Jun 29

Robert Carter – A Deadly Playground – Review and Author Interview

B.R. Snow’s Review of Robert Carter’s A Deadly Playground

One of my favorite writers, Robert Carter, is back.

And he’s back with a vengeance.

Those of you familiar with Mr. Carter’s work will remember that he has already delivered outstanding historical fiction set in a wide variety of settings including; revolutionary France, India, and China among others.

Mr. Carter’s latest book, The Deadly Playground, is the first installment in what I hope will be a long run of terrific books about a British family of means, the Barrington’s, and their extended circle of friends and acquaintances. Set in 1912 against the backdrop of the impending World War, the book focuses primarily Jimmy Barrington, the free-spirited son, and his friend, Stanley Walker, a young man of humble background and modest means. When war breaks out with the German invasion of Belgium, Jimmy and Stanley decide to join the Royal Flying Corps. During their initial training their fates take different paths and their days as carefree youths soon become fodder for fond memories and late-night pub tales.

As I was reading, I was struck by the relatively low-tech of warfare in the early 1900s and reminded that it’s only been just over 100 years since aircraft have been available for use in war. Mr. Carter deftly takes us back to those early days when pilots and their gunners were using pistols and rifles to shoot at enemy aircraft. And that’s the sort of thing that Mr. Carter does. He takes on big ideas – in this case, the uncertainty of one’s place in and ability to positively contribute to a world at a tipping point and battered by war – and weaves an intricate narrative using real, and, quite often, the small moments of daily life that resonate and give flesh and bone to his central theme. And Mr. Carter is so gifted at handling these moments, as readers, we find ourselves there, in the moment, with the sights and sounds of canvas wings and barking artillery surrounding us while, as an author, several times I was forced to reread a paragraph and left to wonder, “How the hell did he do that?”

When reading a book these days there is a tendency for us to gravitate to what sort of film, or in the case of The Deadly Playground, miniseries would the book make. That’s all well and good because I can already visualize what this material could look like on screen as well as name a wide variety of potential cast members. But that degree of visualization is only possible because the book is so well written. And the talent required to write a book like this is rare and needs to be appreciated, honored and, yes, even savored.

Mr. Carter’s attention to detail, grounded in meticulous research, is one of his hallmarks. The care and feeding his gives his craft is a trait I greatly admire and all of his fans, a growing group I’m a proud member of, need to thank him again for delivering such a strong work of historical fiction. At times his work with detailed description reminds me of Tom Clancy. It’s not easy making aircraft and weaponry both educational and entertaining. Yet Mr. Carter does a terrific job in these areas because he obviously knows what he’s talking about and he works very hard to get it right.

But there is another writer that Mr. Carter’s work reminds me of. Taylor Caldwell also told grand tales filled with small moments on an epic scale. I have no idea if she is someone Mr. Carter enjoys reading or whether he will find this comparison flattering or worthy of disdain. All I do know is that if he is able to continue developing this series in the manner he has unfurled it in this first volume, I sincerely believe that The Deadly Playground has the potential to become Mr. Carter’s The Captain and the Kings.

Big themes, small moments, great writing.

Don’t miss this one and the ones that follow.

Author Robert Carter Interview

BR – Welcome, Robert. I finished A Deadly Playground recently and really enjoyed it. And thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Fitting this in around the World Cup was probably tough to do. But I know the Po$$e members will find what you’ve got to say about the book and your writing process very interesting.

RC – Thanks, Bernie. It’s great to be here. And since England went out so early in this year’s Cup, sadly, I do have a bit more time that I had originally planned.

BR – You’ve written several great historical novels that take readers to a wide variety of settings and time periods. What is it about writing historical fiction that is so appealing to you as an author?

RC – History is our memory. I believe everyone should be aware of what has happened in the world, or we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. History is also used by those who are interested in selective memory and self-serving myths, so it’s interesting to review well-known events in a new light. I hope always to leave my readers with a more accurate sense of the times I write about. History is also a wonderful source of “story” as the word “history” implies.

In addition, the more I read, the more biographies I stumble upon, I have found that there are so many people who have done astonishing things – people completely overlooked by history. I like to find those people – to bring their courage and commitment to the reader’s attention. Sir Sidney Smith (Courage) and Frederick T Ward (Barbarians) to name but two, incredible people who changed history and not many people know about them. My personal crusade, if you like.

BR – When reading your work it quickly becomes apparent that you do a tremendous amount of research. Could you describe the process you go through from a research standpoint? I’ve been wondering for a while if you get an idea for a great story and then start researching, or whether you’re a history buff who tends to discover events and then decide, “Hey, that might make a good book.”?

RC – I read generally, and in that process discover stories that interest me and sometimes I think they might make good novels. That is, the template of the drama is real events and the way real people reacted to what happened. After initial research, in which I read more closely around the period / events – everything I can find (for 6 months I read nothing else and steep myself in it). I then look for material that allows me to construct a story within that framework and begin to put together my outline. I do all this before a single word of the novel is written.

BR – As I said here and in my review, your new one, The Deadly Playground, is terrific. For those folks who haven’t read it yet, could you a take a couple minutes to outline the basic storyline?

