Gerry B's Book Reviews

A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956)

“It’s not often one has the chance to become 20 again…”

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A world ago - coverStory blurb: A World Ago chronicles, through one young man’s journal and vivid letters to his parents, his life, adventures, and experiences at a magical time. It follows him from being a Naval Aviation Cadet to becoming a “regular” sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga on an eight-month tour of duty in the politically tense Mediterranean Sea.

Learn to fly a plane, to soar, alone, through a valley of clouds, experience a narrow escape from death on a night training flight, and receive the continent of Europe as a 21st birthday gift. Climb down into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius, visit Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul and places in-between; wander the streets of Pompeii, have your picture taken on a fallen column on the Acropolis, ride bicycles on the Island of Rhodes, experience daily life aboard an aircraft carrier during the height of the cold war—all in the company and through the eyes of a young will-be-writer coming of age with the help of the United States Navy.

A World Ago is a rare glimpse into the personal and private world of a young man on the verge of experiencing everything the world has to offer—and discovering a lot about himself in the process.

About Dirien Grey: Born Roger Margason in Rockford, Illinois, far too many years ago, Dorien emerged, like Athena from the sea, full-blown with the first book in the Dick Hardesty Mystery series in 2000. Roger, a lifelong book and magazine editor, is in charge of all the details of day-to-day living, allowing Dorien full freedom to write books and blogs. The Dick Hardesty series was followed by the Elliott Smith Mystery series, which now alternates with the Dick Hardesty series.

Dorien emerged partly because Roger has always resented reality. It is far too capricious and too often unkind and unfair. Roger avoids reflective surfaces whenever possible. Having Dorien as an alter ego allows the “duo” to create their own reality, and worlds over which they have some degree of control.

Both are incurable romantics, believing strongly in things which reality views too often with contempt, such as happy endings, true love, and the baic goodness of people.

As the real-life spokesman for the pair and using “I” for both, the one personal characteristic in which I take great pride, and which has been my rock throughout life is that I never, ever, takes myself too seriously. If one has a choice between positive and negative, why would anyone (though too many people do) opt for the negative? Life is not always kind, but it is a gift beyond measure, and one which must all too soon be given back. I really try to enjoy and be thankful for ever single day allotted to me.

For most people, children are their posterity. For me, as a gay man, it is my words which will, I hope, stand as evidence that I was here (albeit, no matter how long I may live, never long enough to suit me).

And because written words are nothing unless someone reads them, I am heavily reliant on my readers, who I sincerely consider to be partners and traveling companions on every journey my writing embarks on.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

There isn’t a great deal of critical comment one can make about a book like A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956) by Dorien Grey [Untreed Reads Publishing, April 8, 2013]. It is a charming look into one man’s life at an interesting age and time I would say; although, the older Roger Margason, a.k.a. Dorien Grey has the depth of character I prefer. Therefore, I will limit my remarks to some personal observations.

I am a great advocate of journal keeping for very selfish reasons. They are absolutely invaluable when it comes to recreating someone’s life and times. Therefore, I am utterly amazed that he had the foresight to save these epistles intact. Otherwise the memories they contain might have been lost forever. Moreover, for informal writings, they are remarkably literate and easy to read.

At the time the letters where written, 1954 – 1956, Dorien was between ‘grass and straw’—as the old cowpokes would say, i.e. past puberty but not quite matured. Interestingly the letters show this, for there is a perceptible maturing as they progress in time.

One is also struck by the candid nature as well. They may have been edited for journalistic reasons, but one does not get the impression they have been altered in the process.

His powers of observation regarding the exotic places he visits, i.e. Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul, etc. is like reading a travelogue of the time, and as an amateur historian I found this intriguing.

Altogether, therefore, this is a fascinating insight into a personality and the times, and not once did I feel it lost my interest on account of self-ndulgence. A truly interesting read. Five bees.

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Visitor’s views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 52,793

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to see more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known facts and events in Canadian history, and a bibliography of interesting books I have collected to date. Latest post: Superintendent Sam Steele of the North West Mounted Police – Canada’s toughest gentleman police officer.

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Update:

CoA6edit3 - medI thought I would take this opportunity to update the news regarding my work-in-progress novel, Coming of Age on the Trail. The rewrites are coming along well, and it looks like it will be published in time for the Christmas market.

