Terrifyingly gritty is the world within Kill the Teachers: Mexico’s Bloody Repression of Human Rights by Robert Joe Stout. Reader will not find a kind world in this historical retelling of events from the not-so-distant past. Corruption, suppression and oppression are what wait for readers within these pages. It is important to read about the past in order to learn from it: to prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes again. However, learning is not the same for everyone. The brutal history of Oaxaca, Mexico is what readers are going to find themselves thrown into within this book. This small area that has never quite advanced with the rest of the country where dangerous men with big ideas crushed the spirits of those who lived there. Sometimes even ending their lives.
This book is a carefully researched and written recounting of life in Oaxaca. There are interviews with those directly in attendance of the rallies and demonstrations those who wanted reform. These first-hand accounts bring home the reality of what people were facing in this tiny state. Stout crafts his retelling of the events in his novel in easily digestible chunks. It is easy to be overwhelmed with the history, politics and subterfuge in books like this. Those who are not history buffs may be turned off by the content at first, thinking it too dense for their enjoyment. They’re not wrong, as a lot of information is covered in this book. This is not something you pick up to read while relaxing in the backyard.
That being said, the layout and the formatting of the book are reader-friendly. The chapters are peppered with quotes from interviews and the content is presented in a way that makes it easy for readers to absorb the information they are reading without feeling like they signed up for an intensive history course. The data is dense, but it is not difficult as it flows like a novel would. It is not dry and boring.
It is easy to see that Stout had a competent editor as the errors in grammar and style are minute. It is not easy to share the fragmented history to a world that is not familiar with its roots. Stout appeals to the reader in such a way that learning happens naturally.
Those who are looking for a political or historical thriller will find their needs met with Kill the Teachers: Mexico’s Bloody Repression of Human Rights by Robert Joe Stout as he shares the non-fiction reality of Oaxaca, Mexico. This is the real-life story of a state that has a bloody history. At times, this information is devastating to read, especially when the reader realizes that this did not take place hundreds of years ago, but within the last half-century. However, this truth is something that we should not avert our eyes from, but learn from instead.
Pages: 316 | ASIN: B07C883C1S
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Slay the Dragon follows Cesar as he rises from his working class roots to fight against the opioid crisis while navigating South American politics. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a book about this topic?
Years ago I enrolled in a creative writing class at New York University. The professor required us to write short papers about what protagonists and antagonists would do in various scenarios. For one assignment, I used a magazine article about drugs and corruption for inspiration. My professor graded my paper A+ and strongly encouraged that I develop this theme into a novel. I did and then for various reasons put the novel aside for many years. During the presidential election, I became aware of the extent of the opioid crisis. I was astonished and particularly concerned that this epidemic was hardly reported by the media. I realized that this crisis would work well into my existing novel and was a way to highlight the gravity of the issue to a wider audience. So, I spent the past year updating my manuscript. The result was SLAY THE DRAGON.
I felt like this book could have easily been non fiction. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the story was as accurate as possible?
I enjoy reading novels that are somewhat based on fact. I find reading realistic fiction a casual way to learn about issues and locations. Combine realism with suspense and conspiracy and I am sold. As a writer, realistic fiction gives me the opportunity to loosely express experiences and issues while being creative. For SLAY THE DRAGON, I traveled to Latin America and observed. I visited several countries and cities, explored the countryside, walked the streets, and spent time with locals– all the while taking notes. I love destination novels and wanted my book to capture the essence of the location. Since I am an economist and worked on Wall Street, it seemed natural that my protagonist would be the finance minister and that much of his efforts entailed economic issues. I did little research for the economic side of the book. For weeks, I researched the opioid crisis– reading articles and medical surveys. I wanted to learn how, why, and who. I could not find a single article that addressed the complexity of the crisis. Most articles are biased toward one reason or another. However, there are many causes and many to blame. SLAY THE DRAGON attempts to encapsulate all the forces and entities that contributed to this tragic epidemic.
Cesar was an intriguing and well developed character. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing his character?
