This is a book that has been on my tbr list for some time now; for some reason the cover and the title just didn’t prompt me to pay it much attention, but seeing the increasing number of good reviews it was getting from within my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group I thought it was high time I gave it a closer look. In addition to being an active contributor to a number of online review groups and a regular blogger, a he is also a programmer, a database engineer, and Kenpo practitioner. He enjoys martial arts, coding, and of course, writing. Henchmen is his first novel, and he has written a sequel to this called ‘Arise.’
Further links to Eric Lahti and his writing can be found at:
By Eric Lahti
(Available in eBook format from Amazon)
Where do I start with this one? This is a full-on action thriller that throws in elements of Sci-Fi, mysterious aliens, the supernatural, and a body count not seen since the days of the great flood. The Henchmen are a varied group of guys and gals you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of; led by a seven foot bullet-proof Amazonian blond bombshell, this assortment of characters possess both the will and the skills to literally change the world. Anyone expecting a typical macho ex-military commando type outfit will be pleasantly surprised; apart from Eve, their super humanly strong and virtually invulnerable leader, among the Henchmen there is the latest addition to the group, a drop dead gorgeous kick boxing ex-nude model, Jessica, who doesn’t think twice about killing someone in the most brutal of ways when circumstances demand, computer and security system hackers gay couple Frank and Jean, Jacob the gun mad biker, and last of all, Steven the narrator.
Despite their propensity to violence and a desire to kill off the entire American Congress, you can’t help but like every last one of the Henchmen. The book completely turns on its head the idea of good and bad guys; the violent chaos causing Henchmen are superb in their role as sympathetic super villains, while the American Government is clearly cast in a bad light. Some of the background plot, and just what it is the Henchmen hoped to achieve was a little light on detail at times, but then again, any attempt to elaborate there might well have slowed down the pace; there’s plenty of explosive action, fighting, fire-fights, and realistic and accurate weaponry and computer security detail to give the book authenticity in these areas, but not so much as to bog the story down in such detail. Given the unusual nature of some of the characters and the mixture of genres, the reader does have to suspend disbelief to some extent, but you’re so engrossed in the moment of what’s happening you rarely give it a second thought.
Written in the first person from the perspective of Steven, the author manages to give the narrative a real sense of character and a distinct ‘voice.’ By making the narrator a close ‘member of the team’ so to speak, the author managed to combine the intimacy of this point of view with the sort of overview usually associated with a third person perspective, yet still providing the opportunity for some sharp and witty humour and satire by way of Steven’s own thoughts and observations of those about him; the author’s ability to lampoon and caracature the male psyche was as funny and sharp as I’ve read in a long-time.
Following a literary roller coaster ride of combat and fire-fights leading to a literal world changing finale, the author nicely rounds up the conclusion, giving a brief post-script to the characters. I did think that some aspects of the cataclysmic conclusion were a little vague, and there are lots of unanswered questions about the characters, in particular the Amazonian like, Eve, but given there’s a sequel, one imagines much of this may well have been intentional. Overall I was kept hooked from start to finish, laughing out loud at times, and gasping for breath at others. Will I be reading said sequel? Absolutely!
Sequel to Henchmen – Click on thumbnail for details:
‘Saving Grace’ is a short story, or what is often referred to now as a Kindle Short. W.K. Tucker is someone I met during the AtoZ April blogging challenge by way of posts we both responded to, and have since kept in touch via blogging. Although relatively new to self-publishing and the world of amazon publishing, W. K. Tucker has a long and successful history of short story writing, having been published in various magazines over the years. In addition to ‘Saving Grace,’ she is also the author of another short story, ‘Pearls Before Swine,’ also available as a Kindle Short from Amazon.
Further information and links to the author’s work, along with several free short stories and poetry can be found at her wordpress blog:
By W. K. Tucker
(Availabe as an eBook Kindle short from Amazon)
This is a lovely and delightful little story. Aggie, the narrator, is an elderly woman living alone in a remote house in some woods with just her ageing dog Penny for company most of the time. One night something extraordinary happens – something lands in the woods, something ‘otherworldly’ from the sky, and together they discover a small almost transparent jellyfish-like creature. Being a good and kind woman, and seeing that it’s cold and in need of help, Aggie takes the creature in, naming it Grace; what follows is a gripping story of how the creature develops, and how it more than repays the kindness and trust shown by both Aggie and her dog, a kindness that the whole of mankind will ultimately benefit from.
