Point of Return by Lloyd Tosoff is an action thriller set in Great Britain. The story centers on a struggling, naive accountant Ian MacLeod and his entanglement with a murder conspiracy concocted by the Glaswegian underworld. He doesn’t become involved by choice because it is his friends who choose to mess with the Glasgow mob and their violent ways. He left the city, but after becoming an accountant, being in a loveless marriage, and losing his job, he ends up going back. He meets an old friend and a stranger when he arrives, and the mystery and conflict begin to envelop him as he realizes he has to fight for his life or lose it.
This novel is part of a “double novel” series, but Point of Return stands on its own as a snappy thriller that follows Ian Fleming’s Bond series. The first chapter begins with MacLeod still in Glasgow and his decision to leave the city, and then we jump eleven years into the future to when the real action starts, and the story picks up from there.
In many ways, Tosoff follows the regular beats for the unsuspecting hero to be swept up into a conspiracy and for a thriller, this trope is not a particularly unusual one. The real grit of Tosoff is how he chooses to have MacLeod deal with his past and personal connection to Glasgow instead. A victim of abuse at the hands of a violent stepfather, his inner demons come through in small bits and shapes his character. The reader is gradually introduced to these pieces of MacLeod’s past, and for the reader, it helps invest more of themselves in the narrative and our precarious hero.
The atmosphere and pacing do wonders for this book, which is critical for a thriller and Tosoff manages all of these elements quite well. The few times that the novel does become predictable it’s uniquely colored by MacLeod’s past struggles and how he faces them. I hope that his past conflicts come to a better resolution in the sequel, Vanquished, which takes place immediately following this novel, because I can’t wait to see what happens.
This novel is a perfect fit for fans of crime and spy thrillers, and fans of Ian Fleming may find a welcome new home among Tosoff’s pages.
Pages: 560 | ASIN: 1505533090
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The Birthday Club, by Jack Petersen, follows the lives of four high school friends bound together by a shared birthday. Angelina, Chris, Kurt, and Billy form a bond during their sophomore year and remain a tight foursome, all but shunning the world around them for three years. When their tight-knit cluster is infiltrated by Fred during their junior year of high school, little things begin to set the stage for large-scale changes in the lives of all five young people. Upon graduation, the members of the Birthday Club go their separate ways only to find themselves forever bound by one of its member’s desperate choices.
Petersen could not have chosen a more misleading title for this touching thriller. Now that I have finished, I am not sure I remember many of my original predictions about the plot. I do know that I had envisioned a much more benign and almost juvenile story line. Nothing could be further from the truth. Petersen does an excellent job of setting the background for each of his characters and builds steadily and purposefully toward a surprising climax.
I am a fan of Harlan Coben and have been for many years. Jack Petersen’s, The Birthday Club, rivals the intricate plots woven by Coben and features characters for which the reader will root. Petersen, like Coben, keeps the reader guessing, feeding only the most minute hints of what is to come. This was truly a “couldn’t put it down” read for me.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Petersen’s writing style is his take on point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed the shifts in perspectives among his cast of characters. The author incorporates something not often seen in thrillers–the viewpoint of the antagonist. Readers are treated to a look inside the mind of Petersen’s villain and afforded the opportunity to make judgements from, literally, all sides. This 360° rotation between the main and supporting characters’ perspectives throughout the book is unique, refreshing, and appreciated.
Without giving away too much regarding the book’s conclusion, I will say that the ending was poignant and, in my opinion, leaves room for more books featuring Petersen’s Birthday Club cast. I can easily picture future plot lines growing from the closing scene. From beginning to end, the members of the club touched my heart and kept me guessing. (I wasn’t always right, and I loved that fact.)
Without hesitation, I am giving Jack Petersen’s, The Birthday Club, a solid 5 out of 5 stars. Angelina, Chris, Kurt, and Billy are a winning combination from the moment they meet and discover their September 14th connection to the book’s bitter end. I have not read a book so thoughtfully written and so carefully constructed to give each character a fair shot at telling his or her story. Petersen has set forth a group of personalities, who as a foursome, are a force with which to be reckoned. From Chris, the quiet one, to Angelina, the friend and object of each boy’s blooming love, Petersen has a home run on his hands. The Birthday Club is a mystery/thriller not to be missed.
