The Square Root of Texas: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review

THE SQUARE ROOT OF TEXAS:

The First Calamity of QED Morningwood

by
Rob Witherspoon
Genre: Satire / Humor / Absurdist Fiction
Publisher: Independently Published
Date of Publication: September 26, 2018
Number of Pages: 181 pages
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QED Morningwood is a liar, braggart and teller of tall tales. When he shows up at the domino parlor with a mysterious Russian crate in the back of his pick-up truck, he confides to the players he is a ‘Shadow’ member of the NRA, not on their official membership roll, and has a load of rocket propelled grenades – all lies. The news spreads to the real Shadow NRA, the FBI and Homeland Security. Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Cultural Preservation sends an agent to retrieve the crate, the actual contents known only to the Russians.

 
The Russian agent, an FBI team, a DHS undercover agent and a Shadow NRA hit team arrive in Heelstring, Texas looking for QED and his crate. Their convergence is followed by interrogations, seduction, lies, arrests, jailbreak, kidnapping and rescue – along with car chases and explosions. If not for Cotton Widdershins, an ancient black man with secrets of his own, who acts as QED’s mentor and savior, the Morningwood line would be doomed to end, or at best spend life in a federal penitentiary.

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Review

Four Stars

It is always gratifying to add a new book to my library, especially when it’s been signed by the author. In my copy of The Square Root of Texas: The First Calamity of QED Morningwood the author, Rob Witherspoon, wrote “Be Irrational!” So I knew, without opening the first page that I was in for an irreverent, outlandish, hysterical read.

In mathematics, the square root of a negative number “i” is used to balance an equation to make the result real and rational. In his first Disclaimer (they’re used throughout the book,) Witherspoon writes that in this story “i” is used to make his fictionalized Texas “real and rational – or at least as real and rational as can be expected of Texas.” After all, as he correctly points out, “reality, myth and mystique, to Texans, overlap with indistinct, indistinguishable boundaries,” and (paraphrasing here) since we’re known to be mighty touchy about state pride, he’s created “a mythical Texas” that sets the tone for this satirical romp.

Not only that, the framework for the story quickly throws out all conventions that readers would normally expect to find in a book. There are no chapters. Instead, the author (with tongue in cheek) suggests things for you to do whenever you need to take a break; get a cup of coffee, go to the bathroom, do the laundry, mow the yard… you get the idea! And, at about the halfway mark he introduces what he calls the MESOLOGUE, a means of moving the story forward. Witherspoon invents the device and, after acknowledging that readers won’t find the word in any dictionary, “wonders why nobody ever thought of it.”  After all, “there’s monologue, dialogue, prologue, and epilogue…. It just seems like someone would have put a prefix meaning ‘middle’ and a suffix meaning ‘speech’ together.”

The author also lampoons almost everything and everyone in his narrative and makes no apologies for doing so. Nothing is off limits. “This book contains material that may be offensive to: Cajuns, Scots, old people, Mexicans, swordsmen and boy scouts, but not in a mean or disparaging way. More like, ‘it’s a funny old world, isn’t it?’ way. You’ve been warned. I’m not going to insert a disclaimer every time I insult a group of people. From here on out, it’s on you.”

Witherspoon takes shots at the state capital (“Outsin” in his alternative universe,) the Texas judicial system (QED’s father had been acquitted of a capital offense by a jury of his peers, rich and white, and it certainly “didn’t hurt that he financed the reelection of the sheriff and the judge the previous year”), the Certainists, “The Certain Gospel Truth Church, a denomination of profound assuredness,” and the First, Second, and Third Southern Schismatic churches which split up over the issue of whether baptisms should involve full immersion, a sprinkling, or the use of a vaporizer,) “Shana Doo’s Pleasure Dome,” a house of vice offering “mediated affection”  to discriminating and well-paying customers, and even Texas AMU, “Texas Alchemical and Metaphysical University. Home of the Fightin’ Alkies.” As a graduate of Texas A&M University, Aggie jokes have always been around, so I took it stride while I was writing this review… really!

That’s the whole point of this book. Have fun with it! It is on the one hand absurd, while on the other quite descriptive and, dare I say, representative of this unique state. The characters and the plot are summarized quite well in the Synopsis, so I’ve deliberately not gone into them in any detail. Besides, the devil is in the details, and you’ll enjoy The Square Root of Texas that much more if you don’t know what’s coming next.

That said, if you’re a Native Texan or you’ve lived here as long as I have, or perhaps you’re just somebody who has visited or read about Texas, you’ll definitely recognize attributes easily recognizable in the people and places that make up the Lone Star State.

As the subtitle, The First Calamity of QED Morningwood suggests, this is the first book of a planned series by Rob Witherspoon. There are more “misadventures” to come and I, for one, look forward to new antics and laughs.  

