Full Name: Marylin Z Tomlins
Title: Die in Paris: the true story of France’s most notorious serial killer
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Serial Killer/War/France
Review by guest reviewer Susan Keefe
Full Name: Marylin Z Tomlins
Title: Die in Paris: the true story of France’s most notorious serial killer
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Serial Killer/War/France
Review by guest reviewer Susan Keefe
Review by Susan Keefe
A native of Gainesville, Florida, author Nick West attended the University of Florida where he became interested in writing. He is a veteran of the United States Navy, and together with his family, have owned and operated a landscape business in the area for over twenty years. He and his wife Kay and their children, Tammy, John and Christy, along with their families all live on the farm where he grew up near Archer. He is the author of The Great Southern Circus and The Long Road Home.
The Great Southern Circus, his first book, is a collection of circus stories told to him by his grandmother as they were told to her by her grandmother, Miranda Madderra, who performed with this horse drawn caravan just prior to the Civil War. His second book, The Long Road Home, follows the main characters from The Great Southern Circus as they traverse the difficult and painful years of the American Civil War.
Visit the author and learn more about his work at http://thelongroadsouth.com.
Thanks for this interview. Tell us a little about what got you into writing?
I believe that all writers are avid readers. As such I have tremendous respect for those who are talented enough to draw their readers into a caring relationship with the characters in their books. I have found that after reading a good book, I often recall the experiences of the characters as I would good friends or family members. That is my goal as a writer. I have attempted to relate these stories in a way that future generations of my own family could relate to them as the real people that they were. My effort is to bring these wonderful people to life in my books so that even readers outside of my own family would feel as connected to them as I do.
What was your inspiration for The Long Road Home?
When The Great Southern Circus became available nationally on Amazon, I was contacted by a large number of readers who had become invested in the characters of that book. As that book ended, half the characters rushed to join the Union Army and the other half joined the Southern cause. Readers wanted to know what had become of these folks during the Civil War. This book answers those questions.
So the novel is part biographical, part fictional?
Biographical in the sense that these were real people who actually lived the events about which I have written, and fictional in the sense that I can only imagine most of their actual conversations based upon recollections as handed down through oral history for several generations.
For those readers who haven’t read your first book yet, is there something about the plot or characters they need to know in advance before reading The Long Road Home or is it a stand alone novel?
I have had readers who read The Long Road Home first, but invariably went back to read the Great Southern Circus to better understand the relationships. I would encourage folks to read the books in the order they were written to become more involved with all of these wonderful people.
How long did it take you to write the book and did you plot in advance?
The Great Southern Circus was a work in progress for years. I remembered the stories as they were told by my Grandmother and was determined to put them down in written form for future generations of my own family. The advent of the internet made it possible to not only verify that the events chronicled in the book actually took place, but also to connect me with other descendants of the same tour to compare notes and flesh out the other characters. This book took about a year to actually write and told the story of a two year circus tour that ended when the Civil War broke out. The Long Road Home picked up the adventures of the same characters as they struggled to survive the terrible years of the war. This book also took about one year to research and write.
I understand you did a lot of research for this novel. What was the process like and what surprised you most about this dark time of American history?
The American Civil War is probably the most researched period of American History. No matter how small a skirmish or political event, someone has researched and written about it. I read countless articles, books and research papers as they related to the experiences of my ancestors during this dark period. I found many surprises (at least to me) along the way. For instance, at the beginning of the War, Lincoln was more concerned with the preservation of the Union than he was about slavery which I was always taught was the major reason for the conflict. I also learned that racial prejudice in the North did not allow black men to even join the Union Army until late in the war. I had forgotten that our Nation was less than one hundred years old at the time and that many of the States believed that the Union was voluntary and that they could simply “opt out” if they believed that the Federal government was causing them more problems than it was helping their individual cause. I also learned to respect even more the character displayed by, and heartaches endured by President Lincoln during this time.
What themes do you explore in your novel?
Romance, friendship, adventure, hardships in a historical context. This is an attempt to put into perspective the individual stories of each of these men and women as they were swept along by events beyond their control. These characters first met each other and became close friends during the hardships of a circus tour that lasted two years before the outbreak of the War. One man was the northern son of the circus owner and performer, one young black man who joined to circus to search for his sister who was still held as a slave somewhere in the South, one young Alabama girl (my 3x Great Grandmother) who was a bare back rider and a young man from Alabama who joined the circus just to be near her. This is primarily their story.
