Monthly Archives: March 2015

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.’”

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Vanishing Girls’: A Young Adult Novel That Parents, Older Adults Will Enjoy

 Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

If there’s such a creature as a crossover Young Adult novel — and I believe it’s possible — Lauren Oliver’s “Vanishing Girls” (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, 368 pages, $18.99, available in a Kindle edition from can be considered an exemplar.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Vanishing Girls': A Young Adult Novel That Parents, Older Adults Will Enjoy

Oliver writes in a way that readers of Ellen Hopkins will approve — albeit in conventional prose rather than the verse that’s the trademark of Hopkins. I’ve reviewed many of Hopkins’ Y.A. and adult novels and I’ve become a big fan of her crossover appeal. For my reviews, use the search engine on the Huntington News Network home page.

“Vanishing Girls” is a psychological thriller about the nightmare of missing girls. Nine-year-old Madeline Snow has gone missing and the entire Norwalk community is doing everything it can to locate here. Norwalk is a city in Connecticut, on Long Island Sound, only a few miles from the New York state line, but Oliver in this novel  doesn’t identify it as part of any state and combines elements of other coastal cities in a convincing matter. The scenes at the aging FanLand amusement park provide an element of comic relief.

Also gone missing is Dara Warren, 16, who was injured in a car crash. The car was driven by Nicole (Nick) Warren, Dara’s 17-year-old  sister, who escaped without physical injury — but with a world of psychological hurt. As any parent will agree, the day their son or daughter gets a driver’s license is the start of a period of constant worry. It’s much worse in this age of texting  –and Oliver hints that Nick was texting at the time of the accident.

Nick suspects that Dara’s disappearance on her birthday is somehow linked to Madeline Snow’s — and may be further linked to Andre, the manager of a club who appears to be exploiting underage girls in a pornographic manner. More worries for today’s parents! See what I mean about the crossover appeal, which is enhanced when we learn that the parents of Dara and Nick have gone their separate ways.

Well into the novel, the reader it confronted with startling information that changes everything. No, I’m not going to give this spoiler royale away!

“Vanishing Girls” is beautifully written and will hold the attention of young readers as well as older ones. That’s quite an achievement in this era of segmented, targeted book categories.

Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver

About the author

Lauren Oliver is the author of the New York Times bestselling YA novels “Before I Fall”, which was published in 2010; “Panic”; and the Delirium trilogy: “Delirium”, “Pandemonium” and “Requiem”, which have been translated into more than thirty languages. She is a 2012 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award nominee for her middle-grade novel “Liesl & Po”, as well as author of the fantasy middle-grade novel “The Spindlers”. “Panic”, published in March 2014, has been optioned by Universal Pictures in a major deal. Her first novel for adults, “Rooms”, was published in late September 2014.  A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU’s MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the co-founder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit. You can visit her online at

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy’: Harold Fry & Queenie’s Story Continues

 Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

I’m writing this review of Rachel Joyce’s “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” (Random House, 384 pages, $25.00) with one hand tied behind my back.

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy': Harold Fry & Queenie's Story Continues

Not literally, of course (I’m a touch typist and need both hands!) —  figuratively. Let me explain. Queenie’s story follows Joyce’s best-selling “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.” I haven’t read this book, which puts me at a disadvantage. I’ve ordered a review copy, so my take on Queenie’s story, written as she is a patient in a hospice, with terminal cancer, may be altered when I read Harold’s story. Then again, it might not be changed. Queenie’s story is powerful enough to stand on its own sensibly shod feet.

Random House publicist Jennifer Garza — one of the best in the business, by the way — wrote me:

“When Harold was first published, a few people asked Rachel if she would write a sequel. She assured them that she would not; she felt she had said all she needed to say about Harold and his wife, Maureen. But what about Queenie? Rachel will tell you that one day, out of the blue, Queenie shouted, “Here I am!” In that moment she knew she had to write her story. She could not ignore this character’s voice inside her head. Sequel, prequel or companion novel? The starred Booklist review says it best: “[A] beguiling follow-up… In telling Queenie’s side of the story, Joyce accomplishes the rare feat of endowing her continuing narrative with as much pathos and warmth, wisdom and poignancy as her debut. Harold was beloved by millions; Queenie will be, too.”

All of this introductory material — which many readers may find unnecessary — is important because it puts  my review in context.

I loved Queenie’s story. She’s near the end of her life and writes Harold from the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland in the far northeast of England — almost 500 miles from where they formerly lived in Kingsbridge, south Devon in the west of the country. She met him 24 years before, she applied for and got a job at the brewery where Harold worked.

She was hired as an accountant, traveling with Harold (she didn’t have a driving license) to pubs to check their books. Following the initial  correspondence, she learns that Harold is walking to the hospice with the hope that as long as he keeps walking, Queenie will stay alive. The story of the two goes viral, as one could expect in this age of social media.

Queenie writes lovingly and incisively about the residents and staff of St. Bernardine’s Hospice. With flashbacks to the days in Devon, we learn about the relationship of Queenie and Harold and how they managed to keep their employer Napier satisfied with their job performance — no easy task. Queen found the job through a want ad in a local newspaper. She’s frank about her lack of accounting credentials: she graduated with a degree in classics from Cambridge University.

That leads to another key element in the novel:  David, Harold and Maureen’s teen-age son, who befriends Queenie. Learning that she went to Cambridge, David decides to go there too. I won’t reveal any more because that would spoil the story.

A key part of the Queenie’s story is her beach house and sea garden. There’s a drawing of the house and garden in the front of the book. I loved this part of Queenie’s story of her life.

Rachel Joyce has a winner in “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.”

UPDATE: I’ve received my copy of “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. I’ve read about 100 pages and it’s marvelous!

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce

About the Author
Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was short-listed for the Commonwealth Book Prize and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards New Writer of the Year in 2012. She is also the author of the digital short story A Faraway Smell of Lemon and is the award-winning writer of more than thirty original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.