Book Review

Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin

Published by Mantle, an imprint of PanMacmillan, 20 Wharf Road, London NI 9RR www.panmacmillan.com

Dead Man’s Blues is a fantastic book that takes the reader back to the wild Chicago of 1928 where the booze and drugs flowed freely. The city is controlled by Alphonse Capone, a man in the grips of tertiary syphilis. The disease is in its third, incurable, stage.

Capone had syphilis for over fifteen years, before he went to an out of town doctor under a pseudonym, and got the bad news. It shook him to his core.

Capone was so upset by the news that he had his bodyguards drop him off at a sauna to relax his nerves. They waited outside while he reminisced the words of the doctor “If it develops into neurosyphilis, the spirochete, like a worm, will enter the brain and attack the frontal lobes—your personality may become exaggerated”. He sat in the sauna brooding until his mood changed when he rationalized that now he could do anything he felt like doing and blame his behavior on his illness.

With this in mind, Al Capone goes violent in the sauna before he leaves, riding off with his bodyguards afterward.

All the greats of jazz make their appearance in this thrilling crime drama—Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Henry Hines, etc. Chicago is the Big City and corruption is its first name.

Pinkerton Detectives Michael Talbot and Ida Davis play a major role in this book, hunting down a serial killer who likes to take out the eyes of his victims and leave them staring into space next to the corpse.

This is Ray Celestin’s 2nd book. His first book, The Axeman’s Jazz, took place in New Orleans in 1919, and a few of the same characters appear, more developed, in Dead Man’s Blues. Two of the main carry over players are detective Michael Talbot, married to a Black woman, which was a big deal back in that era, and Ida Davis, Michael’s Pinkerton’s partner, who is a light skinned Black woman who can pass for white, which she uses to her advantage.

Michael and Ida are offered $50,000, big money in those days, by a society belle, to find her daughter Gwendolyn. But because there is a conflict of interest here, they have to decide whether to take the job and leave the Pinkertons or decline and stay on the payroll.

The Axeman’s Jazz, Ray’s debut novel won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award and was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year 2014. Actually, as good as his first book was, Celestin’s 2nd book, Dead Man’s Blues, caps it and is much more cohesive. It appears that The Axeman’s Jazz was the introduction to what is going to be a four book series dealing with the era of Prohibition.

You might not hear much about Ray Celestin here in the United States but his books are both best sellers in Europe. It’s ironic that they deal with our history, the unwritten history of the mobs, the drugs, the brothels, and the free flowing liquor of the time. The story narrates one of the most corrupt periods of the United States.

Another main player in the story is Dante Sanfelippo, a gangster from Chicago, who made it big in New York City. But because of a tragedy unwittingly engineered by men he knew, Dante was responsible for the death of his wife Olivia and a bunch of New York mobsters. It so happened that champagne was laced with poison by guys who didn’t know what they were doing, but Dante was responsible for the distribution of the brew.

The poison brew also struck Chicago. But because of the quick action of a few bodyguards, the politicos and gangsters who drank the poison were rescued by prompt medical help. Al Capone, ironically, calls Dante back to Chicago to find the people at fault for the tragedy in New York and the near tragedy in Chicago.

Ever since the poison brew struck and killed Dante’s wife, he turned to heroin to ease the pain of his conscience. This puts him even more at risk to raise the ire of Alphonse Capone, who hates people who use and/or deal heroin, because he believes it makes them unreliable.

At one point, Dante scores a small block of heroin from his favorite shoeshine man, and goes to the beach to shoot up. While he’s shooting up, a stray dog comes over to him and watches. Afterwards the dog cuddles up to him so he takes it home. One of his friends names the dog Virgil, from Dante’s Inferno, and the name sticks.

Much of what I have related to you is just background information. I don’t want to reveal the main plots of the story because this is a book you should read and enjoy firsthand—after all, it’s a piece of American history that they don’t teach in school. Ray Celestin will be regarded as one of the great fiction writers in the near future. Currently, he lives in London, but you can buy his book, Dead Man’s Blues, at the Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square.

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters. Mulholland Books/Little Brown & Company, Hachette Book Group; Goldsboro Books, UK Ltd. Edition S & N.

“No future amendment of the Constitution shall affect the five preceding articles, . . . and no amendment shall be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with slavery in any of the States by whose laws it is, or may be allowed or permitted.”—–The Senator John C. Crittenden Compromise, May 9, 1861.”

Imagine if President Lincoln was shot before the Civil War took place and then, because of that, and the greed of humankind, the Civil War never happened. If you were Black and born into a slave state—there would be no way you could ever be a free man.

There were four states that embraced slavery and even if you ran, there were hunters, most often Black themselves, who work to break into the Underground Airlines, and bring you back. There was no safe place for a slave to hide—unless they made it into Canada. And even there . . .

Ben H. Winters’ new book alters history and tells the story of a Black Man who was a slave, and his price for freedom was to become a hunter of other slaves and in his thankless quest, Jim Dirkson, free since he was 14 uncovers the horrible truth of the Underground Airlines.

With a GPS Tracker buried in the back of his neck, and a merciless handler that he contacts by cell phone, there is no escape. This is not the United States we know, yet, it can be horribly close. It’s not unknown for Black people to be suddenly grabbed and sold into slavery—their entire previous life erased by the press of a button on a computer.

The man we know as Jim Dirkson is closing in on a “runaway” slave who is waiting for his flight. Yet neither of the men have any idea of the situation they are really in.

The horrors of the jobs a slave must do include long and monotonous days. Our runaway would, for twelve hours a day, pluck the loose threads from the collars of shirts as they continuously rode up an assembly line. They are the type of jobs no one in their right mind could do for long.

I can remember when I had a factory job where I would watch a piece of metal the size of a paper clip move along an assembly line through a magnifying glass. The pin would move; I would press a lever and make a notch on it; the pin would move; I would press a lever and make a notch on the other side. A new pin would move into place. Work like this can make a person mad, in the sense of a falling apart of the mind.

These were slave jobs. Imagine, in the modern world, there being 4 states where it was legal to own a thinking, feeling man or woman just because his skin color is darker than yours.

“Under the Fugitive Persons Law, those who escape from service are to be captured and returned, anywhere they are found in the United States, slave state or free.” This is why Canada is the only answer, or any other country that doesn’t condone slavery.

Back in history, the escape route was called the “underground railroad”; there were no aircraft. Times have changed. We have aircraft, and GPS trackers, yet slavery still exists.

In Underground Airlines, Ben H. Winters has written his best book yet. It is certainly his most frightening tale. I saw copies of this book in the Harvard Book Store, one of my favorites, in Cambridge. If they don’t have it, they will order it and it will come in quickly.

I can’t tell the story like Ben H. Winters narrates the Underground Airlines, so I won’t. I hate spoilers in book reviews and try to avoid them as much as possible. His last three books, The Last Policeman trilogy won the 2012 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. The second book of the trilogy, Countdown City, was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished Science Fiction.

Ben H. Winters is truly coming into his own. Right now Goldsboro Books in London has a Limited Edition and the last time I checked they had some left. I’m sure these Signed and Numbered books will be collector’s editions in the near future.

Tales of Repairman Jack by F. Paul Wilson

Tales of Repairman Jack by F. Paul Wilson: A Review by Marc D. Goldfinger / www.repairmanjack.com F. Paul Wilson is the creator of Repairman Jack published by Tor Books, New York, NY 10010 and Isher Books, distributed by the Gauntlet Press, among others.

Repairman Jack is one of the most exciting characters ever to come out of the mind of F. Paul Wilson, who in his spare time, when he is not writing, is a practicing physician in Wall, New Jersey. It would take a Jersey Boy to create someone as interesting and unique as Repairman Jack.

Some of the writers, beside myself, who are fans of Repairman Jack are Lee Childs, Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz, Joe R. Lansdale, and Andrew Vacchss. That’s just a handful; there are more. Once I read my first Repairman Jack book, Harbingers, I was hooked.

I don’t recommend beginning there because that’s kind of the middle of a long story. Actually, I think wrong; I began with Infernal, which introduced me to Jack’s brother Tom, who is a practicing judge in Philadelphia.

It might appear that Jack is the black sheep in the family, but families have many secrets and sometimes our brothers and sisters might be in competition for that title. We don’t always know them as well as we think we do. In the book Infernal, Jack’s brother Tom cons Jack into going on a treasure hunt looking for a wreck off the coast of Bermuda.

As is often the case with Jack’s adventures, things go astray. I’m not going to ruin the book for you by giving you the storyline. I will tell you that Jack hangs out in a bar called The Spot, which is run by Julio, who becomes a close friend, and the search for treasure turns into a dark tale of mystery and power.

Repairman Jack doesn’t exist. Well, he is real, but a tragic event in his life causes him to have reason to stay hidden from society. He has no Social Security card, pays no taxes and because of his desire to protect the people he loves, Jack becomes a ghost in the machine of civilization. He is a repairman because he implements solutions to problems that can’t be fixed by legitimate means. They are problems that can only be solved by someone who can’t be traced or identified.

You will love Repairman Jack. What’s nice about that is the fact that there are over 16 books of his adventures, and they all tell tales that are continuous and yet, they also stand alone. You’ll know when you are nearing the end of the Repairman Jack story because his books tend to end with cliffhangers.

Perhaps you would enjoy starting with the book named Dark City, which is one of the early histories of Jack. It’s not the earliest history of Jack; the beginning of his story is told in a series of three books written for Young Adults.

We all have to begin somewhere, don’t we? The first Young Adult book is called Jack: Secret Histories and it begins with Jack growing up in the pine barrens of New Jersey, when he is in high school. I suggest you start reading about Jack here. Isn’t everyone really a young adult, a child who happened to get wrinkled and grey?

I remember flying up the stairs when I was young. Now I trudge up the stairway to the wonderful apartment where I live. However, I fly through the books I read and then I write about them. I even write about myself from time to time. I’ve heard many people say, “my life is so interesting I could write a book about it,” but they never do.

I found out through holding writing workshops that many people enjoy talking about writing but when it comes to picking up the pen and putting it to the empty page, that is another story.

F. Paul Wilson dares to put the pen to the page, and he has created a character whose adventures tear through a minimum of at least 16 books. Repairman Jack is not the only character Dr. Wilson created—he wrote a story called SIMS, divided into five novellas that deal with genetic engineering.

In the third book of the young adult series a tragic event takes place that changes Jack’s life forever. No, I won’t tell you what it is—but every boy, from a good home, loves his mother. Once you finish Secret Histories, Secret Circles, and Secret Vengeance, you are ready to enter the next trilogy, which takes Repairman Jack to the Dark City.

In the Dark City you will meet Abe, who is a mensch who runs the Isher Sports Shop. Abe becomes one of Jack’s closest friends. Does anyone reading this remember the Weapon Shop of Isher? Google it, my friend, and be enlightened. The writer A. E. Van Vogt would want you to do this.

Then there is Jacks adversary, Rasalom, who is first introduced in F. Paul Wilson’s book called The Keep. This story takes place during the hell of Nazi Germany, in the way back of 1941. The Keep is in the Dinu Pass, in Romania and it was created to contain—well, needless to say, one of the most frightening enemies of Repairman Jack series arises from The Keep. I cannot say more.

People clamor for F. Paul Wilson to write more Repairman Jack books, however, it appears that he may be done. Yet, one can always hope. Some might say—isn’t 16 + books enough? I say thee, nay, there can never be enough Repairman Jack. Now all we need is some movies. Really.

Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon

Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon, A Pocket Star Book published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., New York, NY 10020 and Subterranean Press, PO Box 190106, Burton MI 48519 www.subterraneanpress.com

Zephyr, Alabama is a small town where Cory Mackenson grew up in the early 60’s. His father, Tom, was a milkman and sometimes Cory would ride with his dad early in the morning and help drop off the full bottles of milk and cream and pick up the empties to bring back to the dairy where the bottles would be washed and sterilized and readied to be filled again.

I remember those days myself because, at my house in North Arlington, New Jersey, we had an insulated box where the bottles would go when we finished the milk and then, in the morning, I would go out and get the fresh bottles of milk, sweating in the early morn, and bring them in the house. Those were the days before the big box supermarkets opened up, putting all the mom and pop grocery stores out of business.

The small dairies went down too because everyone bought their milk in those big box supermarkets with the angry lights where the people behind the cash registers would ring up our orders and take our money but they wouldn’t know our names. The world changed and a boy’s life isn’t the same now as it was when I was young.

Cory was out on an early morning run with his dad on a curve near Saxon’s Lake, the lake that was rumored to have no bottom, and as they went round the curve a brown car rolled across the road into the lake. The lights were off but they could see someone behind the wheel.

Cory’s dad, Tom, jumped out of the milk truck, dove into the Saxon’s Lake to save the guy and when he got to the car he looked in and the man’s face was all battered and bruised and he was handcuffed to the steering wheel. There was nothing he could do but he knew that vision would haunt him the rest of his life.

However, there were answers to be found and I dare not spoil the world you will enter when you travel to Zephyr. It becomes your town and your life. When Cory sees the look on his dad’s face as he comes out of the water, he knows that a major, life-changing event has taken place.

This book is one of the most wonderful stories I have ever read. Robert R. McCammon has that special touch with words—he brought me back in time and I felt that I was living this story. All the different issues that I remember from my childhood such as segregation, bullying, long exciting bicycle rides, events that took place in my place of worship and so much more were magically brought back to me as I read the adventures of Cory Mackenson in the small town where he grew up.

The mixture of events that take place touched me personally; the loss of a young friend; the mom and pop grocery store my father owned in Newark, New Jersey, where all the customers were Black (we used the word Negro back then) and the different lifestyles I encountered when I worked in my dad’s store.

In Boy’s Life, when school ended for the summer the warm lazy adventurous days ahead stretched infinitely into the future. Robert R. McCammon, the writer, actually made me feel like I was Cory and was re-living my childhood through his words. McCammon has written many books that insert the reader into his world. He’s truly a great writer.

Is Boy’s Life McCammon’s best book? Some say so because it is a book that many of us who are still alive can repeat our own young days and the summers that would never end.

There is so much I want to say about this wonderful book but I don’t want to spoil the story for you and reveal the life of the town of Zephyr, on one side of the river, and the magical Blacktown, on the other side of the river that cuts through the towns and divides them into two.

What’s in the river that scares the folks so much? The Lady, the matriarch of Blacktown is more than a century old and no one dares cross her unless they want to be haunted. Yet The Lady is also a healer and peacekeeper and plays a large part of the life of Cory Mackenson.

And no good mystery river could be complete without its resident water monster, which is fed raw meat by the folks of Blacktown every year on Good Friday.

This book was written over 20 years ago but it is still available in stores and various websites for a reasonable amount of money—both in hard cover and pocket book editions. I bought mine in the used book department of Harvard Book Store for only $3.50.

There are not many adventures that cost so little and mean so much. I highly recommend this book. If you read it you’ll be glad you did and you will certainly seek out other books by Robert J. McCammon. Such as McCammon’s Matthew Corbett series.

McCammon’s Matthew Corbett series is into it’s 6th book now and he hasn’t lost his touch even though he’s now close to my age. I have all six of those books and I’m waiting for the last two to bring closure to the riveting adventures of Matthew Corbett in the 17th century.

This is not a Matthew Corbett review, so I shall end by speaking of the magic of Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon and the fact that, of all the multiple tales within this book, Mr. McCammon is able to tie the knots of each one and I was left more than satisfied. I believe you will be overjoyed that you chose to read Boy’s Life.

A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar

A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar; published by Melville House Publishing, 46 John Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 & 8 Blackwood Mews, Islington, London N4 2BT—mphbooks.com face.com/mhpbooks @melvillehouse—

A Man Lies Dreaming is an amazing alternate history book written by Lavie Tidhar, the author of The Violent Century and Osama. He is a past winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award for Best novel. Lavie Tidhar grew up in a Kibbutz in Israel and in South Africa and currently lives in London.

In A Man Lies Dreaming, the man Wolf is a down and out private eye who was once the most powerful man in Germany. He was known for his dynamic speaking ability, whipping crowds into a frenzy while surrounded by his infamous Black Shirts.

His life has changed. Wolf works out of a shabby office in 1939 and still hates the Jews. It irks him that sometimes he has to work for them and wishes they had all remained in Germany, a country where most of the Jewish people are imprisoned and exterminated in concentration camps.

The story also involves a man named Shomer, a Jewish man who is in one of the German camps. He tells his story of horror where 9 to 12 people sleep on wooden pallets the guards call bunks, and line up at 4 a.m. every morning to wait two hours for the prisoner count. Then they are allowed to go to the latrine where another prisoner times them while they are relieving themselves.

The horror of the camps is illustrated in Shomer’s diary. Ironically Wolf keeps a diary too. In the beginning Wolf is hired by Isabella Rubenstein to find her missing sister by the name of Judith. Her father had arranged to have Judith smuggled out of Germany but something went wrong.

Back in those days it was not surprising for plans to fall apart. At first Wolf says that he does not work for Jews. But Isabella reminds him that now he has no choice in the matter, while she puts an envelope of money on his desk. Wolf takes the money and consummates the deal.

Wolf works out of an office in a desolate neighborhood filled with low-life crime. When he goes out the door of his building, whores solicit him constantly. He knows many of them are Jewish; he sees blue numbers on their arms.

Wolf constantly finds himself working for the very people he hated. Were it not for the Fall in Germany, he would still be in power. But now Germany is controlled by the communists, many of whom are Jewish. The world has changed for Wolf and his henchmen.

A Man Lies Dreaming is a book of a world inscribed by irony. While Wolf is violated by the people he hates, Shomer dreams of freedom in the camp.

In the middle of the night, Shomer wakes to relieve himself in the bucket, and as he does a little of the liquid seeps over the edge. Shomer knows it is his bad luck to have to dump the bucket; the man who fills it to the brim is the man who must empty it. He lifts the heavy bucket and takes it out of the dorm, the liquid splashing on his dirty bare feet. He dumps it and then brings it back in and crawls onto the bunk filled with other sleeping men. It takes a while before he sleeps; it will be time for roll call any minute.

Wolf, after being accused falsely of the murder of a whore, is released by one his old comrades who wishes to employ him. They remember the days when people hid when the name of the Wolf was mentioned. They called him “the Drummer” because of the way he pounded the podium as he spoke, his voice rising, spittle flying from his mouth, as he whipped the crowd to a frenzy.

Those days are past him now. He is nobody.

Lavie Tidhar creates an amazing world that could have been, but wasn’t. There are things taking place in this story that create a reality that is true even today. While it is a past that never took place, at the same time, it did take place in another form. Tidhar is a writer that commands the page and when you read his book, his world becomes yours.

I wish I could say more but I don’t want to spoil the story for you. This book is not for the faint of heart. Lavie Tidhar spins a tale of magic and shows the human condition for what it is. In a book that seems impossible, the dark fantasy becomes real.

Lavie Tidhar is a writer from Israel who won the World Fantasy Award in 2012 for his imaginative book called Osama, which is still available. His history bending writing is totally unique.

Rachel Rising by Terry Moore

Rachel Rising by Terry Moore; Published by Abstract Studio, Box 271487, Houston, TX,77277

Imagine, if you can, digging yourself out of a grave in the ground, and not having any memory of how you wound up there or of who you really are.

Rachel Rising is an amazing tale, but I really did not realize it at first.  Let me clarify. We are talking about a graphic novel, drawn and written by Terry Moore.

You see, comics are so short and they come out every two months, so they can be difficult to follow.  Rachel Rising will be concluded with the 42nd issue, so there is a great deal of story to follow. It is complex, and I found myself, once I started buying trades 1—5, of which there will be 7 when the tale is complete, reading the story and flipping back through the pages because an event was occurring that triggered remembrances of something that happened much earlier. There are 6 individual comics in a trade.

I’m ashamed to admit that I started buying the single comics in the beginning and discontinued reading them at around issue 11.  However, if I had been able to conveniently flip back to earlier comics and reread certain sections, I would never have discontinued the series.

Rachel Rising is a wonderfully complex, detailed adventure that must be read in large chunks at a time.  I’m a writer and I remembered how wonderful were Strangers In Paradise and Echo, also by Terry Moore, so I decided to give Rachel Rising another chance.  When I bought and read the 5 trade paperbacks altogether, with total enjoyment, I was amazed. Terry Moore has outdone himself. The story is carefully plotted and drawn and Terry didn’t miss a trick.

The story takes place in a town called Manson, which has a history of conspiring against women of nature. Many were tortured and hung. But it is now present day, and the worm has turned, so to speak.

Rachel Rising is populated by a group of unique characters. There are the women who were hung and have come back, Rachel being one of them. Her friends are also unique.

Aunt Johnny is an undertaker and happily committed, in a lesbian relationship.

Then there is Doctor Siemen, who keeps company with his wife and claims she is agoraphobic. Actually, she doesn’t go out because she is quite dead.

The women of the past and present, and a killer little girl named Zoe, attempt to set things right in Manson. Justice must be done. This story has ghosts, dire wolves, a dog that becomes possessed with the spirit of Aunt Johnny, and an active mortuary. There is also a priest who, well, you’ll see.

Rachel Rises and hits the road, picked up by a Good Samaritan who is quite concerned about her state of being. She looks awful good for someone who spent 3 days in a shallow grave.

The first thing she does is go home and take a shower and then, at the sink she coughs up pieces of earth and notices a bruise around the front of her neck, like a rope necklace.

Then, shortly after a quick stop at the local car repair shop, Rachel drops in on at Aunt Johnny at the mortuary. At first Johnny doesn’t recognize Rachel.

Then Rachel gets Aunt Johnny to take a break and go with her to the gravesite. Aunt Johnny jumps into the grave and calls out Rachel’s name and Rachel says, “I’m here,” and finally Aunt Johnny recognizes her, in some sense of the word.

Then Rachel goes to a bar looking for her friend Jet, and has an encounter of the fourth kind with a woman who is going to be married soon, or so she thinks.

Rachel lays hands on her and sees her future and it is dark indeed. Rachel gives her and her husband to be some advice that makes the worms turn. All of this takes place within the first chapter of book one with much more than half of the book to go.

As I said, there will be 7 books in all, or 42 comics, if you choose to buy them that way. Comic #1 sells for about $100 now because of the popularity of the story, and the rumor that the story has been optioned for a television show.

But, by all means, read the comic books first. By the time you read this, all the later issue comics will be out and the latter ones you can pick up for a normal price. However, I recommend buying the trade paper backs which contain approximately 6 comics in each trade.

If you really like this story, and I think you will, there will be a special hardcover Black Edition that will be limited to 750 signed and numbered copies. It is due to come out in July, and if you pre-order, you will get a sketch with the book signature. I have Terry Moore’s hardcover book of the story called Echo which now sells on Ebay for $199. It originally cost $75. I’m not going to go into the story of Echo, but trade paperbacks are available also from Abstract Studios, on the Internet or your local comic shop. Echo is extremely well done.

Rachel has risen and she is not the only one come back to avenge the innocent women who were killed by the gentle folk of Manson. A great yarn which is illustrated and penned by Terry Moore. Terry’s a nice guy too. It is amazing what must be going on in his head. I wouldn’t want to go there by myself.

Fellside by M. R. Carey

Fellside by M. R. Carey, published by Orbit, an Imprint of Hachette Book Group, www.orbitbooks.net, April, 2016

Fellside is a women’s prison. If you have ever been in a prison, you’ll know that ghosts roam the tiers and the smell of fear and old sweat socks drifts up your nostrils. I hope you have never experienced this but, in this book, M. R. Carey brings you into the prison and the minds of lost souls waiting for the date of release, which may be the date of death, whichever comes first.

Jess Moulson is convicted of murder. She doesn’t remember much, just a big fire that burnt her apartment and there was someone else who died in the fire. It was a ten year old child named Alex. Everyone, including Jess, thinks she started the fire in a heroin induced nod and insisting on pleading guilty was the only thing Jess could do. Her boyfriend, John Street, was the guy who turned her on to heroin. He had other secrets too.

 

Jess thought she deserved a death sentence and decided to administer it to herself through a hunger strike. For a while it looks like she will be successful and the prisoners cheer her on. Nobody likes a child killer. One of the leaders of a drug ring takes bets on her death.

But as the end draws near, Jess finds herself in what seems like a dream world where she meets Alex, the boy who died in the fire. Is he really a boy? He convinces Jess that his death was not her fault.

Fellside is a spook show where there are ghosts, drug deals, psycho-bullies and crooked guards. It appears that everyone is against Jess. In the middle of all this terror, Jess insists on maintaining her position of personal justice and responsibility.

In prison there are many junkies and for the junk to get in, pipelines of travel are necessary. When an act of violence destroys a vital link in the drug train only a doctor will do, especially if he has secrets to protect, as Dr. Salazar, nick-named Sally, one of the erstwhile good guys, has a secret that could cost him everything. Jess’s one protector in the prison is compromised.

But is the doctor Jess’s only protector? As Jess and Alex travel through the dreams of inmates at night, they learn about the secrets of the dreamers, and discover the truth about Alex, who is her tour guide to the dreamworld on the edge of death.

Jess carries out a one woman struggle against the bullies who run the prison and the drug runners who come up with a new scheme that involves Jess to bring drugs into the prison. Jess’s knowledge and her sense of responsibility and justice put her in the ring of danger and even the ghosts appear to be limited in power.

As the story unravels, Jess becomes seduced by the dream world and eventually this brings her to fight to uncover the true horror that has made Jess appear guilty. She fights to bring the truth into the light, even if it jeopardizes her own freedom.

Who is guilty? Who is innocent? The web of intrigue spins from dream to reality and brings them together in such a way that the spirit world retaliates against those who hurt the vulnerable and others fight to retain their sanity in a world that will never look the same again.

Fellside is a story that will keep you guessing as you walk the tiers and the work rooms of the prison of the same name. In prison, everyone is guilty—with the exception of the innocent. M. R. Carey, who first made his name writing comic books under the name Mike Carey, has created a world of steel and stone where, once you go in, you may never be free again. He has written many books under the name of Mike Carey.

M. R. Carey’s other book under this name is called The Girl With All The Gifts and this book, by the same publisher, is now being made into a movie that is in actual production. The Girl With All The Gifts is a dystopian tale about a young girl in a very special school with locked doors and cement walls. What is it about the children in this school that makes the adults shudder with fear, especially when the young girl named Melanie says in jest, “Don’t be afraid, I won’t bite!”
But back to Fellside, a different type of story in a different type of world. M. R. Carey is one talent, not only to be watched, but to be read. It’s a tough book to put down once you cross into the prison world of Jess Moulton and Alex, who is not what he seems to be.

It would be no surprise if Fellside was optioned for the big screen in the near future.

 

Fellside has just been released for the book buying public and is available, or will be very soon, on line or at The Harvard Bookstore, a great independent bookstore near the center of Harvard Square.

The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman by Joe Hill—to be published by William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers—May, 2016

“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

Once the fire starts it’s nothing but trouble. You can spell trouble D-E-A-T-H! It really does take a Fireman to put out a fire. It also takes a nurse, one with true compassion, not faked; the children see right through faked compassion, to ease them when they’re sick.

Harper Grayson was a nurse and she worked at a school. Worked, as in once did, while the schools were still open.

Then she worked at a hospital where she could do some good, not in the way most nurses do some good but, spit spot, on the double, a diagnosis of the situation. Keeps the Fireman safe, or is it safety first for the burning pain of an appendix inside inflammation but it hasn’t burst yet.

When the burning starts, it’s a good thing to have someone owe you a favour, someone who understands what a fire hose is for.

Then, in a hospital in New Hampshire, there was a Black person named Renee Gilmonton, one of the patients accustomed to be stared at, cause how many children growing up in New Hampshire saw anyone of colour? And if you run toward somebody bursting into flames, well, that was just crazy, no? But Renee was like coal anyway and fire wasn’t going to make her any darker, was it?

Renee had a book store before the dragon scale sparkled her neck, never made much money but they had hellava poetry slams there every week. She loved books and, with her, brought the book called The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Harper asked her why she brought such a short book about a tragedy just waiting to happen and Renee might have said, “Well you’re not going to want to start to read The Stand, the long version, when you might never get a chance to finish it. And we’re all on The Bridge right now anyway.” But that’s not precisely what she said, is it?

And while we’re talking about Renee, Black as coal, we could talk about the video of her, when she was reading to one of the children the child felt her get really warm and jumped away as Renee started to glow, grabbed her mint plant she came in with and started running for the exit. The video shows the whole thing while she was running out of the hospital, glowing, glowing, with eyes like death rays but the video didn’t show anything after she left the hospital and I’m not going to tell you what they found.

Harper’s not working at the hospital anymore and that doesn’t mean she’s one of the lucky ones but she could be; you can’t work at a place that blazed away, can you?

Joe Hill wrote this book, called The Fireman; that’s what I’m really talking about and when Joe writes his words take flight like musical notes with wings. It doesn’t matter if the edges of the wings are singed by flame, those words fly and they have a song of their own.

He’s special, that guy Joe Hillstrom King; that was his name once, and on his birth certificate that’s still his name. But he was a caterpillar then and he spun a cocoon and when the cocoon split open he was a bird that spoke words as beautiful as butterfly wings. Sometimes the words caught fire and that’s when the lucky reader; I say lucky reader because if you are reading one of his books or stories, you are a lucky reader alive in another world; the world that Joe Hill built—or burned, whichever you like, or maybe don’t like, but you’ll love it. This book, The Fireman is Joe’s longest book yet and that’s actually a good thing because it’s one of those books you never want to end. If you are a true reader, you know exactly what I mean.

Now Harper Grayson, in the shower, suddenly sees the Dragonscale on her body. Who wouldn’t forget to turn the shower off at a time like this? Her husband, Jakob, looks at her body and only thinks about himself. But didn’t he call her babygirl all the time? Ahh, relationships!

All that time in the hospital working, working, working, covered in Tyvek to keep out the Dragonscale, running for your life as the hospital burns, but now, pregnant and with the shower water running, her husband burns her with cold eyes. There are many people who opt out; that means suicide; that’s the nice way of saying it. Joe Hill can say it many ways; his words dance on the page and your eyes are kissed by the Dragonscale. By the way, have you examined your body yet?

