August 2005 Same Vein


Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?
by G.M. Ford

Pan Macmillan

A wisecracking P.I. is hired by a Mafia don to ride herd on his beautiful nymphomaniac niece (or great niece) who is mixed up with a not so swift bunch of environmental terrorists. Murders by unknown persons occur. What's not to like about this plot line? The writing has an upbeat humorous tone. When describing the possibility of a drive-by shooting in a wealthy neighborhood, Waterman says "The only way there could be a drive by shooing in that neighborhood is if they used a Mercedes seeking cruise missle." On the constant rain in Seattle-"living in Seattle is like being married to a beautiful woman who is always sick."

Although tempted by two beautiful women who propostion him, the hero retains his virtue. The description of the environmental convention is a humorous-one bumper sticker "Pregnancy is a sexually transmitted disease."

Waterman uses a group of former upper middle class now alcoholics to do his surveillance. Kind of the Baker Street irregulars but older and drunker. About the fifth time he has a problem with their drinking on the job, you'll wonder what he's thinking about using them.

Still, the plot is humerous and a fast read. To say more would spoil it. All in all, a fun read.

Inside Hitler's Bunker
by Joachim Fest

Pan Macmillan

Joachim Fest is a distinguished German journalist and the author of an acclaimed biography of Hitler. In "Inside Hitler's Bunker," he focuses on the last days of the Third Reich, beginning his narrative on April 16, 1945 as the Soviets open their final offensive against Berlin. The book explores the surreal and miserable world of the "Fuhrer Bunker" under the Reich Chancellery, the fanatical resistance and eventual collapse of the German armies defending Berlin, Hitler's delusional attempts to command armies that had been wiped out, and the astonishing willingness of soldiers and civilians to obey his orders until the very end.

This is a highly readable and very powerful book, and the translator (Margot Bettauer Dembo) deserves high marks for the result.

"Inside Hitler's Bunker" may be somewhat disappointing for those who have read a great deal about the Battle of Berlin or Hitler's last days (the book does not appear to break a great deal of new ground), but it will prove to be a gripping narrative for those who are new to the horrors of Berlin in 1945. Part of the continuing fascination of this dark time is the challenge of trying to understand the incomprehensible: how could a madman like Hitler stay in control of Germany in the last weeks of April 1945, and why did so many Germans follow him as he dragged them into the final catastrophe?

The answer to those questions may lie in the news reports coming from the U.S.A. of today...

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

Random House

Polly Perks is a young woman who works at her father's inn, the Duchess (named after an iconic Borogravian figure). However, since it is one of the numerous "abominations unto Nuggan" for a woman to own pubs in Borogravia, she realizes that if she wants to keep the Duchess, she needs to get her brother Oliver back from the front. Indeed, Borogravia is at war, again, with one of its neighbours.

So when the recruiting party goes through town, she cuts her hair, disguises as a man, kisses the portrait of the Duchess and gets the Shilling. Now she's in Sergeant Jack Jackrum's army, along with a group of other makeshift soldiers, among which Maladict the reformed Vampire (who's given up blood for coffee), a Troll and an Igor. Soon enough she learns to walk and swear like a man, and to wear a pair of socks in her trousers.

Slow to begin, this latest Pratchett finds its feet around halfway through, to deliver the usual fare his fans have come to expect.

Prisoner of Ironsea Tower by Sarah Ash

Random House

The second novel in the Tears of Artamon series, this novel had quite a lot to live up to. In the first we were treated to a whole new world and given the chance to view it through fresh eyes as the lead protagonist took us through his trials and tribulations as the tale unwound. This novel continues with the same excitement that was portrayed thoughout the first and even develops the lead characters sensitivity as he struggles against the dark nature of his own personal "demon".

Each of the other characters that were introduced in the first novel were additionally added to and have left the final part of the trilogy quite a lot to live up to. If you've not read the first novel of this series pick it up and you'll soon be hooked with the second part living up to the full potential that this tale had to offer. You'll soon become a fan of Gavil Nagarian and find it a long wait for the epic finale of the series.


Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

Allen & Unwin

Elmore Leonard's "Rum Punch" (which was the basis of Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown") is a page-turner in the truest sense of the word - it's hard to put down. Leonard has crafted a novel with his usual ear for fantastic and witty dialogue and fast, descriptive and fluent prose. Add a well-crafted and surprising plot and we have one of Leonard's finest works.

