Escapist Reading – a page-turner for your consideration

Since I follow literary news for the links I post on my Facebook Author’s Page,  I have been seeing multiple reviews and book lists being circulated as good reading while we’re quarantined. Some of the books are suggested to help us cope and understand. Others are suggested to help us escape.

The Last Second by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison is a sharply plotted adventure pitting the good guys against the bad guys in a scenario in which the world might end. This book is the sixth in the authors’ “A Brit in the FBI” series which began in 2013 with The Final Cut.

Coulter, of course, is widely known for her FBI series of thrillers that began with The Cove in 1996 and recently features The Labyrinth (2019). I’ve read most, if not all of both series, and have enjoyed the new ideas and new plots we’ve seen with a British character.

Both series feature re-curring characters, so as you read you learn more and more about them; this provides more depth than most stand-alone FBI, police, and black ops thrillers.

I haven’t finished The Last Second, so I don’t know yet if the world as we know it will end with a nuclear-triggered electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or not. Whatever happens, it’s taking my thoughts away from the pandemic for a while.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Special Investigative Reporter, Sarabande, The Sun Singer, At Sea, Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, and Lena. Click on my name above to find these books on my Amazon page.


How You Can Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic 

As the days march on and the only thing that feels certain is devastating uncertainty, my colleagues and I consider it both our mission and privilege to help keep readers’ spirits up and do whatever we can to see them through to the other side of this. There always seems to be pressure on us to make something of “free time” and the paradox of our current moment is that we have a lot of it and can’t really do anything with it but wait.

Source: How You Can Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic | Literary Hub

An important source for writers, publishers, and readers, Literary Hub has increased its output of essays, poetry, historical precedents, philosophy, and lists of books we might read while staying at home. Many of these offerings are grouped together under “These Times” in Lit Hub’s daily newsletter of literary links.

Now they’ve taken a new step by creating a list of practical suggestions for helping out during the pandemic. These include donating blood, assistance to the elderly and other homebound individuals, making/distributing healthcare supplies, and helping sterilize shared spaces. They include places where one can donate money and promise to update their list of suggestions as new ideas arise.

For those people who want to do more than wait and hope for the best, this list is a great addition to the local and regional lists you may be seeing in the newspapers, TV news, and social media.



No, I don’t need Khaki trousers

If you’re online a lot–including social networking–you’re probably used to the fact that if you ever mention (or think about) a product, you’ll suddenly see dozens of ads for that product. At present, Facebook is deluged with ads for toilet paper. Gosh, I wonder why? Those who checked out these ads, unfortunately, found that the projected ship dates were in June.

Writers see ads others don’t see because we’re always researching something. For the novel in progress, I checked on the kind of Khaki a middle-aged person might wear in the early 1950s. Now, Khaki ads are showing up on Facebook, on news sites, and everywhere else I’m going on the Internet. At least, on Facebook, you can make the ad go away if you say you’ve already bought the stuff.

(We go through a lot to bring you the most accurate books on the planet.)

When I was researching hitmen, I started seeing ads for contract killers until finally the FBI called up and asked if I wanted to kill anybody. I said “no” and they said, “fine,” but I wonder if they’ve really gone away. No doubt the NSA scoops up my telephone calls and searches for words like “rub out,” “concrete shoes,” and “kick the bucket.”

Some writers share Facebook accounts with their spouses and get in trouble when these kinds of ads appear: “Honey, why are we suddenly getting ads for brothels?” The proper response to that is “Somebody hacked into our account.”

When writers talk on forums about their research, they wonder how many watch lists they’re on for researching nefarious stuff for their novels. While the famous writers can visit the police department and learn everything they want to know, little-known writers are stuck with Internet searches.

“Honey, I got a letter from the FBI and they told me you want to know how to kill your spouse by putting a pinch of something in his/her coffee.”

“Don’t worry, sugar, I saw that in a movie called ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ when I was a kid. The FBI has me mixed up with somebody else.”



Malcolm R. Campbell’s short story collection, Widely Scattered Ghosts, is free on Smashwords during the company’s “give back” sale.



You’d think a writer would be good at Scrabble

We grew up playing the standard Scrabble board game. I usually lost. If my Aunt Vera was there, she usually beat everyone because she was either a droid or had the ability to see every potential move on the board like a grandmaster chess player.

