Book Reviews

A Paean to Pinot

Above, I’ve pasted a picture from Willamette Valley Vineyards, about three miles from my home. It’s still winter among the vines, and they aren’t yet ready to awaken from their sleep. While they doze, the vineyard crew is busy with last fall’s harvest. Juice is fermenting, turning sugars to alcohol. French oak barrels will be home to the elixir for nine to twelve months before it is bottled, and it will rest in the bottles before it is ready to tempt the palate. As Galileo famously said, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”

Eric Asimov, Chief Wine Critic of The New York Times, says in his Foreword to the book, Passion for Pinot: A Journey Through America’s Wine Country, “If any grape would be at home in the pose of the femme fatale—smoke curling from its lips, long, irresistible legs crossed as another winemaker is sent to his doom—it would be Pinot Noir.”

Why? Because the grape can be such a difficult temptress. Widely regarded as the “Queen of Grapes,” Pinot Noir is a challenging monarch. Thin-skinned, susceptible to any number of fungi, subject to mutation, dependent on slight variations in soil, she is as frustrating as she is rewarding. When all the variables come together under the supervision of a master vintner or winemaker, the resulting wine is a cause for jubilation, a miracle fulfilling Galileo’s maxim.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Pinot, but Passion for Pinot is a wonderful place to start a lifelong devotion to the Queen! The text by Jordan Mackay illuminates the history of the grape from root stock and vine, through harvesting and fermentation, all the way to its metamorphosis into the garnet-colored jewel we love so well. The photography by Andrea Johnson and Robert Holmes captures vineyards and wineries in every season of the year. Turning the pages, the reader can almost taste the wine—blackberry and cherry flavors, notes of cinnamon and cloves, perhaps some floral and mineral subtleties.

If you’re enthralled by the Queen, or merely a fan, add this book to your collection. (And in 2024, look for my next novel, All the Bodies Do: A Willamette Valley Mystery.)

The Book Commentary: Review of Gallery of Gangsters

I couldn’t resist! I just received a terrific review from The Book Commentary, and I had to share it with you!

Gallery of Gangsters: A Driftwood Mystery

Author: William J. Cook

  • ISBN-13: 9798841126331
  • ASIN: B0B83Y1NHS

The concluding entry in The Driftwood Mysteries, Gallery of Gangsters by William J. Cook presents a final confrontation between two rock-solid, driven characters, each determined to outwit and put out the other. Michelle’s life is in tatters. A mysterious blackmailer is unwavering in an effort to destroy her life and she must get as far as she can to give herself a new start. Meanwhile, in Portland, the rivalry between a Russian gangster known as Volkov and Whitehorse, a detective, is fueled when Volkov gets involved in incessant money laundering to fund dangerous conspiracies, murder, and counterfeiting. Volkov is unstoppable in his pursuit of crime and Whitehorse is out to bring him down in a cat-and-mouse game that becomes more deadly with each passing moment. Can Whitehorse stop Volkov and his assassins while protecting those he loves?

Fans of thrillers from James Patterson will love William J. Cook’s work. The author builds suspense by creating two parallel plots that eventually meld toward the end, bringing Michelle and Whitehorse together. The opening immediately captivates readers as they are introduced to Michelle at an art auction in New York, bidding for someone anonymous who sounds desperate and determined. The reader’s curiosity is piqued. The narrative then moves on speedily, introducing plot twists and surprises that readers can’t see coming. There are strong plot points in this narrative and readers will enjoy the intrigue and suspense built around the mysterious 1848, a character whose identity Michelle spends a lot of time trying to uncover. Striker is another character that will pique the reader’s curiosity — the subtle messages, the blackmail, and the letters. “I know who you are. I know what you’ve done. I won’t bore you with the details in this voicemail, but I’ve posted a letter to you today, spelling it all out.” Gallery of Gangsters is a delightful read with characters readers will want to follow. The ingenious plotting, the dazzling prose, and the exciting dialogue are among the qualities that make this thriller an immersive read. Cook knows what it takes to keep the pages turning and has the extraordinary ability to make it happen. 

