Monday, August 30, 2010

Barry's New Book: "A Flash Of Fear: Six Very Short Stories"

Barry Ergang, who occasionally will review a book here, has just released a free book of several of his flash fiction stories through Smashwords. The cool thing, besides the fact he may be able to teach me how to format stuff for there, is the fact that the book is free. At least for now--until his next book comes out featuring longer previously published works.

The direct link for the book is:

After you read it---review it.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Still Alive

and still hurting big time. Have not accomplished much of anything, hence nothing here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reviewing: "Stuff To Spy For" by Don Bruns

Stuff to Spy For
is the third novel in the series (Stuff To Die For and Stuff Dreams Are Made Of) and another mystery that has its comedic moments. James and Skip are back, still stuck in their dead end jobs, and still dreaming of their big pay day. Finally, things might be taking an upswing.

Skip Moore still sells security systems and this time has landed a whale of a client, Synco Systems. Synco Systems has a major client of its own, the Department of Defense, so Synco has to upgrade their security systems. It means a huge commission for Skip. But, anything good involving Skip and James means there has to be at least one catch.

Skip knew the beautiful Sarah Crumbly back in the day. If he didn’t have Emily, a woman that he loves and calls “Em,” he might make a run at Sarah. Too bad she is having an affair with Sandler Conroy, the married president of Synco Systems. All Sarah wants out of Skip, besides the security contract, is for Skip to play the role of boyfriend to provide cover for her affair. If he will do that, there will be a private financial bonus for him

If only things were that simple.

Deception is of paramount importance in the spy game and that is certainly the case in this enjoyable novel. While the read has a significant logic problem in this day of internet mapping services and internet tracking services, it does work on many levels and angles. While not as funny as earlier reads in the series, this book which could be read as a stand alone, does provide a number of chuckles while things go from bad to worse. Character interaction between Skip, James, and Em works well as do most plot points.

According to marketing materials, many reviews and readers see this series “… as the Hardy Boys grown up.” I absolutely never have. The Hardy Boys were significantly smarter. Instead, I see this series more like the couple of well natured guys we all knew in High School who, despite their best intentions, never could pull much of anything major off. No matter what situation they got themselves into and no matter how good the deal, they would screw it up somehow. Bumbling good guys that just never could quite make it happen.

Such is the case here in Stuff To Spy For. The deal sounds too good to be true from the get go. It is and before long the guys are mixed up in adultery, murder, international espionage and a bunch of other stuff and bumbling along they best they can in a search to get the truth and get paid. Easier said than done in this enjoyable novel that is part comedy, part mystery and all pretty good.

Stuff To Spy For

Don Bruns

Oceanview Publishing

November, 2009

ISBN# 978-1-933515-22-9


305 Pages


Material provided by Publicist MaryGlenn McCombs in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books--"Bloody Halls" by Carl Brookins

For today’s Friday Forgotten Books segment hosted by Patti Abbott, we are supposed to be covering books that we remember being great when we were eighteen to twenty-three. For me, this was the early eighties and at this point in my life, nothing book wise stands out from that time. I remember well going to school and working various on campus jobs, dating the woman who became my wife, but book wise I remember nothing. I am sure I read good stuff, but I have no idea now any specifics.

So, I thought I would approach this entry from an academic setting. What book, featuring college life and the college institution, was crime based and good? A couple came to mind and I finally settled on Carl Brookin’s “Bloody Halls.” Part of an outfit calling itself “The Minnesota Crime Wave” Carl has a number of series going in a variety of writing styles.

If you haven’t read him, pick up anything and it will be a good one. Below is the original review…


As Director of the Office of Student Life at City College of Minneapolis located in a number of buildings scattered across downtown Minneapolis, Jack Marston knows dealing with older adult students is going to be different and a challenge. This isn’t the normal college experience just because it is a campus-less college. The student population demographic is of older students juggling busy lives and careers, family responsibilities, and other issues with a college schedule. Then too there have been serious problems in the recent past with the Office of Student Life and it is Jack Marston’s job to lead the office forward and through his staff provide strong support services.

Along the way he has found time to begin building a relationship with Lori, a young lady in another department. There are issues there as well and they are trying to keep things as quiet as possible. Not because they are doing anything wrong but because people will talk and gossip can kill your career in a heartbeat in the world of academia.

Jack Marston has also found the time to indulge in his desire to act on stage. The College will be presenting Ibsen’s play, “Enemy of the People” and as Ibsen is a personal favorite, Marston is hoping for some minor role after he auditions. Instead, the young bitter director from the University across town selects him for the major role as Dr. Stockman, the enemy of the people. Marston knows he is overmatched and he also knows he has absolutely no way of getting out of it.

