a pretty good mystery.

Barry Ergang (c) 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books--"Memory Of A Murder" by Earl Staggs

For this week’s “Friday’s Forgotten Books” segment hosted and orchestrated by Patti Abbott, I have selected Earl Stagg’s very enjoyable novel, “Memory Of A murder.” Earl and I are in the same writing group and are friends, but if I had thought his novel stunk, I would have said so then and certainly would now. Earl has absolutely no problem marking up my work and I his, so objectivity isn’t an issue as far as I am concerned. What you, my reader, think is another matter so in the interest of full disclosure I mention it.

This novel was first published years ago by Quiet Storm Publishing. Earl was one of many authors left hanging by the collapse of that publisher. Earl managed to get his rights back and then with a new cover and a tweak here and there, the book came back out a couple of years ago published by Tidewater Press. Earl, when he is not promoting this book, any of his short stories, workshops and appearances, or flirting with the ladies, swears that there is a sequel planned and in the works.

There better be…..

Former FBI Agent Adam Kingston has made a bit of a name for himself since he left the bureau. Thanks to a rather freakish accident, he has the ability to touch objects connected to individuals and see what has happened to people---a sort of remote viewing. Such talent comes in handy at times, especially when the mother of his godson asks Adam to check on him.

Other than a brief image of a strange unkempt longhaired bearded man, Adam Kingston sees that everything is fine with Junior. Random images often drift into the viewing of the person he is concentrating on, so he isn’t that concerned about the man. But then the vision of the strange man appears in the flesh on his doorstep seeking Adam’s help. Suffering from amnesia, the man who gives his name as Chip Weathers believes he may have committed a murder. He has seen news reports of a body that was recently discovered buried in a basement in Baltimore. The woman died approximately sixteen years ago, which was about the same time as his amnesia. According to Chip, the doctors blame his amnesia on the shock of a tragic event. Chip believes he knew the woman and killed her and wants Adam to find out who she was and why he killed her.

In Baltimore, Detective Brenda McCort has her hands full. Not only is she working the female body in the basement case, she now has another body to deal with. “This time, a man shot, wrapped in black plastic trashbags and left in the trunk of a car.” (Chapter 2) He hasn’t been dead long and won’t be the last, as her cases will lead her to Ocean City and Adam’s case. Not only will they have to solve a sixteen-year-old murder case, but stop a new wake of killings based on the past.

Shifting in point of view from Adam, to Brenda, to a killer who enjoys the work way too much, this novel moves forward at a rapid pace. Both primary characters have suffered major traumas making the past a heavy and recurrent theme in the work. At the same time, both have survived and by being rich in such detail, become very real to the readers. So too is the killer who, unlike in many novels, is not a cold calculating unfeeling killing machine. While he may be a product that showcases the worst society has to offer, his motivations are clear and realistic and the killer becomes just as real for the reader.

As in a few other offerings I have had the pleasure of reading from this publisher, this is a quality work. The characters are real, the story complex and changing, and Mr. Staggs performs an excellent piece of literary deception that keeps readers guessing to the end. Fans of his numerous short stories will not be disappointed and neither will those new to his work.

Memory Of A Murder
By Earl Staggs
Cornell Maritime Press/ Tidewater Publishers
April 2008

ISBN# 978-0-8703-3604-1


265 Pages

Material provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Market News--Level Best Books

Level Best Books will survive under new leadership according to the press release found at Fortunately, they intend to continue with publication plans for this year's anthology "Thin Ice."

With so many ventures closing outright or going on hiatus, it is nice to see one going forward.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Read beyond America

apparently as somebody from a university in China keeps trying to comment. Since the comment is always in Chinese it is never approved.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wishing I Had Written

something half as clever as this. After working on a couple of flash pieces and a chapter of my novel this morning, I decided to take a break and start reading a new book having just finished "Storm Prey" ( one of the better John Sandford novels in recent memory) yesterday.

Thanks to a trip to the library yesterday, I have a copy of the new book "The Best Of Joe R. Lansdale." This collection features a number of stories from this Texas author as well as his novella, "Bubba Ho-Tep.

The collection opens with a very funny and seriously twisted story about Godzilla being in a twelve step program. It isn't easy to fight the drives within when one wants to scorch stuff and feel humans squish between the toes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books--"Jasmine's Fate" by Randy Rawls

For this week's Friday's Forgotten Books" hosted by Patti Abbott, I have selected "Jasmine's Fate" by Randy. Randy is a class act and an author who should be on your reading list. Below is the review I wrote several years ago.