Reviewed By: Christian Fernandez

Reviewed Date: October 31, 2022

Wow! What a Review!

Book Review of Gallery of Gangsters: A Driftwood Mystery

Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review and Editor of Donovan’s Literary Services.

Gallery of Gangsters is the final Driftwood Mystery in the series, expanding its five predecessor titles with a new and final battle between Native American detective Charley Whitehorse and Russian crime czar Vasily Volkov. It’s a confrontation that will rock prior readers, and is introduced by an Author’s Note about currency security and counterfeiting that features some key facts to lend better understanding to this mystery’s subject and progression.

This information in hand, readers embark on a vivid romp that opens in the art auction world of 2019. Here, a meteoric bidding war is taking place, with prices hitting the millions for a work of art that two contenders have no intention of losing.

As the bloodless combat between the contenders evolves a chess-like game of strategy and countermoves, readers will be thoroughly engrossed in the story’s mystery and outcome by the time the purchase of Hurricane is complete.

This is just the first chapter of a complex story that moves into the mysterious death of an art gallery owner in Driftwood, who specialized in high-end paintings. It reveals not just the game being played by Whitehorse and Volkov, but a strong woman caught in the middle (Michelle Garrison), whose auction house work has placed her in the crosshairs of a powerful female assassin.

As Michelle asks hard questions about who killed McKinley Striker and Dashiel Owen and becomes immersed in the identity and subterfuge of Odesa (nee Kseniya, whose job is murder), all characters dance into an arena of threat that reaches out to embrace the innocent and guilty alike.

Mystery readers who enjoy stories centered on the art world will find Gallery of Gangsters satisfying for its insights into that community’s activities and the works of art that drive passions and pocketbooks alike. These motivate characters to move outside their comfort zones and into the unfamiliar territory of murder, investigations, and nefarious connections.

Powered by strong personalities whose special interests create different perspectives and representations of moral and ethical behavior, William J. Cook’s story assumes a provocative tone of surprises that embrace unexpected romance and adversity alike.

As events unfold, this final Driftwood mystery comes to life in ways even seasoned genre readers won’t see coming.

As a stand-alone mystery, it will also nicely attract newcomers who have and need no prior experience with the exploits of Charley Whitehorse and Vasily Volkov to prove understandable and engrossing; especially since Michelle’s character powers many of the scenes and insights.

In the end, love wins. But, via a circuitous route that keeps readers guessing right up to the mystery’s satisfying conclusion.

Libraries and readers who look for outstanding characters, an art world backdrop, and intrigue and subterfuge that moves from a small town into international waters will find Gallery of Gangsters the perfect crescendo of a conclusion that explores what is unique and fragile not just in the art world, but in matters of love, power, and the pursuit of profit.

The US Review of Books Gives it a Thumbs-Up!

Gallery of Gangsters: A Driftwood Mystery
by William J. Cook

book review by Joe Kilgore

“She slammed the phone down again. It felt like her life was spiraling out of control. Why had she bothered to call? Was she still atoning for her adolescent crime?”

This tale is another in the author’s series about the small town of Driftwood, Oregon. The story, however, begins a continent away at an art auction in New York. There, readers are introduced to a young woman named Michelle, who will journey from one side of the country to another in an attempt to restart her life, currently plagued by an unseen blackmailer. As Michelle’s story unfolds, so too does the interplay between Volkov, a Russian gangster in Portland, and Whitehorse, a Native American police detective in nearby Driftwood. Previously adversaries, they currently share an odd sort of truce until money laundering, counterfeiting, political influencing, and murder begin to create a toxic mix that simply can’t be ignored.

