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An Extract from The Blood of Balnakin--The Beta-Earth Chronicles: Book Two [May. 2nd, 2016|05:22 pm]
thespyreport
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To whet your appetite for the newly arrived The Blood of Balnakin—The Beta-Earth Chronicles: Book Two, I thought I’d share a sample extract from the book here.

This passage introduces a major new character in the saga. I hope you’ll want to learn much more about her in BOB!

Kalma: I am daughter of the great city of Bergarten, a city I have known with
pride, shame, and aching womb all my days. In the twenty-five years of my growing
near the three rivers, I thrived in the knowledge my home city was a center of the
world. All around me were the wide, clean walkways leading past gleaming buildings
unlike any in any other city on Olos earth. I knew these flowing streets well, I knew I
was one fleshly part of the best of humanity. My Bergarten was where the future
shaped, where discipline and energy superseded the ways of others tangled in their
tired pasts.
But I also was shaped by a family deeply troubled by the slavery of fellow
Balnakins sharing not our deep, earth-soil colors. I knew well our Sojoa sheets shone
because of the polishings of blues dangled from rooftops or belted to mechanical
ladders. Riding in our trans from one site to another, my Mother often circled her
breasts with single finger loops, signaling gratitude to be blessed each time she
glanced at a sullen blue woman tuning tools, unloading tracs, crawling down into
pipes below ground. Many such women would know spears, children, family not.
Futures not. We whispered our regret. But only whispers, silences, prayers. After all,
without the blues, our greatness possibled not.
Then, my soul ached and more as I was in Bergarten the day the soundless
explosion robbed my city of its heart. I was one of those shoved onto an evacuation
bus at stadsem that cursed day, cramped with students and sweating teachers on the
road north when the catastrophe took away the rooms we sat in but minutes before. I
can name names of many who exist no more. My belly tightens still to think of them.
Had not my Tribe fast boats on the Gell River, two of my Sisters and their children
would also exist no more.
To say more, for years, my family has been a deep part of what I loved most about
Bergarten. For one matter, unlike many, my father, Lius Salk, built his empire of
connections relying not on what he considered a dishonest means of business. That is,
as he rose in the ranks of the shipping company of Mhelapras, he chose not his wives
based on tunic sewings. Instead, each of his five bondings were daughters from the
New Dome Church of No-Stratas founded by the eminent Devlin Joco Llyam. Llyam's
congregation agreed on various principles including the possibility, but rarity of, true
prophecy. We believed Olos was indeed the Mother of All, and that all included all
skins. This meant Olos abhorred slavery. No member of the New Domes associated
with Devlin Llyam could own or deal with the selling of humans. This meant we had
few prosperous, powerful tribes to share worship with. My father looked for wives
with these beliefs knowing they would come from families with these values. He
wanted wives focused on their children. So, each of us grew in a home devoted to our
betterment while my father grew his company in countries stained not by human
bondage. He worked with makers of goods with sellers all over the globe interested in
unique wares from cultures across land and sea. As Father rose to the top of
Mhelapras, we rose with him.
True said, in each family, seeds bear different fruits. My brother Mool became as
interested as my father in the ways of connecting makers with distributors. So, he
established his own healthy branch to the family's growth into the countries south of
the Psam Peninsula, mostly on the continent of Verashush. But my brother Kinn
could find his way not. He became an angry student at the Lipran Stadsem,
graduating just before the news came out that an alien was in the Halls of the great
Bergarten Institute of the Species. Kinn stood in the audience the day Doctor Malcolm
Renbourn reached out to two globes. Later, Kinn raged in father's house the day the
alien snuck across the border into Rhasvi. My father dismayed when Kinn denounced
loud the Lipran authorities for having allowed this escape to happen. Why had any
fool put a Shaprim robe on a blue, why was a creature so obviously defective
contained not here in Bergarten where all the world should come and beg access to
our knowledge? "Olos put her stamp on every Brown," Kin preached, "when she
marked us with her own color, the color of her most fertile land! What is blue but an
empty shade between day and night? Unnatural. Name one other creature sharing
this strange pigment!" He laughed. "And these are creatures to envy, pity not! How
relaxing to have no decisions to make, no will to exercise! We shelter, feed, guide
these off-colors!" My father had known not my brother had changed at the Stadsem.
Into this nest of anti-slavery philosophies, a racist had emerged.
And Kinn became more than that when one-fourth of our city became a dome in
the earth, a gaping hole where once friends and companions lived. One horrible day,
my father's office view overlooked a wound that now defined a culture. Devlin Llyam's
home was but two-lanes away. During the first years after that damnable rip in Olos
appeared, such men and their women grieved in silent wonder. During the same
years, men and women like my brother Kinn spoke often and loud. "I stood there,
right there at the very center of that wound in the Mother! By miracle alone three of
my Sisters survived! But a minute, a moment, our Tribe, too, would have had souls
with bodies not for holy burning!" All Balnakin homes knew the debates. Yes, drain
and bleed Rhasvin coffers for compensation. But compensate who? How can lost
knowledge be re-claimed? Who owned the lost land? They were gone, too. Rebuild?
Build a memorial? Answers were slow. But those like Kin looked for answers not.
Vengeance. Slashing, burning, crushing of all creatures whose skin was brown not.
Consuming, unyielding rage. So, father sent my brother to Alma in the hopes the
distance might calm his angry spear. To live among blues who were slaves not,
Balnakin, Rhasvi not. For a time, we knew not of success in father's dreams. We more
concerned with our world turned upside down.

