This is an author I first 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, marketing, 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 cybersecurity, making him eminently qualified to write this excellent book.’
Further links and contact details for Andrew Updegrove are:
Author site: www.andrew-updegrove.com
The Lafayette Campaign
A TALE OF DECEPTION AND ELECTIONS
Having already read an enjoyed the first in Andrew Updegrove’s cybersecurity/thriller series, I thought I’d give this one a try. This time the story revolves around an upcoming US Presidential election, but one where all the poll predictions are completely at odds with what everyone expects, raising questions about who may be trying to manipulate and influence the outcome? Once again, the US authorities call on the geeky middle-aged, I.T. cybersecurity expert, Frank Adversego, to look into things. Amid his investigations, Frank is also working on the book he’s been contracted to write warning of the dangers around hacking, cybersecurity, and so.
As in Book One, this is a superbly written cybersecurity themed thriller, but again, riddled with lots of clever and subtle humour, like where the author refers to a security thug as being ‘evolutionally challenged,’ and when he laments about being glad he’s not writing a political satire instead of a serious non-fiction book, the humour of which becomes even more apparent later on. In many ways, readers from any country will be able to identify with the part money and big business plays in politics all around the world, and not just the US.
Although this reads perfectly well as a stand-alone book, I was pleased to see some indirect references to Book One, The Alexandria Project, ironically the basis of the book the main character, Frank, is working on during the unfolding story here, and the inclusion of some of the characters from the first book, ie, his daughter, Marla, and boss, George Marchand. Again though, there are plenty of new characters to further engage the reader’s interest.
Not only is this well-written book, but also a well-researched one too. It does, however, convey a lot of US political workings and cyber-tech explanation though that some readers might get a tad lost in if they don’t already have some interest in them. As a UK reader, I must admit had I read this book when it first came out back in 2015, I might well have got a bit lost in some of the American election procedures and terminology, and quite frankly, found it a little too fantastical and far-fetched. Since then of course, there’s been the improbable election of Donald Trump and all that’s followed to take care of the ‘far-fetched,’ aspect. Also, with all the media coverage that event attracted worldwide combined with innumerable hours of Youtube American news footage of the 2016 US Presidential election, most people now have a better understanding of US electoral workings, so again, this really has become a book that is not only more ‘understandable’ to non-US readers, but a highly topical one too.
Another super cybersecurity offering; a satire for sure, but given what’s happened in US politics since its publication, really not so far off the mark … loved it!
Click HERE to read my review of Book One in the series, The Alexandria Project
Available from Amazon in eBook format, and from several other outlets in both eBook and print formats … See the author’s blog for details.
For links to all five books to date in the author’s cybersecurity/thriller series, please see HERE for Andrew Updegrove’s US Amazon author page
This latest short story collection is the fifth by John M. W. Smith that it’s been my pleasure to read and review. John M.W. Smith has had many stories published in various women’s weekly magazines and literary journals, and his short story collections are an established favourite among Russian readers where as well as being hugely popular, are also used as an English language teaching aid.
In addition to my review here of ‘More Longer Wacky stories,’ I’ve also included my past reviews of some of his other collections.
See below for John M.W. Smith on social media …
It’s been a few years since I read one of this author’s excellent short story collections, and I must say this latest novella lengthed 13 story anthology is the best so far. As in previous collections, the stories culminate in some unexpected twist in the tale, some quite startling while others are more of Ah-ha moment, though not once did I remotely see what it would be in each case. Mostly the stories stick to just one or two female characters (though not always), allowing the author to develop them more than is usual within the confines of a short story. Some of the tales are truly uplifting and will make the reader smile, but in a bit of a departure from previous books, others are indeed a tad sad, and equally sad, are more reflective of the not so nice side of human nature, as is the case in A Lonely Heart Breaks Easily.
This collection is definitely grittier, and with more of an edge to some of the stories that I’ve seen in previous ones, venturing into more controversial (almost taboo) themes such as in the third offering, It’s So Easy to Fall in Love, where the wronged woman turns out to be far more predatory than the reader is originally led to believe.
Most of the author’s stories centre around female characters, some strong and self-assured while others are often more fragile and vulnerable, so in some respects it’s easy to see why they would enjoy such popularity in women’s magazines/journals, and yet, I maintain, these stories are of a much wider appeal to anyone who enjoys cleverly crafted scenarios, great writing and dialogue, and in every case, an unexpected but totally satisfying conclusion to a story. I really can’t praise these little gems more highly.
