Gerry B's Book Reviews

The Peripheral Son: A Dick Hardesty Mystery, by Dorien Grey

A thinking-mystery that reads like a fine cognac

 

Story blurb: Freelance investigative reporter Victor Koseva has disappeared. A loner, Koseva has few friends, no co-workers, a dysfunctional family background, and some quirky proclivities that could easily have gotten him in trouble.

But when his concerned sister-in-law hires Dick Hardesty, he discovers Koseva was looking into two very dangerous subjects: corruption in a powerful local labor union and drug use at a local boxing arena—an arena owned by his estranged father and brother. Add a handsome gay middleweight with eyes on the championship and a peculiar kleptomaniacal accountant and a total lack of clues or sources for same, and you have the making of a puzzle that threatens to stump even Dick Hardesty.

About the author: With the release of Caesar’s Fall, book #3 of the Elliott Smith paranormal mysteries, Dorien Grey places a 17th book on his shelf of published work, joining the 13-title Dick Hardesty mystery series and the stand-alone Western/adventure/romance novel Calico. The release of a new edition of The Bar Watcher is the first of what will be redesigned editions of the entire Dick Hardesty series previously published by GLB Publishing. Dorien is also hard at work on an all-new Elliott Smith and John novel.

Available in paperback and e-book formats.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Unfortunately this is the first Dorien Grey novel I have read. I say “unfortunately” because reading The Peripheral Son [Zumaya Boundless, 2011] has made it clear just what pleasure I have missed.

It is in fact the fourteenth in the Dick Hardesty Series that Dorien Grey has developed, but I didn’t find this an impediment to enjoying the story—other than wanting to go back to see how the characters developed along the way.

The story blurb provides an outline of the plot, as have other reviewers, and so I will concentrate on what I found the be particularly enjoyable about Dorien Grey’s work.

Character development

Right from the start the author’s skill in bringing the characters to life is apparent. Almost text book examples, in fact. Victor Koseva’s peculiarities as a fastidious, gay, hardnosed investigative reporter, sets the stage and even the rationale for his murder. Moreover, his status as the ‘peripheral son’ is a stark contrast to quiet domesticity of Dick Hardesty, his lover Jonathon, and adopted son Joshua.

Likewise, the supporting cast—both good guys and bad—are all interesting while contributing to and enlivening the plot.

[I will also include in this category an editorial note: I am so pleased that the author chose to emphasize the ‘happy’ side of gay life; as apposed to what I have come to term “the persecution complex.” Yes, persecution has been, and still is, a very real part of the gay experience, but it doesn’t rank the predominance that some writers give it.]

Plot development

The plot, particularly the mystery elements, demonstrates the same understanding of progressive form that guides—not drives—the story from beginning to end. Indeed, it is the subtle laying out of clues (and possibilities) that tempts the reader onward—as every good mystery should do.

The story also moves along at a nice pace—necessary, I think, for a thinking-mystery—and the narrative is sophisticated and stumble-free; almost a given for writing of this calibre.

I also like the nostalgic bits sprinkled like bonbons throughout the plot, i.e. Sony-Walkmans, etc.

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Altogether it was a very satisfying read, but may I suggest a nice cognac and a rendition Jean-Joseph Mouret ‘s “First Suite in D” (the theme tune of Masterpiece Theatre) to go with it. Five bees.

News

Visitor’s count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 19,915.  I predicted we would reach 20,000 by the end of January 2012, and it looks like we are going to make it! So a thank you in advance for participation, and do keep coming back.

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Poetry fans:  I’d like to introduce Kerry Edward Sullivan, poet and short story writer. Kerry has published several of his poems and is currently working a journal-type short story aimed at young adults and older. To receive some of his poems, email him at: kilverel@gmail.com.

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Shawnda’s blog: Hey, there’s a new blog online, and you’re invited to drop by. To visit Shawnda’s blog, click here.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by!

