Hard Road to Freedom

Hard Road to Freedom ISBN: 9781614565123, Sarah Book Publishing, Book Three in the Saxton-Brown Adventure Series (Illustrated), Paper Back Edition by Stephen A. Carter.

In the first volume, the reader met John Saxton, son of the owner of a Boston shipping empire, his ‘mentor’ Marcus Brown, a trusted family retainer and giant former Masai (Massai, Massi) warrior as he shepherds him through a sailing introduction ‘before the mast’; John’s lovely negro wife Virginia and their collective escape while on the couple’s honeymoon aboard ship from Fort Sumter as it falls; their ensuing evasion of pursuit and ultimate arrival at home. In the second volume, John, now owner of the shipping empire upon his father’s death and Marcus, now wealthy and owner of a sizeable ship as reward for his outstanding activity, are persuaded by Alan Pinkerton to meet Lincoln who accepts their idea of building a new design ‘iron clad’ shallow draft ship and organizing an all-black group of rangers to infiltrate enemy lines to provide intelligence and commit havoc. They complete both projects and the story follows the subsequent activity with John also becoming involved with gaining intelligence through use of the hot air balloon. Virginia is importantly involved in the earlier portions of the book as is Marcus’ wife, Belle and the villainous Major Horatio Garrow and his hulking brute accomplice Hurley Blackstone continue in their roles of importance. In this third volume John is wounded and captured by the Confederates, imprisoned in the infamous Salisbury, NC prison, where he meets Lucas Garrow. He escapes, is recaptured and near death in Richmond, VA Castle Thunder, where through Pinkerton’s intercession he is saved by Union Spy Elizabeth van Lew and liberated by the fall of Richmond. Lucas Garrow, gradually becoming addicted to opiates and attaining near psychopathic status joins his father and his henchman to attempt to track down the hated John Saxton and Marcus Brown who have divested themselves of the shipping business and now are the principle owners of a rather idyllic 5000 acres on Raccoon Mountain in a settlement they call Harambee (a Massai word meaning ‘pulling together). Horatio and Hurley are hanged for past murderous deeds, but Lucas, now tremendously wealthy from finding his father’s hoarded wealth, continues his search as well as organizing an operation to eventually take over the country. Much of the story revolves around the inhuman conditions that existed not only within the Civil War prisons, but within the entire population as well with special emphasis upon the injustices and cruelties suffered especially within negro/white relations.

Discussion: This entire series to date exhibits the results of extensive and rather meticulously performed historical research that offers minutia that seldom surface; e.g., the number of Jews who not only served in the Civil War, but even in important positions; the use of opiates by both sides; etc. Interesting illustrations also are included. Such attendance to detail is readily appreciated and understood from an author who has spent years in teaching the subject. And he has interspersed his fictional and historical characters in a most commendable manner with historical fact and fiction and included thoughtful emphasis on the negro/white relationship. Regrettably however, this reader feels compelled to provide a caveat for the tendency that began in the latter part of Book II – the increased amount of historical detail, although fascinating and most appealing to many readers, does provide hiccups to the plot’s smooth flow of advancement. . Most regrettably, a further caveat must be provided for those (hopefully few) readers who cannot accept what today is termed ‘politically incorrect’ verbalization and activity, even though it is entirely correct historically.

4* Engrossing historical novel with unfortunate ‘hiccups’ to plot cohesiveness/advancement; caveat for parochial readers.

The Diary of an Immortal

The Diary of an Immortal ISBN: 9781483578620, an occult thriller e-book by David Castello.

Plot: Steven Ronson, an army medic who was engaged in almost constant conflict for 2 years and was with the group that liberated the Dachau German concentration camp in 1945, returned home to Florida to discover that his father was dying. Instead of suffering the expected long term, he kills himself. Steven leaves for New York where he excels as a Jazz musician partially as a result of a secret stash of pills he discovered at Dachau which purportedly had been made for Hitler so that he could live forever. During one performance, Albert, a former missionary, recognizes his performance as emanating from this source and informs him that the original formula came from China where one order of monks had lived for centuries with its use. Albert with his beautiful daughter Jennifer invites him to join them in a trip to China in the near future. They make the journey where Steven is introduced to the two thousand year old Chow Li and becomes involved in the chaotic period of politically based warfare during China’s movement into its communistic state and beyond. To provide further specifics would not be in the best interests of the prospective reader. Suffice it to say that the story contains many intriguing threads and ends quite differently from what most readers would be prone to expect.

