Thursday, October 1, 2015


I won't be blogging until next week as I heard only this evening that a very dear aunt of mine, the pillar of our family, passed away. I'll be away for the weekend.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The novels of Jack Higgins

A brief post on the work of my favourite author for Friday’s Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase.

A couple of days ago, I visited my favourite book haunt in the suburb where I live and found, not to my surprise, a whole new pile of secondhand paperbacks. I bought two novels by my favourite author Jack Higgins (Harry Patterson) for Rs.25 each, less than 50 cents. I have read more than half of Higgins’ books and as some of my blog friends will concur, his earliest novels, up to The Eagle Has Landed (1975), are his best. Thereafter, the quality of his work has somewhat declined, though I still enjoy reading his mild thrillers.

I like the way Jack Higgins tells his stories — the style is clean and uncomplicated, and conversational; there is minimum description of people and places; the heroes are usually mercenaries with a heart of gold, and quite endearing; and the plots are simplistic but not unbelievable. He often makes covert operations look ridiculously easy; where the guardians of justice often get in and out of unlikely places and extreme situations without so much as a scratch. In The White House Connection, for instance, Sean Dillon, one of his most popular characters, walks into the White House as if he were entering his own home. Some of the heroes are reformed IRA hitmen and work for British Intelligence as nameless operatives.

What I like about his battle-scarred heroes is the way he romanticises them — I’d describe them as poets with a gun in their hand.

These were the two titles I added to my collection of Jack Higgins.

Sheba, 1994

The Lost Temple of Sheba is not just a biblical legend. A German archaeologist has found it. The Nazis have claimed it. And one American explorer has stumbled upon their secret — a plot that could change the course of World War II. 

The year is 1939. An American archaeologist named Gavin Kane is asked to help a woman search for her missing husband.When Kane follows the man's trail into the ruthless desert of Southern Arabia he makes two shocking discoveries. One is the legendary Temple of Sheba, an ancient world as fantastic as King Solomon's Mines. The other is a band of Nazi soldiers who plan to turn the sacred landmark into Hitler's secret stronghold…

The President’s Daughter, 1997

“Twenty years after his affair with a beautiful Frenchwoman in Vietnam, Jake Cazalet finds out he has a daughter. He must keep it a secret—but years later, when he is President of the United States, someone discovers the truth. And when his only child is kidnapped by a terrorist group, he must count on British operative Sean Dillon and FBI agent Blake Johnson to find her.”

Friday, September 18, 2015

The mystery of the forgotten women authors

Over the years I have come across dozens of women authors of crime, detective-mystery, and suspense on the internet and I confess to having read very few of them. Below are the covers of seven paperbacks written by female writers who, I assume, were (and are) noted for their craft. I didn't know about them, let alone read their books. I just happened to find them online. Looking up 20th century authors is a pastime. Have you read their books?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Noble Beginnings by L.T. Ryan, 2012

The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq escalated ever since the Soviet Union invaded the first in 1979 and America went to war with the second in 1990. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s intrusion of Kuwait, which led to Operation Desert Shield, deepened the turmoil in the two volatile regions. Since then, both countries have spiralled out of control. The proxy wars waged by terrorists against the West culminated in 9/11 and provoked America into bombing its way back into the conflict zones.

Noble Beginnings, the first thriller in the Jack Noble series by L.T. Ryan, is set in the backdrop of America's heightened involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, which was sufficient reason for me to accept the free offer of the 222-page Kindle edition and read it in three sittings. I have a keen interest in war and espionage, both real and fictional.

Although the premise looked promising, I was disappointed with the story. It wasn't gripping, as the cover and the description hinted, and it wasn't very well-written, as I thought it would be. It was too long and meandering, and there were mistakes in the narrative. I got the impression that it wasn't read through and edited thoroughly.

Might the plot be the saving grace? Not really. I felt the writer lost the plot as soon as he returned the two marines, Jack Noble and his friend Bear, back to the US.