Author Cook effectively weaves his two narratives together. Eventually, Michelle and Whitehorse are engaged in efforts to not only keep themselves safe from Volkov’s assassins but, in the detective’s case, his wife as well. Continuing characters from previous books in the series are on hand to give a feeling of family to this novel. One of the more appealing players is Chiara, the Driftwood Police dispatcher who is bright, perceptive, and perhaps well on her way to one day becoming a detective herself. On the villain’s team, Kseniya is a stone-cold killer who is as lethal as she is beautiful. Her ability to dispatch individuals with extreme prejudice is matched only by her inability to exhibit any form of emotional involvement with them—until she encounters Michelle.

Author Cook does a first-rate job of mining interpersonal relationships as he’s peeling back the layers of his plot. His depictions of interactions between husbands, wives, and lovers feel honest and real. The people who populate Driftwood are folks readers can enjoy spending time with, particularly as they keep the bad guys at bay.

An Interview with Indie Author Adam Copeland

From his Amazon Author Page, we learn that Adam was born and raised in Silverton, Oregon, and that he studied abroad for a year in France. Ever since that time, he has been passionate about international travel. He is an avid outdoorsman, enjoying hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain biking, and scuba diving. He is the co-founder of the Northwest Independent Writers Association. Currently, he resides in Vancouver, Washington, where he is an active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Will: Adam, how did you come to realize that you’re a writer?

Adam: Even as a child I was told that I was a story teller. I’d come up with the most imaginative stories. As an adolescent, I wanted to see my stories go “big time” as a book or movie, but of course I felt I didn’t have what it took to make that happen. It wasn’t until after college that I seriously gave it a go and wrote the first chapter to my first book. Then the next, then the next. After the book was finished, I felt “accomplished,” but not quite like a writer yet. I knew that no one was ever going to give me permission to be a “writer,” so I just went and made it happen through self-publishing. When I held that first proof in my hand when it arrived in the mail, that is when I realized I had accomplished being not just a writer, but an author.

Will: Can you give us a glimpse of your process? How do you get your ideas? Do you develop an outline first or are you what they sometimes call a “pantser?” How structured are you about your writing—do you have a dedicated space for writing, a dedicated time?

Adam: I’m most definitely a “panster.” My ideas mostly come from the ether. From the muse. Nudged into existence by the inspiration of music, other books, and movies. My last book touches on that where the narrator, a writer, literally sits at a table with his muses and discusses the story being told—and how they quite often push back or admonish him. I have a general idea where the story is going, then it just happens to come together as if it were meant to be. I do, however, really need to reign that in and learn more the art of story and outlining. I’m a binge writer. Usually in 4-hour blocks on a weekend. Usually at a favorite café with comfy couches where the ambient sounds of the café act as white noise.

Will: You have two books in your Tales of Avalon series: Echoes of Avalon and Ripples in the Chalice. Can you tell us about them?

Adam: Echoes of Avalon is my first book and serves as a repository for all the knowledge I accumulated through my life regarding my love for fantasy, mythology, legend, and history. Before school would start, I’d hang out in the library in the mornings just reading encyclopedia articles about anything that had to do with swords, knights, castles, and ancient battles. My father had a similar passion, so our house was full of books, too. The Hobbit was my first adult book that I read. Echoes of Avalon is a love letter to my love of all that. Ripples in the Chalice is its sequel. I often pitched Echoes as “If you could go back in time to witness the actual event that inspired a fairy tale, it would look like this.” Such is the story of a knight in shining armor, charging up a mountain of glass, to rescue a princess in an ivory tower. But since we’re talking about real life here, does the princess want to be rescued? And by him? Ripples in the Chalice is the follow-up revolving around the consequences of one’s choices, made all the more profound by the involvement of the Holy Grail.

Will: What about your book The Tower?

Adam: When writing Echoes of Avalon, my editor told me my antagonist needed to be more fleshed out; a real person with real motives. So I wrote this novella as a back story to my villain to explain why he is the way he is. The story goes waaaay back to when the progeny of exiled angels passed themselves off as gods with a little “g,” incurring the wrath of God with a big “G” and getting a front row seat to the Great Flood for their troubles.

