Guest Contributor – Jason M – A Plug for a Friend’s Book – The Body Man by Eric Bishop

Hi Photog…

Here is a link to a website for a friend of mine from college…

http://www.ericpbishop.com/about-eric.html

His debut novel, “The Body Man,” will go on sale beginning on November 11, 2021.

You can either post this or not, I just wanted to get you the link since it sort of lines up with the crime dramas you mention.

Jason M

Peter Grant Over at Mad Genius Club Has a Very Interesting Post

This is the second article over at Mad Genius Club that I found today that I really liked.  Peter Grant starts out talking about different trends in book publishing which is interesting enough but at the end he has a quote from a soldier’s memoir.  It’s a fellow named George MacDonald Fraser who served in a a Scottish regiment in Burma during World War II.  He describes a Scottish sergeant of limited education’s reaction to reading some of Shakespeare’s Henry V.  Very interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

Larry Correia’s Got a Book Up for a Dragon Award

Larry’s got a mil-sf book in the running for a Dragon Award and he talks a little about the nominees that he’s familiar with.  If you’re voting in the Dragon Awards take a look at his comments.  And Larry’s a good guy so if you’re looking for good sf&f books I’d give authors he likes a look see.

 

 

 

Dave Freer Over at Mad Genius Club Has a Good Essay on Writing

Dave talks about what it’s like reviewing your own book for publication and feeling like the whole thing is poor.  I’m writing a book myself and I have to say I understand exactly what he’s saying.  The urge to re-write whole sections is almost overpowering.

Seeing other people pound out multiple books in a year is humbling.  I get side-tracked continuously between blogging and photography and just trying to keep my real life floating along.  Kudos to those who do all that and also create good fiction too.

A good read.

Arkhaven Comics – A Review

Vox Day is an idiosyncratic guy who will be remembered, if for no other reason, because he waged the hilarious Rabid Puppies War against the pink science fiction doofuses of WorldCon in 2015 and 2016.  But he is also the proprietor of a book publishing company, Castalia House and recently he has branched into comics with a company called Arkhaven.

Last month Arkhaven started up a comic site that publishes the various stories on-line for free at  https://www.arkhaven.com/  .  I’ve never been a comic book guy.  I did watch a few of the Marvel tv shows when I was a kid and I did bring my grandsons to watch the Marvel movies until they started getting too woke.

But there are at least a couple of comics on this site that I can appreciate.  One is Ben Garrison’s Editorial Cartoons.  Ben’s editorials are from the right and his drawings are clever.

The other that I just started following is a dark fantasy (supernatural) comic called Chicago Typewriter.  It’s very well drawn and the story so far is entertaining.

Anyway, if you have any interest in comics, check out Vox’s site.  I think he should be congratulated for jumping into a field that up till now has been more than dominated by woke publishers who have made their former readers unwelcome.  I hope this venture is a great success and Vox makes a pile of cash.  Vox is one of the few people on our side who has walked the walk and built his own platform.  Kudos to him.

Quote – The Vegetable Motif

“A costermonger, roused, is a terrible thing. I had never seen the proletariat really stirred before, and I’m bound to say it rather awed me. I mean, it gave you some idea of what it must have been like during the French Revolution

From every corner of the hall there proceeded simultaneously the sort of noise which you hear, they tell me, at one of those East End boxing places when the referee disqualifies the popular favourite and makes the quick dash for life. And then they passed beyond mere words and began to introduce the vegetable motif.

I don’t know why, but somehow I had got it into my head that the first thing thrown at Tuppy would be a potato. One gets these fancies. It was, however, as a matter of fact, a banana, and I saw in an instant that the choice had been made by wiser heads than mine. These blokes who have grown up from childhood in the knowledge of how to treat a dramatic entertainment that doesn’t please them are aware by a sort of instinct just what to do for the best, and the moment I saw that banana splash on Tuppy’s shirtfront I realized how infinitely more effective and artistic it was than any potato could have been.

Not that the potato school of thought had not also its supporters. As the proceedings warmed up, I noticed several intelligent-looking fellows who threw nothing else.

The effect on young Tuppy was rather remarkable. His eyes bulged and his hair seemed to stand up, and yet his mouth went on opening and shutting, and you could see in a dazed, automatic way he was still singing, “Sonny Boy.”

Then, coming out of his trance, he began to pull for the shore with some rapidity.   The last seen of him, he was beating a tomato to the exit by a short head.”

