A Bloody Business by Dylan Struzan

business
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.

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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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The Smoke by Simon Ings

The SmokeQuick FYI before we begin this review…

You know when you’re a kid and you’re minding your own business, just sitting down somewhere behaving, and then out of nowhere your older sibling comes along and sideswipes your entire head with a giant, heavy, feather pillow, knocking you into the floor? And before you even knew what happened, they just keep hitting you with the pillow? That’s what this book will do to you if you’re not carefully paying attention. 

Simon Ings’ The Smoke is about love, loss and loneliness in an incomprehensible world. 

Humanity has been split into three different species. Mutual incomprehension has fractured the globe. As humans race to be the first of their kind to reach the stars, another Great War looms.

For you that means returning to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where factories churn out the parts for gigantic spaceships. You’re done with the pretentions of the capital and its unfathomable architecture. You’re done with the people of the Bund, their easy superiority and unstoppable spread throughout the city of London and beyond. You’re done with Georgy Chernoy and his questionable defeat of death. You’re done with his daughter, Fel, and losing all the time. You’re done with love.

But soon enough you will find yourself in the Smoke again, drawn back to the life you thought you’d left behind.

You’re done with love. But love’s not done with you.

To be completely honest, there is a lot going on in those pages. This novel is not for everyone. However, Simon Ings has clearly grasped and delivered to his readers an unmistakable grief and the loss of any need to go on. Those are emotions I find hard to describe when I’m writing and I know other authors do too. To do this well is commendable, particularly in an alternative history setting.

But, reader beware. It is extremely easy to get completely lost in this book. As a matter of fact, I’ve had it on my night stand a few months and it has taken me a while to put myself into the right head space to read the story and be able to give it the attention it deserves. That does NOT mean I didn’t like it or couldn’t get into it, but alternately that after reading a fair bit I realized I needed to be able to concentrate in order to not get completely lost. Books with later release dates were finished before this one as The Smoke is not a particularly easy read. Not by any measure.

With most difficult tasks, though, I found the reward to be satisfying. Characterization and writing were both wonderful and I enjoyed the plot, too. The story will break your heart if you’re not careful.

For a reader only just beginning to enjoy the science fiction genre, if you’re looking for a novel to get your literary feet wet, maybe try something else until you’re ready. Or maybe buy it read it slowly in order to keep track of what’s really happening within the plot. I most certainly do give my recommendation, though. Well done, Simon Ings.

A Demon In Silver by R.S. Ford

20180619_192455.jpgReleased June 12, 2018
Titan Books

In a world where magic has vanished, rival nations vie for power in a continent devastated by war. When a young farm girl, Livia, demonstrates magical powers for the first time in a century there are many across the land that will kill to obtain her power. The Duke of Gothelm’s tallymen, the blood-soaked Qeltine Brotherhood, and cynical mercenary Josten Cade; all are searching for Livia and the power she wields.

But, Livia finds that guardians can come from the most unlikely places… and that the old gods are returning to a world they abandoned.

I thought this book was incredible. It lacked very little and the premise is captivating. This is the first in a series, if I’ve understood correctly. I certainly hope I manage to get the next book on pre-order so that I don’t have to wait for it. I dislike waiting and this is one story I would like to hang with until the very end.

I don’t want to go into too many details of my thoughts, though. I feel like in doing so I will be giving my blog readers too many spoilers. I can divulge that there are a few surprises that remain surprising, twists that remain twisty, and turns that lead places incredibly fun to imagine.

Four stars.

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REVIEWS COMING SOON!

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Review to post 6.21.18
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Review to post 6.20.18

The Rig by Roger Levy

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Release date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Titan Books

*EDITED to note that this book will not be released for Kindle until May 22, 2018. *

Rig 

On a desert planet, two boys meet, sparking a friendship that will change human society forever.

On the windswept world of Bleak, a string of murders lead a writer to a story with unbelievable ramifications.

One man survives the vicious attacks, but is left with a morbid fascination with death; the perfect candidate for the perilous job of working on a rig.

Welcome to the System. Here the concept of a god has been abandoned, and a new faith pervades: AfterLife, a social media platform that allows subscribers a chance at resurrection, based on the votes of other users.

So many Lives, forever interlinked, and one structure at the centre of it all: the rig.

Strange Horizons has called Roger Levy the ‘heir to Philip K. Dick.’ That’s a pretty tall order for an author to live up to, eh? I typically dislike when two authors are compared to each other because I rarely see enough similarities to even recognize that a comparison has been made. Well, as it happens, it’s not far from truth. I found Roger Levy’s writing style to be refreshingly gloomy, blunt, and to the point. I believe the comparison to Philip K. Dick to be right on the money.

The premise of the story is unique and I imagine that’s one reason why Levy has been compared to Philip K. Dick. Roger Levy spins his tale with a handle on the English language unlike most. He creates characters that are both believable and unique, but the ways in which he presents their stories is never lacking any of the elements required for entertainment and thought. If there are any science fiction book clubs looking for a good read this week, I think The Rig is worthy of a mention, but with a warning–You will ask yourself an awful lot of questions when you read this book and some of them may have answers you’re not ready for. But, be that as it may, read it anyway.

Without hitting my blog readers with a ton of spoilers, I will say that I can confidently give my recommendation to The Rig and I look forward to finding more titles from Roger Levy in the future.

KINDLE and PAPERBACK formats are available at Amazon.com.