A Beconing Hellfire

A RECONING HELLFIRE, A Novel of the Civil War, Kindle Edition by JDR Hawkens.

The author has set forth a coming of age tale of a young farm boy in the horribly difficult time of the Civil War between the states. His father has joined the Army of the Confederate States of America and left him to manage the large but somewhat hardscrabble farm in western Alabama with the help of his sisters and mother. Unfortunately, he is killed and the family is informed just before Christmas shortly before the boy’s 18th birthday that was to occur the following year. With a typical display of the bitterness exhibited between residents of the northern and southern states, plus an anxiousness to “get into the action existent in almost all naïve young men, he is determined also to join in the bitter fighting to “gain revenge on the Yankees:” The story unfolds following the young man’s subsequent enlistment and experiences as he becomes one of the many young men involved in the gradual expansion of the deadly hand-to-hand combat of a member of the Southern cavalry fighting under the flamboyant and highly successful J.E.B. Stuart. Unfortunately, he is a rather simple young man and quite naïve whose plight is made worse by his actions immediately before leaving for the army. Fortunately however, he is aided considerably by his lifelong close friend who joins with him and by his unusual horse that has been his close companion for many years actually in a similar fashion as a companion dog in many ways.

Discussion: The author is a well-known and eminently well-qualified individual writing in this area of American literature. Actually seemingly the only woman with this reputation and once again she has provided readers with a well-researched, well-written, mostly poignant story of one series of actions that could have taken place during the conflict. It is a story of the common soldier with only an occasional glance into the lives of the cavaliers and the storied lives lived by the wealthy plantation owners and that from which came the Southern Officers of their military structure. Instead it depicts the farmer, blacksmith, store clerk and others who made up the largest proportion of the soldiers involved in the horrendous conflict. It is not a story for the delicate reader and, as are any descriptions of battle scenes as they truly exist, subject to a goodly amount of repetition or repetitive-like description. However, the informed reader will learn much he/she may not previously have known about the substitute foods and other innovative moves the southerners ‘manufactured’. So in summary, although a poignant tale and largely quite depressing, it is a worthwhile addition to the collection of stories of this great American conflict.

5* thoughtful addition to the American Civil War literature.

The GOLD TRAIN

The Gold Train ISBN: 97817337277, Dos Hermanos Publishing, a Mason and Thorn Western, copyright and written by Larry Richardson and Tom Richardson.

The authors again have embarked upon providing their readers with another in the series following the adventures of their seemingly popular protagonists Mason and Thorn. Thorn is the retired U. S. Marshal for whom Mason worked and he and his wife Amanda are ranchers attempting to save their cattle ranch after another of the devastatingly big freezes that periodically devastate the area ranches. Mason is Thorn’s replacement as U. S. Marshal for the territory and appears to be, along with his wife Grace, in his twenties. The destruction of the huge number of cattle actually proves most helpful for the new Marshal because Thorn is willing to serve as Deputy in the Marshall’s new assignment of seeing the new shipment of gold be safely transferred from Denver to the local area bank. The shipment is close to one million dollars and if this is not enough of a problem. Grace and Amanda want to enter the local auto race as participants for the $10,000 prize money being offered. The manner in which these two plots are developed and intertwined,, along with the skullduggery involved and the new interesting characters introduced form the body of this tale depicting the beginning of a new era of activity in the developing western part of the developing America.

Discussion: The manner in which the authors have presented this fundamentally double plotted story is quite fascinating. Its attendant sub-plots and introduction of characters, as well as handling their activity, is quite appealing. Their stories and reasons largely are credible and create empathy, the pace of the action is good, the interplay of the plots acceptable and the new material presented with respect to this era in the ‘new’ west quite enjoyable. Generally speaking, this is a most enjoyable read for anyone with even a modicum of interest in the early development of the western part of the United States.

5* especially for anyone interested in early Americana.

Arnolfini Art Mysteries 2

Arnolfini Art Mysteries 2 ISBN: 978190053059 (eBook), an imprint of Digital Vista written by Rich DiSilvio.