(from “Jeeves and the Song of Songs”

by P. G. Wodehouse)

Robert Louis Stevenson – A Book Review – Part 1 – Treasure Island

 

 

 

Even aside from his skills as a story-teller Robert Louis Stevenson is an interesting personality .and lived in interesting times.  But I think I’ll save the biographical comments for one of the later chapters of this series.  I’ll just say that if he had never written another line, Treasure Island would still be enough to ensure his place in the literary pantheon.  I’ll say right at the beginning that I consider it the finest boy’s adventure story ever written.  I guess I’ve given away my conclusion but that’s too bad.

The story is simple enough.  Jim Hawkins is an English boy living in the 1700’s whose parents’ small seaside inn is visited by a mysterious old sailor whose bad character and eccentricities disturb the serenity of the place.  And when his associates arrive to threaten him Jim and his mother are in fear of their lives.  After a desperate struggle Jim is stunned to find that he has stumbled on a treasure map from the dread pirate Flint and with the help and backing of the local squire, John Trelawney and  his friend Dr. Livesey Jim finds himself on a treasure hunt on the good ship Hispaniola.

But Trelawney unwisely picks his own crew and unknowingly allows a one-legged former pirate named Long John Silver to man the Hispaniola with himself and the rest of Captain Flint’s old crew.  And the story chronicles the struggle between Jim, his friends and the intrepid Captain Smollett against this gang of cutthroats.  But surprisingly, John Silver is by far the most interesting character and Stevenson somehow manages to make him an attractive villain.  Without a doubt he is just as evil and murderous as the rest of the buccaneers but at the same time he is intelligent and even affable in his villainy.

Throughout the story Jim becomes the means by which the good characters manage to survive the long odds stacked against them.  And it is these lucky breaks and courageous decisions that provide the pivot points to move the story along.  Stevenson has managed to keep the plot taut and the story moves along nice and briskly.  And all the characters, even the pirates are filled in very skillfully and moments of humor and pathos are well written.  This book has been made into motion pictures several times and the 1934 version with Wallace Beery as Silver is extremely faithful to the book and quite enjoyable but I would recommend letting boys read or have read to them this book.  It’s a fantastic story and will fire the imagination of any boy who hears it.

Very highly recommended matey!  Certain it is!

Side Jobs and Brief Cases – Two Short Story Collections from The Dresden Files – by Jim Butcher – An SF&F Book Review

These two books are each a group of short stories that Jim Butcher has collected.  Side Jobs was published in 2010 and Brief Cases was published in 2018.  In each case Butcher collected the stories that had been published in anthologies then added a new novella at the end.  And obviously the differences in subject matter and tone in the collections match up with the where they fit in the chronology of the Dresden Files at the time they were written.  But just as with the overall series the “feel” of the stories and especially the character of Harry himself is surprisingly consistent.  He is as always, a wise-cracking, annoying defender of the human world against the forces of the various supernatural creatures he opposes.  He battles White, Red and Black Court vampires, ghosts, sorcerers, werewolves, faeries and other folklore creatures.  Harry is always a little too lefty and feminist for my complete stamp of approval but Butcher writes a very good story and I have been reading these books for a very long time and even when some lefty cultural stance annoys me, I still read and enjoy the story.  And these stories are no exception.  Some character or some comment from Harry will annoy me but I’ll still read and enjoy each story.

The stories are self-sufficient and can be read alone without the need to jump into the next one.  And because the stories were written for various anthologies some of them have oddball plots that were picked to fit in to some overarching theme.  Like in Brief Cases there is a western story called “A Fistful of Warlocks” that was written for an anthology called “Straight Outta Tombstone.”  And likewise for other stories that had themes relating to weddings or relationships or even beer or baseball.  But even the stories that you would think would be just a throwaway Butcher puts in the work and makes the story hang together.  And in these short stories sometimes Harry isn’t even the narrator.  Thomas Raith, John Marcone, Karrin Murphy and even Molly Carpenter each narrate a story.   And especially in the case of Thomas and Marcone I think these add a lot of interest to the story because of the very different point of view of these characters from Harry.

Just as with the rest of the Dresden Files these books cannot be enjoyed unless you already have read the first few books about Harry.  But it is good to know that Jim Butcher takes the time to make even his short stories worth reading.