I also plan to publish  it as a two part series. Already the manuscript is up to 140,000 words (387 pages in book form), and that is far too long for a novel of this type. Part One will therefore contain the introduction, while Part Two (scheduled for the spring of 2014) will contain the conclusion.

I will update you again as the work progresses.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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. 

July 22, 2013 Posted by | Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Non-fiction, Semi-autobiographical, Twentieth century historical | | 1 Comment

Wingmen, by Ensan Case

A superbly written epic of manly love set in WWII –

Story blurb: Jack Hardigan’s Hellcat fighter squadron blew the Japanese Zekes out of the blazing Pacific skies. But a more subtle kind of hell was brewing in his feelings for rookie pilot Fred Trusteau. As another wingman watches – and waits for the beautiful woman who loves Jack – Hardigan and Trusteau cut a fiery swath through the skies from Wake Island to Tarawa to Truk, there to keep a fateful rendezvous with love and death in the blood-clouded waters of the Pacific.

In the author’s own words: I wrote Wingmen in 1978 at the age of 28. Avon Books in New York published it in 1979. After one printing, sales stopped. I turned to other pursuits.

In 2011, during a move, I discovered my original file box of notes for the work. On a whim, I googled “Wingmen Ensan Case”, and was stunned by the result. The book is apparently more popular now than it was in 1979. I have begun the process of regaining the publication rights from Avon Books, and republishing the work in paper and ebook formats. Progress has been good, and it should be available by the first quarter of 2012.

Review by Gerry Burnie

You may have noticed I have a passion for WWII-vintage stories, and have reviewed several in the past. I like the era in general. It was a time when the free-world was drawn together by a war in two theatres, and men bonded together as warrior brothers—and sometimes more. Wingmen by Ensan Case (a pseudonym) [Cheyenne Publishing, 2012] captures the latter phenomenon with remarkable clarity and credibility. It is, in fact, one of the best war stories I have read.

Ensign Frederick “Trusty” Trusteau, one of two wingmen assigned to “skipper,” Lieutenant Commander J.J. “Jack” Hardigan. Trusteau is a handsome, capable aviator, who has honed his reputation as a “whoremaster” because that was (and is) the gold standard among predominantly male societies. It was very often a sham, or cover-up, but it was better than being considered the “odd-man-out.”

Jack Hardigan is a hard-drinking, hard driving skipper, who is dating a wealthy widow in Honolulu, but apart from a certain level of affection, there is no evidence of sexual activity between them. Therefore, there is no grand regrets when she breaks off their relationship for someone else.

The relationship between the two men starts, as it usually does, with earned respect on both sides; in this case as pilots of the famed Grumman Hellcats flown off the deck of a carrier. The bond grows stronger with each mission—warrior brothers—until it inevitably ends in a hotel room in Honolulu, where the line between brothers-in-arms and lovers is finally crossed. However , if you are looking for a torrid, sexually erotic scene between two horny flyboys, you  (gratefully) will not find it here. This scene is definitely sexy because of the circumstances—and the fact that we’ve been waiting for it for nearly two-thirds of the story—but in 1979 you didn’t write that sort of thing if you wanted to find a publisher—even an avant-garde one. Nevertheless, I think it is made a more realistic story because of it. This a story about men in love in war, and not about sex per se.

Of course the story wouldn’t be complete without an appropriate setting, and Case has provided it on board a fictional aircraft carrier, the Constitution. You can almost smell the sweat and testosterone in these scenes as they jostle aboard her. His apparent knowledge of naval aircraft is an asset as well, with just enough detail to help the reader understand without bogging the pace down in the process.

For those into WWII nostalgia there are also well-known battles, i.e. Wake Island, Tarawa and Truk Lagoon, where most of the Japanese Imperial fleet was wiped out—60 ships and 275 airplanes. Case has also provided an insight into the gruesomeness of war in some tense scenes where men are shot down, blown apart, and drowned mercilessly in the fray, and in the end Jack risks his life to save his lover.

Nevertheless, I agree with several other reviewers that the story should have ended on a high in 1945. The last part is interesting, mind you, and wraps up some loose ends, but it is anticlimactical. Given the excellence of the preceding, however, I’m not letting it dampen my overall impression. Five bees.