Noble and Bear are on loan to the CIA in Iraq where their expertise as highly trained US marines is wasted. They are made to stand guard when special agents conduct secret operations. After one special op, Noble and Bear are framed for the murder of an Iraqi family they tried to save.

Back in America, the fearless marines are constantly on the run from mysterious agents who want to silence them. In their defence Nobel and Bear are forced to kill some of their pursuers. The two friends 
realise they are victims of a conspiracy when the colonel, whom they trained under and trust, and a highly-placed government official end up dead. 

Who in the US government is after them? Who is imprisoning and killing fellow marines who took part in the ‘programme’ in Iraq? Does someone want to shut down the ‘programme’ because it has been compromised or is somebody high up in the government trying to hide something more sinister?

Jack Noble is desperate for some answers. Does he find them in A Deadly Distance, the second book, or others in the series? I'm not too eager to find out.

The plot of Noble Beginnings would have been convincing, had it been more realistic, in light of what happened in Iraq—Abu Ghraib, for instance, where US soldiers and CIA agents are believed to have tortured Iraqi prisoners. It was also a poor effort at introducing Noble whose character, I thought, lacked conviction.

This is the second thriller I read in recent weeks where the lead characters are either on the run or giving chase for far too long, without seeming to get anywhere.

L.T. Ryan is a writer of suspense thrillers and post-apocalyptic fiction.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

All quiet on the reading front

The last three months have been quiet. I could almost hear pins drop as I struggled with my reading, writing, and blogging. The transition from my old job as editor to my new job as content writer has been easy but somehow I haven’t been able to get back to my pre-May routine with books and blogs.

I think, somewhere in my head there is a mental block that’s feeding the reader’s and writer’s block as well. The thing is men don’t adapt to change as well as women do and it’s possible I still haven’t, at least subconsciously, though I'm quite happy with my new work profile and environment. I just don’t get enough time to read or write during the week.

I have been reading some books, no more than two or three a month and a couple of short stories. I’ll be reviewing a few of these eventually. I read 10-15 pages a day, sometimes less. My fiction writing is a work in progress. I hope to have something ready, and likely e-published, before Christmas.

I have also been watching some good films, including reruns, over the past couple of months — Chef, Patch Adams, The Shawshank Redemption, Last Vegas, The Bucket List, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Sound of Music, Frozen, Dallas Buyers Club, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Gone Girl, Notting Hill, Sweet November, and Argo, to recall names off the top of my head. I mostly watch films the family is already watching.

One of the English channels is beaming The Flash series. I saw a couple of episodes and I thought the production was slick. I haven’t read Flash comics in several years. Comics, now there’s another joy I have been missing. This month, we intend to catch the final season of Downton Abbey to see what fate awaits the Grantham family. 
We were hooked to the previous five seasons.

I continue to post my two bits on Facebook. It has helped me connect with long-lost family and friends in my own city, in my own country. Of course, it’s one of the great illusions of Fb—you think you are getting in touch with someone, somewhere, when in effect you’re getting nowhere. It’s fun and an ego-kick depending on what you are posting.

Sometimes, I think it’s wise to slow down, step back, and start all over again—a few pages to go, one book at a time, and occasional posts. I'm hoping things will get better this month onward. I miss connecting with my blog friends.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Master Executioner by Loren D. Estleman, 2001

There are many reasons why we return to an author we have read before. What compels me to read the same writer again is the writing itself. For this reason I read Anthony Trollope’s Autobiography twice. Even now I flip through the book and marvel at the lucidity of prose. George Bernard Shaw’s writing had a similar heady effect on me.

Several modern writers do that as well. Loren D. Estleman, author of detective and western fiction, is one. I was impressed by his narrative flair in Gun Man (1985) and Bloody Season (1987). It was simple and yet stylistic.