Pages: 231 | ASIN: B01GDGJ7EE
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Because It Was Raining tells a story of Louis who is a complex man dealing with death, loss, and mourning while trying to find his place in the world. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Well, Louis is in many ways a reflection on myself and my own experiences. Initially, I wrote this story as a therapeutic exercise, but as I progressed I began to see an opportunity to help other people with similar experiences and emotions. I wanted to reach through the pages, hold the readers hand, and tell them that they aren’t alone. From the reviews and feedback that I have received, I believe that I have managed to do that. I feel very fortunate to have been given a five-star review from Literary Titan and to have the opportunity to share my own experiences with others. If I had not written this story I probably would not have published anything ever.
Because It Was Raining is a novel about grief and how we can be trapped within the constraints of our own minds. What experiences from your own life did you put into this novel?
I actually used a significant portion of my own life in the telling of this story. The story depicts a trip to Kansas City, then to another town. I actually did get in a car with two women and drove with them to KC, saw the depicted meth house, picked up a man, then headed back to a house in Aurora Mo. where I stayed for two weeks. I also described situations that were very real to me such as the death of a friend as well as my grandfather, whom I was very close to.
I enjoyed watching the character progression of Boobe who was a complex multilayered character. What was your inspiration for this character?
Believe it or not, Boobe is based on a woman whom we actually called Boobe. In reality, she was a recovering meth addict who fell on hard times and relapsed. I wanted to show her as she was through my eyes over the years that I had known her. I wanted to use her as a means of saying that even meth addicts are people who feel and need love and compassion. I loved Boobe, and I felt that she was an opportunity to humanize those people who we routinely depict as less than human.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Currently I have several projects in the works, but the main focus is on a story which I have tentatively entitled “Eden”. This story will be set in the future and will follow more of a science fiction theme. Writing “Because It Was Raining” was draining enough on my mind that I felt a somewhat more playful story was in order. “Eden” will hopefully show up sometime in the next year.
A young man, tormented by his past, descends into a world filled with drugs, sex, and violence in an attempt to find salvation and meaning in life, knowing full well that the cost of failure could be his very soul…
It is a story that touches on depression, addiction, grief, shame, and the power of hope. Truly a must-read for anyone.
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Panther Across the Stars is a stirring historical novel depicting the detailed life of a Shawnee Indian warrior who is fighting for his people’s freedom. What was the inspiration for this fantastic novel?
Bear with me, as the answer to this question has several layers. I know there are some among us who find history to be dry, boring, and just written text in schoolbooks; but to me it has always been so much more. History is fascinating when you understand it is made up of living and breathing people who are just as flawed as we are. And for but one step this way or that, all the many things that come after can be altered for good or ill for all of time. I think there is also a smugness in that us here today kind of take things for granted that the world is as it is, as if it was somehow preordained or something. But I think the truth is that the past history, and the one unfolding before our eyes, is fragile in that one act, this way or that, and it can all be rewritten.
And as you walk through the pages of history there are those that rise up from time to time to do extraordinary things. Tecumseh is one of those few. Though I think many of the living do not know his name or who he really was – they should take the time to find out, for he was truly remarkable for the way he carried himself, how he inspired others, and what he tried to accomplish and came oh so close to doing. He was an exceptional human being and certainly one of the very best among us, and that was according to the people who were trying to kill him . . . think about that for a moment. You will find no better patriot for freedom in history’s pages, regardless of the race, creed, country, or age of mankind. Even now, some two hundred years since his passing from the world, his words and deeds are an inspiration to find the highest form of ourselves. Every day that we arise with breath, we should seek the strength to do what is right, even if it is not the easy path to follow. If we could all endeavor to such a thing, the world would truly be a better place.
