Tuesday, July 29, 2014

4 Books to Read this summer

Welcome back to the Tuesday Morning Book Review, Episode 3. It's been a while since I have posted, but I can explain. One or more of the following is true. Circle all that apply:

a) It's berry season, and--as many of you know--I can think of little else when the berries are a-ripening. Currently, the raspberries are not yet gone by, and my neighbors blueberries are coming in, which I will get to as soon as I see him drive past my house.

b) I am working hard on the--hopefully--last revision of ABSOLUTION before Liz the uberagent Agent shops it this fall.

c) The World Cup sidelined me for six weeks.

d) I started another blog, Prose&Cons (yes, I know, you don't have to say it--but please click on it!)

e) I went on a European vacation (no, Chevy Chase didn't come along) including a bicycling tour of the Ruhr river valley, cliff-walking in Portugal and a motorbike tour of Crete.

f) All of the above.

g) a, c, d, e and f

Answer on bottom of page.

Allrighty then, back to the main event. In descending order, here are four I recommend:

4) The Expats, by Chris Pavone. I borrowed this book from the e-book program through my local library (best program going) and bought it after reading the first two chapters. (If I don't like the book, I just stop reading and the book returns itself in two weeks.) As an ex-pat myself, I was attracted to the premise: A woman moves with her husband and family to Luxembourg, where she discovers her husband is not the boring IT guy he claims to be, their new best friends are not the people they claim to be, and she is NOT the person she thinks she is. It's a well-written book, the characters are genuine, and I loved the many European locales that comprise the setting. Here's the link to the Amazon page: The Expats

3 ) The Intern, on Wattpad. I include The Intern here because Wattpad is something that everybody should check it out. Wattpad is the world's largest community for readers and writers, and if you read or write, you should spend the 2 minutes and 0 money to set up an account. There are 40 million stories to read on Wattpad, and 25 million members who spend 6 BILLION minutes every month on Wattpad. I listed The Intern because I wrote it and I am trying to build on the not-too-shabby 4,000 readers I have garnered already, but there are many worthwhile reads, 40 million in fact. Check it out: here is the link. The Intern

2) 12.21 by Dustin Thomason. I know what you are thinking: 12. 21. 12 is long gone and it wasn't the end of the world, so why now? And yes, I realize that the whole Mayan apocalypse is a little played--but hang on for a second, this guy can write. Put down that James Patterson book that reads like every other James Patterson book, and shove that JD Robb offering under the nightstand to collect dust bunnies for all eternity. Try a different author for heaven's sake. 12.21 is a classic sci-thriller, with plenty of legit science to learn you something as you turn the pages. It's entertaining, and it keeps your mind off the fact that your neighbor thinks he is Walter White. (Not that there is anything wrong with a meth lab in your neighborhood--other than the high risk of explosion, the hordes of tweakers, and the fact that he drives a nicer car than you.) Here is the link to the Amazon page: 12.21

1) The Heist, by Daniel Silva. Gabriel Allon and Ari Shamron are back! For those of us many who have read all of the Allon series by Daniel Silva, getting the next installment of the series is a mixed blessing. Every July, I look forward to and rue the day Amazon drops off the hardcover on my porch. Yes, I have been dying to read it for a year, but, yes, it is going to be another year before the next one comes. As a consequence, I have adopted a new technique: I let the book sit on my bureau for a few weeks, allowing me to anticipate reading the book while not actually reading it. (Kind of like that conundrum with cake.) Then, after two weeks, I read the book in a blitzkrieg of shunning all other duties in my life other than ADLs, and then re-read it to enjoy Silva's brilliant prose. As you may have guessed, I am still in the anticipation stage, but I can tell you this. Daniel Silva is the closest thing to a sure-thing that there is in novels. If you haven't read any of the series yet--what are you waiting for?--get yourself a copy of The Kill Agent tout suite and cancel all your other obligations (and no, you don't really need that dental work.) Here's the link to Daniel's Amazon page: Daniel Silva

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous), and LinkedIn (Tweets, Novels and Blogs); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

(The answer was all of the above.)


