Keep the lights on when you read this book! Sour Lake Or, The Beast will transport you back in time to East Texas, 1911. Chapter one is called Pray, and that is your only warning of what is to lie ahead. A brutal and gruesome death of the young school teacher Lenard Dalchau leads you into the world of this small Texas county of Ochiltree. Prejudice and racism run high and the locals want this death solved and forgotten quick. Reeves Duncan, the sheriff however isn’t one to just jump to conclusions and hang the wrong man. Agreeing with the sheriff that this is no ordinary murder case is “Doc” Walter McDivitt that has seen enough brutality for a lifetime. These two take the lead in discovering the truth. Together they discover a truth that no one wants to hear, and no one would believe if they did.
Bruce McCandless III is a talented author that is a cross between Steven King and the voice actor Robert Clotworthy. The historical descriptions and language are offensive to modern society but are accurate for 1911. It is so clear you feel like you are really back in Texas in the early 1900’s and living with this society. I’m not typically a person that enjoys horror novels because my imagination will just keep me up all night with every bump in the dark. McCandless however has written a story so engaging I couldn’t put it down. There are so many surprises in the pages it is hard to reveal much for fear of giving away the next piece of the plot. I can say I fell in love with the character of Sheriff Duncan. A man that lost his wife, became an alcoholic and overcame it. A mild mannered man that wants to be fair and not rock the boat. He does have a conscience and uses that to guide him as the story progresses, that inner instinct and unwillingness to follow a mob mentality. Sheriff Duncan believes in facts, and even when those facts point to things that should not be real he doesn’t discredit it. When all is said and done, he just wants to walk away. But how can you walk away from the nightmares he endured?
This is a novel you just can’t put down, it will draw in readers that like historical fiction, horror, a little sci-fi and a lot of action and gore. All the main characters are given rich back stories so you feel you really know who they are and how they ended up in Ochiltree County. The story line is unique and completely original probably because of when it takes places. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone that needs an escape from modern drama, this book will take you away and make you think, as well as surprise you from one chapter to the next.
Pages: 228 | ASIN: B06XR9T91W
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Songs from Richmond Avenue by Michael Reed is a dark novel about characters that could be found in any town. The main character is a journalist that seems to know all the questionable characters that hang out on Richmond Avenue in Houston. He meets a beautiful woman named Michelle that he becomes infatuated with from the start. Michelle could change things for the journalist, but not before he gets caught up in some seriously crazy shenanigans that include kidnapping, booze and roommates. Among everything else, you get to know some barflies who have very interesting stories and a love for alcohol and bets.
This story isn’t long, but packs quite a bit into such a small package. I can imagine this story set in any small local dive bar. There would be those regulars that have extremely colorful stories that are darkly humorous. The writing is unique and paints a descriptive image of all the characters in the book. Each one has personality and detail that many authors gloss over. His descriptions made it easy to visualize and even smell each and every one.
There will be a number of readers who will identify with the different characters and most likely sympathize with them as well. I felt as though I was getting a glimpse into someone’s real life experiences, not the work of fiction. The journalist doesn’t even have a name, yet throughout the story I didn’t even notice. I made it pretty far in before thinking, “Hey, what the heck is this guys name?”
“Songs from Richmond Avenue” could almost be called a drunks love story, as the journalist finds himself wishing for a future with Michelle. He may not exactly be a romantic character, it’s love just the same. Throw in some depressing thoughts while mixing in some humorous parts and that sums up this story.
It took me some time to really get into the story. Michael Reed has a unique way of developing his characters that takes a bit of adjusting to. Once I got farther into the story and got use to the craziness, I was in for the long haul and wasn’t bothered in the slightest. This is definitely not a light and airy read, but I think that is part of the appeal. I had to read slower than I usually would have with any other book which made me connect with the locations and situations. I honestly don’t want to tell you too much, so that you can have the same experience as I did. The antics that take place are so off the wall I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for the next reader!
While it did pick up later, it was a bit hard to get into at first. Many readers I know would put down a book they weren’t drawn into from the beginning. While I know that a slow beginning doesn’t mean anything, that doesn’t make you not feel a bit frustrated. I would suggest anyone who enjoys dark humor and crazy drunken stories to give this book a shot.
