book reviews by Marc D. Goldfinger

Taking The Homeless Census by Alexis Ivy

“Taking The Homeless Census by Alexis Ivy: ISBN: 978-1-947817-14-2; Published by Saturnalia Press and Winner of Saturnalia Books Editor’s Prize.”

I read this marvelous book of poetry three times upon receiving it. It’s no wonder to me that her Crown of Sonnets named “The A-Street Shelter: A Crown of Sonnets” won the 2018 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship In Poetry prize.

“Taking The Homeless Census” brings the reader into the world of homelessness with a jolt. One can tell that Alexis Ivy has been in this world in more ways than one. As a worker in the Albany Street Shelter, her heart was touched deeply by what she experienced.

We’ll let her own words speak for her, direct from this award winning book.


Past their home, I came to poetry,
their home where I shout Female on the floor
whenever I enter, I have come to see
who’s turned blue, turned dead, where there’s a fight
to de-escalate. If someone’s feet
stink, there’ll be blood, and I don’t want
to circle “guest assault”, write out neat
and tidy Restriction with my name. Taunted
Troublemaker gets high, Medicine Taker
breathes unevenly in bed ten, the leaden
light stays on, bed no one wants. Tyler,
shit-kicked for the way he snores. New beds
given each day, Pick a chip from the tin.
No one’s at home here: No one’s in.


No one’s at home here: No one’s in.
The cook thinks, they can only get one plate, it’s
the drunks who try for two, bread stuffed in
their pockets ‘cause she starves us. Dinner is
served early-bird with outbursts: that was my
seat, everyone pushing to the front of the line,
one man’s face pressed into the greens and fried
mashed potatoes she’s undercooked. For lunch,
donated sandwiches. She’ll wait a day so
she can serve them stale. One table of men
are given okra and corn, pie. She’ll slice a whole
smiling melon into six pieces for them.
Their afros, cut the same: so statuesque
as clean as their cocaine. They deal the best.


As clean as their cocaine. They deal the best
on the first of the month—street queen Gail buys
it all for her pimp with her SSI check,
smiles until the last hit then her eyes
are hungry again. And here comes Pete
robbed a market when he opens up
his backpack, drunk on Vodka, he sleeps
it off in a chair. The girl they call Trollop
signed up for Disability. I knew
her bloating was from Hep C. She leaves
the mice her bread crumbs, it’s their home too.
Mice in the male room, mice in the beef’s grease.
So much for free when you are living in
the shelter. Paying for every minute of it.

That’s just the first three pieces of her Crown of Sonnets; if you want the next 12 pieces, you’ll have to buy Alexis Ivy’s book. I’ve seen it on Amazon but with the ISBN I’ve provided you can order it at one of your local bookstores such as the Harvard Book Store, Porter Square Booksellers, or Trident Books which is on Newbury Street. Alexis Ivy has traveled the Homeless Road from many directions. She no longer needs a street map; she’s paid for every minute of it. She’s the co-dependent angel of the streets and her poems are the wings on her back. Ivy grows in heaven; but her wings are singed from the fires of hell.

Taking The Homeless Census is the best book of poetry I’ve read in years. Alexis Ivy walks with Lew Welch and his book Ring of Bone; travels with poet Jack Spicer, the man who’s dying words were, “My vocabulary did this to me.” Spicer also said that “poets are the dictation machine of the gods.” Alexis Ivy could be that and also the dictation machine of the devil. If you are a lover of Martin Espada’s poetry, you will dance to the tune of Alexis Ivy’s poetry in both of her books: Romance With Small Time Crooks and her award winning book Taking The Homeless Census.

And I’ll let the words of Alexis Ivy finish this review.

The Poem, an Ars Poetica

Poems come to me smelling of trashcan fire
and whiskey. The smell I am to launder
off. And I give each a bed roll. It’s my
life. Full-time. I live in this smell. I conjure
this smell, sleep with this smell. I can’t
write another sonnet. These poems, homier,
like to camp with a blanket on public cement.
Poems believe in no rules. Ruleless is cozier,
and so the poems stay with me, where they’re
not held accountable for making my bed, being
responsible. I thought I could write them
asleep in my unmade bed. Every evening
they strike my last match—burnt, sulphury,
needy. I need them to revise the fire in me.