In the interests of fair disclosure, I first met Randy Rawls at the recent HHCC convention in Dallas. A friendly human being and a neat guy was my initial assessment and that never changed. I went away from the conference wishing I had been able to sit and talk to him about writing as well as life in general more than I was able to over those short two days. That same feeling held true while I read his latest novel which was the first book I had ever read by him. Reading his book was one of the few times in my life that it felt like the author was speaking directly to me and telling the story.

Dallas, home of the fictional Lee Henry Oswald written by Harry Hunsicker is also home to the fictional Arthur Conan Edwards, Ace to his friends and his writer friend, Randy Rawls. Stylistically opposite in extremes, both are always open to helping damsels in distress especially if it is a redhead as Ace has a weakness for redheads. Summoned by his good friend Clint Ravel, lead detective on a homicide case, Ace leaves his two cats, Sweeper and Striker, home alone to tear up the place while he drives over to meet his latest potential client, Jasmine Loverly.

Ace is divorced, drives a convertible Chrysler Sebring, has a good friend and neighbor, Mr. Harbinger (who keeps an eye out for him), knows a very good lawyer by the name of Candi Maladay, and the fore mentioned two cats and weakness for redheads. Jasmine Loverly is definitely a redhead and definitely beautiful. She is also definitely, a suspect in the murder of Doug Isendorf, III. He died from a kitchen knife being shoved deep into his chest and the beautiful Jasmine, who cries almost continuously, has his blood on her hands. His father is convinced she did it and wants her buried under the jail. When she isn't crying, she's gorgeous and before long, Ace is trying to clear her name while following a trail that leads from Dallas/ Ft. Worth to East Texas and back again.

Released through Hilliard and Harris, this latest novel in the series was a first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having met and talked with Randy Rawls at the recent HHCC convention in Dallas, I found his book to read just like Randy talks. It’s a cozy style novel told from Ace's viewpoint with a cast of solid recurring characters and an intriguing mystery. Much like Randy, the work carries a quiet confidence that everything will turn out in the end. The result is a comfortable page turning read where the bad guys get theirs in the end, Ace has his girl and his cats, and all is right with the world. Pop a Killian, Ace's drink of choice, and sit back and enjoy.

Jasmine's Fate

By Randy Rawls

Hilliard and Harris


ISBN #1-59133-215-X

Large Trade Paperback

223 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple (c) 2007, 2010
CARPATHIAN SHADOWS 2 is an anthology that includes my mystery/paranormal story 'By The Light Of The Moon." More info at

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Needle Time Again

in the morning, long before dawn, I will be reporting to a local surgery center for another injection in my lower back. Hopefully, it will help--even just a little. The last two weeks have been hell on so many levels. Any relief will be huge. So, cross your fingers and keep a good thought.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Moon Day at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas

I can't make it, but from news coverage this always looks like a very cool event.

Today, July 18, is Moon Day at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. Come help us celebrate the lunar landing at the museum with give-aways, raffles, information, speakers, and classes all about space.
Time: 1 - 5 pm
Frontiers of Flight Museum
6911 Lemmon Ave on the southeast corner of Love Field
Adults: $8, Seniors(65plus): $6, Youth/Students (3-17): $5, Children under 3 FREE!
Phone Museum 214-350-3600 & Museum Store 214-350-1651

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Some Days

are worse than others and this is one of the really bad, bad days. "Hurting" does not begin to describe the pain in my left leg and back today. I swear, somebody must have mugged me in the night again and beat the heck out of me with a baseball bat. Apparently, they also inserted some sort of probe deal that they can activate remotely at random intervals to give me the feelings of numbness and electrical shocks up and down the leg.

Damn commandos on the black helicopters. I know they are out there....somewhere.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books--"Seven by Seven" edited by Tony Burton

For this week's Friday's Forgotten Books" hosted by Patti Abbott, I have selected an anthology edited by Tony Burton titled "Seven by Seven: Seven Deadly Tales Of The Seven Deadly Sins From Seven Deadly Authors." Published by Wolfmont Publishing several years ago, the book was very good and is still good now. With all the hype these days regarding how anthologies and collections fit perfectly into the increasingly short attention spans of The American People (I always wonder who The American People are because no matter the topic it usually doesn't seem to include me or anyone I know) this anthology seemed to be a good choice.

