Review: ‘Bob, The Right Hand of God’

Protagonist Chet Thomlin is more or less a regular guy. He runs a pet store where he treats the animals right and then goes home resigned to the fact that his mother is still living in his house. There’s a lot of depth to this character as portrayed via Pat Bertram’s trademark pragmatic, carefully crafted prose. Suffice it to say, Chet has enough on his plate, so–like most reasonably sane people, doesn’t believe a guy named Bob who appears on TV and says he’s working for God and will be supervising the conversion of Earth into a theme park.

A joke, right? Some new dystopian TV series? Or, perhaps an advertisement for God knows what. Chet hardly notices it until stuff (such as people and buildings) starts disappearing. This is urban renewal in spades, including new landforms and other projects that shake Earth to its foundations while making believers out of everyone. The thing is, believers in what?

Bob and Chet converse by phone until Bob gets tired of it, which might be just as well since he’s rather vague about the project. While vastly different from the classic novel “Earth Abides,” “Bob, The Right Hand of God” brings that old book to mind as people try to cope with the disappearance of everything they know.

The book is many things: highly readable, realistic and believable in portraying how the characters react and interact, dystopian in that everything we know is gone and the replacement plan isn’t providing anything better, and (yes) playful. Should the reader laugh or cry? Hard to say. While the ending was predictable, this well-written novel is highly recommended.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Fate’s Arrows.”

“The ending I did not see coming! You think you know somebody then BAM, right out of left field it knocks you for a loop! I found Fate’s Arrows well told with several threads woven together to make it an encompassing tale of the era. It’s raw and fraught with danger.” – Big Al’s Books and Pals

Pat’s Publisher Needs a Maserati

Well, isn’t that special?

She wrote in her blog that she needs to sell a ton of copies of her new book Bob, The Right Hand of God, maybe 3000 copies, so her publisher can buy a new Maserati. The convertible is only $150,000 and change.

My publisher doesn’t need a new car. On the other hand, my Buick is a 2006, so I think I’ll deserve something if I sell 3000 copies of Fate’s Arrows.

But I don’t need a Maserati. Think of the insurance costs and, even for minor hail storms and shopping cart collisions, the repair costs.

Here’s what I need (but not this color):

Years ago, a lot of people road in Checker’s larger model which was used by a lot of Taxi companies. This family model was available between 1961 and 1982. My feeling is that if it collided with a Maserati, the Maserati would be toast.

I can get a used/restored model for less than $13,400. I don’t think that’s asking too much.


Coming Soon: Pat Bertram’s Latest (possibly darkly humorous) Novel

First, a disclaimer. Pat Bertram and I are long-time online friends. We’ve also met in “real life.” And, we’ve blogged about each other’s books. All this means you can’t expect this post to be objective news. Not at all. I’m just happy Pat’s got a new book coming out later this month.

I’m a bit jealous because Bob: The Right Hand of God looks like the kind of book I wish I’d written. It will be released by Stairway Press on October 20, though you can already find a page listing for it on Amazon.

Publisher’s Description

All Chet Thomlin wants is to be left alone to care for the abandoned and neglected animals at his store, Used Pets, but his obnoxious customers and clinging mother make life miserable. And nothing ever seems to change.

On April Fool’s day, a gnome-like little man appears on television. He introduces himself as Bob, the Right Hand of God, and says that as part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park

Chet laughs at the prank, but then bizarre things happen. Carrier pigeons return, millions of them, darkening the sky as they hadn’t done for over a hundred years. His mother and her entire subdivision are wiped off the face of the earth. And his friends disappear.

On Easter Sunday, a bright light appears, and Bob tells the remaining population of Denver that if they enter the light, they will be safe from the reconstruction zone. Chet watches people enter one by one, but he refuses to step forward, thinking that he’d rather have his freedom than to be in a dubiously safe place.

The light fades, and Chet gets what he wanted. He is left alone. Well, except for Bob. Bob won’t let him be. Bob calls Chet on his now-defunct cellphone, taunts him, plays with his senses. Being chosen by The Right Hand of God is no fun!

Even worse, Chet gets more change than he can handle. Plumbing and all other signs of civilization vanish. Denver becomes a prairie of blue flowers that sweep into an inland sea where a prehistoric monster lives. Volcanoes grow at his feet.

And Chet has become prey.