MY PREVIOUS REVIEWS OF THE AUTHOR’S WORK …
Wacky Stories with Twist Endings – Volumes 1 to 4
(Available in eBook & print formats via Amazon)
This is a short collection of eight humorous short stories, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘twist at the end’ in the first four stories are more the sort to make you smile and chuckle rather than gasp in amazement, but every scenario and ending are entirely believable and just the sort of situation that any reader might readily identify with. In the later stories, the twist ending tend to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them, and the stories steadily become a little more intricate.
The author keeps the number of characters to a minimum in each case, and within the obvious confines of a short story, the characters are well-developed with convincing and natural dialogue. Each story is written in an easy to read and follow style, yet despite their apparent simplicity, all are actually very clever and well crafted.
By the author’s own admission, the stories are primarily aimed at a female readership, but the quality of writing and story-telling does I believe give them a much broader appeal. I shall certainly be reading and reviewing the other three volumes in this series.
Another short collection of eight short stories; as in the previous volume of this collection, every story is well crafted and wholly believable. Again, not one of these stories will fail to bring a smile and a chuckle to the face of the reader, but unlike the previous volume, the stories here are a little more involved, with a slightly more adult and mischievous flavour to them.
For such short stories, some of them are quite complex, dealing with issues of romance, family, and work issues. Again the characters are convincing and well-developed. The increased complexity of the stories, as compared to volume one, does require a slightly greater degree of concentration from the reader, but the rewards are more than worth it.
Overall, another great volume of well written and light-hearted stories which fans of the short story genre and women in particular, will really enjoy.
Well, this is the third volume of stories I’ve reviewed in this series and once again, I’ve not been disappointed.
Without reiterating too much of what I’ve said in my previous reviews, each of these delightful short stories has an unexpected, and in this volume more so than in previous ones, a quite often rather `naughty’ and punchier twist in the ending – never more so was the term `naughty but nice’ quite so appropriate. Compared to previous volumes, I think the stories here are, whilst still quite charming, are tending towards slightly more adult orientated themes. Again the reader never really sees what’s coming, and the author is an adept at leading the reader up the garden path so to speak before firmly tugging them back to a really effective punchline and conclusion.
What I’ve also noticed and enjoyed in this third volume is the way author very quickly settles the reader into feeling comfortable and familiar in what they’re reading; although each story is different and unique in its own way, there are often striking similarities in names, places, and the domestic settings in which they occur that you could almost feel that you’re reading another chapter in the lives of the characters in a previous story, much like that sense of familiarity you might encounter in reading the sequel to a novel. By employing such techniques, many of the characters appear much more developed and rounded than they might otherwise, given the limitations of the short and flash fiction genres.
I would agree with the author’s own admission that his stories are indeed aimed at a primarily female readership, and this volume perhaps more than in previous ones, but as your typical Neanderthal male, I too enjoyed them immensely and as such would contend that they still have a much broader appeal that of their intended market. Another great collection, and again, highly recommended …
This is the fourth and last volume of the ‘wacky stories’ series. Like the previous ones, all the stories are well written, and mostly with a deliciously naughty twist in them.
One of the dangers of anthologies such as this is that there can be a tendency for the stories to become repetitive, but here we have a refreshing diversity. Just when you think you’ve got the stories figured out, the author throws in a couple that are as delightfully sentimental and smile-inducing as you can imagine; the first story has quite an adult theme to it, treating the reader to a really sharp and almost shocking twist, whereas in another of the stories, the author leads the reader in a very definite direction, only to delight with a more gentle shock, and of the most touching confirmations of enduring love as I’ve read in a long time.
Yes, the stories are aimed at a female readership, but I think their appeal extends much further. I will certainly be reading some of the author’s differently themed anthologies in the near future. All in all, a great series that I would heartily recommend not only a female readership but anyone who enjoys cleverly written stories of the ‘twist in the tale genre’…
Click HERE for the author’s Amazon author page, and links to all his books …
Another of my Welsh Wednesday Writing reviews of Welsh authors, this time a collection of short stories by Welsh author, Stuart Kear, a life-long resident of the Rhondda Valley. I first discovered Stuart’s stories via the Tonypandy Writer’s Group’s multi-author collection of short stories and poetry, which featured two of Stuart’s stories. Having been impressed with both contributions I checked to see if the author had anything published elsewhere, and so discovered this awesome collection of short stories here …
Click on book cover thumbnail below for Amazon purchase link …
Short, Long And Tall Stories
All the stories here have a Welsh theme, and in most cases specific to the Welsh valleys; now when I say a ‘Welsh theme,’ I don’t just mean that the author simply mentions Wales in passing or has perhaps given each story a Welsh character – in most cases, the Welsh setting, being Welsh, or having grown up in the valleys is an integral part of the meaning of each story.
