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The Blinds

Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Blinds Mysterious Book Report No. 307 by John Dwaine McKenna Next on our October freakfest is a novel by Adam Strenbergh, the creative demento who conjured up the Edgar nominated Spademan novels.  Spademan’s the sometimes kind-hearted assassin, who operates in a destroyed, dystopian New York City.  This time however, Mr. Sternbergh’s come up with a standalone that takes place in Texas.  Who knew, or would’ve guessed, that the author’s attention would shift from Gotham to west Texas, but happily, he has . . . and it’s a dandy! The Blinds, (ECCO/Harper Collins, $26.99, 382 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-266134-0) by Adam Sternbergh happens in a small, fenced-in village of cookie-cutter cement block homes that house about four dozen people, all of whom have voluntarily had their memories wiped clean.  They know that with exception of a few WITSEC protectees . . . the innocents . . . they’re all criminals, guilty of notorious and terrible crimes.  They’ve all been given new names on arrival, chosen from a pair of lists of celebrities and politicians; taking one name from each list.  No one knows who they were, only who they are.  They’re free to leave at any time.  As their induction instructor tells them: “This may not be a prison, and it may not be purgatory, but it’s sure as hell not paradise, either.  This is the Blinds.” It’s a hundred miles in any direction across sun baked, waterless desert terrain to civilization, and just one working vehicle in the whole place; a worn-out pick-up truck that’s used by sheriff Calvin Cooper.  Truth is, nobody’s much interested in going because they can’t ever return if they do.  Since no one knows if they’ve committed a crime or witnessed one, they’re all pretty sure that death lies waiting outside their rough sanctuary.  It’s been like that for eight years . . . ever since the first arrivals came.  The lone exception is young Isaac Adams.  He was born to his mother Fran, who was secretly pregnant when she was one of the first few arrivals in the brand new town.  Then, shortly after the novel begins, eight years of quiet routine is shattered by a suicide, quickly followed by a murder.  Nothing will ever be the same, as more and more secrets are exposed and so many ugly truths are brought to light, including sheriff Coopers, that none of the four dozen residents will ever be safe or secure again.  When the institute, who built and controls the Blinds takes a greater controlling interest however, the fate of everything, and everyone and all of the Caesura—the official name of the Blinds—is in jeopardy. Like, Mr. Sternbergh’s two other novels The Blinds is unique, genre-bending, and mind-altering . . . while at the same time it’s thought-provoking, noirish, gritty, and beautifully well-written . . . it’s entertaining as hell and more fun than free tickets to a carnival.  Count me a fan for life.  Sternbergh’s the best talent to come along since Stephen King hisself! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, you saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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The Changeling

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Changeling Mysterious Book Report No. 306 by John Dwaine McKenna It’s become a tradition.  Each October, in observance of All Hallows Eve, the Dia de los Muertos and JDM’s birthday—which is on Halloween—the MBR reviews works of the paranormal, otherworldly and unexplained.  The weird, supernatural and bizarre stuff that’s outside of our usual focus on murder, mayhem and mankind’s general savagery.  All in good fun of course . . . for no writer of crime fiction could even begin to compete with the actual news of the day . . . which is the strangest of all.  We’re kicking it off this year with a fantasy thriller that’s part legend, part immigrant folk tale and part magical reality, all intertwined with a family saga of love, tragedy, loss, violence, revenge and redemption which will so enchant readers that they’ll stay locked-on each and every page until the end. The Changeling, (Spiegel & Grau/ Penguin Random House, $28.00, 431 pages, ISBN 978-0-8129-9594-7) by Victor LaValle, has an edgy quality to it that will cause the parents of small children to look in on them a bit more often as they sleep and double-check, making certain all the doors and windows are locked tight.  That’s because the basic premise of  The Changeling is innumerable folk tales in which unattended babies are stolen by malevolent ghosts, goblins, ghouls or demons.  It’s an age-old theme that’s re-imagined with modern values, as a young book dealer named Apollo Kagwa wants nothing more than to live an ordinary life and be a great father to his newborn son, Brian.  Brian’s named for Apollo’s own father, who mysteriously disappeared when Apollo was a child.  Life’s good for the Kagwas until Emma Kagwa, in a fit of post-partum depression, commits an unspeakable act of violence . . . and disappears.  Until that point in the novel Apollo had been an ordinary man living a regular existence.  Now broken-hearted, he sets out on a mission of retribution and revenge, and unwittingly thrusts himself into a fantastic magical realm right in the heart of New York City.  It’s a world where illusions are fact, witches are real, and the utterly grotesque has taken shape, form and life.  It’s where Apollo Kagwa will learn that “Monsters aren’t real until you meet one,”  as the author writes on page 328  before letting his imagination run free as he explores what it means to be a father, a husband and a hero . . . all within the confines of a classic fairy tale.  The Changeling is epic in detail, magnificently written and awesome in scope ! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, you saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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She Rides Shotgun

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

She Rides Shotgun Mysterious Book Report No. 305 by John Dwaine McKenna Some authors hit the bookstores in high gear and never stop producing exciting and original works that become award-winners and best-sellers almost overnight, because readers get excited and tell their friends about it.  Word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire and the writer establishes a bigger fan base with each new book.  Our author this week deserves just such chit-chat.  His first novel combines pathos and humor; discovery and loss; brute force, gangsters and gunfights all overlaid with a growling awareness of the power of love. She Rides Shotgun, (ECCO/Harper Collins, $26.99, 257 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-239440-8) by Jordan Harper is about a man and his eleven year-old daughter on the run.  Nate McClusky has run afoul of a prison gang called Aryan Steel.  The President of the skinhead group has sent out a kite—a written message—greenlighting the killing of Nate McClusky, his ex-wife and their young daughter Polly.  The message is received by all of “the dirty white boys,” the Aryan Steel brothers and their affiliated gang members, hanger-oners and wanna-bes, in the entire state of California.  Nate is told by another inmate about his death sentence, just as he’s being released from the state penitentiary at Susanville, and goes to warn his ex-wife.  When he arrives, it’s too late to save her, or her husband . . . they’ve both been murdered.  Determined to save the daughter he fathered, but doesn’t know and never thought much about, he shows up at Polly’s school in a stolen car and takes her away.  Essentially kidnapping her and the brown teddy bear,  that’s her inseparable ally.  And so begins an unforgettable odyssey that’s part rescue, part voyage of redemption and part discovery of the power of love coupled with the strength of filial bonds.  As they struggle to survive, Polly taps into an inner strength she didn’t know was within her and blossoms into a strong, confident young woman with a will to overcome any obstacle. She Rides Shotgun is a first novel that displays the deft touch and sure hand of a more experienced wordsmith, and it has a plot with more twists and turns than the road to perdition.  It’s a hard-boiled yarn you’ll think about long after you’ve read it.  Jordan Harper’s an author to keep a lookout for . . . I can’t wait to see what comes next! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, you saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com    ...

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Exit Strategy

Posted by on Sep 25, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Exit Strategy Mysterious Book Report No. 304 by John Dwaine McKenna One year ago, (MBR 254,) we alerted readers to a new series by award-winning, New York Times best-selling author Steve Hamilton that featured an anti-hero protagonist named Nick Mason.  Mason’s the guy who, in order to get out of serving the last fifteen years of a twenty year sentence in a maximum security prison, makes a Faustian bargain with a super-criminal named Darius Cole.  Mason gets out, but he’s nowhere free.  He’s at the beck and call of a mysterious cell phone.  When it rings, Mason must answer immediately and do whatever he’s told to by the voice on the other end.  Failure to do so will result in his ex-wife and daughter—who he would die for—being killed.  Otherwise, he lives like a king.  But as Cole himself says, Don’t confuse mobility with freedom.  The novel was a smash hit.  Now Hamilton’s back with a second, even better Nick Mason yarn. Exit Strategy, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 287 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57438-2) by Steve Hamilton starts off with a bang.  Literally, as Mason gears up to take out Darius Cole’s once-trusted accountant.  The man’s in WITSEC, witness protection, prepared to testify against Cole in his upcoming retrial, and guarded 24/7 by a team of a dozen hand-picked U.S. Marshalls.  They’re specially-trained and they’ve never lost a witness.  That doesn’t mean they never will, because Nick Mason’s a lethal weapon and his skills keep getting better and better, no matter how reluctant he is to use them for the benefit of Darius Cole.  Mason’s character is intriguing . . . he is protecting his daughter and her mother . . . by being a killer on behalf of an evil man and it’s eating him up.  That’s why he has to come up with an exit strategy in order to save himself from a life of involuntary servitude and ultimately, an ignominious death.  Author Hamilton opens the book with:  You kill one person it changes you.   You kill five . . . it’s who you are . . . and begins a rock n’ roll thrill ride that won’t quit or let up until the last page . . . where you’ll be wishing and hoping for more of the same . . . and soon.  Really. Really. Soon!  Steve Hamilton proves once again why he’s one of the best crime fiction writers in America today, if not the entire world.  Thriller readers—do yourself a favor and get to know this Edgar award winning author.  You’ll be a fan for life, and glad you did! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, you saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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Here and Gone

Posted by on Sep 18, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Here and Gone Mysterious Book Report No. 303 by John Dwaine McKenna Recently, there’s been a growing movement in the publishing world, attempting to increase readership and sell more books by encouraging some A-list male crime fiction writers to produce new novels using androgynous-sounding names.  The reasoning behind this is that unisex pen names will attract more female readers, since they tend to avoid the tougher, more hard-boiled stuff they associate with men.  Since women make up eighty percent of the readers in the world today, they’re going to be catered to.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this, but here’s the first nom-de-plume MBR.  It’s written by Stuart Neville, one of my favorite Irish crime writers, under the name Haylen Beck. Here and Gone, (Crown Publishing Group/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 287 pages, ISBN 978-0-451-49957-8) by Haylen Beck is a tense, propulsive thriller that will put the reader on the edge of her seat in the first few chapters and never let up until the conclusion, because it taps straight into the human heart by addressing one of our most basic animal emotions: protecting our babies. A woman named Audra Kinney is in an old station wagon with Sean and Louise, her two young kids.  She’s fleeing an abusive husband and his domineering mother back in New York; trying to get to California.  Keeping to the back roads, taking her time and avoiding attention, she’s made it to the outback of Arizona and the dying town of Silver Water.  There, she’s pulled over by the local sheriff, who searches her car.  He pulls a bag of marijuana from her trunk that she’s never seen before.  In a full-blown panic, she’s put in handcuffs and stuffed in the back of a police car in what appears to be a living nightmare.   But the nightmare  will be worse than she could ever have imagined . . . and it’s just beginning in this novel of epic suspense and dynamic, totally surprising and unexpected twists that’ll have you wanting a shower by the time you’ve read the last page! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, you saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn.   http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Dark River Rising

Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Dark River Rising Mysterious Book Report No. 302 by John Dwaine McKenna The Mysterious Book Report is always on the lookout for promising debut authors with unique protagonists and interesting points of view, that are set in unusual places which are all wrapped up in an original and compelling plot.  This is such a one, an outstanding new murder mystery that takes place down south, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dark River Rising, (Minotaur Books/St. Martins Publishing Group, $26.99, 293 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-11009-1) by Roger Johns features Baton Rouge Police Detective Wallace Hartman.  As the novel begins, she’s on scene at a deserted warehouse, where a local druglord  was found tortured and murdered . . . with a live snake sewn into his belly.  Shortly thereafter, a Federal Agent named Mason Cunningham shows up, and, rather than  commandeering the case, becomes Wallace’s ally in solving the complex crime that gets more intriguing by the page, as each new development is revealed.  Mason turns out to be a numbers cruncher, and an analyst rather than a field agent.  He’s come to Baton Rouge because of some anomalies in the data he’s been studying, information he believes indicate a holocaust is brewing in southern Louisiana.  As Wallace and Mason search for answers, a world-class scientist with ties to the murder victim disappears from a high-security government laboratory . . . along with a truckload of sensitive chemistry equipment.  As the baffling case gets more complicated and dangerous, the pair of law officers form an uneasy partnership that uses Wallace’s insights and local contacts combined with Mason’s ability to access  federal resources.  What they don’t realize however, is that their lives are in increasing jeopardy as the killer stalks them with an agenda that no one can imagine in this thrilling, well-constructed and thoughtful murder mystery.  Wallace Hartman is a tough, fearless and smart character with a boatload of personal appeal.  We’re looking forward to more of her adventures as soon as Mr. John’s can produce them. Like the  review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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The Force

Posted by on Sep 4, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Force Mysterious Book Report No. 301 by John Dwaine McKenna According to Dwight, one of my retired cop buddies, only a few crime fiction writers Really get it, when writing about the demands, the stresses and the effect—on marriages, children and personal lives—of being a police officer in America today.  It’s a career that is rewarding, exciting, sometimes monotonous, and always dangerous enough to take your breath away.  Not many outsiders can even begin to understand what it’s like to bear the weight of a badge and a gun, much less write about it.  But, lucky for us, there are a few who do. The Force, (Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, $27.99, 479 pages. ISBN 978-0-06-266441-9) by Don Winslow has been drawing rave reviews from all who’ve read it, including the Mysterious Book Report.  If ever a novel was destined to become the defining work of its genre and a never-to-be-forgotten classic, this is it. All Denny Malone ever wanted to be was a good cop.  He’s an NYPD Detective Sergeant, a highly respected, brave and decorated cop who works a drug, gang and murder infested part of the city as the leader of Da Force, an elite unit with unrestricted authority to go after the gang-bangers, drug slingers and gun-runners in Manhattan North, also know as Harlem.  They’re handpicked, the best of the best, resourceful, bright, tough and the princes of Manhattan North.  They’ve made more busts, received more citations for valor and been in more gunfights than any other unit in the 26,000 officer New York City Police Department.  Denny Malone and all the members of Da Force are respected and feared, from One Police Plaza at the south end of Manhattan Island, all the way up to the border of the Bronx in the north.  Denny Malone’s been on the job for eighteen years and he’s seen it all . . . the violence, the deaths, the victims, the perpetrators of endless savagery, and the deep-rooted corruption that fuels the city.  But the truth is, Denny Malone is dirty.  They all are.  Money and drugs are missing from the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history, and Malone’s been caught . . . nailed by the Feds. who’re pressing him to confess, turn rat and give up his fellow officers . . . all while still trying to do his job, be a father to his two kids, who live with his estranged wife, and carry on a loving relationship with his heroin-addicted black girlfriend. Like all of Winslow’s novels,  The Force features compelling, electrifying and captivating characters and a dynamic, action-driven plot.  It is, as one A-list author wrote: Probably the best cop novel ever written.  Read it and see for yourself.  Personally, I couldn’t put it down because—as my old friend Dwight said, “He just gets it.” Like the  review . . . let your friends know, you saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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American Static

Posted by on Aug 29, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

American Static Mysterious Book Report No. 300 by John Dwaine McKenna The Mysterious Book Report has reached another milestone with this, our 300th review.  It’s taken a little more than six years and a couple of hundred thousand words to get to this point, so we wanted to mark the occasion with something special . . . something out of the ordinary . . . something so memorable that every reader will recall the plot whenever they look at the cover.  We found just what we were looking for in a novel one reviewer referred to as A hot dose of pure adrenaline that will leave you gasping for breath and begging for more.  It is beyond a doubt one of the finest noir yarns we’ve read in years . . . American Static, (Down & Out Books, PB $17.95, 307 pages, ISBN 978-1-943402-84-7) by Tom Pitts opens at warp speed and never slows down.  It begins in a small northern California town where a young man named Steven is attacked, beaten senseless, robbed of his backpack which contains everything he owns or holds dear—including a brick of high-grade marijuana he obtained on credit and planned on selling when he got to San Francisco.  He regains consciousness in a dazed state, barely able to keep it together once he realizes he has no money, no cell phone and most importantly, no ID.  It was all in his backpack.  Groggy and trying to refocus, Steven is befriended by a man named Quinn, who offers the young man a cigarette, some life advice . . . and a ride to San Francisco.  What Steven doesn’t realize however, is that once he gets into the car his life will be changed forever, because his apparent savior is really a devil in disguise.  Quinn, just released from prison, is on a homicidal rampage and a personal mission of retribution, revenge and payback.  It’s a dead-end journey that will take a naive young man on an electrifying journey through the steamy underbelly of one of the world’s greatest cities.  The cast of characters includes cutthroat gangsters, corrupt cops, criminal politicians and death-peddling drug lords, all of whom are trying to find and kidnap a young woman named Teresa, who somehow holds the key to a secret that will expose a decades-old scandal which will tear City Hall apart.  As Steven rides along, Quinn dispenses his savage brand of street justice while a sadistic, coked-up, crooked cop chases him and a pair of outclassed, outgunned and mismatched small town lawmen chase them all.  The action in this novel is unceasing, the trail blood-soaked and the denouement breath-taking.  The MBR’s final take: If there was a list of the world’s best hard-boiled and noir crime fiction . . . American Static by Tom Pitts would be in the top ten of all time.  Oh, yeah.  It’s that good! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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G-Man

Posted by on Aug 21, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

G-Man Mysterious Book Report No. 299 by John Dwaine McKenna The Great Depression of the 1930s was a time of unrelenting misery, hardship and economic deprivation.  It was an era that left indelible scars upon all who lived through it, for who could forget the massive unemployment, the endless bread lines, or the dislocation and migration of tens of thousands of impoverished farmers who’d been forced off their land by the drought that spawned the dust bowl, and the aggressive foreclosures by banks throughout the south, midwest and Texas.  The bottom of the Depression—as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average—occurred in the summer of 1932, and it was during the depths of that Depression that gangs of outlaws with submachine guns began roaming the countryside, robbing banks and killing lawmen all over the midwest.  The violence and anarchy reached a crescendo in 1934, when the U.S. Division of Investigation, later called the F.B.I., hunted down and killed or captured the most notorious and violent outlaws: those designated as ‘Public Enemies,’ or ‘most-wanted: gangsters like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie Parker and her cohort, Clyde Barrow, and the utterly unpredictable, savage, and the most cold-blooded  killer of them all . . . a  psychopath named Lester Gillis . . . known to all the world as Baby Face Nelson.  Those are the true historical facts.  They took place during the Great Depression in the United States. Now, in his newest novel, G-Man, (Blue Rider Press/ Penguin Random House, $27.00, 443 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57460-3) best-selling author Stephen Hunter melds all those facts into a modern-day mystery for Bob Lee Swagger to solve.  Swagger, a Vietnam-era U.S. Marine sniper and firearms expert, has finally sold his family’s old homestead in Arkansas.  When clearing out the property, he discovers a metal strongbox containing a Division of Investigation badge, a modified government issue 1911-A Colt .45 caliber automatic pistol, a crudely drawn treasure map, a mint-condition 1934 series $1000 bill and a curious looking precision machined part for an unknown device of some kind.  Swagger knows that the box must have been hidden by his grandfather Charles, the Sheriff in Polk County Arkansas and a hero in World War I.  Charles, a gunfighter in his own right, is a mystery to Bob Lee, whose own father refused to talk about the older lawman, who had a hint of scandal about him.  It’s unclear if he was ever a federal law officer and Bob Lee, sets off to find the truth about his grandfather.  But, as his investigation digs deeper, it becomes apparent he’s being shadowed by someone who wants the past left alone.  Thereafter, the novel alternates between the present day search for the truth,  and the momentous  events of 1934, as  Charles Swagger’s  story is reveled . . . leading to the amazing climax and unexpected conclusion of this action-packed adventure yarn.  History comes alive as Mr. Hunter skillfully weaves past and present together into a thriller that’s chock-full of heroes and villains in one of this summers most enjoyable reads! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us...

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Lucky

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Lucky Mysterious Book Report No. 298 by John Dwaine McKenna New York City’s Chinatown is the home turf of NYPD Detective Jack Yu, the beleaguered serial character created by author Henry Chang, and a personal favorite of the MBR, because the pragmatic and altruistic Chinese-American crime fighter operates in one of the most violent, superstitious, drug and gang-infested, as well as racially-prejudiced environments on planet earth without losing his personal moral compass . . . or his humanity.  Jack was born and raised in Chinatown.  He knows the unwritten rules: don’t talk to outsiders, we take care of our own problems and run our own community.  By joining the round-eyed white devils in blue, Jack became—in his own father’s words—A jouh gow, a running dog, someone used by the white police department against his own people.  “A Chinatown cop, first sign of trouble you’re the one they throw under the bus,” according to Tat “Lucky” Louie, Jack Yu’s boyhood friend, blood brother and a lifelong criminal. Lucky, (Soho Press, $24.95, 218 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-784-1) by Henry Chang is the fifth installment in his fascinating series featuring Jack Yu.  This time, Jack’s trying to nurse a fading, but intense and complicated love affair when he gets word that Lucky Louie, his boyhood pal and one of the most feared dailos in all of Chinatown, has come out of his eighty-eight day coma and is calling for Jack.  After being shot twice in the head driving a gangland assassination attempt, Lucky wasn’t expected to live, much less overhear his former associates plotting the divvying up of his empire.  But he did.  He’s not called “Lucky” for nothing, and the fact that he emerged from his coma on the eighty-eighth day . . . a double helix, and a very fortuitous number in Chinese lore . . . proves it.  Now, as Lucky sets out to retake and rebuild his lost empire by robbing the tong and triad-protected businesses of his enemies, he’s got an SOS, shoot on sight, order on his head along with a $10,000 reward, while his lifelong friend, NYPD Detective Jack Yu, tries to convince him to enter the witness protection program.  But Lucky’s a believer in his own good luck and it’s ability to see him through any danger.  He lives by the mantra, Live big or die small.  Whichever one happens, Lucky Louie will be a gamer all the way to the end.  If you’re a fan of noir, the Jack Yu stories will enthrall, entertain and introduce you to a thriving community that’s like a small slice of a foreign land, smack-dab in the midst of America’s biggest city.  It’s a visit you won’t forget! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Borne

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Borne Mysterious Book Report No. 297 by John Dwaine McKenna With their uncanny ability to somehow tap into the future, science fiction writers have been stimulating readers minds for the past hundred and fifty years . . . usually with tales of science which benefits the human race as it propels us the stars, and spreads our kind throughout the universe.  But there’s an alternative point of view, that factors in the potential for uncontrolled science to wreck havoc on all.  They fall into a category know as dystopian—the end of civilization—and this week the MBR has an absolute epic of that genre. Borne, (MCD/Farrar, Straus and  Giroux, $26.00, 323 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-11524-1) by Jeff VanderMeer imagines a time and place that’s been utterly destroyed as a result of bio-engineering run amok when the mysterious company that produced it, fails to safeguard the creatures and loses control of them.  The result is a nightmarish world in which humans are reduced to living no better than animals, fighting for survival, existing like rats in a destroyed city where there’s less to live on every day . . . a city being terrorized by a giant Godzilla-sized bio-engineered renegade bear named Mord.  He’s stomping what’s left at the city to rubble and eating any and all life-forms, including humans . . . especially humans . . . unlucky enough to come into contact with him.  The narrative begins when we meet Rachael.  She’s a scavenger, slipping into the city, collecting anything useful, whether it’s flesh, plastic, metal or some other article which can be re-engineered or provide sustenance.  She brings everything back to the hideout she shares with Wick, her bioengineer lover and compatriot who’s somehow connected to the mysterious company that’s responsible for humanity’s plight.  He repurposes it into something more useful, like diagnostic worms that live in the human body and emerge from a wrist with health dat?? about their host, or beetles, which come in many varieties and do everything from battle to memory.  Then, in a daring raid in which she climbs into the gargantuan beast’s fur, Rachael finds a purple and green ball that changes color.  Not knowing if it’s plant or animal, alive or dead, useful or junk, Rachael takes it home where—contrary to her usual custom—she puts it on a shelf and keeps it secret from Wick, who has secrets of his own.  A few days later, she realizes that the thing has moved.  It’s not where she put it.  She names it Borne.  Notices that small things are missing from her room . . . and that Borne is getting bigger.  Then he speaks, and the world comes more unglued than ever in this compelling and fascinating piece of dystopian fiction that will make every reader think long and hard about the cutting edges of science in our own genetically modified, roboticized and bio-engineered present day world.  One last caveat: like Dante’s lost souls who are advised to abandon hope; readers of Borne will have to suspend all their ideas about rational science and accept the premise the author posits to fully enjoy it.  That said, the novel is a walk on the wild side that you’ll remember long after you’re done reading it.  It’s a masterful blend of science-fiction and conjecture that’s...

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Bad Boy Boogie

Posted by on Jul 17, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Bad Boy Boogie Mysterious Book Report No. 296 by John Dwaine McKenna For all of my adult life, New Jersey was a place I landed in and took off from at Newark International, rented a car and headed up the Garden State Parkway, bound for the family homestead in the Catskills.  Jersey was a place overcrowded with traffic, bad roads and wretched, impatient, sue-happy drivers . . . somewhere I wanted to pass through as fast and expediently as possible.  Then came The Sopranos on HBO, and years later, Boardwalk Empire, plus another network show about the Shore which showed the Garden State in a more entertaining fashion that softened my attitude and improved my feelings some.  Now, comes a new novel  that takes all that Jersey swagger  and  epic bad-assiveness to a whole new level . . . to the utter delight of every crime fiction lover who reads it. Bad Boy Boogie, (Down and Out Books, PB, $17.95, 334 pages, ISBN 978-1-943402-59-5) by Thomas Pluck, takes place in Nutley, just across the Hudson River from New York City, and begins when forty-something Jay Desmarteaux comes back to town after a twenty-five year jolt in the Jersey State Prison at Rahway for murdering a savage, psychopathic, vicious high school bully.  Jay’s come back to the scene of the crime to pick up the pieces of his life and extract a measure of revenge by living well, in the words of Okie, his mentor while in the penitentiary.  Unfortunately for Jay however, the father of the boy he killed is now the Mayor, who burns with desire to extract a revenge . . . as does the Chief of Police and several of his officers.  Now grown-up, they were the dead boys high school posse, and all of them want to inflict some pain on their old enemy, Jay Desmarteaux.  Jay just wants to have a job, find his missing adoptive parents and tête-à-tête with his old girlfriend, but she’s married the rich kid who testified against him at the murder trial.  As if that’s not enough to deal with, there’s an organized crime captain, who wants Jay gone, or dead.  Maybe both.  All Jay has left to fight with are his wits, a tomahawk his father carried in the Viet Nam war and the friendship of Tony, a bullied follower back in high school, now a bulked up gym rat and owner of an auto repair business catering to high-end performance cars.  The task is near-impossible, the odds of Jay coming out alive slim, and the corruption bottomless in this electrifying piece of stylish and tough as tough can be, cutting edge noir.  Bad Boy Boogie lives up to every aspect of its name and carries that theme through to the end.  It’s one awesomely entertaining summer read and Thomas Pluck is a writer we’ll be on the lookout for from now on because his tough guy writing is so good and his characters are so bad! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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Crime Song

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Crime Song Mysterious Book Report No. 295 by John Dwaine McKenna Last winter, in MBR No. 275: The Second Girl, we introduced our audience to an ex-Washington D.C. cop turned crime-fiction writer named David Swinson, who’s created one of the best anti-heros to come down the pike in, I dunno, like forever.  He’s a retired D.C. cop turned private investigator named Frank “Frankie” Marrs.  The fictional character is a man with a habit, a former Narc, now a narcaholic, always jonesing for a snort or a swig, or a 1 mg Klonopin to even things out.  He’s a man who’s living a lie.  He wants to stay on the side of the angels, but he’s made a deal with the devil, and Frankie’s in league with him.  Now, we’re happy to report that Frankie’s  back, in a second installment. Crime Song, (Mulholland Books/Little Brown and Company, $26.00, 354 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-26421-1) finds Frankie getting perilously low on cocaine, just as his addiction to it is growing larger.  He’ll have to score soon, or run out.  That’s unthinkable.  He needs to identify a dealer . . . and rob him.  But before he can do it, his Aunt Linda calls with a request for him to check up on his cousin Jeffrey, who’s been cutting classes at George Washington University, and now has to attend summer school.  Although reluctant to mix family and business, Frankie agrees, because his aunt was his surrogate mother after his own mother died and Jeffrey is like a little brother.  Although worried about replacing his rapidly diminishing stash of cocaine, Frankie focuses his attention on the nephew, tracking him to a popular nightclub run by a moonlighting cop named Willie Jasper . . . where Frankie watches his cousin Jeffrey engage in some low-level drug trafficking.  Then Frankie’s home is burglarized.  All of his electronics are stolen, including his collection of vinyl albums that belonged to his deceased mother, but worse than that a .38 caliber pistol is missing from his bedroom and used to murder Jeffrey.  His dead body left in a pool of blood on the floor of Frankie’s ransacked house.  It then becomes a race against time as Frankie tries to prove his innocence, find his cousin’s killer, defend his life against some crooked cops who’re determined to kill him, redeem himself with his Aunt Linda, girlfriend Leslie and cop buddies . . . while at the same time concealing his addictions and duplicitous double lifestyle.  And, oh yeah, somehow, somewhere, some way . . . replacing all that illegal white powdery stuff he’s been sticking up his nose like a madman.  Frank Marrs is a man without a plan, on a collision course with disaster, unless he can somehow slip out of the ever-tightening figurative noose he’s got around his neck.  If you like ‘em hard-boiled and then some, Frankie’s your guy for awesome summer reading! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Sorrow Road

Posted by on Jul 3, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Sorrow Road Mysterious Book Report No. 294 by John Dwaine McKenna The green rolling hills of West Virginia are the nearest thing to Heaven that I know though the times are sad and drear and I cannot linger here they’ll keep me and never let me go . . . are the opening words to a song that was made famous by Emmylou Harris.  It was written by a folksinger, poet and one-time rail riding hobo named Utah Phillips—and it expresses his appreciation of, and love for, the incredible beauty of our thirty-fifth state. But, just like the rest of Appalachia, there’s another side of West Virginia, a place that’s been striped of natural resources, stripped of jobs and stripped of hope. Sorrow Road, (Minotaur Books, PB, $15.99, 351 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-08959-5) by Julia Keller is the fourth novel in her Bell Elkins series, all of which take place in Ackers Gap, West Virginia . . . where she’s the prosecuting attorney for Rathune County.  It’s a place hemmed in by mountains, beleaguered by seemingly unending snowstorms with raw, arctic-like temperatures in the present day . . . and it’s where, back in 1938 a crime was committed and covered up and forgotten, only to resurface in the twenty-first century with the death of an old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in an Appalachian nursing home.  That’s when an old college classmate and fellow attorney asks Bell to look into the circumstances . . . the man was her father.  He was one of three local men who served aboard a battleship at Normandy during the D-day landing in 1944, where a short conversation results in deadly consequences seventy-two years in the future.  As the bodies pile up and the mysteries deepen, this poignant tale of past deeds and modern consequences will keep you glued to the pages as the mystery unfolds while Bell juggles her job, iffy love-life and  adult daughter Carla, who’s come home suddenly . . . harboring a dark, shameful secret of the go-to-jail kind!  I promise . . . you won’t be able to put this tense and near-perfectly plotted novel down once you start reading.  Although the MBR got to Ms. Keller’s party three books late, we promise to remedy that soon.  And hey! Stay tuned, she’s got a new one, Fast Falls the Night coming in August.  We’re looking forward to it. Like the  review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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The Freedom Broker

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Freedom Broker Mysterious Book Report No. 293 by John Dwaine McKenna This week’s MBR is an international thriller by a debut author that takes off with the first sentence like an F-18 Hornet under full military power, and never, ever, ever stops accelerating!  And hey . . . I can almost hear you thinking . . . That’s a pretty bold statement Johnny, and, like Animal said to Joker in the movie FULL METAL JACKET, “You can talk the talk . . . but can you walk the walk . . .” Oh yes. I can. And this start of a series is one hot summer read you just don’t want to miss if you crave original, action-adventure thrillers of the first class. The Freedom Broker, (Quercus, $26.99, 361 pages, ISBN 978-1-68144-310-2) by K.J. Howe, starts out on page one with a dead-of-night combat mission by a team of hand-picked, private-contractor commandos.  They’re dropped by helicopter into the thick of the Nigerian jungle, where they’ll attempt to rescue an oil company engineer who’s been kidnapped and held for ransom by a militant terrorist group whose stated goal is to emancipate the Niger Delta.  The rescue team is being led by a woman named Thea Paris, who’s one of only twenty-five elite kidnap and ransom specialists in the world . . . and the undisputed best of the bunch.  Her task is to do whatever it takes to retrieve the hostages, bring ‘em back alive, and all in one piece.  She’s involved in the K & R crime wave because twenty years earlier, her brother Nikos was abducted in the middle of the night while she hid and watched, paralyzed by fear.  Nine months later, after their oil tycoon father paid a multi-million dollar ransom, thirteen year-old Nikos was returned, utterly changed and Thea has been racked by guilt ever since.  No sooner does the hostage rescue team return from Africa however, than Thea’s billionaire father Cristos is snatched from his yacht by a commando squad who executes the entire crew before making their escape in a black helicopter. All that action takes place in the first fifty pages as Ms. Howe plunges her readers straight down into the treacherous and murky depths of the kidnap and ransom criminal universe, where events take place some 40,000 times per year, all over the globe, and collect hundreds of millions of dollars.  Dollars which are then used to finance terrorism, overthrow governments and promote anarchy.  The Freedom Broker will lift some of the shroud of secrecy that encompasses this ever-growing element of crime.  The author is getting rave reviews from everyone who’s anybody, including some of the biggest A-list writers and best-selling authors in the world.  Ms. Howe will enlighten, thrill and entertain all readers with one of the most enjoyable novels of the year to date!  Read it, see for yourself and get to know this most promising and talented of new thriller writers.  You’ll be glad you did! Like the  review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Celine

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Celine Mysterious Book No. 292 by John Dwaine McKenna In order to be successful, today’s crime fiction writer must be able to come up with a unique, new and different kind of detective that readers haven’t encountered before.  Let’s face it, we’ve all seen Sam Spade, Spenser, Marlowe and Miss Marple many many times already . . . as well as an endless number of clones, look-alikes and downright rip-offs of iconic characters like Hieronymus Bosch, Joe Pickett and Jack Reacher.  You know the type: tough, scuffed, and jonesing for alcohol or drugs . . . maybe both.  It’s a hard task in today’s turbocharged, fast-moving, hyper-competitive world to speak with a truly original voice, but thanks to human creativity and ingenuity, it’s not impossible . . . only improbable.  This week the MBR has found one of those improbable, sought after gems that only happen once in a blue moon. Celine, (Alfred A Knopf/Penguin Random House, $25.95, 334 pages, ISBN 978-0-451-49389-7) by Peter Heller is his third stand alone work of fiction, and may indeed be his best yet.  It comes two years after his spectacular 2015 sophomore effort, The Painter, which won the prestigious Reading The West Award in 2016, and, although two-years seems like and endlessly long wait in this age of the 140 character Tweet and five-second soundbite, Celine was worth waiting for.  That’s because she’s the rarest of commodities—and scarce as the queen of unicorns—the improbable, but genuine, original and one hundred percent unique private-eye detective.  You want new? Different? Someone you haven’t seen before? How about a sixty-eight year old female PI who’s on oxygen, suffering from emphysema as a result of a four-pack a day habit for several decades; a New England blueblood whose waspish roots are so deep, they reach all the way down to pre-revolutionary, colonial soil; a woman with artistic talent and an Ivy League education, who only accepts cold cases that could reunite families, because underlying everything, Celine is woman with secrets and guilt, and special skills from a past which haunts her every day; and she’s a woman who, along with her seventy year-old husband Ray, uses inductive reasoning . . . assembling known facts to reach a conclusion based on personal experience . . . and giving her a higher rate of closed cases than the FBI. In this present case, Celine is contacted by a young woman named Gabriela, who saw an alumni journal article featuring the elderly detective with the unique methodology and spectacular closure rate.  Gabriela asks for Celine’s help in finding her father, a world-famous photographer who disappeared twenty-some years earlier while on a photo assignment in Yellowstone Park.  He was declared dead, presumably mauled and eaten by a grizzly bear.  So begins the seemingly impossible task of locating someone who’s long-gone and dead as dead can be.  It’s a hunt that will take Celine and her husband Ray from Brooklyn, to Denver, to Yellowstone and beyond in a search that puts all of their lives in jeopardy.  As mysterious forces begin shadowing her every move however, she’s compelled to reveal many of the secret elements of her life and expose her amazing talents . . . bit, by bit, by bit. Mr. Heller is fast-establishing himself as a world-class wordsmith who...

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The Lioness is the Hunter

Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Lioness is the Hunter Mysterious Book Report No. 291 by John Dwaine McKenna The battered city of Detroit, Michigan seems like the perfect setting for a beat-down, cynical and wise-cracking private eye who’d be considered a real loser . . . if he wasn’t so damn good at solving the toughest cases in the face of near-impossible conditions.  His name is Amos Walker and he’s as hard-boiled as they come, an anachronism from the golden age of pulp fiction in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s when the shamus’s were always lonesome, the dames were smokin’ hot, sultry, and often duplicitous.  In his latest caper, The Lioness is the Hunter, (Forge/McMillan, $25.99, 246 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-8845-2) author Loren D. Estleman pits his throwback PI against the most dangerous . . . and duplicitous . . . woman in the world.  She’s an arch-criminal and international fugitive named Charlotte Sing, or Madam Sing, as she prefers to be called, a previous combatant and arch-enemy of Walker. The yarn begins when a Detroit real estate investor named Carl Fannon hires Walker to find his partner, Emil Hass.  He’s gone missing just as the pair are about to close on a large, and historic, downtown Detroit skyscraper known as the Sentinel Building.  It seems that both partners must be in attendance to effect the closing of the sale.  Walker takes the case, but gets his first twist when Haas shows up and makes arrangements to meet the detective at the Sentinel, where the investor will show Walker the reasons for his misgivings about the purchase, and explain his concerns about his partner.  The next day, when Walker gets to the empty and decaying building, he finds Carl Fannon . . . dead.  And that’s the second twist in what will turn out to be a complex, noirish and fast-moving novel with a  barrelful  of  fiendishly new  plot twists still to come.  For example . . . Madam Sing was executed by the North Koreans in a previous Amos Walker mystery.  So, how can she be in Detroit, confronting Walker again?  You’ll just have to read The Lioness is the Hunter  for yourself, to find out.  With seventy-plus novels to his credit and a boatload of awards, Loren D. Estleman’s an author every crime fiction enthusiast should be familiar with and read.  His books are among the best of the genre, and perfect for  relaxed vacation reading. Enjoy! Like the   review . . . let your  friends  know,  You saw  it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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The Spy Across The Table

Posted by on Jun 5, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Spy Across The Table Mysterious Book Report No. 290 by John Dwaine McKenna Although prognostication and predicting the future isn’t what we normally do here at the MBR, there’s always exceptions, and this is one.  I’m gonna stick my neck all the way out to the cut-on-the-dotted-line tattoo and forecast the near future.  In about a week and a-half—June 20th to be exact—a new thriller will be released that I think will be the hottest read of the summer season, if not the whole year.  I know, I know, that’s a bold statement, but it’s one helluva bold book. The Spy Across The Table, (Simon & Schuster, $26.00, 435 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-9491-4) by Barry Lancet, is the fourth—and most electrifying installment—of his highly acclaimed, widely praised Jim Brodie series of international thriller/mysteries.  Brodie, a San Francisco art dealer specializing in high-end Japanese antiques, just wants to be an ordinary guy, a widower and single parent of a precocious and endearing seven-year old daughter named Jenny . . . but circumstances and a most unique skill-set prevent that from ever happening.  That’s because he grew up in Tokyo, where his father owned an investigative agency.  Brodie’s a martial-arts master, an expert in the art, antiquities, history and culture of Japan . . . and speaks, reads and writes fluent Japanese.  He’s also the half-owner of Brodie Investigative Services in Tokyo and works with the San Francisco Police Department on cases involving Japanese-Americans, or whenever a liaison to their community is needed. As The Spy Across The Table begins, Jim Brodie is in Washington D.C.  He’s attending a Kabuki play at the Kennedy Center Opera House with Mike Dillman, his college roomie and close friend.  “Mikey,” as Brodie calls him, is a production designer in Hollywood, making sets for the movies.  He’s there to meet Sharon Tanaka, a world-famous designer from Japan, and another Brodie friend and contact.  Brodie himself was there to enjoy the Kabuki art-form and introduce the designers, who’ve never met.  But mere moments after the play begins and the pair are just getting to know each other, an assassin shoots and kills them.  Brodie intercedes, but loses the fight and the gunman—a spanish speaking professional killer—manages his escape, unknown, undetected and unharmed.  Brodie is devastated, vows revenge and is summoned to the White House . . . where he is given a directive he can’t refuse.  The order puts him at odds with the security services of four different nations, puts him in the crosshairs of the most deadly spy in China and puts him physically into a place he probably won’t survive, all while trying to rescue a hostage whose mind contains enough coding secrets to unlock the deepest vaults of American’s NSA super computers.  Her name is Anna . . . and she’s the only daughter of Sharon Tanaka.  The action, and the mystery starts with the first sentence . . . Mikey was shot because he begged me for a favor and I complied . . . then expands, deepens and darkens in every chapter thereafter with a twisted intensity that even Niccolo Machiavelli would appreciate.  The threats, suspense, double crosses and heart-stopping thrills never end in this chilling, and realistic masterpiece that could be tomorrow’s international news.  If you’re a fan of...

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What You Break

Posted by on May 22, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

What You Break Mysterious Book Report No. 288 by John Dwaine McKenna One year ago—May 2016—in MBR No. 246, we alerted our readers to a new, compelling and haunting crime fiction character by the name of Gus Murphy.  He’s the embodiment of the noir persona, a man dealing with a boatload of personal pain and grief, while living and operating on the gritty south shore of New York’s Long Island . . . a place of crime and gang infested streets as far removed from the glitzy, super-rich north shore hamlets on Long Island Sound, as ice cream is from burnt meat.  Now, he’s back, in the second installment of what looks to be a long-running and well-read series that will finally get Reed Farrel Coleman the long overdue Edgar Award he so richly deserves. What You Break, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 357 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17304-2)  finds the  beleaguered John  Augustus Murphy  still living at the Paragon Motel in Suffolk County, still trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered life and still driving the courtesy bus to the airport on the night shift.  He eats his personal pain, mourning the untimely death of his son and the breakup of his marriage internally, self-medicating himself with alcohol and a two-pack-a-day habit . . . his only friends are Slava, the mysterious east European, Ukrainian or Russian night doorman, and Felix, the desk clerk. Gus’s self-induced fog of grief is lifted temporarily, when he’s coerced by a shady billionaire into finding out why his granddaughter was stabbed to death, with promises—and an uncashed $50,000 check—to fund a foundation in John Murphy Junior’s name.  The Suffolk County Police Department has the girl’s killer in jail, but he won’t talk and her grandfather is desperate to know why.  At the same time, Slava’s past deeds come back to haunt him, demanding retribution.  When Gus  witnesses a cold-blooded execution, both his life and Salva’s hangs in the balance, forcing Gus to evade the cops, street gangs and the relentless Russian mercenary who wants to kill him.  As Gus digs deeper, the mysterious twists and turns pry open doors on a past that’s better left forgotten . . . where sleeping monsters start to awake . . . forcing Gus into a Faustian bargain with the Devil, as he struggles to save them all.  The intricate plot will leave you guessing to the end, and the tough-guy action will keep you focused on page after page until the electrifying conclusion as Mr. Coleman demonstrates his absolute mastery of the crime fiction craft.  This one’s five-stars all the way! We just hope that the CWA judges are paying attention! Like the   review . . . let your  friends  know,  You saw  it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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Vicious Circle

Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Vicious Circle Mysterious Book Report No. 287 by John Dwaine McKenna Although our focus here at the MBR has always been finding debut authors with promising talent and an outstanding story to tell, the unvarnished truth is that there’s a few A-list writers . . . James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, or Michael Connelly for example who we always read and review, whenever they publish a new novel.  We’re going to add the name C.J. Box to that short, illustrious list, because his Joe Pickett stories about a Wyoming Game Warden are just too damn good to miss out on.  They’re timely, addressing such hot topics as the Endangered Species Act, Federal oversight—and overreach—of state land, trophy hunting, private militias and Posse Comitatus being just a few that were touched upon in his first sixteen Pickett novels. Now, in the newest tale, the past comes back to haunt him, as bad boy Dallas Cates gets out of prison and vows revenge. Vicious Circle, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 367 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17661-6) by C.J. Box, finds good-guy Joe Pickett, Wyoming Game Warden badge number 20, gearing up and getting ready for his busiest time of year, the fall hunting season.  It’s when there’s an influx of out of state hunters and multiple big game harvests, all at the same time.  As if that’s not enough to deal with, Joe’s notified that Dallas Cates has been paroled from the Wyoming State Penitentiary and is back in Joe’s hometown of Saddlestring, where he’s been seen in Stockman’s bar with a couple of other ex-cons, vowing to ‘get’ Joe, and his whole family.  Cates is looking for revenge, because Joe was instrumental in sending him to prison, and was front and center in a climatic showdown and gunbattle at the Cates Family compound.  That’s where three members of his family were killed and his mother was sent to prison in a wheelchair . . . on a life sentence . . . all of which took place in Mr. Box’s last novel entitled Off The Grid.  But things really start to heat up when Dave Farkus, a local barfly who was in Stockman’s on the same night as Dallas Cates and his friends, disappears and may have been hunted down and murdered . . . while Joe Pickett watched in horror from a spotter plane overhead. With an intricate, tightly-written plot and a compelling, family-oriented backstory, Vicious Circle will keep you glued to the page as Mr. Box spins the yarn to it’s conclusion with the sure hand of a master wordsmith at the peak of his powers.  He’s a writer every fan of crime fiction should be on intimate terms with, as he writes some of the best western-themed novels in print today.  That’s when you, like me, will become a steadfast, loyal and die-hard fan of C.J. Box! Like the   review . . . let your  friends  know,  You saw  it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Desperation Road

Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Desperation Road Mysterious Book Report No. 286 by John Dwaine McKenna Some writers have such a firm understanding of their sense of place and are able to write about it with such authenticity, that the reader is transported there in mind as she or he processes the printed words . . . almost seeing, hearing, and touching the people, places and events of the story as it unfolds.  This weeks MBR number 286 features such an author, who speaks and writes so genuinely of his home in small town Mississippi that readers everywhere will almost feel as if they were born and brought up there. Desparation Road, (Lee Boudreaux Books/Little Brown and Company, $26.00, 287 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-35303-8) by Michael Farris Smith, is his third novel and an outstanding example of gothic southern noir.  Oh yeah . . . he’s that good.  He’s that good because he respects the craft of writing and the use of language to paint a word picture of people in pain, trying to put their shattered lives back together after tragic mistakes upended them. The novel begins with a man named Russell Gaines riding the bus home from the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, down in the delta.  It’s where he’s just completed an eleven year sentence for drunk driving and vehicular homicide.  Russell thinks he’s paid his debt—in full—and wants to put his life back together.  But waiting for his return are the two older brothers of the man he killed . . . and they’re determined to get revenge. At the same time, a homeless woman named Maben and her young little daughter are walking to the interstate in the broiling hot sun.  She’s carrying everything they own in a black plastic garbage bag, hoping for something better when they get to the place where Maben grew up.  Exhausted and down to their last few dollars, they hole up in a cheap motel where mother and daughter are hoping for rest and respite.  But the night ends for Maben with a hot pistol in her hand as she runs through the dark, and a dead deputy sheriff behind her. As all their lives collide and destinies intertwine, the moral choices become fewer and fewer and more complex at the same time as the story plays out in an electrifying conclusion. The prose is lyrical, the setting magical and the drama unforgettable. Like the   review . . . let your  friends  know,  You saw  it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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Blue Light Yokohama

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Blue Light Yokohama Mysterious Book Report No. 285 by John Dwaine McKenna Every now and then, a forthcoming book generates so much pre-publication interest that the MBR wants to get a look at it at the earliest possible date.  If an ARC, or Advance Readers (i.e. Reviewers) Copy isn’t readily available, we can sometimes spend some extra money and get a true first edition from the British, who are often the leaders of the publishing world.  Such is the case this week with MBR 285 . . . a debut author of awesome talent with a mind-bending first novel that has folks on both sides of the Atlantic sitting up and taking notice.  And, we’re happy to report that it’s just been brought out in an American edition, which is referenced here.  If you’re a fan of intense, complex and convoluted novels that require concentration and focus, you don’t want to miss this one.  It’s gonna be a monster! Blue Light Yokohama, (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 417 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-11048-0) by Nicolas Obregon, takes place in Tokyo, Japan.  It’s where we meet Inspector Kosuke Iwata.  He’s a man who’s hauling around a boatload of grief.  After a mysterious, unexplained and lengthy leave of absence, the brilliant detective with a dark past is transferred into Division One: the Tokyo Homicide Department.  There, he’s met with open hostility from the rank-and file cops and given a partner—Assistant Inspector Sakai, whose beauty and refusal to be broken by the constant harassment from her male counterparts mark her as an outcast and troublemaker—then tasked with a second-hand serial murder case so disturbing that the first detective on it committed suicide.  It starts with the discovery of the ritualistic slaying of an entire family; mother, two small children and the father are murdered by a vicious killer who stabs the victims, removes the man’s heart, then dawdles at the scene: eating ice cream and surfing the internet for hours on the family’s computer before painting a mysterious black sun symbol on the ceiling and nonchalantly leaving the house in broad daylight.  The only clues at the scene are the drawing and the faint scent of a rare incense.  As Iwata and Sakai begin re-examining the case however, a second and third of the gruesome ritualistic murders are carried out . . . . on apparently unrelated victims.  Faced with ever-increasing resistance from fellow officers and mounting pressure from the police brass, Iwata suspects corruption within the department and collusion with the Yakuza . . . Japanese organized crime.  As the plot unfolds, the press gets involved, clamoring for answers to the rumors of cults and fetishism, serial killers and incompetent detectives.  It appears as if Iwata will be hounded out of his job at the same time as his personal demons catch up and drive him out of his mind. Kosuke Iwata is without a doubt one of the most complex, interesting and fascinating literary detectives to come along since Sherlock Holmes.  We can only hope he’ll have just as long a romp through the pages of crime fiction in the twenty-first century as Sherlock did in the twentieth.  Mr. Obregon’s Inspector Iwata is destined to be a colossus!  He’s more than lived up to his pre-launch publicity, and you’ll be proud to have him...

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The Old Man

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Old Man

The Old Man Mysterious Book Report No. 284 by John Dwaine McKenna Sixty some years ago, when I was just a boy back in the ‘50s, every year at Thanksgiving my parents would take me and my two younger brothers for “Turkey-Day” at my Great-Aunt Ruth’s house down in Westchester County.  Pop would fill up the trunk of the car  with a present of seasoned, cut and split hardwood fireplace logs, Ma would dress all of us in our best clothes and we’d set off early in the morning from our southern Catskill farm for the two-hour drive down to Bedford Hills and a sumptuous dinner that beat anything Alice’s Restaurant had to offer.  That’s because Aunt Ruth had turkey and trimmings down to absolute perfection.  The bird, a monster twenty-five pounder, was always crispy golden outside, juicy inside, and full of her secret homemade celery stuffing.  The mashed potatoes and giblet gravy never had a lump, the table was set to perfection and there were so many side dishes that they wouldn’t all fit on a single dinner plate.  And, she managed to do it all, perfectly, year after year from a tiny little galley-style kitchen about twelve square feet in size.  Somehow, from that rudimentary space, she put our whole family into a food coma that lasted for days.  She was so good at it that she made the near impossible look easy . . . as does the author of this week’s Mysterious Book Report. The Old Man, (Mysterious Press/Grove Atlantic, $26.00, 337 pages, ISBN 978-0-80212585-6) By Thomas Perry is honed and polished to a razor-sharp brilliance by one of the most accomplished thriller writers working in crime fiction today.  The action, suspense and drama begins in the first paragraph and doesn’t let up until the last sentence on the last page.  It is a sure-enough tour-de-force that will keep the reader nailed in place waiting and watching to see if old age and cunning will prevail over youth and exuberance as the adventure plays out.  The novel begins in rural Vermont, where we’re introduced to a widower and retiree named Dan Chase.  He’s in his sixties, has a grown daughter and a pair of large dogs who are devoted to him.  Outwardly, he’s a typical older man, living a quiet, unassuming, low-key lifestyle . . . the same as he has for the past thirty-five years.  Privately however, Chase is an altogether different hombre.  The kind who maintains four different ID’s, keeps a pair of Beretta 9mm Nanos and a .45 caliber Colt Commander close at hand, as well as a “bug-out kit” stuffed with money, guns, clothes and multiple identities in case he has to make a fast getaway.  He stays in peak physical condition and has multiple escape routes in mind at all times.  That’s because thirty-five years ago, the man calling himself Dan Chase was a rising star in a clandestine world.  As an Army Intelligence Officer, he was tasked with delivering a large amount of American currency to a Libyan middleman who was to deliver it in turn to a rebel group who was set upon overthrowing the dictator, Mu’ammar al Gaddafi.  When the middleman keeps the cash, Chase administers some street justice, keeps the dough and goes home to the...

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Revolver

Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Revolver Mysterious Book Report No. 283 by John Dwaine McKenna The MBR has often reviewed works of historical fiction—plotted as crime fiction, murder mysteries and whodunnits of all flavors, sizes and eras—and even some which take place in the future.  This week however, is as unique a piece of historical fiction as we’ve yet encountered, and an awesome job of suspenseful, twisted plotting to boot . . . Revolver, (Mulholland Books/Little Brown and Company, $26.00, 316 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-40323-8) by Duane Swierczynski, takes place at three different times; 1965, 1995 and 2015; and from three different points of view: Stan Walczak, a Philadelphia cop who’s gunned down in a bar in ’65; his son Jim Walczak, who’s followed his father into the  Philly PD in ’95; and lastly, in 2015, Audrey, Jim’s daughter, who’s studying for her masters degree in forensic science.  She’s determined to use her classroom knowledge to solve the fifty-year-old case of her grandfather Stan’s murder for a research paper she’s writing.  Except her father, two older brothers and a whole secret cabal of heavy-duty movers and shakers in the local government, the Philadelphia Police Department and even a sprinkling of shady local community leaders . . . don’t want any part of the case revisited, reexamined, or reviewed in any possible way.  The case is notorious . . . and dormant . . . and needs to remain so as far as they’re concerned, and they’re prepared to go to any lengths to keep it that way.  With intrigue so thick the reader can almost slice it like cake, Swierczynski masterfully weaves a complex plot involving three distinctly different characters into a single surprising, electrifying and focused conclusion the likes of which MBR hasn’t ever seen before.  A master wordsmith and spellbinding storyteller at the top of his game, this author’s a surefire winner! Like the   review . . . let your  friends  know,  You saw  it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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IQ

Posted by on Apr 15, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

IQ Mysterious Book Report No. 281 by John Dwaine McKenna One sure way to know you’re reading a great book, is when you just don’t want it to end.  Perhaps it’s because you’ve found the main character to be so fascinating, endearing or heroic that you don’t want to break contact with him; or the story is so compelling, you have to know, What happens next? Those are the novels we remember and tell others about . . . maybe even re-read some time.  This week the MBR has just such a character by a debut author, and the shortest title we’ve ever seen. IQ (Mulholland Books/Little Brown, $26.00, 321 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-26772-4) by Joe Ide, instantly transports the reader from that cozy book nook and plunges her into the mean, drug and gang-infested streets of south central Los Angeles at Long Beach, where we meet Isaiah Quintabe—otherwise known as IQ.  He’s a high school dropout and self-taught detective whose low-key style and quiet nature disguise his colossal intelligence.  He’s the one the neighborhood folks turn to in their high-crime area to solve the murders, missing persons cases, robberies, kidnappings, and all types of other crimes that the LAPD either won’t, or can’t, be bothered with.  IQ is flexible too.  Money’s tight.  It’s not always easy to come up with, so he’ll adjust his fees to fit your ability to pay . . . which can make it tough for the unlicensed Private Investigator to pay his bills at times.  Times like now.  IQ hasn’t had a cash-paying client in months.  Nearly desperate, he takes on a case he’d usually turn down: that of a hip-hop mogul and gangsta rap artist whose life has been threatened by persons unknown.  The suspect list is long, and includes several disgruntled employees, a couple of hangers-on, an attack dog that’s the size of a Shetland pony and a professional hit man who never misses.  It’s more than he bargained for . . . and almost too much for IQ to overcome as he pits his intellect and inductive reasoning skills against the thugs and killers, envious competitors and the mean streets he was born and raised upon.  IQ is the most unique character you’ll encounter in a long long time . . . and one you’ll not forget.  Read the book and make his acquaintance.  You’ll be glad you did.  You’ll also find yourself telling all your friends about it . . . and dying for the next book to come out so you can reconnect with young Isaiah Quintabe . . . whom we all know as IQ! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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The Corruptions

Posted by on Apr 15, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Corruptions Mysterious Book Report No. 282 by John Dwaine McKenna Ever notice how things seem to go in repeating cycles?  Either there’s always . . . or never . . . a parking spot when you’re running late for an appointment, for example.  You either breeze right in whistling a happy tune, or show up twenty minutes late, all sweaty, red-faced and cursing under your breath at the vagaries of the universe and the inconsiderate hog who took up two spaces. Sometimes, writing the MBR is like that; it either comes easily, or it’s as tough as no-Novocain dentistry.  This week’s report is such a one. Ouch!! The Corruptions, (Polis Books, $25.99, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-943818-37-2) by Vincent Zandri, starts with a plot that’s ripped right out of last year’s headline news.  Remember when the two cons broke out of one of the New York State’s most maximum security penitentiaries with the help of a love struck lady Corrections Officer? So begins Mr. Zandri’s novel, as cellmates Reginald Moss and Derrick Sweet saw their way out of Little Siberia, otherwise known as The Clinton Correctional Facility, in Dannemora, New York—just twenty miles south of the Canadian border—with the help of a female CO named Joyce Matthews.  As a massive manhunt involving the NY State troopers, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, the Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Marshall Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation gets underway, Governor Leon Valente calls in Private Investigator Jack “Keeper” Marconi.  The Governor swears Jack to secrecy, and hires him to find the escapees before anyone else, then bring them straight to his office. What follows is a pastiche of borrowings from other writers such as Robert B. Parker, Stephen King, Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler . . . as well as the lifting of one of the most memorable scenes from the HBO Series Deadwood, in which Ian McShane as Swearengen and Keone Young as Mr. Wu are having a discussion in which Swearengen uses a crude epithet describing what some folks consider a deviant act of sexual congress, and Mr. Wu, because of his limited English language, begins using the same vulgarity to describe everyone at which point Swearengen begins encouraging Mr. Wu, because he finds it amusing.  Anyone who’s seen the series will remember the scene.  Personally, I hated seeing it recycled without credit like that, and under normal circumstances would have quit the book then and there.  But, something kept me at it, and I’m glad I did, because thereafter, the plot bloomed as it expanded with renewed energy and originality, as well as greater action and enthusiasm, which lead to a thrilling, satisfying, unexpected conclusion you’ll never see coming.  While it probably won’t be a hit with some law enforcers, it is an exciting, entertaining and enthralling piece of crime fiction for all the rest of us.  With more than twenty-five novels to his name, Mr. Zandri knows how to spin a yarn!  Read it for yourself and see. Like the   review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Darktown

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Darktown Mysterious Book Report No. 280 by John Dwaine McKenna Only a few authors have the ability to educate, entertain and thrill their audiences, all at the same time.  It’s a gift; and a rare talent practiced by luminaries like Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley and Philip Kerr; each of whom have a unique, and special skill that allows them to make history come alive in the pages of their novels.  The genre is known as historical fiction, and this week, the MBR would like to add the name Thomas Mullen to the list of those gifted few.  He’s managed to put together a work that shines light on a neglected area of twentieth-century history, while at the same time wrapping it up in an excellent, fast-paced and exciting murder mystery.  It has to do with race and racial tension in the Jim Crow era of the American south. Darktown, (37INK/ATRIA Books, $26.00, 371 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-3386-2) by Thomas  Mullen is his  fourth novel.   It takes place in Atlanta,  Georgia in the year 1948 . . . just after World War II . . . and just before the Civil Rights Movement begins.  It was at or near the height of the Jim Crow era—when African-Americans were segregated by race, not allowed to vote, and were confined to second-class housing, schools and general living conditions in a system that was second only to South African apartheid in viciousness.  It was virtually unchanged since the Reconstruction Era after the war for Southern Independence, or as the Yankees would have it . . . the Civil War.  But the times, as the song goes, they were a changin’. In 1948, President Truman ordered the integration of the armed forces.  In Atlanta, the city leaders decreed that the police department had to hire at least eight black police officers.  The black officers weren’t allowed into the main police station, were forced to work out of the basement of the negro-only YMCA, couldn’t drive city-owned police cars, or arrest white citizens.  Their job was to walk designated patrol areas in the black neighborhoods and maintain order among their own kind.  One of the eight newly-minted black officers is Tommy Smith, a WWII combat veteran with a keen temper, a pair of iron fists and the will to use them.  He’s paired with Lucius Bebee.  He’s the son of a prominent local minister, college graduate and an army veteran—although without combat experience, much to his chagrin.  The white cops are outwardly hostile, they’re rumored to have a betting pool going, gambling on the elapsed time before one of them shoots a black cop.  The entire police force seethes with resentment, distrust and open hatred.  When a beautiful young negro woman . . . last seen in a car with a white man turns up  murdered  . . . Smith and Bebee take it upon themselves to investigate.  They’re forbidden to act as detectives, but the white investigators refuse to spend time on a black murder.  So the pair risk thier jobs, and possibly their lives, in the pursuit of justice for a nameless woman.  What follows is an intense, sophisticated and complex plot that races to  a stunning conclusion.  The novel will leave readers marveling at the great social distance we’ve come in the intervening...

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The Emerald Lie

Posted by on Mar 21, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Emerald Lie Mysterious Book Report No. 279 by John Dwaine McKenna For the past few reviews the MBR has had a string of first time authors . . . so we thought a change of pace was in order for this week, and we’re going with an old favorite, an Irish writer with more than thirty books to his name and a boatload of awards and accolades as well.  He’s been called The Godfather of the modern Irish crime novel, and he’s created one of the most iconic characters in modern literature: the irascible, beat-down, alcoholic and drug-addicted, world-weary ex-cop turned vigilante and pop-culture enthusiast named Jack Taylor.  He’s one of my personal, all-time favorite protagonists—who’s played to absolute perfection by Ian Glen on Netflix. In his newest caper called The Emerald Lie, (Mysterious Press/Grove Atlantic, $25.00, 345 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2546-0) author Ken Bruen has the rain-lashed streets of Galway aflame with the hunt for a homicidal maniac the tabloids have named The Grammarian.  He’s an Eton and Cambridge graduate from a privileged family . . . and a budding serial killer . . . who’s murdered several complete strangers on the city streets because they used bad grammar.  While the cops are trying to figure that one out, Jack Taylor is handed an envelope, stuffed with high denomination Euros by a grieving father who wants Jack to find and kill whoever raped, tortured and murdered his daughter.  Jack refuses, saying, “I don’t do murder for hire.  I’m not in the contract killing business,” but the man tosses the envelope on the table and walks away.  Money to Jack is like catnip to a cat . . . no way will the giver get it back.  As he starts looking into the young woman’s death however, another young female named Emily reenters Taylor’s life.  She’s the crazy one from Bruen’s last novel, code named Emerald, who is brilliant, maniacal and homicidal—utterly amoral and as changeable as high-altitude weather.  Jack Taylor, friendless and at rock-bottom emotionally, doesn’t seem able to handle it all . . . doesn’t care . . . may be at the end of his rope.  You’ll have to find out for yourself by reading The Emerald Lie and becoming a Ken Bruen aficionado.  He is without a doubt in my mind one of the best living authors working in modern crime fiction.  A one of a kind treasure! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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Fidelity

Posted by on Mar 14, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Fidelity Mysterious Book Report No. 278 by John Dwaine McKenna With some seven and-a-half million residents spread out over a couple thousand city blocks, the Manhattan Office of the FBI is one of the largest, busiest and most important of all postings within the agency.  The activity there is ceaseless, and the agents are all at the top of their game.  They’re the best of the best . . . or out with the rest . . . and that makes it an excellent place to situate a good old fashioned spy thriller pitting the FBI Counter Intelligence Group against the Russian SVR, or Secret Police.  They’re the replacements for the Soviet-era KGB, and just as ruthless, duplicitous and determined to undermine the USA as ever. Fidelity, (Simon & Schuster, $25.00, 306 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-3386-9) by Jan Fedarcyk is a unique first novel, written about a female agent by a woman who was not only an FBI operative in the tough New York City environment, she retired after a twenty-five year career as the Assistant Director in Charge.  In our estimation, that makes her a formidable, experienced and knowledgeable lady with the chops to entertain and enthrall her readers for a long second career, while at the same time, being an inspiration to us all. Fidelity introduces us to FBI Special Agent Kay Malloy as she makes her mark in the crime and drug-infested neighborhoods of east Baltimore before being assigned to an elite counterterrorism unit based in NYC.  There, she becomes part of a team that’s tasked with finding the traitor who’s been giving up the double agents inside the Russian Government . . . the spies who actually work for the Americans . . . causing their torture and execution.  It’s tedious and deadly work that Kay finds both depressing and exhilarating at the same time.  The sinister part happens when the Russians come after Kay, using her brother Christopher as the bait in an elaborate scheme that forces her to reexamine her past, as well as her present relationships . . . and her life will never be the same afterward.  Kay Malloy is endearing and unforgettable . . . a twenty-first century heroine that dedicated thriller readers can get to know early in her literary life and follow for her  whole career as she grows and ages. Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Shaker

Posted by on Mar 7, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Shaker Mysterious Book Report No. 277 by John Dwaine McKenna For the folks living over on the left coast, earthquakes are an accepted fact of life; about as ordinary—and as welcome—as public rudeness or graffiti on our national monuments.  They’re a trade-off perhaps, for the warm, wonderful Mediterranean climate and the endless eye-popping coastline, its scenic wonders and bountiful interior where the crops grow without end.  Almost a perfect place . . . except for those damnable temblors that come along every now and then and tear things up.  An earthquake however, makes a great background for our MBR this week. Shaker, (Knopf/Penguin/Random House, $26.95, 333 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-35003-7) by Scott Frank begins just a few days after the Los Angeles area has been devastated by a large earthquake . . . when a quiet, unassuming, middle-aged man named Roy Cooper comes to town.  He’s an errand runner for some New York City mobsters, and his errand is to clip a guy named Martin Shine . . . who disappeared after embezzling a boatload of money.  Roy arrives, rents a car and gets a map to Shine’s apartment, where he takes care of business.  No more Martin Shine.  Roy makes his exit, but can’t find his car and after searching for a while, ends up in the midst of a mugging that becomes a second murder.  Of course, being it’s LA, someone’s watching . . . and filming . . . all the action as the murder takes place in the alley behind his house.  What makes the video go viral however, is when Roy does something to one of the four gang-bangers who’s holding a gun on him, the very same guy that Roy used on Martin Shine only moments earlier.  In the next instant, that same lil banger will use that same antique pistol to blow away the jogger he and his three fellows had been terrorizing when Ray Cooper stumbled into their midst.  Almost immediately, most of the City of Angels is hunting for Roy and the four young men who killed the jogger . . . who just happened to be the Hispanic law-and-order candidate for mayor in the upcoming election.  With pitch-perfect dialog and dialect, non-stop action and a twisted, diabolic plot, which still finds places for humor that’s reminiscent of the late, great Elmore Leonard, Shaker is bound to be enjoyed by all who read it.  We sure did! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Far Empty

Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Far Empty Mysterious Book Report No. 276 by John Dwaine McKenna This week’s MBR is written on the day after what’s already being called The most dramatic Super Bowl ever played: number LI, or fifty-one in Arabic numerals.  It was the greatest comeback in playoff football history . . . and an apt comparison to what has to be one of the best, and most dramatic noir debut novels about a man coming back to his old home town, only to find systemic corruption, official malfeasance and rampant disregard of sworn duty by an entrenched, duplicitous, iron-fisted county sheriff who lords over the small Texas border town of Murfree like a Medici prince. The Far Empty, (Putnam/Penguin, $26.00, 425 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17634-0) by J. Todd Scott takes place in what’s known as big bend territory—the empty desert southeast of El Paso, defined by the Rio Grande River, which is the border with Mexico.  Because the area is so remote, so isolated and so thinly populated, it’s a favored place for smugglers, of drugs and humans, as well as a magnet for law enforcement types trying to stem the flow. The narrator of the story is a seventeen-year-old boy named Caleb Ross, whose mother suddenly and mysteriously disappeared a little more than a year ago.  No trace of her has ever been found and Caleb, the son of longtime County Sheriff Stanford “Judge” Ross, is convinced that his father murdered her.  When Deputy Chris Cherry uncovers a body in a shallow grave out in the most remote part of the county, Caleb is convinced it’s the remains of his missing mother.  Deputy Cherry, whose promising football career was cut short by a devastating knee injury, has come home to the place he grew up in . . . the same small town he’d been trying to escape from his entire life . . . where he takes the only available job, and finds he’s made a deal with The Devil . . . who may not let him live to tell the tale. The Far Empty is an astonishing debut, written in elegant prose by an author with more than twenty years of law enforcement experience along the southern border.  His eloquent, and evocative descriptions of time and place, characters and events, are as sure and gifted as a much more seasoned writer and leave the reader with an unstated promise of even greater works to come.  J. Todd Scott is a wordsmith to pay attention to.  He’s kicked off his career with his head and shoulders far above the rest of the crowd—and we’re looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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The Second Girl

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Second Girl Mysterious Book Report No. 275 by John Dwaine McKenna One of the main functions of the MBR is to spot and point out for our readers new, outstanding and fresh crime fiction writers who’ve created memorable characters doing unusual deeds in authentic situations.  The locations and times vary, but our aim is to encourage folks to read by introducing them to the best talent we can find.  This week we have a gem. The Second Girl, (Mulholland Books/Little Brown and Company, $26.00, 354 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-26417-4) by David Swinson is a rare first novel teeming with accuracy, grit and an achingly flawed character named Frankie Marr.  He’s a retired Washington, D.C. detective who’s scratching out a slim living as a private investigator, and working overtime to conceal the fact that he’s addicted to alcohol and drugs.  Like Sherlock Holmes, cocaine is his drug of choice, and oxycotin’s just dandy too, but never, ever does he resort to crack or heroin.  Too addictive, he thinks, and not for me.  Frankie scores his drugs by ripping off dealers, stealing the contents of their stash houses after stakeing them out for a few days.  That’s what he’s doing as the novel begins . . . and it’s how Frankie Marr inadvertently finds and recues a kidnapped sixteen year-old girl, after he finds her cowering and chained to an eye-bolt, screwed into the floor.  Frankie’s seen as a hero—prompting the parents of a second missing girl to beg him to find their daughter, who disappeared months earlier and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.  After stating I hate juvie cases, a damaged and reluctant P.I. sets out to solve a case he expects can only end in heartbreak, through the mean and gang-infested streets of our nation’s capitol.  Author David Swinson—himself a sixteen-year veteran of the D.C. Metro Police Department—writes with the sure hand of experience, evoking the sights and sounds of the city so well that the reader can almost feel the grit and grime and see that Doritos bag laying on the curb.  Frankie Marr’s a fascinating character you, the reader, won’t know whether to love or hate . . . but you won’t be able to take your eyes off of him . . . or stop wondering what he’ll do next! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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Redemption Road

Posted by on Feb 13, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Redemption Road Mysterious Book Report No. 274 by John Dwaine McKenna One of my personal frustrations in life is that at any given time, there’s a pile of forty to sixty or more books on my bookcase waiting to be read and reported on.  Well Okay, you say, What’s wrong with that?  Sounds like job security to me . . . True, but here’s the exasperating part.  The shelf life in bookstores for new novels is around 90 to 120 days.  After that, they’re remaindered—returned to the publisher—to be sold by weight at scrap prices to discount sellers.  Back in the bookshops, the shelves are restocked with the newest best-sellers and the process repeats itself over and over again.  Consequently, the pressure’s always on the columnist . . . yours truly . . . to keep ever up-to-date reviewing the latest and greatest of new releases.  It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle and I have bite marks all over my backside from the dog-eat-doggedness of it all.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my long-winded exculpation for failing to report on one of last year’s brightest and best and most literate crime novels to come down the pike in quite a while.  With many thanks to Otto Penzler at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City for calling it to my attention, here ‘tis. Redemption Road, (Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press, $27.99, 417 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-38036-6) by John Hart was first published in May 2016.  It is the story of a southern town full of lies, secrets, betrayals, and nearly unbearable tension.  It’s also filled with such drama, suspense, and deep understanding of human shortcomings that each page almost groans with the weight of it all.  As the novel begins and the complex plot starts to unfold, a convict is about to be released from prison after serving thirteen years of a much longer sentence for murder.  He’s an ex-cop, one of the shiniest ever to wear a badge . . . until a woman was found murdered on the altar of an old and revered local church with his DNA under her nails and scratches on his neck.  His name is Adrian Wall, and waiting for him upon his release, is a thirteen year-old boy named Gideon Strange.  He was only an infant when his mother died but now, he plans to shoot and kill the man who went to the penitentiary for her murder.  At the same time, the only cop to believe in Wall’s innocence, a fellow detective named Elizabeth Black, has troubles of her own.  She’s under investigation for the shooting deaths of two men who had kidnapped a young woman and were taking turns abusing her in the basement of an abandoned house.  She may be a heroic cop who went in alone—or an avenging angel who put eighteen nine millimeter rounds into the perpetrators.  All of that happens in just the first couple of chapters in this dynamic thriller with new revelations on every page, surprises by the boatload and more twisting turns than the path to perdition and the road to ruin put together.  Redemption Road is a novel you’ll think about long after you’ve read it, and John Hart is an author you’ll always be on the lookout for, for the same...