Maybe going into that mysterious light wouldn’t be so bad after all…

Some people might suggest Earth has already become a theme park. I’m not going to debate that one way or another. I just want to enjoy the novel as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.



Splattering probably makes most people think of the crime writer’s ever popular “blood splattered room” or the seaside bombardments of sea gulls. However, I slightly altered the title (Smatterings) that author J. T. Ellison (I like her books) uses on Sundays for a potpourri overview of the previous week.

I don’t think this post will live up to any of that. (You’ve been warned.)

Those who follow my personal profile on Facebook know that my wife does a lot of quilting and that in the evenings I sit in the sewing room while she works and watch old movies. On Facebook, I refer to these as our quilting movies.

Wikipedia Photo

Recently, we watched an old navy movie called “Destroyer” starring Glen Ford and Edward G. Robinson about an ex-navy man (Robinson) who works in the shipyard building a new destroyer and then rejoins the navy as a chief petty officer. He quickly finds out he’s out of touch. Since I was in the navy, I have fun watching these old ships-at-sea movies, though in this one, it was weird seeing tough-guy Robinson as a navy chief rather than a mobster. I saw a few accuracy problems with the film, including non-commissioned personnel saying “aye aye sir” to other non-commissioner personnel and the crew of the ship wearing navy dress whites once in a while at sea. Fun movie.

Our discussions on the new Literary Forum are slowly drawing in more people who like to talk about the books they’re reading or the books they’re writing. I hope you’ll stop by and join the discussion.

Finally, the three Thursday night shows my wife and I watch have returned after being on hiatus during the holidays: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” “Grey’s” is getting a bit worn out by now since it’s been around a while, and “Scandal” and “How To Get Away with Murder” are ending after this season. “How to Get Away With Murder” has such a tangled plot that my wife and I believe we know less about what’s going on with each new episode.

If you haven’t been watching the series up to now, forget it. You’ll never catch up.

I had fun reading and blogging about the mystery/thriller Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare this past week. I started reading the book before I went to sleep one night and continued reading it the following day–all day, as it turns out. I was supposed to be working on Lena,  the third book in my Florida Folk Magic series, but was reading Pat’s book instead. My story–and I’d sticking to it–is that I reserved a break. Time well spent!

I’m drinking a glass of red wine right now because, frankly, I don’t care whether it’s 5:00 o’clock anywhere. I urge you to do the same because red wine is a medicine that makes us better persons.

I hope you’re having a great weekend.



Review: ‘Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare’

If you’re taking a dance class and its members find out you’re a writer and ask you to write a murder mystery about the class, what will you do? I happen to know author Pat Bertram has been taking a dance class or two or three and that her friends thought such a novel would be a real hoot.

That said, I’m surprised that Pat’s publisher didn’t put a disclaimer at the beginning of the novel that claimed “No dance class members were killed during the writing of this book.” But, Pat and her publisher Indigo Sea Press threw caution to the winds, so one wonders where the fiction begins and the truth ends–and vice versa.

The result is a very readable hoot.

When the students at a small town’s studio class find out that one of them is an author, they think it would be fun for her to write a novel about their classes in which one is killed and everybody else is a suspect. A superstitious person would know such games lead to real trouble; so would anyone who suspects the fates have a dark sense of humor. But they don’t stop to think about consequences. One of them even volunteers to be the victim. The rest of them talk about motives and murder methods.

But then somebody dies and the book thing is no longer a game. Suffice it to say, the cops are not amused by the book idea and think the writer is the killer. In this dandy mystery, everyone has a secret, a reason for covering it up, and a possible motive. The characters are well developed, the introspective protagonist wonders if she inadvertently set the stage for a murder by agreeing to write a murder mystery based on the dance class, and the cops tell her that in real life, most amateur sleuths and up dead or worse.

Readers who love mysteries will enjoy this book. Writers who write mysteries will consider being more careful when pretending to kill off their friends in a novel. And those who’ve been thinking of taking a dance class will see the story as a cautionary tale.

Pat (More Deaths Than One, Daughter I Am) has, with Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, written another compelling story.



The Messy Spiral of Grief

patToday’s guest post about grief and coping with the death of a spouse or a life mate, is by author Pat Bertram (“Light Bringer,” “Daughter Am I,” “More Deaths Than One” “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”)  who, I’m happy to say, has stopped by Malcolm’s Round Table several times before for some great discussions.