Pages: 185 | ASIN: B01N039ZM7
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Karen Glista sets the book The Taking of Peggy Martin in the deep south of Texas. The book details the tribulations of a once God-fearing widowed nurse known as Peggy. She suffers from sleeplessness, which she takes advantage of to regale tales of her childhood and traumatizing loss of her husband. We see her struggle in a mental asylum and her contact with a wild young man by the name of Morgan in Piney wood thicket. The author mingles horror with science fiction to illuminate the mystery in the book. The author uses lots of colorful language to conceal the horror of murder, rape, and macabre details witnessed by Peggy.
The author does a great job of keeping the readers interest in the book despite the vile and gory details. Peggy witnesses what we would call horrendous encounters of eviscerations, decapitations, and murder. To those who are not fans of horror, the flowery language of the author encourages one to read on. However, the author uses colloquial expression and slang which would keep the reader unfamiliar with Texan dialect researching on what some of the words mean.
I tried to pin down what genre this book would be in, but then gave up and just enjoyed the blend of mystery, horror and macabre recounts in the Texan thicket.
Within just the first quarter of the book the author has packed so much information character building that sets the rest of the book up nicely to proceed with vigor punctuated by horribly enthralling events. For those who love the quick speeds at which the story unfolds, you would thoroughly enjoy this edge-of-seat thriller.
Peggy comes across as a pious lady who is unfortunately haunted by her past. She is enigmatic and one cannot tell what caused her husband’s death or if she had anything to do with her dark past… “The more we learn about her, the darker she gets”. Peggy is a strong, resilient lady, given her struggle at the mental asylum. We do not have much information about Morgan except that he is mute and wild, having grown into a feral man. The author has employed various styles in the book such as contrast, colloquialism, vivid description, and slang. The main ideas in the story revolve around rape, murder, and mental instability.
The Taking of Peggy Martin has excellent narration and is an engaging and mysterious thriller that touches even the deepest of our emotions. The plot has a nice flow that takes you through Peggy’s emotional roller coaster, and as things unfold, we can unravel some of the issues in the book.
Pages: 382 | ASIN: B07466DS5H
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An intricate scheme to abduct the children of the most powerful politicians on Capitol Hill gets disrupted when Kerry Branson, ex-homicide detective turned private investigator, inadvertently rescues one of the victims on a fog-laden backroad in the Piney Woods of East Texas.
When Kerry discovers the six-year-old boy is the son of a U.S. Senator kidnapped from his Austin home, her call to the FBI is just the beginning of her problems. Pursued by a ruthless band of mercenaries who seem to know her every move, Kerry is forced into an uneasy alliance with the agent assigned to the case, FBI Tracker Ryan Barr.
As the abductions continue, their search for the children will pit Kerry and Ryan against a formidable adversary who uses his wealth and political power to cloak a psychopathic obsession. His manipulation extends deep into the government even to the Office of the President.
A horrific plan slowly emerges—one that has drug cartels and terrorist groups lined up to cash in.
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In Vengeance is Mine Sam is determined to become the man he believes he was meant to be and fights for a life that leaves death and violence behind. How did you identify those things that were core to Sam’s belief and how did you set him on a path to find them?
Sam was raised like many young men, believing if he worked hard, did the right thing and believed good things would happen to him. Through the course his life took into combat and the resulting blood shed all those things were lost to him. Sam is a mix of several men I was lucky enough to meet while working as an alcohol rehabilitation counselor in the military. Many of the problems the men faced could be traced back to the horrors of war, which they were not prepared to face.
I felt that this novel took a more personal look at Sam’s character? Did you always have Sam’s character mapped out? Was there any surprises in his character development in this third book?
Originally, there was too be only one book. It was not until I got into the first book that I began to know Sam and the other characters as well. What I started as a typical western, more or less, became the story of a man finding his way back to himself, then reestablishing contact with others, and lastly making peace with his creator. It felt, at times, that Sam was telling me the story and I was to record it for him. Some people will read the story and say, “Sam and Laura got married, I knew it all along. But the real story is Sam finds his way to be worthy of marriage.
What is your writing process like? How do you set about creating such in depth characters?
I write as if I was on a land navigation course. I have a starting point, a few way points that I have to find and the ending point. To help me I have a map in my head that helps keep me on track and a mental compass that keeps me in the right direction. I allow the characters to tell the story as best I can. My characters are the backbone of my story. When asked what genre I write, my answer is I write people stories. I write and rewrite until the character becomes as real to me as my neighbor.
Is this the last book in Sam and Laura’s story? Or will there be more?
