Thursday, March 21, 2019

High in the Mid 60s, Women in Science, and Small Town Intrigue

High in the Mid-'60s: How to Have a Fabulous Life in Music Without Being Famous! is all of the following...a memoir, a life journey, a rock n roll "everyman" story, a spiritual discovery, a fathering experience, an absolute music business survival manual, and an anecdotal treasure chest of life on the road. See interview HERE. Crossroad Press.
Also check out other non-fiction: Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky: The New York Times bestseller Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. This fascinating collection contains information about relevant topics such as lab equipment and rates of women currently working in STEM fields. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
BURDEN by Courtney Hargrave: In 1996, the town of Laurens, South Carolina, was thrust into the international spotlight when a white supremacist named Michael Burden opened a museum celebrating the Ku Klux Klan on the community’s main square. Journalists and protestors flooded the town, and hate groups rallied to the establishment’s defense, dredging up the long history of racial violence in this formerly prosperous mill town. What came next is the subject of an upcoming major motion picture starring Forest Whitaker, Garrett Hedlund, Tom Wilkinson, Andrea Riseborough, and Usher Raymond. Shortly after his museum opened, Michael Burden abruptly left the Klan at the urging of a woman he fell in love with. Broke and homeless, he was taken in by Reverend David Kennedy, an African American preacher and leader in the Laurens community, who plunged his church headlong in a quest to save their former enemy. In this spellbinding Southern epic, journalist Courtney Hargrave uncovers the complex events behind the story told in the film, exploring the choices that led to Kennedy and Burden’s friendship, the social factors that drive young men to join hate groups, the intersection of poverty and racism in the divided South, and the difference one person can make in confronting America’s oldest sin. The town has storied history including a Coca-Cola bottle supplier during the Kennedy years and before, Confederate battles, historic flagstone churches, and more. A true crossroad of commerce and industry, although small and isolated. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann

From the publisher: “While everything appears to be collapsing around us…ecodamage, genetic engineering, virulent diseases, the end of cheap oil, water shortages, global famine, wars—we can still do something about it and create a world that will work for us and for our children. The inspiration for Leonardo DiCaprio's feature documentary movie The 11th Hour, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight details what is happening to our planet, the reasons for our culture's blind behavior, and how we can fix the problem. Thom Hartmann's comprehensive book, originally published in 1998, has become one of the fundamental handbooks of the environmental activist movement. Now, with fresh, updated material and a focus on political activism and its effect on corporate behavior, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight helps us understand-and heal-our relationship to the world, to each other, and to our natural resources.” Narrated by Paul Boehmer, this book is newly updated and new on audio in 2019, and gives a broad view of how climate change is affecting the planet. Ocean temperatures are steadily rising, melting ice in Arctic regions, and causing wild weather everywhere. Australia has seen the hottest years ever recorded, while blizzards of snow blanket the Northeast in America in early March, with floods or droughts or tornadoes striking elsewhere with ever increasing intensity and frequency. “Ancient Sunlight” refers to fossil fuels, the dwindling stores of carbon. Costs will soon measure in the trillions if we do not adopt what the Chinese already have, exploiting hydroelectric and wind and solar power. The most polluted cities on Earth are in China and India, due to population migration from poor areas, and all the coal powered plants being built, so they know and understand what we do not, and wear masks, as do many Japanese. Will we learn before it’s too late? A must-hear, with scary details on stored methane in the oceans rising as the worst greenhouse gas when temperatures rise just a few more degrees. What can be done? More than just recycling is needed. Much more. An action call to everyone on the planet. (Guest Review; Tantor Media)
Lottery Island by J. Lowe, read by Tom Lennon. Survivor Meets Lethal Weapon in a fight over development interests by a corrupt governor on Union Island. Think ARGO with sharks. Due April 9 on Audible/iTunes, CD, and Mp3-CD. Blackstone Audio and Kobo too.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