Other than cleaning up a typo here and there and blowing the dust off, the review below is as it was published back in 2006. For your reading pleasure.....

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. There was also 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 aim 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

The material was provided by the editor in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006-2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fun Thing

to waste some time on. There is a new deal called "I Write Like" which will take some of any text you have written, analyze it, and tell you who you write like. So, I took the first page and half of my novel and got:

I write like
William Gibson

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

So, for grins, I took my most recent review that was on the cozy mystery "Devils Island" by Carl Brookins and got:

I write like
J. D. Salinger

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

What does it all mean? Is it remotely accurate?

Heck, if I know. But, it is kind of fun to do and it could easily get addictive because I bet each piece of my fiction as well as most of my reviews would generate vastly different authors than the two examples above. The site is at should you be son inclined to try it.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reviewing: "Devils Island" by Carl Brookins

The best laid plans often go wrong and it is clear from the beginning of this enjoyable cozy style novel that is exactly what is happening. What had been planned as a working vacation for Michael Tanner and his wife Mary Whitney to Lake Superior and The Apostle Islands is morphing into Mary Whitney making a solo trip and waiting for Michael to join her later. Michael’s busy schedule has taken a big hit and he has to stay behind in Seattle to deal with an important client. He would prefer for Mary to stay behind and wait for him but Mary isn’t about to wait.

Mary feels compelled to return to Lake Superior despite the earlier attempt on her life there. Something about the place has an unexplainable allure for her and she feels a need, almost bordering on obsession, to get back there. Her plan is to pick up their chartered sailboat and have some quiet time by herself before Michael joins her later. Mary isn’t worried about anything or anyone and that includes her worthless husband Edward Tobias who she is convinced poses no threat at all to her.

Mary is especially keen to explore Devils Island. Ignoring the concern expressed by her husband Michael, she makes the trip to Lake Superior. After claiming the boat, she not only makes a new friend and reacquaints herself with an old enemy in a battle for survival in the frigid waters of Lake Superior.

This enjoyable cozy style read is the latest in the series written by talented author Carl Brookins (numerous anthologies, the Sean Sean private investigator series, Jack Marston series, etc) and is another good one. Primarily oriented around Mary Whitney, the book is highly atmospheric and builds suspense at a slow steady pace. That pace is finally kicked into high gear the last seventy pages or so when Mary makes an amazingly obvious mistake for any seasoned mystery reader equivelant to meeting somebody at the abandoned warehouse at two in the morning unarmed.

Despite that plot point, the overall book is a good one. While there isn’t any real character development in this mystery, none is really expected in this series at this point. Both Michael and Marry are well established characters at this point in the series and aren’t going to change. What is provided in this story is a lot of history and information on the Lake Superior area as well as plenty of action, mystery, and suspense. Author Carl Brookins of the group collectively known as the “Minnesota Crime Wave” is well known for providing very good reads in his many works and “Devils Island” is no exception.

Devils Island

Carl Brookins

Echelon Press, LLC

ISBN# 1-59080-643-3

December 2009


240 Pages


Material provided directly by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Event--Writer's Guild of Texas Meeting on Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday, 19 July 2010

7-8:30 p.m.

Topic: Write Tight

Speaker: Melissa O'Neal

Richardson Public Library

900 Civic Center Dr.

Richardson TX 75080

Basement Room

Melissa O'Neal's first paid job was writing newspaper ad copy. Back then, she could help you sell a $100,000 house in 20 words or less. Today, she teaches writers how to strengthen their manuscripts by replacing unproductive words with more creative choices, or deleting the lazy words altogether. Melissa's Harris Street Editing clients end up with a more professional, salable piece whether it's fiction or non-fiction.

She gets annoyed with editors who allow "Dr Pepper" into print with a period, which in her world, is as bad as no capital letter on brand names such as "Jeep," "Kleenex," and "Google." She talks back to the media people who say "PIN number" and "close proximity." She cringes when she sees an invitation to the "First Annual" anything.

Her ultimate goal is to teach writers to self-edit so well that agents and acquiring editors will be blown away by the manuscripts and will beg to rush them into publication. During her talk, she'll give examples of good writing, poor writing, and writing that should have never made it into print. And she'll help you become a better self-editor.

It would be a good idea to take notes while Melissa talks to us on how to "Write Tight."

Kat Smith, Membership Chair, is developing a membership directory to help members find members with similar interests, etc. to partner for critique or support. The membership form will provide a clear picture of each member's profile. Take the opportunity to talk to her at the next meeting.

