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Archive for August, 2017

Author Spotlight – Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Spotlight on Author Nathan Dylan Goodwin

by Bon S. (bons)

 

As an avid reader for some 70 years, I often wonder where are we to find our next Agatha Christie-type writer? When will another Stephen King come along? Can we ever replace James Michener or James Clavell and his Saga Series like Shogun in our lifetime?
Perhaps we already have with the popularity of Nicholas Sparks from North Carolina or did you know that Nora Roberts has over 125 books to her name and even thinks it important to add a pen name of J. D. Robb?

For our parents and our grandparents who read, when time allowed, the girls had Laura Lee Hope and the Bobbsey Twins…for young boys it was C.S. Forester‘s Horatio Hornblower and the American boys read everything from Louis L’Amour to battlefield and war novels.

Later, in our 30’s, we read Danielle Steele or Janet Dailey from Missouri, or passed a Judith Krantz on to our daughters (if we were brave enough), but now there is no one in the wings.

We have come a long way BABY in book selections and we need greater challenges to satisfy our reading needs. The Harlequin phrase is over. And did you know that Barbara Cartland was really a good writer on her non-fiction but relied on 40 writer-bees helping her design and write her 750 romance novels? Plus she was Princess Diana’s Step-Grandmother?

Now we are more serious about our habits of books and we, the power women, now turn to Karen White, Nicholas Sparks, Alice Hoffman and so many other really good writers, who combine the art of love with the art of interesting stories and we buy and buy.

But wait…there just might be a new name to add to the fantastic list of good, interesting writers coming out of England and America and being acceptable for a light read.

Anyone who has ever loved his heritage or studied the ancestry of his family might find a new mystery fascination who has been writing since 2013 and his name is NATHAN DYLAN GOODWIN.
A nice fellow from England…who started out writing non-fiction on his own famous home town of Hastings, has established himself with three historical books on Hastings. UK.

He is knocking at our ‘reading door’ now with both fiction and non-fiction and has claim to nine books. He is marrying the mystery with the genealogy theme, and this stuff is not boring. He combines the Dr. Watson’s and Miss Marble’s very well in his own Morton Farrier novella’s.

His books are read in a series, so be careful NOT to spoil his plan of presenting them. Plan to read them in the series they were written and I plan to work him onto one of my shelves of personal reading pleasures.

The books listed here are from his mystery series of Forensic Genealogist.
Vol. 1: Hiding the Past
Vol. 2: The Lost Ancestor
Vol. 2.5; The Orange Lilies
Vol. 3: The America Ground
Vol. 4: Spyglass File
Vol 4-5: The Missing Man

 

              

I feel Americans will rush to the bookstores and add these books to Wish Lists here on PaperBackSwap.
Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s series of war and non-fiction was his FIRST BOOK and includes:
Hastings at War 1939-1945
Hastings: Wartime Memories and Photographs
Hastings & St. Leonards Through Time

His latest book, from what I can tell is an ebook, A Very Old Man.  I do not know how this fits into his plan of series but it is sure to be popular and I WANT IT!

Mystery Monday – Dancers in Mourning

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Dancers in Mourning, released in 1937, is the 8th mystery to feature her series hero, Albert Campion. Born in 1900, he served in only the last six months of the Great War. The experience may have aged him beyond his years, because though only in his thirties, he slips out of his bland inoffensive manner to reveal the inborn authority and poise of the natural aristocrat that impresses even the police.  Allingham is ever aware of the double-edged use of snobbery, so she sometimes coyly hints at his title while Campion doesn’t much think about it at all.

Like the later novel The Fashion in Shrouds, Dancers in Mourning takes us into a seemingly romantic, stylish world, that of the boards of musical comedy. Star of the fantastic toe, Jimmy Sutane, has made a massive hit out of the unintentionally silly memoir by Campion’s old buddy, “Uncle” William Faraday whom we met in Police at the Funeral (1931).

Uncle William calls Campion for a consultation because somebody is playing nasty practical jokes on Jimmy Sutane. The sheer number of the jibes and their creepy malice have rattled the dancers, who, like some loosely-educated creative types, are as superstitious as medieval peasants. Back at Sutane’s country house, Sutane’s wife Linda is also agitated because strangers have been gamboling in their garden in the middle of the night. 