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Every Man A Menace

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Every Man A Menace Mysterious Book Report No. 269 John Dwaine McKenna Hello, and welcome to the 2017 edition of the Mysterious Book Report, where we’re dedicated to the proposition that You must read . . . or surrender yourself to ignorance, which makes just as much sense today as it did 2,500 years ago when a Chinese philosopher named Kong Zi said it.  The world knows him as Confucius, and his teachings are as cogent now as they were then . . . perhaps even more so in this day and age of the ten-second soundbite and three-second attention span.  The MBR is here to encourage, promote and stimulate the reading habit in everyone.  We do it by reading and reporting on the best new mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction being written today, with an emphasis on all of the exciting, up-and-coming new talent producing work that’s comparable, or even superior, to the legends and the best writers of the past.  Take this week’s composition for example. Every Man a Menace, (Grove Atlantic Press, $25.00, 278 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2544-6) by Patrick Hoffman is his second published novel and the follow-up to last year’s best-selling debut, The White Van.  It’s getting rave reviews for it’s tight plotting, realistic characters and compelling dialogue, as well as it’s spot-on examination of the global operations of today’s large-scale drug wholesalers. As the novel begins, a newly released convict named Raymond Gaspar is sent to San Francisco by the gang-lord who ran the crew that protected him in prison, to check on the massive shipment of MDMA—also known as Molly, or Ecstasy—that’s about to be brought into the city from Thailand.  The boss, still in prison, wants Raymond to keep tabs on Gloria, the Filipino woman who’s brokering the sale, and the increasingly erratic, crazed dealer named Shadrack.  He’s the guy who runs around with a gym bag stuffed full of precious gems; diamonds, rubies and emeralds, because he’s afraid of banks.  He’s also the guy who’s supposed to pony up with several million in cash to pay everyone  off . . . from Bangkok to Miami to San Francisco . . . and keep the good times rolling.  But nothing ever seems to go as planned in the criminal underworld, and a phone call from Asia sets a chain of events in motion that will end in blood and death for some, fabulous wealth, if they can pull it off, for others while the end-users party on, oblivious to the trail of pain, betrayal and bloodshed behind their latest good time.  Proving he’s no fluke with a one-hit wonder, Patrick Hoffman has written an electrifying novel that plunks the reader down, smack-dab in the middle of the transglobal drug scene.  It’s a truly frightening peek into what’s going on all around us . . . no matter where we live.  Every Man A Menace is one of the most outstanding sophomore novels to come across my radar screen in a very long time.  With it’s propulsive pacing, diabolic plot and relentless action, it’ll keep all crime fiction lovers  arc welded to the page.  Don’t plan on getting much done after you start reading, but once you finish, its gonna seem like forever until Hoffman’s next one is published.  Personally, I can’t wait!...

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The One Man

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The One Man Mysterious Book Report No. 273 by John Dwaine McKenna Pundits the world over have examined, discussed, analyzed, diagramed, debated, researched and written thousands upon thousands of books, articles and dissertations on the subject of the Second World War.  It’s the object of infinite fascination and endless study; perhaps because it was the most momentous, and tragic event in all of human history—costing at least 60, and possibly as many as 90 or 100 million human lives, plus another 25 million war-related injuries—WWII is undisputedly the most calamitous event ever.  And, tucked in amongst all of the mind-numbing statistics, is that horror of horrors known as the Final Solution . . . the attempt by the Nazis to exterminate all of the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and congenitally disabled persons in Europe.  Today, we call it The Holocaust, and memorialize it in order to prevent such a cruel and sadistic tragedy from ever happening again.  It’s the subject of a great new adventure yarn by bestselling thriller author Andrew Gross. The One Man, (Minotaur Books, $26.99, 415 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-07950-3) is based partly on personal family history, some factual events, and of course, a lot of the conjecture found in every author’s favorite premise: The What If scenario.  In his research preparation for the novel, Mr. Gross learned of the narrow escape by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Nils Bohr from the Nazis, and the fantastic true story of a British soldier named Denis Avey, who broke into the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland and then escaped, bringing word of the atrocities there to the Allied High Command. What if, a world-class scientist having knowledge vital to the war effort, information needed to create the ultimate weapon, was sent to the most notorious of all death camps? And there you have the plot of The One Man. His name is Alfred Mendl.  He’s a renowned physicist, possessing theoretical science that only one other physicist in the world has . . . and he is working with the enemy. In the United States, Bill Donovan, the legendary founder of the OSS (which later became the CIA), recruits a young Polish-American intelligence officer named Nathan Blum to attempt a rescue.  All Blum has to do is secretly infiltrate one of the most heavily guarded and well-defended clandestine installations the world has ever devised, find a single individual among hundreds of thousands spread over hundreds of restricted acres, and escape with him.   It’s a  mission with the  word ‘suicide’ written  all over it . . . and a novel that will captivate all who read it, while at the same time educating them about some of the horrors that took place in the concentration camps of World War II.  If you’re a lover of thrillers and historical fiction, as I am, you won’t want to miss this compelling read.  It’s one for the ages and the voice of an author who should be on everyone’s must-read list. Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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So Say The Fallen

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

So Say The Fallen Mysterious Book Report No. 270 by John Dwaine McKenna An often explored mystery theme that never seems to get old, is the question of suicide or murder.  What better way to get away with it than staging the death scene and making it look like the decedent took his or her own life?  Do it artfully enough to foil detection, write up a goodbye note for the victim, wait a few days for the Medical Examiner’s confirmation, and bingo!  The fortune is yours.  Collect the insurance money and live happily ever after . . . preferably some place warm . . . where there’s excellent amenities and entertainments.  It’s a plot that mystery writers the world over have used and abused for as long as the genre has been around.  But—and it’s a really big but—just like the crime itself, it takes a helluva good wordsmith to pull it off.  This week’s Mysterious Book Report is just such a one.  It’s the work of a young and highly regarded Irish talent named Stuart Neville, who lives and works in Belfast, Northern Ireland. So Say The Fallen, (Soho Press, $26.95, 325 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-739-1) features Detective Chief Inspector Serena Flanagan of the Belfast Police Department, a serial character who’s not only a breast cancer survivor, but also a hard-nosed cop dealing with marital problems.  She’s respected, but often at odds with her fellow detectives because of her unorthodox methods, abrasive personality and disregard for authority. The novel begins with the untimely death of a man named Henry Garrick.  He was a dealer of expensive classic automobiles who was horribly burned, disfigured and maimed in a car wreck five months earlier.  Legless and an invalid, he was in constant pain before apparently taking his own life with an overdose of morphine, leaving his much younger and beautiful wife a widow.  A wealthy, grieving, unstable widow who has her faith in God and the support of Peter McKay to help her through the tragedy.  He’s the pastor of her church, as well as a close family friend and confidant of the late and much lamented Henry.  As is the law in Northern Ireland, all suicides must be investigated, then certified, by a medical examiner and a police officer ranked sergeant or above.  DCI Serena Flanagan is assigned the duty.  At first, everything seems cut-and-dried, but somehow, the facts don’t quite add up.  Then, the tiniest of clues raises her gut instincts, causing Serena to have doubts about Henry’s manner of death.  In the face of mounting pressure, she refuses to sign-off on the apparent suicide.  At the same time, her troubles at home are mounting, casting doubt on her ability to do an effective job of unraveling the mystery and answering the increasingly difficult question . . . Was it suicide or was it murder? The answer can only be found by reading this complex, twisted and elegant novel that plumbs the depths of the human soul.  Stuart Neville has once again proven he is a master of noir and one of the most electrifying voices working in crime fiction today. Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give,...

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Rise The Dark

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Rise The Dark Mysterious Book Report No. 272 by John Dwaine McKenna We Americans have lived in peace, prosperity and plenty for so long that we pretty much take certain things for granted.  There’s exceptions, certainly.  And they are unfortunate for a fact.  But in the main, we’re guaranteed basic human services, rights and privileges that we not only expect, but demand.  Take utilities for example.  We demand fresh, clean drinking water—remember FLINT, MICHIGAN?—and clean, efficient sewer and sanitation systems.  If however, for some unknown reason these systems should break down for a short while, we can get along temporarily, because we have alternatives close at hand and easy to access . . . although there would be world class griping and whining and complaining for the duration.  But one indispensable utility we can’t do without for long periods of time is . . . electricity.  Ready Kilowatt to the rescue, ‘cuz modern life is totally dependant on you.  Without electricity almost nothing works in a modern household.  I was reminded of this last week when a big windstorm hit our area and knocked the power out for several hours.  No lights, no TV, no computers, no radio, no heat, no hot water and, in my case—no electric hospital bed and no elevator to get upstairs anyway—even if I did get out of bed and into the wheelchair!  So I say again . . . electricity is indispensable to modern life.  Without it, there is no modern life.  And now one of the best thriller writers to ever come along has written an awesome new novel on the subject. Rise The Dark, (Little, Brown and Company, $26.00, 385 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-29383-9) by Michael Koryta is his 12th, and perhaps the most exciting, crime thriller he’s yet written.  It begins with Markus Novak, (the private detective who thinks his wife was murdered by a man named Garland Webb in Koryta’s most recent novel, Last Words) unemployed, living in Florida and still trying to come to grips with her death.  When Webb is released from prison on a  technicality, Markus vows to hunt him down, which draws him to the strange little town in Florida where his wife Lauren, was murdered.  But Garland Webb is part of something much larger, and more ambitious, involving a charismatic cult leader named Eli . . . who speaks to . . . and receives answers from the planet Earth herself.  Eli and his followers are trying to carry out a scheme to save the world by sending most of the country back to the dark ages.  The plan draws Markus to Red Lodge, Montana where a woman named Sabrina Baldwin has been abducted by Garland Webb in a blackmail scheme designed to force her husband Jay—a high voltage lineman—to sabotage the electrical grid, shutting the power off for a quarter of the United States of America.  It’s a plot coming straight from today’s news headlines; one that should concern, and frighten, each and every one of us, because it’s so potentially real.  Rise The Dark is a figurative call to arms for the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and all local jurisdictions of law enforcement as well as power generation utilities all over the nation.  It’s a wake-up call for all of us,...

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Dancing With The Tiger

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Dancing With The Tiger Mysterious Book Report No. 271 by John Dwaine McKenna Today, in nearly every corner of the world, works of art are being stolen, forged or destroyed by persons of the criminal classes.  They are rapacious, greedy, ignorant and uncaring of the fact that their crimes are against all of humanity—for all time—because each piece of art is unique and cannot be replaced.  And nowhere is this thievery more prevalent than in the vast unprotected parcels where previous civilizations existed . . . where rarities from cultures long gone might be obtained for nothing more than some trespassing and digging time.  The pilfered treasure is sold to unscrupulous dealers or collectors who aren’t concerned by the items lack of provenance.  It’s the subject of a fascinating new novel, and the object of this weeks Mysterious Book Report No. 271. Dancing With The Tiger, (Miriam Wood/Putnam Penguin Random House, $26.00, 453 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17517-6) by Lili Wright is one of the most impressive debuts of the year—if not the last five or more—and that’s a lotta lotta books folks!  Ms. Wright, who teaches English at a Midwestern University, displays an intimate knowledge of Mexico, with a deep understanding of its history, and an affinity for its people, culture and language.  She uses that background to take her readers on a noir thrill-ride through the highs and lows of the ways of life down there.  And it all starts with a crime . . . When a meth-addicted looter—trying to find something of value to steal and sell in order to score drugs—digs up what’s believed to be the funerary mask of the last Aztec emperor, it turns the art world on its head.  The death mask of Montezuma has been lost for almost five hundred years . . . for so long in fact, that its very existence has been called into question.  But now it causes a mad scramble to begin between competing collectors to possess what may be one of the world’s most priceless treasures.  The key to it all is authentication, which has to be done by a government official and international art expert.  He is, of course, for sale to the highest builder.  That leaves a ruthless drug lord, an unscrupulous, wealthy collector and a thirty-ish American woman who’s known for repeatedly making bad personal choices, locked in a life-and-death struggle to have the mask . . . which has disappeared once again, even as the contenders vie for it.  Then there’s the lovesick gardener.  He’s the married middle-aged man in love, and an adult relationship, with a sexually abused fifteen-year-old shop girl.  Although he works for the collector by day, he works for Reyes the drug lord at night.  He’s the man in the tiger mask, and a sicario, an assassin, tasked with recovering the mask and killing the tweaker who dug it up. Those are only the major players in this fascinating, propulsive and endearing first novel that teems with secondary characters, sights, sounds and descriptions so well written they vibrate right off the page and into the readers consciousness. Dancing With The Tiger marks the beginning of a powerful new talent in American fiction.  Lili Wright has a lot to say and an authoritative voice to say it with.  Personally,...

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The Hand That Feeds You

Posted by on Dec 19, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Hand That Feeds You Mysterious Book Report No. 268 by John Dwaine McKenna This novel should have been read and featured months ago, but . . . confession time . . . the title was kind of a turn-off.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My Mother was right when she said, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, Honey.”  It had to do with a novel she bought for my eighth birthday.  She didn’t check it out, thought it was a cowboy yarn of the Will James kind, for young boys and girls.  Turned out to be more of the Erskine Caldwell type for big girls and boys, and I learned a lot of new words I shouldn’t’ve before Ma took it away. The Hand That Feeds You, (Scribner/Simon & Schuster, $26.00, 273 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-7458-9) by A.J. Rich sets a new, and awesomely-high bar for psychological thrillers in my humble opinion.  Maybe because it was written as a collaborative effort by two acclaimed writers: Amy Hempel and Jill Clement.  Hence the A.J. part of the nom de plume, and no idea where or how they derived the last name . . . an uncle maybe? (Sorry.  I know it’s lame.  Couldn’t resist . . . ) The basis of the story is deceit and betrayal.  It begins when an accomplished young woman named Morgan Prager comes home from classes where she’s working toward her PhD thesis in victim psychology to find her live-in lover—the man named Bennett she just got engaged to and has a big diamond ring to prove it—mauled to death.  Her three dogs, a Great Pyrenees she raised from a pup and a pair of rescued Pit Bulls are all covered in gore.  There’s blood tracked everywhere and the three dogs are hyperactive.  Hysterical, stunned by the violence, Morgan fears she’s guilty of something known as  pathological altruism: doing more harm than good through the selfless act of adopting the two rescue dogs.  One dog is shot dead by a responding police officer, the Great Pyrenees and surviving Pit Bull  are impounded and put on death row at the Humane Society.  They’re to be euthanized after being used as evidence in the legal proceedings surrounding Bennett’s horrific murder.  Then Bennett turns out to be an imposter who’s been deceiving Morgan and everyone else, as other fiancés turn up, some living, some dead.  Who, and what, was this man calling himself Bennett, why is Morgan a victim and can she ever figure out what happened the day he was killed, because Morgan cannot make herself believe that her gentle dogs would ever do such an evil act. The stress, tension and propulsive nature of the plot make this novel almost impossible to put down once begun.  It’s a conundrum from the start because Morgan just can’t accept that she’s been so thoroughly duped by everything and everyone she’s ever loved; and the writers are able to keep that slight hope alive until the stunning denouement, when the conclusion you’ll never, ever, see coming is revealed.  The Hand That Feeds You is a masterpiece of psychology and skullduggery, brilliant and though provoking as well . . . you’ll find yourself re-examining and re-evaluating what you think you know about shelters and shelter animals.  I...

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A Hero of France

Posted by on Dec 12, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

A Hero of France Mysterious Book Report No. 267 by John Dwaine McKenna On September 1, 1939, German Armed Forces invaded Poland with tanks, armored infantry divisions and dive bombers.  Great Britain and France declared war on Germany the next day and World War II began.  Poland surrendered two weeks later.  The German forces occupied Poland, loaded their weapons and combat troops onto railroads, and headed west, right at their traditional enemy, France . . . who had humiliated Adolf Hitler and all of Deutschland with the terms of surrender that ended World War I and bankrupted the German nation.  The French, using some of the reparation moneys they’d extracted, built a series of fortifications called the Maginot Line along their common border, depending on it to repel another invasion from the east . . . as happened in 1914, at the start of World War I.  In 1940, the German armies simply drove their tanks around the end of the line, crushing Belgium and Holland in the process, and invaded anyway; then proceeded to wreck the combined British and French armies.  In June of 1940, the remnants of the British Expeditionary Forces were evacuating the continent in anything that could make it across the English Channel at a place called Dunkirk; the commander-in-chief of all the French armies, Marshal Petain, the hero of Verdun in the Great War, surrendered to Hitler himself, and created a pro-Nazi government at Vichy, in unoccupied southern France.  At the same time, the victorious armies of Hitler’s Third Reich, enjoyed all the splendors of Paris and fortified the northern coastline, preparing to invade England.  By the early Spring of 1941, the Nazis have tightened their grip on all of Europe, The Brits—with American Lend-Lease assistance—are bombing Germany, and as some French are resisting . . . others are collaborating. A Hero of France, (Random House, $27.00, 234 pages, ISBN 978-0-8129-9649-4) by Alan Furst, is his fourteenth volume of historical fiction with a focus on World War II.  He’s the acknowledged master of WWII spy yarns, and this, his newest, does nothing to disabuse us of that notion. March, 1941 Paris, The City of Lights, is in the hands of the Nazis and lighted no more.  It’s dark, cold, under military control—blacked out at night—and being slowly plundered by the rapacious German appetite for French art treasures, luxury goods and natural resources.  All loaded on trains and disappearing to the east, as are the Jews, who’re being disappeared at an alarming rate, to camps in Poland.   A man named Mathieu is leading a small group of resistance fighters—rescuing British pilots and airmen who’ve been shot down over France—and escorting them to the southern French territory.  From there, they can escape back to England and rejoin the bombing campaign, where they are desperately needed.  The life expectancy of spies and resistance fighters, as well as their enablers, is usually measured in days and weeks behind enemy lines.  As the German occupiers try to catch them, the resistance fighters resort to ever-more desperate measures, using the riskiest of methods to keep from being captured, tortured and killed.  The tension ratchets up with each sentence and every page, as Mr. Furst skillfully, accurately and knowledgeably guides the reader through some of the most deadly . . ....

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Best Books of the Year 2016

Posted by on Dec 12, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

John Dwaine McKenna’s 2016 Best Books of the Year It almost seems impossible after an endlessly long, Will it ever be over? presidential campaign, but 2016 is about to become history . . . which means it’s time for our annual Best Books of the Year list, and what a year it’s been!  As usual, there was no end of treachery, murder and mayhem, intricate plots and carefully constructed novels written by some of our old favorites and a bumper crop of outrageously talented newcomers.  And hey—just so you know—our web wizard, Jeff, has added hyper-links to all of our BBY lists so that now, you can click on any recommendation and be whisked right through  the  electronic haze,  directly to the complete  book report.  Pretty awesome!  So . . . without further ado . . . here’s the list. Best Books of the Year 2016 MBR # 228                 Run You Down,  by Julia Dahl Rebekah Roberts was raised by her Christian father after her Hassidic Jewish mother ran away and disappeared shortly after she was born.  Now, Rebekah’s an adult.  She’s working as a stringer—a contract reporter for a cheesy New York City tabloid newspaper—and made a name for herself by solving the murder of a Hassidic woman in book one.  Now, in book two, she’s contacted by a man from the ultra-orthodox town of Roseville in upstate New York, whose wife’s death was deemed accidental after she was found drowned in the bathtub.  He thinks she was murdered and begs Rebekah to investigate before it’s too late.  This one’s fascinating.  It takes the reader into the heart of a little understood, highly secretive religious sect and it’s an awesome murder mystery to boot!   MBR # 231                 Last Words,  by Michael Koryta This underappreciated novel is one of my all-time personal favorites because it’s a variation of the locked-room mystery . . .  taking place in a seemingly endless, partially explored group of underground caverns down in the southern tip of Indiana.  On the same day private investigator Mark Novak’s wife is murdered in Florida, a teenage girl’s body is pulled from the bewildering cave system by a man the small town locals believe is the killer.  He wandered around in the underground caverns for close to a week without food or water; can’t remember where he found her; what happened down there, or how he got out.  Ten years have now passed, the case remains unsolved, and the prime suspect is the one who called Novak’s organization to try and find the killer.  This one’ll keep you guessing right up to the end!   MBR # 234                 Ruins of War, by John A. Connell An awesome historical first novel that takes place during the winter of 1945 in the war torn and devastated city of Munich, Germany.  That’s where CWO, Chief Warrant Officer, Mason Collins—a former Chicago homicide cop—is trying to hunt down a serial killer in the American Zone of Occupation.  The killer rampages throughout the ruins of the city, staging gruesome, ritualized, and brutal murders that display a surgeon’s knowledge of human anatomy . . . and a butcher’s regard for the victims.  As Collins battles the Army bureaucracy, the bitter cold winter weather, the black marketeers, recalcitrant civilians and unrepentant Nazi’s ....

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Charcoal Joe

Posted by on Dec 5, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Charcoal Joe Mysterious Book Report No. 266 by John Dwaine McKenna Our author this week has been named a Grand Master in the year 2016 by the CWA, or Crime Writers of America.  It’s the highest and most prestigious honor given by the group, and a distinction awarded only a very few.  They’re the best of the best, at the top of their game, having labored long and hard in the literary wilderness before gaining the peer recognition they so richly deserve.  Walter Mosley is the writer’s name.  He has fifty-some books to his credit, about half of which are mysteries, with fourteen of those featuring one of the most unique and iconic characters in all of crime fiction; a Los Angeles private eye named Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins.  He’s a black detective, operating in the pre-riot City of Angels during the 1960s, when African-Americans began demanding and fighting for their rights.  At the same time, the Viet Nam war was raging in the southeast Asia. Charcoal Joe, (Doubleday/Penguin Random House, $26.95, 305 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-53920-3) by Walter Mosley begins in May of 1968, when Easy Rawlins, “A professional detective with a bright future and a dark past,” opens his new WRENS-L Detective Agency with two partners: Saul Lynx and Tinsford “Whisper” Natly.  Easy’s on a roll.  He’s sitting on a pile of cash from his last case, has an engagement ring in his pocket to present to the love of his life, a woman named Bonnie Shay later in the day, and is fully recovered from a devastating car wreck at the conclusion of his last adventure.  He’s just arrived at his new office when Raymond “Mouse” Alexander pays a call, bringing Easy a case he wants nothing to do with, but doesn’t dare refuse.  In Easy’s words . . . I couldn’t say no to mouse.  He’d saved my life and put his on the line for me many times.  He was mostly evil and definitely a killer but black men in America had learned centuries ago that the devil not only offered the best deal—he was the only game in our part of town. And just like that, Easy Rawlins finds himself attempting to exonerate a brilliant and innocent, young black physicist named Dr. Seymour Brathwaite, who’s in jail charged with murder, after police found him standing over a pair of dead white men, tortured and killed execution style at a beach house in Malibu.  Easy’s not working for Mouse, but another gangster friend of his with an  even worse reputation.  His  name is Rufus  Tyler . . . also know as Charcoal Joe . . . who’s currently in the Avett Detention Facility doing ninety  days for discharging a firearm and menacing.  Taking on a hopeless-appearing, racially-charged case at the behest of a pair of stone-cold killers is the highest point of Easy’s newest exploit, because he’ll soon be up to his eyeballs in bad guys, hot women, stolen loot, bags of Mafia money and a mile-long trail of victims . . . all while dealing with personal emotional issues that would crush an ordinary—and less sanguine soul.  Easy Rawlins is the rarest of rare characters: altruistic, heroic and dark-skinned.  He’s a black man operating effectively in a white world with dignity, grace and style: a...

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The Winter Girl

Posted by on Nov 28, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Winter Girl Mysterious Book Report No. 265 by John Dwaine McKenna It won’t officially be winter until the Twenty-first of December when the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, happens.  Mother Nature says otherwise.  It’s been cold, gray and low freezing temperatures for some weeks in many parts of the country . . . a great time to start your personal reading program . . . and we’ve got an eerie, shocking and suspenseful psychological thriller to kick it off with. The Winter Girl, (Doubleday/Penguin Random House, $24.95, 205 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-53997-5) by Matt Marinovich is a dark, treacherous and sinister tale that’s a great deal like the work of Jim Thompson . . . cut-to-the-quick lean word usage, and chock-full of irredeemable characters.  Maybe despicable would be a better descriptor, because as the story progresses and the characters are revealed, it quickly becomes apparent that they all have monstrous tendencies and vicious flaws.  Nothing is as it first appears . . . no one is what they’re supposed to be in this relentless novel of mystery and deceit. As the book begins, it’s winter.  A young married couple named Elise and Scott have taken up residence in her father’s house in the Hamptons, the tony part of Long Island’s north shore, so they’ll be close to the hospital where her father is slowly dying.  Elise, a speech therapist by occupation, spends her days there, comforting the dying man.  Scott, a professional photographer by trade, occupies himself by taking walks on the beach, moping around the house and spying on the place next door.  After noticing the lights going on and off every night at the exact same time, in the exact same rooms, Scott determines that the neighbors home is empty and, on a whim, breaks in.  It’s such a rush, he goes back and does it again.  And again.  And again.  And then convinces Elise to go with him on another break-in where, in a misguided attempt to spice up their failing marriage, they end up doing a marital act in a downstairs bedroom and make a terrible discovery . . . setting themselves up for a series of bad decisions . . . causing their lives to spiral down in an ever tightening cycle of doom. The twists and surprises never end in this fiendishly clever tale.  Readers won’t be able to stop themselves from just one more chapter as all the characters reveal their secret flaws.  Page. By. Page. By Page! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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Hush Hush

Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Hush Hush Special Mysterious Book Report No. 7 by John Dwaine McKenna and Lora Brown With the finesse and lightness of a lady’s touch Lora Brown has selected for her next Special MBR, a critically-acclaimed, bestselling, award-winning and universally-admired mystery writer who’s a perennial favorite because her plots are so diabolic, her characters so twisted, and prose so smooth.  The author’s name is Laura Lippman, and she has more than twenty books to her credit, all of which speak to the reader on a personal level because they all touch upon our deep-seated, basic human fears and longings. Hush Hush, (Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, $26.99, 303 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-208342-5) features Baltimore private investigator and serial character Tess Monaghan.  She’s a new mother now and when she’s asked by her lawyer pal to into the security needs of celebrity film maker Melisandre Dawes, Tess doesn’t want to get involved.  That’s because a little over a decade ago, Melisandre left her infant daughter in her car on a blazing hot Maryland afternoon in August.  The two-month old baby girl died while her mother sat on the nearby shore of the Patapsco River.  At trial, Melisandre was let off by reason of insanity.  She gives up custody of her two other young daughters and leaves the country.  Now, she’s back, having reinvented herself as a documentary filmmaker, with intentions of filming herself attempting to reconnect with her estranged teenaged daughters.  But there’s a problem.  Lingering doubts about the truthfulness of her insanity claim cause her ex-husband, the girls parent and guardian who’s remarried and father of a newborn, to throw up a roadblock.  Then he’s murdered.  All eyes turn toward Melisandre, the most likely suspect, and Tess must decide if she’s able to help a woman she doesn’t like, doesn’t trust and can’t stand.  Then . . . she realizes that the case has attracted a stalker with a grudge, against her!  The tension ratchets up on every page as Ms. Lippman blends psychology, fear and danger together into an almost unbearable level of suspense with the sure hand of a master wordsmith.  Lora gives it 4 stars and says it’s suitable for teens and up. Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com NOTE:  No MBR next week.  We’re all going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house . . . HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!  ...

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My Bad a mile high noir

Posted by on Nov 7, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

My Bad a mile high noir Mysterious Book Report No. 264 by John Dwaine McKenna The word noir (pronounced NWAR) comes from the French.  Its literal translation is black, but it can be interpreted as dark or wicked.  As it applies to the Mysterious Book Report, it’s a type of crime fiction that’s characterized by cynicism, fatalism and moral ambiguity.  The noir genre has become so popular over the past few years that it’s now being broken down into sub-headings such as southern noir, urban and even hillbilly noir.  Now, thanks to a fortunate series of events, (more about that in just a bit), we’re going to introduce all of you to what can only be called Latino Noir, and hey, great news . . . it’s happening just a few miles north of Colorado Springs, in Denver, Colorado.  That’s where author Manuel Ramos lives and works and has situated his series featuring a tough guy named Gus Corral. My Bad, a mile high noir, (Arte Publico Press, $17.95, 248 pages, ISBN 978-1-55885-833-6) is the follow-up to the first of the series, entitled Desperado, and was just released the first of October, 2016. As the novel begins, Gus Corral is fresh out of prison, where he went down on charges for a robbery and shootout that left several people dead.  Then, there was the little matter of a few kidnappings, Mexican cartels and the theft of a priceless religious artifact—but you’ll have to read the first novel to find out about all of that.  Now, Gus has paid his debt to society, been granted parole and is determined to keep his nose clean.  He reports to his Parole Officer, passes random drug tests and has a job working as an investigator and process server for Luis Montez, the aging Chicano lawyer and one-time activist for Hispanic rights who defended Gus and engineered a more lenient sentence than he would otherwise have received.  Then, a woman whose husband, a seedy northside Denver bar owner, who was killed under mysterious circumstances in Mexico comes to the office with a wild tale about an unknown partner in an unknown—to her—import business.  He’s threatening her life; claims he’s owed a quarter million dollars by the dead husband and . . . everything changes for all of them.  As the problems and the bodies start mounting up on every page, it looks less and less likely that Gus will be able to keep his freedom . . . or his life. Using an economy of words reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain, Mr. Ramos puts the reader on the ground in the fast-disappearing north Denver neighborhoods whose Hispanic identity is being lost to an unrelenting assault of yuppification, urbanization and ever higher real estate prices.  With surprises galore, action and plot twists, and even a little pop music history in every chapter, plus a stunning denouement you’ll never see coming, My Bad is great crime fiction and entertaining reading.  It’s so authentic you’ll feel like you grew up in the neighborhood!  Manuel Ramos was a finalist for a CWA Edgar award and writes tough-guy prose with an understated eloquence other authors can only envy.  And the fortunate series of events?  I became aware of Deparado because it’s on the same Amazon landing...

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The Jealous Kind

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Jealous Kind Mysterious Book Report No. 263 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s a time in everyone’s life that only lasts for a few weeks of a certain special summer that many of us look back upon with nostalgia, affection, and sometimes, a genuine longing.  Filtered through the long lens of a half century, we remember those days and weeks and months during the ‘50s as idyllic and near-perfect . . . World War II was over and won, the world was on the mend and the possibilities, as well as the opportunities, stretched out in front of us like an endless chain of diamonds.  It was when we all had flat bellies, big attitudes and an unshakeable belief that our tomorrows would be better than our yesterdays.  It was our time of forever first love, and author James Lee Burke has captured it perfectly in his latest, and perhaps the best of all his thirty-five novels. The Jealous Kind, (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 382 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-0720-7) takes place during the summer of 1952, in Houston, Texas.  Aaron Holland Broussard is seventeen years old and hanging out with best friend Saber Bledsoe as they finish up their junior year of high school.  Their world consists of hot rod cars called heaps, drive-in restaurants, jukebox music and the close observation of members of the opposite sex.  That world gets tilted off of it’s axis when Aaron comes to the aid of a young woman named Valerie Epstein, falls in love with her, and runs afoul of her former boyfriend Grady Harrelson . . . son of the local mob boss, and a member of one of the richest families in the state of Texas.  And just like that, young Aaron’s immersed in the class war that’s been raging around him as he fights to save all he knows and loves from the violence of the thugs and killers of organized crime, and the depredations of the moneyed and privileged classes who use their wealth to shield themselves from payment for their criminality.  Aaron must make the transition from boy to man and somehow find the same courage his father displayed when he went over the top, out of the trenches in World War I. Written in the lyrical prose style for which he is famous, The Jealous Kind transcends genre.  Although it’s crime fiction containing violence, it’s backstoried by a tender and compelling first love affair, a coming-of-age story and includes a social commentary as well.  With a debate about class and privilege currently raging in our country and a new President about to be elected, this novel is timely, thought provoking and entertaining. If you’re not already a diehard fan of James Lee Burke’s work, you surely will be after reading The Jealous Kind.  It’s the stuff of a literary giant at the top of his form. Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Underground Airlines

Posted by on Oct 24, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Underground Airlines Mysterious Book Report No. 262 by John Dwaine McKenna Wow!  The bad news is; it’s the last week of October and time for the last installment of our second annual MBR Freak Fest.  But the good news is; we’ve  saved the best for  last . . . and it’s timely, as well as controversial and thought provoking given what’s been in the news of late . . . because it’s a thriller that takes place in an alternate America.  An America where slavery still exists because the Civil War never happened. Underground Airlines, (Mulholland Books/Little Brown, $26.00, 322 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-26124-1) by Ben H. Winters starts out as a literary thunderstorm on page one and grows into a CAT-Five hurricane at the conclusion.  It’s a novel predicated on the question, What If? What if, the war for southern secession had never happened? What would be the resulting consequences?  How different would our country—our society—and our unifying principals be?  How would we act as a nation, to other countries, our allies and trading partners . . . our adversaries?  What would the world look like? All those questions are addressed through the eyes of a young and talented black man who calls himself Victor.  Victor is a bounty hunter for the U.S. Marshall Service.  His job is tracking down runaway slaves from the ‘Hard Four’ . . . Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the combined north and south Carolinas . . . where slavery is still legal, still practiced, still utterly reprehensible.  All of the other 45 states have outlawed the practice and enacted highly restrictive laws about dealing with the Hard Four—who are still members of the United States of America.  They have seats in the US Senate and House of Representatives, have lobbyists acting on their behalf and advocating for their rights.  But when Victor is sent to Indianapolis, tasked with finding a runaway slave codenamed Jackdaw, everything in his narrow world is upended.  Jackdaw’s carrying a package of supreme importance to both the Hard Four and the  abolitionists Victor finds himself engaged with, as well as the Marshall’s Service.  As each new plot detail is revealed, Victor becomes a complex and tragic character with many flaws . . . and an equal number of redeeming qualities . . . in a world where nothing is as it first appears.  Underground Airlines is a novel that will not only entertain you, it’ll make you examine long-held assumptions, beliefs and values as you try to figure out who the characters really are and what they stand for in this provocative and complicated work that’ll leave you thinking about it long after you’ve finished reading it! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. h...

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The Dead Lands

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Dead Lands Mysterious Book Report No. 261 by John Dwaine McKenna Ever had the flu?  Not a run-of-the-mill cold with sniffles and sneezing, but the real deal, with chills, fever, congestion . . . the kind that makes every bone on your body ache and hurt so much you just can’t get out of bed?  The kind that can put you in the hospital if you’re not careful.  The kind that can kill a human, and sometimes does.  It’s an experience which anyone who’s had doesn’t want to repeat.  But the flu virus is tricky.  It mutates.  It can cause a pandemic, which many scientists predict will eventually happen, given that every year brings with it a new and often more virulent strain with every random throw of the genetic dice. The Dead Lands (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group, $26.00, 400 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-2824-0) by Benjamin Percy, postulates a future in which 150 years have elapsed since a fatal strain of airborne flu has decimated the human race, causing the collapse of civilization.  Tens of hundreds of millions have died, and solar radiation coupled with radioactive fallout from unattended nuclear power plants has caused most of the surviving mammals, fish, fowls, and reptiles to have an infinite variety of nasty mutations.  In the city of St. Louis, Missouri, survivors of the initial flu outbreak walled off the downtown area, renamed it Sanctuary and rejected all outside contact.  After 150 years however, the situation has changed.  Radically.  They think they’re the last human beings on earth, and the residents are slowly starving.  They’re down to eating rats and insects, and dying of dehydration due to a multiple-year drought and skimpy water rations.  At the same time, the beleaguered residents are being held as virtual prisoners by a dictatorial governor whose sadistic sheriff and his team of well-cared for deputies enforce his decisions.  No one is allowed to leave Sanctuary.  What had been walls to prevent outsiders from coming in, were now being used to keep insiders from getting out.  Conditions are so dire that open rebellion is a possibility.  Folks are unhappy, hungry and getting more desperate by the day when a rider on horseback comes in from the west.  A girl.  She’s a mutant, with eyes that are all pupil and some hidden talents she keeps to herself.  She tells wild tales of fertile land, with food and rainfall in abundance far to the west of them.  She’s thrown in jail, her information suppressed by the authorities and disclaimed as lies.  But an idea, once loosed, fires the imagination and can’t ever be contained again.  A small band of renegades, led by a woman named Clark, and a reclusive scholar named Lewis Meriwether break the stranger out of her cell and the tiny band escapes from Sanctuary.  They head west, in an epic recreation of the expedition of 1804, but this time it’s through the dead lands, as everything outside the walls is known.  Flesh-eating monsters, tyrants, sadists, nuclear wastelands, environmental catastrophes, heroes and heroines, love affairs, an epic trek into a vast unknown uncharted territory, and an examination of the undying human desire to be free all make The Dead Lands, a novel that’s large in scope and unforgettable in nature.  It’s appeal won’t diminish over time...

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The Bone Labryinth

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Bone Labyrinth Mysterious Book Report No. 260 by John Dwaine McKenna Anyone who’s passed by a mass-market paperback book rack has probably seen the name James Rollins, even if they have never read one of his many action-adventure yarns featuring Commander Gray Pierce and the Sigma Force Team.  In Rollins’s fictional world, the Sigma Group acts as the operational arm of DARPA:  the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  DARPA is real.  It has a three billion dollar annual budget and is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the U.S. military.  Google it and see for yourself . . . it’s where all of the whiz-bang, Buck Rogers, 25th century stuff is thought up and developed.  And therein, I think, lies the secret of Mr. Rollins’s success.  He combines fact and fiction, science and superstition, then overlays it all with a generous helping of history, geography, and bone-chilling-suspense.  The result is a situation that plays out in the reader’s mind as if it were the nightly news and not cutting-edge fiction. The Bone Labyrinth, (WM. Morrow/Harper Collins, $27.99, 471 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-238164-4) by James Rollins is his twenty-first work of fiction and has been judged by many to be the most exciting of all.  It’s about the evolution of human intelligence and the pending battle for control of the human genome, and with it the ability to gene-splice made-to-order creatures—including humans—of all kinds, shapes and sizes.  As the novel begins, a group of archaeologists and researchers in a remote cavern deep in the mountains of Croatia make a startling discovery about early man and an explosion of knowledge which took place 50,000 years ago.  They locate a hidden Catholic chapel containing the bones of a Neanderthal woman and an elaborate set of primitive paintings depicting a war between humans and monstrous giant creatures.  But before they can announce their discovery, they’re attacked, the bones are stolen and the chapel destroyed.  At the same time, a primate research center in Atlanta, Georgia is attacked and their research, in the form of a genetically-modified and highly intelligent baby gorilla, is stolen and its scientist handler kidnapped in what may be an act of piracy, sabotage, or the opening salvo of a high-tech war in which the future of the entire human race hangs in the balance.  As the Sigma Force deploys, the trail of the two events leads half of the group to Ecuador where they’re plunged into a four-hundred year old mystery that’s baffled some of the best minds in the world; while the other team members follow a faint trail to China, attempting a rescue that will put them into a death fight with some living monsters that are straight out of a  nightmare. The action, adventure and thrills never stop in The Bone Labyrinth.  It’s an exquisite, intricately-plotted and science-oriented thriller that’ll have you gasping for breath before it’s finished and leave a sense of wonderment in everyone who reads it.  For those who do, we strongly suggest reading the author’s notes at the conclusion of the text.  They’re astonishing!  They’ll leave you thinking about this novel for a long, long time.  Don’t say we didn’t warn ya! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious...

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The City of Mirrors

Posted by on Oct 3, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The City of Mirrors Mysterious Book Report No. 259 by John Dwaine McKenna Hey out there . . . it’s October . . . the month of election surprises, all Hallows Eve and the Day of the Dead.  Here in America, most folks celebrate by dressing their kids up in weird or outlandish costumes and going house-to-house, begging for candy on the last day of the month.  But . . . that’s most people.  Here at the Mysterious Book Report we celebrate for the whole month by reading and reviewing books of the paranormal, dystopian, horror, sci-fi or macabre genres that we’ve been saving up for the whole year in anticipation.  So, open that cask of amontillado . . . let it breathe for a bit whilst you fetch your slippers and spectacles and throw the hood over the raven’s cage . . . then, pour a glass, settle into a favorite reading place and brace yourself for an imaginative and wild ride on the weird side. We’re kicking it off with the final volume of what may just be the best fantasy trilogy ever written by an American author.  The City of Mirrors, (Ballentine Books/Random House, $28.00, 598 pages, ISBN 978-0-345-50500-2) by Justin Cronin is the conclusion of his end-of-the-world series which began with The Passage, where an out-of-control government attempt to create a super soldier results in the worldwide decimation of the human race.  In volume two entitled The Twelve, most of the surviving members of humanity are enslaved by twelve vampire overlords as a small band of human renegades try to make war and overthrow them.  In volume three, The City of Mirrors, a millennium has passed and humans have re-established civilization in Australia and New Zealand, while North America lies dark, fallow and forbidding . . . as scientists try and decipher various archeological clues found in the areas of what used to be Texas and California to find out what happened to the world.  Did the virals, as they were called, really exist?  If they did, what caused them, and why?  Where did they come from?  Are they coming back?  And the most important question of all, how did the humans survive?  Who, or what is Amy? How does she fit into the narrative?  The answers to these . . . and all other questions can only be found reading by the entire trilogy in order.  It’s a complex, intricately woven saga with many characters, backstories, details and subplots that will keep readers enthralled and entertained for many, many hours as they get to know one of the best fantasy and horror writers to come along since Robert E. Howard.  God only knows what Justin Cronin will come up with next, but I can’t wait to read it! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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Dodgers

Posted by on Sep 26, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Dodgers Mysterious Book Report No. 258 by John Dwaine McKenna Regular readers and fans of the Mysterious Book Report are all aware by now that our primary focus is to encourage reading by discovering new and unknown crime fiction writers who show a lot of promise . . . someone an enthusiast can read, enjoy and grow with for years to come.  An author you can tell your friends about.  An author you’ll learn from with each new novel, because they’ve created a fictional world unlike anything in your own personal life experiences.  We don’t always hit that sweet spot, but when we do, they’re authors we’ll all follow for their entire career.  MBR No. 258 is just such a one . . . it’s an epic body of work in the making. Dodgers, (Crown Publishers, $26.00, 0290 pages, ISBN 978-1-101-90373-5) by Bill Beverly is a glimpse into the low end of the drug business, told from the perspective of a fifteen year-old South Central Los Angeles gang-banger known by the street name East.  He’s hard, street-wise and unaware of the world outside the city streets of L.A., where he runs a crew of five other boys who act as ‘watchers,’ the ones who stand along the block, watching for the cops, or rival gangs, or armed robbers who’ve come to steal the proceeds and drug supply in the stash-house.  But, on the day the cops do come, the watchers don’t call.  The place is raided and East is held accountable by his uncle Fin, who owns the house, runs the gang and is about to go on trial . . . with a life sentence in the balance if he’s convicted.  In order to prevent that from happening and give East a chance to redeem himself, Fin sends his young nephew on a mission.  All the boy, (who’s never been out of Los Angeles in his life), has to do is travel two thousand miles in a van with three other teens, kill someone, then make it back to L.A. without incident.  And so begins the strange odyssey of four black city boys into the mostly white heartland of Midwest America on a blood mission to save an arch-criminal from punishment.  Boys sent to do a man’s job.  It’s a coming-of-age story, a time of self-discovery as the four travelers, who’re often at odds with each other, have to decide what kind of men they’re going to be.  Dodgers is a harrowing, brutal tale told in evocative language, that inserts the reader into the exact dead-center of a world she or he never knew existed.  Pay attention.  These are the words of a major new American literary talent finding his voice.  It’ll be a loud roar before Bill Beverly is done! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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Night Work

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Night Work Mysterious Book Report No. 257 by John Dwaine McKenna Author David C. Taylor hit the literary ground running last year when his first crime-fiction novel entitled Night Life, featuring tough-guy Michael Cassidy was first published.  Cassidy’s a classic, Phillip Marlowe kind of detective, working the mean streets of 1950s New York City at a time when the Cold War—with it’s potential threat of nuclear Armageddon—was at its zenith, and Senator Joseph McCarthy was building his power base. Now, Taylor’s back with the second installment of his Michael Cassidy series, and he’s hit the sweet spot again, focusing this time on the ouster of Cuban dictator Fulgenico Batista by Fidel Castro.  Night Work, (Forge/Tom Doherty, $25.99, 318 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-7485-1) opens on the cusp of Christmas day, 1959 when detective Michael Cassidy gets tasked with prisoner escort duty.  He’s to pick up a Cuban triple murderer named Echivera at Rikers Island Jail and return him to the authorities in Havana.  Nursing a bruised heart and pining for a Russian woman who disappeared, Cassidy applied for and has been granted leave time . . . planning to rest and relax in the warm tropical sun . . .  maybe even do some gambling in one of the many mob-owned casinos.  But, the easiest way to make God laugh is to make plans.  Moments after he’s delivered into the hands of the Cuban authorities, Eschivera is dead, and Cassidy makes a discovery that changes his life and turns him into a wanted man . . . an outlaw on the run in the mountains of Cuba.  Then comes New Years Eve, 1960—and as everyone who’s watched The Godfather, Part II knows, the rebels march into Havana, triumphant, and Batista flees the country—and everything changes again in another one of many stunning plot twists in this intricately detailed novel that combines fact and fancy so smoothly and seamlessly that it’s hard to tell at times, which is which.  One thing for sure though.  All those who read this fast and furious, atmospheric and one hundred percent noir novel will, like me, be Michael Cassidy fans for life!  David C. Taylor’s already a star in the hard-boiled fiction universe . . . I look for him to be an even bigger and brighter one in the future!. Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Cambodia Noir

Posted by on Sep 12, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Cambodia Noir Mysterious Book Report No. 256 by John Dwaine McKenna Nestled between south Thailand and south Vietnam is the small Asian nation of Cambodia.  Fronted on the Gulf of Thailand and bisected by the Mekong River, the capitol city is Phnom Penh.  It’s a transit point for the opium-producing region known as the Golden Triangle.  As such, it’s a lawless place where corruption is rampant, drugs are plentiful and the only thing that’s cheaper . . . is life itself.  The sex trade is open, vigorous and widespread; the army, the police and the politicians are all corrupt, constantly battling for more control and an ever-larger share of the illicit drug trade.  It’s a backwater, a savage place where anything goes . . . a great place to get lost . . . a place to waste away in utter dissipation.  Which is exactly what a world-class photographer named Will Keller is doing in an electrifying first novel entitled Cambodia Noir (Scribner, $26.00, 339 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-0608-8) by international journalist Nick Seeley, who got his start in Phnom Penh before moving on to the Middle East, where he currently writes for a number of news organizations. Phnom Penh, Cambodia is where a critically-acclaimed, and world-class, but emotionally devastated, photo-journalist named Will Keller has gone to get wasted, stay wasted and waste away . . . trying to forget the day a single photograph won him a Pulitzer Prize nomination at the same time it broke his heart.  Now he’s drifting along in a self-medicated fog of alcohol and cheap, easy-to-find narcotic drugs, hoping to forget that one awful moment in Afghanistan.  He’s a risk-taker, willing to face any danger and slide by in a target-rich environment of crime, violence and corruption; always able to frame and shoot memorable—and sellable—photos that pay him enough to buy more drugs, drink more booze, and get more I don’t give a damn.  As the novel begins, the Commanding General of the Army is arrested and jailed for drug-smuggling by the Chief of Police during the Presidential re-election campaign; it signals that a battle for control of the drug empire, in addition to the entire nation, has begun.  It’s a conflict which spares no one, including a young female reporter who disappears while researching a story about drug smuggling.  Keller’s search for her becomes a romp through the dark underbelly of a nation caught in the jaws of chaos, and peopled by an unforgettable cast of miscreants, misfits and bizzaros.  New twists and turns appear on every page, the murders and mayhem and surprises never stop.  Hard-boiled crime fans are going to love Nick Seeley and howl in anticipation of his next awesome, dark, brooding, masterful and compelling work of fiction.  He’s gonna to be a monster.  An absolute, book-selling monster! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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Off The Grid

Posted by on Sep 5, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Off The Grid Mysterious Book Report No. 255 by John Dwaine McKenna In today’s hi-tech world, it’s  almost impossible to get away from all the must-see, must-have, must-buy  devices that  didn’t even exist  as recently  as fifteen or twenty years ago . . . gizmos we didn’t need or want until relentless, incessant, slick and highly persuasive advertising coupled with good old-fashioned peer pressure convinced us otherwise . . . and Apple stock went from twelve to somewhere around a thousand dollars per share before splitting.  The world got wired.  Now, thanks to all the above, we can know in an instant when our relatives go to dinner, buy new shoes, or capture the Pokemon in the latest idiotic game craze.  We can be on the scene as the latest outrage is taking place anywhere in the world . . . and we can be tracked down and found anywhere in the world using those same high-tech tools.  Who cares?  If you’re an honest, hard-working, upstanding citizen who’s observing the law, who cares.  There’s nothing to worry about.  Unless, of course you don’t want to be found.  Then it’s a brand-new and totally different equation. Off the Grid, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 371 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17660-9), By CJ Box–who’s a neighbor just a couple hundred miles north of Colorado Springs in Wyoming–addresses that very situation. Nate Romanowski, the complicated goodguy/ badguy serial character and best friend of Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett, his wife Marybeth, and the guardian angel of the Pickett daughters, Sheridan, Lucy and April, has holed up and gone off the grid.  He’s evading the authorities who want him for a series of targeted killings in Mr. Box’s last novel entitled Endangered (MBR number 209). Nate’s living in a line-shack cabin with his girlfriend, Olivia Brannan, flying his falcons, and healing up from wounds he received in a massive shootout.  It’s been seven months without electricity, running water, phone service, or even trips to the store.  Their shopping’s done by Dr. Bucholz, the sympathetic rancher who’s harboring Nate, and delivered by a ranch hand named Rodrigo.  It’s worked so far, but when Liv finds out that her mother is dying and books a flight to Florida, Nate’s cover is blown.  Federal agents show up two hours after she leaves for the Denver airport.  They’re from a secret agency within the Federal Government who appear to have unlimited power, access, and a mandate from the highest levels, to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil.  They need a Master Falconer. Someone who can connect with a middle-eastern man who’s also a falconer and a possible terrorist who has disappeared from their radar somewhere in Wyoming’s Red Desert.  Nate can either accept the challenge, or he and Liv will be returned to prison.  If he survives the mission, his record will be erased.  He’ll be free. As with all of the Pickett novels, the sense of place is exquisite, the action and plot twists are relentless, the prose is magical, and the denouement breathtaking.  If you’re not already a fan of CJ Box, you will be as soon as you read Off the Grid, or any of his previous and compelling works.  I guarantee it! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in...

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The Second Life of Nick Mason

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Second Life of Nick Mason Mysterious Book Report No. 254 by John Dwaine McKenna Author Steve Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series won an Edgar Award and captured a boatload of other major crime fiction distinctions, including two listings on the New York Times notable books of the year roster.  Pretty impressive, to say the least.  Now, he’s begun a new series with an anti-hero protagonist that’s creating an earthquake in the Crime Fiction genre, and a stampede amongst the most recognizable authors in the world for the right to say “I saw him first.” The Second Life of Nick Mason, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57432-0) by Steve Hamilton is the tour-de-force debut of a new series character that’s receiving rave reviews from everyone who reads it . . . including me. Nick Mason’s stacking time in a maximum security federal penitentiary.  He’s done five of the twenty-five year sentence he got for a confrontation that left one of his friends and a Chicago police officer dead, and two other accomplices on the loose.  But Nick’s been a stand-up guy.  All through the interrogation and trial, he’s kept his mouth shut, never giving up the names of the others who got away, and for the last five years he’s neither given, nor taken, any grief from the other convicts . . . he’s just swallowed his pain, signed the divorce papers when they came, and done his time, day-by-day-by-day.  Then a guard passes him a message: Mr. Cole wants to see you.  Darius Cole is a mastermind who’s running a criminal empire from behind bars.  He’s serving “all night and a day”. . . life without parole in prison slang . . .  two life terms in his case, he won’t take “No” for an answer.  Never has.  Never will.  He makes Nick an offer he can’t refuse and within a few weeks Nick’s been exonerated—the cop who caught him recanted his testimony—and he’s out, living in luxury, driving a vintage muscle car and has plenty of money to spend.  But there’s a catch.  Whenever his cell phone rings, Nick has to answer and do whatever the caller tells him to . . . no matter what it is . . . or those he holds dearest will suffer the consequences.  As Nick is forced into more and more violent acts, he finds he’s made a deal with the devil and trapped himself in a Faustian bargain that keeps him from ever regaining control of his life, or reconnecting with his ex-wife and the daughter he loves so much. Nick Mason is a novel that opens at full-throttle on page one and never backs off.  The pace is relentless, the action and the plot twists come at the reader from every angle.  Read it, and see for yourself why the likes of Lee Child, Don Winslow, Michael Connelly and ol’ Stephen King hisself wrote such enthusiastic blurbs on the dust jacket, and get in on the ground floor of what promises to be an awesome new series.  I’m all in on this one.  It turns the crime fiction genre inside out, and damn . . . It’s so, so good! Like the   review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book...

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The Fireman

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Fireman Mysterious Book Report No. 253 by John Dwaine McKenna When I had the pleasure of hearing this weeks author being interviewed on NPR a few days ago, he said something that hit me right in the funny bone.  And although I admit to having a warped sense of humor, maybe it’ll resonate with you too.  When the interviewer asked him if perhaps folks had had enough of doom lately, without missing a beat, he said, “There’s only two kinds of people in the world: Those who read dystopian novels . . . and wimps.”  Having never thought of myself as wimpy, I went to the book pile of potential MBRs, and still smirking to myself, pulled out, The Fireman, (Harper Collins, $28.99, 747 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-220063-1) by Joe Hill, and dove into a nightmarish world in which a rapidly-spreading pandemic called Dragonscale has infected much of the human race.  No one has managed to find out how, or why, or where it started, nor have the doctors and scientists, as well as the CDC, figured out how it’s spread.  All that is known for sure, is that the infected person will spontaneously display black lines–similar to tattoos–on their skin, which are flaked with gold scales.  Then, the patient will randomly turn into a human torch and burn to a crisp without warning.  It’s a horrific way to die; screaming, while smoke and fire belch out of every body orifice as the victim is roasted alive. The novel begins in New Hampshire where a dedicated, idealistic young nurse named Harper Grayson struggles to treat ever-increasing numbers of patients presenting with Dragonscale.  Having seen and experienced the monumental suffering up close, Harper and her husband Jakob agree that they’ll end their lives together if they come down with the disease.  It seemed sensible at the time, but that was before . . . before the hospital where she worked was overwhelmed and burned to the ground . . . before Harper discovered the first traces of Dragonscale on her body . . . and before she found out that she’s pregnant.  Her maternal instincts kick in and Harper’s consumed with an overwhelming desire to live until her baby is born.  Jakob, on the other hand, wants to kill both Harper and himself because he thinks she infected him with Dragonscale.  As he becomes more erratic, Harper realizes Jakob isn’t the man she thought he was when they married, and flees for her life when he tries to kill her.  She’s rescued in the woods by a man dressed as a fireman and joins a band of infected refugees.  With society collapsing, government and law and order disappear.  The healthy ones form death squads, killing the infected in the belief it will stop the spread of the fatal disease.  Jakob joins the cremation squads and makes it his number one priority to locate and kill Harper Grayson and her unborn baby . . . And that’s only the beginning of this awesome work!  Part love story, part mystery and part tragedy, it’s a remarkable novel by a remarkable  talent who learned his craft at the feet of a genius.  If you’re into dystopian novels, don’t be a wimp.  What’s not to like?  There’s almost 750 pages of mega-death, Dragonscale, destruction,...

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Fever City

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Fever City Mysterious Book Report No. 252 by John Dwaine McKenna The joke’s on me .  . . Some weeks ago I was queried by a publicist for Europa Editions in New York City: “Would I review a noir novel of theirs if they sent a copy?”  I noted that it had a September release date and said, ‘Sure,” then got an ARC (advance review copy) in the mail a few days later.  I placed it in the reading stack so the MBR would come out mid-August, 2016 just before the release date of the book.  So far . . . so good, as they say in melodrama, and at the exact right time for my plan to come to fruition, I pulled Fever City, (Europa Editions/World Noir, PB, $18.00, 385 pages, ISBN 978-1-60945-287-2) by Tim Baker, and dove into what turned out to be one of the most arresting and intriguing novels to come my way since the Age of Aquarius.  Told in three different years by three different characters, it’s a new, unorthodox and unique re-imagining of the Kennedy Assassination on November 22, 1963 as his motorcade drove through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas at high noon, local time. The story begins in the fall of 1960.  Behind-the-scenes deals are being struck by powerful, utterly ruthless, amoral and wealthy men to ensure that a certain charismatic young senator–Jack Kennedy from Massachusetts–is elected to the Presidency of the United States over a dour career politician and sitting Vice-President–Richard Nixon.  When Kennedy is elected, they assume, favors will be repaid, allowing billions of dollars in favorable tax and royalty allowances to continue to accrue to the oil men, and the CIA will be sanctioned to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba . . . a boon to organized crime. In Los Angeles, aka Fever City, a private investigator named Nick Alston is hired by one of the richest men in America to rescue his kidnapped son.  The man’s name is Rex Bannister. Unknown to Alston, Bannister is setting a plan in motion that will rock the world, make him billions and leave Nick as the patsy–the fall guy who couldn’t see it coming. That’s the same position war-hero turned hit-man Phillip Hastings finds himself in three years later . . . when he’s maneuvered by Bannister, and several of his cohorts, into being the trigger-puller in Dallas on that fateful day in November 1963 . . . the fall guy.  The one who gets blamed.  The patsy. The final leg of the complicated plot occurs in 2014, when a journalist begins re-examining the myths surrounding Alston and Bannister’s role in the Kennedy assassination with the idea of exposing them as more far-out conspiracy theories without a shred of truth to them.  He’s the son of one of the players and his attempt to clear  his  father’s name  will reveal  some electrifying truths neither he . . . nor the world . . . are prepared to admit. This astonishing, cerebral novel will make you rethink what you thought you knew about that awful day the President of the United States was shot and killed in front of the whole country.  It comes at your sensibilities like a roaring freight train, hypnotizes you with its passing, and leaves a doppler-like memory...

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My Sunshine Away

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

 My Sunshine Away Mysterious Book Report Special Edition No. 6 by John Dwaine McKenna and Lora Brown This is our second Special Edition featuring Lora Brown, and she’s picked a talented first-time author with a compelling story that unfolds over a number of years.  It’s a mystery about a crime that takes place one quiet summer evening when the narrator was a teenaged boy, infatuated with a neighborhood girl named Lindy . . . who was raped by an unknown assailant while on her way home from track practice. My Sunshine Away, (Putnam, $26.95, 285 pages, ISBN 978-0-241-01188-1) by M.O. Walsh was named Book Of The Year by NPR, Kirkus Reviews and Booklist when it came out last year.  Lora gave it an outstanding review too, calling it ‘A great read, worthy of five stars.’ (A rating with which I completely agree.)  But don’t look for hard-boiled action scenes full of gun play, two-timing lovers, and serial crimes, because this one’s an in-depth character study, told from the perspective of a fourteen year-old boy–who’s one of four persons suspected of being the perpetrator–as he and his friends spend the last summer of their childhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  It’s a coming-of-age story that’s glued together by tragedy, as the boy . . . now a man . . . examines in detail all the persons, young and old, who’ve been impacted by the crime and the way in which each life was affected as they became adults.  The police are unable to catch the criminal and the boy, secretly in love with Lindy as only a fourteen year old can be, spends years looking for answers that never seem to come. Told in evocative language that conjures up images of the blazing hot Louisiana sun, the sweltering heat and humidity, the endless swarms of pesky stinging, biting, stinging, buzzing, and stinging squadrons of insects, and the endless boredom of the innocent, as they grow into awareness.  You’ll find yourself thinking about My Sunshine Away long after you finish reading it, because it’s a special novel, about a special time that only comes once in each and every life.   It will be excellent for book clubs to read, because the mystery begins on page one and continues to the last few paragraphs giving readers many topics for discussion.  Enjoy! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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City of Rose

Posted by on Aug 1, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

City of Rose Mysterious Book Report No. 251 by John Dwaine McKenna Is there anyplace on earth after you’ve grown up living in New York City . . . or anyplace you’d rather be . . . after growing up and living in New York City?  It’s a conundrum for Ash McKenna, the self-described human wrecking ball and unskilled, but productive private investigator who’s damned good at finding people, then messing it up after that because of his “bent moral compass,” which allows him to stomp the bad guys into piles of blood and broken bones.  (Honestly, no relation, but my kind of guy . . .)  Ash is the noir hero and creation of author Rob Hart, whose highly-acclaimed first novel New Yorked has been followed up by his next Ash McKenna adventure: City of Rose, (Polis Books, PB, $14.95, 270 pages, ISBN 978-1-940610-51-1).  We catch up with Ash in Portland, Oregon where he’s keeping a low profile, working as a bouncer-janitor-barman in a vegan, all-nude strip club, and trying to put the deaths of his father and the woman he loved behind him, along with his penchant for driving people’s heads through walls and getting the crap beaten out of himself in the process.  He’s resolved to keep his nose clean and purge himself of all the toxins–alcohol, nicotine and air pollutants–he’d ingested in the City of New York.  He’s okay with Portland.  It’s pretty, it’s laid-back and it’s clean, but it’s too quiet, it rains all the time and there’s no good pizza anywhere.  Not compared to you-know-where.  Ash is just trying to cope and keep a low profile, live in peace.  So when Crystal, one of the strippers, asks him to help get her daughter back from her junkie boyfriend, Ash declines, hoping to keep his personal demons at bay.  But soon after, Ash is held at gunpoint by a tough guy wearing a chicken mask, pistol-whipped and told to keep out of the way and not get involved with Crystal or her daughter.  After the attitude adjustment–which of course awakens the inner demons he’s been trying to keep at bay–Ash reverts to his old self and is soon armpit deep in mayhem, battling a Mexican drug cartel, the man in the mask and a Machiavellian plot involving some of the city’s biggest movers and shakers as he tries to find the missing little girl. With tough guy undertones reminiscent of Marlowe and Sam Spade, Ash McKenna’s a PI for the ages: tough and unforgiving, but with a heart of gold.  This series appears to have a long way to go and I’ll be reading along with every new tale! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Mulberry Bush

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Mulberry Bush Mysterious Book Report No. 250 by John Dwaine McKenna Somewhere in the big junkyard that passes as my mind, there’s a snippet of a country song that goes . . . “I thought I’d been loved and I thought I’d been kissed, but that was before I met you . . .” which I’m going to rip off and paraphrase to introduce this week’s Mysterious Book Report.  It goes like this: I thought I’d read all the great spy novels, but that was before I read the man many consider to be the greatest spy writer of all time.  His name is Charles McCarry, and his works are known for their accurate historical facts, their spot-on spy and tradecraft details, and their extensive knowledge of Washington D.C. politics, as well as what Publisher’s Weekly calls, “Meticulous, intelligent prose.” His newest standalone, The Mulberry Bush, (Mysterious Press, $26.00, 308 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2410-4) is a masterpiece which combines age-old themes of love, revenge, duplicity, treachery and revolution into a complex and twisted noir thriller involving, “Themes of trust, motive and tarnished ideals,” according to Kirkus Reviews. It’s  a complex  plot in which a young, unnamed spy sees his father drummed out of CIA . . .  because of a prank that made his superiors look foolish . . . and then reduced to penury and destitution, begging for coins at Union Station, homeless and living in the street.  Vowing to avenge his fathers disgrace, the young man, who has a talent for languages, speaking Arabic, Pashtun, and Farsi, gets accepted at CIA and works as an ‘off-the-books,’ agent under deep cover in the Middle East, where he locates and identifies terrorists so other CIA agents can kill them.  He’s so successful at it, that after a few years the terrorist organizations are pooling their resources, trying to find him.  He’s brought back to Langley, Virginia in order to save and protect him.  Still focused on revenge and without much to do, he studies Russian, becoming proficient in less than a year.  Then, still off the books, he’s posted to Argentina, where he meets a woman named Luz, whose parents were also betrayed and killed . . . a woman who wants revenge. . . and seems to be his soulmate.  They marry, intending to bring his plan to fruition, or so he thinks . . . but “The truth of spies is lies.” according to Mr. McCarry . . . and the novel rocks along with new plot twists, turns and treachery on every page until its stunning denouement . . . at which point . . . if you love reading spy yarns, you’ll think, Why didn’t I see that coming? and start looking for McCarry’s other works.  He’s erudite, prosaic, addictive, devilishly complex, and yeah, he’s probably the greatest spinner of spy yarns working in contemporary fiction.  I’m a fan! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Pacific Burn

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Pacific Burn Mysterious Book Report No. 249 by John Dwaine McKenna With a renewed focus on Asia of late, it seems as though there’s news and happenings on an hourly basis from the region.  China, North and South Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Burma, Taiwan, Tibet . . . and of course Japan, have all featured in the news recently . . . and why not?  The majority of the world’s population lives there, so it’s vitally important for the rest of the world to know, and pay attention to, what’s happening there, and acquire an understanding of their history and culture as well. And hey . . . don’t get in an uproar with your hair on fire . . . we’re not gonna recommend a ten-thousand page Toynbee-type examination of the rise and fall of the Asian empires–this is about fun stuff like murder, and mayhem, and reckoning whodunnit.  Along the way, we’ll pick up a smattering of the art, culture and societal norms of modern-day Japan from a thriller writer with a firm grasp of eastern and western society. Pacific Burn, (Simon & Shuster, $25.00, 356 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-9488-4) by Barry Lancet is the third installment in his astounding and amazingly good, award-winning series of thrillers featuring Jim Brodie.  He’s a bilingual San Francisco art and antiques dealer, specializing in Japanese artifacts.  But Brodie’s more than just a fine arts merchant.  Much more.  He’s inherited a Tokyo-based, world-class detective agency from  his estranged-and-deceased father, an on-call consultant for the SFPD, a martial arts expert, a widower and the single father of a six year old daughter. As Pacific Burn opens, Brodie is called out by Lieutenant Renna of the SFPD Homicide unit to a death scene up in Napa, the heart of California wine country, where a small boy who speaks no English has been keeping an all night vigil alongside the body of an adult male.  The Napa Sheriff’s Department is ready to write it off as an accident at first, but the dead man turns out to be the eldest son of Brodie’s friend and renowned Japanese artist Ken Nobuki, the very same man Brodie asked to be the featured artist for the Pacific Rim Friendship Program between Japan and the city of San Francisco.  The boy, who’s almost catatonic with fear, is his grandson.  A week later, Nobuki himself is shot and critically wounded as he and Brodie exit City Hall.  With his client in a coma and near death, Brodie races to save the rest of the family, from an unknown, and deadly enemy as he hunts for a legendary killer.  The professional murderer–even if he exists is an elusive, mythical slayer whose reputation is powerful enough to frighten a hardened Yakuza assassin.  The non-stop chase begins in northern California, goes to Japan then back to Washing D.C. as the hunt puts Brodie into ever increasing danger of losing his life.  As with all of Mr. Lancet’s books, interesting factual tid-bits about Japanese history, culture, art and society are sprinkled throughout this fascinating, fast-paced and excellent novel.  A great summer read, you won’t be able to put it down after reading the first page! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report ....

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Bull Mountain

Posted by on Jul 11, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Bull Mountain Mysterious Book Report No. 248 by John Dwaine McKenna This week’s author had a metric ton of A-list crime fiction writers heaping praise on his debut novel when it first appeared in the fall of last year.  The likes of C.J. Box, John Connolly, James Ellroy and others were all highly complimentary of his work in their endorsements . . . and rightfully so, for it became a runway hit . . . which I am chagrined to say I couldn’t find the time to review.  But now it’s coming out in trade paperback form, giving me a shot at redemption.  I won’t miss it a second time . . . it’s just too damn good. Bull Mountain, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $26.95, 290 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17396-7) by Brian Panowich defies convention, and classification too.  It’s a riveting thriller set in the southern Appalachian Mountains of northeast Georgia that’s partly a family saga, part crime fiction, part fable and part mystery.  It defies genre and could be called southern, Appalachian, or hillbilly noir.  Whatever name we call it, Bull Mountain will grab your attention with the first sentence and nail your brain to the plot until the last word on the last page when you’ll say, “Please, Sir.  May I have some more?” Told in alternating voices, times and points of view, the novel begins in 1949, when a fateful decision up on Bull Mountain propels the Burroughs clan into the drug trade and away from running ‘shine, their traditional business.  By 2015, the two surviving grandsons are at odds.  Halford controls Bull Mountain and all of an interstate drug empire, while his younger brother Clayton is the county Sheriff.  An uneasy truce exists between the two because, while Clayton has the law on his side, Halford has the guns on his .  The standoff evaporates with the appearance of a Federal Agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who plans to end the criminal empire with an agenda all his own . . . pitting brother against brother in a devastating test to see whether good or evil will prevail.  With dynamic, hard-edged prose and a compelling narrative coupled with a multi-generational saga, Bull Mountain  is a first novel that’s got some serious chops.  I’m eager to see what author Panowich comes up with next.  Hillbilly Noir . . . count me in! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com    ...

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Spoils of Victory

Posted by on Jul 4, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Spoils of Victory Mysterious Book Report No. 247 by John Dwaine McKenna Late last year an authentic, entertaining, and exciting new detective series hit the bookstores and became an instant success.  Part crime fiction, part historical fiction and part military fiction, the novel featured a U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) named Mason Collins.  He’s a Criminal Investigations Division (CID) Officer in Occupied Germany just after the Third Reich’s defeat and unconditional surrender.  In his debut entitled Ruins of War,  CWO Collins was on the hunt for a sadistic, cunning and demented serial killer in the devastated city of Munich.  It was one of the best first novels I’ve reviewed . . . and a yarn I didn’t think could be surpassed.  Damn! Was I wrong. Spoils of Victory, (Berkley/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 372 pages, ISBN 978-0-425-28156-7) by John A Connell . . . the second Mason Collins thriller . . . is an absolute barn burner the likes of which we haven’t seen since Ludlum or Clancy’s first.  Yeah.  He’s that good. As the novel begins, Collins has been transferred to the alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  It’s an area that’s intact–untouched by the allied bombing campaigns—the place many war criminals transit before fleeing Europe and the war crimes tribunals, and it’s a place where much of the stolen treasure looted from the banks, museums and Jews of the European occupied territory is situated.  Despite its storybook setting and fairytale appearance, Garmisch is a city on the verge of anarchy.  Rival gangs, consisting of ex-Nazis, former POWs, deserters from various armies and plain old criminals are fighting for control of a black market teeming with the booty looted from entire continents.  It’s a target-rich environment for a criminal investigator like Collins, but the appearance of a new, and utterly ruthless group that’s bent on taking over by killing all the competition is bad news of the worst kind for the detective.  When another undercover operator and his mistress is murdered, right after telling Collins that Allied OSS (Office of Secret Services) operatives are responsible for the black market takeover, he thinks they’re being protected by high-ranking army of occupation officers.  Collins doesn’t know who to trust, or how high up the chain of command the corruption goes.  With all of Europe in chaos and tens of tens of millions of looted dollars in possible gains to be had, the most honest of officers might be tempted to go to the dark side, even at the risk of their careers.  When the attempts on his life begin, Collins is sucked into an ever-greater, ever-widening, ever-deadlier maelstrom of corruption, conspiracy and criminality from which he may not survive. You’ll just have to read the book to find out if he does, or not, in this electrifying sophomore novel from a monster talent.  His name is John A. Connell. Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give, is to like us and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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The Ex

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Ex Special MBR No. 5 by John Dwaine McKenna & Lora Brown This week’s Mysterious Book Report is the second in our special series which features Lora Brown, who picked the novel to review and gave it her stamp of approval.  After reading her notes and the novel, I’m in absolute agreement. The Ex, (Harper Collins, $26.99, 283 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-239048-6) by Alafair Burke is by far and away the best of her eleven novels and one million or so words of crime fiction.  It’s a murder mystery that starts with the throttle wide-open on the first page and never lets up until the conclusion.  When the novel begins, we meet Jack Harris as he’s being interviewed by the NYPD about a triple homicide that’s only hours old.  Jack just happened to be in the vicinity at the same time the killings took place.  He’s a renowned writer, a straight- arrow, and a single father who’s raising a teenaged daughter by himself after her mother was killed in a mass shooting at Penn Station in New York City ten years ago.  It’s only a coincidence that the father of the demented young man who killed Jack’s wife Molly–the same man Jack tried unsuccessfully to sue– is one of the three dead bodies from the waterfront crime scene.  That’s where Jack went to hook up with a mystery woman named Madeline.  It’s all plausible.  Isn’t it?  Jack’s a good guy.  Right?  He’s a victim of circumstance, that’s all.  In the wrong place at the wrong time.  But when the cops take Jack downtown for some ‘routine questions, just to clear up a few things,’ his daughter Buckley freaks out, and calls his ex . . . Olivia Randall.  She’s one of New York City’s brightest and best-known criminal defense attorneys.  She’s also the woman who broke his heart and upended his world twenty years ago.  They haven’t spoken since.  Until now.  Convinced she still knows him, marinating in guilt, and over the vehement objections of her mentor and law partner, Olivia accepts Jack’s case.  She agrees to defend him, even though the little-voice in her head keeps screaming out alarms. All the above takes place in just the first  dozen chapters of this finely-crafted and wickedly complex novel with a large cast of characters who’ll keep you enthralled, entertained and gobbling up pages until the stunning conclusion.  Alafair Burke has been called a whip-smart novelist.  Read The Ex and find out why. Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us, and share it with others on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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Where It Hurts

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Where It Hurts Mysterious Book Report No. 246 by John Dwaine McKenna If you’re a fan of hard-boiled noir–as I am–you’re gonna love Gus Murphy.  He’s the beat-down, used up, cynical, angry, divorced, grieving, cuckolded, bitter and weary ex-cop who’s tough as a ten year old steel-toed boot, but still as altruistic at heart as the first day he pinned on a policeman’s badge.  He’s the newly-minted character from the three-time Edgar nominated pen of the man who’s been called the Poet Laureat of noir . . . Reed Farrel Coleman. Where it Hurts, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 353 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17303-5) is the first of what we can only hope will be a long series featuring the sardonic retired  policeman  whose entire life  has been  shattered by the untimely death of his son . . . the eldest of his two children . . . and the only boy.  As the novel begins, it’s been two years since John Jr. died, and Gus–short for John Agustus–Murphy is still grieving hard.  He just hasn’t been able to move on.  Now divorced, he’s driving a courtesy van for a seen-better-days motel that guarantees only a few things . . . clean rooms, cheap prices and close proximity to the airport and the Long Island Railroad in Suffolk County, NY.  It’s where Gus was a uniformed officer for the Suffolk County Police Department, until the tragedy and his marriage breakup.  That’s when Gus put in his papers and retired after twenty-some years of service.  Now, he drives a van three nights a week in exchange for tips and a motel room.  The rest of the time he fills in as a bouncer at the motel bar and, on occasion he’s the house detective too.  It’s not a difficult life, and it allows Gus plenty of time to mourn, feel sorry for himself . . . and drink.  His only friends are Felix, a Filipino who runs the front desk, Salva, a mysterious east European man with some very serious, very specialized skills, and Aziza, a young Pakistani woman who works in the coffee shop.  It’s the nihilistic, bleak existence of a man who’s given up on life.  Then Tommy Delcamino comes to see him.  Delcamino’s a low-rent thug, a petty criminal and a dumb one at that, whom Murphy’s arrested many times in the past.  He wants to hire Gus to look into his son TJ’s murder.  Four months earlier, TJ Delcamino’s body was found, tossed in a trash-strewn vacant lot like so much garbage.  He’d been tortured.  Died hard.  Agonizingly.  Tommy D, as he’s known, tells Gus that he gave the Suffolk County Police all the information in a file, but the SCPD is ignoring the case.  He wants Murphy to look into it because, “I know I’m a skell, a low-life and a mutt, but TJ deserves justice and you was the most standup cop I ever knew.”  The covert comparison to his own dead son enrages Murphy.  He  kicks Tommy  D out in the rudest possible manner.  Less than a week later . . .  and before he can offer up an apology . . . Delcamino is murdered and Murphy’s been shot; all in the first fifty pages, as Murphy tries to unravel a string of murders...