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Merlin-444, by Rejean Giguere

An ambitious concept that doesn’t quite fly

Story Blurb: In small town Saskatchewan Bobby Morrison is trying to piece his life back together. Losing a father has stopped him and his mother dead still. The only thing he has going for him is his Hot Rod.

Bobby’s need for speed rips him out of his small town life and thrusts him headlong into the past. He takes on the power and history of the Rolls Royce Merlin. The ensuing insanity hurls him into the Battles of Britain, the Atlantic and the Pacific. When the past presents a mission, can he complete it? Can he find his way?

About the author: Rejean Giguere is an avid outdoorsman, adventurer, photographer and artist. He enjoys fishing, hockey, golf, tennis, skiing and snowmobiling, his V-Max

motorcycle and vintage Corvette. He grew up in Canada and Europe, and enjoyed a business career in Toronto and Ottawa.

Available in e-book format – 266KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When I first came across Merlin-444 by Rejean Giguere [Smashwords, 2011], two things attracted me to it; i.e. it is a Canadian story by a Canadian author, and secondly it features the legendary Merlin engine and the Battle of Britain. It is not to suggest there aren’t lots of good Canadian authors to choose from, many I have reviewed (like Cynthia Faryon, and Tom Douglas), but the combination was the clincher.

The concept is a complex one—one might even say, “daunting.” The main protagonist, Bobby Morrison, is a likeable teenager with small town values, which include foregoing his own interest to look after his mother in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan (population 610). Like most small towns life is slow-paced, and so Bobby occupies his time pumping gas and working on his suped up ’77 Camaro.

His boss—and second protagonist—is an “old guy” [sic] known only as “Mr. G,” who seems to operate the service station more as a hobby than a business. Therefore Bobby is pretty well free to tinker with his hot rod.

His nemesis, known as “Digger,” owns a hot rod too, plus an obnoxious ego to go along with it. He is also dating Suzanne, Bobby’s secret love interest. However, this story is not intended as a romance, so Suzanne and Digger are mostly sub-plot overlaid by the preponderating action.

The real story begins when Mr. G suggests they put a Rolls Royce, Merlin engine, in the garage truck—which is quite a feat considering the Merlin V12 engine packed an amazing 1,470 hp (1,096 kW).

Even more incredible is when Bobby first fires it up and experiences some sort of time warp, by which he is transported back in time to the cockpit of a Spitfire. Moreover, he is the midst of a dogfight as part of the Battle of Britain (1940).

More such ‘flights’ were to follow, during which we learn for whom and for what reason he is being mysteriously called back in time, and the answer is quite poignant—not quite a tear-jerker, but satisfying.

My observations

The cross-over nature of this story—i.e. young adult-cum-historical fiction-cum-fantasy—would be enough to give any writer grey hairs just thinking about it, and so I think this author has given himself a fairly tough row to hoe from the start. In fact, I think he may have over extended himself to tackle it in the first place.

It is not to say that there aren’t some very nicely written parts. The dog fights for example are particularly intense, and the author’s straight forward style suits this sort of action, but overall I felt the story was rushed without regard to development. Instead, characters were unexpectedly introduced with chunks of information to cobble it together.

There are also some issues with repetitive phrases that stood out like stumbling blocks in places. For example:

Jumping up he ran to the truck squinting, shielding his eyes. As the light and noise finally settled, the dust floated to the floor of the cab. He yanked open the door and pulled the kid out, dragging him to a chair. God, he took in a quick breath, there was blood on the kid’s shoulder. 

The kid was alive, but sure seemed drained. He watched carefully as Bobby slowly came to. He saw the distant look in his eyes, while he watched the kid get his bearings back. 

Finally the kid looked up, shaking his head, “Incredible Mr. G.. Out of this world.” P.52

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I realize that this isn’t a particularly favourable review at first blush, but hopefully it will make for one in the future. There is enough good about this story to suggest it. Two and one-half bees.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 19,527

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Congratulations to Jackie Dupuis: Jackie won ‘Runner-up travel story 2011’ with her short story “Captive in Cuba.” To read all about it, click here.