What has been the reaction from your friends and family so far?
Friends and family loved both books and I have been blessed by the fact that total strangers have discovered my books. From the reviews on Amazon and other sites they seemed to have enjoyed them as well.
Are you planning any local book signings or other promotional events you’d like to announce?
I have periodic signing events that I advertise locally and through social networking. I am also happy to personalize and sign books that my office will mail to anyone who phones in a request to 1 (352)495-9858.
What’s on the horizon for you? Is there a third novel in the works?
I am now working on my third novel.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?
I am always happy to hear from readers who have enjoyed my books. They can find me on Facebook or E-Mail me at CountryGator@AOL.COM
Thanks again for the interview and best of luck with your books!
My interview originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine
About the author
John Knoerle began his creative endeavors in the early 70s as a member of the DeLuxe Radio Theatre, a comedy troupe in Santa Barbara. He then moved to LA and did stand-up comedy, opening for the likes of Jay Leno and Robin Williams.
Knoerle wrote the screenplay Quiet Fire, which starred Karen Black, and the stage play The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, an LA Time’s Critic’s Choice. He also worked as a staff writer for Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.
Knoerle moved to Chicago in 1996 with his wife Judie. His first novel, “Crystal Meth Cowboys,” was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, “The Violin Player,” won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction.
John Knoerle’s novel, A Pure Double Cross, was the first volume of a late 40s spy trilogy featuring former OSS agent Hal Schroeder. The second volume, A Despicable Profession, was published in 2010. Knoerle’s latest book, The Proxy Assassin, Book Three of the American Spy Trilogy, has just been released.
Visit his website at www.JohnKnoerle.com
About the book
October, 1948. Former OSS agent Hal Schroeder gets an invitation to WashingtonD.C. from Frank Wisner, who heads the CIAs new covert ops division. Hal is whisked off to Wisners Maryland shore retreat and introduced to a brace of Romanian royals, including the scarily beautiful Princess Stela Varadja, a direct descendant of Vlad Tepes Draculea.
Then Frank Wisner pops the question. Would Hal consider parachuting into a remote mountain camp to meet with the leader of a group of Romanian anti-Communist guerillas? Hal had already survived two previous suicide missions and a third did not appeal. But he told Frank Wisner he would need a few days to think it over and had some sightseeing to do. As it turns out, Hal gets to do a lot more sightseeing than he bargained for. Proxy Assassin is a journey that brings the American Spy Trilogy to a surprising, and emotional, conclusion.
Purchase links: http://JohnKnoerle.com
Would you call yourself a born writer?
My mother, at eighty-eight years old, still cranks out articles for The Almanac in Palo Alto, CA, as she has for decades, so I have some ink in my veins.
But I do believe that writers are made, not born. It’s plain hard work. Whoever said, “Writing is rewriting” had it right. The idea that the story, in all its intimate detail, will pour forth in a booze-and- nicotine-fuelled fury like Kerouac’s “On the Road” is pure fantasy.
In fact, Kerouac had taken reams of notes during his cross-country trek before he cranked out OTR in three weeks in April of 1951.
What was your inspiration for “The Proxy Assassin: Book Three of the American Spy Trilogy”?
Book Two concluded with Hal Schroeder pretty much single-handedly preventing World War III.
Tough to top that, so I decided to paint a deeper and richer portrait of American espionage in 1948, the beginning of the Cold War. But what was my hook?
Extended research uncovered a fascinating character. A Romanian Princess, a direct descendant of Vlad Tepes Draculea, who had an affair with the head of the American OSS station in Bucharest during WWII.
To this day I have seen only one photo of her, on a Paris train platform in the company, of all people, of Sigmund Freud! She looked like what you would expect a descendant of Vlad the Impaler to look: dark-eyed and scarily beautiful.
Princess Stela Varadja was my inspiration.
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
Duplicity in the service of country. Pretending to be someone you’re not. Lying, mendacity and prevarication. Who isn’t interested in that?
Also fame. Fame that is not sought but thrust upon you. How that can split a person in two.
How long did it take you to complete the novel?
It took me four years to complete this novel. And it took me ten years to complete The American Spy Trilogy. I am now sixty-three years old. Still feisty, still engaged, but let’s face it, this trilogy will be my legacy for better or worse.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
I hadn’t thought it all the way through, my Spy Trilogy. It just wasn’t possible to peer that far into the future. I faced the monumental task of trying to thread it all together.