Annual 2010 WGT dues of $20.00 may be paid at meetings, by mail to Writers' Guild of Texas, 6009 W. Parker Road, Suite 149-175, Plano TX 75093, or online at http:/

All WGT events located at the Richardson Public Library are free and open to the public. For information on the sponsoring organization, visit

· Monday, 16 August 2010. Kay Winzenried: Travel Writing—Opportunities and Realities.

· Monday, 20 September 2010. Cindy Vallar: "To Be or Not to Be and Other Editing Quandaries".

· Monday, 18 October 2010. Ben Johnson, author of Sam Zell biography.

· Saturday, 6 November 2010. Workshop. Suzanne Frank, author of seven novels, including time-travel novel meticulously researched for historical accuracy. Director: Continuing and Professional Education Creative Writing Program, SMU.

· Monday, 15 November 2010. Clay Reynolds. TBA

· Monday, 20 December 2010. Christmas Party. WGT All-Stars Read In

All Writers' Guild of Texas events held at the Richardson Public Library are free and open to the public. Visit WGT's website: .

Writers' Events Calendar (contact to have your conferences, meetings, or other writing-related event listed here—no individual book signings, please):

· First Saturday each month: Dallas MWASW (Mystery Writers of America, Southwest). Texas Land & Cattle, 812 South Central Expressway, Richardson, TX 75080, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. $5.00 door fee, cash only. All who attend are invited to remain for lunch. Contact info: Permission to forward.

· 23-25 July 2010. Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Grapevine TX.

· 17-19 September 2010. FenConVII. FenCon is of the fen, by the fen, and for the fen.

· The Dallas Area Writers Group (DAWG) has put together a summer reading list—including a reading list for writers. Check it out! The more readers in the world—the more opportunities for writers!

· Second Saturday each month: North Texas Speculative Fiction Workshop.

· Visit for up-to-date information on Writer's League of Texas workshops held in Austin TX.

· Visit for guidelines to participate in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

The Writers' Guild of Texas is a nonprofit professional organization whose primary purpose is to provide a forum for information, support, and sharing among writers; to help members improve and market their writing skills; and to promote the interests of writers and the writing community.

If you don't wish to receive these announcements, please let me know.

Permission to forward this email is not only granted, but encouraged. Let's get the word out to as many in the writing community as possible.

Carol Woods, Communications

Writers' Guild of Texas


Monday, July 12, 2010

Some Publishing News

A couple of interesting pieces.

First is on Night Shade Books

Second is on Wolfmont


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Reviewing: "Thunder Beach" by Michael Lister

Former reporter Merrick McKnight is back at the annual “Thunder Beach” rally at Panama Beach, Florida. For many, the focus is on the bikes and the hot babes in attendance. For some, the focus is on the illegal stuff they can do and get away with in all the chaos and confusion during the rally. For Merrick the focus is on a woman.

Actually, his focus is on two women though that isn’t clear at the beginning. One is a stripper that he has fallen in love with despite the knowledge that only losers delude themselves into thinking a stripper loves them. The other woman, first glimpsed on the cover of the Thunder Beach Program guide, is a daughter he has lost touch with for years.

An unemployed newspaper reporter, Merrick is disintegrating and while he searches for a way to hold it together, he searches for his daughter and a way to get back into her life. From the beginning, she makes it pretty clear she doesn’t want him back in her life or his help. Merrick figures she does want his help and she most likely needs it. Especially considering somebody keeps warning him away from her and to leave her alone. Merrick intends to finds out just what she has gotten herself mixed up in and to make up for his past failures with her.

This is a gritty crime novel recently released by Tyrus books and a good one that roars on all cylinders from the very first page. Michael’s desperations, which come in several forms, are acutely realistic as are all characters in this fast paced crime novel. It doesn’t take long at all to see the world through his eyes and feel his various pains and guilt. The electric atmospheric charged environment of the beach and its inhabitants during the rally also brings the book further alive for readers.

This isn’t one of those books that hold readers back at a distance and dispassionately tells the tale. Much like “The Deputy” by Victor Gischler also recently released from Tyrus Books, this is an in your face novel that doesn’t play games or shirk from the story it tells. Graphic at times, this very good novel goes fast with plenty of twists and turns until it all too soon crashes to a jarring stop.

Thunder Beach” is about crime, murder, sex and personal conflicts and it ain’t no beach read.

