Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reviewing: "McKettricks of Texas: Austin" by Linda Lael Miller

Austin McKettrick probably rode his last bull that October night.  A year ago the bull “Buzzsaw” tore him up so bad it took a team of surgeons and lot of rehab to get him going again. This year at the event in San Antonio he got back up on the two thousand pound bull “Buzzsaw” and stayed on it. Now, a short time later while sitting at a bar he is suddenly feeling the high price his body paid. Something is very wrong and he needs to see a doctor.
A trip to the emergency room, thanks to his brothers Tate and Garrett, confirms his back has been seriously injured and his days of riding bulls are over. It is time to go home to the ranch in Blue River, Texas and heal. Before long it becomes clear that he needs help and Paige Remington, a nurse, is going to be back in his life full time.

She was going to be anyway since her sisters are marrying his brothers on New Year’s Eve.  Of course, there is a huge backstory between Paige and Austin. While they verbally snipe at each other now, ten years ago Paige and Austin were a couple and madly in love. Until, Austin did something amazingly stupid and Paige has never forgiven him for it. Nor has Austin who had his reasons at the time and now would do things very differently. Forced together because of the coming weddings on New Year’s Eve and Austin’s need for nursing care, Austin and Paige begin to slowly rekindle their romance while outside parties begin a series of events designed to punish and destroy the McKettrick clan.

The final installment of the trilogy is a romance that is occasionally sexually graphic and also contains elements of a good mystery. The realistic characters are interesting and the dialogue between them as well as the family dynamic flows naturally and unforced. There are a number of amusing points thought out the book as Austin takes great delight in messing with others.

But, there are also negatives to the book.  A major negative to the read is the constant rehashing and telling again and again and again the backstory behind the breakup of Austin and Paige ten years ago. In addition to being told again and again how handsome/beautiful and sexy everyone is including Austin and Paige no matter what he or she has been doing from mucking hay to fighting fires to whatever (yes, my ankle is broken—lets have sex), key details of their past are told over and over again throughout the book.  One wishes an editor would have pointed out that some of the repetitive details that could have and should have easily been cut.

A decent editor might have also caught the numerous errors with the chronological history of the characters, the idea that in Texas we call pickup trucks “RIGS” (we don’t and nearly any native Texan will tell you that), errors with the oil wells storyline including errors about how oil is found, how it is pumped out of the ground, capping wells, etc., and the whole back injury deal which will strike any reader who has lived it or something very similar as incredibly wrong.

If you can ignore all the factual flaws in the book, of which there are many, the occasionally graphic (depends on the eye of the beholder) romance is enjoyable though predictable. The mystery angle is less predictable though more flawed due to the factual errors noted above. Not only is there deliberate humor by what the characters say and do, there are also the errors that can cause amusement for the reader.

The result is a read that is a mixed bag at best and should have been a much better book.

McKettricks of Texas: Austin
Linda Lael Miller
HQN Romance
July 2010
ISBN# 978-0-373-77446-3
384 Pages (6 pages of ads)

Material supplied by the Amazon Vine program.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: "Wilders Walk Away" by Herbert Brean (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

Wilders Walk Away (1948) by Herbert Brean
reviewed by Barry Ergang

Former newspaper reporter turned freelance photojournalist Reynold Frame travels to the village of Wilders Lane, Vermont to get a story and steps back in time. Figuratively, that is, because Wilders Lane has been restored to its pre-Revolutionary War look.

The village is named after its oldest family, the Wilders, whose history is pocked with inexplicable, seemingly impossible disappearances starting with Jonathan's in 1775 and extending forward to the novel's mid-20th Century present. The vanishings have given rise to a chant known to everyone in Wilders Lane and surrounding areas:

"Other people die of mumps
Or general decay,
Of fevers, chills, or other ills,
But Wilders walk away."

In search of lodging, Frame goes to the restored home of the lovely Constance Wilder, her sister Ellen, and their Aunt Mary. As he arrives, Ellen emerges from the house carrying a suitcase. She's been invited to visit another aunt. Frame gallantly lugs the heavy suitcase to the bus stop for her, then returns to the house where he strikes an agreement with Constance to rent a room for a week.

