Detective Alex Hunter stumbles into darkness after a drunk driver careens into his wife and daughter, killing them instantly. Off the force, two years pass and he lands in private investigations and the edge of the underworld. When Arthur Garland offers him just the kind of job he can’t turn down, all hell breaks loose. Not only is Garland’s past unsettling, he is also the owner of a new property Alex is buying on Crystal Creek. He’d been turned on to the sale by a mysterious figure so now with every nerve firing and red flags flying, the wiry detective has a mystery to solve – one that he is already in too deep. Discovering how this all started with a detective not unlike himself over a century ago does little to soothe his soul. Then, and now, the answer to the mystery of Crystal Creek may lay with a phantom man wearing an old black hood.
CS Caspar’s novel, Hoodie Black, starts out with a tone not unlike an autobiography told in first person. The supernatural, however, has already come knocking within the first page. Deft descriptions of street trash mingle with demons from the start, I was taken with this dark view of the world. With a distinctive noire flair, the tale unfurls smooth as a red carpet making it easy to stroll on in to this tale and take a seat.
Harkening back to the best Twilight Zone or Creepshow stories, there are ghastly legacies, surreal paintings, tales regaled and of course much of that creeping darkness to be found. And not to say that lightly, Hoodie Black starts out with so many of the genres fairest delights like this so it easily hooks any fan of mystery and horror. On top of all the modern notes this story hits, there is an ancient foundation like something from the Brothers Grimm or older fables, the storytelling quickly becomes deeply layered, making any reader curious how it is all going to converge and when. Truly one of the more remarkable tricks is creating tension simply with that idea – how will this converge and when – CS Caspar has accomplished this tension in the first fifth of the novel.
For some, the tiptoe between a hard-boiled thriller and fairy tale or religious elements may be off putting. The tone may take a little to get used to once the book is at full speed since we are so accustomed to being in one state or genre instead of three at once. For those that enjoy genre-bending dark fiction, Hoodie Black is a very fun read. Culminating in battles between the very ideas of good and evil we are taken between first person narration and a more comfortable third-person point of view. The landscapes and surreal time-bending lend themselves to being wrenched from one mode of storytelling to the other and this should keep the most finicky of readers rapt with attention.
Pages: 219 | ASIN: B07M74MVB9
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Callie and Kane have escaped from the King Hugo’s realm but have been conscripted into the army. Here they hide, Kane posing as a common mage and Callie is put to work in the maid’s camps. With them is Jonas, one of the three roses that Master Cypher was searching for. While the war effort is continuing Jonas reveals to Callie he can see visions of the future, he tells her he must go save Kane or he will die. She rushes out to find Kane and they escape what turns out to be a massacre of all the mages in the camp. After this they find Master Cypher escaping the area with Jonas and he offers to let Kane and Callie join him on his journey to Lonsaran, the neighboring kingdom. Entering the new land, Kane changes his name to Sean McAlister and presents himself as a commoner / mage. Now Sean and Callie must look to make new lives in this land while keeping an eye on Jonas till he can be safely delivered to the king in Asturia. Along the way Callie’s past comes back to haunt her and they must figure out how to survive.
Jason Hubbard’s The Hunt for the Three Roses while a continuation of the previous novel is still able to stand alone and not confuse a new reader too much. It is a long book and some sections drag out and feel like page filler rather than moving the plot along. Aside from that, the actual story line is engaging and the character development, I feel, is enhanced from previous works by Hubbard. I enjoy the relationship dynamic between the characters. Sean’s caring nature is apparent, and you see him grow from a spoiled, selfish nineteen-year-old, into a mature father figure with Jonas. His relationship with Callie is back and forth as both can’t seem to figure out what they really want in life and what direction they want to go in. Both end up in the service of Count Guyver; and seem to fit well into their new rolls. But Rainer, an assassin from the prior novel, is still alive and determined to torment Callie. Even Rainer’s character development is well done, he is dark and calculating. His personality plays well against Sean’s more innocent and desire to be good personality. Callie falls in the middle always conflicted about if she wants to lead a life of good or descend into the underworld of crime again. This conflict makes her character so interesting and makes you want to keep reading to see how things will develop.
The world in which all this takes place is similar to Medieval times Europe. They have a strong religious belief in the life of Micah and the book of Micah. The principals are not all the different from our Bible and Jesus teachings. The difference is their religion includes magic and mages as part of the world of good. A lot of effort went into building the world Hubbard created and it shows in the details of the manor, the ways of the country men, and the secretes that the characters hold. This novel sets up things well for the next installment of the Three Roses and I look forward to seeing how this story line concludes.
