Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Dalliance Back into the Mainstream

When art dealer, Julian Isherwood, is duped into discovering the tortured body of a spy turned dirty art dealer, Gabriel Allon is strong-armed into investigating by the director of the Italian Art Squad.  Once again Gabriel has to suspend the restoration of a famous alter piece, and abandon his pregnant wife in Venice, to go into the field.  The investigation segues into a quest for a Caravaggio that has been missing for decades and the trail leads to the civil war raging on Israel’s northern border with a chance to deprive the Syrian president of his looted assets.

All of Daniel Silva’s tales involve intricate, twisted plots, but The Heist may well be the most convoluted to date.  The impetus of the story changes directions so many times it leaves the reader with vertigo and throughout is woven the subplot of Gabriel Allon’s pending ascension to the directorship of the Israeli Intelligence Service.  As always The Heist is filled with Allon’s dry wit and his tortured past.  I promise that if you weren’t a follower of Gabriel Allon, after you read The Heist, you will return to read the previous thirteen installments in the series.

Buy at Amazon

I'm afraid you won't find this one at Smashwords.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Declaration: Tales From a Revolution-South Carolina

Katie Harris, near modern day Charleston, is helping her grandmother clear her house in preparation for moving into a nursing home.  Starting in the attic Katie finds an ancient trunk bearing the name ‘Elizabeth Harris.’  Inside she finds letters and documents dating to the Revolutionary period.  An historian from the university arrives to authenticate them and uncovers an even more earth-shattering and plan changing discovery.  Nearly two-hundred and fifty years earlier Justin Harris ekes a living on his tobacco farm on the same piece of land that Katie’s Gram occupies today, however, his dreams of peace and prosperity are haunted by the growing rebellion.  Risking all by joining the Whigs’ cause, Justin earns a commendation for his heroism in defense of Charles Town, but it comes with hefty price.

This homey tale continues relating the stories of two generations of the Harris family separated by more than two centuries.  Being a fan of both history and genealogy, this book had much appeal for me.  I am also greatly enamored of Charleston and the Low Country in general, so all aspects of The Declaration were calling me.  However, I must offer a constructive criticism: the dialogue is unconvincing.  The characters never speak to one another without referring to each other by name.  If a husband and wife are talking, how frequently do they call each other by their proper names?  I was particularly bothered by the conversation of the slave, Terrance, who spoke like he had been educated at Eton and referred to Justin as “Mister Harris” instead of “Massa.”  Ignoring the overly formal speech and the political correctness, Lar D.H. Hedbor’s Declaration is worthy of attention. 

Price $4.99
52,140 words

Buy at Amazon

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Half-Hanged Man

Thomas Page was not finished being hanged when a would-be campaigner bought his indenture and saved his life with the condition that he join his band of mercenaries on the Continent.  Page not only excelled at pillaging, he became the leader of a company of plunderers—known as the Wolves—who made their living sacking castles and towns from Navarre to Burgundy.  Enter the Raven, a black haired Spanish courtesan with a grudge toward King Pedro of Castile. Page and the Raven are lethal pair but are compelled to stay one-step ahead of Hugh Calveley who is determined to avenge Page’s killing of his cowardly cousin, William Calveley, the misguided general who saved Page from the gallows.

The Half-Hanged Man is a fine story told in the format of eyewitnesses relating their tales to a well-known chronicler.  There are three parts and points of view that come together in a jarring climax.  The context is the fourteenth century Europe and David Pilling’s knowledge of contemporary terms and trappings is impressive.  He transports the reader to the time and place with his excellent prose and use of language from the late 1300’s.  All fans of history will enjoy The Half-Hanged Man.

I've only found this book at Amazon, but the good news is it's free.
Download from Amazon

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Legend of Henry Berry Lowery

Henry Berry Lowrie was a very wily blue-eyed Indian.  In the final days of the Civil War when all of the South sat on the brink of starvation, Henry Berry and his Lumbee Indian friends and relatives waged a war of plundering the rich and sharing with the needy of Robeson County, North Carolina.  The Lumbee knew the swamps around the Lumber River better than anyone else, having taken refuge there from the depredations of white encroachers since colonial times.  At the war’s end when the outrages of Reconstruction were heaped upon the genteel white community they became indignant at the effrontery of the Lowrie gang and offered irresistible bounties for their capture.  Henry Berry was nothing if not an upright man—his thieving and revenge killings aside—and because he lived boldly and openly, captured he was, and escape he did.  Then he and his gang members were captured by treachery, and craftily escaped.  Enter on the scene, two vengeful widows, victims of Henry Berry’s murderous side and downtrodden by the insults of Reconstruction, then the blood money reaches a staggering sum.  Armies of bounty hunters swarm the swamp and most are never seen again.

Astoundingly, this story is true.  Warren Reichel’s research and descriptive skills combine to make the kind of a tale that one wants to stay with to the end.  This is the kind of lovable rogue saga that everyone treasures, but unlike Robin Hood, this man was real.  The determination to preserve the community, protect friends and family, extract justice and to enjoy life in the face of adversity is as inspiring as entertaining.  The author has told his story brilliantly and delivers the astonishing climax with aplomb.  This is exactly the kind of book I love to read, and although I had not known of Henry Berry Lowrie, I am familiar with the Lumbee culture and the region, and in fact, I claim a Lumbee ancestor, so this was a double delight for me.  I think everyone will enjoy it, too.

So far it is only available via Amazon in paperback for $17.99.

Buy at Amazon

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Virtual Conflict

A Chechen assassin fulfills a contract on a cyber-security software executive, while on the opposite side of the world, a North Korean cyber-warfare expert is recruited to work with a team of Chinese students being paid to hack into the data bases of major corporations by a mysterious Russian-American billionaire.  Oddly, when the attack occurs, no real damage is done except to the  stock market.  Subsequently, there are a series of mischievous hacking incidents against Chinese government websites that intend to embarrass the regime.  As all this is transpiring, North Korea is plotting to turn upcoming war games into the real thing.

