Tag Archives: adventure

17Nov/17

The Laconic Lumberjack (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 4) by Frank W. Butterfield

Frank W. Butterfield was one our lovely recent guests! To find out more about him and get links to his work, check out Episode 138: It’s All True and Very Silly!

REVIEW

This was an interesting one, the 4th book in a long running series of stories featuring fabulously wealthy P.I. Nick Williams and his partner, Carter. Set in 1953, when bigotry and homophobia were legal and enforced by law, the two men tread a fine line between living their lives as they want to, but always aware their loving relationship could land them in jail.

Having said that, this is a jolly escapade in the main, possibly a little too jolly, considering that Carter’s father has just been murdered in a most grisly way, and a local black man has been arrested as a result. Nick hires a plane forthwith, and off they go to Georgia, where every stereotype of Southern man and woman-kind awaits to cause them all kinds of problems. This wasn’t a bad thing though, because let’s face it, a LOT of people in the 21st century are walking stereotypes.

It’s hard not to like this story, although I ran up against a few niggles that threw me off a bit. The first, and biggest, were the occasions when a character would do or say something, “for some reason.” As a reader and writer, I am always looking for reasons. They don’t need to be immediate or blatant, but they need to be there. Adding nuances to writing can be difficult, especially when there are a lot of characters and different plot lines zinging about, but the phrase would have been better left on the cutting room floor, so that the reader could make their own decision as to what the reason was.

The other niggle, possibly because I’m a curmudgeon, is the uneasy mix of tough subjects (racism, homophobia, murder, lynchings) with the amount of time the characters spent laughing. They all seemed rather too happy. Possibly this was because trust-funded golden boy, Nick, could afford to buy everyone out of trouble. If this makes him sound like a bit of a wanker, he really isn’t. He and Carter are so achingly sweet, especially together, it could make your teeth hurt if you’re in any way a cynic. The sex is fade to black, as it would have been in any respectable 1950’s film, so anyone expecting woody shenanigans will not get them.

Instead, there is a lot of other stuff to enjoy. The plot weaves and ducks and dives. The author throws a lot at them, jail-time for Nick, followed by a  kangaroo court, and inserting him and Carter in with a lot of rufty-tufty lumberjacks to try to weed out the murderer. I looked forward to a woodsaw-related climax, especially after the gory death (off-script) earlier but bearing in mind the novel is 1950-esque, with the restraint, decency and politeness of that era, it’s best to read the book to find out if and when that happens.

On the whole, bar the few hiccups, I enjoyed it. Nick and Carter are engaging, fun and cute, even though people around them keep dropping dead. Readers not wanting sex and too many f-bombs, and who appreciate a sense of decorum as well as humour, will enjoy this retro romp very much indeed.

BLURB

It’s just another Thursday morning in July of 1953 when the doorbell rings at 137 Hartford Street and it’s bad news.

Carter’s father has been murdered in Georgia and the local sheriff has no intention of finding out who really did it.

So, Nick and Carter borrow the first plane that Marnie, Nick’s amazing secretary, can find for them and they zoom off back into the past to see if they can uncover the truth of what really happened before the wrong man is convicted. And, knowing the lay of the land under the moss-covered oaks, Carter is pretty sure that the color of a man’s skin will figure heavily in who takes the fall.

In The Laconic Lumberjack, the best Nick can do is stand by Carter’s side as he confronts an awful past, uncovers some surprising secrets, and deals with the unsavory reality of small-town hypocrisy.

In the end, Nick and Carter discover more about themselves than they ever expected to find.

03Feb/17

Book review: ZENITH The Interscission Project: Book 1 by Arshad Ahsanuddin

REVIEW

Here is a man who knows and loves his sci-fi. I’m guessing (and this is a pure guess) that the author has ingested Star Trek and Deep Space Nine and Stargate and any other space-related series on both telly box and the big screen by osmosis since he was out of diapers. Which is why, when I came across phrases like “it became obvious the mobile device was designed to lock out navigation control and retarget the foldspace drive to jump the ship to a specific set of coordinates – that’s if it survived the gravitic torsion of opening a foldspace gateway inside a planetary well,” I could nod my head and say, ‘yeah, that makes total sense.’