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The Yid

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Yid Mysterious Book Report No. 245 by John Dwaine McKenna The legacy of Joseph Stalin, the ruthless dictator of the Soviet Union during the 1930s, 40s and early 50s, is one of famine, endless bloodshed and tens of millions of deaths due to malfeasance, malevolence and gross mismanagement.  It was an era of terror for ordinary citizens . . . a time when neighbor spied upon neighbor and a careless word of criticism could result in torture, imprisonment in a Siberian gulag, or even execution in some cases.  It was an epoch that dripped with blood and remained cloaked in mystery.  But now that’s changing.  And thanks to one of the most remarkable debut novels we’ve ever reviewed, light is starting to shine into ever-smaller nooks and crannies of those torturous years. The Yid, (Picador/ St Martin’s Press, $26.00, 301 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-07903-9) by Paul Goldberg is part historical, part anecdotal, and part biographical, it is well-researched, well-informed, well-written, erudite, zany, action-packed, profane, blood-drenched and sparkles with repartee as well as being loaded to the gills with gallows humor and pathos.  It begins in the last week of February, 1953 during the wee hours of the morning when a Black Maria . . . a paddy wagon used by agents of state security (the KGB) to pick up and transport enemies of the state to a Moscow prison called the Lubyanka, where they’ll be kept, interrogated and tortured before being executed or deported to freezing work camps in Siberia . . . a place from which many never return.  But on this night, Tuesday, February 24, 1953 at precisely 2:37 a.m., amid rumors that ‘Papa Joe’ Stalin is about to launch a last great pogram to rid the Soviet Union of all of it’s two million Jews, three uniformed officers come to arrest an old man.  His name is Solomon Shimonovich Levinson, a former actor at the now defunct State Jewish Theater.  He’s an old Yid–a derogatory term for Jews–and most likely decrepit.  The lieutenant and his pair of enlisted men expect a routine arrest without complication, for he’s old, a Yid and lives alone.  No wife, no kids or others to weep and wail or beg for his life.  Indeed, when he opens the door Levinson . . . dressed in long purple shorts, brown undershirt, a red robe and sporting an ascot about his neck . . . looks like a clown.  His response however, is both unexpected and unlike anything the three state security agents have ever experienced, and it’s just the opening act of what becomes a wild, complex plot to assassinate a well-protected, paranoid despot and mass-murderer.  It’s an act of madness, to be carried out by a group of aged, educated and disaffected veterans of “The Great Patriotic War,”  as they call the Russian Revolution, along with a young communist woman and a middle-aged, black American engineer who’s an enthusiastic socialist expat fleeing the racism of his native country.  They are in fact, the most unlikely cast of characters one could imagine, on a suicidal, daft mission . . . all under an impending cloud of doom in the form of  a second Holocaust.  It is the stuff of legend . . . or utter folly! One last comment. The Yid is...

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Purgatory

Posted by on Jun 6, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Purgatory Mysterious Book Report No. 244 by John Dwaine McKenna Once the envy of the entire world soon after the millennium, the Celtic Tiger has died in Ken Bruen’s 2013 novel Purgatory, (Mysterious Press, $24.00, 278 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2607-8) and been replaced with an Ireland that can only be described as circling the economic drain.  With jobs non-existent, crime is rampant, the young professionals are emmigrating and real estate has sunk to such low prices that vulture investors are busy buying distressed property from the near bankrupt lending institutions as fast as the paperwork is finished.  In Galway, an outcast Jack Taylor has physically healed from the wounds that left him deaf, limping and missing two fingers.  He’s trying to move on with his life, to make the most of his remaining time on earth and exorcise the triple demons of alcohol, tobacco and prescription painkillers that’ve tormented him for most of his days.  He’s moved and changed his habits as well as his old haunts in a heartfelt attempt to make the changes stick, but Galway isn’t big enough for a man as notorious as Taylor to find anonymity.  Someone’s always recognizing the irascible, long-suffering, ever perspicacious detective and beseeching him to take on their anguishing case, or reopening old wounds with “Hey aren’t you the one who . . .” Taylor’s reply is always short and to the point:  “I don’t care.” But when a vigilante starts to systematically murder the city’s low-lifes, and leaves enigmatic notes signed C33 taunting Jack to ‘join the fun’ and help cleanse the gene-pool . . . he can’t ignore the case.  Nor can he ignore the fact that his celebrity causes an eccentric billionaire who’s in the process of buying most of Galway on the cheap to seek him out for all the wrong reasons.  Taylor’s life begins spinning out of control again as his legions of personal demons, both past  and  present,  threaten to  push him into a well of darkness that has no bottom . . . Jack Taylor is one of my favorite literary characters and author Ken Bruen is in a class all its own.  Don’t miss your chance to make his acquaintance.  He’s one of the best contemporary mystery and crime fiction writers alive. Like the  review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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The Sundown Speech

Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Sundown Speech Mysterious Book Report No. 243 by John Dwaine McKenna Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer vacation season, so we’re kicking it off with a couple of short, fast reads that are perfect ‘beach books’; novels you can finish in one or two afternoons while working on your tan or just chillin’ in the shade . . . The Sundown Speech, (Forge/Tom Doherty Associates, $24.99, 216 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-3736-8) by Loren D. Estelman is the twenty-fifth installment in his Amos Walker series, and somewhere in the neighborhood of his seventy-fifth published work to date, so there’s plenty to choose from if you like ‘em hard-boiled, with short snappy dialogue from a tough, world-weary, chain-smoking private investigator who’s been there, done that and survived long enough to protagonize another novel. In The Sundown Speech, Walker reminisces about an old 1990s case where he goes to Ann Arbor—home of the University of Michigan—because he’s been hired by a pair of aging hippies and university associates named Heloise and Dante Gunnar to find a man they’re afraid has fleeced them out of fifteen thousand dollars.  They thought they were going to make a barrel of money investing in a science fiction movie entitled Mr. Alien Elect.  That was nine months ago.  Now they can’t find Jerry Marcus or his movie . . . much less their money . . . and in true egghead style they’re hollering for help from a tough guy.  In one scene, where they’re interviewing Walker before hiring him, Heloise asks if he carries a firearm.  He’s answers that he is licensed and armed.  She tells him they’re big supporters of the anti-gun lobby and demands that Walker leave his gun locked up while working for them.  Walker tells her to stuff it, in so many words, whereupon she and Dante recant the request . . . a sly, tongue-in-cheek aside by the author that principles are trumped by self-interest in some segments of society.  It takes the ace detective less than a day to find Jerry Marcus.  He was stuffed into a closet and shot in the head, dead as dead can be, and Walker’s case is closed.  But then, Dante Gunnar is arrested for the murder.  Walker’s rehired and the affair takes a couple of weird turns before it segues into a race with time to prevent a madman from killing hundreds, if not thousands of innocent persons and destroying a priceless artifact in the process, while Amos himself walks a highwire trying to stop the impending disaster.  This one’s a gas that’s pure reading pleasure from the first page to the last word! Like  the   review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com  ...

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Jack of Spies

Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Jack of Spies Mysterious Book Report No. 242 by John Dwaine McKenna Those of us who follow the news and current events can’t help but feel at times that the world is ‘going to hell in a handbasket,’ to quote an old refrain . . . but those of us who study history know it’s all happened before, and the world’s still here, and still full of crisis.  Case in point: In the first ten years of the twentieth century, three wars were fought . . . the Spanish-American in Cuba and the Philippines, the Boer War in South Africa between Britain and the Orange Free State, and the Mexican Civil War where tens of thousands lost their lives.  And those were just the warm-ups, the undercard for the main event of the first quarter of that incredible century, because the Mac-Daddy of all wars was warming up on the sidelines. World War I, the Great War, or The War To End All Wars as it was variously called, slaughtered tens of millions and has been the subject of innumerable books.  But the years leading up to WWI, the events and causes of the cataclysm have pretty much been ignored until now. Jack of Spies, (SOHO Press Inc., $27.95, 338 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-268-6) by noted British novelist David Downing, is a tour de force of the sights and sounds and events leading up to the ‘guns of August,’ which heralded the beginning of the first-ever world-wide mechanized war.  Mr. Downing does this by following the exploits of a Scottish world-hopping luxury automobile salesman named Jack McColl.  He’s a full-time executive who’s traveling around the world, introducing wealthy buyers to the newest in automotive technology and British craftsmanship in the form of a hand-built Maia touring car.  It’s the perfect cover for his other job . . . spying for the Royal Naval Admiralty on behalf of the British Empire and His Majesty the King. The novel opens in the fall of 1913, and we meet Jack in Shanghai, China where he’s touting automobiles, scouting out the defenses of the German naval installations, and assessing their state of readiness in case the long-anticipated war in Europe starts up.  The Germans have established military bases on the mainland of warlord-dominated, opium-addicted China, and they’re treating it as their own sovereign territory.  Jack is part of a fledging British spy service.  He’s pretty much on his own, without adequate funding or backup, operating by instinct, and reporting to a distant supervisor in London by telephone, telegraph and regular mail.  As if that’s not enough, McColl becomes smitten with an Irish-American newspaper reporter named Caitlin Hanley whose brother Colm may be mixed up with the outlawed Irish Republican Army. From there, the action and the impossible romance continue non-stop as McColl makes his way around the world, managing to hit nearly every trouble spot the world had to offer.  Richly annotated with actual news and current events, this fast-paced and erudite novel will entertain, educate and delight all readers as it begins a new action-adventure series from a master story-teller and historian. Like the  review . . . let  your  friends know,  You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us...

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The Last Dawn

Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Last Dawn Mysterious Book Report No. 241 by John Dwaine McKenna Unless you’ve recently vacationed in Costa Rica or Belize, the geography of Central America is pretty much terra incognita for most of us who live north of the Mexican border and speak English as our mother tongue.  But back in the 1980s, the Central American nation of Nicaragua was a focus of attention by the US government as the communists—backed by the Cubans—fought the dictator Anastasio Samoza and deposed him.  But then, the fight moved to neighboring El Salvador, where it became so vicious that “Even the Grim Reaper needs an armed escort to venture there.”  With the USSR supporting the communist insurgents and the USA backing the Salvadorean Government, the tiny country became the scene of a bloody proxy war between the superpowers.  It’s a rich—and previously unexplored—source for crime fiction writers.  That’s all changing, thanks to a talented writer named Joe Gannon. His second work of fiction, The Last Dawn, (Minotaur Books, $26.99, 278 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-04803-5) is the follow up to his debut entitled, Night of the Jaguar.  Both feature Ajax Montoya, an expatriate American who grew up in Los Angeles, California, but went on to be a Cuban-trained captain in the Sandanista Army.  At the end of the war in Nicaragua, he frees his comrade-in-arms, Lieutenant Gladys Dario from a psychopathic, sadistic killer and rapist named Krill.  Gladys escapes to Miami, but Montoya is imprisoned in a mental hospital for his actions against the new Sandinista Government.  Now, it’s three years later . . . 1989 . . . and unbeknownst to Montoya, the communist world has changed.  The Berlin Wall has fallen, Germany is reunited and the U.S.S.R. has crumbled,  but the civil war in El Salvador is at it’s zenith.  When the man who betrayed him shows up, Montoya takes on the hopeless task of finding—and rescuing the brother of the woman he loved and lost, who died during the Nicaraguan War.  Her parents are using Montoya’s guilt as leverage to locate their son, who’s somewhere among the disappeared.  All Montoya has to do is infiltrate the nastiest civil war on the planet where he has no friends, local contacts, weapons or knowledge of conditions on the scene and find his own escape route once the mission is completed. This arresting novel is fast-paced, loaded with action and contains an element of magical realism featuring a ghost, who represents Montoya’s guilt.  The Last Dawn is a slam-bang thriller that’ll leave you eagerly anticipating Mr. Gannon’s next installment of his Ajax Montoya saga. Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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A Song of Shadows

Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

A Song of Shadows Mysterious Book Report No. 240 by John Dwaine McKenna As a long-time fan of crime fiction and the other-worldlyness of the supernatural genres, I’ve been fascinated by the work of Irish writer John Connolly and his Charlie Parker series (which is a blending of the two into something wholly new) ever since I became acquainted with his work several years ago.  He’s never disappointed me and his newest, A Song of Shadows,  (Emily Bestler Books/ATRIA- Simon & Shuster, $26.99, 436 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-1828-9) by John Connolly—the fifteenth in his Charlie Parker series—is no exception.  It would, in my opinion, be included in the top three books of the series because the author has steadily and carefully added an entirely new dimension to his concept, one that the reader won’t grasp until she or he reads the entire novel!  It is no wonder that Connolly is a number one international best seller. A Song of Shadows, opens with a severely wounded Charlie Parker looking for a peaceful and remote place to rest and recuperate as he recovers from the gunshots which nearly killed him.  With the help of his two sinister pals—Louis and Angel—he takes a summer lease on a beach front house in northern Maine . . . in a town named Boreas.  There, Parker meets Ruth Winter and her daughter Amanda.  She’s about the same age as Samantha, his six year old who lives with her mother, and visits him on weekends.  At first it appears Boreas will be the ideal place to rehab, and Parker takes daily walks along the beach, trying to make it  a little bit farther each day as his health improves.  But the town harbors secrets it will kill to protect, and Ruth Winter conceals a past she’s afraid of . . . almost as much as she’s afraid of Parker.  When a mans body washes up on the beach however, it sets in motion a chain of events that threaten many lives—including Charlie Parker’s—as old atrocities are unearthed, an entire family is murdered in a nearby town, and the ghosts of six million Holocaust victims linger in the background.  In spite of objections by some of the local police, Parker feels compelled to get involved . . . even though he’s debilitated and still seriously wounded.  Although mysterious enemies are trying to move against him, Parker remains  formidable . . . no matter the circumstances. As he always manages to do, Connolly blends noir and horror together into an awesome, well-researched and totally entertaining read that concludes with a chilling revelation and prediction, which promises that more Charlie Parker adventures are coming.  I can’t wait!  And FYI, the other two of my personal three best John Connolly novels:  2005s The Black Angel and 2012s The Wrath of Angels.  Both are unforgettable. Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.mysteriousbookreport.com...

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The Lightkeepers

Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Lightkeepers Mysterious Book Report No. 239 by John Dwaine McKenna An exceptional new authorial voice was brought to our attention by some friends in New York City a few weeks ago.  They know we’re always looking for exemplary first novels by as-yet unknown writers to introduce to our MBR audience—and although we don’t always agree—this time they’re spot on!  With thanks to Ian and all the crew at Otto Penzler’s bookstore, meet Abby Geni.  Her debut novel, The Lightkeepers, (Counterpoint, $25.00, 358 pages, ISBN 978-1-61902-600-1) is “A first novel of gripping, talon-sharp intensity . . .” according to Booklist’s starred review.  KIRKUS’S starred review adds “Geni may be unmatched in her ability to describe nature in ways . . . photographically accurate and emotionally resonate.”  Exceptional and well-deserved praise from two highly revered sources about a remarkable entry into the crowded mystery genre. The Lightkeepers is a modified locked-room mystery in which a globe-trotting, freelance nature photographer named Miranda joins a group of six biologists on the remote Farallon Islands for a one-year picture taking sojourn.  The Farallon archipelago is a nature preserve located thirty miles from San Francisco . . . reachable only by an erratic and unpredictable ferryboat.  Once there, visitors are winched ashore on a crane, cable and basket apparatus known as the Billy Pugh, because there’s no dock or wharf.  The shore is too rocky, and the ocean too violent to allow any kind of permanent facility to be built.  Once on the island, danger is everywhere.  Miranda meets five quirky scientists and an intern, all of whom caution her about the many ways in which she could lose her life: the wind, rain, fog, freezing weather and precipitous heights, the slippery moss and lichen-covered rocks being only a few.   Then there’s the animals: twenty-foot white sharks and killer whales patrol offshore, while inland, two-thousand pound sea lions fight for territory and mating rights, female lions protect and nurse newly born seal pups . . . and the birds.  The Farallon Islands are a breeding grounds for hundreds of thousands of increasingly vicious birds who cover the island in nests and guano and attack without warning or provocation, forcing the humans to wear hard hats, waterproof ponchos, and flea collars around their ankles to ward off the constant aerial attacks and bird lice.  It’s an environment teeming with relentless danger and jaw dropping beauty, a setting where death lurks on every square foot of ground.  Miranda finds herself in the midst of a small, closed-off and indifferent group of people who remain focused on observing the animals without interfering with them.  But when one of the humans turns up dead one morning, everything changes.  Was it an accident, or something more sinister?  Nothing is as it first seems in this powerful and imaginative work.  It is a novel that will stay with you, sticking somewhere in the synapses and neurons of the brain, hidden deep in your memory banks . . . until some small, unexpected, perfectly innocent event triggers something . . . and causes the entire story to roar back to life in your head.  Such is the power of great fiction.  The Lightkeepers is a novel that will stay with you forever. Like the review . . . let your friends...

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The Friends of Pancho Villa

Posted by on Apr 25, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Friends of Pancho Villa Mysterious Book Report No. 238 by John Dwaine McKenna LEST WE FORGET: A little over one hundred years ago, on March 9, 1916, a force of roughly 500 heavily armed men mounted on horseback and under the command of a cattle thief and bandit, rode up and out of the Sonoran Desert from Mexico.  Under cover of night, thirty miles North of the international border with the United States, they attacked, looted and burned the little town of Columbus, New Mexico.  They killed eighteen American citizens and wounded eight others before disappearing in the gray light of the false dawn.  The unprovoked invasion so inflamed the American public and enraged the U.S. Congress that President Woodrow Wilson sent General John J. Pershing and a battalion of Buffalo Soldiers to hunt down and capture or kill the raiders in what was called the Punitive Expedition.  From late June 1916 until early January 1917, Pershing—forever after known as ‘Black Jack’ for his command of the African-American Brigade—pursued the raiders without success.  Then, with America about to enter World War I, the troops were recalled.  The bandito the Americans went chasing after was named Doroteo Arrango.  He was a desperado, a lover, a cattle thief, a revolutionary general and a killer.  He was called The Centaur of the North; adored by many, despised by some and feared by all.  He wrote his name as legend before riding into immortality . . . forever known to all the world . . . as Pancho Villa. Now, thanks to a lucky turn of events, my wife June came home from the bookstore a few days ago with a gently used copy of a novel detailing the life and times of one of the twentieth-century’s most notorious individuals.  As a bonus, it’s written by one of my favorite, although not so well known, authors.  NOTE: Published in 1993, and now out of print, it’s hard to find.  Try Abebooks.com.  Be persistent.  It’s worth it. The Friends of Pancho Villa, (Berkley Publishing Group, PB, $13.00, 258 pages, ISBN 978-0-425-15304-5) by James Carlos Blake details the Mexican Revolution and the life of Pancho Villa as seen through the eyes of his next in command, a man known variously as—El Carnacero, (The Butcher), or El Senor Muerte, (Mr. Death)—Rudolfo Fierro. Fierro is Villa’s friend, his executive Officer, confederate and the  unofficial Lord High Executioner of the legendary Army of the North.  He “Loves the revolution, it’s rolling thunder and brute power.”  He is undyingly loyal to Villa and lives only to fight and kill those he sees as enemies of Mexico.  In the masterful hands of author Blake, the butcher Fierro becomes a faithful and accurate chronicler  of  Villa and the  Mexican  Revolution . . . and he almost succeeds in making the unapologetic killer into a sympathetic narrator who blends fact and legend together into an electrifying jaunt through Northern Mexico.  It’s a journey the reader won’t forget! Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Forty Thieves

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Forty Thieves Mysterious Book Report No. 237 by John Dwaine McKenna Start reading any type of great fiction, and you’ll soon realize that it’s based upon conflict . . . because conflict creates drama . . . and drama is what captures, then holds, our attention and keeps us reading.  Why?  Because we humans are innately curious—we have to see what happens next.  In order to create conflict, there must be opposing forces such as good versus evil.  For example, Sherlock Holmes fought the criminal mastermind James Moriarty; the citizens of Middle Earth battled the armies of Orcs for possession of the one ring in J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy; and poor old Wylie Coyote is forever duped into falling off of cliffs, or getting an ACME Steel Safe dropped on him by that smarmy Road Runner in their endless—and endlessly funny—chase.  The point is: it takes conflict to create drama.  It follows then, that in order to be a great character, the protagonist needs a great antagonist.  Put another way . . . for there to be a hero, there must be a villain, and the more evil the villain, the more heroic the hero.  And yes, Virginia, we’re leading up to a Mysterious  Book  Report . . . and guess what . . . it features a great set of adversaries! Forty Thieves (Mysterious Press, $26.00, 356 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2452-4) by Thomas Perry, is a modern-day thriller that’s set in Los Angeles, where a year has passed since the body of a research scientist named James Ballantine washed up in an L.A. storm drain during a heavy rainstorm.  He was murdered execution style—two shots to the back of the head with a small caliber weapon—which looks like it’s a professional hit.  The police have run down all possible leads without success and the case has gone cold.  Because he was engaged in confidential research, his employer—a Fortune 500 company with an international presence, a forty-year history, and a spotless corporate standing—is frustrated by the lack of progress in finding the killer and concerned about its corporate image, because Ballantine was African-American and highly regarded by all of his associates. Sid and Ronnie Abel are a husband and wife team of private investigators with a reputation for solving cold cases.  They’re both former LAPD detectives hired by the corporation to look into Ballantine’s murder. Unknown to the Abels, another group has hired Ed and Nicole Hoyt—a husband and wife team of assassins—to prevent the case from being solved.  Ever.  This sets in motion an exquisite set of moves and counter moves, actions and reactions as both sides do whatever it takes to get the job done with silenced .45 caliber pistols, sawed-off shotguns, Uzi’s, pipe bombs and Scorpion machine guns in a running battle that’ll leave the reader gasping, guessing and ripping through the pages to the surprise ending.  Thomas Perry’s an Edgar-award winner and a perennial topper of everyone’s best-seller lists.  Forty Thieves is a super introduction to his work. Enjoy! Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Cellar

Posted by on Apr 14, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Cellar Mysterious Book Report No. 236 by John Dwaine McKenna One of the great things about reading is when you figure out that it’s a voyage of personal discovery . . . and the more you read, the longer your journey into the unknown, which in turn takes you to places you couldn’t imagine before opening that book you’ve just  read  . . . and ever farther into the ocean of learning.  That’s as big a mouthful of metaphor as I’ve ever written.  But the truth is, I was inspired to it by this week’s MBR No. 236, the one with the short, humble title. The Cellar: A Novel (Penguin/Random House, $24.00, 246 pages, ISBN 978-0-09-959464-2) by Edgar-awarded, best-selling British author Minette Walters is a compelling psychological thriller that takes the reader deep into the heart, mind and soul of another.  It’s a ride that’ll stick with you long after you’ve finished reading. A young black girl named Muna is stolen from an African orphanage by the Songoli family and taken to England, where for the next ten years Muna is held as a slave.  She’s forced to do all of the cleaning, cooking, washing and ironing for ‘Princess’ and ‘Master,’ as Muna is forced to address Mr. and Mrs. Songoli, as well as their two sons.  Muna lives in the basement, where there’s no light, no heat, no windows and no escape.  She can’t read, or write, or talk to anyone.  She’s never been outside the house where she’s imprisoned, never seen the sky or gone to school.  She’s regularly beaten with a rod by Princess, forced into sex acts by Master and appears destined for similar treatment by one or both teenage sons in the very near future, because as the older one tells her, “You’re worthless.  I can do anything I want to you.”  But one day, the Songoli’s younger son Abiola, fails to come home from school . . . and everything changes.  Little Muna isn’t quite as helpless as everyone thought she was.  She has a scheme of her own: terrifying plans that will affect them all.  It’s a nightmare . . . and it’s only just beginning. Minette Walters has been called a “A rare talent with an unnerving imagination . . .” who “takes the suspense novel into new territory” . . . and “patrols the darkest areas of the human heart.”  Nothing in The Cellar contradicts those notions from some of the world’s leading news organizations—with whom I heartily agree.  If you enjoy the work of John Connolly, Peter Straub, Stephen King or Robert E. Howard, you’re in for a treat when you discover Minette Walters, who, like Ann Rice, will take you for a ride on the dark side . . . and deep into the psyche of some of the most different human minds anyone ever imagined. Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Blood on Snow

Posted by on Apr 4, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Blood on Snow Mysterious Book Report No. 235 by John Dwaine McKenna It seems like we’ve been reviewing a lot of first time authors lately, so we’re going to toss in a few of our favorite A-listers over the next couple of MBRs and mix it up a bit.  First on the agenda is the “maddening-addictive,” critically acclaimed crown prince of Nordic Noir and a personal exemplar of ours . . . Norway’s most famous son . . . Jo Nesbo.  He’s the internationally celebrated best-selling author and creator of the drug-addicted Oslo detective named Harry Hole, whose serial exploits have been translated into dozens of languages and sold millions of copies.  But in addition to his serial series, the talented Nesbo also writes and performs music, writes the Dr. Proctor children series, is an international economist, as well as a television writer and, oh yeah . . . he writes a few awesomely good stand-alone novels too, like this one . . . Blood on Snow, (Alfred A. Knopf, $23.95, 208 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-35419-6) by Jo Nesbo is a short, but intense novel, featuring one of the very best antiheros we’ve ever run into in any novel.  He’s the first person narrator and protagonist.  He’s dyslexic, a dreamer—who’s in his own words— “Not much good at anything,” he’s a loner, a failed pimp; a broken loan-shark; a frequent borrower and reader of books at the library; he’s in love, but in courtly fashion, from afar, with a severely disabled woman and he tries to write stories in his head.  His name is Olav.  He’s a “fixer” for one of the two biggest crime-lords in Oslo, and he’s one of the best at the job—a dry-eyed, unemotional, stone-cold contract killer of other human beings.  But when Hoffman—the crime-boss he answers to—gives Olav the job of fixing his beautiful, but unfaithful young wife and promises a fee of five times the usual rate . . . Olav figures he’ll be next on the list.  As soon as he fixes the wife, he’ll know too much to be trusted . . . or so he thinks, because the twists and turns, the gunfights, back-stabbings and treachery is only just the beginning in this noir thriller you won’t quit reading until the last word on the last page.  Find out for yourself why Nesbo has captured the world’s attention.  He’s a monster writer without equal.  You’ll love him on page one . . .  and every page after! Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Ruins of War

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Ruins of War Mysterious Book Report No. 234 by John Dwaine McKenna Every time we start thinking that the deep, thoroughly-explored and fully-drawn well of World War II stories is about to run dry . . . along comes another author with a whole new, and fascinating point of view, coupled together with a totally original plot to disabuse us of the notion.  So move over Ken Follett, make way Alan Furst and brace yourself Philip Kerr—there’s a new WW II novelist come to town—and he’s got some serious wordsmithing chops to go along with one of the most interesting new detectives since Bernie Gunther was shanghaied into the Nazi SS. Ruins of War, (Berkley/Penguin-Random House, $26.95, 372 pages, ISBN 978-0-425-27895-6) by John A Connell opens with a gruesome ritualized murder that takes place in Munich, Germany during the month of December, 1945.  It’s been seven months since the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich; the weather is freezing; the city has been destroyed; people are starving and living like rats in the ruins.  The American Army is in charge, trying to maintain order while restoring and putting in place a functioning government.  At the same time, the Americans are worried about preventing an outbreak of deadly diseases like typhus or cholera, from the lack of clean water and sanitation.  On page one, we meet Warrant Officer Mason Collins of the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, or CID.  He’s on his way to a murder scene that’s unlike anything he’s ever experienced in all his years as a civilian or military detective.  When he arrives on-scene he finds a nightmare waiting: an obscenely desecrated human corpse, displayed in so grotesque a manner that it’s making hardened combat veterans turn away and gag.  Collins realizes he’s dealing with a depraved serial killer when a second mutilated body turns up just as his boss—a non-combat experienced colonel who’s more concerned with his position and career advancement than catching the killer puts him on such a tight leash that catching the monster would be impossible.  The Colonel’s in full CYA mode and wants deniability if Collins can’t catch the murderer.  Collins knows he’ll be the scapegoat.  In the midst of all the chaos, the task is all but impossible.  Thousands upon thousands of displaced persons, along with deserters, former Nazis trying to escape retribution and the survivors of the concentration camps roam about the shattered country and city.  Finding a single madman before he kills again seems an impossibility . . . but Collins is destined to try . . . or die in the attempt. Ruins of War has enough pathos and joy, good and evil, drama and moral dilemmas to keep any reader happy.  But for lovers of historical crime fiction, like me, this one’s a treasure.  I expect the author and his character will only improve with age, and, great news!  The second Mason Collins novel, Spoils of Victory is now out.  We’ll report on it as soon as we get the copy that’s on order.  John Connell is as exciting an author as has come down the pike in a good long time.  Don’t miss your chance to make his early acquaintance.  You’ll be well rewarded. Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw...

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The Red Storm

Posted by on Mar 21, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Red Storm Mysterious Book Report No. 233 by John Dwaine McKenna Writers, Agents, Book Publishers and Reviewers are always looking for something different, something a bit out of the ordinary; something that grabs their attention on page one and never lets go.  In today’s hyper frenetic literary world, where thousands of books are published every day, originality is a hard commodity to find.  In the mystery crime fiction genre for example, we now have tough guys and gals in the classic Raymond Chandler mode, but then there’s everything from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous . . . we have ghost detectives, vampire detectives and wheelchair bound detectives as well as fallen angels, residents of Hell, old ladies, talking dogs and cats, teenagers and even arch criminal sleuths, just to name an assorted few.  Rest assured, there’s others.  So when a debut author comes up with a unique concept and point-of-view . . . it’s exciting news. The Red Storm, (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 227 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-07307-5) by Grant Bywaters is a breath of fresh air in what’s become a most well-explored category of crime fiction . . . the private eye.  The gumshoes name is William Fletcher.  He’s a former heavyweight boxer who’s good enough to be champion of the world if only he wasn’t a black man in the early 1920s, a time when organized crime controlled the fight game and rampant racism prevented him from getting a title shot.  He quits boxing and works as a money collector until his boss goes to prison and Fletcher moves down to New Orleans, where he reinvents himself as a private investigator.  It’s a tough way to make a living for a black man in the south during the depression.  Ten years later, in the early 1930s, he’s struggling to find clients and pay the bills when one of his old New York acquaintances named Bill Storm gets in touch.  He hires Fletcher to find his estranged daughter Zella, a wannabe torch singer and a white woman.  Fletcher’s investigation sets off a gang war for control of New Orleans between local mobsters and the trainload of New York Mafiosi who’ve trailed Storm to the Crescent City. The Red Storm is a noir gem, full of period sights and sounds, language and everyday life in the heyday of the Jim Crow south.  A fun, fast, entertaining read! Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna  ...

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The White Van

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The White Van Mysterious Book Report No. 232 by John Dwaine McKenna We’ve all been guilty, at some time or another, of staying at the party just a wee bit too long, or succumbing to the exhortations of one of our Good Time Charlie pals, to Awwwgoahead, one more won’t killya . . .  and awakened the next day feeling like hammered doggie doo-doo.  But it’s a pretty sure bet that not a one of us awakened more than a week later with a crooked cop, the FBI and the Russia mafia all searching for us.  For a young down-and-outer named Emily Rosario however, it’s a nightmare come true in this week’s MBR number 232 entitled, The White Van, (Atlantic Monthly Press/Grove Atlantic, Inc., $24.00, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2304-6) by first-time author Patrick Hoffman. Emily’s a human wreck—addicted to drugs, drinking like a fish, living in squalor in San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin District—she knows she’s got to escape the lifestyle, or die.  In her thirties, she still has her youth and looks . . . all she needs is a stake, money to ride and she’ll get clean and sober . . . then start her life over.  It’ll be like nothing ever happened.  Sure it will.  As Emily’s drinking shots of cheap whiskey in a dive bar one night and contemplating her future; a Russian man sits down on the stool next to her and buys her a drink.  Several shots and a few hits of Oxycotin later, Emily thinks her prayers are answered when her new friend asks if she’d like to help him and two others in a simple identity theft.  No one gets hurt, and they’ll split a million bucks three ways.  She agrees.  It’s the last thing she’ll remember when she wakes up a week later under some bushes in a remote part of the city wearing someone else’s clothes.  She’s groggy and massively hungover, pill-dependent, strapped to a canvas bag stuffed with cash and handcuffed, with a loaded gun in her pocket and no recollection of how she came to be there.  Emily stumbles toward the city, where she discovers that she’s wanted for bank robbery.  There’s also a desperate, alcoholic and crooked cop who’s hoping to find her before anyone else, seeing Emily as the solution to his debt problems.  And then too, there’s those mad-as-hell Russians in the white van . . . who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on her. But that’s only a hint of the diverse, jaded and low cast of characters who inhabit the underbelly of one of America’s greatest cities.  If you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss over the Noir genre is about—here’s a chance to get acquainted with excellent example.  The White Van is a rock-n-roll thriller from start to finish.  There’s not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that Patrick Hoffman is an author to watch.  I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next! Like the review . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Last Words

Posted by on Mar 7, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Last Words Mysterious Book Report No. 231 by John Dwaine McKenna There ought to be a special word for novels that have more than one theme, more than one story arc, and a tricky, psychologically-twisted plot interwoven with numerous backstories blended together into a complex and genre-defying literary stew that you just can’t put down once you begin reading. Something like Mindaffectus-Mystery or Terribullistawickedus-Thriller, which would easily identify smash-mouth, twisted pulse-pounders like Last Words, (Little, Brown and Company, $26.00, 420 pages, ISBN 978-0316-12263-4) by Michael Koryta that are a work of a virtuoso, master wordsmith.  Oh, yeah . . . I liked it . . . a lot! Markus Novak is an investigator for Innocence Inc., an anti-death penalty project based in St. Petersburg, Florida.  It’s a pro-bono defense agency whose only purpose is to free unjustly convicted death row inmates and help them regain their lives.  It’s a job he loves, almost as much as he loves his wife Lauren, who’s also an investigator at the same firm.  Truth be told, Markus was so enamored of Lauren that he followed her to work there.  And, surprise!  He’s really good at it.  But, on the day his life changes forever, when Lauren’s going to interview a spiritualist who claims to have vital information about a case they’re working, Markus, a man loaded with bad childhood memories says,  “Don’t embarrass me with this s**t!!” A couple of hours later, Lauren is killed by an unknown assailant . . . and Markus is devastated.  A year later, with the murder still unsolved, Markus reaches out to an inmate in prison, offering immediate cash for the name of her killer, with the promise of ten times that amount for the killers death.  The news travels and Novak is all but banished, sent to the small southern Indiana town of Garrison, to look into a ten year old cold case.  It’s the unsolved homicide of a seventeen year old girl, named Sarah Martin, whose body was found in a mysterious and geologically spectacular cavern known locally as Trapdoor.  It’s the type of case Innocence Inc. would never accept, but while Novak’s job is hanging in the balance, he’s better off being out of town, as his boss tries to convince the board of directors not to fire him.  That’s plot theme number one. Theme number two unfolds in Garrison, Indiana.  There, Markus is inexorably drawn into the unsolved murder of young Sarah.  It’s a ten-year old cold case that everyone in town—including the sheriff—is convinced was committed by a local eccentric named Ridley Barnes.  He’s a recluse, an expert cave explorer who was mapping Trapdoor before the tragedy, and he’s the man who carried Sarah Martin’s lifeless body back to the surface.  Barnes can’t remember what happened as he wandered for days in the dark, lost without food or water or, worst of all, light, in the depths of the cavern as he searched for the lost girl.  When he finally surfaces with Sarah’s body—Ridley doesn’t know if she was alive when he found her—and thinks he may have killed her.  But he can’t remember . . . where he found her, or how they got out . . . and no one can contradict him.  Now Ridley Barnes want to know—did he...

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Echowave

Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Echowave Mysterious Book Report No. 230 by John Dwaine McKenna As an avid and long time student of twentieth-century American and world history, I thought myself pretty well versed in World War II lore . . . until this week’s MBR disabused me of the notion.  That’s because it made me aware of the fact that everything I knew about the war was from the perspective of the main belligerents and the ground they battled on in North Africa, Europe, Russia, Asia and the Pacific Islands . . . I realized I’d never read much of anything from the point of view of the neutrals; those countries who hadn’t declared war.  Through a fortunate series of events, which we’ll explain at the conclusion of the MBR, I’m happy to report that my personal fog of ignorance started to dissipate as soon as I began reading Echowave, (Liberties Press, PB, $15.99, 323 pages, ISBN 978-1-910742-13-6) by Joe Joyce, who lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. The novel begins in the early summer of 1941, when an unmarked B-17 bomber on a flight from Washington D.C. to London, England crashes in the remote west of Ireland.  Unarmed, the bomber’s stuffed full of luxury goods—cigarettes, cigars, wine, whiskey and chocolate—bound for the America Embassy and all but unobtainable in Ireland, even if the poor culchies, (country-bumpkins) had money to buy them with.  The bomber itself was meant to stay in England as part of America’s lend-lease program—designed by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill as an effective way to help the British war effort without violating North America’s avowed neutrality.  By the time the authorities reach the crash site, the surviving airmen are being cared for at surrounding farms and the wrecked airplane has been ransacked.  All the luxury goods—as well as a secret piece of equipment called a Norden Bombsight—are gone, and it’s up to a young Irish secret service agent named Paul Duggan to find it before one of the many spies who’ve infiltrated the country can make off with it . . . or so he thinks . . . because with plot twists a-plenty, nothing is ever as it first appears to be. It’s a rousing period piece, full of the detail, historic facts and emotions which gripped the world as Hitler’s armies were crushing the European continent and Ireland was being pushed by both British and American officials for help in the North Atlantic shipping lanes, where German submarines were devastating the Merchant Marine, sinking thousands of tons of ships and cargo.  Meanwhile, the Germans want Ireland to use as a base for invading England.  As the search and arm-twisting go from bad to worse, Duggan, pining for the woman he loves, who’s in America for her personal safety, gets drawn ever deeper into the deadly spy game being played out in Lisbon, the neutral city that’s teeming with espionage . . . where no one can be trusted . . . because everyone is spying! Whether you’re a student of history, a World-War II buff, or a lover of intrigue and a well-plotted story—you’ll enjoy Echowave.  It’s exciting, educational and entertaining, and the third of a series which began with the novels Echobeat and Echoland, but each one stands alone, and can be read by itself. ...

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The Killing Kind

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Killing Kind Mysterious Book Report No. 229 by John Dwaine McKenna Every now and then, in the process of doing the Mysterious Book Reports, I run across a work that’s so well written and the author’s concept is so original that I become an instant fan.  This week’s novel is one of them.  It’s been published to rave reviews by the likes of Stuart Neville, Megan Abbott, Joseph Finder and David Baldacci; all of whom are best-selling thriller and crime fiction writers. The Killing Kind, (Mulholland Books/ Hatchette, $26.00, 306 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-25953-8) by Chris Holm is a high-octane thrill ride that blasts off on page one and never comes back to earth.  It features one of the most unusual antiheros in modern crime fiction.  His name is Michael Hendricks . . . and he’s a hit man.  Ex-Special Forces, he was part of an off-the-books team who did black-ops business for the U.S. Government when complete deniability was required.  When a mission goes bad, almost all of the team is killed in action.  Hendricks survives, but is assumed KIA along with the others . . .  it’s when he walks away from his former life and becomes a contract killer.  The big difference however, is that he kills other hit men.  Using the skill set he learned in the Special Forces and the help of a talented hacker friend, Hendricks is able to intercept organized crime murder contracts.  He contacts the condemned individual, tells them they’ve been  green-lighted to be  liquidated,  and offers to save them by killing the killer . . . for a fee of ten times the contract price.  He’s good at it.  So good in fact, that organized crime is feeling the effects of Hendricks’ work, and it’s costing them money.  A lot of money.  They don’t know who Michael Hendricks is, but that doesn’t stop them from hiring the services of the best European assassin in the world and putting a one million dollar bounty on the head of the unknown hit man.  And so begins an exquisite and protracted game of cat-and-mouse in which no one is safe from sudden death . . . not even the woman Hendricks loves and lost, who’s pregnant with another man’s child.  The novel is a propulsive, and hard-edged thrill ride from the first page to the last as Michael Hendricks dispenses his own brand of justice, according to his own set of rules.  Like all great antiheros, he exhibits both good and bad characteristics and it’s left to the reader to decide which carries the most weight.  One thing’s for sure, The Killing Kind will smack into your consciousness like a 225-grain hollowpoint.  I’m all in. Please . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna *     *     * HOT NEWS*     *     * Check out our exciting new website:            ...

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In A Dark Dark Wood

Posted by on Feb 15, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

In A Dark Dark Wood Mysterious Book Report Special No. 4 by John Dwaine McKenna and Lora Brown I was over at Rhyolite Press the other day, talking with Ms. Lora Brown.  She’s the Publisher’s Rep., Executive Assistant and all-around Golden Gal who makes sure all our work gets done on time, sent where it’s gotta go and that our little world up here on the Mesa runs with the precision of a jeweled Swiss Chronometer.  As soon as we got the Hi, how-are-yas out of the way, Lora said, “Why aren’t you doing more MBRs featuring women? You hardly ever read books written by women.” I thought about it for a moment, then said, “Sure I have.  What about Alafair Burke, Denise Mina and Julia Dahl?  We just did her new one last week.” Lora said, “That’s true, but the vast majority of the reviews are books by, about and for men.” My wife June, who’d been listening, said, “Lora’s right.  You tend to read all the hard-boiled stuff . . . the kind with a lot of graphic detail in it.  Women don’t always like that, and we make up about 80 percent of the readers today.” Well, they had me.  They’re right, but on the other hand, I’m the one who finds the novels we review, reads every one from cover-to-cover and then writes a three to five hundred word report about it . . . so I get to pick, and I pick stories that appeal to me. I said all that, but they were ready with sincere, well thought-out rebuttal answers.  And after forty years of marriage to June, plus thirty years of friendship with Lora—they both know how difficult men are to train—and I know how to surrender and accept defeat with dignity.  Here’s what we came up with together: Every now and then, Lora, June, or another well-read lady will select a novel, read it, make notes about the story arc, theme, plot and what she liked or disliked about it and I’ll use her notes to write a special review, from the female point of view.  We hope you like it and look forward to all of your comments about this new element of the Mysterious Book Report.  Lora Brown is the first of our MBR Special Reporters, and the novel she’s chosen is titled, In A Dark Dark Wood, (Scout Press/Simon & Schuster, $26.00, 310 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-1231-7) by Ruth Ware.  It’s a debut novel that’s tense, tightly- written and suspenseful.  It features a reclusive  young writer named Leonora—called Nora by some of her acquaintances and Lee by others—who accepts an invite to a ‘hen party’ from an old friend she hasn’t heard from, or talked to, for at least ten years.  Forty-eight hours later, she wakes  up in the  hospital with  the knowledge that someone is dead . . . and she may be the killer . . . but she can’t remember anything, other than a shotgun going off, and her ex-fiancé James lying dead on the floor. MBR Special Reviewer Lora Brown says that This well-written and carefully crafted psychological thriller will keep the reader enthralled and completely entertained as Nora tries to unravel the mystery, prove her innocence and regain the cozy confines of her apartment,...

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Run You Down

Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Run You Down Mysterious Book Report No. 228 by John Dwaine McKenna The word Haredi is literally translated from the Hebrew as “One who trembles in awe at the word of God.” The Haredim are “Members of any various Orthodox Jewish sects characterized by strict adherence to the traditional form of Jewish Law and the rejection of modern secular culture,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of English language.  The Hasidim, or Hasidics, are one branch of the Haredi and they are all, by definition, a cult.  Cults are dedicated, highly restrictive and generally patriarchal, or male-dominated in nature, as exemplified by the Amish, Hare Krishna, fundamentalist Mormon, Islamist or Christian sects which come in all stripes and sizes, and all of which have lists of dos and don’t-dos and taboos that are as long as your leg and designed to enforce absolute conformity to a strict set of rules.  It’s a stifling environment that crushes free will.  But some still struggle to free themselves from those cults at the risk of losing all that they know and love because they will be shunned by family and friends alike.  They’ll be forced to cope with and live in an alien, unfamiliar world they’re unprepared for because they’ve been prevented from interacting with it by the cult leaders and the cult rules.  In extreme cases, those who attempt to leave may be faced with the threat of physical harm . . . up to and including death. Run You Down, (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 278 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-04340-5) by Julia Dahl is the second book in her acclaimed and Edgar nominated series featuring a young, New York City based tabloid reporter named Rebekah Roberts, whose father is a Christian minister in Florida and whose mother is a Hassadic woman who abandoned both father and newborn baby nearly three decades earlier.  As a reporter, Rebekah has roots in both communities, but knowledge of only the father who raised her.  As an adult, she wants to know why her mother abandoned her. In her first book entitled Invisible City, (Mysterious Book Report No. 187) Rebekah investigates and reports on the murder of an ultra-orthodox Jewish woman and searches unsuccessfully for her estranged mother.  Unbeknownst to her, the story was avidly followed by the Hassidic communities in Brooklyn and a number of upstate orthodox enclaves in Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Greene counties as well.  That all changes when a Hassidic man in the orthodox haven of Roseville contacts Rebekah and asks her to look into his wife’s death.  It’s been called a suicide which he disputes, but is unable to properly investigate because of the restrictions imposed by his religious beliefs.  The case appears simple enough at first; the woman, named Pessie Goldin, was found in her bathtub and apparently drowned.  Her family is calling it a tragic accident, but the facts just don’t add up, and the more Rebekah discovers, the more she’s drawn into a murky, secret world of people who’ve gotten ‘off the path’ of ultra-orthodoxy . . . just like her mother.  It doesn’t take long before she’s drawn ever deeper into a dangerous, and life-threatening series of events which immerse her into a clandestine sub-culture peopled with racism, white supremacists, her missing mother, and an ex-convict uncle she never...

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House of Echoes

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

House of Echoes Mysterious Book Report No. 227 by John Dwaine McKenna What do you do when your world gets turned upside down?  For most of us the answer is easy, but hard: you start over.  And that’s exactly what Ben Tierney, his wife Caroline, and their eight-year-old son Charlie decide to do after novelist Ben’s new book stalls out, Caroline loses her prestigious Wall Street banking job and Charlie is set upon by bullies at school, in the exciting new thriller House of Echoes, (Ballentine Books/ Random House, $26.00, 383 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-7811-2) by first time author Brendan Duffy. Just as their life in New York City is collapsing, Ben gets word he’s inherited some property from his great aunt, up in the Adirondack Mountains, the far-north, cold and isolated region of upper New York State.  The legacy turns out to be a sprawling, one-thousand acre estate with a huge, albeit dilapidated, mansion in the historic village of Swannhaven, where roots date back all the way to the colonial era.  Ben and Caroline waste no time in relocating, then pouring all of their energies and money into restoring the place with the intention of turning it into a first-class destination resort, complete with outdoor recreational activities of all types on their surrounding property.  That’s the plan, but they soon find that carrying it out is easier said than done.  Swannhaven is a place with secrets . . . sinister secrets . . . Ben starts uncovering only after their restoration is nearing completion and their money is nearly spent.  That’s when he realizes that his marriage is falling apart and that his son Charlie, who’s been spending more and more time alone in the woods, is suddenly terrorized by something he’s seen there, but which he’s unwilling to describe. House of Echoes is atmospheric, creepy and thrilling, with disaster lurking on every page daring the reader to find out what happens next to the beleaguered family who may not survive.  If you’re fond of Straub and King, Brendan Duffy may just be your newest, most favorite author.  Check him out and see for yourself.  And please . . . let your friends know, You saw it in the Mysterious Book Report . . . Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna *     *     * HOT NEWS*     *     * Check out our exciting new website: MysteriousBookReport.com...

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House of the Rising Sun

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

House of the Rising Sun Mysterious Book Report No. 226 by John Dwaine McKenna At public events—book signings or speaking engagements for example—a question I’m often asked is Who’s your favorite author? And the answer is always the same . . . Although I’m informed by many crime writers—Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard, James Elroy, Poe, Hemingway, Stephen King, Robert Parker, Ken Bruen, Nelson DeMille and Lawrence Block to name a few of the many I’m acquainted with—the author I’ve been most influenced by is James Lee Burke.  I’ve not only read every one of his books, I’ve read many of them twice, and find new elements to admire with each review.  He inspires me to try to be a better writer, and at the same time, to be a better person.  Burke’s characters are imperfect, elementally damaged creatures who often commit human errors of such magnitude that an ordinary person would be crushed . . . mentally, physically and spiritually.  And therein lies some of Burke’s genius, because those same characters come equipped with moral cores that “burn hotter and whiter than a phosphorous hand grenade on a moonless night in no-man’s land.”  It makes his characters fascinating because—truth-be told—every reader can recognize just a wee bit of themselves in those selfsame individuals.  Put another way . . . everyone has the capability and the capacity to do good and bad things. House of the Rising Sun, (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 433 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-0710-8) by James Lee Burke is his thirty-fifth published work, and it’s a masterpiece; possibly his best yet and a sure contender for an unprecedented fourth Edgar award. The novel opens in 1916 with the protagonist, a former Texas Ranger named Hackberry Holland, searching for his son Ishmael somewhere in Mexico during the Civil War.  Ishmael, whose name is not a random choice by Burke, is a captain in the United States Army.  He’s the commanding officer of an all black cavalry unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers, a legendary group of black fighting men who are scouring the Mexican desert in an attempt to capture Poncho Villa, who crossed the international border into the U.S. and attacked the small village of Columbus, New Mexico on March 9, 1916 with a force of 1500 men.  The attackers looted, then burnt the town and murdered nineteen people.  In retaliation, President Wilson sent a battalion of men under the command of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing to capture or kill Poncho Villa.  Those are the historical facts against which Mr. Burke opens his novel with imaginary characters Hackberry Holland and his long-lost and abandoned son Ishmael.  Hackberry can’t find Ishmael, but gets into a gun battle that leaves four Mexican soldiers dead and himself in possession of an artifact that may or may not be the Holy Grail.  From there the story flashes back to the late nineteenth century and fills in the blanks with the rest of Hackberry’s story as he interacts with many real-life, legendary characters of the old west . . .  the gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, Henry Longabaugh and Harvey Logan . . . the latter pair aka Sundance and Kid Curry, members of the notorious  Hole-in-the-Wall Gang made famous by the movies.  Hackberry is a deeply flawed man who’s entrusted by...

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The Animals

Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Animals Mysterious Book Report No. 225 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever experienced poverty?  Not the sort where you bounced a check once, but chronic poverty—the type that is constant, relentless and crushing—the kind that destroys self respect, hope and confidence?  It’s a condition capable of wrecking relationships and driving some persons to acts of desperation and outright stupidity . . . and it’s one of the foundational themes of The Animals, (W.W. Norton & Company, $25.95, 309 pages, ISBN 978-0-87140-883-9) by Christian Kiefer, a musician, poet and writing instructor in Sacramento, California.  Other themes are redemption, atonement, friendship, family, treachery, criminality, deceit and the bond between animal and mankind.  The story is told in a present  and past tense, with the protagonist—a man named Bill Reed, who runs a wild animal rescue and shelter in northern Idaho—telling the how and why and when he came to be hiding in a wildlife refuge and avoiding human contact.  Bill Reed is a man with a past . . . a man who’s trying to escape what he was and become the new, different and better man he thinks lives inside himself . . . but those long-ago actions had consequences that demand retribution.  And it’s coming to town at high speed now that his childhood friend Rick is out of prison and looking for a lot more than just a redress of his grievances.  He wants revenge and is determined to get it.  This one’s a page turner that will resonate with anyone who loves the wild places and the critters who live there. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna *     *     * HOT NEWS*     *     * Check out our exciting new website:...

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The Devil’s Share

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Devil’s Share Mysterious Book Report No. 224 by John Dwaine McKenna I have a theory about book covers that goes like this: The size of the author’s name is in inverse proportion to their fame.  In other words, popular best-selling writers like Michael Connolly and James Lee Burke will have their names emblazoned on the cover in much larger type than the title.  My favorite example of this is a new novel with TOM CLANCY, who’s been dead for quite some time now, taking up half of the cover space, followed on the bottom with a book title and another author’s name.  I’m assuming that that’s because the dead writer’s estate and the publisher want to keep cashing in on the Clancy franchise for as long as we’ll keep buying them.  A shame, on them and on us, because it’s bait and switch in my opinion, as well as a diminution of the writer’s talent and legacy for purposes of avarice, greed and cupidity.  Now that I got that off my chest, I’m happy to point out that although this week’s author is growing in popularity, the book title is still larger than his name, which shows respect for the writer’s craft. The Devil’s Share, (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 263 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-06575-9) by Wallace Stroby is his seventh novel and features his Crissa Stone character.  She’s a professional criminal with her own set of warped ethics which allow her to operate as an outlaw without any of the moral implications the rest of us observe.  She’s an anti-hero who thumbs her nose at all of society’s conventions, yet manages somehow to endear herself to the reader . . . a testament to the writer’s immense, and ever-expanding talent. In The Devil’s Share, Crissa, who’s been laying low for the past year, contracts with a crooked art collector-dealer to hijack a truckload of ancient Assyrian sculptures that were looted from Iraq after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.  The collector has plans of double-crossing the new Iraqi regime and the insurance company by having his own shipment stolen—a simple, low-risk takeback with no one hurt and no one wiser—leaving only the insurance company holding the bag.  But what starts out as an easy “give-up” turns into a screw-up and Crissa finds herself and her team being hunted by a paramilitary team of professional killers.  The tension drips from every page as the spare and precise dialogue moves the plot along at a breakneck pace.  Read this one and see for yourself why Wallace Stroby is one of the hottest young authors to come along for quite some time . . . and now’s your chance to get to know him before his name gets as big as a house on the cover! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Hangman’s Game

Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Hangman’s Game Mysterious Book Report No. 223 by John Dwaine McKenna Kids everywhere dream of playing professional sports and being on a championship team.  I remember for example—back in the late ‘50s when we were all playing Little League baseball in the upstate New York hamlet of Grahamsville—that we had regular, and dead serious, discussions about whether we’d rather play for the Yankees or the Brooklyn Dodgers.  (The consensus was always the Yankees, by a mile!  We’re talkin’ Mickey Mantle, Moose Skowron, Whitey Ford, Gil McDougald, Yogi Berra and the most legendary manager of all time . . . Casey Stengel.)  Of course it never happened for any of us.  We came of age and that beautiful, magical, golden moment of childhood when we believed—truly believed in our heart of hearts, that we could be anything we imagined—evaporated forever.  For some few though, a tiny fraction of less than one percent, the dream becomes a reality.  They make it all the way to the top . . . and play on a professional sports team. Hangman’s Game, (Thomas Donne/Minotaur Books, $25.99, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-06715-9) by Bill Syken is about one of those few; blessed by fortune with the talent, size and strength as well as the determination, perseverance and luck to be able to live the dream and play professional sports.  His name is Nick Gallow.  He’s twenty-seven years old and he’s the punter for the Philadelphia Sentinels football team.  He’s a five year veteran with a modest—by NFL standards—annual salary of $900,000, and he’s under constant pressure to perform, lest some younger, better and cheaper kicker get his job.  Nick is so insecure, he’s living in a temporary apartment . . . the kind business travelers stay at when on two or three week assignments.  Place kickers and punters after all, are the most easily replaced players on the team, coming and going with such regularity that the marquee athletes often don’t even know their names.  It’s a situation that’s especially bad on a losing team—like the Sentinels.  Then, hope arrives as the team drafts and signs the number one linebacker prospect in the annual college crop.  His name is Samuel Sault and he’s touted as one of the best linebackers to ever play the game.  His contract is for $64 million, with $30 million guaranteed.  Samuel is however, a small town boy who’s not comfortable with the intense public scrutiny he’s getting, nor the bright lights and big city atmosphere.  Because Nick’s agent is also handling Samuel, he arranges a dinner for the three of them, hoping that the veteran kicker can help the rookie superstar adjust to his new glamorous life.  The effort is wasted when a confrontation develops and all three of their lives are changed forever. Hangman’s Game is a fun, fast paced sports themed read that’s the next best thing to actually making the team! Syken draws on his years of experience writing and editing for Sports Illustrated magazine and uses his inside knowledge to make this one a debut effort that leaves us looking forward to the next Nick Gallow mystery. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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2015 Best Books of the Year

Posted by on Dec 21, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

John Dwaine McKenna 2015 Best Books of the Year It’s hard to imagine, even harder to believe, but the month of December—with all the various holiday seasons and gift giving—is here.  The calendar year is almost over and it’s time . . . time for our gift to all the readers out there . . . the best books of 2015 list.  Enjoy.  And we wish you a Merry Christmas, as well as good health, peace and prosperity for you and yours in the coming New Year! –JDM There were so many great mysteries, thrillers and noir novels published in 2015 that it was difficult to choose which ones to review . . . and even harder to winnow the list down to this dozen.  The choices are arbitrary, they’re my personal favorites of the sixty-plus books I read last year and the fifty or so we reviewed in the Mysterious Book Report.  All of the complete Mysterious Book Reports are available on my website: johdwainemckenna.com and you can receive them every week by liking us on Facebook or following us on LinkedIn. Best Books of the Year 2015 MBR # 191                              Prayer,  by Philip Kerr Known for his outstanding WWII Bernie Gunther series, here, in a brilliant paranormal stand-alone thriller, Kerr posits the possible existence of a different kind of God, as seen through the eyes of an FBI agent who’s struggling to find faith while at the same time attempting to solve a string of grisly murders and reconcile with his estranged wife in Houston, Texas. MBR # 192                         The Painter,  by Peter Heller Selected as the winner of the prestigious 2015 Reading of the West award from the multi-state Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association, Heller’s second novel, a thrilling murder mystery, explores the struggles of a brilliant—and highly successful —modernist painter who’s seeking solitude and an escape from his violent criminal past and prison term in New Mexico by reestablishing himself in the remote, west-slope Colorado town of Paonia, where he can work in peace and find solace fly fishing the remote streams and rivers there.  He soon discovers however, that the past isn’t so easy to forget, or leave behind and that trouble has a way of finding anyone anywhere and anytime.  Beautifully rendered and brilliantly told, The Painter will rip your heart right out. MBR # 196                     The Empire of Night,  by Robert Olen Butler The third novel of the acclaimed series featuring the daring newspaper reporter and intrepid American spy, Christopher Marlowe “Kitt” Cobb, the Pulitzer Prize winning Butler examines in detail and depth, the effects of all-out war and new technologies on the ordinary citizens of England and France during the Great War, as night-time bombing raids on London by terrifying Zeppelin dirigibles bring a new development to the war, and new heroics by Kitt to stop them. The Empire of the Night is packed full of enough intrigue, adventure and treachery to keep any thriller enthusiast fully engrossed, entertained and glued to the page.  Kitt Cobb is one of my all time favorite characters in literature. MBR # Supplemental                Maus,  by Art Spiegelman April the nineteenth is Holcaust Remembrance Day.  In observance of which, I read a book on the subject as a self-improvement exercise.  For that reason,...

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The Whites

Posted by on Dec 14, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Whites Mysterious Book Report No. 222 by John Dwaine McKenna In a well-run, perfectly organized society, no crime would go unsolved, no criminal would go unpunished and no victim would go without redress.  Perhaps, if indeed such an exemplary place existed, there wouldn’t be any crime or criminals. . . . But of course we don’t live in anything close to a utopian ideal.  Our world is, in fact copiously supplied with miscreants of all shapes and sizes and their misdeeds range from the asininely petty to the horrific: crimes against all of humanity. . . . And although we’d like to believe otherwise, here’s three essential truths about law enforcement: most crimes are not punished; crimes aren’t solved with forensics; informants are the key to catching the perpetrators.  The real heartbreaker is that nationally, despite the best efforts of law enforcement, Forty percent of all murders go unsolved.  It’s really scary when another category gets added in —murders that are solved, but the killers get away scot-free because witnesses recant their testimony, disappear or die because of fear, intimidation or murder . . . and lawyers, who are able to impeach the testimony of eyewitnesses, or get the case thrown out of court on a technicality.  Those are the atrocities that leave hard-working, honest and dedicated homicide detectives frustrated, depressed and ulcerated.  The bad ones go unpunished, and free to kill, rape or maim again while the victims are denied the justice that society . . . and the law promises all its citizens.  The cases are whitewashes, they’re every cops nightmare . . . and some become obsessions. The Whites, (Henry Holt, $28.00, 333 pages, ISBN 978-0-8050-9399-5) by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt, is about four such cases.  They’re throwbacks to an earlier time in the mid-1990s, when a team of New York City detectives known as the “Wild Geese” were imposing their own unfettered brand of run-and-gun law enforcement with the unstated blessings of the mayor, police commissioner and the entire cop hierarchy . . . down to the level of precinct Captain.  Heads were busted and the law was enforced—crime stats went down—civilian groups howled, but flying squads rolled on, and over, whatever was in the way.  Then Billy Graves, a member of the Flying Geese working the South Bronx, accidentally shots and killed a ten year old boy while fighting a crazed felon, crazed and high on PCP . . . angel dust.  Billy is demoted and somehow survives for another twenty years in the NYPD.  Now, he’s a sergeant, in charge of the Manhattan Night Watch, a small group of detectives who respond to all felonies occurring after midnight until eight a.m., from Wall Street to Harlem.  Mostly they organize the cases for the incoming day shift, and Billy’s okay with that, just hoping to make it to retirement.  But then a murder at Penn Station brings back the bad old days and several cases involving the ones who got away . . . the Whites . . . who are being murdered one by one, forcing Billy Graves to re-examine a past he doesn’t want to face, with implications in the present that create unbearable moral and legal problems better left alone.  The Whites has an intricate plot, great dialogue...

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The Stolen Ones

Posted by on Dec 7, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Stolen Ones Mysterious Book Report No. 221 by John Dwaine McKenna It’s a helluva thing to take on a subject like the one we are about to . . . this being the Christmas season; a time when many of us are thinking about Peace on earth and goodwill to men . . . but the plain truth of the matter is that crime never sleeps and criminals don’t take vacations.  They’re vicious and opportunistic—always looking for an edge or a chance to do what they do—without being caught.  And so, we’re going to go ahead and review The Stolen Ones, (Putnam/Penguin, $26.95, 358 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16553-5) by Owen Laukkanen, which is about slavery.  In specific, sexual slavery.  Young women, held against their wills, and sold by traffickers to others who force them into prostitution. The novel begins with a vivid description of forty women who’ve been smuggled from eastern Europe to the United States in a shipping container.  They’ve been aboard a container ship at sea for weeks, without adequate food, water or sanitary facilities.  After the ship lands, they’re shunted into a new container and whisked off in a tractor-trailer driven by two thugs with bad attitudes and worse manners, who periodically stop and pull a few of the girls out.  They’re never seen again by the remaining ones.  Among the imprisoned girls are two sisters, Irina, sixteen, the older of the pair who’s chasing a dream of riches and fame in America, and her younger sibling Catalina, following after her big sister, hoping to keep Irina safe.  At a truck stop in Minnesota however, one of the thugs shoots and kills a deputy sheriff, while the two sisters attempt to escape.  Irina disappears in some nearby woods, but Catalina—just thirteen years old—is recaptured.  When police arrive on the scene, they find a dead lawman, and a hysterical young woman with no ID and speaking no English, and holding an empty pistol next to the body.   Agent Kirk Stevens of the Minnesota BCA (Bureau of Criminal Affairs) who was vacationing nearby, is called in.  Soon after he’s inducted into a BCA-FBI joint task force, a coast-to-coast manhunt to break an international ring of kidnappers and sex slavers who’re selling the women into prostitution and slavery.  It’s a diabolic race to see who will prevail, and if the young teenage girl can survive her captors long enough to be rescued.  A well-done, suspenseful novel featuring a timely and little-known subject. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna    ...

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Palace of Treason

Posted by on Nov 30, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Palace of Treason Mysterious Book Report No. 220 by John Dwaine McKenna Is there any doubt amongst well-informed people, that the tectonic plates of government spheres of influence are being shifted these days in ways we couldn’t even imagine as little as twenty-five years ago?  Would you have thought for example, back in 1990 when the Soviet Union was collapsing and the U.S. led coalition was busy kicking Sudan Hussein out of Kuwait, that by the year 2015 a resurgent Russia would be superseding America in critical areas of the globe as the dominant world power? Or that we would be smack-dab in the middle of an emerging cold war, vying for world hegemony with a renewed sense of urgency . . . because the potential for a nuclear catastrophe is growing exponentially as more nations, some of whom are politically unstable, or run by fanatical regimes join what is ruefully called a Club?  . . . meaning of course, the nations who possess nuclear weapons.  It’s the kind of conflict that makes for the absolute best spy yarns . . . those which are based in fact and take place on a world stage while civilization itself teeters on the edge of destruction.  MBR No. 220 covers just such a novel.  It rings with veracity and authenticity because the author was a real-life, card-carrying CIA case officer for more than thirty years, working in denied-access areas of the world such as Russia, eastern Europe and the Middle East.  He’s retired now and has turned his hand to writing novels about the clandestine services.  Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews Edgar Award winning debut novel, electrified readers and hit the New York Times best seller list a little less than a year ago.  It featured a brave and fearless woman espionage agent named Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) and American CIA agent Nate Nash in a classic spy novel that left readers wiping sweat from their faces and begging for more.  I’m happy to say our wishes have been granted. Palace of Treason, (Scribner/Simon & Shuster, $26.99, 468 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-9374-0) by Jason Matthews is now out and continues the story, picking up where the first novel ended.  Egorova, now promoted to captain in the SVR, has been incommunicado for nearly a year.  Nash, stationed in Athens, Greece, doesn’t know if she’s alive or dead.  But Dominika is not only healthy and well . . . she’s come to the attention of President Putin himself . . . which has put her in conflict with a sadistic, jealous and sociopathic SVR colonel who’s bent on destroying her.  He’s obsessed, hunting for the mole he thinks is giving away state secrets, but hasn’t been able to catch, and believes is Dominika Egorova.  The tension begins in the first chapter and never lets up, intensifying with each new revelation.  The plot is serpentine, the tradecraft exact and the action non-stop—with treachery, double-agents, mole hunts, sex, danger, venality, double-crosses and gunfights enough to make Palace of Treason stand as an equal to any of the greatest spy yarns ever written.  Huge praise indeed, but it’s so well done I doubt that anyone will be able to stop reading once they get to the last seventy-five pages.  Jason Matthews will soon be...

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Dragonfish

Posted by on Nov 16, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Dragonfish Mysterious Book Report No. 219 by John Dwaine McKenna Noir fiction “Emphasizes the human urge toward self-destruction,” and “Focuses on the villain,” according to crime fiction writers James Ellroy and Otto Penzler.  Its about the down-and-outers, the losers, the hopeless, unforgiven and abandoned among us who often spend their entire literary lives trapped in self-imposed prisons of the mind.  These characters—who attract and repel the reader—are endlessly fascinating at the same time, because they’re altogether alien to the rest of us who live ordinary lives.  Literature, crime fiction in particular, allows us to peek into what would otherwise be unknown, forbidden or illegal lifestyles and experience them from the comfort of our favorite reading spot . . . and this weeks MBR No 219 does exactly that. Dragonfish, (W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95, 296 pages, ISBN 978-0-393-07780-3) by Vu Tran is an awesome first novel by a creative writing professor at the University of Chicago who was born in Saigon, Vietnam and grew up in Oklahoma.  It’s an intricate tale of obsession and loss.  It’s also a twisted story that tells of the immigrant experience; the struggle to survive and establish a new home in a foreign landscape controlled by entrenched crime lords from the old country. In Dragonfish, an Oakland, California cop named Robert Ruen still longs for his ex-wife Suzy.  She’s the complicated, often enigmatic Vietnamese immigrant who disappeared and divorced him two years ago after he hit her during a brief and violent argument.  Now she’s remarried—to a Vietnamese gambler and crime boss named Sonny—and living in Las Vegas . . . or was until she disappeared a second time after another argument and personal injury.  Now, Sonny is blackmailing Ruen into using his cop contacts and skills to find Suzy.  The hunt takes him through the seamy gambling places and strip joints of the Vegas scene, all the while pursued by thugs and Sonny’s sadistic son named Junior.  It turns into a journey of discovery as the lovesick cop gradually uncovers the other life his ex-wife kept from him, the man she longs for, the daughter he never knew she had, and abandoned twenty-some years ago.  The plot is deep, the writing exquisite and the emotional pull gut-wrenching.  It’s a novel that speaks from and to the heart, making it one the reader will long remember.  Vu Tran is a talented, up-and-coming author to keep an eye on . . . one I think is destined for greatness. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and  share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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New Yorked

Posted by on Nov 9, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

New Yorked Mysterious Book Report No 218 by John Dwaine McKenna Welcome!  This is the Mysterious Book Report, a weekly column where we talk about, analyze and feature books and authors dealing with Mysteries, Crime Fiction and an occasional Sci-Fi or Supernatural Thriller.  We’re going to discuss the latest in Spy Novels, dysfunctional, but brilliant detectives and all sorts of private eyes, shady lawyers, amateur sleuths and OMG she’s beautiful but tough as a broken heart, lady shamuses too.  And, hey—lest there’s confusion—these reviews will not only be of best-selling writers like James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Denise Mina, and Sue Grafton but also exciting new authors—unfamiliar names—like Wallace Stroby, Kim Zupan, Julia Dahl, Paula Hawkins, Urban Waite, and this week’s debut author . . . Rob Hart.  Our goal with every MBR is to encourage reading, find your NEXT most favorite author and keep you away from the Tee-Vee, pool hall and mass market paperback racks at the supermarket.  So welcome to the Mysterious Book Report.  Grab your reading glasses, a cup of your favorite adult beverage and the shift lever of that oh-so-comfy barcalounger and get ready for a walk on the dark and seamy side of human behavior  . . . deep in the underbelly of society.  Take this week’s novel for example: New Yorked, (Polis Books, PB, $14.95, 291 pages, ISBN 978-1-940610-40-5) by Rob Hart is a first novel from an author whose dialogue is so smokin’ hot it leaves the page glowing in the dark.  He reeled me in on page one, in the first paragraph, when the protagonist—Ash McKenna—wakes up after a night of binge drinking, disoriented from a massive hangover and says, “My blood weeps for nicotine,” as he tries to find his cigarettes and stumble into a new and heartbreaking, complex day.  He’s mourning the death of his father, a New York City fireman who answered the call on Nine-Eleven and died when the towers went down.  Ash is angry.  He’s angry because New York is changing.  It’s becoming a place where only rich yuppies can afford to live because the “gents,” gentrifiers, are moving in, buying properties and raising rents to levels that only persons with medium six-figure salaries can afford.  On top of his anger are alcoholic blackouts—like the one he awoke with—when he can’t remember where he was or what he did the night before.  When he gets himself together enough to listen to his voicemails . . . he hears a desperate call for help from Chell, the woman he loves who  rejected  him  . . . and learns she’s been murdered.  Grief turns into rage, and Ashley McKenna becomes a human wrecking ball, hunting for her killer with the grace of an M-80 Abrams Tank, smashing through the underbelly of the city he loves but no longer recognizes, seeking a redemption that no longer exists.  Compelling, dark, gritty, heartbreaking, noirish and sadly romantic, New Yorked is a paean to lost love and at the same time a requiem for a disappearing way of life.  Rob Hart is now on my list of authors to watch for, read and pay attention to after this impressive debut that will charm and entertain all noir and crime fiction enthusiasts. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can...

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The Crossing

Posted by on Nov 2, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Crossing Mysterious Book Report No 217 by John Dwaine McKenna It’s no secret that Michael Connelly is widely considered to be one of the finest crime writers working in America today.  With twenty-seven novels and sixty million copies sold worldwide he could arguably be called one of the top ten best-ever mystery and thriller authors in the world because, as my friend Dwight—a retired CSPD detective—said, “Connelly just gets it.” “Gets what,” I asked. “Cops,” he replied, adding after a moment, “cops and criminals both.”  Probably needless to say it, but Dwight, like me is a big fan of Connelly and his charismatic, lonely and brilliant Los Angeles Police Department Detective named Harry Bosch. In his latest, entitled The Crossing, (Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group, $28.00, 388 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-22588-5) Bosch has been forced to retire from the LAPD after thirty years of service.  He’s tinkering with an old Harley-Davidson motorcycle when his half-brother, a man named Mickey Haller, aka the Lincoln Lawyer, asks him to lunch.  Although they have the same father, Bosch  and Haller haven’t been close, partly because they didn’t know about each other, and partly because they’ve been on opposite sides of the law.  Bosch catches and jails criminals, while Haller defends them.  Now, Haller has a client who’s charged with the violent murder of a woman who is a prominent LA County Official and her husband’s a deputy sheriff.  Haller thinks his client—a reformed gang banger—is being framed and asks Bosch to investigate.  Bosch refuses.  He has no intention of going to the dark side, or, working on behalf of criminals after a career of catching them.  Haller persists, promising to abide by whatever Bosch uncovers—good or bad—and agreeing to turn over any evidence of guilt to the prosecutor’s office.  With secret help from his old LAPD partner, Bosch starts work.  The more he uncovers, the more his investigation leads Harry inside the police department . . . where he realizes that the killer he’s searching for has also been searching for him.  The suspense builds with every chapter and the dramatic tension is so thick, it bleeds off of the page as Connelly once again demonstrates that not only does he get it, he’s keeping it and he’s putting it to work in each new work of fiction.  All of Connelly’s books are fresh, original and stand on their own merit.  Nothing is formulaic or rubber-stamped.  As a reader, I appreciate that.  I can open a new Michael Connelly novel, knowing in advance that it’ll be a fresh new story, pitch-perfect in tone and crammed full of accurate details, language and interesting characters.  In all of his books, the newest is the best one so far.  The Crossing is no exception.  You’ll love it whether you’re a new reader, or an old fan who’s read all of the three million or so words Connelly’s written thus far, because, “He just gets it.” Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and  share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Goodhouse

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Goodhouse Mysterious Book Report No 216 by John Dwaine McKenna This week is Halloween and the last of our first-ever Freak-Fest, celebrating novels with creepy characters, angels, demons, or things that creak, sneak and chomp in the dark of the night.  Send us your thoughts—social media, snail mail or eee mail—let us know if you liked it or not and why . . . maybe we’ll do it again. After all the supernatural mayhem of the past four weeks, we’re dialing it down to close out FF#1 by reading a thought provoking Sci-Fi novel with the ironic name, Goodhouse, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26.00, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-16562-8) by Peyton Marshall.  It’s partially based on the true story of a nineteenth-century reform school . . .  The Preston School of Industry in Ione, California . . . a facility that closed on June 2, 2011 after operating continuously for 117 years and affecting thousands of lives. Goodhouse is a stunning debut that’s entertaining, imaginative and intensely literate.  It’s a novel “You don’t want to end, but can’t stop reading”.  It’s a story that takes place in a near-future United States where, at the end of the twenty-first century, all the male children of convicted felons are tested for a certain set of genetic markers . . . that indicate they’ll become criminals.  Those who test positive are made wards of the state, taken forcefully from their homes and sent to “Goodhouse” campuses, where they’re taught to reform their darkest thoughts and impulses before being allowed to rejoin society.  Those who cannot be rehabilitated are sent to prison, where they never leave. Goodhouse campuses are found all across the country.  They’re part reform school, part prison, and completely savage—a place where each boy is forced to do hard labor in one or more prison-type industries—where every boy has to fight just to survive.  Now, a radical religious group called the Holy Redeemer’s Church of Purity, known as the Zeros by the inmates, is trying to destroy the Goodhouse facilities and purify the incarcerated boys with fire . . . by burning them alive. The story is told in the first person by James Goodhouse (the boys are all given new names at intake and forced to adopt Goodhouse as their surnames which forever brands them as potential evil-doers ) a seventeen year-old transfer student and sole survivor of a Zero attack that burned his dormitory, and immolated all of his classmates.  Sent on an off-campus release-time work project, James meets Bethany, a beautiful, brilliant and fragile girl his own age who has had a heart transplant.  She wants to rescue him from certain death at the hands of her father, the chief medical officer at the Ione Goodhouse.  He’s conducting a sinister and illegal research project using the inmates as subjects.   Bethany’s father, Dr. Cleveland, is hoping to make billions of dollars if his research project succeeds. Goodhouse, with it’s real life connections, examines questions of identity, free will and human endurance, as well as the ethics of for-profit prisons.  It’s an exciting novel that is intellectually stimulating, thought provoking and enjoyable reading from a bright young author who’s clearly a rising star in the literary world. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us...