And also, the core theme of the book is that there is nothing more precious to a living thing than freedom. The book is trying to explore the notion that freedom is more than just the physical and on the outside of the world, but that there is just as great a struggle for freedom on the inside, within the mind. In fact, the story proposes that being free within from all your masters (i.e. anger, fear, doubt, and hate, etc.) may just be the most important of all. It is my humble opinion that as Tecumseh fought for his freedom on the battlefield against musket and bayonet, he also waged this fight within against his fear, doubt, anger, and hatred; for who among us would not be filled with those masters when faced with such pain, hurt, and loss, and the tremendous burden of trying to find a way out for his people.
And lastly, as I read about Tecumseh’s life story there was a mention of a strange red comet in the sky of March 1811, as Tecumseh was trying to gather the many tribes together into one pan-Indian confederation to fight back against America’s invasion. And the thought occurred to me that what if that streaking comet had been a crash landing of a few survivors of some alien race, which fate had steered to his world to help his people find their freedom. What if. . . .
Panther Across the Stars is an intelligent and spiritual person. Was there a historical person that you modeled his character after?
None other than Tecumseh himself. I first learned of him several years back and he was simply a remarkable human being who faced an impossible situation. I tried to write the novel to make the reader feel like you were with Tecumseh two hundred years ago . . . and what would you do when faced with such trials, tribulations, and impossibilities.
I enjoyed all the history woven into this story. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the books accuracy?
The book is loosely based on the accountings here and there of things that are said to have occurred in Tecumseh’s life. I read several books, watched documentaries, and spent many long hours of internet research to gather up as much background information as I could. This helped to provide the bones to the story, before the layering of the fictional elements. And of course, all good tales deserve some embellishment.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
Well, the intention has been all along to write a sequel to Panther Across the Stars, regarding what happens in the here and now; to see what happens when fate calls again and through their undying spirit of freedom, the scattered Shawnee descendants find the lost Ithreal stone at last some two hundred years later. And what happens when the Jhagir find their way back to this world. In fact, they may already have arrived as we conduct this interview.
As far as the planned timetable, presently there is not one. Being a first-time self-published author, and all that is entailed to try and create a high quality novel, in addition to my day job, time is at a premium and I am still in the early stages of writing the first draft.
Author Links: GoodReads
A larger-than-life tale of one man’s courage, sacrifice, and unyielding defiance to fight for his peoples’ freedom against those that would take it, and in this great struggle he finds friendship with three alien beings fallen to Earth that stand with him.
He is Panther Across the Sky and his world is fading. He takes all the hurt and pain a lifetime gives him and stares into his soul to face the greatest master he will ever know. Just a man among a dying people, he inspires his kin beyond all limit of mind and body in their outstretched and desperate grasp for freedom against overwhelming odds and the mighty nation arisen to the east in the early 1800s – America.
And along the way, he forges a bond with three alien beings fallen to Earth from a distant star, the Jhagir. Together they must find the courage to rise up against the swirling dark sea of blue jackets, muskets, and cannon fire that comes for them. It will take all their strength and spirit, and cost them more than they know, to break back the angry waves of a young nation that would devour a people and wash them away forever. And just maybe, Panther Across the Sky and the Jhagir can give rise to a peoples’ real hope for today . . . and what is to come.
Posted in Interviews
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Into the Night features an unlikely pairing of characters who set out on a journey to battle barbarians and vampires across the English countryside. I felt like the setting was very detailed in this story. Why did you choose this time and place for your book?
Historically, in the early 1300’s, England became the landing point of the Vikings when they decided to leave their northern towns. Vampire legends were also very well-known and taken seriously throughout almost every century.
Vampire belief peaked and declined and then rose again as time went on. Vampires are indeed everlasting; at first being a tale of horror and then becoming a fascination. It is no doubt that vampires evolved like no other monster in our literature. The lore is still alive today and fills us both with fear and desire.