Of course, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but the point is that the author knows his subject so well, that it came across in a way that didn’t make me feel like a dumb schmuck for not totally getting it. There were a lot of instances like this. A lot of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff barely concealing a boiling undercurrent of emotions. And this book has a whole lot of it. Corporate intrigue, revenge, complicated love stories. This is as much a drama of human conflictions as well as a rip-roaring, time-warping adventure.

And it is an adventure on the high and stormy seas of deep space, elevating my heart rate when the tension is ratcheted up. Will they make the jump successfully? Will they ever see their loved-ones again? Who is the saboteur who seems determined to destroy the teleport project in its infancy? I found I was speed-reading just to see what was going to happen next – not because I’d had it with the geeky stuff, but because the book was so gripping. There were a few cornpone phrases (“no-one dies tonight” or something like that…) but I love all that gung-ho stuff. It made the characters human and familiar, in deeply unfamiliar surroundings.

And damn it all, if the author didn’t make his characters so likeable, and cunningly gave them great back stories. The brilliant and mysterious twins, Stella and Edward, Marty, the all-American pilot hero, Charles, his equally capable best friend, the slippery CEO, Henry and taut-jawed Trevor. I loved them all because of their vulnerabilities. And the author cleverly built relationship between them with actions was well as words. It wasn’t so much what they said, as what they didn’t say. There wasn’t a wasted word between them.

And finally, the love element, so heartbreaking, so subtly done. The characters’ sexual identity was dealt with then that was it. I didn’t notice the words, “gay” or “queer” or any of those other adjectives throughout the whole book. There was no feeling of “look, LGBT characters and everyones’ okay with it! Isn’t that great! Love is love!” There was no angst about being gay. No issues that I picked up at all. Everyone just got on with it. People were professional, and more concerned about inter-company relationships affecting their job performance rather than who they wanted to sleep with. I only noticed it because most books do seem to be about the issues surrounding being LGBT, or at least touch on them, because to ignore them isn’t right either. I didn’t feel the book was ignoring the issues, but that in this instance, they really didn’t matter. People are being murdered whilst they try to jump through space and time, for God’s sake! Let’s concentrate on that!

This book is the first part of The Interscission Project trilogy, so there are some unanswered questions, hopefully addressed in the next two books. If you want something science-y and genuinely moving, about humans wrestling with the convoluted mysteries of space and time, as well as those of head and heart, I really recommend this.

Please, Harvey Weinstein, pick this up and make it a movie. Put LGBT characters in the major roles, distribute it all over the world and watch your bank balance go interstellar.

It’s a sure thing.

Arshad Ahsanuddin, March 2014
ISBN:
9781927528402
Language:
English
Pages/Words:
245 pages/71k words

BLURB

Grounded after a rescue attempt in Earth orbit goes bad, Commander Martin Atkins of the Confederation Navy is approached by the Interscission Project, a consortium of civilian corporations on the verge of perfecting the technology to travel to another star. Despite his misgivings, the chance to get back in the pilot’s seat is too much to pass up, and he convinces his best friend and crewmate, Charles Davenport, to leave the military temporarily and join him as part of the crew of the Zenith, humanity’s first starship.

Edward Harlen is a brilliant young engineer, and a key player in the construction of the Zenith to take advantage of the untested technology of foldspace drive. But Edward has his own agenda in joining the project, and a bitterly personal score to settle with his boss, Trevor Sutton, a vendetta of which Trevor is entirely ignorant. But when Edward’s sister Stella enters the picture and manages to secure a position on the project, all of Edward’s careful plotting is upset, and she might spell the downfall not only of his plans for revenge, but of the entire Zenith mission.

The spark of attraction between Edward and Martin is a complication that Edward can’t afford, but of which he can’t let go. For Edward knows the secret at the heart of the Interscission Project, the hidden potential of the technology that in the wrong hands could become the ultimate assassin’s weapon: the ability to rewrite history, not just once, but many times. As an unseen enemy moves to destroy them, and the body count multiplies in their wake, Martin and Edward must choose whether they will allow the possibility of love to challenge their destinies, or will they instead take up arms in a war to control the most ancient and terrible power in the universe.

Time, itself.