RC – The story concerns two friends who are attending Oxford University in the summer of 1912. One is a scholarship boy and the other is the sun of the richest man in Britain, from a banking and shipping family. But the world they have grown up in is about to change. War comes and Stanley Walker and Jimmy Barrington decide to do their duty by their country. I wanted to remind the present generation who are often too ready to dismiss people and attitudes of former times that very real threats to freedom and democracy have affected the world much as they do today. The men who rose to the challenge of protecting liberal values have much in common with those who protect those same values today.

BR – The timing of The Deadly Playground was great for me. My new book that should launch this fall is set in the present day but has a ‘near-future’ premise behind it that is heavily driven by the advancements in technology. And when I was reading yours, I was struck by how primitive warfare was back then compared to the weaponry of today, less than 100 years removed from World War I. Did you come across anything during your research that surprised you and made its way into the book?

RC – The driver of new technology is frequently warfare and no more so than in aeronautics. I have always thought it astonishing that the Wright Brothers and the moon landing (both great American achievements) were separated by a mere 65 years. Coincidently both events were in the lifetime of my own grandfather.

Some of my RAF (Royal Air Force) friends fly WW1 aircraft for recreation at Shuttleworth Air show. Who can blame them? When you see a Typhoon fly over, it drives home the realization of just how far we’ve come.

The aircraft in WW1 were made of wood and fabric by furniture makers. The seats made out of wicker. The cockpits were open so the pilots wore heavy coats, huge boots known as fug boots, lined with sheepskin and leather helmets, with NO parachutes. One thing that amazed me was the fact that the designer of the aircraft that fell from the sky over Port Meadow (at the start of the book) was a man called Henri Coanda and he also designed a jet aircraft made back in 1910!

BR – I’ve likened the epic scales and settings of your books to Herman Wouk and Taylor Caldwell. You certainly aren’t afraid to take on really big subjects. Who are some of your favorite authors you like to read and those who influence your work?

RC – James Clavell’s Shogun is a peerless work and strongly influenced my approach to my writing. I read biographies most of the time and I search for them on the internet and in old bookshops. Often I find the real treasure in biographies written about people who are not so well known these days, but who were heroes in their time.

BR – I think that this will turn into a series with long legs and I know you probably don’t want to give away too much at this point, but could you give us some idea of what we can expect to see in upcoming books about the Barrington family?

RC – Some people have kindly said that the Barrington saga stands comparison with Herman Wouk’s Winds of War. This may be premature, but I see what they are saying. Essentially, my story is based on a real family and their interaction with the worlds of high society and high finance.

The USA entered the Great War quite late in the proceedings, but some prominent American citizens were involved behind the scenes at a very early stage. You never read about many of the events that took place in WW1, and in Volume Two of the Quintet, much is revealed about war that was secret at the time. As I said, I’ve read lots of memoirs.

Thanks for inviting me over, Bernie. I enjoyed it.

BR – Many thanks for stopping by, Robert. Again, congratulations on a terrific new book and I wish you great success with it. Hope to catch up with you soon.

Jun 28

Thank You So Much!

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to thank all of you for helping make last week’s promotion of Divorce Hotel such a huge success. Sales were terrific and I couldn’t have it without your assistance. I truly appreciate it.

A lot of people have asked me to do the same thing for the Damaged Po$$e series so I’ve started to take a look at some summer promotions of American Midnight, Larrikin Gene, Sneaker World, and Summerman. Stay tuned for those as soon as I figure out a schedule.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s post. I’m posting my review of Robert Carter’s new book A Deadly Playground as well as my recent interview with him.

Robert is a terrific author of historical fiction and his new one is great. He’s a very interesting guy and I think you’ll enjoy what he has to say about his books and his approach to writing.

See y’all tomorrow and thanks again!

You continue to be the best group of friends and fans anyone could ask for!

Bernie

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Jun 20

It’s Started! – Divorce Hotel Promotion – June 20th through June 26th

Divorce Hotel new cover 6-22-2013 copy

To help celebrate the fact that Divorce Hotel has been optioned and gone into development as a feature film, I’m running a seven-day book promotion. From today through next Thursday Divorce Hotel
will be available for 99 cents.

This represents a $5 reduction from it’s regular price of $5.99. Now my math skills aren’t great; but that seems to be a pretty good deal.

So for those Po$$e members, especially some of our new folks, who haven’t had a chance to read the book here’s a one-time opportunity to get it at a price you probably won’t see again.

As always, I truly appreciate all your support and this is just one small way I can say thanks to you; my growing numbers of Po$$e friends and fans. I hope you enjoy it!

To give you a quick feel for the book, and how truly funny it is, I’ve included the synopsis and first chapter down below. When you’re ready, just click any of Divorce Hotel links on the page and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon where you’ll be able to purchase your copy with one click.

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Divorce Hotel

If love is hell, what does that make divorce?

That is one of life’s great questions for John Germaine, a divorced man who has bought an old bed and breakfast inn and turned it into a refuge for recently divorced men. But faced with a crushing, ongoing alimony payment to his ex-wife, Margaret, an aspiring, yet sadly uninspiring actress, John has reached the end of his tether. And it’s either get Margaret married or take drastic measures. With the assistance of his permanent residents and his new housekeeper, Emily, who just happens to be the ex-wife of Margaret’s new fiance, John puts a plan together to get Margaret off his back, if not out of his life permanently. With a houseful of residents that includes a hygiologist whose mission in life is to make America smell better, a mantologist with a Vegas lounge act, and a political consultant down on his luck, Divorce Hotel comes out swinging on page one and doesn’t let up.