The same is true when the President of the College, Arthur Trammel assigns him the role of police liaison after a student is found murdered and dumped in the lobby of the theater. While Jack Marston would have had some contact possibly with the media once the story gets out, President Arthur Trammel expects him to do far more. Tapped for being discreet and with a mandate to assist the police with their investigation any way possible so that they quickly close the case because there is a fund drive and other issues at stake, Marston has no choice and must accept his new role for however long it takes.

When not working on his role in the play, Marston plays his other role of investigator. He starts with the troubling fact that the entire record of the deceased student has vanished from the computer system. The dead student no longer exists in the system. If he can figure out who did it and why that might point him in the direction of who committed the murder as opposed to the Police who seem to going in other directions. As the days turn into weeks and another death rocks the campus, Marston is led down a trail of lies, office politics, perversion and murder, until a violent confrontation in a snowstorm just outside his office puts everything he has worked for at risk.

Featuring some cutting humor about the joys of working at intuitions of higher learning, this cozy style mystery steadily ratchets up the suspense factor. Jack Marston has more than a cynical humor working for him and readers who work in academia will find themselves often nodding in agreement.

Couple that with an engaging writing style that quickly pulls readers into a world populated with interesting real life characters, a constantly changing mystery full of expected and unexpected twists, and plenty of action as Jack Marston gets out and gets his hands dirty investigating, this read is a real treat to start off the year. As in his other books and short stories, Author Carl Brookins, a member of the “Minnesota Crime Wave,” shows a real talent for story telling.

Bloody Halls
By Carl Brookins
Echelon Press
Large Trade Paperback
ISBN# 1-59080-570-4
260 Pages

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

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing and Health

Sunday marked the start of the sixth month I have had constant back, hip and left leg pain. It remains very hard to walk, sit, or do much of anything besides stretch out on the apartment living room floor and watch television. My world remains shrunk down to my apartment and I very rarely venture only at great difficulty and with assistance.

Not that I was ever prolific but my writing has dwindled down to almost nothing. Yet, some folks persist in telling me how lucky I have it because, since I am still not working despite the start of a new school year, I have all this time to write.

Just for the record, pain does not help the writing process. Pain pills certainly don't help the writing process. Physical therapy of the kind I am doing certainly doesn't help the writing process. None of this helps the writing process one bit.

So, I am having a real hard time finding the luck in the my ongoing nightmare.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reviewing: "Justice in June" by Barbara Levenson

For Miami Criminal Defense Attorney Mary Magruder Katz it was a normal Monday morning in June. The month of June in Miami means rain and lots of it usually during the morning and evening rush hours. Despite the constant rain, life is good these days. Things are going well with her new boyfriend and thanks to the events in “Fatal February” a thriving solo practice.

Her latest client is going to be very high profile since it is Judge Liz Maxwell. Simplifying greatly, Judge Maxwell is being investigated by the State’s Attorney of Florida for misconduct regarding some drug cases she handled. The recent broad daylight downtown Miami killing of a confidential informant linked to some of the drug cases she handled certainly won’t help her defense at all. Potentially, not only could Judge Maxwell go to jail if the allegations are proven true, thousands of cases are in jeopardy unless Mary Magruder can prove Judge Maxwell’s innocence.

A second new high profile case in the form of her boyfriend’s cousin, Luis Corona, is also sure to generate a political and media firestorm. Luis was onboard a plane from Argentina to the US when he was arrested by the Air Marshal with the physical assistance of a number of passengers. Facing terrorism charges by Homeland Security, he may be whisked away out of the country for interrogation if Mary Magruder can’t stop it. It would help if she could have access to him to prove his innocence.

She doe shave access to her boyfriend, Carlos Martin and he has his own escalating legal nightmare. A real estate developer, he needs her assistance regarding a condo project and some very upset clients. Not only does she need to prove him innocent, she needs to find a way out of the media spotlight to salvage their romance.

With three such high profile cases, it is not surprising that the attorney becomes a subject of the local and nationwide twenty-four hour news cycle. All that incessant media attention makes it not surprising when threats against her escalate into physical violence. The question becomes whether or not she can survive the perils in the court system and outside forces long enough to prove the innocence of any of her clients. Faced with few choices and time running out on everything, disbarment might be the least painful result of what she has to do to survive.

This sequel to “Fatal February” is another good novel in this cozy style series. Author Barbara Levenson keeps readers turning the pages with her steady mix of suspense, action, and romance against the backdrop of Miami and current day politics. Along the way she examinees issues regarding the Patriot Act and other measures that, while designed in theory to protect Americans, have caused much damage to the Constitution and our freedoms. In so doing, she points out the obvious facts while never preaching to the reader.