Written in the first person, Aggie conjures up a perfect image of the deep south of America, of the southern cornfields, rocking chairs on the porch, and the old ageing dog in the background. Not only does she achieve this through some quaint imagery and terminology, but she takes the brave decision to write entirely in the local southern dialect and accent; whether this would be a good idea in a longer story I don’t know, but here it works perfectly, giving the narrative and dialogue a real flavour of the south to them. There are some subtle references that add to the atmosphere too such as her mistrust of the ‘government’ men who may take an interest in ‘Grace.’ Although ultimately this has a real feel-good factor to it, there is a nice mix of danger and suspense too – an effective blend of sci-fi and horror all mixed up in a very real down to earth setting. My only disappointment with this story was that it eventually had to end. Highly recommended.
Also by W. K. Tucker:
This is the latest book by author and fellow blogger, Tom Benson, whose own blog features high in my list of ‘follows.’ Although only recently published, A Taste of Honey has already received a number of very favourable reviews and is proving to be Tom Benson’s most successful work to date. Coinciding with this latest success, the author has also been featured in the latest edition of the UK nationally available Writing Magazine.
Tom is a prolific writer of short stories, flash fiction, novels, and a number of poetry books. In addition to being a great writer and author, he also takes the time to offer advice and support to fellow writers and bloggers. He also contributes to numerous online writing groups, and is one of the founder members of the Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group.
As well as reading this excellent novel, take a look at his blog, as there are some equally excellent short and flash fiction stories to enjoy too along with an absolute treasure trove of writing tips, and highly informative and essential self-publishing advice…
.Further links to Tom Benson’s novels and other writing can be found at:
A Taste of Honey
By Tom Benson
(Available as an eBook from Amazon)
This latest book from Scottish born Tom Benson epitomises what the author does best – fast paced and hard hitting retribution themed action. On the surface this is a relatively simple story of revenge for the loss of a loved one but as the story progresses and expands, the reader is plunged into a nightmare world of unimaginable horror and brutality where the official wheels of justice just don’t suffice; there are some crimes for which the sanctions of a civilised society simply don’t bear any relation to the deserved punishment for said crimes, where the prescribed punishments available most certainly do not fit the crime, and it is in this dark place that the central character, police officer Kimberly Forest, with the help and expertise of colleagues and contacts made through here police work, emphatically redresses that problem. Rather than follow the official lines of inquiry and investigation, Kimberly Forest decides to embark on her own quest for justice, soon discovering the true extent of the horror of what has happened – the central protagonist maybe a police officer, but she’s also a human being; whilst most people would be stricken with grief at the death of a loved one, particularly if that death was in horrific circumstances, and no doubt speculate as to what they would do were they to confront such brutal killers, for most it world remain just that, grief fuelled anger and speculation. But when such anger is combined with the requisite training and skills to carry out such thoughts of retribution, there will always exist the potential for extreme retaliation, which is what we have here…
The story gets off to a quick start, immediately alerting the reader to the tone and pace of the book; equally and as quickly apparent is the author’s trademark attention to detail and the obvious degree of research that has gone into the writing. Although born and raised in Scotland, the author has ensured that this American based thriller is wholly accurate in its portrayal: the dialogue, object nouns, and terminology – even down to the alternate American spellings – has been written from an American perspective, giving the book an added authenticity that might otherwise be missing. A particular point in mind with regards to this is where the main character thanks an ex-marine for his service to his country, a typically American characteristic.
The descriptive elements regarding the assorted weaponry that crops up in the book is both accurate and detailed, just as I would expect given the author’s own background, but what was more impressive was that these were effortlessly incorporated into the narrative without reading like a list of gun specs; likewise with other elements – at various points there are descriptive passages interwoven into the dialogue and narrative, but in such a way as to be totally relevant to the story and what the characters are doing – such as when there is a brief account of the rear seating set-up within a police custody vehicle and the reasoning for it (as some featured bad guys also learn to their cost).
Remaining with the descriptive elements though, it must be said that the level of detail in the violent aspects of the book is both full and explicit, as is the language and dialogue – this is not a book for the faint hearted or for those who prefer such detail to be left to the imagination. It could be argued that perhaps such levels of explicit detail might be construed as gratuitous, but for me personally they worked well in bringing home the levels of grief, horror, and anger it would take to drive an otherwise law abiding police officer to such drastic lengths. Such explicit detail does inevitably though raise questions of right and wrong and the morality of taking the law into your own hands, blurring as it does the fine line between justice and bloody unadulterated revenge. It’s in this one respect I would have liked to see a greater exploration of the central character’s grief and perhaps eventual reaction to it. I appreciate that she had to remain unemotional and totally focussed to carry out her plans but at times the consistency of her hard unemotional persona was slightly too much to accept given the horror of her loss.