Several of the Sam and Laura fans continue to ask me to continue the series. For the couple, the story is complete, but there are several stories yet to be told with other characters. Johanna, Sam’s sister is a story rich in history and character. Hack Baskins and the other Texas cowboys, as well as G.W. Lincoln. I have other projects but I would like to round out the Sam and Laura universe.
“The hawk was created in the image of a hawk. That means he must use violence every day of his life if he wants to eat and live another day. He can never wake up one morning and say to himself, “I no longer wish to eat mice and snakes; I want to eat seeds and nuts like the cardinal. No, he cannot do this and why? Because he was created in the image of a hawk.”
“I don’t see…”
“Sam, I know your father taught you this, but you have forgotten. The hawk was created in the image of a hawk. What image were you created in?”
Sam whispered, “God, I was created in the image of God.”
The Amish elder smiled, “Yes, you were created in the image of God and as such you were granted the ability to choose. You can choose to do right or wrong, good or bad, be peaceful or violent. You can even choose to eat mice and snakes if you like.”
Posted in Interviews
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Miss Sally is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Primarily because I was living in Texas when I wrote it and my three daughters, though not yet in their teens, faced the hazards of adolescence, the coming of age which always is difficult and which Sally Halm, the protagonist of his novel, confronted in exaggerated form. I spent my boyhood in a small predominantly Protestant rural community and felt it important to portray what rural life was like for a contemporary audience.
The 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. Why did you choose this as the time period for your story?
My parents were severely affected by the “Great Depression”: they lost everything and had to start life anew in very changed circumstances. Texas was one of the states most affected by migration and the social changes that the Great Depression triggered. Mere survival became the primary preoccupation of millions of people. These are basic ingredients for the making of a novel.
Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. How did you set about capturing the thoughts and emotions of a young girl in the 1930’s?
I had a clear impression of Sally, who she was and what she was like, before I began and in the process of writing became Sally, at least to the extent of feeling what she felt, seeing the world as she experienced it, incorporating my own background of growing up in a socially restricted rural community where failed crops and tent revivals were a reality.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I’ve just completed a novella about how an incapacitating illness affects a marriage. It’s being considered by several editors. Also in the hands of editors is a recently compiled book of published short stories about Mexico. This fall I’m issuing as an ebook a nonfiction account of government repression of a teachers’ movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, which includes firsthand reporting. It’s to be called Kill the Teachers! And I’m beginning work on a freewheeling journalistic appraisal of the confused political and economic shenanigans involving the United States and Mexico.
This is the story of a young girl’s painful initiation into womanhood: the discovery of sex without hope of love, and grief without the release of tears. The setting is rural Texas in the 1930s, a rough and tumble environment in which the thirteen-year-old Sally Halm questions but tries to appease her authoritarian mother’s religiosity, appeasement that leads to misguided attempts to seek a salvation that her environment ruptures
Sally’s father has distanced himself not only from his wife but Sally and her two older brothers and two older sisters. The mother’s ally is the son who hopes to become an evangelical minister; the rebel is Sally’s oldest sister, who Sally and the middle sister Hill’ry discover in a lovemaking tryst with a neighbor boy. Hill’ry is the family’s child protégé who is given privileges that Sally is denied and who Sally both envies and admires, attributes which tumble her into misadventures than Hill’ry sidesteps.
As Sally struggles to reconcile the concepts of “sin” and “salvation” that seem to dominate her life she ricochets between hope and rejection. Inspired by the testimony of a woman evangelist who recounted rising from degradation to achieve happiness and prosperity thanks to accepting Jesus as her personal savior Sally tries to emulate her but realizes “everything I do I do backwards, I can’t even sin without people laughing at me.”
Sent to live with relatives in another part of central Texas, Sally becomes infatuated with an older cousin whom she helps to milk and to breed a mare. Though supportive he’s a man who seems to hate himself, a hard drinker who has no use for religion and prefers the company of prostitutes than that of “churchy people.” Again Sally does things backwards and alienates him as she’s alienated others. Her decision to run away from family, from the she’s leading and has led, thrusts her into even greater entanglements, entanglements that make her realize how difficult it is to have one’s immortal soul saved, even when that’s all that one has left.
A reviewer cautioned, “You’ll love Miss Sally, but she’ll break your heart.”