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GLBT Writers Group: You are invited to join our intimate little group of supportive writers on Linkedin. Let us know what you have written, or are currently writing, and get feedback on a variety of questions—including excerpts. Drop by for a look-see: GLBT Writers Group.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by!

January 22, 2012 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical period, non-GLBT | 4 Comments

The King Must Die, by Mary Renault

A classic novel by a legendary writer in the gay genre.

Story blurb: The story of the mythical hero Theseus, slayer of monsters, abductor of princesses and king of Athens. He emerges from these pages as a clearly defined personality; brave, aggressive and quick. The core of the story is Theseus’ Cretan adventure.

Available in e-book format

About the author: Mary Renault was born at Dacre Lodge, 49 Plashet Road, Forest Gate, Essex, (now in London), Renault was educated at St Hugh’s College of Oxford University, then an all-women’s college, receiving an undergraduate degree in English in 1928. In 1933, she began training as a nurse at Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary. During her training, she met Julie Mullard, a fellow nurse with whom she established a life-long romantic relationship.

She worked as a nurse while beginning a writing career, treating Dunkirk evacuees at the Winford Emergency Hospital in Bristol, and working in Radcliffe Infirmary’s brain surgery ward until 1945. She published her first novel, Purposes of Love, in 1939; it had a contemporary setting, like her other early novels, which novelist Linda Proud described as “a strange combination of Platonism and hospital romance”. Her 1943 novel The Friendly Young Ladies, about a lesbian relationship between a writer and a nurse, seems inspired by her own relationship with Miss Mullard.

In 1948, after her novel Return to Night won a MGM prize worth $150,000, she and Mullard emigrated to South Africa, where they remained for the rest of their lives. There, according to Proud, they found a community of gay expatriates who had “escaped the repressive attitudes towards homosexuality in Britain for the comparatively liberal atmosphere of Durban…. Mary and Julie found themselves able to set up home together in this new land without causing the outrage they had sometimes provoked at home. (Renault and Mullard were critical of the less liberal aspects of their new home, participating in the Black Sash movement against apartheid in the 1950s.)

Mary Renault died at Cape Town, South Africa, on 13 December 1983. – Wikipedia.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The name Mary Renault is almost iconic in my past, for her Nature of Alexander (1975) was the first book that dealt with homosexuality I had ever found, and as such it was like finding the Holy Grail. This was quickly followed by Fire From Heaven (1969) and The Persian Boy (1972), and just about anything I could get my hands on that had Mary Renault’s name on it.

The King Must Die [Vintage, 1988 (originally published by Pantheon Books, 1958)] was somewhere in there, so re-reading this classic was like a pilgrimage back in time.

It is probably the most main-stream of Renault’s books, at least the ones I have read. Like most classical Greek characters Theseus is capable of deep love for his comrades, but unlike most it doesn’t extend to sex. Given the tenor of the times, however, this is quite understandable if it was to be published at all.

The story more-or-less follows Theseus’ heroic rescue of the enslaved Greek youths from Crete and the mythical Minotaur, but Renault has avoided a mere repetition by adhering to what could be archaeologically supported. Nonetheless, it still retains the marvellously exotic and colourful nuances of the myth by its inclusion of gods, goddesses and witches.

Moreover, by humanizing the mythical elements—his acquiring the bona fide kingship of Eleusis, becoming identified as the son and heir of the king of Athens, and especially the humanizing of the Minotaur as Asterion, the sinister and power-hungry son of Minos (king of Crete)—she has made it all seem plausible.

As a writer of historical fiction myself, I believe the two things I admire most about Renault’s writing is her character development, and the way she weaves the various elements together into a seamless whole. For example, this story takes Perseus from his childhood through five stages of his life, each a complex story in itself, and yet it never loses the central thread from beginning to end. That is the signature of a masterful writer, and which made Renault a legend in her own time.