For fans of action, violence and retribution themed justice this will be a real treat. This is more a plot and story driven book as opposed to one of literary depth and characterisation, though the characters are still believable, rising well above the clichéd level I’ve occasionally read in superficially similar books. It’s also worth mentioning there is a brief appearance of a character, and reference to a couple of other characters from one of the author’s other books, Beyond the Law, which although not essential to have read previously does give an insight into the wider framework of the characters and world in which the author’s novels take place… Overall? Absolutely loved it!
Other titles by Tom Benson:
Short story writer and poet, Mike Domino, is yet another very talented writer I discovered via my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group. Previous to Park Avenue to Park Bench Michael Domino published three books of short stories and a novella: Wandering Mind, Cadillac on the Bowery, Loud Whispers, Time to Pay the Rent.
Author Michael Domino found his voice first as a writer of poetry. He composed two collections titled Cadillac on The Bowery and Wandering Mind. From there he moved on to the art of the short story after realizing that many of his poems and prose were in fact stories in the miniature. He is now working on his first Novel. Further information and links to the author’s works can be found at:
& at his WordPress blog:
Park Avenue to Park Bench
By Michael Domino
(Available from Amazon in both eBook & print formats)
We’ve all seen pictures and film representations of New York but here we have a collection of short stories that really portray the everyday life of its inhabitants and the character of the city, from the splendid sky scrapers to the dingy motels, of high flying business men to the street side bums. What impressed me most was the author’s ability to truly put me in the shoes of the characters, as though I too were walking those same streets and avenues of that great city. The language and terminology all had a distinct New York feel – even if you’ve never actually visited New York, you really feel as though you’re there; Michael Domino takes the reader into the heart of his world, telling tales that are a splendid mix of both the past and present, and of the changing face of the city as its many old buildings and enterprises slowly give way to the new.
Whilst there is a real and uplifting ‘feel good’ factor enshrined within the streets and character of New York throughout the book, every facet of the city and its varied inhabitants are explored here; a billionaire business man whose gone from rags to riches, hence the title of the book, second and third generation Italian/American pizza restaurant owners adding to the rich character of the city, the stereotypical private investigator meeting up with a client in a pizza place, ex-convicts living by their wits, a gypsy fortune teller giving a self-doubting writer a glimpse of the future, and above all, stories of everyday people going out of their way to help their fellow New Yorkers; any perception of New Yorkers as being too busy or too focused on their own lives to allow time for their neighbours are emphatically dispelled here.
The writing and descriptive elements were without doubt absolutely brilliant, and the dialogue was as rich and varied as the stories and people themselves. What was also interesting was that not one of the stories relied on any sort of twist in the tale or contrived ending to give them meaning, relying instead on the story as a whole to provide the reader’s enjoyment. I did feel a couple of the later stories in this collection veered away slightly from the character and feel of most of the early and midway ones, but not to the detriment of the collection, showing as they did a slightly different perspective. There’s no doubt that much of the author’s own life and experience has gone into these stories, as he clearly states in the introduction, giving each story a genuine authenticity. One of the best short story collections I’ve read in years, and as a committed fan of the genre, that’s quite something. Looking forward to reading more from this author…
Michaels Domino’s other works: click on thumbnails for details
Felipe Adan Lerma is a prolific author, having written numerous books in a number of genres ranging from short thrillers, as reviewed here, to poetry, photography, travel, and many more. He is also a prolific book reviewer, contributing to a number of online Indie author review and writing groups as well as offering help and advice whenever and wherever he can. On a personal note he has also proved to be an invaluable and valued member of my own Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group.