To learn more about the Beta-Earth Chronicles, stop by—
www.drwesleybritton.com


To order The Blood of Balnakin, it’s at:
http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Balnakin-Beta-Earth-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B01EYE3CD4?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0
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New Audio Interview with Wes Britton! [Apr. 27th, 2016|08:43 pm]
thespyreport
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Beginning May 2nd, an audio interview with Wes Britton by Liz Stanley Swope of Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania will become available for all listeners. The 30 minute conversation discusses Wes and blindness, his teaching career, and, of course, the Beta-Earth Chronicles!

Play dates are May 2,3,4,12 and 13

2:00 p.m. again at 10:00 p.m. and again the following mornings at 6:00 a.m.

For streaming, go to:

www.vrocp.org

For podcasting, go to that same website and select the podcast icon. It will be under Interview podcasts.

Hear you then!
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The Blood of Balnakin has Arrived! [Apr. 11th, 2016|07:00 pm]
thespyreport
Now arrived on a planet near you!

The Blood of Balnakin: The Beta-Earth Chronicles, Book Two
By Wesley Britton

http://www.bearmanormedia.com/the-blood-of-balnakin-the-beta-earth-chronicles-book-two-ebook-edition-by-wesley-britton

Ripped from his home planet of Alpha-Earth, Dr. Malcolm Renbourn became the titular character in The Blind Alien, the debut novel of a startlingly original science fiction epic. Blinded, tortured, enslaved, unable to understand a single word he heard, Renbourn escaped to Rhasvi, a free country where scientists hoped his unique biology might contain the cure to an ancient plague that kills three out of four male babies their first year. Joining with his Betan wives, all exiles and outcasts from polygamous cultures, Renbourn is blamed for the deaths of thousands when the device that dragged him across the multi-verse exploded and destroyed much of the city of Bergarten.
Unlike any adventure you’ve ever experienced in Star Trek, Star Wars, or any of your other favorite Sci-Fi sagas, in The Blood of Balnakin Tribe Renbourn travels to a new continent where even stranger adventures await. A vengeful island ruler captures them at sea; the revered Mother-Icealt of All-Domes shares prophecies and secrets that will change the planet; three of these prophecies are fulfilled, as the tribe is forced to reconcile with the country of Balnakin still seeking vengeance for the Bergarten disaster; and a heart-wrenching death trade results in the murder of one beloved wife and the unwanted salvation of another. Will Malcolm Renbourn and his family survive the surprising consequences of those prophecies?

Transport to BearManor Media, where the exclusive ebook edition of The Blood of Balnakin is now here!