FINDING DOROTHY by Elizabeth Letts

Somewhere over the rainbow…” In the novel FINDING DOROTHY by Elizabeth Letts, the Rainbow song plays a significant role, as it does in the film The Wizard of Oz. But the song doesn't have the yearning significance that the filmmakers first imagined until the widow of L. Frank Baum (Maud Gage Baum) shows up on set to make a correction in company of a dismissive Louis B. Mayer, in control of Judy Garland. The song "Over the Rainbow" goes on to be chosen as the greatest ever written in the 20th Century, as chosen by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment of the Arts, while the film became one of the most viewed of all time. The backstory is vast, and largely unknown by fans of the movie. Believed to be based on Baum's vision of Aberdeen in the Dakotas, and his sister Julia's hard homestead life there in 1884, The Wizard of Oz has a history that, in this novel based on fact, is both fascinating and riveting from beginning to end. Narrator Ann Marie Lee deserves accolades for bringing it all to life as an "audio movie" too. Starting with the Mayer scenes, we are whisked on a tornado of twisting plot back in time to when Baum's husband was alive, and imagination then takes flight in ways The Wiz (starring Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow) never imagined. (Aberdeen is now home to Northern State University, established a year after “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was published, in 1901. Golfer Payne Stewart died in a plane crash in Aberdeen. Many more Oz books followed for Baum, from “The Marvelous Land of Oz” to “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” even “Sky Island” shows Dorothy riding an umbrella like Mary Poppins.) Finding Dorothy is a delight. Audie Awards? Think Oscars too. Surely one of the best books and audiobooks of the year. Interview with the author HERE. Ebook HERE. —J. Lowe

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Nobody’s Angel by Jack Clark (Guest Review)

This compelling and engaging listen is a dark tale told in the first person by a Chicago cab driver. He works the overnight shift, so we know he is frequently going to be face to face with some of the city’s most ‘interesting’ characters; he is going to have some very colorful stories.  Not all these stories will have happy endings. When Jack Clark’s book was first published in print it garnered some glowing reviews.  The Washington Post called it “A gem…just about perfect” and Publishers Weekly described it as “slim, sparse, heartbreaking. We have waited too long for this noir tale to come to audiobook format." The protagonist is cabby Eddie Miles and his life is – of course – complicated. There’s the ex-wife who’s raising his daughter in a faraway city, incommunicado; breaking his heart when he reflects on the loss. Then there’s the woman in the apartment adjacent to his run down flat.  She’s connected to him as a part-time, causal ‘romantic’ interest and part-time emotional support. His closest relations are his cohort of after-dark drivers who gather nightly at the back tables of the 24 hour pancake house to swap exaggerated stories, gossip, and news:  good and bad.  The bad news is that someone has started robbing and shooting cabdrivers, starting with an Indian driver in the suburbs. There is no good news.  The distance to the suburbs gives them a rationale to mitigate some of their fear but not for long.  Soon, one of the prominent and respected members of their pancake house ‘round table’ is found shot to death in his cab. There is a sub-plot concerning another unknown assailant who is sadistically attacking prostitutes, including some of the working girls Eddie has come to know as he nocturnally prowls the streets. As with every night-time cab in every big city, there is the stream of interactions with the passengers who get in, get where they’re going, and then get out. These trips are sometimes uneventful but the ones that aren’t lead to some fascinating tales of some fascinating ridesThe audiobook is an excellent pairing of Clark’s terse writing with Peter Lerman’s authentic sounding rendition of cabdriver Eddie Miles…world-weary and lonely. We see a stark, heartless, urban landscape after dark through Eddie’s eyes and through Lerman’s voice. Sometimes in the reading of such a novel, the urban patois is laid on a little too think; conjuring up images of Al Capone’s Chicago more so than the modern metropolis. Lerman gives us enough gruffness to let us know who Eddie is and give us an idea what he’s been through.  We hear a tough guy who still has a conscience and still has a modicum of empathy.  Eddie as yet still feels some muted pain for the downtrodden and Lerman communicates this gracefully in his reading.  It is an excellent combination of material with narrator, serving both author and reader very well to the great enjoyment of the listener. (Reviewer wishes to remain anonymous. A Shamus Award finalist. LINK.) Slither Sisters HERE