 
 

Rob Witherspoon was born and raised in rural Texas. He earned a BA in Physical Education, UT Arlington 1985 and a BS in Aerospace Engineering, UT Arlington 1990. He worked in the aerospace industry for 30 years before retiring in 2018. He lives in north central Texas with his wife and youngest daughter and has spent much of his life in rural communities and on the ranch. He combines his love for Texas, lying, the outdoors, engineering, and his children in his writing.

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Sword Song: My Review

Sword Song Book CoverSet in the year 885, this is the continuing story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg and the Saxon Tales. Like its predecessors this fourth entry into the series offers vivid and dramatic battle scenes, but the violence (while true to this period in history) does not overshadow well drawn characters – both historical and fictional – that add depth and human interest to the origins of modern day England.

Following the defeat of the Viking Guthrum, Alfred the Great is looking to consolidate his rule over all the kingdoms (not just Wessex but Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria) and bring Christianity to the whole country. To do so he must protect his borders from further Viking raids and Uhtred is sworn to aid him in this effort.

When Sigefrid and Erik Thurgilson capture and occupy London, Alfred’s control of the Thames River is threatened. Now Uhtred must weigh his oath to Alfred against his own ambitions. A mixture of both Saxon and Dane, Uhtred has divided loyalties that will be tested by predictions that he will be king of Mercia if he allies himself with the Vikings.

Bernard Cornwell engages the reader in the narrative of shifting allegiances and power struggles. Alfred’s treacherous nephew, Aethelwold, covets the throne upon which Alfred sits and schemes with the Danes to lure Uhtred away from his oath to the king. News of a risen dead man foretells Uhtred’s kingship in the kingdom of Mercia. However, the vain and abusive Aethelred, married to Alfred’s eldest daughter, has already been promised the kingdom. His cruelty endangers his wife Ethelflaed, while his vanity and lack of leadership jeopardizes the campaign to recapture London. Uhtred must find a way to protect Ethelflaed from Aethelred, reveal Aetholwold’s treachery, and recapture London to fulfill his pledge to Alfred.

Sword Song is an apt title for the book as Uhtred again wields his sword Serpent-Breath in the battle for London. For anyone unfamiliar with Uhtred’s previous adventures please refer to my reviews of the three earlier books in the series: The Last Kingdom, Dec 7 2018; The Pale Horsemen, Jul 5, 2019; and The Lords of the North, Feb 26, 2020.  

A united England in the ninth century is still just a dream, and there are many more adventures yet to be told. In total, Bernard Cornwell has written twelve books in this ongoing series with more to come! Some readers may find this disconcerting, but whenever I’m in the mood for rousing descriptions of battle and a rich history of the northward expansion that resulted in the realization of Alfred the Great’s dream, I find myself returning to the Saxon Tales.

Next up for me, somewhere down the road… The Burning Land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Covey and Jay Jay Get Educated: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Promo

COVEY AND JAYJAY
GET EDUCATED
Audio Book Tour
By Shelton L. Williams
Narrated by Kathy James
Covey Jencks Mysteries, Book 2
Genre: Murder Mystery / Social Thriller / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: Audible
Length: 5 hours, 40 minutes
Publication Date: March 18, 2020

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Amateur detectives Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls are drawn into a triple murder on the campus of Baker College in West Waverly in the Texas Hill Country. Both end up taking positions at the college: Covey as an adjunct instructor and JayJay as a visiting actor. 

 

Initially they believe that money is the motive for the murders, but over time they learn that the college is a cauldron of political and social intrigue. The college’s new president and his beautiful wife, various staff members, a prominent trustee, and parties not associated with the college have the motives, opportunities, and wacky agendas that might implicate them in the murders. It turns out that a white nationalist group may be using a college house for its nefarious activities, but are they more talk than action? 
 
The West Waverly police are little to no help in the investigation, and Covey himself has to depart the college to deal with his father’s death. JayJay takes over and makes a critical breakthrough. Upon Covey’s return, the couple must rely on deception, a bit of luck, and martial arts skills to solve the crimes and to try to prevent a high-profile assassination.

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he taught for nearly forty years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on four occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

 

Kathy James. My first part time job while I was in high school was announcing at the local radio station, and I had fun being “on the air” and using my sarcastic sense of humor.  I worked in the radio business for more than twenty years. My favorite pastimes are teaching figure skating, getting lost in a great book, and watching movies.  I narrate and produce audio books in my home studio, and I truly enjoy bringing an author’s characters to life with an audio book. I currently reside in Minnesota with my slightly overweight cat and two childlike golden retrievers.  