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Black Overalls by Tom Donaldson is an all-American tale of home-grown heroism, set in the struggling farms of Texas during the 1960’s. We follow Roy, failed football prospect turned journalist, as he digs into the history of his football idols – and discovers the tale of an unexpected hero. The story takes us from backwater Texas counties, to the State championships, to the horrors of Vietnam, and beyond. We find two seemingly separate lives are more intertwined than we think, and that there’s not much a small town with a big heart can’t do.
The comeback story has a universal appeal – you don’t have to know much about the game in question to appreciate the little guy standing up to the big team. And that’s exactly what this book is: a classic underdog story.
Black Overalls oozes with heart. Tom Donaldson clearly cares deeply about his subject, about the setting, about old-fashioned American values. The book touches on era-appropriate controversies, particularly around race, which culminates in war-torn Vietnam. I have to admit, it’s not where I expected the book to go. But it gives the story a touchingly human element and a feel-good ending. It’s nice to read a book where there’s no shocking twist, no depressing revelation; just a happy ever after. Occasionally that’s to a fault – scenes can lack conflict sometimes – but you certainly come out of it feeling okay about the human race.
This book is obviously a passion project for the author, but it struggles with a lack of proper grammar and punctuation. The pacing is sometimes confusing. The mixed perspective can occasionally jump between past and present without warning or context. And some chapters are often just technical descriptions of matches, venues, plays and lists of scores more comparable to Match of the Day.
Despite the flaws, a need for an editor, and dry sports commentary, I enjoyed Black Overalls immensely. If you’re a football fan or just looking for a short, light read then I think you might just enjoy it too.
Pages: 145 | ASIN: B01BNR347O
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Miss Sally by Robert Joe Stout is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Through trial and error 13-year-old Sally Halm finds out about sex, relationships, and what it means to engage in this behavior without love. She painfully learns what it’s like to be a woman in rural Texas during the great depression and how the church expects women to behave. After patterns of abuse, devastating discoveries, and misguided adventures she learns what it means to be saved and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
My initial reaction when I began reading this book was one of excitement. I love history, and the 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. The Great Depression left a tremendous impact on the families affected. After getting a few pages in, however, it was difficult for me to place myself in the characters shoes.
This story gets better as it progresses and when I was further in I was unable to put it down. The writing style while not my favorite was engaging as the characters started to come to life. I especially enjoyed how Mr. Stout wrote Sally’s relationship with her mother. The relationship felt realistic to me because of my own experiences as a 13-year-old and how my mom and I got along.
Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. While her sisters, Judy and Hill’ry are thought to be beautiful. As a result of the treatment, she receives Sally has a low self-esteem and her sisters, lovers, and her imagination can quickly persuade her into things she doesn’t want to do. Through all of this, I noted that Sally still seeks the approval of her family and loves them very much.
Sally eventually becomes more curious and finds herself in trouble. After being landing in a church revival, one woman’s story sticks out to her in a way so profound she doesn’t feel she has done wrong enough to be saved by the Lord. She paints her own picture of this woman and believes she has to be like her to be truly saved. This event along with her sister’s encouragement lead to Sally’s dark fate. After what seems like years of abuse and bad decisions Miss Sally goes with her mother to be saved but is once again given the short end of the stick.
Sex and coming of age are two major themes in this story, and Mr. Stout’s rural writing style helps with the setting. Had this story been written any differently the plot wouldn’t have made sense. It was compelling and painted a strong picture of life for a young girl at that time.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B071HL6YMJ
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Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged tells the story of Patterson and his wife, Alice, driving from the Mexican border to Atlanta, Georgia, with their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy. What was the inspiration that made you want to write such a heartwarming book?
This book was a love letter to Alice that wouldn’t stop flowing until it was a book – actually two books. Shortly after returning from our journey which actually was six weeks driving from Austin, Texas, to the Blue Ridge Mountains and back I took note of how much fonder I was of both our cats Tuffy and Munchie. Intrigued by this new found affection for Alice’s little prima donnas I decided to put in narrative all that I remembered about the trip. Funny thing was no sooner had I begun to write than the story took shape around Alice and how much she had meant to me for all these years. So I began to write about the very things Alice loves best after me – her cats. Only now, after our trip, I could feel they were our cats and that’s when I at last realized what Alice had been trying to help me understand all these years – that when you love another with an all-consuming passion you will love the things they love as well.
As the couple travel the country the tone is kept lite and is easy to read. What were the themes you were trying to capture as you wrote this story?
