A Bloody Business by Dylan Struzan

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Fun Fact: Dylan Struzan’s husband, Drew Struzan illustrated the cover art for this book. Drew Struzan is also the creator of art for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back To the Future, Harry Potter, and many other film posters. ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF PROHIBITION, LEARN WHAT REALLY HAPPENED.

**Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this novel by the publisher for the intent of an honest review. Sending me a novel will, under no circumstances, win the author a glowing review. It WILL win an honest one IF I like the novel enough to finish it, which sometimes doesn’t happen. **

In 1919, the National Prohibition Act was passed, making it illegal across America to produce, distribute, or sell liquor. With this act, the U.S. Congress also created organized crime as we know it. Italian, Jewish, and Irish mobs sprang up to supply the suddenly illegal commodity to the millions of people still eager to drink it. Men like Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, Dutch Schultz and Bugsy Siegel, Al Capone in Chicago and Nucky Johnson in Atlantic City, waged a brutal war for power in the streets and on the waterfronts. But if you think you already know this story…think again, since you’ve never seen it through the eyes of one of the mobsters who lived it.

Called “one of the most significant organized crime figures in the United States” by the U.S. District Attorney, Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo was just 15 years old when Prohibition became law. Over the next decade, Alo would work side by side with Lansky and Luciano as they navigated the brutal underworld of bootlegging, thievery and murder. Alo’s later career included prison time and the ultimate Mob tribute: being immortalized as “Johnny Ola” in The Godfather, Part II.

Introduced to the 91-year-old Alo living in retirement in Florida, Dylan Struzan based this book on more than 50 hours of recorded testimony–stories Alo had never shared, and that he forbid her to publish until “after I’m gone.” Alo died, peacefully, two months short of his 97th birthday. And now his stories–bracing and violent, full of intrigue and betrayal, hunger and hubris–can finally be told.

As far as I’m concerned, the years directly before and after prohibition and the events leading up to and following prohibition are the most interesting in American history. There’s no mystery why there are so many books and movies written to take place in that time period. Obviously, those were hard times. But, no matter how much I learn about those years and the people who lived them, I am always more than willing to learn more and experience more–even through the mediums of fiction and art.

I can only imagine the things Struzan learned while researching for A Bloody Business. And, what a telling title, too! Being released 100 years after the National Prohibition Act  was passed was a happy coincidence, right? But, getting down to the grit of this review, I feel like I should warn you–the book is not what you might expect. It is less story, more historical account, but it isn’t as seamless as most would like it to be.

First, as most readers of historical novels would expect, there is language used within the text in both speech and expression that is unique to that era. There are lines like “Old Bill Rockafeller was a flimflammer,” tucked in here and there, which really made me think my granddad may have been telling me the story. I don’t mean that to be a negative, either, but it does take some getting used to at first if you don’t read a lot of stories from this time period.

I’m not sure if I should even mention characterization since Dylan Struzan actually met with a man who was called “one of the most significant organized crime figures in the United States” and listened to more than 50 hours of recorded testimony (see blurb above). I think she knocked it right out of the park. I think Dylan Struzan knew, probably within a week or two of research, exactly how her characters operated, what drove them to be the way they were, and got everything perfect, from mannerisms to thoughts, within the first few pages of a rough draft. I could be wrong, but I suspect I’m not.

There were bits of story here and there I feel could have been cut out during her first few rounds of edits and revisions, but those pieces are iffy, meaning they could have stayed or gone and nobody would have been the wiser. Usually in that case, a writer would cut those bits, but sometimes they get left and it doesn’t really change anything. It just takes a reader longer to read the story. Obviously, that can sometimes lead a reader to get bored and walk away and, because of this, I would urge the author to think about this next time she sits down to revise a novel. It’s not a deal breaker–but, it’s a slippery slope leading toward boredom.

I feel it worth noting, however, that the plot itself is little more than prohibition and organized crime itself. As a historical account, I feel like the story was delivered in an informal way (obviously), but an effective delivery was certainly given. After a few pages, you can imagine how Dylan Struzan may have felt whilst giving her interview of Alo. Maybe he said something like, “Well, ya see, what happened was…” and she began her notes. Probably not, but it’s very easy to imagine the story having formed that way. It certainly isn’t what I might call a campfire tale, but it bridges the gap between today’s more technologically advanced generations and the generation that our great grandparents grew up in. There are themes expressed that we can all relate to.

****

If you feel like this novel is for you, you can find it in most formats at Amazon.com.