Thunder Beach

Michael Lister

Tyrus Books

May 2010

ISBN# 978-1935562054 (Hardback)

# 978-1935562047 (Paperback)

240 Pages

$24.95 (Hardback)

$14.95 (Paperback)

ARC provided directly by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Reviewing: "The Poacher's Son" by Paul Doiron

First, a little personal news before we get to the review.

As some of you know, things have been pretty rough here since late March with my wife’s stroke (she is doing much better now), the recent death of her mother, as well as my own health crisis. What initially presented with my left leg ballooning up, color changes in it with horrible pain, and all the rest of it making the doctors think blood clot has turned out to be caused by a number of discs in my back massively swollen and pushing on nerves and things. This has meant that I have not worked the day job since late March and haven’t been writing much at all. I have watched way too much daytime TV (you are not the father!, Rachel Ray is hot, Tyra is not….) and worrying about everything.
The news at the physical therapist a few days ago wasn't good at all and I am very discouraged. Sitting for any length of time, not to mention walking, is still very problematic and nearly impossible. I still can’t drive which means to go anywhere I have to wait until my wife Sandi can drive me. Basically, my world remains shrunk down to one floor of my apartment as it has since late March. Everyday, I move between the bathroom, the living room couch and the back porch overlooking the small creek that flows through the complex. I am still on unpaid leave which means I have no paycheck and no income with the clock relentlessly ticking on how much longer this can go on before I am terminated. With no income, I can't pay for my monthly insurance premium, the medical treatments I need, the utilities, food and all the rest of it.

I am trying very hard to not dwell on what all this means and focus on what I can do and not what I can't. But, the increasing list of what I can't do, and all the ripple effects and consequences of that, are taking a toll on all of us. I am the first to admit I am a very cranky patient under the best of circumstances and these certainly aren’t the best. I still can't do what I normally do when stressed which is go fishing, take a walk, etc. Heck, just getting out of the shower by myself seems to present a challenge as I made a very spectacular and loud fall the other evening getting out. Luckily, my oldest was still here, heard me fall and came running to the rescue. Luckily, while battered and bruised, I didn't break anything or concuss myself. However, the fall again pointed out how dependent I am on others and that physically doing anything is nearly impossible. If I can't go for a change of scenery and to get it together by being somewhere else by myself, my only other option is escape by reading.
Fiction has always provided a means of escape from the real world for me. Beyond that, I have always had a strong preference for mysteries, crime books, etc. that featured protagonists in outdoorsy jobs dealing with crime or some other issue. If anything, that bias is a bit stronger these days. Something to always take into account when you read a review is the reviewer’s biases. My preferences might explain why I like the book.
Or, "The Poacher's Son" IS a very good book.

After working a bear sighting case and calming down the irate homeowner, Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch comes home late one night to find a cryptic message on his answering machine left by his father, Jack Bowditch. They haven’t spoken in two years and the message isn’t much beyond the fact that his dad is clearly in some sort of trouble. His Father lives off the land in the north woods of Maine and doesn’t recognize that the government can tell him when he can kill what. He is a man that never should have married, or fathered a child, and yet he did both. Mike never measured up to his dad’s standards and for Mike, the feeling is mutual.
Instead of hearing it from his dad, Mike has to learn from his supervisors that his dad is a suspect in the ambush murder of Deputy Bill Brodeur and Wendigo Timberlands spokesman Jonathan Shipman. Wendigo is buying up the land in the area and generating lots of anger and threats from the locals who are losing their homes and their way of life. Deputy Brodeur was driving Shipman to a motel after a contentious public meeting and both were gunned down in the police cruiser. They never had a chance.
In trying to clear his dad, Mike Bowditch not only risks his professional career and his life, he is forced to deal with his painful past.
While this debut novel has all the usual clichéd stereotypes such as the violent drunkard father committing illegal acts, the son who wound up trying to be different than good old dad by joining law enforcement, the girlfriend who loves him but can’t stand his lack of money or inability to open completely up to her as well as others, author Paul Doiron uses his expertise on the area and his writing skills to make the book work. Reminiscent of the work of C. J. Boxx, Paul Doiron brings the land and the characters alive in a way few authors can do. Shifting in points of view with Mike Bowditch always primary for readers, the read moves along at a fast clip despite the frequent use of flashbacks to back fill the history of characters.
Sure to appeal to readers familiar with the local color and flavor, this novel also works for those of us who have never set foot in Maine. This novel is a very strong start to what could be a very good and highly entertaining series.
The Poacher’s Son
Paul Doiron
Minotaur Books
April 2010
ISBN# 978-0-312-55846-8
336 Pages
While the novel is carried in my local library in Plano, TX, I received this ARC by the way of the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Reviewing: "The Deputy" by Victor Gischler

