BOOK REVIEW: ‘Rock With Wings’: Anne Hillerman Continues the Jim Chee-Joe Leaphorn Navajo Tribal Police Series Begun by Her Father Tony Hillerman

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Rock With Wings': Anne Hillerman Continues the Jim Chee-Joe Leaphorn Navajo Tribal Police Series Begun by Her Father Tony Hillerman

The publication of Anne Hillerman’s “Rock With Wings” (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 336 pages, $27.99) is wonderful news for fans of Tony Hillerman’s  Navajo Police series featuring Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn.

Anne Hillerman is Tony’s daughter and is an outstanding author in her own right, and the research she did (see below in author’s note for more about this) shows in this police procedural featuring Chee, his wife, Bernadette Manuelito, Leaphorn and their fascinating family and friends.

Navajo Tribal cops Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, investigate two perplexing cases.
Doing a good deed for a relative who’s starting a tour bus service in Monument Valley offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work. But two cases will call them back from their short vacation and separate them—one near Shiprock, and the other at iconic Monument Valley.

I was reminded of the 1988 Dirty Harry movie “The Dead Pool”, the last of the series featuring Clint Eastwood as SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan, which dealt with a movie production plagued by mysterious deaths,  in the scenes in Monument Valley, where a motion picture is being filmed. Both movies are horror films.

Chee follows a series of seemingly random and cryptic clues that lead to a missing woman, a coldblooded thug, and a mysterious mound of dirt and rocks that could be a gravesite. Bernie has her hands full managing the fallout from a drug bust gone wrong, uncovering the origins of a fire in the middle of nowhere, and looking into an ambitious solar energy development with long-ranging consequences for Navajo land.
There’s more than enough action for a fan of the late, great Tony Hillerman in “Rock With Wings.” Leaphorn doesn’t play a major role in the novel, since he’s recovering from line-of-duty gunshot wounds, but his presence is felt by Bernie and Jim. Thanks, Anne, for continuing the outstanding series created by your dad, a decorated World War II veteran and a member of the Greatest Generation!

About the author
Anne Hillerman, daughter of best-selling mystery writer Tony Hillerman, continued  her father’s Navajo detective series with “Spider Woman’s Daughter,” published  Oct. 1, 2013 (HarperCollins.) The book follows the adventures of Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito as they track a would-be cop killer, travel to Chaco Canyon on the trail of a murderer, and discover intrigue in the world of ancient Indian art and artifacts.

She is the author eight non-fiction books including “Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn.” She and photographer Don Strel made numerous road trips to photograph and write about the landscapes beloved by New Mexico’s best known mystery writer. Working on that book inspired her novel.

“In the process of researching Tony Hillerman’s Landscape, I re-read all of the Chee/Leaphorn mysteries, paying close attention to the settings. I ran into mud, dust storms, rez dogs, snow and those pricelessly beautiful days Tony Hillerman wrote about for more than 35 years,” Anne said. “I loved nearly every minute of it. My personal highlights included New Mexico’s Bisti badlands, the mysterious landscape near Ship Rock and vast, empty Chaco Canyon.”

Anne, the eldest of Tony and Marie Hillerman’s six children, came to New Mexico as a child and enjoys living in the Southwest. Her other major non-fiction projects include “Gardens of Santa Fe,” with features photos of Santa Fe’s finest gardens and interviews with their creators, and “Santa Fe Flavors: Best Restaurants and Recipes.”

Both received top honors at the New Mexico Book Awards. She worked for many years as a journalist, receiving awards for her writing from the New Mexico Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. When she isn’t working, Anne likes to ski, garden and experiment with new recipes in the kitchen. She is a founder of the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference held annually in Santa Fe, N.M.

for more on Tony Hillerman (1925-2008)


Book Review: ‘A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope’: Tom Brokaw’s ‘Cancer Year’ Journal Offers Model for Explaining How to Face Death

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

Book Review: 'A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope': Tom Brokaw's 'Cancer Year' Journal Offers Model for  Explaining How to Face Death
I’m always on the lookout for books that make it easier — there’s no easy way — for people to explain to others what’s going on when a person is told he/she has a very serious illness. Art Buchwald’s 2006 memoir “Too Soon to Say Goodbye” (Random House) is an excellent example and a friend just sent me this book (more about this later in the review). The graphic novel and later feature film “American Splendor” by Cleveland OH VA worker Harvey Pekar is another good one to read and get more than a laugh or two along with sage advice.