Sunday, May 25, 2014

On #MemorialDay, 2014, Books Are More Important Than Ever,

Why Books Are More Important Than Ever 

We live in a day and age where the evolution of language and words is driven more by #SocialMedia than books and novels. As both a #Tweeter and a lover of literature old and new, I have mixed feelings about this trend. There is something about the speed of #SocialMedia which alarms me. Consider this: Edgar Poe, who created the thriller, died broke and without any acclaim, and yet his works are now considered to be masterpieces. Contrast this to the blitzkrieg world of #SocialMedia where someone who uploads a cat video can become an icon in a single day--or less.

Good or bad? Probably both, but allow me to point out the latter. Poe had substance. Sometimes it takes time for substance to be appreciated. In Poe's case, a hundred years. It takes deep substance to endure a 100 years. Do you think a glitzy cat video has that kind of staying power? Or do you--like me--think it will be forgotten in ten minutes, to be replaced by a meme featuring an aardvark?

The point I am trying to make is that there is a danger here: A very real danger. Please don't get the idea that I am one of those people, you know the kind that think #Facebook and #Twitter are the ruination of the world. Because I am not, and I believe that #Facebook, #Twitter, and #SocialMedia have many upsides and are, in general, wonderful tools of expression, language, and connectivity. But--like most things--#SocialMedia has had some unforseen side effects, side effects which are changing the way we think, the way we speak, and the way we act. 

There is a stress to Social Media, an urgency, that seeps into the language. I mean, when you are racing to be the first person to post or tweet something, you keep it short and simple. And because ur doing this again and again, you start using the same abbreviations again and again and eventually u use the abbreviation all the time and evolution has occurred. But worse than the shortened words, it's the shortened writing structure and thought process that worry me the most, the idea that if it can't be said in 140 characters it isn't worth saying.

As I have stated before, the 140 character limit teaches us to be concise and to the point (and man did I need the help) but there is still plenty of occasion: to be detailed; to expound; to have layers of meaning; to be rich and complex. And that, my friends, is why we need books and novels more than ever. #SocialMedia is not going away--nor should it--but it needs a counterbalance. #Twitter is fast and immediate; the novel is slow and inexorable. (Can you hear Liz, my literary agent yelling; Not that slow, Peter! Speed it up, Peter!) #Twitter is trendy; the novel goes against the grain. #Twitter is the preferred medium of the conformist; the contrarian favors the novel.  

As a case in point, think about the reaction to the publishing of my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, in Monroeville, Alabama, in 1961. Do you think #ToKillaMockingbird was #trending? How many Retweets and Favorites do you think Harper Lee would have scored? But more to the point I am making, do you think she would have cared?

I know what you are thinking; clearly, I have forgotten about the crucial role #SocialMedia played in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2010. Isn't this the same kind of social change that To Kill a Mockingbird created in the United States? But the answer to that question is more chum in the shark-infested waters of #SocialMedia (Liz would derive great pleasure from deleting that sentence if she were editing this post! But she's not, so it stays.) Yes, #Twitter in particular and #SocialMedia in general were the catalysts of the Arab Spring, but where is the Arab Spring now???? It goes back to the staying power I alluded to earlier with Poe. #Twitter helped ignite the unrest that had been building for years throughout the Arab world, but it happened too quick, before any kind of lasting democratic infrastructure could be thought of, much less built. And so a chill settled over the Arab Spring, a chill that has lasted much longer than the brief warm spell which preceded it.

Let's go back to 1966, and the reaction to #ToKillaMockingbird in Virginia.  "Believing its contents to be "immoral," the Hanover County School Board in Virginia decided to remove all copies of Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, from the county's school libraries." I picked this one example--of many--because it makes several points for me (and isn't that why everybody loves quotes?) For one, five years after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, people were not only still talking about the novel they were filing law suits to remove it from libraries. The depth and complexity of novels lends them to slow and thoughtful digest, which in turn leads to lasting and meaningful change. Like #Twitter and the Arab Spring, To Kill a Mockingbird was a catalyst for change in the Deep South, but in this case the change--though slower in coming--was enduring. The novel, at it's best, is timeless and enduring--and we need more of that in this age of transience.