Will: I confess that I was blown away by your novel Midnight in Silverton: American Gothic. What a strange and wonderful book! And the new audiobook version is extraordinary! What can you tell us about it?

Adam: If Echoes of Avalon and Ripples in the Chalice were love letters to my fascination with fantasy, then Midnight in Silverton was a love letter to my home town and the people there. Echoes is a repository for my life knowledge, Midnight is a repository for my life experience. It was a lifetime in the making, born of a thousand inspirations. From Bradbury, to King, to Hemingway, to…well, just about everyone whose words touched me. It’s very meta, where the reader is along for the ride with a wink. I’d call it a “faux-ography” that draws from my personal life to provide a stage for a murder mystery with supernatural elements. As I mentioned above, the Narrator’s muses guide him while he tries to solve the murder, even though he *might* not want to find out who it is. Though it has elements of Fight ClubDandelion WineArrival and other great stories, this one’s uniquely all mine.

Will: You are a co-founder of NIWA—the Northwest Independent Writers Association. How did that come about? What should our readers know about NIWA?

Adam: While promoting my first book, I nabbed one of the last spots in the vendor room for Orycon, a sci-fi and fantasy convention in Portland, Oregon. The event organizers asked if I’d mind sharing my spot with another author who had signed up late. I was totally fine with that and that’s how I met Mike Chinakos, author of the wonderfully fun Hollywood Cowboy series (An 80’s metal band that also moonlights as vampire hunters). He noticed that we weren’t the only ones selling self-published books that day and suggested we should all band together and pool our resources. I said, “Ah, heck no, that sounds like a lot of work!” Sigh. It was. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. The friendships and connections I’ve made have been priceless. If I want readers to know one thing about NIWA it’s that there are so many great authors right here in your own backyard who deserve a look (C’mon! A hair band that fights vampires! How can you not want to read that?).

Will: Are you working on a new project? Can you give us a peek at it?

Adam: I have an un-published manuscript that has come very close on a couple of occasions to being published with traditional publishers. It’s a WWI vampire/zombie action adventure. I’d like to take a stab at making it into a graphic novel. All my writing is very visual. I basically have a movie projector in my head, and this story isn’t any different and so would lend itself very well to the graphic arts media. In a nutshell: What if, at the height of trench warfare in the First World War, the Germans got so desperate to break the stalemate that they tried lobbing a vampire at the Allies? With a tagline like “A weapon of mass destruction is only as good as your ability to control it” goes a long way to telling you how that plan goes.

Will: Do you have any advice for aspiring independent authors?

Adam: Keep at it. Don’t quit. Write something. Then read something. Then write something else. Repeat. Mostly, just keep at it. I subscribe to Duotrope, which is a website and information-center for places to submit writing to. It keeps track of your submissions. It tells me I submitted a variety of stories over 200 times over several years before I finally got my first “real” acceptance. It didn’t pay much, but the fact the publisher turned my Film Noir Bigfoot creature feature (Incident at Ape Canyon) into a multi-voice cast audio story was well worth it.

Will: Adam, thank you so much for sharing some of your writer’s journey with us. I wish you wonderful success with all your projects.

An Interview with Indie Author Suzanne Lawrence

Her Amazon page tells us that as a child, Suzanne was prone to prevaricate to save herself from embarrassment. This story-telling talent led her to writing her first book, The Story of Grace. Her parents divorced when she was barely out of nursery school. Three stepfathers later, she came of age in a small country town while working in the hay fields and driving a tractor. She still loves the smell of freshly cut alfalfa and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. She lives with her husband in Salem, Oregon.

Will: Suzanne, when did you first realize you were a writer, and what drew you into the field?

Suzanne: I still don’t consider myself a writer. I see myself more as a storyteller. When I think of writers, I imagine someone that readers are drawn to. Someone who creates excitement for each upcoming book. I think of readers who quote their favorite writers. I’m not there—not by a long shot. But I love to weave a story of overcoming pain or tragedy. I like to bring to life events in my characters’ lives that inspire readers.