The latest book in this vein — no pun intended, although people visiting doctors had better be aware of veins and arteries — is Tom Brokaw’s “A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope” (Random House,  240 pages, $27.00).By any definition, Tom Brokaw, born in South Dakota in 1940, has led a fortunate life, with a strong, loving marriage, a wonderful family, many friends and a journalism career culminating in 22 years as the respected anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”

All this changed  in the summer of 2013, when back pain led him to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, his run of good luck was interrupted. He received shocking news: He had multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer. Friends had always referred to Brokaw’s “lucky star,” but as he writes in this inspiring memoir, “Turns out that star has a dimmer switch.” Another way of looking at it is capsulized in the Yiddish proverb “Man plans, God laughs.”

Brokaw began to keep a journal, approaching this new stage of his life in a familiar role: as a journalist, determined to learn as much as he could about his condition, to report the story, and help others facing similar battles. That journal became the basis of this wonderfully written memoir, the story of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, contemplating what means the most to him now, and reflecting on what has meant the most to him throughout his life.

Brokaw also pauses to look back on some of the important moments in his career: memories of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the morning of September 11, 2001, in New York City, and more. Through it all, Brokaw writes in the warm, intimate, natural voice of one of America’s most beloved journalists, giving us Brokaw on Brokaw, and bringing us with him as he navigates pain, procedures, drug regimens, and physical rehabilitation. Brokaw also writes about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and of the vital role of caretakers and coordinated care.

If you’re wondering — as I am at this stage of my life — how to explain to friends and your  family the what you’re experiencing, “A Lucky Life Interrupted” will be of immeasurable help. We all have to craft our own stories, but Brokaw’s book offers a guide.

Brokaw’s book was relevant to my situation since his cancer is treatable but incurable. My ailments don’t even offer that degree of hope. There’s no curing — or even effectively treating — Stage 4 kidney failure or congestive heart failure. Buchwald (1925-2007), a Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent for The Washington Post, died of kidney failure, so I’m looking forward to reading about how he faced it.  For more about Buchwald,

Thanks, Tom Brokaw, for a book that will offer comfort at a time when many of us need it most.  And thanks, Joe Honick, for sending me Buchwald’s memoir!

About the Author
Tom Brokaw is the author of six bestsellers: The Greatest Generation, The Greatest Generation Speaks, An Album of Memories, Boom!, The Time of Our Lives, and A Long Way from Home. A native of South Dakota, he graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in political science. He began his journalism career in Omaha and Atlanta before joining NBC News in 1966. Brokaw was the White House correspondent for NBC News during Watergate, and from 1976 to 1981 he anchored Today on NBC. He was the sole anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw from 1983 to 2005. He continues to report for NBC News, producing long-form documentaries and providing expertise during breaking news events. Brokaw has won every major award in broadcast journalism, including two DuPonts, three Peabody Awards, and several Emmys, including one for lifetime achievement. In 2014, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He lives in New York and Montana.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Compulsion’: Retelling of Leopold-Loeb Murder Case Back in Print

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Compulsion': Retelling of Leopold-Loeb Murder Case Back in Print

The senseless thrill killing of 14-year old Bobby Franks by Nathan Leopold (1904-1971) and Richard Loeb (1905-1936) in Chicago in 1924 was the heavily publicized “Crime of the Century” in Chicago’s Roaring Twenties. Acclaimed lawyer Clarence Darrow was retained to defend the two University of Chicago students and he managed to convince a jury to sentence the two to life in prison rather than executing them. Loeb was killed in prison and Leopold was  released on parole in 1958.

Meyer Levin, a contemporary of the two upper-class Jewish young men, but from a decidedly different Jewish background, fictionalized the story in his 1956 novel, “Compulsion”,  published by Simon & Schuster. It was made into a movie of the same name, but the novel has long been out of print.

Marcia Clark, prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, contributes a foreword to the handsome trade paperback edition (Fig Tree Books, LLC, 480 pages, Amazon Digital Services,  $15.95). She writes that “Before In Cold Blood, before The Executioner’s Song, Meyer Levin’s Compulsion was the standard-bearer for what we think of as the nonfiction novel….Though this trial took place in 1924, the book raises issues pertaining to society and our justice system—such as popular biases, groupthink, and the inherent, perhaps unfixable, flaws in our legal system—that are as much in evidence today as they were back then.”

Gabriel Levin, the author’s son, contributes the introduction to this outstanding novel. His father in the book is represented by reporter Sid Silver, who is also the narrator. Sid comes from a decidedly lower class Eastern European Jewish background, from Chicago’s West Side, while Judd Steiner and Artie Straus are the sons of wealthy German Jews on Chicago’s South Side, near the University of Chicago. The victim, Paulie Kessler, was from the same background as Steiner and Straus.