There has never been a better vehicle for the contrarian than the novel. Without doubt, the contrarian can #tweet, but what traction can be gained from a media that is based on trends and popularity? And we need the contrarian, now, more than ever. Don't think so? What about Global Warning, the rise of Jihadism, a resurgent and cantankerous Russia, our failing public schools, the healthcare crisis? (I could go on but the soapbox I am standing on is on the verge of toppling over, and I really (translate, REALLY) want you to check out the new multi-author blog that launched this week. So, to finish this post--and check out the new blog that features a new post every day written by a team of 23 authors, editors, publishers, and literary agents--please click on the following link:
Why Books Are More Important Than Ever. 

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous), and LinkedIn (Tweets, Novels and Blogs); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Introducing The Prose Cons, aka The Gang of Twenty-One.

It has been quiet here at PeterHogenkampWrites, <but I can explain, honest> Because I didn't have enough to do, I have started a multi-author blog written exclusively by purveyors of the written word. The whole idea was to get a bunch of like-minded people together and create a team, with the idea that the whole will be much greater than the sum of the parts. It's called Prose&Cons--and no, we are not Cons (that you can prove anyway, as they assured me those records had been expunged.) Please take a look at the first post of the blog, and come follow us at Prose&Cons.


 Welcome to  Prose&Cons, Edition#1, written by the Prose Cons, aka The Gang of Twenty-One. Prose&Cons will officially launch May22, but for those of you chomping at the bit (my mother and several of her Canasta group) I thought I would write an introductory blog explaining who we are and what we hope to accomplish. And when I say We, I mean we: Prose&Cons is a team blog, written by the The Gang of Twenty-One.

Who is The Gang of Twenty-One? If you guessed a foursome of Chinese Revolutionaries multiplied by factor of 5.2, not quite, but I like the effort. An eightsome of United States Senators added to the cast of Oceans13? Sorry, no again. If, however, you guessed we are a collective (hint: Chinese Communist theme) of authors, literary agents, book reviewers, editors and publishers banded together for a common purpose, then you hit the nail on the head. The common purpose? I could just tell you, but it would make for a really short inaugural post--and besides, we're supposed to Show, Not Tell. So, by way of showing you who we are and what we are about, here are some of the other blog names we bandied about and voted on, because I think they are tell-ing.

The Book Starts Here  My personal favorite, although it finished a distant fourth in the voting. But it says who we are and what we do: We are authors, literary agents, publishers, book reviewers and editors--books start with us. We read them, write them, edit them, print and promulgate them, and review them. And we blog about them, on Prose&Cons. I am confident you will find the variety of perspectives interesting and informative.

Dog-Eared A long shot at post-time, Dog-Eared rallied furiously to place second. It's a reference to the folded down corner of a book, which looks like a dog ear. I liked it because The Prose Cons are readers, and Prose&Cons is a blog written by readers, for readers, the kind that fold down the corner of a book.

The Write Stuff A last minute addition to the final vote, The Write Stuff finished third based on a play on one of my favorite movies, as well as a reference to what we do. We are writers--and we want to write for you. But Prose&Cons is not a glorified advertisement for our books, novels and magazines. We're here to Show, Not Tell. Prose&Cons was created with the idea that the best way to make our voices heard was to make our voices heard. As I told my fellow prose cons when I recruited them to the team blog: a well-written blog post showing off your voice and and writing style is the best way to gain fans. (Please don't make a liar out of me.)

 WordNerds I love words. I always have, and I always will. I learned this from my father who would pace back and forth looking for the right word to communicate what he wanted to say. I can still see the satisfied smile on his face when he found it--the perfect word. I remember my brother trying to get him to use a lesser word on one occasion--I think he wanted my father to take him golfing--a word that got his point across despite not being the word. "Who cares?" my brother asked. (My brother is not a WordNerd). "I care," my father replied. Like my father, the Prose Cons are the kind of people that strive for that perfect word, who derive pleasure from the cadence of a well-written sentence. If you are that kind of person (Come on, you know you are!) Prose&Cons is the blog for you.