Why had 19-year-old Hal Schroeder been plucked from obscurity to become a behind-German-lines OSS agent in WWII? Why did he keep pursuing his spy career despite his better judgment? Would he keep signing on to suicide missions, or finally tell the higher-ups to get stuffed?
What do you love most about being an author?
Beethoven, when asked what he liked most about music, replied that music could make people do things. Music could make people dance, march off to war, weep tears of joy or tears of sadness.
Or so the legend goes. The dirty little secret of creative types from low (me) to high (Ludwig), is that we are all control freaks. We enjoy making people do stuff. Whether dance, march or cry.
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
I have been self-published for many years after an unhappy experience with an ‘established’ publisher. It is the only way to go if you are interested in maintaining creative integrity.
Where can we find you on the web?
M.R. Dowsing lives in London, where he writes for the music magazines R2 and Bucketfull Of Brains, performs original songs under the name Hungry Dog Brand, and puts on a regular music night called Dogfishtrombone. He holds a BA in Studies In Contemporary Writing. By day he works as a bookseller.
The Assassination Of Adolf Hitler is his first novel. He quit his bookselling job in order to have time to research it properly and, luckily, managed to get his job back a year later before starvation set in. He hopes to be able to quit again soon in order to complete a sequel.
His first name is Martin.
Your book has a fascinating premise. How did you come up with the idea?
I don’t actually remember what triggered the idea, but I do remember that around five or six years ago something made me think that it was strange that no-one had used the idea of travelling back in time to kill Hitler as the basis for a novel. It seemed like an obvious winner to me, so I filed it away in my head and kept my mouth shut about it. Every now and again I would give it some thought and, at first, I began to feel that perhaps it was not so strange that it hadn’t been done, because it was quite a problematic concept; it could involve years of research to do it well, and there were so many different directions it could spin off into… Eventually, though, I felt that I was beginning to see a way in which it could be contained somewhat and, three or four years after I first had the idea, I finally talked myself into writing it.
I’ve very recently found out that Stephen Fry used a similar premise in Making History, a book that I was unaware of, but it seems like a completely different approach to mine, so I don’t think it’s a problem.
Time-travel and Hitler is an interesting combination. Does that make your novel a historical fantasy?
I suppose you could call it that. I think of it as a historical thriller which happens to use a science fiction device.
What type of research did you have to do for the novel?
Lots of research about Hitler and the beginnings of the Nazi party, in particular. Quite dark stuff, some of it, and it was a bit of a relief when the book was finished and I could read about other things. Also, quite a bit of general research on the periods in question. Some of the research was quite enjoyable, though – I enjoyed my visits to the British Library to look at old maps and such. I also visited quite a few of the locations used in the novel, which was both interesting and valuable. I had to keep thinking about what would have been there when the story was set and what wouldn’t. One trip was a bit rough though – the weather was brutal and I came down with the worst cold I’ve ever had so that I couldn’t even sleep at nights!
How long did it take you to write it?
Well, I should point out that I left my day job as a bookseller in order to write it. If I’d been working as well, it would have taken much, much longer – if it had have happened at all. I forced myself to write a thousand words a day and, after about three months, I had something like a first draft. I then spent another three months rewriting it over and over again and adding detail. After this, I still occasionally went back into it and changed a few things.
Did you plot the book in advance? If yes, how did you go about it?
I actually just had what might be called the “arc” of the story in my head, and then just worked it out as I went along. I think if I had have planned it all out in advance I would have ended up deviating considerably from the plan anyway. I think in some ways you have to follow the characters and discover what the story is yourself rather than writing characters to fit into a pre-conceived plan.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing the book?
Probably making the time travel aspect work. It gave me headaches and I’m still not satisfied with it! I read a book called How To Build A Time Machine by Paul Davies, which is about how a real time machine might work. I realised that I couldn’t possibly use any of it or I would get bogged down in scientific gobbledegook.
What is your favorite scene in the novel?
I’m not sure I have a favourite scene as such, but I think the section set in Munich is the best part. I have a favourite character, Steiner, who was created on the spur of the moment. I still feel like I want to find out more about him, so I’m hoping to feature him more prominently in a future book.
Tell us about your main character and what makes him compelling.
Michael Lear is a well-intentioned man who has suffered a personal tragedy in the loss of his parents. In some ways he’s very well suited to the task of going in back in time to kill Hitler but, in other ways, he’s completely the wrong kind of person. This means that during the course of the story he has to become a different person, and adapt to strange and unexpected situations very quickly.