I have been meaning to read more by Estleman and an opportunity presented itself this evening, when I came across The Master Executioner on a book website. I read the synopsis and liked it instantly. He has written about a part of the Old West I'm not familiar with—hangman and hanging—a form of capital punishment that still prevails in countries like India.

Here is what the American Library Association had to say about the book:

“Oscar Stone accepts a temporary position building a gallows in Topeka, Kansas, where he meets Fabian Timothy Rudd, a hangman of some repute. Rudd is impressed with Stone's carpentry skills and pride in his work and so takes on the role of mentor as Stone becomes a kind of apprentice hangman. But no one loves a hangman, including his wife, who can't live with her young husband's career choice. Stone travels through the West with Rudd from execution to execution, drinking to dull the isolation and refining his skills. Miscalculations can lead to strangulation or worse: a beheading. Decades pass, and Stone has a final meeting with the wife who left him and learns a terrible truth. Estleman has created an unforgettable character in Stone. Swept up by circumstance and an unwanted gift for dispensing death, he's unable to break away from his life's fated path despite the loss of all he holds close. A dark, compelling journey into a previously unexplored facet of the Old West.”

I downloaded the 272-page Kindle edition for Rs.64 ($0.91) and plan to read it next month. It has a nice biographical sketch of the author and this opening line—“It occurred to Anders Nilsen that if it weren't for having to wait at the train station he would be quite contented to remain both a deputy sheriff and a Methodist.”

On the face of it, the opening sounds innocuous but it was enough to make me curious. I want to read further and see where Estleman is taking me. I'm sure he won’t disappoint.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Writing for public relations

“Writing good English must be one of the most difficult jobs in the world,” says the foreword to Effective Writing Skills for Public Relations by John Foster, a journalist and public relations veteran. This is one of two books on public relations I'm reading. The other is Public Relations Writing: Form & Style by Doug Newsom and Jim Haynes. Both are university professors with experience in PR industry.

This is outside my comfort zone though I'm not unfamiliar with reference and how-to books. I'm reading these books as a self-motivating exercise, to learn how to write clearly, cleverly, and effectively for clients of the public relations firm I now work for.

Three decades of serious news writing is no qualification for a wannabe PR writer. It’s a new ballgame and I'm a rookie who has just stepped on the field to play my first game. I'm going 
to have plenty of misses before I hit anything. While journalistic writing can teach you to write good English, it doesn’t necessarily prepare you to write good public relations copy. It merely puts you on the other side of the Media-PR fence, where I find myself today.

In spite of my initial apprehension and writer’s block, I'm keen to acquire new writing skills that will eventually help me in my other writing cause. I'm hoping my experience in both styles of writing and editing will push me along the way.

Writing is not just difficult, it can be a real struggle. Sometimes the thoughts, words, and lines are all there in my head, but they refuse to come out and leave their narrative impressions on paper, denying me the chance to tell my story. It’s frustrating when you lose the plot. Fortunately, writing gives you plenty of opportunity and room to improve. It is this exciting and word-splitting challenge that makes you want to keep writing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chef, 2014

A review of a not so entertaining foodie movie for Tuesday’s Overlooked Films, Audio and Video over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

Film promos can be deceptive. What you see on the menu is not what you're always served. For more than two weeks, a movie channel tantalised viewers with the aroma of Chef (2014) before plating it up and laying it in front of us Sunday night. 

Day after day we watched star chef Jon Favreau spit out the words, “You sit and you eat and you vomit those words back! It hurts!” We knew they were aimed at someone, probably an unhappy diner who’d tasted his food and actually spit it out. Was it Scarlett Johansson or Robert Downey Jr.?

Finally, when we sat down to watch the film at dinner time, last weekend, it turned out to be food critic Oliver Platt who’d panned Jon’s food on his popular blog and hurt his gastronomical pride.