Later that night, there are suspicions that Ellen has "walked away." Her mysterious vanishment is of brief duration, however, because Reynold Frame finds her murdered body in a freshly dug grave. This in turn leads to the discovery of Constance and Ellen's father's body, also clearly the victim of a murderer. A year or so earlier, at his office, Fred Wilder walked into a storeroom under observation from outside—and disappeared.

A day or two later, at the Wilder home, Aunt Mary leaves Frame and Constance at the dining table, goes into the kitchen to fetch dessert, and vanishes.

Smitten with Constance and possessed of the reporter's inextinguishable curiosity, Frame is inexorably drawn into the investigation. As the situation deepens, he manages to solve the "walkaways" of the past as well as those of the present, and ultimately identifies the present-day murderer.

Although I employed more intuition and guesswork than deduction a la Frame, I found it relatively easy to identify the murderer. In spite of that, I enjoyed the book a great deal thanks to Brean's unerring pace and construction.

Brean was undoubtedly influenced by John Dickson Carr, as his sense of history and penchant for the "impossible situation" attest. His writing style is much leaner and his atmospheric effects more understated than JDC's, but he can be quite engrossing nonetheless. For a little while I thought I'd found in Wilders Walk Away a companion to The Three Coffins and Rim of the Pit for ultimate greatness. That degree of feeling didn't sustain itself, but I can still recommend Wilders enthusiastically. It's even better than Brean's The Traces of Brillhart.

Brean's work is long out of print, so those who are curious will have to try Amazon.com, e-Bay, Half.com, and ABE.books as I did. The search will reward readers with a very clever and entertaining mystery novel.


Barry Ergang © 2011

Winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available, see  Barry’s Smashwords offerings http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/cassidy20

(For the complete list of Friday's Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott, check her blog.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Latest Medical News on the Wife

Back home from the leg doc and the news was not good.  He wants her out at least three more weeks on unpaid leave. He wants to see her next Thursday and then again in two weeks after that. If she is not way better by then, he wants to discuss scoping her knee.

In the meantime she is still not supposed to drive or work and is supposed to stay off of it at all times.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011


A few weeks back, Barry and I planned a sort of experiment. This book would be the first book we both would read and review. With our differing styles, the reviews should complement each other as well as cover the book in different ways. I got my copy from Dave Zeltserman and Barry obtained his from Bill Crider. 

While we both had the book at the same time, Barry easily beat me in reading and reviewing it. In fact, Barry's review originally ran here back on May 9. I am slower on everything these days. I finally finished the book late last week and started working on the review.  Barry's review runs again after mine.

The bottom line is we both like the book very much......

Featuring 13 stories by twelve authors this anthology released as an e-book features a lot of variety in the tales. These previously published stories take place in a variety of settings with tremendously different themes and writing styles. Because of the variety there should be several stories that will please any reader.

Max Allen Collins opens the book with “Unreasonable Doubt.”  Nathan Heller is in Los Angeles in 1947 and is supposed to be on vacation. It isn’t a vacation very long as he is pulled into the Overell case. Like many a dad before him, Walter E. Overell does not want to see his daughter marry a guy dad is sure is bad news. What he needs is proof. He wants Nathan Heller and his partner Fred Rubinski to get the goods on the guy so that Walter Overell can prove to his daughter the guy only wants her for the family money.

Bill Crider follows with his noir tale, “Death’s Brother.”  Sometimes the professor just has to help his student outside of the classroom.  Professor Jon Cline certainly intends to help.  The money will be nice too.

In possibly the most disturbing story of the book Stephen Gallager tells the tale of a lonely only child seeking friends to play with as well as escape from his overbearing parents in “Poisoned.” The surrounding English countryside has numerous dangers, many of them man made.  Dylan’s attempts to fit in with the neighborhood kids are a recipe for disaster that will rock many parents.

Book signings bring out all kinds and doing one at an area K-Mart in Spokane, Washington may not be the best idea in “Remaindered.”  Written by Lee Golberg, this story features author Kevin Dangler who has been written off by everyone as a one hit wonder.  Desperate times call for desperate measures as he meets possibly his biggest fan.

