Blog Archives

An Approximation of the Objective Truth

John Richard Spencer Author Interview

John Richard Spencer Author Interview

Brownout – 666 follows Rick in the midst of a struggle to find a way to live a normal life in a dark and unforgiving world. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?

My inspiration for the setup behind this novel primarily came from my sojourn in the Philippines spread over several years. I always told people that one day I would write a book about the country, its people and its culture and that I would call it “Brownout.” I added the “666” moniker to the title as any search under “Brownout” brought up thousands of books about electricity. As large portions of my novel were based on real events and people I could have written a nonfiction work instead. However, I didn’t want the potential for libel suits hanging over me so I chose fiction. The American and Australian settings of the novel came about as I wished to explore the socio-political ethos of those nations and their relationships to the bases of world power. I introduced the American setting as a subplot that tied up with the central one at the end.

Rick Daly is an interesting character that faces many challenges in life. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?

Some of the driving ideals behind the central character, Rick Daly, were related to sexuality and its abusive and non-abusive forms. As he matures Rick learns to become less selfish and earns some degree of redemption. Rick has been confused about Right and Wrong and gradually arrives at what he calls “the fair thing principle.” Rick grew up in the seventies and eighties in an Australia with a fairly aggressive sexual culture. An example of looking back at this culture from the standpoint of the present day is the internationally well-known podcast, “The Teacher’s Pet,” by Hedley Thomas of the newspaper, The Australian. Apart from examining a cold case disappearance and probable murder, the podcast looks into alleged teacher/schoolgirl sex rings at several high schools on Sydney’s northern beaches, one of which I taught at (Cromer High School). Rick loathes hypocrisy, the stupidity and gross unfairness of many authorities. Governments and courts often seem overly influenced by cultural and political fashion.

This novel expertly uses history to tell an engrossing story. Was history an important aspect for you in this novel or did this develop organically while writing?

As a former English and History teacher I have always been fascinated by History and its links to the present day. The changing attitudes to sexuality throughout historical and contemporary periods necessarily came to the fore as Rick becomes caught up in them.

I have long been a student of the Holocaust and the Third Reich and, as history is always written by the winners, I appreciate how difficult it is to arrive at even an approximation of the objective truth. While in no way do I condone the many crimes of the Third Reich I find myself bemused at how any attempt to examine this era can so easily be shouted down if it differs ever so little from the official version. The Holocaust was a terrible event but it is no more sacred than are the other mass killings or genocides that occurred before it or since.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

In addition to this novel, I also have a published work of non-fiction about child loss and grief. It is called, “Waiting for a Miracle – Life in the Dead Zone.” As for my next book, I haven’t decided whether to work on another novel or non-fiction piece. In either case it won’t be available until next year at the earliest.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Brownout - 666: Are we Slaves To Our Symbols? by [Spencer, Mr John Richard]

In the land of flaunted sex, money, and flexible rules, an ambitious but lonely Rick Daly faces his demons.

Rick Daly has established a business in the exotic surroundings of the Philippines, while simultaneously discovering Marilyn Delgado, the woman of his dreams.

However, a clash of cultures and his own naiveté lead to disaster. Falsely accused of a sexual crime, Rick loses both his freedom and his business. To add insult to injury, a prison escape merely amounts to switching jails.

In a world where the rich prosper, honest individuals are forced to the wall, and a cynical disregard for all but the dollar is destroying society from within, crime soon follows punishment for Rick. Close to losing his soul, will Rick’s ultimate success in drug and arms dealing finally lead him to face up to reality?

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Missing: A Finn Delaney New York City Mystery

Missing: A Finn Delaney New York City Mystery Book 1 by [Bryan, Robert L.]

Mystery readers who love New York: this book is for you. Missing: A Finn Delaney New York City Mystery introduces 25-year-old Finn, a fifth-generation police officer from a family that reveres the NYPD. When an unlucky accident ends his NYPD career, Finn becomes the next best thing: a Private Eye. Finn’s new career is off to a rocky start, complete with threadbare office and octogenarian assistant. Luckily, Finn quickly moves beyond the so-called “cavalcade of crazies” and stumbles into his first serious case. Follow Finn as he searches for a missing person who NYPD claims is not missing at all.

In Missing, Robert L. Bryan explores duty, loyalty, and friendship. He also plumbs the depths of vice that simmer in the city: corruption, greed, and crime. Bryan hits his storytelling stride as the details of the case unfurl. The plot moves quickly with confounding clues, hints of danger, and a parade of compelling characters.