News, etc.

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 22,526

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Meet the characters, etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

Occasionally the cattle drive had to pass through small communities along the way, as this drive did in the 1890s.

Barkerville is mentioned quite prominently in Coming of Age on the Trail. It was the notorious goldmine town founded by Billy Barker–The first man to discover gold in the William’s Lake area of British Columbia. Billy Barker is rumoured to have spent most of his $500,000 fortune at the saloon, and another successful miner spent some $40,000 in one marathon session of boozing, treating, and trashing, before he left the saloon flat broke.

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Introducing Lucas Porter, pianist

An exciting new, 21-year-old artist from Nova Scotia, Canada, presently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Lucas was recently featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Next” series, part of a high-profile project created by the CBC Radio 2 program In Concert in which promising young classical musicians reveal their artistry.

Click here to listen, and please pass it on.

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Meet Kerry Sullivan, an Irish-American poet about to break onto the scene with his first collection of poems. The following is an example of a shorter poem. To learn more you can contact him at: kilverel@gmail.com.

I quarrel with the sunshine,

And in the rain there’s pain.

Every mood I have today,

So surely would I trade,

For simplicity.

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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! Please come back often. 

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No Apologies, by J.M. Snyder

“No Apologies” requires no apologies.

 

Story blurb: Donnie Novak and Jack Sterling have known each other forever. Growing up together in a small Midwestern town, they were best friends. After high school, they both enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the same time, and somehow were assigned to the same company before being stationed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma together.

One night on leave, Donnie crosses an almost imperceptible line between friendship and something more. A stolen kiss threatens to ruin what Donnie and Jack have built up together all these years, and the next morning, he can’t apologize enough.

But a squadron of Japanese bombers has their sights trained on Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row, and in the early hours of December 7, 1941, Donnie might not get a chance to set things right.

About the author: An author of gay erotic/romantic fiction, J.M. Snyder began in self-publishing and now works with Amber Allure, Aspen Mountain, eXcessica, and Torquere Presses.

Snyder’s highly erotic short gay fiction has been published online at Amazon Shorts, Eros Monthly, Ruthie’s Club, and Tit-Elation, as well as in anthologies by Alyson Books, Aspen Mountain, Cleis Press, eXcessica Publishing, Lethe Press, and Ravenous Romance.

In 2010, Snyder founded JMS Books LLC, a royalty-paying queer small press that publishes in both electronic and print format. For more information on newest releases and submission guidelines, please visit JMS Books LLC online.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ah, young love!

“No Apologies” by J.M. Snyder, [JMS Books LLC, 2011], is a gem of a short story that captures the heart and attention right from the start. I would even go so far as to suggest that almost every gay male will be able to identify with this story from personal experience; i.e. that one buddy you fell in love with early, but didn’t know if he ‘swung that way.’ To make matters worse, he didn’t know either, and so each touch was like a prayer leading to disappointment. And then came that inevitable occasion when you crossed the line, in Donnie and Jack’s case with a furtive, liquor induced kiss, and so began the panic of losing a cherished friend on account of it.

We’ve all been there, and it is made even worse if the next morning your friend and soul mate—your hoped-for ‘lover’, even—isn’t talking or seems distant. Then the heart rending really begins, along with the guilt and the desperate attempts to make it right.

J.M. Snyder has not only captured this bittersweet situation, but he has also maintained it throughout the story until the very last paragraph. Along the way this reader was on tenterhooks wondering if young love would prevail, or if they would even survive the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbour—which was going on at the same time.

No Apologiesrequires no apologies. It is a tender love story set against the obscenity of war in a paradise. Five Bs

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 14,468 (up 421 visits over last week).

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If you are a Canadian author of gay fiction, I’d love to hear from you. Submit your book for a review, or add it to my “Best Gay Canadian Fiction” list on Goodreads.

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If you have read a Canadian content book (any genre), and woud like to add it to my “Proudly Canadian” list, I’d love to welcome your input.

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To order any of my books, click on the individual covers below. Nor All Thy Tears and Two Irish Lads are now available in Nook and Kindle formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 (not including exchange and taxes where applicable).