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You could wait for the movie or until someone turns this into a television show, but why bother? Read it now. It’s razor-sharp satire and funny as hell. It might even make you think twice about divorce as an option.

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Chapter 1

John Germaine swayed in the early morning light doing his favorite thing; if doing nothing actually counted as doing something. Buried in his hammock, he closed his eyes hoping the unusual morning silence would coax him back to sleep. But the silence nagged and John turned suspicious. He held a hand up to shield the rising sun and opened one eye. He looked left, then right. Not a sound. He opened the other eye and glanced at his watch. One minute to seven. John closed his eyes hoping for ten more minutes. Thirty seconds later, all hell broke loose.

A leaf blower roared and dozens of birds screeched expletives causing a series of cat meows triggering barks and woofs and owners demands for quiet. A pulsating bass line punctuated by three horn blasts initiated a mother-daughter will not,will too goodbye, followed by a teenage screech and car door slam. The car burned rubber and thunk-a-thunked off. Gears grinded amid banging trash cans and John cursed for once again forgetting pickup day. The trash orchestra crescendo gave way to the next door neighbors.

“Because I didn’t,” a man screamed. “That’s why.”

His wife, also in fine voice, returned the volley. “And why not?”

“Because I was…busy!”

“Yeah, you were busy…at the bar.”

“Jesus Christ. I stopped for one drink after work.”

“You’ve never had one drink in your life. And you were probably with some skank.”

“You’re unbelievable…And she’s not a skank.”

“What? Who’s not a skank?”

“Uh, nothing. What was the question?”

“You son of a bitch.”

“Lower your voice. You’ll wake up the whole goddamned neighborhood.”

“Too late,” John said. He stretched and made a mental note to let his neighbor know he had a vacancy should it come to that. Another noise joined the party. John folded his arms behind his head and listened as the phone rang for a second time. Then a third.

“Answer the friggin thing.”

The ringing continued. John sat up in the hammock and was flipped face-down onto the overgrown grass. He made a mental note to call the gardener and huffed and puffed across the lawn at a pace barely above speed walking. He made another mental note about getting to the gym at least once this decade. He slid the glass door open, entered the kitchen and saw Randolph Tut, GQ resplendent, sitting four feet from the phone reading the newspaper and sipping coffee.

Randolph glanced up from the paper. “Thanks. That was really starting to get on my nerves.”

John glared at Randolph who had already slipped back behind his paper. He took a breath and picked up the phone. “Divorce Hotel.” John’s shook his head in recognition. “Yes, Margaret…yes, Margaret…yes, Margaret.” He held a hand over the mouthpiece and turned to Randolph. “How I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve said…” He removed his hand from the mouthpiece. “Yes, Margaret. I do want to thank you for remembering my birthday the other day. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the alimony check is due.” John poured himself a cup of coffee. “Of course I liked it. It’s every man’s dream to have an autographed picture of his ex-wife. What am I going to do with it? I’m having it made into a dartboard.” John jerked the phone away from his ear.

Randolph put the newspaper down and smiled.

“Margaret, do you remember when I said I do…? Well, I didn’t. Oh, yeah…well, to death do us part to you too.”

John slammed down the phone and sat down. Randolph continued to smile.

“What are you grinning at?”

“Remembering the Alamo?”

“I should have known better than to marry a woman with 666 tattooed on her butt. At least you had the sense to only date her.”

Randolph frowned. “Funny,” he said. “I remember the tattoo, but wasn’t it 999?” Randolph thought for a moment and then shook his head. “Sorry,” he said. “My mistake.”

“Maybe she should have had it underlined so you wouldn’t get confused.” John grabbed the sports section and scanned the first page.

“Hey, I’m sorry. Besides I didn’t even know you, she didn’t even know you when we dated.”

“Well, you were smart. I ended up married to her for seven years.”

Randolph shook his head. “I still don’t know how you managed to hang in there that long.”

“Well, my therapist told me that there’s a very thin line between love and hate. Unfortunately, Margaret was always daring me to step across it.

The phone rang. John shook his head. “I wonder who that could be.” He tossed the sports section on the table and grabbed the phone. “Divorce Hotel….Yes, I sent the check. I’ve told you that four times already. Jesus Christ, Margaret. It’s seven o’clock in the morning. When was the last time you saw a mailman that time of day? I don’t care if you live down the street or not, I mailed it…three days ago…The wrong address? I think I know the address, Margaret. I can see your fucking house from my front porch. Yeah, that’s right. It’s my fault. I must have put the wrong address on it. Let me just check and make sure I’ve got it right…Say, what’s the zip code for Planet Bitch?” John jerked the phone away from his ear. “You too…right back at ya…no, I won’t be sending them Federal Express…I’ll use Pony Express. John slammed the phone and slumped into a chair.

“Pony Express?” Randolph laughed. “Nice touch.”

“Eight grand a month. Some days I think it would be better if she just ran me over with her car and put me out of my misery.”

“That ain’t gonna happen,” Randolph began scanning the business section. “She’d lose her annuity.”

“I just wish she would get remarried.”

Randolph raised an eyebrow. “Glad to see you’re trying to remain optimistic. Completely insane, but still optimistic.”

Jun 07

Birthday Beer Bucket List

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So another year has ticked away.

