Category Archives: Book review

“Limitless Mind” by famed laser physicist Russell Targ combines the implications of remote viewing with Buddhist-inspired thought


The CIA knew during the height of the Cold War that the Soviets were putting a ton of time and money into psychic spying research. It concerned our government enough to fund their own research. CIA spies may have even gotten reports that the Russians were having some success.

And so, a couple of brainy, eccentric physicists caught the attention of CIA Super Spooks. One was Russell Targ, who was an expert on lasers. The other was Hal Puthoff who was into gravitational physics. Both had worked successfully for years in their fields.

Incredibly, these two brainiacs had decided to put their careers and reputations on the line to study ESP – extrasensory perception, mind reading, clairvoyance – you know, all that voodoo. They were working out of a small lab at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI).

The CIA was worried enough about the Soviets to jazz up Targ and Puthoff with some serious government cash. And so the legendary top secret method of psychic spying “remote viewing” was born.

In this book, Russell Targ gives us a brief review of those early days beginning in 1972 of how remote viewing was developed. In his words, he says: “Ingo Swan taught us about remote viewing, we taught the army, and the army taught the world.

Ingo Swann was an obscure artist who had decided to volunteer as a one of Targ’s guinea pigs. It turns out that Swann had some amazing psychic abilities. (See my review of Swann’s free ebook, PENETRATION). It was Swann who coined the term “remote viewing.” So early on, Swann became a central figure in this strange quest which entangled all of them with the U.S. military the CIA, and international intrigue.

In general, however, that’s not what this book is really about. Rather, Targ’s work in remote viewing led him slowly but surely toward a more expansive view of life and reality, which was also heavily influenced by Buddhist thought.

Like many others, Targ could not help but notice the similarities between ancient Buddhist and Vedic teaching and a new model of reality emerging from the implications of quantum physics.


And so in this book, Targ gives us heady doses of Buddhist-influenced philosophy. But he also draws heavily upon New Age thinking — that which no doubt makes his peers — hard, reductionist, materialistic, scientists — gag!

Targ credits none other than A COURSE IN MIRACLES by Dr. Helen Schucman as the “main stepping stone” which finally propelled him to abandon his prestigious position at Lockheed Missiles and Space. In his words: “I launched myself on a different path to spaciousness that didn’t require a missile.”

Targ chose to live his life in a state of “non-wanting,” “spaciousness,” the “abandonment of the ego and striving” to live in a way that is at one with a Buddhist-Quantum conception of God – immersed in a kind of universal field of intelligence-love energy which Targ describes as a “loving syrup.”

Yes, Targ will plod through some of the statistical results of his early remote viewing experiments and tediously describe how double-blind protocols were set up, and what all the data means. He also spends a chapter talking about “remote healing,” a field in which is late daughter Dr. Elizabeth Targ was deeply involved.

In short – and I’m very sad to say – I think some will find this book a disappointment. Those looking for intensive information on remote viewing will get “more of the same” and the same basic information available on thousands of web sites or other books. Others might be surprised at the lectures on Buddhist philosophy (not really lectures, but more like Targ’s personal testament of what Buddhism has meant to him and what he believes it can do for others) – but the end result is a book that may seem disjointed. It’s not really enough about one thing, but then again not enough about the other thing either.

To be fair, however: I think Targ was attempting to present the legitimacy of remote viewing as a science by providing a greater overall framework – a new model based on new physics – to show how it all works together beautifully, and so has a foundation for credibility.

Also, I was already well familiar with remote viewing before reading this, and I have been practicing Zen meditation for 30 years now – so much of this information seemed old hat from my perspective. It may not be that way at all for you.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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First-time novelist Tarah L. Wolff breathes new life into fantasy fiction with the boundry-pushing “Embraced by Darkness: Sacrifices”


EMBRACED BY DARKNESS: SACRIFICES is a richly feminine, dangerously dark sword & sorcery fantasy epic that often transcends mere genre to become something more – literature — perhaps even great literature.