So, without further ado, here is the Gang of Twenty-One:

Peter Hogenkamp lives in beautiful central Vermont with his wife and four (no, that's not a misprint) children. Peter is a full-time family physician and author of The Jesuit thriller series. He is represented by the talented Liz Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. Liz is also a member of the Gang of Twenty-One, as well as the mahatma and guru for her list if writers.

Lily Gardner lives in Portland with her husband, two corgis and several thousand books. Her novel, A Bitch Called Hope, is a noir mystery set on the rainy streets of Portland. Her second Cooper noir: Betting Blind  will be published by Diversion Books in early 2015. 

Sue Coletta is a crime writer.  She has written two novels, TIMBER POINT (edge-of-your-seat thriller) and A STRANGLED ROSE  (suspense/mystery), and is currently working on the sequel to TIMBER POINT, entitled DANCING IN THE DARK, and book three in the series, entitled MAD RUSH. 

Holly West is a crime fiction writer based in Los Angeles, California. She's the author of Mistress of Fortune, a historical mystery set in late 17th century London, and the forthcoming Mistress of Lies.

Joe Clifford is editor for Gutter Books, and the author of three books: Choice Cuts, Wake the Undertaker, and Junkie Love. His latest mystery, LAMENTATION, is out October, 2014. 

Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. His new novel, Hustle, and his novella, Piggyback, are available from Snubnose Press.

Mia Thompson is the author of an internationally bestselling New Adult Thriller series.  Her first two novels, STALKING SAPPHIRE and SILENCING SAPPHIRE, were published by Diversion Books in 2013.

Leigh Anne Jasheway has written humor books for the past twenty years, although she still claims to be 27. She has 21 published books, has had columns published in over two dozen anthologies, and has been a regular humor columnist for publications such as the LA Times, Funny Times, Family Circle, and the Register-Guard.

Garrett Calcaterra is the author of Dreamwielder, The Roads to Baldairn Motte, and Umbral Visions, as well as numerous spec-fiction short stories. When not writing, he enjoys hiking with his two dogs and quaffing craft beer.

Jim Satterfield was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Colorado, and currently works for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.  He has published two novels, The River's Song and Saving Laura.

Tj Turner has been writing since he was eight, although just last year he reluctantly traded in his crayons for a keyboard. His first novel, Lincoln’s Bodyguard, is due out in April 2015 from Oceanview Publishing.

Susan Clayton-Goldner is a southern Oregon writer and a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program. In addition to three published novels, her works has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals As Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, published by the Greenwoood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review--Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. 

Art Kerns lives in Arizona after spending most of his intelligence community career in the Washington, DC area. His debut espionage thriller THE RIVIERA CONTRACT was published In March 2013 and the first sequel, THE AFRICAN CONTRACT, in May 2014.

Dr. Suzana E. Flores is a clinical psychologist and author of an upcoming book, Facehooked - due out later this summer through Reputation Books. In her book, Dr. Flores addresses how Facebook, and other social media, affects on our identity, emotions, relationships and our lives.

Jan Moran is an author for St. Martin’s Press (Scent of Triumph, 2015), and co-founded RichIdeas.co, a site for authors and entrepreneurs. In a past life, she founded Scentsa, sold it to Sephora, and wrote a series of bestselling guides to perfume, Fabulous Fragrances. 

Myra Nour is a romance author and founder of BTS Book Reviews (formally BTSeMag), which offers affordable promotional opportunities for authors, book reviews, as well as wonderful columns and articles for authors and readers alike in our monthly magazine. 

Helen Hanson is a geeky thriller author, former corporate droness, Redwood Curtain exile, red-wine sipper, hacky sack duffer, unrepentant misfit, & seed patron to avian traveler.

Conrad Tuerk is an English teacher, novelist and poet living in Rutland, VT.

You can find out more about any of us by clicking on the links to our websites and personal blogs which are all listed in the right-hand column. Look below for a link to a slideshow of our headshots, including a headshot of Hermione Jean Granger Hogenkamp, our official mascot and a member of the Gang of Twenty-one.

