Monday, February 22, 2016


By Nicholas Ahlhelm
Metahuman Press
129 pages

If you think surviving four years of high school it tough, try doing it as a superhero who can control gravity. That’s Kevin Mathis’s challenge in the second of Nicholas Ahlhelm wonderful series that explores both the angst of burgeoning maturity with the fantastical eternal conflict between the forces of good and evil. As the Federation city hero known as Lightweight, has more problems than your average soon-to-be graduate.

Picking up where the first book left off, Kevin is well into his senior year and quickly coming to grips with the fact that he has become a major pawn in battle between two secret organizations known as the Eloi and the Morlocks. Yes, the connection to H.G. Wells famous “The Time Machine” is referenced. The two groups have been monitoring the rise of mankind throughout time and each believes Kevin is the catalyst that will ultimately either save the world or destroy.

Naturally he disagrees. All he wants is to be left alone. We were thrilled to see the action kick off immediately and Ahlhelm doesn’t waste a minute getting things revved up to full speed. Along the way he reveals some hidden secrets from that first outing such as the identity of the mysterious Gray Man who revealed to Kevin’s totally surprise..  At the same time his romantic relationship with the lovely German exchange student, Constanze, continues to evolve even though she is a Morlock and can morph into the were-woman Howl. In the end she may be his staunchest ally in the climatic battle to come.

“Lightweight – Black Death” is what all sequels should be; better than the first. And that’s exactly what you have here. A continuation of an epic saga that is both riveting and fun and certainly has us wanting a whole lot more. This is how superhero novels should be done all the time.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


By Brian Kilmeade & Don Yaeger
Sentinel Books
232 pages

If like us, you are a devoted student of history, the title alone will have you wanting to know what this book is all about. What it reveals, in carefully research documents, is that during the American Revolutionary War, when George Washington battled the greatest military empire in the world of that era, he was aided by a band of colonial spies who made it possible for him to outwit his foes and win our independence. The story is one of unbelievable ingenuity and courage on the part of six brave Americans, five men and one woman, who would become known as the Culper Spy Ring.

Early on in the battle for freedom from England, Washington understood he could never defeat the British by overpowering them in combat. Militarily the British forces were far superior in numbers and hardware. Were Washington to challenge them through combat alone, he knew his cause would be lost.  But if he forestall the British, making the war a protracted costly affair then in the end the British Parliament would capitulate and sue for peace.

To do this he had to outwit his enemies; i.e. out-spy them. In any struggle the combatant who has the most knowledge of his enemy’s strengths and weakness will ultimately learn to circumvent them to his benefit.  Once New York had fallen to the British, Washington set about creating a spy network that would operate throughout that vast metropolis from the streets of Manhattan to the villages of Long Island.  Cunning agents whose identities would be known only to the army officer who would lead them, Colonel Tallmadge. 

Tallmadge had gone to school when Nathan Hale and when Hale was captured and executed because of an ill-advised reconnaissance mission, it was a personal blow to the young officer. Washington then made clear that only Tallmadge would know the name of the person he chose to assemble a band of citizens to spy on the British forces that surrounded them daily. This person in turn would give each of his people a code name by which to operate. Thus neither Washington nor Tallmadge ever knew who their daring spies were.

This book is a revelation shining the light on a long hidden aspect of the Revolutionary War that may have been its most crucial element. So brilliant were the methods devised by the Culper Spy Ring to serve their mission, they are still taught today at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia. And there the story of the Culper Spy Ring is kept alive to inspire today’s American agents, reminding them that all wars are not fought solely with guns and bombs but with clever intelligence gathering.

Kilmeade and Yaeger have done a wonderful job in bringing to life each of the secret six of which history eventually unmasked years after the war’s end. In fact the true identity of the only female member is still unknown to this day as well as her final fate. It is in these gripping accounts that we found ourselves empathizing with these ordinary citizens tasked to dare extraordianry feats of courage all for the glorious idea of a free democracy.  “George Washington’s Secret Six,” is an amazing book and one that should be thought to every high school student in American today.  There are no monuments to these spies and that is how they would have preferred it but their stories should be known and memorialized.  Freedom is never free, it has a price and these six amazing people were willing to pay it with their lives if need be.  We owe it to them to keep their legends alive.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


(A Gabriel Hunt Novel)
By Nicholas Kaufman
Titan Books
269 pages

We recently participated in an on-line round table forum on how to avoid clichés when writing mystery fiction.  Webster’s defines the word as “…a hackneyed expression or idea.”  Hackneyed in that it has been repeated more time than anyone could ever count.  Which we suppose is what makes it a bad thing, this constant repetition. Whereas, unlike a single sentence or phrase, there are entire books that entirely one humungous cliché.  Case in point the classic pulp novels of the 30s and 40s and the current books and films  they in turned inspired.

Several years ago, publisher/writer Charles Ardai, applauded for bringing back the dark, gritty noir melodramas to the paperback world with his Hard Case Crime line, had the idea of launching a modern day Indiana Jones style series featuring a character named Gabriel Hunt.  Now in keeping with the Jones/pulp mold, Hunt is an archeologist who co-operates the Hunt Foundation with his brother Michael.  Whereas Gabriel is the adventurer, Michael is the desk jockey who sends him on his wild adventures around the globe seeking lost artifacts.  Ardai recruited a group of modern day pulpsters, all with established bonafides, to pen these fast paced actioners.

“Hunt at World’s End,” by Nicholas Kaufmann is one of the latest in this on-going series and everything in it is cliché; from the smart female archaeologist in distress to the ancient mysterious cult and the evil power hungry foreigner all vying to find three lost jewels that when brought together on the face of a lost idol will grant the person possessing them a fantastical power.  And so from Borneo to Turkey and finally the sands of the Sahara, Gabriel and his allies race against time to stop the dastardly villains from achieving success and thereby save the world.

There is absolutely nothing new in these pages but we still relished the book.  Like wearing a comfortable pair of slippers or a favorite lounge sweater, were delighted to have had the experience.  You see, dear readers, most of the best selling series of any kind have to fall back on tried and true elements which readers expect.  Sure, it is always nice to discover something new, fresh and original.   But trust me, in the world of fiction, that is all too rare and one soon comes to rely and enjoy those books done in a familiar style we come to appreciate over the years like good and trusty friends who will not let us down.  The Gabriel Hunt books are such pals and we easily recommend them.  “Hunt at World’s End” maintains their level of excellence with a fast paced narrative, colorful characters and exotic locales.  What more could a pulp fan want?