Bryan has a knack for provocative characters. Finn’s apparent lack of self-determination can be frustrating—he seemingly rode a conveyer belt from booties to NYPD blues—but he develops into a likable main character. Early client stories, like the time Finn tailed a cat, are charming but lose something in bullet point format. The reader groans when Finn’s most pressing professional dilemma involves a desk chair and cheers when he finally lands a case.

Still, Finn is inscrutable. Other characters respond to him with generosity and affection when he shows none. I think the women in Finn’s world would benefit from added nuance; they are often one-dimensional. Finn’s father is a bright spot: unwavering in his support and helpful when Finn needs it most. We should all be so lucky.

Fans of the boroughs will enjoy devoted descriptions of Queen’s minutiae. Every intersection is noted, every landmark observed. Do I see a Finn Delaney walking tour of Queens in my future? Yes, please.

The book doubles back at times with Finn uncovering clues already revealed; in one notable situation, Finn hits upon the lynchpin of the case twice in seven pages. The book is lightly sprinkled with errors in grammar and punctuation. Despite these minor distractions, Missing is a satisfying mystery and a good read.

Pages: 197 | ASIN: B07L9DBXDN

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Truth Won’t Help Them Now – Trailer

It is 1939 when the bullet-riddled body of an accounting clerk from a gambling ship washes up under the Santa Monica pier. As city homicide detectives tenaciously chase down their only clue—a fast, expensive, and very exclusive Bugatti—their investigation leads them into a tangle of competing gangsters all looking to muscle their way to a bigger share of illegal gambling.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Cliff Thoms is leading a special squad searching for a pair of serial killers who have already killed four young women and are on the hunt for more. Thoms, with the help of a self-proclaimed psychic he doesn’t quite trust, risks lives and careers in a desperate gamble to catch his elusive quarry. As the two investigations collide and rush to a deadly conclusion, dirty cops, DAs on the take, mobsters, grieving families, and reformer politicians must attempt to distinguish lies from the truth. Unfortunately, they are all about to discover that even the truth won’t help them now.

In this fast-paced tale of murder and gangland intrigue, a gritty district attorney and a band of detectives set out on a quest to solve two separate crimes amid a corrupted 1939 Los Angeles.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Cabin: A Murder Mystery Trailer

Buck Woods, a stressed-out NYPD homicide detective and former Marine Scout sniper on sabbatical, returns home to Orono, Maine.

Upon arriving back in town, Buck meets up with his old high school friend, Detective Jim Barkowsky of the Orono PD. Jim invites Buck to stay with him, his wife, and their two children.

The next morning Buck and Jim go to check out Buck’s new home, an old run-down log cabin he inherited from his grandfather on two acres of land on Punshaw Lake. Upon entering the cabin, they discover the decomposing body of an unidentified man. The victim died from a single gunshot wound. It is obvious that he was murdered.

Buck and Jim set out to solve the murder by putting together the pieces of the puzzle. Unexpected twists, turns, and obstacles abound, leading to a climax that puts Buck’s life on the line.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

A Most Diabolical Plot

A Most Diabolical Plot: Six Compelling Sherlock Holmes Stories by [Symonds, Tim]

A Most Diabolical Plot, by Tim Symonds & Lesley Abdela, is a modern addition to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous Sherlock Holmes series which feels as authentic as the original. The authors of this intriguing collection do very well in telling new stories while remaining true to Conan Doyle’s style and approach – not an easy thing to do. A Most Diabolical Plot is a collection of six stories featuring both new and classic themes, as well as characters that fans of the genre are sure to fall in love with. Each of the stories is unique and each story feels fresh as the reader progresses through the adventures.

If we were able to take Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and place him in this century and then tell him to write as though he were living in an earlier era, he very well might come up with lines such as the ones found in A Most Diabolical Plot. Language-wise, Tim Symonds and Lesley Abdela hit the mark of the late 19th Century style employed by Doyle, but it is in the modern approach and conversations between characters where things begin to get interesting. The authors easily succeed in making the reader feel at home in a world long past, while not sacrificing the tone required to make the genre work.

The use of backstory which comes about in the mind of the narrator, Dr Watson, is also cleverly carried out. There is just enough information injected into the stories to both inform the reader and connect the new stories to classics that Holmes’ fans will already be familiar with. The first story in the series is a perfect example. It is a continuation of The Empty House which was part of famous book, The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Colonel Sebastian Moran is back to battle wits with everyone’s favorite detective!

Apart from the convincing language conventions used in A Most Diabolical Plot, the clever connections to the original series, and the wealth of complex imagery help in setting the scene, Symonds and Abdela did well to replicate the story arcs found in the originals as well. The beginnings of each of the six stories, go into great detail to set up the cases and atmosphere. Then, when the reader is situated securely within the story, Sherlock and Watson work their magic as only they can.