Obsessed with Nietzsche’s idea of the Superman, both boys decide to prove they are above the laws of man by arbitrarily choosing and murdering a Jewish boy in their neighborhood. They want to commit the perfect crime.

“Compulsion” is one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read. It will bring to mind classic Russian psychological novels; it was a groundbreaking novel in 1956 and it stands up superbly today.

About the Author, and the Foreword and Introduction contributors
Meyer Levin (1905 – 1981) was called by the Los Angeles Times “the most significant American Jewish writer of his times.” Norman Mailer referred to him as “one of the best American writers working in the realistic tradition.” Throughout his 60 years of professional work, Levin was a constant innovator, reinventing himself and stretching his literary style with remarkable versatility.

When Levin died in 1981 he left behind a remarkable and diverse body of work that not only reflected the incredible life he led but chronicled the development of the entire Jewish consciousness during the 20th century.

Marcia Clark began practicing law as a criminal defense attorney. She became a prosecutor in the L.A. District Attorney’s Office in 1981, and spent ten years in the Special Trials Unit where she handled a number of high profile cases prior to the O.J. Simpson case, including the prosecution of stalker/murderer Robert Bardo, whose conviction for the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer resulted in legislation that offered victims better protection from stalkers as well as increased punishment for the offenders.

She has published three novels which feature Los Angeles Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight – Guilt by Association, Guilt by Degrees, and Killer Ambition and is currently at work on her fourth novel.

Gabriel Levin has published five collections of poetry, most recently Coming Forth By Day (Carcanet, 2014) and a collection of essays The Dune’s Twisted Edge: Journeys in the Levant (The University of Chicago Press, 2013). He has as well published several collections of translation, including a selection of Yehuda Halevi’s poetry, Poems from the Diwan (Anvil, 2002). He lives in Jerusalem.
For more on the Leopold-Loeb case:

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Out of Sight’: Comprehensive, Readable History of Los Angeles Art Scene in the 1960s

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Out of Sight': Comprehensive, Readable History of Los Angeles Art Scene in the 1960s
Los Angeles typically doesn’t get any respect, and the situation was even worse in the 1950s and 1960s when it came to the fine arts, writes William Hackman in “Out of Sight: The Los Angeles Art Scene in the Sixties’ (Other Press, 256 pages, in-text photos, color insert, $27.95).
Histories of modern are typically — and rightly — centered in Paris and New York, where museums, collectors and dealers were well established to serve artists. Until 1965, there was no art museum, few collectors of note and even fewer galleries in Los Angeles, Hackman writes.

All this changed in the 1950s and 1960s, when Los Angeles experienced a burst of artistic energy and invention rivaling New York’s burgeoning art scene a half-century earlier. As New York Times art critic Roberta Smith has noted, it was “a euphoric moment,” at a “time when East and West coasts seemed evenly matched.”

“Out of Sight” tells of the quick  rise, fall, and rebirth of the L.A. art scene—from the emergence of a small bohemian community in the 1950s to the founding of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1980— and explains how artists such as Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, and Ken Price reshaped contemporary art. Hackman also explores the ways in which the L.A. art scene reflected the hopes and fears of postwar America—both the self-confidence of an increasingly affluent middle class, and the anxiety produced by violent upheavals at home and abroad. Perhaps most of all, he pays tribute to the city that gave birth to a fascinating and until now overlooked moment in modern art.

Having lived in Los Angeles in the 1970s through 1992, I saw much of this expansion of the Big Orange into a major art center. Hackman quickly filled in the gaps in my knowledge of the art scene. It’s a wonderfully readable account, accessible to the general reader as well as the art specialist.

About the Author
William Hackman, longtime arts journalist and former managing editor for public affairs at the J. Paul Getty Trust, has written extensively about the visual and performing arts. His essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in major American newspapers and magazines, including the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Los Angeles Times. His books include Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for the Art Spaces series (Scala, 2008), and Inside the Getty (J. Paul Getty Trust, 2008). He lives in Los Angeles.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Losing Faith’: Complications Abound in Legal Thriller

Legal thrillers/mysteries are one of my guilty pleasures and — judging from the best-seller lists — are favorites of many readers.
We can’t get enough of John Grisham, Scott Turow, Andy Siegel and Lis Wiehl. (If that last name doesn’t ring a bell, check out my June 18, 2012 review of her excellent thriller set in Portland, OR,  “Eyes of Justice” ( Wiehl is one of the many legal commentators on cable news programs.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Losing Faith': Complications Abound in Legal Thriller

I hadn’t heard of Adam Mitzner until I read his latest legal novel, “Losing Faith” (Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 368 pages, $26.00).