Pages: 404 | ASIN: B07HHX5ZLP
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YEGman by Konn Lavery is a dark thrilling romp through the back allies and underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Michael Bradford, our hero, is a vigilante, who struggles with violence. His issues aren’t going to get better as he investigates the most notorious gang in Edmonton, the Crystal moths. His methods are caught on film and uploaded online to become viral sensations and are labeled with the hashtag, YEGman. The videos fascinate a rebellious journalist, who wishes to cover the story of this mysterious hero.
This novel is an unexpectedly gritty trip through the Canadian crime scene that I don’t find too often in literature. Most of what comes to mind may be cozy mysteries, not ultra-violent vigilantes dealing with criminals. The novel takes a fun turn with the involvement of the student, Lola and how she gives a better and deeper inside look of the gang culture. In some ways, the trope is rather familiar with an attractive journalist in training along with the brooding vigilante in Bradford. It kind of brings to mind a mix of Batman, Spiderman, and Lois Lane. It’s an affirmation of Lavery’s skill to synthesize all of this together to make a novel that engages the reader and doesn’t let up until the end.
Lavery’s style leans on description, which helps to develop the world of this noir thriller, but I felt that the characters sometimes overly explain things. The prose is decent and kept me involved, but the pacing sometimes slows because of the over explanation which left me often wandering from the story. With an action packed story like this, putting the brakes on to go into detailed explanations lowers the tension on an otherwise exciting story.
This novel is plenty gritty, with a dark narrative and the definite feel that danger lurks within every shadow. With a consistently murky tone and treacherous atmosphere to the novel I was able to sink my teeth into the dark underworld set in an alternative Edmonton. For Canadian readers and noir thriller aficionados alike this novel would be a fun read, even people who enjoy a little bit of mystery and can tolerate the violence, this is recommended reading. Overall, an exciting addition to Lavery’s body of work.
Pages: 461 | ASIN: B07B3N5S92
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Into the Night features an unlikely pairing of characters who set out on a journey to battle barbarians and vampires across the English countryside. I felt like the setting was very detailed in this story. Why did you choose this time and place for your book?
Historically, in the early 1300’s, England became the landing point of the Vikings when they decided to leave their northern towns. Vampire legends were also very well-known and taken seriously throughout almost every century.
Vampire belief peaked and declined and then rose again as time went on. Vampires are indeed everlasting; at first being a tale of horror and then becoming a fascination. It is no doubt that vampires evolved like no other monster in our literature. The lore is still alive today and fills us both with fear and desire.
I studied old maps of the English countryside and manipulated some letters of real older towns to create my locations. I also mentioned some landmarks that still exist today to give Into the Night a more historical background rather than that of pure fantasy. Somehow, barbarians, vampires, and England just seemed to fit perfectly.
The book got its title because one evening I was driving with the sun behind me and darker night skies ahead of me. I was literally driving into the night. It felt ominous and fit the vibe of my story well. Also at that time, was a popular song on the radio that shared the same name by Santana and Chad Kroeger.
The hero’s Samuel and Valencia are dynamic characters that battle vampire matriarchs Isabella and Cerbera who are also well developed. What was your inspiration for the characters relationship and how they contrast with the villains?
Samuel is a drifter with no clear path in life. Valencia is unable to forget a bad memory and is driven to seek revenge. In a way Valencia is too harsh and Sam too meek; together they take what the other has too much of and it makes them a perfect duo.
The vampire sisters mask their vile intentions and wicked deeds with beauty that beguiles those they encounter. Without Valencia, Samuel would not have been able to (or perhaps not want to) resist them. It stems from the duality of our minds – the fear of losing our humanity (Soul, goodness) and the desire to break free from physical obstacles and society’s restraints and give in to lust. Valencia keeps him grounded and stands as an icon of strength and courage; which eventually wins Sam’s admiration.
I felt like this novel did a great job utilizing vampire lore and creating some of its own. How did you set about creating the vampires in your story?
Into the Night was my first screenplay (and my second published book). At the time I was reading: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. That’s when I decided to practice what I was reading. My first words of the story were Valencia’s speech to Sam, at their first encounter, about Cerbera stalking her prey. I remember putting the monologue on Facebook and getting replies like: “what happens next?” The truth is I didn’t know. I was just practicing a writing exercise I had assigned to myself, but I knew I had to make something out of it now.