Virtual Conflict is a multilayer, complex and intriguing story with loads of action. Terence Flyntz’ technical knowledge of his subject is vast, and the turns and surprises never stop coming.  Unfortunately the prose is a little stiff and repetitive in places.  This is a story that is more told than shown,  plus the dialogue is often multiple paragraph soliloquies that don’t sound like normal conversations.  I rate this tale  at five stars for content but only three for execution.  Nevertheless, the plot is in league with The Hunt for Red October and I did enjoy reading it.

142,590 words
Price $4.99

Buy at Amazon

Friday, June 13, 2014

Thoughts on the Secretary of Defense and the Constitution

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, June 11, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, "The President has constitutional responsibilities and constitutional authorities to protect American citizens and members of our armed forces.  That's what he did.  America does not leave its soldiers behind.  We made the right decision, and we did it for the right reasons—to bring home one of our own people."

Apparently the Secretary of Defense has never read the Constitution.  Hagel’s remark did not sound familiar, so to be certain, I reread Article II of the Constitution concerning the executive branch of government. Sure enough, Hagel is full of crap.  Article II in its entirety is attached to the end of this post in case you don’t believe me.  The President is the Commander in Chief and is responsible for seeing that all laws are enforced—including immigration—but he is not the babysitter of the American people.  He is also supposed to defend the Constitution, but clearly Obama has forgotten that part of his oath.

What I can’t understand is why no Congressman challenged Hagel on his absurd claim.  I can only guess that none of those present had ever read the Constitution.  I’m will to bet Obama has never read the Constitution.  Furthermore, shouldn’t someone have remarked that it’s not right to leave ambassadors behind either?

This Bergdahl business more than stinks.  Hagel contends that he is still in Germany because he needs more psychological evaluation. Don’t we have any shrinks at the VA?  Or is it because he would have to wait six months to get an appointment?  Maybe he needs more time to memorize the official story.

The rumors flying around this case, viz: Bergdahl has not called his parents and his father was heard to say, “Allah akbar,” in the Whitehouse Rose Garden, not to mention that Muslim looking beard he is sporting, lead one to wonder just what we got for five Taliban jihadists.  Snopes is silent on the Bergdahl rumors.

Let’s address the other ridiculous thing Hagel said.  “We complied with the law.”  What part of ‘Congress is to be notified before any of the Guantanamo prisoners are released’ do Hagel and Obama not understand?  I don’t know if that is a high crime or a misdemeanor, but either is an impeachable offense.  Is it going to happen?  Of course not, because Congress is every bit as inept and wrongheaded as the President.

The most insulting remark the half-breed jackass has said is, “We didn’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Give me a break.  The Taliban has an office in Qatar.  Are the American people stupid enough to believe these five Muslim miscreants are going to be held incommunicado?  Well, maybe they are that stupid, after all, they elected the bastard twice.  Let’s say those pillars of western idealism in Qatar turn them loose in less than a year, what are we going to do to Qatar—sanctions?  Even if they do hold them for a year, isn’t that coincidental with the pull-out from Afghanistan?  Five more jihadists is just what the doctor ordered in the vacuum of US involvement.  I guess Obama hadn’t heard about Fallujah and subsequently Mosel and Tikrit.

When we are faced with an Islamic state from Syria to Iraq that is receiving nuclear weapons from Iran and North Korea, and we are forced—I repeat forced—to defend Israel, are we going to look back at this shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time?”

This is a very sad time to be an American.

The US Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, is a brilliant, concise and elegant device.  Contrary to the beliefs of far too many politicians and their minions, it is not a living document to be tweaked at will by the likes of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Waxman, Waters and all the rest of their ilk.  Here is Article II:

Article. II.
Section. 1.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows: Each State shall appoint, in such Manneras the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector. The Electors shall meet in their
respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President.  But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President. The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes;which Day shall be the same throughout the United States. 
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States. In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected. The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them. 
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Section. 2.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments. The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session. 
Section. 3.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
Section. 4.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mission to Morocco

Sam Bradford joined the Army rather than wait to be drafted.  It was 1944 and the draft was inevitable for able-bodied young men, but after enlisting, Sam got recruited by the newly formed intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).  His first mission was to kidnap a Nazi collaborator code named the Viper from a sleepy seaside town in French Morocco.  Arriving, curiously by blimp, Sam assumes his undercover persona and begins stalking his prey.  On his first pass at identifying the Viper he encounters Mireille, a lovely and charming French Moroccan who engages him in a probing conversation.  When Sam succeeds in snatching his quarry and spirits him off to London, he has good luck interrogating him and learns of a whole nest of informers in Port Lyautey.  So back to Morocco he goes to nab the rest and perhaps the Gestapo colonel who runs them, all the while keeping Mireille in the back of his mind.

If your taste runs to deep, rich descriptive writing that paints a mental picture of the setting and the detailed actions of the characters, then Mission to Morocco is for you. The plot is intriguing and realistic. JR Rogers depth of knowledge of the subject and the locale is clearly profound.  The characters are well developed except, in this reader’s opinion, the main character, Sam. This juvenile James Bond lacks a personality.  The bulk of his conversation is, “Yes, sir.  No, sir. I won’t, sir.”  A bit more dash and savoir-faire would have been helpful. The ending is true to life, but for a work of fiction, it is perhaps a little loose ended and unsatisfying.  But I won’t reveal it, you will have to discover it for yourself.

110,650 words
Price $4.99

Buy at Amazon