Saturday, April 28, 2007


by Charles Saunders
Night Shade Books
210 pages

Hot on the heels of the first book in this epic saga comes the second volume relating the adventures of the warrior, Imaro, in ancient Africa. Book one introduced us the bastard child, Imaro, born of the herdsmen tribe known as the Illyassai. His mother abandons him to the village elders at the age of five and exits his life completely, taking with her the secret of his father’s identity. The child is abused and ostracized by his kinsmen, yet finding a inner strength to match his amazing physical prowess, he grows the be the strongest Illyassai of them all. Then at the moment of his triumph, he turns his back on them, and the land that nurtured him, to begin his quest of self-discovery.

Along the journey, Imaro encounters, saves, and falls in love with the beautiful Tanisha and becomes the leader of an outlaw band. By the end of book one, his enemies unite against him to bring about the destruction of his outlaw army. Tanisha is kidnapped by a rival and Imaro left for dead. Things look bleak, but as long as there remains a single breath in his body, Imaro is far from being defeated.

THE QUEST FOR CUSH begins with Imaro’s obsessed hunt to rescue the woman he loves. Along the way he joins forces with a wily, sophisticated pygmy named Pomphis. Upon learning Imaro’s history, Pomphis believes him to be the end of his own personal quest. He explains to Imaro that the Africans gods of good and evil are in a state of constant warring; that they act through human agents here on earth and that his queen, Kadista of Cush, has foreseen the coming of a mighty warrior who will be instrumental in the victory over the black sorcerers who represent evil. By the time Imaro, with Pomphis’s aid, rescues Tanisha and battles still more minions of black magic, he comes to believe the little man’s supposition and agrees to travel with him back to Cush.

Saunders writing combines the best elements of fantasy adventure’s two brightest stars. He marries the complex, intricate world and myth building of J.R.R. Tolkien with the frantic, non-stop action rousing exploits of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. The result is sword and sorcery taken to a brand new level of sophistication. The Imaro saga is classic stuff and I one for can’t wait for the next installment.

Monday, April 23, 2007


by Michael Connelly
Warne Books
484 pages

Sometimes how one picks a book to read is as interesting as the book itself. Case in point, last weekend found me in Rochester, NY, to attend a family wedding. Thinking I’d only be there for a few days, I brought along a copy of THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN (see review below this one) with me. Alas a Spring storm barreled into the region on the day of the wedding and suddenly I wasn’t going anywhere fast. Having read my travel book, and knowing I’d be in the hotel for another night, I tried to find a bookstore in an area I’m completely unfamiliar with. My wife suggested I merely visit one of the retail outlets near the hotel. Now big chain stores like Walmart and Target do carry books, but in such a limited number, their criteria is strictly determined by a title’s status on the bestseller list. And of course what the rest of the masses choose to read most likely will not be your cup of tea.

Thus it was that I found myself browsing these “bestseller” titles in hopes of finding one book that would both appeal and ultimately entertain me. There were all the Stephen King, and Dean R.Koontz titles as expected, but amongst those I’d already read the titles that fascinated me and had no desire to peruse the others. Okay, so it was time to inspect writers I’d never tried. Which is how I came to pick up Michael Connelly’s THE CONCRETE BLONDE. I was familiar with Connelly’s name and the glowing reviews his police dramas starring Detective Harry Bosch had accumulated over the years. I had been mildly curious about them. But there were three Connelly titles on those racks. I picked this one because the title was the most dramatic and it hooked me.

Four years ago, Detective Harry Bosch, hunted and caught a serial killer known as the Dollmaker. In the confrontation, Bosch had to shoot the suspect and the case, upon review by the department, was ruled justified and closed. But for the family of the Frank Church, the man identified as the Dollmaker, the evident was not so conclusive and they have filed a wrongful death charge against Bosch in a civil suit. Bosch, as much as he finds the proceedings distasteful, begrudgingly submits to the department’s wishes and accepts a state appointed prosecutor to defend him against a very slick, and savvy female trial lawyer known as Money Chandler.

No sooner has the trial begun then a body is discovered, buried in concrete with the same tell-tale signatures of a Dollmaker victim. When forensics discovers the woman was killed several years after the death of Frank Church, everything about Bosch’s trail suddenly goes topsy-turvy. Once Chandler learns there have been other murders dated after the Church shooting, her victory is assured. But that isn’t what bothers Harry Bosch. He is more concerned with the fact that, if he did shoot the wrong man four years earlier, then the real Dollmaker is still on the loose and ready to kill again.

What begins as a run-of-the-mill trial drama quickly evolves into a fast paced hunt for a sadistic serial killer with inside knowledge about the police’s methods and files. Bosch soon begins to realize his prey may even be a fellow officer. It is a taut, well written thriller that keeps you guessing until the end, with plenty of red-herrings along the way. As is the case in such series, getting to know and like the hero is a major selling point. Why bother coming back for more, if you don’t empathize with the protagonist. I found myself liking Harry Bosch and by the end of this book was very predisposed to picking up more of his books. Maybe the next time I’m stuck in another town.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


by Gil Brewer
Hard Case Crime
220 pages

In 1958, the world at large was still in a Post-World War mode, both socially and economically. Things were good for Americans, if they wanted to get ahead and make their dreams come true. The same can be said for those darker forces of the human soul and the drugstore paperback racks of the time were jammed full of garish murder mysteries. One of these was THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN, a femme fatale genre tale by Gil Brewer.

