I’m pleased to announce that all three novels, “November Rust,” “Nadería,” and “Be Still and Know That I Am” are now available as Kindle editions. Also available as Kindle editions are my two short story eBooks, “The Algerian in Room No. 4” and “Sahara.” Just follow the links above for more information.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
As some of you have read here over the past couple of months, I’ve been exploring the work of Stephen King, a writer who I had basically avoided reading for many years. While I enjoyed some of those I have read over the past year or so, I can’t say that I was all that thrilled with this collection of short stories. Like with any collection of stories, it can sometimes be a case of hit and miss - some stories being really good, others not so good, and others that just won’t do anything for you. While I won’t say that all the stories in this book missed with me, a good number of them did. I’m sure the reason for this is the fact that a good number of these stories are what would be considered “horror” stories, a genre that I am not all that thrilled with to begin with. But King as surprised me in the past, his “horror stories” being more psychological than anything else. The stories in this collection lie somewhere between “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” and “The Twilight Zone,” which isn’t a bad thing of course (I’ve always been a fan of both, especially “The Twilight Zone.”) But I didn’t find any of these stories on par with them although it is clear to me where the influences behind most (but not all) of these stories lie.
However, there were a couple of stories that I did enjoy very much: “The End of The Whole Mess” with its post-apocalyptic overtones and original way of telling the story about how a man who desired peace on Earth wound up doing more harm than good; “Dedication,” which is a brilliant story about two older women reminiscing over the life of a famous writer, who’s character was "flawed" to say the least - apparently inspired by a true life event when King met a "very famous author" who turned out to be a real prick (he doesn't say who); “It Grows On You,” - a simple, “New England” tale with all the pleasures and especially the ‘warts’ that come with living in a small town; “Dolan’s Cadillac,” with its “noir” sensibility, a story of revenge was enjoyable, although I found the plot a little far fetched, but it reminded me of those old noir type stories one would have read in the early pulp magazines like Black Mask.
I admit that my bias for King’s work leans more towards his non-horror stories and it’s a great misconception that horror is all King writes about. Add to this that he’s got a great gift for storytelling in general. For those who love horror and fantasy, you can’t go wrong here, but most of them just didn’t do it for me this time around.
Rating * * *
Friday, September 23, 2011
This interview, written and conducted by Garry Crystal, grew out of the previous interview regarding my latest novel, “Be Still and Know That I Am.” It concerns self-publishing, independent publishing, the advent of the eBook, and the raging debate that still surrounds writers taking this approach to getting their work out there. Again, I want to take the time to thank Garry for his time and efforts. I enjoyed very much taking part in this.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
A writer of children’s books, Gianni Orzan has his life under complete control. He has just received an award of 15 million lire for his latest book, he is married to a beautiful woman and is father to an eight year old son. While heading home from the award ceremony, he decides to take a ride home in an unlicensed taxi and suddenly his life turns upside down. The taxi driver, armed with a pistol, turns out to not to be a mere stranger but someone who had known his father, who had recently died, and begins to tell him about his father’s secret life as a spy for the KGB.
This is the second novel I have read by Veronesi, the first being the more recent “Quiet Chaos.” This novel isn’t as good as the latter but it is one hell of a novel nonetheless as you follow the narrator’s life as it slowly begins to unravel, forcing him to reexamine his life and just about everything he had ever known. His storytelling ability is top notch, making you want to know what’s going to happen from one page to the next. There is a semi-noir feel to this story, which seems to be a common element among a lot of contemporary Italian fiction these days. Fast paced and insightful on many different levels, I recommend this to anyone who is a fan of modern Italian literature.
Rating: * * * *
Monday, September 19, 2011
I first became acquainted with Garry Crystal’s writing through his articles and essays and over the years quickly considered myself a fan as I eagerly awaited the next installment. They were always insightful, well written and more times than not, made you think about whatever subject he was writing about - politics, social and life issues, current events, among many other subjects. This is why I was thrilled with the release of his first collection of fiction, the eBook “The Last Busker in London and Other London Tales.” The four short stories contained within have all the hallmarks of Crystal’s writing: crisp, clear language and a dash of humor and wit that often takes a bit of the edge off of what are sometimes harrowing tales of life on the streets of London - a life many visitors to that fair city rarely see.