This novel is not for those who are looking for explicitly gay content, and certainly not erotica of any kind, but if you admire a well-told story in the classical-style, this tale is for you. Five bees.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 19,102

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GLBT Writers Group: You are invited to join our intimate little group of supportive writers on Linkedin. Let us know what you have written, or are currently writing, and get feedback on a variety of questions—including excerpts. Drop by for a look-see: GLBT Writers Group.

***

I have put together a gallery of interesting, vintage photographs relating to my up-coming novel Coming of Age on the Trail. Many of these images date from the late 1800s, and are of interest in their own right. To view this gallery go to:  http://www.gerryburniebooks.net/COAPhotos.htm

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

Thank’s for dropping by!

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

From Afar, by Ava March

A cleverly conceived story, capably written and well worth a read.

Story blurb: Some rules are destined to be broken.

Loneliness. A concept with which Raphael Laurent is very familiar. He’s lived a solitary life for thirty-six years, shunning the excesses of the local vampire clan—until he spots Lord Aleric Vane, the handsome and dissolute third son of a duke. For three years Raphael has watched from a distance, for only when he is near Aleric does the hollow, empty ache in his chest ease.

Cut off from his family for refusing to follow his father’s dictates, Aleric’s nights are filled with vice. But after three years in London, the city has lost all appeal. Desolate and penniless, his future appears bleak. Until a mysterious man drops from the shadows to drive off a trio of murderous thieves.

When Aleric awakens, he finds himself forever changed. The itch for more that drove him to London is gone. In its place is the feeling that he’s known the beautiful Raphael all his life.

But to save Aleric, Raphael had to break the rules, giving him a chance to love the one man he never thought he could have—a chance that could be ripped away by Aleric himself…

Warning: This book contains hot m/m action with a new vampire with a ramped up sex drive, and a dash of voyeurism of the m/m, m/f, and m/m/m varieties. Definitely not your traditional Regency romance.

*Available in e-book format – 396 KB

Review by Gerry Burnie

Since my last couple of reviews have dealt with non-GLBT books I thought it was time I should get back to the mainstream of Gerry B’s Book Reviews. Ava March’s novella From Afar [Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2010] is one of the books that has been languishing on my TBR list, and so I happily turned to it this week.

This is one of those crossover stories featuring vampires that seem to be popular these days. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, and to date no one has been able to provide a definitive answer, but that is a discussion for another day and forum.

This story is set in Regency England, and features a young vampire by the name of Raphael. At the opening of the tale we find Raphael up a tree spying on a libertine lord (Aleric) at play with a prostitute—something that Raphael has apparently watched more than once. The truth is that Raphael is infatuated with Aleric, but given his (Raphael’s) inhuman characteristics a full-fledged relationship is an impossibility.

However, circumstances change when Aleric is critically wounded in a mugging, and rather than see his unconscious love die Raphael gives him the bite of ‘everlasting life’ as a vampire, but since it is without Aleric’s consent the question is how will he react when he regains consciousness?

To give him his due Raphael’s love is genuine, for he goes to great lengths to revive his “lover,” and when he does he is rewarded by a compliant Aleric. The reality is the Aleric is a lord in name only, and is otherwise destitute. Moreover, he had always been more than just a bit bi-curious, and so there follows quite a charming ‘getting-to-know-you’ segment in which Aleric learns the dos-and-don’ts of being a vampire.

The tension in the story is provided by a dominant clan of vampires under the control of a female who, rather awkwardly, develops an attraction to Aleric, and while she can’t destroy Raphael she can cause serious and grave difficulties for both him and Aleric.

It is a cleverly conceived story, capably written and well worth a read, but it is also a little incredulous in places. For one thing I found Aleric’s acceptance and adjustment to his new life a bit too ready, and the ending seemed truncated for what needed to be resolved. Three and one-half bees.

News, etc.