It’s been a good one and I continue to be blessed on so many fronts I have nothing of note worth complaining about. Life is great. Like so many of us, I’m so busy that most days I’m not sure which way is up but my productivity remains solid and I’m doing some of the best work of my life. But there’s definitely some wear and tear on the body and the tread is far from new.

So as the odometer continues to inexorable forward roll, I feel somewhat compelled to take stock. As I’ve pointed out to myself and others many times in the past:

It’s not the year; it’s the mileage.

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So off I went, in search of where I’m at and what worlds are left for me to discover. And just as important, which worlds I can happily leave undiscovered. As we’ve all learned, life is about choices and every time you make any decision, you’re automatically saying no to a host of other alternatives.

I was left wondering. How do I develop a set of priorities; that collection of truly important things I want to do before I depart the planet and begin my eternal dirt nap?

Self-conversations like these are fraught with dangers so I sought the comfort of safe, familiar environs and decided to reflect on my dilemma at the pub where I ran into with my good friend, Wilbur. Feeling the need for assistance and support in my trip down memory lane and search for paths future, I sought counsel from my still reasonably coherent and semi-upright confidant. That was my first mistake. (However, if you’re one of those folks who consider self-reflection of this sort misguided and an utter waste of time, I readily acknowledge that you’ll probably decide my including Wilbur, or anyone else for that matter, in the process was actually my second mistake.)

Wilbur’s a self-professed “non-wonderer” not known for his philosophical tendencies or his abilities to concisely synthesize his thoughts. But I caught him early in Happy Hour and, as he listened to me bemoan the fact that there were so many things I considered left undone with an insufficient amount of time left to do them, he drained his beer, flicked his finger at the bartender as he belched for another and said, “Man, you need a list.”

I was left in stunned silence at my friend’s sudden brush with brevity and brilliant clarity. I needed a list.

“You’re right, Wilbur. And not just any list. I need a Bucket List.”

Wilbur merely nodded as he lit a cigarette and started working through his fresh beer.

Immediately I felt encouraged and a surge of adrenaline. “Piece of cake. I’ve got a ton of experience with lists. Shopping lists. Daily to-do lists. Lists about rules, schedules, things to avoid. You name it, I’ve probably had a list for it.”

“Yup. But lists can be tricky. I remember one time when I went in for my annual physical and my doctor was worried about getting sued again.”

“Again?”

“Long story.”

“Is it a good one?”

“All the good stories are long.” Wilbur took a long swallow of beer and swayed briefly in his chair. His clarity and focus approached the horizon. “My doctor has a 39 step procedural list that covers how a rectal exam has to be performed.”

“39 steps? Well, he’s obviously thorough.”

“Yeah, he’s pretty anal about most things.”

“You’re a funny guy, Wilbur. Drink your beer.”

“Want to know what step 39 is?”

“Not really.”

“Remove finger.”

“Either you’re making that up or he had some of the dumbest people on the planet working for him.”

“Swear to God. Step 39: Remove finger.”

I shook my head and sipped my beer.

Wilbur wiped foam out of his moustache before continuing. “That’s the thing about lists. You need to choose wisely, my friend. Or you might find yourself jumping out of an airplane or climbing the Himalayas like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It might look cool in a movie but, trust me, real life is very different.” Wilbur took a long swallow of beer and waved a finger in my general direction. “In real life, you have to make your own popcorn.”

“And remember to remove your finger?”

“Well, sure. If it’s on the list.”

Several beers and two hours later I staggered home and got to work. I scrawled Bucket List at the top of a clean sheet of paper and began meditating on Wilbur’s admonition to choose wisely. Eventually, I jumped in.

1. Start a list.

2. Find a bucket.

3. Fill bucket with beer.

4. Drink bucket of beer to celebrate completing the first three items on my list. (Gee, 5 minutes in and I’ve already crossed 4 items off. This bucket list crap is a piece of cake.)

5. Eat a piece of cake.

6. Wash the cake down with a beer. Cross 2 more off the list. At this rate, I could die tomorrow. (Note to self, either slow down or add some stretch goals.)

7. Publish 25 books. (If I wasn’t spending all this time making lists I’d probably have more time to write.)

8. Watch the Running of the Bulls in person and laugh…but only at the idiots with flesh wounds.

9. Display appropriate expression of concern for the idiots who catch a horn in the wrong place and are carried away on a stretcher.

10. Drink a San Miguel to celebrate the fact that I’m smart enough to not try to outrun a horned 1,500 pound bull that could splatter my insides on Spanish cobblestone.

11. Pee. (Beer tends to go right through me.)

12. Grab a fresh beer on the way back from the bathroom.

13. Publish 20 books. (Quality is so much more important than quantity.)

14. Go zip lining across the top of a Costa Rican jungle.

15. Remember to bring a 6 pack of Imperial along for the ride.

16. Drink at least one of every beer made on the planet.

17. Write a book called The Drunk’s Ultimate Guide to Beers From Around the World.

18. Write down specific instructions for my funeral just in case I get stuck wearing the clothes I’m buried in for eternity.

19. Sneak into the mortuary before my ex-boss’s funeral and dress him up in a sexy little number from Victoria Secret. (See #18)

20. Decide whether these chest pains are real or if they’re only coming on because I’m drunk and writing this list while lying on the floor with a sharp pencil in my shirt pocket.