     

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The White Rajah, by Tom Williams

A fictional tale of history that could itself be fiction

Story blurb:  Invalided out of the East India Company’s army, James Brooke looks for adventure in the South China Seas. When the Sultan of Borneo asks him to help suppress a  rebellion, Brooke joins the war to support the Sultan and improve his chances of trading successfully in the area. Instead, he finds himself rewarded with his own country, Sarawak.

Determined to be an enlightened ruler who brings peace and prosperity to his people, James settles with his lover, John Williamson, in their new Eden. But piracy, racial conflict, and court plotting conspire to destroy all he has achieved. Driven from his home and a fugitive in the land he ruled, James is forced to take extreme measures to drive out his enemies.

The White Rajah is the story of a man, fighting for his life, who must choose between his beliefs and the chance of victory. Based on a true story, Brooke’s battle is a tale of adventure set against the background of a jungle world of extraordinary beauty and terrible savagery. Told through the eyes of the man who loves him and shares his dream, this is a tale of love and loss from a 19th century world that still speaks to us today.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When I first encountered the novel The White Rajah by Tom Williams [JMS Books LLC, 2010] I had never heard of this very real, historical character, James Brooke, nor his exploits. Even so, the romance the title evoked—in the sense of an Errol Flynn adventure—intrigued me.

I liked the fact that Mr. Williams chose a third-person narrator, John Williamson, and that Williamson had an intimate role to play. However, given Williamson’s lowly station in life, I found him a bit erudite for his character—although that’s not a real drawback to the story.

The story, apart from a sea voyage around the horn of Africa to the Far East, takes place in and around Borneo, of which Sarawak was a province in turmoil when Brooke arrived in 1841. Therefore the Sultan of Brunei asked for his assistance in fighting off piracy and insurgency, and as a reward he granted Brooke Governorship of Sarawak, which then became an independent state in 1842. Moreover, the Brooke dynasty retained control over Sarawak until 1946, when it
became a British Protectorate.

This is interesting stuff, factually speaking, but it has always been my fervent belief that the real story is in the personalities who made it happen, and in this regard Williams has done a fairly good job of doing so through John Williamson as narrator, and also as Brooke’s (supposed) lover.

I think he has done a fair job of capturing the base motivations of the characters: The ravenous greed of the East India Company; the politics of the Brunei Sultanate, and the conversion of an idealistic Brooke into a potentate. It is all there, and it is historically credible.

However I did find some less than credible aspects, such as Williamson’s rather incredible knowledge of the Far East in such a short time.

Nonetheless this is an enjoyable story, regardless of your knowledge of history or the time, and so it is recommended as such. Four stars.

 News

I’m happy to announce that Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky was officially lanched August 4th, 2011, and that it will be available in eBook format shortly.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 12, 429

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Progress on Coming of Age on the Trail: 172/180: Projected release date September 2011

Hope you are having an enjoyable summer!!  Reviews are updated Sunday of every week. Please drop back again.

August 7, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Matelots: Raised By Wolves, Volume 2, by W.A. Hoffman

An inriguing era, colourful setting and endearing characters. Enthusiastically recommended.

 

 

 

 Story Blurb: Buccaneer adventure/romance. The second of a series chronicling the relationship between an emotionally wounded and disenchanted English lord and an insane and lonely French exile, set among the buccaneers of Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1667.

Publisher’s blurb: Part two of an epic four part “love story for men” set amongst the buccaneers of Port Royal during the infamous Henry Morgan raids. It is the story of the relationship between two lonely and scarred men as they attempt to find happiness and peace through love and friendship. With adventure and romance, this chronicle explores questions and themes of gender, sexual preference, societal acceptance of homosexuality, survival of childhood abuse, and how to build a lasting relationship in a world gone mad.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have been watching the Raised by Wolves series for quite a while, Matelots: Raised By Wolves, Volume 2 [Alien Perspective, 2007] by W.A. Hoffman is the first that I have read. To begin, I like the swashbuckling genre of buccaneers and pirates, and the romantic setting of the 17th-century Caribbean. Moreover, the author has done a fine job of describing both of these in colourful detail so that the reader becomes immersed in the story—the way a good historical-fiction should do.