If you’d like to learn more about Dylan Struzan at Titan Books, find out about previous releases, or just nose around, you should do that, too. 

 

 

 

 

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Brothers Keepers by Donald E. Westlake

 

 

Brothers Keepers
AVAILABLE NOW!
What will a group of monks do when their two-century-old monastery in New York City is threatened with demolition to make room for a new high-rise? Anything they have to. “Thou Shalt Not Steal” is only the first of the Commandments to be broken as the saintly face off against the unscrupulous over that most sacred of relics, a Park Avenue address.
Returning to bookstores for the first time in three decades, BROTHERS KEEPERS offers not only a master class in comedy from one of the most beloved mystery writers of all time but also a surprisingly heartfelt meditation on loss, temptation, and how we treat our fellow man.

Release date: February 5, 2019 
**Note– This book was first published in 1975 and is a re-release!**

If you keep up with my blog and my reading lists, you will note that I’ve read one of Donald E. Westlake’s books and reviewed it here before.  If you’re interested in hard case crime novels, as I sometimes am, you should check him out.

But, being that this novel was written quite some time ago, a reader must understand that the language and the story itself is very much a product of its time. For example, in the second chapter of Brothers Keepers, there is a small section where a monk is writing a letter to Miss Ada Louise Huxtable of The New York Times. There are many starts and stops to the letter, but the letter itself is set up in a style in which not many younger people today might recognize with a name and address in the left corner, date in the right, and a formal letter following. I was taught how to write a business letter in high school, but a lot of schools aren’t teaching this skill today and it’s becoming lost in translation with email writing as a preferred method of conveyance and text messaging coming in a close second. Obviously, it takes on a second to figure out what’s going on, but the difference in the times might come as somewhat of an amusement to some and makes this story even more fun to read.

A world without cell phones and internet in every device? How novel.

Mostly,  Brothers Keepers is a timeless story. The monks themselves are all very well written and their attitudes toward their home being scheduled for destruction in order to make way for modern growth within their city are well portrayed. Westlake’s writing–and the humor within–is absolutely delightful as usual. Whatever feelings and anxieties over a dire situation the monastery went through in the story can easily be translated into the issues and goings on of today. The story and characters will resonate well with a newer generation and likely generations to come.

Brothers Keepers is available from Amazon.com in Kindle ($6.15) or Paperback ($ 8.14) form. 

 

Quarry’s Climax by Max Allan Collins

I know I’ve reviewed Max Allan Collins in here before, but this book is different than the last in that I could not make myself become interested in the stories or the characters. Frankly, I didn’t really relate to the main character.

I did enjoy the plot and, as always, Collins’s writing style. Hard Case Crime is usually either a thumbs way up or a thumbs down for me, no between, no gray areas. One good thing I can say is that I didn’t just throw the book down because I disliked the characters. It wasn’t a particularly painful read. There was just absolutely no connection for me and sometimes, when you’re a reader, that happens. It’s like when you meet somebody and you’re just not into them (similar concept, at least).

HOWEVER, I can still give this book a recommendation to certain readers of hard case crime and the like. A certain type of readership (and it’s a broad readership, too) will absolutely love it.

If you’d like to buy your own copy, Quarry’s Climax was released on October 10, 2017 and is available all over the place, including Amazon.com.

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There’s Nothing More Dangerous Than a Loaded Magazine
Memphis, 1975. “Raunchy” doesn’t begin to describe Max Climer’s magazine, Climax, or his all-hours strip club, or his planned video empire. And evangelists, feminists, and local watchdog groups all want him out of business. But someone wants more than that, and has hired a killer to end Max’s career permanently. Only another hit man – the ruthless professional known as Quarry, star of the acclaimed series on Cinemax – can keep Climer from becoming a casualty in the Sexual Revolution.

Riverdale, Batman, and Other Things I’m Into Right Now

Right now, I’m into a lot of things that I wasn’t into before–times, they are a changin’ and me with them. But, I promise all of the recent changes I’ve made in my life are positive, or at least aren’t hurting anyone (myself included). As a matter of fact, I’m sure you’ve already seen the post about my diet, right? Well, there are other changes, too. Some big, some small, but all of them relevant to the speed at which life whirls by.