Further links to the authors numerous novels and poetry collections can be found at:
One Night in the Hill Country
(Adan’s Thriller Mystery Suspense Books)
By Felipe Adan Lerma
(Available as an eBook from Amazon)
At thirty thousand words this is a short story just a tad short of novella length, but one that punches well above it weight, holding its own against the depth and intricacy of longer works. It tackles the controversial issue of child trafficking and abuse as the vessel for the main story, namely that of the misguided but presumably well-meaning efforts of a brother and sister, Rolf and Tara, in using illegal immigrant children they have abducted in order to lure the same sort of men who once hurt they themselves in order to exact some sort of revenge. There are subtle references as to what may have happened to Rolf and Tara in the past and led them to the circumstances of the story, but the author deliberately doesn’t go into detail here, instead leaving it to the reader’s imagination. As in all good thrillers though, things don’t go to plan, cue the arrival of former policewoman, Samantha, along with four young children in her care as they happen to stop by where Rolf and Tara are holding several other children. What follows is a desperate struggle for survival by children and adults alike whilst the outside authorities also seek to discover the truth of what’s happened.
The writing is crisp and to the point, avoiding unnecessary description and elaboration, employing an economy of words much in the style of the likes of Hemmingway. Just as the story is divided into nearly eighty short chapters, so too are the sentences and paragraphs short and sharp, giving the feeling of a fast paced thriller, constantly driving the story forward; likewise with the dialogue, crisp and sharp, and well interspaced into the narrative.
This isn’t a book with the same depth and characterisation of say a John Grisham or Jon Kellerman thriller, but at thirty thousand words it isn’t intended to be. What it is though is a fast paced story, with enough length and substance to it to still engage the reader throughout. Anyone who enjoys the short story genre might well enjoy this novella too; although longer than the traditional short story, the structure and style of writing makes it read as such, while still packing in way more content than the word count would suggest. It’s also worth noting that some of the characters also appear in other stories by the author thus providing a sense of familiarity and continuity should the reader read further stories in this genre by the same author. Overall, an engaging and enjoyable book easily read in one or at most, two sittings…
A few other works by the the author: click on thumbnails for further details...
Another author I discovered when he was added to my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group by fellow author, blogger and good friend, Lesley Hayes, is Jim Murray, author of two published books, the first of which I’ve reviewed here. In addition to being an author, Jim Murray has written magazine pieces in the past, and he currently runs a media company in Ireland.
Further details and links to his writing can be found at:
Jim Murray’s Amazon author page:
Brother, by Jim Murray
(Available in both eBook and print format from Amazon)
Although there is a clever and surprising story here, this is also very much a character driven book. Central to the story there are two brothers, Dominic and younger brother Spencer, along with the main antagonist, Lar Mangan, and finally several peripheral characters, all adding to the overall story. Written largely in the first person from Dominic’s perspective, the author effortlessly switches between sharp and witty dialogue and equally impressive narration. As well as laying the groundwork for the later story, Jim Murray initially explores various aspects of sibling rivalry, the differing and changing relationships between the two brothers and their contemporaries, family, and with those about them. There are no clear cut good, bad, or cliché characters here, but very real and well-rounded people, with all the flaws and traits of anyone you might meet.
It did take a while to determine just exactly which direction the story was taking, i.e. the events leading to the conclusion so to speak, but quite frankly it didn’t really matter as the initial and subsequent sub-plots were more than enough to fascinate and hold my attention. The quality of writing was excellent throughout; the author expertly switches between the present and the past by way of memories and flashbacks, really bringing alive Dominic’s and Spencer’s childhoods and their bearing on the present. In many respects this is a book of two halves, the first being the interaction between Dominic and Spencer and the other characters, and the second being that of the story proper, the reintroduction of and growing emergence of a past enemy, and the resolution of the main and secondary conflicts. Mixed in amid all this there is childhood bullying, sibling rivalry, infidelity, deception, family secrets and past indiscretions, murder and attempted murder, psychological manipulation, character reversals as Dominic has to change his views of those about him, and finally the shocking realisation of what’s really going on.
This debut published novel by Jim Murray is a first class well written and thoroughly entertaining story-telling treat, and one I would highly recommend giving a go.
With so many bloggers presently taking advantage of the many new self-publishing opportunities now available, I thought it appropriate to reblog this post by another author I discovered by way of my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group. In addition to being the author of Salby Damned, a well received thriller, Ian D. Moore is also a prolific book reviewer. This post however provides some useful and indeed essential formatting and presentation tips and information for anyone undertaking the publication of an eBook…
Originally posted on Ian D. Moore's Blog Page:
So, you’re thinking of writing, or you already have. Your document file is your work of art and you’re proud of it right? Have you ever thought of what it will look like say, on a kindle, or on a Kobo tablet, a Hudl perhaps. Do you think it will look the same as the file you sent over? Guess again……………….
When you send your pristine word file over to kindle, they basically meatgrind it to their formatting, what that does is take away some of the things you have specifically entered into your word file such as Italics, certain fonts, and lets say, no spacing before or after speech lines.
