Whatever He Wants: The Pleasures and Perils of Power By Joan Conning Afman is a contemporary story set in West Palm Beach, Florida. The books starts with Mel Martinelli and Sam Abrams, two unethical businessmen, looking for an up-and-coming politician to groom for state senate. They want a man they can control, who will serve their own interests. They decide that David Shepherd, a young, handsome lawyer is the ideal candidate. David insists that he will not be a party to anything illegal, and with their insincere assurance that they would never ask him to do anything like that, he agrees to their proposal to fund his campaign. Mel goes so far in his machinations as to encourage a romantic relationship between his daughter, Michelle, and David, which eventually leads to marriage. Will David’s ambitions cause him to act contrary to his beliefs? Or will he stand firm against others’ attempts to compromise his determination to do what is right?
Michelle Martinelli is a controversial character that had me shaking my head at the beginning of the story. She was entitled and snobbish, with no ambition and was supported by her rich father. She was a character perfectly created to be hated. She was drawn to a man based on his looks alone, without any thought for what kind of person he was. What I really enjoy about the characters in this book is how they evolve over time. Michelle starts to develop some redeeming qualities as time passes, although still unlikable, I was impressed with how well developed here character was.
While the books started with me loathing Michelle, I had the opposite feeling of David Shepherd. He seemed to be an ethical man who refused to comprise his principles for others. But as the story progressed, he abandons his scruples and becomes corrupted by power. This slow decline into the very worst sort of politician reveals how someone can change, and the contrast is stark and revealing–accepting bribes, having an adulterous affair, fathering a child with a woman who was not his wife, contemplating and condoning murder to further his own ends.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style, it flowed easily and was frank and to the point with only a few editing issues. The story was well paced but there were a few sections where I would have enjoyed a little bit more information before the story moved on. The story follows the development of the characters over the course of more than twenty years so there were points where there are large time jumps leaving me with a few questions in an otherwise well written story.
This is a fascinating story that examines how people change over time. This is a character driven story that I highly recommend to anyone who likes stories that put humanity to the test.
Pages: 190 | ASIN: B0793QKWYF
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Sunken Spanish Treasure Quest by Richard Joseph Johnson is an adventure story about four friends who go in search of an 18th century Spanish galleon, the San de Cristo, that sunk off the coast of Florida during a hurricane in 1733. Brad, a commodities trader, finds a journal at an estate sale in Chicago. The journal is written in Spanish, and Brad gives it to his friend, Maximo to read. Max, the owner of a men’s clothing store, has a degree in world history and discovers a reference in the journal (written in hidden code) to the location of the San de Cristo and the lost Spanish treasure–gold and silver coins and ingots–that had been aboard when it sank. Brad and Max enlist two other friends–George, an electronic engineer, and Lou, a former boiler technician on an aircraft carrier and current restaurant owner–to help in the search. Although the four men have no experience or knowledge of maritime salvage, they set off to find this sunken treasure. Will they locate the lost vessel and discover riches beyond their imagining? Will their friendship survive this quest for lost Spanish treasure?
I liked the historical aspects of the story. The history imbued in this story is something that any history buff will surely enjoy. References to the 1700’s were very intriguing and lends an air of mystery to this story that doesn’t dissipate and was one of my favorite parts of the book.
The story started out slow, with a lot of lead up and back story before Brad, Max, George, and Lou actually begin their quest. I felt that there were a lot of unnecessary details (such as what the men ate during their meals together). Eliminating some of the details describing their day to day lives would have improved the pace of the story. The first quarter of the book is filled with the planning and preparing for the trip, including almost two chapters about the drive from Chicago to Florida.
The story picks up once Brad, Max, George, and Lou arrive in Florida and begin their search, and the adventure truly begins when we are introduced to a group of pirates that the four men must battle. Their adventure continues when they return to their lives in Chicago, and trouble follows them home. I liked that although many things changed for them in their lives after their quest for treasure, some things remained the same.
This was an enjoyable read that gets better and more interesting as the story progresses. The bond between the characters is something that I enjoyed watching develop as they pieced together their trip and battled pirates.