One feature that seems to be present in legal thrillers is the older lawyer in a firm — or elsewhere — counseling a younger man. In “Losing Faith” the older mentor of Aaron Littman, the chief litigator of Cromwell Altman, is Sam Rosenthal.

He’s the lawyer who recruited the young law school graduate to the most powerful law firm in New York City. Flash to the present: Aaron, 51, is the premier lawyer of his generation and the chairman of Cromwell Altman. And his old friend and mentor Sam Rosenthal is telling him he’s wrong to represent Nicolai Garkov, accused of laundering money for the  Russian Mafia and financing a terrorist bombing in Red Square that killed twenty-six people, including three American students.

Garkov wants the best representation, so he sends his current lawyer to Aaron to tell him he wants Aaron as his  counsel. Garkov freely admits his guilt to Aaron, at the same tim presenting Aaron with a plan for exoneration that includes blackmailing the presiding judge, the Honorable Faith Nichols.

If the judge won’t do his bidding, Garkov promises to go public with  evidence of an affair between Aaron and Faith— which would not only destroy their reputations but quite possibly end their careers. It would certainly destroy Aaron’s happy marriage to Cynthia, a physician.

The novel is replete with details of the office politics of the big law firms — not to mention many plot  twists and turns. In addition to being a legal thriller, “Losing Faith” deals with  psychological game of power, ethics, lies, and justice. Did I like it? Yes!

Adam Mitzner

Adam Mitzner

About the Author

In addition to being the author of three legal thrillers, Adam Mitzner is currently also the head of the litigation department of Pavia & Harcourt LL in midtown Manhattan. He lives in New York City with his wife and children. Adam graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. and M.A. in politics, and from the University of Virginia School of Law. He’s the author of “A Case of Redemption” and “A Conflict of Interest.” .

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System’: Marketing Guru with Economics Education Offers Fixes

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

Capitalism is clearly troubled, as Philip Kotler writes so eloquently in “Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System” (AMACOM, the American Management Association, notes, index,  256 pages, $26.00, available from and other online sellers).

BOOK REVIEW: 'Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System': Marketing Guru with Economics Education Offers Fixes

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Communism — even Communist China is essentially a Capitalistic country — Capitalism is the only game in town, so to speak. Kotler says Capitalism has developed flaws that prevent it from doing its job. He identifies 14  major problems undermining capitalism, including persistent poverty, job creation in the face of automation, high debt burdens, the disproportionate influence of the wealthy on public policy, steep environmental costs, boom-bust economic cycles, etc.,  and devotes a chapter to each of the 14 flaws.
Kotler is a marketing guru, so where does he get off writing about Capitalism? For one thing, marketing may be one of the purest forms of Capitalism — in my opinion — and for another Kotler is a classically trained economist  — earning his master’s degree in economics (1953)  from the University of Chicago, under Milton Friedman;  and his Ph.D. degree in economics (1956) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) studying under Paul Samuelson and Robert Solow. Chances are, if you took economics in college, as I did, you used a textbook written by Samuelson.

In other words, he studied under three of the most diametrically opposed practitioners of the Dismal Science! And all three are Nobel laureates! Friedman, the icon of the Chicago School of Economics, represents free market economics; Samuelson and Solow are Keynesians.

While reading Kotler’s very accessible book — translation, no complicated math — I came across essays by two diverse critics of Capitalism: Noam Chomsky and Robert Reich.

Chomsky deals with the corporatization of higher education:…. Noting the beyond all reason increase in the cost of college, Chomsky writes that it’s free in most developed countries, including Finland, Germany and Mexico.

Reich, Bill Clinton’s labor secretary — now teaching at UC-Berkeley — writes eloquently on the working poor and non-working rich:….

Kotler tries his best to take the “Dismal” out of economics, showing how there are movements toward shared prosperity and a higher purpose than materialistic  “getting and spending.”.

That phrase comes from a sonnet — quoted on page 217– by the great English poet William Wordsworth: “The world is too much with us; late and soon; /  Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; / Little we see in Nature that is ours; / We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

As an English major, I was impressed with Kotler’s choice of poems; It shows that he’s much more than an economics trained marketing expert:  He grasps the contradictions of Capitalism that need to be addressed.