BatmanThe first change I’ll mention is that I’ve expanded my repertoire. Review repertoire, anyway. Now, I am reading a bigger balance in material. I did, after all, start out as a reader with comics. Coming sooner than you think (the 17th of this month) will be my review for Batman/The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition. It’s available for pre-order right now, but Amazon is giving a teensy weensy sneak peak inside (as they do all books) if you’re antsy. I’ve already been diving in there and I can tell you this–it doesn’t disappoint and my review is going to post on the release date. But, not only have I been reading and reviewing more comics, returning to a first love, I’ve been reviewing more romances, too. I have missed the genre. I never left it, but sometimes I drift and, this time, I drifted into realism in every sort. That’s a story for another day, but stay tuned for those reviews, eh? I promise I’ll try my best to give you all the skinny on the newest releases in books other than hard case and sci-fi (although, I’ll have those, too).

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Don’t taunt me. I’ll cut you.

And, speaking of reviews–have you people been checking out Riverdale on CW (Netflix and Hulu also)? Because, geez, it’s like crack. I can’t stop watching! I was a bit under the weather one day and watched every stinkin’ episode of the first season and now I need the second season to just hurry up. I understand that I have to wait for the 11th for the season premier, but I’ve already got the DVR set to record it in case we have a natural disaster or some other satellite connection destroying catastrophe. It’s not exactly like the comics, though some elements are there, but it’s great TV, y’all. The CW finally got a hit, as far as I’m concerned because I don’t usually like teenager aimed television shows. I’m serious, people–don’t go messing around with my new favorite show. I’ll cut somebody.

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And, Cole Sprouse? The Cole Sprouse who is now 25 (LEGAL) years old and stars as Jughead Jones? **Whispers** Call me. 

I’m serious, folks. Riverdale is where it’s at. Also featured on the show are Josie and the Pussycats. Remember those ladies? They are fantastic. Each character is given more depth than any of the cartoons could have imagined and season 1 of Riverdale had me really pulling for Val and Archie to be more of a thing, but that didn’t happen, so…bummer, right? Right. 
PerryulrichFun fact: Both Luke Perry (90210) and Skeet Ulrich (Scream) were Teeny Bopper magazine cover frequenters in my day. All the girls loved them. And, both of them have roles in Riverdale. . . As parents! Because, if you didn’t feel old enough, you might need to know this. You’re welcome!

Moving right along.

I’ve recently dived into a task I have only, until now, kept in my head. I’m creating my own planner. I’m designing the pages on my laptop, printing them off, and collecting them in a three ring binder so that I can keep track of myself. Sounds a little too housewifey, but I really do need to keep a planner because I’m always forgetting things and losing information, like appointments. The planner I have now wasn’t anything fancy. I bought it at a dollar store. But, it has a monthly calendar and also pages that are week by week and allow you to go in depth with planning ahead or note keeping. I was thinking if I created my own planner, I could tailor it to my needs. I want to keep the function of a monthly calendar, but I would also like weekly pages that have a space already there to keep track of weight changes, the weather, a separate page for monthly book reviews, and maybe a place to write out my menu plans. Plus, I’m crafty and I have some cool images to put to good use. I’ll let you all know how this goes and maybe I’ll even share the pages I create with my blog readers.

If that’s something my readers would be interested in, just let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to share my planner pages with you (for FREE because people seriously charge for that crap….*eye roll*).

So, with fall activities my kids are doing at school and at home, crazy good fall TV, and some really great book reviews coming up, it looks as though I’m set for a cozy start to the cold weather season. If there are shows coming up or books you want to request I review, let me know. I’m open to a lot of different genres now and, frankly, I’m bored.

Until my next update post!
XOXO, Rhiannon M.

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Review and release coming October 10, 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forever And A Death by Donald E. Westlake

I’m going to give you a quick background on Donald E. Westlake. It’s a whopper. Ready? Here goes…

Westlake was a crime novelist hired by Hollywood producers working on James Bond movies to write a script. The story he came up with was about a Western businessman seeking revenge after being kicked out of Hong Kong when the island was returned to Chinese rule. For political reasons, the film was never made. But, Westlake held on to it like the absolute prize it is. And I’m thrilled that he did. It was published an entire decade after Donald E. Westlake’s death, so I feel sort of sad he didn’t get to enjoy the story’s success, but that is neither here nor there.

Honestly, if this book could be made into a film now, I would be pleased. But, onto my thoughts!

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I have absolutely nothing to be critical of here. There is no complaint to be expressed. This book was an absolute joy to read. Absolutely, positively, wonderful to escape into the pages and plot. Drama where drama need be, comedic relief (yes, I was shocked, too, but if you have an odd sense of humor like me, it’s there!) where comedic relief need be, and I expected nothing less from a man who was such a legend in his day.