Pages: 434 | ASIN: B079437WVB
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Charles Bone and Stan Loren are two FBI agents with quite the special set of skills. The least of which is their ability to communicate without vocalizing their thoughts. As two men with psychic abilities, they have been given the job of heading up a recruitment drive unlike any other in history. Charles and Stan, in the early 1970s, manage to pinpoint over 3,000 individuals exhibiting the qualities making them the perfect candidates for the job. Little do the recruits know the mission for which they have been chosen is one that could change the course of human history.
Terry Tumbler’s Future World Rolls (We Are Family) Book 2 in the Carousels of Life series has one of the most unique settings of its genre. Spanning centuries and with locations varying from Winter Park Florida in the 70s to vessels in space including the Voyager 6, Tumbler carries the reader on quite the raucous ride through time and space via Charles and Stan and the plethora of alien life forms peppered throughout this second in a series.
There is a Men in Black feel about the novel that gives the book a light, fun air. Fans of this type of science fiction will appreciate Tumbler’s alien beings, their idiosyncrasies, and the banter between the main characters as they go about the task set before them.
As with Tumbler’s first book in the series, Future World Rolls is laden with song lyrics, references to artists’ best-known works, and well-timed and perfectly-placed excerpts of the world’s best (my own humble opinion) music. Tumbler’s characters are more than capable of standing on their own, but these song references help to add another light note to the text. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to hum along to the tunes Tumbler sets as pleasant little earworms from the beginning to the end of the book. I mean who doesn’t love to be reminded of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” and “All Day and All of the Night” by the Kinks? Tumbler doesn’t just incorporate music from the 1960s. He takes readers on a nostalgic journey through music history, hitting all the right notes–so to speak.
To say Future World Rolls is fast-paced would be a gross understatement. Tumbler keeps the reader engaged from one jam-packed chapter to the next. Billed as a space opera, this book hops, skips, and jumps from one scene to the next introducing new and engaging characters while building on the already well-developed Charles, Stan, and the just-short-of-amazing green giants.
Science fiction fans who enjoy lively plots and bigger-than-life characters will find Tumbler’s works meet all of their expectations and more. Tumbler writes beautifully and manages to pull off humor in the most eloquent of ways possible. Some science fiction books are fraught with terminology and processes that overwhelm the reader. Tumbler combats all of that with his stunning cast of characters and an upbeat tone that is set from the first chapter.
Pages: 314 | ASIN: B07H4QQR8K
Posted in Book Reviews
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In The Wagon Driver, Earth is overcrowded and Kyle’s job is to collect bodies for government disposal, but soon learns of a more nefarious reason why he’s employed. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
I initially wrote this story in the mid-nineties, when I was working at AT&T in Lake Mary, Florida. Computers had already begun taking over, and the Y2K phenomenon was being considered globally. My imagination, as usual, went into overload, and I began having dreams about the Government using technology to move into the home, take over completely and systemically select who would be permitted to exist and who would not.
Kyle grows up an in orphanage and I instantly felt the isolation and loneliness that he felt. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
Being an orphan as well as a loner, Kyle has never felt the bond of friendship before and frequently uses humor and sarcasm to disguise his shyness. When he meets Allie, he thinks he has developed his first true friendship, but when he realizes she has let herself become just another cog of the System, he feels betrayed. And when both Allie and the System turn against someone who could have truly become his one and only friend, he knows he can no longer stick around because he will eventually cease to exist as well.
Do you think over population is a serious concern today? What do you think are the causes and solutions?
I think it is a major concern, especially in many other countries. I don’t want to get political here, but in this country we could eliminate much of it ourselves, without Government intervention. However, I really can’t see it happening.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on a Christmas novel entitled, Yesterday’s Journey. It is a fantasy, and should be ready to be published on Amazon and Kindle in early or mid November.
In the not-so-distant future, population control becomes a necessity. Turning eighteen, Kyle Sonnet leaves the State Orphanage and becomes an employee of the Department of Population Control. As a wagon driver, he follows the ambulance to emergency calls and collects bodies for Government disposal. However, it isn’t long before Kyle understands that, due to the collapse of the healthcare system and contrary to what he has seen on the news, euthanasia has become the universal solution. But when he suddenly witnesses a horror he cannot accept, Kyle is forced to decide whether to become another pawn of Society or risk escape, which will result in certain death.
