Friday, April 22, 2016

The Travelers: A Novel, on the #MINI Book Review


The Travelers, a novel by Chris Pavone, takes off on a similar course as did The Ex-Pats and The Accident, Pavone's first two efforts, which were both widely read and critically acclaimed. But this is Pavone's third novel, and the third novel can be tricky. Stay the course too much and one is accused of being formulaic; there are whispers of stagnation. Change it up too much and run the risk of losing your hard-earned readership.



No problem for Pavone. In his best work to date, the accomplished novelist takes a similar premise (a reluctant protagonist, ill-suited for spycraft by both training and inclination, thrust into the shadowy world of espionage and deceit) and travels with it, going beyond the horizons he established with his previous books, a transcendence he achieves almost wholly though his brilliant prose. The Ex-Pats and The Accident both feature outstanding settings, great pacing and superb plotting, and so does The Travelers, but this one, the critical third book, features an evolved writing style and richer, more complex characters. One is reminded of Olen Steinhauer and Robert Wilson, two of the best in the business of writing international thrillers.

If you are looking for a new name to reach for when you stand in front of the bookshelf, give Chris Pavone a try. The Travelers is smart, well written and entertaining.

As always with the #MINI, here are a few other book reviews from other--less respectable--sources:
New York Times Book Review
Washington Post Book Review
 
Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing 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 novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen 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 The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  


Monday, March 7, 2016

Donald Trump and the New Presidential Politics: The Return of the #MINI


We are all aware that the field of candidates for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination looks like a casting call for the new Three Stooges movie. The question is why. Why, in all of this land, can we not come up with something better than Donald Trump and the Three Dwarfs? (The word dwarf here alludes to size of character and scope of accomplishments only; this is not a reference to genitalia measurements, even though this has become something of a criteria on the Republican side of the race.)


After much thought--and a few dry martinis--I finally figured it out. What had perplexed me for so many weeks became readily apparent, almost obvious. Since this is the #MINI, I am going to tell you straight out, with no more beating around the bush. 


We--meaning me, you, and everybody else in this country--have created an election process that is so ridiculous that no decent person wants to run. If you don't think our process is ridiculous, let me remind you that Donald Trump is winning the Republican race. Hilarious, isn't it?


Ummmm, no. I mean, I used to think that way, but as the Republican convention draws near the humor has been lost like Mylie Cyrus' virginity. Imagine, if you will, Trump at the helm during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Mushroom clouds over the Caribbean.) Imagine Trump with the football during the Berlin Airlift (Nuclear dust clouds over most of Europe.) Think about trump leading the charge in the Cold War. (We're still shivering through a nuclear winter.)



A president needs to be calm, even-keeled, steady under pressure; Trump can't even shut his mouth when Marco Rubio insults his hand size. This country needs anything but a Trump-like buffoon in the Oval office, but the election process we have created favors one. What decent person with sound judgment wants to go through this circus? (Answer: No decent person with sound judgment.) That's why we have Ted Cruz (unimaginative, intolerant right-wing ideologue) Marco Rubio (petulant whiner who would sell his mother's soul to the devil to win the presidency) and John Kasich (the man that drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy and the country into the worst depression since the Great Depression.)


And that leaves us with Donald Trump, the man who has no:  qualifications for holding office; political experience; platform (claiming we're all going to be rich doesn't count); and issues in the penis size department--per his report, which has yet to be corroborated. Donald Trump has: the obligatory piles of cash to fund his own campaign; an ego the size of a small planet; and lots of experience making an idiot of himself on reality TV.


Maybe if we made this a shorter, less glitzy process decent candidates would consider running. The presidential race should be about qualifications, character, and issues, not bluster, false promises and braggadocio. But until we make substantiate changes in the way we choose our nominees, that's what we're going to get. 

Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing 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 novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen 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 The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  


Thursday, February 25, 2016

6 Six Methods Not to Use When Editing Your Manuscript


As you might gather from the title of this post, I am editing my manuscript. Every once in a while, when my oxygenation levels get very close to frankly hypoxic (read, wicked low), I convince myself I love the process of turning my first draft (read, bloated, indulgent French mess) into something that's more or less readable. After going through this process with four novels, I have patented six unique and little-used methods to turn that diamond in the rough into the next great American novel. (Results may vary, success not guaranteed.) In no particular order, here are the six methods you can--but probably shouldn't--use to edit your manuscript.

1) Use all the time you've alotted for editing to do things you enjoy, like playing aboriginal instruments, teaching your cat to pee on the toilet or learning to curse in 100 languages (May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits!) and let your mother edit the manuscript. I mean, come on, she's your mother, She's Going to Love It! And if she doesn't love it--take it as a sign to give up writing and take up the Didgeridoo.