César Rosada is the conscience of SLAY THE DRAGON. He is a decent man with good intentions who faces reality. The themes I attempted to capture through Cesar include: good vs. evil, doing the right thing, power and corruption, personal responsibility, self-reliance, how actions of a few affect us all, and why social ills exist.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next novel will address themes expressed in SLAY THE DRAGON but will be set in the digital world.
Slay the Dragon is a political suspense novel set in Latin America that explores how corruption and inefficiencies feed into social ills and how leaders exploit these conflicts to cling to power. César Rosada is on a crusade. Descended from generations of coffee farmers, the former professional athlete turned politician is determined to improve life for the working class of his country. As Minister of Finance, César is committed to righting decades of corruption, crime, and misguided economic policies, and defending progress made in the fight against the illegal drug trade. He anticipates resistance from those with money, power, and vested interests. However, he now confronts a burgeoning challenge—America’s opioid epidemic. This deadly crisis poses more than the usual conflict between law enforcement and organized crime. It is a complex and insidious challenge with pervasive and deep-rooted origins. César’s adversaries intent on maintaining the status quo conspire and threaten everything for which he has worked. The stakes are high—a reversion to the days when drug syndicates rule, politicians collude and profit, and the people remain hopelessly trapped in a cycle of poverty. César is conflicted, but must decide on a course of action. Weighing choices between what is perceived as right versus wrong, he pursues a path that for some is morally ambiguous.
Posted in Interviews
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A Call to Win the Third War of Independence of Haiti is a summary of the history of the island, taking us on a journey starting all the way back from the pre-Columbus times to the modern era. Ernst Etienne takes a distinctly patriotic approach during this condensed, 80 odd page long book, but also provides a very practical overview of a little known history of Haiti. Etienne rounds up his book with his view of the reasons for the downfall of the nation and the ways it could get back to its feet.
Ernst Etienne take on the early history of the island is highly romanticized. Pre-Columbian settlers of the island, one would gather from the pages, lived in idyllic societies without any problems. The cause of all ills of Haiti is the white man, one would gather from this book. Depending on the political views of the reader, Etienne’s view of historical and current events will have to be interpreted by every reader individually, depending on political views that he or she has.
Despite that, the book has some elements that make it universally valuable. Etienne’s recounting of the history of Haiti is well done, following a simple and understandable chronological structure. He points out important events in the history of the island and paints a clear picture of the reasons they happened. He is also relatively unbiased when recounting some of these events, often naming the atrocities done by the islanders themselves.
The highlights of the book are the recounting of military events that littered the small nation. Etienne’s description of the war that Haiti had with the powerful nation of France, and the eventual victory, is a fascinating tale. Another valuable part of the book is the description of The Citadel Laferri’re, a magnificent fortress that was turned into a World Heritage Site in 1982.
The last part of the book covers the downfall of the Haitian nation. Ernst Etienne recognizes that most of the problems of Haiti stem from the population itself. He preaches unity for his people, urging them to unite under the singular goal of creating a powerful nation.
He delves into the root of problems for Haitians through the examination of events done a hundred years ago or more – a common theme in nationalistic works. Then, he shifts to his vision of the future of Haiti, explaining how making his nation prosperous will not only serve the population of the island but the world at large. His proposed policies will, yet again, have to be judged by the reader individually, as they do have a particular political and economic angle to them.
A Call to Win the Third War of Independence of Haiti is a good intro into the history and the current situation of the nation of Haiti. While it does take a distinct point of view of historical and current events, it is a concise and fast read, worth the invested time.
Pages: 88 | ASIN: B07D1YJ1D6
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There is never a dull moment in Humphrey Hawksley’s Man on Ice: Russia vs the USA – In Alaska. Not only is there intense action, the gripping story will keep readers glued to the pages until the story is done. This novel is carefully planned and executed in spectacular fashion and it’s hard not to feel the intensity with each sentence. We follow Rake Ozenna as he returns to his home island in Alaska with his fiancé in tow. Rake us a brilliant military veteran and Carrie Walker is a passionate doctor. The story begins with a medical concern over Rake’s niece struggling in childbirth and then explodes into a frontal assault between Russia and the United States of America some 48 hours before the inauguration of a new president.
