Sunday, October 8, 2017

My Review of "When The Mermaid Sings"

A Reader’s Pure Joy

Having read and truly enjoyed Helen Hollick’s “Sea Witch Voyages,” I was happy to find out more about that charming rascal, Jesamiah Acorne. Was I ever surprised to read where this seemingly English lad had spent his miserable young years [and, no, I am not going to ruin this great story by telling you].

With trepidation, we follow the fifteen-year old’s escape to sea. If his life on land had been miserable and hard, in 1708 life at sea proves even harder. Young Jesamiah soon learns about the drink, the stink and the whoring. He discovers that his volatile captain and the salt-hardened crew are attacking French and Spanish merchant ships throughout the Caribbean. Any smidgen of conscience is eased by Queen Anne’s “Letter of Marque,” giving them royal leave to plunder as it declares them to be honorable privateers in her war against Spain and her allies; when truth be told, their lust for plunder soon turns them into murdering pirates.

Jesamiah, the ship’s boy, grows into Jesamiah, the man (ahem, Pirate). There is foreboding of an intriguing Cornish girl, Tiola, appearing in his dreams. In the later Sea Witch novels, it is she who becomes the rival to Jesamiah’s great love, the sea. And, of course, there is the Mermaid, who tries to lure young Jesamiah into her watery realm with her sweet siren song.

This short prequel to “The Sea Witch Voyages” was made doubly enjoyable for me by the author’s usage of language; spot-on for the time. (And I don’t mean salty language although - leave it to this hat-wearing lady – she can swear like any rum-soaked pirate when the occasion calls for it.) The interwoven descriptions of snapping topgallants, slick ratlines, and belaying-pins and other nautical terms correctly fit those complex old sailing ships on which one false step meant certain death.

You’ve got to love Jesamiah and, you've got to get this novella. It's only 99c (or 99p in Britain).

Also, check out Helen Hollick's interesting blogs:

Friday, October 6, 2017

My Review of Sons of My Fathers

Sons of My Fathers by Michael A. Simpson is based on the author’s own family history and reads almost like a biography. However, I assume that attributes to its characters’ are as the author imagines them and, hence, are fictional in detail; but what great writing bringing this saga alive for the reader.

The cover of a denuded tree strangled by sabotaged lengths of railroad tracks is haunting.

The book begins during 1864, the American Civil War. Baylis Simpson and his family eke out a meager living as sharecroppers in Georgia which, of course, backed the Confederacy. As in all wars, the atrocities play out not only on the battlefield but split this fertile land and its families asunder with obscene travesties against humankind. Baylis Simpson sees his family destroyed. As he and his kin vow vengeance against the murderous rabble taking property and lives that had escaped the Union Army, the Simpsons are caught between the warring lines.

One hundred years later, Baylis’s descendent, young Ron Simpson, becomes a U.S. Army helicopter pilot. He volunteers to serve his country as a medevac pilot in Vietnam. His beliefs and his life are turned upside down when, instead, he is assigned to fly a Huey gunship. He loves his country deeply, but will not serve it by flying this killing machine. There is only one option for him; by taking it, he threatens to destroy not just himself, but his family.

The book’s chapters switch seamlessly from the physical plight and mental turmoil of one generation to the other, and the reader becomes deeply engrossed in the fate of both, while the book’s prose deftly adapts to the tone and language of the times. 

Without hammering it home, it left me with a troubling message: We are not heeding history. Hence, we have learned nothing!
I submitted Sons of My Fathers to Helen Hollick's Discovered Diamond Review site 

where it indeed earned a sparkling and well-deserved place.

Get your Copy at

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Supervolcano On The Verge

Writers are excited when some stuff in the fiction they write comes true and alive. Let’s hope this one doesn’t; because the beast that would rear its deadly head here is Yellowstone, the Supervolcano.

In After the Cataclysm, my fictional protagonists struggle to survive a decimated North American continent after the vast caldron of Yellowstone has blown its top. Makes for an exciting story.