I attempted to tell through story a truth that life’s greatest joys can often be discovered and experienced by tuning in to the everyday things we often overlook. Sharing a meal in a crowded room or wincing when a cats claws catch your toes can be the occasion and should be the occasion for rekindling our love and feelings for one another. Celebratory moments are awaiting in almost every moment of the day if we only stop and feel the excitement of being alive.
It seems like you had a lot of fun writing this book. What was your favorite scene to write and why?
Actually writing about the manner in which Alice and I first met and how her spy almost cost us a life together was the most intoxicating scene for me as I penned the scenes. Alice only read the book after its conclusion and this part of the story was her favorite as well.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book is a sequel – Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Rising. It is the story of our journey on from Atlanta into the Blue Ridge Mountains. In this one the reader is afforded
an in depth view to Alice’s intensity for living on life’s edge and how.
Dining and Driving With Cats – Alice Unplugged is a heartwarming and beguiling adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book is as much a story of sweet devotion as it is an exquisite example of discovering life’s hidden joys in the smallest of everyday experiences. Not since Michael Ondaatje’s hypnotic voice in The English Patient has a book spoken with such an allure for the reader. You might even spot a bit of Irish in the author and his spouse’s detailed arguments comparing a dish from one restaurant to the same of another restaurant.
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Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance was originally written by Lillian Jones Horace 68 years ago. What inspiration did you find in this book that made you want to publish an annotated scholarly edition?
I am certain that most of my admiration stems from my appreciation for Horace, the African American southern woman writer, who remained true to her commitment to write “creatively but constructively.” Before I began conducting research on Horace and her writings, she and the archival material treating her life and works were largely overlooked by scholars.
The protagonists she created all exemplify the kind of determination that Horace herself demonstrated throughout her life.
I wanted to create an annotated scholarly edition to help Angie Brown find its way into the literary canon, where students and scholars of African American literature could weigh in on its value.
Angie Brown is a strong women that is finding her path through troubled times. What are some things you admire about her character?
I admire Angie’s determination, practicality, openness to learning, friendly nature, and commitment to progress.
What kind of research did you do for this novel and Lillian Jones Horace?
I conducted extensive archival research to better understand Horace and the characters she created. A comprehensive list of the repositories I visited appears in my first book-length publication on Horace titled, Recovering Five Generations Hence: The Life and Writing of Lillian Jones Horace (2013). I have been researching and writing about Horace since 2003. Her papers are held in the Fort Worth Public Library, Fort Worth, TX.
I understand you contacted some of the Horace family for this book. What were their reactions to you pursuing this 100 year old story?
I contacted her niece and two of her great nieces. Her great niece, who remembered her well, knew that Lillian Horace was a respected educator, but she had no idea that Horace had written two historic novels. Most of what I shared with her and other family members about Lillian Horace was new to them.
Do you have any other books in the works?
Yes. I am working on an edited version of Lillian Horace’s diary, and a book project comparing and contracting the trajectory of Horace’s life and works to those of her younger and more popular southern African American contemporary, Zora Neale Hurston.
“Angie Brown is a romance migration novel set in the Jim Crow era. Angie, the protagonist, determines to embrace all life has to offer despite the social restrictions facing young black southern women like her. Angie holds fast to her desire to find financial success, personal fulfillment, and true love, but she does not achieve her dreams alone, nor do they unfold in the same place. From Belle, her confidant; to Betty Yates, the teacher; to Chester, the pool hall owner; women and men from various social stations in life and different places share nuggets of wisdom with Angie. With their love and support, she overcomes tragedy, welcomes fresh possibilities, climbs the social ladder, and opens her heart to love. Angie’s progressive journey reflects the migratory trek of many African American Southerners of the Jim Crow era, who left the South for greater educational and economic opportunity. Her quest leads her from a small segregated community to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and eventually to the Midwest, including St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, and Southern Illinois. As Angie travels from place to place, she gradually comes into her own and learns key life lessons. Angie learns that struggle is universal. While doing domestic work, she discovers that whites, who live on “The Other Side,” also experience pain, suffering, and grave disappointment. Love eludes white women, too, and they, too, face gender discrimination. Having overcome her fair share of personal losses, Angie reaches across racial lines to console Gloria, a member of the Parker family, for whom Angie does domestic work. Her experience with the Parker’s is juxtaposed to her dealings with the Mungers, a rich, Northern white family she meets. Although the Mungers are kind to Angie, she learns that life beyond the South is not perfect. Yes, she and other blacks face less virulent forms of racism outside the South, but economic stability and educational opportunity are not easily achieved.”
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