21. Publish 10 books. (They’re going to be really, really high quality.)

22. Quit drinking, go on a strict diet, begin an intense daily 3 hour training regimen and compete in the Ironman Triathlon.

23. Sober up before adding any more items to this friggin list.

24. Uncover the mystery of why This Bud’s for You instead of me.

25. Finally figure out what women want.

26. Finally figure out how to understand women.

27. Figure out if women really are from Venus.

28. Figure out if Venus is a planet, or the name of a mall.

29. Figure out whether the sharp pain in middle of my back is imaginary or whether my wife has been reading the list over my shoulder. (Hey, I crossed out the last 4 items, didn’t I?)

30. Apologize to wife and promise to drive her to mall in the morning.

31. Publish 6 books. (Hey, I’ve already published 5 and the Beers From Around the World book would complete the set. Piece of cake.)

32. Since I already ate the last piece of cake, finish writing this damn list.

33. Remember to breathe through my nose while chugging the last half of my beer.

34. Head to the bathroom.

35. Pee.

36. Figure out why the hell I’m having such a hard time breathing through my nose.

37. Try to stop the panic attack brought on my highly irregular breathing pattern by checking myself in the bathroom mirror.

38. Breathe a huge sigh of relief at the self-induced nature of my breathing problem.

39. Remove finger.

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May 16

Author Interview – John DolanA Poison Tree

As promised in my last post, today I’m interviewing one of my favorite people, John Dolan, author of the great Time, Blood, and Karma series. He’s just released the 3rd book in the series, A Poison Tree, which I reviewed here recently. If you missed the review, take a few minutes to read it here on the site. If you aren’t familiar with his work, do yourself a favor and grab a copy. And if you have read John’s books, I’m sure you agree with me when I say; “The man can write.”

So let’s welcome galericulate author, world traveler, and all around good guy, John Dolan.

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A Poison Tree (Time, Blood and Karma)

BR – Hi, John. Where on the planet are you these days?

JD – Hi, Bernie, and thanks for inviting me over. These days I’m living on the island of Samui, Thailand, so I can keep an eye on my characters who are based here. Make sure they are behaving themselves, or not, as the case may be. However, as you know, I’m a bit of a gypsy so I might be living somewhere else next week. This also helps me stay one step ahead of the tax authorities and anyone I might have defamed in my books. Allegedly.

BR – I understand completely. And since Big Brother is watching regardless, you might as well keep moving around just to help them stay sharp. Since you move around a lot, do you find yourself able to write anywhere or are you someone who likes to be in a specific place?

JD – Well, I prefer to be in a bar drinking Chang beer, but I don’t get a lot of writing done that way. Sometimes I sit in my sala (Thai pavilion) looking over the coconut fields, sometimes I hang around in Starbucks, sometimes I’ll be on an aeroplane bound for wherever. Last year when I was living in Dubai, I did all my writing in my apartment. It was too damned hot to do anything else. So no, I don’t have a special place to write.

BR – I’m more of an “office-writer” but concur completely about the inverse correlation between alcohol consumption and word count. But enough about us and our fondness for cold beer. Could you give us some background about the genesis of the series and your main character, David Braddock?

JD – Hmmn. That’s a tricky one. I always get fidgety when people ask me where I get my ideas from, because the honest answer is that I have no idea. I’m vaguely aware that the action takes place in locations where I’ve lived or visited, and I’m a complete anal retentive when it comes to planning out a story. I suppose over the years I’ve read quite widely and I guess all those ideas marinate somewhere until they are ready to come out. What really happens is that I have a little man who lives inside my head who makes up stories, and I just type them out for him. But if you tell folks that, they think you’re a barking loon. Which, of course, I am.

BR – What can you do? We sit by ourselves, dream up some goofy stuff, and then write it down. But I know you love the process as much as I do. I love all your books and I think that A Poison Tree is your best yet. It’s interesting that it’s the 3rd book in the series, but it actually reads as a prequel to the first two. From a marketing strategy it’s brilliant in that new readers will be able to start with your newest book and then continue the series from there rather than feel the need to read the first two before picking up the new one. Was that your primary motive or did you feel the need to provide us with some of the backstory before Braddock found himself in Thailand?

JD – OK, now you’ll think I’m a total obsessive, but it was always the plan to have Book #3 as a backstory. In fact, in the seven book series, the action flips about in time. Books #1 and #2 (‘Everyone Burns’ and ‘Hungry Ghosts’) are in 2005, Book #3 ((‘A Poison Tree’) is 1999-2001, and Book #4 ((‘Running on Emptiness’), which comes out next year, is set in 2006. The next three books after that … well, I won’t give the game away now, but suffice to say, they jump back and forth too. That’s why I gave the series the title ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ – time and karma go together, and the ‘blood’ refers not only to the deaths that tend to happen, but also to family ties. In answer to your question on marketing strategy, I don’t know whether it’s brilliant, but it does give a reader two possible entry points into the series. Sheesh, that was a long answer. Do you have any beer around here?

BR – I’m out of Chang but could probably dig up a couple of cold Shiner. When in Rome, right…? I thought your choice to use cold, rainy England as the setting and the impending Millennium perfect for A Poison Tree themes. Could you talk a bit about the primary thematic elements you incorporated so beautifully into the narrative and your cast of characters?