If you want to understand what’s really wrong with  our present system of Capitalism running amok, you’ll have to read Kotler’s book. If you don’t read anything else about the subject this year, grab hold of this book and be prepared for surprises. Kotler combines economic history, expert insight, business lessons, and recent data in a groundbreaking book that shows we can have a   healthier, more sustainable Capitalism—a system that works for all.

Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler

About the author

Philip Kotler is the S. C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has been honored as one of the world’s leading marketing thinkers. He received his M.A. degree in economics (1953) from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. degree in economics (1956) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and has received honorary degrees from twenty-one foreign universities. He is the author of over 57 books and over one hundred and fifty articles. He has been a consultant to IBM, General Electric, Sony, AT&T, Bank of America, Merck, Motorola, Ford, and others. The Financial Times included him in its list of the top 10 business thinkers. They cited his Marketing Management book as one of the 50 best business books of all times. More is available on

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Don’t Forget Me, Bro’: You Not Only CAN Go Home Again, You Must

Regular readers of my book reviews — and I hope you all are regular –know that I’m a big fan of the writing of John Michael Cummings, a native West Virginian.

Here is a link to my previous reviews of fiction by Cummings:

BOOK REVIEW: 'Don't Forget Me, Bro': You Not Only CAN Go Home Again, You Must

His latest novel, “Don’t Forget Me, Bro” (Stephen F. Austin University Press, Nacogdoches, TX, 230 pages, quality paperback, $18.00, available at and other online vendors) is the first-person account of 42-year old Mark Barr, who has traveled to West Virginia from his home in Brooklyn, NY to honor the wishes of his older brother, Steve.

Mark Barr is the only member of his family to leave the Mountain State; he’s lived in DC,  Minnesota, Rhode Island and now shares an apartment in Brooklyn with his girlfriend, Lisa, a lawyer. The relationship is rocky, pretty much the norm for Mark. He was briefly married, but the marriage institution turned out to be not for him. He’s reluctant to visit West Virginia, knowing that the memories of his life there will be anything but enjoyable.

His trip to West Virginia in a purple Mercury Grand Marquis, the only rental car available in South Park Slope that day in 2007,  becomes a journey of self-discovery. Mark discovers that his parents, separated and living apart but still married (they’re Catholics) have radically differing views of mentally ill Steve Barr. His father, whom Mark considers to be an abusive man, remembers Steve as a broken, hopeless schizophrenic.

Other people Mark encounters, including photographer Whitey Upton, who’s taken hundreds of photographs of Steve, believe that Steve lived a far more complicated life in his government subsidized apartment behind the Alma, WV Wal-Mart.

The burial plans for Steve are complicated when Mark and his brother Jeff discover that their father decides on cremation over burial in the local Catholic cemetery. It’s a shock to everyone — No Barr has ever been cremated. It’s not what Irish Catholics do.

First and foremost, Cummings is a wonderful story teller. His people have an air of authenticity about them. They’re people we’ve encountered on this strange journal through life. We’re all strangers in a strange land, but from my 16 years of living in West Virginia (1992-2008) I’ve learned that strangeness often becomes what passes for normal in the state.

“Don’t Forget Me, Bro” is a beautifully written novel. Some people might find the portrait of Alma WV and other parts of the state to be negative, but reality is what the author deals with — and has dealt with in his previous short stories and his novel. An important point: Cummings mixes real and fictional places in West Virginia, so don’t go looking for Alma on a map.

John Michael Cummings

John Michael Cummings

About the Author
John Michael Cummings is a fifth-generation native of historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, site of abolitionist John Brown’s raid in 1859, when the town was still part of Virginia. Cummings is the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel “The Night I Freed John Brown” (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2008), winner of The Paterson Prize and recommended by USA TODAY for Black History Month.

His 2011 short story collection, “Ugly To Start With” (West Virginia University Press), was an IndieFab Award Finalist hailed by The Philadelphia Inquirer for its “sharp observation and surpassing grace.”

His latest novel, “Don’t Forget Me, Bro” (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2015) has been excerpted in The Chicago Tribune.