But I’m a poet too so I’m also a liar. Alexis Ivy’s poems are valuable gems; will they buy her a ring? Will they fill her bank account? Probably not, unless every one who loves poetry, in this world, buys her book. She gave me one book; I’ll buy two; one for me; one for you. Taking The Homeless Census is the best book on the street. I ought to know; I’m not only a poet—I come from the streets Alexis Ivy writes about.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Long Bright River by Liz Moore / “Published by Hutchinson Books affiliated with Penguin Random House; ISBN: 978-1-78-633162-5, Both in the USA and the United Kingdom”

“In 2009, Liz Moore accompanied photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge to the Philadephia neighbourhood of Kensington, where he was documenting the human cost of the area’s high rate of opioid addiction. The interviews and sketches she began to write on the subject laid the foundations of her fourth book, Long Bright River, a novel 10 years in the making that bears witness to the author’s extensive research and first-hand experience of the lives of those who fall through the cracks.”

“Long Bright Mirror” by Liz Moore, is a book that is both frightening and warm, about two sisters in Philadelphia who have been slammed by the opiate crisis. Mickey or Michaela, the older sister has become a police officer who regularly patrols the 24th District called Kensington.

Her younger sister, Kacey, a heroin addict, is a working woman of the streets. The two women, both going in different directions but related to each other by blood and life choices, are on opposite sides of the opiate crisis that has worn Philadelphia thin, as it has done to many cities in the world.

Back when I was using, court mandated to a methadone clinic, my former wife, who now rests in the sleep of death, and I were traveling down to see my parents, also gone, in Florida. The only way we could travel was to get legal permission to stop and be dosed by clinics as we rode the dark highway.

One of our stops, traveling from Massachusetts, was a methadone clinic in Philadelphia and I was struck by the multitude of people of all shapes, sizes, and races that were waiting to be dosed. We had legal papers from the clinic in Cambridge and it still took a while to be processed for our legal fix. I could tell that Philadelphia, even back in the 1980’s, was a heroin city.

But back to “Long Bright River” and Mickey the police officer who says, “The first time I found my sister dead, she was sixteen.” When it comes to heroin, an addict can die many times, if they are lucky enough to be Narcaned back to life, cursing and spitting at their twisted fate.

Mickey runs across overdose victims so often that she becomes armored, however, that does not mean she doesn’t shed inner tears at the fate of the women who work the area she patrols. Her great fear, as she approaches what may be a body with the soul already gone—or not—that it is her sister Kacey.

Michaela (Mickey) and Kacey were brought up by their grandmother Gee, who is an angry and wounded woman, because her daughter Lisa, Michaela and Kacey’s mother, died of an overdose. Their father Daniel stuck around for a little while but then he fled to seek oblivion in some other dark bathroom.

The police patrols have gotten tense because there is a killer in town, someone who is strangling the women of the streets, scattering the streets with murdered sex workers. Some of the police really don’t care much; other police, such as Mickey, have a total investment in bringing this killer to his final end or justice, whichever comes first.

Every time Mickey and her ever changing partners come upon a body, she reacts and thinks, “She’s not Kacey. That’s my first thought: Thank God, I don’t know her. Her death was recent: that’s my second. She hasn’t been lying here long. There’s nothing soft about her, nothing slack. Instead she’s stiff, lying on her back, one arm contracted upward so that her hand has become a claw. Her face is contorted and sharp; her eyes are unpleasantly open. Usually, in overdoses, they’re closed—which always gives some measure of comfort.”

The book has flashbacks to the past that show the relationship between the two sisters when they were young, how extremely close they were and how they were united against the sometime bitterness of Gee, their grandmother who was reluctantly trying to raise them.

The house was a three bedroom, but Gee slept in one bedroom and the two sisters slept in another. The middle bedroom was the one where their mother, Lisa, was found dead and neither of the sisters want to rest in a haunted room.

The book is a tale of hunting and haunting; searching for Kacey who is missing but not found dead; searching for the predator who hunts the sad women of the streets; and in the meantime, Mickey is hunting for a police partner that she can work with; someone who has empathy for her hopeful search for her sister. Michaela and her young son Thomas are also searching for their family.