The story revolves around Jackie Burke (changed to Jackie Brown in the film), an airline stewardess who smuggles money between locations for Ordell Robbie, an arms-dealing hot-talking crook who uses everyone he comes in contact with for his own gain. The plot takes off when Jackie is caught by the police with the money for a delivery (along with some drugs she didn't know were in there) and Ordell is forced to bail her out through a bail bondsman, Max Cherry. Jackie sets up a sting operation which has the appearance of involving everyone -- the police, Ordell, even Ordell's discontented callgirl. In the end... well, you'll have to read it for that.

What makes "Rum Punch" a pleasure to read, like all of Leonard's novels, are the fringe characters which seemingly only he could dream up. The relationship between Louis, Ordell's dim-witted and short-tempered right hand man, and Melanie, Ordell's primary callgirl, is amusing, as are scenes like Ray Nicholette's bravado-style shootout with one of Ordell's arms-shipping lackeys. Leonard also intersperses interesting bits of character introspection, like Max Cherry's contemplation about his relationship with his wife (with whom he's separated) and Jackie's three ex-husbands (although she only usually says there's two, because two of them were so similar, even in name, that they're hard to tell apart).

The plot itself goes off without a hitch. There's nothing profound, and probably nothing new, but the execution is suspenseful and works because of the strong characters involved.

Heartily recommended.

2005 Guns Illustrated by Ken Ramage

Capricorn Link

Every firearm enthusiast, collector and buyer will want this all-encompassing reference with the most current information on today's latest and greatest guns. This expanded 37th edition includes updated retail prices and gun specifications for revolvers, rifles, airguns, shotguns, and many more.

Up-to-date listings include over 1,500 photographs to aid in identification and make selecting and buying firearms easier.

Feature articles examine the latest trends in the industry and other related topics. The "Gundex" references listings for all the firearms, enabling readers to quickly locate a specific gun, and the Directory of the Arms Trade includes updated listings of firearms manufacturers and importers.

Excellent for gun fans and as a reference for writers as well.

Plot & Structure by James Bell

Capricorn Link

Bell starts from the assertion that anyone can learn to craft a good plot. Whether you prefer to plan every detail of your stories in advance or fly by the seat of your pants, you can still learn all the elements of an engaging story and use them to draw your reader in. Bell has spent a great deal of time analyzing the plot structures of those books that consistently draw people in, and he has come up with a number of systems, theories and exercises which he shares in this book.

Bell addresses just about every aspect of plotting, from "What's a Plot, Anyway?" to generating ideas, dealing with beginnings (and middles, and endings), handling individual scenes, crafting complex plots, integrating character arc into plot, different systems of crafting plot, revising plots, plot patterns, plot problems, cures for plot problems, and even checklists to go through to make sure you're remembering everything as you write your book.

One of Bell's major contributions to plot theory is his "LOCK" system, which stands for Lead, Objective, Confrontation, Knockout. In order to have a gripping plot you must have a lead, he must have an objective, there must be confrontation, and the ending must have "knockout power." There are a million-and-ten possible variations on this simple structure, but this basic idea alone can help a struggling writer to get a grip on the basics of plot.

"Plot & Structure" is highly recommended for anyone who writes or plans to write fiction. It's clear, coherent, practical, and immensely useful to any student of the craft.

Black Jack Point by Jeff Abbott

Allen & Unwin

Crooks don't make good partners because they almost always try to cheat each other. Jimmy Bird and Alex are digging for treasure on Patch Gilbert's land in Black Jack Point, Texas. Patch and his significant other return early surprising the thieves. When Patch's niece Lucy reports him missing, the police drive over to his home and unearth their remains.

Also dug out of the grave is older bones and parts of a treasure chest. Lucy's boyfriend Judge Whit Mosley tries to console his lover especially when the police zero in on her as a suspect since she is the sole beneficiary to Patch's estate. While Whit deals with one aspect of the crime, his friend police detective Claudia Salozar and her boyfriend are hijacked and held for ransom. The thugs want Ben's brother Alex to turn over the treasure, especially the famous emerald once belonging to Jean Lafitte, otherwise the hostages are going to be killed.

BLACK JACK POINT is an exhilarating crime thriller that is an exciting read because one really doesn't know who are the good guys or the villains. Their actions are designed to confuse the evidence and enables Jeff Abbot to show he is an expert at his craft. This fast paced story line has a shocking climax that readers will never figure out until it's over. The crime thriller genre has a winner with this strong novel from Mr. Abbott, a rising star.

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