Sevente­­­­­­­­­­en year old Bobby Staley wants just one thing out of God – he wants to see Elizabeth Bumiller naked in the beginning of “Fire in the Sky” by Joel Goldman.  This Depression Era story has nothing to do with Mr. Goldman’s series featuring trial lawyer Lou Mason or FBI Special Agent Jack Davis.  Still, the story is a good one and features genetics and destiny at work.

“The Baby Store” by Ed Gorman tackles a subject familiar to science fiction readers – the quest to have the perfect baby.  For Kevin McKay, in light of recent events, that quest is particularly upsetting but his fellow lawyers don’t see the pain they cause by bragging on their own kids.  Designer kids are the new fad for the wealthy and powerful and they just don’t care what other folks think. While Kevin is getting ready to design another child, his wife may not be.

“The Jade Elephant Plant” by Libby Fischer Hellman is the tale of a green jade elephant sitting in a pawnshop window and repercussions.  It may not be a doggie in the window but Gus needs it just the same. Too bad he originally stole it six months ago.

“The Big O” by Vicki Hendricks is not the kind of story the title implies. Or, maybe it is depending on how your mind works. Either way, this tale of a woman trying to start over somewhere on the shores of Lake Okeechobee is a good one.  Taking her one-year-old son, Chance, and running seemed like a good idea to Candy. But, running did not change who she is and old habits are very hard to break in this hard hitting story.

Naomi Hirahara contributes “The Chirashi Covenant” set just after World War Two. Racism against Japanese Americans is a major issue and serves as a backdrop to this intriguing story.  A chance meeting might change the lives of Helen and her husband Frank forever.

“El Valiente En El Inferno” (The Brave One In Hell) written by Paul Levine describes the terror Victor Castillo, thirteen years old, faces trying to get across the border into the US.  Part of a group that is intercepted by two Americans bent on preventing illegals from crossing while also having some twisted fun at their expense, it is up to Victor to save himself and others.

Harry Shannon takes readers to his home state of Nevada in “A Handful of Dust.” It takes Pike the better part of the night to drive to a bar in a barely still alive town in the high desert.  The bug zapper on the porch of the bar is not the only thing that kills---just the most obvious.

“The Canary” by Dave Zeltserman is billed as “This is a simple crime story featuring a thief and a canary. Make that two canaries.”  Not to argue with the author but it is also a story about a very simple truth that stretches from the lowest place on Earth to the penthouse and every stop in between. Plans for success—no matter the endeavor—are always ruined by incompetent help.

The final story of the anthology is the round robin story the original members of the Top Suspense Group created and published last year. Each member wrote 250 words and sent the evolving story on to the next writer. No polishing, editing, planning, etc. was allowed as the growing story made its way through the group twice.  The very good result was titled “The Chase” and fittingly concludes the book.

Read by way of the free Kindle for PC program, this strong and wide ranging anthology is available in a variety of e-book formats. It showcases the work of some of the best crime/mystery writers in the game today. Full of rich characters and lots of twists that you will not see coming, the reads contained in this book are good ones.

Edited by Dave Zeltserman
CreateSpace (Amazon)
March 2011
ISBN# 978-1461032366
198 Pages (includes author bios)

Material supplied by Dave Zeltserman in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

TOP SUSPENSE: 13 Classic Stories by 12 Masters of the Genre
Reviewed by Barry Ergang

I suspect many readers feel as I do about most anthologies, genres notwithstanding, and find them uneven as to the quality of the stories they contain. Some stories are superb, others mediocre. Some make you wonder how and why they made it into the book at all.

Top Suspense proved to be an exception to that generality. An anthology from a group of some of today’s finest practitioners in the mystery/suspense field (see http://topsuspensegroup.com/index.php), each of the stories it contains is an engrossing read. There is plenty of variety here, each story being very different from its companions. With the caveat that several of them contain crude language, vivid violence, and graphic sex, and thus might disturb some sensibilities, here’s the lineup:--   

In Max Allan Collins’s “Unreasonable Doubt,” Chicago P.I. Nate Heller, president of the A-1 Detective Agency, while vacationing in California visits his partner Fred Rubinski and ends up taking on a case Fred is too busy to handle himself--a case based partly on fact, as Collins explains in an afterword, involving the strong-willed teenaged daughter of a wealthy couple, the girl’s gold-digging boyfriend, and a vicious double murder.