Pat’s most recent book is “Grief: The Great Yearning.”

The Messy Spiral of Grief

I am no stranger to grief. In December, 2006, I lost my younger brother, and exactly a year later, I lost my mother. I thought I knew what grief was all about, but the grief over those deaths in no way prepared me for the depth and breadth of the grief I experienced after the loss of my life mate/soul mate.

I’d known he was dying, and I’d prepared myself for the inevitable — in fact, at the moment of his death, I felt only relief that his suffering was over. When I returned home without him, I realized he was truly gone, and grief slammed into me with such ferocity it stunned me. It wasn’t just mental agony, but also physical pain. My chest ached so much I felt sure my heart had shattered. My stomach hurt. My arms ached. I felt dizzy and nauseous. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swallow, couldn’t even think. The only way I could relieve the incredible stress was to scream. And so I did.

One of the worst aspects of grief was the feeling of his goneness. I could feel the void in my life and my soul where he’d been ripped from me, but I couldn’t sense him at all. Toward the end, as we struggled to go our separate ways — he to death, me to continued life — we spent much of our time in separate rooms, and somehow I figured that’s what it would feel like after he died, but it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I still have no words to describe the finality, the undoableness, the vacuum of death. He was part of my life for thirty-four years. We breathed the same air. We were connected by our thoughts, our shared experiences, the zillion words we’d spoken to each other. And then he was gone from this earth. Erased. Deleted. Almost three years later, I still can’t wrap my mind around that.

griefOne of the ways I handled my grief from the beginning was to write letters to him. For all those years, I’d talked over everything with him, and I desperately needed to talk to him about this horror that had befallen us. So I wrote him. Sometimes it even made me feel connected to him for a few brief moments, as if perhaps we were still in this situation together. I also did some stream of consciousness writing to help me try to figure out what was going on.

My grief, and the grief of most people I have met since, does not follow the neat timeline of Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief. Grief is such a messy spiral of hundreds of different physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual permutations that it’s almost impossible to know what is going on, and writing helped me make sense of it.

I never intended to make my grief public, but shortly after he died, I read a novel about a woman who lost her husband, and the only acknowledgment of her grief was a single sentence: She went through all five of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. That so appalled me that I decided to tell the truth about grief after the loss of a spouse, if for nothing else, to keep novelists from such superficial descriptions.

Selections from my letters, journal entries, and blogs have been combined into a book, Grief: The Great Yearning, which chronicles my struggle to survive the first year after his death. Grief: The Great Yearning was published by Second Wind Publishing, and is available from Amazon, B&N, and other online stores.

Pat’s Website:

Pat’s Blog:

This and That, Mostly About Books

While Georgia’s heat wave continues, I’m doing just fine when I’m inside working on short stories. The A/C can hardly keep up with temps over 90, much less over 100. As long as I’m working on my story about a Florida river, I can imagine floating in its cool waters even though “in real life,” the river is a mess due to the recent flooding from Debby.

Lately, I’ve been wondering what’s going on in the world that’s causing so many people to search on the phrase “light conquers all.”  A year-old post here on Malcolm’s Round Table about author Pat Bertram’s novel Light Bringer has been getting dozens of hits per day for about two weeks now. If you’re one of the people searching for that phrase, leave a comment and tell me what’s happening.

After reading author and artist Terri Windling’s recent post about artistic inspiration, I felt inspired to use her words as a springboard and post a few words about where authors get their ideas on my Magic Moments blog. Stop by and tell me what inspires you to write, draw, compose music or make a quilt or create a new sculpture.

Long before I was born, my father’s family lived in Fort Collins, Colorado before moving to the California coast. Because my father loved the Colorado high country, I followed in his footsteps and climbed mountains there one summer before finishing school and being summoned by “my friends” at my local draft board to join the Navy. So it is, that I watch the news about the Colorado fires, the people who have been driven out of their homes and the heroic efforts of the fire fighters with horror and awe mixed together with memories of better times. The news from the fire lines seems better at the moment.

On July 9th, author Melinda Clayton will stop by for a chat about her third novel Entangled Thorns, including why a Florida author is lured to Appalachia again and again for her stories. I enjoyed the interview!