This is quite a substantial body of varied stories, thirteen in total. Among the stories, the author tackles a variety of topics including bereavement and how close relatives deal with loss in their own very different ways, tragedy in the coal mining pits, plots of murder mixed up with irony and poetic justice, and even an incredulously funny flash fiction piece in ‘The Letter,’ – as simple a premise as you could imagine but a guaranteed ear to ear smile for the reader.
Some of the stories are more a reflection of the human condition and are simply satisfying to read for their own sake without the need for any clever or surprise conclusions. Others though are quite definitely of the ‘twist in the tale’ type, often blended with a deliciously wicked element of humour, and I have to say, Stuart Kear has demonstrated a real talent for that type of story.
My favourite story? – I’m torn between ‘The Look, ‘ a brutal tale of murder and poetic justice with a little touch of black humour, and ‘The Departure,’ another relatively simple story but having the impact of being hit right between the eyes with a claw hammer! Others that also caught my particular attention – ‘The Accident’ and the ‘The dig at the Station Hotel.’
If I had but two tiny criticisms it would be that I would have preferred a more ‘Wales’ orientated cover as the one here puts me more in mind of a major city than the Welsh Valleys. Secondly, given how many people like to read on their Kindles, tablets, and phones etc it would be nice if this collection were more widely available as an eBook too as these stories really do merit the widest possible readership! Apart from that, an absolutely superb clever and entertaining collection of stories. No hesitation in rating it a thoroughly well-deserved 5 stars!
About the author …
Born in 1945, Stuart Kear, was born and raised in the Welsh Valleys, having also lived and worked there all his life. With three children and two grandchildren, Stuart Kear was recently widowed and it is to the memory of his late wife of 47 years he dedicated the above short story collection.
In addition to his love of books and language, Stuart Kear’s other interests are photography, walking, quizzes, snooker, and of course, writing.
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.
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.
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.
By Tom Benson
(Available as an eBook from Amazon – click on above title for link)
Of 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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Murderous Little Darlings is the first book by John Hennessey I’ve read and reviewed, another author from the IASD stable, but it certainly won’t be the last. I actually downloaded this little gem of a book on a whim when I saw a post in the IASD Fb group without even reading the Amazon freebie sample first… though the fact that the author had mentioned it was Free to download on Kindle might have had something to do that considering I had already gone way over my monthly book buying budget! Having said that, I’ll be more than happy to pay for any future books I read from this author.
John Hennessy is the British author of paranormal fantasy horror for YA, psychological horror and murder mysteries, plus his own unique take on vampire lore. He has also written ghost stories and delved into high epic fantasy with a hint of romance.
A kung fu addict; he teaches martial arts full-time but writes at all other times.
When he doesn’t have a book in his hands, he likes to travel and see weird and wacky things. He admits to having an unhealthy addiction to Star Trek, Batman, Charmed, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name but a few. He will also travel to reputed scary places in England, as he feels it makes his books more real.
John has an exclusive Readers Group where they can receive FREE Story Previews and Chapters from his books: available on his blog/website at:
With two specimens of the undead on either side of her, Juliana knew there was no escape. Kill the one they had selected for her, or be killed, and become one of them. What had the neighbours in the road called them, back when their childhood pranks were just that?
Oh yes, she remembered now. Murderous Little Darlings. They had the faces of angels but possessed the very soul of the Devil.
Marcus had fully embraced his vampire side from the moment he was born. Rocco was the second eldest and had fought the temptation all of his life. Then Marcus finally broke him.
That just left Juliana. Will she resist them, or join in the hunt?
A vampire novella which is the first in a Tale of Vampires Series. In A Tale of Vampires, there will be seven short horror stories that can be read alone but should really be read in order. Murderous Little Darlings could be considered a dark urban fantasy. When you’re finished reading this, go straight to The Blood and the Raven.
