Christmas is for restocking books

Adults are hard to buy for unless they all live in the same house like the Waltons. When we’re living far flung around the country, we seldom know what people might want, and should we guess wrong and send something without checking, they’ll probably already have it or they won’t like it.

I know better than to put F-Type Jaguar on my list or even a new Jeep, so I try to be reasonable when I compile my wish list. If anyone wants to send me an F-Type Jag, they’ll have to pay the insurance costs. Allstate is fine, by the way

The grandchildren are easy to buy for because their mother knows what they like/want/need, creates a big list, and shares it. We split the list up with others in the family so there are no duplicates. Occasionally, we’ve teamed up to give gifts that are too expensive for one of us. This only happens when “the big present” costs $10000000 and none of us wants to mortgage our house to buy it.

But, the adults can do nothing for each other without a list. For better or worse, the older I get, the less “stuff” I want. If I need it, I’ve already bought it. So, that leaves books. I give the list to my wife, she picks something and gives the rest of the list to my brother and his wife. 

I try to avoid placing books on the list before they come out in paperback except for those times when the hardcover is cheaper than the paperback (presumably when the publisher had too many hardcover copies printed and needs to get rid of them.) You’ll notice that there are no Kindle books on the list. As I tell Kindle lovers, I read off the screen all day and don’t want to read off the screen when I’m propped up in bed enjoying a novel. I maintain that Kindle books are (a) not real books, and (b) don’t counteract the eyestrain of the day.

But, I digress. (At my age, I’m allowed to digress. In fact, most people expect it of me because they don’t think “old people” can remember what they’re talking about.)

I’ve read most of Shaara’s books and like them a lot. When this book about Pearl Harbor first came out, an early reviewer on Amazon said Shaara’s research on To Wake a Giant was sloppy. Fortunately, another reader reviewer proved that the first reviewer was incorrect. Thank goodness! Shaara tells readers in most of his books that he’s a novelist rather than a historian. Yet, he takes special care to be accurate. Authors are not supposed to take on reviewers, but I hoped he would correct the Amazon reviewers who offered up fake history to prove he didn’t know what he was talking about.

Without a doubt, I’ve read most of Allende’s novels that were published in English. A Long Petal of the Sea looks good, so it’s number two on my Christmas list. I hesitate to say this, but I think she’ll have a hard time duplicating the magic, wonder, and power of her earlier novels, mainly The House of the Spirits (1982), Of Love and Shadows (1985), and Eva Luna (1987). I certainly don’t want to discount what she’s written since the 1980s even if I keep getting stuck on liking those novels the best.

John Hart writes tough, detailed novels such as The Hush. While I’m looking forward to The Unwilling, a book Hart held back a year due to the pandemic, it’s still in pre-order status. So, I opted for Down River for my list. You’ll notice I only have books from major publishers here.

There’s a reason for that. Small press authors such as myself have no way of getting noticed except by people who follow them on sites like Facebook. It goes without saying, I suppose that I can’t read books I’ve never heard of. 

There are a lot of Alice Hoffman books on my shelves, including The Dove Keepers and the practical magic series. So, why not add another? The World That We Knew takes us back to World War II and the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

If all of these books show up beneath the tree, I’ll be all set until the new John Hart book comes out. Sure, I’ll probably add a few grocery store books by James Patterson and “Tom Clancy,” but I don’t want the family to know I read that stuff.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Fate’s Arrows,” a novel set in 1954 when the KKK was in power and the protagonist, Pollyanna (who is more dangerous than her name suggests), decides it’s time for the Klan to go.

‘The Hush’ by John Hart

As I read this powerful novel for the third time, I wonder why I didn’t review it in February of 2019 when it was published as a sequel to Hart’s The Lost Child. The book is dark, features a forbidding land of swamps and woods where outsiders get lost or killed, is fawned over by hunters and a family who has gone to court to extract it from owner Johnny Merrimon, and is as close to Johnny as his psyche.

“The Hush” refers to a hush arbor, one of many places where slaves worshipped in private to avoid trouble with their owners. The lives of slaves and the Merrimons are tangled together on this property in ways that even the current generation don’t know–though stronger and stronger dreams are hinting at the sins of the past.

I’ve read many of Hart’s books. All of them are strong–visceral, almost–and well written. This one–for me–is the strongest novel because of the linkage between the land, the people, and the folklore.

“The Hush,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Bill Sheehan, “is a harsh, inimical landscape in which disorientation rules and trees, paths and familiar landmarks seem to shift and disappear. It is a self-contained world in which unwelcome visitors are sometimes driven to madness and sometimes destroyed, and Hart evokes that surreal landscape with a power and economy worthy of the great British horror novelist Ramsey Campbell. ‘In that first hour, the forest was still,’ Hart writes, ‘but as light strengthened, a dawn chorus rose around them, a symphony of catbird and Carolina wren, of mourning dove and cardinal and the deep-throated gunk of green frogs in the pocosins that fingered up from the distant swamp.’”

In this novel, the reader doesn’t escape from the land which, perhaps, is the real protagonist, though most of the townspeople see Johnny as more an inexplicable anomaly than the land he owns–to the extent anyone can own such land as this.  His best friend Jack, who suffered through the past with him in The Lost Child, risks everything to help him. That might prove impossible.