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First Herd to Abilene: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review & Giveaway

FIRST HERD TO ABILENE

An H. H. Lomax Western, #5
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Fiction / Western / Humor
Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
Date of Publication: February 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 449

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HISTORICALLY SOUND AND HILARIOUSLY FUNNY! H.H. Lomax meets Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield, Missouri, and is responsible for Hickok’s legendary gunfight with Davis Tutt. Fearing Hickok will hold a grudge, Lomax escapes Springfield and agrees to promote Joseph G. McCoy’s dream of building Abilene, Kansas, into a cattle town, ultimately leading the first herd to Abilene from Texas.

Along the way, he encounters Indians, rabid skunks, flash floods, a stampede, and the animosities of some fellow cowboys trying to steal profits from the drive. Lomax is saved by the timely arrival of now U.S. Marshal Hickok, but Lomax uses counterfeit wanted posters to convince Hickok his assailants are wanted felons with rewards on their heads.

Lomax and Wild Bill go their separate ways until they run into each other a decade later in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where Hickok vows to kill Lomax for getting him fired.

First Herd to Abilene is an entertaining mix of historical and hysterical fiction.

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Review

Four Stars

First Herd to Abilene is the fifth book in this series featuring the hilarious exploits of H.H. (Henry Harrison) Lomax, one of the most colorful characters to ever grace the pages of a western novel. If you’ve never read any of the previous entries into the outrageous circumstances and succession of adventures that puts H.H. at the confluence of every major event to ever be recorded about the Old West, don’t worry. Author Preston Lewis revisits those earlier escapades in Chapter One, while at the same time laying the groundwork for what is yet to come.

Lewis contends that he came across Lomax’s memoirs while conducting research at Texas Tech University, and though he “can’t vouch for their veracity,” these tales of encounters with the likes of Billy the Kid, Jessie James, Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, and George Armstrong Custer (to name just a few) are told with such insightful historical detail as well as wit and humor that readers will find themselves totally engaged. “While some may question his credentials as a credible chronicler of the occurrences Lomax claims to have witnessed, no one can doubt his abilities as a humorous story-teller of the first rank.”

First Herd to Abilene takes Henry Harrison Lomax from the end of the Civil War to three years past the turn of the century and, as in the earlier volumes, allows Lomax to weave another yarn about his encounters with some of the most memorable characters in the history of the Old West, folks such as James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jessie Chisolm and Joseph G. McCoy.”

It begins with Lomax grousing about his disdain for all Texans, “a breed whose stupidity, greed, and depravity was exceeded only by that of politicians and lawyers.” His bitterness is really the result of a later tragedy, but at the outset of the book he begrudges Texans for making a fortune in the cattle industry while he “received nary a cent for all the hard work I put in and all risks I took to chart the course to Kansas.” Additionally,  Lomax feels slighted by Joseph G. McCoy, the entrepreneur who had the vision of transporting cattle by rail to Easterners starving for beef, but fails to give Lomax recognition and historical credit for being the first to blaze a trail from Texas to the stockyards and railheads in Abilene. That credit went to Jessie Chisolm, “an old coot who never traversed the route from Kansas to South Texas and back.”

It’s this bitterness that sets the tone for probably the most serious storyline of all the books in the series, with much of its 449 pages describing what it was like to be a part of the great cattle drives that defined this era in history. The arduous challenge of herding longhorn cattle over 700 miles from Texas to Kansas required months of backbreaking monotonous work that pitted cattlemen against the elements, disease, wild animals, hostile terrain, Indian attacks, and rustlers. It meant months of breathing in trail dust as well as the foul odors of the livestock, going without much sleep, eating the same food day-in day-out, no gambling or drinking, and very little human contact except between fellow trail riders… all of which grated on nerves and frequently resulted in the deaths of both man and beast. Preston Lewis certainly intersperses Lomax’s typical humor into this portrayal of a cowhand’s life, but he does so in a manner that doesn’t negate or gloss over the difficulties faced along the way.

Besides Lomax and the iconic historical figures mentioned above, Lewis creates a cast of characters that brings these hardships to life. Madlyn Dillon, an artist who has been spoiled and pampered her entire life, but the first Texan, male or female, to take an interest in Lomax and Joseph G. McCoy’s vision. Colonel Saul Dillon, her father. The Texas cattleman puts his trust in Lomax to get his cattle to Kansas and save his ranch. Ruth, orphaned by the Comanche but taken in and employed by Colonel Dillon. She falls in love with Lomax in an ill-fated relationship. Sainty Spencer, the ranch foreman who is sweet on Madlyn, and as trail boss is trusted to bring back the cash from the sale of the cattle in Abilene. Charlie Bitters, the cook, second in importance only to the trail boss, but whose cooking for the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War is said to have led to its defeat. Jose Munoz and Pedro Ramirez, Mexican hands that will tend to the remuda during the trail drive. Martin Michaels, a sketch artist on the side and the first cowhand hired, and Tom Errun, an Englishman with no experience pared up with Michaels to lead the herd. Silas Banty, a former slave, who looks to the future with optimism and learns to read from Lomax. Toad Beeline, little understood by his fellow trailhands because he tends to mumble when he speaks. He and Silas are assigned to ride flank. Trent Parsons, a former Confederate soldier wounded at Shiloh who spends his spare time with the Good Book, and Jurdon Mark, an affable sort who excels at the game of marbles, will ride swing. Lastly, Harry Dire, a skilled roper but a malcontent, Chuck Muscher, a Yankee troublemaker, and Bartholomew Henry O’Henry, another former slave angry about his past with a mean streak in him, will all be assigned to ride drag which only adds to their alienation and seditious attitudes. Their actions bode ill for the success of the cattle drive.

