Another prolific book reviewer and facebook group activist in her own right, it gives me great pleasure to present my first review of one of her books, Goin Postal & The Creek by Rhoda D’Etorre…
Rhoda D’Ettore was born in Woodbury, New Jersey, into a family of 5 siblings–which has provided her with plenty of comical material. She began working at the United States Postal Service at 25 years old, and over the past 15 years has accumulated many humorous stories about situations that the public never gets to know about. Her first eBook, “Goin’ Postal: True Stories of a U.S. Postal Worker” was so popular that readers requested it in paperback. Recently, she published the humorous “Goin’ Postal” in paperback along with another story entitled, “The Creek: Where Stories of the Past Come Alive”. Combining these two into one book may seem strange, as one is humorous and the other is a heart wrenching historical fiction, however, doing so proves to the reader Rhoda D’Ettore’s versatility.
Rhoda D’Ettore received her degree in Human & Social Services while working at USPS, has travelled extensively, and loves history. Over the years she has volunteered for several community service organizations, including fostering abused and neglected dogs for a Dalmatian rescue.
Further links to Rhoda D’Etorre’s wring can be found at:
Goin Postal & The Creek
(Available as an eBook, paperback, and as an audio book from Amazon)
I first decided to read this book out of curiosity of the cover and the two different titles listed there, probably not the best of reasons I know but what a little gem it turned out to be. Here you get two very different stories for the price of one, the first being a series of side splitting snapshots and anecdotes of the author’s time working in the US postal service, and in the second story, The Creek, the reader is treated to a delightful family and local history of stories from in and around a creek in New Jersey dating back to the American civil war to the present.
In Goin Postal, the author takes us through the trials and tribulations of being a temporary and then permanent worker in the postal service; it’s not so much a story in the conventional sense but more a collection of memories and hilarious anecdotes loosely linked via an amazing array of characters in the form of her fellow workers. Her colleagues are every bit as varied and funny as the anecdotes themselves, ranging from traumatised Vietnam war veterans, a mad forklift driver chasing the white devils, a big hearted bisexual supervisor, and a Russian history buff, not to mention Aunt Gertrude and a bigoted Nigerian. Despite the racial and cultural diversity reflecting the huge melting part of immigrants that made America the country it is today, for the most part they all get along as one giant though often somewhat dysfunctional family. The author’s time with the postal service starts with the time consuming FBI checks for her employment, but once passing them she finds herself immersed in a truly mad and chaotic workplace, filled with its very own sub cultures including betting on who will be the next person to go on a shooting spree, or ‘goin postal’ as it might be called, dodgy dvd and arms sales, and a host of other ‘have to be there’ to be believed scenarios. The characters and language are as colourful as you can imagine, reflecting the working class diversity and backgrounds of the postal workers. The day to day humdrum of the work is punctuated with numerous pranks and hilarity, not to mention the bizarre situations that arise from the many strange things people try to send through the post, a severed head being among them, but despite the seeming madness of the workplace, in the true tradition of the Pony Express, underpinning the chaos is the workers’ determination that the post will go out no matter what, even amid the security and horror of 9/11. The writing is sharp and witty, and in a style that perfectly complements of the comedy of what the author is describing, and for anyone who has worked in a menial shift environment will certainly be able to identify with much of the humour, and probably recognise similar characters from their own work places.
In The Creek the writing and subject matter takes a surprisingly more poignant direction; the reader initially encounters what at first impression comes across as a truly heart-warming and delightful tale of love and romance set against the backdrop of the civil war, only to have that perception completely turned its head. The reader is then transported through a succession of stories carrying on from the first, taking the reader through the depression of the 30s, prohibition, two world wars, and the civil rights struggle, to almost the present day, covering love and romance, murder, bigotry, the Black Panther movement, and even ghostly apparitions. Although the stories through the decades take very different turns, they retain the creek as a sort of anchor connecting them all, and eventually conclude in such a way as to tie them all together really well. As I’ve said, the writing and content in the Creek is somewhat different, but still retains an entertaining story telling style throughout. Goin Postal and the Creek might seem like an odd combination at first but they subtly complement one another; whereas as in the former in its portrayal of the incredible diversity the author has presented a snapshot of American society as a whole, so too in the latter, she has presented the reader with an entertaining portrayal of how America has evolved to what it is today.
More titles from Rhoda D’Ettore: click on thumbnails for Amazon links:
Matthew Williams’ The Final Box is the third anthology of short stories I’ve read and reviewed from this author.
Such was my admiration for his short stories, I was delighted to be allowed to include two of them as guest contributions in my own debut anthology of short stories… Not What You Thought? and other surprises
Matthew Williams is a new and aspiring young writer who has been writing ever since he can remember. Like myself, he is a great fan of ‘twist in the tale’ stories, and tries to include them in his own writing. In his spare time he is working on a number new writing projects, including a new children’s book, and a Young Adult (YA) novel.