Over the last twenty years, Cummings’ short stories and essays have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including The Iowa Review, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Kenyon Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story “The Scratchboard Project” received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

Cummings holds a B.A. in studio art from George Mason University and an MFA in creative writing from University of Central Florida.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘At the Water’s Edge’: No Elephants, Apes, Horses in Sara Gruen’s WWII Novel, Just People

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

Sara Gruen (“Water for Elephants”, “The Ape House”) is first and foremost a story teller. Her ability to do so in a period novel is evident in her new novel, “At The Water’s Edge” (Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, 368 pages, $28.00, also available in Kindle e-book edition from
BOOK REVIEW: 'At the Water's Edge': No Elephants, Apes, Horses in Sara Gruen's WWII Novel, Just People

The Second World War is nearing its end in late 1944 and early 1945 — the period of the novel — but the participants of course don’t know this. The horrors of the war, including the discovery and liberation of the German death camps, are revealed — as is the Battle of the Bulge and the advance on Berlin by the Soviet forces on one side and the crossing of the Rhine by the Allied forces on the other side.

After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war.

Ellis Hyde has color blindness, or so he claims.  Ellis and his best friend, Henry (Hank) Boyd — who’s 4F because of his flat feet –decide to redeem the Hyde family honor and regain the  Colonel’s favor  by finding and photographing with still photos and motion pictures Nessie, the famous Loch Ness monster.  The scheme, which involves pulling strings to travel the Atlantic in a Liberty Ship convoy, is financed by Hank Boyd. Maddie, trapped in loveless marriage,  has few options, so she accompanies the two best friends on the trip.

Maddie, Ellis and Hank find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Except for the wartime blackout curtains and periodic bombing raids by the Germans on the military installation in the town, it’s almost like a scene from “Brigadoon.”

With Ellis and Hank away on frequent trips to the loch and nearby Nessie sites, Maddie comes to know the villagers. The friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected. She’s attracted to Angus Grant, the mysterious manager of the inn where they’re lodged — and the attraction is mutual. No more — it’s a spoiler!

Storytelling at a high level in a period historical novel is what turned me on to “At the Water’s Edge.” I’m guessing that women, mostly (they’re the book buyers) will find “At the Water’s Edge” a perfect book club read, as well as a good vacation one. The author’s knowledge of Scotland shines through on every page…the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

Sara Gruen

Sara Gruen

About the author

Born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1969,  Sara Gruen is a transplanted Canadian  who moved to the United States in 1999 for a technical writing job. Two years later she was laid off. Instead of looking for another job, she decided to take a gamble on writing fiction.  With dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship, Gruen  lives with her husband, three children, two dogs, four cats, two horses, and a goat in North Carolina. Gruen  is a supporter of numerous charitable organizations that support animals and wildlife. Her love for animals comes through in her books: both her first novel, “Riding Lessons”, and her second novel, “Flying Changes”, involve horses. Gruen’s third book, the 1930s circus drama “Water for Elephants” is centered on a traveling circus. Her fourth novel, “Ape House”, centers around Bonobo apes. Her website:

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry’: More Accounts of Violence in the Wake of ‘White Girl Bleed a Lot’

If you’ve read Colin Flaherty’s Amazon best-selling  “White Girl Bleed a Lot” (for my Mar. 4, 2014 review: you might have thought he had exhausted the subject of black on white, black on Asian, black on elderly, etc. crime.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Don't Make the Black Kids Angry':   More Accounts of Violence in the Wake of 'White Girl Bleed a Lot'

You’d be dead wrong because Flaherty, a Wilmington, DE talk show host and superb journalist,  has a follow-up book: “Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry: The hoax of black victimization and those who enable it” (Createspace Independent Publishing Platform,  524 pages, exhaustive sourcing of examples, links to videos, quality paperback, $23.78, also available in a $6.99 Kindle ebook from

The title of Flaherty’s latest book — I’m guessing it won’t be the last from Flaherty on the politically incorrect subject — comes from a quote by former Kansas City MO mayor Emanuel Cleaver. Cleaver is now a congressman. Kansas City — like just about every city in the country — has been plagued by fighting and wilding committed by young black men and more than a few women. Their favorite venue in Kansas City  is the upscale Country Club Plaza, which has been called the nation’s first suburban shopping center.

Shopping centers and movie theaters are popular venues for blacks fighting, as are nightclubs, gatherings of black college fraternities, events like a gathering of black motorcyclists in places like Myrtle Beach, SC (I’m not making that up!) and other “urban” events in Indianapolis, Miami Beach and other cities.

I was momentarily surprised to see my alma mater, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, in the new book, as Flaherty recounts incidents of blacks roaming fraternity row, seeking to get into parties. I shouldn’t be surprised to see NIU involved with black on white — or in the case of one fraternity row incident, black on Hispanic — violence. DeKalb is only about 60 miles west of Chicago, where whites and Asians are frequent victims of black thugs, Flaherty writes.