Friday, February 22, 2019

Blair Howard (Pro) and Jesse McKinnell (Newcomer)

A tactical nuclear weapon has gone missing somewhere in the Middle East and is thought to have been smuggled into the United States by a small group of Iranian terrorists intent on chaos and destruction. The target? Unknown, but the FBI’s local director is convinced that it’s the Sequoya nuclear plant and that the clock is ticking. Convinced that the threat is real and that his only link to the terrorists is Harry Starke’s nemesis, Shady Tree, he turns to Harry for help. But Harry has demons of his own to deal with, and the hunt for Tree quickly turns into a race against time. Apocalypse is the 13th standalone novel in a series of hard-boiled thrillers. If you like tough-as-nails heroes and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love Blair Howard’s latest gritty, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Blair Howard is author of more than 40 books and many magazine, newspaper, and web articles. For seven “long and dreadful years,” he ran the Golf Travel channel for the New York Times company. His work has appeared in, among others, Delta’s Sky Magazine, PHOTOgraphic magazine, The Mail on Sunday, The Walking Magazine, Petersen’s Hunting Magazine, The Boston Herald, The Detroit Free-Press, and The Anchorage Times.

Jonathan Lowe) How did you began writing? 

Blair Howard) I was a journalist for a great many years, eight of them for the new York Times company, but I’ve always wanted to write fiction but never could find enough time. I made several starts – short stories, one of which became my sixth Harry Starke Novel, Family Matters – but it wasn’t until 2015 that I began writing fiction in earnest. Harry Starke Book 1 was completed in September that year.

JL) What is the takeaway to Apocalypse, and the inspiration for it? 

BH) Apocalypse is a thriller rather than a crime/mystery novel, and it’s the latest book in the Harry Starke series having been published only six weeks six weeks ago. It’s the result of a half dozen or so comments in reviews that stated that, “Harry Starke is no Jack Reacher.” Of course he’s not; he never was meant to be. He’s a detective, and a damn good one, or so his fans tell me across more than 6,000 four and five-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I never take negative reviews personally – you either like the stories or you don’t - but those comments started my juices flowing. “If you want Jack Reacher,” I thought, “I can do that,” and I did, and quite successfully too judging by the reviews: 115 so far at 4.8-star average on Amazon alone; even more on Goodreads.

JL) Why Indie and not a major publisher? Creative control?

BH) Over a period of twenty years, I had three different traditional publishers for 24 of my books. After each initial book launch, they promptly forgot about them and they ceased to sell. Now, as an Indie, I sell more books in month than I did in two years with a traditional publisher. I write the books, employ a professional editor, book cover designer, audio narrator (Tom Lennon) and I do my own marketing. Since I went Indie, I’ve sold almost 200,000 copies of my books (ebooks and paperbacks), including more than 6,500 audio books. I think I’m doing fine on my own.

JL) Any thoughts on the writing and marketing process?

BH) I do all of my own marketing and promoting. In fact, I spend almost as much time marketing as I do writing. I’m like the “My Pillow Guy” for my books.

JL) Anecdotes about fans of Harry?

BH) Anecdotes? I don’t know. What amazes me most is that so many of Harry’s fans think he’s a real person. Now that’s a complement any writer would be proud to receive. I know I am.

JL) What's next for you?

BH) I’ll continue to write Harry Starke novels, and of course I’ll continue to add to the spinoff series, The Lt. Kate Gazzara Novels. One day, I may even try my hand at SciFi, or even a spy thriller. Who knows? I do know that I’ll continue to write until I am no longer physically able, and I hope Tom Lennon will continue to narrate the Harry Starke audio books. He is the audio Harry Starke; he does a great job.

JL) Agreed. Thanks.
JESSE McKINNELL grew up in Massachusetts but has lived peacefully in Maine for many years. On July 4, 2015, he had a dream about a dentist with a passion for writing sitcoms. Somehow, DEAD CATS and Other Reflections on Parenthood was the result. It is his first novel.     

Jonathan Lowe) In 2020, who in the world would you most like to become POTUS, and why? 