Further links to Matthew Williams and his writing can be found at:
The Final Box
By Matthew williams
(Available from Amazon Kindle)
This is the third of this author’s short story anthologies I’ve read and reviewed, and once again I’ve not been disappointed in my expectations. Not every story worked for me in quite the same way as in the two previous anthologies but having said that, one of the things that impressed me here was seeing the way the author has taken his stories in different directions rather than relying on a tried and trusted formula in serving more of the same; whereas all of the author’s previous stories were humorously light-hearted with a definite twist at the end, some of the ones here are more abstract and open ended. A couple of the stories did leave me wondering at the end, but never was I failed to be entertained. As always though, I found I had finished the book all too quickly, and especially given the more abstract tone here, felt a longer collection would have been in order. Having said that, every story was well written and equally well crafted, and anyone who has read the author’s previous works will I think see a certain maturing in his writing, and a willingness to venture into new territory. Matthew Williams is a writer who is equally adept at making the reader laugh as he is at pulling the heart strings, and as I’ve seen here, getting the reader thinking, and I enjoyed the new direction he has taken in this latest anthology.
Another very entertaining collection, and one I would highly recommend to flash fiction fans as well as those of the more traditional short story.
Matthew Williams’ previous short story anthologies – click on thumbnails for details:
* Two stories by Matthew Williams also featured in my own debut anthology:
Another book from within the ranks of my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group.. The Inlooker, by Terry Tumbler.
Terry Tumbler, like myself, is one of our more ‘mature’ members, having taken up writing relatively late in life when time and circumstances made it possible. Now retired, Terry Tumbler currently lives in Spain with his wife. Prior to his current writing endeavours, he spent the greater part of his working career in the computer and I.T. industries. In addition to the Inlooker, Terry tumbler is the author of several other comic Sci-Fi novels, details of which can be found at both his website and Amazon Author page.
Further links to the author and his writing can be found at:
By Terry Tumbler
(Available from Amazon)
Although primarily a science fiction book with many traditional science fiction themes, there are all sorts of other elements thrown in the mix too: sharp political satire and intrigue, comic and dark humour, and a host of funny yet chillingly accurate observations of the world we live in. The main premise of the book is a man who has the ability to look into and subjugate the will or ‘soul’ of others – whilst not an entirely new concept in the world of science fiction, or indeed other genres, its treatment here is both funny and original, and at times, bordering on the comically distasteful; the central character, upon learning of his newfound abilities, does little to ingratiate himself with the reader, initially choosing to use his abilities to gratify some of his own baser instincts and sexual fantasies, along with inflicting his own unique brand of vigilante justice on several wrong-doers his abilities lead him to – In fact, Thomas Beckton actually comes across as quite dislikeable, and never truly progresses to the point where the reader can or might want to identify with him in the traditional ‘hero of the story’ sense, but neither is he one that the reader find it in their hearts to wholly reject either. In many respects, our central character is somewhat of an anti-hero; with his god-like abilities and power to shape world events, he is remarkably unassuming most of the time, quietly (and not so quietly on occasion) shaping and directing mankind’s future, quite ruthlessly when called for, and with a quite chilling disregard at times for those he is manipulating, yet still retaining a semblance of humanity about him.
The narrative is well written, and although written in the third person, perfectly matches the tone and feel of the central character, giving much of the book a sort of first person feel to it, but without any of the restrictions that come with such a perspective. Likewise with the dialogue – sharp, witty, and often quite caustic in its observations, but always complementary and wholly in tune with, and effortlessly interwoven into the narrative. This is definitely a book where the author’s voice and I suspect much of his own character, really shines through on every page and in every word and idea within the book.
If I had but one minor criticism it would be the author’s use of an explanatory introduction to each part of the three parts of the book, sign-posting as it were what’s to follow – I know this is a popular and often effective writing technique but personally I feel it to be unnecessary here, that the strength and clarity of the author’s writing allows the story to unfold quite naturally without the need for any such artificial pointers.
My overall rating for this book would be on the plus side of 4.5 stars, the slight deduction being on account of the unnecessary introductions as already referred to, but apart from that, I found this to be a highly original and indeed funny take on some traditional science fiction themes; the author’s treatment of aliens and their technology, spacecraft, and extra ordinary abilities and powers, was reminiscent of say Douglas Adam’s Hitch Hiker’s Guide or Grant Naylor’s Red Dwarf writing, but without trying to imitate in any way, creating its own unique and refreshing comic sci-fi style with added touches of Jonathan Swift’s political satirical style thrown in. If you like your science fiction a little zany with a touch of sharp humour, definitely worth a look!