Now, I use word 2007 which auto saves in .docx file format, that’s fine for kindle, but for smashwords I can only save in .doc file format so I have to convert my file. I also “write to print”…
View original 579 more words
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a science fiction novel, let alone one of this quality; having grown up reading the likes of Asimov’s foundation trilogy, Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, and Frank Herbert’s Dune series, it’s not easy for a Sci-Fi book to impress me so it was with some trepidation I started on this one. I must say, this book took me completely by surprise, being very different to what I had expected but one that I nonetheless enjoyed from start to finish.
Senan Gil Senan is another author I discovered via my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group, and his own writing has proved every bit as good and insightful as his reviews of many other authors. Further information about the author, and some fascinating background to his debut novel can be found at his blog:
In addition to this review, there is also a link below to the author’s recent interview by fellow blogger and book reviewer Andrew Updegrove, author of the highly acclaimed Sci-Fi thriller The Alexandria Project.
Beyond the Pale (The Outlander), by Senan Gil Senan
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
This is a book that really hits the ground running, and in this case, quite literally. In the opening chapter we see two of the central characters, each one a valued member of their respective communities, come together when one comes to the aid of the other. The older of the two comes from a walled in society that has embraced and relies on advanced technology to enhance its citizen’s lives, yet at the same time monitoring every aspect of their existence, whilst the other lives in one of many small native communities, reliant instead on nature and the environment, and with a polar opposite view of man and his surroundings. This heralds the start of an adventure for the younger of the two that leads to a whole new world of advanced technology, unexpected friendships, violence, some explicit sex, romance, and indeed love, all intertwined with the ultimate goal of a return to his own people. There is a good introduction and preface to the book, giving a comprehensive outline of how the world came to be the way it is, eliminating the need for too much contrived dialogue to convey the same information in the body of the book, relying instead on passing comments and throw away references to fill in the gaps. Action and dialogue are very well balanced and equally convincing, continually adding to ad driving the story forward. An added bonus, and totally in keeping with a Sci-Fi theme there is an accompanying website link to the book, the author’s own wordpress blog, giving lots of additional background and explanatory information to the world and technology in which events take place.
Although a Sci-fi novel, this isn’t what I would call ‘hard’ sci-fi in the sense of an Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke novel; it doesn’t entirely rely on immersing the reader in far flung advanced technology or totally alien concepts, concentrating instead on developing the characters and what they’re doing, giving the book a real depth to it. The time period being set in the relative near future ensures that the technology and science, although highly advanced and with a definite sci-fi feel to it, are still very much rooted in the science of today thereby giving the book an added authenticity. Some of the themes will be familiar to sci-fi fans, namely the Dystopian concept of an enclosed technology based society surrounded by a less (technologically) advanced native population and the almost paranoid and obsessive monitoring and control of its citizens, having already been explored in both print and on screen – there are definite echoes of Brave New world, Shape of Things to Come, Nineteen Eighty Four, and Logan’s Run to name but a few, but the author treats these concepts with an original approach and with the added hindsight of current advancements and the potential of the emerging technologies of today.
I did feel however that the period in which the novel s set, i.e. circa 2060, was a tad too early considering where we’re at in society today and the immense engineering challenges the new world in habitants would have faced, not to mention the time it would have taken for society to recover from its original collapse. There were a couple of very minor typos and grammatical issues that might well have been picked up by one last line by line edit but certainly not so much of an issue to diminish my enjoyment or my 5 star rating. Overall though, this was a totally believable Dystopian sci-fi story, exceptionally well researched in relation to the native culture and background of the ‘outlanders,’ as well as the financial machinations that might well yet lead to the sort of collapse as befell the society of the book. The story is well concluded, providing a comprehensive round up of events, as well as a brief glimpse beyond – and best of all, the conclusion begs for a sequel, which I will surely be reading when it comes out. Great book!