Posted in Interviews
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Douglas Wells’, debut novel, The Secrets of all Secrets begins with a mysterious stranger, who issues a fateful quest. The reader follows Zane, a graduate school and seminary drop-out, who receives a USB from the stranger. The USB contains a message that promises the Secret of All Secrets and he is pressed to go find out how far the rabbit hole goes. He soon meets a waitress at a diner, named Dali, who received a similar USB. They initially butt heads, but they soon come together to figure out the mystery. They are dogged at every step by four conflicted government agents, who pursue them to the very end.
Wells combines smart, informed prose with fun, engaging dialogue to create an interesting story that hails the modern quest narrative, but also the old-fashioned road narrative calling to mind Jack Kerouac and others of that generation. There are plenty of moments where Zane calls back to his graduate school education with references to Pascal and Tolstoy, which do become a bit pandering to a point, but soon get lost in the action that ensues.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters, where Wells’ skill shines through and even shows up among the government agents who serve as the bulk of antagonism in the novel. The decent character portrayal also smoothes over the often-sparse description and scene setting that would normally keep the reader engaged, but the characters are able to do this on their own. The ideological lines that all the characters have seem to be commentary on our day to day lives, from government drones to Zane’s cynicism.
The setting of Northern Florida was an interesting choice and provides a unique setting rich in regional idiosyncrasies as well as clashing rural and coastal tendencies. Zane and Dali adventures are increasingly crazy and fit in with this setting choice. They venture into an armadillo festival, nudist resort and even find a presumed dead 60’s rocker. All of this combines to be a sort of satire of American politics and greed.
All in all, The Secrets of all Secrets will keep the reader’s attention until the very end with its light-hearted prose and topical social commentary. Wells blends the ironic with wry humor and never misses a point to push the absurdity of his tale a little farther, as if encouraging the reader to do the same.
Pages: 224 | ASIN: B07147R17F
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Nate knelt beside the dead girl. This wasn’t his first homicide, it wasn’t even the first dead prostitute he’d investigated. It wasn’t the first strangling death he’d been assigned to. But, this one bothered him.
Maybe it was her youth, she appeared to be in her early twenties. Maybe it was her looks, as death had yet to rob her of her beauty. Maybe she reminded him of his own daughter, Lizzie, who was only a few years younger. Maybe it was something else entirely.
The big detective looked over the body, careful not to touch or disturb her. He had one of the best crime scene technicians, Winston Rawls, and he did not want to make his job harder.
“Look at her fingernails,” Rawls observed from the other side of the body.
“What about them?”
“Most of them are broken and some are torn free of the quick. Some are missing.”
Nate slowed his visual scanning of the girl and focused on her hands. Rawls was right, the nails were ragged, broken, and torn. Some of her fingers ended with just the bloody fingertips.
It made his injured finger hurt. Maybe this was why this murder haunted him from the start.
The girl’s hands were bagged in plastic to preserve evidence that hopefully was there. Gently, Nate lifted a hand, holding it on his open palm. He looked at the girls eyes, that looked down and away from him.
“I don’t know what happened that led you to this place. I don’t know why you chose to live the life you did. But you deserved better than this.”
Rawls looked at Nate with an expression that asked, “What are you doing?”
Nate glanced at the technician and then focused again on the girl’s hand.
“I promise you, I give you my word, I will find who ever did this to you and I will bring him to justice. I will hold him accountable for this. Rest assured.”
Gently, as if he didn’t want to wake her, Nate lowered the girl’s hand to the pavement. He stood and Rawls stood with him.
“Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”
Nate studied the bearded tech, “I made her a promise.”
“Nate, you and I both know solving the death of a streetwalker is one of the hardest crimes to solve. Unless she was killed by her pimp, or another girl jealous of her, the doer is a complete stranger. There’s just not enough to tie the two people together.”
Rawls shook his head, “You’ve worked more of these than I have. You know how difficult this is going to be.”