Here’s what Flaherty has to say about a subject that most mainstream newspapers and TV stations wish they didn’t have to cover. When they do cover the crimes, the race of the perpetrators is almost never used. It shows up in the website comments on stories, but is often removed, Flaherty says.

Instead of race, news outlets employ euphemisms like “teens” and “youths” or don’t even use any term. Here’s what the author has to say about his eye-opening (unless a thug uses the Knock Out Game to close it!) book:

“Black people are relentless victims of relentless white violence, often at the end of a badge — for No Reason What So Ever.
“That is the biggest lie of our generation. Because just the opposite is true.

“War on black people, anyone?

“Black crime and violence against whites, gays, women, seniors, young people and lots of others is astronomically out of proportion.

“It just won’t quit. Neither will the excuses. Or the denials. Or the black on white hostility. Or those who encourage it.

“That is what ‘Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry’ is about.

“In 2013, more and more people began to figure out that the traditional excuses — jobs, poverty, schooling, whatever — for black crime and mayhem were not really working any more.

“Now they have a new excuse. The ultimate excuse: White racism is everywhere. White racism is permanent. White racism explains everything.

“And right away, you can see the enormous difference between what they said happened.

“And what really happened.

* You will read about a young mother with two children who found a group of black people burglarizing her home. After she called police, large groups of black people taunted, harassed, vandalized, threatened, and finally burned down her house.

All while police shrugged their shoulder and said there was not much they could do. Hard to believe, you’ll get a link to this 911 call, and you can hear it for yourself.

* You’ll learn about the massive black on Asian violence against more than 1000 recent Asian immigrants that city officials blamed on Asian naivette and said that was not unusual because it happens to all immigrants.

* You’ll read about about 40,000 black people destroying a tourist town because some said they “did not feel welcome.”

* We’ll see examples of widespread black mob violence in small towns. And in bigger places where people pride themselves on racial tolerance.

And what about the virulent black mob violence on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, even Christmas. We’ll see how widespread that is, how it has been happening for a long time.

And all the time will see how local media deny, ignore, condone, encourage, even lie about it.

* We’ll visit college campuses, where students are soft targets. We’ll learn how black student groups hate it when school records show that violent crime and robbery in and around campus is a black thing.

* We document large scale black mob violence at movie theaters and malls. And observe the enormous difference between what they say happened, and what the video show really happened.

* We’ll see how black on white racial hostility in taught in thousands of schools around the country. How children learn that white racism is everywhere. All the time. And explains everything.

* We’ll go into the inner chambers of the Society of Professional Journalists, and how they tell their members how to cover black crime and violence: Don’t.

* We’ll take a look at Black History Month, and how it is remembered with violence and denial.

* And we will meet the victims, one after another.

And more and more and more examples of black mob violence from around the country until denial is no longer an option.

All written without racism. Or rancor. Or apologies.

My work has appeared in more than 1000 news sites around the world, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, NPR and many, many more.

My story on how a black man was unjustly convicted of trying to kill his white girl friend resulted in his release from state prison. And was featured on NPR and Court TV.

Don’t Make the Back Kids Angry breaks new ground, with new stories of black mob violence and black on white crime.

When you are finished, you might have some causes and solutions, but you will definitely have no reason to deny the existence of this epidemic of crime and violence.

Endorsements of Flaherty’s previous book

Thomas Sowell: “Reading Colin Flaherty’s book made painfully clear to me that the magnitude of this problem is greater than I had discovered from my own research. He documents both the race riots and the media and political evasions in dozens of cities.”  Sowell is an African-American.

Sean Hannity: White Girl Bleed a Lot  “has gone viral.”

Los Angeles Times: “a favorite of conservative voices.”  {The ultra-liberal L.A. Times, where I worked from 1976 to 1990, rarely if ever uses racial identification in its stories}.

Allen West: “At least author Colin Flaherty is tackling this issue (of racial violence) in his new book, White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore it.” West is an African-American.

My advice to anyone sitting down to read this book and Flaherty’s previous one: be prepared to be shocked and disgusted and to be able to withstand excuses by members of the black journalism society, wacky professors and cops in denial. You’ll also find emails to Flaherty from veteran police officers and a link to a police site in Chicago that tells it like it is.

Colin Flaherty

Colin Flaherty

About the Author
Colin Flaherty is an award winning writer whose work has been published in more than 1000 places around the globe, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, Washington Post, Bloomberg Business Week, Time magazine, and others.

He is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller: “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence and How the Media Ignore It.” And “Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry: The Hoax of Black Victimization and Those Who Enable It.”