For my first ever guest blog I’m featuring the very talented author Ian Probert. His latest book Johnny Nothing has drawn considerable praise and is available to purchase on Amazon and other outlets at the links below. In addition to being an internationally successful author, Ian Probert is also a highly respected journalist. Ian’s guest blog here is divided into two parts: In the first part we read of the time he met Muhammad Ali, and his astonishment when the The Greatest quite unexpectedly kissed his then girlfriend. In Part two he moves onto a feature on his latest book Johnny Nothing…
When The Greatest kissed my girl
It was the third time I’d met him. Well, that’s not strictly true. In reality I’d only met him once before. Met, in the sense of shaking his hand and getting introduced to him. Met, in the sense that he’d spoken to me and I’d actually sat at the dinner table and eaten with him (with a lot of other journalists it has to be said). The second time didn’t really count as a ‘meet’. On that occasion I’d queued at Sports Pages in London along with hundreds of other people hoping to bask in his presence. But then basking in the presence of Muhammad Ali – once the most famous person on planet Earth and arguably the finest boxer ever to lace up the gloves – was usually more than most people could ever hope for.
The year was 1994 and I was standing in the queue outside the Whiteley’s branch of Waterstones waiting for that third meeting. Beside me was my then partner, a good-looking French lawyer named Julie. Behind me was Hugh McIlvaney, the great Scottish sportswriter who had been there to report on some of Ali’s greatest triumphs, not least of which his victory over George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. McIlvaney, despite a career spent travelling the world and meeting and writing about some of sport’s greatest icons, was happy to wait his turn alongside Ali’s fans.
It must have been Ali’s 10-millionth book signing and he was having trouble drumming up any enthusiasm for the occasion. More than that he looked ill. He was hunched over a desk in the middle of the shop, scrawling signature after signature while admirers attempted to catch his attention. ‘You’re the greatest fighter that ever lived,’ most of them said in so many words, and Ali would move his head slowly toward them and nod weakly in agreement. Speech for him seemed impossible. The thousands of punches that Ali took in his career had turned boxing’s finest exponent into its most tragic indictment.
Holding Julie’s hand, the front of the queue grew closer and I found myself not looking forward to what was about to happen. After all, what was to be gained? The Ali whom I loved was the person on TV who danced the shuffle and seemed to defy any logic as he charmed his way through a quite dazzling boxing career. The person sitting before me wasn’t really Ali. He was someone else. He bore no resemblance to the beautiful man who once cradled the planet in his hands.
Now it was our turn. The two of us approached the table nervously. Neither one of really wanted to shove the book we had just bought in front of the great man. But we did. We did because there was nothing else to do. Ali signed his name and passed the book to us. Then – and I don’t really know why I did this – I asked if I could take a picture of him with Julie. Ali looked tired and I immediately felt guilty about asking the question.
Then something remarkable happened.
Ali slowly rose to his feet. It was painful to observe as the former champion straightened his body and shuffled toward us. Except this was no Ali Shuffle. It was the painful gait of an old man. A large part of me was desperate to look away. Before I could do so, however, Ali climbed on to his toes. Unbelievably, he began to skip and as he did so the years slipped away from him like autumn leaves in the breeze. He threw a few punches into the air and all at once he was the young Cassius Clay, the man who shocked the world by beating Sonny Liston; the man who took on and defeated the parole board.
As we stood there open mouthed, Ali seized the moment and moved over to Julie. Suddenly his arms were around her and he was kissing her. And the kiss was not a peck. The kiss lasted far longer than it should have done. But I was not disturbed by the sight of another man kissing my girlfriend. I was too busy photographing that very long moment.
And then it was over and Ali was back slumped into his seat. Suddenly forty years older. And Julie was looking back at me in shock, her face drained of blood, her lungs of air. My girlfriend had just been passionately kissed by Muhammad Ali! It was only when we got home that Julie confessed that she hadn’t a clue who Muhammad Ali was.
“Great new kids book alert! My two are in hysterics reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert (and I am too).” Jane Bruton, Editor of Grazia
“Oh, Wow! Dark, sordid, grotesque and hilarious are only a few words I can conjure up to describe this hilarious book.” Lizzie Baldwin, mylittlebookblog
Critics are comparing Ian Probert to Roald Dahl. And Johnny Nothing we have a modern successor to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
Johnny Nothing is best-selling author Ian Probert’s first ever children’s book – although adults are enjoying it too. The story of the poorest boy in the world and the nastiest mother in the universe, the book is earning rave reviews. Children and grown-ups are all laughing at this incredibly funny kids book.
Take a look for yourself:
To celebrate the paperback launch of Johnny Nothing we are offering a free Kindle copy of the book to the first 100 people who Tweet the following message:
@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. http://geni.us/3oR8 #YA #Kindle #kidsbooks
The first ten readers who answer the following question will also receive a signed print of one of the book’s illustrations.
Q: What is the tattoo on Ben’s arm?
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Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.