JD – The impending Millennium was a time of great uncertainty for many people, a time when folks across the planet reflected on the questions of, “Why am I here? What’s it all about? Is the End of the World nigh?” When you ask these types of questions, you are inclined to step back and look at other things too, like relationships and what you are doing with your life. It seemed to me an ideal point in time for the characters, already feeling uncertain about their place in the world, to be reassessing their priorities and loyalties. As the book opens, many of them are stuck in a rut – as events unfold, they are levered out of that rut; sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not. The atmosphere of the rainy, depressing Midlands (where I lived for a time, by the way) was intended to invoke an atmosphere of boredom, dissatisfaction and introspection. English rain does that to you after a while. It also gives you webbed feet, if you’re not careful.

I chose a tree as the central image of the story; weathered, damaged, with parasite liana stems tangled around its trunk, and creatures gnawing at its roots. I drew on some of the gloomy myths of Norse legend, especially the great tree Yggdrasil which holds up the universe. When that falls, everything falls, the world ends, reality collapses into the void. In the same way, the characters’ supports, the assumptions on which they have based their being, are being eroded by uncertainty and mistrust. There are a ton of allusions to branches, growth, nature’s life cycle and so on, peppered through the book. This is intended to pave the way for the themes of the series – the Buddhist ideas of impermanence and interconnection.
Phew, that reads a bit heavy, doesn’t it? Lucky I put some jokes in the book too, otherwise we’d all be slitting our wrists.

BR – All your choices worked beautifully. The book had a terrific sense of time and place. And that can be very tricky to pull off without some of your narrative sounding like a travel brochure. Your protagonist, David Braddock, is such an interesting character. How do you see him?

JD – He’s a damaged man, and a far from perfect human being. But like all of us, he has redeeming features, and his own peculiar set of ethics to which he adheres. He is also a guy who doesn’t surrender – knock him down and he keeps getting up. In a sense, you could regard him as something of an Everyman. I hope his reflections will ring a chord in people, or at least some of them. He shares with me a rather black sense of humour. That bit of him is definitely me.

BR – He’s definitely damaged. And if there is one thing I do know; it’s damaged people. He continues to resonate with me and I really enjoy the fact that he isn’t an over the top kind of character. So I would definitely agree with your Everyman comment. Where do you see him heading in subsequent books?

JD – Into more trouble. He collects trouble the way some people collect stamps. No spoilers here, Bernie!

BR – Well, I gave it my best shot. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next book. Thanks for stopping by John. Congratulations again on A Poison Tree. Well done, mate. Well done indeed!

May 10

Summer Is On The Way

Greetings Po$$e members,

Yes, indeed. Summer is on the way for us here in North America. And it can’t get here soon enough. It was so cold back in February I ran into a moose family at the store from Canada who had finally said “Screw this” and bought a condo in Florida. And for those of you below the equator, as your winter approaches, I certainly hope you don’t experience anything nearly as severe as some of the northern locales did this year.

I’d like to welcome the 1,500+ new Po$$e members who’ve joined the site since the last time we chatted. And of course thanks to the thousands of new Twitter followers and other folks who’ve discovered my work via other social media. I continue to be honored and humbled by your support.

I’m committing to a post at least once a week through the summer since there are a lot of exciting things going on with both my writing as well as some great new books by some of my favorite authors. So stay tuned for upcoming news about my new book, Rubicon, #5 in the Damaged Po$$e series, that will launch sometime this fall as well as some very exciting news about my standalone comedy, Divorce Hotel. It’s been an interesting start to 2014.

But today I’m reviewing John Dolan’s new book, A Poison Tree, the latest in his Time, Blood, and Karma series. If you haven’t discovered John’s work yet, I strongly encourage you to do so. A Poison Tree is terrific! And the fact that I’m actively promoting his work here, as opposed to one of my own books, should tell you everything you need to know about how great a writer I think he is. (The bastard makes me work very hard just to try to keep up.) And he’s a very cool guy as well as you will discover when I do a feature interview with him right here next week.

So enjoy my review and I hope you take a second to click the link below and grab a copy. It’s only $3.99. Four bucks. You kidding me? You can’t even get a decent snow shovel for four bucks. And even if you could, trust me, there’s no way a snow shovel could ever provide the entertainment value that A Poison Tree does.

140430 FINAL A POISON TREE KINDLE COVER WITH BACKGROUND2

A Poison Tree (Time, Blood and Karma)

A Poison Tree Delights

A Poison Tree is John Dolan’s third book in his ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ series and is, in a word, fantastic. I make every effort to not overuse superlatives since they lose their effect and can actually dampen the impact of reviews like these. “Oh, come on, B.R.,” I can hear you say. “Fantastic? Really? I bet you say that to all the books with pretty covers.”

So at the risk of dampening this review like a wet, cold mist over Leicester, I repeat; A Poison Tree is fantastic.

I’ve been looking forward to discovering what David Braddock, Dolan’s burned out, anti-hero, private investigator protagonist has been up to since the end of Hungry Ghosts, the second book in the series that, until now, had been set in Thailand. But Dolan, as he is so capable of doing, threw all of us a curve by taking us back in a time to England, 1999. Set against the backdrop of the approaching Millennium, A Poison Tree serves as a prequel to Everyone Burns, the first book in the series. And through the skillful use and mix of alternating character points of view and first and third person narrative, Dolan reveals the sequence of events that drove Braddock to his Asian exile. The book opens with an homage to ‘noir’ storytelling with Braddock and an acquaintance, Jim Fosse, (readers will remember him from Dolan’s short story, Jim Fosse’s Expense Claim) drinking heavily in a local pub. And the opening line sets up the book and hooks us right from the start:

“I’m thinking of killing my wife.”

