The Die Game

The Die Game
ISBN: 9781614564737, Sarah Book Publishing, Soft cover, a historical novel by Stephen A. Carter.

This second book in the proposed series of four follows the protagonists as they continue with their adventures during the American Civil War. In the first volume, the reader meets John Saxton, son of the owner of a Boston shipping empire as he is shepherded through a sailing introduction ‘before the mast’ by Marcus Brown, trusted family retainer and giant former Massi warrior; their ensuing activity; John’s marriage to lovely negro Virginia; their collective escape while on the couple’s honeymoon aboard ship from Fort Sumter as it falls; their ensuing evasion of pursuit and ultimate arrival at home. In this volume, John, now owner of the shipping empire upon his father’s death and Marcus, now wealthy and owner of a sizeable ship as reward for his outstanding activity, are persuaded by Alan Pinkerton to meet Lincoln who accepts their idea of building a new design ‘iron clad’ shallow draft ship and organizing an all-black group of rangers to infiltrate enemy lines to provide intelligence and commit havoc. Both projects are completed and the story follows the subsequent activity. John also becomes involved with gaining intelligence through use of the hot air balloon. Virginia is importantly involved in the earlier portions of the book as is Marcus’ wife, Belle and a couple of the old villains continue in their roles of importance. Numerous other, both fictional and historical characters, are involved as the tale progresses from an engaging thriller to eventual provision of historical fact interspersed with fiction and thoughtful comments on the negro/white relationship.

Discussion: The author again has provided a historical novel that deals with the political and other burgeoning problems that plagued the country leading to, and during the American Civil War, and again has approached it from a different, unusual and refreshing viewpoint. It is well researched with weaponry and other equipment correctly described and utilized. There is special emphasis (well-presented, in this reviewer’s opinion) on the wide schism between the two sides and even among free blacks and creoles with respect to slavery, and the grudging and resented acceptance and use of blacks and even Indians by the white military. A number of interesting and pertinent observations are provided relevant to the close interpersonal, political and military infighting as well as the hypocritical attitude of the military, clergy, and others, especially with respect to the racial issue. Somewhat disappointingly, the novel’s exciting ‘thriller’ aspect morphs in the closing chapters into a fiction-laced account of actual military unit activity. Parenthetically, during this activity, one of the important characters is affected in such a manner that subsequent participation would seem to be curtailed enough to make this reviewer wonder how this loss will affect action in the rest of the series. But that is the author’s concern and we look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

Conclusion: An entertaining continuation about the devastating conflict as the new nation struggled with a chaotic schism between the strongly held but dichotomous positions existing among the people of the era as examined from the author’s notably unbiased, enlightened viewpoint. Most regrettably, a caveat must be provided for those (hopefully few) readers who cannot accept what today is termed ‘politically incorrect’ verbalization and activity even though it is entirely correct historically.

4* Engrossing, ‘different’ historical novel with a slight ‘hiccup’ thriller wise; caveat for parochial readers.


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Let There Be Linda

Let There Be Linda
ISBN: 9780990544227, Laugh Riot Press a dark comedy/thriller in e-book format by Rich Leder.

Plot/Characters: Mike is a middle-aged steady, honest CPA following his mother’s teachings in a large prestigious firm in L.A. and is expecting a partnership. Instead he is ‘let go’ when an account he is managing goes bankrupt and the senior partners are threatened by the bankrupt developer. They blame Mike and to cover, hint that he may not have handled the account properly so he no longer is employable in the profession. His wife leaves with his two daughters, returning to N.J. and her mother who never liked him. Meanwhile his brother Danny a neer-do-well wastrel like his father who left years ago for New Orleans and never returned, runs a flea-bag talent agency and bets the horses. The two men are inextricably bound together by an oath their mother made Mike swear on her death bed. From this point the plot takes off on a bizarre rollercoaster ride of absurd proportions involving a motley group of characters including a dwarf, a giant, a dentist, his weird wife and his sword wielding girlfriend, a cop who wants to be a ‘stand-up comic’, a zombie, an accountant, a talent agent, a weird ‘gypsy-like girl who can bring back the dead’, a clown and others assembling in a Pawn Palace (Pawn Shop), a police deposit area for impounded cars, a couple of wacky houses and a badly degenerated Airstream trailer with the entire tale ending in a ‘sort of all’s well that ends well’.

Discussion: The plot for this book may best be explained by the author’s own words: “Great thanks to two of my heroes, creative artists who have entertained me, educated me, guided me, and encouraged me over the years, geniuses who, in one way or another inspired the bloody irreverence that became this book.” They were Monty Python “who made me laugh since 1969” and “Quentin Tarantino, a brilliant filmmaker whose orchestrally violent and hilarious movies leave me awestruck.” Specifically, the plot is in turn, or perhaps symbiotically, inventive, wacky, bazaar, absurd, and insane but also verbally well done, fast paced, ridiculous and containing psychotic twists, graphic violence and at best may be considered a twisted example of black comedy involving complex characters who mostly are barely unbelievable.

Conclusion: The author has provided a book whose distorted humor and often graphically described violence will have great appeal for a certain type of reader. Others, including this reviewer, will find a well-written, well-paced story that has little appeal. In other words, you’ll either love it or discover it provides little ‘entertainment’.

3* 5* for readers described; 2* or less for the others.