And for those who enjoy character-driven tales, Will and Gaston’s are both engaging. Will is a romantic who lives and loves to the fullest. He’s also a keen observer of humanity, and seeks to understand the complexities of human nature, particularly when it comes to Gaston, who is the victim of a damaging past. In Gaston’s case it is not an easy quest, for he also suffers from a kind of madness that has been with him from birth.

It is here, however that the story suffers a debilitating set back. Will’s deeply held convictions regarding the human condition seem strangely anachronistic for 17th-century European thinking. After all, Europe was an exporter of human misery in the 17th-century, especially to the Caribbean. Moreover, as a previous reviewer has already pointed out, Gaston’s medical expertise seems anachronistically modern as well.

That said, Will and Gaston are still delightful characters, and perhaps even more endearing because of their very human foibles. Wills’ first person narrative also contributes to this, and adds some charming elements—such as saving a supporting character from being pressed only to find out that he doesn’t like him very well.

The secondary cast are all well-developed and interesting, too. The difficulty with introducing a large number of supporting characters is the risk of cluttering the story line, but here Hoffman has managed them all quite well, and made them all distinct as well.

An intriguing era, colourful setting and endearing characters, and altogether an enjoyable read. Enthusiastically recommended. Four stars.

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Fortunes of War, by Mel Keegan

A superbly written, intriguing and captivating story that will have you turning pages

 

 

 

Story blurb: In 1588 a young mercenary and the son of an English earl meet by a quirk of fate. Dermot Channon is a soldier, while Robin Armagh has been sheltered on his father’s estate. Love blossoms fast while war looms on the horizon. Under the thundercloud of armed conflict, Channon leaves England and the Spanish Armada sails soon after. Robin despairs of seeing him again, for their countries are locked in an endless struggle. Years fly by, and in 1595, when Robin’s brother is taken for ransom in Panama, the dangerous duty of delivering the price of his life and liberty falls to Robin. He sails with the historical ‘1595 Fleet,’ commanded by Francis Drake, hoping to bring home his brother. But Fortune has other plans for Robin and Channon. Ahead of them is an epic adventure in hazardous waters where old enmities, Spanish and English, shape their future together — and try to drive them apart.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

I love a plot-driven story, especially if the plot is as meaty as “Fortunes of War,” by Mel Keegan [Dreamcraft, 2005]: the intrigue-ridden court of Elizabeth I, war and rumours of war, likable lovers and pirates. It has them all.

The story is written in two parts; the first part being an introduction, and here Keegan has done a masterful job of introducing the main characters while capturing the conspiratorial nature of the Elizabethan court. The two main characters, Robin and Dermot, are ably supported by a cast of interesting personalities—the cold-hearted Earl of Blackstead (Robin’s father), the aging Spanish ambassador and Dermot’s uncle, and the villainous Earl of Bothwell, to name a few.

The underlying conspiracies are interesting, as well; Catholics against Protestants, England against Spain, and foe against foe, all cleverly woven into the fabric of the story.

Five stars for the first part, therefore.

However the second part starts out rather slowly, almost cumbersome in spots, and for a brief while the story looses its momentum. Another minor drawback in second part is with the characters—Guillaume in particular—who come across as rather stereotypical. These are not major blemishes, but they are enough to detract from what would otherwise be a five-star achievement.

 Nevertheless this is a superbly written, intriguing and captivating story that will have you turning pages to discover what will happen next.

 

Progress report: Coming of Age on the Trail is still in the hands of the editor. In the meantime I have made a start of The Brit, The Cupid, and Petunia. Click here to read an excerpt.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Last Good War, by Charles J. Brauner

A solid read, and a fascinating twist on history

 

 

 

Book blurb: The Japanese Rape of Nanking and her sneak attack on Pearl Harbor along with Nazi Germany’s villainous use of the gas ovens gave the World War Two Allies a moral justification seldom found in warfare. Yet the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have cloaked the last days of the Pacific war in endless controversy ever since. Was Japan so badly battered by August 1945 that she would have surrendered anyway? Why didn’t America explode one on a nearby deserted island and let the enemy surrender without such horrific loss of life? The Last Good War addresses these issues in a vivid and violent re-enactment of the final months of conflict.