Discussion: The author has exhibited an interesting knowledge of WW II and not only the Nazis’ unbelievably ‘sick’ activity but also the purported extensiveness of their associated activity; China’s revolution and Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong) as well as the part played by Chiang Kai shek with American aide; the Peoples’ Liberation Army; the background of Japanese influence; Tibet’s problems; the ancient city of Sian at the end of the legendary ‘Silk Road’; the ancient Bon Religion, exorcists, shamans, high-priests and the many faces of magic and of the occult. This really is a remarkable collection of seemingly individual items of fact and fiction woven together into an action packed thriller. The single regrettable factor, at least for this reader, is a somewhat uneven presentation that makes one want to ‘skip over’ some sections. It is most regrettable as it slightly ‘spoils’ an otherwise beautifully devised story based upon abundant knowledge of the ancient as well as ’near’ past.

4* Intriguingly interwoven fact and fiction.

The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles

The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles, Book 2
ISBN: 9781514490112, an e-book history/thriller (Rev. Date: 05/20/2016 Xlibris 18887954274) by Ronald E. Yates.

Plot: Ted Sayles is recounting from journals of his grandfather William (Billy) Fitzroy Raglan Battles as this fundamentally journalistic newspaperman encounters endless adventure in the waning years of the 19th and early years of the 20th Century, the era of intense attempts to extend colonialism. The reader is informed that Book 1 covered the first thirty-three years of Billy’s life from the time he is a wide-eyed eager teen from Lawrence, Kansas who, although employed as a newsman, also became a Deputy U.S. Marshall involved in a shoot-out with an outlaw gang and tragically loses of his dearly beloved wife after only a few short years. In this second book the reader finds that Billy, in utter despair has deserted his four-year-old daughter, his mother and his dead wife’s loving parents and boarded the S.S. China to ‘loose himself’ in the ‘mysterious orient’. Here he meets the ravishing but intimidating Baroness Katherina von Schreiben, a widow travelling to visit her brother who has a hugely successful mahogany export business in the Philippines. She is being followed by a German intelligence agent because of the manner/cause of her husband’s death and because she purportedly is carrying missing governmental secret documents. The man following her is Oskar Eichel, coincidentally a former Pinkerton man who had been assigned earlier to investigate Billy because of the manner in which one of the gangsters had ‘disappeared’. The Baroness is desperate, confides in Billy that she had killed her husband, but had not murdered him. From this excitingly complicated beginning, the author takes the reader on a journey involving war and/or action in Hawaii, the Philippines, French Indochina, Hong Kong, several cities in the United States and in Germany and other parts of Europe.

Discussion: This is a story covering a most interesting era in history when the ‘developed nations’, as well as the relatively newly formed United States were attempting to expand their control over the rest of the world. The most obvious, and for the subjected countries the most devastating results, were the death, destruction and pain suffered by the inhabitants. All the while these extremely poorly disguised attempts to ‘bring enlightenment’ to the natives of Hawaii, Indochina, Philippines and the rest were nothing more than crass desire to exert power and acquire the riches existing in these countries.

The author of this series is an extremely well-qualified and multi-awarded journalist who has experienced countless hours of activity in the many far-flung areas described in his books. Furthermore he has provided an interesting fictional scenario whose main thread is fascinating and to a large extent totally credible. The bold effrontery of the United States in their Philippine activity is most appropriately presented, as is the hint of that so disgracefully exhibited in Hawaii and Indochina. Although I have not read Book1, I assume the author, with his obvious sentiments, similarly must have made at least some allusions to this country’s treatment of the American Indian and to the problems encountered by the Tejanos who had helped the United States in the Mexican War (which also was an engineered ‘land grab’) and were so badly treated in part because the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo never had been ratified. He also, as would be expected, has presented this material in a very well written manner. His description of the specifics of the thoughts and action patterns of the individuals involved is nicely depicted although this reader is ‘not convinced’ with respect to the thought patterns behind some of that set forth particularly by the protagonist. Further, the story is perfectly set forth if the reader prefers to learn his/her history in the less rigid structuring provided by a fictional presentation. Unfortunately the reader who is looking more specifically for an entertaining novel will find here numerous hiccups where judicious editing would have contributed to retaining the well-paced level of activity evident in large portions of the story