I studied old maps of the English countryside and manipulated some letters of real older towns to create my locations. I also mentioned some landmarks that still exist today to give Into the Night a more historical background rather than that of pure fantasy. Somehow, barbarians, vampires, and England just seemed to fit perfectly.
The book got its title because one evening I was driving with the sun behind me and darker night skies ahead of me. I was literally driving into the night. It felt ominous and fit the vibe of my story well. Also at that time, was a popular song on the radio that shared the same name by Santana and Chad Kroeger.
The hero’s Samuel and Valencia are dynamic characters that battle vampire matriarchs Isabella and Cerbera who are also well developed. What was your inspiration for the characters relationship and how they contrast with the villains?
Samuel is a drifter with no clear path in life. Valencia is unable to forget a bad memory and is driven to seek revenge. In a way Valencia is too harsh and Sam too meek; together they take what the other has too much of and it makes them a perfect duo.
The vampire sisters mask their vile intentions and wicked deeds with beauty that beguiles those they encounter. Without Valencia, Samuel would not have been able to (or perhaps not want to) resist them. It stems from the duality of our minds – the fear of losing our humanity (Soul, goodness) and the desire to break free from physical obstacles and society’s restraints and give in to lust. Valencia keeps him grounded and stands as an icon of strength and courage; which eventually wins Sam’s admiration.
I felt like this novel did a great job utilizing vampire lore and creating some of its own. How did you set about creating the vampires in your story?
Into the Night was my first screenplay (and my second published book). At the time I was reading: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. That’s when I decided to practice what I was reading. My first words of the story were Valencia’s speech to Sam, at their first encounter, about Cerbera stalking her prey. I remember putting the monologue on Facebook and getting replies like: “what happens next?” The truth is I didn’t know. I was just practicing a writing exercise I had assigned to myself, but I knew I had to make something out of it now.
It helped that I took a liking to everything vampire; watching movies from Nosferatu to Interview with a Vampire to Underworld, and collecting a library of vampire literature; from Camilla to Vlad to vampire encyclopedias.
Cerbera’s name is taken from a plant species found in India; known as the suicide tree due to its toxicity. The vampire sisters each have a unique trait. One paralyzes men with a touch, the other with a look. Together they symbolize heightened sexuality that dominates all men and is based on the biblical character, Lilith, who eventually formed the race of the succubus. The vampires in Into the Night are a compilation of everything I read and saw.
I would love to see more of the pairing of Samuel and Valencia. Do you have any plans to expand their story in the future?
I have thought about bringing Samuel and Valencia back together as a vampire fighting couple. With the barbarian threat culled and the vampire’s uncanny trait to keep coming back; I would be able to dedicate the story to just vampires.
In the middle of the story Sam and Valencia rescue a family that escapes to Ireland. That was intended to be the main plot for the continuation. The team rejoins to aid the family and fight a vampire threat in Ireland.
In the autumn of 1325 an army of barbarians invade the south-western region of England. A drifter named, Samuel and a strong-willed woman named, Valencia journey north to Ashborough to seek the aid of the steward’s army.
While on their mission they realize the barbarian army is close behind them along with two vampire matriarchs and their vampire horde. They find themselves in the midst of two wars as they fight northward on, what seems to be, a Sisyphean task.
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Sour Lake follows Sheriff Reeves as he tries to solve a brutal murder while navigating the towns racial tensions and economic despair. What was the the inspiration behind the setup to this interesting novel?
It started as a more or less straight horror story, based on legends and tall tales I heard growing up about Texas at the turn of the 20th Century. My wife’s family is from the Big Thicket area, and the more I started talking and writing, the more interested I became in the social history and mores of the people in the area.
The story takes place in 1911 in a small Texas town. Why did you choose this setting for your story?
1911 was something that came to me in a dream, about halfway through the story. In the dream, I was searching through old newspapers for clues about the central mystery in the book. I looked down to turn the page, and I saw the date: October 17, 1911. Weird, right? So I just went with it.
Sheriff Reeves Duncan lost his wife, is a recovering alcoholic, but manages to keep a level head in intense situations. What obstacles did you feel were important to push his character development in the story?