The stable of characters is fully-fleshed with a world-weariness that sit perfectly, but rest uneasy, within the book’s setting. The Millennium milestone provides great foundational context as Dolan’s themes of ennui, uncertainty, and human frailty, so skillfully woven into the narrative and characters’ interplay, emerge in a (Warning-Superlative Alert) magnificent fashion. The nagging sores of everyday life in the late 20th century have rarely been this exposed, or this well treated.

Dolan’s skills as a writer continue to evolve and he stays true to what seems to be one of his primary objectives: Never use lengthy descriptive phrases when one word will do. I can almost see him, pen in hand, redlining and scratching his head for the perfect word. His attention to this level of detail demonstrates a dedicated commitment to quality writing and respect for his readers. This level of dedication helps separate him from other authors and it’s another trait of his I greatly admire. Here’s a short sample from Braddock’s reflection on desire that rises out of an interaction that has a profound impact on him and the story:

**
Desire is a chameleon.

He blends into the brickwork and the rocks of those lanes and pathways down which we walk. He lurks like a highwayman at the crossroads of our lives, waiting to rob us of our reason.

And he does so for sport.

He lies on the rooftops of our imagination, armed with a high-powered rifle.

Desire is a tireless hunter.

**
This is just small example of what awaits readers. Get your copy today. You’ll be glad you did. And you’ll be thanking John Dolan profusely from the comfort of page one.

The Poison Tree ends as Braddock is just beginning his Asian exile. I have no idea where Book #4 will begin; Dolan could simply pick up where this one ends or he could decide to return to the point where Hungry Ghosts let off. Regardless, it won’t matter. One could simply ask Mr. Dolan how his Monday went and, three months later, he could hand you a book describing it that would keep you turning the pages, provide you with tons of entertainment, and teach you something in the process.

He’s that _______ good! (Insert your own superlative)

Dec 31

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

I would like to wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. As always, thanks for all your support throughout the year. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. I’ll be in touch soon with an update about what’s brewing as well as when you can expect to see a new book from me.

Be well, my friends.

Bernie

Sep 29

American Midnight – Free Promo – Today’s the Last Day!

American Midnight final v2 6-2-2013 copy

Hi everyone,

Today is the last day of my free promotion for American Midnight, the first book in my Damaged Po$$e series.

It continues to be ranked in Amazon’s Top 10 for the 3rd day in a row and over 32,000 copies have been downloaded.

Don’t miss out on this one. I don’t do “freebies” very often so please take advantage of this offer today. It expires tonight at midnight PST.

Thanks to all of you who have already read the book, commented, sent me a note telling me how much you enjoyed it…the list is long as is the number of people I need to thank for their ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Bernie

Just click the link below for your free copy:

http://amzn.to/1gONQ2q

Sep 28

American Midnight – Free Promo Weekend – Today and Tomorrow

Thanks to everyone for helping make Day 1 of my American Midnight promo so successful. We’re approaching 30,000 total downloads and it hit #4 in the overall Amazon ranking last night. Currently it’s at #5 in the overall and #1 in the Comedy/Humor category. The promo will continue today and tomorrow so if you haven’t had the chance to grab a copy, please feel free to do so over the weekend. I don’t do free giveaways very often so this is your chance to get the first book in my Damaged Po$$e series at no cost. Enjoy and thanks again for your help and support.

Be well, my friends.

American Midnight final v2 6-2-2013 copy

http://amzn.to/1gONQ2q

Jul 07

Some Changes Going On Around Here

Hi folks,

I hope all of you are getting the chance to enjoy summer with family and friends. (And for those Po$$e members below the equator, hang in there. Your summer is just around the corner.)

You probably noticed the site’s new look and feel. I’ve been busy updating it the past several weeks and it’s getting close to the way I want it. I’ve added some links and feeds and made some changes to the navigation I hope you’ll like. All my book covers have also been redone and I think they now have a more consistent look and feel. As always, I’d love to hear any feedback you have about the changes.

So I thought I’d take the time to share the covers and “reintroduce” you to the books. Happy reading and I’ll talk with you soon.

****

Divorce Hotel new cover 6-22-2013 copy

If love is hell, what does that make divorce?

That is one of life’s great questions for John Germaine, a divorced man who has bought an old bed and breakfast inn and turned it into a refuge for recently divorced men. But faced with a crushing, ongoing alimony payment to his ex-wife, Margaret, an aspiring, yet sadly uninspiring actress, John has reached the end of his tether. And it’s either get Margaret married or take drastic measures. With the assistance of his permanent residents and his new housekeeper, Emily, who just happens to be the ex-wife of Margaret’s new fiance, John puts a plan together to get Margaret off his back, if not out of his life permanently. With a houseful of residents that includes a hygiologist whose mission in life is to make America smell better, a mantologist with a Vegas lounge act, and a political consultant down on his luck, Divorce Hotel comes out swinging on page one and doesn’t let up.