My favorite of the four stories is the title story, “The Last Busker in London” - a Christmas tale of sorts, but one that takes the usual trappings of such stories and turns them on its head. A beautifully written story about being alone and far away from home during the holiday season and what seemingly seems to be an act of Christmas cheer suddenly reveals itself to be anything but. Crystal beautifully captures the mood of the season and the sense of being alone as he brings you along on this journey over the course of this cold, drunken and quite unexpected evening.
The other three tales, “Sunrise in The City,” - a man wakes up hungover in the back of a car only to discover his friend had stolen it; “The Terrorist on the Tube,” a story that comments on the rising paranoia since the start of the ‘War on Terror’ as well as about making snap judgments about people; and “How To Be Depressed in London,” which discusses the various ways to make your life difficult in a city that is not your own - various roommates, drinking, drugs, prostitutes - all done with a well honed dose of dry wit.
This collection is a great introduction to Garry Crystal’s fiction and I am one who hopes to see a lot more in the future. You can’t go wrong with this collection of original, well written stories. Available as ePub as well as Kindle releases. Highly recommended.
Rating: * * * * *
Friday, September 16, 2011
Once again I am profoundly grateful to Garry Crystal for the wonderful review/interview he has written for my new novel “Be Still and Know That I Am.” Thanks again, Garry. It is immensely appreciated as always.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Okay, so I finally stepped into the 21st Century. All three of my novels, “November Rust”, “Nadería” and my latest “Be Still and Know That I Am” are now available in eBook format. All three have been available as PDF downloads but these are in the ePub format. This is for those who have made the transition from hardcopies to eBooks and I figure its a good way to make these books more available to the reading public. They’re also much cheaper than the paperback versions, of course.
The first of my single story eBook only releases, “The Algerian in Room No. 4” is also available. This is the first in a series of short stories and novellas I plan on releasing in the coming months.
Just follow the links.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
From Greece. A wonderfully written novel about life at sea, the importance of true love and the learning of valuable lessons late in life. There are plenty allusions to Greek myth here and the language is so rich and poetic that it takes some time to really get into it. Not an “easy” read by any means. Although the book is written well, the language nothing short of superb, I found it a little difficult to actually get into the story itself. For me, it seemed as if style trumped story here. Not that it’s a bad story but this is more for those who love literary novels with rich, poetic language which have you savoring the words and deftly written sentences. Personally, I wish the focus was more on the story itself. With that said, I plan on exploring this author further. Already immensely popular in Greece, she is definitely one to look out for here in the English speaking world. Recommended.
Rating: * * * *
Friday, September 9, 2011
I suppose it was only a matter of time before I explored the idea of eBooks. I’ve been reluctant because I love the idea of a physical book, one that you can hold in your hand, mark up, etc. But the future is upon us, I suppose, and there are a growing number of readers who utilize the Kindle, the Nook and whatever other e-reading device in order to get their reading fix in. With that said, in the near future, I will be making my 3 novels available as e-books. (The “Download” versions that are currently available are in PDF format - and not all readers are able to read PDF files.) Now that I’ve been educating myself on the eBook, I think it’s time to incorporate them into what I am doing, since there are a whole bunch of readers out there who would potentially buy the eBook version rather than the hardcopy. Key word: Potentially.
While I was looking into this, a thought occurred to me. Back when I was operating a small poetry press, I, among many other small press publishers, would sometimes issue what is called a “broadside” - and in the small/micro press world, it usually consisted of a single Xeroxed sheet of paper with graphics and a handful of poetry. Alpha Beat Press were renowned for these, having issued literally hundreds of them over the years. They were cool things, I thought, and had a number of them for my own poetry via some very small presses over the years. All gone now, of course - but I remember liking the idea of “sampling” a particular poet you may not have heard of for either free, very cheap or sometimes just the price of a self-addressed stamped envelope. It was a great way to get a poet’s work around the network at the time. I had published a number of them myself for many poets over the years and usually people would be very interested in them. It was a cheap, economical way of getting a poet’s work out there and they were fairly popular at the time.
So - the idea occurred to me a couple of days ago that with the advent of the eBook, that same potential was there (again, key word: potential) for short stories. I got the idea of putting out some of the short stories I have been writing as single-story eBooks. While looking around the internet, I noticed that many people are doing this and in some cases, people claim they are willing to buy a single story eBook over a collection of stories. So, I thought I’d finally toss my hat in the ring and begin issuing short stories as eBook only releases - and make them available for dirt cheap - $1.00.