Praise for The Beta-Earth Chronicles:

“The Blind Alien is a story with a highly original concept, fascinating characters,
and not-too-subtle but truthful allegories. Don’t let the sci-fi label or alternate Earth setting fool you--this is a compelling and contemporarily relevant story about race, sex, and social classes.”
--Raymond Benson, Former James Bond novelist and author of the Black Stiletto books

“Science-fiction, yes, but much more. The book explores science, medicine, commerce, education, spiritual life, family life and sex on an alternative planet which
at times is insightful and hilarious in its comparison to our own Earth. In an ingenious way, Dr. Britton has created a new grammar and vocabulary to continually intrigue the reader. A true winner!” –Bobbi Chertok, Amazon Reviewer

“Brilliant! An excellent work of new SF that hearkens back to the classics of Asimov and Heinlein. Told from the viewpoints of the different characters, it is a tale of a man from our earth unwittingly transferred to a parallel earth where he must learn to adapt to new cultures, attitudes, languages at the same time as coming to grips with the loss of his sight. Each of the characters are fully developed and well defined and being able to hear their thoughts about each encounter brings a richness to the narratives. Politics, religion, social mores and relationships are all examined from both without and within. Think "Stranger in a Strange Land" combined with "Foundation" and you may begin to get an idea of the scope and quality of this adventure.” —Dave Massengale, Amazon review

“A most commendable and unique novel. I can honestly say I have not come across anything quite like it. The Blind Alien follows the life of an unremarkable man who by some twist of fate is pulled from his world, into that of one parallel . . . What follows is a story of rebellion, politics, love, science, and religion . . . without a doubt, this is an admirably well crafted piece of work, that was both entertaining and very thought provoking.”
--Tosin Coker, author of The Chronicles of Zauba’ah

Media Contact: Ben Ohmart
benohmart@gmail.com

Explore the world of the Beta-Earth Chronicles at Wes Britton’s website:
www.drwesleybritton.com

Contact Wes Britton at:spywise@verizon.net
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Review: Bodyguard of Deception by Samuel Marquis [Mar. 24th, 2016|09:17 am]
thespyreport
PDF: ISBN 978-1-943593-15-6
http://www.amazon.com/Bodyguard-Deception-World-War-Trilogy/dp/1943593124/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458673655&sr=8-1&keywords=bodyguard+of+deception Bodyguard of Deception: Volume One of the World War II Trilogy
Samuel Marquis
Mount Sopris Publishing, March 2016
Kindle: ISBN 978-1-943593-13-2
ePub: ISBN 978-1-943593-14-9


Reviewed by Wesley Britton

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/dLPjNZ


It was only three months ago when I reviewed Samuel Marquis’s novel, The Coalition, which I described as injecting fresh air into the genres of political conspiracies and assassination thrillers.

In somewhat similar ways, Marquis offers unexpected twists to World War II dramas in Bodyguard of Deception, the first of his World War II trilogy. In the opening pages, German spy Eric Von Walburg is picked up in the North Sea by a U-Boat captained by Eric’s brother, Wolfgang. Eric has discovered the secret timing of the D-Day invasion and knows that the network of German spies in England has been compromised. He’s under orders to report his findings to General Rommel despite Wolfgang’s pressures that he be told what Eric knows. But when the U-boat is sunk and the brothers become POWs, the mission for both becomes the need to escape and radio the intelligence to the Fatherland.

Because British intelligence, at first, doesn’t know who they have, both Von Walburgs are transferred to a POW camp in Colorado. Several things happen. For one matter, they learn their long estranged mother, now named Katherine Templeton, now considers herself an American and owns a nearby ranch and hotel. For her ranch, she hires out gangs of the POWs which results in the family having a quiet reunion, of sorts. Next, some 50 prisoners break out of the camp due to a tornado and an underground tunnel. So the brothers, accompanied by a diehard, bloodthirsty Nazi, rush to Katherine’s ranch even as authorities begin their relentless hunt for them. Will their mother help their cause? Or will she turn them in? What Eric and Wolfgang don’t know is that Katherine is an O.S.S. agent under the ruthless thumb of the glory-seeking FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover. It doesn’t take long for the FBI, British authorities, local law enforcement, and armed citizens to join in the hunt for Eric, Wolfgang, and their colleague all across the wilds of Colorado as the Germans try to find a way to radio their secrets home.