This book explores the heighten tensions of looming war, the strain a relationship can undergo under such trying times, and the bonds that tie us to those we call family. Each of these themes is expertly crafted as if reading a biography of someone’s life. Characters change, for better or worse, but continue to develop as the story progresses. At first, it might seem overwhelming when readers realize just how intense the topics are that Hawksley is going to address. However, the humanity he affords his characters is genuine. Readers will feel an emotional connection to their fictional lives.
From start to finish Man on Ice is, I think, about risk; what is risked and what is gained. It’s a complicated matter, writing about politics, especially in such a sensitive time. There are so many people, positions, relationships to carefully lay out. Hawksley doesn’t seem to have a problem with weaving a complex narrative that is easy for readers to follow, even for those who may not be politically savvy. This is part of what makes such a great novel and shows readers what a good writer Hawksley is. the fine attention to detail is what gives away the rich research that went into this novel, and Hawksley does his best to be respectful to Eskimo culture and portray the reality these people face in the far north. He takes a hard look at the struggles these people are facing and doesn’t shy away from harsh comments on the reasons why they are in the place they are.
The pace is fast and the energy is high in Humphrey Hawksley’s Man on Ice: Russia vs the USA – In Alaska. It’s a tense situation with Russia threatening invasion while America wrestles with its new president-elect and the delicate touch that politics requires. It’s a journey of one man who has returned home for tender reasons and who leaves his home slightly broken. This book takes a look at the human condition and dances with the delicate relationships formed within. It starts off with darkness and trepidation yet a small piece of hope, only to descend into a flurry of agony and tough decisions. This is more than just a political thriller.
Pages: 224 | ASIN: B079SG2VDG
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Slay the Dragon is an action-packed mystery about a man named Cesar Rosada. He is descended from a line of coffee farmers, a former professional athlete and now a rising politician with a single goal; to help the working class of his country. He is determined to fight for the rights of his people but there is one crisis he can not see a way out of, the opioid addiction. Working as the minister of finance he will stop at nothing to fight against corruption. This leaves him with a choice that will test his own morality.
This book was written by author Laura A. Zubulake who worked for years on Wall Street and is a frequent world traveler. She has written non-fiction before, but Slay the Dragon is her debut fiction novel. The prologue got my attention from the very beginning and is an engaging start to an intriguing novel that hits on a subject that is destroying families and individuals in America. Slay the Dragon does a fantastic job of using fiction to understand a complex problem, and helps you visualize the enormity of the opioid crisis today. I enjoyed how the world unfolds slowly, detail by detail, we get to piece together a seedy world reminiscent of the show Narcos. César’s character development reminds me of George R.R. Martin’s characters. They are characters changed, dramatically, by circumstances out of their control, and they’re just trying to adapt.
This story is exciting, dangerous, thrilling, and full of adventure. Cesar is the kind of character you can’t help but root for with his pure ideals and determination to help those around him. When his actions enter a moral gray area you can empathize. How do you find such entrenched corruption? Zubulake has written a world that feels real in its gritty depictions of South American politics.
From beginning to end this book held my attention and kept me guessing. This is definitely the book for you if you like political thrillers that leave you thinking long after you’ve closed the book.
Pages: 289 | ASIN: B07BH2VMNQ
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Joshua Landeros is at it again with a sequel to his prequel series with Voice of the Crimson Angel Part II: Poison. Julissa Marconi is ready to take on the ultimate villain, Chancellor Venloran. All that stands between the United Nation Republic and Mexico is the rebels, who seek to resist the tyrannical influence of the more powerful country. This struggle will not end cleanly as Venloran deploys his cyborg soldiers, which leaves Julissa questioning if she can really stop this assault. She may have to become what she fights.
And once again Landeros hits it out of the park with this novel and there is a maturing of his prose in a way that should greatly satisfy his readers. Poison centers around the conflict, or rather, Expansion, that the United Nation Republic is forcing upon Mexico. There is a resonance here with the current events of immigration and Mexico with the US, which does not make this seem like an accident on Landeros’ part. The engagement not only of the struggle of soldiers, but of entire populaces, bumps up the stakes of what has been up until now, a waltz down memory lane to contextualize his main Reverence series.