Allingham, for a little snob appeal, takes us out to the country house, of course. But, she assures us who don’t have the snob gene, it’s hardly an idyllic place. It’s a treadmill where the master rehearses new acts, cajoles money guys, oversees auditions, and soothes temperaments. Jimmy Sutane feels pressure to succeed because so many people depend on his coming up with another hit show. Consequently, his life is nothing but work and a parade of ambitious stressed people. Allingham makes a serious point about the hazards of allowing work and the demands of other people to consume all of one’s life.

Dancer and singer Chloe, slightly past her prime, squeezes an invitation out of Linda. But Chloe’s sudden death makes a chaotic household more or less unbearable. Was it suicide or a natural death? During the investigation, Campion finds himself falling in love with Linda. Campion exasperates himself by doing so, making him a very likable guy. Allingham handles this romance plausibly, and it fits right into the story. 

 

 

Spy Novel Review – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

The British spy service is in shambles. It collects no product. Long-time bosses have been given their walking papers. The resulting reshuffle of duties has demoralized the remaining old timers. However, a minister and his minion bring a low-level agent to the attention of terminated spy master George Smiley. The agent’s story sends Smiley on a hunt for a possible mole who is passing secrets to the Russians.

The novel seems like a mystery since it has multiple interviews with a variety of characters, five suspects, startling twists and an exciting reveal. But it treats themes such as disillusionment, the end of the British Empire, marital dissolution, and the workaday life in a large bureaucracy. LeCarre also uses devices – such as the weather, remote places, and the focus on hands – for more literary effect than we expect in a mystery or spy novel.

In a BBC Radio “Front Row” interview in 2009, John LeCarre said that John Bingham’s crime novels such as My Name is Michael Sibley, published in the 1950s when the two men worked together in British intelligence, inspired LeCarre to write his first two books, Call for the Dead and A Murder of Quality. Some critics go so far as to call Bingham the inspiration for George Smiley, but Bingham disliked le Carré’s portrayal of world-weary, cynical spies.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – Port Hazard

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Port Hazard by Loren D. Estleman 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Published in 2004, this is the seventh, and to date the next to the latest, historical mystery western featuring deputy US marshal Page Murdock. With three dozen or so westerns, mysteries, and stand-alones to his credit by the time he wrote this one, Estleman challenges himself and his readers by writing in the extravagant style of dime novels and sensational novels of the later Victorian era. Of a theater in Port Hazard:

Cabbage roses exploded on burgundy runners in the aisles. Laurels of gold leaf encircled a coffered ceiling with a Greek Bacchanal enshrined in stained glass in the center, lighted from above so that the chubby nymphs’ nipples and the blubbery lips of the bloated male gods and demigods glittered like rubies.

The dialogue however brings to mind the pithy skepticism about the conventions that we enjoy in noir novels.  There is also much crook argot, which makes sense if you don’t overthink it. A glossary is provided for readers with a low tolerance for ambiguity.

The story opens in Montana, which is more or less the homeless Murdock’s base. His boss, federal judge Harlan Blackthorne, sends his the Barbary Coast on a dangerous assignment. Murdock is to determine if indeed an organization called the Sons of the Confederacy is headed by the Honorable D.W. Wheelock, city alderman and captain in the San Francisco fire brigade. On the way to San Francisco, he persuades Edward Anderson Beecher—a railroad porter (who were all African-American) to watch his back. Murdock trusts the ex-cavalryman to be a fighter.

Rendered well are the gamblers, drunks, vigilantes, prostitutes, thugs, bent politicians and Chinese gangsters. Secondary characters include a gambler who is an undercover Pinkerton gumshoe and a little person whose hand lost in a maritime accident has been replaced with a curious assistive device: an iron ball on a chain. The action is violent, some of the jokes are definitely of the guy variety.

Recommended for those readers who find no problem dipping into mystery genres outside the cozy zone.  

Thriller Thursday Review – The Antagonists

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

 

The Antagonists by William Haggard

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

At a lean 127 pages, this cold war spy thriller is short but packs in a lot of action and intrigue. Haggard excels at getting the reader on the edge of her seat, expecting any twist or turn. He builds tension as skillfully as Ruth Rendall or M.R. James.