Summary: A historical novel for readers who enjoy learning history in a less structured manner. Regrettably at least for this reader, judicious editing would provide a much smoother and enhanced pace and enjoyment.

3* 5* Provocatively well-written historical novel; judicious editing would enhance pace/enjoyment.

Black’s Beach Parallax

Black’s Beach Parallax
ISBN: 9780692224311, an e-book thriller including numerous long contentiously debated occurrences of the 1960’s and following years by Scott Spade.

Plot: A prologue speaks of a package from Jack O’Malley addressed to his grandson and not to be opened until after his death. The story then proceeds to follow Jack’s life. It begins with his first job as a fresh UCLA graduate at Astro Dynamics, a company working under government contract; follows with his dismissal with downsizing ordered by McNamara; activity at making a living as a professional gambler with his discovered ability to read cards and gamble (in San Diego where small mom/pop gambling houses limited to a few tables of “games of skill’ of insufficient interest to attract the Mafia and their larger Las Vegas ‘games of chance’); to receipt of an offer from Gene, a brilliant former co-worker who has taken a position with an ultra-secrete ‘Think Tank’- the offer is too good to decline but requires clandestine activity that includes deposition of information in a far-removed hidden place; additional activity as a real estate investor and ultimately as a dealer in futures. Abundant, well-described ‘hippie’ and subsequent other sub-culture activity of the era is included and the story moves at a good pace, especially considering the amount of information that is included.

Discussion: The author has provided a most interesting story that should have appeal on two levels. First, a story depicting a period within the United States of tremendous upheaval and change viewed largely from the activity of one ‘largely committed’ active participant of the era. Specifically: “…embracement of the counterculture revolution in social norms of clothing, music drugs, dress and sex. Eclectic psychologists, antiwar activists, sexual-freedom advocates, new agers, draft dodgers, college professors, discussions ranging from intelligent interchanges to new-age gibberish.” Second, a most provocative re-counting and re-examination of the involvement of prominent governmental personnel and agencies in many of the controversial happenings of the times – Vietnam War, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Kennedy’s assignation, Nixon activities, aspects of the Cold War, Cuba, Batista and Castro, others.

Conclusion: Fascinating, not documented perhaps, but at least tantalizingly provocative circumstantial evidence of FBI, CIA and even higher elected/appointed governmental official involvement in nefarious clandestine activity. The author has enclosed this material in an easy reading tale of an intelligent young college graduate as he ‘goes with the flow’ of the somewhat tumultuous era of the 1960’s and beyond. It is particularly intriguing to the reader interested in, and conversant with the tales set forth daily by the media with respect to political maneuvering and the myriad suggestions of malfeasance and innumerable other improper activities extant today.

5* Excellent conjecture on governmental malfeasance enclosed in enjoyable tale of another era.

PANACEA

PANACEA, is a story in e-book form set forth in an unusual but interestingly effective format by Brad Murray.

Plot: The story begins on May 29, 2011 when Jimmy Porter sets forth on a trip to receive word about his long missing father after receiving a telephone call from a Dr. Dimitri Minskowi. On the way he is involved in a horrifying pile-up of cars as it occurs when a large number of assorted and strangely acting animals stampede from the adjacent woods, one killing a motorcyclist on the highway causing the chain reaction. From this tumultuous beginning, the reader is taken on a journey through a strange sequence of actions/activities as they gradually begin to reveal the evolution of a strange tale of search for an individual with an unusual immune system. The search originally was initiated in 1945 with the downfall of the Third Reich and the escape of a Jewish POW whose immune system was able to repel and/or annul the effects of any deleterious element that attempted to invade. It is a far-ranging, convoluted hunt involving numerous characters with many ulterior motives ranging from personal greed, gain and revenge to sincere altruism, and including various levels of deceit, deception, betrayal and subterfuge.