Long foretold, the threat, alas, is all too real in our time. Just as with the threat from outer space, scientists, however, are working hard on how to save us from extinction; which is funny (well, not really at all) because on the other hand, the minds of little people plot annihilation.

I just came across this article in Mach/Environment:
Scientists Hatch Bold Plan to save Planet from Supervolcano,
by Kate Baggaley.
 Aerial view, Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Peter Adams / 
Getty Images

Not to scare you, but it’s worth reading.
Worth reading–for entertainment value and to remind ourselves that “it could happen”- I hope is After the Cataclysm. Please, check it out.

Friday, September 1, 2017

My Review of "The Confessions of Socrates"

 A Sparkling Linguistic Diamond

   While The Confessions of Socrates by R. L. Prendergast was only categorized under “Biographical,” this gem deserves much broader recognition in different categories. Of course it is fiction; but what brilliant and well-researched Historical Fiction it is.

Socrates languishes in a stinking prison cell awaiting execution: death by drinking hemlock. Having been given a 28-day reprieve (not by his vile accusers or the Council of Five Hundred, but due to the observation of a festival period), he scribbles an account of his life on scrolls smuggled in by a kind jailer. In it, he reveals himself to his sons (and to the reader) not as the haughty Greek philosopher we have come to believe he was, but as a fallible human being. His humble beginnings as a stonemason surprised me (bringing into focus the book’s cover: even a hard block of stone cannot suppress new life sprouting from it).

I never knew Socrates was drafted into several military campaigns – albeit without much enthusiasm on his part. He is an outwardly gruff sort of man, but his long internal struggles with himself and toward his family, friends and foes at last expose him as quite vulnerable and deeply caring; not that he admitted this to anyone until the end of his life.

The author injects conversations and philosophical arguments as they might have taken place during those heady days of Athenian dominance; not an easy read, mind you, but so well executed I never skipped a single paragraph. What a joy to read such brilliant and intelligent use of language. While this novel is a literary gem, it is by no means devoid of action, intrigue, and surprises with plenty human fallacies and insights.

I also appreciated the appended glossary of Greek names, places and gods. It made me realize those times were real, as were most of the people, their beliefs, continual wars and personal struggles. Having buried myself too long perhaps in the hot sands of Ancient Egypt, I am ashamed to say that the little I knew about Ancient Greece I had almost forgotten. I am now inspired to re-acquaint myself with another great ancient civilization, alas also brought to its knees by Man’s forever impetus to wage war.

For me, The Confessions of Socrates was indeed a Discovered Diamond. I shall heartily recommend it for this honor on Helen Hollick's Discovering Diamonds Review Blog - (where it will be featured around November).

If you hurry,
this 350-page Kindle gem is presently still being 
given away for 99 cents for your enjoyment.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Survivor: and other tales of Old San Francisco - A Discovered Diamond Review


 The Survivor: and other tales of Old San Francisco by Steve Bartholomew

An Easy Read, but Not an Easy Life

This 141-page selection of short stories about the Old San Francisco (first called Yerba Buena) is an easy read.
In a conversational style, Bartholomew’s main character tells the reader interesting aspects about the growing pains and tragedies of this great American city. His often self-effacing accounts about his own success and life in the emerging West are interlaced with dry wit and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.

It makes for a pleasant time spent, and whether or not there are a few liberties with the facts is irrelevant. Each of these entertaining short stories can stand alone, but the recurring characters of Hiram Courtenay and his wife Lisbeth provide continuity, and I grew quite fond of the intrepid pair as they endured fires, loss and social upheaval around them.

Indeed Hiram, although a successful businessman, can be found reaching out to those less fortunate, providing them not only with counsel but a helping hand. He owns warehouses along the docks and sees first-hand those huddled and befuddled immigrants being disgorged from the bowels of arriving clipper ships. He and his wife are quick to ask them to their home and to provide a meal.

I am still grateful I didn’t live then and there.

Definitely worth a read for those interested in life in the Old West, and in San Francisco’s past in particular.