Bookending this description of the cattle drive and the fate of these characters is the story of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane told as only H.H. Lomax can, again putting himself right smack dab in the middle of the action over a span of years that begins in Springfield, Missouri and ends on that fateful day in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. But what does a “Rattle Jar,” head lice, an illicit game of poker at the library,  a stolen gold Waltham watch, cherry pie, an impromptu lynching, counterfeit wanted posters, and the “romance” between Wild Bill and Miss Martha Jane Canary and their final resting place  have to do with that narrative? For those insights, you really do need to read the book. In fact, once you do, I highly recommend that you go back and read the entire series. You won’t be disappointed!

Finally, to give a complete review of First Herd to Abilene, I need to mention errors in editing that I had not encountered in Lewis’ previous books. I seldom comment on SPAGs, but readers will undoubtedly come across them in the course of reading the novel. Preston Lewis is a great storyteller and a deserving winner of the Spur Award for western literature, but this book would have benefitted from a final edit before publication.

That said, as someone who once wrote that the “western genre no longer holds the public’s attention as it once did in cinema and published media,” I can definitely say that Preston Lewis’ books are the exception, helping keep western literature alive, vibrant, relevant and entertaining.

I received a free copy of First Herd to Abilene in exchange for my honest review.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

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The Lords of the North: My Review

Lords of the North Book CoverThe Lords of the North is book three of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales, continuing the story of Uhtred Ragnarson and the founding of a United Britain under Alfred the Great. For the background on the first two entries in the series see my previous reviews for The Last Kingdom (Dec 7, 2018) and The Pale Horseman (Jul 5, 2019.)

The year is 878 A.D., and Alfred has just defeated the Viking Guthrum at the Battle of Ethandun with Uhtred’s assistance, thus allowing him to consolidate power in the Kingdom of Wessex. However, Alfred is a sickly king and has yet to strengthen sufficiently to take on the Danes in the northeastern half of England where three lords, all sworn enemies of Uhtred, rule:

In Northumbria there is Ivarr Ivarson, whose brother Ubba was slain at the hand of Uhtred. In the Valley of the River Wiire there is Kjartan the Cruel and his son Sven the One-Eyed. Kjartan is responsible for the murder of Uhtred’s adopted father Ragnar, and has imprisoned his stepsister Thyra in the formidable fortress at Dunholm and given her over to Sven to sexually abuse. And at Bebbanburg, Uhtred’s birthright, his uncle AElfric has usurped his heritage and seeks Uhtred’s death to ensure that he can hold onto his  lands and title.

Released from his pledge to Alfred, Uhtred sets out to confront his enemies and reclaim his heritage setting in motion a series of adventures that include betrayal, slavery, political intrigue, and monumental battles… all of which make for a thrilling and entertaining read. Bernard Cornwell is at his best in this third installment, writing vivid descriptions of life and death in ninth century England and the collision of two worlds and cultures – Saxon Christianity against Pagan beliefs and mythology.

This confrontation occurs not just on the battlefield. The internal struggle for men’s souls is a continuing theme in all the books, juxtaposing faith in God the Father and his only begotten Son Jesus and the concepts of sin and redemption, heaven and hell with the belief in multiple Norse gods, Valhalla, mythical beings and superstition. One the one hand there is Alfred the Great, a devout Christian and the pious ruler of what will become Great Britain, and on the other Uhtred, a Viking warrior who totally believes in fate and destiny.  Their ongoing relationship and need for one another will play out as Bernard Cornwell continues his history of England in his next entry in the series, Sword Song.

Lest anyone think otherwise, however, each of these books can be read by itself as a stand-alone fantasy adventure that mixes sword and sorcery with accurate depictions of this historical period. The continuity lies in Uhtred.  The point of view is his and the first person narrative is that of an old man looking back on his life, retelling his tale with both humor and heartbreaking honesty. The dialogue can be crude, the descriptions of battle graphic, but the story is one that draws you in… you actually care about the characters, particularly Uhtred, and you want to know what happens next.