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The Boy Who Killed Demons

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Boy Who Killed Demons Mysterious Book Report No 215 by John Dwaine McKenna Our Halloween Freak-fest continues this week with a YA (Young Adult) novel whose title says it all. His name is Henry Dudlow.  He’s “fifteen and a half and cursed.  Or damned.  Take your pick.”  The reason?  “I see demons,” in Henry’s own words. And so begins, The Boy Who Killed Demons, (Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers Inc., $24.95, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-4683-0960-7) by Dave Zeltserman.  It’s the story of an ordinary kid named Henry, age fifteen and a half, who’s been seeing demons since he turned thirteen.  Henry lives in an ordinary town, Newton, Massachusetts, where nothing ever happens.  Well, until he noticed that one of the neighbors, Mr. Hanley, looked . . . different.  Really different.  He sounded different too. When he spoke, Henry heard Mr. Hanley’s words as series of growls and hisses as well as English.  If Henry looked at him, Hanley had yellow eyes, bright red skin and razor sharp claws instead of hands, like every other human being on the planet.  After he thought about it for a while, Henry decided to make a survey, to see if there were other demons out there, masquerading as humans.  He finds that there are, but they’re few and far between and he often goes for days without spotting any.  One trouble is, no one else can see demons like Henry does.  His searching takes up more and more of his time, forcing him to give up friends, sports and even his budding romance with the love of his life, the most beautiful and lovely girl in the world, Sally Freeman.  Soon, Henry’s spending most of his time hunting demons or researching them in ancient texts he finds in an obscure little Boston bookstore.  With his grades slipping, his parents on his case demanding improvement and small children disappearing all over the city, Henry has more problems than any kid should have to deal with.  But that’s exactly when he finds out that the demons are hunting for him . . . and they’re determined to kill him when they meet up. The novel is exciting, full of surprises and has enough danger to entertain young and old alike.  Zeltserman is a multiple award-winning master of the horror genre who’ll captivate a whole new audience with this compelling and fresh character, so full of teenage angst. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and  share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Devil’s Detective

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Devil’s Detective Mysterious Book Report No 214 by John Dwaine McKenna We’re continuing with our Freak-Fest of weird reads in observance of Halloween, and you’d better brace yourself . . . because this one’s gonna be a wild ride.  So far this month, we’ve covered fallen angels and a shattered New York City where the survivors zonk out, choosing to escape reality in an alternate World Wide Web.  This week we’re going to Hell, where we’ll meet Thomas Fool. The Devil’s Detective, (Doubleday/Random House, $25.95, 358 pages, ISBN 978-0-091956-51-6) by Simon Kurt Unsworth is a debut novel that is so dark, so twisted and so original that it defies genre and nearly defies description.  It’s a detective novel, a mystery, a thriller and a horror story.  It’s all of those . . . and it’s none of them.   It is one of the most inventive yarns I have ever read, one of the most fascinating and one of the most diabolic . . . but it’s not for the faint of heart.  If you read it, be prepared for skinless, yellow-eyed and horned demons that come in all shapes and sizes, who feed on the flesh, negative emotions and souls of the humans serving time in Hell.  An ocean of souls, washes up on the shores of Hell, waiting to be caught by a demon-fisher and given flesh, so they can complete their sentence—hoping to be chosen at random for ‘elevation’ to Heaven—never knowing why they’re in Hell, or for how long.  Humans don’t live very many years before they’re killed by the demons and the whole process starts again.  It’s pretty hopeless.  But just like the state run lotteries, there’s a slim chance of  winning, giving the humans the faintest glimmer of hope . . . which of course gets crushed over and over, again and again because, well . . . it’s Hell. Every day and night, murders, rapes and assaults of all kinds take place in Hell.  The crimes are noted and claims are filed.  They come in canisters with ribbons tied around them which indicate their importance, type of crime and order of investigation.  That’s where Thomas Fool comes in.  He’s an information man, one of only three in all of Hell, and charged with investigating crimes.  Nearly every one of the pneumatic canisters are marked DNI with an official rubber stamp for Did Not Investigate, then returned via the tube it came in.  It’s routine: see a crime, file a complaint, it gets returned DNI.  But when a canister drops in with a blue ribbon wrapped around it, it’s of the highest order and cannot be ignored.  It comes from the ruling echelon.  Top priority.  Do it or else . . . Which is just what happens as Fool is busy escorting, protecting and guiding a just- arrived delegation of four angels, down from Heaven to negotiate terms of elevation for the next group chosen to ascend. The blue ribbon bound canister demands immediate action.  But when he gets to the scene of the crime, Fool makes a shocking discovery; a murder more terrible than anything ever seen, horrible even by Hell’s standards . . . then it happens again . . . and again.  Something’s going on in Hell.  Something is changing. ...

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Near Enemy

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Near Enemy Mysterious Book Report No 213 by John Dwaine McKenna Hey!  Remember Spademan?  He’s the shady character who has boxcutter, will travel and take out your enemies . . . as long as you can pay his fees.  He’s the anti-hero operating in a decimated New York City where a radioactive bomb has been set off by terrorists in Times Square.  Half the city scattered after that, but many others stayed.  The poor live a subsistence life, while the rich live in secure high-rises, zonked out on specially made beds in chemically-induced comas, dreaming  their lives away in the limm  . . . an alternate world wide web where anything is possible.  Well, almost anything. Your electronic self can’t be killed in the limm as long as your physical self is alive and well, back in your fully-protected bed, guarded around the clock by your personal security detail.  But that may have changed.  It may be possible to kill someone’s electronic avatar in cyberspace . . . and cause their physical body in  the real world to die  at the same time . . . an unimaginable, totally frightening development. Near Enemy, (Crown Publishing/Penguin Random House, $24.00, 306 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34902-4) by Adam Sternbergh is his second Spademan novel, and it follows Shovel Ready, which introduced us to his unique, garbage-man turned assassin protagonist.  This time, Spademan takes a contract to kill a man named Lesser.  Lesser used to be a gifted programmer, but burned out while working on a secret project.  Now he’s a hopper.  A hopper is a low life who taps into the limm and spies on other people’s fantasies—a cyberspace peeping Tom.  But just as Spademan’s about to fulfill his contract, Lesser wakes up from the limm, screaming that he’s just witnessed someone being murdered in the limm and terrorists are going to attack New York City again, but from within this time.  Spademan believes Lesser and defers his contract until he can determine if the threat is real.  When he checks, he finds the limm dreamer has died in his bed while plugged in and zonked out . . . a supposed impossibility. The warning sets Spademan on a new quest for answers with danger at every turn.  A power struggle in City Hall, ruthless and opportunistic enemies, an Egyptian radical and a beautiful nurse—who may or may not prove to be an enemy, all impact Spademan’s search for the truth.  But his enemies are closing in, forcing him to do something he swore he’d never do again . . . and which Spademan may not survive. Sternbergh’s prose is cut-to-the-chase lean, his dialogue snaps like a whip and his plots are as twisted as they come!  I’m looking forward to many more hours of reading pleasure in the company of Spademan . . . one of the most unique characters to ever come down the literary pike. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and  share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Wolf in Winter

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Wolf in Winter Mysterious Book Report No 212 by John Dwaine McKenna Can you believe it’s already October?  Where did the summer go? Oh well, fall is here now, and that means Halloween . . . which is giving Christmas a run for its money in the popularity department.  To commemorate the holiday, all our book reviews for the month will touch on the otherworldly, the supernatural, eerie, weird, creepy and dystopian.  So turn on all the lights and lock the doors, grab your silver amulet and runesword, and power up the Barcalounger.  We’re off to the nether-regions in search of action, adventure and the ghoulish way. First up for our month-long macabre-fest is an Irish author who set the literary world ablaze a while back when he began his series of novels featuring a tough-guy private eye named Charlie Parker, in which he combined two separate genres and produced a wholly new one where the ordinary gets tangled up in the paranormal.  See, Charlie fits into the traditional noirish gumshoe role—but, well, Charlie’s different.  Real different.  Although we’re never absolutely positive as readers, we’re pretty sure Charlie Parker is one of the fallen angels who were cast out of Heaven with Lucifer, who became the Devil, ruler of Hades.  All the other fallen ones became demons, in league with the Devil.  One of their number however, was lost in the flaming descent from Paradise and it has been the object of an ages-old search by both angels and demons.  The missing one is hiding in a human body while trying to redeem itself on order to regain God’s good graces and be readmitted to Heaven.  Charlie Parker. The newest installment of the series The Wolf of Winter, (Emily Bestler Books/Atria, a division of Simon & Shuster, $26.00, 418 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-0318-3) by John Connelly is the thirteenth . . . hmmm, interesting . . . of his Charlie Parker novels which, like fine wine, only get better with age.  In this installment, Charlie gives up his quest to find and kill the Collector—a self-appointed judge, executioner, and dispatcher of souls . . . ones he’s declared guilty of some grievous sin—when a homeless man reaches out for help finding his missing daughter.  Her last known whereabouts; a small town located deep in the Maine wilderness.  It’s name is Prosperous and, as the name implies, it’s doing well—and has always done well thankyouverymuch—in a state traditionally bedevilled by economic malaise.  All of Parker’s efforts to locate the missing woman are met with stiff resistance from township officials, leaving the detective to conclude that they’re hiding something.  Something sinister.  It has to do with an ancient church, moved stone-by-stone from the north of England three-hundred years earlier and protected by generations of town residents, dedicated to preserving its secret.  In Parker they sense a grave threat, while he will face in the townspeople, his most vicious opponents yet . . . and his life hangs in the balance.  Charlie Parker is marked to die . . . so that the town may survive.  It’s an edge of the seat thriller, possibly the best yet, from this acclaimed writer and international best-seller.  It’s a wild wild ride you won’t soon forget.  And hey!  If you’re turned on by this character...

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Last Winter We Parted

Posted by on Sep 21, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Last Winter We Parted Mysterious Book Report No 211 by John Dwaine McKenna If the novel in this weeks MBR could only be described in one word, the one that comes to mind is inscrutable.  It is defined as mysterious, enigmatic or incomprehensible, and its synonyms include words such as: hidden, imprenetrable, and blank.  None of those adjectives however, will lessen your enjoyment of this short, but multi-layered and complex, murder mystery by one of Japan’s young, talented and award-winning crime fiction writers. Last Winter We Parted, (SOHO Press, $25.00, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-455-0) by Fuminori Nakamura begins with a young novelist being tasked by his editor with writing a book about a world-famous photographer who’s on death row and facing execution if his appeal is denied.  He’s been convicted of burning two women to death.  At first, the writer has no doubt about the condemned mans guilt—after all he had photographs of the victims as they were being immolated, didn’t he.  But as the writer, who is never identified by name, continues to interview Kiharazaka, the photographer, he becomes convinced that not only is Kiharazaka guilty, he’s insane as well.  The photographer tells the writer that he is trying to capture the true nature, the essence, of the murdered women—and the only possible way to do it—was by photographing them at the exact moment of their deaths, when their souls were exiting their bodies.  The writer himself however, becomes unhinged by Kiharazaka’s narrative and constant contact.  The writer interviews the condemned man’s sister, and starts having doubts about the photographer’s ability to commit the murders he’s been convicted of.  As each layer of the mystery is uncovered however, no answers are found, only more questions that seem without solution, as new elements and characters appear until the story implodes into its startling, unexpected conclusion.  If you’re a fan of the diabolic, seemingly impossible and locked room mysteries . . . you’ll love this short and intense new work of masterful misdirection, told with cut-to-the-bone lean prose. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and  share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Cartel (Part 2)

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Cartel Mysterious Book Report No 210 by John Dwaine McKenna PART TWO: The Cartel, (Alfred A. Knopf, Random House/Penguin, $27.95, 617 pages, ISBN 978-1-101-87499-8) by Don Winslow has been published to rave reviews by the likes of: Lee Child-Sensationally good,  Harlen Coben-Absolute must-read, Michael Connelly-First rate thriller, James Ellroy-Stunningly plotted . . . to which I’m going to add my own humble accolades. The Cartel is a big, hefty novel that will give the reader a true picture of what’s happening “South of the border, down Mexico way,” to quote the old song, while at the same time enthralling him, or her, with a fast-paced and wildly entertaining thriller that has more intrigue, treachery, mayhem, violence, blood-letting and murder than a Shakespearian drama or a Borgia political campaign. It is an epic story that reads as if it was ripped from the daily news.  The novel begins in 2004, when we meet DEA agent Art Keller, who’s spent the last thirty years battling a Mexican drug lord named Adãn Barrera.  He leads El Federacion, the most powerful congress of drug cartels in the world.  Keller finally succeeds in destroying the organization and putting Barrera in a maximum security federal penitentiary in the United States . . . but at a tremendous cost.  His partner is brutally tortured and murdered, his wife—and his belief in justice—is gone, as is any chance of a normal life.  Keller’s a hunted man with a price on his head, payable to any sicario, (cartel soldier-gunman) who kills him. Then, Adãn Barrera gets himself transferred to a Mexican “Super-Max” prison where he lives like a prince, and quietly begins rebuilding his drug empire.  When Barrera engineers his escape, Keller vows that he won’t live in a world with Barrera in it . . . setting off a ten year conflict, a war within a war, as the two men try   to kill one  another . . . all set against a larger backdrop of the killing fields of Mexico, as the drug lords war against each other, the Mexican police, and American law enforcement agencies.  It’s a battle to the death, across all Mexico, for control of the plazas that lead to El Norte and its insatiable American appetite for drugs and infinite profit potential for the Narcos. The Cartel has been called the ‘War and Peace’ of drug novels.  It is epic and ambitious in scope,educational and entertaining in content,and one helluva an adventure in fact.  Inspired by actual events, the book is dedicated to 131 journalists—all individually named—who’ve been killed or “disappeared” for their reporting efforts on the drug violence in Mexico.  Those brave men and women are only a small fraction of the number of causalities—100,000 Mexican citizens have died in drug related violence in the last ten years—due to the so-called war on drugs, now in its fifth decade with no end in sight. If you only have time to read a single book in the next year, you owe it to yourself, your family and your country to read this gripping and mind-opening novel. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and  share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna http://www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Cartel (Part 1)

Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Cartel (Part 1)

The Cartel Mysterious Book Report No 210 by John Dwaine McKenna PART ONE: Every now and then, a fictional novel comes along that informs as it entertains, and in doing so, the-word-of-mouth buzz about it creates a public dialogue of national significance where none existed before.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Ironweed, by William Kennedy are some examples that came to mind.  In order, they addressed slavery in America, political prisoners in the USSR being used for forced labor in Siberia, and the conditions and causes of homelessness in America.  Now, a new novel has just been written about the drug wars that, in my opinion, ought to start a discussion here in the USA.  Why? Because here is where the market is . . . here is where the money comes from . . . and lets face it, the so-called “War on Drugs” has been an utter failure.  To call it a complete disaster would be an understatement of the first magnitude.  Hundreds of billions of our tax dollars have been spent in the prosecution of it and the result is that there’s more drugs, in more places, at less prices, and more addicts than ever before.  Don’t believe it?  Here’s a few figures from the book we’re about to review:  There are four main portals into America from Mexico—Tijuana-San Diego, CA, Juarez-El Paso, TX, Nuevo Laredo-Laredo, TX and Matamoras-Brownsville, TX which is on the Gulf Coast.  Through these cities, tens of thousands of trucks pass every day.  Most carry legitimate cargo.  Many of them haul drugs, which mostly slip across the border because there is no way that U.S. Customs officials can inspect every vehicle without crippling trade through what is the largest commercial border in the world, and in doing so, would break our obligations under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), treaty.  But wait it gets better . . . Each of the four ports-of-entry connect to a major north-south interstate highway: I-5 at San Diego, I-25 at El Paso, and I-35 in Laredo.  These in turn hook up with all the major east-west interstates . . . allowing the drug cartels easy, free access to every major city in the United States of America.  Cocaine alone is a $30 billion market in the United States annually.  Then there’s marijuana, methamphetamines, ecstasy (aka mollie) and the new-old scourge . . . Mexican brown tar heroin, now easily available in the smallest, most rural of hamlets, anywhere in America.  You do the math.  The numbers are staggering. So, drugs come north while the money and guns go south, where tens of thousands are being slaughtered every year, because the Narcos—Drug-Lords—are fighting each other for control of the portals, or ports-of-entry which are called plazas in Mexico.  Why? Because once a narco controls a plaza, he can charge all the other drug lords a tax, or piso, to ship their contraband through the area. The Cartel, by Don Winslow, will be continued next week . . . Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and  share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. http://www.Facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Endangered

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Endangered Mysterious Book Report No 209 by John Dwaine McKenna I’m going way out on a limb with our review this week, and it’s a scary proposition, because it concerns a subject that engenders a wealth of strong feelings . . . The Endangered Species Act.  It’s a concept that everyone has an opinion about—and pro or con—they all have validity.  We’re not going to try hashing it out here, except to point out that central planning (Federal Laws), can’t possibly work in all the jurisdictions (State Rights to local controls), because the situation on the ground isn’t the same in every instance.  Then, there’s the law of unintended consequences . . . remember the spotted owl?  It was put on the endangered list, which resulted in the utter devastation of the northwest timber industry and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.  Turned out the little rascals weren’t quite so scare after all.  Heavy-handed, arrogant know-it-alls from federal agencies running roughshod over local experts are causing an immense backlash among the ordinary taxpaying citizens who foot the bills for those so-called ‘protective’ bureaus.  Ask the folks in Silverton, Colorado, or anyone downstream . . . like the whole Navajo Nation and the mayors of the cities who get their drinking water from Lake Meade or Lake Powell how it’s working out for them, after some ignorant jackasses from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) released a few million gallons of arsenic and lead contaminated mine-water into their water supply systems—turning the Animas River a bright neon orange in the process.  And, unlike private industry, there’s not one shred of individual accountability.  Not one.  Zero.  Zip.  Nada.  As I said, it engenders strong feelings, and yes Virginia, there is a book review in here . . . Endangered, (Putnam, $26.95, 369 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16077-6) by C.J. Box, again features Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett, who’s trying to save his adopted daughter April, from the rodeo cowboy she ran away with, several months earlier.  Dallas Cates is the cowboy’s name, he’s a local boy Pickett has had suspicions about since a group of high school jocks were convicted of beating and raping a teenaged girl.  All the boys went to prison except Cates.  He was exonerated when the others refused to testify against him.  Now Cates has April—or did have—until her father got the sheriff’s call telling him that she’d been found in a ditch, badly beaten and barely alive.  Now she’s in a Montana Critical Care Unit, hooked to life support systems and holding on to life by the thinnest of threads as her family agonizes nearby.  As if that’s not enough to deal with, Joe’s also trying to solve the mystery of LEK64, a group of sage grouse found wantonly slaughtered in his patrol area.  The grouse, once plentiful, are becoming scarce and a battle is brewing between Washington,  D.C. and the Wyoming Governor about the status of the birds.  If they go on the endangered species list, it would shut down the state’s oil, coal and cattle industries in the effected areas—virtually the entire state.  Like all his books, Endangered ratchets up the tension, suspense, and surprises with every chapter, until the reader can’t stop before learning what’s on the last page.  Read it and find out...

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The Swimmer

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Swimmer Mysterious Book Report No 208 by John Dwaine McKenna International thrillers—good old spy yarns—have long been favorites of many readers around the world.  Personally, I never tire of them.  It seems however, that all the great espionage writers have passed . . . novelists like John Gardner, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Steig Larsson, Graham Green and Eric Ambler have all left us and perennial favorite John LaCarre is eighty-four and slowing down.  I’ve read and enjoyed all of those and others like them, who’ve brought us such memorable characters as James Bond, George Smiley and Jason Bourne . . . and who could forget the honorable adversaries Jack Ryan and Captain Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October?  Now, although some of our favorites can no longer bring us new adventures, the good news is that there’s a whole new group of great novelists rushing to fill the void.  Writers like Jason Matthews, (Red Sparrow), Frederik Olsson, (Chain of Events), Adam Brookes, (Night Heron)—who’ve all been reviewed here—have each penned memorable first novels of spy versus spy thrillers and are expected to write many more in the future.  In MBR number 208, we’ve been fortunate, and found another, incandescent young espionage writer whose debut novel has already been translated into a number of different languages and sold in more than twenty-eight countries. The Swimmer, (Harper Collins, $27.99, 417 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-233724-5) by Joakim Zander is the story of a spy with no name who’s operated deep undercover in all the hotspots of the Islamic world, and who’s considered to be one of the deadliest human instruments of the CIA.  Back in 1980, a car bomb that was meant for him went off in Damascus, Syria.  It killed his young wife and left him with a newborn baby girl that he was unable to cope with, and abandoned three days later at the door of the Swedish Embassy; an act for which he’s been unable to forgive himself.  Now, it’s thirty years later, and Klara Waldeen, the daughter he never knew, is the executive assistant to the Swedish Minister of Trade at the EU, in Brussels, Belgium.  Klara, still only a novice in the give-and-take, dealing, double-dealing and back-stabbing of the political arena, innocently takes possession of a laptop computer in a moment of acute stress and finds herself at the center of a deadly manhunt with life or death consequences.  The computer contains information sensitive enough to start a world war, and agents of several countries are in hot pursuit . . . prepared to pay anything, do anything or kill anything to possess it. The denouement of the novel comes on a snowy Christmas Eve, when Klara and the father she never knew meet up on a small, isolated island in the Swedish archipelago where only one of them will survive . . . and the reader will be glued to the page with anticipation of the unexpected conclusion.  If you, like me, are an enthusiastic reader of spy thrillers, you won’t want to miss this rare opportunity to get in at the beginning of an awesome new author’s body of work.  He’s going to be a superstar! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to like us and  share...

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Green Hell

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Green Hell

Green Hell Mysterious Book Report No 207 by John Dwaine McKenna It’s no secret that I have a Jones for contemporary Irish writers of crime fiction, reading and reviewing their work whenever possible.  Atop the pantheon in my opinion is a capricious, ever unpredictable, but always exceptional creative genius by the name of Ken Bruen.  He’s the author of thirty-some novels, a collaborator on several more, and the creator of one of the most memorable private investigators in all of crime fiction: the battered but undiminished, hopelessly alcoholic and addicted but never apologetic, always baffling but ever brilliant champion of the underdog . . . Jack Taylor. In Bruen’s newest, Green Hell, (Mysterious Press-Grove/ Atlantic, $25.00, 232 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2356-5), Jack Taylor has hit absolute rock bottom.  He only had two real friends, but one is now dead and the other is no longer speaking to him.  Jack’s drinking and substance abuse is out of control and he doesn’t care, has given up trying.  When he chances upon two teenage street thugs mugging a preppy American grad student, Jack wades into the fray without hesitation, and saves the life of Boru Kennedy, a visiting Rhodes Scholar.  After knocking the ‘be-jaysus’ out of the bad guys, then calling a cab to take the injured Yank to the hospital, Taylor frisks the pair and jumps in the cab brandishing a wedge of euro notes, chortling “Cab fare,” to the stricken American.  So begins an unlikely, some might even say unholy, friendship when Kennedy abandons his study of Beckett to carouse and drink with Galway’s most notorious dark angel and renegade detective.  Not long after that, betrayal, murder, treachery, revenge and madness are all on Jack’s plate, as he becomes involved with a woman who’s as unpredictable as he is . . . and just as crazy.  Together they pursue a case against one of Galway’s most respected and unassailable professors of literature at the University of Galway. Although short, the story is full of references to other writers, current events, social commentary, lyrical one-liners and more bons mots than a chocolatier on Fifth Avenue.  I love his style, can’t wait to read his next, but he’d better plan on signing it for me.  Five stars! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Organ Broker

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Organ Broker

The Organ Broker Mysterious Book Report No 206 by John Dwaine McKenna Are you aware that there are now more than 120,000 patients—folks just like you and me who are on waiting lists for organ transplants in America . . . or that there are three-hundred thousand more on kidney dialysis, but not yet on transplant lists . . . and shamefully, that here in America, twenty people are dying every day from renal (kidney) failure because of a lack of organ donors?  The average wait for a donated organ, eighty-five percent which are kidneys, is Seven Years.  People are dying before they make it to the top of the list for a replacement.  This fact, and it is indeed a tragic fact—and wait, it gets worse—has given rise to a modern phenomenon known as transplant tourism.  Simply put, those who can afford to pay are going to foreign transplant specialists where they get a healthy, life-saving new organ.  “Well isn’t that just dandy,” you say . . . but then, after a moment’s reflection you ask, “So, where, exactly, does this life-saving and healthy new donor organ come from?”  Well Mr. and Mrs. Peabody, that’s where the rub comes in.  The transplant specialists are located in countries with large and growing populations of poor people.  Human beings whose yearly income can be stated in hundreds of dollars. The Organ Broker, (Arcade Publishing, $24.99, 280 pages, ISBN 978-1-62872-523-0) by Stu Strumwasser, is an outstanding new novel by a debut author whose voice speaks loud and clear about a critical issue of our times—one with important legal, ethical and moral overtones that could very well affect every one of us at some point in our lives.  Best of all, he’s fitted his information into a beautifully-written crime novel that’s full of intrigue, action, suspense and treachery.  Just what we enthusiasts love in summertime reading! The protagonist, a shady character known as ‘New York Jack,’ is the organ broker.  He’s living large, enjoying life on a lavish scale, traveling first-class, dining in exclusive restaurants and staying in five-star hotels.  He tells himself that he’s saving lives by procuring human organs for those who are wealthy enough to buy them.  Jack gets $150,000 for a kidney, which he splits with a cohort, a man who goes by the name Wallace, he’s the one who obtains the clients—those sick enough and rich enough to buy whatever they wish, no matter what the price.  Kidneys are called “eighty-fives,” because they’re 85 percent of the pairs transplant business, and they’ve done thousands of them over the years.  “Fifteens” are livers.  They go for half-a-million a pop.  And hey, great news for the organ donors, fifteens regenerate.  Eventually.  But the big money, the really big money . . . the kind that will buy a whole Caribbean Island and a lifetime of anonymity . . . that only comes with specials.  Those are hearts.  A healthy one only comes one way, with death.  Excluding accidents and executions, the only other way to get one creates a moral barrier that only a sociopath is willing to cross . . . Don’t miss The Organ Broker by Stu Strumwasser.  It might be the most talked about book of the summer of 2015.  It’s certainly one of the best!...

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World Gone By

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

World Gone By

World Gone By Mysterious Book Report No 205 by John Dwaine McKenna Doesn’t it seem that the older we get, the more complicated our lives become . . . and the more complex our lives  . . . the more we yearn for the good old days when things ran better, life was somehow easier and more quaint?  A cowboy poet named Badger Clark summed it up nicely back in the 1920s when he wrote, . . . As progress toots its mighty horn, and makes your motor buzz, I thanks the Lord I wasn’t born, no later than I was . . . It’s part of a longer piece called The Rancher’s Lament, and one of my favorite stanzas because it expresses something only those who’ve lived a bit can feel.  Then too, it might be a great reason why there needs to be a changing of the guard every so often—a reason for a new group to take over—because they believe in their abilities to run things better than the old team could.  It’s a great theme for a novel, because power struggles make awesome dramas. World Gone By, (William Morrow/Harper Collins, $27.99, 309 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-000490-3) by Dennis Lehane is the third volume in his rousing examination of the rise of the Italian-American mob, as told through the perspective of a fictional Irish family named Coughlin.  The saga begins in Boston, circa 1919 with The Given Day, moves to Tampa, Florida during Prohibition and the Rum Wars in the multiple award-winning Live by Night, and has now been brought full circle in World Gone By. It’s 1942, World War II is raging and the Italian mob controls all the ports in Florida, as well as one-hundred percent of the state’s trucking business.  Joe Coughlin—pushed out of the top spot when the Italians, under the guidance of Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky, formed a cartel they called The Commission—is now the consigliore to Dion Bartolo, the head of the rapidly expanding Bartolo crime family and a longtime pal of Coughlin’s.  Now wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, Joe Coughlin is a single parent, caring for his young son Tomas and enjoying the fruits of his labors.  He has a beautiful mistress, a powerful position and the respect of all who know him.  Then trouble begins.  Rumors start, alleging that a contract has been put out on Coughlin, stipulating he’s to be killed in two weeks, on Ash Wednesday. At the same time, cartel trucks are being hijacked and the crime family suspects that a rat is somewhere in their midst.  The stress on Coughlin is so intense, he begins seeing ghosts.  His doctor tells Joe it’s stress, he’s perfectly healthy . . . others let him know he has no enemies.  So why can’t Joe Coughlin, a crown prince amid the emperors of organized crime, stop looking over his shoulder, as he tries to hear the click of a hammer as  someone cocks a  loaded pistol aimed at his head . . . World Gone By is one of the outstanding books of the year, written with unusual panache and hard-boiled style by one of America’s best authors!  Don’t miss it. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on...

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Dry Bones in the Valley

Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Dry Bones in the Valley

Dry Bones in the Valley Mysterious Book Report No 204 by John Dwaine McKenna Are there any among us—living in Twenty-First Century America—who hasn’t heard of hydraulic fracking?  It’s commonly referred to as Fracking and everyone has an opinion about it, good or bad, pro or con, informed or ignorant.  It’s one of several hot-button words that polite folks don’t utter in social groups lest an argument begin, leaving bruised  egos  and hurt  feelings  in its wake.  You know what I’m talking about, don’t ya . . . Having grown up in the southern Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, which is decisively opposed to the process, I’m quite aware of the fracking issue.  Forty miles south of my old home town however, lies the state of Pennsylvania, where fracking has been embraced from the start and landowners are getting rich selling drilling leases.  And it’s those same leases and the fracking question which lights the backstory of a dandy murder mystery by a first-time author that’s a perfect short, fun summer read. Dry Bones in the Valley, (W.W. Norton & Company, $24.95, 281 pages, ISBN 978-0-393-24302-4) by Tom Bouman, takes place in northeastern Pennsylvania.  It’s farming country, isolated, bucolic and indistinguishable from the place where I was born and raised.  The novel begins with the discovery of an unidentified body on a remote hilltop that belongs to an elderly man living alone in his old family homestead, and suffering from advanced dementia.  The town is named Wild Thyme, and Henry Farrell is it’s lone law enforcement officer.  He thought it would be a sleepy little place where he could just vegetate, trying to get over the untimely death of his young wife.  But Wild Thyme is a place where the families, and the secrets and the feuds have gone on for generations.  Now, those emotions are being rubbed raw.  They’re frayed to the breaking point because the frackers have come into the impoverished community with wads of cash to spend on drilling leases.  Some locals welcome them with open arms.  Others just want them gone, the town left unchanged.  Then, there are the drug dealers.  Following the money, they’re bringing meth and heroin into the area, straining Farrell’s limited resources to the breaking point.  When his only deputy is gunned down and a long-forgotten grave is discovered  containing the remains of a woman who’s known only by a man who cannot speak . . . Farrell is overwhelmed.  Dry Bones in the Valley is a timely, fast-paced and well written murder mystery that will leave you itching to know what happens next, because Henry Farrell is one of the most interesting, honest and endearing protagonists to come up in a long, long time. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Fixer

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Fixer

Do you remember a public works scheme called The Central Artery/Tunnel Project?  It was started in 1982 and completed on the last day of December 2007.  It was projected to cost 2.8 billion dollars, the final tab amounted to some 14.6 billon and will ultimately cost the taxpayers about 22 billion after interest on the bonds is paid.  It was called The Big Dig. It took place in Boston, Massachusetts; it was the most expensive single highway project ever undertaken in America.  Plagued by leaks, engineering and design flaws, poor workmanship, substandard materials and criminality . . . the whole damn thing was mostly paid for with Federal tax dollars, you and I and every other American taxpayer will be paying for it for the next twenty-some years!  And it’s all been done so that traffic can move through Boston more easily.  Sounds like a great deal . . . if you live and drive through the city of Boston all the time.  I wasn’t going to mention the Kennedy family’s part in all this, but the fact that the last phase of the Big Dig was a 1.5 mile greenway—a series of parks and public spaces named for Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy kinda speaks for itself, doesn’t it.  Is this a great country or what . . . The Big Dig and its aftermath are at the red beating heart of a tense and exciting new thriller that ought to make it onto everyone’s summer reading list. The Fixer, (Dutton/Penguin/Random House, $28.00, 375 pages, ISBN 978-0-525-95461-3) by Joseph Finder, begins with a reality check for protagonist Rick Hoffman.  He’s an investigative reporter who’s lost his job, his fiancé and his apartment.  With no money and nowhere else to go, he’s sleeping on a couch in a derelict house in Cambridge that used to be his family home.  His mother is deceased, sister lives 3,000 miles away in Washington State, and his father—once a practicing attorney—has been a vegetable in a nursing home for the past twenty years as a result of a devastating stroke.  Rick’s prospects are slim.  He’s been trying to sell the decaying house for several years, but all potential buyers have been scared off by the aged run-down property, which they can plainly see is a money pit.  Out of options and desperate, Rick makes a deal with a neighbor, who’ll fix up the decrepit old homestead for half of the proceeds when it sells.  But just as they start slapping the lipstick on the pig begins, Rick discovers a hoard of cash, hidden on a built-in compartment and his entire world is upended once again.  As Rick Hoffman soon finds out, some things are better left alone, some secrets shouldn’t be discovered, and some forces, once set in motion, cannot be contained. And hey . . . who among us hasn’t dreamed about driving down a deserted road and finding a boxfull of cash, thinking all the while that all our cares and worries would disappear.  Maybe so  . . . maybe not.  Read this wickedly good yarn and find out what it does for one naïve young schlepper as he digs the skeletons from his family closets. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook...

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Chain of Events

Posted by on Jul 13, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Chain of Events

Chain of Events Mysterious Book Report No 202 by John Dwaine McKenna   A thrill is defined as: a trembling sensation caused by fear or emotional shock, and a thriller as: a person or something that thrills . . . buckle that together with the word phenomenon, anything that can be perceived as a fact by the senses, and you come up with thriller phenomenon  . . . that which scares the bejeezus out of you because it appears to be so real.  It’s the perfect description of Mysterious Book Report number 202, a first novel by a fresh, new and exciting Swedish writer that’s ideal for your summertime reading pleasure. Chain of Events, (Little, Brown & Co/Hachette, $26.00, 432 pages, ISBN 978-0-3163-3500-3) by Frederick T. Olsson starts out with a bang and never lets up until the last page. William Sandberg wants to die.  He’s a brilliant—maybe the best the world has ever seen—military cryptanalyst and cipher who designs and engineers unbreakable computer codes for the Swedish military, but his life is a wreck: his marriage and career have both ended badly.  Deeply depressed, he locks himself in his Stockholm apartment, runs a hot bath and hops in with his shaving gear and a bottle of sleeping pills . . . expecting to awake in the hereafter.  Instead he finds himself in a hospital psych ward with his wrists bandaged and his stomach being pumped.  Soon after that he’s spirited away by a couple of tough men who don’t speak much, put on a corporate jet and flown off to an unknown destination.  Forcibly drugged, he awakens in the confines of an ancient castle, his location unknown—but possibly in the Alps—where he learns that his talents as a code breaker are desperately needed to help unlock a DNA sequence that’s eluded the best scientists and engineers in the world for more than fifty years!  It’s a stunning countdown to doomsday with the survival of the entire human race hanging in the balance.  There’s chases and cliffhangers galore . . . as a dedicated team of amateurs led by Sandberg’s ex-wife Christina try to find out why he was kidnapped, by whom, and where he’s being held as the search for answers leads from Sweden to Berlin to the Alps in a race against time to save the world. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads, Pinterest or LinkedIn. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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You Know Who Killed Me

Posted by on Jul 6, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

You Know Who Killed Me

You Know Who Killed Me Mysterious Book Report No 201 by John Dwaine McKenna I came late to the party for this week’s MBR author . . . he’d already written seventy-five novels by the time he made it to my radar screen . . . so shame on me. Now that he’s on my personal head-up display however, that oversight will get corrected in the coming weeks and months with more reviews of his work. The writer’s name is Loren D. Estleman, and he’s an absolute master of the craft. His latest work, You Know Who Killed Me, (Forge/Tom Doherty, $24.99, 233 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-3735-1) is the twenty-fourth book in his Amos Walker series. Walker is irascible and world-weary, a Detroit area private-eye who’s tough, cynical, sanguine . . . and doing his utmost to stay clean and sober after a recent stay in rehab at a court-mandated facility for drug and alcohol addiction. Soon after he’s released from the clinic, he’s contacted by an old friend named Ray Henty, a lieutenant in the County Sheriff’s Department, who’s now running the Iroquois Heights substation, where the municipal police department’s been disbanded due to systemic corruption. Iroquois Heights is a place Walker hates, but it’s where the area’s been flooded with billboards featuring a photo of a local man named Donald Gates and bearing the caption, “YOU KNOW WHO KILLED ME!” the signs have been plastered all around town by Gate’s widow, in the hopes of fishing out a lead, after the cops came up empty-handed. When an anonymous $10,000 reward is posted however, hopes of winning some or all of the money’s bringing out every crackpot from Detroit to Dallas, and Lt. Henty hires Walker to follow up on some anonymous tips that the deputies simply don’t have time for. But Walker digs deeper, and the trail leads him to a man named Yuri Yako, a Ukrainian mobster relocated by the US Marshal’s service under the Witness Protection Program. Soon, Walker’s being braced and followed by Federal agents, suspected by his employers, threatened by the mob and all the while continuing to fight with his old wounds and drug addiction. That’s when he realizes he’s being manipulated and lied to by everyone in the  case   . . . just as it begins to break. Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The House of Wolfe

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The House of Wolfe

The House of Wolfe Mysterious Book Report No. 200 by John Dwaine McKenna Today is an individual milestone with this, the 200th Mysterious Book Report, and I wanted it to be something special to commemorate the occasion. The selection is personal, one of my favorite novelist who’s influenced any number of other writers and readers with his unique ability to transform the tough grit and blood of violence into passages of inspired grace. In other words, he thinks like the devil and writes like an angel. His talent is epic, yet he is relatively unknown, although deserving of a wider audience . . . a much greater one in my opinion . . . because he is simply the best American writer of historical crime fiction and border noir to ever come along. His name is James Carlos Blake, born in Mexico, raised in Texas and now living in Arizona. His thirteenth novel, The House of Wolfe, (Mysterious Press/Grove Atlantic, $24.00, 248 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2246-9) is a fast-reading, entertaining and well-plotted romp through the slums and mansions of Mexico City in a rescue attempt that will leave you gasping for breath as you race to read the last page. It’s a perfect summer book. In it, ten members of a socialite wedding party are kidnapped and held for ransom by an ambitious young gang leader with aspirations of moving up to join a larger, more fearsome organization with an international presence. What he doesn’t realize however, is that one of the abducted bridesmaids is an American whose family is deeply involved in the gun running trade—and have been for over 100 years. They’re known as The House of Wolfe, of whom one-half live in Texas and one-half in Mexico. They live by their own set of rules, the foundation of which is the right of self-defense. As cousin Rudy Wolfe wryly observes, . . . there are certain natural rights that transcend statue law, and the foremost of them is the right to self-defense. Without the right to defend yourself—and the means to do it—all other supposed rights are so much hot air. He goes on to say that any law denying you the means to defend yourself is unjust, and therefore shouldn’t be complied with . . . even though noncompliance makes you by definition, a criminal. Rudy continues, saying, If you’re content to trust the state to protect your law-abiding self in all situations, be our guest and best of luck. But if you want the means to defend your own ass, as is your natural right, then step right up and be our customer. We’re a tolerant, liberty-loving bunch, we Wolfes . . . But woe unto he or she, you or they or them who threaten violence of any sort—real, or imagined or planned—against a member of the Wolfes, American or Mexican. If you’re a fan of action, adventure and hard-boiled crime drama you’ll love the Wolfes. If this is your introduction to author James Carlos Blake, you’re in for a ton of entertainment and enjoyment should you choose to read any of his other twelve novels. I have, and they’re all great! Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads....

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Spark

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Spark

Spark Mysterious Book Report No. 199 by John Dwaine McKenna My Oxford Dictionary defines the word dystopia as an imaginary place where everything is as bad as it can be . . . which makes it the exact opposite of utopia, and an ideal descriptor for end-of-the-world type literature. Lately, with the popularity of works like The Hunger Games and Gotham, dystopian novels, movies and TV mini-series are all the rage in the literary arena where I operate; and where everyone—writers, agents and publishers are all looking for clues to the next mega-blockbuster and best-seller. Dystopian literature falls under the broad description of Science-Fiction, which asks us as the readers to suspend our preconceived notions about what is or isn’t real and accept that anything is possible. That also makes it an ideal venue for putting forth notions too radical for the op-ed pages of most news organizations. (Emphasis is mine.) Spark, (Doubleday, Random House, $25.95, 301 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-53867-1) BY John Twelve Hawks, (a nom de plume?) is just such a book. In it, he postulates a near-future in which all citizens are required to carry RFID, or ‘radio frequency identification chips’ at all times. Some are inserted as capsules in the back of one’s hand, leaving a distinct scar, while others are carried as personal ID cards . . . which are monitored 24/7 by something called the EYE system which collects and stores every move by every citizen everyday which . . . when combined with one’s phone calls and all of their computer mouse clicks, allows the governments of the world to predict all human behavior . . . preventing another Day of Rage, in which anarchists coordinated bombings all around the world. In this grim reality we meet a protagonist named Mr. Underwood, an assassin in the employ of DBG—a megalithic international consortium, whose job is simply to kill his assigned clients, who have lost money or otherwise run afoul of the company. Mr. Underwood is the perfect assassin . . . remorseless, logical, soulless, unemotional, uncomplicated, uncaring and uninvolved . . . the best of all the banks contractors, because he believes he’s already dead. A motorcycle accident when he was still an ordinary, and brilliant, computer engineer named Jacob Davis, has left him with something called Cotard’s Syndrome, where the sufferer thinks that they’ve died. Mr. Underwood thinks he exists only as a spark, or his consciousness, within a shell, which is what he calls his body. He drinks a protein supplement called ComPlete, his only source of nourishment, not wanting to put “anything dead or that will rot inside of me.” When a woman named Emily Buchanan disappears without a trace from her job at a subsidiary of DBG, it’s feared that she’s stolen money, and/or company secrets. Mr. Underwood is tasked with tracking her down and eliminating her. He’s the perfect candidate for the job: logical, precise, ruthless, and without conscience or guilt. As the assignment draws him across continents and ever deeper into the questionable and murky world he lives in, Mr. Underwood starts to have doubts about himself at the same time that Jacob Davis begins to be reborn . . . setting up a conflict that will keep you in a reading frenzy all the way to...

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A Scourge of Vipers

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

A Scourge of Vipers

A Scourge of Vipers Mysterious Book Report No 198 by John Dwaine McKenna   In the food for thought department, here’s a juicy little nugget to chew on: Remember when gambling was underground, illegal and in the hands of organized crime?  Now it’s legal, and available most everywhere, but in my opinion, still in the hands of organized crime . . . called government.  Look anywhere in most states, and you’ll find government- run lotteries and government-controlled casinos with most forms of gambling including dice, cards, roulette, slot-machines, electronic poker or blackjack consoles and the soon-coming-to-a-casino-near-you ability to wager on video games of empire and war where an adept player can win cash.  Now, gambling is cool.  The state governments are raking in quantum amounts of new taxes . . . and looking to increase their take even more, they’re eyeballing the multiple billions of dollars wagered every year on sporting events, both professional and collegiate.  At the present time, sports betting is only legal in Nevada, and Nevada, the NCAA, Pro sports and all the bookies in America would like to keep it that way.  But the massive amounts of potential tax dollars are an irresistible temptation for the always cash-devouring state governments . . . setting up a perfect storm of competing interests. A Scourge of Vipers, (Forge / Tom Doherty Associates, $25.99. 315 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-7431-8) by Bruce DeSilva is a ripping-good, page-rattling yarn featuring the harried, wise-cracking and resourceful investigative reporter Liam Mulligan, but at the same time, it’s a serious look at the deleterious effects of big money on politics and government.  The novel opens when Mulligan’s pal, the Governor of Rhode Island—who’s a defrocked Roman Catholic sister known as Atilla the Nun—decides to introduce legislation that legalizes sports gambling, with the intention of using the money to solve a budgetary crisis without raising taxes . . . a sure kiss of death for her political career. As soon as word leaks out however, organized crime, pro sports and other groups opposed to the legalization, start to flood the state with cash payoffs and bribes, looking to influence state legislatiors. Mulligan wants to investigate, but his corporate bosses at the dying Providence Dispatch Newspaper refuse, not wanting to spend money on an inquiry and write-up.  So Mulligan, who can’t deny his compulsion to tell the story, goes at it in renegade fashion, putting himself in conflict with his bosses just as a Rhode Island state senator turns up dead, a New Jersey mobster delivering payoff money is killed and the money has disappeared.  When Mulligan is accused of all three crimes, he finds himself in the fight of his career, with his reputation, his freedom and maybe his life itself, hanging in the balance. Like DeSilva’s three previous Mulligan novels he expertly and seamlessly weaves a gripping, finely wrought crime story together with some of the most important moral, social and societal issues of our times.  He’s an author with something important to say and the perfect vehicle for saying it.  I’m listening.  You should be too.  He’s an up-and-comer who’s most worthy of your attention . . . Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Sniper’s Honor

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Sniper’s Honor

Sniper’s Honor Mysterious Book Report No 197 by John Dwaine McKenna   Earlier this year, the world’s attention was riveted on a movie depicting the life and times of an American serviceman named Chris Kyle—the deadliest sniper in US Army history, with 160 confirmed kills.  Suddenly, there was a national debate about the morality of lying in ambush and killing enemy combatants at long range with high-powered rifles equipped with telescopic sights. The commentary reached a fever pitch when a well-fed, self-appointed keeper of the public morality named Michael Moore observed from the safety of his, no doubt well-protected home, that Chris Kyle was a coward. A statement Mr. Moore later took pains to modify.  And it is a statement with which I personally even at the risk of sounding jingoistic, take great umbrage . . . My wife June, reading over my shoulder, just asked me if there is a book review in here somewhere—and I’m happy to report that yes, there is! Sniper’s Honor, (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 416 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-40212) by Stephen Hunter, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former Washington Post reporter’s twentieth book, and it features his iconic, everyman hero named Bob Lee Swagger . . . a rifle expert and retired US Army sniper . . . a fictional version of the real Chris Kyle. The story begins when Swagger gets a call from a journalist friend named Kathy Reilly, asking him about a World War II era Mosin-Nagant 91 with a PU scope.  Swagger tells her that it’s a Soviet-made sniper rifle. It turns out to be one that may have been used by a female sniper named Ludmulla “Mili” Petrova, a legendary female assassin, once the most decorated and talented of all Soviet snipers, as well as the most hunted woman on earth—having angered both Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin during a secret mission to the Eastern Front during the waning years of the war.  Now, her memory is erased from the history books.  Instead of being revered as a hero, it’s like she never existed, and Reilly, with Swagger’s help, wants to know why.  But as they sift through the evidence trying to reconstruct the woman’s last mission in the mountains and cities of the Ukraine, it becomes apparent that seventy years later modern-day enemies will stop at nothing, including murdering Swagger and Reilly, to keep the facts secret and the story from being told. Which compels Swagger to uncover the truth and bring Mili Petrova the justice she deserves.  The novel will keep you on the edge of your seat as it informs and entertains you.  It’s written with the finesse of a master wordsmith at the top of his game, and an excellent summer read! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Empire of Night

Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Empire of Night

The Empire of Night Mysterious Book No. 196 by John Dwaine McKenna One hundred years ago, all of Europe was in the midst of what was then called the Great War, or World War I as we now know it.  It was the first fully mechanized war and the battlefield casualties were so great that they’re almost incomprehensible by today’s standards, due to the invention of new war machines like the belt-fed water-cooled machine gun; armor plated mobile gun platforms called tanks; gigantic artillery pieces mounted on railroad cars and moved by locomotives, that could hurl twenty-four inch shells for fifteen to twenty miles; submarines that prowled the oceans in groups known as wolf packs, which devastated and terrorized shipping; motorized heavier-than-air machines called aero planes, which battled for supremacy in the sky; and most disturbing of all perhaps, the invention and use of poison gasses based on chlorine and phosgene, capable of killing by the thousands.  As all of those developments were happening on the battlefields, another newly-developed weapon was terrorizing the civilian citizens of London.  They were giant airships called Zeppelins which came calling in the night without warning, bringing indiscriminate death to men, women and children as they dropped high explosive and incendiary bombs on the helpless and innocent victims in the streets below. The Empire of Night, (Mysterious Press, $26.00, 401 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2323-7) by Robert Olen Butler is the third installment of his delightful Christopher Marlowe Cobb series of novels which began with The Hot Country, which was about German involvement in the Mexican Civil War, circa 1915; then continues with The Star of Istanbul, about the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitanian and German activity in the Middle East during World War I; and now, his newest, The Empire of Night, about the bombing of London during the early to middle parts of the war.  All feature the intrepid and fearless newspaper reporter and citizen-spy, whom we know simply as Kit. The Empire of Night is character-driven historical fiction at its best, with all the action, intrigue, treachery, danger and drama of any contemporary spy novel, while also featuring a tender, but ultimately tragic love affair at it’s core.  With the ground campaign stalemated in France and Belgium, the German high command is desperate to find a way to gain the upper hand.  Their plan is to turn the Zeppelins into unstoppable killing machines that rain death from the skies . . . unless they can be stopped by Kit Cobb . . . who may lose his life in the process.  History comes alive in the hands of Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler, and he’s created one of his most memorable and endearing protagonists in contemporary fiction—making him one of my absolute favorites! Do yourself a favor and read this great series and you, like me, will be eagerly looking forward to the next book. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Suspicion

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Suspicion

Suspicion Mysterious Book Report No. 195 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s times, it seems, in everyone’s life when there’s just not enough money on hand to pay all the bills coming due.  The reasons for this, and the excuses, are many and various, but the bottom line is called insolvency . . . and no matter how badly you want to . . . you just can’t pay.  Panic sets in.  You’re trapped with no way out.  That’s the position single father Danny Goodman finds himself in when he’s unable to pay the tuition for his daughter’s exclusive private school in Boston. Suspicion, (Dutton Penguin Random  House,  $27.95, 387 pages, ISBN 978-0-525-95460-6) by Joseph Finder, is the story of a man trying to do the best for his child.  Desperate and with nowhere to turn for help, he accepts a $50,000 check on a handshake deal from Tom Galvin, the father of Abby Goodman’s best friend Jenna, and one of Boston’s wealthiest hedge fund money managers. As soon as he deposits the check in his bank account however, Danny Goodman’s nightmare begins.  Two DEA agents show up and take him into custody, charging him with money laundering for accepting drug money.  Danny is given an impossible choice: fight the government indictment in court, which he can’t afford to do, for obvious reason or, act as an untrained undercover agent, treacherously informing on his new friend . . . a suspected agent for the biggest, most violent and deadly Mexican Drug Cartel.  Trying to protect his daughter and girlfriend, while living up to his DEA agreement, Danny is forced to lie to everyone in his life, while at the same time, deciding who is the real enemy . . . and risk losing everything and all who are most precious to him. Suspicion is a non-stop thrill ride that never lets up while never letting the reader down.  It is, as Michael Connelly so aptly puts it, “One man’s fight for survival that becomes everyman’s journey to the light.”  Contemporary and cutting-edge, this one’s a book for the ages. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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All Day and A Night

Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

All Day and A Night

All Day and A Night Mysterious Book Report No. 194 by John Dwaine McKenna In the argot of the penitentiary—prison slang—an inmate saying that he’s “got all day” means that he’s serving a life sentence.  The term “all day and a night” means a life sentence without the possibility of parole, also referred to as life without and sometimes as LWOP.  I know these terms because I just finished reading, at the expense of all other activities planned for this winter Monday, All Day and A Night, (Harper Collins, $26.99, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-220838-5) by Alafair Burke. Published to rave reviews by the likes of Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott and Ivy Pachoda, All Day and A Night is the story of a convicted serial killers attempt to overturn his sentence when an eerily similar murder takes place with the same broken bone method he was found guilty of using.  The celebrity murder of a Park Slope psychotherapist prompts dual investigations by an aggressive celebrity defense lawyer—who enlists the aid of Park Avenue Corporate attorney Carrie Blank, whose sister Donna was one of serial killer Anthony Amaro’s victims—and NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher who, along with her partner J.J. Rogan, is tasked with a “fresh look” investigation into the police work that led to Amaro’s sentence and incarceration.  There’s suspicion all around as Hatcher wonders if she was picked for the job because of her relationship with the lead prosecutor.  Rogan distrusts the motivation and character of the defense team in general; Carrie Blank thinks at first that the cops may have manufactured some of the evidence used to convict Amaro, but later has doubts about that, and her client, and the grandstanding, publicity hungry and abrasive criminal defense attorney who recruited her as well.  The novel is fast-paced, with new revelations coming in every chapter as Ms. Burke weaves all the disparate elements into the whole cloth of a classic thriller so artfully done that the reader feels like they’re riding shotgun in the unmarked police car.  All Day and A Night is the third of Alafair Burke’s novels I’ve read and it’s her best by far, and more than lives up to the ‘whip-smart’ comment another writer left about it.  I was captivated, fully invested and enjoyed every page. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Heist

Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Heist

The Heist Mysterious Book Report No. 193 by John Dwaine McKenna One of the greatest tragedies in the world today—and God knows there’s no shortage of them to choose from—is the huge and ever-expanding loss of the world’s art heritage due to theft . . . crimes that are often underwritten by some of the globe’s wealthiest citizens and performed by teams of well organized professional criminals. The stolen treasures are priceless, irreplaceable, seldom recovered, usually underinsured and often located in poorly, or altogether unsecured locations . . . which makes them easy targets.  Add to this, the fact that the thieves are hardly ever caught and it becomes painfully obvious that the cultural heritage of the world is disappearing.  All one has to do to appreciate the dimensions of the problem is to Google the words art theft.  Why should you care?  Because we all stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before.  Human knowledge is cumulative; each of us learn from our elders, add to that knowledge, then pass it on to the younger generation, who will do the same, on and on ad infinitum.  When our art treasures are gone we’re all deprived of the opportunity to observe, learn from and educate and then pass on that learning.  It’s a tragedy of epic dimensions, and it affects everyone, from lowest to the highest society. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the introduction to this weeks MBR No. 193. The Heist, (Harper Collins, $27.99, 467 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-232005-6) by Daniel Silva, once again features Gabriel Allon, the legendary secret agent and assassin of the Israeli Mossad, as well as a world class art restorer.  He’s in Italy, working on a renaissance-era altarpiece when he’s contacted by General Cesare Ferrari, the head of Italy’s Division for the Defense of Cultural Patrimony, better known as the Art Squad, whose mission is protecting the countries art treasures and recovering stolen artworks.  The General informs Gabriel that his friend Julian Isherwood, the eccentric London art dealer, has stumbled into a crime scene in Lake Como, Italy in which a British spy has been tortured and brutally murdered.  The slain man has been trafficking in stolen works of art and selling them to a secret collector with fabulous wealth and means—and a total disregard for the covenants of international law.  His identity however, remains a closely guarded secret the Brit took to his grave.  Now, Isherwood is being charged with the gruesome murder unless Gabriel can find the mysterious collector criminal and at the same time, locate one of the world’s most famous, valuable and sought after masterpieces, the iconic, Nativity with St. Francis and St Lawrence by Caravaggio, the baroque master who died at age thirty-eight in 1610. The hunt takes Gabriel from the swank salons of London and Paris to the criminal underworld of Marseilles and Corsica, then to a small, very private bank in Austria where a sinister man protects the stolen wealth of a blood-drenched dictator.  To coax his quarry out of hiding, the always resourceful Gabriel Allon decides that the best way to recover the stolen artwork is to steal more art . . . The Heist will keep you busy guessing through its intricate plot twists and turns while you thoroughly enjoy yourself reading this...

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The Painter

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Painter

The Painter Mysterious Book Report No. 192 by John Dwaine McKenna I keep a couple of different stacks of books to be reviewed in my office—actually it’s our dining room table–at all times. The stacks increase and decrease as I read and review, and sometimes, a new novel gets inadvertently shoved down the pile . . . which means that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves in a timely fashion . . . and that’s the case, I’m sorry to say, with this week’s Mysterious Book Report number 192.  It’s a year late, for which I offer my most humble apologies to the author and all of you dedicated readers and fans of the column. The Painter, (Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House, $24.95, 365 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-35209-3) by Colorado author Peter Heller is a masterful tour de force that examines the pain of loss, creative genius and personal torment, love, violence and the redemptive power found in the beauty of nature.  It is an awesome, exciting and disturbing work of beautiful prose by a remarkable young talent. The Painter begins when protagonist Jim Stegner, (the name no doubt, the author’s homage to Wallace Stegner . . . arguably the greatest writer of the American West) an expressionist painter with a national following and a troubled past, moves to a tiny town in Colorado to escape his demons and the frenetic, soul-draining and overly commercialized Santa Fe art scene.  The town is Paonia.  It’s up on the north fork of the Gunnison River, at the western edge of the Gunnison National Forest, and roughly 150 miles north of the Colorado-New Mexico state line.  He’s hoping for a fresh start, away from the violence that wrecked his marriage, sent him to prison and killed his daughter.  At first his plan works.  He’s at his most productive point in years, painting with an inspired brilliance and the art is flowing from his studio, much to the delight on his agent in Santa Fe and the many collectors of his work.  But then a chance encounter with a man beating a horse in the middle of the road turns his idyllic new life inside-out . . . and the volcanic temper lurking just below the surface of his placid exterior erupts with the same intensity that it did when he shot a man, sending Stegner to the penitentiary.  Stegner flees to Santa Fe, but vindictive relatives with revenge on their minds follow him—threatening to take not only his freedom—but his life.  The conflicting emotions—the murderous rages, temperamental outbursts and the urge to create beauty in the world—are relieved only by the tranquility and peace he finds in fly fishing the rivers of southwest Colorado and Northern New Mexico, where author Peter Heller’s word paintings and descriptions are so artfully done that the reader will almost feel the shock of a big brown rising to hit the fly she’s put on the tippet at the end of her line, or hear the burble of the water and smell the tang of sage, spruce and pinion.  The Painter is a captivating, beautifully written and well plotted work that transcends not only genre, but time and place as well.  It’s outstanding! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with...

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Prayer

Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Prayer

Prayer Mysterious Book Report No. 191 by John Dwaine McKenna Across the world today, debates are raging between believers and non-believers about the existence of God, and the power of prayer.  Radicals are trying to establish theocracies where everyone will adhere to strict religious law, as in Iran, where there’s no separation between church and State, because the church is the government.  It’s where religious authority figures interpret the words of God as written down by the prophet Mohammed and pass them on to the ordinary folk . . . who follow without hesitation.  And hey, don’t worry—this isn’t a religious sermon—far from it in fact. One of my favorite authors has written a pulse-quickening new thriller about an FBI agent in Houston, Texas who is wrestling with this self-same dilemma.  Prayer, (Putnam/Penguin, $26.95, 409 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16765-2) by Phillip Kerr, begins with FBI Domestic Terrorism Agent Gil Martins discovering that he has played a key role in wrongly convicting a man, and condemning him to death row.  Up to that point in his career, he has always thought of himself as one of the good guys who are part of the solution, not part of the problem.  But the wrongful conviction shakes him to the core, causing him to have doubts about himself, his career, his marriage . . . even his belief and faith in God.  As he is losing his faith however, his wife is reaffirming hers and their relationship starts to fall apart . . . just as a vicious serial killer begins targeting the morally righteous in and around Houston for what appears to be religious reasons, and the case goes from homicide to domestic terrorism.  Confronted with what seems illogical, bordering even on supernatural acts, Martins offers up a simple prayer asking for proof that God exists.  When no response comes he loses his faith altogether, becomes estranged from his wife and doubts in his ability to bring justice to the world.  But he soon learns that you should be careful what you pray for . . . your answer may come in an unexpected way, at the risk of that which you hold most dear . . . from a far different deity than you thought you knew.  Those who read this pulse-pounding thriller will find themselves thinking about it long after they’re through reading, because the conclusion is not only exciting—it’s downright astonishing!  See for yourself why Phillip Kerr is one of our favorite new authors. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna  ...

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MAUS

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

MAUS

MAUS A Mysterious Book Report Extra by John Dwaine McKenna April is a special month . . . a time of celebration and renewal. Spring is sprung by now, the grass is greening, crocuses are peeping out of flower beds and signs of new life are everywhere.  April is the warm-up for summer—when the livin’ is easy—in the words of the old iconic tune by Dubose Heyward and George Gershwin.  But April is also a time of remembrance; the nineteenth day of the month is designated as Holocaust Memorial Day.  It commemorates the slaughter of more than six million souls: men, women, and children, nearly all Jews, in the Nazi death camps during World War II. It is with that fact in mind, every April I read one or more books dealing with the Holocaust as a personal self-improvement project.  Because they’re not mysteries, thrillers or sci-fi—and because they’re not done for entertainment, I don’t usually review them.  This year is an exception, one that I hope you will follow up on, because it affected me in a deep personal way, and hey . . . it’s a comic book!  Yep. That’s right A comic book. The complete MAUS, (Pantheon/Random House, $35.00, 296 pages, ISBN 978-0-67940641-9) by Art Spiegelman is the Pulitzer Prize-winning story of an estranged man attempting to reconnect with his father as the older Mr. Spiegelman tells how he and his wife Anya struggled and survived Nazi Europe in the 1930s and the Auschwitz concentration camp in the 1940s. Vladek Spiegelman’s biography is eloquently captured in the form of underground comic cartoon panels in which the Jews are depicted as scared mice, the Germans as mean cats, the poles are mostly uncaring pigs and the Americans as friendly dogs. The complete MAUS contains the entire body of cartoonist Art Spiegleman’s work about his father, who survived and The Holocaust, which took thirteen years to complete. In it, he depicts a heartbreaking, tragic story containing cruelty, drama, death, bigotry, betrayal, larceny and treachery in a matter of fact voice that only adds to the unbelievable horror of the Nazi era.  It’s a story everyone should know, lest anyone forget, but what makes it a masterpiece is the family saga deftly woven through the Auschwitz narrative. It shows the impact of Vladek Spiegelman’s experiences, the effect it had on him and all those around him for the rest of his life. If you’ve already read MAUS back in the 70s, I’d read it again.  If you’re unfamiliar and choose to seek it out, it will change your life and how you view the world.  If you care to learn more about the Holocaust email me at johndwainemckenna@gmail.com for a list of books about it, all of which are available on Amazon. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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All Our Names

Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

All Our Names

All Our Names Mysterious Book Report No. 190 by John Dwaine McKenna This week’s MBR is a diversion from our usual focus on the mystery and crime fiction genres, to take a brief sojourn into literary fiction with a novel about a love affair and the intersection of two wholly different cultures during the 1970s—a time when the entire world was adjusting to a new reality. All Our Names, (Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34998-7) by 2012 MacArthur  Foundation genius grant award winner Dinaw Mengestu, “is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution,” when they’re drawn from the safe confines of a university campus into a conflict on the bloody streets of an unnamed city as the revolutionaries try to overthrow the entrenched, corrupt forces of a brutal dictator.  The pair begin as idealists, but as the war intensifies, violence drives the two friends apart as one is drawn deeper into the conflict, while the other flees the country, seeking refuge as an exchange student in the midwest of America. But his safety is earned at his friends peril, as the revolution is doomed, almost from the start. The friend who escaped is called Issac. Through ‘friends of friends’ of the revolutionaries, and the help of an American diplomat, he’s situated in an apartment near Kansas City, posing as a university student.  In order to help him acclimatize to life in America, he’s assigned a social worker named Helen, with whom he falls in love and settles into life in the small town. Issac is haunted however, by what he left behind; the deeds he did, and the sacrifice made by his friend in order that he survive. That guilt, coupled with the difficulty of a 1970s romance between a black man and a white woman in a small town  makes a complex and tragic literary figure who represents the turbulence and disconnect which makes up much of the immigrant experience.  All our Names is a powerful work of graceful literary composition, by turns insightful, thought-provoking and perspicacious.  Not for everyone, but those who do read it will be enjoyably rewarded. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart Mysterious Book Report No. 189 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever known someone who was so infatuated with another person, so head-over-heels and goofy in love that they would do anything—endure any hardship or humiliation—just to be around that other person . . . even when they knew beforehand that they’d be taken advantage of, or victimized . . . One.  More. Time? The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, (William Morrow/ Harper Collins Publishers, $25.99, 292 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-226749-8) by Peter Swanson is about just such a person—and the Femme Fatale who suddenly reappears in his life, years and years after breaking his heart and leaving him in the lurch.  His name is George Foss.  He’s an ordinary, average . . . many would  say dull . . .  forty-year old employee of a literary magazine in Boston.  Life is slowly passing him by and George is perfectly comfortable with it, and just doesn’t care.  He’s unmarried, stuck in place in his job and content spending most evenings in a neighborhood bar talking about the Red Sox baseball team, the ordinary things in his boring life and obsessing about a woman named Liana Decter, who he loved and lost twenty-some years earlier, when she left college for winter break and disappeared . . . mixed up in and possibly wanted for a murder.  George follows her from Massachusetts to Florida, where he loses her, after finding that she has assumed the identity of another woman.  George goes home, but never forgets her . . . until she walks back into his life twenty years later, asking for his help.  She’s trouble.  George knows she’s trouble, but can’t resist her appeal.  She tells him that she’s being chased by a couple of bad guys—thugs who want to do her harm.  George’s quiet life disappears in a flash as he’s sucked into a morass of lies, betrayal and murder that he’s powerless to resist.  This novel will have you squirming in your seat as the intensity ratchets up with every page as the suspense tightens, and it leads to an electrifying conclusion that will have you wishing for more. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Hold the Dark

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark Mysterious Book Report No. 188 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s an ongoing battle between humans and nature that is eternal in character and inevitable in prospect; Mother Nature always wins in the end.  But that doesn’t mean we humans will ever stop trying—look anywhere on Earth and one can find places where men and women have built structures to keep out the elements. Hold the Dark, (Liveright Publishing / W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., $24.95, 203 pages, ISBN 978-0-87140-667-5) by William Giraldi takes place in the far north . . . in the extreme dark and cold of the Arctic winter . . . where it’s mankind versus the elements, and mankind is losing.  Game is already scarce, winter just beginning and the wolves are starving.  In the remote village of Keelut, wolves have taken three children, one of whom is the six year old son of Vernon and Medora Slone.  He’s a sniper with the US Army, somewhere in the Middle East.  She’s just trying to survive.  When her son disappears, she calls in nature writer and wolf expert Russell Core—a sixty year-old burnout who’s trying to find a way to end his life—enlisting him to locate her boys bones so that they might be buried.  While Core may be a wolf expert, he’s unprepared for the harsh conditions and subarctic temperatures at the top of the world . . . forcing him to borrow Vernon Sloan’s clothes.  Russel Core sets out to track the wolf pack that stole the village children but can’t complete the task.  He returns to Keelut to find Medora gone and a horror in the root cellar of her cabin.  Wounded in battle, Vernon Sloan returns and together with his lifelong friend . . . a quiet and deadly man named Cheeon . . . begins a hunt for his wife that leaves a bloody smear across the frozen tundra before leading to a surprising, unforeseen and shocking conclusion that will have you thinking about the book long after you’ve finished reading it.  What choices does one have to make in order to stay alive at the extreme edges of endurance, civilization and survival, where humans are just another species of animal trying to live one more day?  What choices would you be forced into if you were locked in an icy heart of darkness?  Hold the Dark is a short, but compelling read that’ll give each reader food for thought for some time to come. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna  ...

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Invisible City

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Invisible City

Invisible City Mysterious Book Report No. 187 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever thought about any of the subcultures which exist in the midst of what we call ‘normal’ or regular society?  Religious groups like the Amish, Mennonites, Hare Krishna’s, Islamist’s, Mormons, Sikhs and Hindus are all stitched into the  fabric of America  in plain sight . . . yet remain secretive and mostly unknown by all the rest of us.  They have a common desire to be left alone, allowed to live by their own rules and reject all values other than those they themselves espouse, rules which usually involve a central authority figure who speaks for, as well as to the followers . . . with precise and rigid instructions about how one may only know God by devotion to the rules.  Rules which are interpreted by men for the benefit of their women.  Oh Yeah.  Here’s where it gets good . . . as long as you’re not female. One of the largest subcultures in America are the Hasidim . . . ultra-orthodox Jews who dress like 18th century Poles in black frock coats and hats, wear long side curls at their temples and speak Yiddish—who are concentrated in Brooklyn, and throughout the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.  We’ve all seen them.  They’ve become so numerous that they’re almost ubiquitous in some places, but non-Hasidics know almost nothing about them. Invisible City, (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 298 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-04339-9) is a sparkling debut from a veteran newspaper reporter named Julia Dahl that takes the reader into the secretive and insular world of the Brooklyn Hasidic community through the eyes of a beat reporter named  Rebekah Roberts.  She’s a stringer, a part-time employee for a New York Tabloid called The Tribune, who is sent to gather the facts about a murdered woman whose naked body is found in a metal scrap yard along Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal—an area dominated by the Hasidic community.  She quickly finds out that the ultra-Orthodox have their own ambulance and police forces, and heavy political influence with City Hall as well as the NYPD.  When the woman’s body is buried one day later, with neither an autopsy nor an investigation, Rebekah figures that a cover-up is taking place and risks her life and career to see justice done—while at the same time searching for her own mother—a Hasidic woman who abandoned her Lutheran husband and infant daughter, then disappeared twenty-four years earlier.  She’s the mother that Rebekah hasn’t heard from since being abandoned by her.  This is a riveting and suspenseful novel, written in a strong, forceful and compelling voice.  I’m looking forward to Ms. Dahl’s next installment of what is certain to be a popular and best-selling series. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Final Silence

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Final Silence

The Final Silence Mysterious Book Report No. 186 by John Dwaine McKenna If you think about it, all of us have two faces.  The first is the one we show to the world and the second is our private self—the inner person—the person we truly are, where our secret interests lie.  Usually they’re harmless enough . . . a dedicated coin or stamp collector for instance, maybe an interest in a specific subject, genealogy or the Civil War for example . . .  but there’s a dark side too, drinking or drug addiction for instance.  Maybe something worse.  Spousal abuse.  Gambling.  Self Mutilation.  The list is endless and inventive, as unlimited as all of human imagination and as deep as the depths of human depravity. Now, in a masterly psycho-thriller from one of my favorite Irish writers, comes a neo-noir work of exceptional talent that takes a head-on, close examination of just such a taboo subject. The Final Silence, (Soho Press, Inc., $26.95, 340 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-548-9) by Stuart Neville takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  It begins when Rea Carlisle, the daughter of a rising political star named Graham Carlisle, inherits a house with a locked room from an uncle she never knew.  After disposing of all the accumulated junk in the rest of the house, she forces open the locked room and discovers that it contains only a desk, a chair and a large scrapbook full of macabre souvenirs—fingernails, locks of hair—and a catalog of victims, all of whom have been murdered.  Rea wants to take it to the police, but her father stops her, claiming he’ll be hurt by the revelation in the coming election and lose his position.  Rea turns to a disgraced police inspector named Jack Lennon for help.  But Lennon himself becomes the lead suspect in a murder investigation and the hunt takes several grisly turns, each one leading Lennon deeper into a past that’s ever closer to ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland’.  The drama, pacing and language all combine to make for a relentless story . . . one you’ll not want to stop reading!  If you have any interest in modern Irish history or The Troubles, as the sectarian violence of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s came to be known, I’d suggest reading this and Neville’s other works, especially The Ghosts of Belfast, which is about an ex-IRA hitman Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Sometimes the Wolf

Posted by on Mar 9, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sometimes the Wolf

Sometimes the Wolf Mysterious Book Report No. 185 by John Dwaine McKenna Falling from grace, for whatever reason, has been an enduring theme throughout human history and all of world literature.  Whether it’s from individual malfeasance, political upheaval or personal relationships gone bad, we humans seem endlessly fascinated when the high and mighty ‘take their licks’ and ‘get theirs.’ Sometimes the Wolf, (Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, $26.99, 277 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-221691-5) by up-and-coming author Urban Waite, is a study of one man’s fall from grace and his son, who is trying to understand his father . . . who was once an elected county Sheriff . . . and is now a just-released felon who has served ten years in the Washington State Penitentiary.  The felon on parole is names Patrick Drake.  He’s the ex-sheriff who took to running drugs across the Canadian border in order to pay for his wife’s chemotherapy and cancer treatments.  Then, two men are killed, the DEA gets involved and Patrick goes to prison.  There, as an ex-lawman, he has to buy protection in order to stay alive . . . which he does with promises of payment from hidden drug monies once he’s released.  As the story begins he’s out, living with his son Bobby—whose a grown man and a deputy sheriff—marriage is in trouble because of the emotional baggage his father’s crime and incarceration has brought to their family and small town.  As Patrick tries to readjust to life on the outside, threats from his old life start resurfacing and this time, no one is spared. The author’s prose is terse, direct and to the point, driving the narrative with a relentlessness that all crime fiction lovers will find irresistible.  Like the novels of Elmore Leonard, the action never stops until the last page.  That’s where you’ll be wishing for more from this exciting author. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna  ...