Further works by Terry Tumbler:
For my first ever guest blog I’m featuring the very talented author Ian Probert. His latest book Johnny Nothing has drawn considerable praise and is available to purchase on Amazon and other outlets at the links below. In addition to being an internationally successful author, Ian Probert is also a highly respected journalist. Ian’s guest blog here is divided into two parts: In the first part we read of the time he met Muhammad Ali, and his astonishment when the The Greatest quite unexpectedly kissed his then girlfriend. In Part two he moves onto a feature on his latest book Johnny Nothing…
When The Greatest kissed my girl
It was the third time I’d met him. Well, that’s not strictly true. In reality I’d only met him once before. Met, in the sense of shaking his hand and getting introduced to him. Met, in the sense that he’d spoken to me and I’d actually sat at the dinner table and eaten with him (with a lot of other journalists it has to be said). The second time didn’t really count as a ‘meet’. On that occasion I’d queued at Sports Pages in London along with hundreds of other people hoping to bask in his presence. But then basking in the presence of Muhammad Ali – once the most famous person on planet Earth and arguably the finest boxer ever to lace up the gloves – was usually more than most people could ever hope for.
The year was 1994 and I was standing in the queue outside the Whiteley’s branch of Waterstones waiting for that third meeting. Beside me was my then partner, a good-looking French lawyer named Julie. Behind me was Hugh McIlvaney, the great Scottish sportswriter who had been there to report on some of Ali’s greatest triumphs, not least of which his victory over George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. McIlvaney, despite a career spent travelling the world and meeting and writing about some of sport’s greatest icons, was happy to wait his turn alongside Ali’s fans.
It must have been Ali’s 10-millionth book signing and he was having trouble drumming up any enthusiasm for the occasion. More than that he looked ill. He was hunched over a desk in the middle of the shop, scrawling signature after signature while admirers attempted to catch his attention. ‘You’re the greatest fighter that ever lived,’ most of them said in so many words, and Ali would move his head slowly toward them and nod weakly in agreement. Speech for him seemed impossible. The thousands of punches that Ali took in his career had turned boxing’s finest exponent into its most tragic indictment.
Holding Julie’s hand, the front of the queue grew closer and I found myself not looking forward to what was about to happen. After all, what was to be gained? The Ali whom I loved was the person on TV who danced the shuffle and seemed to defy any logic as he charmed his way through a quite dazzling boxing career. The person sitting before me wasn’t really Ali. He was someone else. He bore no resemblance to the beautiful man who once cradled the planet in his hands.
Now it was our turn. The two of us approached the table nervously. Neither one of really wanted to shove the book we had just bought in front of the great man. But we did. We did because there was nothing else to do. Ali signed his name and passed the book to us. Then – and I don’t really know why I did this – I asked if I could take a picture of him with Julie. Ali looked tired and I immediately felt guilty about asking the question.
Then something remarkable happened.
Ali slowly rose to his feet. It was painful to observe as the former champion straightened his body and shuffled toward us. Except this was no Ali Shuffle. It was the painful gait of an old man. A large part of me was desperate to look away. Before I could do so, however, Ali climbed on to his toes. Unbelievably, he began to skip and as he did so the years slipped away from him like autumn leaves in the breeze. He threw a few punches into the air and all at once he was the young Cassius Clay, the man who shocked the world by beating Sonny Liston; the man who took on and defeated the parole board.
As we stood there open mouthed, Ali seized the moment and moved over to Julie. Suddenly his arms were around her and he was kissing her. And the kiss was not a peck. The kiss lasted far longer than it should have done. But I was not disturbed by the sight of another man kissing my girlfriend. I was too busy photographing that very long moment.
And then it was over and Ali was back slumped into his seat. Suddenly forty years older. And Julie was looking back at me in shock, her face drained of blood, her lungs of air. My girlfriend had just been passionately kissed by Muhammad Ali! It was only when we got home that Julie confessed that she hadn’t a clue who Muhammad Ali was.
“Great new kids book alert! My two are in hysterics reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert (and I am too).” Jane Bruton, Editor of Grazia
“Oh, Wow! Dark, sordid, grotesque and hilarious are only a few words I can conjure up to describe this hilarious book.” Lizzie Baldwin, mylittlebookblog
Critics are comparing Ian Probert to Roald Dahl. And Johnny Nothing we have a modern successor to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
Johnny Nothing is best-selling author Ian Probert’s first ever children’s book – although adults are enjoying it too. The story of the poorest boy in the world and the nastiest mother in the universe, the book is earning rave reviews. Children and grown-ups are all laughing at this incredibly funny kids book.
Take a look for yourself:
To celebrate the paperback launch of Johnny Nothing we are offering a free Kindle copy of the book to the first 100 people who Tweet the following message:
@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. http://geni.us/3oR8 #YA #Kindle #kidsbooks
The first ten readers who answer the following question will also receive a signed print of one of the book’s illustrations.
Q: What is the tattoo on Ben’s arm?
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter @truth42 https://twitter.com/truth42
Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.
Bill had a shaven head and was wearing a blue tracksuit. He was almost seven feet tall and built like an outdoor toilet made of brick. Bill didn’t realise this but he was a distant descendent of Neanderthal Man. He had only one eyebrow – one long bushy eyebrow that reached right across his forehead. He looked like what you might get if you force fed a member of Oasis with a half-tonne black plastic sackful of steroids.
And if you were brave enough to be present when he took off his tracksuit you would discover that his back was so covered in hair that he was able part it with a comb. If Bill had had more of an interest in fashion, he might even have considered giving it a curly perm and perhaps a few extensions
On his right arm, Bill had a tattoo which simply read ‘Bill’. This was in case he woke up one morning and forgot who he was. This was actually less unlikely than you might imagine because standing next to him was his twin brother. His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller). He was wearing a red tracksuit.
Bill gave Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie the tiniest of smiles and managed to grunt ‘hello’. Ben gave the couple exactly the same tiniest of smiles and also managed to grunt ‘hello’.
The two men were standing protectively close to Johnny. They were so large that in the confines of Johnny’s bedroom they looked like giants, which they were. They were so enormous that each of them had their own postcode. They were so gigantic that they had their passport photos taken by satellite. They were so humungous that you could spend all day thinking up rubbishy jokes about how big they were and never adequately describe just how indescribably, earth-shatteringly ENORMOUS they were. By no stretch of the imagination could you call them small (unless, of course, you were a lot bigger than them).
The pair of Goliaths were having to stoop slightly so as to avoid head-butting the ceiling, which actually even looked a little scared itself. They were a terrifying sight. Even scarier than a school trip to a Weight-Watcher’s nudist camp.
There was a long, pregnant silence in the room like this:
This eventually gave birth to an even longer post-natal silence, which, in the interest of preserving the rain forests or the battery on your Kindle, I shan’t demonstrate.
The four grown-ups eyed each other nervously. Bill and Ben looked at the Mackenzies like they were looking at insects that could be squashed into pulpy insect juice any time they so desired.
The Mackenzies looked at Bill and Ben like they were looking at two giant skinhead Neanderthal bully boys who had just appeared from nowhere in their recently and unexpectedly decorated council flat.
Johnny looked a little scared.
Finally Billy Mackenzie managed to get his mouth working a little and spluttered: ‘Who are you?’ And then: ‘What do you want?’
There was another long silence – let’s call it a pause – while Bill and Ben looked at each other as if trying to decide who was going to answer. Finally Bill spoke: ‘You the boy’s parents?’ he demanded in a voice that sounded like an angry rhino with horn-ache. Although if he was clever enough he would have realised that this was a rhetorical question.
There was yet another long silence (you’ll be relieved to hear that this is the last silence you’re going to get in this chapter) before Billy Mackenzie mumbled ‘Yes’.
‘We’re Johnny’s bodyguards,’ continued Bill. ‘We’re here to make sure that everything’s hunky dory.’
‘Hunky dory?’ Mrs. Mackenzie suddenly found her voice. ‘What do you mean ‘hunky dory”?’
Now Ben spoke: ‘What my brother means to say,’ he explained. ‘Is that we’ve been – how shall I say – contracted – to make sure that this young feller’s affairs are in order.’
‘Get out of my house!’ interrupted Mrs. Mackenzie, suddenly feeling a little braver, although she had no idea why.
Bill and Ben looked at each again for a moment. They did this almost as much as your mum looks in the mirror. Or you dad looks at websites that he shouldn’t be looking at. ‘First of all,’ said Bill, ‘This isn’t a house – it’s a flat.’
‘And second of all,’ said his brother. ‘We ain’t going nowhere. And neither are you.’
‘Johnny who are these men?’ Mrs. MacKenzie asked her son, ignoring the two giants.
‘I’m sorry mum but…’ Johnny started to speak but Bill cut in like a pair of scissors that chops sentences into bits.
‘…What the young feller means to say is that the fun’s over.’
‘The fun’s over?’ repeated Felicity MacKenzie numbly.
‘That’s right,’ continued Ben. ‘You’ve had a right old time. You’ve been spending his money like it’s your own. You’ve been ripping the poor young feller off. And we’re here to put a stop to it. From now on things are gonna be different.’
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my house…’
‘Flat,’ corrected Ben.
‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my flat. Billy, call the police!’
As usual Billy MacKenzie did as he was told. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. Before he had the chance to even turn it on the gigantic frame of Bill was towering over him.
‘That an iPhone?’ asked Ben.
‘Erm… Yes,’ said Billy, who could only watch as the huge man took it from him and with one hand crushed it into a chunk of buckled metal and shattered touch screen.
‘I think it’s broken,’ said Ben. ‘You ought to take it back to the Apple store. Tell ‘em that you’re not getting a decent signal.’
‘Right!’ cried Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘We’re leaving! You’ll be very sorry you did that. I’ll fetch the police myself!’
Now the giant frame of Bill was standing in front of her. He was holding something in his hand that looked a little like a child’s toy space gun.
‘Know what this is?’ he asked. Although once again he wasn’t clever enough to recognise that this was a rhetorical question.
Mrs. Mackenzie regarded the object for a moment. Then she shook her head. Whatever it was she guessed that it was not intended to provide pleasure, happiness or fulfilment. Anything that has a trigger and a barrel and goes ‘bang!’ seldom does.
‘Come on Billy!’ she said. ‘We’re leaving!’
Bill stood in front of her blocking the doorway. ‘Not so fast,’ he said, not so slowly. ‘It’s called a Taser. See this little trigger at the front? If I press this it’ll give you a small electric shock. It won’t hurt you…Well not too much anyway.’
Bill raised the object and gently touched Mrs. MacKenzie on the arm. There was a loudish bang and a flash of blue neon light and Mrs. MacKenzie collapsed groaning to the floor. She was conscious but wasn’t able to move her arms and legs
‘Oh my gawd!’ said Billy Mackenzie bravely charging out of the room in terror. He got as far as the stairs before there was a second flash. He, too, crumpled to the floor. Bill dragged him back into the bedroom by the scruff of his neck.
Johnny Nothing got to his feet and stood over his two parents. He looked anxious. ‘Are they… Are they… OK?’ he gasped.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ smiled Ben. ‘Give em a few minutes and they’ll be right as rain.’
‘But they’ll think twice before they try to run off again,’ said his brother.
Unlike many other writers whom I’ve discovered via blogging and Twitter, the author of this particular book was an unexpected discovery when she asked to join my book review Facebook group. I must admit to having had some initial misgivings when I first started reading this book, but having put them aside, this proved to be one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this past year. Further links to the author and her work can be found at:
Kevin Boy to Man, by E. Finklemeyer
(Available in eBook formats via Amazon and Smashwords)
Superficially this book might well be described as a Coming of Age or Rites of Passage story, but to do so would fall far short of doing it justice. The story initially centres around Kevin, a lonely but in many ways very typical teenager or young man, and his desire to engage with the opposite sex, make friends, and find his place in the world. The reader’s first impressions of Kevin are somewhat tainted to say the least, portrayed as he is as a sex starved fantasizing teenage version of a dirty old man, totally devoid of any redeeming characteristics, trolling the internet for mucky pics to further fuel his fantasies and act them out in a way typical of a horny young man or teenage boy in the privacy of his own bedroom. And so too his home and family: a mother who seems over protective and patronising of him, a bed ridden indifferent father, and no real friends to speak of other than his ‘Aunt’ Violet, a woman more than old enough to be his mother with whom he seems to enjoy an unhealthy interest and relationship with, again furthering the reader’s dislike of him; such are his efforts in this and other endeavours that it would be very easy to lose all sympathy whatsoever for him, but as the book progresses so too does the reader’s perception and understanding of him.
The language is colourful and explicit from the start, but in an honest and matter of fact way rather than gratuitous or intended to shock. The same can largely be said of the sex scenes too, and whilst the later do not leave too much to the imagination, they’re more likely to make the reader laugh out loud than become aroused in any way, as is their intention. I wasn’t overly keen on the block paragraph style of presentation, a format which I find better suited to the flash fiction and short story format. I must admit too that I found the first fifteen to twenty per cent of the book hard going, portraying Kevin, his life and his family in as bleak and sordid a way as is possible to imagine, but from this bleakness emerges a story of such joy and comic humour, and at times tragic loss and sadness it was impossible for me not to completely forgive any initial short comings
Out of Kevin’s solitary sordid fantasies and activities, what emerges is the story of a young man who comes to realise there’s a lot more to life than tending to the needs of what’s between his legs; where once he was sad and lonely he eventually finds himself surrounded by the best and truest friends he could ever hope for – as strange, funny, and unlikely a collection of individuals one might ever hope to meet. The adventures Kevin and his new found friends get up to really have to be read to be believed – think old people’s home meets juvenile detention centre with a healthy helping of geek, sex, and eventually love thrown in and you start to get the idea – any comparisons with Tom Sharpe would not be undeserved!
A word of warning though, try to avoid reading in this in public places such as trains or bus – switching between stifling laughter and then trying to hide the fact you’re welling up with tears and a lump in your throat can be quite embarrassing…
For sheer unadulterated joyous and uplifting entertainment, a thoroughly well deserved five star recommendation!
This is an author I came across by way of reading his own excellent review of a book I had previously reviewed, ‘Johnny Nothing’ by Ian Probert.
Andrew Updegrove is a prolific blogger, primarily writing about the self-publishing industry and related topics, providing an excellent resource for any aspiring writer. As well as being a prolific blogger and writer, Andrew Updegrove has a successful background in law, business, and cyber security, making him eminently qualified to write this excellent book.’
Further links and contact details for Andrew Updegrove are:
The Alexandria Project, by Andrew Updegrove
Tom Sharpe meets Michael Crichton… What we have here is a real rollercoaster of a thriller, combining home grown and international cyber terrorism, the threat of nuclear war and destruction, and not to mention, some of the funniest and satirical writing it’s been my pleasure to read in a very long time.
