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  1.  

    Daring thieves break into the vault at Princeton University and steal the original F Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from his five novels. This stuff is worth maybe $30 million and the great and the good at the Uni sit back and wait for the inevitable ransom demand to appear. This is all fiction, of course, and Mr G even includes a wee apology at the end, just in case he should upset anyone at Princeton.

    But could the thieves actually be stealing the items for a specific order, with some wealthy collector hanging around in the background interested in buying? The insurance company don’t feel like sitting back and waiting and a plan is hatched to get those expensive papers back.

    So begins John Grisham’s novel “Camino Island”.

    But if you are imagining and waiting for long drawn out court scenes with a cutting finale you are going to be disappointed, because there is barely a court scene in the entire book.

    So this is something of a departure for Mr G, but don’t let that put you off because this is an engaging story and certainly a page-turning one. There’s even something of a love story element in there too, dare I say that in parts this book borders on chicklit, (shock horror!), though it never strays entirely that way.

    Being somewhat different to Mr G’s normal fare it has come in for some (unwarranted) criticism. I have mentioned before about how ultra-successful writers attract trolling reviewers who seem to get a real high out of trashing top selling authors.

    You only have to check out the one star reviews for John Grisham, Lee Child, Dan Brown, J K Rowling, etc etc, to see that, but people seem to forget that the reason these writers, and many others besides, sell books in great quantity, is because they write engaging books, something that the one star review brigade conveniently forget.

    “Camino Island” is different, but it does suck one in, and in the end I read this work in as quick a time as any book I have read this year, and the reason for that is because this is good book. Don’t let the one star review-moaners put you off. I enjoyed it, and I think you will too.    

     

     

  2.  

    "Set the Boy Free" by Johnny Marr – Book Review

     

    If you have any interest in guitar bands and especially indie guitar bands, and most particularly The Smiths, this book is essential reading.

    As you’d expect the book catalogues Mister Marr’s incredible career from an early age, and boy did he start early, right through to the present day. If you don’t know the whole story you might be surprised just how many bands he has played with.

    It looks like he wrote the book himself, though it is always difficult to tell with celebrity biogs. All too often there is the small print that says with so-and-so, or as told to so-and-so, and in those cases you can bet who did 90% of the writing. But there is nothing like that here, though in saying that, there is thanks at the end to eleven people who helped in various ways in the writing and production of this book.

    No matter, this is a very readable and interesting story. Perhaps inevitably, the first half is far more engaging than the second. And yes, that is the part that deals with the incredibly rapid rise of The Smiths from nowhere, to their massive worldwide success, and their ultimate implosion, and it is this implosion that probably sparked most readers to buy this book in the first place.

    In truth, are we any the wiser after reading of what caused the break-up? Not really, other than an unequal share of the royalties and revenue, though in truth, it was clear to everyone that two members contributed far more to this band than the other two, and I guess that is always going to create tensions that will ultimately break the whole. It had happened before and it sure as heck will happen again.

    One piece of advice. If you ever have the opportunity to ask questions at a Johnny Marr press conference, never ask him if there is any chance of The Smiths getting back together. Not if you know what’s good for you. Oh, and another little gem too. If you ever form a band make sure you all know precisely who will get what in the way of revenue and credits right from day one, and make sure that is written down and agreed on, and that way you stand a better chance of not falling out later, and maybe even avoiding expensive litigation that could drag on for almost twenty years. The REM and U2 route is always preferable when it comes to things like that.

    “Set the Boy Free” is a decent read, I enjoyed it, and a book I can recommend, though maybe at the end of it all, it left me with a feeling of sadness, and maybe that is not so ridiculous. It is The Smiths we are primarily talking about, after all, despite Johnny’s huge successes elsewhere afterwards.

    As someone else once wrote, thank you for the music. I'm glad I was there.    

  3.  

    H H Kirst (Hans Helmet Kirst) is famous for his detailed Nazi war novels that probably saw the zenith of their success in the 70s and 80s. You probably already know his work even if you think you don’t. “The Night of the Generals” was one of his; later made into a successful movie, and the Gunner Asch books too, that were hugely popular back then. I enjoyed them all.

       This book, “Heroes for Sale”, is another in the same genre and was written back then too, and I have just got round to reading it. It features a special camp, AFSIC Kampfental, located far away from the encircling fronts, with a special purpose that is kept secret.

       The staff billeted there live a privileged life, great rations, symphony orchestra to keep them entertained, and the only threat to human life comes from within their own ranks.

       H H Kirst clearly knows what he writing about. He was born in Prussia in 1914 and would have been 25 on the outbreak of World War II. He served in the German army from 1933 until the war ended in 1945, and thus the reader can be sure the details and ambience and experiences are spot on. The man lived through those appalling times from beginning to end and must have witnessed so many dreadful things.

       This particular book was filled with many characters and was a little too gossipy for my liking. Mind you, I thought that of The Night of the Generals too, lots of gentlemen lounging about endlessly debating and discussing strategy and threats whilst pouring another drink. Maybe too much talk and not enough action, you might say, but for all that “Heroes for Sale” has a lot to offer, especially to people who enjoy novels from that era and that perspective.