This installment breathes new air into the series and gives the prequel series more weight going forward. In some ways the look at the national conflict tends to make the conflict become too political and the characters are lost in the back and forth, but it eventually re-centers and the story becomes an intimate tale about identity and duty.
The style of Landeros is largely unchanged aside from his deeper engagement with thematic elements helping his subtle prose along. Robert Heinlein would be proud as would Atwood with his struggle to both dignify the society he has created, and draw parallels from our world to the world of Reverence. For the science fiction reader, there may be more thriller, political drama than one is used to, but we can always count on Landeros to bring the fight to us.
In the grander scheme of his series and world building, Posion begins to show the end game that will follow, since the Expansion is only a piece to Venloran’s ongoing long game. We all know the players who are involved at this point and it’s really just seeing it all unravel. Truly, a pulse-pounding thrilling read.
Pages: 226 | ASIN: B07BNTQRTJ
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“While Kenyatta initiated corruption, and made it a pastime for well-placed government officials, Moi institutionalized it and made it routine within all ranks of society.”
Looters and Grabbers, 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite by Joe Khamisi is a detailed account of the historical and contemporary corruption plaguing the African country of Kenya. It details corruption from the highest levels of government down to average citizens. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific theme of corruption spanning from 1963 to 2017 and encompassing four presidencies; Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta.
I started this book thinking there would be some kind of a silver lining at the end, but there isn’t one. What you’ll find is a detailed account of the pervasive corruption that is literally everywhere in Kenya. Time and time again it’s shown how corruption is despised by all but is undertaken at every opportunity. It seems that anti-corruption is the political rallying call, but profit is always the underlying goal.
This is a historical book in that it does describe the rise of four of Kenya’s presidents, Kenya’s independence from Britain, and the development of Kenya’s modern government, but it does all of this with a focus on corruption; from it’s inception into it’s many manifestations in every part of Kenya’s government. One thing that I learned is how corruption in Kenya is not a local affair, but a global enterprise. European, Asian, and Western countries have had their turn profiting from corruption in Kenya.
One thing I did enjoy was how we get to see the country develop, through stories of corruption, into modern times. We go from President Kenyatta who is the first president when Kenya receives its independence from Britain, to president Uhuru who its noted as having a large Twitter following. At one point even mentioning Paul Manafort and his company helping the Kenyan President resuscitate his global image.
This is a good book for those interested in history, African culture, political science students, and most of all corruption. If you’re interested in learning how corruption is instituted, contributed to, and perpetuated, then this book is a master class in delivering specific examples.
What concerned me the most after reading account after account was that, as the author states, these are the corruption cases that we know about, and have been documented or reported on by the media. I’m sure there are plenty more that we don’t know about.
This book is exceptionally researched with a wealth of references. Joe Khamisi has done a fantastic job turning a list of corruption cases into a linear narrative that is compelling and thought provoking.
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My Name is Nelson by Dylan Fairchild is a political thriller set in modern-day America. Nelson Troutman is a phenomenal scientist who has been working under the radar until one day he snaps at his treatment under his employer’s hand. Armed with an extensive background, tons of knowledge and access to weaponry equipment, Nelson moves into his familiar strip club with favorite acquaintance Tiffany Golden, where he sets up an office for himself. His plan is to begin exacting his revenge to teach both his boss and the thousands of bullies out there a lesson in how to treat people with respect!
From the very first page to the last, My Name is Nelson is a captivating read with spectacular prose throughout. The forthcoming action and story line are not immediately apparent in the first few chapters, as Fairchild develops our relationships with some fascinating and likable characters, such as the President Andrew Macintyre and his National Security Advisor Chet Addington, alongside Nelson’s favorite stripper, Tiffany Golden. There are also other enjoyable characters including a security guard named Walt and Julie the Presidents Science Adviser. I found I only had to read a few lines of each chapter and immediately felt a connection with every character in this thrilling story.
However, what I personally think is done to perfection in this book is Fairchild’s pacing as it all begins to come together. With many strands all initially unrelated, when the plot does start to take shape, each character and chapter is perfectly woven together, so much so that you continue to marvel at just how good Dylan Fairchild is as a writer!