The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard by Tyler James Cook – A Book Review

Full disclosure, Tyler Cook is the proprietor of the website The Portly Politico, a fellow conservative and in my opinion a fine fellow.  He and I have shared many an interesting conversation on-line about a number of different topics, political and non-political.  He’s a multi-talented fellow and a good guy.  So, I wasn’t surprised to find that he has also self-published a book and asked me to review it.  And always on the look out for something good to review, I immediately agreed and he was kind enough to send me a review copy.

“The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard” is a short book and is made up of a number of “cases.”  The eponymous Inspector is a Sherlock Holmes-like savant who usually solves the case simultaneous with the initial narration of the crime.  But the final solution always involves logic that is a complete non sequitur to the clues.  That is the joke.

The thing that I noted was that the content of the stories reflect the various ages at which Tyler wrote them.  So, the earliest tales are very, very short and have solutions that defy any conventional logic.  They are what a teenage kid would find funny.  And as the series of stories progresses, they become more complex and the writing adds touches of noir-like characterization and other dramatic effect.

And finally, as the author enters adulthood his writing becomes mature and his story telling powers become developed.  The culmination is a story called, “Inspector Gerard and the Dead-End Job Caper.”  It is a comical piece that dramatizes Gerard’s ennui and determination to abandon crime-solving and take up a life as a fish-monger.  This story has everything.  Dramatic tension, character development, local color and timing.  Well, maybe not, but it is funny.

So here is the verdict.  Tyler Cook is a smart talented writer.  I can see that in the output of his blog.  “The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard” is a showcase of his earliest fiction writing output.  It reflects his sense of humor applied to the mystery genre.  It is amusing but very short.  I think the takeaway from this selection is that Tyler is going to write a longer and more commercial work in the future.

Tyler has the story on Amazon and I see it’s on kindle unlimited for free I believe.  Because of its short length and the ironic nature of much of the work I wouldn’t know if many folks would be happy to pay a lot for the collection.  But I encourage readers of the Portly Politico to try it out and then lobby Tyler to spread his wings and write the comic novel that he obviously has in him.

On Killing Off Fictional Family

I’m working on a fantasy story.  And I’m at the point in the origin phase where the protagonist needs a crisis to propel him into a new and horrible life.  And I’m wavering between some deus ex machina scooping him out of his normal life or a horrible injustice killing off one or more of his family.

And the funny thing is I feel bad about killing off his kin.  I mean, they’re good people and they’ve never done anything to me and all things being equal I might need them later.  So, I’m vacillating and trying to thread the needle.  Can I just kill off his father?  But I kind of need him for later.  How about his mother?  The murder of his mother would be a great catalyst.  There’s guilt and rage and despair and hunger for revenge and all sorts of mixed emotions.  That could work well.  But it feels like a cheap trick.

I could kill off his newlywed sister.  It’s going to happen at the wedding reception anyway.  But that’s even more conflicted.  There’s the bride groom and the other sisters and then the parents won’t be distracted by one of them dying so the protagonist will be dealing with all kinds of messy emotional baggage.  Everyone will be whining for a hundred pages and I don’t need that.

I’m planning some kind of mob hit.  I’m undecided between a shotgun blast coming out of the reception or a bomb thrown through the window.  Either way it’s not ideal.  Very messy.  Definitely not the beautiful death.

So, as you can see there won’t be any easy way to write this.  All kinds of angst and messy follow-on consequences.  But let’s face it, murdered family has been a great plot device since Cain killed Abel.  I’m already trying to work my way through a father with conflicted feelings about the son whom he loves but who is responsible for the death of his wife.  That’s got all kinds of possibilities.  As I said I need the father around later and his grudging cooperation in some plot devices would add a nice amount of resistance to some scenes that would otherwise lose all tension.

So, she has to go.  But I am grateful for her part up to this point and I will give her a nice close-up scene before the finale.  She’ll get to talk to her son and they will share something personal before I finish her off.  Then she’ll upstage her oldest daughter’s wedding.  What mother could ask for more than that?

So, as you can see, for me the characters in my story take on a life of their own and I have to think carefully before I bring anyone in.  The butterfly effect is in full effect and especially when my character has a very long-life span, I have to be careful about cutting off all descendants of present characters because I might need their grandchildren or even great grandchildren at some point.

And finally, this action is meant to cut off his normal life and send him forward into a future where many of his actions are going to appear to him to be pretty evil.  To make that happen I’ll need something to disorient his moral compass.  The random brutal death of someone who symbolizes normalcy and happiness to him is just about right.  Add in a feeling that he is culpable in the death and I think I can work that into a tragic figure.  Will Shakespeare, hold my beer.