I understand you also write for magazines. What is a typical writing day for you and how do you balance your two types of writing?
Well, I’m back working as a bookseller again now and I don’t have time to write every day. I have to steal hours when I can. Reviewing music for a magazine means that I receive a bunch of CDs through the post, often only a week or so before the deadline, and I’ve somehow got to get my head around all this stuff enough to write something intelligent about it. I think you have to listen to an album at least twice before you can do that – more would be better, but it’s not always possible. I’ve actually just spent most of my Saturday banging out reviews for R2 magazine. I’m not complaining though, as the standard of the music has been very high.
Is there a second novel in the works?
There’s a second novel in my head which I have made a few notes for, but it’s not really “in the works” yet.
Where can we find you on the web?
http://www.myspace.com/hungrydogbrand (for my music).
The book, which is eBook only at the moment, is available from Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony Reader Store and more.
New Orleans, 1847.
Having lost both her parents at an early age, Désirée Bordeaux lives with her grandfather, a man with a weakness for drink and gambling. When he suddenly dies, Désirée finds herself in a desperate situation as her beloved plantation Chêne Vue must be auctioned off.
Philippe Jaunet, a hateful man–also a heavy drinker and gambler–who used to know her grandfather, is intent on marrying her, getting the plantation for himself and use it to pay his own debts.
To add to her unhappiness, the man she thinks she loves and whom she believes promised her marriage when she was but a child of ten, has married another woman.
Enter handsome and wealthy Lance Van Buren, who immediately is mesmerized by Désirée’s stunning beauty and feisty, proud personality. At first, she despises him, even though he evokes in her the most sensual, unsettling feelings. Then, to her surprise, she discovers that he has won the auction and is the new owner of Chêne Vue. But nothing prepares her for the next shock: he proposes marriage.
Behind the Columns is an entertaining, fast-paced read. Passion and intrigue abound as the novel follows the lives of Désirée and Lance as they marry, move to New York for a while, and have their first child back in New Orleans. Philippe Jaunet remains a villain until the end, haunting Désirée and filling her nights with nightmares. In New York, she must face another villain in the shape of Inga, Lance’s sister in law. Love, passion, lies, jealousy–readers will find their share in this book,and then some.
Gaffrey does an excellent job in bringing the old South and the Creole society to life: the food, the fashion, the way of life, the values and beliefs, etc. There’s also a lot of interesting information about Creole history which I found fascinating. In short, if you love historical Southern romances a la Gone with the Wind, you’ll enjoy Behind the Columns.
Find on Amazon.
Visit the author’s website.
Posted in Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Historical, tagged Christian Fiction, christmas, forgiveness, historical fiction, inspirational, mother and daughter story, widow, World War II on October 4, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
In spite of the hardships of war, young Jo Bremley lives in considerable happiness with her husband and 7-year old daughter. Then one night, influenced by his best friend, Jo’s husband announces that he has decided to join the war. Before he gets a chance to, however, he’s the victim of a snowstorm accident. Now a young widow, Jo tries to make ends meet as best as she can by doing laundry for an establishment called O.M. Harrington.
During the year following her husband’s death, Jo runs into several difficulties which put her job in danger. Her husband’s best friend, whom she’s always blamed for her husband’s death, sets up a successful law practice; her daughter has a couple of unfortunate incidents with Big Ole, the owner of O.M. Harrington; and Jo doesn’t think she’ll be able to get her daughter the Christmas gift she deserves. Eventually, through a series of twists, the characters learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness, all in time to celebrate the holiday season.
Though Tracks in the Snow is a slow read, and got me a little frustrated at times, I ultimately enjoyed it. I appreciate the way the author took her time in developing her characters and the question of how she was going to put all the loose ends together at the end kept me reading. At times I found Jo too perfect and goodie-goodie, but in the end she wins me over. I especially like Big Ole and his gradual change from a grumpy old man to a caring person. He has a nice character arc. The story is a snapshot of a family in Minnesota during World War II. The author did a good job portraying this situation.
The ending of Tracks in the Snow is heartwarming, without being preachy. In sum, although the pace of the book is slow, the characterization and the writing are good. If you’re looking for a page-turner, this isn’t the book for you, but if you like to take your time when reading a story and getting to know the characters, and you appreciate realistic fiction, you’ll enjoy Tracks in the Snow.
Originally published in Blogcritics.