The author has set forth for the prospective reader a most interesting series of mysteries ranging from almost priceless pieces of art to prominent architectural structures. The protagonist is a private investigator whose vocation/avocation is to appraise the authenticity of these objects for Museums and other interested individuals/groups who are willing to pay the expenses as well as the fees for which such unique ability is rendered. The first of the investigation the protagonist, Armand Arnolfini, describes in this book is of the authenticity of the long-lost Leonardo daVinci’s “Leda and the Swan” which his father maneuvers him into doing after setting-up Armand’s marriage to Andrea St. John, a young woman he found to be able to replace an irreplaceable wife who he had passed away a few years earlier. The marriage took place in a storied castle in Belgium with a list of attendees that was a list of the elite of the art world. From this initial offering the story travels through a number of other investigations of prominent pieces of art, buildings associated with architect/artists and then to a fascinating tale about the at one time tallest architectural structure in the world, the Woolworth building in the United states.

Discussion: the descriptions provided by the author are replete with details of an opulent manner of life only imagined by most as well as fascinating details of the varied and often serendipitous path these investigations can take. The amount of fiction included within the body of this work only can be judged by how much the reader knows about the art and architectural world and those who participate and/or have participated through the centuries. Definitely a rivet and ‘must read’ for anyone interested in investigations and especially for those having any interest and/or curiosity about art and architecture.

5* Riveting if interested in investigative art and/or architecture.

Song of Eagles

Song of Eagles ISBN: 9780786037568 Pinnacle Books Published, copyright and written by William W. Johnstone.

Once again the author has provided a story about the ‘Old West’ which is labeled fiction largely because so much of the history contains so many questions with respect to activity, characters involved and the frequent requirement of including fictional character(s) to piece together a smooth sequence and/or explain ‘missing parts’ or logical reasons for the action that had occurred. In this case the author has told a tale of the Lincoln County War which was a complicated and bloody affair begun and continued by a basic greed that involved and extended to include, many unscrupulous men and eventually even to split friendships to a deadly degree. It included numerous men well known for various reasons including the infamous William Bonney (Billy the Kid) and his friendship with Pat Garret, the eventually appointed Sheriff of Lincoln County. Additionally, attempting to explain much of this period’s history with respect to the fate of the actual characters such as William Bonney, “Buch Cassidy” and others has been most difficult because of the amount of credible material that provides a different demise than the one reported and accepted at the time.

Discussion/Conclusion: Little material actually can be added to that already set forth in the above description. Many stories of this period are replete with inexplicable facts and/or credible explanations of differences between ‘facts’ accepted at the time and ‘facts’ that emerge in later years. The author has ‘pieced together’ a most enjoyable story of another of these ‘tales of the Old West’.

5* for readers who may not even be Western devotees.

Ledgins of Liberty Volume One

Legends of Liberty Volume One ISBN: 9781737551317, TAJ Classics, copyright and written by Andrew Benson Brown, Further noted is that it is “Printed and bound in the United States of America by KDP Covert art: The Battle of Lexitom.by William Barnes Wollen Title page: Detail from the Apotheosis of Washington, by Constantino Brumidi. Includes notes with bibliographical references.”
This is a somewhat unusual book for several reasons. The manner of provision itself – it opens with an Introduction that explains how “this important new poem” might be compared to Byron’s mock-epic Don Juan especially from the manner in which “it emphasizes both Lyrics and their ability to depict brief and intense emotional states or intellectual conundrums, whereas narrative holds our attention for a much more prolonged period.” Both also employ “tight and classical forms – Byron a notoriously difficult Italian form – Benson Brown a ten-line stanzaic form that avoids difficulties otherwise faced.” These explanations are most important for readers far more acquainted with the intricacies of poetry than this reader whose early interest in poetry was stimulated by such as Longfellow’s recounting of Paul Revere’s ride and Alfred Noyes “The Highwayman”. For readers similarly inclined and/or poorly prepared, this book and the manner in which it has been presented is excellent.
Discussion/Conclusion: From casual conversations, I have learned that quite a sizable number of readers will not even consider books of poetry. In this case such a reaction would result in their missing a most readable story. Benson’s poem is an extremely fascinating read and the added collection of notes most informative. One particularly noteworthy is that of the wavering position of importance assigned to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the 2020 era. It appears that the status of poets ‘wax and wane’ similarly to ordinary writers, e.g. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, at the time the popular author of “The Last Days of Pompeii”. His style of writing today is of little note. But to conclude, this reviewer believes that any reader who is, or desires to be, in anyway familiar with this section of American history, will discover this volume to be a most informative and enjoyable read.