Bill Crider’s story “Death’s Brother” finds a middle-aged professor of Romantic literature engaged in some extracurricular activity with a beautiful young student: extra-legal, extra-lethal activity.

Forbidden to leave the garden without telling his mother, Dylan nevertheless sneaks off to play with some neighborhood children who take him to an industrial area beneath a country park, a trip that has serious consequences, in Stephen Gallagher’s “Poisoned.”

“Remaindered,” Lee Goldberg’s darkly comic inverted detective story, concerns a writer desperate to revive a flagging career who meets an ardent--and amorous--fan at a book signing, who invites the writer to see her collection of signed first editions, among other things. The writer’s wife is hundreds of miles away and never needs to know. Where’s the harm? It won’t kill anybody--right?

Seventeen-year-old Bobby Staley, lusting after a young woman slightly older than he,  bargains with God to see her naked. Thirty-four-year-old Vivian Chase, on the run from an accomplice after half a lifetime of robberies and seeking repentance, wants only to take care of the needs of the teenaged daughter she left in the care of another years before. Their paths converge in Joel Goldberg’s potent “Fire in the Sky.”

“The Baby Store” may at first seem out of place in an anthology of stories focused on crime and mystery, but Ed Gorman’s offbeat tale of a competitive future in which prospective parents can literally design their children ultimately deals with crime on a personal and, some readers will probably believe, a societal scale.

In Libby Fischer Hellmann’s “The Jade Elephant,” a professional burglar’s conscience is piqued after he gets some good news from a doctor but learns that one of his former marks has a serious medical problem. Wanting to make amends, he must contend with a partner who is a great deal less sensitive to the needs of others, and with a very determined fence.

Maternal and murderous instincts drive the protagonist in Vicki Hendricks’ raw, explicit, and ironic“The Big O”--a woman seeking a perverse kind of redemption for the sake of her year-old son, who must contend with his abusive father from whom she’s fled, the drug-dealing abusive lover she accepts solely to have a place to live, and a hurricane that’s both literal and symbolic.  

Depicting the lingering anti-Japanese sentiment that permeated southern California in 1951, Naomi Hirahara’s “The Chirashi Covenant” tells the story of a Japanese-American woman who longs to sell the house she shares with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law in a Japanese enclave , and find a new home closer to the ocean. Her quest leads to infidelity, tragedy, and revenge.

The narrator of Paul Levine‘s “El Valiente En El Infierno (The Brave One in Hell)” is Victor Castillo, a thirteen-year-old Mexican boy who, along with others--among them a pregnant Honduran girl--is attempting a midnight border crossing into California. He wants to get to his Aunt Luisa in Ocotillo. She’ll help him get to Minnesota so he can join his father and older brothers. A couple of vigilantes from the Patriot Patrol have other ideas.

Another story that takes place in the desert, this one in Nevada, is Harry Shannon’s tense and memorable “A Handful of Dust,” in which a hit man named Pike meets and confers with a bizarre prospective client who has an even more bizarre request.

Because of his partner’s ineptitude, a thief must bid on a painting from an auction house because its frame conceals the key to a storage locker containing three hundred thousand dollars he and the partner stole. In Dave Zeltserman’s fast-paced “The Canary,” the problem is that someone else is bidding, too.

“The Chase” is the thirteenth and final story in the anthology. It’s a round-robin effort, as explained in a prefatory note: “Each member wrote 250 words and sent it on to the next until it had gone around twice. No planning, re-writing or polishing allowed.” For this reason it’s the weakest story of the lot--but saying so is akin to fruitlessly debating who’s stronger, Superman or the Hulk. Whatever “The Chase” lacks in comparison with the individually written tales that precede it, it makes up for in nearly non-stop action. Like its predecessors, it will hook and hold readers.

If the authors represented in Top Suspense are among the kings and queens of their genre, these stories are jewels for their respective crowns. Hghly recommended. 