That Rocky Mountain setting is one distinction from most World War II stories usually set in Europe, sometimes in Africa, and occasionally in the Far East. The family relationships take on a special dimension as Eric and Wolfgang, at first, represent two kinds of Germans. Eric is fully patriotic to his country but despises the Fuhrer while Wolfgang is closer to Nazi ideology. As time progresses, Wolfgang loses this devotion, but the brothers fall under the pressure of a gun-toting true believer.

And that’s a major theme of the book, the differences between loyal Germans who want the war to end on German terms as opposed to the far more ruthless Nazis willing to kill innocent civilians for the glory of Adolf Hitler. There’s the inner duel of Katherine Templeton who wants to, and is forced to, help find her sons, but she wants them captured, not killed. And there’s the rather typical turf wars between competing intelligence services more interested in claiming the scalps for themselves and less so accomplishing the collective goal.

Likely, many readers will be surprised by the setting, the good German, bad German dichotomies, and the fact-based revelations that at one time, D-Day could have gone either way. As usual, Marquis’s descriptions are vivid, believable, and true to the time period.

I have really only one complaint. I have nothing against happy endings, but the book’s epilogue stretches credulity. At least mine. So, excluding Marquis pulling together the loose ends with such a positive note, Bodyguard of Deception is an intriguing launch to his new trilogy. I’ll wager the next entry won’t occur in America’s heartland. But I expect that, once again, we’ll venture into the unexpected.


Book Two of Wesley Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles—The Blood of Balnakin—coming soon!
www.drwesleybritton.com
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Book Review: Fire War by T.T. Michael [Feb. 14th, 2016|05:03 pm]
thespyreport
Fire War
T.T. Michael
Published: October 2015
ISBN: 978-1517180744
ASIN: B015GDR6E8
http://www.amazon.com/Fire-War-T-T-Michael-ebook/dp/B015GDR6E8

Review written by Wes Britton for BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/7RJzI6

According to Fire War, in the year 2051, the terrorist group Hariq Jihad hit the United States with attacks more deadly than 9/11. Twenty-five years later, fears of these terrorist, along with the voices of the dissenting group called the Apocalytes, inspired U.S. President Frederick J. Meyers to completely rewrite the geopolitical map.

At first, the U.S merged with Canada. Then Meyers bullied Mexico into joining what became
the United Continental States of America. Thus, he took care of immigration problems by enforcing the idea that immigrants must enter the country by legal means, and that meant making them citizens where they were. Taking his country to isolationist extremes, Meyers pulled all military troops out of every foreign country and forbade international travel to ensure no terrorist could endanger the UCSA.

Further, Meyers imposed severe travel restrictions within the states to help keep track of all citizens. He had the Second Alien and Sedition Act passed to counter any dissent, blaming the Apocalytes for any disagreement with his policies. National elections disappeared as loyal citizens felt appointed leaders made better sense than elected ones. After all, under Meyers’ leadership, unemployment went away. Mexican drug cartels were allegedly defeated. Then, neighbors started being taken away. Homes were boarded up as family after family seemed to shelter supporters of the Hariq Jihad or Apocalytes. No trials were required when potential terrorism or disloyalty was the alleged crime.

Witnessing all these changes is Gunnery Sergeant Anthony Jackson. He comes to the president’s attention when he kills the assassin of the last President of Mexico and is hired for Meyers’ personal protection. Jackson is a passive, loyal, dedicated follower of all the President’s policies and can’t understand why the erosion of civil liberties should matter when national security is, well, secure. He feels minor twinges of doubt when watching the president bully his subordinates and isn’t entirely sure that all his vanishing neighbors, especially the younger ones, deserve secret imprisonment for often minor infractions. But, over and over, Jackson is sure his government knows best and he angers when he hears any criticism of the leaders he trusts. That is, until his independent-minded teenage daughter forces him to rethink his values.