By John Hennessy
(Available from Amazon in eBook & paperback formats)
I read this novella in under two hours but it was two hours of darkly humorous pure entertainment. I’m not really a fan of gory horror so a story involving vampires wouldn’t normally appeal but the humour and unusual scenario of triplet pre-teen vampires kept me hooked from beginning to end. For the real purist fans of the vampire genre expecting black cloaked Dracula like characters only coming out at night, avoiding crucifixes, and sizzling away at the touch of a drop of holy water, this might not be to their liking, but if you enjoy your reading full of dark humour and the unexpected then this is definitely worth a go. I particularly liked the line ‘Oh yes, she remembered now. Murderous Little Darlings. They had the faces of angels, but possessed the very soul of the Devil.’ I wasn’t sure at first if the three young siblings really were vampires or whether it was all just the over-active imagination of Marcus, the eldest convincing the others of it. Whatever they are or turn out to be though, as the story progresses it becomes clear there is definitely something sinister and different about them. In terms of traditional vampire characters, they defy all the usual traits and stereotypes but given their tender years and being ‘born’ of a vampire rather than ‘turned’ as it were, the reader can allow their own imagination to run wild with speculation. The indiscriminate violence along with the blood and gore was well handled without venturing into over-elaboration of it – in fact it was well incorporated into the story when you consider Marcus’s extreme youth; it’s hard to conceive of such a young boy committing gory acts of murder, but Marcus knowing (or believing) himself to be a vampire with superhuman abilities but without all social constraints and discretion we learn as we get older, it’s easy to accept his violent behaviour, and the others too as they come round to his way of thinking. You do have to suspend disbelief at times, but considering this is a tale of child vampires that’s hardly surprising; the siblings’ dialogue and manner of speaking is rarely what you would expect from youngsters but given their apparent vampire nature and existence the story remains entirely credible. Just when you think you can see the direction the story is going or the end in sight, events take a totally unexpected and impossible to foresee turn. Were this a stand-alone story I might have been a little disappointed, being left wanting to know more about these characters and perhaps their further development and adventures. Thankfully this is just one of a whole series of related vampire tales, all of which will be going on my reading list for the future.
Further links to John Hennessy’s writing:
The John Hennessy collection: click on thumbnail for Amazon links:
Another book from the members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion Fb group, this time a humorous book from the vampire genre by group member Angela Lockwood. This will be the second book of Angela’s books I’ve read and reviewed, the first being an anthology of short stories that she co-authored with Elspeth Morrison. Apart from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this is the first vampire book I’ve read since then. This particular book is actually book 2 of a series, but one that that stands equally well as a stand-alone book. In addition to her own books, Angela Lockwood has had one of her short stories featured in the highly acclaimed Indie Author charity anthology You’re Not Alone.
Angela Lockwood-van der Klauw was born in the Netherlands. She learned her trade as There she met and later married her husband Adam. Angela ran her own jeweller’s shop in Edinburgh for ten years before she and her husband moved to the south of France in 2011. Angela prefers the climate there, but often thinks about the town she left behind and its people.
Angela started writing in the spring of 2013, a very wet spring during which she found herself climbing the walls, frustrated that she couldn’t go out and have her usual long walks along the seafront. Seeing his wife’s frustration, Adam suggested ‘Why don’t you write a book?’ Angela thought about it for a few days, then switched on her laptop and started writing. She published her first book ‘Language in the Blood’ in August 2013.
Further links to Angela Lockwood’s writing can be found at:
By Angela Lockwood
This is one of those books that gets off to a flying start, really drawing you in from the very first page. Our principal character, a Scottish vampire by the name or Cameron, finds himself in the unlikely scenario of having to explain his existence and circumstances to the French police authorities. Right from the start the book begins to live up to the author’s claim of ‘comedy with bite…’ The central character Cameron Blair has lived for over a century, living off the blood of both humans and animals to survive, much as you might expect of a vampire – but that’s as about as far as any similarity to the traditional image of the evil blood sucking stereotype goes. What the author has done here is provide the reader with a humorous and satirical exploration of just what else it takes for a vampire to survive through the ages, i.e. earning a living, interacting with humans, sex and romance, and a host of other circumstances and practicalities you wouldn’t normally associate with a vampire; although committing a host of crimes over the course of a century our vampire here also displays some remarkably human tendencies and virtues, some to his advantage, and others to his detriment such as loyalty to a human friend which is what leads to the situation he finds himself at the beginning of the book.