But what’s realistic is that the hotshot scientist at the center of events is a real caution. He is a communist epicurean. He has an eye for the ladies. His fork is ever-ready for the West’s best viands. His palate will condescend to sample wines. He’s a brilliant eccentric that brings to mind Richard Feynman.

Also, Haggard features his series hero Col. Charles Russell, star of The Unquiet Sleep and Slow Burner. As Perry Mason is our ideal lawyer and John Putnam Thatcher our ideal banker, Russell is our ideal spy master. Though he detests communists as a gang of tyrants and murderers, he doesn’t allow his personal feelings to cloud his reason.

 

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Review – In the Land of the Long White Cloud

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

In the Land of the Long White Cloud by Sarah Lark

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Ok, full disclosure.  This book is long.  If you’re not interested in sweeping sagas, this might not be the book for you.  However, if you like books that take you on adventures, characters who make you want to cheer or throttle them (depending on the chapter), twisted love stories, and high drama, keep reading.  And it’s the first book in a series so those of you who like to series, that’s another bonus!

Helen Davenport is a governess in England when she sees an advertisement for young women to travel to New Zealand and, hopefully, marry one of the many eligible bachelors. Helen decides this could be the opportunity she has been searching for to get away from her dim prospects of an advantageous marriage in London.  She gets passage to New Zealand through the church when she agrees to chaperone young girls being sent to New Zealand to work as housekeepers or nannies.

Gwyneira Silkham reluctantly agrees to marry the son of a wealthy New Zealand sheep/land baron when her father makes an unscrupulous bet and wagers his daughter’s hand in a game of cards.

Helen and Gwyneira meet on the ship while sailing to New Zealand and an unlikely friendship grows.  Both are optimistic about their future lives in New Zealand but what will be their realities? They will each face hardships of much different natures but both will be challenged and both will find strength they didn’t know they had.  And what will happen to the young girls Helen is chaperoning?

In the Land of the Long White Cloud had a lot of drama that kept me interested but there were some lulls in the action that made it a little hard to get through. I cannot comment on the realistic portrayal of New Zealand during the 1800s.  I imagine if I was more familiar with the landscape and culture of the country, I would find some discrepancies.  Some of the characters use some language that I’m not sure was prominent at the time.  But I am willing to overlook some of that and chalk it up to artistic license on the author’s part. Overall, I would give it a solid 3.5 stars out of 5…good for the entertainment but I have a feeling it is lacking on authenticity for the time.

 

 

Autobiography Review – Upstairs at the White House

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies
by J. B. West

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

With all of the Presidential politics of the past couple of years I really started to wonder what life in the White House is really like.  And, if I’m honest, my recent binge of The West Wing played a role in this curiosity, as well.

J.B. West worked at the White House for over 25 years, as Assistant to the Chief Usher and later as Chief Usher. He worked closely with each First Lady as she grew familiar with the home and acclimated to life in the White House.  West worked in the White House with the Roosevelts, Trumans, Eisenhowers, Kennedys, Johnsons, and Nixons.  It was a fantastic position from which to experience the ups and downs of presidential living and the ups and downs of the country.

Some memorable takeaways were West’s descriptions of the never ending visitors of Mrs. Roosevelt’s who would stay for weeks at a time in the White House. The cancelling of the formal season at the White House following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the White House going through food rationing during World War II like the rest of the country. The frugality of the Trumans and the true relationship that created their strong marriage. The vast reconstruction of the White House during the Truman years.  The control Mamie Eisenhower had over every aspect of life in the White House and her generosity at birthdays and the holidays for all of the staff she had contact with on a daily basis.  The lengths that Jackie Kennedy took to protect her children from the press and public eye while in the White House and the darkness that fell over the White House after the assassination of President Kennedy.

I found West’s book interesting and it seemed like an honest account. I was so fascinated by the ‘behind the scenes’ look at the life in the White House and how it transformed over the years. The photographs he shared were also great and put an image to some of the descriptions he provided.  I think this would be an interesting read for any presidential or first lady history buff. Solid 4 stars.