Bill had a shaven head and was wearing a blue tracksuit. He was almost seven feet tall and built like an outdoor toilet made of brick. Bill didn’t realise this but he was a distant descendent of Neanderthal Man. He had only one eyebrow – one long bushy eyebrow that reached right across his forehead. He looked like what you might get if you force fed a member of Oasis with a half-tonne black plastic sackful of steroids.
And if you were brave enough to be present when he took off his tracksuit you would discover that his back was so covered in hair that he was able part it with a comb. If Bill had had more of an interest in fashion, he might even have considered giving it a curly perm and perhaps a few extensions
On his right arm, Bill had a tattoo which simply read ‘Bill’. This was in case he woke up one morning and forgot who he was. This was actually less unlikely than you might imagine because standing next to him was his twin brother. His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller). He was wearing a red tracksuit.
Bill gave Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie the tiniest of smiles and managed to grunt ‘hello’. Ben gave the couple exactly the same tiniest of smiles and also managed to grunt ‘hello’.
The two men were standing protectively close to Johnny. They were so large that in the confines of Johnny’s bedroom they looked like giants, which they were. They were so enormous that each of them had their own postcode. They were so gigantic that they had their passport photos taken by satellite. They were so humungous that you could spend all day thinking up rubbishy jokes about how big they were and never adequately describe just how indescribably, earth-shatteringly ENORMOUS they were. By no stretch of the imagination could you call them small (unless, of course, you were a lot bigger than them).
The pair of Goliaths were having to stoop slightly so as to avoid head-butting the ceiling, which actually even looked a little scared itself. They were a terrifying sight. Even scarier than a school trip to a Weight-Watcher’s nudist camp.
There was a long, pregnant silence in the room like this:
This eventually gave birth to an even longer post-natal silence, which, in the interest of preserving the rain forests or the battery on your Kindle, I shan’t demonstrate.
The four grown-ups eyed each other nervously. Bill and Ben looked at the Mackenzies like they were looking at insects that could be squashed into pulpy insect juice any time they so desired.
The Mackenzies looked at Bill and Ben like they were looking at two giant skinhead Neanderthal bully boys who had just appeared from nowhere in their recently and unexpectedly decorated council flat.
Johnny looked a little scared.
Finally Billy Mackenzie managed to get his mouth working a little and spluttered: ‘Who are you?’ And then: ‘What do you want?’
There was another long silence – let’s call it a pause – while Bill and Ben looked at each other as if trying to decide who was going to answer. Finally Bill spoke: ‘You the boy’s parents?’ he demanded in a voice that sounded like an angry rhino with horn-ache. Although if he was clever enough he would have realised that this was a rhetorical question.
There was yet another long silence (you’ll be relieved to hear that this is the last silence you’re going to get in this chapter) before Billy Mackenzie mumbled ‘Yes’.
‘We’re Johnny’s bodyguards,’ continued Bill. ‘We’re here to make sure that everything’s hunky dory.’
‘Hunky dory?’ Mrs. Mackenzie suddenly found her voice. ‘What do you mean ‘hunky dory”?’
Now Ben spoke: ‘What my brother means to say,’ he explained. ‘Is that we’ve been – how shall I say – contracted – to make sure that this young feller’s affairs are in order.’
‘Get out of my house!’ interrupted Mrs. Mackenzie, suddenly feeling a little braver, although she had no idea why.
Bill and Ben looked at each again for a moment. They did this almost as much as your mum looks in the mirror. Or you dad looks at websites that he shouldn’t be looking at. ‘First of all,’ said Bill, ‘This isn’t a house – it’s a flat.’
‘And second of all,’ said his brother. ‘We ain’t going nowhere. And neither are you.’
‘Johnny who are these men?’ Mrs. MacKenzie asked her son, ignoring the two giants.
‘I’m sorry mum but…’ Johnny started to speak but Bill cut in like a pair of scissors that chops sentences into bits.
‘…What the young feller means to say is that the fun’s over.’
‘The fun’s over?’ repeated Felicity MacKenzie numbly.
‘That’s right,’ continued Ben. ‘You’ve had a right old time. You’ve been spending his money like it’s your own. You’ve been ripping the poor young feller off. And we’re here to put a stop to it. From now on things are gonna be different.’
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my house…’
‘Flat,’ corrected Ben.
‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my flat. Billy, call the police!’
As usual Billy MacKenzie did as he was told. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. Before he had the chance to even turn it on the gigantic frame of Bill was towering over him.