It begins with an excellent prologue, detailing the cyber theft of national security files from a highly secure Govt. Dept. thus providing the reader with an early glimpse of the wider picture. What follows is the gripping story of an emerging threat to national and international cyber security, and the frantic efforts of both the CIA, the FBI, and one man in particular, Frank Adversego Jr, a brilliant IT security expert and innovator, to track down and counter the threat and to avert catastrophic consequences that no one could have imagined at the start, culminating in a genuinely nail biting finish.
Interspaced amid the storyline are some fascinating insights into the world of I.T and the net, written in such a way as to be informative and entertaining, yet never requiring the reader to have anything but the most basic understanding of the net to follow and enjoy the story. There are some truly funny and yet very pertinent accounts of the original dot com bubble, venture capital, and the sheer absurdity and madness of the early days of the net and the overnight millionaires it created; mentions of Netscape et al give the explanations real credibility. The author uses these examples to lampoon much of the internet, using such phrases as “spear phishing venture capitalists,” and gives an account of “virtual kittens” that really has to be read to enjoy its sheer absurdity. There are many other examples too of the author’s humour, such as when the principal character, Frank, describes one of his neighbours as looking like the North Korean president… but with hair curlers. One of the funniest satirical examples is when the cyber security breaches are said to be undermining the very foundations of culture and society, namely when the computer systems of American Idol, the Home shopping channel, and Disney World are compromised. Running alongside the cyber investigations, across the ocean, events are rapidly unfolding to instigate a violent change of leadership in North Korea whilst dragging America into a war of literal self-destruction.
There are some very clever twists too, mainly concerning a number of the characters who turn out to be not quite they seem; even Lily, the overweight corgi that Frank has to look after, plays its part in the grand scheme of things!
With just the right balance of dialogue, action, flashback, and explanation, the author develops both the storyline and the characters with equal interest and believability: Frank Adversego, the middle aged I.T expert, whose geeky talents and early promise somehow never reached their full potential, his daughter, the confident and self assured Marla, loyal to her dad, but despairing of his faults at times, and his Boss, Frank Marchand, equally despairing of Frank’s failure at times to live up to his potential, yet ultimately confident in his ability to do his job, and of course the mysterious retired FBI agent and the enigmatic, wait for it… Yoda!
A funny, satirical, pacey thriller combining the murky world of the cyber terrorist with that of the political machinations of high office, tyrannical military dictatorships, and the threat of nuclear war. A cracking good read that will have you laughing and biting your nails in anticipation in equal measure.
Available from Amazon in eBook format, and from several other outlets in both eBook and print formats.. See the author’s blog for details.
There’s an old saying, ‘We all make mistakes,’ and of course, we all do: big ones, little ones, silly ones, and often, stupid ones. And once and a while, someone makes one that is as ‘big and stupid ‘as they come…
The plans were all laid. Big Ron had a gotten together quite a crew for this one: There was little Mickey ‘Wheels’ Tanner, the best getaway driver short of Sterling moss. Jack Dawkins, the explosives expert, electrics and alarms man, Peter Hills. And last but not least, that well known hard-man, Hatchet Harry, had been brought in to add a bit of muscle; any problems with wannabe heroes, and Hatchet Harry was more than willing to shove a sawn-off shotgun down their throat – and pull the trigger too if they thought he was bluffing.
Rumour had it that this was a rather exclusive bank, very discreet, catering to the stars, politicians, the super-rich, and even senior members of the Royal family. Located in the heart of London’s exclusive Mayfair, it was an old Victorian building, with little to indicate what is was other that a shiny brass plate, saying simply, The Bank.
Big Ron had high hopes for this one. With that sort of clientele there had to be serious money to be had, not to mention jewellery, bonds, and god knows what sort of secrets the rich and powerful preferred kept secret…
“So, we’re all clear then, we go through the adjacent wall. Pete here has already traced the in-wall alarm wires so there’s no probs there.” Big Ron said.
“And I’ll be waiting right outside with the motor running.” Peter Hills assured them.
“Yer’ bloody well better be!” Added Hatchet Harry.
“I still don’t get why there ain’t more security though, I mean like, if there’s really as much as yer’ reckon there is?” Hatchet Harry said. He might have been the hired muscle but he was far from the stupid oaf many thought him to be…
“It’s as I explained,” Big Ron began, “‘it’s because of who the customers are. They don’t want people, you know, the public and the Press and stuff knowing their business. And a load of armed guards and security cams and stuff would attract too much attention.”
Hatchet Harry nodded, still not fully convinced, but sufficiently tempted by Big Ron’s promises of untold money to put aside his doubts.
“Right then, let’s do it.
It had been a well-planned job, right down to the last detail. Big Ron had leased the adjacent basement office for the past six months, at no inconsiderable expense. Every penny he had, had been invested in this one last caper. And things were progressing nicely…
“That’s it, we’re in,” declared Jack, the explosives man, “an’ you’re sure we haven’t tripped any of them alarm wires, Pete?”
“No chance.” Pete Replied.
“Stop yakking and let’s get in and out, pronto!” Said Big Ron, following the two of them through the hole in the wall, closely followed by Hatchet Harry.