A Most Diabolical Plot is an easy book to recommend. It checks all the boxes that a good detective novel styled after 19th Century entertainment should. There is mystery, excitement, intrigue, and even a bit of reverence for the clever Mr Holmes. All in all, it is a riveting read which deserves a five star rating. The authors are sensitive to the needs of their fans, both new and those familiar with the famous series, and it seems they had a lot of fun putting these stories together.

Pages” 148 | ASIN: B07L8JH61K

Buy Now From Amazon.com

All Your Fears – Trailer

Kim Robins lives a contented life in a peaceful market town. One evening, she encounters a maniac driver who narrowly misses running her over. History teacher Jay Yeldon drives by moments later, takes her home and examines her sprained ankle. A romantic relationship soon develops, but as the weeks progress Kim is plagued by disturbing, bizarre incidents and mounting fear. Trusting nobody, she seeks spiritual help, only to be cruelly deceived. Fearful that Kim will come to harm, Jay turns detective and discovers the shattering truth about the woman who loves him. Someone is out to destroy her and will stop at nothing. Jay faces a moral dilemma and becomes isolated. Undeterred, he conceives a daring plan to expose her enemy, but nothing prepares him for the unexpected, horrifying climax that changes his outlook on life forever.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Emerald Cave

The Emerald Cave (Ramsey Series Book 3) by [McPike, James]

The Emerald Cave by James B. McPike is a fast novel. It’s not fast in the sense that it’s a short read. Rather, The Emerald Cave works by having prose and plotting that takes readers for a whirlwind of a story that involves action, firefights, terrorists, heists, and a dozen other elements that contribute to an engaging and incredibly engrossing novel. Being the third in its series, The Emerald Cave follows the story of Vince Ramsey, an Israeli detective searching for an arms dealer whose whereabouts are murky at best. He enlists the help of April Fulton, an expert on historical artifacts, and the two set off on an epic investigative chase that brings them from one part of the world to the another, with obstacles and betrayal meeting them each step of the way. The book is fast, and it starts off with a tense standoff initiated by terrorists of the Hezbollah organization. From there, the plot takes no chances, pushing onward with a feverish speed that helps heighten the book’s sense of urgency and impact. This is juxtaposed by appropriately placed moments of quiet that allows both the characters and the readers to ponder on events as they unfurl.

Beyond these points, The Emerald Cave shines in its effective usage of characterization. The relationship between April Fulton and Vince Ramsey highlight a realistic dynamic that allows the two to play off one another. Sequences in which the two work together in solving a puzzle or identifying various clues reveal key differences in the characters’ logical approaches and methodologies that help make each character feel individual. In certain moments, I found myself working out these puzzles with April and Vince, identifying my own thought processes and “aha!” moments in conjunction with their own. At the same time, there is a clear sense of growth these two protagonists go through as the novel moves forward and while some trends are easy to note, this sense of maturity one finds is rare in many stories today. This characterization is aided by James B. McPike’s effective prose. Sentences are generally terse and filled with the details necessary for the story. Long, drawn-out sections are rare to find and each word McPike utilizes is one that is necessary for the story being conveyed. This helps create a tense atmosphere that works incredibly well with the fast plotting designed by McPike.

As a whole, The Emerald Cave by James B. McPike is an incredible story that doesn’t let up. Events fly at neck-breaking speeds while readers becoming connected with the protagonists as everyone tries to uncover the mysteries and secrets the story presents. While the story could have used some additional quiet moments in order to allow the reader to collect themselves before continuing onward, The Emerald Cove remains an engrossing piece. The stories narrative design and effective characterization makes this story an incredible journey and an enjoyable ride.

Pages: 215 | ASIN: B07DSRKWR1

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Misplaced Man – Trailer

When Sam Blades starts work at Shimmering Dreams, he hopes to climb the promotional ladder and bring security for himself and his girlfriend. Hailed as the greatest invention of its age, he would be working on new technology that downloads your dreams to your phone.

But, unbeknown to him, somebody behind the scenes is pulling the strings.

What lengths will someone go to when they are forced to repay a debt? Is Sam being set up as the fall guy to take the blame for dreams being used for nefarious activities? Who ends up taking matters into their own hands with drastic consequences?

Follow Sam’s tongue-in-cheek journey through a world of industrial espionage where he blindly battles against an alcohol-fuelled boss, a corrupt copper, a revenge-seeking hitman and a tone-deaf busker.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

A Different Kind of Curiosity

Michael Pronko Author Interview

Michael Pronko Author Interview

The Moving Blade follows detective Hiroshi as he navigates street level politics to solve the murder of an American diplomat. What was the direction that you wanted to take book two in the series that was different from book one?