It’s clear author T.T. Michael is dramatizing his polemic exploring what might happen if Americans lose themselves to fears of terrorism and allow themselves to be pressed into conformity in the name of social calm. While set in the future, the story isn’t futuristic in a science-fiction sense. For example, technology doesn’t seem to have changed in sixty years. Instead, the setting reflects very contemporary problems being discussed in this year’s presidential election.

Much of the story is exposition describing the cultural changes resulting from Meyers’ virtual dictatorship. From time to time, Michael inserts propaganda pieces allegedly published in the new mainstream media. The only character with any development is Jackson, and he lives in such a privileged bubble that he isn’t a true representative of his fellow citizens who are either in fear of the government or bogged down in bureaucratic red-tape. He’s so accepting of what the government does that for most of the book, all he does is reiterate how new ways have replaced the unneeded old Constitution. The only real characteristic for readers to sympathize with is Jackson’s drive to repair his family and be a good father and husband.

I’m certain many readers will be intrigued, and alarmed, by the sadly too plausible scenario Michael paints. If you’re expecting a pot-boiler of a political thriller, you won’t get your monies’ worth. With any luck, Michael’s Fire War will reach those already inclined to surrender to fears of terrorism and allow their civil liberties to erode in the name of security. Michael’s “what if” could be illuminating and mind-changing.


Be sure to check out Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:

www.drwesleybritton.com

Volume two, The Blood of Balnakin, coming soon!
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Book Review: Rogue Mission by Jeffrey Stephens [Feb. 14th, 2016|04:59 pm]
thespyreport
Rogue Mission: A Jordan Sandor Thriller
Jeffrey S. Stephens

Post Hill Press, April 26, 2016

• ISBN: 9781618688132
ISBN-13: 978-1618688132
http://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Mission-Jordan-Sandor-Thriller/dp/1618688138




This review by Wesley Britton first appeared at BookPleasures.com:

http://goo.gl/yFRH7z





I hadn’t completed reading Jeffrey Stephens’ Rogue Mission before I knew one thing. I was going to download the previous Jordan Sandor books and get caught up on this fascinating series. My files now already include Stephens’ Targets of Opportunity, Targets of Deception, and Targets of Revenge.



Admittedly, it’s hard for any new espionage/political thriller to find a place in a glutted genre. But there are many good reasons to include Rogue Mission in your reading list. For me, field agent Jordan Sandor and the company he keeps, and the company he works for, are more three-dimensional characters than many similar literary counterparts. It was good to read a story without all the usual interagency turf wars that pit hero against his superiors, his department against other agencies. All the good guys seem to be focused on common goals without ego or self-serving pride. One delight was Stephens’ dialogue. Conversations sound like conversations and not merely means to explain what is going on. I liked the analytical intelligence shown in most of the leads. For example, Sandor figures out Bermuda law enforcement dropped the ball when investigating a death by not finding out whether or not a British doctor had actually written a suspicious prescription. That’s the sort of detail that’s not typical of many such yarns.



True, Rogue Mission is chockful of all the elements you’d expect in a contemporary spy thriller. There is a series of unexplained killings that don’t seem to have anything in common. The nasties are an Isis splinter group based in Syria who kidnap American celebrities and hold them for a hundred-million dollar ransom inside Iraq. There seems to be something unsavory going on inside the top levels of international high finance. Some readers might be surprised to learn not all Jihadists are suicidal. But there’s nothing surprising about these terrorists redirecting U.S. military drones. That’s been done before.



The most important secondary character is Sandor’s sexy past lover and CIA analyst Beth Sharrow. She helps connect the dots and find the patterns linking seeming unrelated financial trades with terrorist attacks. She has a desirable mind in the field, and so too a desirable body in bed. Apparently, she was a significant player in the previous Sandor adventures, so flashbacks involving her help add some depth to just who Sandor is and what his track record includes.