Why should you follow the Prose Cons? Well, not following us may result in a year's imprisonment in a gulag in Mongolia. Aside from that, it's the writing, plain and simple. On a daily basis you will see the well-written word in many forms: essays, short stories, memoirs, book reviews, humorous anecdotes, and serialized fiction. Even the occasional poem, as two of our members are poets as well. If it can be written, it will be featured on Prose&Cons at some point.

Thank you for viewing; we hope to see you back on May 22, 2014, and daily after that. And don't be shy about telling your friends or sharing the link on Twitter, Reddit, FaceBook, StumbleUpon or your favorite SocialMedia.

Cheers, Peter 

Again the link to Prose&Cons and follow us on Twitter at @theprosecons. Looking forward to seeing you on May 22nd.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Brief Guest Blog

Dad, the guest blog tool works. I will now return to studying, for fear of invoking mother's wrath. 

You're Welcome, 


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Vermont in transition: early spring in the #greenmountainstate #MINI

The Thursday Afternoon #MINI post is back--and with a vengeance. Spring has sprung here in #vermont, although anyone caught outside today might not agree (blustery and cold.) It's the last Thursday of the month, and high time for a pictorial essay--and besides, I need to get the leaves out of the pool or face dire consequences.  Let's get after it:

 What else to get us started but a classic watercolor from my favorite artist, Peter Huntoon. And nothing says spring like a cloud of steam rising from a sugarhouse. Can't you just smell the carmelized sugar (I can, because my neighbor is boiling right now.)

You guessed it, another Peter Huntoon watercolor. But I couldn't resist it, because this is Vermont, and sometimes winter doesn't go away as quietly or quickly as we would like it to do.

The country road, the stereotypical feature of rural Vermont. When I see a picture like this, I just want to grab the dog leash and head out for a walk. The happens to be the Wheelerville Road, and I highly recommend you take a stroll on it if you are in the Mendon area.

Occasionally--ok, frequently--the weather doesn't cooperate, and a nap is the best option. It would be unthinkable to do a pictorial essay without a picture of my hiking buddy, Hermione Jean Granger Hogenkamp.

That's the spine of the Green Mountains you see in the background, and the floodwaters of the Otter Creek in front of that. I was taking the long way home (translation: I got lost) from a hike when I saw this vista, and like a good Vermonter, I just stopped in the middle of the road, rolled down my window, and snapped away.


And sometimes the weather gets so bad the only option is going south, in this case, to South Carolina, where I came upon this beauty guarding the water hazard where my ball landed. 

Ok, that's a wrap. I am including a few links: the first to Peter Huntoon's fabulous website. If you love Vermont or rural life in general, check out this website. You will be happy you did. Next, here's the link to The Intern, the serialized novel I am writing on #wattpad. My mother, my sister and my aunt can't be wrong, give it a look, and don't be deterred by Wattpad--easy to join and free.

Thanks again for your support, and feel free to share the link.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The 5 best thrillers of all time.

Good (Tuesday) morning: it's a landmark post for us--meaning me--at the Tuesday Morning Book Review, Episode#2. I have been hankering to write this one for a while, but other obligations--such as watching basketball and taking a lot of naps--have gotten in the way until now. So, let's get right at it: The 5 best thrillers of all time. (What are the criteria, you ask?  There are no criteria--the book needs only to be a thriller, of any sub-genre, by an author of any nationality, written at any time since Edgar Poe invented the genre.) Here they are, in descending order:

5) The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. This is one of those no-win selections, because Brown has as many detractors as fans, but the top selling thriller of all time can not be left off the list--but not because it's the top selling thriller of all time. Yes, I know, Brown has some--well-publicized--writing issues, but let's face facts: I couldn't put the darn book down (and neither could any one else.) The reason: It's the premise, plain and simple. And the research and the setting as well. The interesting thing: I wouldn't have imagined a book could be on this list without a top-notch main character--Robert Langdon is okay at best, and others have been much more critical--but the plot is just that good.

4) The Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett. There is a reason I have read this book three times, and it has nothing to do with the plot--not that the plot is bad, because it isn't. It's the memorable characters that make this book great: the calculating der Nadel, the courageous Lucy, and let's not forget Professor Percival Godliman, the world's leading expert on the Middle Ages turned counter-espionage agent. Add to these three Follett's tense prose and you have a book worth reading three times. If you haven't read it once; What are you waiting for?

3). Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series. I realize I said books, not series, but I did say there were no criteria, and how could I choose just one? Please know I have devoted an entire shelf of my favorite bookcase to this series, so good are they. Silva's formula is unforgettable characters, superior plotting, and the best prose in thrillerdom. When I read a Gabriel Allon book (Note The Heist comes out July 2014) I read it twice: once to appreciate the plot and re-aquaint myself with Allon and Shamron et al., and a second time to appreciate the way Silva puts words together. If you haven't read Silva, buy The Kill Artist and get reading. It isn't just that Silva has created the two best characters since James Bond and Jason Bourne, it's the relationship between them--Gabriel Allon, the art restorer turned spy, and Ari Shamron, the spymaster--that makes this series a must read. As my friend Andy says--'trust me on this one.'

2) The Guns of Navarone, by Alistair MacLean. If Poe invented the thriller, and I have already said he did, then MacLean re-invented the thriller for modern times And though several of MacLean's books could have made the list, I decided on The Guns of Navarone for two reasons. 1) The movie adaptation, starring Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn, is one of the best movies of all time. (I can only imagine how good it would be with modern cinematography. #didyouhearthatHollywood?) 2) MacLean wrote very stylistically and The Guns of Navarone demonstrates--in my opinion--the very essence of his style: a) the good guys are very good, and unflappable in the face of overwhelming odds; b) the bad guys are very bad, utterly cunning and ruthless, able to be defeated by only one person--who just so happens to be the main character; c) everything about the book, the setting, what's at stake, the prose, and especially the characters--including the many supporting characters--are all LARGER THAN LIFE. Grey is not a color in MacLean's box of Crayolas: consider the three main characters in the book, Captain Mallory, the world-class climber turned soldier, Corporal Miller, the American Cowboy and--oh by the way--explosives expert, and Andreas, the epitome of a hero: strong as an ox, clever, modest, and possessed of the purest motives. While very different, each of the three is alike in one aspect: Mallory, Miller and Andreas all have moral fiber of infinite strength, which, in MacLean's world, makes them incapable of failure.

1) The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum. If MacLean re-invented the thriller, and I already said he did, then Ludlum made it what it is today, splashy, hard-hitting and complex. When you read a thriller of any sub-genre, the author is expanding upon what Ludlum did in 1980 when he wrote The Bourne Identity. What am I referring to? Ludlum razed the well-demarcated divisions of good and evil that were the hallmarks of earlier writers--particularly MacLean--and showed us a much more realistic world of questionable motives, bad good guys and good bad guys. He added depth as well, and flaw--and the result is Jason Bourne, a killing machine gone bad who doesn't even know who he's fighting for or against. Ludlum turned the whole good v. evil paradigm on its head with this book, painting the CIA with the crude brush strokes formerly reserved for the KGB or der Shutzstaffel. And it was about time someone did: do you really think the moral high ground is the sole domain of the US and its allies? (If you answered yes to that question please seek help.) Ludlum also ushered in the style of using multiple characters working, not in parallel or at loggerheads, but at different angles and dimensions askew to each other. Silva has done the best job of this of late, but Ludlum pioneered the craft. If you are part of the 'saw the movie' crowd but didn't read the book, a) shame on you and b) download it now and start reading. Regardless of what the last five Robert Ludlum books said on the cover--dead men write no books--they were written by someone wholly different than the man himself and you owe it to your self to read the real McCoy, or, in this case, the real Ludlum. You won't be disappointed.