It helped that I took a liking to everything vampire; watching movies from Nosferatu to Interview with a Vampire to Underworld, and collecting a library of vampire literature; from Camilla to Vlad to vampire encyclopedias.
Cerbera’s name is taken from a plant species found in India; known as the suicide tree due to its toxicity. The vampire sisters each have a unique trait. One paralyzes men with a touch, the other with a look. Together they symbolize heightened sexuality that dominates all men and is based on the biblical character, Lilith, who eventually formed the race of the succubus. The vampires in Into the Night are a compilation of everything I read and saw.
I would love to see more of the pairing of Samuel and Valencia. Do you have any plans to expand their story in the future?
I have thought about bringing Samuel and Valencia back together as a vampire fighting couple. With the barbarian threat culled and the vampire’s uncanny trait to keep coming back; I would be able to dedicate the story to just vampires.
In the middle of the story Sam and Valencia rescue a family that escapes to Ireland. That was intended to be the main plot for the continuation. The team rejoins to aid the family and fight a vampire threat in Ireland.
In the autumn of 1325 an army of barbarians invade the south-western region of England. A drifter named, Samuel and a strong-willed woman named, Valencia journey north to Ashborough to seek the aid of the steward’s army.
While on their mission they realize the barbarian army is close behind them along with two vampire matriarchs and their vampire horde. They find themselves in the midst of two wars as they fight northward on, what seems to be, a Sisyphean task.
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Executive Hoodlum follows the true life story of John Costello where he uses his harsh upbringing to move up the corporate world. What inspired you to put your story into a book?
Ultimately there were three reasons I wrote the book:
1. I wanted to pass on the story to my kids so they have an appreciation of their legacy. Why they enjoy certain privileges, and to make certain they remain humble knowing the sacrifices that sometimes need to be made to succeed in life and for the next generation.
2. As a volunteer boxing trainer for under-privileges kids I was able to give something back to my community. It was personally rewarding to me so I wanted to give something back in a bigger way. That is to reach a larger audience of would be under dogs to demonstrate they have the opportunity to succeed no matter what the circumstances.
3. I wanted to relieve the burden of my own guilt pertaining to the last words I spoke to my mother before she died. Those words haunted me for decades. I never reconciled my differences with my father prior to his death either. We were at terrible odds as usual but he was alive long enough to make an attempt at reconciliation but chose not to, not with me anyway. Consequently I do not carry the same guilt as with my mother. I did write most of the book and long overseas plane trips and found myself crying writing a couple chapters. Now that the truth is out there, I somehow feel better.
A little background will put the situation into better perspective:
Best Selling author Larry Elder is the one who put the book idea in my head as he is a friend for about ten years. In fact, he was originally going to be my ghost writer. However, it was decided the book had to be in my words due to my slang and other vernacular to be authentic. With my busy work schedule, I was going to drop the whole thing. Problem being, I hate to start something and not finish. Technically Larry inspired me to write as he brought up the original deal as described in my acknowledgements. Prior to beginning the effort in earnest, I contemplated the above three reasons.
Note – I never intended on writing a book because I would have to relive things in my life I was successful in suppressing. However, age and maturity helped me become more open with my early family life.
Additionally, there are individuals in Chicago, New York and New Jersey that I did not want to have to deal with when it comes to some of the content. These are friends I have maintained and kept in contact over many years. I personally spoke to each person, mob boss, made guy, associate and the outlaw biker leaders individually to let them know my intention. To my surprise, to a person they noted they respected my street savvy enough to give the thumbs up.
The characters in this book were well developed and interesting. How close did you stay true to real events and what did you take liberties with?
Thankfully, I did not have to manufacture any drama. The one upside to being born a Costello!
I took no liberties because my street and business credibility are important to me. I played down certain events due to statute of limitation consideration. Most of what is in my book can be authenticated via documents I kept (murder investigations, police reports, death certificates, pictures,letters. newsreels and other documents I collected when fact checking. Additionally, there are third parties I contacted that were with me during certain events I consulted to make certain my recollections were as accurate as possible)
I’m not a big fan of fiction. Truth and authenticity are of utmost importance. This stems from certain things I know that have been portrayed in both books and movies about people I personally know or knew, that were embellished.
John finds himself surrounded by constant turmoil with gangs, members of the underworld, murder, suicide, and drug addiction. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The ugly truth of my own family, especially the circumstances of deaths of my mother, brother and cousin.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
There are many entertaining stories I was reminded of by friends I did not include in this book. Consequently, there may be a part two.