The direction I wanted to take it is not the direction it ended up going. So, I headed more into the characters, who became more and more interesting. I focused on the roiling tumble of conflicts inside them, and what that might reflect of social, political and historical conflicts outside. I think that’s similar to book one, but because the characters are embedded into a larger framework of political pressures and international relations, their actions resonate differently. The canvas is broader in this second book, and I go deeper into Tokyo, to see the background of the characters and their choices, good and bad.

I enjoyed the mix of interesting characters throughout the novel. Who was your favorite character to write for?

I like all of them. Well, I don’t like the bad guys, but I like hating them. My favorites were maybe the bookstore owner twins and the radical leftist. They were fun to write and to put in scenes together, the twins steady and demure and the leftist stridently angry. Sakaguchi, the ex-sumo wrestler, is always fun to write for. He has this core set of values that is rock solid Japanese. When he explodes, he really explodes. And of course, Hiroshi developed and grew as a person and as a detective, in perhaps meandering ways, but human ways. The women characters are great to write for, too, as they pull the story in their direction.

It quickly unfolds that the missing manuscript was the driving factor behind the diplomat’s death. How do you balance storytelling with mystery and action to ensure readers are engaged to the very last page?

Among all the different types of mysteries, whodunnits, whydunnits, I-dunnits, I didn’t-do-its, I tend towards the why. Maybe because I was a philosophy major? Not-knowing who creates a different kind of curiosity than not-knowing why. Withholding certain pieces of information is essential. As Alfred Hitchcock pointed out, if you know there’s a bomb under the table, but the characters don’t…well, that’s suspense. And if you don’t know why the bomb is under the table in the first place, it’s really intriguing. As jazz musicians often say, and I think Mozart said it originally, the music is not in the notes, but in the silence between. I think writing should be aware of what’s not spoken, what’s not known. The unknowns make you lean in and pay attention.

Where will book three in the Detective Hiroshi series take readers? 

Book three is called Tokyo Traffic. The story revolves around a young Thai girl who gets lost in Tokyo, after running away from some horrible people. She is rescued by a young Japanese woman who lives in an internet café and plays in a rock band. Most of the story takes place in the nighttime youth hangouts in Shibuya and Shimokitazawa, another side of Tokyo. The detectives are the same, though Hiroshi has moved in with his college girlfriend and Takamatsu is off suspension. It goes deeper into the characters and deeper into Tokyo.

Author Interview: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

The Moving Blade by [Pronko, Michael]

When the top American diplomat in Tokyo, Bernard Mattson, is killed, he leaves more than a lifetime of successful Japan-American negotiations. He leaves a missing manuscript, boxes of research, a lost keynote speech and a tangled web of relations.

When his alluring daughter, Jamie, returns from America wanting answers, finding only threats, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is dragged from the safe confines of his office into the street-level realities of Pacific Rim politics.

With help from ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, Hiroshi searches for the killer from back alley bars to government offices, through anti-nuke protests to military conspiracies. When two more bodies turn up, Hiroshi must choose between desire and duty, violence or procedure, before the killer silences his next victim.

THE MOVING BLADE is the second in the Tokyo-based Detective Hiroshi series by award-winning author Michael Pronko.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Powderfinger Trailer

“Powderfinger” is a present-day scary horror story set mainly on the decrepit, abandoned but soon to be redeveloped, bank of an old canal between two towns. It centres on an old tar works known as Raven’s Gate. Nick Swann is a world weary mid-forties widower and Assistant Probation Warden at St Joseph’s Hostel for young male criminals, situated overlooking the canal and Raven’s Gate. A woman is brutally killed on the bank opposite the Hostel on a night when Nick is on duty. Nick believes his lads had nothing to do with it, though consequently Nick is suspended for issuing too many late passes at once. Then another woman is killed and Nick becomes drawn into discovering the culprit. He works with DCI Findlay and DS Deacon as the murder toll rises. Together with help from his old friends Alan and Hugo, Nick’s research uncovers a long series of similar murders in the same area, stretching back through the centuries. “Powderfinger” as the killer is dubbed, appears to be some kind of ancient mellifluous, malevolent, murderous being that attacks anyone it considers to be disturbing its peace and quiet. Eventually, as the story climaxes, Findlay, Deacon, Nick and Alan set a trap to lure “Powderfinger” to his doom and rid the area of this beast once and for all. Yet, traps can swing both ways.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: