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Book Review – A Time for Courage: and other military stories

Tom Benson is a multi-genre author and artist whose work I’ve reviewed several times since first discovering his writing on his wordpress site (see link below).

In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army. Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992. He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.
Tom is a prolific writer and book reviewer and has been writing since 2007. He has published seven novels, five anthologies of short stories, a five-part novel, a five-part series of erotica novellas, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has contributed short stories to several other multi-author anthologies both commercially and in aid of various charities.

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Tom is presently working on a number of other projects including helping manage and promote an international collection of indie authors on the indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com website which he helped create.

 

Tom’s other websites and contact details:
www.tombensonauthor.com 
www.tombensoncreative.com
www.tom-benson.co.uk

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@TomBensonWriter

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 Amazon Description

A collection of 12 stories created using a wide spectrum of scenarios. Military experiences can be funny, heart-breaking and, everything in between.
This anthology is a blend of my personal experience and knowledge together with specially created pieces to highlight the highs and lows of service life.
These tales can be enjoyed equally by those who have served and, those who have never donned a uniform.

Humour, fact, fiction, and fantasy are used to portray service in theatres as varied as Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Ancient Briton, the Persian Gulf, Africa, and elsewhere.

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A Time for Courage: and other military stories

By Tom Benson

(Available as an eBook from Amazon – click on above title for link)

A Time for Courage - 2Of all the short story collections the author has written this is by far and away my favourite. Tom Benson has drawn on both his imagination and his considerable length of service to craft a poignant collection of short stories across a variety of military theatres. Unusually for a short story collection, not a single story here disappointed or fell even slightly below the high standard of every other.

Throughout this collection, Tom Benson has applied meticulous attention to authentic military detail but not to the point of overkill as to confuse the non-military reader. As anyone who has served will know, the army and other services practically speak another language with all the acronyms, slang and other assorted colourful phrases, but the author’s  clever use of dialogue and context give all the slang and military terminology clear and obvious meaning thus ensuring  the non-military is never left confused or wondering at certain words.

The opening story is a real ‘lump in the throat’ one of courage and self-sacrifice but it is immediately contrasted by the side-splittingly funny satire of the second, one that any military wife (or husband for that matter) will immediately identify with but its razor-sharp humour it cannot help but appeal to all. In the third, the author takes a somewhat personal trip down memory lane in a way that we can all relate to from some time in our lives when we were determined to prove our doubters wrong. Others in the collection highlight much of the military ethos of courage and protecting the weak and vulnerable but still providing the reader with a captivating story, and in the case of Photographic Memory, a real ‘punch the air feel good factor. In The Odd Couple we get a glimpse into some of the more covert activities of ‘The Toubles,’ bringing back painful memories for some of real events that mirror some aspects of the story. Another thing I liked about this collection was its sheer variety; from modern-day Afghanistan and  Northern Ireland right back to the 2nd Century, from Jungle warfare to covert missions in the desert, from the sadness of a family torn apart from being on opposite sites to the sort of comradeship that transcends family that can only be formed with those you would die for and they for you. One story that is particularly pertinent to modern times is that of Walking Wounded; with today’s modern medicine and better field facilities, many more servicemen and women are surviving the sort of injuries only a few decades ago would have spelt certain death. The downside to this, of course, is that we have a whole generation of soldiers returning from conflicts having to face and cope with life-changing disabilities, and it is easy to understand the increased cases of PTSD in many such people. In the Walking Wounded we see the beginnings of one such man’s journey in finding a reason to look to the future with some hope, and with an unusually heart-warming twist too.

In ‘The Afterlife’ the author once again uses mostly his personal experience to round off the collection, giving the reader some brief comparisons of his life since leaving the army with that of a younger man who has never served and through it we see just why so many ex-servicemen refer to themselves as such rather than simply accepting their post-service ‘civilian’ status.

Overall, a thoroughly entertaining collection that will not only entertain but give the non-military reader some rare insights into military service. For others, again it will entertain but also bring back memories, some good, others not so maybe, but if nothing else, for me personally they remind me how very much I have to be thankful for still being in a position to read such stories when so many others are not.

 

For further links to Tom’s many other books please visit his Amazon author page by clicking on the link below:

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Tom Benson Amazon author page TomB1 

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Beyond the Law & Beyond The Law: Retribution – Double Book Review & Author Profile

TomBBeyond The Law: Retribution is the latest book by author and fellow blogger, Tom Benson, whose own TomB1 TomB2blog features high in my list of ‘follows.’ Beyond the Law: Retribution is the sequel to Tom’s most successful book to date, Beyond the Law.

 

Longtime folllowers of my blog might well remember my posting of a review of Beyond The Law back in early 2014; since this latest book is a sequel to that and for the benefit of those who may be unaware of it I am repeating that review to compliment my review of its sequel. 

As well as reading these excellent novels, please take a look at his blog where you will find some equally excellent short and flash fiction stories to enjoy too along with an absolute treasure trove of writing tips and highly informative and essential self-publishing advice:

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www.tombensoncreative.wordpress.com

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Beyond the Law: Retribution – Amazon Blurb:

In 2004, Martin Cameron is sprung from custody on the streets of Glasgow. The ruthless gangster vanishes, but not before leaving instructions for trusted henchmen. A period of mayhem ensues which includes the murder of two outlaw bikers.
Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, calls a meeting of his small vigilante team, but will they make allies of the Mental Riders Motor Cycle Club?
Will the police recall July 1996 and once again leave battle to commence?
There are turbulent times ahead for many hearts and minds – and Scotland’s underworld.

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Beyond The Law: Retribution (sequel)

By Tom Benson

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

5Starscropped

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A vicious trail of violence, retribution, and dead bodies… loved it!, 24 Nov. 2015

TomB2This is a retribution themed novel once again dealing with those criminals whose cunning and resources enable them to operate beyond the constraints of the judiciary and elude the regular forces of law and order. Such is the violence and ruthlessness of such men it takes an equally resourceful and ruthless approach in dealing with such criminals, cue the reappearance of ex SAS operative Phil McKenzie aka the Hawk, and his unique band of cohorts collectively now known as BTL (Beyond the Law) enterprises. Hawk and his associates are every bit as ruthless as the criminals they face, with the added advantages of the very best military training in weapons, field-craft, and covert operations. Operating as they do outside normal police investigation and procedure they can’t be openly supported by the regular police, but they can still draw on the covert support of the British intelligence services and their unofficial police contacts, as well as here, some more ‘unconventional’ allies.

Our introduction to Phil McKenzie and the formation of BTL enterprises was dealt with in the prequel to this book. Although there is sufficient explanation and references to the past to allow it to read perfectly well as a stand-alone book I would still recommend reading the prequel first to enjoy it to its full; as well as being re-acquainted with ex SAS operative Hawk, the attractive ex intelligence operative Annabel, the equally stunning motor bike riding Rachael, former pick-pocket Jake, and one or two others, several new colourful characters are added to the mix: Max, the leader of biker gang the Mental Riders, and Intelligence operative and linguistics expert, Ian, to name but two. There are also some pretty brutal and sadistic new villains as well in the shape psychopathic twin brothers.

The story kicks off with the audacious escape from prison custody of Martin Cameron, who within minutes of his escape embarks on his vicious return to crime and violence; determined to re-establish and expand his control of all of Scotland’s major criminal activities, there follows a  bloody trail of violence and dead bodies along the way; he also plans his painful and sadistic revenge on the man responsible for his imprisonment, Phil McKenzie. What he isn’t aware of though is just how eager someone else is for equally sadistic vengeance against himor indeed just how better organised and equipped Phil McKenzie and his organisation are now. In the interim, Martin Cameron’s plans to organise a massive drug shipment into Scotland once again bring him to the attention of one of the Hawk’s former cohorts despite being on the other side of the world at the time.

This is what Tom Benson does best, drawing on his own military experience and memories of growing up on the hard streets of Glasgow, coupled with a true story teller’s imagination. Once again, the author’s attention to plot detail and consistency rivals that of say a Frederick Forsythe novel, and is handled with the same careful planning as the covert operations of the story. The precise levels of detail related to weaponry, covert surveillance, and urban and rural field-craft are excellent, enough to place the reader right there with the characters but not so much to distract from the main story or bog the reader down. The characters are well-developed by way of the gritty and realistic dialogue and the things they do. I also enjoyed seeing how some of the characters had evolved since first encountering them in the prequel, and I must say, the writing here is even sharper and more streamlined than before. I was also impressed at how Phil McKenzie took more of a ‘behind the scenes’ role here, allowing some of the other characters to really come into their own rather than relying just on him to carry the story.  As always, Tom Benson rounds up the conclusion and loose ends most effectively, and leaves the reader with a tantalising hint of another sequel. The way the story is structured and has evolved from the prequel could lend this two book series (so far) to a whole series of books along the lines of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ series…

 

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Beyond The Law (prequel) – Amazon Blurb:

In January 1996, Phil McKenzie leads his Special Air Service team, on a secret mission into Kentobi, Africa. An assassin codenamed Chameleon, kills the Kentobi president, but Phil is framed for the murder. He negotiates liberty at a high price; an end to his military career.

Following a brief secondment to the Metropolitan Police and discharge from the Army, Phil returns to his hometown as Hawk, a vigilante. The term, ‘deniable ops’, finds new meaning as Phil tackles Glasgow’s underworld with his small, unique team. Using stealth, intelligence, and bloody violence, Phil hunts down the city’s Godfather.

 

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Beyond The Law (prequel)

By Tom Benson

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

5Starscropped

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An awesome book that will keep you hooked right to the end!, 22 Feb. 2014

TomB1A ‘can’t put down’ book that definitely hits the ground running. In an explosive opening chapter reminiscent of Andy McNab, we’re introduced to the central character, Phil McKenzie, and some of the background to his special skills and training. What follows is an equally explosive story of unofficial state-sanctioned vigilantism as he and his cohorts set about tackling the tough and violent criminal under-belly of a crime ridden Glasgow. But this is no simple story of good guys hunting down the bad; set against the murky backdrop of the military and British intelligence, Phil McKenzie and a select team of operatives are up against a criminal alliance that spans not only that of organised crime but also high ranking politicians and police officers. The book takes a number of different and dangerous turns, culminating in one hell of a conclusion.

Some of the characters have definite echoes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. The dialogue throughout is both fluid and natural, as is the writing and realistic portrayal of a world and characters that thankfully, most never get to see outside the pages of a book. The author’s attention to detail and plot-line are approached with the same deadly precision as that of a covert military operation.

This is a book that effortlessly combines the genres of military adventure with that of crime and justice, and one that would sit well in the company of Lee Child, Andy McNab, and Tom Clancy. Should Tom Benson ever decide to write a sequel, it will certainly leapfrog to the front of my ‘to read’ list. Highly recommended…

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Author profile:

In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army.

Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992.

He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.

Tom has been writing since 2007. He has published six novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. He is presently working on two novels, and further anthologies of short stories. Tom is also a self-taught artist.

Tom is a prolific writer of short stories, flash fiction, novels, and a number of poetry collections. In addition to being a great writer and author, he also takes the time to offer advice and support to fellow writers and bloggers. He also contributes to numerous online writing groups, and is one of the founder members and Admins of the Indie Author Support and Discussion Fb (IASD) group and website of the same name:

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 www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.wordpress.com

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The Tom Benson collection: click on thumbnails for Amazon links

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Tom Benson’s Poetry collection:

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Erotica & short stories:

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Thriller/Romances:

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Crime/Retribution themed thrillers:

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In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has had short stories published in a number of colloborative anthologies, three of which are listed below:

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Not What You Thought? and other surprises – The first of the IASD anthologies. Three guest stories by Tom Benson featured in P.A. Ruddock’s humerous collection of short stories and flash fiction in aid on the ‘Forget-Me-Not’ charity at www.exmodltd.org in aid of homeless ex servicemen and those affected by PTSD. 

 

 

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You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology – The brainchild of author, book reviewer and blooger, Ian D Moore – an IASD anthology bringing together a multitude of international Indie Authors in aid of the Pamela Winton tribute fund, which is in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. cancer care and support charity Macmillan Nurses.

 

 

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Holes: An Indie Author Anthology – The third and latest IASD short story anthology, inspired by the author, reviewer and talented book cover designer Eric Lhati, again bringing together an international collection of Indie authors to showcase and promote just a fraction of the amazing talents on offer from the world of Indie publishing.

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Further links to Tom Benson’s novels and other writing can be found at:

http://www.tombensoncreative.wordpress.com

http://www.tombensonauthor.com

http://www.tom-benson.co.uk

https://twitter.com/TomBensonWriter

Tom Benson’s Amazon Author page:

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Gunners ‘N’ Grenades – Book Review

sean1I first came accross this book via Amazon’s recommendations as well seeing it pop up in a few facebook posts/recommendations. Although not a member of my Indie Author Support Fb group, having read and enjoyed this book I’m delighted to present my review of it here. Sean Connelly is the author of a number of military themed books, most of which are of the memoir & autobiographical genre. Gunners ‘N’ Grenades is Sean Connelly’s first fiction book, though it still draws on his military past. Having spent fifteen years and being a Bombadier in the British Army, he is well qualified to write in this arena. Sean first started writing after someone suggested that he should write an account of his early days in the army, and since then he has gone from strength to strength in his efforts. 

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Further links to Sean Connelly’s writing can be found at:

www.armynovels.com

Sean Connelly’s Amazon Author page:

Sean Connelly’s Armymovels Fb group

www.twitter.com/armynovels

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

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Amazon Blurb for: Gunners ‘N’ Grenades –

“… It is the dream of most soldiers to be the best. To join an elite fighting force and be able to perform in any theatre of war is the goal of most British squaddies. With it come respect, honour, comradeship and greater courage.

PERSTO TROOP is made up of some of the best and most experienced soldiers in the British Army… and four delinquents. The latter are about to be dishonourably discharged but someone, somewhere sees their potential and they are offered the lifeline of joining this new elite force. They must now endure the rigours of harsh training that will either make or break them.

Told in the style of a fictional autobiography, Gunners & Grenades, has humour as well as action and follows the ‘nitty-gritty’ of the everyday life of a young soldier in the 1980’s as he grows from misfit to a true leader, covering his exploits from bars to battle and sex to secret operations which culminate in explosive action with the kidnapping of a Sultan’s Daughter at The Edinburgh Tattoo and the race against time to rescue her.

For ‘Sledge’, our delinquent soldier and his mates, this is both a final chance and a dream come true… “

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Gunners ‘N’ Grenades: Sledge’s First Mission 

By Sean Connelly 

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(Available from Amazon in both print and eBook formats, and signed print copies available from the author’s website… www.armynovels.com )

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sean2Thoroughly enjoyed this British military adventure story. Like many such stories it begins with some background events leading up to the situation in which the central character, in this case a young soldier called Sledge, finds himself, and from which the unfolding action emerges. Unfortunately for our hero of the story, Sledge, and the men under his command, display just a little ‘too’ much potential and enthusiasm at the beginning of their careers for what it takes to be a good soldier and very nearly find themselves in danger of being booted out of the army. Thankfully someone higher up sees how Sledge and his oppos might be put to better use rather than being thrown back onto civvie street, and gives them the opportunity to prove themselves in a more demanding role. What follows is a side-splittingly funny (and indeed sometimes harrowing) depiction of the brighter side of army life, military banter, and colourful language that would make even the sturdiest blush at. The reader follows Sledge and his comrades’ progress through their training in a newly formed elite troop that sort of exists as a halfway house between a regular regiment and the elite special-forces, possibly to take on missions that the SAS would want to be able to deny all liability or involvement in. Although highly trained and capable of killing without hesitation by the end of their training, Sledge and his comrades are still just like ninety five percent of the rest of the British Army, i.e. hard drinking, womanising, and a colourful a vocabulary as one can imagine – in other words, typical squaddies (and damned good soldiers to boot) – rather than some unbelievable Rambo type supermen.

The real nitty gritty of the story i.e. fighting a real enemy, doesn’t really take place till say the last third of the book, focusing instead on the men’s training, friendships, and banter, but all combining to form the prefect built up to the conclusion. The contrast between the humour and sometimes madness of army life, and the grim realities that inevitably arise from time to time is well portrayed as the story progresses.

I would say that the best military based adventure books are written by those with some personal experience of military life, but that isn’t to say such experience guarantees an enjoyable reading experience. Quite often the writer’s personal experience is injected into their writing too literally, often resulting in a book that comes across as part fiction, part memoir, and with way too much emphasis on military accuracy at the expense entertaining the reader. Thankfully Sean Connelly hasn’t fallen in that trap; yes his own experience shines through in the writing, and the military detail is spot on (for the most part) but he’s also injected a certain degree of poetic licence into his writing to make for a more entertaining story, creating larger than life characters but who aren’t so far removed from reality that they force the reader to suspend disbelief; for military purists there might well be some areas where it could be argued that the poetic licence has been taken a tad too far, i.e. the notion of a bunch of green teenage royal artillery recruits getting the better of highly trained and experienced infantry men is a little hard to believe for anyone whose actually served, as well as their being propelled at such an early stage of their careers into such a troop, but for the average non-military or civvie reader I imagine it wouldn’t be an issue.

Normally this would be an easy five stars for the humour and thumping good story telling value whilst still remaining credible but there were a few typos and grammatical issues i.e. the odd missing word here and there, which tells me the final draft would have benefitted from another round or two of editing and proof reading. Nonetheless it still gets a five star rating, just not quite a resounding one. If you’re looking for the sort of high octane adrenalin fuelled action of an Andy McNab novel or the cold brutal reality of a Ken Wharton book then this probably isn’t it, but if you enjoy British Army themed escapist story telling that captures at least some of the feel and flavour of military life as it was for most of us then you really can’t do much better than this.

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Further books by Sean Connelly: Click on Thumbnails for Amazon links…

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Book Review – Amie: An African Adventure

LucindaEClarkeI’ve had this book on my kindle for quite some time now, but what with one thing and another I only recently got round to actually reading it. I really shouldn’t have left it so long as it turned out to be a truly beautiful and enjoyable read. Lucinda E. Clarke’s writing is another discovery via Fb and other social media, along with some wonderful reviews and recommendations from fellow writers and bloggers. As well as Amie: An African Adventure, Lucinda E. Clarke has written three more books, links to which are provided following my review. But first, a little about the author herself…

Born in Dublin, dragged up in the Cotswolds, matured and finished off in Liverpool. Her family were not wildly enthusiastic about following her grandfather into Fleet Street (unfeminine, unreliable and dangerous), so she was packed off to dockland Liverpool to get teaching qualifications (safe, respectable and pensionable).

Lucinda returned south extremely good at self-defence. She married and went crofting in Scotland, a disaster so she says, and bred dogs among other things, less of a disaster. She moved to Kenya with her 3 week old daughter, was abandoned in the bush, then on to Libya, surviving riots, public hangings, an imprisoned husband and eventual deportation. She moved to Botswana – still teaching – and opened and ran a horse riding school with a ‘How to…’ book in hand.

She immigrated to South Africa and taught for four years, but since 1984, she wrote freelance full time, for major corporations, UNESCO, UNICEF and the SABC for both radio and television. Moving into television production in 1986, she has received over 20 awards, specializing in the fields of education, documentaries, municipal and government.

She has also worked on radio in both Libya and South Africa, had a newspaper column, and was commissioned to write two educational text books. In 1996 she set up her own video production company, and retired to Spain in 2008. Well that was the plan…

 

Further links to Lucinda E. Clarke’s writing can be found at:

https://lucindaeclarke.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/LucindaEClarke

http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com/

Lucinda E. Clarke’s Amazon Author page:

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Amie: An African Adventure 

By Lucinda E. Clarke

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

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Amie1My biggest regret about this book is that it had to end at some point, as all books do. It tells the story of young couple’s move to Africa for the husband’s career, particularly that of the wife, Amie. It starts off sedately enough, detailing their preparations and Amie’s initial fears and nervousness about leaving behind everyone she knows and loves and her way of life back in England, charmingly detailing many of the fears any of us might have at such a prospect. After their arrival in Africa, things seem to be working out for Amie as she adapts to and begins to enjoy a very different way of life. Now although I say it starts ‘sedately,’ right from the start the author has already hooked the reader with a harrowing and well-placed preface of things to come, and the reader knows that this is to be no ordinary foreign posting, that danger and adventure are sure to follow their initial settling in.

As the story develops, the author introduces the reader to the real Africa and its way of life for the majority. Yes, Amie lives the comparatively comfortable and indeed luxurious life of an ex patriot, shielded from much of the hardship, but she sees it all around her, and against advice goes out of her way to help as best she can. Within the story, with some truly beautiful writing and turns of phrase, the author  manages to convey a real sense of being in Amie’s shoes, providing the reader a glimpse and real insight into the everyday life and comings and goings of the native population, of the poverty and corruption, and of course the dangers. We also learn though not to judge the culture and ways of the African people in relation to European ways of doing things. Amid the vivid descriptions of Africa, the ex-patriot community, and the local culture, the reader experiences the growing unrest of a volatile society, the dilemmas Amie has to face and deal with, and the sudden and explosive upheaval of an entire country. How she copes with everything around her is a story in itself, and perfectly complements the story of her African adventure.

Quite apart from the story itself, which was thrilling to say the least, I also admired and enjoyed the way Amie adapted and grew as a person, watching her confidence and self-reliance grow a little more every day. We see the transformation of someone initially afraid of travelling much beyond her home town and who probably thought that a package holiday to Spain was the extent of travelling abroad, into a resourceful and determined young woman more than capable of surviving the dangers of wildest Africa. What I would also say here though is that, while there is an element of memoir to the writing, this is still mainly an action and adventure filled tale, and one that won’t disappoint those who like to see the adrenalin flowing in their reading, combining an imaginative and descriptive narrative with just the right degree and tone of dialogue to drive the story forward. If I had but one tiny criticism it would be the cover, which if I’m honest, didn’t quite grab me or in my opinion, reflect or do justice to the story within. Other than that, I’m delighted to say the author is currently writing a much anticipated sequel to this wonderful book.

Further titles by Lucinda E. Clarke: click on thumbnails for Amazon links

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Book Review – The Third Servant

mikeBI rarely use such reviewing clichés as blew me away, but such words would not have been out of place in the following review. Michael Billington is another member from my Fb Indie Author Support & Discussion group, and the author of several highly acclaimed books, of which details and links appear following my review of The Third Servant.

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The quality of the author’s writing comes as no surprise given his extensive journalistic background, having investigated and reported on stories from all around the world, and indeed the quality of his own prolific book reviews.

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Michael Billington spent nearly a half-century as a reporter covering stories around the world and across the United States including Operation Desert Storm, the Rwandan Civil War, hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Katrina and Rita as well as the Love Canal environmental disaster and the 9/11 airline crash near Shanksville, Pa. During his career, he earned more than 40 awards including the Brotherhood Medal of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for an undercover investigation of white-power extremists and the Southern Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting for a series he co-authored exposing police abuses of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act. He also received several awards for a lengthy series on infant mortality in Delaware. An Army veteran who spent two tours in Vietnam, his awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. In addition, he was twice decorated by the Vietnamese government. Given his background, it’s not surprising that he writes in a wide variety of genres from Steampunk to mystery and even historical fiction.

A percentage of the author’s royalties are regularly donated to the Home Of The Brave Veteran’s charity in Delaware in the US, details of which can be found at their website below:

http://homeofthebravefdn.org/

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Further links to Michael Billington and his writing can be found at:

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Michael Billington’s Amazon Author page:

www.twitter/com.Billington_Book

Michael Billington’s Goodreads Blog:

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The Third Servant  

By Michael Billington

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 (Available in eBook & paperback from Amazon)

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mb1This is a story based on and then reinterpreted and expanded from a simple parable taken from the book of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible. Without going into the meaning of the parable, this is a clever idea for a story, speculating on what might have happened to a servant following his dismissal having displeased his Master, much like what might have happened to Heathcliff in the missing years whilst he was away from Wuthering Heights. The principal character, the servant Ezra, does not immediately engender the reader’s sympathy and would appear to deserve all his initial misfortunes, having made no effort to increase his Master’s wealth when given the opportunity, and his less than honourable actions flowing his dismissal from his Master’s house. What follows is a series of adventures that takes Ezra across much of the known world of the time: from his Judean homeland as far as India and Afghanistan, and then back through the Roman Empire on his return, where the story comes full circle. Interwoven in this series of adventures we meet a wide and varied cast of esoteric characters ranging from reformed warriors, female gladiators, foreign emperors and kings, and the highest of Roman nobility along with poor to name but a few. Several of these adventures highlight the harshness and apparent barbarity of the times but what also shines through are the many moments of justice, kindness, nobility, honour and courage that were also prevalent, giving much of the book a heart-warming and feel-good factor to it. Another aspect I enjoyed as much as the story itself was not just watching the story unfold as it were, but also watching the growth and maturing of Ezra as a man as he seeks to discover what purpose God has decreed for him; but this isn’t just the story of a man with some God-given mission and path to follow – Ezra might well indeed have some greater purpose to his life but he is no empty vassel for it, often having to rely on his judgement and courage to fulfil any such plan.

Throughout the book, the author demonstrates a good knowledge and understanding of the period in which the story takes place, namely during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius and in and around the years surrounding the death of Jesus, with just the right balance of intelligent speculative poetic license to drive the story forward. The narrative and dialogue have a certain biblical formality to them that pays homage to the original text of the parable but nonetheless works very well, giving the story added authenticity and a real sense of the time in which events take place, but not so much so that the reader feels they’re reading a historical account or history of the times. It’s hard to pin down this book into any one genre, combining as it does, action, adventure, political intrigue, religion, and a host of elements, but what I can say, it is one of the most well written and highly original ideas for a story I’ve read in a very long time, and one that engrossed me from start to finish.

Further titles by Michael Billington: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links:

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Henchmen – Book Review

Eric1This is a book that has been on my tbr list for some time now; for some reason the original cover (now updated and hugely improved) and the title just didn’t prompt me to pay it much attention, but seeing the increasing number of good reviews it was getting from within my Indie Author Support and Discussion Fb group I thought it was high time I gave it a closer look. In addition to being an active contributor to a number of online review groups and a regular blogger, a he is also a programmer, a database engineer, and Kenpo practitioner. He enjoys martial arts, coding, and of course, writing. Henchmen is his first novel, and he has written two sequels and a number of spin-offs.’

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Further links to Eric Lahti and his writing can be found at:

www.ericlahti.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/EricLahtiAuthor

www.ericlahti.com

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Henchmen

By Eric Lahti

(Available in eBook format from Amazon)

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eric1Where do I start with this one? This is a full-on action thriller that throws in elements of Sci-Fi, mysterious aliens, the supernatural, and a body count not seen since the days of the great flood. The Henchmen are a varied group of guys and gals you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of; led by a seven foot bullet-proof Amazonian blond bombshell, this assortment of characters possess both the will and the skills to literally change the world. Anyone expecting a typical macho ex-military commando type outfit will be pleasantly surprised; apart from Eve, their superhumanly strong and virtually invulnerable leader, among the Henchmen there is the latest addition to the group, a drop dead gorgeous kickboxing ex-nude model, Jessica, who doesn’t think twice about killing someone in the most brutal of ways when circumstances demand, computer and security system hackers gay couple Frank and Jean, Jacob the gun-mad biker, and last of all, Steven the narrator.

Despite their propensity to violence and a desire to kill off the entire American Congress, you can’t help but like every last one of the Henchmen. The book completely turns on its head the idea of good and bad guys; the violent chaos causing Henchmen are superb in their role as sympathetic super villains, while the American Government is clearly cast in a bad light. Some of the background plot, and just what it is the Henchmen hoped to achieve was a little light on detail at times, but then again, any attempt to elaborate there might well have slowed down the pace; there’s plenty of explosive action, fighting, fire-fights, and realistic and accurate weaponry and computer security detail to give the book authenticity in these areas, but not so much as to bog the story down in such detail. Given the unusual nature of some of the characters and the mixture of genres, the reader does have to suspend disbelief to some extent, but you’re so engrossed in the moment of what’s happening you rarely give it a second thought.

Written in the first person from the perspective of Steven, the author manages to give the narrative a real sense of character and a distinct ‘voice.’ By making the narrator a close ‘member of the team’ so to speak, the author managed to combine the intimacy of this point of view with the sort of overview usually associated with a third person perspective, yet still providing the opportunity for some sharp and witty humour and satire by way of Steven’s own thoughts and observations of those about him; the author’s ability to lampoon and caricature the male psyche was as funny and sharp as I’ve read in a long time.

Following a literary roller coaster ride of combat and fire-fights leading to a literal world changing finale, the author nicely rounds up the conclusion, giving a brief post-script to the characters. I did think that some aspects of the cataclysmic conclusion were a little vague, and there are lots of unanswered questions about the characters, in particular, the Amazonian like, Eve, but given there’s a sequel, one imagines much of this may well have been intentional. Overall I was kept hooked from start to finish, laughing out loud at times, and gasping for breath at others. Will I be reading said sequels? Absolutely!

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Eric Lahti’s Amazon Author page:

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