Visitor’s count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 18,791

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Visit my 2011 year in review. See the top five ‘most viewed’ book reviews of 2011, plus other interesting stats.

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While I am in Florida I maintain a regular blog report on Gerry Burnie Books – My blog. It’s an eclectic newsletter about what is happening in my life, and some of the interesting sights around St. Augustine.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

Thanks for dropping by!

 

 

 

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Snow: the double life of a world war II spy, by Nigel West and Madoc Roberts

A fascinating story for history buffs and fans of true-life spy stories.

Story blurb: SNOW is the codename assigned to Arthur Owens, one of the most remarkable British spies of the Second World War. This ‘typical Welsh underfed type’ became the first of the great double-cross agents who were to play a major part in Britain’s victory over the Germans. When the stakes could not have been higher, MI5 sought to build a double-cross system based on the shifting loyalties of a duplicitous, philandering and vain anti-hero who was boastful and brave, reckless and calculating, ruthless and mercenary…but patriotic. Or was he? Based on recently declassified files and meticulous research, Snow reveals for the first time the truth about an extraordinary man.

About the Authors: Nigel West is the pen name of Rupert Allason, a military historian and author specialising in intelligence and security issues. He is European Editor of the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence. He was awarded the first Lifetime Literature Achievement Award of the US Association of Former Intelligence Officers and was voted ‘the experts’ expert’ by a panel of spy writers selected by The Observer.

Madoc Roberts has worked in television for thirty years. He is managing director of Barkingmad TV and as a producer and director has made history programmes for Channel 4, Channel 5, Discovery and the History Channel. As an editor he has worked on feature films and made award-winning programmes for all the major networks including Timewatch for BBC 2 and Time Team for Channel 4. He was also the main editor on the long-running BBC 2 series Private Life of a Masterpiece. In the 1970s he was lead singer with The Tunnelrunners. He now lives in Cardiff with his wife, the artist Susan Roberts.

Available in e-book format – 1419 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have long maintained that the most interesting history of any society lies not with its kings and politicians, but with ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Okay, maybe Arthur Owens wasn’t your average person, but his exploits certainly prove the point. Fortunately for us, Nigel West and Madoc Roberts have brought this fascinating story to light in a recently released, non-fiction tale of espionage in WWII; Snow: the double life of a world war II spy [Biteback, October 2011].

To start, Arthur Owens was a Welsh battery salesman who was out to sell his invention that no one in Britain seemed to be interested in. That is when he decided to go farther a-field to offer it to the Germans in 1935. He therefore walked into the German embassy a salesman and walked out a spy.

Inevitably in the world of espionage and counter-espionage Mi5 eventually learned of his activity, and Owens subsequently became the first double agent on record.

One of the key areas Owens able to serve British intelligence was to identify German agents, who were then given the offer of working with Mi5 or facing a firing squad. Needless to say very few refused this ‘charming’ offer, and so Britain was kept quite well informed about Hitler’s activities leading up to the war in 1942.

The end of his spying activity—but not his ballsy luck and attitude—came in 1941 when the Nazis accused him of being a double agent, but mysteriously let him return to England. Thereby he was interned in Dartmoor prison for the remainder of the war.

Following the war, fearing retribution from both sides, he exiled himself to Canada and then to Ireland. In the meantime, however, he threatened the British government he would go public with his story and was paid-off an undisclosed amount of money. That’s what I like about this character; traitor or patriot, Owens had balls!

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A couple of interesting side notes to this story, as well. Apparently, Owens’ son had no idea of his father’s activities until his mother told him, nor was he aware of his half-sister by Owens’ first wife. Indeed, Patricia Owens was a Hollywood movie star appearing opposite Marlon Brando and James Mason.

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A fascinating story for history buffs and fans of true-life spy adventures. Five bees.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 18,379

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

Happy New Year to all, and thanks for dropping by!

January 1, 2012 Posted by | biography, Military history, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | 1 Comment

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

January 1, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

   

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