Meet John Costello, Vice President of Business Development and Government Relations for Microsemi Corporation, a $6 billion leader in the advanced-semiconductor market. Well known and respected in the industry, John Costello graduated from college in 1983 with a degree in Business Administration. John’s social circle includes high-level corporate executives, politicians, military leaders and movie stars. As a young boy he played Little League baseball and Pop Warner football, and went on to become an outstanding track and cross-country runner in high school, captain of his college rowing team, and an accomplished boxer in the Golden Gloves and other tournaments. With this wholesome All-American resumé, most would think that John Costello emerged from a solid middle-class family with all the usual privileges pertaining – though nothing could be further from the truth. Costello was born into a working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s north side and grew up under quite difficult conditions. His father was a talented Italian tenor with mob connections and a proclivity for violence; his mother, the daughter of an Irish street cop, was a straight-laced Catholic girl till she took to the bottle after falling victim to that violence. Surrounded by constant turmoil and hardship involving gangs, members of the underworld, murder, suicide, drug addiction as well as physical and emotional abuse, John eventually transcended his circumstances to obtain a higher education and pursue a profitable career that entailed all the perks of an executive lifestyle inclusive of the Hollywood party circuit.
Readers who might enjoy this book are those interested in true-crime stories, mob activity, murder and mayhem, as well as anyone seeking a no-holds-barred story that describes the resilience of the human spirit. Spiced with wit and humor and distinguished by the inimitable voice of tough-talking John Costello, his story touches our hearts while keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Other comparable books include The Truthbook: A Memoir by Joy Castro, which describes a similar childhood fraught with abuse and dysfunction. The theme of destructive behavior and personal downward spiral in the fight game and mobster milieu is also taken up in Raging Bull by Jake La Motta. Then there is the true-crime and gangster activity to be found in Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob by Jeff Coen, as well as in The Neighborhood Outfit: Organized Crime in Chicago Heights by Matthew Luzi. All these works taken together give some idea of the scope of John Costello’s life as recounted in his own book.
And that is what makes our book “unique” – John Costello’s life is unique. It has been a strange blend of two distinct worlds, but with one foot firmly emplaced in each. The fact that he is comfortable meeting with Senator John McCain in the morning to discuss government business, and can then enjoy the company of old friends from the streets of Chicago in the evening, is indicative of his parallel lives and will certainly be something readers find highly intriguing. We have an extensive collection of family photos, newspaper clippings, death certificates, court papers, and other supporting documentation for all claims made, as well as music recordings and video that would introduce the amazing voice of Johnny’s father to a whole new generation.
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Capricorn by Jerry Veit is a pulpy thrill ride. Set in a dystopian world where a city has fallen to criminals and other underworld scum, we follow the hero, Montague, who deals out his own brand of justice. A man who clearly has a dark past of his own struggles with his unrelenting anger until he meets Capricorn, a beautiful young woman. They instantly have a connection but their meeting is cut all too short when a group of thugs kidnap her. Montague is driven by his pledge to Capricorn and undergoes seven trials in order to enter Mammon’s domain wherein his love is imprisoned.
The story is given in play format. The format does not detract from the story itself, although it would do well in audio format. The world of Capricorn is an interesting mix of fantasy, dystopian, and urban fantasy. There are even some themes and symbolism of classical mythology and the Judeo-Christian mythos thrown in for good measure. The world building itself walks a fine line of being just complex enough to make the world feel alive.
Typical of Veit, Capricorn is a story driven by fast actions and passionate motivations. Montague is a not quite anti-hero, but embodies similar traits of the archetype, especially by how he deals out justice. He seems to sway back and forth over the line of being good or bad, although he bears everything that is thrown at him. The trails follow a somewhat formulaic method, but still give the reader certain checkpoints.
This brings up the antagonist, who in some stories helps define the protagonist. Named the Demon, but later Mammon, Veit does some interesting things when the Demon clashes with Montague and it was these moments that will make the reader keep reading until the end. A traditional quest story set in a world that is so strange but familiar to us. Montague does seem to exist in a vacuum and does come across as too singularly minded, which tends to alienate the reader somewhat. This is circumvented by the pure romance and chemistry that Capricorn and Montague have for one another. The adventure, danger, and risk also keep this story lean and fast-paced.
Overall, Capricorn is a fun read for more mature fans of pulp fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction.
Pages: 136 | ASIN: B00IPSZQCQ
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