Oh, but this is only a book; it’s not real. That’s the skill, the gift that Joe Hill has. He makes it real.

When you read The Fireman you will develop a relationship with Joe Hill that won’t exactly make you all warm and fuzzy, but you may burst into flame. It’s not always easy to find a Fireman when you need one.

Sometimes, in your relationships, things get strange. Like when Jakob finds out about Harper’s Dragonscale and begins to think. That’s when Harper finds out what kind of relationship she has always had with Jakob; things are not what they seem to be.

Then there are the Quarantine Patrol. There are always people who have dreamt of becoming dragon-slayers—and now they have their chance. But who are the real dragons; the people with the guns or the people with Dragonscale? And where is The Fireman when you need him?

Quite possibly in the back of the house, one would guess. And then there is Renee, running from the hospital but leaving not a trace. A crazed husband with a flapping bleeding cheek and a gun firing every which way but gun control is being able to hit your target. That’s not quite what is meant when people talk about gun control, is it?

Did you ever have a friend that turns up just when you need him? Well, The Fireman is like that; always rising just like the Phoenix. Sometimes you need a firebird to get you away from an abusive husband; any battered wife would tell you that’s true.

The book by the name of The Fireman keeps language aflame. There are a number of places to buy this wonderful book when it comes out and if you are lucky, you might get one signed by Joe Hill. Is this his best book yet? His dad, Stephen King, must be very proud. Joe’s dad is Shining! Joe Hill has given birth to a child that loves the flames. And there’s more books to come.

There was a game that they played at the King house where all the writers grew up together. There was a book on the table that had an ongoing story and the goal of every member of the family was to leave a cliffhanger that was extremely challenging for the next person to enter the kitchen. That may very well be where The Fireman came from. Ask Joe the next time he does a book reading and signing. You might be lucky and hear the truth. It’s in each of his books.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

When I was in the Detox Unit at the hospital, they taught me about “Triggers.” A “Trigger” is something that brings back the feeling of the old rush that heroin used to give me back in the day and then I am weakened and go see the dealer.

Neil Gaiman’s new book of short stories is called Trigger Warning: Short Fictions And Disturbances. It’s like a trigger that gives the good rush but instead of going out to buy heroin, I want to read another story. His book is that good.

Neil Gaiman says, “We each have our little triggers . . . things that wait for us in the dark corridors of our lives.” As soon as Gaiman said that, I knew exactly what he was talking about and had a desire to read the book immediately.

In this book, Trigger Warning, all of the wonderful places of the imagination are brought to life. Even in the Introduction, also written by Gaiman, I was “triggered” and I couldn’t stop reading. In many books I read a few sentences of the introduction and then jump to the story. In Trigger Warning I couldn’t stop reading his introduction. It was many stories within itself.

There are books of short stories that are like crap shoots. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. In Gaiman’s new book of short stories, they are all winners. It was a rush.

You see, my new addiction is reading. There is nothing better than settling down in a comfortable chair or lying on the bed and reading a great book. Trigger Warning is a great book. Neil Gaiman’s talent shines like it did in his graphic novel called The Sandman or his book called American Gods.

When this man sits down to write the story flows and you can tell that the story has been percolating in his mind for quite some time. One of the short stories is called “Black Dog” and it is done so well that, as a writer myself, I could tell that Gaiman must have left it out of American Gods and it wouldn’t let him rest until he let it spill out of the miraculous trap door in his imagination.

Neil Gaiman has been cursed. If he doesn’t let the stories out, they will come to him in his dreams and haunt him, wake him up in the middle of the night and, like a wild beast, chase him to the computer screen or pen and paper until he lets the story out. Imagine being trapped in a body full of moving illustrations that have beginnings and endings and not being able to rest until you let these “trigger warnings” out.

Included in this thrilling group of stories is the novelette called “The Truth is a Cave In The Black Mountains.” This story was also separately published and illustrated by Eddie Campbell and won the Locus Award.

Neil Gaiman originally lived in England and now resides in the United States with his wife Amanda Palmer, who is also a musician and a writer.

You can find Trigger Warning at the Harvard Bookstore, an independent bookstore located in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Neil Gaiman’s stories come from the dark places that live in our minds. When you read them they change your perspective on reality.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman was released on February 2nd by William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007,