The end result is another good novel in this series. The book can be safely read as a stand alone. However, those readers who do start the series with “Fatal February” will get more out of this enjoyable book.

Justice in June

Barbara Levenson

Oceanview Publishing

June 7, 2010

ISBN# 978-1-933515-71-7


312 Pages


ARC supplied by Publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books---"The One Minute Assassin: A Novel" by Troy Cook

I have an extensive and according to some of the folks I have worked with over the years, a rather odd sense of humor. Mixing humor and mystery can be difficult,t but in this case it works well. So, for this week’s Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott, I have selected “The One Minute Assassin” by Troy Cook. Enjoy!


Good help is hard to find and that is certainly true in this case. Barry and Nails have a very simple task. They are to eliminate one by one the strongest competition in the latest chaotic governor's race in California. It would be nice if they made the deaths look like accidents. And maybe the first one does as people do, on occasion, fall out of windows.

Though they rarely happen to be so lucky as to face plant into their own star on the sidewalk of the Walk of Fame. Still, it could happen.

Things begin to go seriously haywire for Barry and Nails when they target Eleanor, the sister of John Black. John Black, part of a powerful political family and yet has zero interest in politics, an affinity for telling others not only what to do but also how to do it, and an independent streak that rubs many the wrong way including his own mother affectionately named "The Barracuda." Once he was a private investigator and now what he does is a bit shadowy but clearly results oriented. He, along with his Australian by birth partner and mentor, Harry are used to working cases and achieving justice in unconventional ways. The attempted hit on his sister which puts her near death in the hospital just days before Election Day where she probably would win makes it clear to him that he has to deal with the twin bedfellows of crime and politics. Is there any surprise that the Russian Mafia is also involved?

In what could easily be the start of an entertaining new series, author Troy Cook has surpassed his debut novel "47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers." That novel was a funny twisted read and there remains no doubt why it was highly successful and won numerous awards.

It was good. If you haven't read it—you should. Immediately.

The same is true here in a novel that is completely different and at the same time has so much in common with the first book. Once again, the killers are dysfunction at best. Nails, somewhere around 400 pounds with very bad knees, is an unwitting human guinea pig for a pharmaceutical company and a severe eye twitch when he becomes agitated. All involved soon learn to watch for the eye twitch.

Then, there is Barry, a skinny white man who constantly argues that there should be a union for killers. If they could become unionized they could make sure to get decent pay and benefits.

With these two at work, it is no wonder why John Black constantly wonders what is going on as there really doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to their actions. He would also like to know how Harry can not only change the ring tone on John's cell phone to anything he wants leading to frequent embarrassment, but how he does it?

While not nearly as funny as the first novel, author Troy Cook routinely uses humor as a weapon. A weapon often aimed at politics and politicians and a weapon that always hits its target. Which is much better than a certain rapper in the story who just can't live up to his own myth.

The result is a highly entertaining read that is part mystery, part comedy, and all good from start to finish. It features unique characters, often witty dialogue, and plenty of action that is never slowed down by the numerous observations of the American political system and California politics. The result is a very good read well worth your time.

The One Minute Assassin: A Novel

By Troy Cook

Capital Crimes Press

ISBN #978-0-9776276-4-6

September 2007

Large Trade Paperback

287 Pages

List Price $14.95

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Mobile Entertainment

Stretched out on the floor and watching the Cowboys play some no name team in the annual Hall of Fame game. Commercials featuring vans seem to be popular tonight with every van coming equipped with TV and headphones to keep the little darlings entertained.

You know, we never had those options when I was a kid in the backseat. Entertainment was a book and/or the view out the windows. And we liked it, damn it!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books--"Homicide My Own" by Anne Argula

It is Friday and that means it is time for another edition of “Friday’s Forgotten Books” hosted by Patti Abbott. This time around I am picking the enjoyable and quirky mystery novel, “Homicide My Own” by Anne Argula. The review below came out a few years ago and originally ran at the “Mouth Full of Bullets” zine. A good book worthy of your attention.


Odd Gunderson and his female partner are officers in Spokane, Washington. The days are boring and neither is a great fan of the city of Spokane. One day, as their shifts end, they are called in to see the Lieutenant. He has a job for them to do and doesn't care that their shift is over.

The job, though time consuming, is simple enough. They are to drive to Shalish Island and pick up a prisoner. One Charles T. Houser, early 30's and a systems analyst, is accused of "unlawful carnal knowledge" in regards to his 14 year old girlfriend, Stacey. He jumped bail and was picked up along with Stacey at a tribal casino. It's going to be a fifteen hour or so round trip if everything goes right and they really don't have a choice.