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Night Heron

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, Reviews, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Night Heron

Night Heron Mysterious Book Report No. 184 by John Dwaine McKenna The next war between the superpowers will most likely take place in cyberspace, because that’s where all the world’s command and control systems are located . . . and it’s highly probable that in the twenty-first century . . . the coming cyberwars will be fought by multinational corporations rather than governments.  Why?  The answer is simple—because that’s where the money is.  The best and brightest, the programmers, computer engineers and as the smartest hackers will all gravitate to private industry rather than government service with the CIA, NSA or DIA just because they’ll be able to get rich.  Would you rather be a GS9, 10 or 11 making  an estimated eighty to one-hundred thousand per year, or get a quarter-million stock options from a new start-up such as Google, which is now trading on world stock markets at around eight hundred dollars each?  Yeah.  Me neither.  At some point—the tipping point—governments the world over will come up looser in the brain race competition. An exciting, timely and on-point new thriller entitled Night Heron, (Little Brown and Co., $26.00, 387 pages, ISBN 978-0-7515-5248-5) by a first-time author named Adam Brookes is the best spy yarn I’ve read since The Hunt for Red October, which vaulted onto the world stage more than thirty years ago. Night Heron takes place in China.  It begins with a prison break when a man known as Peanut, who’s been held for twenty years in a labor camp, escapes and flees across the deserts of Northwest China and makes his way to Beijing, hoping to escape the country.  More than two decades earlier, Peanut had spied for the British government, and now wants to reestablish his clandestine relationship, seeing it as his only opportunity to escape the country.  But during the twenty years he’s been away . . . everything has changed, unbeknownst to him.  He contacts MI6, the British Secret Service, via journalist Philip Mangin, offering to sell China state secrets in exchange for a new life “someplace warm.”  What none of them realize however, is that the information Peanut has to trade is far more valuable than they know, and to more agencies than just the British.  Under relentless, ever more intense scrutiny, with each hour being closer to apprehension by Chinese State Security, Peanut’s life expectancy is measured in minutes as the tension and suspense cranks up with every page.  This novel is so intense you won’t be able to put it down.  And don’t worry . . . it’s all set up for a sequel.  The author has years of experience in Asia reporting for the BBC as a foreign correspondent and gives a unique, insightful and compelling look into present day China.  Night Heron could be the start of a franchise character a la Jason Bourne, so here’s your chance to get in early.  I think Adam Brookes has a lot more to write about . . . and I can’t wait to read it!  Five stars. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Broken Monsters

Posted by on Feb 23, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Broken Monsters

Broken Monsters Mysterious Book Report No. 183 by John Dwaine McKenna The city of Detroit has long been an American icon; The Shining City, or Motor City as it’s been called, is now an emblem of broken dreams and unkept promises.  Now it’s bankrupt and known colloquially as Murder City.  It’s a place where taxes go unpaid, homes are abandoned, and buildings are razed by the city because they’re eyesores: neglected, decrepit, crime-ridden, looted and decayed . . . eventually torn down because they’ve become so hazardous to public health and safety. It is against this bleak, dystopian backdrop that an ingenious, frightful and thoroughly entertaining novel by a South African author named Lauren Beukes is written . . . and it’s enthralling. Broken Monsters, (Harper Collins, $26.00, 520 pages, ISBN 978-0-00-746459-3) is the story of a failed artist named Clayton Broom, who’s trying to redeem himself—and the city of Detroit—through his ‘art,’ which he thinks will reanimate itself, Detroit and his career, if only people will pay attention to his installations . . . which he’s been putting in various public places. Gabi Versado is an eight-year homicide veteran who always gets the bad guy, but she’s never seen anything like the murders taking place during the current winter.  Bodies have been turning up grafted to parts of animals.  The police are suppressing the news, trying to prevent a panic, while at the same time a failed actor-reporter-blogger from New York City is trying to reinvent himself by reporting on Detroit’s cultural renaissance through a series of art raves: underground, parties for the young, hip and economically challenged youths of the dying city.  All the characters are in some way or another broken and all are looking for redemption.  This is a complex, fun and entertaining read that will make you damned glad you’re not living in Detroit.  Broken Monsters is a chilling novel that you’ll remember long after you’re done reading it. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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I am Pilgrim

Posted by on Feb 16, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

I am Pilgrim

I am Pilgrim Mysterious Book Report No. 181 by John Dwaine McKenna On occasion, a work of fiction comes along which can only be described as riveting. Enthralling, arresting, gripping, fascinating, absorbing, captivating, hypnotic, engrossing or spellbinding . . . but the single best and most descriptive word for MBR No. 181 is riveting. It will drill a hole into your consciousness, insert a red-hot bolt of dramatic tension, then pound it into place in your memory as one of the most exciting novels you have ever read . . . and the scary part, the part we haven’t mentioned yet . . . the plot could be tomorrow’s front page news. I Am Pilgrim, (Emily Bestler Books/Atria-Simon & Shuster, $26.99, 612 pages, ISBN 978-1-4391-7772-3) by Terry Hayes begins in New York City, one year after the Towers fall, with a police investigation into the death of a woman who’s found in a bathtub of acid: no face, no teeth, no fingerprints and therefore, no identity. In Saudi Arabia, a man is publicly beheaded as his thirteen year old son watches in horror. A notorious Syrian biotechnology expert is found eyeless in a junkyard, bound hand and foot, while being set upon by ravenous wild dogs. The remains of three kidnapped victims are found on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan, burnt and dumped in a quicklime pit and boiling with toxins. These are the elements that must be connected and correctly interpreted in order to prevent a monstrous, utterly horrific crime against humanity. The only one with even a slight chance of connecting all of the disparate, arcane and mystifying elements together and having a hope of preventing the greatest crime in history is an anonymous clandestine agent code-named Pilgrim who answers only to the man in charge of all US intelligence and the President of the United States. He’s a man whose real name is lost to the past and who carries the fate of the entire world in his hands. I am Pilgrim will enthrall you, entertain and scare you . . . ultimately it will change your worldview . . . it may even keep you awake in the darkest part of the night wondering when it will happen, hoping, just hoping and praying that there actually is a real Pilgrim out there. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya . . . this may be the best thriller ever written! Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Death Money

Posted by on Feb 16, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Death Money

Death Money Mysterious Book Report No. 182 by John Dwaine McKenna Ever been to Chinatown in New York City?  Go down to Mott Street in lower Manhattan and it’s as if you’ve stepped into a foreign land . . . it’s a place of exotic sights, sounds and smells, a place where even the signs on the store fronts are in another language; indecipherable for nearly all English speakers.  For those who live there, it’s a reminder of the country they left behind and a comfort because of its familiarity.  That’s the Chinatown the tourists see, and it faces outward, it’s the public face the world to sees.  But there’s another, secret aspect of Chinatown that faces inward; it’s about vice: gambling, prostitution, loan-sharking, drugs, violence and death.  It’s where the gangs and criminals, the tongs and Triads with ties going all the way back to China operate with impunity . . . right under the noses of the NYPD. Death Money, (SOHO Press Inc., $25.00, 215 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-351-5) by Henry Chang takes the reader deep into that illicit, hidden Chinatown through the eyes and actions of NYPD Detective Jack Yu as he tries to solve the murder of an Asian man whose body is pulled from the Harlem River.  With no identity and no clues as to why the man was killed, Detective Yu searches from the Chinese benevolent associations, underground gambling dens, strip clubs and takeout restaurants from Manhattan to the Bronx looking for answers.  Along the way he enlists the aid of an elderly fortune teller and an old acquaintance from the neighborhood in a frantic effort to solve the case before more corpses start showing up.  This novel is a continuation of the Jack Yu series and I found it to be the most entertaining one to date.  It’s fast pace and “ring of truth” puts it into the hard-boiled camp of the crime fiction genre, and it reads easily, with a familiarity that only a Chinatown native could have.  It’s a flat-out fun read.  If you haven’t met Jack Yu, you’re in for a real treat. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Young God

Posted by on Feb 9, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Young God

Young God Mysterious Book Report No. 180 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s a newer genre of hard-boiled crime fiction known as southern noir or country noir that is fast becoming one of my favorites. It’s full of fresh new talent with some of the hottest writing and the most unique voices and characters to come along, and this weeks MBR No. 180 is just such a one. Young God, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24.00, 193 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-53423-3) by Katherine Faw Norris is a novel that comes at the reader full-throttle from the very first sentence on the first page. “NIKKI IS ALL TO HELL.” Moments later she jumps from a seventy-five foot cliff into the waters of a turgid yellow river and the novel is off and running. Thirteen year old Nikki Hawkins is bound and determined to keep the local drug trade under her family’s control. She’s never going to let her deadbeat relatives decide her future, and she’ll use any tool she can to shape her future. Vowing she’ll never be a victim, not letting isolation or ignorance stand in her way, she learns to manipulate her environment in order to have her way . . . and she’s a scary fast learner who inherited all the family criminal traits, never hesitating to use the brute force woven into her DNA. With prose as slick and sharp as a double-edged razor-blade, Norris tells Nikki’s story with an economy of words, creating a fast moving, gritty and brutally honest tale of southern noir. This novel is breathtakingly short, but makes up with intensity what it lacks in length. It grabs your attention and never lets go. Like the review? The best compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Hangman

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Hangman

The Hangman Mysterious Book Report No. 179 by John Dwaine McKenna Buffalo, New York is where the novels of Stephan Talty take place, and after last year’s breakout hit entitled Black Irish, his growing numbers of fans have been eagerly awaiting the next installment of his Abbie Kearney detective series. She’s been called “One of the most intriguing suspense protagonists in memory,” by leading crime fiction writer Tess Gerritsen, and I heartily agree. Hangman, (Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 302 pages, ISBN 978-0-345-53808-6) by Stephan Talty, pits Buffalo New York’s Irish-American detective Absalom “Abbie” Kearney against a serial killer named Marcus Flynn. He’s known as ‘The Hangman’ because he stalked teenaged girls in North Buffalo, then killed and left them dangling from a rope. Captured by police after he was cornered and shot in the head, he survived and was sent to prison . . . all before Abbie’s time. Now, he’s killed a prison guard and he is on the loose. It’s up to Abbie to catch the monster before he can make it back to Buffalo and resume his reign of terror. Flynn however, somehow makes it into the city and resumes his murderous campaign, and proving himself to be as brilliant as he is elusive, outwitting Abbie at every turn. With the number of victims rising, the city is paralyzed with fear, but “a rising tide of secrecy, paranoia and politics forces Abbie to realize that stepping beyond the law may be the only way to find justice.” Forced by the circumstances and a lack of leads due to traditional Irish secrecy, Abbie turns to the only other possible source of information: a network of retired cops who hold all the potential clues, and any chance she has of finding Marcus Flynn. Abbie has to stop the Hangman before he can kill again and at the same time . . . determine the final resting place of his last victim. The hunt intensifies and the stakes are raised with every page as Kearney races against time to save the last victim from one of the most intelligent and diabolically evil criminals she has ever faced. Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Deep Winter

Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Deep Winter

Deep Winter Mysterious Book Report No. 178 by John Dwaine McKenna A resonating theme of mine is one which finds developmentally-challenged individuals accused, and often convicted, of crimes they did not commit. Their very oddness often causes them to be found guilty by acclimation in the courts of public opinion. They are, in fact, the low-hanging fruit that’s sometimes irresistible to ambitious, overeager law enforcement types of the enfranchised, or vigilante variety. The latter in fact, was the motif of August 2012s coming of age novel, The Whim-Wham Man, (Rhyolite Press LLC, $15.00, 149 pages, ISBN 978-0-9839952-1-0) by John Dwaine McKenna. Now comes a first novel published February 20, 2014 championing just such a cause. Deep Winter, (Blue Rider Press/Penguin, $25.95, 290 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16596-2) by Samuel W. Gailey is, just like The Whim-Wham Man, about a developmentally disabled man named Danny, who has a talent for carving small animals from wood . . . in this case, birds. And, just like The Whim-Wham Man, Danny is falsely accused of killing a young woman, and just like The Whim-Wham Man, the real killer manipulates the evidence to divert attention from himself and focus it on someone intellectually unable to mount a self-defense. Interestingly, the eerie similarities between The Whim-Wham Man and Gailey’s Deep Winter ends there . . . but then the juxtapositions begin. The Whim-Wham Man takes place in Colorado, just as summer begins, while Deep Winter, named for the time of the year the story takes place, is located in eastern Pennsylvania. And lastly, The Whim-Wham Man is himself a murder victim, while Deep Winter’s Danny lives to tell the tale. This has been an unusual MBR to be sure, but, lest there’s confusion, as Michael Connelly’s iconic and lonely LA Homicide Detective Harry Bosch was heard to say, “I don’t believe in coincidences.” And, like Mark Anthony, who came to bury Cesar, not to praise him . . . I review to encourage readers, not dissuade them. Both books are available on Amazon. Read them yourself and make your own decision about the review. As always your comments are welcome . . . and solicited. Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Midnight In Europe

Posted by on Jan 19, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Midnight In Europe

Midnight in Europe Mysterious Book Report No. 17 by John Dwaine McKenna If you’re a fan of noir fiction, tales of WWII exploits or spy thrillers, you’ll love this week’s MBR . . . an espionage novel set in Paris in 1938, on the eve of World War II, just as the Spanish Civil War is coming to an end. Generalissimo Franco’s Nationalist forces, together with their Nazi allies in the north of Spain, are poised to deliver the finishing blow to the beleaguered Republican armies in the south, and establish a fascist dictatorship. The rag-tag Republican army is communist, made up of intellectuals and idealists who lack adequate training, weapons or supplies of medicine, food and ammunition. Their only hope of survival in the coming battle is to procure some heavier weapons: artillery pieces, and the ammunition to use with them. Midnight in Europe, (Random House/Penguin, $27.00, 251 pages, ISBN 978-1-4000-6949-1) by Alan Furst is an atmospheric tale of an ordinary man being pushed into an extraordinary situation. His name is Cristian Ferrar, a respected Spanish lawyer, living in Paris and working for a top echelon international law firm. He’s approached by a man from the Republic of Spain’s embassy and asked to help a clandestine agency of that government, (The legitimate, elected, communist, government of Spain. Franco was a rebel, trying to overthrow it.) who is trying to supply weapons to the Republican army. He agrees, soon finding his life in danger, traveling across Europe. deep into the eastern bloc in an attempt to get a trainload of twenty millimeter canons aboard a ship and back to Spain, aided only by thugs and aristocrats, arms dealers, spies and idealists. From Paris to Istanbul, New York to Poland, chased by the Gestapo and shady women, the young lawyer pursues his mission in a deadly race against time, as the nationalist armies are massing for their final push. The novel is intense, chock-full of historical details and authentic scenarios, and a don’t miss-must read for any student of World War II. Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Ploughman

Posted by on Jan 12, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Ploughman

The Ploughmen Mysterious Book Report No. 176 by John Dwaine McKenna This is part two of the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association 2014 Trade show edition, featuring the most talked about and highly regarded novels of the season. The Ploughmen is a remarkable work that will resonate with readers on several levels: its unique storyline, rich characterizations, linguistics, lyricism and the author’s professed and obvious love of the land. The story takes place in Montana, where the author was born and raised, where he still lives and teaches at the University of Montana in Missoula. Making the novel all the more interesting is the fact that it’s author Kim Zupan’s first work of fiction . . . The Ploughmen, (Henry Holt, $26.00, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-8050-9951-5) is a story of the relationship between two men: John Gload, a seventy-seven year old career criminal, a remorseless serial killer who’s in jail awaiting trial and a young deputy sheriff named Valentine Millimaki, assigned to guard him. Gload is a stone-cold killer who suffers from insomnia, and he and Millimaki, prompted by the sheriff to get the details of Gloads other crimes, talk through the night. Incredibly, Gload has never been convicted, even though the authorities have known of his criminal behavior, because they can’t prove he’s guilty. The Sheriff’s hopes to close out a few of his open, unsolved murder cases, but Millimaki, can’t seem to get anything of substance from the wily old man. As the nights go on, a complex relationship develops while the two men talk the time away and reveal more of their personal lives. The one thing they have in common is a love of the land, and a childhood spent on the farm. The writing is stunning, and the story is complex as well as compelling. The Ploughmen has all the makings of a classic . . . it’s a novel for the ages. If this is Mr. Zupan’s first, I can hardly wait to see what he writes next. Bravo! It’s a five star effort as far as I’m concerned. Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is sharing it with others on Facebook and following us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Girl on the Train

Posted by on Jan 5, 2015 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Girl on the Train

The Girl On The Train Mysterious Book Report No. 175 by John Dwaine McKenna We’ve just returned from the annual Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Trade Show in Denver, Colorado. It’s a yearly affair with 70 or 80 publishers, several hundred bookstore owners, their employees and managers. It features thousands of new books, authors, lectures and seminars about what’s hot, what’s not, trends in the bookstore retailing arena and the current state of the publishing industry in general. It’s always an exciting, educational and exhausting, non-stop three day affair. On display from publishers large and small were the new books for the fall and holiday seasons in every imaginable category from anthologies to zoology. In our area of interest—crime fiction, thrillers and mysteries—two books were standouts, gathering special attention from everyone. We’ll review one this week and the second one next week. The Girl on the train, (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group (USA) LLC, $26.95, 325 pages, ISBN 978-1-59463-366-9) by Paula Hawkins is due for release on 15 January 2015, and the movie rights have already been purchased by DreamWorks Studios. It’s getting an extensive national marketing campaign and will be one of the most talked about books in the coming year. Why? Because it’s one of the most psychologically thrilling and intense murder mysteries you will ever in your life read. Alfred Hitchcock is probably turning over in his grave with envy because he won’t get to film this one . . . In it, a woman named Rachael takes a train into London every morning of the work week. Each day, it’s the same train, at the same time, she sits in the same seat, and the train stops at the exact same time and place—day after day. The sheer boredom of it is mind-numbing and soul-searing. So much so, that Rachael makes up an imaginary life and name for a woman she spots drinking coffee on the balcony of her house, which is one of a row of houses near the tracks where the train stops day after day. Most times Rachael sees a man with the woman and she imagines a life for the pair of them. Then, one morning Rachael sees a different man on the balcony, engaged in a passionate kiss with the woman. A few days later the woman, whose real name is Megan, has disappeared without a trace. Rachael’s imagination runs wild with possibilities . . . then a neighbor named Anna enters the narrative . . . and from her perspective it’s revealed that Rachael is an unreliable witness, one who has a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy, who may in fact be dangerous. The rest of the novel unfolds like an onion, one layer at a time, as it’s told in first-person narratives by Rachael, Anna and Megan. Each chapter, and almost every page, ratchets up the tension as it reveals some exciting, surprising new element to the plot until everyone is the potential killer, and the real murderer lurks in plain sight, right in their midst as Rachael tries to sort out which of her memories are real and which are imaginary. The Girl on the Train will keep you guessing right up to the end and so engrossed in it’s pages that you won’t know if there’s...

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Best Books of the Year

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Books, General | 0 comments

John Dwaine McKenna 2014 Best Books of the Year It was an awesome year for crime and mystery fiction, and as a result, it’s generated our longest annual list ever, with selections from around the world. With computers and modern printing methods, an astonishing number of books are being published . . . an estimated one-thousand five hundred per day in the English language, is one figure being given, but the technology is changing so fast that it’s impossible to compile accurate numbers. One thing is for sure: we are living in an unprecedented time of creativity and the availability of books of all kinds has never been greater. In making these selections, which are my personal choices, I’d like to acknowledge the help of Ian Kern and his boss Otto Penzler at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Hands down, they’re the best in the business! Without further Hoo-Ha, BS or Donkey Dust, here’s the most fiendishly clever, well-written, most intelligent superbly plotted, high quality, interesting and unconventional novels we’ve seen this year. All have been read cover-to-cover by yours truly and rated FIVE STARS for excellence. They’re the best of the year and all are worthy of your attention. Read on and enjoy! –JDM Best Books of the Year 2014 MBR # 131 The Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews Russia v. USA spy thriller, full of action, intrigue, treachery, tension and tight plotting that all take place in the 21st century. MBR # 132 The Star of Instanbul, by Robert Olen Butler Part-time US Secret Agent Christopher “Kitt” Cobb is up to his ears in WWI mayhem dealing with Imperial German and Ottoman Turks in a twisted spy yarn that sees his heart broken by a woman resembling the infamous Mata Hari MBR # 141 The Tilted World, by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly The great Mississippi River flood of 1927 is the backstory for a rousing tale involving an orphaned infant, two of the toughest Prohibition Agents ever hired, a beautiful, abused and heartsick lady moonshiner, treachery, violence and survival in a doomed river town. MBR # 143 GAME by Anders DeLaMotte A bored, shiftless and broke young man finds an expensive new smartphone on the train seat beside him and takes it. The phone lights up and asks, Want to play a game? He clicks ‘YES’ . . . and shortly thereafter, totally out of control, he’s a fugitive running from the law, and in danger of losing his life to someone called the gamemaster. MBR # 149 Alex, by Pierre LeMaitre Shopping for a wig turns into unrelenting terror for a young Parisian woman who’s not what she appears to be in this top-notch crime fiction thriller where the twists and turns never cease until the devastating conclusion of this award-winning book. MBR # 153 The Black-Eyed Blonde, by Benjamin Black Phillip Marlowe is back! Thanks to the estate of Raymond Chandler, the tough-guy detective with a heart for the ladies is back and better than ever! MBR # 154 The Kept, by James Scott In 1875 in upstate New York, a midwife returning to her family after a six-month sojourn working in the city, trudges for miles through the snow to get home to their cabin with gifts for all and...

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Stone Cold

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Stone Cold Mysterious Book Report No. 174 by John Dwaine McKenna For all of the fans who, like me, are mourning the cancellation of the show Longmire by the A&E Network, don’t despair . . . there’s an alternative out there. The novels of C.J. Box, one of today’s “A-list, must read authors,” according to no less of a luminary than world-class author Lee Child, are available to ease your pain and provide an entertaining set of yarns about a Wyoming Fish and Game Warden named Joe Pickett. For those of you who aren’t familiar with C.J. Box, he’s won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe and Barry Awards as well as the French Prix Calibre .38 literary award, and his books have been translated into twenty-seven languages. His newest work, entitled, Stone Cold, (Putnam, $26.95, 370 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16076-9) is the fourteenth in the Joe Pickett series, and many, including myself, think it’s the best yet. Pickett, officially a badge carrying Wyoming Game Warden, is in reality a troubleshooter for Governor Rulon, the states chief executive officer. The Governor sends Pickett to find out the details of one of the state’s newest, richest and most reticent citizens, a man named Wolfgang Templeton, who bought a huge ranch in the Black Hills, located in the remotest section of the northeast quadrant of the state, and promptly closed it off. Governor Rulon wants to know what’s going on up there. Templeton, a former hedge fund manager, has targeted the most impoverished part of the state, where he’s turned himself into a modern day benevolent dictator whose word is law, whose resources appear to be unlimited, and whose riches seem to come out of thin air. Rumors are rife about the goings on up there: the parties, the women, the mysterious comings and goings in the middle of the night from a private airstrip . . . but the most sinister rumor of all is that the despot’s fabulous wealth comes from the targeted killings of prominent people. Pickett goes in, under the guise of helping the local game warden implement some new department policies, but in reality he’s undercover, reporting everything back to Governor Rulon. What he finds is shocking in the extreme, puts his life on the line and turns an old friend into an adversary . . . while at the same time, Pickett and his wife Marybeth are trying to protect their adoptive daughter April from herself, and their collegiate daughter Sheridan from a possible campus rampage. Like all the novels in the series, Stone Cold will keep you guessing and turning the pages until you’ve read the last one. And hey . . . best of all . . . you don’t have to put up with all those ‘erectile dysfunction’ commercials every seven minutes, either. You’ll love Joe Pickett and the novels of C.J. Box once you’re introduced to them. Enjoy! Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Investigation

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Investigation Mysterious Book Report No. 173 by John Dwaine McKenna Mention “World War II Prison Stories” in any group and the resulting discussion will invariably focus around one of three classic and much admired movies: Stalag 17, The Great Escape, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. But, if you’re willing to do more than sit on the couch with a dazed look and the TV remote in hand, if you’ll take the time to find and read this week’s novel—you’ll be introduced to an author who’s wildly popular and influential in Asia. His name is Jung-Myung Lee, and he’s the author of a newly translated novel entitled The Investigation, (Mantle/Macmillan, £16.99 (about $26.00) 325 pages, ISBN 978-0-230-76871-0) The story is based upon real events which took place in Fukuoka Prison in 1944. Fukuoka is a maximum security facility housing hardened criminals mixed together with political prisoners, who are mostly ‘filthy Koreans who spread sedition and lies about the Emperor and the Japanese Empire’ according to Watanabe Yuichi, the narrator and book loving young guard who is assigned the impossible task of investigating the murder of Sugiyama Dozan. He was the most brutal, feared and merciless guard in the entire prison . . . despised by all, guards and inmates alike. Soon after Watanbe begins his investigation, a hard-core prisoner confesses to the murder, but after interviewing him and finding a hand-written poem in Sugiyama’s pocket, Watanabe thinks that the confession is a lie and continues digging into the mystery. What he finds is that many hidden events are taking place within and without the violent penitentiary walls, including a man who’s determined to let nothing stop him from digging his way out, a governor whose greed is limitless, a young girl with a kite trying to make friends wherever she can, a terrible, vicious guard who isn’t what he appears to be, and Yun Dong-Ju, a Korean poet whose “works hold such beauty they can break your heart.” The Investigation is a complex, beautiful and enlightening work that will illuminate an obscure, but brilliant poet, while showing the reader that beauty and genius are indefatigable and found in the unlikeliest of places. Dark and brooding at times, it’s moving and always entertaining as well. Like the review? The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Son

Posted by on Dec 1, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Son

The Son Mysterious Book Report No 172 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s only two types of crime fiction and hard-boiled detective story readers  . . . those who are Jo Nesbo fans . . . and those who will be Jo Nesbo fans as soon as they read one of his kick-ass novels.  Nesbo is the international best-selling author from Norway who first blazed onto the scene with his dramatic, action-filled series about a troubled, drug-addicted Oslo detective named Harry Hole.  But, detective series aren’t all that this gifted author does.  He’s also a musician, songwriter and an economist, as well as the creator of the Doctor Proctor children’s books and a number of stand-alone novels. The Son, (Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 402 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-35137-9) by Jo Nesbo is his latest book to be translated into English.  It’s an inspired stand-alone that will leave the reader scrambling to find and read the rest of his works. The Son begins in prison.  That’s where we’re introduced to a character named Sonny Loftus.  He’s the heroin addicted father-confessor to everyone who’s incarcerated there, because he’s got an ability to soothe and comfort the penitents, leaving them feeling absolved of their crimes.  Absolution, and the fact that he doesn’t talk, keeps everyone coming back to the thirty year-olds cell to tell all.  Sonny, who’s been in prison for twelve years, is serving time for a murder he didn’t commit, but which he confessed to, in return for an uninterrupted, unending supply of dope.  His heroin addiction, which began when his father took his life rather than be exposed as a corrupt policeman, is all that Sonny cares about.  As long as the heroin keeps flowing he’ll keep confessing to other people’s crimes . . . which he does regularly.  He’s surrounded by an “infrastructure of corruption,” including police, prison staff, lawyers and even a priest who are all beholden to an Oslo crime lord known only as the Twin.  Sonny’s content with the arrangement until a prisoner named Johannes Halden, who has only weeks to live before his metastasizing lung cancer kills him, makes his last confession and reveals a terrible, long-hidden secret about his father that’s an epiphany which causes Sonny to get straight and execute an ingenious prison break from the high-security penitentiary.  Then the mayhem begins in one of the most diabolic and exciting pieces of crime fiction that you’ll ever read. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna  ...

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The Ways of the Dead

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Ways of the Dead

The Ways of the Dead Mysterious Book Report No 171 by John Dwaine McKenna It’s a fact that cities around the world have two faces.  The first face is the Chamber of Commerce one; that’s where we see beautiful monuments and buildings, parks and well maintained streets with trees and greenery, stately homes and scenic vistas which tempt us to visit  . . . or perhaps even move there.  Then there is the other face: the Mr. Hyde face, the one with warts, scars and pimples.  The dark seamy side of town where there’s graffiti on the walls, and crime in the streets.  It’s where poverty, drugs and mayhem are found . . . and it’s part of every city in the world . . . including our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C. The Ways of the Dead, (Viking Penguin, $27.95, 272 pages, ISBN 978-0-670-01658-7) by Neely Tucker is a debut by an author with some serious chops: he’s been a journalist for twenty-five years, fourteen of which have been with the Washington Post.  His novel takes place, of course, in the District of Columbia.  It begins when Sarah Reese, the white teenage daughter of a federal judge whose name is being mentioned as the next in line for the U.S. Supreme Court—walks across the street from her ballet class to buy a soda at a ghetto convenience store.  Inside the store, she’s accosted by three black teenage boys, flees out the back door and is murdered.  Her body is found in a dumpster in the alley.  The three boys are arrested.  One of them confesses and agrees to testify against his companions, but Sully Carter is suspicious.  He’s a reporter who thinks the Reese murder may be related to a string of killings of prostitutes in the same area, but he’s having trouble proving it.  Sully, short for Sullivan, has some serious issues of his own and he’s not dealing with them. Cynical and tough, he’s been recalled from the Bosnian war with a gunshot wound to the face, a drinking problem and a total disrespect for any and all forms of authority.  He rockets around the city on a 916 Ducati race bike, files his stories while half-blitzed at ten o’clock in the morning and teams up with one of the most notorious crime lords in the city to prove his case.  The novel moves swiftly, while the murders keep coming, and just as Sully is about to prove corruption in high places . . . he may die trying.  There’s plenty of suspense, edge-of-disaster danger and a stunning, surprise conclusion that will leave the reader gasping for breath and looking for the next great yarn from Neely Tucker!  I know I will be . . . Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna  ...

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The Cairo Affair

Posted by on Nov 10, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Cairo Affair

The Cairo Affair Mysterious Book Report No 170 by John Dwaine McKenna The Middle East and North Africa has been the focus of the world’s attention since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2010, and now, the Syrian War has bled over into neighboring countries and spawned one of the most savage, retrograde and degenerate groups of terrorists to ever come along.  It’s name is ISIS and most foreign policy experts believe that it, and other groups like it, will pose a long term threat to the United States, Britain, Europe and Australia.  But in addition to the wars in the Middle East, another hotbed of strife has been Libya, where our U.S. Embassy in Benghazi was attacked, looted and burned, abandoned and closed.  And because the embassy is closed . . . the US has little or no knowledge of what’s happening on the ground there . . . so the government of our country, as well as various other Libyan neighbor states are dependent on ‘humint,’ or human intelligence, to stay abreast of the social, military, and economic conditions there.  In a word . . . spies. The Cairo Affair, (Minotaur Books, $26.99, 408 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-03613-1) by Olen Steinhauer, is the best spy thriller I’ve read and reviewed since last year’s Red Sparrow. The Cairo Affair is focused on a secret program, code named Stumbler.  It was postulated by a CIA analyst and former field agent named Jabril Aziz, and it has something to do with the overthrow of the Qaddafi government in Libya.  Stan Bertolli, a Cairo-based CIA agent, wants to know if Stumbler is in play, as does Omar Halawi.  He’s an Egyptian secret service operative from the Mubarak era who’s trying to hang on to his job in the new regime that replaced the regime that overthrew the Mubarak government as the Arab Spring gained momentum.  The Americans think that the Egyptians have a double agent who’s passing information about Stumbler   . . . and lastly . . . there’s Sophie Kohl.  Sophie is married to Emmett, a mid-level diplomat at the American Embassy in Hungary.  Moments after she confesses that she had an affair while they were stationed in Cairo, he’s shot in the head by an assassin who escapes in the melee after the gunfire and murder in the popular, and crowded, restaurant where they were having lunch . . . where Emmett was about to confess that he’s suspected of being the source of the leaks coming from Cairo Station.  At the same time, chaos and terror is breaking out in Libya as the Qaddafi regime is fractured and torn apart.  This timely and exciting novel by the new master of the spy thriller will keep you reading long after the lights are out in the rest of the house.  It has all the intrigue, treachery, double and triple crosses, ruthlessness and moral dilemmas that any spy novel and thriller enthusiast could want.  I couldn’t put it down! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Wayfaring Stranger

Posted by on Nov 3, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Wayfaring Stranger

Wayfaring Stranger Mysterious Book Report No.169 by John Dwaine McKenna It’s hard, in this time of generally gracious living, to imagine the privation, fear and destitution that characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s, but the opening chapters of Wayfaring Stranger, (Simon & Shuster, $27.99, 434 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-1079-2) by James Lee Burke manages to do it in a near-perfect manner that sets the stage for the rest of the novel in an orderly and logical progression of events.  Growing up on his grandfather’s ranch in east Texas, sixteen year-old Weldon Avery Holland and his grandfather, a retired tough-as-nails Texas Ranger named Hack, have a chance encounter with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who’ve just held up a bank.  As the bandits are leaving, Weldon shoots at their stolen car, putting a bullet hole through the back of it.  That random event will influence him throughout the rest of his novel, set in the heart of the east-Texas-west-Louisiana oil patch.  That’s where Weldon, his wife Rosita Lowenstein—the woman he rescued from a World War Two Nazi death camp—and his business partner Herschel Pine—who survived the Battle of the Bulge with Weldon—are fighting to survive the evil operators of big oil, with big money and big ambition, who are using all their power and resources to buy the small, but successful and rapidly growing, Dixie Belle Pipeline Company . . . or drive it into bankruptcy. Wayfaring Stranger is a novel that defies genre.  It’s a little bit crime fiction, a bit family saga and a bit literary in nature with a large, diverse cast of interesting characters.  Call it what you will, it’s Burke at his best, and one that his legions of fans will revel in.  It’s a departure from his usual work that sparkles with all the lyrical prose and descriptive phrases we’ve come to expect from this master of American Literature, and a whole new direction that I, personally, (an avid reader of every new James Lee Burke offering since The Lost, Get Back Boogie,) think is one of his best ever! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Weight of Blood

Posted by on Oct 27, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Weight of Blood

The Weight of Blood Mysterious Book Report No. 168 by John Dwaine McKenna The state of Missouri has long held an exalted place in American Literature, giving us such memorable fictional characters as Tom and Huck, and living legends like Frank and Jesse James.  It’s an area that’s rich in lore and atmosphere, has enough history for several states and it’s known as the gateway to the west . . . where the pioneers assembled their wagon trains before setting out for California and Oregon.  No wonder then, that the Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri is the setting for an atmospheric new mystery by a promising young Midwestern author. The Weight of Blood, (Spiegel & Grau, $26.00, 306 pages, ISBN 978-0-8129-9520-6) by Laura McHugh is an outstanding debut about an isolated young woman’s attempt to uncover the truth about her mother, who disappeared when the girl was an infant.  Was Lucy Dane abandoned by her mother, Lila . . . or was she murdered?  Now on the verge of adulthood, Lucy has wondered what happened all of her life, without ever getting any useful information from her single parent construction worker father, Carl, or his entrepreneurial-minded brother, her uncle Clete.  He seems to have a hand in just about everything that has to do with making money in Henbane, the remote Ozark hamlet where the Dane family has lived for generations.  The urge to uncover the facts of her mother’s mysterious disappearance becomes an overwhelming compulsion when her friend Cheri . . . ‘who’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the box, but a really nice person anyway’ . . . in Lucy’s own words . . . disappears and turns up dead, tangled in a skeletal tree that’s partly submerged in the river which runs through town.  Lucy sets out with her friend Daniel to solve the pair of mysteries, but the deeper she digs, the more complex the tale becomes until she’s confronted with some shattering truth’s about herself, her mother and her father, her neighbors, the town of Henbane itself, and especially her uncle Clete, who just might be the deadliest character of all.  This one’s a page turner for a fact, more fun than going to the county fair and full of great surprises, interesting characters and a wonderful sense of place that will leave you feeling as if you’re actually there! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Natchez Burning

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Natchez Burning

Natchez Burning Mysterious Book Report No. 167 by John Dwaine McKenna The nineteen-sixties was the decade that came close to ripping the fabric of society of the United States of America into small pieces and tossing them to the four winds.  It was a time of unrest, when ages-old values were questioned, ages-old wrongs were held to light, fought over and started to be corrected by brave men and women fighting for their civil rights . . . and it was a time in which small groups of racially-motivated bigots espousing an agenda founded on the principals of rage, hate and so-called racial superiority terrorized the nation with bombings and assassinations.  The epicenter for this civil rights movement was Birmingham, Alabama . . . but right next door in Mississippi, the night riders were just as active, the bombs just as powerful, and the struggle just as devastating.  The fear was so palpable that it was felt around the world, and the repercussions of it are still being felt today. Natchez Burning, (Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, $27.99, 791 pages, ISBN 978-0-0-231107-8) by Greg Iles is his first novel in a number of years, and well worth the wait.  It is an incredible work of contemporary fiction, a thriller extraordinaire, and a timeless classic in the making.  The novel is the first in a trilogy featuring a character named Penn Cage.  He’s the present day mayor of Natchez and a former federal prosecutor, the only son of a beloved local doctor, who has been the family physician for most of the city since the 1950s.  He’s trying, but finding it almost impossible to retire. Now, he’s been accused of murdering Viola Turner, an African-American nurse he worked with in the 1960s, by an ambitious black District Attorney.  Penn is determined to save his father, but Dr. Tom Cage refuses to help defend himself, citing Doctor-Patient confidentiality, forcing Penn to dig into his father’s history during the civil rights conflict, where he finds unsettling clues and conflicting evidence.  Watching from the shadows are the same ultra-violet racists who operated with impunity during the 60s . . . who want the secrets of their past to stay dead and buried . . . who will do anything to protect their past crimes, as well as their present day criminal enterprises. The pace is relentless, the action never stops and the tension builds with every chapter of this novel you won’t be able to stop reading.  It’s just relentless . . . and so damn good!! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Convictions of John Delahunt

Posted by on Oct 13, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Convictions of John Delahunt

The Convictions of John Delahunt Mysterious Book Report No. 166 by John Dwaine McKenna This week’s MBR is going to be something out of the ordinary.  Those who choose to read it will likely have to use a little extra effort to get their hands on a copy, but the results are worth it. The Convictions of John Delahunt, (Doubleday Ireland, £14.99-(about $25.00), 349 pages, ISBN 978-1-8162-014-4) by Andrew Hughes is a gothic tale of crime and punishment pulled from the pages of history in Dublin, Ireland.  The novel is based on actual crimes which took place in the 1840s.  It is a story of murder and the always despised informers who appear throughout Irish history like cankers on an otherwise healthy body. In December 1841, the body of a young boy is found with his throat cut.  The crime fascinates and repulses the public in equal measure, but the outcry about it becomes deafening when the perpetrator is taken into custody.  He’s a lazy, irresponsible and shiftless university student named John Delahunt . . . who is also an informant in the pay of the authorities at DublinCastle. As the novel begins, we meet John Delahunt after his trial is concluded; he’s incarcerated in the Kilmainham Gaol, awaiting his date with the hangman, unrepentant of his crime, uncaring of his victim and unfearful of his pending execution.  He is, in fact, busy writing his memoir, in which he relates his story with verve, veracity and enthusiasm . . . telling the how and why of his role as an informant, as well as all the details of his crime.  What emerges is a fascinating, detailed look into the inner workings and mechanisms of the early nineteenth century English judicial system of justice.  Filled with Dickensian type characters found in the alleyways, taverns, tenements and courthouses of Dublin, the beautifully written story also gives the reader a peek into the nefarious workings of the Dublin Castle’s policing methods.  Methods which included blackmail and duplicitous agents whose treachery sent many a person to prison or death.  All the more fascinating because it’s based on actual events, The Convictions of John Delahunt is a fascinating read from a creative new voice in literature.  It’s an outstanding fun and compelling read! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Poor Boys Game

Posted by on Oct 6, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Poor Boys Game

The Poor Boys Game Mysterious Book Report No. 165 by John Dwaine McKenna Philadelphia, one of the oldest cities in America, has been the background for innumerable dramas from the Continental Congress to the signing of the Declaration of Independence to who-knows-how-many Rocky movies.  It’s the fourth largest city in the United States, a one-time capitol of the U.S. as well as a cultural and financial center.  A place of arts, history and refinement, Philadelphia has a grittier side as well—making it the source of some excellent crime fiction—like this weeks MBR Number 165.  The Poor Boys Game, (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 322 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-01953-0) by Dennis Tafoya takes place on the down and dirty streets of the Philadelphia the tourist brochures don’t tell you about.  Filled with realistic dialogue and real personalities, it has as its central character and protagonist a sharp, well-defined and sympathetic woman named Frannie Mullen.  She’s a U.S. Marshal who gets her best friend shot and killed on what should have been a routine arrest, thus ending her law enforcement career.  Her personal life is complicated.  She’s got a biker boyfriend named Wyatt who’s a reformed outlaw that she’s trying to sort out her feelings about; a newly-sober and fragile younger sister she’s trying to protect while helping her get over their neglected, abused childhood; and then there’s her estranged father who breaks out of prison.  He’s a thug and an enforcer for a corrupt Philadelphia union.  Then, when the murders of ex-rivals of the union start to pile up, and Frannie is suspected of helping to engineer her father’s prison break, she’s in the fight of her life as she tries to help her sister, clear her name, figure out her relationship with her boyfriend, and, oh yeah, help put her father back in prison.  This is a propulsive, action packed thrill ride that you just can’t seem to quit reading.  Dennis Tofoya is another up and coming young author to keep an eye on.  I’m sure you can expect more great fiction from this talented writer. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Lie

Posted by on Sep 29, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Lie

The Lie Mysterious Book Report No. 166 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s times when a novel comes along that is so meaningful, so packed with lessons for living, and yes, so moral in tone, that I wish everyone in the world would read it and draw their own conclusions about it.  This week’s MBR number 164 is such a one.  I can only hope that with your help, this book report will go viral.  So please . . . read this review . . . seek out and read the book, get your own take.  Then send this review to all of your friends and together, maybe we can start to make a difference in the world . . . a world in which perhaps, we are all more alike than dissimilar. The Lie, (Scribner, $24.00, 229 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-4009-6) is written by Hesh Kestin, “a former foreign correspondent in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa reporting on international terrorism, war, arms dealing, espionage and shadowy global business dealings.”  He is also an eighteen-year old veteran of the Israel Defense Forces.  He is a man who has been there, seen much and has exceptional stories to write. The Lie takes place in Israel, and focuses on an attorney named Dahlia Barr.  She’s a sabra, a native born Israeli, who makes her living defending Palestinian terrorists in court.  She’s a brilliant attorney, controversial, beautiful . . . about to be divorced and has a lover who’s an American television correspondent.  Her life takes an extreme—and fundamental—change when she’s asked to join the Israeli security forces and become the nation’s arbiter with regards to torture.  She will be the sole decision maker as to when and how the harshest methods of interrogation will be used.  She accepts, having no intention of ever letting ‘enhanced interview techniques’ be used.  But then, shortly after accepting her new position, her son Ari, a lieutenant in the Israeli Defense Forces, is captured by Hezbollah sappers and taken into captivity in Lebanon.  Frantic, she looks to Edward al-Masri, an Israeli-Arab citizen living in Canada who’s currently being held in an Israeli jail for currency-smuggling, and with whom Dahlia has a long and complex history.  He may hold the key to her son’s release, but he’s refusing to say anything . . . and may have to be questioned more ‘vigorously.’  This novel is jam-packed with moral dilemmas and political intrigue before leading to a stunning conclusion that you’ll never see coming.  Given the recent events between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, this superb novel should be read by everyone and the sooner the better, for it’s message is a moral one that will leave you thinking and talking about it long after you finish reading it. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Martian

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Martian

The Martian Mysterious Book Report No 163 by John Dwaine McKenna For the first in a long time, maybe ever, we’re reviewing two Si-Fi novels in a row.  It wasn’t planned that way, it was by coincidence only, there’s no shift in focus going on.  Our emphasis will always be on crime-fiction and mysteries with occasional forays into other, thriller-related areas, like now. The Martian, (Crown Publishing/Random House, $24.00, 369 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-3902-1) by Andy Weir, is a novel of desperate survival against impossible odds in the not-to-distant future, when one member of the third manned expedition to the planet Mars is marooned. It happens by accident, during the first week the crew of six was on the surface of Mars . . . when they were hit with a freak, 175 KPH sandstorm and a forced evacuation, causing them to abort the mission without one of the crew.  The last time Mark Watney, the botonist and mechanical engineer had been seen, was at the height of the storm’s fury.  He had been impaled by an antenna from a destroyed satellite dish, which sent his bio-suit pressure to zero as he was blown off a steep hill before landing face-down at the bottom of a Martian gully with his space suit breached, reading zero life functions.  The mission commander, believing him dead and with her ship and crew in jeopardy, blasts off, leaving Watney on distant Mars, the first astronaut believed dead on another planet.  But miraculously, through a series of coincidences, Mark Watney awakens on day six, wounded . . . but still alive . . . utterly alone with not a chance in hell of rescue, or survival.  Watney however, has that ages-old human instinct for self-preservation.  He wants to live, and with determination and his unique skill set, he might just make it for a while . . . until the inevitability of science and arithmetic catch up with him.  In the meantime, he’s using all his engineering skills to stay alive and keeping a diary of his efforts as the clock inexorably counts down to doom.  You’ll be on the edge of your seat, cheering him on, as the congenial survivor tries to figure his way out of page after page of seemingly fatal situations with a mixture of advanced engineering skills and plain old common sense. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Colorado Noir Wins Gold Award for Best Fiction

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Awards, Press Release | 0 comments

Colorado Noir Wins Gold Award for Best Fiction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Rhyolite Press is pleased to announce:  It was a standing room only crowd at the twentieth annual Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association (CIPA) awards ceremony in Denver on Saturday the 23rd of August 2014.  There, Colorado Springs author John Dwaine McKenna was awarded Top Honors for his latest book, Colorado Noir, which garnered a Gold award for ‘Best Mystery Fiction, 2014; a Silver award for ‘Best Literary Fiction, 2014’—no gold award given based on a strict points system—and a Bronze award for ‘Best Printing, 2014’. “These three awards, plus the Silver Medal for ‘Best Mystery/Cozy/Noir Fiction’ by the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) in Traverse City, Michigan, makes Colorado Noir the most honored, thoroughly judged and well-vetted publication in our company’s history,” said, Lora L. Brown, the spokesperson for Rhyolite Press LLC, who added “and we are very, very proud of our talented author John Dwaine McKenna, who is now getting the recognition he so richly deserves.” Colorado Noir consists of ten stories and a novella that are a walk on the wild side of America’s most controversial city: Colorado Springs, Colorado.  It’s crime fiction at its best.   Colorado Noir $16.95 ISBN 978-0-9896763-0-4 Available in bookstores and online everywhere, or purchase directly from the publisher, Rhyolite Press. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Shovel Ready

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Shovel Ready

Shovel Ready Mysterious Book Report No 162 by John Dwaine McKenna Truthfully, I’ve been getting bored with most of the dystopian-themed novels that have been all the rage for the last few years.  I mean, how much end of the world zombie-alien-robopocalypse or vampire-werewolfen invasions can we take before we go Yeah.  Been there, done that, seen it, seen it, seen it and not only did we get a t-shirt, we wore it out and now we’re using what’s left of it as a dust rag . . . You know what I mean—booorrring!  But then, just when you think you’ve seen and done it all, along comes a Si-Fi. novel so compelling, so fresh and so innovative, and yeah, so sarcastic and funny that it screams CULT CLASSIC IN THE MAKING with every page. Shovel Ready, (Crown Publishing/ Random House, $24.00, 243 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34899-7) by Adam Sternbergh is, as author Megan Abbott so aptly puts it, ” . . . sleek, resonant, and accomplished.”  But then again, what else would one expect from the culture editor of the New York Times Magazine?  And, it’s a debut novel to boot!  As the novel begins, New York City has been devastated by a dirty bomb—radioactive materials piled up and dispersed in the air with conventional explosives such as dynamite, which causes wide-spread radiation damage, as well as public hysteria—and in the resulting panic, much of the city has been abandoned, but not all of it.  Some stayed.  The ones who stayed fall into two classes: the ultra-wealthy, who live in high-rise towers, zonked out on specially designed beds while plugged into intravenous chemicals that sustain life and deliver beautiful dreams of an alternate reality.  The second class citizens live in the streets below, doing whatever they feel like doing, since anarchy reigns because chaos has replaced law, order and reason. Now we meet Spademan, the hero/antihero/protagonist and assassin who’ll take care of your problems as soon as his requisite fee is deposited, no questions asked.  All he wants is the money and a name, the only rules being no kids and no pregnant women.  His services are quick, and lethal.  As Spademan himself likes to say, I’m doing what I’ve always done—taking out the trash.  Spademan, who lives across the Hudson River in New Jersey, was a garbageman, as was his father, before the bomb went off.  Life for Spademan is simple and profitable, until he accepts a commission to take out a wealthy televangelist’s daughter.  Then his world flips upside down, some of his rules get discarded and he becomes the hunted . . . rather than the hunter.  Shovel Ready is a walk on the weird side.  It’s fast-paced, chic, snarky as hell, but fun and entertaining in an avant-garde way for the sophisticated reader looking for a different kind of book to enjoy . . . and you’ll be able to say I read it before it became a cult classic!  And lastly I’m pleased to report that a second Spademan novel is in the works.  I can’t wait to read it . . . Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Providence Rag

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Providence Rag

Providence Rag Mysterious Book Report No 161 by John Dwaine McKenna One of my favorite literary characters and amateur sleuths is a wise-cracking, cigar-chomping, hometown-homeboy ace investigative reporter and crime-fighting journalist by the name of Liam Mulligan.  He’s based in Providence, Rhode Island, working for a venerated, one hundred forty year old newspaper that’s barely managing to stay afloat, thanks mostly to the publisher’s deep sense of responsibility to the city and public he serves . . . and his willingness to subsidize it from his own pocket.  Mulligan’s job hangs by a thread, but he keeps right on doing it to the best of his ability; an act which makes him a noble character, worthy of our attention, if not our adulation.  He’s the creation of Bruce DeSilva, himself an old newspaperman with forty years of reporting experience to his credit.  His newest work is  Providence Rag, (Forge/Tom Doherty & Associates, $25.99, 351 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-7429-5), in which Mulligan and the paper he works for are caught on the horns of an ethical dilemma.  At issue is Rhode Island’s youngest-ever serial killer.  He’s an unrepentant monster who killed five of his neighbors as a young teenager, not yet old enough to drive a car.  He’s due to be released from prison because of a technicality in the law which states that all teenaged prisoners, no matter what the crime, must be released on their twenty-first birthday.  It’s an antiquated statute, never amended or rewritten, and never intended to deal with a case such as this.  The killer’s release date has been pushed back and delayed by false accusations of violence, sworn to by various prison guards and attested to by others in order to prevent the fully-grown man who dreams of committing more murders from leaving the penitentiary.  The ploy is common knowledge among law enforcement officials and Mulligan is in agreement.  Mason however, Mulligan’s pal and the publisher’s son, is actively campaigning for the prisoner’s immediate release on moral, ethical and legal grounds, thus setting in motion an ethical dilemma from which there is no apparent solution.  Based upon an actual case history, Providence Rag will keep you involved to the last word on the last page as your sense of moral outrage wrestles with your primal urge to protect those you love.  Powerful and timely, this one’s another winner from the Edgar awarded pen of Bruce DeSilva. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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Then We Take Berlin

Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Then We Take Berlin Mysterious Book Report No 160 by John Dwaine McKenna I’ve always enjoyed reading historical fiction or crime and espionage novels, as well as most anything to do with World War II and the early cold war period.  When I found an unfamiliar author who had just written a novel that combined all those elements into one project . . . I couldn’t wait to get a copy and dive in, see if all the publicity and book jacket blurbs were accurate, or just hype.  I’m happy to report that this week’s MBR more than meets expectations, and uncovers another high-quality, but often over-looked author named John Lawton.  His new novel Then We Take Berlin, (Grove Atlantic Inc., $26.00, 418 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2196-7) takes place in Berlin during the aftermath of World War II; when the city was isolated behind the Iron Curtain and divided into four sectors controlled by the US, Britain, France and the USSR . . . an unsettled few years during which governments were being reestablished, the process of rebuilding Europe was getting underway, and, because the basic necessities of life weren’t readily available  . . . there was a thriving black market.  When combined, those factors made Berlin a thieves bazaar . . . and a smugglers paradise.  Into this cauldron of fomenting hardship and discontent, author Lawton introduces us to Joe Wilderness, a British orphan who survived the Blitz, using his skills as a burglar and three card Monte hustler . . . he’s a cockey criminal with an astonishing ability to remember all that he sees, reads or is told.  When we engage as readers with him, Wilderness has been drafted into Great Britain’s RAF, or Royal Air Force, where he’s in prison, for insubordination and faced with a lengthy sentence.  He’s freed, under the auspices of a British Secret Service officer and given an accelerated college education in German and Russian languages, including advanced studies in art, culture and nuclear physics at Cambridge, then posted to Berlin as the war ends.  He spends his days interviewing ex-Nazis and doing occasional burglary jobs for the British Secret Service.  At night, he teams up with Frank, an American Office of  Secret Services,  or OSS officer, and Yuri, a Major in the Russian Secret Service, or NVKD and they proceed to set up a monumental smuggling operation with the intention of making themselves rich.  Then, Wilderness meets Nell, an aristocratic German girl who possesses “all the scruples that he lacks,” and things become even more complicated, culminating in President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 visit and Ich bin ein Berliner speech that rocked the world. This excellent, well-written and erudite novel will captivate, delight and educate you about an important, but overlooked part of mid-twentieth century history.  It’s a great read! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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A Song For The Dying

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

A Song For The Dying Mysterious Book Report No 159 John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever thought about, or have a personal vision of Hell?  It is of course, a theme which reverberates throughout the canons of the great religions of the world; but it’s also a subject many of the world’s greatest writers have tackled . . . the most famous of which is a fourteenth century epic poem by an Italian named Dante Alighieri in which he describes in minute detail, his vision of nine circles of Hell.  Hell, has in fact, been discussed and described so often and so much that it’s become a ubiquitous part of our everyday language . . . what the hell, where the hell and how the hell, being familiar phrases to ordinary folk the world over. So . . . where the hell is this talk about Hell getting us in a book review??? Ahhh . . . thanks for asking.  The answer is simple, but lengthy, and it involves a novel that is so new, it’s only edition to date is the British one, published in England.  It’s description  so aroused my curiosity that I didn’t want to wait for it to be published in America . . . hopefully it will be soon . . . and guess what, the opening scene contains what can only be described as Hell for the protagonist, a Scottish man named Ash Henderson.  He’s the creation of the international number one bestselling author, Stuart McBride. A Song For The Dying, (Harper Collins, £16.99 (about $29.95) 516 pages, ISBN 978-0-00-734430-7) opens with Henderson, a former Detective Inspector for the Scottish National Police, serving a prison term for a murder he didn’t commit . . . and for which he’s been exonerated.  Trouble is, the crime lord who framed him for his brother’s murder has vowed to keep him in prison until she ‘gets tired of screwin’ with him and has him killed.  Henderson is still incarcerated because each time he comes up for parole, he’s beaten by thugs in the pay of Mrs. Kerrigan, the crime lord herself, and the thugs swear that Henderson attacked them. The result is that probation is denied, again and again in what can only be described as Hell for Ash Henderson, whose only crime was to be an honest cop who was unable to catch a serial killer the press has named ‘The Inside Man’ because he mutilates his victims by sewing a toy doll inside their stomachs.  Now, after a hiatus of several years in which no new murders have occurred, the killings have started again.  When a special task force is formed, Ash Henderson is released from prison to join it, but he’s only got one thing on his mind . . . revenge.  This novel will have fans of hard-boiled crime fiction jumping for joy . . . and everyone else on the edge of their seats reading the next chapter. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna www.Goodreads.com/JohnDwaineMcKenna...

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The Ascendant

Posted by on Aug 11, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Ascendant Mysterious Book Report No 158 by John Dwaine McKenna Anyone who’s watched television lately knows that the most interesting man in the world is busy selling Mexican beer . . . but have you ever wondered just what the smartest man in the world is up to?  Well, wonder no more . . . the MBR has the answer for you . . . he’s the protagonist in a dandy new, just published thriller that redefines the genre! So, if you’re a fan of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, love reading Steven Coonts, Brad Thor and Vince Flynn . . . well, you can just fuhgettaboutem!  The international thriller has been rewritten and updated for the twenty-first century and the internet cognoscenti by a fresh, hot and compelling debut author named Drew Chapman.  His first novel, The Ascendant, (Simon & Shuster, $25.00, 388 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-2588-8) is a thriller on steroids, fueled with massive amounts of Red Bull, snack food and quarts of adrenaline.  Reading The Ascendant almost feels like you’re reading the headlines from some future news source with absolute clarity.  In it, we meet Garrett Reilly, a brilliant, but cynical, disaffected young man who abuses alcohol, pot, and his body, binge drinking and street fighting with any and all comers as he tries to exorcise his main demon: the death of his only brother in a US Marine combat unit fighting in Afghanistan.  Garrett Reilly is a mathematical genius who can see patterns emerging from huge amounts of empirical data before anyone else is even aware of them.  That’s why he’s making tons of money for himself, and the Wall Street Bond Trading firm he works for, which was started by Reilly’s math professor at Yale, the person who recognized the young man’s brilliance.  When Garrett’s talent for memorizing complex numbers allows him to spot the Chinese Government surreptitiously selling trillions of dollars worth of US ten-year treasury bonds, he understands the implications of their actions, then executes a series of trades which make his firm a ton of money . . . and attracts the attention of a shadowy arm of the US Defense Intelligence Agency.  They want to use him for a secret project involving National Security.  At the same time however, Garrett Reilly’s genius has come to the attention of certain foreign  governments with agendas of their own . . . agendas requiring Reilly’s cooperation . . . or his death.  Garrett Reilly is the first person in the world to recognize the opening shots of World War III.  His life will never be the same!  If you’re an aficionado, as I am, of the international thriller genre, YOU. DO.  NOT. WANT. TO. MISS. THIS. ONE!  It’s a provocative, well-written, fresh and prescient look at a situation we could be dealing with in the future . . . perhaps the very near future. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give us is to share it with others on Facebook or follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine...

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The Big Crowd

Posted by on Aug 4, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Big Crowd Mysterious Book Report No. 157 by John Dwaine McKenna The Mysterious Book Report has long been an ardent and enthusiastic promoter of the classic black and white noir movies made in the golden age of film during the 1930s, 40s and 50s.  They are, in fact, the very definition of the French word noir, meaning ‘black film’, which has been assimilated into English as: A style of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism and menace.  The term was originally applied to American thriller or detective films made in the period 1944-54 by such directors as Orson Wells, Fritz Lang and Billy Winder, according to my Oxford Dictionary.  I’d add the name Elia Kazan who directed the 1954 masterpiece, On the Waterfront, starring among others, Karl Malden, Eva-Marie Saint and a brooding newcomer by the name of Marlon Brando, whose immortal line “I coudda been a contender,” still resonates and is often quoted today.  This is the sixtieth anniversary of the film, a perennial topper of the 100 best movies list. MBR Number 157 revisits the dramatic fight for justice, equality and the honest unionization of the longshoreman who worked on New York City’s docks during the 1940s and ’50s . . . by wrestling control of the unions away from the grip of organized crime, in a novel by one of America’s preeminent writer’s of historical fiction. The Big Crowd, (Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, $27.00, 424 pages, ISBN 978-0-618-85990-0) by Kevin Baker is the story of two Irish immigrants, brothers Tom and Charlie O’Kane, who go from the gangland waterfront to the halls of power in NYC’s Gracie Mansion.  Interspersed with the locked room murder of a mobster turned rat is the backstory of a torturous three-way love affair that pits brother against brother for the affections of a rich, beautiful and spoiled society woman.  The novel unfolds in a series of flashbacks that expose the reader to the inner workings of the Italian and Jewish mobs of the 1940s in the gang-dominated trade unions, as a crusading Manhattan District Attorney takes on the organization known as Murder Incorporated.  There are mentions of the Sullivan County Catskill hotel scene, the Loch Sheldrake body disposal site and gangsters like Albert Anastasia, aka the Lord High Executioner, Cockeye Dunn, Pittsburgh Phil Reyes and Tick-Tock Tannenbaum.  The reader will also learn the definition of terms like, “the shape-up, shlammers, shtarkers and a pistol local.”  Mr. Baker has crafted a thoughtful, well-written and researched novel that’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.  If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book.  I certainly did. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/  John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine McKenna...

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After I’m Gone

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book report No. 156 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever played the WHAT IF game?  You know . . . the one that goes like this . . . What if I lost my job?  What if one of us gets sick?  Really, really sick like Ebola or something?  What if a UFO landed behind our house?  What would we do . . .  Yeah.  That game.  We all do it from time to time and it’s not always negative.  What if I won the lottery?  What if weird old Aunt Wilma died and left us an ostrich ranch in the Australian outback?  The WHAT IF game can be entertaining, harmless and fun—providing one doesn’t let it get out of hand and become neurotic.  For a handful of us, the privileged few who write fiction for a living, the game can be downright intoxicating, because some of our best story ideas come that way. After I’m Gone, (Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, $26.99, 334 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-208339-5) by Laura Lippman is a case in point.  She, inspired by a real life event that her husband encouraged her to investigate, used her imagination . . . playing the WHAT IF game and turned it into a dandy crime story with her writing talents . . . which are formidable.  She is a best-selling author with a world-wide fan base and a slew of novels to her credit.  So . . . WHAT IF . . . your spouse or significant other left for work one day and simply disappeared; and you never saw them again.  Not ever.  And, in addition, making it all the more painful, you never knew where or how, or whatever happened to them.  That’s the premise of Lippman’s novel, which focuses on the life of Bambi Gottschalk and her three young daughters after the disappearance of her husband of fifteen years, a man named Felix, who was about to start a prison term for criminal gambling activity.  Although Bambi has no idea where he is, or what happened to Felix, she thinks that his mistress, a woman named Julie does.  When Julie disappears ten years to the day after Felix, Bambi’s sure that they’re together.  But then, decades later Julie’s remains are found in an overgrown, remote and inaccessible part of a local park.  The murder goes unsolved until a cold case detective re-opens it.  You’ll be fully engrossed by then in the lives of the women Felix Gottschalk left behind, and in trying to figure out which one knows where to find the missing man.  Read After I’m Gone, and discover for yourself why Laura Lippman is so wildly popular.  You’ll love her! Enjoy the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine...

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Chance

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 155 by John Dwaine McKenna Some of the best thriller and crime fiction stories are built around the premise of an ordinary person being put into an extraordinary situation.  For example . . . Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and as a result, develops supernatural powers which totally change his life as he becomes ‘The Amazing Spiderman,’ a crusading crime fighter and doer of good deeds.  Far fetched?  Absolutely, you betcha.  Does it make for good stories?  Ditto.  What I want to emphasize however, is not the Spiderman stories, but that one extraordinary event which changed him forever and made him a super hero. In Chance, (Scribner, $26.00, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-7432-8924-5) by Kem Nunn, we’re introduced to Dr. Eldon Chance, a forensic psychiatrist who makes his living by reviewing the medical files of persons accused of committing a crime, then testifying in court as to their sanity.  He’s a perfectly ordinary guy who’s estranged from his wife, about to be divorced, living in an apartment while his soon to be ex-wife is living with her personal trainer boyfriend and Chance’s estranged teenaged daughter in the house Chance used to own, and is still paying for.  He’s a guy who is teetering on the precipice of ruination, if not damnation.  It’s been years since Chance has seen a patient, because his type of practice doesn’t require it.  He’s a disaster just waiting to happen, and happen it does when a patient named Jaclyn Blackstone is referred to him, suffering from periods of memory loss and an inability to concentrate for long periods of time.  Dr. Chance diagnoses her as possibly having a multiple personality disorder, brought about by physical, psychological or sexual abuse.  She’s married to an abusive Oakland homicide detective who’s threatened to kill her if she tries to leave him.  Of course, she’s a gorgeous California beauty with drop dead good looks and a huge sexual appetite . . . making it oh, so easy, for Chance to commit the ultimate breach of medical ethics and tumble head over heels into bed with her.  Suddenly, his ordinary life is turned upside down as Dr. Chance is hunted by Jaclyn’s morally bent, jealous husband and his cohorts in the police department.  In fear of his life, Chance hooks up with a misfit, ex-special forces soldier known only as ‘Big D’ who tries to instruct the hapless psychiatrist in urban guerilla fighting techniques without much success.  The novel is twisted, suspenseful and diabolic, just what you’d expect from a writer of TV shows like Sons of Anarchy and Deadwood, which in fact Kem Nunn has done.  Action and intrigue fans will be entranced, delighted and absorbed! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook, or follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine McKenna...

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The Kept

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 154 by John Dwaine McKenna Sometimes I get feedback from fans and readers that goes something like this . . . “How come I never heard of the books or authors you talk about in the newspapers?” . . . And my answer is always the same.  “Because I’m trying to find your next favorite author for you, instead of the same old, same old bestseller’s you’ve been getting in mass market paperbacks at the grocery store checkout lane.”  Here’s an example: The Kept, (Harper Collins, $25.99, 357 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-223673-9) by James Scott is a debut novel with an unequalled sense of time and place, as well as an intricate, compelling and fast-paced plot that will transport the reader in time and space to somewhere unexpected, unexamined and unknown by most of us. The year is 1897.  The place is a remote area of upstate New York in the dead of winter.  Elspeth Howell is returning home, trudging through miles of snow and ice, to her remote family farm where her husband and children are waiting.  She’s been gone for months, working in the city as a midwife, earning the family some much needed cash, which she has hidden in the toe of her boot.  As Elspeth crosses the top of the last hill, no lights in the windows and no smoke from the chimney tell her something is seriously wrong and she rushes forward in a panic.  Arriving, four of her children and her husband have been murdered: shot dead.  Two weeks later she sets out on a chase and revenge mission with her twelve year old son Caleb; a mission which slowly morphs from payback to discovery, as both characters learn aspects of themselves, and the family, that should have stayed buried.  The reader will be fascinated, shocked and perhaps even revolted by the twists and turns that come with each chapter, and on what seems like every other page.  An interesting, excellent first novel from an upcoming talent and a good one to read during those hot summer days when it seems impossible to cool off. Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook, and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine McKenna...

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The Black-eyed Blonde

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 153 by John Dwaine McKenna One of the most iconic writers of the twentieth century is Raymond Chandler.  He is the father of the hard-boiled detective novel, and creator of a character named Phillip Marlowe, who became the prototypical private eye for many of our popular modern writers, notably Robert Parker’s ‘Spenser’ and Michael Connelly’s ‘Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch,’ an LAPD detective.  Raymond Chandler died in 1959 at age 71, after writing masterpieces like The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Long Goodbye, leaving readers mourning his passing and crime fiction writers around the world studying his gritty, tough and realistic style. Happily, the Chandler Estate has licensed a modern master of the crime fiction genre to recreate the lonely, restless and sardonic Marlowe in a new novel with all the charm and swagger of the originals. The Black-eyed Blonde, (Henry Holt and Co,  $27.00, 290 pages, ISBN 978-0-8050-9814-3) by Benjamin Black is a faithful rendering of Marlowe that is almost indistinguishable from Chandler’s original because it mimics his style so well.  In my opinion that is the mark of genius because it’s so damned hard to do.  Mr. Black evokes Bay City, California in the early 1950’s with such authenticity that one can almost hear the buzz of traffic in the street, smell the dust, feel the blazing heat of August and see the black-eyed blonde woman as she walks into Marlowe’s office one afternoon and hires him to find her former lover, who has disappeared. Soon after starting the search, Marlowe runs into complications, entanglements and deadly threats from one of Bay City’s wealthiest families who will go to any extremes in order to protect their fortune.  The mystery of the missing man is soon solved, but the affair with the black-eyed blonde woman pulls Marlowe ever deeper into something he may not be able to survive.  Mystery lover’s rejoice!  Marlowe’s back and he’s better than ever.   Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine...

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The Rules of Wolfe

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Rules of Wolfe Mysterious Book Report No. 151 by John Dwaine McKenna The roughly 2,400 mile long imaginary line which separates the US from Mexico encompasses an area known as the borderlands.  It’s been disputed, fought over and illegally crossed in both directions for as long as it’s been drawn.  It separates the haves from the have-nots and represents two uniquely different cultures, each of which has its own customs and laws.  But in the borderland, those differences are crushed together and blended into something that combines parts of both yet all of neither.  They are the rules of the borderlands. The Rules of Wolfe, (Mysterious Press, $24.00, 258 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2129-5) by James Carlos Blake, shines a masterful and well written light, in the form of an entertaining crime fiction novel, on the borderlands and the “ultra-violent Mexican drug trade” taking place there.  The brutality is mind-numbing, but Blake’s prose is written with such artistic grace that the reader can’t wait to look at the next page.  Set in the present-day, The Rules of Wolfe tell the story of a young ambitious member of a trans-border crime family, who runs afoul of Mexican drug lords while trying to make his bones as a worthy member of the Wolfe clan.  The Wolfe’s, some of whom live in Mexico and others in the United States, have a long and colorful history in the area, going back to the first quarter of the ninetieth century.  They’ve grown wealthy over the last two hundred years by smuggling guns, liquor and any other contraband that’s profitable, back and forth through the borderlands.  They manage to pull this off despite being gringos, by their reputation for fair dealing and, when necessary, ruthless warfare.  If you’re not familiar with James Carlos Blake it’s not surprising.  He’s only written nine novels, but each one is outstanding.  Read his latest and learn why Kirkus Reviews calls him “The poet of the damned who writes like an angel.” Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook/ John  Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads/ John Dwaine McKenna...

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Japantown

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Japantown Mysterious Book Report No. 150 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever noticed that we humans tend to seek the company of our own kind?  That we form affinity groups of like-minded persons and stay within, or at least in proximity to it?  This is especially true of recent immigrants and non-English speakers, so much so in fact, that certain areas of major cities are known by sobriquets like ” Little Italy, Spanish Harlem and New Odessa.”  Which brings us to the subject of this week’s Mysterious Book Report. Japantown, (Simon & Shuster, $25.00, 398 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-9169-6) by Barry Lancet begins in the Japanese section of San Francisco, at a crime scene where five tourists from Japan have been killed in a coordinated attack by a pair of machine-gun wielding killers.  The slaughter appears to be premeditated, perfectly planned and carried out.  The killers have disappeared into the night, leaving only a single clue: a handwritten, obscure Japanese character called a Kanji on blood soaked rice paper.  Baffled, the SFPD calls upon part-time private detective and full-time San Francisco Japanese art dealer Jim Brodie for help.  Brodie has strong ties to Japan.  He speaks the language, makes frequent trips there and is the half owner of a security agency started by his father that’s headquartered in Tokyo.  The Kanji is enigmatic, proving to be untranslatable by either Japanese speakers or university professors.  Brodie however, has seen it before.  An identical kanji was found at the scene of a tragic house fire which killed Brodie’s wife, her father and her mother . . . a fire believed to be accidental until now.  Using all the resources available to him in both the United States and Japan, Brodie tries to solve the unsolvable . . . a perfect crime.  The deeper he digs, the greater the risks until Brodie and his six year old daughter Jenny, his businesses in San Francisco and Tokyo, his friends and associates, are all at risk of dying at the hands of a secret, 300 year old criminal organization with assets in the highest offices of business and government.  It’s a novel that becomes more exciting with every page.  I loved this beautifully executed debut and look forward to the next installment of the Brodie series from the pen of Barry Lancet.  Don’t miss this one.  It’s awesome! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www. Facebook / John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads / John Dwaine...

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Alex

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Alex Mysterious Book Report No. 149 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s no other way to say it; the novel we’re reviewing this week is flat-out diabolical in nature, fiendishly clever and as compulsively addictive as a honking great piece of New York Cheesecake smothered in cherry compote . . . Alex, (MacLehose Press/Quercus, $24.95, 368 pages, ISBN 978-1-62365-000-1) by Pierre LeMaitre was first published in France in 2011, where it won just about every literary award in sight.  It was translated into English in 2013 by Frank Wynne, and was promptly awarded the 2013 Crime Writers of America International Dagger Award as the Best Crime Novel of the year.  No amount of superlatives are adequate to describe this impressive, fascinating, horrifying, intricate, unpredictable, suspenseful, thrilling, harsh, fierce, infernal, skillfully written, literary and terrifying tour de force of crime fiction. The novel begins with a beautiful young woman named Alex Prévost shopping for wigs in an out of the way Paris boutique.  After her purchase she leaves the shop, and, acting on impulse, passes up the last bus of the day and decides to walk back to her apartment.  Less than an hour later she’s been kidnapped, graphically and violently beaten a couple of times, stripped naked, jammed into a cramped painful position in a tiny slatted cage made of coarse splintery wood  and suspended six feet in the air in a drafty, cold abandoned warehouse where no one can hear her scream.  Her abductor takes pictures with his cell phone and says he, “Wants to watch her die.”  Within five days he’s abandoned her and giant rats, attracted by the dog food she’s been fed, are starting to close in as Alex waits, alone and helpless, while the police search for her.  And that ladies and gentlemen, is less than the first hundred pages.  Alex will keep you turning pages,  trying to figure out what’s going to happen next, reading late into the night.  You’ll find more plot twists in this one novel than a whole season of Game of Thrones, and more suspense than an Alfred Hitchcock movie marathon.  You’ll probably need to towel the sweat off by the time you finish reading the last page.  I only hope that LeMaitre’s other novels are translated into English soon.   Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine...