Less than an hour into the film, we'd a mild case of indigestion as the foodie movie failed to home deliver what its much-hyped trailer had promised. Writer-director Jon Favreau took us through the gastric motions, and his own emotions, as he desperately tried to get his cooking mojo and his divorced life out of the freezer and back on the burner. An unpalatable war of words with Platt on social media and a falling out with his boss Dustin Hoffman saw Jon unexpectedly in a rolling food truck, with his young son, Emjay Anthony, and best friend, John Leguizamo—cooking food on his own terms, reconnecting with his family, and regaining his precious chef’s reputation.

Sorry, but no tips.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Blackskull’s Captive by Tom Doolan, 2012

The first time I read about orcs, the hideous and beastly human-like creatures, was in Harvest of War by blog friend Charles Gramlich. I reviewed his fantasy short story last month. Some days later he mentioned that writer Tom Doolan of Wisconsin, USA, was offering his story about orcs free on Amazon. I did not need a second invitation. I downloaded Blackskull’s Captive immediately, read it in one sitting, and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

© Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Having never read about orcs in J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus, I was delighted to have read two very fine orc tales back to back. The stories widened my horizon. I was also pleasantly surprised to read that Tom had dedicated his story to Charles Gramlich, author of fantasy, horror, and sf, and Scott Oden, writer of historical novels.

Young Jack Monro is the sole human survivor of a brutal assault by bloodthirsty orcs who destroy his spaceship, HMS Mandrake, and take him captive aboard their own, the Grishnaak. Jack doesn’t go down without a fight and even kills an orc to prove he is made of sterner stuff. Blackskull, the captain of the enemy ship, a particularly huge and brutish orc, takes a fancy to Jack and makes him his cabin boy.

Jack is frightened beyond imagination, as he spends the first few days locked up in the orc captain’s closet. But he is also a brave and spirited lad who overcomes his fear of the repulsive humanoids and plots his escape from the foul-smelling orc ship.

The 32-page story is narrated in first person by Jack, who soon wins the trust of the captain and is allowed to move freely on the ship. The orc crew leave him alone though many eye him with “suspicion and amusement.” 
As Captain Blackskull and his orc crew stalk the space lanes and ambush and plunder more human ships, Jack quietly explores the bowels of the Grishnaak from whence he must escape.

Blackskull’s Captive is a combination of fantasy and science fiction, and an adventure of high order. It has several twists and turns, and there is not a dull moment in the clean narrative. I liked the writer’s description of the orcs and their predatory nature, the terrifying battle between the horrid creatures and courageous humans, and the inventive mechanism of the Grishnaak. But what I liked most about the story is the skilful manner in which Tom Doolan lightens up the air despite throwing Jack Monro into a very frightening and mind-numbing situation. A fine blend of fear and fun.

I will be reading more orc stories by Tom Doolan. Recommended.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Run Girl by Eva Hudson, 2014

Run Girl by British writer Eva Hudson is the first of five novels in the Ingrid Skyberg FBI thriller series. I downloaded it from Amazon partly because I liked the plot and partly because it was free. As a rule I don’t purchase ebooks by new writers, at least not right away. But now that I have read the first adventure of special agent Skyberg, I'm curious to read the other four and see how her character develops and what she gets up to.

© Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Although Run Girl has been marked as a “thriller,” I thought it read more like young adult fiction and Ingrid Skyberg could have been Nancy Drew, only stronger and more sophisticated.

The young and attractive special agent is in London, for a dreary FBI training programme at Scotland Yard, when she is whisked away to the American embassy in a black sedan. Ingrid soon learns why. She must find an 18-year old missing girl before news of her disappearance leaks out and all hell breaks loose.

Rachel Whiiticker was accompanying her grandmother, US Secretary of State Jayne Whitticker, on a diplomatic trip to Paris when she decided to give her bodyguard the slip and run off to London, to meet secretly with her boyfriend and have a little adventure of her own.

The mandarins at the American embassy want to keep the crisis under wraps lest the political and diplomatic fallout of Rachel’s disappearance jeopardises a peace deal being brokered by her grandmother between warring African countries. 