I had never written anything until I retired, six years ago. I decided I had a story of my own to tell. I started there and found that I enjoyed bringing to life memories. I enjoyed embellishing my story with color. Then, I decided I could live multiple lives through the characters I created in my fiction.

Will: Can you tell us a bit about your process? Do you have a dedicated place and time for writing? Do you work from an outline?

Suzanne: I am constantly thinking about my story and future stories I might tell. I walk with my characters throughout the week and attempt to capture their feelings and mentally outline what they are doing in the book. I take notes on my thoughts and fine-tune at a later time. Occasionally, another potential book will pop into my consciousness and that’s very distracting.

However, when it’s time to write, I have a dedicated place and time. I review what I’ve written up to the current point in the book. I look at my notes. Then I have a conversation with my characters and allow them to drive the plot forward. Along the way, they may be angry, hurt, confused, or sometimes lost and need my help to resolve their issues.

I do the necessary research as I am writing. I search for accurate settings and props. Generally, it’s like watching a play while sitting at my keyboard. I type what I’m seeing.

Will: In your debut literary novel, The Story of Grace, you’ve created a female protagonist we can love and hate at the same time. What was your inspiration for her?

Suzanne: Grace was a very complicated character and I borrowed from strong women in my past. Originally, I had sympathy for Grace because she was alone in her final years. She had been so lovely, strong, and independent. Now she felt sorry for herself, and that was not an attractive quality. I took parts of myself, my mother, and other women I’ve known who made many bad choices in their lives and paid the price for it. They hurt people along the way. But, as I wrote the book, I realized I cared for Grace and, in the end, it was necessary for someone else to love her and respect her, no matter what mistakes she had made.

Will: Is it accurate to describe the arc of that story as “a tragedy with a promise of redemption?”

Suzanne: Yes, that would be accurate. Grace could never correct the damage she had done not only to herself but to others. She may have felt bad for what she’d done, but given the opportunity, she would no doubt have made the same decisions. When her grandniece became her companion and friend, she found someone who didn’t judge her for her mistakes. Grace despised being judged by others. She criticized herself, she didn’t need criticism from others. She needed unconditional love. Because in the end, love does conquer all.

Will: Your second novel, Legacy, is an epic western about several generations of a family tending the Lazy M Ranch in southern Oregon. On its Amazon page you say, “If you like YellowstoneBonanza, or The Big Valley, you’ll love Legacy.” Tell us about it.

Suzanne: I chose these three television sagas because they have a central theme of family ranches and overcoming difficulties.

The Big Valley had a strong matriarch (Barbara Stanwyck) and was loosely based on an actual ranch in California. The ranch was built around the shared family goals. The family was fighting to keep their ranch. They fought to keep the railroad from crossing their land.

Bonanza did not have a strong female character, but again, the ranch was a family ranch, and in each episode, they faced moral dilemmas. They stuck together and fought for what was right for their ranch.

Finally, I added Yellowstone because it’s a current television hit. Again, it involves a family ranch and the obstacles that face the family as they strive to keep their land. It has a strong female character in Beth Dutton. She’s far more obnoxious and crass than my characters in Legacy, but her desire to protect the family ranch at all costs is admirable.

I think that people tend to romanticize the lives of ranchers. In Legacy, I wanted my readers to see that it’s more than just riding horses and wrangling steers. It’s hard work that takes the cooperation and dedication of everyone in the family. Hardship happens, and often no one understands but family.

Will: Can you share with us some of what you’ve learned as an indie writer? What works and what doesn’t work? Do you have any advice for new authors aspiring to publish independently?

Suzanne: I’ve published only two books, and I don’t think that I’m in a position to be giving any advice. However, I feel very strongly that you need to surround yourself with other good writers—writers who will offer support and criticism. I participate in two writing groups and without their support, I would flounder and certainly lose focus.