5* for general reader interest, as described (Originally posted August 10, 2021)

THE COLOR OF RAIN

The Color of Rain ISBN: ISBN: 9781735749747 (eBook) Published by Winter Wheat Press, Copyright and written by John W. Feist.

The author describes the book quite completely and simply as “A Kansas Courtship in letters.” Literally, the book presents a series of letters by a man and a woman conducting a gradually increasing growth of personal interest in one another through correspondence couched in the most appropriate verbalization required by the mores of the society in which they lived in the later few years of the 1800s. The developing courtship encountered further restrictions stemming from the fact that Irene, the woman, was a close friend of the man Frank’s, dearly loved wife who passed away at a relatively early year of her life. The deepening relation easily is discernable as the correspondence proceeds through a lengthy period of time and eventually does reach fruition after a series of set-backs, some manufactured by Irene as well as by Frank’s vacillation with respect to ‘letting-go’ of his guilt feelings with regard to his former wife, now deceased for more than a couple of years and to his two young boys who were an issue from this happy marriage.

Discussion: the author has done an excellent job of presenting the situation as it would be enacted in this particular segment of time with the strict codes as lived in this area at this time. The pace indeed is slow and probably will not be acceptable to readers other than those who enjoy looking into a section of Americana as it existed for a lengthy time period. For readers who enjoy well-written vignettes of such periods of history, the author has provided an excellent book.

5* for a particular type of reader, as explained.

The Cabin at Jackson Hole

 

The Cabin at Jackson Hole ISBN: 97987137870 Mountain Track Publishing written by Kari August,

A historical romance novel beginning in 1885 with a young woman who has lost her beloved father, descendant of a British Earl who had immigrated to America. He had had plenty of time to spend with his intelligent daughter as he mostly dabbled in minor pursuits and concentrated on spending time teaching her much of the knowledge he had gained through the years. Unfortunately, his pursuits were insufficient to maintain their life style and it had been necessary for them to move to a smaller home. For some time since her mother’s death while she was still a small child, her family had consisted of the two of them in a close relationship, along with their long-time housekeeper. Her father had gained employment as a professor in a Pennsylvania teachers’ college which was sufficient to supplement the monies still coming in. Regrettably also like most children, she had assumed that he would live forever and was shocked by his sudden demise, plus learning that Sally, the housekeeper, had been accepted as a substitute for her mother in her father’s life. She approached the college authorities to be permitted to assume her father’s duties. Although qualified, she had no demonstrable degrees or certificates and her application was denied, but while reading the newspaper she came across an ad for a school teacher in the western part of the country. Being a very intelligent, self-secure woman, and realizing that it would be impossible for the remaining two women to survive on the reaming income, she applied and was accepted. The story is about her trip, subsequent arrival and how this strong-willed woman not only survived but prospered in this rough frontier environment eventually finding love and fulfilment.

Discussion: The story settles into the Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole section of the country and includes a number of interestingly portrayed characters including Butch Cassidy and his cohort, a small number of interestingly portrayed Indians, a slick, unprincipled drifter, some solid ranch/farmer types and their families along with occasional wealthy Europeans at this time when they had been attracted to the “Wild Western America” to hunt and/or establish ranches. All matters considered, the author has set forth a rather historically correct picture of this ‘free-swinging’ period of America.

4* Historical Romance most enjoyable for devotees of its type.

The End of an ERA

The END of an ERA, Diverse Thoughts From 100+ years of LIving ISBN: 9781636925639 Newman Springs Publishing copyright and written by John H. Manhold.