There’s just one problem: the Secretary of State doesn’t know her favourite grandchild is missing.

Run Girl is a well-written story though it meanders through a series of false leads and hot pursuits as Ingrid Skyberg and Nicholas Angelis, a private security agent hired by the US embassy, race against time to track down Rachel and bring her back. The narrative is fast paced but it lacks the suspense and solidity that I expect in an FBI thriller. Still, I enjoyed the story. I thought it was inventive.


You can check out the book at Amazon and learn more about Eva Hudson and her books at her website.

Friday, July 3, 2015


I have not been frequent on blogs, my own as well as visits to yours, because of the transition from my old job to a new one which, incidentally, happens to be in the same group I have been associated with for the past fifteen years. Only my line of work has changed, from that of a full-time journalist to a content specialist in one of Asia’s leading public relations agencies. I started out on July 2 and I'm looking forward to my new career in this challenging and exciting field.

© Faber & Faber
I hope to make up for my absence from blogging this weekend, by visiting my friends’ blogs rather than posting anything on my own. That may take a while. However, I owe my friend Sarah Ward an honest apology. I still have to review her brilliant debut, In Bitter Chill, that she so kindly sent me by post a month ago. I'm halfway through Sarah’s gripping mystery novel and I'm excited about reviewing it next week.

My new job falls midway between my home in a northern suburb and my old job in South Mumbai, or downtown, which means I will have less time to read during my train commute. I'm going to have to make up for it by reading whenever time permits, and time doesn’t permit a lot. You know, we readers have as little time to read our books as sleuths have to solve their cases.

Among other things, it’s nearly three months since I bought a paper book, and I don’t intend to buy any till I have read at least two dozen paperbacks from my existing lot. This is a promise and I aim to keep it. The only exception would be Sudden novels, the western series by British writer Oliver Strange that I'm so fond of. Nothing, absolutely nothing on earth, can prevent me from grabbing his priceless books. To hell with TBR and all that.

That’s all for now.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2014 films: Noah, Maleficent, and The Legend of Hercules

Made in 2014 and probably overlooked in 2015—here are three entries for Tuesday’s Overlooked Films, Audio and Video at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

I spent last weekend watching the concluding parts of three mythological and adventure films on cable and decided I'd wasted my time, as it so happens when you’re too lazy to do anything else and sit down and watch all sorts of films on television.

The first of these was Noah directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan). Russell Crowe plays Noah and lives with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), their three boys, and an adopted girl (Emma Watson). As the eponymous title suggests, Noah is chosen by the creator to build an ark for his family and the animal kingdom before god unleashes a terrifying flood and wipes out all civilisation on earth. The film is mildly entertaining. But it has a lot of special effects, like the Watchers, fallen angels who have assumed the form of the many-armed giant stone creatures who protect Noah and his ark from humans led by a villainous king. 

Russell Crowe's Noah is an intense and a more serious version of Steve Carell's Evan Almighty (2007). Both build an ark and that's pretty much it. However, I will say this much—Crowe can pull off any role.

I think Angelina Jolie is one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood and I found her no more inspiring in Maleficent than I did in her other films. Robert Stromberg directs this adventure film that is little more than a twist in the tale of Sleeping Beauty. The last half-hour I saw was unexciting, though I like the way the word ‘maleficent’ rolls off the tongue.

The Legend of Hercules, made by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger), retells the origins of Hercules (Kellan Lutz), the mythical Greek warrior. The half god-half man is forced into exile and slavery by King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), his stepfather, and Prince Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), his stepbrother. In scenes reminiscent of Gladiator (2000), Hercules must fight his way through the arena before he can avenge his mother’s death and regain his kingdom from the evil king. In his quest Hercules receives divine help from his father, Zeus, the supreme Greek god. I didn’t find Kellan Lutz (Twilight series) very convincing as Hercules but the film has plenty of sword-and-spear action.