Jack Ruxton is the first person narrator who spins this yarn of lust, obsession and murder. An army vet, he has settled in Florida and opened up a very successful television repair shop. One day he is called to the home of furniture tycoon, Victor Spondell, to install a TV set in the man’s bedroom. Spondell is an invalid and being cared for by his eighteen year old step-daughter, Shirley Angela; a bored, sex-kitten ready for a better life. The second Ruxton lays eyes on her, the die is cast and the reader is all too aware of the road they will soon be going down.

From such classics as The Postman Always Rings Twice, the noirish tragedy of a good man done in by a bad woman has captivated readers and movie-going audiences. The fascination that keeps us turning the pages is trying to fathom where exactly the protagonist loses his way, his sense of right and wrong and then makes the fatal misstep that dooms him forever. Ruxton openly admits Shirley is not the most beautiful woman he’s ever met. Hell, he admits she’s still just a kid. Yet the second they recognize the mutual hunger in each other’s souls, can their sexual coupling be denied? Once he and Shirley have tasted each other’s passions, there is no going back. Ruxton wants Shirley to run off with him, but he also wants the old man’s money; all which Shirley inherits once he expires. But Spondell, in his present condition, could linger another five or ten years. Patience and waiting aren’t in the couple’s vocabulary. The sooner Spondell dies, the better and so they begin plotting his end.

As much as he thinks he has covered all his bases, Ruxton fails to take into account both his own ex-girlfriend and a very nosey neighbor. When one of them stumbles on the plot to kill Spondell, his well conceived plan quickly turns into a flimsy house of cards. Suddenly Shirley and Jack have blood on their hands and are on the run. The pacing of the book never lets up from page one and the further we are taken into Ruxton’s living hell, the more gripping the drama. I would dare anyone to put this book down once they’ve read the first half. Compelling to the bitter, surprise ending is how to best describe THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN. It is a small, quickly read book, but one that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Recently several writers have written requesting that I review their new books in this column.
As much as I would love to do that, unless they send me a copy, that will not happen. Folks, it is just a case of economics. I just don't have enough money to buy everything that is out there, so
I pick and choose the books I purchase according to my taste. Whereas when people are nice enough to send me a complimentary copy of their work, then it will certainly get reviewed here.
Just wanted to make that clear. Just drop me a line, tell me you have a book for me and I will in turn send you my mailing address. It's that easy. Thanks, and keep writing. Ron

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


An Easy Rawlins Novel
by Walter Mosley
Warner Vision Books
325 pages

Back in 1990, Walter Mosley introduced Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins to the world of crime fiction in his novel, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS. It was an instant best seller, as Mosley quickly established himself as the heir apparent to the likes of Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Like them, he set his series in the heart of the gold coast, Los Angeles. Unlike them, Mosley’s hero was black and immediately the entire noir-private eye genre was set on its ear.

Having Hammett’s gift for storytelling and Chandler’s social consciousness, Mosley’s stories followed Easy’s life upon his return to America after having fought in World War II. He’s a kind, and giving man, who wants very much to belong, to be a part of something good. That he attracts society’s misfits and ends up caring for them, is part of what makes Easy likeable to his readers. He’s the kind of man we would all like to have as a friend. Over the past 17 years, Mosley as led invited us along Easy’s life path, and with each new novel, this is number nine; he has also taken us through the history of the 20th Century.

LITTLE SCARLET begins only hours after the tragic Watts Riots of Los Angeles back in the summer of 1965. Amidst the destruction and looting, a young black woman is murdered and the police believe it is the work of a white man. Fearing this will reignite the cauldron that is the black community, the police come to Easy and ask him to investigate privately. In doing so, Easy, for the first time in his life, begins to question his own attitudes and feelings about prejudice and racism. To his credit, he begins to realize the time has long past for taking a stand and ending the slavery-mind-set still chaining the souls of his people. That he also faces his own reactive racism towards whites is a deft, and wonderful revelation Mosley handles openly with truth and sensitivity.

The changing political and social scene of the country is changing. Civil Rights are now more than just platitudes and wishful thinking and Easy must come to grips with the future or be forever locked into the blind hatreds of the past. From the rich neighborhoods of Beverly Hills to the homeless shelters of Watts, the killer’s trail leads him on a journey unlike any he has ever traveled before.

I truly enjoyed this new entry in the Easy Rawlins series and do recommend it, but with a caveat. To truly appreciate what is going on here, the reader should start at the beginning
and follow Easy right from the start. You can enjoy LITTLE SCARLET on its own, as a fine mystery. But you would be missing the rich dessert the entire series offers as a whole. And that would be a crime.