Ok, thanks for patience you showed getting through the semi-colons, parentheses, and em-dashes (Oh do I love em-dashes.) I am sure you might have a few different candidates for this list; please place them under the comments section. For you LeCarre fans out there, I did have a tough time leaving The Spy Who Came in from the Cold off the list, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Here are the links to several other--more legitamite--blog posts:

Reader's Digest list of top thrillers
NPR picks the top 100 thrilers of all time
The Guardian's best 10 thrillers

 Once again, please take a look at The Intern if you haven't already, the serialized novella I am writing on #wattpad, based loosely on my medical internship. And for those of you wondering about ABSOLUTION, the first book of THE JESUIT thriller series, Liz and I continue to revise and edit toward a spring shopping date. Shout out to Liz Kracht, my literary agent, for bringing out the best in the manuscript without inducing me into a state of blubbering. It's a rare skill--and she has it. Thanks, Liz. We hope to see ABSOLUTION in print next year.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Tuesday Morning Book Review: The Riviera Contract by Arthur Kerns.

I have been reading thrillers for years, ever since my mom's friend Betty Gralton gave me an old copy of Alistair Mac Lean's Fear is the Key. In the subsequent 40 years I have read hundreds and hundreds, in every sub-genre from historical to Eco, political to medical, religious to international. In the process, one picks up a few things about the genre: the plots, the settings, the dialogue, and, especially, the main characters. Fleming's Bond and LeCarre's Smiley have been oft referenced--guilty--and so I will leave then out, but the usual MC is often very predictable, a talented (plug-in ex-Navy Seal, NSA agent, Federal Marshal etc.) forced out of service because of a (plug-in alcohol problem, bad relationship, horrific experience) is forced back into service to save the life of his (plug-in red-headed, blonde, brunette) ex-wife, who he (wait for it) still loves. You've read that one too?

But it's a formula that works: the previous career gives the MC a plausible reason to be involved in the plot, without being just yet another faceless agent in a clandestine service. The flaw provides  a reason why the MC left his career in the first place, as well as a source of internal conflict he must overcome. And the saving of the red-headed ex-wife allows the reader to develop the all-important visceral empathy that keeps the reader and MC connected for a long time. (Consider A Time to Kill, by--the real--John Grisham: I read that book twenty years ago and I still remember Carl Lee Hailey, the father of the 10-year-old black girl raped by two white boys who takes justice into his own hands. That's the kind of visceral empathy I am talking about.)

The problem is that formulas which work get used a lot--especially in the crowded thriller market--and many of them start blending together like so many westerns and romances. Enter Hayden Stone, Art Kern's former FBI agent scooped out of retirement by the CIA to fill a vacancy in the glamorous French Riviera. Stone is divorced from his wife not because of his infidelity, but rather his wife's boredom, and your first clue about Kerns' twist on the tried and true is apparent: the entire book is heavily steeped in reality. No suspension of disbelief here. Which is not say that Hayden Stone is boring or mundane: Stone is anything but boring, but the point remains valid--The Riviera Contract is the genuine article, written by a industry insider. Kerns' long tenure in the FBI not only flavors Stone as am MC, but the dialogue between characters and the pacing as well. The reader gets a real sense of how operatives actually speak to one another, as opposed to the sexier but less realistic witty repartees that Bond was famous for. And the pacing is realistic as well, moving at the logic of an actual investigation, as opposed to from one violent scene to the--somewhat connected--next. The winner here is authenticity--and I think you will find it a refreshing change. 

Kerns' experience sinks into the writing as well; the prose is direct and not over-written, and the plot might well have been--and probably was--taken from Kerns' long career in counter-terrorism. Add to this the perfect setting for a spy thriller, a French Riviera that is painted by Kerns with subtle and reserved brush strokes, and you have a debut thriller leaving you wanting a sequel in short order. 

Speaking of that, Kerns' next book, The African Contract, is due out soon, also on Diversion Books. Diversion Books is mainly an e-publisher, but does have a print-on-demand option for those of you who still like the feel of a book in your hand. I bought my copy of The Riviera Contract through Kindle, but it is available with any e-reader. 

And don't worry--the brunette ex is in there, and she's just as shapely and exotic as any Bond girl.

Thanks again for tuning in to the inaugural post of The Tuesday Morning Book Review on PeterHogenkampWrites. I will end by posting a direct link to DiversionBooks for those of you whose interest I piqued.  The Riviera Contract

If you are in a mood for book reviews (and since I am in a mood for shameless self-promotion) here are links to several other books I have reviewed: Saving Laura, by Jim Satterfield 
An American Spy, by Olen Steinhauer