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Going Dark

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Going Dark Mysterious Book Report No.  148 by John Dwaine McKenna My old friend Caywood was opposed to modern technology.  He hated microwave ovens and cell phones, but most of all he hated computers.  He’d say, only half joking, “Computers are the work of the Devil, and when we’re totally dependent on ’em . . . that damned old Devil’s gonna shut off all the electricity.  You just see how effed-up everything gets then.”  I laughed and treated it as a joke when he said that back in 2001.  Caywood passed in 2004, a victim of ALS, or Lou Gherig’s disease, but his comment has only gotten more prescient over the years.  We would all be screwed without electricity.  The world as we know it would grind to an instant halt without the energy we all expect whenever we flip a light switch. Going Dark, (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 295 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-00500-7) by James W Hall is about such an event: eco-terrorists are plotting to take out the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Station in south Florida.  All of Miami and the southern one-third of the state will be in the dark if the members of the Earth Liberation Front, ELF for short, have their way.  ELF is ranked by the FBI as the number one domestic terror group in the US, responsible for one hundred million dollars of property damage in the last decade, mostly by arson.  In the novel, a new radical ELF cell has gathered on an island in BiscayanBay.  Their plan is to shut down the Turkey Point Power Plant for a few hours in a huge, non-violent publicity stunt, exposing the public to the inherent dangers of nuclear power.  Unknown to the altruistic leaders of the cell, two members of their group are planning a far more deadly event . . . one that could leave the area a wasteland.  Into this diabolic scenario, a serial protagonist known only by the name Thorn is forced to join the group in order to try and save his naive son Flynn Moss who’s innocently mixed up with a bad crowd.  As the clock winds down to a nuclear disaster, Thorn works to thwart the plan to save his son before FBI and Homeland Security close in.  Great summertime reading for thriller and doomsday fans of all ages! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine...

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Red Sky in Morning

Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 147 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s an old Irish joke Michael Curley told me a number of years ago that goes like this:  How can you tell when an Irishman is losing his mind?  He forgets who he has grudges against!  It’s a joke that’s all the funnier because there’s an element of truth to it.  The Irish are known far and wide as a fighting race and belligerence seems like part of their genetic makeup. Red Sky in Morning, (Little, Brown and Company, $25.00, 275 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-23025-4) by Paul Lynch is a novel of crime and retribution, written in a prose style so unique and lyrical it could almost be called poetry.  It’s a debut novel by a young Irish writer with the ability to illuminate some of humankind’s basest emotions in a way that makes the reader look long and hard into their own psyche, assessing their own personal values.  It is a novel “straight out of Irelands nineteenth century torment,” and a graphic illustration of Irish oppression at the hands of their English landlords. The tale begins in Donegal, Ireland in the year 1832.  A young tenant farmer named Coll Coyle is being evicted, along with his pregnant wife and their three year old daughter, from the only home they’ve ever known, on the drunken whim of the land owner’s son.  When Coyle tries to resolve the situation however, he comes away a felon with blood on his hands.  Running for his life, he’s pursued by John Faller, the overseer of the Hamilton lands.  Faller is an expert tracker, a huge strong man, bent on making the penniless Coyle pay in blood.  The chase crosses Ireland and leads to America, where Coyle has found construction work, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was in the process of being built.  Red Skin in Morning is a story of crime, escape and the lengths some would go to to seek retribution.  It is a novel you will remember long after you’ve finished the reading of . . . so you will. Like the column?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with friends on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine...

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Tatiana

Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 146 by John Dwaine McKenna Given the current state of world affairs as regards Russia, Vladimir Putin, the Crimea, Ukraine and the general world condemnation of Mr. P and the country he’s president of in light of the so-called referendum on March the sixteenth as to whether Crimea should become part of Russia or remain part of Ukraine . . . what could be better than a novel featuring the most honest, and beleaguered detective in the Moscow Police Department: Arkady Renko.  He’s been beaten, stabbed, eradicated, sent to gulag in Siberia, and most recently . . . shot in the head, but like an indestructible Timex watch he “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  He’s the creation of writer Martin Cruz Smith who we first met in the classic bestseller, Gorky Park and Inspector Arkady Renko has only improved with age. Titana, (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 292 pages, ISBN 978-1-4391-4021-5) by Martin Cruz Smith finds police inspector Renko as melancholy and quietly subversive as ever.  He’s survived the old communist Soviet Union but finds the new modern Russia to be just as secretive and brutal, and he’s about to be drawn into one of the most complex, dangerous and baffling mysteries of his career. Titana Petrovna, a fearless and at times foolhardy investigative journalist falls to her death in Moscow during the same week that Grisha Grigorenko, an organized crime billionaire is assassinated and laid to rest with the ceremony and pomp of a crown prince.  Inspector Renko sees a connection between the two deaths and is compelled to solve the mystery of Titan’s supposed suicide, by the dictates of his own conscience after listening to hours of her recorded tapes that detail savage crimes and often contradict the official versions.  Renko follow the trail of clues to Kaliningrad, a cold war secret city in the Baltic Sea, and now the murder capital of the whole country.  The plot centers, twists and doubles back around a mysterious and arcane notebook in Titan’s possession that are the notes of a translator who sat on a secret meeting in Kaliningrad, but unfortunately, as happens all to frequently in the new Russia, the translator himself has been murdered, leaving Arkady Renko in a desperate race to decode the notebook while keeping it from the organized crime killers sent to retrieve it.  Martin Cruz Smith is a master storyteller at the top of his game in Titana.  A great read for all lovers of intrigue, action and crime fiction Enjoy the column?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and Goodreads. www.facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine McKenna...

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Jimmy the Stick

Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 145 By John Dwaine McKenna  For many crime fiction fans, the Prohibition Era of the 1920s and the Great Depression in the 30s holds an intense fascination that, even now, almost one hundred years later, captivates our collective imaginations.  The gangster age as it became known, really began at the end of the Great War—the first mechanized conflict and the largest war the world had ever known.  Then came the Roaring Twenties, with the Jazz Age, the stock market crash, and of course, the Volstead Act, or Prohibition, which gave rise to the golden age of crime, speakeasys, bathtub gin and an entire nation of scofflaws, determined to have a readily available supply of adult beverages whenever they wanted.  All the while, stock prices on the NYSE were rising to new highs on a weekly basis . . . until the great crash of 1929, which ushered in The Great Depression of the 1930s, and world upheaval. Against that colorful background and the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby, comes a new novel that recalls the essence of the period in a fast, afternoon and evening read.  Jimmy the Stick, (Mysterious Press/ Open Road Integrated Media, PB $14.99, 220 pages, ISBN 978-1-4532-7095-0) by Michael Mayo, revisits “those thrilling days of yesteryear,” when prohibition was the law of the land.  The fictional Jimmy Quinn, better known as Jimmy the Stick because he uses a cane to support a bum knee, was a highly placed mobster and a known gunman during the New York City Beer Wars of the Roaring Twenties, associating with the likes of Myer Lansky, Charlie ‘Lucky’ Luciano, Owney Madden, Dutch Schultz and Vincent ‘Mad Dog’ Coll.  The murder of Arnold Rothstein in 1928 and a bullet in the leg ended Jimmy’s career.  Now, in the spring of 1932, he’s been called out of retirement by his boyhood pal and criminal running mate, Walter Spencer.  Spencer’s gone legit—he’s married into the Pennyweight Petroleum family, the father of an infant boy, and he needs a favor from Jimmy.  The Lindberg baby has just been kidnapped.  The Spencer’s are afraid that they’re next on the kidnapper’s list, and Walter has to leave town to negotiate some oil drilling leases.  He asks Jimmy to guard his wife and baby while he’s away.  With Spencer gone, Jimmy is quickly up to his neck with  the bizarre goings-on in the Pennywright mansion, trying to protect the family in spite of themselves and keep hard criminals from his former life out of the picture.  Any fan of the Prohibition and Gangster Eras, as I am, will find it a fun and entertaining read.  If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a great introduction that will leave you hungry for more. Enjoy the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with friends on Facebook or follow us on Goodreads. www.facebook/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads/ John Dwaine...

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A Nasty Piece of Work

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 144 by John Dwaine McKenna When one of the best and most well-known living writers of espionage spy thrillers turns his hand to crime fiction, you bet we’re going to pay attention here at the Mysterious Book Report.  Robert Littell, author of blockbuster novels like The Company, Legends and The Stalin Epigram, has turned his hand to writing crime fiction and mysteries.  And he’s come up with a Chandler-esque Private Investigator named Lemuel Gunn to tell the tales. In A Nasty Piece of Work, (Thomas Dunne Books/St Martins Press, $24.99, 259 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-02145-8) by Robert Littell, protagonist Lemuel Gunn is living in a trailer court in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  He’s an ex-CIA officer, just back from the battlefields of Afghanistan, who’s now trying to make it as a private investigator.  On a day when he’s busy drinking beer and cleaning out the septic system of his trailer, he gets his first client, a woman named Ornella Neppi.  She’s written a huge bond for a cocaine dealer named Emilia Gava, and she’s afraid he’s going to jump bond . . . in which case her uncle will lose $125,000 cash . . . because the property Ornella took as collateral turned out to be worthless.  Lemuel takes the case for $95 per day plus expenses, and sets out to find the elusive Emilio Gava in a hunt that takes all of his CIA skills when it goes across state lines . . . into the heart of the Nevada gaming industry.   The case gets murky, complex and dangerous as Gunn becomes infatuated and then romantically involved with the sexy Ornella Neppu. Littell spins a fast-reading, fun novel you’ll enjoy at the beach, airport, or in your favorite easy chair at home.  Here’s hoping we’ll soon see more Lemuel Gunn novels, so reminiscent of perennial favorite Sam Spade. Enjoy the column?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with friends on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads.   www.facebook/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads/ John Dwaine...

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Game

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 143 by John Dwaine McKenna One of the greatest things about the Mysterious Book Report is its ability to jump around in time and place.  Thus, we can go from post WWII Vienna, Austria, to present day Stockholm, Sweden, in the blink of an eye, migrating from an introspective, complex and densely populated intellectual novel, to a fast-paced techno-thriller that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat until the very last page is read . . . at which point you’ll be howling for the next installment of the projected trilogy. Game, (Atria/Simon & Shuster, PB $16.00, 386 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-1288-8) by Anders de la Motte is a chrome-plated, no-holds barred, squinty-eyed, unblinking look at modern society and it’s infatuation with geekdom, gadgets and games.  As a former police officer and director of security for one of the world’s biggest information technology companies, de la Motte is an expert in the areas of crime and technology—two industries he blends together with unsurpassed skill in his exciting new novel simply entitled: Game. In it, a young slacker named Hendrick “HP” Pettersson is heading home on a Stockholm train early one Sunday morning after a raucous night of partying.  He’s hung-over, sleep-deprived and broke when he spots an expensive-looking, high tech cell phone on the vacant seat next to him.  Thinking he can sell it for some quick cash, he steals it and gets off the train.  When he examines it, the phone lights up and a text message appears.  WANT TO PLAY A GAME? Yes.   No.  When HP answers yes, his life begins to be consumed with playing a ‘game,’ controlled by a ‘master,’ who seems to have an uncanny knowledge of everything HP is doing at all times.  Soon, HP is acting out instructions from the master that range from silly pranks to dangerous criminal felonies and he’s powerless to quit.  You, the reader, will find yourself powerless to quit reading, compelled to keep turning the pages, as you try to bring Game to its conclusion.  One of the best, most exciting techno-thrillers I’ve read in years!!! Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give us is to share it with friends on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com / John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com / John Dwaine...

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The Crooked Maid

Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 142 by John Dwaine McKenna In the immediate aftermath of WWII, Vienna, Austria was a political, social and environmental disaster.  It was a city in the hard business of reconstruction, denazification and redirection . . . a place that was in the midst of “Convincing itself that it was the first victim of Nazism, not it’s willing bride.”  By the year 1948, expatriates, prisoners of war and other refugees were streaming back to a city that was almost unrecognizable.  It was a time of change: Czechslovokia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Albania and the eastern half of Germany had all gone communist, influenced by the USSR; while the Greeks and Austrians were trying to decide whether to align themselves with the eastern communists or the western democracies, as the Iron Curtain was slamming down across the European Continent.  Vienna, located at the crossroads between east and west, was saturated with intrigue, corruption and spies for both sides. As The Crooked Maid, (Bloomsbury, $26.00, 427 pages, ISBN 978-1-60819-809-2) by Dan Vyleta begins, an eighteen year old student named Robert Seidel is sharing a first-class train compartment with a thirtyish woman named Anna Beer, from Switzerland to Austria.  It’s 1948, and both of them are returning to a city they hardly recognize.  Vienna has suffered greatly in the nine or ten years they’ve been gone: the woman because of her husband’s infidelity, the boy from boarding school, where his family had stashed him for protection as World War II was getting underway.  Neither one of them has any idea what to expect when they get home.  Strangers on the train, their lives become entwined as Robert’s brother, a former Waffen SS Officer, is put on trail for murder, and Anna tries to find her  husband, a former Russian prisoner of war, now among the missing, or the dead.  Other principal characters in this complex novel include a hunchbacked maid, a drug dependent matriarch, a Czech former POW, a war widowed American journalists, and a shadowy, mysterious figure wearing a red scarf who’s continuously appearing, but remains unknown and unidentified until the last.  The novel is intense, intellectual and reminiscent of Fyodor Doestoevsky and Charles Dickens.  It is not an easy or light read, but well worth the effort, as those who do will not only be entertained, but educated and enlightened as well. Like the column?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with friends on Facebook or follow us on Goodreads. www.Facebook.com / John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com / John Dwaine...

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The Tilted World

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Tilted World

Mysterious Book Report No. 141 by John Dwaine McKenna Think you know American History?  Here’s a question for you . . . what, and when, was the most destructive flood in the entire history of the United States? It’s a tough question.  The correct answer is, the Mississippi River in the year 1927.  It’s known as the year the rains, which started in November, never stopped.  In the flooding that followed, 246 people were killed in seven different states, 27,000 square miles were flooded to a depth of thirty feet in places and south of Memphis, Tennessee, the Mississippi was sixty miles wide. It is against that tragic and awe-inspiring backdrop  The Tilted World, (William Morrow/Harper Collins, $25.99, 303 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-206918-4) by the husband and wife team of Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, takes place.  In it, we meet Dixie Clay Holliver, a charming and sympathetic moonshine maker, who’s suffering at the hands of her abusive, pandering husband and from the death of her infant son, in the town of Hobnob, Mississippi.  Hobnob is slightly north of New Orleans, at a critical bend in the river, where two of Herbert Hoover’s prohibition agents have disappeared.  It’s a place where extensive sandbagging efforts are taking place in an effort to hold the river back, but if Hobnob is saved, New Orleans will be doomed.  Two of Hoover’s best, most incorruptible and hard-nosed Treasury agents named Ted Ingersoll and Ham Johnson have been sent to investigate.  When they stumble onto a crime scene with multiple murders and find a live baby amid the bodies; they’re faced with the problem of what to do with the infant, how to care for it, and where to place it to be raised.  In the meantime, the water is still rising, disaster appears imminent and the illegal moonshining continues unabated as the tension, danger and urgency increase with every page. The Tilted World is beautifully written and contains a charming story that plays out against one of the greatest, and now largely forgotten, natural disasters America has ever seen.  This novel should be on everyone’s reading list.  It’s pure gold! Like the column?  The greatest compliment you can give us is to share it with friends on Facebook and follow us on Goodreads too. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine...

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Brown’s Requiem

Posted by on Apr 7, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Brown’s Requiem Mysterious Book Report No. 140 by John Dwaine McKenna Los Angeles, California has long been the epicenter for crime fiction of all types. They include police procedurals, courtroom dramas and private eye yarns by a long list of world class authors like Raymond Chandler, Earle Stanley Gardner and Dashiel Hammett from the golden age of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, as well as more modern writers such as Joseph Wambaugh, Walter Mosley and Michael Connelly.  One of my personal favorites however, is a perennial heavyweight, “The dark poet of noir fiction,” whose stories routinely take bleak and unexpected turns on the way to a dazzling and electrifying conclusion.  I’m referring to James Ellroy, who is one of the greatest living writers of noir fiction in the world.  Ellroy’s life has been marked by tragedy, homelessness, drug abuse and alcoholism, crime and time in jail.  He has incorporated all of his life experiences into his writing, and it makes his prose and narratives pop and sizzle with an electric intensity that grabs the reader on page one and never lets go until the conclusion. Brown’s Requiem, (Perennial Harper Collins, PB $13.99, 348 pages, ISBN # 978-0-380-73177-0) by James Ellroy was first published in 1981, and republished in 2001, and it’s only gotten better with age.  The protagonist, Fritz Brown, has been cold sober for nine months and six days.  He’s a licensed California private eye who works and lives in Los Angeles, a disgraced former LAPD vice cop, kicked off the force for violence and drunkenness, an enthusiast of German classical music, who pays his bills by doing repossessions for Cal Meyers, a big time automotive operator with several Los Angeles new and used car dealerships. The tale begins when, after a successful repo, some instinct tells Fritz that his life is about to change.  A short time later it does, when an overweight, badly dressed homeless man by the name of Freddy Baker, ‘Fat Dog’ to those who know him, walks into Fritz’s office and hires him.  The job is to tail Fat Dog’s sister for a week; find out what her relationship is to an older man she’s living with in Hollywood.  Fat Dog makes his money as a professional golf caddy, working at various country clubs in and around Los Angeles . . . and he’s carrying around a wad of money amounting to thousands of dollars.  But, it’s not the only strange thing Fritz notices about Fat Dog, whose hinky ideas and weird behaviors turn a routine surveillance job into a deadly hunt for a serial arsonist and stone cold killer as Fritz attempts to solve a decades old mass murder.  Take time out from reading the ‘latest and greatest’ and get familiar with some of the ‘older and bolder’ classics of crime fiction.  See for yourself why James Ellroy is the undisputed master of noir.   Like the review?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook and Goodreads. www.Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna www.Goodreads.com/ John Dwaine...

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The Return

Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 139 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever had dark fantasies?  You know the kind—the ones where you plot a scheme to get even with someone, or something.  Then, reality hits, you come to your senses and the daydream ends with thoughts of the consequences of those actions and the fears of getting caught. But . . . what if . . . what if revenge was within your grasp?  If you had no fear of the consequences because you had a medical condition that was guaranteed to cut your life short.  Would you do it then?  Would you seek retribution if you thought you had nothing to lose? The Return, (Henry Holt, $28.00, 366 pages, ISBN 978-0-8050-9129-8) by Michael Gruber does just that.  A book editor named Marder in New York City discovers that he’s dying of a brain tumor, he could keel over at any moment, so he needs to take care of any unfinished business in his life while there’s still time,  Marder is a widower.  His wife, who was born and raised in Mexico, threw herself off the roof of their apartment building in a fit of despondency after learning that her father and mother had been murdered by members of a drug cartel.  Since his kids are grown and living lives of their own, and he’s wealthy—thanks to a fortuitous stock market play—Marder decides he has nothing to lose.  He buys a house on a small island near his wife’s home town in the province of Michoacan on the Baja California coast . . . the epicenter of the drug cartels   . . . and moves there to seek revenge.  Soon he’s at war with two different drug lords who represent two warring cartels.  Fortunately for Marder, he was a special ops grunt in the Central Highlands during the Vietnam War and he has a war buddy named Skelly who served with him in ‘Nam and is along for the ride in Mexico, because he just digs warfare, and he’s good at it. Sound a bit contrived?  You bet.  But the author has a wonderful talent for drawing gritty scenes with realistic characters and great dialogue, making this a fun and entertaining action-adventure novel that you’ll spend a couple of pleasant days and nights reading.  Have fun! Enjoy the column?  The greatest compliment you can give us is to share it with others on Facebook. www.facebook.com/ John Dwaine...

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The Accident

Posted by on Mar 24, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Accident Mysterious Book Report No. 138 by John Dwaine McKenna It’s no secret to regular readers of the Mysterious Book Report  that our focus is on finding new and upcoming authors who show a lot of promise, as well as a lot of talent, in the thriller and crime fiction genres and bring them to your attention.  My criteria are simple.  Is it a new and unknown author?  Does he or she have something interesting to say and a unique voice to say it in?  And lastly, am I still thinking about what I’ve read for several days after?  If so, the book will probably make our Best Books of the Year List, which is issued each December at around Christmas time. The Accident, (Crown Publishers, $26.00, 400 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34845-4) by Chris Pavone meets all the above criteria and then some.  It’s Pavone’s second novel, (his first, The Expats, was a NY Times bestseller and an Edgar Award Winner) and it’s a keep-you-up-all-night page turner that I predict will also be a best seller because the author has an uncanny ability to ratchet up the tension on the first few pages and keep it there throughout the remainder of the book.  The novel begins at dawn, with a literary agent named Isabel Reed finishing the last page of an anonymous manuscript that she’s sure will be a runaway bestseller because of the explosive nature of it’s tell-all contents.  It names names of powerful people and the crimes they’ve committed over the years while building a worldwide media empire and amassing fabulous wealth.  But along with the wealth and fame, comes a desire for power . . . national political aspirations that would be crushed if the manuscript were to go public.  When those with copies of the manuscript start dying however, it becomes apparent that it’s as deadly as it is controversial.  The cast of characters are broad and include a media titan; an anonymous hidden author who’s undergoing plastic surgery to disguise his appearance and save his life; and a rogue CIA officer who’s in league with the media mogul who’ll stop at nothing to prevent the book from being published.  The Accident is a first-rate thriller from a first-rate author we’ll be hearing a lot more from in the coming years.  Take this opportunity to read and grow with him. Like the column?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share with others on Facebook. www.facebook.com/ John Dwaine...

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Hurt

Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 137 by John Dwaine McKenna One of the up and coming new authors who’s gaining a lot of credibility because he writes great mysteries with a political twist is an Irish writer named Brian McGilloway.  He lives and works in Derry, Northern Ireland, in an area known as the borderlands, because it abuts the Republic of Ireland.  It is an area with unique, even extreme, sensibilities due to the protestant and catholic violence between British Loyalists or Prods, and Catholic Republicans, the Provo’s and others who desire a unified Ireland.  It is a complex and long-disputed issue which has broken out in open warfare between the groups, most recently in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and  referred to as ‘The Troubles.’ Because he is able to write high energy crime dramas in which he weaves elements of the troubles and their aftermath, I usually step up and buy the British first editions of McGilloway’s novels because I don’t want to wait for American ones.  His newest is no exception. Hurt, (Constable & Robinson LTD, £17.99, 404 pages, ISBN 978-1-4721-1113-5) by Brian McGilloway begins with the discovery of a young girl’s body, tied to a railroad track.  She’s dead, her throat cut, and the hunt begins for the killer.  Detective Sergeant Lucy Black is the lead investigator, but the only clues she has to work with are on the girl’s cell phone in the form of her last phone calls.  Lucy, who’s haunted by one of her old cases where the killer escaped after she identified him, is under intense scrutiny from a new boss, pressuring her for results.  But results aren’t easy to come by.  There’s a reluctance of witnesses to talk to the police.  Then another young girl goes missing and it becomes a race against time to save her life as Lucy discovers evil in the unlikeliest places and serves justice in a unique way.  Look for the book to be released in the USA in early summer . . . just in time for relaxed summer reading.  It’s a page turner you won’t want to miss. Like the column?  The greatest compliment you can give us is to share it on Facebook. www.facebook.com/ John Dwaine...

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The Killer Inside of Me

Posted by on Mar 10, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 136 By John Dwaine McKenna Every once in a while it’s refreshing to take a break from all of the just-published, must-read books written by authors who seem to be punching them out faster than we can absorb them, and turn to one of the classics: the foundational works that are the stepping stones from which many modern works emanate. The Killer Inside of Me, (Orion Books Ltd., $12.00, PB 220 pages, ISBN 978-1-4091-1971-5) by Jim Thompson was first published in the United States in 1952 and republished in Great Britain in 2010.  As far as I know, it’s one of the first novels written from the perspective of a full-blown, amoral, sociopathic serial killer.  He’s a home grown boy, an orphan taken in and raised by the local doctor, a kind-appearing samaritan with a viscious private life.  The boy he’s adopted and given his name and home to, is a genius without morals or a conscience.  Now a fully grown man, he’s a deputy sheriff in his Texas home town of a few thousand souls.  His name is Lou Ford and he comes across as a gentle, understanding and dedicated lawman who doesn’t even carry a gun.  Lou has the habit of talking to himself as if there’s another person in the room, and he remarks several times that he’s been able to keep his ‘problem’ under control for a decade or more, but that he doesn’t think he can manage to do it for much longer.  His problem of course, is that he can’t keep from killing other human beings and, as a true sociopath, he has no conscience about it.  He may even enjoy it.  It’s what makes a killer like that so horrific.  I was reminded of the BTK (bind-torture-kill) killer from Wichita, Kansas who was caught after years of terror only because he turned himself in after concluding that the authorities weren’t smart enough to catch him.  The novel is all the more interesting because at the time it was written in 1952, serial killers were not yet defined, studied or understood.  Treat yourself if you’re a crime-fiction or mystery fan.  You’ll see why The Killer Inside Of Me is a classic. Like the column?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook. www.facebook.com/ John Dwaine...

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Country Hardball

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 135 by John Dwaine McKenna Many who were born and raised in small town America and emigrated from them, remember life there with fond nostalgia.  As my dad used to say, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Yeah, but what about the girls, Pop?  What about them.  The writer Tom Wolfe had an answer.  He said, “You can’t go home again.”  Meaning, I suppose, that those who do return will find it so changed as to be unrecognizable.  I think both axioms have merit, but don’t entirely agree with either one of them . . . and I’m gonna use this week’s MBR to illustrate. Country Hardball, (Tyrus Books F & W Media, Inc., $24.99, 207 pages, ISBN 978-1-4405-7080-3) by Steve Weddle is the first book from a young college professor that’s generating some buzz amongst the literary hierarchy . . . those who’re always interested in something new and different.  One might even go so far as to call it avant-garde, because it pushes the story arc into new, uncharted territory.  The book is made up of a series of what seems like unrelated short stories revolving around one individual’s return to his small rural home town after a ten year absence.  Roy Alison is his name and he’s been away in juvenile detention, jail and halfway houses.  What he finds is a town devoid of hope, clinging to it’s past and devastated by the undefined ‘economic downturn.’  The short-stories are mostly open-ended, without conclusions, which I personally don’t care for because they leave me feeling as if I’ve missed the point somewhere.  The result is a book nihilistic in tone and confusing in aspect.  The dust jacket blurb calls it ‘A powerfully observed and devastatingly understated portrait of the American working class.’ But it left me feeling like I didn’t get enough sleep.  While I hate to be critical of another’s work, because it takes a helluva lot of effort to produce a novel of any kind, and the purpose of this column is to encourage reading . . . my suggestion for this one is to leave it to those in the avant-garde movement who appreciate it. Like the column?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook. www.facebook.com/ John Dwaine...

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The Gods of Guilt

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 134 by John Dwaine McKenna The Mysterious Book Report this week is another by the prolific best seller, Michael Connelly, everybody’s favorite mystery writer.  That’s because he’s able to regularly turn out original works that Just Get It, in the words of one of my favorite cop buddys. The Gods of Guilt, (Little Brown, $28.00, 387 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-06951-9) by Michael Connelly is a courtroom drama featuring Mickey Haller, AKA The Lincoln Lawyer.  In this one, Haller lands a murder case with a client who can afford to pay his fees—an unusual occurrence. It’s a referral from one of his former clients, a prostitute Haller helped to get out of ‘the life” as it is called, about eight years earlier.  The defendant in the current murder case is a gay man who creates and manages websites for escort services . . . a sort of electronic pimp, because he shares in the fees the escorts, both male and female, earn.  The murdered woman is the same prostitute who referred the accused man, and whom Haller thought he had saved, but she was back in the life under a different name.  She’d been served with a subpoena to give a deposition in regards to a violent Mexican drug lord who’s trying to get his conviction overturned, claiming that he was framed, and wrongly sent to prison.  As his client languishes in jail, Haller and his associates race to figure out who did what to whom before it’s too late, before an innocent man dies or gets sentenced to life in prison.  At the same time, the drug lord’s case in slowly drawing Haller in deeper.  You’ll have a front row seat and watch as Haller makes his case before ‘The Gods of Guilt,’ the twelve men and women of the jury who have to decide the fate of the accused.  Like all of Connelly’s works, this one will both entertain and educate you as you go along for the ride with one of the slickest characters in crime fiction, Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer. Like the column?  The greatest compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook. Facebook.com/ John Dwaine McKenna –JDM...

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Spirit of Steamboat

Posted by on Feb 24, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 133 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever seen the hit drama series Longmire, on the A&E television network?  If so, maybe you, like me, are a fan of the hard-working Wyoming Sheriff named Walt Longmire.  Whether you’ve seen the show or not, read any of the series of books about him, or not, you’re in for a real treat with this week’s MBR Number 133.  It’s a Walt Longmire novella that won’t take long to read, but it’s one that will stay in your thoughts for a long, long time. Spirit of Steamboat, (Penguin, $20.00, 146 pages, ISBN 978-0-670-01578-8) by Craig Johnson is, like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a short piece with a lasting impact.  It proves once again, that it’s not how much one writes but how well that matters.  This small volume contains elements of pathos, irony, heroism, mercy, danger, history and compassion in addition to a walloping good story set on a snowbound Christmas Eve. And hey!  I’m not going to give up the plot elements and blather on giving away all the details.  I will tell you that the story involves a legendary bucking horse who died in 1915, Charles Dickenses A Christmas Carol, a decommissioned World War II Mitchell B-25 bomber, Walt Longmire, one of the surviving Doolittle Raiders and a suicidal mercy mission.  If you can only manage to read one book this year, Spirit of Steamboat would be a great choice that can be enjoyed by all readers, young adult and up.  This story is so good, it may well become a classic too, still read and enjoyed 100 years from now. Like the column?  The best compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook. Facebook.com/John Dwaine McKenna                                                            ...

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Star of Istanbul

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Star of Istanbul Mysterious Book Report No. 132 by John Dwaine McKenna The Great War, or World War One, as it’s now known, has long been an area of interest to me.  My Grandfather on my Father’s side of the family fought in it.  The Great War was the first mechanized war and the effects were both brutal and horrific.  The Ottoman Turk empire collapsed; the Brits killed an entire generation of their young men, bankrupted their country and saw their colonial empire begin to deconstruct itself; ditto for the French and Belgians; the Austrian Empire disappeared and Germany was vanquished in the war, stripped of her territories, saddled with war reparations too huge to pay and her monarchy was destroyed, all of which set the stage for Nazism and WWII; the Middle East was arbitrarily carved up by the Balfour Agreement, which created new countries and became the framework for much of today’s unrest there, as well as the rise of the oil states . . . all as a result of the First World War . . . and let’s not forget the Russian Revolution and the Irish breakaway from England after 800 years of trying, all as a result of the Great War.  And, I almost forgot, the Mexican Civil War was also being waged at this time, and that’s where we met and last saw a fictional character named Christopher Marlowe “Kitt” Cobb, newspaper reporter for The Chicago Post-Express, and spy for Uncle Sam and the United States of America. In the Star of Istanbul, (Mysterious Press, $25.00, 369 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2155-4) by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler, we find Kitt aboard the steam ship Lusitania and headed for Europe, where war is raging.  He’s tasked with following a man named Walter Brauer, an American citizen and a suspected agent for the German Secret Service, and who may have information vital to the United States.  On board the doomed ship on her last voyage, Cobb gets involved with “the most beautiful woman in the world,” a silent movie star named Selene Bourgani.  As their relationship deepens, Cobb realizes she is working for the Germans, and  keep information from him that could be critical to American interests, and possibly the survival of two other civilizations.  The drama heats up with every page as Kitt Cobb follows her to Istanbul, where he’s behind enemy lines, cut off from help and on his own as he tries to unravel the beautiful and dangerous mystery that is Selene Bourgani.  Star of Istanbul is a complex, thinking readers novel and a rollicking good romp through history.  It’s crammed with factual information as well as all the thrills and chills we expect from a great adventure story.  Robert Olen Butler won’t disappoint your taste for adventure, entertainment or reading pleasure with this great new series!! Like the column?  The best compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook. Facebook.com/John Dwaine McKenna                                                                        ...

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Red Sparrow

Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 131 by John Dwaine McKenna Move over John LeCarre and Ian Fleming.  Take a seat Graham Green, John Gardner and Vince Flynn . . . there’s a new spy novel sheriff in town and he’s packing plenty of talent, byzantine plotting and exquisite details based on thirty-three years of experience collecting clandestine intelligence in “denied-access” areas of the world with the CIA. Red Sparrow, (Scribner, $26.99, 434 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-0612-2) by Jason Matthews is the real deal.  Espionage with a reawakening and belligerent Russia is at the heart of this great first novel by an ex-CIA case officer who’s been there and done it all.  Russia, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, is determined to regain it’s status as a world superpower and be an equal with the US and an emerging China.  As one of the Russian characters remarks, ‘The cold War never ended,’ at least from a Russian point of view. The novel is about a hunt for a Russian mole.  A mole is a person who is burrowed into an enemy organization and is supplying information to that organization’s adversaries.  In this case, a high ranking member of the Russian spy organization known as the SVR, which replaced the KGB from the Cold War, is giving secret information about Russian military and spy efforts to a young American CIA case officer named Nathaniel Nash.  Known only by the code name MARBLE, the information is excellent, super secret and could have only come from a highly placed SVR official.  It’s been going on for more than a decade.  Determined to catch the smart, crafty and careful mole, the Deputy Director of the SVR forces his niece into “Sparrow School,” where she is trained, against her will, in the arts of seduction.  She’s the bait in a ‘Honey Trap.’  Her uncle the Deputy Director intends to further his career by using his niece as a courtesan, hoping to expose the identity of MARBLE through a sexual liaison with the young CIA officer. The novel is chock-full of suspense, double-crosses, treachery, brutality, backstabbing and spy craft.  It’s as close to the action as one can get without being in the actual theater of operations and under fire.  Reading Red Sparrow is a bit like having great sex: it starts out kind of slow and languid, but builds in intensity with every page until you couldn’t stop reading, even if the whole damn house was falling down around you!  Jason Matthews has poured his guts into this first novel and it’s a winner.  I’ll be reading all of  his subsequent works because he writes the kind of novels that you just don’t want to end.  WOW!  Jason Matthews is going to become one of the most respected and revered writers working in the spy thriller genre today if he keeps this up. Like the column?  The best compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook. Facebook.com/John Dwaine McKenna –JDM...

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The Blood of Heaven

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 130 by John Dwaine McKenna In 1804, the United States was partitioned, with Spain, France and Great Britain, a young America and numerous Indian Nations laying claim to various parts of her.  It was a time when America was in its formative stage, when new land and territory stretched to the western horizons, and the idea of a manifest destiny was being conceived in the minds of American statesmen and patriots.  The original thirteen colonies were in the process of being made into states: whittled down to their present day dimensions, with the trimmed off lands forming new states and acting as jumping off places for further westward expansion . . . and the gigantic Louisiana Purchase was still a couple of years away. At the early part of the nineteenth century, Florida was controlled by Spain and western Florida extended in a hundred mile wide strip all the way to New Orleans which belonged at the time to France.  Florida was lawless, full of subsistence settlers; squatters barely able to eke out an existence, fundamentalist preachers, negro slaves and slave masters.  With absentee Spaniards in nominal charge, government was non-existent.  The area was ripe for revolution.  It came in the form of Aaron Burr. The Blood of Heaven, (Grove Press, $25.00, 455 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2118-9) by Kent Wescom is a debut novel that manages to catch lightning in a bottle, with which he illuminates a dark and little-known event in American history: the attempt by Burr and others to break off West Florida from the United States of America and form a sovereign nation.  The story is told through the voice of Angel Woolsack, the amoral, sociopathic son of a hellfire preacher who sets off with his adopted brother, Samuel Kemper, into the disputed lands of West Florida.  Desperately poor, he falls into a life of crime, and the schemes of the wealthy planters and slave owners who are attempting secession.  When the rebellion falls apart, it is those at the bottom like Woolsack, who pay the price. The novel is robust and complex, touching on subjects as diverse as family, brotherhood, love, slavery, economics, nationhood, and always with a throbbing, continuous undercurrent of crime and criminality.  There’s murder, mayhem and vice throughout this long and complicated novel that will enlighten every reader about a fascinating, and forgotten, element of our nation’s early history . . . Like the column?  The best compliment you can give is to share it with others on Facebook. Facebook.com/John Dwaine McKenna                                                                                    ...

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Suspects

Posted by on Jan 13, 2014 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 3 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 129 by John Dwaine McKenna Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD is a mental condition suffered by some individuals who’ve been subjected to intense, loud and life-threatening situations.  Anyone who’s been in a life and death situation can suffer from it.  The US Armed Forces have for years denied the existence of PTSD, labeling sufferers of the condition as malingerers, or shirkers, refusing treatment and shunning the afflicted.  Fortunately for the patients, all of that is changing for the better, through improved recognition and treatment options.  You may already be aware of PTSD and it’s history, but do you know that animals can and do suffer all the same affects of it as humans?  It’s the subject of MBR no 129. Suspect, (Putnam, $27.95, 309 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-18148-3) by Robert Crais is about an LAPD cop named Scott James who isn’t doing well and should have been medically retired.  Shot three times at close range during an armed attack, he was unable to save his partner, who dies at the scene.  Suffering PTSD, physical pain and guilt, refusing to take a medical disability, he’s assigned to the K-9 Corps where he meets Maggie, an eighty-five pound German Shepherd.  Maggie is a retired US Marine Corps war dog.  She’s also suffering from PTSD, which she contracted in Afghanistan when, after a number of combat missions, her handler is killed, she’s blown up and shot multiple times by a sniper.  Somehow, the pair of walking wounded are attracted to each other and pair up.  The question is however, will they become an effective team, able to perform in the face of danger, while at the same time, will Scott be able to solve the murder of his partner?  It’s a whodunit as well as a touching man-animal story that will captivate, entertain and enthrall the reader throughout.  Read it for yourself and see why Robert Crais is a number one best-selling NY Times author.  He makes the reader feel on the scene, right in the middle of the action, waiting to resolve the crime.  He’s another favorite of mine . . . How many of you out there have resolved to go to the library in the New Year?  Are you searching for and seeking your own sources of inspiration and information . . . or do you allow the talking heads on TV and the radio, plus the internet and all it’s jive for your news and information?  You’d better think twice about it if you are! More and more folks are joining us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll see you next week with an all-new Mysterious Book Report....

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They Don’t Dance Much

Posted by on Dec 16, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 127 by John Dwaine McKenna This week’s Mysterious Book Report is a blast from the past: a piece of crime fiction that was first published in 1940, but for some reason was never the big success it was expected to be with the general public, although it received great reviews from the likes of Raymond Chandler, Flannery O’Connor and others.  It is the work of a Greensboro, North Carolina newspaper reporter named James Ross, and it is the only novel he ever published.  It is considered to be the birth of a genre known as “Southern Noir.”   Kept alive by word of mouth through the years, its copyright was renewed in 1968, and has just been put back into print, part of the renaissance of out of print classics that’s now taking place via computer-driven revolution known simply as print on demand, wherein books can be economically produced as few as one at a time. They Don’t Dance Much, (Mysterious Press/Open Road Integrated Media, $14.99, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-4532-9620-2) by James Ross is, in the words of Raymond Chandler: A sleazy, corrupt, but completely believable story of a North Carolina town.  In it a bankrupt small-time farmer named Jack McDonald is down to his last dollar.  Its 1940, and the end of the depression.  Heavily in debt with no prospects and no crop because he’s been wiped out by the boll weevil and he’s a desperate man, McDonald accepts a job in a new roadhouse owned by a seedy, disreputable and thuggish acquaintance of his named Smut Milligan . . . a man who’ll do anything for money, up to and including murder.  Things look promising for the new business.  Between the food, moonshine, gasoline, gambling and the little cabins out back that rent for a dollar several times a night . . . good money is coming in.  But then debts, thugs and the law start coming in too . . . and the husband of the married woman Smut is involved with.  It’s a fast trip down a rough, rocky red dirt road, to perdition and Hell, driven by lust and greed and fueled by blood.  If you’re a fan of Southern Noir, or any of the dark gloomy tales from the wild side of crime fiction, be sure to get a copy of this pioneering, genre influencing work.  Yeah, it’s worth the trouble because, yes, it’s really that damn good!! A CAVEAT:  This was written in 1940.  Attitudes and speech were different for all races.  If you’re concerned about political correctness and offended by the casual and frequent use of racial slurs . . . you probably won’t want to read it, except perhaps as a stark example of what it was like in the rural south back then. Have you gone by your local library and signed up for a FREE library card yet?  Oh, yeah, I see.  You’re too busy watching all of those reality shows on TV.  Watching stupid people doing stupid things has a certain appeal I guess, but hanging out with really smart women and men—the ones who write books—seems like a lot better way to spend one’s time to me.  Think about it . . . Check out our websites:  johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The websites are...

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Burial Rites

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 126 John Dwaine McKenna This week’s book review is a debut novel by an Australian author of great talent and outstanding promise; an author we’ll be paying attention to for a long, long time.  Her novel is titled Burial Rites (Little Brown, $26.00, 322 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-24391-9) and the author’s name is Hannah Kent.  She’s a graduate student who’s finishing her PhD at FlindersUniversity in Adelaide, South Australia, and she’s written one of the most meticulously well-researched and beautiful works of historical fiction I have read in quite some time.  It takes place in 1829 on a remote farm in northern Iceland and tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman convicted of murdering two men and burning their bodies in order to conceal the crime.  As her case slowly works its way through the judicial bureaucracy; in order to save money . . . and because they have no proper confinement facilities . . . the District Commissioner directs that Agnes be housed at the farm of another local official, District Officer Jon Jonsson.  His wife Margrit is horrified, and afraid for herself, her two daughters and their servants and farmhands.  She’s also worried, about their family’s reputation.  What will the neighbor think of them, associating with a convicted criminal—and a murderer at that.  Shunned, demeaned and abused at first, Agnes begins gaining the respect of the other women through her hard work and knowledge of healing and herbal medicine.  As her story unfolds, Agnes is revealed as a complex, multi-dimensional character who might be deserving of another life.  It is a dark and tragic tale of a tragic life, in a stark, cold land that’s brought to life through the talent of Hannah Kent.  The reader will feel the cold and hunger, smell and see the closed in gloomy winter, while seeing the lush summer grasses come to life and watching the farm prosper or fail as the intricate relationships of the characters are revealed.  The beautiful prose and complex story are artfully blended together by a talented and gifted writer and storyteller.  Hannah Kent has made history come to life in her auspicious debut.  Don’t miss this one.  It’s a literary gem! You’ll find many more of the gems of literature at your local library.  They’re all waiting there for you . . . all for free. But you have to go, and hook up with a librarian who will assist you in every possible way.  Make it a New Year’s resolution to get a free library card and become a regular visitor.  All you can do is lose your ignorance . . . Check out our websites:  johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The websites are enhanced and improved and easier to navigate.  Check it out for yourself and sign up for our FREE NEWSLETTER.  It’s an all-new feature.  While there, if you like us on Facebook and join our ever growing community of book lovers and adherents of the other Literae Humaniores, you’ll automatically get our weekly blogs and book reviews at 8 am Eastern time on Monday mornings, just as you get into work.  That way, you can relax with your coffee and still look busy as you re-adjust from the weekend back to the workweek. Just a reminder . . ....

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Never Go Back

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

 Mysterious Book Report No. 125 by John Dwaine McKenna I’ve said any number of times that I don’t often review the major, ‘A List’ authors, but every once in a while there’s an exception.  This week is one of them.  I mean-hey, what’s not to like about a big, hunky, existentialist dude who owns nothing but the clothes on his back and travels about our fair land loving the ladies and beating the bejeezus out of every bad guy he runs into?  I’m referring of course to everyone’s favorite modern day knight-errant, Jack Reacher.  If you’re not already familiar with him, treat yourself.  Get hold of a copy of this week’s MBR No. 125, Never Go Back, (Delacorte Press/Random House, $28.00, 400 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34434-0) by Lee Child, and join in his legions of fans cheering for the guy we all wish we knew or were.  He’s a modern day Shane, the drifting cowboy who comes to town and takes on the corruption he finds there, and against impossible odds, manages to prevail.  Why?  How?  Because he is noble, of the highest ethical standards and unassailable character.  He is the white knight come to town, where he stays only long enough to take care of the bad guys, and bed the most nubile, desirable and willing female in the territory before disappearing down the closest highway in sight . . . destination unknown.  Tune in next time, next book, for the next thrilling episode, detailing the further adventures of Jack Reacher.  It’s a formula that’s as old as the storytelling art itself . . . and irresistible when done by a master wordsmith like Lee Child, who has been anointed as “The #1 Best-Selling New York Times Author.”  See why by starting with Never Go Back, then catch up with Child’s previous dozen or so yarns while he writes the next one. Lucky you!  All the Jack Reacher stories are readily available at your local library.  Fair warning: they’re addictive.  Like eating potato chips, you can’t quit at one.  Have fun! Check out our websites:  johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The websites are enhanced and improved and easier to navigate.  Check it out for yourself and sign up for our FREE NEWSLETTER.  It’s an all-new feature.  While there, if you like us on Facebook and join our ever growing community of book lovers and adherents of the other Literae Humaniores, you’ll automatically get our weekly blogs and book reviews at 8 am Eastern time on Monday mornings, just as you get into work.  That way, you can relax with your coffee and still look busy as you re-adjust from the weekend back to the workweek. Just a reminder . . . books are GREAT HOLIDAY GIFTS!  You can order author signed copies at  Rhyolite Press LLC, P.O. Box 2406, Colorado Springs, CO  80901, for $15.00 plus $4.00 shipping and handling of The Neversink Chronicles, The Whim-Wham Man, The Boy Who Slept With Bears, and our latest and greatest:  Colorado Noir, is $16.95 plus shipping for a walk on the dark and seamy side of one of the most controversial cities in America via the award-winning pen of John Dwaine McKenna, author of The Neversink Chronicles and The Whim-Wham Man.  In Colorado Noir you’ll ride along with a homeless, autistic woman named...

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Let It Burn

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 124 by John Dwaine McKenna One thing you may not have picked up from all the cops n’ robbers shows we all watch nightly on the telly—as we have since we’ve had television, and the radio dramas before them, is this: all arresting and prosecuting officers of the law take a keen interest in the whereabouts of the miscreants they’ve put away.  Let’s face it.  No one wants to get jumped by a criminal who’s spent the last howevermany years rotting in jail, or gladiator school as some smart-alecs call it, plotting their revenge against the persons who put them there.  And therefore a notification system exists, formal and informal as well, to notify certain police or lawyers when certain convicts are released from prison, which is how this week’s MBR No. 124 begins.  Let It Burn, (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 276 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-64022-4) by Steve Hamilton, features his serial character named Alex McKnight, and this is his eleventh appearence in one of Mr. Hamilton’s novels.  McKnight is a medically retired, disabled Detroit policeman with a bullet still lodged in his chest, next to his heart.  He lives 300 miles north of the city at the extreme end of the Upper Michigan peninsula in a tiny town called Paradise.  It’s just before Labor Day, when McKnight . . . who is closing down the tourist cabins he makes his living with in preparation for winter . . . gets a phone call.  It’s from his old desk sergeant, a retired cop named Grimaldi, who is advising McKnight of the imminent release of a murderer that McKnight identified, helped arrest and send to prison.  It was a case that was closed just a couple of weeks before McKnight was shot three times by an insane man with an Uzi submachine gun and his partner was killed by the same crazed individual.  After a long convalescence, during which his marriage fell apart, McKnight left Detroit for the northernmost part of Michigan.  But, like an itch he can’t reach to scratch, the old case keeps nagging him because another detective closed it out . . . and McKnight isn’t one hundred percent certain that the kid who went to the Michigan State Penitentiary actually did the deed . . . which means that the real killer is still out there somewhere, still murdering other victims.  The case takes new and bizarre turns in every chapter until the conclusion blasts the reader into the realization that Hey this guy is a damn good writer!  There’s a reason he’s won more writing awards than I can even count, including a pair of those treasured Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America!  Read him yourself and see!  You’ll not be disappointed. Have you sampled the selections your local library has to offer?  Read or surrender yourself to ignorance.  It was true 4,500 years ago when Confucius said it, and it’s still true today, so read on brothers and sisters, read on. Check out our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The websites are enhanced and improved and easier to navigate.  Check it out for yourself and sign up for our FREE NEWSLETTER.  It’s an all-new feature.  While there, if you like us on Facebook and join our ever growing community of book lovers...

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Save Yourself

Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 123 by John Dwaine McKenna There’s a saying my old Irish Grandmother repeated that goes like so: God made the countryside and man built the cities . . . but the devil made the small town. I’ve thought about that old saw over the years, and what I think she meant was this: in a small town everyone knows everyone else’s business, so therefore, no one can EVER escape from their past.  And nowhere is it more true than in a small southwestern Pennsylvania town where this week’s MBR No. 123, Save Yourself, (Crown Publishing/Random House, $25.00, 310 pages ISBN 978-0-385-34734-1) by Kelly Braffet, takes place.  It’s where a twenty something named Patrick Cusimano is living with his brother Mike in their family homestead, along with Mike’s girlfriend.  Their mother is dead.  Their father lives in prison, sent down on a fifteen-year stretch for DUI and vehicular homicide . . . a hit and run that killed a little boy.  Both brothers are trying to live with the shame, each in his own way, because, well, because it’s complicated.  See, Patrick, who reported the crime, waited nineteen hours before doing so, while his brother Mike and their father tried to talk him out of it.  Mike is dealing with the ignomy by self-medicating with alcohol and pretending it doesn’t exist.  Patrick, the more sensitive of the two, is working a low-wage graveyard shift at a local gas and convenience stop in an attempt to avoid almost all human contact.  But his life gets more complicated when he finds himself attracted to his brother’s girlfriend.  He fights it, but it’s complicated.  More so because the attraction is, well, sort of mutual, at least sometimes.  Then there’s a seventeen year old Goth girl who’s after Patrick in a very carnal way; her demonic cohort and his acolytes; the vengeful parents of the murdered little boy; plus a crusading religious zealot . . . and suddenly we find that author Braffet has gathered all the elements of a wide-open, full tilt, screamin’ hot, rock n’ roll boogie that’ll leave the reader sweaty and gasping for breath.  Oh yeah, boys and girls . . . you don’t want to miss this ode to a small town’s psychological demolition.  It’s awesome! I don’t think there’s a library anywhere that’s not awe inspiring.  From the largest to the smallest, they all exist to serve women and mankind.   Now that’s awesome!  Go.  Participate.  See for yourself what all the fuss is about . . . Speaking of fuss, check out our websites:  johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The websites are enhanced and improved and easier to navigate.  Check it out for yourself and sign up for our FREE NEWSLETTER.  It’s an all-new feature.  While there, if you like us on Facebook and join our ever growing community of book lovers and adherents of the other Literae Humaniores, you’ll automatically get our weekly blogs and book reviews at 8 am Eastern time on Monday mornings, just as you get into work.  That way, you can relax with your coffee and still look busy as you re-adjust from the weekend back to the workweek.  Colorado Noir is off and running.  A limited number of author signed copies are available from Rhyolite Press LLC, P.O. Box 2406,...

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The Shanghi Factor

Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 122 by John Dwaine McKenna Here’s a true confession: I have been fascinated by spies, espionage and tradecraft ever since the 1950’s when I read that first issue of Mad Magazine and was introduced to the iconic Spy vs Spy cartoon strip with it’s two identical antagonists, battling to a constant and eternal draw.  From then on, I have read every spy novel I could get my hands on, from Joseph Conrad to John LeCarre, Ian Fleming to Frederick Forsyth and Vince Flynn as well as many others.  But in all that time, over those many hundreds of books, I don’t think there has been a truer, more accurate and actual, realistic depiction of the life of a spy than this week’s MBR No. 122.  Written by an actual operative and deep undercover CIA agent who spent more than a decade spying on eastern Europe during the height of the Cold War, The Shanghi Factor, (Mysterious Press-Grove/Atlantic, Inc., $26.00, 292 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2127-1) by Charles McCarry is the real, real deal and about as close as one can ever be to actual spyhood without taking the oath and completing the training. Spying is a life of anonymity, mistrust, duplicity, lies, cynicism, paranoia, danger, uncertainty and loneliness.  It has little or no glamour and is, in general poorly compensated and never rewarded publicly.  As the protagonist, known only as ‘A young American spy’ and an alias says on p.68, Befriend.  Bewilder.  Betray.  I know what I should have said.  But a new Faust is born every minute. The novel opens in Shanghi, China where the young American Spy is tasked with perfecting his Mandarin language skills and absorbing Chinese culture while awaitng his assignment from a spymaster at “Headquarters” whose name may or may not be “Luther Burbank.”  As the young spy is riding his bicycle, a beautiful and mysterious young Chinese woman known only as “Mei” crashes into him.  Intentionally?  Perhaps.  But she threatens to call the police unless he buys her a new and expensive bicycle.  Blackmailed, he complies and they soon begin a sexual relationship, and a teacher to student one as well.  It becomes strange and provocative situation where nothing is as it seems, danger lurks in every hidden meaning behind every word and treachery is everywhere.  It is a world in which, as our young spy says on p.122 Suspicion, prudence, deception are the three muses of the craft . . . and it is an utterly fascinating one as well.  The novel is compelling, fascinating and marvelously well-written.  It will keep the reader glued to the pages long into the night.  The Shanghi Factor is atmospheric, excellent and intelligent.  Dig in and enjoy! There’s a world of excellent spy thrillers at your local library.  All you have to do is go and get yourself a free library card.  Then, you can check out books to your hearts delight and read until the cows come home.  Why?  Because, “You must read, or surrender yourself to ignorance.” –Confucius More and more readers are choosing to cruise on over to our new and dynamic, totally redesigned and improved websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The websites are enhanced and improved and easier to navigate.  Check it out for yourself and sign up for our FREE...

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Red Moon

Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 121 by John Dwaine McKenna Happy Halloween!  This one’s for all the trick or treater’s out there, as well as all of the young at heart whose days of dressing up in costume and ringing doorbells and screaming that ages old refrain are long behind them. The topic this week is lycanthropy: the belief that humans can turn themselves into wolves, commonly known as werewolves.  And let’s just suppose for a minute that werewolves weren’t the product of a deranged mind or a folk tale.  Let’s suppose that werewolves (or lycans short for lycanthropes) live among us and have grown so numerous that they have a homeland, carved out of an icy no-man’s land between Finland and Russia; that vast deposits of uranium have been discovered there; that the U.S. military has established a presence there; that the U.S. provides and proscribes a free drug regimen for lycans which keeps them too sedated to transform themselves; that a secret underground movement of untreated lycans is growing, becoming more radical and committing outrageous acts of terrorism while at the same time, other lycans live untreated, peacefully and productively among us.  That is the stage upon which this week’s author, Benjamin Percy, sets his novel, Red Moon (Grand Central Publishing/Hatchette Books Group, $25.99, 531 pages, ISBN 978-4-4555-0166-3). The novel begins with an act of terror aboard a commercial airliner in the United States which leaves only one survivor.  His name is Patrick Gamble, a lad of sixteen, and known as the ‘miracle boy’. Shortly after the terrorist attack, what appears to be a group of secret government agents kick down Claire Forrester’s front door, murder her parents in a botched lycan roundup, and set her on a journey of discovery, escape and evasion. As the acts of terror increase, the cast of characters broadens in scope while the U.S. Government tries to contain the spreading lycan threat and Patrick and Claire are drawn inexorably together in an apparently doomed relationship.  But if you’re beginning to think this is a boy meets girl teen romance, DON’T, because the novel grows more complex with each chapter, and the stage larger, with unmistakable political and social and  racial similarities to our own present day world.  This is a big novel on a big stage.  It’s eloquent and thought provoking and mighty entertaining.  I highly recommend it to all the adventurous readers out there. You’ll find plenty of adventures in your local library.  From the classics to the casual read . . . and everything in between . . . it’s there for free.  All you have to do is go. Have you checked out our new and improved websites yet?  They’re found at: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The websites are enhanced and improved and easier to navigate.  Check it out for yourself and sign up for our FREE NEWSLETTER.  It’s an all-new feature.  While there, if you like us on Facebook and join our ever growing community of book lovers and adherents of the other Literae Humaniores, you’ll automatically get our weekly blogs and book reviews at 8 am Eastern time on Monday mornings, just as you get into work.  That way, you can relax with your coffee and still look busy as you re-adjust from the weekend back to the...

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A Man Without Breath

Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 119 by John Dwaine McKenna A nation without religion—that is like a man without breath.–Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, 1933-45.  He had total control of the press, radio and all aspects of German culture during that time.  It was his job to make the Nazi Army look as good as possible, while at the same time, making Germany’s many enemies look as bad as possible.  It was Goebbels who suppressed all the information about the Holocaust from the world.  He, like most of the rest of the Nazi warlords, committed suicide in 1945, rather than surrender to the Allied forces and face a war crimes tribunal. In this weeks MBR No. 119, A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther) (A Miriam Wood Book/Putnam/Penguin, $26.95, 465 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16079-0) by Phillip Kerr, we find serial protagonist Bernie Gunther, in Smolensk, USSR, investigating a mass murder of Polish Army Officers by the Soviets at a place called the Katyn Forest.  Bernie Gunther, an ex-Berlin Homicide Detective, is attached to the German War Crimes Bureau, supposedly independent, but answerable to Goebbels.  He’s been sent there as a credible investigator, tasked with proving that four thousand Poles were systematically shot by the NKVD (later called the KGB, the infamous Soviet spy and torture agency) and buried in mass graves.  It’s March, 1943, just one month since the stunning defeat of the German Wehrmacht at Stalingrad and army moral is low.  The defeat is as yet unknown in Germany, where Hilter and Goebbels  are claiming that Germany is winning the war.  Bernie Gunther and all the other front line officers know that, contrary to all the propaganda, the war is lost.  They know too, that Red Army forces are massing around the defeated, retreating German forces at a place called Kursk, a few hundred kilometers North of their position at Smolensk . . . and that they’re greatly outnumbered.  There’s not much time left before the expected bloodbath and Gunther is in a hurry to complete his work and return to Berlin and it’s safer, for the time being, environment.  Trouble is however, that an intelligent and resourceful serial killer is also operating in the area.  The killer keeps murdering witnesses and destroying key pieces of evidence, and Bernie’s departure keeps getting pushed back because he’s the only experienced, competent homicide investigator in the area, and therefore given the job of solving the homicides.  His job is made nearly impossible by the discovery of other mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of Polish Jews; men, women and children, murdered by the German SS and special execution squads.  This novel is all the more chilling because it is based on historical fact.  Bernie Gunther is “A Man Without Breath,” his religious beliefs destroyed by the horrors of war, and his patriotism wiped away by the highjacking of his country in 1933, when the National Socialist, or Nazi party took over.  A Man Without Breath is a complex, intelligent, historically accurate novel written with a precise and delicate touch on a sprawling canvas.  Phillip Kerr is the best in the business of historical fiction . . . and a master of the most epochal couple of decades in all of world history.  Don’t miss reading his wonderful series of...

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Visitation Street

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 120 by John Dwaine McKenna Across from lower Manhattan, on the eastern shore, at the mouth of the East River, is a run-down area of abandoned warehouses, discarded, dilapidated piers and muddy salt flat marshes that look out on the Buttermilk Channel, Governor’s Island, Ellis, Liberty and Staten Island, the upper bay, as well as the New Jersey shoreline and the Statue of Liberty.  It’s called Red Hook.  It’s the toughest part of Brooklyn, sitting on a promontory that time has passed by.  It’s an area that runs the socio-economic spectrum, from pioneering yuppies and developers intent on gentrification, to hard-boiled middle class working types who’ve lived in the area for a generation or more, to the disadvantaged who live in huge public works projects and collect public assistance in order to exist.  Red Hook is where this week’s MBR number 120, takes place, it’s title is Visitation Street, (A Dennis Lehane Book/Ecco/Harper Collins, $25.99, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-224989-0) by Ivy Pochoda.  It’s hot mid-summer and two bored fifteen year old girls named Val and June, leave their home on Visitation Street “One of the nice, tree lined streets in Red Hook,” in their shorts and tube tops, carrying a small pink plastic raft, intent on cooling off by sailing in the New York Bay . . . ignorant of, or perhaps ignoring the strong riptides and vicious currents from the East and Hudson Rivers.  A short while after launching their flimsy craft and paddling out with their hands . . . the girls disappear.  The next day, only Val is found, near death under a bridge, where she washes ashore.  June is missing.  Her disappearance affects the whole area, and the novel unfolds like a time-lapse photograph of a flower blooming, as seen through the eyes of Val, who’s devastated by June’s disappearance; Cree, an innocent black kid from the projects who becomes a suspect; Fadi, a Lebanese bodega owner who’s writing a neighborhood newspaper giving the local’s opinions, gossip and rumors; as well as several other minor characters like the drunk music teacher who found and saved Val.  The book contains elegiac prose, thoughtful insights and a dynamic, well-paced plot that gradually spools into a surprise ending.  I can see why Dennis Lehane, an author who maintains the highest personal standards in his writings, put his name on it.  This is a novel to savor and enjoy over a few cold and wet fall afternoons and evenings.  Ivy Pocoda is a great young author with a lot of tales yet to write.  I think she’ll have a long and storied career. Your personal standards, as well as your knowledge and areas of interest will all increase in direct proportion to the amount of time you spend reading, or at the library.  It’s a fact.  But one of the best things about the library is that it’s absolutely positively, genuinely one hundred percent FREE.  This means at no cost.  Zilch.  Nada. Nuttin’ Honey.  But you have to go, because if you don’t read you’ll be ignorant.  It’s your choice . . . More and more readers are choosing to cruise on over to our new and dynamic, totally redesigned and improved websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The websites are enhanced and improved and easier to...

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Light of the World

Posted by on Oct 10, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 118 by John Dwaine McKenna This week’s MBR is a review of an author I’ve admired and read diligently for the past twenty-some years . . . ever since I heard him interviewed by Terry Gross on National Public Radio one afternoon as I waited in the car.  The author’s name is James Lee Burke.  He’s been called “America’s best Novelist,” by The Denver Post, awarded two Edgars by the Mystery Writers of America and lauded as a Grand Master as well.  He’s been called “The reigning champ of nostalgia noir,” by The New York Times and “A modern master” by Publishers Weekly.  All mighty praise indeed, to which I can only add this humble coda:  James Lee Burke not only inspires me, he’s the author I most aspire to be like.  He is the only author I consistently re-read . . . and continue to find additional sources of inspiration and admiration with every reading. The Light of the World, (Simon & Shuster, $27.99, 548 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-1076-1) is Burke’s thirty-second novel and his twentieth in the Dave Robicheux series.  In this one, an aging Robicheux and his best friend and ally, a fiercely loyal, violent and tortured soul named Clete Purcel, are vacationing in Montana.  They’re staying at the ranch of an old friend, a writer, retired professor and environmentalist named Albert Hollister, with Dave’s wife Molly his daughter, Alafair and Clete’s daughter Gretchen.  Their laid back and idyllic vacation is cut short however, when Alafair is nearly killed by someone using a bow and razor-sharp hunting arrow, and the hunt is on for one of the most diabolic, sinister and evil characters Burke has ever created: a sadistic serial killer named Asa Surette.  He’s a man the authorities have declared dead . . .and one who may possess supernatural abilities . . . who is the most frightening adversary Robicheux has ever faced.  The cast of characters grows as the novel progresses, to include a demented rodeo clown, an oil baron and his pampered, criminally-bent son whose abused and promiscuous wife has an illicit relationship with one of the principal characters; then throw in a couple of shady lawmen whom Robicheux and Purcel run afoul of  . . . and the action never stops while the tension ratchets up to a nearly unbearable level before the shattering conclusion that leaves more dead bodies than a Shakespearian tragedy. Although long-term readers of Burke’s work may find it a bit on the formulaic side, the story arc, action and, oh yes, the author’s musings about the eternal battle between the forces of good and evil will be enough to make any reader, like me, a fan of James Lee Burke.  His body of work is unsurpassed in the world of crime fiction, and stands side by side with the best writers of all time. You can meet all of the legendary authors at your local library, just by visiting.  Yup!  It’s true.  And it won’t cost you a dime. I’d like to give a shout-out to all of you who’ve liked me on Facebook and followed me on Twitter and Goodreads.  You too, can check it all out by visiting our websites. johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com We’d love to meet and greet you there and...

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Follow Her Home

Posted by on Oct 3, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 117 by John Dwaine McKenna As regular readers of the Mysterious Book Report, know we work to search out and find debut mysteries written by first-time authors and grow as fans with them, rather than bowing and scraping at the feet of the mega-writers with seven or eight figure publishing contracts from the giants of the industry—although we do admit to occasionally genuflecting near them, by occasionally reviewing the masters in order to serve the entire reading public.  But, our focus will always be on finding our next great author rather than our most favorite old ones.  This week we’ve got a new author and book and, guess what, it’s aimed squarely at the lady readers in the crowd!  It’s unique, it’s good, and, there’s no Irish tough guy cops to be found anywhere in it.  That’s because Follow Her Home, (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 278 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-00962-3) by Steph Cha is about a Korean-American amateur detective named Juniper Song, who has a thing for the novels of Raymond Chandler and his hard-boiled detective, Phillip Marlowe.  (The character played by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, and always referred to simply as Marlowe.) The mystery begins at a party when Song is asked by her white YaleUniversity classmate, Luke, if she thinks his father, a prominent and powerful Los Angeles lawyer, is having an affair with a young, eighteen  year old Korean beauty named Lori.  Song agrees to investigate and the mystery begins, interwoven with a back story about Iris, Song’s tragic younger sister, also involved with an older white man in a case of what author Cha refers to as ‘yellow fever,’ or older white men who are infatuated with young Asian women and pursue them in trans-racial relationships which are frowned upon by most Asian parents. Follow her Home is dark, brooding, noir-ish and full of references to Phillip Marlow.  It’s fun, entertaining and a fast read.  But, with sentences like this on page 171, “. . . she wore a raspberry cap-sleeve cotton dress with a full skirt and Peter Pam collar with tan ballet flats.”  It’s definitely not a guy type novel.  The ladies however, will love it! Everyone loves the library.  Go.  Find out for yourself.  And hey! Take the kids, grandkids or neighbor kids with you.  There’s plenty to do for everyone, and you’ll be giving them a helping hand in life by improving their reading and learning skills . . . The next time you’re surfing around on the internet, surf around in our new and improved websites at: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com Catch up on the newest news and the latest what’s happenings out here in the west, “By the Sun Mountain Sitting Big.”  Intrigued?  That quote comes from George Douthit’s great book, The Boy Who Slept With Bears, just published by Rhyolite Press. While you’re there pick up a copy of Colorado Noir, John Dwaine McKenna’s newest, which is getting rave reviews. Whatever you’re doing, keep reading!  We’ll be back next week with another new and thoughtful MBR....

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The Carrion Birds

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 116 by John Dwaine McKenna A lot of folks in America don’t seem to be aware of it, or maybe they just don’t care since it’s not on their front stoop, but a war unlike any we’ve ever had is raging inside our nation.  It’s called the War on Drugs . . . and we’re losing it.  Certain parts of our cities are the scenes of daily urban combat between different gangs competing for drug territory.  The focal point of the entire war however, is in the American southwest, along the California, Arizona, New   Mexico and Texas boarders.  There, in small towns close to the Mexican border, law enforcement officials are under constant pressure and threat from the four major Mexican drug cartels who now have heavily armed armies of battle-hardened soldiers ready to do their bidding.  It’s where we find ourselves in this week’s Mysterious Book Report. The Carrion Birds (Wm Morrow, $25.99, 265 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-221688-5) by Urban Waite, picks up in New Mexico where Cormac McCarthy left off in Texas with No Country For Old Men. In The Carrion Birds, Ray Lamar is a drug enforcer who’s been at it since his wife was killed in a hit-and-run accident that also left his infant son with permanent brain damage and unable to speak.  He’s been away from his home and family for ten long years.  Now he wants to quit and return to the small southern New Mexico town he grew up in.  He agrees to do one last, ‘easy’ job near his hometown for Memo, the drug lord he’s put all his army special operations training to work for.  An easy job.  Sure.  Easy that is, until the killing starts.  Killings that will put Ray in conflict with Tom, his closest friend, a man he grew up with, who’s like a brother, as well as Edna, the home town Sheriff with a three-man police force that’s outmanned and outgunned by the cartel, a few miles away in Mexico.  This one is fast and furious, action-packed and relentless in it’s pacing and as bloody as anything William Shakespeare ever wrote.  If you like action, adventure and criminals galore, pick up a copy today.  You’ll soon see what life is like along our southern border.  It’s scary as hell.  You’ve been warned! Now that school is back in session it’s a great time to drop in at the library and check out what’s new, meet an intelligent and dedicated librarian who’ll educate you about all the services the library offers for free.  Here’s a sample.  It’s a quote from Mark Twain (who wrote Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn) one of America’s greatest authors:  “There is no distinctly American criminal class, excepting of course, Congress.” Case in point; are you aware that after jamming Obama Care down all of our throats with a wooden block and steel hammer, Congress, our Federal House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate, exempted themselves?  Said they wouldn’t be able to hire quality help without it.  Where’s the outrage?  Where’s the news coverage?  Where do YOU stand? Whoa there boyo.  Don’t know where, exactly, that came from.  Musta had too much bran in my cereal this morning . . . Stop over at our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and...

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The Son

Posted by on Sep 19, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No 115 by John Dwaine McKenna   If you’ve ever wished for a big, bold, sprawling novel filled with insight, history, a compelling and exciting story with plenty of action-driven plot, capped off by soaring prose with masterful as well as beautiful, always lyrical—to the point of being poetic—language, your wish has come true in the form of a great new novel from Philipp Meyer. The Son, (ECCO, $27.99, 561 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-212039-7) is a novel about a Texas Dynasty, The McCulloughs; and it’s a novel that’s as big as the state itself, covering parts of three centuries . . . from the pre-civil war frontier through the oil booms and busts of the twentieth century, on into the uncertainties of terrorism in the twenty-first.  Three narratives are woven together to form the body of a rich family saga, told from three distinctly different points of view.  The first is the narrative of Eli McCullough, captured by a band of Comanche Indians in 1850 and raised as one of their own for three years until his eventual return to civilized society, where he has trouble reintegrating.  The second narrative is Peter McCullough’s diary, written during the summer of 1917.  Peter is one of three sons fathered by Eli, and the only one who doesn’t share his father’s buccaneering attitude.  His life is overshadowed by a single night of violence and a fatal attraction to the wrong person.  The last narrative is that of Jeannie; Peter’s grand-daughter.  She’s an oil baroness of the mid to late twentieth century, one of the wealthiest women in the world after inheriting her great grandfather Eli’s oil and cattle empire.  The three narratives gradually blend together until they coalesce into a harmonious whole that leaves the reader wishing that there was another five hundred or so pages more.  This one’s getting great reviews from all quarters.  It’s a great read all will enjoy. Spend an enjoyable day at your local library lately?  It’s where you’ll not only find books of all kinds, you’ll also find CD’s, DVD’s, computer games, access to the internet and educational program’s as well as staff to assist you. Here’s a stray thought to ponder, and a tongue in cheek comment about our elected representatives who casually spend our money: One Million seconds of time equals about 12 days. One Trillion seconds of time equals more than 30,000 years! Sorta takes your breath away doesn’t it. The next time you’re out surfing the ‘net stop in and check out our new and improved websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com They’re better looking, easier to navigate and have more features than before.  While you’re there please leave a message of your own.  We’d love to hear from you. Have you seen Rhyolite’s  two newest publications . . . The Boy Who Slept With Bears, by George Douthit, is being read and loved by ages eight to eighty and Colorado Noir, by John Dwaine McKenna, is entertaining lovers of crime fiction everywhere.  Copies are available at any bookstore, Amazon or as an eReader.  A limited number of signed copies are available by sending $19.00 for The Boy Who Slept With Bears or $20.95 for Colorado Noir which covers the book plus shipping and handling charges to:  Sally Lemmon at Rhyolite Press,...

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Transatlantic

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 114 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever wondered about the word Genius?  What is it exactly?  Who determines it?  Where can we find it, where does it come from and how will we know when we see it?  These are just a few of the thoughts that come to mind when one thinks about the word and what it implies, or the status it confers upon the recipient.  The Oxford dictionary of American English defines genius as exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability, and after reading that, it’s certainly an apt description of this week’s author and his work of complex literary art . . . Transatlantic, (Random House, $27.00, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-4000-6959-0) by Colum McCann ties together America and Ireland through the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, using several different characters and their seemingly unrelated stories that the author neatly ties together to complete the transatlantic journey.  The novel begins in 1919, with the attempted non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Europe by aviators Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown, who make it as far as Ireland before crashing their World War I bomber.  The next chapter opens in 1845 in Dublin, Ireland as we focus on the lecture tour of Frederick Douglas, speaking about his anti-slavery autobiography.  In part three, the reader is introduced, in 1998 in New York City, to Senator George Mitchell, as he hops back and forth between New York, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Washington, D.C. negotiating what became known as the ‘Good Friday Accord,’ ending the violence in Ireland which was known simply as ‘The Troubles,’ but was actually a guerilla war between Irish Catholics and Protestants, fighting about the reunification of the island nation and an end of 800 years of British occupation.  Throughout the novel, the stories of these three famous transatlantic crossings are woven together with a poignant tale of a common, but extraordinary, woman’s emmigration from Ireland to America, to escape the potato famine of 1847 and her descendants, who eventually get caught up in ‘The Troubles’ back in Ireland. Transatlantic is complex, compelling and a masterful novel of high literary art; worthy of your time and reflection.  It is a thoughtful work from a master of the English language.  Although it’s outside of our usual mystery and crime fiction genre, this one calls for all reader’s attention. And while we’re at it, give some attention to your local library.  Don’t hesitate to participate.  Drop by today! Have you dropped in and taken a look at our new and greatly improved websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com you’re in for a treat when you do.  They have all new graphics and easy to get around navigation as well as places for your comments and reviews.  Check it out.  Go ahead.  I dare ya . . . The Boy Who Slept With Bears is still being read and loved by readers aged eight to eighty and flying off shelves.  It’s a treat for all who’ve read it, so buy a copy at Amazon or any other bookstore in the world.  If they don’t have it in stock, they can order it for you.  And the same goes for The Neversink Chronicles, The Whim-Wham Man and the just released hottie, Colorado Noir! One reviewer recently...