Multiple readings of novels tend to bring out secrets we didn’t notice the first time through. When it comes to The Hush, those of us who seek out the mysteries of land and people may be too close to see the real from the unreal.

Highly recommended for readers of dark fantasy.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Fate’s Arrows,” magical realism set in the Florida Panhandle during the days when the KKK ruled the world.

John Hart delays release of new novel ‘The Unwilling’

John Hart announced on Facebook yesterday that The Unwilling, originally scheduled for release in this June, will be delayed until February of next year. Many fans, including me, are disappointed by this news since we had been looking forward to some wonderful summer reading material.

Unlike many of us who promote our books primarily online with an occasional bricks-and-mortar reading and signing, Hart schedules a book tour for each of his books. The pandemic makes tours impossible now.

Calling the planned book tour for The Unwilling collateral damage to coronavirus, he said, “This was not an easy decision for any of us, but book tour is a huge part of my life – that includes meeting fans and booksellers, raising funds for important charities and doing what I can to support all of the stores that writers and readers value so highly (talk about an essential business!). It is also a necessary part of my life. Writing novels is such a lonesome, isolating affair that I have long considered tour as a needed reinsertion into the human race, a once-in-a-while reminder that life exists beyond the farm and keyboard, the family and close friends.”

His novels are so intense, I can understand his need to get out into the real world every time one is finished and ready for release. We’ll be waiting, Mr. Hart.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Review: ‘Redemption Road’ by John Hart

Redemption RoadRedemption Road by John Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s enough darkness in this book to cause an eclipse of the sun soon after you begin reading. Elizabeth, the protagonist is a good cop with a good heart that is filled with life-affirming love and infinite grit. Her past was cruel to her and it’s neither gone nor forgotten.

Her story in this thriller will carry you through the darkness stemming from multiple characters whose self-righteous evil is as unflinching as Elizabeth’s heart. Thirteen years prior to the beginning of the novel, a policeman was convicted of killing a young woman and leaving her body on the altar of the church where Elizabeth’s father preaches. Elizabeth, who was a rookie cop at the time thought he was wrongly convicted. As a cop, he has a hard time surviving prison. When he gets out, the killings start again with the same MO. This appears to prove that everyone else on the police force is right about him and that Elizabeth is naive.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is having her own troubles with the authorities over a case she’s involved in. The plot is complex and well constructed, the writing is superb, and the characters have more dimensions, secrets, and agonies than you can shake a stick at. At all times, the notion of a redemption road out of this chaos seems to many as an unlikely nirvana or simply a dead end.

The story is adeptly told and highly recommended.

–Malcolm

View all my reviews

Goodbye to Herman Wouk, etc.

Wikipedia Photo

Several years ago, I was surprised to hear that Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War) was still around. According to the news, he died in his sleep today. I think most of us hope to go that way when we’re about 103. I could do without that hat or the beard, but ar 103, I would no longer be runaway material.

I grew up reading this man’s books. I remember seeing The Winds of War minseries in 1983 with Robert Mitchum. My wife and I thought it was an interesting series, but laughingly commented how convenient it was that the Robert Mitchum character seemed to show up whenever anything historic was happening.

I suppose his novels are no longer studied in school. If not, that’s a shame.

My publisher Melinda Clayton (Thomas-Jacob Publishing) writes dark novels. So I had to tell her about Redemption Road (2017) by John Hart. I’m reading it now and have to say that this is one well-written, twisted, dark thriller, and one of the best books in this genre that I’ve read in a long time. It’s called a thriller even though it feels more like Southern gothic. I’ve read 75% of it and wonder if anyone will be left alive or even sane by the end of the novel.

I told Melinda that I thought there’s enough darkness to cause an eclipse of the sun.

Thomas-Jacob has redone the cover of my novel Sarabande to make it consistent with the updated cover of The Sun Singer. Sarabande is the sequel to The Sun Singer and was, I think, the most difficult of all my novels to write. Writing from the point of view of the main character, Sarabande, is difficult for a male author, considering the fact that she goes through two assaults in this book.

I’m not sure it’s really possible for men and women to properly and totally understand their opposite genders in the “real world,” much less in fiction where they are compelled to talk about a character’s thoughts as well as his/her actions. Telling the story was an interesting experience, and I hope I learned from it.

Meanwhile, Amazon is still not displaying the cover pictures for the hardback editions of Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena. I complained to Amazon about it today, noting that Barnes & Noble is displaying the covers.

Thanks to those of you who checked on me here, via e-mail, and on Facebook about yesterday’s biopsy. As I told Montucky, the pre-op visit to the hospital and the paperwork before and after the biopsy took more time than the biopsy. I have some pain killers but really haven’t needed them. The hospital staff was great. Now we’re in a waiting mode for the results which the doctor said would take a week. Reminds me of the Navy’s “hurry up and wait.”

Now, for those of you addicted to “Survivor: Edge of Extinction,” this year’s series has now run its course and you can go back to your normal lives without having to worry about who will be voted off the show during tribal council.

As my alterego Jock Stewart has suggested on more than one occasion, Congress needs to operate with a “tribal council system” in which each month the House or Senate gets together and votes somebody out of office. That would help clean house, so to speak. We need to get rid of the deadwood, the inept, and the insane. That certainly includes the lawmakers of Alabama after they voted in a heartbeat abortion law that shows the men there still consider the woman there as property.

Malcolm