Have you seen any of these films? If yes, what did you think of them?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Concrete Angel: Guest Post by Patricia Abbott

© Polis Books
Today, I'm delighted to welcome Patricia Abbott to the 3Cs where she voices her thoughts on her debut novel Concrete Angel [Polis Books, June 2015]. Patti, as she is affectionately known, is no stranger to the world of fiction. She has written more than a hundred short stories online and in various print journals and anthologies. Her story ‘My Hero’ won the Derringer award. She has authored two ebooks, Monkey Justice and Home Invasion, and co-edited Discount Noir. Patti, who lives in Michigan, USA, is also a seasoned blogger and spearheads the Forgotten Books meme every Friday on her popular blog Pattinase.

When I requested Patti if she’d write a guest post on Concrete Angel, as part of her blog tour, she agreed readily, and also answered the two questions I asked her—“What did you feel when you held Concrete Angel in your hands for the first time? After your debut novel do you see fiction writing in a new light?” I found her response forthright and refreshing.

Without further ado, I hand over this space to Patti Abbott. I'm happy to say that hers is the first guest post on this blog. Thank you, Patti.

The other side of the coin

© Patricia Abbott

I know the expectation is that someone who has been writing stories for as long as I have would feel tremendous elation on seeing that box of copies of books on my front porch one day. Unmitigated joy. And part of me did feel that. Part of me jumped for joy that at long last I would not be seen as someone striving for a seemingly unattainable goal. That all my work had finally seen fruition.

But another part of me saw that box of books an harbinger of possible failure. As a long time sufferer from dysthymia, it is far more likely I will see the cloud and not the silver lining in any situation. Here are the thoughts that chased that immediate elation away: what if I let down my publisher and fail to sell any copies, what if no one likes the book, how can I ask people to write reviews for it, to post on Amazon and good reads, what if this book proves an embarrassment to my family. How often will my hand have to be out for favors and such?

Now I am sure all authors feel this to some degree but they are more able than I am to push those negative thoughts away. I have never learned to do this. Yes, I can feel pure joy for the success of my family and friends because I have no responsibility there except to help them. But in the case of my own novel, it feels like a responsibility I may not be ready for. I am so grateful that I have been given this chance but so worried that I will disappoint everyone involved with it.

Do I see fiction writing in a new light?

As I look at the pages of my second manuscript, I feel more hopeful than in the past that it might be published. And I am beginning to explore ideas for what might possibly be a third novel. I miss writing short stories though but at the moment, those ideas—ones that came to me almost weekly for most of my life—have disappeared. I miss that.

© Patricia Abbott

Back of the book

Evil doesn’t always live next door. Sometimes it lives right in your own home.

Eve Moran has always wanted “things,” her powers of seduction impossible to resist for those who come in contact with her toxic allure. And over the course of her life, she has proven both inventive and tenacious in getting and keeping whatever such things catch her eye, whether they are jewelry, money, or men. Eve lies, steals, cheats, swindles, and is even willing to take a life, paying little heed to the cost of her actions on those who love her and depend on her. Her daughter, Christine, compelled by love, dependency, and circumstance, is caught up in her mother’s deceptions, unwilling to accept the viciousness that runs in her family’s blood. It’s only when Christine’s three-year old brother, Ryan, begins to prove useful to her mother, and Christine sees a horrific pattern repeating itself, that she finds the courage and means to bring an end to Eve’s tyranny.

An atmospheric, eagerly awaited debut novel, Concrete Angel centers around a family torn apart by a mother straight out of “Mommie Dearest”, and her resilient young daughter who discovers that survival can mean fighting the closest evil imaginable.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Harvest of War by Charles Gramlich, 2012

"Across a snowfield that lies red with dawn, the Orc charge comes. And is met." — opening line

© Razored Zen Press
I'm not very familiar with fantasy fiction or science fiction and it takes me some time to understand stories in the two intricate styles. I often find the plot and the narrative complex. Still, I enjoy reading fantasy and sf stories a lot and I read them regardless of my incomprehension.