****

 

You could wait for the movie or until someone turns this into a television show, but why bother? Read it now. It’s razor-sharp satire and funny as hell. It might even make you think twice about divorce as an option.

****

American Midnight final v2 6-2-2013 copy

Doc White wakes up in a Las Vegas hotel suite a very confused man with a massive tequila hangover. As he reflects on the previous day’s events that included his wife walking out on him and with their joint savings, the return of the voice in his head, his subsequent loss of another $150,000 at the blackjack tables, and then waking up next to a total stranger, Doc’s already damaged life has taken another serious dip downward. In order to pay off his new debt, Doc is forced to do something he vowed years ago never to do again; take a corporate job. Doc’s new boss, an octogenarian Chinese casino owner with a taste for curling and political intrigue, along with the return of an old love help to reenergize Doc as he tries to rebuild his life in Sin City. At a major crossroads, Doc draws on the expertise of Merlin, his coke-addled, phobic colleague from a prior life and Summerman, a part-time ghost who is certain he can help Doc deal with the voice in his head. By the time this initial installment in B.R. Snow’s Damaged Posse series is wrapped up, Doc, Merlin, and Summerman have joined forces and are armed and ready to wreak havoc on the bad guys as well as themselves.

****

A really strong opening novel in what has real potential to become an incredibly popular series. It’s unusual to see multiple, fully-developed main characters juggled as seamlessly as they are here and B.R. Snow has set the Damaged Posse series up in a way that provides himself with a wide variety of directions to move in future volumes. The storylines are compelling, the characters pop off the page, and Snow displays a sense of irreverence which serves him well as he takes on greed, hypocrisy, and the vagaries of relationships. Best of all, he is one very funny writer. Don’t miss this one and the ones that follow. Comic crime hasn’t looked this good is a very long time.

****

Larrikin Cover final 5-17-2013 copy

Gene has a bit of a problem. Several actually. He’s wrapping up a year-long, high-end matchmaking scam that has proven to be most profitable but, in the process, he’s lost the love of his life to a billionaire. Now to help mend his broken heart, he’s back in Las Vegas finishing up another lucrative scam. But the FBI is on his trail and Gene discovers that the agent in charge is none other than the hapless Roger Gentry, a high school acquaintance with whom he shares a tenuous past. To make matters worse, Gene is soon sleeping with the other agent on the case who turns out to be Gentry’s fiancé.

To cool things off, Gene decides it’s time for a well deserved vacation Down Under. He brings his father along, an ex-convict whose biggest wish in life is to work one scam with his son before he dies. And before Gene can even get a chance to catch his breath and enjoy his time off, he finds himself running the ultimate con; one that threatens to irrevocably change his life. Fortunately for Gene, the Po$$e needs his help and Doc, Summerman and Merlin follow him to Australia to do a little recruiting and provide Gene with a possible way out of his current predicament.

****

“Cold beer, beachfront property, elaborate double crosses and exploding pigs. What more could you want? Larrikin Gene delivers a touching but hysterical take on the question of nature versus nurture. This second installment in the Damaged Po$$e series provides additional testimony to what was said about the series’ first book, American Midnight; this is a series to watch out for.”

****

Sneaker World cover final 5-18-2013 copy

Sir Bentley Carruthers, sneaker magnate and exploiter of the poor on four continents, has decided to expand his empire into the lucrative field of biopiracy. He’s purchased a small group of islands from the Indian government ostensibly to assist with recovery efforts after a devastating tsunami. So he’s built a sneaker factory on one of the islands along with a high-end resort that caters exclusively to the uber-rich. Unfortunately for Sir Bentley, Doc and the rest of the Damaged Posse are well aware of what his real motives are. And the fact that Sir Bentley has been selling weapons technology to the highest bidders also hasn’t gone unnoticed. After the Posse arrives on the island, they embark on their strangest and funniest adventure yet that is filled with dense jungles, a lost tribe, cantankerous girlfriends, shoulder-fired missiles, and a safari suit wearing antagonist you’ll love to hate.

****

The soft underbelly of globalization is exposed and fully taken to task. Like the previous books in the Damaged Posse series, Sneaker World opens up on several fronts, folds back on itself and seamlessly combines a strange collection of characters into one hysterical narrative.  Three books into this fantastic series, B. R. Snow continues to deliver the goods.

****

Summerman Final Cover 6-2-2013 copy

In the eagerly anticipated fourth book in B.R. Snow’s popular Damaged Posse series, Summerman finds himself staying close to home and, of course, he isn’t shy about enlisting the help of his three cohorts in crime. Set in the magnificent surroundings of the Thousand Islands, Summerman needs to juggle several problems simultaneously and each one brings along its own challenges and predictably hysterical outcomes. Summerman is faced with stopping his uncle’s Senate campaign along with the plan he and his defrocked priest partner in crime have come up with. Summerman also has to deal with the return of his ex-girlfriend, Grace, and her two daughters as well as his nephew’s plan to put Summerman’s band back together. On top of all that, Summerman’s grandmother, Mamo, has a few surprises in store as well. Doc, Merlin, Gene are all back as is Murray and, unfortunately for Uncle Dick, he is in particularly fine form.

****

One of the funniest and surprisingly poignant books to come along in a very long time. One part murder mystery, one part crime adventure, one part love story; all parts fall on the floor laughing. Summerman is simply a great book. The Damaged Posse series has officially become my favorite.

****

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