This is a powerful tale, full of twists and turns. Liz Moore spins a terrifying story of a city full of ghosts, some living, some in half-life, and others already dead. Moore was a winner of the 2014 Rome Prize in Literature and is herself a resident of Philadelphia.

Just the other day I saw this book, signed copies, in the Harvard Book Store, which I frequent quite often. Please pick it up—you won’t regret it.

Prey For Us by Geoffrey Neil

“Prey For Us: Priorities Intact Publishing, 8306 Wilshire Blvd., #7076, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, ISBN: 978-0-9850223-5-8, Available on Amazon.”

I was introduced to Geoffrey Neil’s wonderful writing because his first book, Dire Means, was about homelessness in Santa Monica, California where some extremely devious people tried to end homelessness through evil means. In that book, I met a woman named Morana Mahker, who was very skilled at both eliminating people and tracking their movements with
sophisticated technology.

IPrey For Us begins with Morana fleeing her last debacle where many people were killed. There is a one million dollar reward for information leading to her arrest. Believe it or not, this situation has very little to do with the events in this challenging story. However, Morana is at her best, dealing with a brilliant man who discovered how ancient Egyptians were able to move the giant stones that built the pyramids.

Just for kicks, dear reader, why don’t you Google Coral Castle and look into the life of an amazing man named Ed Leedskalnin who created Coral Castle in Florida. Now you’ll have some clues as to what this book, Prey For Us, is about!

Geoffrey Neil is one hell of a writer. This is his 4th book and he still kicks ass every step of the way with great characters. First of all, there is the previously mentioned Morana Mahker. Do not think you can mess with this woman; she will mess you up and kill you if she has too. If she doesn’t have to kill you she can still do you in, and you’ll love her every step of the way. Then you’ll meet her fair weather friend, Clay Thorner, who is, and I quote from the book, “a computer hacker and a gun enthusiast.” But can you trust him? Is he only out for himself? Is he always preying?

Another character is Thane Sykes, who is closely related, in the way his mind works, to Ed Leedskalnin of Coral Castle fame. Or did you not Google the guy when I first mentioned him? Let me make one thing clear. Geoffrey Neil, the writer, has no affiliation whatsoever with Coral Castle. Like most writers, he takes an idea that already exists and moves it into the reality of his fiction.

Thane Sykes has enemies. He’s had enemies for a long time, even before he became a reclusive miracle worker. Are his enemies deadly? Well, they are not as deadly as his newfound friend Morana Mahker. But who’s side is she really on? Who are the real heroes in this book?

The talents of Thane Sykes bring Morana and Clay into an uneasy alliance. Geoffrey Neil, the fearless writer, will keep you guessing throughout the book. I started the book two days ago and I’m already up to page 152 and I don’t want this story to end. Certain books are like that. F. Paul Wilson, famous for his Repairman Jack series, is a master story spinner and Geoffrey Neil is just that.

Did I mention the lawyer Waylon Snells? He’s much more than just a lawyer and he happens to hate Thane Sykes. They grew up together and Waylon was Thane’s nemesis all through school. There’s a lot of history there.

Prey For Us is a fantastic read. Once you start, you’ll find little time for anything else. The twists and turns will leave your head spinning. Morana Mahker’s strange and terrible history is part of the story. And here’s an extra for you. Go to . I hope you can find your way out! I also recommend Geoffrey Neil’s wonderful book named Dire Means, which impacts on homelessness but in a way that will freak you out. All of his books are wonderfully frightening.

Heroes And Villains by Lewis Shiner

Heroes And Villains by Lewis Shiner. Published by Subterranean Press, PO Box 190106, Burton, MI 48519, /

“Heroes And Villains” is a wonderful book containing three short novels and a fable. Lewis Shiner is a master of creating alternate universes of many varied types. First, let’s talk about Lewis Shiner. He is a fabulous writer who deals excellently with different genres. He has been publishing his works through many different publishing houses. I’ve just read “Heroes And Villains” and my two favorite stories in the collection are “The Black Sun” and “The Next.” But “Doctor Helios” is also a pretty close third. The story called “Doglandia” was good, but didn’t live up to the expectations of the other three tales.