       And here’s a little tip to whoever owns the copyright to these books today. None of the titles, so far as I could see, are even available as ebooks. Indeed H H Kirst as a writer does not even have an Amazon page detailing his work, and that is crazy. Get some new covers made, and put some ebooks out there, and soon, for there is a whole new generation (or two!) of readers who would like to discover the man’s work. They will sell. Or if you prefer, I’ll do them for you! Just say the word. Hans Helmet Kirst died in 1989 after writing 46 books and deserves to be remembered.

     

  4. murder mystery bundle

     

    Murder Mystery novels can start in many cold and desolate places and railway lines are not an unusual location for that. Everyone knows there is danger there. One moment there is cacophonous noise and flashing faces passing like ghosts in the night, and the next, a cold eerie silence where an owl hoots as the mist comes down.

    It’s easy to trip and fall on those steel rails, to catch one’s leg in the tracks, to tumble on electrified lines, and if one is tied or chained to the tracks imagine the terror one would experience as the rain hurtled closer and closer.

    In my novel “The Murder Diaries - Seven Times Over” there is not one but two suspicious deaths on the railway lines. You can read more of that here. eReader for the summer (or the winter if you live on the other side of the planet!) and find some thrilling stories here that will suit you best.

    But I have no idea if any of the forty plus books in this latest thriller giveaway include any scenes set on railway lines, though don’t be surprised if they do.

    One thing I do know is that every one of these books is quite free to you, dear reader. How can that be? How and why would these hardworking indie writers give away their books for free?

    The answer lies in that these writers would like you to sample their work and maybe at a later date purchase another of their tales. It’s a win win situation. You get free books and free entertainment. The writer gets new potential readers.

    So fill up your kindle or computer orBut always remember this: Never visit railway lines at night for you just never know who might be lurking there, and with what intention in mind. Go home, lock the doors, settle down and read another thrilling story and live to read another day. Toodlepip!

    If you’d like to check out this huge bundle of FREE murder mystery and thriller-type books you can do that by clicking here now.   

     

      murder mystery bundle

  5.  

    This book centres around a German plot to assassinate Winston Churchill in 1940. It isn’t the first book to imagine such a scenario and it won’t be the last.

       Lovers of World War II fiction would normally gobble up such a story, and by a famous writer too, or at least the grandson of a famous writer. How annoying it must be to read comments such as: He’ll never be as good as his father, or grandfather, in this case, and unfair too, but some reviewers have said precisely that. Mind you, it didn’t seem to do Martin Amis or Evelyn Waugh any harm.

       The problem with this book is the number of errors within. Several people have pointed out the use of plastic evidence bags being used in 1940. Really? Come on! And there were several more that I won’t waste your time with here, but the one that really got me was the scenario of the ageing homosexual who was being blackmailed with compromising photographs, pictures that fall into the hands of the police, and they can’t decide whether the young man in the shot is over the age of consent.

       There was no age of consent for homosexual acts in 1940, for homosexuality was illegal, full stop, and remained so until 1967, think Alan Turing, for goodness sake. This is such an obvious nonsense, and one so surprising when the writer’s main profession is listed as that of being a criminal law barrister, so that is puzzling in the extreme.

       This is all something of a pity for within this book there is the basis for a really good novel. The writer missed a trick by not expanding on the German end of things featuring the villainous and ultimately doomed Reinhard Heydrich, who was assassinated by Czech operatives working for British intelligence in 1942.

       At the end of each chapter I yearned for the action to switch back to Germany, but it never really came until it was too little and too late, and the moment had most definitely passed.

       Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading this book, but with the errors, it made one start looking for more inaccuracies rather than just sitting back and reading and enjoying the story. The book was published in the United States. Maybe if it had been edited and produced in England things might have run a little more smoothly. More research was certainly needed and editors who knew something of the period too, and for that reason I am giving this book three stars.      

     

     

     

  6.  

    This book is set exclusively in the time of the Great War, or the First World War as it became to be known. It follows the adventures of John and Greg in 1915, best pals, Canadians, who sign up and are shipped over to southern England, before their fateful transfer to the Western Front.

    The United States is not yet in the war, that didn’t happen until April 1917, but there are a couple of Americans in there too, guys who came up from the south, presumably seeking adventure.

    Almost the entire book, and it is a short one, is taken up with their day to day life in the trenches, the cold and rain, filthy conditions, appalling food, short and irregular leave, rats for company, and all the while the possibility of being shelled, bombed, gassed, overrun, and under attack from crack snipers.

    It’s a harrowing story; hell on earth wouldn’t be far from the truth. Both of my grandfathers fought on the Western Front in the British Army and neither of them talked much of their experiences. It’s good to get a better idea of what those amazing guys went through.

    I’d liked the book to have been longer, but if you are a military buff majoring on World War I then this is a must read. 