Jesse McKinnell) Oh man, I’ll settle for anyone reasonable. I can’t wait for the day when my phone isn’t blaring constant updates at me about whatever vaguely racist, misspelled tweets were unleashed on the world at 2 in the morning. I think I may have reached outrage saturation. I’m really quite concerned about the toll that humanity is taking on the environment, so I hope the next President will understand that there are a number of steps the government needs to take in order to reverse the path that we have set ourselves on. But as to an actual name that’s tough. I think it’s probably time we gave a woman a try, men don’t seem to be especially good at the job. But not Oprah. I’ve become so disillusioned and cynical about people in positions of power that it’s hard for me to pine for someone.

Q) Kittens are cute, but become sociopaths. Some babies do too. What is your thought on the fact that most pets in American eat healthier than kids?  

A) My dog does not eat healthier than my kid. First my dog eats poop: her own, squirrels, other dogs, whatever. And second even the grain free, organic feed I buy her costs $10 and lasts over a month. There’s no way something so cheap can be very good for her. I just want to be clear on that in case you were trying to impugn my parenting skills. I have never let my kid eat poop. She got into the dog food once, but whatever. I was raised on complete garbage as a kid – Oreos, Hot Pockets. Side note: have you ever had a cheeseburger Hot Pocket, the ketchup and mustard was inside, oh man. So under appreciated! Lipton Noodle Packs, Frozen Pizza, etc. Now that I’m in charge, my family eats mostly vegetarian, mostly organic, mostly bought from our local co-op (yeah, I’m that guy). I’ve seen a shift in consciousness with friends in my generation where they are much more aware of what they put on their plates and their kids’ plates. Places like McDonalds are a testament to some of the socio-economic issues we have in this country that drive people to the lowest cost option, but I do feel like there is a greater emphasis on good food now than when I was a kid. It just needs to be prioritized and made accessible to everybody.

Q) Couple of the cool quotes by Kurt Cobain were “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not,” and “the duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” What about him is so compelling to you?

A) Cobain is fascinating to me for a number of reasons. I still remember where I was when I found out he had died. I was in a school cafeteria, and a whole section of the room just deflated. It wasn’t just boys. I think there are certain celebrities in our culture who people decide embody their belief system and they wear their fandom of that person as a character trait of themselves.  It can be shorthand for filling out a personality. When one of these cultural touchstones kills himself, people are set adrift for a time. I’m certainly as guilty of this as anyone. I’m a grown man who still wears band t-shirts, as some sort of subconscious advance to people I meet about who I am and what they should expect from me if they choose to engage me in conversation. I’m not sure how much the angst that Cobain represented has festered. I wish it had festered but I fear that it has either metastasized into an angry tumor or been placated by the endless distractions that bombard us every day. I don’t know. The older I get the more confused I become by people. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

ALITA: Battle Angel by Pat Cadigan

From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (Avatar) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), comes the novelization of Alita: Battle Angel, an epic adventure of hope and empowerment. When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past—she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family, and the world she’s grown to love. (From Blackstone Audio, read by Brian Nishii. The 2018 science-fiction film, Alita: Battle Angel, is based on manga by Yukito Kishiro. The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez, written and produced by James Cameron, and starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, and Mahershala Ali. IRON CITY HERE.)

STAR QUEST by Patricia Lee Macomber: Cara Bishop already saved the world. Now, with the war over and the aliens defeated, she's teaching other pilots to fly the alien ships that turned the tide...until the government approaches her about joining a super-secret mission, that is. Steve Hunter is the product of alien DNA. He was created in a lab, designed to destroy the aliens in a ground war that was never fought. Now, they're finally putting him to use as the leader of this new mission.

Together with the scientist who created Steve and the genius who invented the ship, Cara and her captain set off on a final adventure. The USS Endeavor goes in search of allies among the stars. What they find is more than they ever bargained for. If their mission is to be a success, they will have to solve a mystery and escape destruction at the hands of an all new foe. All in a day's work for the Endeavor crew. (See also The DeChance Chronicles, also from Crossroad Press.) Carlucci's Edge by Richard Paul Russo.
VENGEANCE by A.J. Scudiere