It is also a tale which  immerses readers in Norse mythology where the three spinners weave tapestries of everyone’s life before they are even born, predetermining their destiny and even the timing and place of their death. “It is the three spinners who make our lives. They sit at the foot of Yggdrasil [the tree of life] and there they have their jests… because fate cannot be cheated, it governs us, and we are all its slaves.”

Uhtred’s fate is tied to the conquest and unification of England, while mine is linked to finishing this engrossing, educational, and highly satisfying saga by Bernard Cornwell.

 

 

Killing Patton – The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General: My Review

Killing Patton Book CoverHaving recently reviewed Killing the SS (see my post dated August 23, 2019) I was asked by a friend whether I had read Killing Patton, another entry in the series by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. I had not, so I was given his copy to read.

From the title you might think that the book focuses solely on Patton’s death in December 1945. It does not. In fact, only the last few chapters are devoted to the “accident” that initially left him paralyzed and took his life less than two weeks later. There’s a definite reason for this which I’ll address in a moment.

Most of the book is an account of the waning days of World War II. The Nazis are defeated but the Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler, clings to the delusion that he can somehow turn the tide of war and yet claim victory. He mounts an all out counterattack in the Ardennes Forest that is so unexpected that it nearly succeeds before the Wehrmacht and the SS Panzer Divisions simply run out of petrol and can advance no further.

The Battle of the Bulge, as it is known to history, sets the stage for General George Patton’s Third Army to rush to the relief of the 101st Airborne Division trapped in the town of Bastogne, Belgium. It will be his greatest moment in a career of amazing accomplishments.

Forever the warrior, Patton doesn’t believe that World War II is the war to end all wars. He sees the Soviet Union as the next big threat even as the Soviet Army is given the honor of taking Berlin. He is outspoken in his characterization of Soviet forces as Mongol hordes, and the ruthless slaughter and rape that occurs as they liberate previously held German territories is proof of Stalin’s brutal push for Soviet hegemony in postwar Europe.

Patton’s outspokenness has got him in trouble before. A casual remark to women at the opening of a “Welcome Club” for American soldiers in Knutsford, England causes an uproar when Patton slights the Soviets by telling the gathering that the Americans and British will rule a postwar world. The well-intentioned words make headlines around the world and he becomes a political liability. “His hopes of assuming a major postwar command in a world divided between the United States and the Soviet Union had all but vanished.”

“Old Blood & Guts” also has no tolerance for cowardice. While visiting with soldiers that have been wounded in battle he encounters two men suffering from what we refer to today as PTSD. There’s no such diagnosis at the time and when he sees no visible wounds, he not only berates the soldiers in question but orders them back to the front, and on two separate occasions strikes the afflicted servicemen. In the latter instance, he even pulls out his pistol and threatens to shoot the individual on the spot. Such actions almost lead to his relief from command and reduction in rank, but his skills as a battlefield commander are yet sorely needed. Patton is forced to issue a public apology and his standing and influence in a postwar world are further marginalized.

All of these accounts are well known, covered by the press and captured on celluloid in the 1970 Academy Award winning film “Patton” starring George C. Scott. Where O’Reilly and Dugard really standout, however, is in little known background information and insights involving world leaders such as Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt and Truman, and both the Allied and German military commanders; Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, Zhukov, Rommel, Peiper and their personalities, ambitions, strategies and tactics that determined victory or defeat. No other historical writers offer these kind of anecdotes and details about World War II.

Ironically and through no fault of their own, these are exactly the type of details lacking in the story of Patton’s death. The official accident report no longer exists. The driver of the 2.5 ton vehicle that struck Patton’s jeep, Tech Sergeant Robert L. Thompson, was never investigated for driving a stolen vehicle or operating it under the influence and simply vanishes from the historical record. The only report is that of PFC Horace Woodring, Patton’s driver, who claims he never made or signed any such report.

Even more interesting is the initial diagnosis that, in spite of his paralysis, Patton will recover from his injuries and regain some mobility. Two weeks later he is dead and no autopsy to determine the cause of death is ever performed. And, still more damning is a confession on September 25,1979 by OSS operative Douglas Bazata that he was part of a hit team that assassinated the general. Bazata claims to have fired a projectile into Patton’s neck that snapped it, but when he didn’t immediately die, Soviet NKVD intelligence operatives poisoned him while he was recovering at the U.S. Army 130th Station Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.

In the Afterword to their book, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard call for a re-examination of the case in the belief that technological advances might resolve the mystery. Regardless of whether the many unanswered questions are ever resolved, this is another fascinating entry into the Killing series.