It does feel at times, albeit naturally so, that the book weaves effortlessly between several genres, including that of political, thriller, sci-fi and even a hefty dose of humor! This only succeeds in making it a more approachable and enjoyable read for a broader audience.
Then there is the man himself, Nelson. When we are first introduced to him, it is perhaps not in the best of lights, more so as in awkward scenarios, as an odd guy who likes to frequent one particular strip club which is home to his favorite girl. However, Nelson is not your average strip club customer, and Tiffany has become more of a trusted companion and the club his safety net when things get tough with his boss, Hawthorne.
What follows is an enthralling, though peculiar, character whom you cannot help but root for as the story progresses, despite what Nelson intends to do. It does not take much for his character to pull you in and encourages you to begin thinking he just may have some form of entitlement, some sort of right, to continue on the path he has prepared for himself, after the way he has been treated throughout his childhood and indeed his adult life.
I could not find fault with this book and devoured it with enjoyment. My Name is Nelson is most certainly a worthy five-star contender.
Pages: 222 | ASIN: B07B4KCTYR
Posted in Book Reviews
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The Decline of Democratic Society in the New Age explores the current state of politics, economics, and society. Why was this an important book for you to write?
The idea to write this book came to me in September of 2016. Throughout that month I grew more and more amazed with what I was seeing on television every time I turned it on. Angry people protesting the candidacy of Donald Trump everywhere, even in Toronto where I was living. The intensity of the emotions displayed made an impact on me. I never imagined this many people cared this much about politics. Although I had been working on other things at the time it seemed to me that my first book should be about the politics of this era, so I dropped everything and started writing this book that very month.
The book delves deep into the failures of the US government since 2007 and the international effects of these failures. Why did you choose this year as the starting point?
The year 2007 was not the year the policy failures began, but it was the year the markets began to fail in alarming fashion, day after day. Economics are the lynchpin for all the political and historical insight that pours forth in this book. The book is not academic in nature and contains no jargon. It is for the general reader, but a relevant discussion of economic conduct on the part of government is essential when discussing the state of democratic society today. Democracy itself is still in tact, but societies (people) living under democratic systems are very much in peril due to what is going on economically.
What is one common misconception you find people have about today’s politics?
The main misconception people have about politics today is that it is driven by political concerns. It is not. I try to make it clear in the book that a lot of what goes on is about preserving power and wealth in the U.S. It is not about country or race or society anymore. Everything is motivated by the need to protect enormous wealth and the power it confers. Nothing else matters.
What do you hope readers take away from your book? Is there action that a single citizen can take to rectify our situation?
What I hope people take away from this book is what I state in the very first paragraph of the book. We are living in crucial, transitional times. The western world is not what it once was. Manouvres are being made to preserve economic, class-based power and democracy is very much in danger. What you can do right now is not very much. The source of massive stimulus into the NYSE is now the European Central Bank. They need to move it around every few years to prevent political consequences that might bring an end to it. With so much money coming from Europe, of course, the Europeans now have tremendous influence over the American economy. Since ECB stimulus began, in 2016, the American dollar has fallen in value relative to the Euro by 20%. It was equal to the Euro at the start of 2016. Now one USD is worth .8 Euros. What can somebody do? When the stimulus comes around to the U.S. again, and it will, you must demand, if the American economy is still in tact by then, that there be no taxpayer money injected into the pockets of rich investors and institutions. If they put you off, then I am afraid you will have to become more insistent.
Do you plan on writing other books?
I have about another five books in me which I do plan to write if the marketplace allows me.
A deeply intellectual history of the present,The Decline of Democratic Society in the New Age outlines the historical events that have led the world into its current state of political, economic, psychological, societal, and biological demise. By identifying and discussing tyranny in its modern forms, solutions are made evident or provided throughout the text. Abounding with original ideas in every one of its thirty chapters, the book is a model of revolutionary thought and philosophical totality. It constitutes no less than a modern-day version of Plato’s Republic for the new century. Beyond this, the discourse possesses an unceasing intensity of tone found only in the purest of political tracts. Without doubt an intellectual, political, and historical necessity in this confused and disturbing period.
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