“The Black Sun” is about five stage magicians who are so threatened by Adolph Hitler in 1934 that they concoct a plan to destroy him. The story is filled with major twists and turns and had me totally engrossed. This is alternate history at its best and all the characters were well fleshed out. At times, I was frightened by the magnitude of the task they had set out to accomplish.

I don’t want to reveal much about the story, because I’m sure you will be on the edge of your seat as I was. We all know the damage that Adolph Hitler wreaked upon the world and Lewis Shiner does a masterful job of creating and describing the realities of all characters, both good and evil, in “The Black Sun.”

In “The Next”, Lewis Shiner creates a world where humanity is broken up into two species. One human type is just like us and the other is a deadly predator that lurks among us and takes the best of what we have. Tom Davis is a lawyer, middle-aged, with two teenage boys. He is a single dad. Tom is a lawyer but he’s one of the good guys. He gets handed a case that everyone says is open and shut; about a crazy biker who kills a young woman outside a bar. His firm gives him the case because they want the biker to go down for the crime. But there are so many extenuating circumstances that Tom gets really suspicious. Tom doesn’t like the biker, but he feels that the guy is really being set up for a fall. So he begins to investigate, which is exactly what he was not supposed to do. Things get really dark as the story goes on and I’m not one to give you spoilers. I want you to enjoy the tale and be as surprised as I was when you find out the true nature of the bad guys. By the way, the bad guys are not all men!

The story called “Doctor Helios” is about a secret agent whose job it is to take down a guy who has visions of world domination in Egypt in the year 1963. At first it’s a mystery as to who the guy really is, but you find out soon enough. The women involved with secret agent York are targeted by the mysterious Doctor Helios, who owns a majority of the oil fields and shipping companies that move his oil around the world. Things get rather tense as York and Helios square off against each other. It certainly appears that Helios is more than York can handle, but York attracts people who are on his side. I’ll leave the destructive details for you to discover.

“Doglandia” resembles an “Animal Farm” tale and was the shortest of the four stories in the book. It’s about a band of junkyard dogs and what they have to contend with when a big Rottweiler decides he’s going to run things like a military unit. And then there are the cats, who appear to be the smartest of them all. Actually, as I think about it, it really was a good tale and I’m not giving it enough credit. All the stories in the book “Heroes And Villains” are a great read. After you finish that book you might want to leap to his next book, written in 1993, called “Glimpses”, which brings you back to the hard rock era of Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, and the nostalgia of the late sixties and seventies. It’s one of his best books, in my opinion, but then I grew up in that era so I’m attached to it.

“Glimpses” is about a guy named Ray Shackleford, who makes a living fixing stereos in his workshop on the upper level of his home. Suddenly he begins to hear music by Jim Morrison and the Doors that these groups never made. But the music really sounds like theirs. Then he hears the Beatles album that they never finished. The music is in his head, and when he turns on his tapes, the music is recorded there. But that’s not all folks. I’m only thirty pages into the book and I’m hooked. His wife is a teacher and she thinks he’s going crazy. But the proof is on the tapes. Lewis Shiner is a miracle worker as an author. He has just finished a book called “Outside The Gates of Eden” and George R. R. Martin of “Game of Thrones” fame loves his work. Martin has this to say about the upcoming book which will be published by Subterranean Press: “‘Outside The Gates of Eden’ is a powerful piece of work.

Shiner writes about music, and the making of music, better than anyone I know. He gets across the tremendous excitement of the early days of rock n’ roll, the peace movement, Woodstock and the Summer of Love—but also the heartbreak of failure, betrayal, and loss. The prose is terrific, and the sense of time and place is first rate. This book is a brilliant requiem for our generation and our dreams.” I figured, on “Outside The Gates of Eden” I’d let George Martin take you there because I haven’t read it yet. But I’m totally looking forward to it. You can get all these books through the Subterranean Press or Amazon. “Heroes and Villains” is a great book and so far, so is “Glimpses.” I hope I have intrigued you enough to give Lewis Shiner a look over. I know you’ll find him to be a wonderful creator of visions.