Coyote Crossing, Oklahoma has virtually nothing going for it. A one stop light town, it barely exists these days. Just about everyone growing up in Coyote Crossing dreams of getting out. Toby Sawyer certainly did and thanks to various reasons is back with nothing much to show for his life other than his wife and son. That and a girlfriend on the side. Being broke and a part time deputy on a very small police force with an unhappy wife, a baby that needs things like diapers and food, and little prospects for the future can drive a man to girlfriends, drink, and dark thoughts. Still, he is better off than Luke Jordan whom he has known forever. Toby doesn’t know if Luke Jordan ever dreamed of leaving Coyote Crossing, Oklahoma.

In the here and now on this August night, Luke Jordan is very much dead having been shot at least nine times. Hanging half in and half out of his pickup, Luke is done and not going anywhere. Clearly, he made a wrong decision that got him killed. It won’t be the only wrong decision somebody makes this hot August night. Chief Frank Krueger instructs Toby Sawyer to stay with the body and wait for the county corner to get there while he notifies the family of the fact they only have six sons now. Toby isn’t thrilled and it doesn’t take long after the Chief leaves for Toby to make his first mistake of the night since seeing the body.

He leaves the body.

That sets off a chain of increasingly violent events in this dark and cynically funny at times novel. With a fast paced style, author Victor Gischler spins a graphic and wild tale of violence, sex and survival in a little town in the middle of nowhere.

In many ways, this 256 page read provided by Tyrus Books reminds one of an action movie. The author writes with a minimalist style of short sentences with little description which works very well for the action scenes. Character depth comes in the form of a sentence here or there and on occasion a couple of paragraphs scattered throughout the book. Since the book comes from his perspective, readers find out a lot about Toby, his love for his son, and the women in his life along with his past. We don’t learn as much about other characters in this book though what we do find out is plenty and often not good at all.

Filled with detailed graphic violence as well as several detailed sexual situations and the occasional explosion this book also provides plenty of mystery and action in the quick read. While I highly recommend this entertaining crime novel, it clearly isn’t for everyone. Nothing is left to reader imagination, so if you prefer the cozy style of novel where violence and sex are off the page and just implied, this book isn’t for you. Author Victor Gischler takes the reader by the back of the head and shoves you face first into everything in “The Deputy.”

The Deputy

Victor Gischler

Tyrus Books

April 2010


256 pages


ARC provided directly by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Reviewing: "Lost Witness" by Laura Elvebak

Texas Author Laura Elvebak introduced readers to counselor Nikki Alexander and the plight of homeless teens in Houston in her novel “Less Dead.” While the subject matter of homeless kids is painful for any caring parent, the book was a good one filled with plenty of realistic characters and mystery. Nikki Alexander and many others return in this sequel titled the “Lost Witness.”

While outside the shelter known as “Open Palms” one fall evening on another matter, one of her kids known as “Barky” brings Nikki a very young child. A seemingly scared Barky claims to know nothing about the boy and quickly vanishes back into the Houston night. The boy is dirty, incredibly thin and shivering from the cool fall air. With nobody available from the police or other workable options, Nikki takes him home for the night. Clearly the child has been traumatized and Nikki is still very concerned about the boy when she meets with the police and a caseworker for Child Protective Services the next day.

Before long, it becomes clear that the boy may have witnessed his own mother’s murder. With Barky missing and possibly having crucial knowledge in the case, the police in the form of her old partner Sergeant Luis Perez and his new partner Nelson Spalonetti need her help. They aren’t the only ones who are looking for Barky and the mute little boy. With so many looking for the kids, it becomes imperative that Nelson and Nikki solve the case first to protect both kids.

Featuring many of the same characters as the first book, author Laura Elvebak has crafted another well done cozy style mystery with some romance. While the focus is on solving the case, there is no denying the heat generated between Nelson and Nikki which leads to some descriptive erotic scenes that for some readers push the boundaries of the cozy genre. Those pleasant interludes between Nelson and Nikki are not forced and come about naturally as a result of character development and storylines.