“Who the hell…” A voice boomed at them, “Where… How did you get in here..?” Hatchet Harry was the first to respond…
“Down on the floor. Now!”
The night security guard did as he was told; when Hatchet Harry told you to do something, you did it.
“Right, Pete, start on opening those deposit boxes,” Big Ron bellowed.
“Wh… What is it you want here?” The security guard stuttered, turning his head to look up at them all.
“Are you serious? We want what’s in all those cash filled deposit boxes.” Hatchet Harry replied.
Despite the obvious danger he was in, the security guard couldn’t help but let out a muffled laugh: “That’s what this is about, money?” And again he laughed.
“First one’s open,” Peter Hills declared.
“And?” Asked one of the others.
“Erm, I’m not sure… Just some test tubes and, erm, petri dishes I think they’re called.”
The others looked around at each other in disbelief, and then to the security guard:
“There’s no money in any those boxes.” He said
“No money!” Growled Hatchet Harry, not at the security guard, but at Big Ron.
“What do you mean, no money?” He said again, turning back to the security guard who was still lying prone on the ground…
“This isn’t that sort of bank, it’s a blood and tissue bank, you know, genetic material, stem-cells, stuff like that, to help the rich and famous to stay young and healthy when they start to get old and sick. They’re the only ones who can afford all this.”
Hatchet Harry turned again at Big Ron, shot-gun in hand…
“It’s not my fault, how was I to know that?” Big Ron pleaded.
It didn’t matter; Hatchet Harry raised the gun a little higher and fired a shot straight in Big Ron’s head…
“Pretty bad mess we got here.” The detective in charge was saying.
“Yeah. Who’d have thought Big Ron would end up making a deposit in the very bank he was trying to rob?” His colleague added, looking across at the mass of brain tissue and scull fragments splattered across the front of the tissue deposit boxes of the vault…
After getting some very nice feedback on my last two Flash Fiction pieces I’ve decided to write a few more. One, because they’re fun to write, and two, they provide a welcome distraction when I get stuck on some of my longer pieces and the novel I’m working on.
After more than ten years, Billy Jenkins was free – no more watching him all the time. No more not being allowed to go beyond a certain distance, no more stupid grey trousers or lights out at a certain time – free to roam as far as the open road would take him.
For more than the past decade, almost every minute of his life had been controlled, monitored, and spied on, everything from what he wore, his behaviour, right down to the food he ate. Many’s a time he had considered trying to make a run for it, but he knew they’d simply bring him back, that he’d have to start over, convincing them he should once again be allowed the few small freedoms and choices that made his life a little better.
Billy was relishing the first day of his new found liberty. He finally understood when he heard people say, ‘there’s a whole wide world out there’, and here he was, a part of it, free to savour every moment of it.
The sheer thrill of hurtling down the road, weaving in and out of the slow moving traffic, the wind in his hair, no one to nudge him this way or that, it was hard to remember feeling so good.
And why shouldn’t he? He had earned it, proved he was safe to be let out. It wasn’t as though he’d never been free before; they had let him out a couple of times before, but always with restrictions, limitations, escorted everywhere, so much so he felt like a dog on a leash. Not any more though, he thought.
He slowed down, just long enough to smile and whistle at a girl walking along the pavement. She chuckled and smiled back. He would never have been allowed to do that before. And then he sped up again, he wanted to try and beat the lights, which he did. He’d never been so far before, not on his own, unsupervised, but no one was stopping him now, so he continued, on and on the rest of the day.
“Hi Billy, you had a good day did you?” His dad asked.
“Sure did dad,” Billy replied, “I must have ridden a hundred miles on the buses this morning, and ridden another hundred on the bike.”
“That’s great son, you’re growing up so fast it’s hard to keep track of you.”
Young Billy Jenkins hadn’t returned back home till nearly eight in the evening, the latest he’d been allowed out on his own in all his eleven years on the planet, but it was his birthday, and he’d gotten a racing bike. That, and the free to travel bus he was now old enough for, had opened up the whole wide world for him that day…
“That as maybe,” his mother interrupted, adding,” But it’s time for your dinner, then bath and bed young man.”
Billy sighed, knowing there were still a few more rules he had to abide by for now…
Jake Hogan was the best starship fighter pilot in the Federation of the Outer Worlds, but even he was nervous of the odds this time. Coming into view from behind the asteroid belt, he could see the armada of enemy ships closing in, shields up, weapons all primed for firing, led by the only opponent to have ever bested him in one on one space combat. And here he was, facing the same opponent at the head of a fleet ten times the size of his own.
Outnumbered and out-gunned, he directed the Federation fleet ships to the pre-calculated strategic positions to provide his home world Atarious, the best chance of surviving the coming battle. This was going to be a David and Goliath fight, of skill verses overwhelming fire-power…
Along with four other attack craft, Jake Hogan started to zig zag in and out of the asteroids that lay between them and the enemy. He was grateful now for the armament upgrades his and the other ships had been fitted with: laser light cannons, photon Q-bombs, jump drive positioning, every conceivable defensive and attack capability he could hope for. But would it be enough?