Although this is the second of the two books the author has written in this vampire series, it reads just as well as a stand-alone book, and not once did I find myself confused at not having read the first book (yet). I also liked the first person point of view, which I must say is not a style of writing I often like in a full length novel but one which works extremely well in this instance, giving the reader a thorough insight into Cameron’s mind and rather skewed sense of logic and morality; since there is no jumping from one character or location to another the story flows in a mostly linear and easy to follow fashion. Cameron’s ‘inner narrative’ provides just as comprehensive a view of the wider picture as might be achieved had the author chosen to write in the third person, and the way Cameron deals with people is the perfective vehicle for the author’s humour here – referring to his blood sucking activities as breakfast and feeding, the reference to blood that’s been processed to prevent clotting not tasting as good as fresh blood, his dislike of cat’s blood, and fear of getting rabies when he once drank from a fox are just a few examples of when you just can’t help but laugh. In many ways, Cameron is like a vampire version of E.W. Hornung’s gentleman cat burglar Raffles, sharing the latter’s charm and debonair persona, and yet like the former, doing what he has to do to survive and get by, with possibly just a bit of the amoral serial killer Dexter thrown in the mix.
A very funny and entertaining take on the more traditional vampire genre, and just as the author describes it as comedy with bite, I’d say definitely a huge helping of humour with the horror in this one… great book.
Angela Lockwood’s works: click on thumbnails for Amazon links
This 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.’
Further links to Eric Lahti and his writing can be found at:
By Eric Lahti
(Available in eBook format from Amazon)
Where 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!
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 cybersecurity, 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 homegrown 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 cybersecurity, 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 cybersecurity 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, George 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.
It’s funny, the little things that provide the inspiration for a story. In the following story, the seed of the idea started with a TV commercial featuring a woman in the kitchen receiving a phone call from a loft insulation salesman. She puts him on hold while she goes off to make a cup of coffee. It got me thinking of all the different ways to deal with cold callers…
Time – 08:00: Here I am, Sunday morning, sitting at my keyboard, working on my blog. It’s another short story, not so much a whodunit as a whytheydunit.
The TV’s off, I’ve put my mobile on silent, logged off from Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media, and locked the wife and kids in the cellar – well, not really, I made that last bit up, but you take my point.
I’m lost in my own little world, the only external contact being my fingers tapping away at the keyboard. The words are flowing, bringing the page alive before my very eyes, I couldn’t be happier… The last time I had a flow like this was a burst water pipe.
Disaster… The landline is ringing. I think for a moment to ignore it. Only my family and close friends know my home number; it might be important. Reluctantly I emerge from my other world…
“Yeah, who’s this?” I ask, making little effort to hide my annoyance at the interruption. If it’s anyone I know I can make my apologies later. If not, I don’t care…
“Is that Mr Brown?” The twat didn’t even have the courtesy to answer my question.
“Who is it that’s asking?” I ask, again…
“Oh I’m sorry, did I not say?”
“Ah, okay, I’m sorry…” He’s lying; he’s not a bit sorry, obviously a salesman of some sort.
“So you said. Now, who are you?”
“Yes of course, my name’s Colin, Colin Smithers.” Smarmy git, he’s trying to control the exchange, like a chess player trying to dominate the middle of the board. Well, I’m not playing…
“What do you want?” I already know what he wants, a sales commission. He won’t be getting one, not from me…
“I’m calling on behalf of Snuggly loft insulation, and…”
“I live in an igloo! I’m not interested.” I say, slamming the phone down. I take a deep breath, just like my therapist advised.
Time – 08:35: I’m back at my keyboard. I can’t help wondering, if I can’t even get some peace and quiet in my own home to write, how the hell did JK Rowling manage it in a cafe? I put the thought from my mind as I resume the sentence I was writing. Now what was it, oh yes I remember, the outline of a murder plot, my fingers returning to the keyboard once more..
Dingggg Dongggg… It’s the front doorbell going…
“What the fuck now?” I mutter under my breath, once again having to tear myself away from my beloved keyboard…
“Yes?” I ask, throwing the door wide open. Standing before me are a man and a woman, of African origin I would say, wearing bright coloured clothing and with equally bright beaming white teethed smiles that would grace the covers of Dentistry Monthly
“We’re from the Holy Hackney Church of the Apostles…”
“And I’m from the Battersea Boy’s Home for waifs and strays, what of it?”