Nate looked at Rawls, placed a hand on the technician’s shoulder, “I made her a promise.”
He turned and walked from the alley, giving the technician a controlled wave, “See you at the morgue.”
The Tenth Nail is the story of a homicide detective obsessed in finding the killer of a streetwalker. It is fast paced, with well developed characters and a twist at the end most will not see coming.
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Dr. C. Arthur Ellis talks with The Monster about his new book Hall of Mirrors which comments on the various short films and documentaries developed to examine the life and crime of Ruby McCollum.
“Ruby McCollum (August 31, 1909 – May 23, 1992) was known for killing a prominent caucasian doctor in 1952 (whom she accused) that he had abused her and forced her to have sex and bear his child.” – Wikipedia.org
You’ve written many books about the case of Ruby McCollum and the true crime story that shook the south. How does Hall of Mirrors differ from your other works?
I first completed the annotated transcript of the trial of Ruby McCollum, which contained comments on each day of the trial, based upon my direct knowledge of the case. Commentary included various relationships among the key players, including attorneys and witnesses, who were known to me. I was motivated to create this work since various academic publications, including the first edition of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters by Karla Kaplan, maintained that Ruby McCollum was not allowed to testify at her trial when she actually did testify.
I then published a true crime novel of the story, written from the 1st person perspective of Zora Neale Hurston, the famous African-American anthropologist who reported on the trial for the Pittsburgh Courier, and then the omniscient narrator voice to tell the backstory leading to the murder.
Hall of Mirrors differs from these first two publications in that it comments on the various short films and documentaries developed after my work, as well as on the academic publication, The Silencing of Ruby McCollum, written by Dr. Tammy Evans. I considered all of these works to be without any foundation in fact, and developed with what appeared to be various biases that slanted the truth of the case in order to make political or personal statements. Further, all of these accounts were developed by people who never knew the key characters in the story. Hall of Mirrors presents primary research, not secondary opinion, to allow readers the freedom to develop their own take on the story.
What is your connection to the story of Ruby McCollum?
I was delivered into this world by Dr. C. Leroy Adams, Jr., the murder victim, in the front bedroom of our family home in Live Oak, Florida, just a block from the McCollum home. My father worked with Dr. Adams at the Suwannee County Hospital, and my mother was friends with Mrs. Adams. I knew every other character in the story, some of whom were my relatives.
Do you think Ruby McCollum’s case was instrumental in the struggle for civil rights and do you think her story is still relevant today?
I think that Ruby McCollum’s case was instrumental in the struggle for civil rights since it was the first documented case in which a woman of color was allowed to take the witness stand in her own defense in a trial charging her with killing a white man. In Hall of Mirrors, I place this trial in context, beginning with a similar trial prior to the Civil War, continuing to a case prior to McCollum’s in the Jim Crow South, and ending with the McCollum trial. This establishes a clear path of progress toward equal justice in America’s courtrooms.
I think that the public is witnessing many trials today that continue this march toward social equality, and the McCollum case is a clear benchmark on the timeline of that social progress.
The debate over the Ruby McCollum’s case has continued through the years in part because Judge Adams placed a gag order on Ruby. Why do you think the judge silenced Ruby?
Had Ruby McCollum been allowed to speak freely with the press, Live Oak, Florida would have been a feeding ground for IRS treasury agents, and the white community would have been equally convicted of tax evasion, illegal gambling, racketeering, illegal liquor sales and many related offenses. The judge himself stated that he issued the order to “protect the community,” and this is actually quite true. This being said, Ruby McCollum was visited by a reporter from the Jacksonville Times when she was in the Florida Prison at Raiford and refused to talk with him. This is in a letter written by McCollum and published in Hall of Mirrors. It is likely that McCollum had been advised to avoid the press, should they be able to reach her.
Hall of Mirrors is the most thoroughly researched work on the Ruby McCollum story published since the work of William B. Huie. Written by the author who first published the annotated transcript of the murder trial, this work explores recent attempts to revise Ruby McCollum’s story to suit the motives of various authors, academics and film producers. Hall of Mirrors avoids confirmation and presentist biases and presents this captivating story in its proper historical context.