Naturally, in a novel with the typical geopolitical scope of such stories, we hop along on many globe-trotting jaunts to Washington, New York, Bermuda, London, Paris, Iraq, and Syria. We’re taken to Five-Star Hotels and luxurious receptions for the rich and connected and into dangerous camps for Syrian refugees. The descriptions of such settings is adequate, meaning readers won’t experience much in exotic detail that’s more common to other authors.



In short, Rogue Mission should satisfy readers familiar with this genre who’ll be happy with Stephens’ stylistic gifts with character interaction and fresh takes on old tropes. More, please—





Find out about Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:

www.drwesleybritton.com




Book Two, The Blood of Balnakin, coming soon!
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Praise for the Beta-Earth Chronicles! [Feb. 14th, 2016|04:55 pm]
thespyreport
[Tags|, , , ]

I’m excited to report that book two of the Beta-Earth Chronicles, The Blood of Balnakin, is coming very soon! We’re just waiting for the last-minute cover art and then off we go!

Until then, I thought I’d share some of the reviews for book one, The Blind Alien, both old and new. Please join the choir as the next chapter is about to commence—

“The Blind Alien is a story with a highly original concept, fascinating characters,
and not-too-subtle but truthful allegories. Don’t let the sci-fi label or alternate Earth setting fool you--this is a compelling and contemporarily relevant story about race, sex, and social classes.”
--Raymond Benson, Former James Bond novelist and author of the Black Stiletto books

“Brilliant!”

“An excellent work of new SF that hearkens back to the classics of Asimov and Heinlein. Told from the viewpoints of the different characters, it is a tale of a man from our earth (Alpha) being unwittingly transferred to a parallel earth (Beta) where he must learn to adapt to new cultures, attitudes, languages at the same time as coming to grips with the loss of his sight. Each of the characters are fully developed and well defined and being able to hear their thoughts about each encounter brings a richness to the narratives. Politics, religion, social mores and relationships are all examined from both without and within. Think "Stranger in a Strange Land" combined with "Foundation" and you may begin to get an idea of the scope and quality of this adventure.”
—Dave Massengale, Amazon review

“The Blind Alien is fascinating down-to-earth Science Fiction”
"The Blind Alien" Is Fascinating Down-To-Earth Science-Fiction
"The Blind Alien" Is Fascinating Down-To-Earth Science-Fiction

“Spymaster and imaginative author, Dr. Wesley Britton has another big hit! His book takes the reader on a compelling journey of an Alpha earthling who has been spirited to planet Beta. Science-fiction, yes, but much more. The book explores science, medicine, commerce, education, spiritual life, family life and sex on an alternative planet which
at times is insightful and hilarious in its comparison to our own Earth. In an ingenious way, Dr. Britton has created a new grammar and vocabulary to continually intrigue the reader. A true winner!”
–Bobbi Chertok, Amazon Review

“A most commendable and unique novel. I can honestly say I have not come across anything quite like it. The Blind Alien follows the life of an unremarkable man who by some twist of fate is pulled from his world, into that of one parallel . . . What follows is a story of rebellion, politics, love, science, and religion . . . without a doubt, this is an admirably well crafted piece of work, that was both entertaining and very thought provoking.”
--Tosin Coker, author of The Chronicles of Zauba’ah

“I really didn't know what to expect from a book with a blind protagonist, but I was extremely pleased. The book centers around a character who is blinded by an event that drags him from Earth to a different universe (not quite parallel) where the light skin people were the lowest end of the social spectrum. Most men die at or near birth, so men are in short supply, and polygamy is the norm. An Earth human goes to this planet, deals with blindness under freakish circumstances and ends up married to women from various races. It's odd as hell, but very well thought out, and well written. I think it will make a great movie!”
—Doug Myerscough, Amazon Review
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Review: Left For Dead by Peter Vollmer [Feb. 13th, 2016|01:32 pm]
thespyreport
Left for Dead
Peter Vollmer
• Publisher: Acorn Books; 1.0 edition (February 2, 2016)
• ASIN: B01BFZYGFS
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BFZYGFS

by Wesley Britton

First posted at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/xIHHmb


While I might not have been precisely the first reviewer to discover the books of Peter Borchard a.k.a. Peter Vollmer, I must have been among the early birds. I was delighted to review his first two thrillers, Diamonds are but Stone (2011) and Relentless Pursuit (2013). For both, I noted Borchard was very much in the mold of fellow South African writer Geoffrey Jenkins in both style and substance. This connection was even more overt when Borchard/Vollmer was commissioned to update Jenkins’ character, Commander Geoffrey Peace, in last year’s Per Fine Ounce, a book designed to be a reworking of a Jenkins James Bond continuation novel that was never published.