 

 

 

The Gryphon Heist: Lone Star Book Blog Tour and Review

THE GRYPHON HEIST
(Talia Inger, Book One)
by
JAMES R. HANNIBAL
  
Genre: Contemporary Christian / Thriller / Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: September 3, 2019
Number of Pages: 400

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Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe–a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored–and who’s after them.

With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where criminal minds and unlikely strategies compete for access to the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault that hovers in the mesosphere. But is Tyler actually helping her? Or is he using her for his own dark purposes?

PRAISE FOR THE GRYPHON HEIST
“A movie-worthy tale of espionage and intrigue. Hannibal has done it again.”–Steven James, national bestselling author of Every Wicked Man


“James Hannibal has crafted a story slam full of mystery, danger, twists, and turns. I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough–or bother to stop to breathe. You don’t want to miss this one!”–Lynette Eason, bestselling, award-winning author of the Blue Justice series

The Gryphon Heist plunges readers into a world where no one can be trusted, nothing is as it seems, and choosing the wrong side could be catastrophic.”–Lynn H. Blackburn, award-winning and bestselling author of the Dive Team Investigations series

“Leap on board The Gryphon Heist and ride the whirlwind of suspense. Don’t let go!”–DiAnn Mills, bestselling author of Burden of Proof

5128f-review

Five-Stars

“WE’RE TALKING THE MOTHER of all heists.”

James R. Hannibal welcomes readers to the world of espionage in Book One of the Talia Inger series, The Gryphon Heist, where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted.

Talia has just failed a practical exercise to test whether she should become a CIA case officer, yet in spite of this she isn’t dismissed from the Agency but placed in an obscure Eastern European department known only as “Other,” and given what appears to be a routine, boring assignment. It is far more than that involving the theft of revolutionary defense technology and a race against time to stop an attack on Washington, D.C. Did her handlers deliberately mislead her? Is this somehow a con within a con? Hannibal drives the action and excitement with interesting characters, edge of your seat as well as humorous situations, and a plot that will keep the reader guessing right along with Talia.

Two men vie for Talia’s loyalty. Adam Tyler is a former CIA operative with a secret past tied to the death of Talia’s father in an automobile accident. Pavel Ivanov is the dashing director of Avantec, a Moldovan Aerospace Corporation. Either may be the infamous Lukon, a former MI-6 assassin now in business for himself in the regional arms trade and known for pulling off high-level heists. Who should Talia trust? If she makes the wrong assessment it could cost her her life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians living in the nation’s capital.

Reminiscent of Mission Impossible, a team of specialists is put together to go after the Gryphon, a mesospheric airship with an impregnable vault where the stolen data is stored. Eddie Gupta is a technology whiz capable of hacking into any platform. Michael Finn is an Australian high-flying cat burglar internationally famous for his daredevil stunts. Valkyrie is a grifter with connections to the Italian Mafia and a gift for reading people. Macauley Plucket is a former RAF pilot and EU astronaut candidate able to drive or fly any kind of vehicle or airframe; he’s also a Scottish brute whose loyalty can be bought if the price is right. And, Darcy Emile is a French demolitions expert who prides herself in the art of precise explosions.

There are plot twists and surprises galore as this odd assortment of con artists, thieves, hackers, current and former CIA operatives bond as a team and jet set across Europe to find real answers to the identity of Lukon and stop him from carrying out his plans.

James R. Hannibal transcends the typical spy novel writing not only a fast-paced, exciting and entertaining story, but one that looks into deeper underlying questions of faith and redemption, “the greater good,” and the moral ambiguities of covert operations.

“Sometimes the moral ambiguities of covert work are hard. We do the job with the legal blessing of one government, acting against the laws of another…. Don’t focus on the greater good. Focus on a higher power — the higher power [God]. That’s how we put what we do to a moral test.”

Hannibal’s book ends with a sneak peek into the continuing story. Chasing the White Lion is due out in the spring of 2020. If it’s anything like Book One, it will have readers anxiously awaiting its release!

Former stealth pilot James R. Hannibal is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. James is a rare multi-sense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells and hears flashes of light. He lives in Houston, Texas.

 Website ⬥ Facebook
Twitter  ⬥ Instagram
Goodreads ⬥ Amazon Author Page 

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+ Gryphon Ornament + Clip Bookmarks + $10 Starbucks Gift Card; 
SECOND PRIZE: Copy of The Gryphon Heist + $25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card;
THIRD PRIZE: Copy of The Gryphon Heist  + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
September 26-October 6, 2019
VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

9/26/19
Notable Quotable
9/26/19
BONUS Post
9/27/19
Review
9/28/19
Author Interview
9/29/19
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Excerpt
10/1/19
Review
10/2/19
Top Ten List
10/3/19
Author Interview
10/4/19
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COMING MARCH, 2020!