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Standing In Another Man’s Grave

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 113 by John Dwaine McKenna One of the most interesting characters in all of crime fiction literature is a champion of seemingly lost causes named John Rebus.  You may have seen him on PBS television.  He’s the irascible, grouchy, and brilliant Scottish Detective Inspector from Edinburg created some twenty years ago by a Scotsman writer named Ian Rankin; and, like a rare single malt whisky, he gets better with age. Standing In Another Man’s Grave, (Little, Brown, $25.99, 388 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-22458-1) by Ian Rankin is the twentieth in the series.  Like all of Rankin’s work it is intelligent, finely-crafted and engaging.  It begins with a retired DI Rebus working in a civilian capacity, organizing and looking into cold case files, while at the same time doing his best to annoy his young and ambitious supervisor.  But when he meets a woman named Nina Hazlitt, everything changes.  She’s been looking for her daughter, a young woman named Sally who disappeared ten years ago.  Her case fell off the police radar screens as more current and urgent ones turned up, because there’s no body, no suspect, and no new clues.  But Rebus, like a Don Quixote of the Edinburg Police Department, agrees to look into it . . . in spite of Nina Hazlitt’s reputation around the department as a crank.  When Rebus discovers that two other young women have disappeared on the same remote stretch of road, his intuition and experience lead him to believe that the case may involve an unknown, undiscovered, and as yet unidentified, serial killer . . . and all he has to do is convince his skeptical, underfunded and stressed out former colleagues to believe him.  Did I mention that Rebus, in addition to annoying every supervisor he’s ever had, has a drinking problem and hangs out with a couple of organized crime bosses . . . which has him being investigated by the Internal Affairs Section?  Read this excellent and finely-crafted novel for yourself, and see why Rebus has been called one of the finest characters to ever come along in the detective genre and Ian Rankin is known as the best living British crime writer.  You’ll not be disappointed. You’ll never be disappointed by the selection and quality of reading materials at your local library.  The choices are unlimited.  Go and see for yourself and be sure to take the kids and grandkids. Have you seen our all new and improved websites yet?  If not, you are in for a treat.  Susan and her band of computer sorcerers out there in California have worked their magic to give us a better, faster and more visual, easier to use and updated set of websites.  See for yourself at: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com Oh, and that’s not all . . . if you type in the title of any of our books into your search engine, you’ll go straight to our new ‘landing page’ where you’ll be able to read reviews, excerpts and buy a copy with a couple of mouse clicks!  It is indeed, just like magic . . . That’s about all of the magic yours truly has for this week, except this.  My oldest and dearest pal in the whole world, as well as being the senior trout...

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Breaking Point

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 112 by John Dwaine McKenna In spite of what the old saw says, and what our mothers and other teachers told us . . . sometimes we just can’t help but prejudge . . . we go right ahead and judge a book by it’s cover, as the old saying goes.  I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it at one time or another, only to find out at a later date how very wrong we were in our first assessment.  This applies to people, places and things, or in my personal case, books. A few years ago, I was offered a pair of novels about a Wyoming game warden.  “They’re pretty good,” the recommender said.  “Nah,” I said, “that doesn’t appeal to me, it doesn’t sound very exciting, to tell you the truth.”  At the time I was deep into international espionage: spy versus spy and the like.  Now, fifteen best-selling novels later, yours truly finally got around to reading one of the ‘Game Warden’ novels . . . and discovered just how much he’s been missing. Breaking Point, (Putnam, $26.95, 367 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16075-2) by C.J. Box is the thirteenth in his Joe Pickett series.  It’s a novel that’s bound to raise the hackles of any property owner, but in particular, any owners of property in or around a watershed area, because the novel concerns the property owner versus an overreaching government bureaucrat.  The novel begins with two EPA employees being sent from Denver, Colorado to serve an EPA order on a Wyoming property owner, that comes complete with fines and penalties that mount up by the day, because the area has been designated as a wetlands.  The owner is a small time builder who’s trying to build his retirement home in an established development, between two existing properties.  When the two agents are found shot to death, a massive manhunt for Butch Roberson is set into motion that pits Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett against the father of his own daughter’s best friend.  All the signs point to Roberson, who may have reached his breaking point, but as the facts start trickling in, the outrageous unfairness of it all makes Pickett realize that he too, is approaching his breaking point.  The revelations, twists and turns keep coming, all the way up to the denouement and stunning conclusion that will leave you squirming in your seat, feeling as if you’ve been gut-punched.  This is one helluva story, and one you won’t forget for a long, long time . . . I know I won’t. And I know too, that I’ll be spending some time at the library, catching up with the backlist of Joe Pickett novels.  Will I bump into you there? You’re all invited to come over to our redesigned and improved websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com you’ll find all of our tried and time-tested features as well as some new and improved ones that’ll keep you informed and up to date with what’s happening out here by “the Sun Mountain Sitting Big,” as the Ute Indians called Pikes Peak.  The Boy Who Slept With Bears is drawing rave reviews from all who’ve seen and read it.  It details the efforts of a Ute boy to survive in a prejudicial world...

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Bear Is Broken

Posted by on Aug 22, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 111 by John Dwaine McKenna Some of the most popular and ever present murder mysteries and crime fiction novels involve lawyers and courtroom dramas.  Probably the first to do so was Earle Stanley Gardner, with his case-cracking super-lawyer named Perry Mason, who always seemed able to force a confession on the witness stand.  These days, author John Grisham seems to have a hammer-lock on the genre, but, just like sports, where there’s always up and coming new talent nipping at the heels of the veterans, so it is with writers. Bear Is Broken, (Mysterious Press, $24.00, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2079-3) by Lochlan Smith is a debut novel from a new young author with what looks like a long and prolific writing career in front of him.  The place is San   Francisco, and the time is mid-day.  Leo Maxwell, a young attorney who’s just passed the California Bar Exam, is having lunch with his older brother Teddy, a highly successful criminal defense attorney who manages to win the majority of his cases, no matter how dire the charges against his clients.  Teddy is a hard driving uber-lawyer with a history, who’s loved by his clients and despised by cops, and prosecutors who’ve faced him in court, only to be soundly thumped in front of their peers.  They’re discussing Leo’s potential job options in an upscale restaurant at the height of rush hour.  And that’s when a person wearing a hat and raincoat walks up, leans over Leo’s shoulder, shoots Teddy Maxwell in the head with a large caliber handgun and calmly departs through the kitchen and escapes . . . all in the first four pages.  As Teddy hovers between life and death in the critical care unit, Leo realizes that the list of potential suspects is a mile long and the police don’t seem to be highly motivated to catch the assailant.  But the harder he digs, the more complex the case becomes, leading Leo ever-deeper into his brothers labyrinthine affairs.  Twists, turns, false conclusions and red herrings are sprinkled liberally throughout this interesting, well-plotted and complex mystery.  Do yourself a favor and get introduced to Leo Maxwell and author Lachlan Smith.  He’s going to have a long and distinguished writing career. You’ll find Lachlan Smith and hundreds more world-class mystery writers at the library, but only if you go.  You’ll only get smarter if you read . . . When you’re out surfing the ‘net next, drop on over to our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com where you’ll find booklists, reading suggestions, all the Mysterious Book Reports ever written, news info and blogs as well as contact information and a place to order Rhyolite Press books.  Their newest work, The Boy Who Slept With Bears, by George R. Douthit III is now out and selling like crazy.  “It’s the story of the efforts of a Ute Indian boy to survive in a prejudicial world controlled by a government bent on his removal, if not his civilizing.”  It’s read and loved by ages eight to eighty . . . and one for your kids, grandkids and yourself.  You’ll be glad you did, once you’ve read it.  It’s just that darn good! $15.00, ISBN 978-0-9839952-8-9 and available through any bookstore, anywhere, on the planet Earth.  Also...

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Robert Parker’s Wonderland

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 110 by John Dwaine McKenna When a popular and prolific author dies, so do all of his or her characters.  If the author in question has created a serial character, the mourning is even greater because the character is so beloved by legions of invested readers and fans . . . some of whom have been involved in reading the character’s stories from the authors first book to the last . . . that the publisher, working with the author’s estate, will print unfinished manuscripts and works in progress at the time of death.  Sometimes, in really rare instances, another young, upcoming author will be hired to continue the deceased one’s work.  Such is the case with Robert B. Parker’s Boston private eye—and everybody’s favorite tough guy—the wise-cracking and literate man known to all of us as Spenser. Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland, Putnam, $26.95, 306 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16157-5) by Ace Atkins is the second of his Spenser novels after he was handpicked by the Parker Estate to continue the tradition of the iconic Boston P.I. after Mr. Parker’s death in January of 2010.  To his credit, Mr. Atkins moves seamlessly and flawlessly into the void, and continues the stories of the much-loved detective. As Wonderland begins, Henry Cimoli, Spenser’s long-time friend and boxing trainer, asks him to do a favor . . . and push back against the two thugs who’ve been threatening him.  They work for a developer who wants to buy the old beachfront condominiums where Henry and other retirees live.  The old folks like it there, don’t want to sell and don’t want to move.  Spenser and his young protogé, a Cree Indian from Montana named Zachariah Sixkill, step in to help.  When ‘Z’ is badly beaten by three men with guns and lies in the Critical Care Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, the situation escalates, and Spenser takes it personally.  It seems that an old amusement park known as Wonderland and billions of dollars . . . as well as in-state and out-of-state elements of organized crime are all involved . . . and the body count is starting to rise as Z tries to recover from his physical and psychological wounds.  Lives hang in the balance as the action-packed adventure races toward it’s exciting conclusion.  Ace Atkins is a worthy successor to Mr. Parker and Wonderland is great summer reading! How’s your summer reading program doing?  Everyone should have one, it’s not just for “the kids,” you know.  You can make up your own, or get one from the local librarians. Have you checked out our awesome new websites at johndwainemackenna.com and rhyolitepress.com they’re chock-full of new stuff and have a brand new look and design features, but you can still execute all of the same commands there.  And if you’ll hit the like button on Facebook, you’ll get all the latest from out in the westus, firstus.  What a deal! Get your kids, grandkids, school kids, neighbor kids, the kids at heart . . . maybe even yourself . . . a copy of Rhyolite Press LLC’s newest, hottest and best-loved story, The Boy Who Slept With Bears, by George R. Douthit III It tells the heartwarming and heart-wrenching story of Tomas Dequine or SAK-WA-MA-TU-TA-CI, which means ‘Blue Hummingbird’...

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The Third Bullet

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report 109 by John Dwaine McKenna This November twenty-second will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth president of the United   States.  For those of us who are old enough to remember that horrific day and its aftermath, it hardly seems possible that so much time has passed.  In the words of a popular song . . . I just looked around and he’s gone . . . The President is gone, fifty years is gone, the Viet Nam War is gone, our innocence is gone . . . and our youth is gone. Now is the time we become reflective in our lives, with all us Baby Boomers reminiscing, and remembering; thinking about what happened, what went right and what went wrong in our lives.  The Kennedy Assassination is one of the monumental events of our collective life and times and as such, we can expect a plethora of shows, books and articles on the subject.  MBR No 109 is a fictionalized version of the events of November 22, 1963 without altering or contradicting any of the known and accepted facts of the Warren Commission, which investigated the shooting, or the two best pieces of investigative work about it: Case Closed, by Gerald Posner, and Reclaiming History, by Vincent Bugliosi. The Third Bullet, Simon & Shuster, $26.99, 485 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-4020-5) by Stephen Hunter is a lengthy and complex novel in which his iconic serial character named Bob Lee Swagger tries to solve the mystery of the third bullet, (the missing one) in the Kennedy Assassination.  Swagger is of course, the US Marine Sharpshooter we first met in Hunter’s novel I, Sniper.  Following up on a rumor after the hit and run death of a investigative journalist who was compiling new information about the assassination of JFK, and using an old overcoat found in the Dallas Textiles building next door to the Book Depository in Dallas, Texas from where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy, protagonist Bob Lee Swagger opens his own investigation . . . .attempting to prove the existence of a second shooter by using ballistics technology not available in 1963, as well as his own unique experience and training as a sniper.  What follows is an intense and deadly hunt and chase to catch one of the smartest and deadliest of adversaries and evil misguided geniuses Mr. Hunter has ever conceived.  Swagger’s narrative is joined by a second, more sophisticated one a little past the halfway point of the novel, and the reader realizes that Swagger the hunter may be instead the hunted: the predator may now be prey.  The Third Bullet is full of detail concerning the events of November 22, 1963, as well as enough gun lore to keep even the most ardent armchair soldiers of fortune enthralled.  This one will take some time to read, so sit back, dig in and enjoy. And how about it?  Have you taken a few moments to check into some of the great summer reading programs at your local library?  What’s that . . . no time for it . . . don’t want to read?  Too busy doing twelve-ounce curls and watching all those re-runs on the telly.  So, how do you feel about ignorance and...

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Ghostman

Posted by on Aug 1, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 108 by John Dwaine McKenna Who among us hasn’t dreamed, at one time or another, of chucking it all; going off the grid and living a life of anonymity?  No name, no taxes and no responsibilities . . . answerable only to oneself and the whims of chance.  Soon however, like running off to join the circus, or driving a Corvette from town to town along Route 66, all of these flights of fancy fade away like the daydreams they are.  But . . . what if . . . This week’s MBR is about just such an anonymous man.  He’s elusive, doesn’t even exist in the piles of paper and digital ones and zeros that define all the rest of us.  And he’s a criminal.  Not a petty criminal either, but a master thief whose ability to disappear himself gives him the ability to make lots of other things disappear as well.  Like problems. Ghostman, (Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95, 321 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-95996-6) by Roger Hobbs is a first novel by a young writer with talent dripping from his fingertips.  He’s delivered one of the most interesting and well-researched crime-fiction novels of the year, and one which certainly gets my vote for a Best First Novel Edgar Award.  The folks at Knopf must think so too.  It was simultaneously published in sixteen countries around the world. The novel opens with an armored truck robbery as it’s delivering $1.2 million in newly printed cash to one of Atlantic City’s largest casinos.  It all goes haywire as soon as the money is stolen.  The result is that one of the two robbers is shot dead by an unknown assassin, the other one is wounded, and the $1.2 million is missing.  A call goes out from the organizer of the crime and a favor is called in.  The ghostman, known as Jack, is called in to set things right: find the missing money, figure out who the mysterious killer is, and oh yeah, remain out of the clutches of the FBI . . . all in less than forty-eight hours, because a clock started ticking the second the money was stolen.  That’s how long the timer-fuse on the bomb placed in the block of hundred-dollar bills by the Federal Reserve Printing Department has before it explodes and kills everyone in close proximity to it. The action never stops.  The pacing is relentless.  The twists and turns keep coming with an intensity that ratchets up the tension in every paragraph and keeps the reader focused on every page.  Ghostman is engaging, exciting and extraordinary.  You don’t want to miss it if you’re a fan of crime fiction.  Wow!  Is all I can say in summation. You’ll say Wow! Whenever you stop in and visit your local library.  They’re not the dusty old archives pictured in the movies.  They computerized and offer many low cost or free services to their patrons.  Do yourself a favor and check it out. And hey!  Kindly do us the favor of visiting our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com Colorado Noir is just about to go to the printer and Rhyolite has revised and re-issued an iconic and much-loved story for young readers aged eight to eighty called The Boy Who Slept With Bears, by...

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The Boyfriend

Posted by on Jul 25, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 107 by John Dwaine McKenna There are people in the world who are so expert in their chosen fields of work that they have the skill and the ability to make the most difficult tasks look easy.  You know the ones I mean: the accountant who takes the most insurmountable stack of receipts and sloppy bookkeeping and turn them into an on-time, precise and neatly done books or tax returns . . . the master carpenter who quickly assembles a beautiful and plumb building, set of stairs or set of cabinets from a pile of lumber . . . or the classroom teacher who captivates the minds and attentions of twenty-five or thirty students at once and inspires them to greater accomplishments than the students ever thought they were capable of.  These are only a few examples.  There’s many more out there to choose from.  But this is a book review column, so we’re going to discuss a wordsmith, one who may not be in the mass-market paperback rack at the supermarket, but who’s been a reliable and superb thriller and crime fiction writer for several decades.  He’s a New York Times bestselling author and has an Edgar Award on his mantel to go with various other awards for his twenty-plus books.  His name is Thomas Perry, and his newest book, The Boyfriend, (Mysterious Press, $25.00, 298 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2606-1) has just been published.  It’s a chase and pursuit story in which Jack Till, a retired LAPD Homicide Detective is hired by the grieving parents of a murdered young woman to try and find her killer after the police have shelved the case because the woman was a high-priced call girl.  After a cursory examination that came up blank, the cops have put her case in the ‘open-unsolved’ file and moved on, allowing for the risk associated with her profession.  But the parents aren’t willing to settle for that.  They still love their daughter, in spite of her chosen profession and plunk down a check for $100,000 on Till’s desk to catch her killer.  It strikes a nerve with him because he has a daughter with Down Syndrome.  As Till gets deeper into the case however, he discovers other similar murders and gets drawn ever deeper into the online dating service industry and discovers that he has a serial killer on his hands.  A killer who stalks only a certain type of woman, and that sets off a coast-to-coast manhunt for a viscous and demented killer.  This is an excellent and exciting and entertaining read that’ll keep you reading long after your coffee goes cold, or the ice melts in your iced tea.  It’s proof positive that an expert makes the difficult seem easy.  Thomas Perry is an expert wordsmith and his latest yarn is great! You can find Perry’s books and many expert librarians at your local library.  That’s where all those smart librarians hang around.  Go ahead.  See for yourself what all the fuss is about and check out the other goods and services they offer.  But whatever you do, READ!  Don’t surrender to ignorance.  There’s just no excuse for it. Next time you’re on the computer check out our shiny new and improved websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com There you’ll find news, old...

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The Black Irish

Posted by on Jul 18, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 106 by John Dwaine McKenna Are you familiar with the term “Black Irish?” It refers not to the color of one’s skin, but to the color of one’s hair.  The black Irish are descendents of the survivors of King Phillip of Spain’s Spanish Armada, a fleet of warships sent in 1588 to invade England.  The Armada was defeated by the British Navy, and the remainder was sunk by storms off of the HebridesIslands.  The survivors made it to Ireland where they remained, settled and met those fair and red haired Irish lassies and, well . . . you know the rest of that story.  The result is some Irish are black-haired and blue-eyed, and that is the subject of out MBR No. 106. Black Irish, (Ballentine Books, $26.00, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-345-53806-2) by Stephen Talty is an edge of your seat psychological thriller about the hunt for a vicious serial killer in south Buffalo, New   York.  It’s an area known as “The County” and it’s home to large groups of Irish-Americans who cling to their clannish old country ways in a devastated city lacking in industry, jobs and hope.  When a savage murder occurs in the basement of a closed and shuttered, locked Catholic church, Absalom, “Abbie” Kearney is assigned the case.  She’s the recently returned adoptive daughter of legendary Buffalo P.D. detective Jack Kearney, who’s come home to confront her own troubled past and care for her father, who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Abbie is a raven-haired, blue-eyed beauty with experience in the Miami, Florida homicide division, a Harvard degree and the determination necessary to solve the most bizarre murders in recent memory.  The first victim was found tortured to death in the church basement.  The second was found in a public park . . . skinned alive.  Both had as clues, plastic toys, left at the scene by the killer.  As the killings continue Abbie knows that the answer to the crimes lies somewhere in her old neighborhood, The County.  But she’ll have to break through the distrust, the clannishness and the code of silence and secrecy that includes the police department and even her own father to catch the murderer.  Before she’s done, the case will take many strange twists and urns involving gangs, secret societies and human smuggling.  The conclusion is stunning and will leave you thinking about this hard-to-stop-reading novel for a very long time.  It’s impossible to forget and so chilling in its descriptive powers that you’ll be cool reading it on the hottest of hot summer days.  Although Black Irish is Mr. Talty’s first fiction novel, he already has a New York Times non-fiction best seller to his credit.  I think we’ll be seeing his name on the bestseller lists and a lot more.  Oh yeah.  He’s that good.  This one should be nominated for an Edgar for Best First Novel in my opinion.  It’s sooo damn good . . . Summertime’s the right time to discover all that your local library has to offer.  Check it out for yourself and see.  Maybe even meet one of those smart and foxy librarians.  They read a lot.  They’re not surrendering to ignorance . . . don’t you either. Have you had a chance to check out new and updated...

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The Old Turks Load

Posted by on Jul 11, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Old Turks Load

Mysterious Book Report No. 105 by John Dwaine McKenna If you’re old enough to remember the late sixties, you’re certain to have memories of the so-called “Summer of Love”, the hippie movement, the birth of the drug culture, movies like Panic in Needle Park, and The French Connection, and the heroin epidemic that raged in many of the world’s cities . . . but most notably in New York City.    Heroin is an opiate derived from the alkaloid resin secreted by poppy flowers.  The vast majority of opium poppies come from the golden triangle in southeast Asia and Afghanistan.  The bulk comes from Asia, but the best opium comes from eastern Turkey.  It, and it alone, makes the highest grade pharmaceutical-quality opium and thus the most desirable heroin.  Sometimes called “China White,” the opium/heroin from eastern Turkey is the best there is, ever, at any price.  It’s the subject of this week’s Mysterious Book Report No. 105. The Old Turks Load (Mysterious Press, $24.00, 245 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2113-4) by Gregory Gibson is a quick time trip back to 1967.  The Vietnam War was raging, flower power was about to come into full bloom and in New   York City the battle for the streets was raging between the pushers and users of heroin and the cops trying to eradicate it.  The civil rights movement and civil unrest were morphing into radical organizations like the Black Panther Party and the SDS, or Students for a Democratic Society, responsible for blowing a couple of buildings to smithereens.  Into this maelstrom of unrest mafia henchmen Vince and Woody come to the docks at Newark, New   Jersey to pick up new, customized Porsche sports car shipped in from Marseille, France for a wealthy U.S. businessman.  The businessman is Angelo DiNoto, “a ruthless New Jersey crime boss,” and the Porsche—while it was being customized—has been outfitted with ten kilos of “blindingly pure artisanal smack” which was grown by an elderly Turkish farmer.  It is the Old Turk’s Load . . . worth five million dollars.  After a long afternoon filled with customs agents and customs forms, the two thugs drive away in the car and right into the Newark riots that erupted when a black cab driver was arrested by white Newark police.  The two white guys are pulled from the Porsche and beaten, the car wrecked and overturned by the rioters and Vince and Woody are taken to the hospital.  In the aftermath, the car, and the heroin wind up in the hands of Richard Mundi . . . a near-bankrupt land developer with extensive, and worthless, Newark property holdings . . . a man who’s also willing to skirt the law in the pursuit of profits.  Searching for the missing heroin, DiNoto sends Vince and Woody on a murder spree in an attempt to recover it.  In the midst of the mayhem, we’re introduced to a cast of characters who’ll keep you shaking your head and laughing out loud when you meet people like the mailman, a zoned out surgically mutilated drug addicted cancer survivor, Gloria Mundi, Richards’ daughter who thinks she’s revolutionary, Julius Roth, Mundi’s tough guy enforcer, and my personal favorite, a private investigator named Walkaway Kelly, a barfly from Hell’s Kitchen and on of the most inept...

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Whim-Wham Man Release

Posted by on Jul 8, 2013 in Press Release | 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  Fiction Readers in Colorado are celebrating! Rhyolite  Press  announced  today  the  release  of  its  first  book  in  a  planned  series  of mysteries and thrillers that all take place in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The Whim˗Wham Man, the first of a series featuring CSPD Detective Jake McKern, is a coming of age and murder mystery that takes place in 1940 in Husted, Colorado, 12 miles north of Colorado Springs. Inspired by actual events, its heart-stopping action will keep you on the edge of your seatand glued to the pages as you live through a tragic, lifealtering three-day metamorphosis in the life of young Jamey McGoran.  The Whim˗Wham Man has it all,a crime you can’t forgive, a plot you couldn’t imagine . . . and a character you’ll never forget.   The Whim˗Wham Man by John Dwaine McKenna $15.00 at bookstores everywhere or from the publisher www.rhyolitepress.com ISBN 978-0-9839952-1-0 also as an...

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Donnybrook

Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 104 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever heard of a place in Ireland called Donnybrook?  It’s an area just outside of Dublin, and the site of the legendary Donnybrook Fair.  A charter for it was given in the early thirteenth century and it was held annually over the next six hundred years during August and September for fourteen days.  It was fourteen days of drinking, brawling, and public spectacles.  The Donnybrook Fair became so infamous for bad behavior that it was bought out and permanently closed in 1855 by the Lord Mayor of Dublin . . . and left its name as a legacy to the English language as the definition for a brawl, or “a scene of uproar and disorder.” Donnybrook, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, PB, $15.00, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-53289-5) by Frank Bill is a crime fiction novel about an annual bare-knuckles brawl in the backwoods of southern Indiana.  It’s a three-day affair held on a thousand acre remote farm that pays a hundred thousand dollars to win . . . and nothing to the losers.  It’s held in a place that’s been devastated by the recession, where unemployment is high and still rising, as is crime and drug usage, in particular methamphetamines.  Called meth, crank, speed, or crystal, it’s snorted, injected, swallowed or smoked.  It’s the drug of choice, along with marijuana and alcohol, for the impoverished and downtrodden residents of the area.  With no other prospects or hope of improvement, the Donnybrook attracts the toughest of the tough and desperate residents who inhabit the coal mining regions.  Men like Jarhead Johnny and Chainsaw Angus and his sister . . . men with nothing to lose.  Men for whom the one thousand dollar entry fee is an almost insurmountable burden . . .  and only the first hurdle to overcome in their quest for the big money prize and a quick exit from poverty.  The journey to get there is awesome, the action relentless and the characters remarkable.  They’re a part of America as tough and hard to manage as the anthracite coal they mine.  This one is a helluva ride from the first page to the last.  If you like ‘em hairy chested and tough, with language and manners to match, this one’s for you.  Not for the faint of heart however . . . it’s one’s as rugged as the hardie hole in a two hundred pound anvil.  I loved it.  But then too, I’ve always been a fan of Clint’s characters in the movies. And just in case you don’t know it, I’m a big fan of public libraries in every size, shape and color or condition.  They’re a national treasure that belongs to each and every tax-paying citizen and should be patronized by all of us.  Support your local library, you’ll feel great and be a part of a great cause. Great Balls of Fire!  Our websites at: johndwainemckenna and rhyolitepress.com are expanding and improving by leaps and bounds.  Check ‘em out, you’ll see.  And while you’re there, take a moment to like us on Facebook.  You’ll be the first to get the new Mysterious Book Report on Thursdays at12:01 am through the magic of science and technology . .  . plus the first look at whatever...

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The Death of Bees

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 103 John Dwaine McKenna The novel we’re reviewing this week is one of the most talked about this year.  After reading it I understand why.  It’s a mystery that concerns itself not with who did it, but instead with How long can they get away with the crime?  It’s written by a native of Scotland named Lisa O’Donnell in the form of three, first-person narratives: Marnie, a fifteen year old who’s been hardened by the bleakness of her life and situation.  She’s trying to protect her younger sister, Nelly.  Nelly is a twelve or thirteen year old prodigy  who plays classical violin like an angel.  Her narrative is self-centered and not much concerned with reality, because Nelly is in an Alice in Wonderland state that’s sort of denial and sort of if I ignore it, it will go away.  The third narrative comes from Lennie, the girls gay next-door neighbor.  He’s an old man whose narrative is addressed to his dead lover, a man named Joseph. The Death of Bees (Harper Collins, $25.99, 309 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-220984-9) by Lisa O’Donnell is a tour de force of creative writing in the English language.   Each character speaks to the reader in a clear, distinct and unique voice to tell a part of the tale as no other character could possibly do.  Then, like a harmonious trio, the three narratives blend together to tell the story in its entirety. As the novel begins Marnie and Nelly, two abused and neglected children of drunken, drug-addicted parents, are trying to figure out what to do with the dead and putrefying body of Gene.  He’s their father.   He’s been dead for a bit over a week after being smothered by a pillow while in a self-induced coma fueled by drugs and alcohol.  The darkness of a winter night finds them digging a shallow grave in the backyard garden.  After some initial hesitation, they stuff Izzy, their neglectful mother in too.  She’s been out in the garden shed since hanging herself the same day that Gene died.  After the hole is filled in, the girls plant lavender to disguise the grave.  All’s well at first.  The girls tell anyone who asks, “Gene and Izzy have gone to Turkey” on an extended holiday.  The ploy works for a little while, but then problems arise; like that pesky dog, always digging in the yard . . . always sniffing around the garden . . . digging.  The suspense intensifies with each passing page as more folks; like Mick the drug-selling ice-cream vendor who’s missing a whole lot of cash; and Vlad, the sinister thug Mick owes the missing money to.  And all the while everyone and everything is being observed by Lennie, the lonely old man next door.  If crime-fiction and intelligent murder mysteries are your bag—do not miss The Death of Bees.  Lisa O’Donnell writes with intelligent graceful compassion and understanding.  Her book is one of the best books this year and will be discussed for a long time to come.  It has the hallmarks of a classic; it’s unforgettable. Don’t forget to check out your local library, where you’ll find books of course, but you’ll also gain access to all their many services and technology.  Your library will open whole new worlds...

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Hit Me

Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 102  by John Dwaine McKenna The summer reading season is getting underway and this weeks book selection was chosen because it’s ideal for reading in short intervals as time allows.  It consists of three novellas, all linked together around two central themes: the first being extraordinary and the second arcane.  It’s great crime fiction that transports the reader to another time and place in just a few pages . . . a time and place that the reader herself will never actually go . . . but a time and place she’ll feel familiar with after reading Hit Me, (Mulholland Books-Little Brown, $26.99, 337 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-12735-6) by Lawrence Block.  It reprises one of the most interesting, iconic characters in all of crime fiction literature, a legendary hit man known only as Keller.  He’s a product of the imagination of Lawrence Block, who is himself a living legend among members of the Mystery Writers of America, having received countless fiction awards—including multiple Edgars and being named a Grand Master by the MWA. A quiet man named Nicholas Edwards lives in New Orleans with his wife and young daughter.  He makes a living buying and renovating houses, then ‘flipping,’ or selling them for a profit.  He has a good business and collects stamps for a hobby.  But then the recession hits and his business goes in the tank.  He’s doing okay, keeping the bills paid with an unknown money source, but he’s concerned about tapping into his “savings.”  There’s also his expensive stamp collecting hobby to think about.  Mr. Nicholas Edwards is in a quandary when he gets a phone call from an old business associate known only as ‘Dot.’  She offers him a job: assassinate the abbot of a monastery in midtown Manhattan, and Keller, one of the deadliest and most congenial hitmen in all of crime fiction, re-emerges to wreak havoc on his unsuspecting and not very innocent victims.  Of course that first job and payday leads to a second, and third one.  Plus, and what could be better from a dedicated collectors point-of-view, each ‘job’ coincides with a major stamp auction, which allows Keller to add certain rarities.  It’s an entertaining romp through the pages of this latest work from one of the best fiction writers in America.  Take a break from summer schlock television and read it.  You’ll have a great time and learn a bit about the fascinating business of philately, or stamp collecting. You can learn about collecting coins, stamps, classic cars, baseball cards or you name it by going to your local library.  It’s where you can read in-depth about any subject you choose, and really learn something . . . not just gain a small amount of superficial knowledge as on the computer.  Go find out for yourself.  Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and meet one of those smart and foxy librarians . . . Things are getting hotter than a junior prom without chaperones at our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com The Colorado Chronicles are just about to go to the printer and Rhyolite is revising and re-issuing an iconic and much-loved story for young readers aged eight to eighty called The Boy Who Slept With Bears, by George R. Douthit III. It’s been out of print...

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A Killer in the Wind

Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

A Killer in the Wind Mysterious Book Report No. 101 by John Dwaine McKenna Have you ever had a premonition that came true?  A dream perhaps, so lifelike and real that you could almost swear it actually happened?  Maybe . . . you’re one of the millions of us who did inhale, way back there in college . . . or even one who tried some of the harder stuff: coke, LSD, magic mushrooms (as peyote was once called), or some of the newer synthesized drugs: Angel Dust (PCP), a methamphetamine based synthetic that produces euphoric and hallucinatory effects in those who’ve ingested it. If you’ve answered any of those hypothetical questions with a ‘yes,’ then you’ve been in touch with your inner, subconscious self.  That’s the part of our brain we’re not aware of, but which influences our thoughts and actions.  It’s the subject of this week’s Mysterious Book Report in a great new thriller by a double Edgar award winning author who’s an absolute master of the craft as well as a personal favorite author of mine. A Killer In The Wind, (Mysterious Press, $25.00, 296 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2067-0) by Andrew Klaven is hard-boiled crime fiction about a cop who was undercover at the NYPD in the sex-crimes unit when he had a drug-induced breakdown — and “put five rounds” into a cornered and vicious torture killer of pre-teen children.  He’s fired from his NYPD job, even as his fellow officers are congratulating him for doing the righteous thing when he pulled the trigger.  Now, its three years later and Dan Champion has work in an upstate New   York police department with less stress and less crime . . . until a barely alive, badly beaten and nearly nude woman washes up along the Hudson River.  She’s rushed to the hospital and starts to recover.  But when Champion sees her, he realizes, or thinks he realizes that she’s the very same woman he’s been dreaming about for three years . . . a woman he met under a drug-induced illness and hallucinatory dream.  A woman who apparently does not exist, who disappears from the hospital after one night and puts Dan Champion on a quest to discover who she is, or if she really exists at all.  When he returns home however, he’s greeted by two skeleton-thin assassins sent to kill him, setting off a tense, tightly plotted psychological thriller in which Champion will be pitted against assassins, rogue police officers and a sinister fat woman who has no face.  Klaven is an adept practitioner and master of character development.  The folks who populate his work are so lifelike and so real you’ll recognize most of them and swear you used to live next door to one or two of them.  Put it on your summer reading list and have a blast. Why not blast on down to your local library and see what’s going on for the summer?  They’ve got programs for kids and adults as well as access to nearly every book in print.  You’ll also find CD’s, DVD’s and computer games for loan.  You’ll meet some very talented and helpful, smart-as-a-whip librarians there, who’ll help you find and utilize everything the library has to offer.  And best of all, it’s free.  You can’t...

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The Night Ranger

Posted by on Jun 6, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Night Ranger Mysterious Book Report No. 100 by John Dwaine McKenna Okay.  We admit it . . . this one is special . . . one we’ve been looking forward to for a while.  It’s our Double Diamond Jubilee:  MBR number 100.  That’s right . . . this is our one hundredth book review.  And it’s just in time for the start of the summer reading season, so kick back and relax with your favorite adult beverage . . . and enjoy! This week’s MBR makes for great summertime reading by an author I hadn’t heard of before although he has a number of adventure, thriller and spy novels to his credit.  He’s been hailed as “one of the best espionage writers” by the Chicago Sun-Times and as one who writes terrifying stories with absolute authenticity by other notable reviewers.  He’s won an Edgar award and is a former NY Times Reporter.  His name is Alex Berenson. The Night Ranger, (Putnam, $27.95, 387 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-15972-5) is a wild chase and rescue mission in the lawless areas of western Somalia. John Wells, a retired CIA operative, is asked by a family member to try and rescue four college students who’ve been kidnapped in Kenya and may have been taken into Somalia.  The four are recent graduates of the University of Montana, working in Kenya for an NGO: a non-governmental relief organization.  They’re in Kenya as part of a humanitarian relief effort, feeding and providing basic medical care for Somali refugees.  When the four students and their Kenyan bodyguard and interpreter disappear, bandits and militants are suspected.  John Wells goes undercover, alone and at his own expense, into an unfamiliar area of the world where few assets and many enemies prevail.  With the whole country watching, it becomes a race against time and overwhelming odds, and a question of whether any of them will survive.  Using guts, determination and a little bit of high tech magic, Wells is soon battling for his and the hostages lives against hordes of competing warlords and terrorists.  The threats are real, the action non-stop and the writing crisp and believable.  Read this fun novel on your front porch with your dog in your lap and enjoy a walk on the wild side. You’ll find Alex Berenson’s spy novels and many, many other adventure, thriller or mystery novels on the shelves of your local library.  That’s where all the smart people are.  They read.  They aren’t surrendering to ignorance . . . how about you? Lots of folks are showing up as new and old friends on our Facebook and Twitter pages.  Thanks and welcome aboard to each and every one of you.  They’ll get the new MBR first thing Thursday morning and first looks at the BS & Donkey Dust Blog.  They’ll also get the inside scoop on all the happenings out here, “east of the mountains and west of the sun.” And hey, don’t forget to check out our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com It’s where you can find hundreds of reading suggestions, book lists, essays and a free story or two, biographies and reviews of any and all of my books as well as every Mysterious Book Report ever written . . . yep!  All one hundred and counting.  And while you’re...

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City of Saints

Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 99 by John Dwaine McKenna I’m willing to bet that most Americans don’t know jack about Mormons, or Mormonism, or Salt Lake City, Utah . . . the heart of the Mormon empire.  If they happen to be a little more savvy than their follow citizens, some few might recognize the Mormon Tabernacle choir from their Christmas concerts on television, or the BYUCollege football and basketball teams, and of course Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and Republican presidential candidate, is perhaps the best-known Mormon in the entire country.  But most folks don’t know that Mormons do not use curse words or drink alcohol, smoke, lie or steal, that they devote two years of their young adult lives to a mission of proselytizing for the LDS Church in a foreign country chosen for them by church authorities, do not use stimulants such as coffee or tea, do not believe in nor practice illicit sex or sex outside of marriage?  And, as if that weren’t enough . . . each and every Mormon tithes ten percent of their gross income to the church and is expected to be self-sufficient enough to have a two-year food supply stored at home.  But those are the devout ones . . . and not all Mormons are devout . . . and that’s what makes this week’s Mysterious Book Report so fascinating. City of Saints, (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 321 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-01579-2) by Andrew Hunt is historical fiction at it’s best . . . a murder mystery that takes place in 1930 in the unlikeliest of places, Salt Lake City, Utah, the spiritual center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, known to all as the LDS or Mormon Church.  The novel is the winner of the Tony Hillerman prize and is Mr. Hunt’s first work of fiction. As the novel begins, it’s deep winter . . . February 22, 1930 in Salt   Lake City.  Art Oveson, a devout Mormon deputy sheriff and his partner, Roscoe Lund, a gentile with a coarse demeanor and a bad attitude, are waiting at a murder scene in the cold and snow, of a woman who’s dressed in pearls and fur.  She’s a woman of apparent wealth and means, a woman whose body has been mutilated by being repeatedly run over with a heavy vehicle and left for the wild animals to find.  Robbery is soon ruled out; she has money in her purse and jewelry on her person.  She’s identified as a socialite, the wife of a leading SaltLake doctor, a famous, wealthy physician with impeccable credentials.  The question then becomes who, and for what possible motive, would murder such a person as Helen Kent Pfalzgraf, married to Dr. Hans Pfalzgraf?  But the deeper Deputy Oveson . . . a young inexperienced lawman . . . digs into the case, the more complex and disturbing it becomes.  As each clue is unearthed, another aspect of the case is examined and peeled away like an onion, and a new layer is revealed underneath.  Neither Mrs. Pfalzgraf, nor the good doctor are what they appear to be at first.  Each and every new revelation produces new and more perplexing questions as this complex crime and investigation are artfully revealed by...

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Extinction

Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 98 by John Dwaine McKenna Ever heard about something called the Singularity?  It’s an interesting noun with a couple of different meanings.  First, according to my Oxford English Language Dictionary, there’s the general definition:  The state or condition of being singular.  Then there’s the math & physics usage: The point at which something becomes infinite.  The third, and for our purposes the most interesting definition, is capitalized.  The Singularity: A point in the future, estimated to be around 2030, beyond which overwhelming technical changes . . . especially the development of superhuman intelligence . . . make reliable predictions impossible.  In other words, that’s the point in time when computers will become self-aware, or able to think for themselves.  And once that happens, the question becomes: Will artificial intelligence see the human race as friend or foe?  That’s the gut-wrenching dilemma author Mark Alpert hands us in  his outstanding new techno-thriller, Extinction, (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 373 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-02134-2).  In it, a clandestine unit of the Chinese secret police have developed a unique and ultimate form of artificial intelligence using licensed American technology implanted in human brains.  Unfortunately for the human subjects, they’re lobotomized first.  Their brains are then networked together using some of the hardware from America, thus creating an ever-larger group of linked minds whose knowledge and intelligence increase exponentially with the addition of each new “module” as the lobotomized humans are now called. When the group is plugged into the Chinese security system and the World Wide Web . . . it becomes self-aware . . . and the first thing it decides to do is eliminate all of the human race. At the same time, we meet Jim Pierce, a former Army Special Forces soldier and CIA spy.  He’s an amputee and bio-engineer whose occupation is building artificial arms and legs for wounded soldiers.  He’s drawn into the conflict when an agent for the network tries to kill him.  That’s because his estranged daughter, a world-class computer hacker, is a target of Supreme Harmony, the network’s name for itself, because she has stolen computer files exposing them.  Supreme Harmony incorporates any and all into the network, where their knowledge becomes shared by all . . . giving each module the abilities formerly possessed by that individual.  The action is non-stop and it’s anyone’s guess which side will prevail.  This one is downright scary.  And it’s made all the more so because it’s grounded in believable science and technology that’s available right now or is in the process of development.  Mr. Alpert is being hailed by some as the “heir to Michael Crichton,” the one who has his finger on the pulse of whatever is coming next and making it seem as though it’s already here.  Extinction is one helluva thrill ride using cutting edge science.  I loved it. Are you loving your local library yet?  They have books, CD’s, DVD’s, games and eBooks as well as many free services.  All are there for your benefit.  But you’ll have to get off the La-Z-Boy and go.  You’ll be glad you did . . . because “One good reader is worth a thousand boneheads,” as H.L. Mencken said. Hello and thank-yous to all my new bff’s who’ve liked me...

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The Black Box

Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 97 by John Dwaine McKenna Now that the idea of spring is finally a reality, winter’s been banished until years end and new life is springing up in every direction, we’re putting a new heading at the top of the old MBR.  It just seemed like it was the right thing to do, but we’d like to know what you feel about it.  If you think it’s great—just about the best thing to come along since hip pockets or sliced bread—kindly let Mrs. Brown know about it, as she worked long and hard to design it.  (lora@rhyolitepress.com)  If not . . . please let yours truly know . . . contact info is at the end of this and every column.  As Elvis said, “Thank you.  Thankyouverymuch.  Thank you.”  Now for the Mysterious Book Report. The Black Box, (Little, Brown, $27.99, 403 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-06943-4) by Michael Connelly, is another chapter in the continuing story of one of the best tough guys to ever come along in crime fiction, Detective Sergeant Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch of the Los Angeles Police Department.  He’s past mandatory retirement age and still on active duty thanks to a five year extension called the DROP, working on the open-unsolved, or cold case unit, when he’s given the twenty year old unsolved homicide of a woman journalist who was murdered during the 1992 riots that devastated LA after the Rodney King trial.  It’s a case Bosch has never forgotten because he was the responding officer when Anneke Jesperson was shot in the head execution style in the Watts section of the city at the height of the riots.  The evidence was filed away and the murder was left unsolved for two decades.  Jurisdictional interference and work overloads have prevented her case from being properly examined—until now. Bosch wasn’t able to fully investigate the crime when it happened because of sheer case overload.  The LAPD was overwhelmed by the number of homicides during the riots to do the job properly . . . a fact not forgotten by him.  The case begins to break when Bosch is able to find the pistol used in the women’s murder . . . the first step in opening the ‘black box” that will solve the case.  From the Iraq and Afghan war zones, to Denmark and the USA, Bosch follows the faint trail that leads to a killer who’s been hiding in plain sight for twenty years.  In spite of opposition from a unit supervisor who’s more concerned with numbers and promotions than the human victims, Bosch soldiers on, determined to take the case to its surprising conclusion.  With the deft and expert touch of a maestro, Connelly once again reminds us all why he’s the undisputed alpha dog of the crime writing pack. You can be the smartest dog in your group, just by frequenting your local library and reading, but you’ve gotta get off the couch and go.  Nobody else can do it for you.  “Read or surrender to ignorance.”  Confucius wrote that 2,500 years ago and it’s still true today. Many thanks if you’ve stopped in and left a message on our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com Do you know that by liking us on Facebook and Twitter you’ll get the Mysterious Book Report...

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Ratlines

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Mysterious Book Report No. 96 by John Dwaine McKenna It’s well known, well documented fact that after World War II in Europe, many National Socialists . . . Nazism tried to avoid answering for their war crimes by fleeing to Argentina and Brazil.  Others like Werner Von Braun and his racketeers from Peenemunde; a place that used slave labor from concentration camps in hidden underground factories to produce the V-one and V-two rockets which so devastated and terrorized London, were brought to America to be the progenitors of the American space effort.  Still others were commandeered by the Soviet Union for their fledgling space and ballistic missile programs.  All of that is common knowledge.  But Ireland?  Nazis’ hiding in Ireland?  Yep.  Afraid tis’ so.  Ireland maintained an official government policy of neutrality in WWII, referring to it as the Emergency, and considered it a British problem.  In spite of this, 100,000 Irishmen fought in the war with the British.  After the war those soldiers faced criticism and prejudice . . . while some politicians looked the other way as a few Nazi warlords settled in to new lives in Erin.  This week’s MBR looks into this interesting and enlightening subject through the eyes of a talented young Irish novelist named Stuart Neville, who writes some of the best crime-fiction in the business.  His newest one is Ratlines, (SOHO Crime, #26.95, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-204-4) and it takes place in 1963, just before president John F. Kennedy is due to make his historic trip to Ireland. Someone has been murdering Nazi collaborators in Ireland.  Three foreign nationals have been killed execution style . . . within a few days.  All had collided with Hitler’s minions during the war, and all have messages addresses to Colonel Otto Skorzeny; “Hitler’s favorite commando,” The rescuer of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from a mountaintop prison; a man who is currently living in Ireland.  The messages are all similar in style and say, “we are coming for you.” The Minister of Justice, Charles Haughey, is concerned, fearing that the scandalous news could cancel the presidential visit, calls on Lieutenant Albert Ryan, of the Directorate of Intelligence to solve the case.  Instructed by Haughey to quickly find the killers, Ryan, who fought Nazis and fascism in Europe and communists in Korea as a British commando soon finds himself in a quandary.  The deeper he digs, the more it appears that Haughey is either beholden to, or under the control of Skorzeny . . . which makes Ryan a very conflicted characters.  He’s being forced to protect a sworn enemy instead of the country he’s taken an oath to defend.  With plenty of action along the way and no end of plot twists, this is a novel action-lovers do not want to miss.  Another thrilling read from one of my favorite young Irish novelists and a man who’s gaining daily recognition as one of the best crime fiction writers at work today. Have you had a chance to check out all the free services by your local library?  Do you know that they have classes for kids and adults?  Or that they have movies, CD’s and computer games to borrow for free?  And, although not all libraries have eBook borrowing capabilities yet, if yours does, there’s no...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 95

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Secretly, every writer fantasizes about their book becoming a best seller.  Whether it’s fiction or non, every person pecking at a computer keyboard, or scritching away on yellow foolscap late into the night, harbors a dream of being heard: that their words and ideas will be so compelling, great masses of readers will pay attention to what they’ve written.  It’s a dream few realize.  The thing is though, in spite of the odds against it, some lucky few really do win the lottery, and that keeps all the rest of us buying tickets . . . or writing more books.  This week’s Mysterious Book Report is about one of those rare first novels which become bestsellers.  A book so well done and illuminating, it impacted and helped bring about major change to an entire federal legal system.  It’s hard to believe, but it actually happened last year in Germany where the novel has been a runaway best seller.  After reading it I understand why. The Collini Case, by Ferdinand Von Schirach, (Penguin/Michael Joseph, $33.00, 190 pages, ISBN 978-0-718-15919-1) translated from the German by Anthea Bell has received rave reviews all over Europe, England and America.  It should be read by every citizen and young person in America before they exercise their right to vote because it illustrates that the system can indeed work, although in ways not readily apparent, and because it shows just why all citizens should regard their government with a healthy dose of skepticism, demand absolute transparency from every level, and lastly . . . beware the interests of special interests, operating hand-in-hand in secrecy with elected or appointed officials. The story begins with the murder of a respected, well-regarded businessman, the sole owner of a multi-billon euro international conglomerate with thousands of employees.  The murderer is a man named Fabrizio Collini; a retired Italian guest worker who had worked for Mercedes-Benz for thirty-four years; a man who, in all respects was just as he appeared to be . . . an honest, hard working man without a criminal past.  What then, caused this man to walk into a luxury hotel and kill an eighty-two year old man, execution style with two bullets to the back of the head, and then stomp on his face until it was unrecognizable?  That is the question young public defense attorney Caspar Leinen tries to answer as he attempts to defend a man who admits to the murder and refuses to talk about why he did it.  As if that’s not enough, the slain man is someone Leinen had grown up with, a man he almost considers his grandfather, and a man with a history.  It’s a courtroom drama interspersed with flashbacks of the young attorney’s life, and a trial that’s about to rock the entire nation.  It’s a novel that touches all who read it, with a not-to-be-forgotten message.  Don’t miss out.  Read this important book. Your local public library has a many important books for you to read, all free for the asking.  The library is where you’ll find those smart librarians too.  They’re just itching to give you a hand, explaining the many free services the library offers such as CD’s, DVD’s and games that you can check out with your library card. ...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 94

Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna There’s a special interest that we readers should be aware of and give some attention to:  first novels.  They have an aura about them because they encapsulate a lifetime of thought, expression and experience.  (Or in some cases, inexperience . . . ) It makes no difference if the author is eight or eighty, they’ll put the sum total of their life’s events into the body of their first novel.  And, as such, some of them are exceptional.  They’re the little gems we try to find and bring to your attention; the first-time author with something to say that we all want to hear.  And don’t worry, from time-to-time we’ll review the big guns as well, the A-list favorites like Michael Connolly and Lawrence Block, the giants of the mystery universe, as well as other well-known writers, but we’re trying to find your next favorite author as well, and this week we have a new up and coming author for you. The Bricklayer, (William Morrow, 2010, $24.99, 390pages, ISBN 978-0-06-182701-3) by Noah Boyd is a first novel that’s packed with surprises.  The action is fast-paced and relentless with new twists and turns in every chapter as well as sharp, snappy dialogue that captures the essence of protagonist Steve Vail and various other good, bad and indifferent characters in law enforcement and criminal enterprises.  Mr. Boyd, a twenty-year veteran FBI officer, has an eye for detail, an ear for dialogue and the heart of a veteran spinner of stories as he takes us along for the ride while the FBI tries to track down a master extortionist and cop-killer intent on committing the perfect crime. In the opening scene, Steve Vail, a former FBI agent and non-conformist hero, thwarts a bank robbery in progress when he knocks two would-be bank robbers out cold and tosses them through a plate glass window for good measure.  He then disappears, avoiding publicity.  The FBI tracks him down and enlists his aid to find an extortionist who’s made off with a couple of million dollars and killed five people, two of whom were FBI agents.  The action and the plot turns never let up until the surprise conclusion on the last page. You’ll be rooting for Vail, the non-organizational outsider who refuses to adhere to the FBI bureaucracy while trying to outwit an evil mastermind who always seems to be one move ahead of them.  The Bricklayer is perfect light reading that will provide hours of relaxation.  It’s a great debut from a first-time author.  Drop us an email letting us know what you think of Noah Boyd and The Bricklayer. And while you’re at it, would you tell us what you think of your local library?  Is it attractive, well-stocked and easy to use?  Is the library staff helpful and knowledgeable?  Did you find a book to read?  What’s that?  You haven’t tried the library yet?  You don’t even have a free library card?  Have you surrendered . . . to ignorance ??? There’s no surrendering at our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com Drop in and take a tour.  Tell us what you’re reading, leave a comment, or several of them.  Join in the conversation and put your mark in cyberspace.  We’d love to hear from you. You’ll hear from...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 93

Posted by on Apr 18, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Existentialism is a word that was often tossed around in discussions on college campuses back in the 60s when we were all busily self-absorbed discovering ourselves.  The word existentialism means “a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of will,” according to my Oxford English Dictionary.  As Popeye the sailor man so simply and eloquently put it; “I yam what I yam.”  And I yam what I yam because I made it so.  This week’s MBR No. 93 is an existentialist work of crime fiction that comes from Japan.  It won the Oe Japanese Prize for fiction, the equivalent of winning the Pulitzer Prize here in America, and it’s the best existentialist novel I’ve read since Albert Camus  and The Stranger way back when.  And hey     . . . don’t let the five and six syllable words keep you from reading this excellent, fast-paced novel about the Japanese criminal class.  You’ll miss a really good read, as well as an opportunity to peek into contemporary Tokyo through the eyes of a petty criminal who, through what is perhaps his only redeeming quality.  That of loyalty, and gets sucked into something way bigger and more dangerous than he realizes. The Thief, (SOHO crime, PB, $14.95, 211 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-202-0) by Fuminori Nakamura, was first published in Japan in 2009 where it drew immediate attention and acclaim, soon becoming a best-seller and winning a number of awards, including the aforementioned,  Oe Prize.  It has just been translated into English by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates.  In it we’re introduced to an unnamed, first-person narrator know only as the thief, a pickpocket who lives from minute to minute, committing crimes of opportunity against prosperous looking passers-by.  After lifting the victim’s wallet and removing the cash, he self-analyzes his victims by rifling the contents of their wallets . . . which he then dumps into the nearest mailbox like any honest citizen, knowing it will be sent by the postal service to the police, who’ll return it to the owner.  The thief is a man with nothing.  He has no friends or family, no name, no job, no future.  When a criminal acquaintance named Ishikawa offers him an “easy and lucrative” job as part of a five man burglary team, he accepts.  The job goes smoothly, but the next day the thief learns that the victim, a prominent politician, was murdered after he was robbed, and the thief realizes he’s in over his head and under the control, of a master criminal with an army of killers at his beck and call. The prose is sharp and economical, the action is fast and relentless, and the conclusion is chilling.  The novel transcends genre and recommends itself to all adult readers, teens and up.  As for myself . . . I hope we don’t have a very long wait before his next book is translated into English . . . I’m not going to miss a single one!  He’s that good. Hey!  It’s spring already and we’re back on daylight savings time.  Why do we go through the bother of setting our clocks ahead or back . . . it doesn’t really save...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 92

Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna . . . the intersection of science and religion. It’s always been impossible for me personally to be well-informed about the world’s religions and a believer in church dogma at the same time.  The more I’ve learned the more confusing it all seems, because on one hand, the world’s religions all offer succor in times of distress, preach love and peace to all mankind . . . BUT . . . on the other hand, religion has been the basis for wars and deaths by mega-millions since time immemorial.  It could be that that’s true because deep down, all religionists, convinced about the right-ness of their beliefs . . . want to impose their values on others by any means possible.  So there, I’ve said it; I am skeptical about religion and will always be so.  And hey, before you send that angry email to me, may I point out that the above is an entirely different, separate discussion from one about the existence of a higher power or God?  Thank you.  By now, you’re probably scratching your head, wondering where in the hell I’m going with this in a book report.  You’ll be happy you didn’t throw me away for the food or sports section; because this week’s MBR No. 92 is one of the most interesting thrillers I’ve ever read.  As Bill O’Reilly (yep. The Fox News guy) says at the top of the front dust cover; “If you like controversy with your suspense, this one’s for you.” The Sixth Station, (Forge, $24.99, 361 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-3427-5) by Linda Stasi begins with the ‘the trial of the millennium.’  The world’s most wanted terrorist, Demiel ben Yousef, is being tried by the World Court at the United Nations in New York City for crimes against humanity.  His supporters and his detractors have turned out by the hundred of thousands to demonstrate, while the entire world is transfixed by the trial, watching and waiting for the outcome and on the verge of utter mayhem.  In New York City, the police are barely able to keep the crowds in check as the trial is about to begin. Newspaper reporter Alessandra Russo is waiting in a raucous crowd of people for the police to escort the accused into the UN building when he stops in front of her, and does something so outrageous and extraordinary, that her life is changed instantly and forever.  Hours later, she’s running for her life, pursued by all the police forces of the world, several spy agencies, shadowy groups of suspect origin and others who may be either friend or foe.  It’s impossible to tell who’s who.  From New York to Canada to Istanbul, Turkey to Rome to Barcelona, Spain and finally a remote, mideval village in the south of France, the pursuit of Alessandra is relentless and deadly.  Trust no one becomes her mantra as the trial continues in New   York to it’s seemingly inevitable conclusion while the world teeters on the brink of anarchy . . . or maybe Armageddon.  Is Demiel ben Yousef, as many millions believe, the second coming of Christ?  Or is he as many others, including the organized religious of the world are convinced, the Antichrist?  Is the apocalypse starting?  What are the Cathars?  How...

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Mysterious Book Report No.91

Posted by on Apr 4, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna It is an unfortunate truth that the folks who lived through the hard years of the Great Depression are dying off at a rapid pace.  Every day more and more of them, and their hard-won wisdom, are being lost to us.  You know who they are . . . the elderly ones who live as frugally as possible, wasting nothing and saving or putting to use everything from rubber bands to glass jars, grocery sacks to metal coat hangers.  Why do they do it?  I think it’s because they’ve lived through hard times . . . and they’re savvy and smart . . . therefore they take nothing for granted, leave nothing in their control to chance, because they all remember just how hard it was to live through the 1930’s.  They stand in my mind at least, as stark reminders of why we shouldn’t assume that the good times will roll on forever.  There’re ants at every picnic and bad weather in the midst of sunshine, poverty amidst plenty. As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, the Great Depression is the subject of this week’s MBR No. 91. Hard Twisted, (Bloomsbury, $25.00, 291 pages, ISBN 978-1-60819-855-9) by C. Joseph Greaves is historical fiction.  It is one of those super-interesting, thinly-promoted gems of literature which cross my desk only once in a blue moon that are so good they should be required reading in high school English classes.  It is a fictional telling of a real series of events which took place in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Utah during the years 1934-35, and it was named Best Historical Novel in the 2010 Southwest Writers International Writing Contest.  Greaves was also awarded the grand-prize Storyteller Award at the same time, which is significant praise indeed. Hard Twisted begins in Hugo, Oklahoma in May, 1934 when a man named Clint Palmer, who has just been released from the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas meets a homeless man named Dillard Garrett and his thirteen year-old daughter, named Lucille, who’s known as Lottie. Dillard Garrett mysteriously disappears and Palmer takes off on a year-long spree with Lottie as his captive.  Their journey ultimately takes them to a remote sheep camp in Utah and culminates back in Greenville, Texas with the chilling “Skeleton Trial” of 1935.  The characters are real and the events are actual.  Greaves describes people and events in vivid, accurate prose that’s as rare and beautiful as the southwestern countryside the action takes place in.  The research is accurate, meticulous and minute in detail.  The reader becomes so engrossed that readers can almost feel red grit dust in their mouth, see and feel the solitude, the terror and the outcome roaring at them like an out of control diesel locomotive.  If you’re curious about the depression, the dust bowl or a heretofore untold western saga, you’ll want to read Hard Twisted. Superlatives aside, this one’s simply outstanding.  It will be enjoyed by all who choose to read it. Everyone who goes there enjoys the library.  It’s a gift of the ages for all ages.  That’s right . . . it’s a public treasure open and available to everyone and . . . it’s your one chance to meet a smart and foxy librarian and allow yourself to...

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The Whim-Wham Man review Norma Engleberg

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

 Note: The following review by Norma Engleberg appeared in The Tri-Lakes Tribune, published in Monument, Colorado by Our Colorado News Corp. Used by permission.     Special MBR No 2   Novel Set in Husted tells a difficult story Norma Engelberg nengelberg@ourcoloradonews.com Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 11:06 am   John Dwaine McKenna’s newest novel starts out with understatement. In the words of 15-year-old Jamey McGoran, “The Whim-Wham man’s story ain’t easy to tell.” It wasn’t easy to write, either. As the author says on the book’s back cover, “There’s no sanitary way to write about murder.” “Sometimes I only wrote a paragraph a day,” he said. “It took me weeks to write the murder scene.” In fact, in its short 136 pages the book packs a lot of punches both literally and figuratively. This coming-of-age/murder mystery is a fast read but the reading is almost as hard as the telling. Set in 1940 in the small town of Husted on what is now on the U.S. Air Force Academy, “The Whim-Wham Man” starts out with a glimpse at life toward the end of the Great Depression when times were still tough but the economy was starting to mend. It wasn’t mending fast enough for young McGoran, his sister Catherine, his proud and independent mother and father, a man who thinks with his fists because his brain is usually pickled with drink. The book is written from Jamey McGoran’s point of view and he does “impending doom” really well. The reader can feel something coming from that very first sentence but, when disaster finally hits, it’s still a surprise. McKenna, who lives in Colorado Springs, gives the reader a feel for that bygone age and when McGoran drives the family’s old Model T from Husted to the Springs, he describes places readers can still see on South Tejon, Nevada Avenue and Sierra Madre Street. The book is well researched and seeing the area through McGoran’s eyes brings it back to life. This is not a book for everyone but mystery lovers will appreciate the spare and concise narrative; there’s no wasted words and every scene leads directly to the conclusion. The book is written as the first in a detective series as the lead character grows up to become a Colorado Springs detective with a mission. McKenna based his idea for the story on a short paragraph he read in a newspaper in 2011 about then Gov. Ritter pardoning Joe Arridy, a simple-minded man who was falsely executed for murder in 1939. Arridy is the basis for “The Whim-Wham Man” character but the similarities between the book and the history end there. “The Whim-Wham Man” is published by Rhyolite Press and can be purchased online at www.rhyolitepress.com. McKenna’s first book, The Neversink Chronicles,” is a Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY award...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 90

Posted by on Mar 28, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna All my life, I’ve had a fascination with and a thirst for knowledge of the great conflagration and tragedy known as World War II.  Could be it’s because I was born just a year after the end of it . . . and perhaps because my father and most of his generation, the fathers of friends and schoolmates were veterans of it, that I grew up with constant reminders of the war.  It’s not the most recent war, but it’s the last one that the United   States fought to win, no holds barred, no quarter asked or given, until the unconditional surrender of all of the belligerents opposing the U.S. and it’s allies.  And maybe the reason World War II holds such fascination for many of us is because somewhere, back in the most antediluvian corners of our subconscious brains, we’re afraid history might repeat itself.  War on a world-wide scale might happen again . . . and we may even be in the preliminary stages right now.  But for whatever reason, I’ve always read anything having to do with WW II that I could put my hands on.  This week’s MBR No. 90 Prague Fatale, (Marion Wood Putnam, $26.95, 400 pages, ISB 978-03969-15902-2) by Phillip Kerr is such a book.  It’s historical fiction, written from the point of view of Bernie Gunther, a Berlin homicide investigator.  It’s 1941, America hasn’t yet entered the war, and commisar Bernhard Gunther, a twenty-year veteran detective in the Berlin police investigative unit know as Kripo, has just returned to Berlin from the eastern front.  Sick and disillusioned at what he saw and was forced to do there, he finds that the police department has been co-opted by the Nazi’s . . . he’s contemplating suicide as the novel begins. Bernie is hunting a killer who attacks his female victims at railway stations when he thwarts an apparent assault and rape in progress.  He chases the perpetrator and sees him collide with a taxi cab before losing him in the dark.  Helping the victim, he’s drawn into an affair with her that deepens with each chapter . . . but also draws him ever-deeper into the hunt for Czech terrorists known as ‘the three kings.’  But Kripo is under the control of Nazi party member and SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the newly named Reichsprotector of Bohemia, which includes all of Austria and Czechoslovakia, and is headquartered in the city of Prague.  Convinced that he’s targeted for assassination, Heydrich plucks Bernie Gunther from Berlin, bringing him to Prague to serve as his personal bodyguard.  The troubled detective finds himself surrounded by the top echelons of the German high command, each of whom has personal influence with the highest levels of the Nazi leadership, as well as personal disputes with each other.  When a murder occurs on the first night he arrives, everyone is suspect. This novel is so full of historic characters, intrigue, suspense, danger and accurate period detail that it’s impossible to comment on all of them in the allocated space of this column, but they’re all woven together so well, with such deftness, that Prague Fatale is one of the best World War II novels to come along in a long, long time.  If you like intricate,...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 89

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna We’re taking a quantum leap of the imagination with this week’s Mysterious Book Report, from eighteenth century Sweden, to twenty-first century Yemen.  Yemen, for those wanting a little bit of remedial geography, (yeah, me too . . .) is located to the south of Saudi   Arabia and shares a long, undefined boarder with it called the Empty Quarter.  The Empty Quarter contains vast, untapped oil reserves and rebellious tribesmen at war with the south of Yemen.  South Yemen itself sits strategically on the mouth of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, putting Yemen in an ideal position to control a choke-point of the world’s oil shipments.  Throw in a weak, ineffectual government, an Al-Qaeda presence that’s getting stronger by the day, a poor uneducated populace, high unemployment and close proximity to radical, and rich, Saudi extremists known as Wahabis . . . and Yemen is a ticking time bomb that could explode at any instant. The Panther, (Grand Central Publishing, $27.99, 629 pages, ISBN 978-0-446-58084-7) by Nelson DeMille is a long, arduous, and at times heart stopping mission to seek and capture or kill an Al-Qaeda terrorist known as The Panther.  He’s a ruthless killer, elusive as the desert wind, the planner of numerous acts of terror and murder, including the attack on the U.S.S. Cole,  a U.S. guided missile destroyer.  It was attacked by two suicide bombers in a motorboat on 12 Oct 2000 as the Cole was refueling in the Yemen port of Aden, killing seventeen US sailors and injuring thirty-nine others, some critically.  Anti-terrorist Task Force agent John Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield are tasked with finding and neutralizing The Panther . . . an American citizen . . . who was born and raised in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  The job is nearly impossible.  Corey and Mayfield are non-Arabic speakers being sent into a dangerous and hostile environment where friend and foe are indistinguishable and interchangeable, where their team members are shifty, evasive, and shady; their motives unclear, their characters, as well as their sanity at times questionable.  This one will leave you bleary-eyed from reading long into the night as you’re compelled to keep turning the pages, trying to figure out who, and if, anyone will get out alive.  Astute readers will delight at the appearance of Paul Brenner, the U.S. Army Warrant Officer and criminal investigator introduced in DeMille’s novel The General’s Daughter.  (The character played by John Travolta in the movie version).  If you like spy and international thrillers you’ll love this book.  I sure did. You’ll also love your local library if you’ll take the time to visit.  In addition to books, they have DVD’s, CD’s research materials, adult or child classes and all those smart and foxy librarians to help you in your search for knowledge.  Give ‘em a try, you’ll see for yourself what treasures await behind the doors of your local library.  As the old Chinese sage remarked, “You must read or surrender to ignorance.” We are proud to announce that ten of the best-loved stories from The Neversink Chronicles, are now available world-wide for just 99 cents each on your Kindle eReader.  It was a long process but now it’s finally done!  Check it out.  Type in...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 88

Posted by on Mar 14, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna After the wild ride we took with last week’s cultish thriller, (Gun Church, MBR 87)  I wanted to find another equally compelling novel, but one that’s the polar opposite in content, style and focus.  Dame Fortune smiled and sent all of us a beautifully-written debut novel that’s historical fiction at it’s very best.  It combines history, romance, political intrigue, danger, scandal, conspiracy and a bit of magic for good measure.  It’s the perfect antidote for the winter blahs and the relentless unending depression of current events. The Stockholm Octavo, (Harper-Collins-ECCO, $26.99, 421 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-199534-7) by Karen Englemann takes place in Stockholm, Sweden at the end of the eighteenth century . . . a pivotal time . . . a time when the newly-liberated American colonies were deciding the shape of their constitution, bill of rights and presidency; the French and Swedes were making life-altering decisions about the shape and form of their governments of and by royalty.  If intelligent writing, on a number of levels, appeals to you, seek out and read this entertaining and complex novel.  But wait . . . I’m getting ahead of myself . . . As the novel begins, we’re introduced to Emil Larson an aspiring, and ambitious, man-about-town.  He’s a low-level bureaucrat in a corrupt system, a drinker, carouser and card-playing bachelor who frequents the gambling house of Mrs. Sophia Sparrow.  They are both royalists, supporters of King Gustav III, a progressive and enlightened monarch entering his twentieth year on the throne.  But in addition to being a gaming room operator, Mrs. Sophia Sparrow is a practitioner of cartomancy.  She’s a seer, who reads fortunes in a set of tarot cards which she lays in a spread called the Octavo, which has a total of nine cards.  She’s politically savvy, active and a confidante of King Gustav as well as his brother Duke Karl, who covets the throne and has aligned himself with the forces of the patriotic opposition, bent on overthrowing the King.  Against this beehive of intrigue, Emil Larson engages his friend, Mrs. Sparrow to lay the cards for him, so he might know his own path to love and happiness.  As he soon finds out however, although the cards can foretell the future, they don’t determine the future, nor are they easy to decipher.  Along the way, this fascinating work of intrigue and infighting will enlighten the reader about the language of fans, which the women of the royal court used to express their emotions, as well as flirt with and control members of the opposite sex.  You’ll experience the sights, sounds and smells of the Swedish seat of power in the 1790’s and be introduced to the healing arts of the apothecary in addition. The Stockholm Octavo, is a sophisticated and witty novel that can be read and enjoyed by all readers.  Book club members will rejoice in this one, it has plenty of material for hours of discussion and dissection and has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and The Library Journal.  High praise indeed . . . with which I heartily agree. Have you checked out your community library yet?  Are you planning on doing it?  Sooner is better than later or never.  Make time and go . . . become a...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 87

Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna I wasn’t sure about reviewing this week’s MBR after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and elsewhere.  But after thinking about it for a while and seeking advice from friends on both sides of the issue, I’m going ahead with it.  Some may see it as insensitive on my part, and I’m prepared to take the heat for it, while pointing out to everyone that simply ignoring the problem will not make it go away.  Neither will a knee-jerk reactionary piece of legislation passed in haste and regretted at length.  I hope time and grief will allow cooler thoughts and a more rational response . . . but with the Confederacy of Clowns that We, the people, have running the circus in Washington, D.C. which we call the United States Congress . . . anything is possible. Without further preamble, here’s Mysterious Book Report Number 87.  It’s a real, honest-to-God walk on the wild side, and one of the most thrilling novels I’ve read in a long, long time.  The author is so damn good, I can’t decide whether to hate or idolize him for his talent.  But one thing is for sure . . . this one’s like being in a 90mph car chase down an icy mountain road! Gun Church, (Tyrus Books-F & W Media, $25.95, 396 pages, ISBN 978-1-4405-5170-3) by Reed Farrell Coleman savages the drug and greed-filled ’80s with paragraphs like this one on page twenty-seven: “It was late.  Then again, late was a relative concept.  Back in the day, I’d just be firing up the engine about now and the brittle blondes with their vampire complexions and C-note nostrils would just about be rising from their cocaine coffins.  Here, “late” is defined by the local news.” The speaker is the first-person protagonist, Kip Weiler, once an up-and-coming wunderkinder, a talented, respected writer who destroyed his once promising career and marriage with illicit sex, drugs and alcohol.  Now, he’s stuck in Bruxton, as a creative writing instructor at a tiny community college in a place where the principal products are “bituminous coal, babies and black lung disease.”  It’s where, “When the wind blows just right, it smells like Christmas trees being hot-dipped in roofing-tar.”  It’s a perfect place for a man without hope . . . because it’s a place with little or no prospects besides death and boredom.  Then, Weiler performs a heroic act and saves his class from a lone student gunman.  He’s temporarily thrust into the national spotlight again, his writing reignites itself . . . and he’s inducted into a cult he calls Gun Church.  After becoming romantically involved with a student named Renee, a woman he calls “The St. Paulie Girl,” and a twenty year-old student named Jim Trimble, nothing in Kip Weiler’s life will ever be the same.  Just as hope reasserts itself and his writing career is possibly resurrected, the allure of GunChurch draws him ever deeper into the dark side.  Like that high-speed chase over an icy mountain road, the plot twists and turns and cliff-hangers keep coming at you like strobe-lights until the last word of the last sentence on the last page.  One of the most interesting, best plotted and intense thrillers I have seen and read in years.  I think I’ll...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 84

Posted by on Mar 6, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna I swore I’d never do it again.  Took the pledge and promised that was it, I’d never touch the stuff again and I meant it.  I really did.  But then, over time my resolve weakened.  Things happened.  Life, with all of its trials and tribulations, intervened.  Day-by-day I felt myself slipping . . . finally I could stand it no more.  I gave in to my craving and pure animal lust took over.  I was powerless, washed away in a flood of self-loathing and pity, as I gave in to my reptilian sub-conscious.  And . . . I’m almost ashamed to admit it . . . I read another vampire novel. The Twelve, (Ballentine Books, $28.00, 568 pages, ISBN 978-0-345-50498) by Justin Cronin is the second of his epic vampire trilogy which began with last year’s massive tome: The Passage and lest there’s confusion, these aren’t touchy, feel-good, I only drink artificial blood and fall in love with moonstruck teeny-bopper vampires.  Nope.  These undead ones are the real deal; the bite your head off and kill-you-dead vampires.  They’ve run amok and have so decimated the world that now, 100 years after the catastrophe caused by an out of control government program, the vampires are dying off because there aren’t enough humans left to feed them.  This novel is action-packed from start to finish, and has a cast of characters worthy of a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel.  Fortunately, for those who choose to read it, the author has provided a list of characters at the back of the book to help you keep track of who is who.  It’s there, I think, because the story plays out in the points-of-view of various characters in a random order that I found it hard to keep interest in.  Fortunately, Mr. Cronin brings all the different elements together for the last half of the book.  The action picks up to a white-hot pace that keeps the reader face down in the pages, racing to the stunning conclusion.  An ending which neatly lays the groundwork for the last of the trilogy in another year or so.  I’ll be ready for another vampire story by then.  I’m sure it, like the first two, will be another blockbuster. If you’ll stop in at your local library there’s shelf after shelf after shelf of blockbusters old and new, in every genre ever written.  It’s a community resource available without charge . . . but you’ll have to get off the couch and go.  “Read or surrender to ignorance,” as Confucius said.  You’ll wonder what took you so long after you do. Calling all you gamers, and geeks, aficionados and computer users everywhere.  Check out our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com That’s where you can leave comments, ask questions, criticize, share recipes and gossip; you can find all eighty-four Mysterious Book Reports indexed by month and year; biographical news and information; books, t-shirts and gifts for sale; reading lists and best books of the year.  There’s a calendar of upcoming events: book signings, lectures and author events as well as the latest publishing news, where you’ll be the first to know about the newest and next books from Rhyolite Press. Signed copies of The Neversink Chronicles are available at Cannie D’s Corner Store, in Neversink, the...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 86

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Do you ever wish you were a kid again?  To go back in time when learning was easy and quick for you?  When your biggest worry was coming up with your share of the rent?  Do you like quests; the hunt for the priceless artifacts that belong to all of humanity, but somehow were lost or hidden long ago?  Are you a reader?  One who loves computers?  If you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to any or all of the above questions, this week’s MBR is for you, because it’s all of those things rolled up into one neat package.  It’s a quirky, not easily classifiable novel titled Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25.00, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-21491-3) by Robin Sloan, and it’s a bibliographic delight from beginning to end. In San Francisco, Clay Jannon’s dot-com job at a startup bagel company has gone dot-com bankrupt during the first great bubble-bursting of the new millennium; leaving him and thousands of others jobless.  Searching unsuccessfully for months to find work, he stumbles across a hand-written ‘help wanted’ sign in an obscure bookstore window and meets Mr. Penumbra.  He’s hired to clerk the midnight-to-eight am shift in what proves to be the strangest bookstore in the city and soon becomes involved in a five hundred year- old mystery to find a priceless human treasure.  It’s a hunt that’s eluded solution by teams of researchers around the world.  Can computers find the answer?  Clay thinks they might be able to and enlists a couple of computer-savvy friends to help, thus setting off a quest and chase that may provide the answer to one of humanity’s greatest mysteries . . . or destroy them all.  This is an entertaining, uplifting and fun read.  It’s suitable for all readers, young or older, more mature ones (like me . . .), as it displays respect for the new and old.  As one reader said, “This novel takes places at the intersection of books and technology, showing a love for both.”  I cannot add to or improve that comment.  Should you choose to read this book, you’ll be in a better mood at the finish than you were at the beginning of it. How are things at your local library?  Oh.  I see.  So, you haven’t gone.  Too busy, huh.  Well woman that’s a cryin’-assed shame, because libraries are a public treasure gone to waste.  And hey, don’t tell me about the internet either because I’ve been using computers for three decades now, and there’s plenty of books and several well-used library cards in our home.  The library is there for everyone, so please, don’t let this gift for all of human-kind go to waste.  I would like to note here, that on the am news today, as the Taliban and their extremist allies were driven out of Timbuktu, their last act before fleeing into the SaharaDesert was to burn the library.  The reason why?  Because they’re afraid of new ideas.  It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it . . . Thanks to all the visitors on our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com They’ve found plenty of things to think about, see and do there.  Come on over, or down or whatever, but take a peek at ’em.  Ask questions or leave...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 85

Posted by on Feb 21, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Some years from now, when future historians examine and analyze the early twentieth century and the factors leading up to the first World War, one of them will pay particular attention to the Mexican Revolution.  Then, as now, Mexico had a prickly relationship with the United   States.  With mechanized war on an industrial scale looming in Europe; Mexico was a prime source of the oil needed to run those armies.  As such she was courted by Germany, who, like the English, had converted their navy from coal to oil.  At the same time, inequities in wealth, land reform and social structure had led to the mexican peasant revolution.  It was headed up by the legendary Doroteo Arango, known to all the world as Pancho Villa.  He controlled the peasants . . . as well as most of northern Mexico, for the duration of the war.  Into the midst of this cauldron of social interest and war, newly elected President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson sent a couple of shiploads of US Marines as an expeditionary force.  They landed and took over the oil-producing and shipping port of Vera Cruz, located on the Gulf of Mexico. And that, is the complex and fascinating background against which this week’s Mysterious Book Report Number 85 is written. The Hot Country, (Mysterious Press, $25.00, 326 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2046-5) by Robert Olen Butler follows the exploits of newspaper reporter Christopher Marlowe Cobb, “Kit” to his mother and friends, Christopher Cobb on his byline at the Chicago Post Express.  He’s a wise-cracking, jaded, world-wise foreign correspondent sent to Mexico to report on the war, and the doings of El Presidente, Victoriano Huerto, known as El Chacal, The Jackal.  Soon after his arrival in the tierra caliente, the hot country, Christopher Cobb is up to his ears in intrigue, gun ships, Germans, ambassadors, spies and a beautiful assassin named Luisa . . . with whom he falls in love.  There are plenty of gun battles, train robberies, horses, cowboys, drinking, carousing and clandestine meetings . . . making this one an action-packed, fast paced thrill ride from the  first page to the surprising ending.  Simply put, Robert Olen Butler is a helluva good writer with a bandolier-full of novels to his credit.  As this is his first run at mystery fiction, I wasn’t familiar with his work . . . even though he’s a Pulitzer Prize winner.  That’s an error of mine which, now fixed, shouldn’t have happened.  I’m looking forward to reading his next and the ones after that.  So, do yourself a favor and toss out that latest Reacher formulaic from the big machine publishing company.  Read this excellent novel instead and you, like me, will be eager for the next adventure from the pen of Robert Olen Butler. Readers are sure to be lost in literature in the opening paragraphs of The Hot Country, and not emerge from that alternate universe until the very last page is read.  Don’t say you weren’t warned after you stay up all night reading.  Enjoy! Have you taken any time lately to enjoy your local library?  Too busy being force-fed what passes for entertainment on the boob tube?  Too bad, because you’re missing a chance to be introduced to and associate...