‘That an iPhone?’ asked Ben.
‘Erm… Yes,’ said Billy, who could only watch as the huge man took it from him and with one hand crushed it into a chunk of buckled metal and shattered touch screen.
‘I think it’s broken,’ said Ben. ‘You ought to take it back to the Apple store. Tell ‘em that you’re not getting a decent signal.’
‘Right!’ cried Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘We’re leaving! You’ll be very sorry you did that. I’ll fetch the police myself!’
Now the giant frame of Bill was standing in front of her. He was holding something in his hand that looked a little like a child’s toy space gun.
‘Know what this is?’ he asked. Although once again he wasn’t clever enough to recognise that this was a rhetorical question.
Mrs. Mackenzie regarded the object for a moment. Then she shook her head. Whatever it was she guessed that it was not intended to provide pleasure, happiness or fulfilment. Anything that has a trigger and a barrel and goes ‘bang!’ seldom does.
‘Come on Billy!’ she said. ‘We’re leaving!’
Bill stood in front of her blocking the doorway. ‘Not so fast,’ he said, not so slowly. ‘It’s called a Taser. See this little trigger at the front? If I press this it’ll give you a small electric shock. It won’t hurt you…Well not too much anyway.’
Bill raised the object and gently touched Mrs. MacKenzie on the arm. There was a loudish bang and a flash of blue neon light and Mrs. MacKenzie collapsed groaning to the floor. She was conscious but wasn’t able to move her arms and legs
‘Oh my gawd!’ said Billy Mackenzie bravely charging out of the room in terror. He got as far as the stairs before there was a second flash. He, too, crumpled to the floor. Bill dragged him back into the bedroom by the scruff of his neck.
Johnny Nothing got to his feet and stood over his two parents. He looked anxious. ‘Are they… Are they… OK?’ he gasped.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ smiled Ben. ‘Give em a few minutes and they’ll be right as rain.’
‘But they’ll think twice before they try to run off again,’ said his brother.
This is a book that came to my attention via my IndieAuthorReviewExchange Fb group. The author, Katerina Sestakova Novotna, was born and raised in the Czech Republic. She lived in New York where she went to college. Currently she is living in Hawaii. She holds a Masters in Philosophy; her specialties are ethics and comparative philosophy. She has written numerous essays on those subjects. Her first collection of short stories “Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads” is the subject of the following book review.
Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads, by Katerina Sestakova Novotna
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
This debut collection of short stories is the absolute epitome of originality and dark imagination; although there are only five stories here, it’s important to note that they are somewhat longer than the average short story, placing them almost in the mini novella category. Set on the island of Hawaii each story gives the reader an insight into the mythology and traditions of the indigenous population there, mixing it up with all the darker elements of psychology, comparative religion, and vengeful gods, along with the all too human traits and motivations of its modern day characters.
Among these stories there are tales of human and animal sacrifice, the bigotry and bitterness of an old war veteran, the untimely end of foreign prostitute, and the equally strange and horrific conclusion to another foreigner’s stay in Hawaii. Some of the stories are written as a narrative, cleverly imparting information about Hawaiian folklore whilst still driving each story forward. Although each of these stories might well be described as dark with a touch of psychological and mythical horror about them, each one is unique in its presentation and theme, but with the common thread of Hawaiian culture and folklore as the vehicle for each tale. There is some mention in one of the early stories of there being no written text of Hawaiian beliefs as there is for Christianity or Judaism, but rather an oral tradition of such beliefs being passed down from generation to generation; the narrative style is in each case perfectly in keeping with this oral tradition, reading very much as you might imagine a tribal elder telling of the ancient stories and myths to an eager young audience, and in this respect the narrative style works extremely well. In others though, the author switches to very convincing and well written and sometimes explicit dialogue to advance the story, and amid the esoteric names and language associated with Hawaiian culture, the author maintains an authentic credibility with her use of some modern terminology and reference to some of the darker sides of modern culture..
These five stories were highly original and imaginative in the way they used island folklore as the framework for them, yet cleverly interwoven into present day themes and settings, they achieved a real believability that is sometimes missing in similarly themed stories. I would have liked a more definitive ending to some though as I did think in a couple of the stories, the endings were a little too open ended, leaving a tad too many unanswered questions, but overall these were five extremely entertaining and well written stories, well researched, and due to their longer lengths than the average short story, were able to really engage me in a way that that I find quite rare with short story collections. Highly recommended!