 

The Pale Horseman: My Review

The Pale Horseman Book CoverThe Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell continues the story of Uhtred Ragnarson. He first appeared in Book One of the Saxon Tales, The Last Kingdom (see my previous blog post dated Dec 7, 2018.)

The story picks up ten years later. The year is 877 A.D. and the Saxons have ruled the lands that one day will become Britain since the fifth century, but now the kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, and East Anglia have all fallen to the Danes. Only the kingdom of Wessex, under the rule of King Alfred (later known to history as Alfred the Great), continues to hold out against the Danish onslaught. However, Alfred is a sickly ruler who has been forced into hiding in the swamps after his defeat at the Battle of Cippinham. Surrounded on all sides, his only hope of beating back the Vikings now rests with Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

Uhtred is only twenty years old with torn allegiances. He was born Saxon but raised by the Viking Ragnar. That upbringing has left him a pagan at heart. He worships the old gods and has contempt for both Alfred and Christianity; both are weak in his estimation. However, to reclaim his birthright and repossess his lands in Northumbria he must pledge his allegiance and his sword to Alfred and the Saxon cause.

Much of the book looks at the relationship between Alfred and Uhtred. Alfred is devout in his faith and abhors Uhtred’s pagan beliefs… his worship of Odin and Thor and his love of the Viking warrior lifestyle. Uhtred disdains weakness and cannot fathom a religion that preaches love of your enemies, a god that would willingly die on the cross, priests that would martyr themselves to spread his message, or a king determined to protect the faith. Yet, both men see something in the other and forge an alliance. The dynamics of that union play out in their efforts to defeat the Viking Guthrum.

The Pale Horseman doesn’t spare the reader from Britain’s violent past. Bernard Cornwell’s descriptions of battle are graphic yet necessary in capturing the reality of the times. He is a gifted writer of historical fiction and this second entry into the series takes us up to the Battle of Ethandum in 878 where Alfred met and defeated Guthrum’s Danes in spite of overwhelming odds.

The title of the book comes from The Book of Revelation 6:7-8.

I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat upon it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. 

It is an apt metaphor for the Viking raids that threatened Britain in the ninth century.

 

A King’s Ransom: My Review

A King's Ransom Book CoverA King’s Ransom, the final entry into Sharon Kay Penman’s Plantagenet series, is another masterpiece from a gifted writer. Meticulously researched, with an unparalleled grasp of the political complexities of medieval kingship, it goes beyond the exploits of the fearless crusader Richard the Lionheart to capture insights into the man behind the legend.

The novel picks up where the companion book Lionheart leaves off. Richard, betrayed by his brother John, his kingdom threatened by the French king Philippe, must abandon the Third Crusade in the Holy Land and return home to defend the Angevin dynasty. However, his adversaries have conspired against him accusing him of murder and conspiring with the great Muslim ruler Saladin, and he must first circumvent those bent on his capture and imprisonment.

History tells us that Richard was captured outside of Vienna on his way back to England, and the first half of A King’s Ransom is a comprehensive account of his capture by Leopold of Austria, his imprisonment by the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich, the negotiations by his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, to secure his release and keep him from falling into the hands of his arch enemy, Philippe, and his brilliant speech and defense before the Imperial Diet at Speyer.

It is during this prolonged captivity and negotiations that we see the human side of Richard. Fearless in battle, reckless with his own personal safety, he suffers physically from fevers, is haunted by his failure to recapture Jerusalem, has recurring nightmares resulting from the harsh treatment he experiences while held at Trifels, is tormented by Heinrich who threatens to turn him over to the French king, and ultimately is humiliated by having to pay homage to the Holy Roman Emperor as a condition of his release.

Finally obtaining his freedom, Richard will spend the next five years warring with Philippe, and Penman dedicates the second half of the book to these military campaigns. It is a compelling and comprehensive account of his efforts to regain the territory he lost while in captivity which ends with his death at Chalus.

Readers may be daunted by the sheer scope of Penman’s work (without the Afterword, Author’s Note, and Acknowledgements the book is 657 pages in length.) However, the novel never flags and there is no better account of this fascinating individual or period in history.

I highly recommend reading all five books in the series, though each one can be read by itself. However, to fully appreciate the many historical characters that populate the books and to really grasp the essence of Richard, both his magnanimity and ruthlessness, I would at least encourage readers to read Lionheart and A King’s Ransom. Your time will have been well spent!

 

Live Wire: Promo and Series Spotlight

LIVE WIRE
(Maggie, Book One)
A What Doesn’t Kill You
World Romantic Mystery

by
PAMELA FAGAN HUTCHINS
  Genre: Romantic Mystery
Date of Publication: March 6, 2019
Number of Pages: 270
 
Scroll down for giveaway!
A hook-up turned lethal. A spurned, angry cowboy. Can rebel Maggie turn the tables before a killer adds her to the list of lost causes?