So I’m happy to say that I began this little experiment with my first in the series, a short story called, “The Algerian in Room No. 4.” It is now available at Lulu.com. Anyone interested in having a look just click the link on the title. It may soon be available at the i-Bookstore and Barnes & Noble as well but for now, Lulu is the place to get it if one is so inclined. I’m thinking of releasing a new story about once a month - that is, until I run out of the ones I have already written. Some of them have been posted on various on-line zines but most have never seen the light of day. The whole idea reminds me of those old broadsides, a cheap, economical way to get your work out there with the potential of perhaps selling a few in the process.
So I’d like to introduce my first single story eBook: “The Algerian in Room No. 4.” If any of you wind up buying it and reading it, drop me a line. I’d love to get your opinion on it.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
I’ve read quite a few novels about Argentina’s “Dirty War” of the 1970s and this one was definitely one of the most enjoyable. Packed with myth, metaphor, and symbolism, the difference between this novel and all the others I have read on the same subject is that this one is from the point of view of a child - a ten year old child - who is growing up during the height of the horror.
Told from two simultaneous points of view - that of the ten year old child and as an adult looking back - the narrator is whisked away from his normal life due to his parents political activities and brought to a safe house in the outskirts of Argentina to live a life under assumed identities. The political activities of the parents are never fully explained or expounded upon but you know it is there - all seen through the eyes of a child and his struggle to understand the changing world around him. He is vaguely aware of what’s going on but his world is filled with comic books, games of Risk, television shows and a book of one of his heroes, escape artist Harry Houdini (which also serves as a metaphor throughout the novel.)
The one thing I took away from this story - other than its political implications - is that children’s experiences are basically the same, despite the geographical distances - especially since the age of the narrator in the story would have been the same age I was in 1976 when the majority of the story takes place. This is a very intense story in a lot of ways but its written in such a way that you are taken into the child’s world, traveling along beside him with all the innocence and wonder as well as the sense of fear and escape.
Rating: * * * * 1/2
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
My new novel “Be Still and Know That I Am” is now available. I had a lot of fun writing this one mainly because it brings the setting back home. Whereas the first two novels (“November Rust" and “Nadería”) were set in Europe, this one is set in Queens, New York in late 1982, quite literally on the very streets I grew up on. It is not autobiographical, however it is pretty close (with some fictional smudges here and there) to how it actually was in the neighborhood I grew up in at the time. Writing it brought me back to that time and place---and sometimes not without a good laugh.
It is the story of a teenage boy, steeped in Punk Rock culture, struggling to find his place in the world amidst growing up in a place where difference isn’t something tolerated much by the majority of his peers. It is also a story about those left behind in the wake of Reagan’s “Morning in America”. It is the 1980s before it became “The 80s”. You won’t find any of the 80s nostalgia here (“Breakfast Club”, Culture Club, Madonna, “Miami Vice”, etc) since none of that had happened yet. It is set in a time between the end of the Carter-era and the very beginning of the Reagan-era, where many people who wanted to believe in the American Dream were having a hard time dealing with that dream not materializing in the way they had hoped. The economy was in shambles, unemployment was rampant and the starry-eyed optimism of the new president had not yet “trickled down” to a great many Americans. This is the climate in which our protagonist is coming of age.
Like “Nadería”, this is a multi-protagonist story, following a cast of characters through these tumultuous times when everything seemed uncertain at best. In this novel you’ll find angst ridden Punk Rockers and other alienated youth, Van Halen T-shirt wearing Camaro driving bullies and their brain dead foot soldiers, Lower East Side squatters, Alphabet City junkies, Hardcore bands and the infamous A7 club, Reagan’s promise of a “Morning in America” and those left behind who still wanted to believe it, a jaded and troubled priest, working class angst, High School Confidential, perverted and psychotic teachers and administrators---all the fun stuff. Ah, to be young again...
At it’s core this is a story about family---particularly the Italian-American family---and there is a touch (but only a very slight touch) of the history of Italian-American radicalism lurking just under the surface. I had written this novel with S.E. Hinton in mind (had she only been born in a different time and raised in a completely different environment) and this was a conscious nod to those wonderful books I read when I was a young teen just beginning to question the nature of just about everything.