Now I play Words with Friends on Facebook. I’m not sure why; I normally lose. See, look at this (one of my better games):

Being a writer doesn’t help. Maybe it hurts since I see words as whole structures rather than as groups of letters. Looking at a Words With Friends board, I have little idea what letters to add to the board to get high-scoring results. It’s been a lifetime trauma.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s short story collection, Widely Scattered Ghosts, is free on Smashwords during the company’s “give back” sale.


‘Whisper of the River’: stumbling across an old friend

Sometimes it happens in a bar or on a city street or maybe in a country far away, but there’s little that’s as simultaneously dangerously new and horrifyingly déjà vu as suddenly stumbling across an old friend. They’re the same as they were and yet they’re not, and during all the capsulized updates about everything the two of you have done “since then,” the mind struggles to understand just who this old friend is at this moment.

Now, suppose this old friend is a book, in my case, one that’s sat on my shelf almost unobserved for 36 years.

Ferrol Sams, the Georgia doctor who suddenly appeared in bookstores and the press in the 1980s when he published his first novel at 60, writes in richly detailed prose that accurately captures a depression-era age far away. He’s best known for his somewhat autobiographical Porter Osborn trilogy Run with the Horsemen, The Whisper of the River, and When All The World Was Young.

Looking for something to read last night, I pulled The Whisper of the River off the shelf last night and thought about the positive impact his trilogy had on me when I first read the books. I wondered if I’d be disappointed and decide after a few chapters that the book hadn’t aged well.

But I’m enjoying the book. That’s a relief almost even though I’ve changed and the book has not.

Publisher’s Description: Young for his class and small for his age, Porter Osborne, Jr., leaves his rural Georgia home in 1938 to meet the world at Willingham University, armed with the knowledge that he has been “Raised Right” in the best Baptist tradition. What happens over the next four years will challenge the things he holds infallible: his faith, his heritage, and his parents’ omniscience. As we follow Porter’s college career, full of outrageous pranks and ribald humor, we sense a quiet, constant flow toward maturity. Peppered with memorable characters and resonant with details of place and time, The Whisper of the River is filled with the richness of spirit that makes great fiction.

Quotation: “If she hears anything, it’s tambourines, and nobody can march to them. You can’t do anything but dance to tambourines, and the likes of us will never catch the rhythm.”

Even though I’ve inadvertently started in the middle of the trilogy, I think I’ll stick with the book and then read the two others soon afterwards. I expect they’ll also be as good as I remember them.


Charges of Abuse Against Scouting

Last April, exposed court testimony showed the organization believed more than 7,800 of its former leaders were involved in sexually abusing more than 12,000 children over the course of 72 years. – CNN

Scouting was an important part of my childhood. As I read that the BSA purportedly fostered (not sure how) an environment conducive to pedophiles, my shock and revulsion are probably similar to that of Catholics as the scope of abuse by priests became apparent.

My two brothers and I are Eagle Scouts and also received the God and Country Award. One of my brothers was a member of the Order of the Arrow. My mother was a den mother (Cub Scouts) and my father was a pack leader (Cub Scouts) and post leader (Explorer Scouts). Both of them were active as volunteers above the troop level–the council and state level–and received awards for their dedication.

Like the Catholic church, the abuses committed by Scouting’s leaders tend to undermine all that was (and still is) good and healthy about the organization’s programs, purpose, and intent. Scouting as gone from the epitome of excellence, morals, and civic responsibility to the dangerous swamp you don’t want your child to enter.

If I were a Catholic, I would be angry at the church for ignoring the potential signs of the problem for years before taking definitive action. As a child of scouting, I am angry at the BSA for (apparently) ignoring or failing to see the potential signs of a systemic organization weakness rather than finding out why and how it was happening and getting rid of it.

As a Scout, I saw no evidence of abuse or even an atmosphere that made abuse likely.  The cynical amongst us will say, “Sure, a man takes a group of boys out into the woods for a weekend camping trip, what do you think it likely to happen?”

To that, I say “bullshit” because I don’t think the default mindset of every adult male is to abuse a young boy.  But a lot of men did and a lot of you boys suffered, and will never rid themselves of their torment. The crime, atrocious enough in and of itself, is that it looms large because it defames the majority of Scout leaders who would never think of such a thing and casts aspersion upon all the good that has been done through the organization and its programs for years.

Yes, I am angry. Yes, I want the organization to address and “fix” the problem. Yes, I want a new and revitalized BSA to teach young men and women about the sanctity of the land and the importance of high moral standards.