As expected, things begin to go wrong as soon as they leave and it just gets worse when they arrive on the island. There are numerous complications with the prisoner not to mention Odd's strange obsessions about a nearly 40 year old murder case that is legendary on the island.

The result is a read that becomes a real page turner. Written in a style that is uncommon and rather difficult to explain without quoting large sections of text, the characters take life in few words and become incredibly real. So too are the relationships past and present throughout this 219 page novel. Both cases take on twists and turns that are not obvious to the reader or to the officers involved. And while it seems nothing is happening on one level, on another a lot is happening. Pleasure Boat Studios has a reputation of publishing books that are very good and don't fit the mold. This is another example of that and one that begs to be read.

Homicide My Own

By Anne Argula

Pleasure Boat Studio


Trade Paperback

ISBN # 1-929355-21-1

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Event--Writer's Guild of Texas Meeting on Monday, August 16, 2010

Travel Writing – Opportunities & Realities
Presented by: Kay Winzenried

Writers Guild of Texas Meeting
Monday, August 16
7:00 -8:30 pm

Nearly every publication on the newsstand or Internet has a travel section. How can you seize the opportunity to turn your travels into saleable stories? Since re-engineering her career from fashion retailer to freelance writer, Kay Winzenried has published, posted and broadcast her travel experiences. She will share her insight and knowledge of what it's like to start from scratch and become a paid professional in an intensely competitive field where free words are becoming the norm.

Kay Winzenried is a freelance writer, photographer, and travel consultant. She is regular contributor to Fodor’s guidebooks and regional editor for the ZAGAT Restaurant Survey. Kay’s stories and photographs have appeared in national and regional magazines and online. She has been interviewed about her food, wine, and travel experiences on radio and television. In addition to writing and reviewing, Kay teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Southern Methodist University and hosts specialty travel programs for small groups.

Mark the third Monday of every month for the Writers' Guild of Texas meeting.

Meetings are free and open to the public. Held at:

Richardson Public Library
900 Civic Center Dr.
Richardson TX 75080
Basement Room

Writers’ Guild of Texas website:

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. 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

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Market News---Thuglit

For the last several weeks there has been a question concerning the fate of Thuglit. The submissions link was taken down and a cryptic message was left on the site indicating the future was not bright. There was much speculation on a couple of lists I am on with lots of smoke and no fire of fact.

Issue 38 went live the other day and it looks like it will be the last one for a long time--maybe forever. When the phrase "indefinite hiatus" is used, one knows things are pretty much done. The archives are still up--for now.

While you can, take the time to read why the zine was so great for five plus years and three best of books. The link is


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Barry's Reviews: "Stupid White Men" by Michael Moore

Stupid White Men...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation (2002, 2004)
by Michael Moore

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

A couple who live down the street from me spend their spring and summer weekends selling a variety of items at flea markets. Among the items are books. Occasionally I’ll have the dog out for a walk when they’re loading up their car with merchandise, and will thus take a quick look at the books. I had read and enjoyed Michael Moore’s Downsize This! a number of years ago, so when I found a copy of his Stupid White Men, I asked how much my neighbors wanted for it. They graciously insisted that I take it and refused any money. (I fully intend to return it to them now that I’ve read it.)

“Why bother,” you ask, “to read a book that was originally published in 2002 and which was a commentary on the state of the nation at that time when here we are eight years and a different president later?”

“Easy,” I reply. “Much of what Moore wrote then still has relevance now. Apart from that, it’s an entertaining as well as an informative read.”

Anyone familiar with Moore’s work in film and print would expect him to skewer the Bush administration, and he does just that. He also discusses racism, religion, sexism, education, guns, the environment, the penal system, and Ralph Nader. But his criticisms aren’t directed only at Republicans. He’s passionately critical of many a Democrat, too.

After Bush was elected, many Republicans were fond of attributing anything that went wrong in the country to the Clinton administration. To them Clinton was—probably still is—the antichrist. (To me it’s Dick Cheney.) Conversely, Democrats tended to blame Bush for everything. Although I never thought he was a terrible President, I was never a huge Clinton fan, but I was unaware until I read this book that many of the policies progressives lament, and for which they castigate Bush, were initiated by Clinton. After listing about two pages of them, Moore says, “Yes, you’d have to agree, considering all of his above accomplishments, that Bill Clinton was one of the best Republican Presidents we’ve ever had.”

Stupid White Men is serious in its intent, but frequently—though not always—lighthearted in tone. Moore is passionate about the material, which is deadly serious, but knows how to make it appealing, writing in a chatty, informal, one-to-one style. For readers like me, who generally can’t abide dry academic documentary histories and political analyses, it’s a good way to get some information in an entertaining manner.

Barry Ergang (c) 2010