A World of His Own is an enjoyable historical novel set in New Orleans in the early 1800′s. The novel spans a few years and centers around the life of Andre Raphael de Javon, an ambitious and handsome Frenchman who comes to America in order to become one of the richest plantation owners in Louisiana.
The story begins when he’s just arrived by ship to New Orleans in the company of his friend Charles, who’s spent the last six years studying in Europe. Charles comes from a prestigious family in the city and he soon invites Andre to stay with them until he can find a place of his own.
From the beginning Andre shows great ambition. He wants to invest his money wisely and prosper, though he doesn’t know how at first. When he decides to become a plantation owner, his friend Charles introduces him to someone how can advise him–a generous, successful man by the name of Jean-Claude. At about this time, Andre meets Gabrielle, a gorgeous yet possessive and selfish young woman who’s set on marrying him at all costs. Like any normal man, Andre is deeply attracted to Gabrielle, even though he knows she’s not the right woman for him. In spite of this, he ends up marrying her, no doubt tempted by her handsome dowry which will help him achieve his dreams.
As Andre’s plantation grows and he gets wealthier, his marriage becomes increasingly turbulent and Gabrielle more and more unstable. Andre’s pain is deeped by the fact that he’s secretly fallen in love with Jean-Claude’s daughter, a young beauty who’s been infatuated with Andre since the tender age of eleven. Thus, we follow Andre’s ups and downs and his hellish marriage as he becomes the wealthy owner of a plantation.
I have a lot of good things to say about this book. The early 1800′s come to life under the author’s pen. There are many interesting, informative passages about the Creole culture, slave ownership, the running of a plantation, the food, clothes, etc. Though it took me a while to connect with Andre, once I did I really was hooked and wanted to know how the story ended, and whether or not he would at last find happiness. So the plot, though pretty much a love story, kept me turning pages until I finished the book. At times, though, the pace dragged a bit due to redundant phrases, unnecessary description and too much ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing.’ I also think the character of Gabrielle could have used more depth, as she comes across as the stereotype of an ‘evil beauty’ throughout much of the book.
But, as I said, the author made me care for Andre and his situation enough for me to want to keep reading and finish the book. It was an entertaining, interesting read.
Title: A World of His Own: In the Land of the Creoles
Author: Arlette Gaffrey
Publisher: Outskirts Press (November 16, 2006)
Pages: 400 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Written in first person from the point of view of Angry Wasp, the story begins in 1516, during the era of the Spanish Conquest in Mexico. Angry Wasp, military leader of Tlaxcala, wants to keep his nation safe and search for his lost daughter, Dew, whom he’d lost to one of the leaders of an enemy tribe, a man named Talon. Though Wasp has now captured Talon, the man won’t reveal the whereabouts of Dew. The war with this enemy tribe, the Moonwalk People, is now a personal matter, though Wasp doesn’t want to make this evident to his people.
One of Wasp’s wives, a sorcerer well-educated in the magic arts, teaches him to have out-of-body experiences – that is, to travel in soul and spirit while his body stays in the safety of his village. It is in this “tricky” state, which is hard to fully control, that Wasp makes a twin of himself and meets with Stern Lord, the most powerful man in the world and ruler of the Moonwalk People. Stern Lord is aware that Talon is being kept prisoner by Wasp and isn’t happy about it. Thus begins Wasp’s dance with death as he tries to stay alive and discover what happened to his daughter.
Magic, history, sorcery, mysticism, spirituality, fantasy, and magical realism combine to create an original, intriguing story that will capture your imagination. Briggs writes with attention to detail, making his world come alive. I enjoyed the dialogue and descriptions and especially seeing the world from Wasp’s perspective. My only problem with the story is that in the beginning the issue of finding the daughter seems important but later on it sorts of falls to second place. This didn’t stop me from reading but it did get my attention.
Since the book is self-published, I was also surprised by the quality of the writing: excellent and free of typos or grammatical mistakes. I really appreciate when a self-published book is so well copyedited. In addition, the story seems very well researched and I found interesting all the cultural information, especially the segments on sorcery and sacrifice rituals. Briggs has been researching the Aztec Empire for over 10 years and his knowledge comes through in the writing, without hitting the reader over the head or slowing down the pace with information dumps. In sum, this is a novel worth reading and I recommend it if you’re particularly interested in Aztec history and culture.
Full Name: Austin Briggs
Book Title: Five Dances with Death
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Self-published as ebook
Pages: 400 pages