Billed as a sequel, this book could easily be read as a very enjoyable stand alone. Matters in the first book are briefly referenced in such a way as to not prevent readers from reading that book later. Both “Less Dead”

and “Lost Witness” are available from Texas based publisher L&L Dreamspell who has developed a strong reputation of providing quality books.

Lost Witness

Laura Elvebak

L&L Dreamspell


ISBN 978-1-60318-144-0


286 Pages


Material supplied by the author at my request in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books--"Touched By Darkness" by Catherine Spangler

For this week's Friday's Forgotten Books" hosted by Patti Abbott, I have selected "Touched By Darkness" by Catherine Spangler. I originally received this book for review consideration connected to the monthly column I do for the Texas edition of the newspaper Senior News. It wasn't something I would have hunted down on my own, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It is a good one and well worth your time.

Atlantis existed thousands of years ago before being destroyed and sinking into the North Atlantic. Its legacy lives on today through reincarnated beings that walk among us mere mortals. Some of them are the sons of Belial who relish chaos and violence. They are opposed by other reincarnated Atlantian souls known as the Sentinels. Just like the Belians, they are mortals that have superhuman powers. They attempt to track and eliminate Belians on behalf of the Sanctioned which are the aides to the priest of Atlantis. Last but not least are the conductors—those rare humans that are genetically capable of linking with a Sentinel. Such is the world envisioned by Richardson, Texas Author Catherine Spangler in the start of her new series.

Seven years ago, Kara's Sentinel lover Richard Wayman was killed in a violent confrontation with a Belian. His legacy for her is two fold---an all encompassing love for him intertwined with the painful memeories of his violent death which she witnessed and their son, Alex. While she can't do much of anything to get rid of the terror filled memories, she can and will do anything in her power to protect their son, Alex. She moved and moved again, each time working to hide their son who gradually showed signs that he has his father's abilities. Eventually they settled in the small Texas town of Zorro where she resumed her medical practice.

All was peaceful and tranquil until one morning she arrives in town with Alex and she senses the power. She hasn't sensed power that strong since Richard and it is clear that the tall man in the duster staring hard at her is the source. He is Damien Morgan; ostensibly a writer for a nationwide magazine and who, in reality is a Sentinel on the trail of a Belian killing in the area. A death, dismissed as natural causes was the work of a Belian and there will be more. The fact that Alex is, an untrained Sentinel and as such broadcasting his own presence, is sure to lure the Belian to them. To protect Alex, Damien must convince Kara of what is happening now and what is to come if he doesn't become part of their lives. For Kara, she is torn between her desire to run yet again, the memories of a man she once loved, the lure Damien represents as he is the first to make her feel this way since Richard, and the danger her young son faces. Gradually, she realizes that running away won't work this time and she has to stand and fight with Damien.

What follows in an entertaining paranormal romance. Simplified greatly, the novel is the age old battle between good and evil. In Catherine Spangler's hands, it becomes something more with rich complex characters full of emotion. Evil threatens in the form of a Belian and yet Kara is one of us all who fears facing again what she has dealt with before. Besides, Damien is clearly a hunk!

It is mildly graphic in a couple of points and some reviewers have complained about that aspect of it arguing that the relationship between Damien and Kara is cheapened by Kara's actions. It would appear that such reviewers are being overly critical of a clear character development issue, though obviously there is a point to their position in that the novel will be read differently by each gender in addition to the personal background of the reviewer. With interesting characters, the occasional plot twist, and plenty of romance this is a novel that delivers a strong read within the genre and is well worth your time.

Touched By Darkness
By Catherine Spangler
Berkley Sensation
January 2007
ISBN # 978-0-425-21400-8
292 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2010

Thursday, July 01, 2010


The last several posts here have been about me. This one is no exception and not a topic I really want to address. But, it needs to be done.

Working on writing reviews again as I can. The news at the physical therapist a couple of days ago wasn't good at all and I am very discouraged. Sitting for any length of time, not to mention walking, is still very problematic. Basically, my world remains shrunk down to my apartment as it has since late March. Everyday, I move between the bathroom, the living room couch and the back porch overlooking the small creek that flows through the complex. I am still home on unpaid leave which means I have no paycheck and no income. With no income, I can't pay for the medical treatments I need, or the utilities, food and all the rest of it.

I am trying to dwell on what all this means and focus on what I can do and not what I can't. But, the list of what I can't do, and all the ripple effects and consequences of that, are taking a toll on all of us.