2) Print out the manuscript and toss it up into a stiff breeze. Take out any page that is lost, found up-side down, or smeared with bird poop. The resulting manuscript will be quite a but shorter, and that's good, because your literary agent wanted you to tighten it up, right?



3) Invite all your friends over for a 'Bring Your Own Booze and Edit My Manuscript' Party. In addition to getting your manuscript edited (and possibly vomited on) there are some other perks. Many of your previous friends will never speak to you again, and who needs so many friends when there is NetFlix and HBO Go? Also, if you are looking for honest feedback, think Tequila. In Vino there may be Veritas, but in Tequila there is mucho Veritas.



4) Send the manuscript to your sixth-grade English teacher, you know, the one that said you had real potential. 


5) Take a lot of naps, learn to speak Entish, and send the manuscript to your literary agent as is. I mean, if you wrote it, it must be profound, right? Editing a masterpiece like this is akin to smearing finger paints on the Mona Lisa, adding a  row of kazoo players to the Boston Symphony Orchestra or putting windmills and fake volcanos on Augusta National. 



6) This would be the place where I write something intelligent, and reward you for wading all the way through this tripe. No such luck! (I will say this, however: I think the googly eyes on Mona really work.)

Cheers, peter
:)
Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing 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 novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen 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&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


  



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Star Wars: The Forces Awakens, a movie review on The Saturday Evening Blog Post, Edition #20


At the same time brilliant and very average, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a difficult movie to watch. Immensely enjoyable and also sorely disappointing, the most recent edition of the Star Wars saga is an even harder movie to review. No one wants to hear anything but glowing reviews of the movie that brought back the entire cast from the original--blockbuster--movie: but I would be lying if I said they didn't leave a lot on the table. The Force Awakens was a good movie--no question about it--but it wasn't great, not by a long margin, despite every opportunity to be great.

 
 So the question is: Where did it go wrong? Why did its tremendous potential go unfulfilled? The simple answer is the screenplay. When you watch VII, it becomes very obvious early that a remake of the original Star Wars was at hand. And there's nothing wrong with that, especially when you add in a stellar new cast of characters intended to be the new face of the series.


Add that to the return of the big three, Han, Luke and Leia, and it's a lead-pipe cinch, right? Sorry, but no--this was a case of resting on your laurels in the extreme. The original Star Wars was an epic movie in every respect, yes, but that doesn't mean using essentially the same script is going to be epic again. Far from it: entertaining, yes; worth the price of admission, yes; epic, no. 

  

In addition to the lack of original plotting, I thought the dialogue was stilted as well, especially in the exchanges between Han and Leia, where approximately no chemistry was exhibited. Any watcher of the first three episodes (IV-VI) will tell you that the chemistry between Han and Leia made the film. Opportunity missed. I was also underwhelmed by the villains, both Kylo Ren and the Supreme Leader Snoke, who disappointed. Kylo Ren is a far cry from Lord Vader, and the Supreme Leader Snoke is not the Emperor, not at all.


But don't get me wrong, I would go see it again. And I will see it again--Daisy Ridley's performance as Rey left me wanting to see the next movie without delay.


It's four stars, then, for The Force Awakens, with great hopes for a better screenplay for Episode VIII. 

Cheers, peter
:) 


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing 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 novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen 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&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movie review: Spectre, on the Saturday Evening Blog Post, Edition #18



James Bond is more than a character in film and literature. James Bond is an icon, a fact that makes it exponentially more difficult for the directors, producers and actors of any given Bond film, who have--in addition to everything else--posterity to face. Bond films endure; Bond films collect on shelves and cases; Bond films are a genre of their own. And so I am sure that it was not without some trepidation that director Sam Mendes set about making Spectre, the 24th Bond film in a 52-year era.



As any Bond fan can tell you, the opening scene from a Bond film sets the stage for the movie--in dramatic fashion--and the opening scene in Spectre sets the stage in classic Bond style, brash and spectacular, leaving your mouth watering for more. The cinematography is consistent and excellent, subtle in places and over the top in the others, another trademark of the genre. The locations are everything you have come to expect; splashy, historic, and exotic. 

Action scenes and gadgetry have been a staple of Bond films since Bond was attacked by a flame-throwing tractor in Dr. No, and Spectre continues the evolution of the craft. That said, Producer Barbara Broccoli--daughter of the original producer, Albert Broccoli--does a masterful job not letting the action and the special effects steal the show, incorporating them seamlessly into the movie. 



What sets Bond apart, however, is style. No one has style like Bond; style is the reason why Bond is an icon. Anyone can escape an exploding fortress filled with armed mercenaries; Bond does it with his French cuff links still polished. But Bond's style goes way beyond his pressed tuxedo and perfect bow-tie.  Bond's style is an amalgam of bravado, hyperbolized English reserve, and his trademark witty ripostes. 

