Their Ancient Grudge by Harry Harrison Kroll

Their Ancient GrudgeJust finished reading this, and boy, is it depressing. Haha. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fascinating read and a must for any American history buff. This story of the Hatfields and McCoys is compelling reading because it provides some of the most intricate stories compiled from both tight-lipped and intimidating families.

It’s the women who are highlighted in this book, since they also bear the heaviest weight. They’re treated like absolute garbage within their own families, they slave away and love their families unconditionally, yet they’re considered next to worthless by their husbands and kids. There are no winners in this bitter feud, only casualties. While the men in the families can find comfort at the bottom of a jug of whiskey, the women keep a stiff upper lip and carry on.

Their Ancient Grudge brings out the dusty old photographs and adds some color to these compelling and sometimes horrific real-life characters.

Reviewed by JP


Dirty Work by Larry Brown

Dirty WorkAn interesting perspective on the scars of war both visible and invisible. Two war vets in a hospital ward become friends sharing their experiences along with the occasional cold beer.

One of them, Chaney, wishes to die mercifully rather than waste away in his bed. He asks his new friend James to carry out the dreaded task. James, who already wrestles with addiction and epileptic spells, weighs the grim task of euthanasia.

I enjoyed this book, both for its back story into the characters, but also because it says many of the things you won’t read in other books about soldiers coming home. The ending was a bit too ambiguous for me, and I didn’t fully understand it. Nevertheless, I’d recommend this to anyone, military or not.

Reviewed by JP

Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard

Valdez is ComingTo be honest, this is unlike most other western novels I’ve ever read. And that’s a good thing. The main character, Roberto Valdez, isn’t a hero or a wild gunslinger. He’s actually more of a boring character with an interesting past.

He only uses his gun as a last resort, but his loyalty to his mission is a quality that’s rarely found in today’s world.

As he’s beaten into the ground and left for dead in a harsh landscape, Valdez turns to his skills of survival and killing to exact revenge on a deep-pocketed villain and his gun-slinging followers.

If you’ve never read any Elmore Leonard, this is as good a place as any to start.

Reviewed by JP

Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer

Solomon's VineyardI’m a big sucker for any crime pulp novels or any noir story. And this one doesn’t disappoint. At just over 130 pages, the story moves along swiftly without wasting any detail.

It’s told from the point of view of the private eye, whose name we never truly get to find out, as he’s on the trail of the person who killed his partner and is trying to muscle his way across a hot town to rescue a damsel in distress. As far as summer reading goes, this is pure fun.

Reviewed by JP


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Simon Armitage

Sir Gawain and the Green KnightThis story is translated from an Old English poem. Much like the title would suggest, it’s the story of Sir Gawain, a knight serving in King Arthur’s court, who accepts the challenge of a mysterious green knight. Not so much a duel as a blow-for-blow test of strength and honor.

Sir Gawain can swing as hard as he can at the Green Knight, but in one year’s time, he must travel and seek out the same knight–if he’s alive–to accept his doom.

Upon his journey, Sir Gawain finds kindness from a lord in a faraway castle.

This book is interesting because it contains the old poem next to the translated version. And at just under 100 pages of reading, this story is as sharp and engaging as the Green Knight’s axe blade.

This centuries-old story has a good moral of being truthful and keeping your word, no matter the consequence.

Reviewed by JP

A Bullet in the Ballet by Caryl Brahms & S.J. Simon

A Bullet in the BalletThis is a short whodunnit that brings humor much in the same style as any Monty Python sketch. Brahms and Simon weave an interesting mystery novel in which an English detective looks for a murderer within a Russian ballet.

The dancer in the most coveted role is murdered and nearly everyone is a suspect. That includes the other jealous dancers hoping for more time in the limelight. The job for detective Quill becomes more frustrating as witnesses either won’t give him a straight answer or won’t stop talking.

This is a humorous read for anyone, no matter if you’re a fan of the Petroushka or not. This screwball mystery is worth a read.

Reviewed by JP

The Good Brother by Chris Offutt

The Good BrotherThis book reads like a backwoods “Godfather,” but in a good way.

This is a book about the guilt and obligations carried from other people’s expectations. Virgil’s brother was gunned down, for reasons unknown. Still the entire town expects brother Virgil to wage vengeance, because in this part of the world, that’s what’s done.

Virgil knows this eye-for-an-eye will bring him no peace, no happy ending. It will earn him, instead, a pair of eyes in the back of his head and walking papers from his familiar life in the hills. Constant paranoia.

With a new name and a new opportunity, Joe’s not sure which is the gun to fear… The one he can see 2 feet from his face or the one waiting to drill him in the back.

An engaging read.

Reviewed JP

The Trapper’s Last Shot by John Yount

The Trapper's Last ShotA story that anyone who grew up on a farm or moved away from home can relate to.

This is a novel about two brothers, one a dirt-poor farmer who breaks his back in hopes of breaking even; the other, a returning soldier who coasts through life thanks to his book smarts and his connections.

By the end of this book, I was so hoping that Dan the farmer would catch a break and his wife would quit being such an evil shrew.

If you’re looking for a happy ending, this book is not for you. To author Yount’s credit, he’s able to create easily-relatable characters and a story that’ll make you laugh on one page and shake your head in disgust on the next.

The moral here–if there is one–in life, people will disappoint you, hard work will only get you so far, and don’t be too proud to accept help from family.

This book is worth a look.

Reviewed by JP

Miami Purity by Vicki Hendricks

Miami PurityA story about second chances and manipulation and power through sex.

I enjoyed the role reversal in this book. The main character is so used to being in control of her sex life, but has some personal demons. Coming off an abusive relationship, Sherry wants to step away from the stripper pole and find a new line of work.

Of all places, she picks a dry cleaner. But when she becomes too entwined with the owner, Sherry is forced to take a serious look at her life and her choices.

More arousing than entertaining, this story is a lesser known 50 Shades of Grey. Not bad.

Reviewed by JP

The Tuesday Blade by Bob Ottum

The Tuesday BladeA straight-edged razor. Sharp, simple, and surprisingly terrifying.

This book follows the path of Gloria, a woman who suffered multiple rapes throughout her life and decides no other women should be victims.

Finding her implement of destruction in a medicine cabinet, her newfound hobby becomes Gloria’s obsession.

The pacing and dialogue of this book are superb. An engrossing novel about sex and power. A must read for any fans of “Dexter.”

Reviewed by JP