If I could change any one thing about this book, I wouldn’t. I don’t get to say that often, either, so please photocopy this as a reference. Just kidding. Don’t do that.

If you’d like a copy of this gem, please do buy it at any book retailer, but for quick reference, here is the AMAZON LINK. 

Books I haven’t enjoyed…

cropped-snapshot_20150626_1.jpgSometimes when I go through my review pile, I come across books I don’t like. It happens and I hate it because in most cases I know there will be other people who might really love those books. So, I try my best to write an honest review and give the author their fair reviews.

I have a list of those books here. And, for the sake of fairness, I’m not going to write a full review of any of them because I don’t feel like I’m the right person to do so. However, I feel like there is a handful of books that deserve some attention and a few mentions in my blog as being books I would recommend to friends, even though I didn’t enjoy them myself.

Off Rock by Kieran Shea

This book was good,but I didn’t finish it because I wasn’t interested. The beginning is strong, as a beginning should be. Characters are fleshed out the right way, too, but the story itself found me looking for something else to do by the third chapter. iO9 gave it a great review on Amazon (link above, just click the book’s title).

The Age Of Olympus by Gavin Scott

Duncan Forrester’s research on an Aegean island is interrupted first by the murder of a British archaeologist, and then by the outbreak of the Greek Civil War. The worship of ancient gods may provide a clue to the murderer, but in such a tumultuous time, little is what it seems.

Another one I couldn’t get into. I think I had such a hard time with this novel because it’s the second in the series and I haven’t read the first one. I may remedy that one day soon. There is already a third in this series for pre-order, so I assume the author is having some good success with these books. I wish him all the best, too. If you’re interested in this book, click the title and check it out.

The Vinyl Detective- The Run Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel 

His first adventure consisted of the search for a rare record; his second begins with the discovery of one.  When a mint copy of the final album by “Valerian”—England’s great lost rock band of the 1960s—surfaces in a charity shop, all hell breaks loose. 

This one is another that is a second in a series. I have no idea why I keep ending up with books that are out of order from series, but that’s the way it happens sometimes. As a general rule of thumb, a writer’s job (when writing multiple books in the same series) is to ensure that the reader can enjoy the book out of order without feeling something is missing. That is sometimes not how it is done, unfortunately, but with this novel (which I DID manage to finish, even though it wasn’t my type) I was able to set it apart and it could easily live on its own. Kudos, Andrew Cartmel. It still wasn’t my cup of tea, but I would recommend it to others, so it is here, in THIS post instead of on its own, though I’ll give it its own rating on Goodreads and Amazon. I may actually pass this book onto my daughter as it seems more her speed than mine! As always, click the title and head over to Amazon if you’d like to know more or purchase your own copy.

 

Stay tuned for more reviews and some overdue ones! I’ve just gotten my little office nook into order and figured out what on earth was going on with my blog. Technical issues are not my strong suit. 

But, nonetheless, keep calm and read on, folks! 

 

Fatal Music by Peter Morfoot

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Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle arrives at a crime scene to find a woman’s mutilated corpse. Initially routine, the case deepens and darkens into a complex enquiry that threatens to close in on Darac himself. But allegiances past and present must be set aside to unravel a tale of greed, deception and treachery that spans the social spectrum. It is among the winding streets of his own neighbourhood in Nice’s old town, the Babazouk, that Darac faces his severest test yet.

This appears to be the second book of a series surrounding Captain Paul Darac. I enjoyed the setting quite a bit as it was easy to get lost in Morfoot’s descriptions of France because I’ve never been and have always wanted to go. I typically like to read the first book in a series first, but after I picked this (second) book up first instead, I realized that it wasn’t necessary to enjoy them in order, although it may be preferred. It’s a wonderful mystery, quite cozy, though possibly not intended to be so.

I would recommend this book to those in search of a good thunderstorm read, those in search of a series to sink into, and those in search of a good crime novel hero to get to know. Paul Darac isn’t what I expected in a police captain character, but I say that with respect and admiration. Four stars from me.

The only gripe I have in this story is that sometimes Darac and other characters were a bit unreal and unbelievable. I very much wanted Morfoot to give me something extra, some little thing to hang onto that would flesh these people out just a bit more. It won’t stop me from reading more in the series, but the little tad extra would have gone a long way.

To buy your own copy of FATAL MUSIC by Peter Morfoot, you can go to Amazon.com or Titan Books directly. To read about more books by Peter Morfoot, visit his page on Goodreads.