Daniel Craig elevates Bond's style to new and dizzying heights. If Bond is the very the essence of cool, then Daniel Craig's Bond is still cooler, and Daniel Craig's Spectre Bond is Bond at his completion. In Spectre, Bond's style reaches a new zenith--and I wish luck to the next actor who tries to match it. 




For every Bond, there is a Bond girl, and Léa Seydoux plays the part to perfection. Bond girls are smart, resilient, and--it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway--sexy, and Seydoux hits the trifecta with a fabulous performance. There is also a Bond car for every Bond, and Bond's sleek Aston Martin sets a new standard.


Add to all this a fantastic supporting cast (Ralph Fiennes really shines as M) and you have a Bond classic which will keep my BluRay player busy for a long time. 

It's five stars for Spectre.

Cheers, peter
:) 


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing 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 novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen 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&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fifty is the New Fifty: The Saturday Evening Blog Post, Edition#17




We have all heard it before, Sixty is the new Forty, and now, the recent corollary, Fifty is the new thirty. Well, having turned 51 this past March, I am taking objection. Yes, that's right, you heard me: I am fifty, dammit, and I don't want to be thirty again. Being thirty again would mean I would have to give away 20 years of hard-earned experience, and I am not willing to do that. Being 30 again would also mean I have to: Throw out two decades of learning and knowledge. Hell NO! Wipe clean nearly a quarter century of memories, both good and bad. Nahhhh. I earned every grey hair and wrinkle, and I am going to keep them. There is a greater point here, though, (and sooner or later I am going to get around to making it.)

 
We live in a culture that is dominated by youth. If you need evidence of this, just turn on the TV. In less than one program, you will be assaulted by advertisements promising you that you can look younger, feel younger, and, yes, even be younger. (Just order before midnight tonight.) Not convinced? Try checking out of the grocery store. Look ten years younger in just a week! Who do you see on the cover of those glossy magazines?


Yup, you guessed it, a half-dozen supermodels and actresses, all in their teens or twenties. Still not convinced? Turn on your computer, switch on your radio, read the paper, and think younger, dress younger, act younger.

The question is: Why? Why are we so obsessed with youth? I have my guesses, as I am sure you do as well, but I wanted to focus on something else, namely, what we are giving up on when we focus so much on youth. There is a sacrifice inherent in our culture's youth obsession, and that sacrifice is that we don't rely on experience, wisdom, and knowledge as much as we should. This is a steep price to pay, and the sad fact is that many people don't even realize we are paying it.




I could go on, but the soap box I am standing on is teetering, so I will make just one last point. I am fifty-one, and I want to be fifty-one (until next March when I turn fifty-two.) I had less grey hair and fewer wrinkles when I was thirty, but I had less perspective, and I find the added perspective lends itself to being more content in my own (more wrinkled) skin. 

 
Cheers, peter
:) 


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing 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 novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen 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&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The #MINI Book Review: The Girl on the Train


There is a trick to reviewing a book. The trick is this: don't lose sight of the forest through the trees. It's hard to do, I have to admit, but you have to remember that a novel is a story, and while it is intellectually satisfying to judge the plotting and the pacing and the characterization etc, a novel lives and dies by the story it tells. I tell you this because I just finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and there were several times I lost sight of the forest through the trees, several times I forgot that a good story was being told because I was too concerned about flaws in the writing, the multiple Point of View issues, the problems with voice etc. But there is a reason I couldn't do anything (including basic hygiene) except flip the pages as I neared the conclusion: I wanted to get to the end of the story, to see what happened. The Girl on the Train is a good, suspenseful read, and if that is your cup of tea, then click on the link below and get right after it.

The Girl on the Train, Amazon Link


In the interests of fairness and professionalism, I will say that the writing--while not an outright weakness--was not the strength of the book. Having said that, my wife, who bought the book and recommended it to me, said I was being a "nit-picky author" and that the "writing was just fine." The book is told from three points of view, and it was impossible for me to distinguish one POV from the next by the voice of the narrator. And speaking of narrator issues, all three are unreliable; as a reader, I find this to be a bit gimmicky. There is also too much telling in The Girl on the Train, and little showing. I prefer the author show me what she wants me to see, and let me draw my own conclusions, but there is not much of that.



Three stars it is, then, for The Girl on the Train, based on a compelling story told in an intriguing way. As always with the #MINI, I have posted a few other reviews if you are interested:

NYT Book Review:
NPR Book Review

Cheers, peter

:) 


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing 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 novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen 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&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.