POW! POW! POW! The enemy hard started to open fire, blasting a path through the asteroids. One of Jake’s fellow fighters was hit by some of the debris and was now out of action. Jake himself had to dart away pretty sharpish to avoid being hit. The three remaining ships of his fighter squad closed in around him, providing cover fire as he re-directed fire at the enemy lead ship…
Ratter Tat Tat !!! “Bastards!” Jake cursed to himself… Enemy scout ships were trying a flanking manoeuvre, spewing out bursts of laser fire to force Jake’s fighter squad from their attempts to strike at the heart of the enemy fleet. Jake and his fellow fighters scattered in different directions, littering the battle field in their wake with photon mines, primed to explode as the enemy scout ships tried to follow. With sweating hands, Jake swung his ship round to face the pursuing ships and opened fire, setting off the mines. Blinding flashes of light exploded all around. The pursuing ships were blown to bits, the rouse had worked. But the bulk of the enemy fleet still lay protected by the remaining asteroids. Jake gathered the Federation fleet ships for an all-out attack.
“Launch Q-bombs!” Jake ordered. And with that, every last Federation ship launched the equivalent of a thousand bombs, each a thousand times more powerful that the most powerful of the primitive nuclear weapons of the twenty second century. Jake knew the Q-bombs alone couldn’t destroy all the enemy ships, but she shattering of the asteroid belt would provide the additional destruction to ensure complete and utter victory for the federation…
“Yes!” Jake screamed, “Take that you fucking alien bastards!!!”
“What’s all the noise about Jake?” Jake’s older brother asked.
“I just got a high score… This new X-box online game is fucking awesome!”
To write regularly, all writers need fresh inspiration from time to time. Where it comes from isn’t always obvious, but often it comes from the strangest of places. The inspiration for this story came from the classified ads of my local paper… I wanted to write something a little wacky
and off the wall, so here it is…
Sam saw the ad in the paper for sperm donors – twenty pounds per ‘sample’. With money being a bit tight – well, when wasn’t money tight for a student – easy money, Sam thought. Sam noted down the address. It was only a short bus ride away, no reason to delay…
“I’m Sam Hillman, here about the ad.” Sam informed the receptionist.
“What ad. is that?” She asked.
“The one in the paper, twenty pounds for sperm donations.” Sam replied.
The receptionist frowned and gave Sam a somewhat quizzical look:
“The sperm donors wanted ad?.. That’s definitely the one you’re here about?”
“Yes, that’s the one.” Sam replied, wondering at her obvious scepticism.
“Erm.. Could you wait here a moment while I get my supervisor, please?”
“Yeah, sure.” Sam replied, and took a seat in the waiting room as the receptionist disappeared through a door behind her desk. Five minutes later, an older man in a white coat returned with the receptionist…
“Well? You see what I mean don’t you?” Sam heard the receptionist whisper to whom Sam presumed must be one of the clinic’s medical staff.
“Yes, well, I’ll take it from here.” Sam heard the man in the white coat whisper back.
“Well Sam, it is Sam is it?” The white coat asked.
“Yes, that’s right,” Sam confirmed, adding, in anticipation of the next question, “here about the sperm donors wanted ad.”
“Ah …Yes, so my colleague said.” The white coat said. Sam could see he was a little perplexed: “Is there a problem?” Sam asked.
“Err… Well, I’m not sure… You have read the ad? You… do understand… what it entails don’t you? What… exactly… we need from you.”
“Yes, of course I do, why wouldn’t I?”
Sam was getting quite frustrated at all the questions, thinking it would all be over and done with by now, and twenty pounds the richer…
“Yes, of course, why wouldn’t you, what I meant was…” The white coat paused, not quite sure how to continue…
“Well, I’m really not sure how to put this,” the white coat said, now almost stuttering to get his words out, “are you absolutely sure about this? What I mean to say, rather, what I’m trying to say is, I mean, is that, well…”
“For fucks sake,” Sam exclaimed, “what is it you’re saying?”
“Well, to be a sperm donor…” The white coat paused before continuing, “there are… certain requirements… that have to be met, that the donor has to meet first.”
Sam was trying desperately hard to remain calm and composed, despite the white coat’s seemingly determined efforts to prevent that…
“Will you please, just please; tell me what the problem is?” Sam asked in the most condescending voice imaginable.
“The problem, as you put it,” the white coat began. He paused for a moment, then adding:
“Is that… Err.. You’re a woman!”
“And?” replied Sam.
“Isn’t it obvious? You need to be a man! To have testicles!”
Sam laughed before answering: “Well I might not have testicles, but my boyfriend certainly does. And like most boyfriends, he’s a lazy sod. That’s why I’m here instead of him.”
And on that note, Sam, short for Samantha, promptly produced a small vial with the required sample…