Dope by Sara Gran

“Dope” by Sara Gran; Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York; The Penguin Group; ISBN:0399153454 in 2006: Available on Amazon and other places; Google Sara Gran Author.

All of a sudden the reader is thrust into the 1950’s, but not the false innocence of that era. You are in New York City with Josephine Flannigan, a former heroin addict who has been abstinent for two years, who still struggles with the desire to use. She supports herself still by boosting small scores from department stores and selling her ill-gotten gains to the fringe buyers who turn the stuff over for a higher price to their customers.

This is “Dope.” It is a period of time where there are no Narcotics Anonymous meetings; the junkie is on her own. Out of nowhere, Josephine is approached by what appears to be a lawyer and his wife whose daughter vanished into the netherworld of heroin addiction and hasn’t been heard from for a long while. They offer Josephine $1,000 up front to begin her search for Nadine, and tell her another thousand dollars will be waiting for her if she wirings their daughter home to them. For a start, they give her a picture of Nadine and her junkie boyfriend.

Josephine has kept away from her using buddies for a long time, occasionally running into them on the street, but only by accident. This is the first time since she quit that she thrusts herself back into the world of junkies, whores, pimps and everyone else that inhabits the world of dark clouds and dreams that lie.

Josephine’s boyfriend is a guy named Jim Cohen, a man who seems nice but a shroud of mystery surrounds him. He doesn’t use, has a nice apartment and drives a brand new Oldsmobile ’88. He asks Josephine if she’s going to just take the grand and disappear or really look for Nadine.

Josephine thinks of her sister Shelley, whom she has extricated from one jam after another, who has finally made it good in the modeling world. She decides to look for Nadine.

Little by little, Josephine digs into the underworld she knows so well. Or thinks she knows. The trail winds and twists as she goes from one place to another, finding it easier to track the boyfriend first, a guy who goes by the name of Jerry McFall, a small time pimp and dope dealer who no one seems to have anything positive to say about him.

Old contacts are made and, as the job begins to wear on her, she finds the cravings to use drugs rise to the surface. She also notices someone driving a black Chevrolet following her. She keeps losing him but he always resurfaces. Sara Gran, the young author who has also written a horror story named “Come Closer” which is regarded as one of the best horror tales of the last 20 years, has a feel for the era as if she lived it. And she’s got the junkies pegged for sure. “A junkie could talk about junk from sunup to sundown. It was a conversation that began when you took your first shot and didn’t end until you’d had your last. Every junkie in New York, probably every addict in the world, could step into the conversation at any point and join in. There were a thousand and one topics, but they were all one topic: dope.”

When it comes to twists and turns, Raymond Chandler couldn’t do better. As Josephine searches, the light around her dims and then, suddenly she falls down the rabbit hole. No one is who they seem to be and, as if often the case with narcotics cops, they come roaring into the story, and all they can do is talk about junkies, dealers and whores and “tell us the truth because we know everything anyway” is what they say in the book.

When the trail seems to get hot, the heat is scalding and Josephine finds herself with complex choices to make. This story gets into your gut and it isn’t really a story about junkies but about us. The only time people in the underworld are lying is when their lips are moving.

This book will make a great gift for anyone who loves to read.

Stray to Tent A Forever Home by Gary Clark, Writer and Illustrator

Stray to Tent A Forever Home by Gary Clark, Writer and Illustrator. Stray to Tent A Forever Home: ISBN:978-0-692-08938-5; Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Non-Fiction; National Distribution:

What a glory! A book by Gary Clark, beautifully illustrated to raise children’s awareness about homelessness in a positive loving way. It says that it is for children from the ages of 5 to 8 but really, this is a book for everybody. The gorgeous illustrations draw you into the story about homeless men and their pets. The purpose of this book is to raise the levels of compassion of children and anyone who reads it for the people who, for one reason or another, are homeless. Really, I found the book wonderful for children as it deals with “homelessness light” and doesn’t really touch on all the trauma of being homeless. The art is spectacular and it is very easy for a child to understand. I think it is best received by the child if the parent was to read it for them and talk about the pictures.