But every so often comes along a story that makes reading fantasy or sf a satisfying and delightful experience. Such as Harvest of War, a fantasy short story by noted author Charles Gramlich.

In this story Charles blends rich prose and poetry to narrate a riveting tale of creatures and beasts who clash in the land of startling imagination that is both fascinating and terrifying.

It begins with a gory war between the vicious Orcs and their Human foes, a fight to the death where only one race may survive, or maybe none.

But there is a victor. The Human cavalry led by their leader, Lord Aaron, manages to slay the Orc army. Except for one of their kind who is taken captive and caged and treated so horribly, that his fate in the human settlement is probably worse than in hell.

"Victory rewards the most brutal."

In spite of being grievously wounded and tormented by his oppressors, Khales, the captured Orc, knows no pain or fear. He is a proud warrior of his humanoid race.

As time passes and the Orc begins to accept his barbaric fate, he receives compassion from an unexpected quarter—a small human girl with "red hair and grayish-blue eyes." She is Ehma, daughter of Lord Aaron, who rises above her father's blood-thirsty and vengeful tribe to befriend one of their worst enemies and treat him with kindness. She helps the Orc escape but not before arousing something inside him.

There is hope and redemption in each bloody war, every brutal conflict. The Orc gets a chance to redeem himself, and his own villainous race, when in the absence of the human soldiers, he returns to defend his little friend and her colony against the mighty underground beasts called Reapers, foe to both the Orcs and the Humans.

I may sound clichéd when I say this but, Charles Gramlich, author of several fantasy, horror, and sf novels and short stories, has written a cracker of a fantasy story. It is lucid in style and relentless in pace and action. I liked it very much, partly because I understood the story. I only wish the poetic-prose narrative of Harvest of War was longer than the twenty-odd pages of my Kindle edition. I thank Charles for a free copy of the short story available for $0.99 at Amazon.

Highly recommended.

Notes:  Previously, I reviewed Charles' Killing Trail and also interviewed him. You can learn more about the author and his work on his blog Razored Zen and his Amazon page.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Proof of Life, 2000

Todd Mason has the links for Tuesday’s Overlooked Films, Audio and Video over at his blog Sweet Freedom.

Proof of Life, directed by Taylor Hackford (Against All Odds, Devil's Advocate, and An Officer and a Gentleman), is an archetypal thriller with a time-tested formula that can be assumed to be a safe bet for a filmmaker—a man is kidnapped and held ransom and his frantic wife turns to a former special ops soldier to bring him back. Predictably, sparks fly between the wife and her husband’s rescuer.

I might not have liked this film much if the cast had been any one of less repute than David Morse, the victim, Meg Ryan, his wife, and Russell Crowe, the saviour. The three seasoned actors put in a fine performance—Morse as the tortured prey, and Ryan and Crowe who are wracked by a mixture of emotion and guilt.

When US oil company engineer Peter Bowman (Morse) is kidnapped by Leftist guerillas in South America and held ransom, his wife Alice (Ryan), already unsettled by a miscarriage and the transition to an unknown and hostile place, struggles to deal with the crisis. She has little faith in the local negotiator who is eyeing a share of the ransom pie. In desperation, she turns to Terry Thorne (Crowe), a professional mediator appointed by the oil company, to look for her husband. Reluctant at first, Thorne agrees to negotiate with the kidnappers and soon finds himself attracted to Alice, who, in spite of her professed love for her husband, feels likewise. But there is not much they can do about it.

The chemistry between Crowe and Ryan is handled very well; their mutual attraction never crossing ethical limits even as the pain of separation is written on their faces. I like David Morse who I think is a terrific supporting actor, and versatile too, as evident from his roles in The Rock (1996), The Green Mile (1999), and The Hurt Locker (2008), at least among such films that I have seen.

Recommended, if you like action films or the actors.