The beaming smiles momentarily wither beneath their puzzled frowns. But only for a moment; they’re trained you know, to deal with stroppy unbelievers. The greater the challenge the greater the reward in heaven, they think. I’m about to throw doubt on their hypothesis…
“Would you be interested in any of our leaflets on the life eternal…?”
I’m glad it’s the man who’s asking. I’m not sexist or ‘owt, but I do find it so much easier being rude and abrupt to another man. It’s a failing, I know; I’m sure if I was a woman I’d feel comfortable with either.
“Not in the slightest!” I reply, about to close the door on this interruption.
“You’re not a believer then my friend?” Asks the female half of the double act.
I feel my blood pressure rising, I take another deep breath, just as I’ve been told. My therapist is going to have to devise a more effective coping mechanism for me; this one is beginning to fail…
“Oh but I am,” I reply, treating them both to a broad smirk, “a fully paid-up member of the Sun Worshiping Pagan Tree Hugging Society, have you heard of us? No? …Thought not…”
It was amusing to see those ‘far too happy to be true’ smiles fall from their faces as they turned to walk away in sync with my closing the door on them. Another unwelcome interruption satisfyingly dispatched…
Time – 09:15: I’m back at my keyboard. A full stop concludes the sentence I was writing, and indeed the paragraph. It’s also the conclusion of my muse for the moment. My ‘flow’ has become a trickle, and no, that’s not a reference to a prostate problem so please forgive the unfortunate analogy.
The brief satisfaction of my dismissal of the God botherers has worn off. I’m still annoyed at them, blaming them for my loss of focus. I sit staring at the screen, the words on the page a blur, my fingers seemingly paralysed. Another hour passes and still the words don’t come. I fill the following hour with all manner of meaningless tasks: tea making, email checks, Facebook updates, anything to fill the void until the words return. Nothing seems to work, I’m becoming jittery, like an ex-smoker in those first few days of giving up. The deep breathing exercises have lost all effect. I resolve to make another appointment with my therapist. I really should take one of my pills, but I don’t want to blur my imagination even more…I take one anyway.
My morose mood is punctured by the sound of the landline ringing, my second call of the day…
“Hello, is this Mr Brown?” A voice asks. With my mind and fingers still not communicating, this time it’s a welcome intrusion.
“Yes it is. Who’s calling please?”
“My name’s John Hargreaves. I’m calling on behalf of Winter Warm Windows about an exclusive offer we have for your area, Mr Brown.”
“Sorry, what was that name again…Har…Grove… was it? Could you spell that please?”
“Spell it..?” I can hear the frustration in his voice.
“Yes, that’s right, just so I know who I’m talking to…” It’s only fair; he already knows who I am…
“Errm… Yes, right then… H – A – R – G – R – E – A -V – E – S.”
“Thank you for that. And the name of your company? Was that Winter Warm or Warm Winter?”
“The first one, Winter Warm, but as I was saying…” The resignation in his voice is becoming more evident, I wonder if he has high blood pressure too?
“And is that all one word or two, or hyphenated maybe?”
“Oh, erm, two words, without a hyphen… But, what I wanted to…”
“Thank you for that John…I can call you John can I?” I’m enjoying this. Before he can answer I continue:
“Tell me, John, what’s it like working for Winter Warm? Are they a good firm to work for, it’s just that I’m thinking of a career change and I quite like the idea of sitting around all day just talking to people…”
“It’s… a bit like that, but…” Again I cut him short…
“And the pay, would you say they pay well? It’s not one of those ‘commission only’ setups is it? I would insist on a decent basic salary as well, wouldn’t you agree…?”
Time to give him a moment to splutter some blurb about what it is he wants me to buy…
“Yes, the pay’s okay, and yes, there’s a basic salary, but what I was calling about was our special offer to customers in your area…”
“A special offer you say, how exciting.” I hope he recognises the distain in my voice.
“Are you offering to double glaze my entire house for free then?” If he says yes I might even start taking this conversation seriously…
“Not free exactly, but we are offering a fifty per cent discount to the first twenty customers who sign up for six new windows.”
“That sounds good,” I lie, “and the payment, can I pay in instalments, would there be a deposit to pay first?”
“Yes, definitely, you can pay in instalments, with just a ten per cent deposit to pay first.”
“And the deposit, can I pay that in instalments too?”
“Well, not really, we do require the ten per cent to paid before any commencement of work I’m afraid.”
“Oh,” I say, trying to sound disappointed.
“I’ll have to give it some thought then. Obviously before making any commitment I’ll need to take a few particulars about your company to verify its legitimacy, you don’t mind do you?”