Washed-up alt-country rocker-turned-junker Maggie Killian is pulled to Wyoming by an irresistible force . . . former bull rider Hank Sibley, the man who broke her heart fifteen years before. When she unexpectedly meets his Sunday school-teaching girlfriend at a saloon, Maggie seeks liquor-fueled oblivion between the sheets of a younger man’s bed. But after her beloved vintage truck breaks down and leaves her stranded in the Cowboy State, she learns her hook-up died minutes after leaving their rendezvous. Suddenly surrounded by men with questionable motives, Maggie searches for the murderer while fighting the electricity between herself and her old beau, and her new penchant for local whiskey.

When the police zero in on Maggie despite a disturbing series of break-ins at her guest cabin, she realizes she’s got no one to rely on but herself. To keep herself happily in bars instead of behind them, she must stop the killer before the cops realize the man she really suspects is a jealous, angry Hank.

Live Wire is the first standalone book in a trilogy featuring sharp-tongued protagonist Maggie Killian from the addictive What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series. If you like nerve-racking suspense, electric characters and relationships, and juicy plot twists, then you’ll love USA Today best seller Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ Silver Falchion award-winning series.

“Maggie is irresistible.” 
Robert Dugoni, #1 Amazon bestselling
author of My Sister’s Grave
 
CLICK TO PURCHASE
Series Spotlight Banner
Series Spotlight

What Doesn’t Kill You world features romantic mystery protagonists whose lives are interconnected in a bunch of ways. They’re smart, kickass women who solve whatever problems—including a few dead bodies—life throws at them as they navigate their unique journeys of friendships, romance, career, families, and more. My novels are mostly PG-13, and you’ll find a thread of everyday magic running through them. People say they’re funny. They’re probably full of it.

You meet all of the WDKY protagonists in Act One—which you can only get by subscribing to my newsletter. You don’t get a deep dive into their lives and characters there, but you totally do in their novels, and Saving Grace is a great example of that with Katie.

People often want to know if they have to be read in order….

No. Yes. Maybe. Do what you want J But it’s an experience enhancer. I jump around by protagonist, and I sometimes jump around in the timeline, too. Intentionally. So feel free to read freestyle. However, it does enhance the experience to read “in order.”

Buckle Bunny (Maggie Prequel Novella)

Shock Jock (Maggie Prequel Short Story)

Act One (Prequel, Ensemble Novella)

Saving Grace (Katie #1)

Leaving Annalise (Katie #2)

Finding Harmony (Katie #3)

Going for Kona (Michele #1)

Heaven to Betsy (Emily #1)

Earth to Emily (Emily #2)

Hell to Pay (Emily #3)

Fighting for Anna (Michele #2)

Bombshell (Ava #1)

Stunner (Ava #2)

Knockout (Ava #3)

Searching for Dime Box (Michele #3)

Live Wire (Maggie #1)

Sick Puppy (Maggie #2)

Dead Pile (Maggie #3)

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is a USA Today best seller. She writes award-winning romantic mysteries from deep in the heart of Nowheresville, Texas and way up in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming. She is passionate about long hikes with her hunky husband and pack of rescue dogs and riding her gigantic horses.
 
If you’d like Pamela to speak to your book club, women’s club, class, or writers’ group, by Skype or in person, shoot her an e-mail. She’s very likely to say yes. Connect with Pamela on the web.
 

WEBSITEFACEBOOKTWITTERBOOKBUB
INSTAGRAMGOODREADSAMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Praise for Pamela Fagan Hutchins

 

2018 USA Today Best Seller

2017 WINNER Silver Falchion Award, Best Mystery

2016 WINNER USA Best Book Award, Cross Genre Fiction
2015 WINNER USA Best Book Award, Cross Genre Fiction
2014 USA Best Book Award Finalist, Cross Genre Fiction
2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-finalist, Romance
2013 USA Best Book Award Finalist, Business: Publishing
2012 Winner of the Houston Writers Guild Ghost Story Contest
2012 WINNER USA Best Book Award, Parenting: Divorce
2011 Winner of the Houston Writers Guild Novel Contest, Mainstream
2010 Winner of the Writers League of Texas Manuscript Contest, Romance
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FIRST PRIZE
Signed paperback of Live Wire + eBook of Buckle Bunny + $5 Amazon Gift Card
SECOND PRIZE
Signed paperback of Live Wire + eBook of Buckle Bunny 
THIRD PRIZE
Signed paperback of Live Wire
PLUS, ALL WINNERS
Audio downloads of Fighting for Anna and Searching for Dime Box
March 6-16, 2019
(International)

 

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