Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dead On

Dead On by Ann Kelly
(iUniverse / 0-595-32664-1 / August 2004 / 204 pages / $14.95)

Brian DePalma is one of my favorite directors, and the movies of his that I like best are in the same genre as Dead On. We don't know who the killer is until the end, but he seems to be a fascinating, psychopathic character. Ann Kelly has crafted a fine first novel with a plotline that is easily visualized as a movie thriller. Homage is also paid to William Petersen as both Gil Grissom and the Manhunter, a movie that I have always felt should have been a monster hit for both Petersen and Michael Mann. The former had to zip up his Quincy suit to become famous, and the latter was already famous for the coke and Scarab patrol on Miami Vice, but those are other stories. The plot of Dead On would seem like just another pyscho killer chase if Scully and Mulder had not let one of their spooky plots escape from the set of The X-Files.

Ann Yang is a new ME of Chinese descent who has just begun her new job in Doylestown, PA. She would really like to forget that butthead she had married in an immature moment of stupidity, and a mystery based in the history of her own century-old house was sufficient to drive out the rotten marriage demons. Although she is never really certain if the butthead has not returned to terrorize her, someone has insinuated his way into her life in a most disturbing manner. A serial killer is leaving buttons from a Civil War uniform at the scenes of his crimes. Ann has discovered an intriguing diary hidden in her new/old house, and the issues may or may not be related. She has a trusted friend to help her with the case, a retired FBI agent with loads of street sense and a devotion to both Ann and his own family. The two sleuths track the killer through both time and space. Don't ask me to explain it. The plot is a mystery, and the secrets are not revealed until the end. Is Dead On a supernatural story? To some degree, yes. Is it a mystery with convolutions that would make even Mr. DePalma dizzy? Yes.

Much of the plot surrounds a diary composed in 1903. Whenever the heroine reads this diary, the text is in italics. Multiple, whole pages of italics are annoying to read. This and the incredibly short chapters are easily the leading negatives of Dead On. A lot more description of the characters and the motives behind their actions would expand the length of these half-page chapters considerably. The text is so brief that the reader is sometimes left a bit confused. It is unclear if the author meant to impart an especially quick pacing to the story, intentionally lead the reader down blind alleys, or introduce characters and subplots that she is saving for a sequel. Whatever the case, this completes the actions of my Complaint Department.

Ann Kelly has crafted a highly rated first effort about a time-traveling psycho-killer and his CSI-type pursuer. She throws in the Civil War, schizophrenia, lesbian love, past-life regression, pre-Katrina New Orleans, and the kitchen sink. You wouldn't think all this would fit into 204 pages, but it does. You will like this little dose of escapist fiction if the genres of murder mystery and serial killers are two of your favorites. If you are an X-Files fan, too, you will probably love it to death.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Helpful Book Marketing Articles

This site has many free articles concerning the web marketing of books by unknown authors.

Author Insider – Free marketing articles to help make your book a success

Friday, September 22, 2006

Securing a Book Review

The next review will be of Ann Kelly's Dead On. Look for it soon.

The way to secure a review of your book on this site is to reply with a website or direct email address where I can reach you. Due to the limitations of internet availability in my area, I cannot easily contact you through a third-party source on a large server. For instance, if you give me an email address such as, I can quickly respond to your message. I can respond through Authors Den quite easily also, but I cannot go through Yahoo or Yahoo Groups or MySpace or another blog server very easily. I cannot put my direct email on the blog site or I would be spammed to death. If you do not want your email exposed, even within a comment, on the blog site, you can send me a message through Authors Den. This convoluted path is the only way I have been able to dodge the spammers. Please feel free to contact me about a review any time. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II by Susan Higginbotham
(iUniverse / 0-595-35959-0 / July 2005 / 492 pages / $25.95)

Susan Higginbotham's epic medieval soap opera is an engrossing tale of historical fiction surrounding the reign of King Edward II during the 1300's. This book has already been acquiring glowing reviews from many sources, and my two cents worth of opinion will hopefully add to the book's reputation. The Traitor's Wife is further proof that there are some marvelous iU authors out there, and I have proclaimed it my job to find them. This is a TV miniseries waiting to happen. Who's ready to write the screenplay?