Soon after Pearl Harbor two mature fifteen year old Canadian cousins enlist in the U. S. Navy and become radioman-gunners flying in dive-bombers in the Pacific. As seasoned combat aircrewmen off the U.S. aircraft carrier Brandywine, the two Canadians take part in a 1945 attack on the Japanese naval base across the bay from Hiroshima. The aerial battle reshapes the conduct of the war. As a result Aviation Radioman’s Mate Second Class Carson Braddock and ARM2/c Max Bryson are called upon to help the crew of the Enola Gay on their historic flight to Hiroshima. Soon after, two young Japanese sailors confront Carson and Max in combat. With great courage and ingenuity Gunner’s Mate Takijiru Sugihara and Bosun Chikonori Kaijitsu provide their country with a fresh opportunity to redress the balance of military power. A major moral decision must be made. The outcome of the war is in doubt. Indeed, Carson and Max face an enemy who is eager and able to use the most cruel weapon in anyone’s hands. And in the struggle that ensues the two cousins discover what veterans world-wide have learned from war over the last half century. What separates warring nations is their beliefs; What unites enemies on the battlefield is their courage.

About the Author: C.J. Brauner was raised in America during the depression. The death of his father in the South West Pacific led him to quit high school to fly in U.S. Navy dive-bombers during WWII. After the war he worked as an installer for N.J. Bell Tell. The G.I. Bill enabled him to earn a B.A. and a teacher’s certificate from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He took his Masters at Columbia Univ. in NYC. In the 1950s he taught English in the Michigan public schools until he received a Fulbright Scholarship to Greece. After his wife’s death at the American Farm School in Salonica he brought his infant daughter back to the U.S. and earned his Doctorate at Stanford U. in California. His early academic career took him to Purdue U., Syracuse U., and Ohio State Univ. For 30 years he was a professor at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada where he resides with his second wife and four grown children.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

If you like solid adventure and raw action that moves at a heart-pounding pace, then The Last Good War by C.J. Brauner [Trafford Publishing; Reprint edition, 2006] is right up your alley. Indeed, within the first few pages one of the protagonists, Carson Braddock, is involved in a good-ole-fashioned punch-up with a brawny Southerner; thus setting the tone for what is to come.

And for these two—including Max Bryson—there was plenty to come, i.e.

“A flurry of one-inch shells rose to meet them and mark their speed and precise direction. Black puffs from three-inch shells blossomed above and below to bracket their altitude. Five-inch shells spiralled up to their flight level for effect. Audible bursts that erupted beneath the wings rocked the blue dive-bombers like angry hands on a cradle.

““Christ,” Max Bryson commented. “They’re throwin’ up enough tonnage to beat our bomb load five to one.”

“And explosion just ahead of Carson’s banking dive-bomber sent the sizzle of hot steel rushing through the propeller arc and along the slipstream. The shredded smoke filled his cockpit with the bitter tang of cordite. Regardless of the hazard and discomfort, however, both Canadian rear-seat gunners concentrated on the final preparations for the dive.

““With gunnery like that,” Carson Braddock observed, “the bastards don’t need the proximity fuse.”

“Suddenly, a Japanese four-inch shell blew the cowling off a Helldiver in the leading flight as it dove into a narrow gorge. The wounded pilot slumped forward and struggled with the controls. The battered dive bomber banked hard as the pilot pulled the plane into a steep stall. Slowly, she flopped over on to her back, dove down, rolled right side up, and fell off into a violent spin. The fatally injured pilot smeared blood all over the inside of his cockpit canopy as he fought to gain control and unload his bombs. The five-hundred-pound bombs spilled away from the plane like pebbles from a wagon wheel. Knifing down, they exploded and the trees as the damaged wingtip began to fold.

“MAY DAY! MAY DAY!” the radio-gunner in the rear seat broadcast. “This crate is coming apart like a peeled banana!”

“In slow motion, a nylon parachute blossomed from the rear seat. Caught in the spin and the churn of the slipstream, the canopy snagged on the tail fin and wrapped the rudder and the elevators in white cloth. Wild centrifugal force tore the hlpless gunner out of the cockpit and spun him around at the end of the shroud lines in a wide and accelerating arc. Shedding cockpit covers and torn wing panels, the doomed plane dropped far into the steep and incredibly narrow valley. As the fliers above watched, the parachute’s long nylon cords whipped the your airman into the face of a cliff just before the plane crashed and exploded. Crushed like a fly on a windscreen, the inert body of Chris Foreman from Gila Bend, Arizona, clung to the sheer granite wall as flames and smoke engulfed it.