Again using the Vollmer pen name, the author returns with his own original characters in Left for Dead, and I’m again reminded of Geoffrey Jenkins for several reasons. First, his story is set on the Skeleton coast of South Africa in the same time period as Jenkins debut novel, 1959’s A Twist of Sand. Second, many of Jenkins’ stories were sea adventures, and much of Left for Dead takes place on fishing trawlers with occasional encounters with a Russian ship. Most importantly, Geoffrey Jenkins was not primarily a spy novelist despite his friendship with Ian Fleming. Instead, his canon includes some 16 adventures that only sporadically involved espionage.

Likewise, Vollmer’s yarns are equally varied in their settings and plots. For example, despite the placement of Russian gun runners on the South African coast, Left for Dead is much more a character-based adventure with young Arnold Schonbrunn surprised to learn his late uncle has bequeathed him the family fishing business. Equally surprised is the uncle’s stepson, Bruce McAllister, who believes the business should have been given to him. From that point forward, Bruce sets out to get the business by hook or deadly crook even as his sister, Jocelyn, is attracted to Schonbrunn.

Vollmer really excels with his rich, vivid descriptions that clearly establish the day-to-day life of South African fisherman. For the first half of the book, there’s little plot as Schonbrunn learns about his new life and the crew of his ship. The second half centers on Bruce McAllister’s plot to kill Schonbrunn in the jungle, and here’s where the action picks up.

The strength of the book is Vollmer taking readers to a time and place few know anything about. Vollmer is extremely believable down to the most minute of details. The duel between McAllister and Schonbrunn is also well spun out including the very surprising conclusion. Left for Dead is not an action-packed thrill ride, but rather a slow burning personal drama occurring in a setting many will find far from familiar grounds.
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Book Review: Fast Track To Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel [Feb. 13th, 2016|01:29 pm]
thespyreport
Fast Track To Glory
Tomasz Chrusciel
Publisher: Agato House, January 2016
ISBN: 978-0992957421
ASIN: B01A75N0X6
http://www.amazon.com/Fast-Track-Glory-International-Adventure-ebook/dp/B01A75N0X6

by Wesley Britton

This review was first posted at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/jh01Ak




One of my favorite delights when reading through a new thriller is running into original surprises and unexpected twists and turns. While it takes a few chapters to begin all that, Tomasz Chrusciel did take me places I didn’t expect to go with plot twists I didn’t see coming in Fast Track to Glory.

In the opening chapters, I wondered if I was experiencing a clone of the Covert One or Sigma Force books where agents are on the hunt for some ancient artifact that has the power to change the world, and not for the better. The set-up certainly looked like a conspiracy was at play when three European officials summoned professor Nina Monte to verify the age of a tablet found in a galley sunk at sea in the 15th century. But, in short order, the alleged conspirators disappear and are replaced by explorer Lammert van der Venn and his deadly quest to learn the tablet’s secrets. It’s his possible connection with a possible homicide that prompts happy-go-lucky Italian hotel manager, Alessandro Pini, to investigate the circumstances of his friend’s death and becomes a fly in van der Venn’s ointment.

From that point forward, Fast Track to Glory joins the tradition seen in the film versions of The 39 Steps, Three Days of the Condor, and The Bourne Identity. By that I mean we have an unlikely pair of very opposite types, in this case Monte and Pini, thrown together in a relentless chase from a villain who wants both a translation of the secrets of the tablet and to eliminate those who know too much. From Italy to Austria and across India, the learned professor and the more earthy Pini come closer and closer together while escaping the close calls of their pursuer.