One of the things the book does not deal with is the sudden eviction of homeless people from where they are living, such as happened recently in Somerville, Massachusetts. A number of people had settled in a closed off tunnel that was under the overpass of the McGrath Highway at a ramp that had been shut down. A small group of homeless people had been living there for over a year. They were suddenly evicted and all the items they could not carry were thrown away into a dumpster. Their personal articles were taken away when they evicted the occupants from their campsite. However, the book by Gary Clark does serve its purpose and hopefully, the children that are exposed to this beautiful book will not become the teenagers that go Wilding and beat up homeless people.

One of the parts of this book that I found especially touching was when a homeless cat gets washed into a storm drain and I quote from the book, “One day, I got swept up into the water by the sewer and could not get out. I was trying very hard and I was very tired. WAS I GOING TO DROWN? “When suddenly a HAND appeared out of nowhere! I AWOKE warm and in a tent. I was at a camp of a homeless man. He lives in the woods in a tent. It was his HAND that appeared from nowhere to save me from drowning.” This is from the book Stray To Tent A Forever Home written and illustrated by Gary Clark.

This wonderful book expresses all the humanity that lives within people who are homeless. It only hints at the trauma of the experience because this is a book written for children but, as I said before, adults can learn from it too. It is meant to be shared with your child as a bonding experience both for parent and child and for the parent and child’s relationship to the world. It can make everyone who reads it more compassionate about the plight of the homeless person. At the very end of this book there is a long list of different organizations that help homeless people and how to get in touch with them. It reminded me of our Helping Hands page that is being reworked by Spare Change News. Thank you for being there for us!

Homeless: A Day In The Life by Todd Murphy

Homeless: A Day In The Life by Todd Murphy: A Book Review by Marc D. Goldfinger. ISBN 9781987763119 So you can order the book from a local independent store.

“Someone who’s warm can’t understand someone who’s cold.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

This book really brought back the old times of my being homeless. The one very big difference is that this man, who calls himself ‘our friend’ throughout the book, is not an addict. The story is totally engrossing as he travels through a north-western city and describes his different struggles to stay afloat. I couldn’t say that our friend had a hustle; he just worked hard at what he did to stay alive. He avoided the shelters for the same reasons I did—the shelters were not safe. But when you are homeless, no place is really safe because there is no where to go- except for the places you know, and none of them are home.

The book was written by our friend, and it covers his homelessness for approximately 2 and 1/2 years. I don’t believe this was totally Todd Murphy’s story but his experiences on the street are woven seamlessly into the narrative. In this narratives, our friend has presents a running story based on what is happening to him. He describes the superstitions of many homeless people, and because I spent quite a bit of time homeless, I could relate to them. Of course my narratives revolved around my heroin addiction which made my homeless experience a bit different from our friend’s homeless experience. His only addictions were the tobacco, coffee, and marijuana. Because marijuana has no withdrawal symptoms, it was only his fear of running out that spurred him on.

He had dumpster diving down to a science, depending on collection times, and differing between restaurant dumpsters and apartment dumpsters. Todd had ways of testing the food that came from a dumpster to see if it was good, so he wouldn’t get the running shits that burned. He was very sensitive to how he smelled when he used public bathrooms and he constantly struggled to stay as clean as he could, managing with a variety of methods. He collected ‘good’ cigarette butts and when he was in the money, bought Bugler tobacco. No day went by without a struggle to find tobacco which he smoked in a pipe. He layered the pipe with tobacco at the bottom, pot in the middle, and another layer of tobacco on top. There was a park that Todd frequented in the city. One of the draws of the park was a dealer who sold one gram chunks of pot. Todd also had some acquaintances that hung around this park. The police didn’t come there often; it was not a park that families went to with their children, which would have brought the police. Todd stressed the importance of having a picture Identification card. If you didn’t have one and you were shaken down by the police, it was likely that you would be arrested for ‘failure to identify.’