     

    Granddad Carter

     

     

    And this is granddad Carter in all his World War I finery. Not sure what year this was taken. I'd loved to have know what he was thinking. He was a horseman through and through. The family ran a business based on heavy horses who were all commandeered and shipped to France. Carter by name, Carter by nature. The family rumour is that we are still waiting for compensation! Or maybe it was just seen as "doing our bit". 

     

  7. Mystery Bundle 1

     

    On this sunny Monday bank holiday here in England I have another fantastic bundle of murder/mystery Ebooks for you and once again they are all FREE.

    So, fill up your kindle or reading device for the summer and download the ones that appeal to you the most.

    This is a limited time offer and once they are gone I do not know when they will become available free again, if at all!

    Click on the gun graphic to access, or if you prefer CLICK HERE.

    Have a great week,

    David.

     

    Mystery Bundle 4

  8.  

    “In the Shadow of the Hun: Truly Amazing, Virtually Day by Day Wartime Diary of Merchant Seaman Leslie Perry” - Written by Leslie Perry.  Edited by Philip W. Steel. Book Review

     

    If you are interested in World War II and especially diaries written during this war, and those with a definite maritime bent, then this is a great book for you.

    It follows the wartime career of Leslie Perry who wrote this diary. He was a chief steward with a particular connection to the Castle Line, spending the majority of his time circumventing Africa, in between coming back to the UK, but also branching off to India and around the Med.

    Long and tiring rail journeys back and forth from Southampton to Liverpool struck a chord with me too. My family were half from Hampshire and half from Merseyside.

    And during the course of the war Leslie is transferred on to hospital ships with all that entails.

    There are numerous spelling mistakes in the text and the editor, Philip Steel, has sensibly resisted the temptation to put those right. The text is as it was written, and if ever anyone had an excuse for making spelling mistakes then surely being hunted by submarines around the clock, working incredibly long hours, and being bombed and strafed by the Luftwaffe would be it.

    If I had one gripe it would be that when every diary entry is made the date is there right enough but the year is left off, and I had to keep flipping back to check which year I was actually in, but never mind.

    All the male members of my family were on the ships during WWII, both RN and Merchants, and without exception they would all have recognised the stories being told here. They’d love to have read this book too, if only they were still here to do so, but if you have any maritime and WWII connections you will find a lot to interest you here.

    In the Shadow of the Hun is a very useful addition to your WWII bookshelf.

    Written by Leslie Perry.  Edited by Philip W. Steel. Book Review

    And here's my dad and his medals - I can never resist the temptation to include those too!!

    fathers medals

    Father

  9.  

    This is a bit of a strange one. About a quarter of the way through the book I suddenly realised that this was a collection of short stories. Nowhere does it say that. If I had known I wouldn’t have bought it. I don’t like short stories. I find them unsatisfying and unfulfilling. Maybe that’s why they didn’t tell us it is crammed with short stories from the outset, for they knew a lot of people would have passed.

    But then several of the characters in earlier stories reappeared, telling me that this isn’t quite a book of short stories at all, even if it comes across that way. One other thing crossed my mind as I was reading this book too. It seemed to me perfectly possible that these stories were John Grisham’s failed books. All writers have them in abundance. Books that started out okay but somehow didn’t really go anywhere, books that didn’t cut it and were subsequently abandoned.

    Even hugely successful writers like Stephen King admit they have loads of failed books that never saw the light of day. That’s what these stories felt like, almost as if someone said: why not pack them all together, John, trim them off, and you have another book here, and you just know they will still sell well?

    The odd thing is that to some extent it works. The book features a weird lawyer by the name of Sebastian Rudd who specialises in defending the indefensible, the people that no one else would touch with a bargepole, though even that I found a little hard to believe, for some lawyers seem to be attracted to the real lowlifes of this world, for all the inherent publicity they bring with them, but no matter.

    Sebastian is separated from his litigious wife; she has custody of the only child and is intent on denying him visiting rights. She’s messing with the wrong guy. Sebastian is such an oddball he is conducting his legal business out of the back of a pickup truck. The guy’s more interested in cage fighters than he is the courtroom, but alas, the law work pays the bills and he’s stuck with it, and the many unsavoury characters he hangs around with.

    About a third of he way through this book I thought of junking it, but I hate doing that for I dislike wasting my time with no result, and in the end I am glad I did. Eventually, the book hangs together, just about.

    It certainly is not one of John Grisham’s best, but it is still a decent read. Get over the short story flutters and if you enjoy Grisham books then you will probably enjoy this one too. Begrudgingly, in the end, I did too. Three and half stars from me for this one.

     

     

  10. I have a huge clearance of hardback and paperback books

    going on right now.

    This includes books in every condition from LIKE NEW to pretty grubby.

    They are perfect for listing on Amazon and Ebay or anywhere else.

    The good books have certainly not been taken out.

    They are being sorted now into many subjects.

    There are some great bargains in these lots because they

    all have to be cleared out regardless of cost.

    Full details will be in my imminent newsletter and you can

    subscribe to that by clicking here