““Their luck ran out,” Chief Flannigan declared in a somber voice over the squadron frequency. “Now let’s all get back to work.””

It is this sort of ‘visual’ realism that makes this novel darkly fascinating and compelling to read. One is at once repelled by the violence and bloodshed portrayed, and yet drawn into at the same time; wondering if our young, likeable heroes’ luck can hold out against the odds.

In this regard, all the characters are well developed; however, the introduction of Miss Shirley Hashimoto seemed oddly out-of-place in an otherwise, decidedly male story. I may be a bit biased, as well, but I thought the scenes involving her were somewhat contrived.

Altogether a good solid read, and an interesting twist on history. Four-and-one-half stars.

Progress report on Coming of Age on the Trail. It is now in the hands of the editor. Probable release date, January, 2011.

 

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Ransom, by Lee Rowan

An officer, a gentleman… and a sodomite. The first two earn honor and respect. The third, a noose.

 

 

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Publisher’s blurb: Even as he finds himself falling in love with his shipmate, William Marshall, David Archer realizes it is a hopeless passion. Not only is Will the son of a minister, his first act aboard ship was to take pistol in hand and dispatch an older midshipman who made offensive advances. Davy realizes that Will would probably not shoot him if he expressed his feelings, but their affectionate friendship would surely end, once Marshall learned of Archer’s “unnatural” yearnings.

William Marshall has never given much thought to any feelings beyond duty, loyalty, and honor. For a young Englishman in 1796, the Navy is a way to move beyond his humble origins and seek a chance at greatness. While others spend shore leave carousing with willing wenches, Marshall is more likely to be curled up with a navigation text.

Captured by accident when their Captain is abducted, Archer and Marshall become pawns in a renegade pirate’s sadistic game. To protect the man he loves, David Archer compromises himself—trading his honor and his body for Marshall’s safety. When Will learns of his friend’s sacrifice, he also discovers that what he feels for Davy is stronger and deeper than friendship.

The first challenge: escape their prison. The second: find a way to preserve their love without losing their lives.
Ransom, the first book in the Royal Navy Series by Lee Rowan, introduces readers to the appealing characters of Lieutenants Marshall and Archer. Become part of the story as they discover their shared love against a backdrop of intrigue, mystery, and danger.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

This is the first Lee Rowan work I have read, but after reading Ransom [Bristlecone Pine Press, 2009] it won’t be my last.

Indeed, it takes only a paragraph or two is get the impression that this author is very much in control; both of the story and of the reader’s interest. That’s a good thing, too, because most of the tale involves some fairly complex and prolonged suspense that could very well become unravelled if it were not for Ms Rowan’s masterful writing skill.

The same is true regarding David’s and Michael’s developing romance, which evolves from devoted friends to lovers throughout the first two-thirds of the novel. Consequently, without the strong, guiding hand of the author this gradual pace might have become frustratingly lethargic. Coquettish. As it is, however, apart from a few too many apologies between them, the pace seems quite credible for two navy lads of the eighteenth-century.

The balance of characters is nicely thought-out, as well. Captain Smith, being the most senior in rank, age and experience, represents a “stiff upper lip” example for the two younger lads to emulate, and the somewhat psychotic, pirate captain is the antithesis of Smith and the morality of the day. He is also ‘deliciously’ sinister, and a nice foil for the other characters.

Put all this against a background of intrigue and mystery that is exacerbated by the mounting sexual sadism of the pirate captain, the unfolding escape plans by Davy and Michael, as well as Captain Smith, and the brilliant sleuthing on the part of Lieutenant Drinkwater, and it makes for a page-turner for certain.

Having said all that I felt the story should have ended two chapters earlier than it did. I found the final two chapters anticlimactic, and almost an afterthought to include some graphic sex for the one-handed readers.

I am happy to say, however, that this is only a minor quibble—perhaps not even shared with readers of homoerotic fiction—and otherwise it is an outstanding example of 18th-century, naval historical fiction. Four and one-half stars.

 

Read what others are saying about Coming of Age on the Trail , so far.

August 29, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical Fiction, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

   

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