For readers who regularly visit my website, I am sure this is something different than what you expected to find. Specifically I should like to alert you to the imminent publication of this author’s latest book, The End of an Era. Final print copy is scheduled to be released for distribution and sale in print (soft cover) by next week, followed by an e-book, and an audible version shortly thereafter.

Briefly, it presents comparative observations of various aspects of life as it began shortly after WW I and progressed through the multitudinous changes that evolved as the years crept by “in there petty pace from day to day” through the year 2020 and the early part of 2021. The century’s changes overall have been accumulating for millennia – only recently the rate of acceleration has changed to a pace even faster than during the Industrial Revolution. The past one hundred years has moved from a time when a man’s handshake was binding, and a resident of the then United States of America was free to indulge in, and could attain top-level accomplishments in any number of fields, to the present era where an amazing amount of control is occurring. In 1919 there was no TV, Jet flight, DNA, Cloning, computers, huge technological companies attempting to correlate and direct an individual’s thought pattern and direction. Even general ownership of radios did not exist (my father, an electrical engineer, built our first ‘Crystal Set’). But perhaps on an even more personal level. What has happened to empathy? How frequently do you encounter understanding of a problem? Instead, is your boss or other “uncaring” person too occupied to even listen to what you are saying? Or if the person listens, how much is he/she really hearing? The last study of attention span of humans I found was 8.1 seconds, which is comparable to that reported of a goldfish. Have you noticed how rapidly advertisements change on TV? How rapidly people speak these days? When answering the phone, you immediately are addressed by a recorded message? What has happened to loyalty? Whom do you really believe you personally can trust?

Dependence upon machines, computers, and artificial intelligence is our way of life. Its pace and the quantity of material required to be gathered and stored has grown far beyond existing capabilities. Regrettably, no choice exists but to continue while opening our lives to any and every one because no computer made to date is immune to hacking.

The 1919–2021 period of change has been of sufficient magnitude even to be equated with the now almost forgotten Renaissance, an era of total upheaval in the mores of society was occurring that escalated to almost  unimagined levels in communication, transportation, housing, clothing, morals, matters of entertainment, patterns of thought—everything. Amusingly perhaps, also a time that has been compared with my unusual, highly varied life activities and often accompanied with suggestions—actual pressure—to publish them.

Until now, I have refused. Producing another exercise in self-serving egocentricity that few other than family and a few acquaintances might like to read always has seemed gauche until recently a young intern remarked that the opportunities I was offered no longer existed.  I was fortunate in that my career developed during a period when investigative opportunities were numerous and ability to meet and exchange ideas with notable people easily occurred. The conversation began an introspective progression of thoughts that led to my reconsideration and although I have not acquired any status as a celebrated professional athlete, revered statesman, honored warrior, or even received extensive media coverage as a celebrated stage or cinematic performer, I have gained a certain level of recognition in several areas that have provided me with an opportunity for worldwide travel and intimate time spent with people of many different cultures. Thus evolved the intention here to describe my serendipitous journey in an obvious and/or easily verifiable manner, and as it occurred with observations on the era differences and an intent to offer impressions gained through these years spent with many people of different, or possibly similar but somehow “different” mores as they change with time. Also, I should like to impart some of the insight (?) gained that could offer takeaway thoughts for others.

Generally speaking, there is little interest in the past. Few read history with the lessons that it teaches, and even historical novels are passé. This book sets forth a contrasting picture between the 1900s and the present century. It is one man’s story by a man who has lived through those 100+ years and set forth in his words as the events are remembered and written with obvious and/or referenced substantiation. You might discover features and/or circumstances that elicit personal thought(s).

John H. Manhold

 

 

The Helpers

The Helpers Library of Congress # 2010902607 assumed published, copyright (2010) and written by S. E. Nelson.