One of my favorite fiction books of all time is Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, and strangely enough, I see many parallels between the two books, with two significant exceptions. The Witching Hour is a 1000+ page account of the fictional Mayfair Family of witches residing in New Orleans long before the devastation of Katrina. The Traitor's Wife is a lightly fictionalized account of the broadly extended royal family of England during the 1300's, centuries before the tragic ending of the reign of Princess Diana. The first difference between the two tales is that the witches flew out of Anne's imagination, but King Edward's court really did go through all those trials and tribulations. The second difference is that The Traitor's Wife is less than half as long as The Witching Hour. Most of the page count difference is the direct result of the many slowly simmering descriptions of places and events present in The Witching Hour; whereas, in contrast, The Traitor's Wife skips most of the narrative description and goes right to the conversation. Hence, The Traitor's Wife can easily be visualized as a screenplay in which the focus is totally upon the words and actions of the characters. Even a miniseries of The Witching Hour could never capture the intense depth of the Mayfairs and their control over the city of New Orleans that lasted for centuries. Most of the characters in The Traitor's Wife were married in their teens and lived relatively short lives. The Mayfair witches had spirits and vampires for companions, reflecting lifespans of an entirely different nature.

Americans have always been fascinated by both supernatural spirits that live forever and English royalty that live and die tragically. The New Orleans Garden District has always been one of my favorite places. On numerous occasions, I have visited the same streets haunted by The Mayfairs. I know there are many Americans, and I dare say that most of them are women, who have been equally as drawn to the lives of the many variations of the British royal family, culminating in the death of Diana. The story of Edward II is as appallingly shocking as anyone might want to discover, and the truth of its history adds to the reading pleasure of The Traitor's Wife. Although The Mayfairs were a matriarchal society and men ruled the kingdom in medieval England, the tale of The Traitor's Wife is told from the feminine perspective. The men do the dirty work and the women have to clean it up. The male spirit Lasher sets off an endless chain of tragic events by having sex with the female Mayfair witches, and King Edward sets the standard by having sex with another man, or two. Let the games begin....

Neither The Witching Hour nor The Traitor's Wife would ordinarily be a book I would select to read. They both look too much to me like books women would enjoy much more than men, and to some extent, this is certainly true. What makes me recommend The Traitor's Wife so strongly is how much I did like it, in spite of the fact that I am a lot more fascinated by Dracula than Diana. Of course I have read nearly all of Anne Rice's books (The Witching Hour twice). Susan Higginbotham has written only one book, and now Eleanor le Despenser resides on my bookshelf only inches away from the Mayfair witches. What higher recommendation can I offer?

See Also: Interview with Susan Higginbotham

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Book Review Update

I want to update a few statements made in the first post on July 12, 2006. As the plot has thickened, a few concepts have solidified.All of these updates fall under the heading, Examine the Following Details Thoroughly.

Concerning the statement referring to the sites on which a review will be posted: I shall post a review on this site, Amazon, B&N, and Authors Den. Anyone who sends a book for review, should get an Authors Den page, if you do not already have one, otherwise the review will be on only three sites.

Concerning the complexity of the review: The longest review will probably be placed on this site, with shorter versions on the other sites. If I have the time and inclination, all four reviews will be individually written. If not, there will be some copying and pasting utilized. A lot of this will be determined by the number of requests for reviews that I get, so the authors that make their requests early in the process will probably get the most attention.

The authors I would most like to help are those who have created carefully researched and crafted works, and then spent significant time promoting them, only to see horrible (or worse, no) sales rankings at Amazon and B&N. I am looking for great writers, not books by opportunistic hacks that just happen to publish the hot subject of the moment. Since I read every book cover to cover that I am going to review, this project is a slow process. The earlier submissions will invariably receive more of my time in the creation of reviews.

Concerning the types of books I like: I do not favor either fiction or nonfiction. I read about equal numbers of both. My favorite author is Anne Rice, but I find Stephen King a bit too repetitive and predictable. I have read most of Robert Rimmer's work, and I certainly like his subject matter. In case you did not know, some of his books have been re-released by iU. I just finished a 750-page biography of Bob Dylan. I read Scaduto's version decades ago and wanted to read another perspective. Al Franken entertains me, and I think Thomas Frank offers scholarly research on his topics. Carlos Castaneda told a spellbinding tale in his Don Juan series, however unbelievable it might have been. Harold Robbins has always been my favorite of the trash novelists. I try to inject a spaciness into my own books that I hope approaches that of Kurt Vonnegut. Jean Shepherd is the king of nostalgia and Peter Egan is the best writer of stories about cars and motorcycles. The bottom line is that I am not seeking a particular genre to review on this blog.

I am looking for proof that iUniverse authors are capable of writing great books that deserve to be discovered and read. Bring on the submissions!