The best thing that I could say is to keep writing. Keep your inspiration fresh. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Work hard and stay focused on the goal. Do your research. Your readers will know if you screw up and put a cell phone in the hand of a character before cell phones were invented. Make it authentic. That means, giving your characters true emotions. Your readers like conflict, anger, love, and loss. They are reading your book because they want to feel something. I think readers want something out of your book that they are curious about or that is missing in their life.

There are several options for self-publishing. I chose KDP because it has good support to market your book, and the customer service is very responsive.

Will: Would you be willing to give us a peek at your current project? Do you have another novel in the works?

Suzanne: Of course. I’m working on a follow-up to The Story of Grace. It’s called The Forgotten Daughter. In this story, we get to peek inside the life of the daughter Grace gave away (in my first book). Although Grace found redemption in the end, she didn’t find it from her daughter. The damage was too great for Agness to get over. Now Agness has a daughter of her own and a granddaughter. She blames herself for her daughter’s troubles and wallows in her own regret of things she should have done differently. Her granddaughter, Beth, is coming to live with her. Agness is discovering that she is more like her mother, Grace, than she wants to admit.

Will: Suzanne, thank you so much for sharing some of your writer’s journey with us. I wish you every success with your new project.

Book Review: Midnight in Silverton by Adam Copeland

“Maybe it’s just that vibe any decent bookstore or library has. A kind of magic. Perhaps it’s the clocks that make time more visceral, like something you can feel on your skin or get tangled in your hair.” That description of entering the Books ‘N’ Time Bookstore in the thriving little community of Silverton, Oregon, made me sit up and take notice. What kind of book is this? With its subtitle, I had expected some kind of horror story, perhaps even ghosts? But Midnight in Silverton is so much more than that. Yes, there are “ghosts” of a kind, and there is a serial killer on the loose, but this is a literary work with in-depth character development, brilliant turns of phrase, profound meditations on loss and regret and the poor choices all of us make. The introspection is unnerving at times, exploring a mind pushed to the breaking point. Is it PTSD? Schizophrenia?

Like a Mayberry gone off the rails, the “quaint” Silverton slowly reveals its underbelly—biker gangs, drug-trafficking, domestic abuse—as the narrator returns to his parents’ home to try to recover after losing his job, his finances, and a string of broken relationships. But as Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, “You can’t go home again.” The demons and nightmares persist. Our narrator’s flaws are as firmly attached to him as his shadow. In fact, the novel may be read as an exploration of what Carl Jung called the shadow—the unknown dark side of the human personality nestled in the unconscious. That shadow is a low bass note, increasing in volume and menace as the story unfolds.

Despite the darkness, there is humor here as well, the kind of humor that is only possible in the context of enduring family bonds, and the love and support of life-long friendships. Midnight in Silverton is a kind of love letter to a small town, an homage to a real Oregon community that may make you want to pay a visit. It’s a novel not to be hurried but to be savored, as you might a fine meal enhanced by a perfect Pinot Noir.

Book Review: The Prairie Martian by Jonathan Eaton

Nope, we’re not in Kansas anymore, or Wichita for that matter. We’re in New Halchita, not much more than a carbuncle on the back of the western plains. The dusty little town would have gone completely unnoticed for another century had it not been for the visitation of the “giant cast-iron cockroach the Martian (if that’s what it was) rode in on.”

Author Jonathan Eaton’s novels are not “your grandfather’s westerns,” as his later books, A Good Man for an Outlaw and Outlaws and Worse, so definitively prove. The Prairie Martian is no exception. Told with Eaton’s droll, pitch-black humor, it’s the story of a Martian who calls herself “Nancy,” come to earth for God-knows-what reason. But this is post-apocalyptic earth in the 25th century, still recovering from the great war (the GIW, but no one can remember what the letters stand for). It is earth like the mid-1800’s, before electronic technology, because orbiting high overhead are the last bitter words of advanced civilization: “lagamachies”—satellites programmed to obliterate any trace of higher technology.