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Newest News

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in BS and Donkey Dust | 0 comments

BS & Donkey Dust #27 – Tuesday, February 19, 2013 Colorado   Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello the blogiverse and all you ethernet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Today is a special day for a couple of reasons.  First, we’re proud, happy, and excited to announce that ten of the best-loved stories from the award winning Neversink Chronicles are now available individually on your Kindle eReader for less than a dollar!  That’s right for just 99 cents you can enjoy your favorite chronicle.  Check it out by requesting John Dwaine McKenna on your Kindle.  They’ll pop right up.  Tell your friends . . . and enjoy! The other reason today is special is because it’s Ms. June’s (Mrs. McKenna) birthday.  She’s . . . uh, well . . . she’s a grown up, mature woman who never, ever talks about her age.  So happy birthday beautiful!  And many more. We’ll see ya around the old CRT screen . . ....

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Is Anyone There?

Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in BS and Donkey Dust | 0 comments

 by: John Dwaine McKenna BS & Donkey Dust #26 Tuesday, 1/30/2013 Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello the blogiverse and all you ethernet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Is anybody there?  Is anyone reading this?  H E L L O ?  Anybody out there . . . please call or write.  Let me know we’re not alone . . . Hey seriously, I’ve just finished reading two great novels.  The first is The Hot Country, by Robert Olen Butler.  It’s historical fiction about the Mexican Civil War and Pancho Villa.  The second one is Gun Church, by Reed Farrel Coleman.  Look for complete book reviews on this website in a couple of weeks or so. And really, let us know you’re listening from out there in the ozone. –JDM  ...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 83

Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Back in the nineteenth century, Mark Twain wrote, “There is no distinctly American criminal class . . . except Congress.”  If he was still living today, he might amend that to say, “. . . except Congress and Wall Street Operators,” because as anyone who pays the least bit of attention to the news knows, hardly a month goes by without a new scandal or criminal malfeasance of some kind on Wall Street erupting into public awareness.  There are a couple of reasons for this: One, financial services are heavily regulated and often litigated and two Wall Street is chock full of fear and greed.  Combined, they’re a volatile mixture that’s bound to generate scams, scammers, losses and lawsuits, heartbreak and hijinks aplenty.  I know.  In one of my previous working lives, I worked in the securities business as both a stockbroker and a compliance officer, think highway patrolman for brokerage services, and I served as an arbitrator for the NASD, the National Association, of Securities Dealers . . . during which time I’ve seen malfeasance and moral turpitude in many guises.  Because white-collared crime is a hot-butter issue around our house, I was eager to read and review this week’s MBR number 83, which is about Wall Street run amok.  Written by an ex-Wall Streeter with twenty-plus years experience running a trading desk and who later became a managing director of a major bond-trading department, it’s a seat-of-the-pants thriller that should be required reading in all collegiate ethics classes . . . and it’s a damn good yarn for all crime fiction aficionados. Black Fridays, (Putnam, $25.99, 341 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-15866-7) by Michael Sears is a first novel that’s been drawing plenty of extraordinary praise from the likes of John Sanford, Meg Gardiner and Joseph Finder . . . all best-selling authors in their own right.  The novel opens with protagonist, Jason Stafford a disgraced and convicted Wall Street Trader, getting out of prison after serving two years for theft by embezzlement.  He emerges as a changed man . . . barred for life from the securities industry and flat broke . . . trying to pick up the pieces of his life.  He’s divorced, on parole and trying to reconnect with his autistic young son who’s 1,800 miles away in Louisiana.  Salvation comes in the form of a two week consulting job at $5,000 per day.  He’s to audit all trades made by one employee of a large multi-national Wall Street firm that’s about to merge with a giant bank, creating a mega-monolithic, “too big to fail” company.  The trader in question being not only uncharacteristically profitable, but who was also tragically killed in a boating accident.  It seems like the perfect case of the “takes a crook to catch a crook” variety . . . until more corpses start piling up.  The action, suspense and danger are enough to make Black Fridays a great read, but what makes it a compelling one is the back story of Stafford’s autistic young son, and his efforts to protect the boy.  It makes what would otherwise be a good crime drama into a wonderful human interest story and a great read for anyone.  Do yourself a favor and check out this exciting new author.  I’m...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 82

Posted by on Jan 24, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna One of the things I try to do each week in the Mysterious Book Report is to find new and interesting authors to review.  The reason is because we’re looking for our next favorite author, rather than covering the old favorites . . . who’re already getting plenty of ink from the relentless publicity departments of big machine publishers, who control the majority of novels and books being brought out these days . . . who crank out book after book after (Ugh!) book that mostly look, feel and read the same because their last one sold and the publisher is adverse to risk. The problem with finding new authors is that we have to explore . . . and depend on the recommendations of others.  Usually this works okay, but sometimes opinions can vary widely and what one thinks is great, another wouldn’t like, enjoy or even read.  This week’s MBR is a case in point. The Three Day Affair, (Mysterious Press, $24.00, 249 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2026-7) by Michael Kardos was brought to my attention by friends in New   York City who compared it to the works of Dennis Lehane, Scott Smith and other notables.  I was intrigued but unconvinced and then, talked myself into reviewing it. The Three Day Affair, is a story of three old college chums, from Princeton no less, who get together every year without wives, for golf, eating and drinking, while reliving their undergraduate days at dear old Princeton.  Everything is just ducky until one of the trio commits a major felony on the spur of the moment . . . and the other two go along as participants.  Huh? For me this one jumped the tracks right there.  It just didn’t seem plausible that three grads of one of the top five or ten most prestigious universities in the world commit a crime like this.  One?  Okay. Two?  Maybe.  Three?  No way in hell.  So maybe I had a negative attitude about it from the start, but for me this one was tedious, slow developing and hard to finish . . . although the ending was great, with a gut-wrenching twist I never guessed was coming.  The novel has received good reviews from Tom Franklin, Steve Hamilton, Jolin Lescroat and others who’ve heaped praise on it.  Personally, it had too much character development for me, but if you like reading about what the first character thought about, what the second thought about, what she felt about some third guy who told all to the first guy, and so forth and so on, then this is a book for you.  But not for me. Please don’t forget that your public library is for all of us.  All the faculties there are free for the use of everyone.  It’s the best deal in town.  Heck, maybe the whole planet.  Make it your business to get to know your library . . . and the librarians there who work their tails off for all of us. Don’t forget to check out our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com You’ll find the newest news and the latest happenings from out here . . . where the prairie ends and the west begins.  It’s where your questions get asked, information is exchanged, comments are...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 81

Posted by on Jan 17, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna This week’s MBR is different.  It’s different because the novel we’re reviewing represents a new type of fiction that blends two different genres together.  In this instance a crime drama is combined with elements of the supernatural.  Think Sam Spade meets Steven King and you’ve got the general idea.  As an enthusiast of both of the aforementioned, The Wrath of Angels, (Atria, $26.00, 481 pages, ISBN 978-1-444-75644-9) by John Connolly was right up my alley.  So much so, that I bought the British first edition instead of waiting for the US publication date of January 2013.  I’m glad I did.  While the novel could be called simply “gothic crime fiction.” It’s much more than that because Connolly opens the characters up, exposing their human qualities at the same time he’s hinting at supernatural talents.  Like the monster in a Frank Capra sci-fi flick, the readers are aware of an otherworldly menace, but we’re never quite sure who, or what, or where it is  . . . which makes it twice as scary. In The Wrath of Angels, detective (and serial character) Charlie Parker is on the hunt for a downed airplane that supposedly crashed somewhere in the Great North Woods of Maine with a very important list on board: the names of people who’ve made a deal with the Devil.  The trouble is; the plane doesn’t officially exist.  There’s no record of it . . . no flight plan, no distress call, no locator beacon, no report of an overdue aircraft, no date that it disappeared . . . and  others are searching for it as well.  Forces and individuals who represent the dark side, who either want to protect or kill all those named on the list.  They include a serial killer called The Collector, a beautiful woman with half of her face burned off and Brightwell, a child who remembers his own violent death at the hands of Charlie Parker; and who’s looking for revenge.  Brightwell is rediscovering his evil talents . . . the most diabolic of which is to suck out and swallow a human soul.  This novel is fast-paced, action packed and relentlessly addictive.  The characters will stay with you for a long while. John Connolly is an Irish wordsmith with a growing reputation on both sides of the Atlantic.  His writing is dramatic, compelling and seamless.  If you’re looking for something out-of the-ordinary, don’t miss this outstanding young author . . . he’s that good and gets better with each new thriller. How about you?  What are you reading these days?  Have you visited your local library yet?  No?  Why not?  Do you know that any book ever printed is available there in some form for you to look at and read?  You know it’s free?  For anyone?  Why not give it a go?  What have you got to lose? Don’t forget to check out our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com you’ll find the newest news and the latest happenings from out here . . . where the prairie ends and the west begins.  It’s where your questions get asked, information is exchanged, comments are written and answered, it’s where the MBR archives and the BS and Donkey Dust blogs are found, photographs are stored and books lists are located. ...

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The Denver Broncos Morning After Blues

Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in BS and Donkey Dust | 0 comments

The Denver Broncos Morning After Blues   BS & Donkey Dust #25 – Sunday, January 13, 2013 Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Bronco Nation, of which I am a member, is in mourning today after Saturday’s hard-fought, but stunning loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the bitter cold of Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium.  I don’t do shoudda-woudda-coudda, leaving that to the sports nerds and Monday morning quarterbacks.  Instead, I’ll just thank the team for a great 13-4 season, and Peyton Manning for raising everybody’s expectations, game so high.  2012 will live in our collective memories as the almost season.  They almost did it.  Almost got to Super Bowl XIVII.  We almost won . . . almost . . . To all my fellow citizens, I’d like to say, don’t take it too much to heart.  Pro athletes are not, after all just all players.  They’re entertainers.  We pay them to go and play a violent game while we watch and live vicariously through their actions on a tightly defined field of play, in a highly regulated pseudo-war.  At the end of the day, after the game, we all go home.  And tomorrow? Tomorrow, all those ballplayers will still be multi-millionaires and I’ll still be sitting in my little house up on the mesa, writing my stories and blogs and book reviews . . . waiting for June to get home from work, talking and eating our supper together.  We’ll get through the winter, enjoy the summer . . . and be rarin’ to go next September when we’ll start the whole damn thing all over again.    ...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 80

Posted by on Jan 10, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Had to dig down to the bottom back of the bookshelf for this week’s Mysterious Book Report.  It’s one that’s been out for a time, having been published in the mid 1990’s.  I read it years ago and passed the volume on to someone else . . . which I came to regret as I was writing The Neversink Chronicles, because it’s about the same subject: dam building and the confiscation of private property.  Now, thanks to the efforts of my beautiful wife June . . . who haunts the local used bookstores like a literary wraith . . . I have a near-mint copy of Bucking The Sun, (Simon & Shuster, 1996, $23.00, 410 pages, ISBN 0-684-81171-5) by Ivan Doig to review.  Although you may have to enlist the help of one of those foxy librarians and dig a little bit to find a reading copy, it’s worth the effort because Ivan Doig is one of America’s best, most iconic and most underappreciated writers.  In my opinion that’s a crying shame.  Those of you unfamiliar with his work, who take the time and effort to read him, will be well-rewarded with a new author for their favorites list. Bucking The Sun takes place in the 1930s in eastern Montana.  Its subject is the damming up of the Missouri River at FortPeck . . .  an inspired, monumental and tragic undertaking.  The novel follows the travails of the Duff clan, who go from being bottomland farmers to displaced, landless, and homeless persons, then to being gainfully employed and prosperous while building the dam itself . . . and finally back to penury when construction is finished.  Sound familiar?  ‘To “buck the sun” is to push against the glare of sunrise or sunset,’ to quote the dust jacket, and the Duffs are pushing back against the whole world . . . a world they find themselves in by chance.  And yes Virginia, there’s a murder to solve as well.  This novel is broad in scope, accurate in historical detail and poignant in its story of a family trapped by fate; a victim of circumstances and forces beyond their control.  All readers will enjoy this underappreciated literary treasure from an American Master of the writing craft.  Search him out, read this book.  You’ll not be disappointed.  It’s a gem. Great News!  Your local public library has many, many more literary masterpieces for you to seek out and read, including the rest of the body of Ivan Doig’s work.  Go ahead . . . don’t be shy or too proud to meet the librarians.  Be a heroine or a hero.  Become a regular patron of the library.  It’s free, open and available to everyone.  All you have to do is go. Thanks to all of you who have gone to the websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolitepress.com They’ve asked questions, left greetings or comments, found links, book information, author information, pending publications, gifts, books, blogs and all manner of reading suggestions.  Try it.  You’ll like it.  Leave a message, I’ll like it.  Come early, stay late, we’d love to see you.  For signed copies of The Neversink Chronicles, The Whim-Wham Man or any of Rhyolites Books go see Meagan or one of her helpers at Cannie D’s in Neversink, Carol,...

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BS & Donkey Dust # 24

Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 in BS and Donkey Dust | 0 comments

Happy New Year BS & Donkey Dust # 24 – January 08, 2013 Colorado   Springs, Colorado Where the prairie ends and the west begins   Hello the blogiverse and all you ethernet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Well, it’s the New Year already and I need to get my act together . . . No more missed blogs; I promise.  Cross-my-heart and stuff.  I won’t.  I won’t forget to post these. The Whim-Wham Man is starting to generate good press with reviews in The Pueblo Chieftain, The Tri-Lakes Tribune and on Amazon.  Many thanks to all those leaving reviews on eBooks too!...

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Mysterious Book Report No.79

Posted by on Jan 3, 2013 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

                                                                                              by John Dwaine McKenna Happy New Year to you and yours. I’m looking forward to a year filled with new and exciting thrillers, mysteries, and whodunits of every kind; from police procedurals to courtroom dramas, from hard case crime to a couple of science fictions, we’ll review them all . . . and throw in few surprises too. I’m itching to get going, so come along, the Mysterious Book Report is just getting started for 2013. Hop on . . . it’s gonna be a great fun ride. I wanted to start the New Year with something exceptional, something truly outstanding and memorable. I found it in crime fiction; it’s the follow-up to last year’s hit, The Given Day. The title is Live By Night, (Wm. Morrow, $27.99, 402 pages, ISBN # 978-0-06-000487-3) by the incomparable Dennis Lehane, who is fast becoming one of my preferred authors. The book is historical fiction and begins in 1920, just as the Volstead Act, Prohibition, went into effect. The protagonist is Joe Coughlin, the third son of Thomas Coughlin; a prominent captain in the Boston Police Department with ambitions of one day being the commissioner; whose youngest son has chosen a life of crime. The action moves at lightning speed from Boston to prison to Tampa, Florida, where Joe Coughlin gets set up with the Pescatore organized crime family and becomes the controller of rum from New Orleans Louisiana, to Charleston, South Carolina and all points in between. Joe becomes an Irish prince in a Sicilian mob, wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. But an ongoing personality conflict with another gangster named Albert White, a rival for the affections of a woman named Emma Gould, keeps coming back to bite him . . . and may ultimately cost Coughlin his life. This one has it all: sex, booze, bullets, fast cars and boats, beautiful women, unrequited love, bombast and machine gun fights . . . all set against one of America’s most colorful decades. What’s not to love? If you only read one book this year, I’d suggest Live By Night. Yeah. It’s that good. Lehane just gets better and better. Don’t miss it. Don’t miss visiting your local library. It’s your chance to associate with the great minds of the world. Give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did. It’s free. Hey . . . I hope you get a chance to check out my website: johndwainemckenna.com or the dynamic: rhyolitepress.com There you can contact me, ask questions, leave comments, read book reviews, get reading suggestions, information and news about the publishing industry, bios and links to other sites. All of our books are available there, as well as at Amazon and bookstores everywhere and as eBooks. Check them out. We’d love to hear from you. The Neversink Chronicles are available at Cannie D’s, Peter’s Market and the Time and Valleys Museum Store. Read a book ! One good reader is worth a thousand boneheads . . . maybe more. We’ll see you next week with another new and fascinating MBR....

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You’re An Idiot If . . .

Posted by on Dec 21, 2012 in BS and Donkey Dust | 0 comments

BS & Donkey Dust # 23 – December 19, 2012 Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello blogiverse and all of you ethernet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . So . . . What are you planning to do the day after tomorrow, Friday the 21st of December 2012 . . . the day the world is supposed to end according to some ding-dongs and talking heads out there who got the information straight from their decoder ring that’s dialed in to the rhythms of the cosmos . . . HEY OUT THERE – – – CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Anyone who believes that the date is 12-21-12 is the last day IS AN IDIOT!! An ‘edjit’ as my old Irish gramma would’ve said. A stone fecking edjit. See you next Wednesday 12-26-12....

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Mysterious Book Report No. 78

Posted by on Dec 13, 2012 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna   Although it hardly seems possible it’s only a few days until Christmas, and this is the last MBR for the year 2012.  Truth is, it’s going to be a welcome break from the weekly push to read a book and write a five to seven-hundred word column, type, edit and correct it, send it in to The Townsman and post it to a blog, on time . . . especially to a natural born procrastinator like myself.  So this week’s review will be smooth, short and as sweet as a Christmas eggnog. The novel is titled simply Sutton, (Hyperion, $27.99, 334 pages, ISBN 978-1-4013-2314-1) by Pulitzer Prize winning author J.R. Moehringer.  Some astute readers will no doubt recognize the name from his best selling memoir, The Tender Bar. On Christmas Eve 1969, after seventeen years of incarceration, Willie Sutton is released from the state penitentiary at Attica, New   York.  He meets two people from one of New York’s biggest newspapers at the airport and, is flown back to the city where he’s put up in a swanky hotel for the night, courtesy of the paper . . . his lawyer has given them the exclusive rights to his story in return for their editorial support for his parole.  And so the story begins, as Moehringer deftly weaves together fact and fiction as he imagines, through a series of flashbacks, Willie’s crimes, his exploits and years in prison that Christmas day in 1969.  But all the while, Willie Sutton, AKA “Willie the Actor,” the “Babe Ruth of bank robbers,” is secretly trying to find Bess, the love of his life . . . lost but never forgotten.  At times sad, funny and poignant, Sutton will have you rooting for Willie as he weaves his web of duplicity, humanity and deception throughout the twenties and thirties, forties and fifties.  It’s the story of an American folk hero; a criminal mastermind and a lonely man trying to keep hold of his humanity while in the belly of the beast.  Was Willie Sutton an incorrigible recidivist or a victim of circumstance, doomed from the start by the time and place of his birth?  Read the book and decide for yourself.  It’s a great and entertaining read that will have you stuck to the pages like green ink on a Federal Reserve Note. Don’t forget to stop in and say hello; offer some season’s greetings to the folks at your local library.  Take ’em some holiday cookies or make a holiday donation.  They’re non-profit and can use all the help they can get . . . and you’ll feel good about yourself. Take a peek at our websites: johndwainemckenna.com and rhyolite press.com or get a hold of us the traditional way at: Rhyolite Press P.O.   Box 2406 Colorado   Springs, CO  80901 You know all the stuff you can see and do there . . . Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Peace On Earth, Goodwill to all, See you next year.                                                                        ...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 77

Posted by on Dec 6, 2012 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Woof-woof-woof.  There’s an old saw that goes like this:  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, that I learned from my mother’s mother when I was just a little boy.  Superstitious to the end, “Nanny,” as Grandma O’Toole was called, set store by it and many others like it. Well . . . without any disrespect to dear old Nanny . . . I’ve gotta say that that’s a whole bunch of hooey.  Because, now as a fully-matured hound with gray whiskers about the snout, born on the cutting edge of the Boomer generation in 1946 and a couple of decades older than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; I learn new things all the time.  How?  By reading of course.  This is, after all a book review column.  oof-woof, Bow-wow and a little bitty howl . . . Don’t worry folks; the hyperbole and doggerel stops here. The Dog Stars, (Knopf, $24.95, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-95994-2) by Peter Heller is a post-apocalyptic novel of surprising beauty and tenderness combined with the brutality of the daily struggle for survival in a world without law, civilization or society.  It is a world in which ninety-nine percent of the human population has died from a mutated strain of the Asian bird flu and the survivors battle for the remaining goods from an industrial world that no longer exists.  Tigers, gray whales, elephants, apes, cheetahs, collared doves, titmice, gray pelicans and every known species of trout are extinct in this sad world, nine years after the flu pandemic.  Of the surviving humans, some have contracted an AIDS-like blood disease which eventually kills them.  Most of the rest have turned into predators, intent on pillage, rape and plunder. The rest are survivalists.  That’s where we meet Hig, a sad and disillusioned pilot, the protagonist, and Bangley, the hard-core survivalist, who’s keeping Hig alive with a combination of vigilance and brutal realism and sniper skills.  They’re holed up in a small airport at Erie, Colorado, a few miles north of Denver. As Hig flies patrols with his dog, Jasper for company in an antique Cessna, Bangley maintains security at the airport. In such a bleak forsaken world, Hig retains hope.  It is his most human, redeeming quality and the element that illuminates this novel.  Hope is the ability to see the beauty of a seed germinating, a hawk on the wing or a mountain stream tumbling over rocks.  Hope is what pushes him on, to keep surviving in a nihilistic world bent on destroying all humanity. As for the old dogs and new tricks, Heller has forged and shaped and hammered and bent the English language in ways that wordsmiths haven’t ever thought of . . . and it works. Somehow. It’s enjoyable. But. Takes a moment to get one’s mental arms around.  All in all, a great debut novel from an author with superior talent and a message for all of us.  The Dog Stars is getting a lot of positive attention in the literary world.  No serious reader should miss it. If you’re not a regular visitor to your local library you’re missing one of your greatest opportunities in life . . . a chance to learn.  No charges, no entry threshold, no pedigree necessary to...

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Turkey Day Recap

Posted by on Nov 28, 2012 in BS and Donkey Dust | 0 comments

BS & Donkey Dust #22 – November 28,2012 Colorado   Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello the blogiverse and all you internet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Wow!  I don’t know about you but I’m still so full of turkey and football that I am almost in a coma.  That was Friday the twenty-third. On Saturday, the twenty-fourth, we were in Monument, Colorado signing copies of The Whim-Wham Man and The Drift.  Met a lot of new friends and signed a lot of books and had a jolly old time with Tommie and Paula who run The Covered Treasures Bookstore.  Monument is a beautiful small town that’s about twenty miles north of Colorado Springs  and twenty miles south of Castle Rock; right on I-25.  It’s nestled right up against the foothills at the base of the Palmer Divide, stop up if you’re ever in the area, and say hello to the ladies at The Covered Treasures.  They’re in the historic area at 105th 2nd   Street.  ...

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Mysterious Book Report No.75

Posted by on Nov 15, 2012 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Part II A Tribute to James Lee Burke Creole Bell, (Simon & Shuster, $27.99, 528 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-4813-3) by James Lee Burke, begins in Indian summer with a torpid Dave Robicheaux in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds.  He’s on a morphine drip for pain and very uncomfortable.  He has a history of alcohol and drug addiction, and is a long-standing member of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous . . . the twelve-step program that’s helped so many people to control their illness . . . one day at a time.  In the second paragraph of his narrative Robicheaux makes this observation: “Those who have had the following experience will not find my descriptions exaggerated or even metaphorical in nature.  A morphine dream has neither walls nor a ceiling nor a floor.  The sleep it provides is like a warm bath, free of concerns about mortality and pain and memories from the past.  Morpheus also allows us vision through a third eye that we never knew existed.” Then, in the early morning hours shortly after midnight on a Friday, he gets a visit from Tee Jolie Melton, a local Cajun woman, an entertainer who sings in local nightclubs . . . who leaves him an iPod loaded with songs she put on it . . . who tells him she is afraid because she is living with a famous man, and she heard him and his associates talking about an oil well casement and a blowout involving several deaths and billons of dollars.  Before leaving she adds that he’s married, she’s pregnant, he wants her to get an abortion, but she thinks he’s going to divorce his wife and marry her, and lastly, that some of his associates are ‘bad men’, the kind that ‘carry guns and hurt peoples’. Robicheaux, already uncertain if she was really there or if he’s in the midst of a morphine dream, learns from his wife that Tee Jolie Melton and her younger sister named Blue have been missing for a couple of weeks while he’s been in a coma, suspended somewhere between life and death.  He puts the event out of his mind and concentrates on his recovery. Then, just as Robicheaux is back at work as the Iberia Parish Sheriffs Offices Senior Homicide Investigator, Blue Melton’s body is found encased in a block of ice, floating in an inlet from the Gulf of Mexico.  It puts Robicheaux and best friend Clete Purcel on a mission to rescue Tee Jolie . . . which sets them on a collision course with a powerful cartel of ultra-wealthy businessmen, thugs, and aristocrats with billions of dollars at risk.  When an assassin named Caruso, who may be Cletes’ daughter turns up and one of the characters may in fact be a high ranking Nazi war criminal, the case takes a sinister turn with life-and-death consequences for Robicheaux, his wife and daughter as well as Clete Purcel.  Creole Bell is a five-hundred page thrill ride through the swamps and bayous and crime-infested society of one of the most beautiful . . . and beleaguered states in the entire union.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading one of Mr. Burke’s novels, please consider this an introduction, as well as an invitation to read this,...

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Closer To The Big Time

Posted by on Nov 14, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Colorado   Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins  Hello the blogiverse and all you web surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . FLASH !  Big news from Rhyolite Press, Bert Entwistle and John Dwaine McKenna are being interviewed this afternoon by Norma Engelberg of Colorado Community Media.  She’s the community editor for the Pikes Peak Courier View and The Tribune in Mounment, CO.  Look for our interview at http://www.ourcoloradonews.com this weeks edition and our BS & Donkey Dust Blog next week! Hope to see you there....

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Mysterious Book Report No. 74

Posted by on Nov 8, 2012 in Mysterious Book Report, Uncategorized | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna Part I A Tribute to James Lee Burke Twenty-some years ago, at a time when we only had one vehicle, I was waiting in the car for my wife, June, to get off work, listening to a woman named Terri Gross interview a crime-fiction writer about his latest book.  The writer’s name was James Lee Burke and his book featured an iconic character he’d created: a Louisiana police detective named Dave Robicheaux.  (pronounced ROW-ba-show)  I can’t remember which of Mr. Burke’s novels he was talking about, but I’m certain it was one of the first two or three.  In listening to the description of both the character and the plot, it dawned on me that Robicheaux was one of the most compelling, most complex and most interesting characters I’d ever heard about.  It’s a long held belief of mine that the most interesting and compelling characters in crime fiction are the ones with flaws; the more interesting.  They have to struggle to overcome themselves, while at the same time fighting an unknown entity or group in order to solve the crime, right a wrong and obtain justice for the victims . . . the poor, the powerless and the dead . . . those who can not speak for themselves. When June got in the car, just as the interview ended, I said, “Wow! It’s too bad you couldn’t hear the interview that was just on with a writer named James Lee Burke,” and told her all about it. “You’ve never heard of him?” she said.  “I can hardly believe it, as many whodunits as you’ve read.” “Me neither,” I said, “but I’m gonna fix that right now.”  On our way home, we stopped at Chinook, our favorite local bookstore, and bought the novel Mr. Burke had just written.  Thus began a twenty-plus year conversation between myself and the author whose work and unique combinations of beauty and horror; crime and compassion; hatred and violence mayhem gunfights and the religious lessons of forgiveness tolerance and love have kept me enthralled through all thirty-one of his novels and short stories.  Dave Robicheaux is a character at odds with himself and the world he finds himself living in; a man whose self-description speaks volumes about his struggle with himself, addiction to alcohol and his character: “My history is one of alcoholism, depression, violence and bloodshed.  For much of it I have enormous regret.  For some of it I have no regret at all, and given the chance, I would commit the same deeds again, without pause, particularly when it comes to protection of my own.” After reading that first novel featuring Robicheaux, which I believe was called Black Cherry Blues, I was intrigued, and bought the first two, Heaven’s Prisoners and The Neon Rain.  By the time I had finished those two, I was hooked with a gaff.  And over the years, I’ve read each one of Mr. Burke’s novels as they were published.  Indeed, I have read many of them twice.  He’s the author I admire most and who, along with Hemmingway, Elmore Leonard and a couple of others, has had the biggest influence on my own modest efforts.  With that in mind, I can say in all honesty, that I think his latest work is...

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Great news about a book signing

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Colorado Springs, CO Where the west begins and the prairie ends   Great News!  Personally very excited!! A Book Signing When:  Saturday Nov 24, 2012 11:00 to 1:00 Where:  The Covered Treasures Bookstore 105 2nd Street Monument, Co  719-481-2665 John Dwaine McKenna will be there with his newest publication, The Whim-Wham Man.  This is a story that takes place about 12 miles north of Colorado Springs in 1940.  It’s a coming-of-age story with a murder mystery.  Bert Entwistle will also be there with his newest book, The Drift.  This story takes place in Cripple Creek, it has all you are looking for, a treasure hunt, a mystery and environmental thriller.  We are sure you will see these characters in the future and you are gonna fall in love with them. These would make great Christmas presents.  We can’t wait to sign books and meet people.  Hope you can all come. –JDM...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 73

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

by John Dwaine McKenna The election is almost here and everyone is worn out from the non-stop campaigning and rhetoric.  My lifetime has encompassed twelve presidents and almost twice as many campaigns for president, and I can honestly say here and now in writing, for all the world to see, that I cannot remember any of the others which seemed so long, so full of invective or so full of confusing claims.  Yikes!  It’s been a long strange trip and it’s going to be nice to not hear any more, “are we there yets?”  Yes, Children.  We are.  Be sure to vote next Tuesday. Given the strange atmosphere we’ve been living in; and of course today’s proximity to Halloween; we wanted to find a book to review that was appropriate to the season.  Whoo-girl!  Did we ever. Mrs. God, (Pegasus Crime, $23.95, 185 pages, ISBN 978-1-60598-304-2) by Peter Straub is a different kind of a ghost story; it’s a murder mystery and a wee bit of a horror novel to boot.  I have to say it’s one of the more bizarre pieces I’ve read in quite some time. The story is about professor William Standish, who receives a prestigious and coveted fellowship to Esswood House in England, to study and write about a minor poet named Isabel Standish, a distant relative.  Esswood House, owned by the Seneschal family, has one of the worlds greatest libraries as they have long been patrons of writers, hosting such luminaries as T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence and Henry James for fellowships and retreats at various times.  The result is the world’s greatest collection of private papers of many of the world’s literary giants. When Standish arrives at Esswood however, it soon becomes apparent that something isn’t right.  It’s not just the ghostly and alluring woman who greets him upon arrival, it’s his creepy male dinner companion and his elusive answers to routine questions from the curious professor Standish that arouse the readers suspicions.  It’s the mysterious voices of unseen persons, the disappearing host and the strange doll houses in the basement . . . or maybe it’s the roomful of bones that raise the neck hairs as one reads further in this eerie, scary and just plain weird novel.  If any of you folks out there choose to read it I’d like to hear your comments afterward.  Its strange different . . . and creepy.  It’s vintage Peter Straub. As you regular readers know, there’s plenty of vintage literature down at the library.  it’s you community resource and free to use.  Check it out.  You’ll be glad you did.  Local libraries are a treasure house of knowledge, entertainment  and information, but you gotta go in order to get the most out of it. And hey . . . all you internet surfers out there in the electronic haze, skimming the ether . . . have you checked out my website: johndwainemckenna or rhyolitepress.com You’ll find all the latest information about all of our books and authors, all the happenings like book signing events and author appearances, as well as news and information about our pending books. Signed copies of The Neversink Chronicles are available at Cannie D’s, the Time & the Valleys Museum Store, and Peter’s Market.  Regular copies are available at bookstores everywhere...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 72

Posted by on Nov 2, 2012 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Here’s a great oxymoron for you:  hallucinatory reality.  Makes you scratch your head and go, “Huh?” doesn’t it.  That’s what I did when I heard it on NPR this morning.  Of course, I was half asleep at the time, so I checked it first thing when I turned the computer on; but no, I had it right.  Hallucinatory reality, that’s what the work of a Chinese writer named Mo Yan, who’s the current darling of the communist party leaders, has been labeled by the illuminati of the book universe.  And that, I guess is the reason the Nobel committee awarded him this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature and 1.2 million dollars.  He’s been called “China’s answer to Franz Kafka,” and his writings include novels such as Big Breasts and Wide Hips; Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out and The Garlic Ballads.  They combine history, folk tales and the contemporary with some of the aforementioned “hallucinatory realism” and are mostly social commentary.  Mo Yan is a pen name meaning “Don’t Speak” in Chinese and he was recently quoted as saying “Censorship is good for creativity.”  Hmm, I will have to think about that for a while . . . makes one wonder if the Nobel Committee has a little hallucinatory reality of their own going on. Then again . . . hallucinatory realism is a great segue into this week’s MBR about the near future where some folks are running around with seriously enhanced human abilities because of tiny computer chips with teeny atomic power plants in their heads. Amped (Doubleday, $25.00, 275 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-53515-1) by Daniel H. Wilson is the follow up to last years smash hit, Robopocalypse.  As it opens, the Supreme Court of the United   States has just ruled that persons with enhanced abilities (amps) are not protected by the same basic laws as pure humans and society begins to disintegrate.  As crowds gather, riots, looting and fires are being set.  Bombs are going off as Owen Gray, the 29 year old protagonist who has an implanted device to control his epilepsy, is called to his Doctor father’s office . . . where he learns that his device does more than control his disease.  Much more.  He sets out for rural Oklahoma, to find the man who built his device and learn what it can do, as all across the country, amps are being systematically persecuted, threatened and deprived of their property.  In Oklahoma, Owen Gray will try to figure out all that his implanted device is capable of.  It is there that he’ll find a love interest, his destiny and a man named Lyle Crosby . . . the deadliest implanted human being on planet earth . . . who Owen must outwit in order to try and save America from an all-out civil war between pure humans and enhanced ones. Amped was enjoyable and interesting, but for me personally, it lacked the edge-of-your-seat suspense that his first one had and was a bit of a letdown.  If you only have time and energy for one sci-fi adventure this year I’d suggest reading Robopocalyse.  Amped is one for real science fiction fans who’ll find it very satisfying and enjoyable and entertaining.  This is after all, the genesis of the next sci-fi titan whose...

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Great News!

Posted by on Oct 31, 2012 in BS and Donkey Dust | 0 comments

Colorado Springs, CO Where the west begins and the prairie ends   Great News!  Personally very excited!! A Book Signing When:  Saturday Nov 24, 2012 11:00 to 1:00 Where:  The Covered Treasures Bookstore 105 2nd Street Monument, Co  719-481-2665 John Dwaine McKenna will be there with his newest publication, The Whim-Wham Man.  This is a story that takes place about 12 miles north of Colorado Springs in 1940.  It’s a coming-of-age story with a murder mystery.  Bert Entwistle will also be there with his newest book, The Drift.  This story takes place in Cripple Creek, it has all you are looking for, a treasure hunt, a mystery and environmental thriller.  We are sure you will see these characters in the future and you are gonna fall in love with them. These would make great Christmas presents.  We can’t wait to sign books and meet people.  Hope you can all come. –JDM...

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Sweet Success At Last

Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Colorado Springs, CO  Where the prairie ends and the west begins  Hello the blogiverse and all you web surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Just like the singer Dr. Hook, who couldn’t get his picture on the Rolling Stone Magazine, we’ve been unable to get any mention of our books in the Colorado Springs Gazette, our local primary source newspaper.  Until now, that is.  Thanks to the efforts of fellow writer Bert Entwistle who authored The Drift, an environmental thriller featuring special agent Jack Bannister, we’ve been able to crack the DNA code down there at our anachronistic newspaper.  To wit:               Friday Oct 19, 2012 the Gazette GO! section pg 27             Arts and Entertainment               HOT OFF THE PRESS             recent regional author offerings:   “The Whim-Wham Man”- By John Dwaine McKenna. Published by Rhyolite Press, rhyolitepress .com.  Synopsis by the publisher.  ‘”The Whim-Wham Man,’ the first of a series featuring CSPD Detective Jake McKern, is a coming-of-age and murder mystery that takes place in 1940 in Husted, Colorado, 12 miles north of Colorado Springs.  Inspired by actual events, its heart-stopping action will keep you on the edge of your seat and glued to the pages as you live through the tragic life altering, three-day metamorphosis in the life of young Jamey McGoran. ‘The Whim-Wham Man’ has it all: a crime you can’t forgive, a plot you couldn’t imagine, and a charac- ter you’ll never forget.”               . . . like the Doctor sings:                         We keep getting richer                          but we can’t get our picture                          on the cover of The Rollin’ Stone Sorry Doc.  Not for us. Not anymore!                                                                                    ...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 71

Posted by on Oct 18, 2012 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Do you ever get the urge, to just jump in the car with a full tank and drive until you run out of gas . . . never having a destination in mind . . . never knowing where you’re going until you get there? It’s a great daydream for a little while, leave all your worries and cares behind, become a twenty-first century drifter. But then, reality creeps in.  Who’ll take care of the kids, feed the cat, cut the grass, pay the phone bill, take out the trash . . . all of those million and one things we have to do in our everyday lives?  All of the sudden you’re back to square one, thinking about jumping in the old Cowboy Cadillac and hitting the trail.  Well, here’s a humble suggestion for solving the dilemma: read a book.  It’s that easy.  Because with a flick of the wrist, by opening the first page, we can be transported to an entirely different time and place, while associating with some of the most intelligent and brightest people on planet Earth.  This week’s Mysterious Book Report No. 71 is just such a book, written by just such a mind. The Prisoner of Heaven (Harper, $25.99, 278 pages, ISBN 978-0-062-20628-2) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the third volume in a proposed four book set whose plots all weave around and into a secret hoard of rare volumes called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  It’s hidden somewhere in the city of Barcelona, which is located in northeastern Spain on the Mediterranean coast.  Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region with its own language and a strong separatist tradition.  It’s the place where the Spainish Civil War ended on April 1, 1939 as the Republicans, who supported the elected government and were in turn supported by the Soviet Union, surrendered to the Nationalists under the command of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.  He was supported by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi war machine.  Historians say the Spanish Civil War was the prelude to World War II, a chance for Hitler to test the war machines he’d been building since 1933, when he was declared Chancellor of Germany.  With their utter defeat, the Republicans were then systematically persecuted by the Fascist Nationalists, and this is the backstory of The Prisoner of Heaven. The story begins in Barcelona in the year 1957 when a mysterious, deformed stranger enters the Sempere & Sons Bookstore the week before Christmas and buys the rarest book in stock, an illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo.  After paying with a thousand-peseta bill and refusing change, the man wrote an arcane sounding inscription on the title page: For Fermin Romero deTorres,                 who came back from among the dead and holds the key to the future. 13 Thus setting off a hunt for the stranger, a search for a secret cache of stolen money and a tragic love triangle involving The Prisoner of Heaven and ultimately, young Daniel Sempere himself, as he and his best friend Fermin untangle the story which takes place in a series of flashbacks to the year 1940, when Fermin was held in the notorious Montjuic Prison as a cellmate of David Martin . . . the Prisoner of Heaven.  This novel is, in...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 70

Posted by on Oct 11, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

It’s looking a lot like fall in Colorado.  From my perch up here on the mesa, I’m seeing a lot of yellow among the green  of the urban forest and the leaves are rapidly falling away up in the high country; those elevations just above Colorado Springs at seven to eleven thousand feet, where the air is too thin and the sun too bright for them to grow.  Pikes Peak, at just over fourteen thousand feet is wearing a crown of snow and my joints are already telegraphing me that winter is just around the next page of the calendar.  But, ha-ha Jack Frost, I’m fully prepared for cold weather with a well-stocked pantry, plenty of firewood  and a library of books to read and review.  Books which will transport all of us through time and space; books that know no borders, no limits and allow the reader to peek over the shoulder and into the lives of all the characters the world has to offer.  Take this week’s MBR No. 70 for example . . . Wolves Eat Dogs, (Simon & Schuster, 2004, $25.95, 337 pages, ISBN 0-684-87254-4) by Martin Cruz Smith is a crime-fiction mystery that begins in Moscow with the death of Pasha Ivanov, a billionaire and oligarch of the ‘New Russia’ . . . a society fueled by corruption, secrecy and organized crime, much the same as the old USSR . . . who either jumped or was thrown from the 10th floor balcony of his luxury penthouse.  A sour, disillusioned and ‘slightly subversive’ detective and Senior Investigator named Arkady Renko is at the scene as the opening page begins, trying to determine if Ivanov jumped, or was pushed.  All the obvious signs point to suicide, but Renko, cynical, analytical and prone to depression, isn’t so sure; one of the only clues in this locked room mystery is salt . . . it’s found on the windowsill Ivanov went out of, under his body, and forty pounds of it are poured on the floor of his walk-in closet.  Renko gets drawn ever deeper into the world of super-rich billionaires as he tries to unravel a case that takes him from Moscow to the ghostly Zone of Exclusion: the contaminated radioactive area around Chernobyl, where the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place in April, 1986.  There, amid the toxic and abandoned ruins, inhabited by the daring, the foolhardy and the criminal classes, as well as some militia sent to impose marital law, Renko will try to sift through the debris and overcome criminal sabotage in order to solve the case before the toxicity of the environment does irreparable damage to his health.  It’s an intense, page-turning marvel from one of the masters of the detective and mystery genre.  If you’re a crime-fiction junkie, you’ll do well to read Wolves Eat Dogs!  Enjoy. Others by Martin Cruz Smith that I highly recommend are: Gorky Park, and Polar Star, both of which can be found at your local library.  That’s where the lights are bright, the books are free and the possibilities are endless. There’s endless things to see and do on my website: johndwainemckenna.com It’s where you can find the BS & Donkey Dust Blog, all of the Mysterious Book Reports, and hundreds of reading suggestions.  You...

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BS & Donkey Dust

Posted by on Oct 10, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Publishing Empire Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello the blogiverse and all you ‘net surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . The publishing empire of Rhyolite Press LLC got a wee bit bigger last week with the first printing of our newest book, The Drift, by Bert Entwistle.  It’s an environmental thriller featuring Special Agent Jack Bannister of the Environmental Protection Agency.  He’s hot on the trail of a gang of organized criminals in an exciting chase that takes place deep in the abandoned mineshafts under Cripple Creek, Colorado, “The world’s greatest gold camp.”  It’s an exciting debut novel from this distinguished author of hundreds of magazine articles.  You won’t want to miss the first in a series featuring Jack Bannister and his team of amateur sleuths as they battle the bad guys trying to destroy the environment, putting the world’s land, sea and air in jeopardy. Together with The Whim Wham Man and The Neversink Chronicles by John Dwaine McKenna, the Rhyolite Catalog is at three and growing fast.  You can expect more from Jack Bannister and Jake McKern, who was featured in The Whim-Wham Man, soon. Coming in Spring of 2013: The Colorado Noir Chronicles by John Dwaine McKenna Surf on . . . We’ll see you next week....

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Mysterious Book Report No. 69

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

It’s been a wild week around here; the old hacienda became a regular beehive of activity, some good, some not so great.  The good: The Whim-Wham Man is in print, in hand, in house and ready for delivery.  And, we’ll be at Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association’s Fall Trade Show in Denver this Thursday (20 September) signing copies at the Renaissance Hilton.  Am I excited?  Hell yes . . . wouldn’t you be? Then, there’s the not so good news; the downright crummy news.  Because of procrastination, a computer glitch and squabbling about cover details . . . The Drift, our other new book for this fall, won’t be printed or ready in time for the big whoop-te-doo.  Bummer dude . . . It’s been such a busy couple of weeks in fact, that I haven’t had time to read much.  But hey!  Don’t worry, I’ve got a great MBR anyhow; it’s a selection from my best books of the year list and historical fiction to boot.  Wildwood Boys (Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, 2000, $24.00, 369 pages, ISBN 0-380-97749-4) highlights the life of William T. Anderson, a border rider, guerilla fighter and bushwhacker . . . one of Quantrill’s raiders, in Kansas and Missouri during the American Civil War, cohort of Jesse James . . . and known to all the world as “Bloody Bill”, by author James Carlos Blake. Anderson was born in Missouri and grew up in eastern Kansas during the 1850’s, coming of age just as the Civil War began, right in the middle of the bitterly disputed Kansas-Missouri fighting.  Both states had divided loyalties between the north and south as free and slave state advocates poured into both territories during the antebellum period.  While massive battles were taking place in the east, guerilla warfare was the norm in the borderlands, because the Federals controlled the cities, but Confederates held the wildwood country.  As yankee Jayhawkers and Redlegs raided in Missouri, rebel fighters led by Quantrill and others took vengeance on northern sympathizers and wreaked havoc on union troops at every opportunity. Blake brings out the human story of Anderson, one of the most notorious, ruthless and feared of the “Missouri Bushwhackers,” but at the same time an enigma, a man of honor, love and sorrow.  James Carlos Burke isn’t an author who’ll appeal to everyone as his subjects and writing style are of a gritty, sometimes coarse nature, but at the same time they’re written with a poetic lyrician.  As one reviewer put it, “Nobody does blood and guts better.”  I couldn’t agree more, or say it better.  All of his books, from The Pistoleer, about John Wesley Hardin, to the eponymously titled The Killings of Stanley Ketchel are all favorites of mine.  If you enjoy action-adventure novels with some period details thrown in, Blake is not to be missed.  A warning: he’s not a prolific writer churning out book after book like some, so savor each title.  It’s six years since Stanley Ketchel.  I’ll review his newest, Country of the Bad Wolfes in the near future.  I can hardly wait. Don’t wait to patronize your local library . . . it’s right there, full of books and smart librarians just itching to find that special book for you.  Go.  Surprise yourself and learn something new....

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BS & Donkey Dust #15

Posted by on Oct 3, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Trade Show Part II   Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins   Hello the blogiverse and all you internet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . We’re ba-a-a-a-ack, with part two of the fall 2012 Mountains and Plains Bookseller’s Association Trade Show . . . so there we were, over in the author’s corner with four other hopefuls, right in front of the loading doors (a hint, perhaps?  Hmmm, read on to find out more . . .) signing and giving away books while June, Don and Lora were passing out business cards like free jousting tickets at the Renaissance Fair. Meanwhile the booksellers and their associates, who had their own white ID badges (so the snotty bastards with the big publishers could see ‘em coming, I suppose), were passing by with  a slow measured cadence that made them look like penitents doing the stations of the cross.  Maybe they were blown away by the size, shape and colors of all those many, many books of every description, covering so many subjects, in so many disciplines in every style known to woman or mankind that they were simply knocked out with awe and wonder at the proliferation of them.  Or maybe they were just ‘bookdrunk’ with the immensity of it all.  I know I was. So, we smiled, made eye contact, talked to everyone we could, signed and gave away books, business cards, press releases and all our reasons why . . . they should have our books for sale in their stores.  It was exciting . . . it was interesting . . . it was exhausting.  I hope it was worth it. We’ll keep you posted.                                                 –JDM For a complete rundown on the Trade Show, click on...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 68

Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

There’s gonna be a big party at our house tonight, stop by if you got a chance.  Why are we having a shindig in the middle of a work week, you ask?  Well, no sniggering or guffawing out there . . . but the reason we are throwing a big bash is because it has finally rained in Colorado   Springs.  Not some little old shower for fifteen minutes of thunder and lightning either.  Nope.  It started precipitating just before dawn, about 6 a.m., then continued all day and most of the following night before it quit.  Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah and thanks to old mother nature for the relief.  It’s been parched out here: year-to-date precipitation six inches . . . our normal is fourteen and our reservoirs are only 57 percent full instead of the usual 83 percent.  It’s been so dry out here that every known frog in the state has moved to Minnesota.  It’s been so dry that rattlesnakes have to carry canteens and travel in squads . . . and one of ‘em had better be a doctor. Yessir.  And that’s a fact. So, this week’s MBR No. 68 is about water.  In this case it’s too much water . . . which caused crop failure and famine in Ireland during the mid to late 1840’s.  A famine of such massive proportions in Western Ireland that, combined with the exportation of foodstuffs and livestock to England by absentee British landlords and the gross evictions of a tenant farmers, it caused mass starvation.  It’s called the Great Famine of 1847 . . . and diaspora of the Irish peoples to Australia, Canada and the United States began.  And so they sold what possessions they had, headed for the nearest part of embarkation, children in hand, old folks and relatives, the sick and the dying all left behind, while those still able-bodied enough begged, borrowed or stole their way onto the aptly named coffin-ships; sail and steam powered side-wheelers, where large numbers of them died of dysentery, typhus, or drowning . . . as many of the ships were lost at sea driving the three-week crossing. Those of you who, like me, are proud of and interested in the Irish heritage . . . as well as the poor souls not fortunate enough to have been born Irish . . . should get their hands on and read this week’s book.  It’s called Star of the Sea, (Harcourt, pap.2002, $14.00, 401 pages, ISBN 978-0-15-602966-9) by Joseph O’Connor, an Irish writer who lives in Dublin.  A New York Times notable book, it has been widely lauded in Ireland, Britain and the United States.  Star of the Sea is historical fiction at it’s very best, combining meticulous research and attention to period details with a thrilling murder mystery involving a woman with a terrible secret, a bankrupt English lord and a diabolic, unknown killer bent on revenge who stalks the ship full of suffering refugees trying to make it to the promised land.  Whether you’re a dedicated reader or just looking for a great yarn, I cannot recommend this one highly enough . . . it’s that damn good!  One of my best books of the year. Star of the Sea may require some effort to find.  Audio editions...

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BS & Donkey Dust No. 14

Posted by on Sep 26, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Trade Show  Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins. Hello blogiverse and all you internet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . We’re just back from the Big Do up in Denver, where we were cheek to jowl with the likes of Random House, Penguin Book Group USA, Hatchette Book Group, Harper Collins publishers, McGraw-Hill Companies, Simon & Shuster and  . . . well you get the idea.  The high and mighty were all out in force.  You could easily tell who they were by the abundances of hardcover books and proliferation of snooty sales reps who sourly pointed to the many “Do Not Take Books Unless We Offer Them To You.” signs they had strategically placed among their bookstacks, whenever one of the press reps approached.  I guess they couldn’t afford enough to service the hoi-poloi like us.  With our color-coded ID badges, it didn’t take a lot of imagination to feel like those who were forced to wear the infamous six-pointed star armbands back in 1930’s Germany. Meanwhile, upstart Rhyolite Press, represented by yours truly and Bert Entwistle, were doing their best to give away as many books as possible after carefully signing each one.  Well, one of us was.  The other guy was busy signing IOU’s.  Meanwhile, the whole Rhyolite Press Gang, consisting of Lora, Don, and June were out and about, busily meeting and greeting folks, talking about books and passing out business cards.  It was a full frontal assault, a total team effort and full-court press . . . and, huh? What’s that? Oh. Ok. I see wrong blog.  Sorry about that.  I’ll see you next week with the rest of the news about the 2012 Trade Show and lots more BS & Donkey Dust.                                                                                                ...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 67

Posted by on Sep 20, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Waaay back in the early 1960’s, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and regular gasoline was 32.9 cents per gallon at my dad’s Texaco station on Main   Street in Grahamsville, New York, a high school teacher named Manville B. Wakefield sparked an interest in American History in me that has remained all my life.  It was the centennial of the Civil War and “Wake,” as he preferred being called, was involved in writing a book, with Inez George Gridley and a couple of others about the 143rd New York Volunteers, the infantry regiment from Sullivan County.  He was the driving force, chair of the county centennial commission, and responsible for every element of this beautiful and now rare, book.  Each illustration was hand drawn by him, including the map that graces both the front and end pieces.  It was called Brass Buttons and Leather Boots, and if you happen to own a copy, you are indeed fortunate.  Number 222 of 2000 is one of my most cherished books.  Wake, however had a wide range of interests, another of which was the steam railroads, which were quickly passing from the scene at the time . . . and he infected me with his enthusiasm for those as well.  Wake went on to write other books about the area, with canal boats and steam trains as the subject.  I went away to college and the rest of my life, while sadly, Wake died only a few years later of a heart attack at the age of fifty . . . a great loss to us all for such a talented individual. My  interest in history grew over the years and my passion became the twentieth century, with emphasis on the Prohibition era, the Great Depression and World War II.  So when I found a novel that takes place in Oklahoma during World War II, with German prisoners of war, dust bowl Okies, a murder most foul . . . and it all takes place in the train yards at the Atchison, Topeka and Santa   Fe railway depot in Waynoka, Oklahoma . . . I couldn’t wait to get a copy, read and review it.  The Yard Dog, (Minotaur, 2009, $24.99, 292 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-56670-8) by Sheldon Russell is about the death of Spark Dugan, a homeless bum who lives in a shanty beneath a railroad trestle and picks coal for a living.  When he’s found dead under the wheels of a reefer waiting to be re-iced by a group of German POW’s who’ve been contracted to slide 300 pound blocks of ice into the hoppers on top of them, Hook Runyon is called to investigate.  Hook is a disillusioned, one-armed “yard dog,” or “railroad bull,” a badge carrying employee of the railroad whose principal duties are to arrest pick-pockets and throw bums off of railroad property.  He’s a member of a private police force and his word is law on the railroad’s turf . . . much like the old BWS police on the reservoirs in upstate New York.  Hook lives in a caboose in the railyards and spends his free time drinking the local shine and buying first edition books at local auctions, while trying to overcome his personal bitterness about the loss of his arm.  But Hook,...

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Trade Show

Posted by on Sep 19, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Colorado Springs, CO   It’s been a helluva month this week, and no, that’s not a typo; it just seems like there’s been a month’s worth of problems just in this past week.  But the good news is we got almost all of them solved.  Why all the hubbub? This Thursday, the twentieth of September, is the opening night of the Annual Trade Show for the Mountains and Plains Bookseller Association, and Bert Entwistle and I have three hours scheduled to meet and greet . . . and sign our two new books. The Drift for Bert and The Whim-Wham Man for me. We’ve been on a high-intensity, full warp speed ahead, with all photon torpedoes locked and loaded program to get both books completed, printed and here, ready to sign and deliver to all the bookstore agents ( about 1500). And here’s the big problem, the big ‘uh-oh’, whata we do now thing that can’t be fixed, no way, no how.  Oh shit! Thanks to some procrastination and an itty-bitty computer glitch . . . oh crap, I hate to even think it . . . Bert’s excellent novel, The Drift won’t get here in time for the show. Oh sure, we’ve got The Whim-Wham Man, business cards, thank you cards, posters, name badges, order forms and three kinds of press releases, as well as 100 copies of our spring 2012 release The Neversink Chronicles, but The Drift, an environmental thriller, will only be represented by three proof copies for prospective book buyers to look at.  Bert Entwistle will of course be there signing IOU’s and issuing apologies, and we’re thinking of tattooing a dotted line around his neck with “cut here” three or four times for reference.  We’re hoping it’ll make folks laugh and place orders, but who knows if it’ll work.  We’ll let you know if it all worked out next week, maybe have some photos for ya too. Wish us luck . . ....

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Mysterious Book Report No. 66

Posted by on Sep 13, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

This will be a special . . . and different . . . MBR.  Special because it’s number sixty-six, which always reminds me of the Mother   Road from The Grapes of Wrath, also known formally as the Will   Rogers Highway; it is, of course the iconic Route 66.  It was born as part of the US Highway System on November 11, 1926, and was immortalized in Steinbeck’s novel about the Okie migration to California in the 1930’s.  It connected the city of Chicago to Los Angeles by the way of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New   Mexico and Arizona.  When I was in high school, there was a TV program called Route 66.  It was about two guys who traveled around in a Corvette convertible and had adventures, which usually involved pretty young women in distress along Route 66; they were sort of modern-day cowboy drifters in a sports car.  As plots and screenwriting go, it was pretty thin stuff, but my pal Mike and I loved that show and always compared notes about it the next day at school.  In fact, it made such an impression on us that a certain old retired guy can still be seen on occasional sunny days driving around Neversink in a blue ’64 Corvette Stingray . . . The reason it will be a different MBR is because I feel as though I know the author . . . although I have never met or spoken or written to her.  Never Tell, (Harper, 348 pages, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-06-199916-1) by Alafair Burke is her eighth overall and the fourth in her Ellie Hatcher series.  In it, Hatcher, a NYPD detective and her partner Rogan are called to the scene of the apparent suicide of a privileged teen-age girl from the well-to-do family of a celebrity record producer, because the girl’s mother is exerting influence, interfering with the death scene and the EMT’s sent to help.  Julia Whitmire seemed to have it all, and while the evidence points to suicide, her mother and father insist that she would never take her own life.  When the parents use their political influence to force a criminal investigation, a reluctant Hatcher and a slightly more open-minded Rogan are forced to dig further.  When they do, it becomes clear that Julia Whitmire’s life was fractured with secrets.  As Hatcher and Rogan investigate, the case becomes evermore complex, as new characters and more secrets unfold.  Family secrets, personal secrets  and criminal secrets are revealed right up to the startling conclusion of this excellent serial mystery that will keep you guessing to the end.  Ms. Burke has been getting great reviews from a number of crime-fiction luminaries, including Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Nelson DeMille, the Associated Press, New York Times and Lisa Ungar.  Dennis Lehane calls her, “One of the finest young crime writers working today,” and I can find nothing to argue with him.  Alafair Burke, in addition to having one of the most beautiful given names in the entire English language, has a monster talent that will make her a major crime fiction novelist for many years.  I look forward to lots of pleasant afternoons and evenings in her company.  Read Never Tell, and you will too. How can I know her and never...

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FAN MAIL

Posted by on Sep 12, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Colorado   Springs, Colorado Hey everyone out there in the blogosphere: Every writer loves hearing from their readers.  Here’s a recent one that came by email and had us smiling for the rest of the day.  We’d like to share it with all of you . . . Hi John: “We were in Peter’s Whole Foods Market on Wednesday and saw The Neversink Chronicles sales display on the counter.  Frank pointed it out, and one of the young girls that works at Peter’s Market was standing by.  I asked her, “Are they signed copies?” Her response was “Oh, yes,” followed by some great commentary.  Not only did she explain that every copy was signed, but that the author was from the area, and . . . I let her go on and when she was done, asked if she liked the book and of course, she did.  That’s when I told her, “Then make sure you get the Townsman and read the Mysterious Book Report he writes each week!”  She was amazed that we knew such a “famous” person and that he actually lived only a short distance from where we lived in Grahamsville when he was growing up.   Linda Commando, Editor The Tri-Valley Townsman Grahamsville, New...

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Apologies

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sorry everyone !! I had forgot to post our Mysterious Book Reports to the blog !!  I am caught up now but again I apologize !!  You have a lot to read now !!!   Thank you, Lora Brown Rhyolite Press

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Mysterious Book Report No. 65

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

One of the best things about being a reviewer is never knowing what’s going to turn up next.  One of the worst things about being a reviewer is bumping up against a deadline and being unprepared . . . or even kind of unprepared . . . like today.  I’ve read the book, but haven’t written the review and, just like Alice’s white rabbit, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.  No time to say hello goodbye I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.” Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland pushed the limits of literature when it was first published in 1865 and compared to the effusive, flowery and formalized style of writing so prevalent at the time, Alice, with it’s drug-induced imagery and cast of outrageous characters must have seemed like a bolt of lightning from MountOlympus. We can’t say it’s as dramatic as a lightning bolt, but this week’s Mysterious Book Report is also pushing the envelope of literature into new, unknown areas. Ghosting, (IG Publishing, PBK, $15.95, 286 pages, ISBN 978-193543947-9) by Kirby Gann is a new genre loosely termed “southern noir.”  Noir, as regular readers of the MBR know, is dark, gloomy and generally concerns the troubled members of society, the outsiders, outlaws and outlandish ones among us . . . many of whom are involved in all types of criminal activity.  Traditionally, noir stories take place in cities, but an increasing number of them are plotted and happen in the rural south: southern noir. Ghosting is all about drugs; the use of, growing of, transporting of, the dealing, selling and control of drugs within defined geographic areas . . . in this case Pirtle County, Kentucky.  In place of the usual collection of hip, inner-city characters, we’re introduced to a motley and sinister bunch of white southern rednecks engaged in organized crime.  The group is controlled by Lawrence Greuel, who is dying, while his empire is being siphoned away by his partner, a ruthless sociopath named Arley Noe. As the novel begins, Fleece Skaggs and Mister Greuel’s entire marijuana harvest for the year has gone missing; his younger half-brother Cole decides to take Fleeces place as a drug-runner, to try to find out what became of him, while their pill-addicted mother Lyda glides through the story looking for her next bottle of prescription pain-killers.  Ghosting is a moody, atmospheric novel with some of the same best lyrical prose I’ve read in some time . . . and one of the most graphically vicious scenes I’ve ever read.  Every page brought a new twist, or new surprise.  If you want to read something new and different, it’s for you.  I enjoyed it immensely. Have you enjoyed the benefits of your hometown library lately?  It’s the place to go for free fun and infinite things to learn and do.  Try reading as a self-improvement project; it’ll make you feel really good about yourself. I hope you’ve visited my website by now. johndwainemckenna.com It’s where you’ll find all the Mysterious Book Reports, suggestions for reading, the BS and Donkey Dust Blog, information about The Neversink Chronicles, and my new hot-off-the-press novella entitled The Whim-Wham Man; a coming of age and murder-mystery, as well as Rhyolite’s next publication, The Drift, an environmental thriller by their newest writer, Bert...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 64

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

It is an acknowledged truth and accepted fact that we are witnessing the death-struggles of the daily newspaper.  Newer, faster methods of news gathering and information distribution has eclipsed them.  As one who has been a newspaper affectionato since the age of four . . . when I could only read the ‘funny pages’ as the comics were called . . . I’m sad to see them go, and mourn their passing.  And while the daily papers are in trouble, the weeklies are just fine at present, as they’re vehicles for hometown news and advertising and operate on a skeletal budget, dependent on volunteerism to put out each edition.  The plain truth of the matter is that all of the downsizing and bankruptcies have put a helluva lot of writers and photographers out of work.  But, it’s not all bad news . . . because some of those writers are putting their skills to work in other ways and are doing some outstanding work.  This week’s Mysterious Book Report is a case in point; as well as a great chance to get in on the ground floor of an exceptional writer whose work is already recognized: his first novel won an Edgar. Cliff Walk, (Forge, $24.99, 318 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-3237-0) by Bruce DeSilva is by all accounts exemplary hard-boiled crime-fiction.  At the same time, it’s an excellent account of a seasoned reporter struggling to keep his job on a dying newspaper, something the author did for forty-one years. Cliff Walk is set in Providence, Rhode Island and told in the first person by a serial character named Liam Mulligan, an old-fashioned investigative reporter. Because prostitution had been legalized in Rhode Island, Mulligan is chasing the threads of a story about the governor taking payoffs to prevent the law allowing it from being overturned.  At the same time, pieces of children begin showing up in garbage used to feed pigs at a commercial farming operation and the body of one of the biggest pornography producers is found at the base of a cliff . . . someone Mulligan had seen whispering in the governor’s ear at a society party the night before.  He senses a much-larger story is at hand, and an odyssey begins that will take him deep into the sex business . . . and leave him questioning the moral values he was brought up with.  This one is a burner.  It left me craving more and sorry to see the last page turn up.  DeSilva, like Leonard, Connelly, and James Lee Burke, is on my Don’t Miss list.  I’m going to find a hardcover first edition of Rogue Island, Bruce DeSilva’s debut, and put it on the shelf with all the other crime-fiction giants.  He’s that good. It’s good to go to the library too . . . but’cha gotta get up off your big, fat, La-Z-Boy and go!  You’d sure do it if they were giving out hundred dollar bills, wouldn’t ya.  The library is where you’ll find something even more valuable . . . knowledge.  It’s ________________ (fill in the blank.  Hint: starts with the letter ‘P’. Have you visited my website yet? Johndwainemckenna.com It’s got all the Mysterious Book Reports, a free story, links, blogs, photos and posts and you can leave your own...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 63

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A few weeks ago, I made some lists, based on preliminary reviews from publishers and booksellers for summer reading fun.  One of the books on the list was Harbor Nocturne, (Mysterious Press, $27.00, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2610-8) by Joseph Wambaugh.  He’s a retired LAPD detective with twenty-some-odd books to his credit, all revolving around the Los Angeles Police Department.  I consider them to be among the best of a sub-genre in crime fiction known as police procedurals.  The term means exactly what it says; they’re written about cops and detail their procedures.  Wambaugh’s are cream of the crop because they’re exact, based on his personal experience; he’s a master of the language; his cops and his criminals dialogue is spot-on; and last he’s got a funny side . . . excelling in the type of gallows humor that cops are famous for. Wambaugh reprises two of his most loved and funny characters in this one: a pair of surfer-dude cops nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam.  Jetsam, who has a prosthetic foot due to an on duty shoot-out, is tasked with an undercover job because of his amputation.  At the same time, back in San Pedro, the southernmost district of Los Angeles, a romance is developing between an unlikely pair of lovers: Dinko Babich, a young longshoreman and Lita Medina, a not-so-innocent teenage Mexican stripper and topless dancer.  When the two lovers are caught in the middle between a criminal sex-trade-human-smuggling ring and the cops who are chasing them, lives hang in the balance as the star-crossed lovers try to hide from the warring fractions . . . all set against a background of the Los Angeles San Pedro District Harbor. This one is pure escapist fun.  Your summer afternoon spent reading it will fly by faster than the Saturday matinee at the movies when you were a kid.  Another great one from a master of the genre. All the masters, of all the genres, can be found at your local library.  You already know that, don’t you?  And, you know that there are charming, attractive and smart-as-a-whip librarians there to assist you?  Check it out for yourself.  You’ll see.  And you’ll be glad you did, because you, like the librarians and me, will become helluo librorum. Advance reviews are starting to come in for Rhyolite’s newest publication, The Whim-Wham Man and it’s plain to see that they’re excellent.  “It’s a helluva yarn,” said one.  “Took my breathe away it’s so intense,” was another, and “I can’t stop thinking about The Whim-Wham Man.  He’s unforgettable.”  Order your copy now!  All orders before August 30th are discounted to $14.50 for the book and the postage.  You’ll save $5.50, but only before August 30, at rhyolitepress.com or Rhyolite Press, P.O. Box 2406 Colorado Springs, CO  80901.  For credit card orders, call 719-203-5265. Signed first editions of The Neversink Chronicles are available at Cannie D’s in Neversink, the Time and the Valley Museum Store in Grahamsville, The Little Store in Roscoe, and now available at Peters Market in Napanoch, where they’re flying off the shelves. You can make your mark in cyberspace at my website, johndwainemckenna.com It’s where you’ll find hundreds of reading suggestions, a free story, information about Rhyolite Press and their publications,  it’s where you can comment, suggest, ask questions, gripe or...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 62

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

How’s your summer going?  Doesn’t it seem amazing how fast it goes by compared to how long it takes to get here?  It seems like forever when we’re waiting for the leaves to green up compared to how long they stay that way.  All too soon, they put on their fall colors, drop away and it’s back to cold weather, football and hockey, basketball and skiing.  Oh, and of course . . . it’s back to school time.  School is, as Dickens sort of put it, the best of times or the worst of times, depending on which student, and at what time, one asks.  For some, the popular and outgoing ones, school years are some of their best.  But for others, the shy, introverted and lonely ones, school is pure hell . . . years of physical and mental abuse. This week’s Mysterious Book Report, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, (William Morrow, 2010, $24.99, 274 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-059466-4) by Tom Franklin, is about one of those students.  The odd one out . . .the forgotten and overlooked . . . the poor kid who’s shunned, alone, afraid and often bullied.  His name is Larry Ott and he’s all grown up now, still living in the same little hardscrabble town in southeast Mississippi, and still friendless . . . shunned by everyone in town.  But it wasn’t always like that.  As a youngster, Larry, a white boy, had a friend.  His name; Silas “32” Jones, a black boy, whose life becomes defined by baseball, while Larry’s is defined by the disappearance of a girl named Cindy Walker . . . Larry Ott’s only date in high school.  A girl who disappeared while on that date . . . a girl whose body has never been found in the intervening 20 years . . . a girl presumed dead at the hands of Larry Ott.  The lantern lamp of suspicion has never been removed, and Larry goes about his daily routine as a prisoner in a cage without bars erected by the court of public opinion. After another young woman disappears, Larry Ott is ambushed as the book opens and he lies in a coma at a local hospital.  The story is told in a series of flashbacks through the eyes of Silas, his one time friend, who’s now a local law enforcement officer.  As the old and new mysteries unfold however, we learn there is much more to Larry and Silas’s stories than we were first led to believe. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is complex, intellectual and certainly blurs the line between literature and genre (mystery) fiction.  That said however, although I feel that the plotting and arc of the story are exemplary; I think the pacing is slow because of the amount of minutiae.  A minor criticism to be sure, but one that detracted from my enjoyment of the book, the rest of which is highly recommended. Your local library also comes with high recommendations.  It’s a great place to make new friends, meet new ideas and learn about anything.  That’s why those librarians are so smart; they read a lot.  How about you?  Are you reading much?  If not . . . why not? The Neversink Chronicles is still available at Cannie D’s in Neversink, the Time and...

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Mysterious Book Report No. 61

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The great conflagration and inferno known as the Waldo Canyon Fire has been put out.  It consumed nearly 18,000 acres of the Pike National Forest, 346 homes and 2 lives.  It took thousands and thousand of man hours, a fleet of air tankers and helicopters, more than 1,000 federal wildfire fighters and God only knows how many professional firefighters from metropolitan Colorado Springs and nearby cities . . . brave men and women all . . . who went toe-to-toe with the firestorm, battling and beating it back, inch by inch, foot by foot or house by house and tree by tree until it was no more.  They are all heros.  They all went about their duties with a professionalism, dedication and determination that must be seen to be fully appreciated.  Not since nine-eleven have I had such a lump in my throat when I contemplate our first responders and the job they do to protect us all.  These few words of praise and a heartfelt thank-you are all I can offer in return.  It doesn’t seem like nearly enough. To keep myself occupied, when I didn’t have my nose pressed to the TV screen watching the minute-by-minute news of the Waldo Canyon fire and waited for the evacuation notification that never came, I got busy reading some pulp fiction on my Kindle.  Pulp fiction, for those of you who’re unacquainted with it, is by definition, “fiction dealing with the lurid or the sensational, often printed on cheap, pulpwood paper,” according to my Random House unabridged.  I might add, and they’re a helluva lot of fun to read once in a while . . . Especially when written by the hand and mind of a master, and False Negative, (Hard Case Crime, 256 pages, $9.95, ISBN 978-0-85768-580-3) by Joseph Koenig fits the bill in every way.  It’s 1953, and a smart-alec crime reporter named Adam Jordan has a brand-new Hudson Hornet and a wiseass attitude.  Working for an Atlantic City New Jersey newspaper, Adam has a cushy life focused on Jazz music, finding a woman to climb into bed with and, oh yeah, reporting the local crime blotter. Life changes abruptly when he decides to fak