I admit, it takes some time to learn just what that tablet is all about. For most of the story, it seems like it includes mystical incantations that would provide spiritual enlightenment, not any corrupting power over others. But, what would a mystery be if we knew what the end game would involve? Without question, this is a book full of vivid, rich, and believable descriptions, especially in the chapters set in India on trains and in crowded city streets. There’s no lack of character development which sometimes crosses the line into interesting, if off-track, digression.

It’s hard to quibble with an unlikely romance that unfolds in a fast-paced chase set in exotic locations that are detailed in a finely woven, intricate international tapestry. Gratefully, Fast Track to Glory doesn’t fulfil the expectations portrayed at the outset, but instead travels a lesser followed road.
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Book Review: Zombie Tetherball by Terry Taylor Hobbs [Dec. 6th, 2015|11:29 am]
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Zombie Tetherball Kindle Edition
Terry Taylor Hobbs
Publisher: Terry Taylor Hobbs; 1 edition (August 27, 2015)
ASIN:B014LBRJA2
http://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Tetherball-Terry-Taylor-Hobbs-ebook/dp/B014LBRJA2

This review by Wes Britton first appeared at BookPleasures.com at:
http://goo.gl/BmupxH


To begin, I must confess I’ve never been a zombie fan. I haven’t watched any zombie films or TV shows or played any of the games. I’ve only read one previous zombie novel, and that was a Walking Dead tie-in I read to have the opportunity to interview someone associated with the TV series for an online radio show I used to co-host. Prepping for that interview, I learned there’s not much to say about zombies themselves. It’s the human characters that are interesting as they cope with the mindless, relentless threats to their humanity and individuality. I forget who said this first, but zombies can be seen as metaphors for our real-world worries about pressures to conform to society’s “norms” or represent our resentment against those who have power over our lives.

Still, I was intrigued by the title, Zombie Tetherball. What could that mean? I suspected a sense of humor was involved. Well, not so much. The story opens when Liz, a resident of the very ordinary town of Copper Creek, suddenly meets neighbors who seem to have gone crazy. Trying to find help, she’s rescued by the band of Alan, Matt, Justin, and Keiko who tell Liz all power in the area is out and that “biters” are trying to kill everyone. The group all go to a local elementary school for shelter and it becomes their fortress for most of the book.

In that fortress, we see a group somewhat secure in their calm, quiet comradery trying to find simple ways to occupy their long hours. Many times, I thought I was experiencing an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits as those classic shows offered similar stories of strangers forced to come together in ordinary settings surrounded by extraordinary challenges. I came to wonder if author Hobbs saw that school as her own metaphor. After all, most of her chapter titles are school related—“School Supplies,” “First Bell,” “Home Schooling,” “Hall Pass,” and the names of many classes all students take. No doubt, tetherball must also be symbolic of something. Some of the group enjoys the sport as a way of passing the time, but Hobbs must have something larger in mind. My suspicion is that a tetherball has a limited reach because it’s tied to a central pole, and perhaps Hobbs is saying the group is likewise constrained in their self-imposed confinement.

Along the way, we come to know the characters both by watching their interactions with each other and the occasional memories they share about their previous lives. Naturally, their relationships change as time goes by. Those who didn’t think much of other members when they first came together will come to forge friendships. Liz and Justin have an unlikely romance, something they admit probably wouldn’t have happened in normal circumstances. Of course, this time of seclusion must come to an end as the zombies outside finally find ways to break into the school and the group thinks they have discovered a plan to end the scourge. The tether must be broken.

Zombie Tetherball is a well-written, fast-paced yarn that should appeal even to those not enamored with the zombie apocalypse. Instead, we meet five very sympathetic folks who each have their own depths and strengths. It’s an ideal YA book, even if some of the trapped students in Cooper Creek elementary are parents and not young heroes. I’m glad I met them in their school of life, even if I’m equally glad I wasn’t a member of their class myself.


Check out Wes Britton’s Beta-Earth Chronicles at:
www.drwesleybritton.com
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