Presiding over this Grand Guignol is Sheriff Frank Westfall, former “tick-juicer” (Oh, Mr. Eaton, what nightmares you must suffer!). For those of us old enough to remember, think James Arness, only taller.

Author Eaton draws us in with his lean, understated prose. The story is engaging, even thrilling at times, the world-building convincing, and the characters memorable. I give it a very enthusiastic thumbs-up.

A note to my friends: I’ll be interviewing Jonathan Eaton in my November newsletter, and he is every bit as entertaining as his novels! If you haven’t subscribed yet, please use this link. And by all means share the link with your friends so we can grow our group. No spam, no clutter!

A New Book Review

I am truly excited, and the image above is a picture of my head exploding! Diane Donovan of Donovan’s Literary Services and the Midwest Book Review has just sent me her review of Before Our House Fell into the Ocean, and it’s so amazing I have to post the whole thing here. Here’s what she had to say:

Before Our House Fell Into the Ocean: Stories of Love and Death is a literary collection of short works that each center on a bizarre character’s dilemma. It is highly recommended for literature readers seeking outside-the-box representations and scenarios.

Take “Bad Seed,” for example. Here, a depressed husband faces a fed-up wife who is tired of his attitude and ongoing regrets over “the biggest failure of his life,” and who walks away from the seminary and the priesthood to become a psychotherapist and husband.

What she doesn’t know is that the demons of the past and the decision that causes him to hear voices and suffer are alive and well in the present. A visit to the source of this haunting reveals its roots. It also provides the narrator with a different choice.

William J. Cook writes these descriptive lives with an attention to description and detail that draws readers into each life: “The dragon cannot be slain, only kept at bay. A deep weariness washes over my body and soul, like a receding tide sweeping debris from the beach.”

Belief, vows, faith, and Church enter many of these works, which also offer astute psychological inspections from diverse perspectives. One example lies in “Coffee,” in which a zombie longs not for flesh, but coffee made by the “sorceress of coffee” barista Suzie, who has a special gift. The sense of humor over Joey’s dilemmas as a zombie comes to life: “Nobody wants to date a zombie. And nobody wants to stay married to one, either. Righteous types call us the New Lepers.”

The ironies of experiences which move into the territories of acquittal, social dilemma, and psychological transformation contribute to writings which are compellingly unique.

Before Our House Fell Into the Ocean is a collection designed for the literary thinker.

Its inspections and haunting stories of souls on fire in different ways will find a home in any literary collection, and in the hearts and minds of readers who enjoy twists of plot that leave them thinking.

Book Review: West of Sin by Wesley Lewis

Not long after I started reading this book, I found myself wondering if it should come with a warning, something like, “Caution: reading this novel may cause unacceptable spikes in heart rate and blood pressure. Taking a valium or a good strong drink beforehand is recommended.” By midway through, I felt as though I were careening down a twisty, narrow mountain road with no guardrails and no brakes!

I loved the quote attributed to Robin Williams at the beginning: “[Las Vegas] may not be the end of the world per se, but you can certainly see it from there.”

Realtor Jennifer Williams is having the worst day of her life. At a real estate convention in Las Vegas, she is hoping to deepen a budding relationship with her recently divorced boss. Alas, it is not to be. In a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, she walks in on a robbery-in-progress at a convenience mart, and her life is forever changed. All hell breaks loose—again and again and again!

To call this simply “a thriller,” as noted in the subtitle, is like calling the Indie 500 “just another car race.” This is a page-turning, breathlessly-paced, action-packed tour de force of a debut novel. Lewis shows a mastery of dialogue, humor, character development, suspense, and plot twists that we might expect from a seasoned author who has already written a dozen novels. I can’t begin to imagine how he will follow up with his next book, but I can imagine his making a big splash in the literary world and, hopefully, beyond. (Amazon Prime Video, are you listening?) As a Texas Hold ’em player on the Vegas strip might say, Lewis’s book is “the nuts.”