“No, not at all,” he says, actually believing I’m genuinely interested now.
“First, could you give me the full postal code addresses of both your local and Head office premises, as well as that of any parent company, and of course their respective customer service and administration telephone numbers. I’ll also need your VAT and Company House registration numbers. I trust none of that will be a problem?”
“All the information you’ve asked for would be in the documentation we provide.”
He’s trying to maintain his composure and civility; sales calls are mostly recorded these days. I suspect this is being recorded too, for training and monitoring purposes, otherwise he would almost certainly have either put the phone down by now or bluntly asked if this was a piss-take.
“I appreciate that, but I would still require it beforehand, for my checks you see. And another thing I forgot to ask, is it a new company, and who the directors are? You hear so many horror stories of rogue companies carrying out bad work, closing down, and then opening up again under a slightly different name… Your company isn’t one of those is it?”
There’s an uneasy pause before he answers:
“No, we’re not one of those companies,” he reassures me…
“I’m sure you’re not, but you do see I had to ask don’t you? It’s just that while we’ve been talking I’ve been googling your company. According to their entries, your company was only formed six months ago, and it has… My gosh… Eighty-seven consumer complaints against it and an honorary mention on both the Cowboy Builders and Consumer Watchdog TV programs…”
I wait in gleeful anticipation for his reply… Oh dear, we seem to have been cut off, I conclude as the line goes dead. I’m so grateful for his call though, our little exchange has quite rejuvenated my creativity…
Time – 11:55: The words are flowing again, my mood lifted, and my blood pressure back down in the safe zone. Life is good again as I put together the final pieces of my literary jigsaw. The final dilemma was the method to be used for the actual murder committed by my principal character. I had been torn between a brutal bludgeoning or knife attack, and poisoning. The decision is clear to me now as the final scene comes alive on the page…
Dingggg Dongggg… The sound of the doorbell shatters the tranquillity, again…
Deep breaths, in-out, in-out, fists clenching, blood pressure ready to explode again. I close my eyes in the hope that whoever it is will go away…
Dingggg Dongggg… Why now? Sunday is supposed to be a day of peace and quiet…
They’re still there. I feel an anxiety attack coming on. I’ve not the time to take a pill or ring my therapist. Defeated, I rise from my desk to answer yet another intrusive call…
“Yes!” It’s not a question this time. The man standing before me grins like a Cheshire cat. He’s younger than me, mid-thirties I estimate. His suit is slightly ill-fitting. He’s gone for the executive look, but on a limited budget, it’s more ‘dodgy second-hand car salesman.’
“Hello, I’m Colin, Colin Smithers; we spoke on the phone earlier this morning. I think I may have caught you at an inconvenient moment at the time.”
My jaw drops in disbelief. The arrogance of this prick. Was I not blunt enough with him on the phone?
“What is it you want?” I’m bloody pissed; this really is taking cold calling to a whole new level. I’ve had enough. Well, I think my response will also have to be taken to a whole new level too…
“I think we may have gotten off to a bad start on the telephone earlier, and as I was in the area on another appointment I thought I might call on you personally to let you know about our limited time exclusive offer we are able to offer on account of a budget underspend last month.”
“Yes, perhaps I was a bit hasty this morning. Please come in…”
Time – 13:45: I’m back at my keyboard. I’ve just about finished my story. The murder scene came out better than I could ever have imagined, a gory brutal decapitation for dramatic effect…
It just after 2:20pm when the armed response unit arrived at the house. Mr Brown was sitting at his desk, typing, covered in blood, muttering away to himself, something about ignoring any more interruptions. He hadn’t even noticed when they came crashing through the door, armed to the teeth, screaming at him to drop to the floor. He just looked over his shoulder and calmly turned off his PC, and told them he was done now done and would be happy to oblige. It was the strangest call-out they’d ever had; the odd reports of a possible murder, the site of that severed head hanging from the external door knocker when they arrived and the makeshift sign saying ‘NO COLD CALLERS’.
One year later… Time – 08:00: It’s great here. I’ve got access to lots of PCs, and even one in my room. I no longer have to work, not if I don’t want to, so I’ve got all the time in the world for my writing. The doctors tell me I’ll be here for the next twenty years at least, even longer with a bit of luck, though I’ll have to play up a bit if I want an indefinite stay.
Now, what was I writing, ah yes, a storyline for the murder of an annoying room-mate…