Publisher’s Description

Beth Sloan has spent the majority of her life trying to escape the memories of a difficult childhood. Born into the infamous Pritchett family of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, she grew up hard, surrounded not only by homemade stills and corn liquor, but by an impoverished family that more often than not preferred life on the wrong side of the law.

After the mysterious death of her brother Luke at the age of thirteen, seventeen year old Beth and her younger sister Naomi ran away from home, never to return. As the years passed, Beth suppressed the painful memories and managed to create a comfortable, if troubled, life with her husband Mark and their two children in an upscale suburb outside of Memphis, Tennessee.

But the arrival of an unwelcome letter threatens to change all that.

Against her better judgment, and at the urging of her sister Naomi, Beth agrees to return to Cedar Hollow, to the memories she’s worked so hard to forget. When old resentments and family secrets are awakened, Beth must risk everything to face the truth about what really happened to Luke that long ago summer night.

With three out of four of my novels partly set in Glacier National Park, Montana, I’m usually distressed when I read about the continued absence of funding, especially for such mundane sounding line items as infrastructure and maintenance. The good news this summer is the Glacier National Park Fund’s plan to begin an adopt-a-trail program to help pay for the upkeep on the remaining 750 miles of trails (down 250 miles since I was first there). As a member of the Fund, I heard about the plan via a letter and a brochure. The details are not yet on the Fund’s web site, but I think they will be soon.

When I write my next Montana novel, I really don’t want to hear that more trails have been abandoned due to Congress’ continued lack of support. Maybe all of us can help pick up the slack.

Otherwise, I know newspapers, websites and magazines often feature the summer’s hot reads every year about this time. What with the heat wave, I’m ready for books about snow and ice.


Only $4.99 on Kindle

Author Interviews from Visual Arts Junction

Shelagh Watkins, author of Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, has compiled and published a book of author interviews conducted during the past year at Visual Arts Junction. The authors discuss their styles and influences as well as recent works, excerpts of which are included.

This Mandinam Press book can be viewed or downloaded free in multiple formats at Smashwords or purchased as a paperback via Lulu.

It was a pleasure being included in this volume with authors Pat Bertram, D. K. Christi, Caryn Gottlieb FitzGerald, Jean Holloway and others. Watkins’ hope is that “the interviews will entertain and inspire readers to find out more about the authors and their books.”

As 2009 winds down, I would like to thank those who have found adventure and magic in The Sun Singer, humor in Jock Sterwart and the Missing Sea of Fire, and yarns and tall tales in A View Inside Glacier National Park: 100 Years, 100 Stories. Best wishes for an exciting 2010 which, I hope, will include an infinite stack of books on your desk and nightstand.


When Did the Realization “I Am an Author” Hit?

Author Pat Bertram (“More Deaths Than One” and “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”) wrote a post with this same title today. She’s been assisting her publisher, Second Wind, with projects while working on pre-publication publicity for “Daughter Am I” and on edits for “Light Bringer.” So today, the realization it: She feels like an author.

I left a comment on her post, saying that I felt more like a writer when I worked as a corporate communications director and a technical writer than I do now. Partly, that was because my work produced an income that made a difference to my family’s financial well being. Now, I can’t say that. On some days, I feel like writing is a very expensive hobby and I look at Pat Conroy who’s two years younger than I with another bestselling novel and I think, “there’s an author.” Most authors, though, remain obscure.

Many traditionally published books sell a thousand copies or less; most self-published books sell a hundred copies or less. The income produced is less than publicity costs. Hence, it becomes easy to say writing is a hobby–like having aquariums all over the house, a dozen stamp albums in the den, or a huge model train layout in the basement–because it uses up income while producing many interesting hours rather than paying the rent.

Yes, I am an author. Yes, I enjoy writing, planning novels, doing reviews, posting here on this web log, researching new project ideas, and keeping up with the profession. Yet, the reality of being an author is so much different than I expected when I looked ahead to my career when I was in high school. And, I think it’s probably a lot different than the public believes as well. For the public, if they’ve heard of you, you’re and author. If they haven’t, you’re not. The public is very blunt about whether one is or isn’t what he claims to be.

It comes down to self-satisfaction, then, being happy with what one is doing and feeling that the output, however obscure, is also what he is supposed to be doing. We all hope our books reach readers who will enjoy them and who might also derive value from them. But we’re seldom omniscient enough to know when and where that happens.

But we keep writing because–in our warped imagination–there’s no better way for us to spend our lives.


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