Discussion: If you are a reader who enjoys a pleasant story fancifully and charmingly presented in a fast-moving fashion, this story is for you. Buy, read and enjoy but DO NOT reads beyond this point UNLESS you are a devotee of more traditional mysteries.

SPOILER ALERT! Regrettably, the case so pleasantly but rather cavalierly presented by the author would not be the simple matter described. A U.S. Citizen is murdered in a U.S. State city within the jurisdiction of the local police. However, ties are discovered that lead to a foreign country and include the victim being a member of the FBI involved in clandestine activity in a foreign country – an activity that more usually would be the concern of the CIA and INTERPOL (The FBI does maintain some offices overseas but more probably would only tangentially be involved in an incident as described.) Additionally, the level of activity described by the local Savannah authorities is difficult to accept as well as description of the range of Arthur’s dispersal of government money. His cache of weapons also does not seem to have any logical reason.

Conclusion: An interestingly plotted story fancifully and charmingly presented, but not for most usual mystery devotees.

3* Interesting plot, fascinatingly, charmingly presented; not for usual mystery devotee.

The Bulls of War

The Bulls of War is Book I of The Chronicles of the Andervold Thrones, a historical novel in e-book format by E. M. Thomas.
Plot: In a time of almost constant tribal/clan/territorial warfare, Kyrus, a young warrior on patrol with his father’s division survives an attack by Valogarians who kill his father and brother. As time passes he becomes the leader of the distinguished unit. His closest friend Tyghus rises through the ranks with him, and when Kyrus, unexpectedly and unwantedly is appointed Khorokh (Emperor) of the Unified Rokharians and Ten Provinces, he appoints Tyghus to take his place as the commanding general. Kyrus had been appointed by Rensyus, the dying Emperor, and accepted by the reigning council of Peers of the Realm. Rensyus had kept peace in the realm in spite of the exact split in voting by the Council with respect to war/peace. Tyghus’ sister, Tigra was to become the bride of the leader of the Valogars to further the peace that Rensyus was maintaining and he had believed Kyros could be persuaded to follow in his footsteps. Instead Kyros, separated from his close friend and convinced by rumors and innuendo by and from the war-inclined group that Tyghus no longer was a friend, becomes paranoid in the extreme. He sides with the hawks, declares war on the Valogarians, alienates other powerful members of the Peers and proceeds to become a devious tyrant. Tyghus and incidentally his sister are caught up in the viciously burgeoning set of inter-territorial circumstances. A host of other characters play parts at varying levels of importance in this tale as it gradually advances to provide a provoking base for the next episode in The Chronicles.
Discussion: The author has made an intriguing interpretation from existing records of a long-ago era to present a fascinating story of court intrigue, a paranoid ruler, and honorable individuals who become unfortunate pawns in a vicious game that leads to horrendous destruction and devastating loss of human life. Most regrettably, this magnificently researched presentation provides at least for this reader, a degree of disappointment. A map is provided, but a magnifying glass is required when attempting to find/revisit the territories and other features involved, and portions of the rhetoric although of historic importance, often slow, rather than advance the storyline. Also for some readers the plentiful supply of characters with historically correct but unusual names, possibly are enough to provide a pause in assimilation, thus further interfering with the story’s pace.
Conclusion: A minutely detailed fictional story recounting political maneuvering resulting in massive land/human destruction based upon research of a seldom examined pre-Christian era. Historically and fictionally engrossing presentations where, regrettably at least for this reader, either or both could be greatly enhanced with judicious editing.
A parenthetical and perhaps totally irrelevant but depressing comment is the notable reoccurrence today of the political maneuvering that existed then and no doubt even in earlier times. It is hoped that the destructive resultant activity so graphically and well described by this author remains only historical and/or fictional.

5* Engrossing history/fictional tale; 3* judicious editing would greatly enhance for this reader.