This is “A (fictional) International Tale of Espionage and Corruption” set in the African Congo. It is a tangled web of activities involving primarily French and Belgium internationally military and diplomatic trained members of these governments assigned to espionage positions in this country. Numerous other individuals of English and various other nationalities also are involved in this quite intricately involved plot that explores and lays bare the power hungry rulers of Colonial times and presents a picture of how pervasive it was and of the possibilities of the existence of persistent remnants of similar activity. Several major characters are murdered along the way with a few making it through to the end, mainly a dedicated American Free-lance Journalist and her photojournalist partner, a small local schoolgirl and her mother, a British world health worker and his wife, a wily French Intelligence Officer and his protégé, also some of “The Helpers” – the powerful secret group that is responsible for the constant warfare and “ethnic cleansing” that constantly causes the mass murders repetitiously occurring and set in position by their minions. The action is non-stop from beginning to end, and even beyond because the story makes most clear the fact that the use and misuse of power is a never-ending commodity in world affairs with seemingly special emphasis on Africa and its abundance of natural resources

Discussion: The author has set forth an intriguing multi-genre thriller that includes mystery, suspense, a degree of romance and large quantities of distrust, betrayal, treachery, deception and deceit. It also includes strong demonstrations of empathetic behavior and well fleshed-out characters. The story begins with a “Brief Synopsis” explaining the Congo and their interrelationship with “The Helpers”, a “very powerful underground organization whose members include international businessmen and high priests (who) are determined to maintain a stronghold on the natural resources of Congo.” In all, it is a long story that still will hold most readers interest throughout, even though the frequent switches to different characters, their thoughts and activities, do add considerably to the rather abundant repetition and redundancy as the author has handled it sufficiently well that most will not find it too annoying.

4* Long, but hard to put down, fast-paced multi-genre book, with noted slight flaws.

Debussy’s Slippers

Debussy’s Slippers First Edition ASIN: B08FJ3NQLS published, copyright and written by Steve Exeter,

After a quote by George Gershwin “Life is a lot like jazz…its best when you improvise.” The book unfolds as a fanciful tale based upon a large section of the lives of George the composer, and his slightly older lyricist brother Ira during the period of their immense popularity in writing musicals for American Theatre during the Jazz period. The plot centers on George’s laissez-faire attitude in writing music, interest in the opposite sex and abundance of use of alcoholic beverages plus his basic but unrevealed feelings of inadequacy with respect to composing music that would survive with the likes of the grand masters of old. As a result, he journeys to Paris to attempt to be mentored by Maurice Ravel, at the time considered the best in France. The story gradually evolves into a distinct confrontational relationship between the two whose diametrically opposite manners of composing became increasingly apparent and lead to a sad experience for them both, each reaching a higher level of performance while performing on the other’s turf.

Discussion:  The well-known British author has set forth a fascinating biography about the Gershwin brothers who were unrivaled in American theater during the Jazz era. A pair that offered Broadway Musicals in abundance, scores for major films, opera, orchestral works and a couple of piano preludes. He then extends his story to include Maurice Ravel, internationally regarded as France’s greatest living composer (along with the older Claude Debussy) who developed a style featuring clarity and incorporating several forms, even jazz, into his repertoire. His “Bolero” probably is his most remembered work. The contrasting manner in which the two virtuosos work – Ravel, a slow, painstaking worker – Gershwin with his tendency toward ‘letting it happen’ – and the interaction between two personal ‘egos’ and the resulting confusion developed within Gershwin’s psyche, makes an intriguing psychological presentation that only adds to the picture provided for music lovers. Amusingly perhaps, the introduction of Debussy’s slippers and their fanciful involvement add an interesting thought as well as providing a psychological ‘prop’.

Regrettably from this reader’s perspective however, a serious caveat must be offered because of implications that may be inferred with respect to George’s death. Actually, he passed away from the failure of removal of a brain tumor. The inference, at least garnered by this reader, was that alcoholism and George’s ‘freewheeling life-style’ were the main cause of his death. While certainly most possibly a contributing factor, it seems unfair to allocate his demise to this feature. Additionally and although opportunities for ‘loose’ sexual arrangements certainly were plentiful, direct accusations as presented would seem to be a little ‘out-of-line’.

3* 5* fanciful Gershwin biography for most readers; regrettably -2* as described.