Barry Ergang (c) 2011

Winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available, see  Barry’s Smashwords offerings http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/cassidy20

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Update of Sorts

Before I write another word, I want to thank all those who have donated monies as well as dropped me notes of encouragement, positive thoughts, prayers, etc. Not only is it all appreciated, it means that folks care--something that too often gets overlooked in our day to day lives. Ben Leroy of TYRUS BOOKS as well as Barry Ergang have some neat deals and if you know any gamers my son Karl is making some offers as well.

We are awaiting callbacks from numerous folks sometime today and hopefully somebody will have a lead or something to help us.  We have no idea how long it will take for the food stamp folks to review the updated information but have been told it can take as long as thirty days. Sandi's leg is a little better than it was two weeks ago so we should know more after she sees her guy Thursday.

As to me, I am about the same with no changes. In a way that is a good thing because I have not gotten any worse in the last couple of weeks. Still have heard nothing about  my disability case with Social Security. I am going to get so little anyway when finally approved, I have been holding off on trying to get a lawyer to deal with it. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that I need the help.

Then I see pictures out of Joplin, Mo and wonder why I ever say a word about what we are going through here. Just breaks your heart....

Monday, May 23, 2011


We have a WINNER!

As of midnight when the contest ended, there were sixteen entries. Because of your interest, instead of just one copy to give away, I was granted the opportunity to give away TWO! I wish I had the power invested in me to give everyone a copy. But, I am not Oprah and nobody seems inclined to give me a chance to be the male version of Oprah—though I think I would be pretty good at it.

The winners are:





Drop me a note with your address and I will forward it on to Anne so that you can get your copy of GONE WITH A HANDSOMER MAN by Michael Lee West. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did and thank you for reading my review and entering.

I thank everyone who took the time to read and enter the contest. Your participation made it a success and hopefully will mean future contests. Time will tell on that. 

And a very special thank you to Anne Staszalek, Marketing Associate, AuthorsOnTheWeb  A Division of TheBookReportNetwork.com for not only providing ARC for my review, but offering free books for me to give away.


Sunday, May 22, 2011


Tuesday kicked off the contest and so far there are 14 entries to win a copy of GONE WITH A HANDSOMER MAN by Michael Lee West.  If you would like to enter, read the review below and follow the very simple contest directions. Remember, to enter you must leave a comment on that review here on the blog by midnight tonight Texas time. 

Spread the word! 


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Begging For Help

Those that read my stuff on a regular basis know that things have not been good for quite some time now and I have asked for your help before. With my wife still home on unpaid medical leave due to her leg injury and absolutely no income at all for either one of us, I am asking for your help again. I am asking for your help primarily to pay our rent as we do not have it and have no family assistance.

Because our situation is so dire, Ben Leroy owner of Tyrus Books has offered a special incentive. In his words:

“We've got limited editions that I'd donate to the cause. If people put $200 in your account, I'll send them a copy of Delta Blues or By Hook or By Crook ($275/$250 suggested retail). The descriptions are on our website.”

The website is at http://www.tyrusbooks.com/ I have read and reviewed “Delta Blues” and it is a good one. Have not read “By Hook Or By Cook” but it sounds like a good anthology.

Ben Leroy is not the only one who has offered something---Barry Ergang is too. Again this month he is offering the following deal so that he can move some books and help us at the same time. In his words:

“Many may wish to help but, because our economy at present is what it is, can't justify giving money away without getting something in return. Therefore, I'd like to propose something. I've got loads of books I'm offering for sale because I no longer have the room for them. Take a look at http://barryergangbooksforsale.yolasite.com/ and at http://jdcarr.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6771
The former site lists books in a variety of categories including mysteries; the latter lists mysteries only. (Some of you have already bought from me, so you know my description of any given book's condition is accurate.) Make a purchase and I'll contribute 20% of the total price of the books to Kevin and his family. Just indicate in your e-mail order that you're doing this for Kevin. If you want me to acknowledge you to him, say so. If you'd prefer to remain anonymous, I can simply let him know that an anonymous buyer contributed whatever the amount is.

This way, you help one of our friends and colleagues, and come away with something tangible to show for it.”