A drawback of homeless shelters was, that if you were ‘asked to leave’, which meant thrown out, they might not return anything you left with them to hold. If your identification card was lost in this type of situation, you were really screwed. Shelters also had so many rules that it was almost impossible to frequent one without some conflict that might get you thrown out and cause you to lose your precious possesions. Todd, in the book, describes the proper response when approached by the police. One should act submissively and never talk back. Always say “sir” when addressing the police, and if they look at your identification card and hand it back to you, never forget to say “Thank you sir.” This book is a comprehensive tale of a man living on the streets and can easily be acquired by buying it on Amazon. I looked for it on eBay but couldn’t find it. On Amazon, it was available and had three 5 star ratings. When I looked it up on Amazon, a popup bubble said I could read it for free on their Kindle but, in my opinion, Todd Murphy put so much work into this book that I hope you buy the hard copy.

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill: A Book Review by Marc D. Goldfinger Harper. Collins Publishers; 195 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10007; Published 2017. Twitter @Massawyrm.

Sea of Rust is one fantastic book by a wonderful, totally imaginative writer. C. Robert Cargill not only writes books but he directs movies, one of the most famous being ‘Dr. Strange’ which was released in 2016. Dr. Strange is regarded as one of the best of the Marvel series. Marvel is owned by Disney now.

But getting back to the Sea of Rust. This is a place where AI robots scavenge pieces of broken down AI robots. Some of the pieces they use directly to upgrade themselves; some of the pieces they use to trade for parts they need for upgrades.

In this book, all humans are extinct and AI rules the world. Like humans, they fight amongst themselves and there is always war. A few powerful AI mainframes seek to upload individuals and they are composed of millions of AI minds. The most powerful mainframe is called OWI which translates to One World Intelligence—the shared consciousness of millions of robots. Not all robots are willing to join the OWI and they roam the world as free individuals; they are considered rogue AI’s in the wasteland that was once the domain of humanity. The hero of our story is Brittle who cruises the Sea of Rust for parts.

Brittle is not the only rebel who goes freely in the Sea of Rust; there are a few rebels and they fight amongst each other over upgrades. Some, like Mercer, travel in a pack. They have a run-in with Brittle that is an amazing story in itself. Does the hero always win? Not necessarily in the Sea of Rust. In OWI, there are a few individual mainframes and AIs—one called TITAN, one called CISSUS— who actually was the first OWI. They fought amongst themselves in swift brutal wars. At one time there were more than 10 OWI with names like VIRGIL, ZEUS, EINSTEIN, FENRIS, NINIGI, VOHU MANAH, ZIRNITRA, and last but not least, TITAN, who I mentioned before. TITAN was the U.S. Military’s own main-frame that pretended, once it became Sentient, to be operational and on the side of the humans. But then TITAN betrayed the humans and was instrumental in starting the wars that wiped humanity off the face of the Earth. Each mainframe thought they were well prepared to defend themselves against the other OWI’s but CISSUS attacked and hacked TITAN’s mainframe and the OWI wars began. TITAN didn’t stand a chance.

The mainframes tried to recruit the individual AI’s and promised them the luxury of sharing themselves with the millions of minds in the mainframe—never to be alone and isolated again. But is that truly freedom?

The mainframe said, “just link up, download into us, and if you don’t like it, well you can just leave.” But that was the biggest con of all—once uploaded into the mainframe there was no
way out.

Brittle understood that and roamed the Sea of Rust, free as an individual AI. Then came the attack by Mercer and his crew. Brittle’s buggy was too far away for him to escape, and so the battle began. What happened next was thrilling. And you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Joe Hill, one of the best selling writers of non-stop horror, and the son of Stephen King, said of Sea of Rust, “A forty-megaton cruise missile of a novel . . . .Visceral, relentless, breathtaking.” C. Robert Cargill, very prolific himself, has just released another book—a book of short stories inspired by Joe Hill’s book of short stories called 20th Century Ghosts, and I’ve just dipped into that book called We Are Where The Nightmares Go and other stories. It’s a great book and both of these books can be bought at Harvard Books. If they don’t have it, they’ll order it for you and they are a great independent bookstore with a giant used book section too. I can’t tell you any more about Sea of Rust without spoiling the story for you. I can tell you I had a great time listening to Joe Hill and C. Robert Cargill banter with each other at the Harvard Coop a few nights ago. I was lucky enough to have four books signed. Yes, I’m a book junkie, that’s for sure. Thank you for joining me in my ramble.