Reeves Duncan is a fun character. I think what I like most about him is that he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows his own limitations, but at the same time he has a pretty fierce streak of stubbornness that compels him to do the right thing, even if he knows he’s going to be disliked for it. Apart from having to wrestle with the bizarre nature of the crimes he is investigating, the biggest obstacle he faces is having to stand up to his own friends and neighbors in order to protect an innocent man and, ultimately, bring the true killer to justice.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I’m actually working on a prequel to Sour Lake, but I can’t say much about it because it’s still in its very early stages. If anyone’s interested in reading something that, like Sour Lake, combines horror and history, please check out my novel The Black Book of Cyrenaica. Or, if you’re not interested in horror, please try my coming-of-age story Color War, which is also set in East Texas, this time though in 1974.
It’s 1911. Someone, or something, is leaving the good citizens of East Texas’s Ochiltree County savagely mutilated and drained of blood. Slow-talking Sheriff Reeves Duncan needs to put an end to the murders, and soon. But it won’t be easy. This is the Big Thicket, dark and brooding, haunted by racial tensions and economic despair. Fortunately, Sheriff Duncan can count on the assistance of an undersized but tough-as-rawhide Texas Ranger, two physicians, a mechanical wunderkind, and a soft-spoken idiot savant who knows the sloughs and baygalls of the Thicket like his own backyard. This league of unimpressive gentlemen is about to be tested by the cunning and ferocity of an enemy that walks by night–and the tentacles of a desperate sectarian plot that threatens the very survival of the human race.
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This true story based on my life growing up was by no means anything close to being normal. No one in my life heard my cries for help. Please, LISTEN TO THE CHILDREN. Their lives are in our hands and with proper guidance will be destined for greatness.
Posted in book trailer
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Although this is a work of fiction, if you have any interest in American history, and the mystery surrounding Jesse James, I urge you to read Letters to Mary Susan: From her Outlaw Father by Jerry Hammersmith.
The story line comes from a story told to the author, by his father. It’s nice when the author’s father ‘appears’ in the book! The author points out that this is a work of fiction, but it certainly leaves you wondering. It has an interesting concept, as it is told in letters from the main character, and his flashbacks through his long life.
The majority of the book is set in a prison. A rather stark prison in the 1920’s. It’s not a prison novel but rather the recollections of his life, by one of the prisoners. The story comes about as he is advised, by the chaplain, to write to his long lost daughter. She grows to know her father, who was presumed dead, through his letters.
The main character is Jim Howard, who started life as Jesse James, and who spent most of his life as an outlaw. The book begins with him in prison at the age of 77. I certainly didn’t wish to feel sympathy for the character. I mean, outlaws are the bad guys. Aren’t they? It is not possible though not to feel a tinge of pity. Especially at the thought of somebody so old, in those conditions.
Jim doesn’t come across as a bad guy so you feel more and more sympathetic as his story progresses. This is illustrated by the fact that he was held in high esteem by others, throughout the various phases of his life. He didn’t always make the best choices, but many of the things that led to him originally becoming an outlaw, were out of his control. Stealing is like a high, which is one of the main reasons he couldn’t stop. This adds to the sadness as he could have had a good life, if he had stopped robbing people.
The chapters deal with his life, and wrong doings, in chronological order through his 3 incarnations; Jesse James, John Allen and Jim Howard. They deal with his life, and what he had to do to survive it, through being an outlaw, cowboy and farmer. He doesn’t try to present himself in a good light, he just tells it like it is, so his daughter can get to know him, and understand his actions.
There are some portions of the book that are a little repetitive. Some scenes are described several times. Also the swapping of first name and surname are a bit confusing. Especially as this is a character who has 3 different names already! There are some sentences where he is referred to as both Jim and Howard which takes some working out. But these are small annoyances and don’t detract from a good read.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a great, interesting, and poignant read.
Pages: 189 | ASIN: B077PH4STR
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