I and my family thank Ben and Barry for their offers. They are much, much appreciated.

Please know that I am not asking for help lightly. We truly do need it and we are not being frivolous. It probably seems like I am crying wolf again and I am truly not. I am humiliated and embarrassed to  be in this situation and to ask for your help. When I say things are very bad they truly are. It is not hyperbole. Things are a disaster bad and without your generous help of any amount we are going to be homeless. I am scared to death as being homeless as always been my worst fear.

Please help if you can.

And thank you.


Friday, May 20, 2011

FFB Review: "Private Heat" by Robert Bailey

It is Friday and that means it is time again for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott. For those left behind tomorrow and it very well could be everybody if that pastor is wrong again, Barry Ergang will be in this slot next week. And remember, there is still time until Sunday night at midnight to enter the GONE WITH A HANDSOMER MAN contest.  On to the book for this week…….

In this debut novel of a new series, the author has created a multi-faceted private investigator, an intriguing cast of characters, and a complex ever changing mystery. Art Hardin is the middle-aged part owner of Ladin Associates, a detective agency. After the sudden death of his partner and the man the company was named for, his newly widowed wife Marg sold Art Hardin her half of the business and then stuck around to take care of the books, the phone and run her own small accounting firm out of the office. Marg pays a third of the rent and Art takes care of everything else as well as dealing with her at times shrew like personality.

A former counterintelligence officer for the Defense Intelligence Service, he has had a few clashed with the local government. As a result of being sued for false arrest by Art some time ago, the county government hired the premier attorney firm of Van Pelham and Timmer. The case was ultimately won by Art despite being thoroughly trashed by attorneys representing the firm. Therefore, it is a bit of a surprise when Martin Van Pelham wants to meet with Art and wants to hire him.

Martin Van Pelham wants and needs someone who won't be intimated by the local law enforcement community. His niece is going through a messy divorce with her soon to be ex-husband, a city police officer. He has a history of assaulting her and the simple solution of serving him with divorce papers and a restraining order while she leaves town won't work. Martin Van Pelham grudgingly explains that his nice is the one "Karen Terisa" featured prominently in lurid detail in the local media as being deeply involved in a sex and money laundering scandal that resulted in the finding of her boss dead in a trunk of a car parked at the airport. The money is missing and she knows where it is among other things. At the same time, her soon to be ex is part of a very suddenly made public undercover squad cited in numerous civil suits regarding assault, battery and other less than savory things.

Martin Van Pelham wants Art to guard her and keep her safe from everyone for not more than two days so that he can get his niece into the witness protection program. Art has some financial consideration issues as well as making sure that the firm will pay for his defense should anything go wrong. Then he agrees to do the job and before he has cashed the check, he has walked right into a puzzle house of mirrors where nothing is as it seems and more than one party wants him dead.

Combining dirty cops, crooked feds, and scummy clients, this very enjoyable novel soon turns into a wild ride. Told in first person format, this novel sets up numerous secondary but very important characters in addition to Art Hardin for future books. Within a matter of pages the supporting cast becomes quite familiar as old friends while the overriding mystery becomes more and more complex.

While that is all good, the author also does one small thing, which lowered the book one level in my estimation. I slowly became somewhat annoyed buy his refusal to use the same name for the same person throughout the book. Instead, sometimes he uses the first name, sometimes the last, and at other times, apparently the person suddenly sprouted a nickname hence not seen before. The naming issue became annoying, as occasionally I had to flip back to the first part of the book to make sure he was still referring to the same person.

One constant is the fact that action is the primary component of the book. Unlike many novels that are heavily action oriented as this one certainly is, character development and plot are not given short shrift. The book moves forward at a steady fast pace despite Art Hardin's occasional and very amusing wise guy humor. Not a word is wasted in the telling of the tale and the author spins a very complex tale in deed. As the pages fly by, the reader is quickly pulled into the author's world where the real world we all have to deal with does not exist. Simply good stuff.

Private Heat (An Art Hardin Mystery)
By Robert Bailey
M. Evans and Company, Inc.
ISBN # 0-87131-970-5
$21.95 US


Kevin R. Tipple © 2004, 2011