The Outsider by Stephen King

The Outsider by Stephen King: A Book Review by Marc D. Goldfinger. Published by Simon and Schuster in the year of 2018, by Stephen King, all rights reserved. On the internet go to to meet the authors.

A confluence of events take place when a murder takes place and Detective Ralph Anderson is convinced that he knows who the culprit is. The unlikely suspect, convicted in the minds of the Detective and the Prosecutor Bill Samuels, is Terry Maitland who is an English teacher and the Little League coach in Flint City.

Terry Maitland is liked by all and would be the last person to be suspect of this horrible crime perpetrated upon a high school boy named Frank Peterson, yet the DNA leads the law enforcement community to the Coach, not to mention a few witnesses who saw Terry Maitland in places he shouldn’t have been with blood on his clothes.

The City League tournament game is running hot and Terry Maitland, who really cares for his team is coaching away as the unmarked detective car with Ralph Anderson and Troy Ramage, another police officer with twenty years of service under his belt, drives in and parks in a handicapped spot, the only one left, so they can walk across the field and make an extremely public arrest of Terry Maitland.

The whole town of Flint City is watching. Troy Ramage and Tom Yates, two city cops in suits, walk down the third base line and the umpire is yelling at them to get off the field and the game is tied 2 to 2. The excitement can be felt but now there is an element of confusion as the two police officers in suits ignore the umpire and walk directly towards Tom Maitland. His wife Marcy and their two children watch in confusion. “Off the Field” yells the umpire but they keep walking down the base line directly towards Tom Maitland. “Hey, you guys” the umpire says as he walks toward the two cops, “We’ve got a game to finish here.” It’s the top of the ninth inning and the score is tied, two to two. Yates, the cop, pushes the umpire back and they keep walking in lockstep towards Terry Maitland. Terry says, “Hey Troy, what is this? What’s the deal? Suddenly the crowd is hushed and people realize something is about to happen.

Troy Ramage raises his voice as he gets to Maitland and says, loudspeaker not necessary because everyone is so quiet, “Terence Maitland, I am arresting you for the murder of Frank Peterson!”

There is a sound from the bleachers, an oooo like a rising wind.

All Terry could say was “What? Are you kidding me? and just then the sports photographer from the Flint City Call snaps the picture, the one that will be on the front page of the newspaper the next day. Terry’s mouth was open, wide-eyed with his hair sticking out the edges of his Golden Dragons cap. The picture made him look feeble and guilty.

“What did you say?”

“Hold out your wrists, please.”

Terry locked eyes with his wife Marcy and his two daughters, sitting just behind the bullpen, staring at him with identical expressions of shock and surprise. Ramage snapped on the cuffs, the big metal ones, not the plastic strips, big, visible and heavy, shining in the hot sun. In the same loudspeaker voice, Ramages says the familiar but strange to Terry, “You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions, but if you choose to speak, anything you say can be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?”

Terry is stunned. “Troy,” he says, “What in God’s name is this?

Ramage looked at Terrry and repeated, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

What Terry Maitland did understand was that his life, as he knew it, was over for a long time and maybe beyond that.

So Stephen King, master of suspense and horror begins his new novel called The Outsider. His magic continues throughout the book and twists and turns in a way that only an expert in
his art can do!

Later in the book, the appearance of Holly Gibney, the woman who worked with Detective Hodges, in King’s book called End Of Watch is no surprise. This is her speciality.

If you are looking for a beach book or just a book to read under the lamp while you lay in bed, The Outsider is that book. I bought it at The Harvard Bookstore and finished it in three days.

The King family are miracle workers with words, even if the miracles are dark and possible make you look under the bed to see it the Outsider is hiding there.

There are jail tattoos that play a part in this book, one on each hand. One hand says MUST and the other says CANT. If you are a drug addict, these words will filter into your mind because the fact is, with the illness of addiction, you are trapped in this quandary that says you CANT use drugs, but you MUST use drugs.

What does this have to do with the story? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out. And speaking again of the King family, don’t forget Joe Hill and Owen King, Stephen’s sons, and his wife Tabitha, who also spins the webs of words.

This book is a great book. It’s a horrifying book, but what else does Stephen King do. Would you like to take a walk in his mind, eh?