As a reporter, he won more than 40 journalism awards, including Best Investigative from the Society of Professional Journalists in San Diego for a story that resulted in the release of an unjustly convicted black man from prison. This case was also featured on Court TV, the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets.

He lives in Wilmington, Delaware, where he (along with his liberal brother ) hosts a talk show on WDEL radio.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Winchester 1886’: Old West Comes to Life in First of a Series with a Gun as Major Element

BOOK REVIEW: 'Winchester 1886':  Old West Comes to Life in First of a Series with a Gun as Major Element

“They say that it kills at one end and cripples on the other…” — The last words cattle rustler Noble Saxon hears before he’s killed by a gunman armed with a Winchester ’86 rifle, 50-100-450 — .50 caliber, 100 grains of powder, with a bullet that weighs 450 grains

                                                                * * *
Readers hungry for more than a whiff of the old West will enjoy “Winchester 1886” (Pinnacle Books/Kensington Publishing Corp., 378 pages,  mass market paperback, $7.50) by William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone.

It’s the first of a series of Western novels featuring a specific firearm. The novel reminded me of a 2013 non-fiction book:  “American Sniper: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms”  by former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle with William Doyle. (For my review: Kyle and Doyle have one Winchester on the list, the Winchester lever action repeater rifle, the Winchester 1873. The 1886  is a far more powerful gun, suitable for downing buffalo — or even elephants. Kyle, of course, is the central figure of the Clint Eastwood helmed motion picture “American Sniper.”

The story begins with teen-ager James Mann in Randall County, Texas, as he’s babysitting his siblings, brother Jacob, 8, and sister Kris, 12. It’s the late summer of 1894 and they’re playing a game with the “wish book,” a Montgomery Ward catalog. For those who are age-deprived, once  upon a time there were two mail order giants, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and “Monkey Ward” — both based in Chicago. Why Chicago? It was then — and still is — the nation’s railroad capital and everything moved by train in the late 1800s through much of the first half of the 20th Century. I remember the Railway Express wagons at the two train stations in my hometown of Rochelle, IL, about 80 miles west of Chicago, in the 1950s. Before there was a UPS or Fed-EX, there was Railway Express.

James has managed to save the just under $20.00 needed for the big Winchester and a box of cartridges.

The teen never gets his gun: It’s stolen by train robber Danny Waco, who kills Borden Mann, Marshal Jimmy Mann’s eldest brother and James’s uncle, in the process. From then on, it’s Jimmy Mann vs Danny Waco.

Before the showdown in Tascosa, Texas, a wide-open town northwest of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, however, the Winchester has a violent odyssey as it travels from one owner to another.

A homesteader’s young bride looks at the Winchester as a way out of her hatred for living in a sod hut, far away from civilized Indiana. Shirley Sweet,  a rival of Annie Oakley in a threadbare traveling show,  uses it to win a shooting match. The rustler-hunter uses it to end the life of Noble Saxon and several others.

All along, Jimmy Mann searches for his brother’s murderer.

Did I say a whiff of the Old West? In “Winchester 1886” the stench of unwashed bodies — and many other odors — is ever present. This is the real Western deal. If you’re among those who’ve never experienced the joy of Elmore Leonard’s Westerns, or Elmer Kelton’s or Louis L’Amour’s, or William Johnstone’s, give yourself a literary present and read “Winchester 1886.”

About William W. Johnstone (1938-2004)

 William W. Johnstone  was born in Southern Missouri, the youngest of four kids. His father was a minister and his mother was a schoolteacher.
He quit school when he was fifteen and joined a carnival  but he went back and finished high school in 1957. After that he worked as a deputy sheriff, did a hitch in the army, came back and went into radio broadcasting, where he worked for sixteen years.
Johnstone started writing in 1970, but he didn’t get published until late 1979. He wrote nearly 200 books including the best-selling Ashes series and the Mountain Man series. He began writing full-time in the early 1980s. His first published book was “The Devil’s Kiss.”

About J. A. Johnstone

Being the all around assistant, typist, researcher, and fact checker to one of the most popular western authors of all time, J.A. Johnstone learned from the master, Uncle William W. Johnstone.
Bill, as he preferred to be called, began tutoring J.A. at an early age. After-school hours were often spent retyping manuscripts or researching his massive American Western History library as well as the more modern wars and conflicts. J.A. worked hard—and learned.
“Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling and creating believable characters. ‘Keep the historical facts accurate,’ he would say. ‘Remember the readers, and as your grandfather once told me, I am telling you now: be the best J.A. Johnstone you can be.’”