Just about every page is redolent with a musky aura of earthy-animalistic yearning and sensual passion.

Also at the heart of this ambitious tale looms the ever-present shadow of the feminine archetype – exploring what it means to be a woman — and the eternal central dilemma of the female sex. It’s the predicament of womankind since the beginning of time – dealing with the dangers of violent male predation and lust, while also aching for the pleasure and passion of an all-absorbing union with the male archetype.

A latent theme of rape or threat of rape never strays far from the narrative. At the same time, the female characters often willingly enter into intense sexual unions of mind-boggling, soul-shattering pleasure with men … and, yes, even man-like things!

Certainly, a Freudian psychologist would have a field day analyzing the sexual allegory suggested between that of women and horses in these pages. Yes, yes … I realize that a centaur is half-human, half-horse, but the women here seem equally enamored with regular horses and the feel of them “between their legs.” (I put that latter phrase in quotes because it appears more than once in connection with a woman riding a horse). (Also: Just how does a woman have sex with a centaur? Hmmm. Ponder that for a moment!)

But wait a minute – let me step away from pedantic nerd mode to tell the reader that I think anyone can enjoy this this novel on any level one wants to. If you’re looking for an entertaining, sweeping sword and sorcery epic filled with all the props of that genre, you’ll find it: Hunky sword wielding men, gorgeous gutsy women, elves, mythical creatures, dragons, demonic ghouls, a dark lord – it’s all here.

The central plot is strong enough, if somewhat derivative of the genre formula. The characters are sharp, vivid and real; they come alive on the page – even if you find them spiteful, obnoxious or too good to be true – you’ll still care about what happens to them. The background fantasy world is richly imagined. It does what a great fantasy novel needs to do – it takes you away, allows you to escape, to an magical universe that is alive with shimmering wonder.

The pacing is decent, although I’ll stop short of calling this a page turner; it’s actually something better. Some may be challenged by the 400+ page length, but I think most will be eager to keep reading.

Yes, good wins out over evil in the end. (I’m not giving anything away; all fantasy novels end that way). However, what’s terrific about this novel is that those who are “good” and those who are “evil” are not always sharply defined as so – so even in their victory, the reader may wonder if the heroes really deserved to triumph at all.

That’s especially true of Jezaline – one of three primary female characters who anchor the narrative. And the tough-as-nails tomboy Osondrous is an incredible, unstoppable ass-kicker of epic proportions. Oh my, what a woman! Only the saintly Karalay represents what we would recognize as the personification of a traditional heroine — pretty as an angel, selfless, giving and pure of heart. (I should also give Constance and honorable mention, a kitten-sexy soft beauty who is a visionary with a poetic soul. I suspect Constance will play a large role in the sequel, due out later this year).

Finally, I must mention the writing itself. My friends, this young author, TARAH L. WOLFF, can flat out turn a phrase. She crafts and weaves sentences that are beautiful. The reader will be treated to graceful paragraphs that flow out and glide across the page. True – it’s not consistently thus throughout – but who cares! Often enough, the author seems to “go unconscious,” something “clicks in” and she spins out page after page of marvelous flare and elegance.

If you have a pulse, this writer’s prose will give you goose bumps.

The author’s tells us her goal in creating EMBRACED BY DARKNESS was to push the envelope of the fantasy genre further, taking it to greater heights and perhaps a deeper level significance. Mission accomplished.


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Free eBook: Mushroom Town by British Author Oliver Onions is a Powerful Novel That Will Reward the Patient Reader


In today’s world where Twitter message are considered meaningful communications, is it possible that many people are reading the likes of British author OLIVER ONIONS? I doubt it.

This novel, Mushroom Town, is like the ultimate “Anti-Twitter Experience.” Lengthy; heavily descriptive; loaded with deeply developed metaphors, zillions of digressions for allusions and observations; in-depth character development – you know – great literature.

Published in 1914, Mushroom Town reveals a powerful writer at the height of his skills. Mr. Onions published more than 40 novels. Oh, by the way, certainly “Oliver Onions” must be a pen name, right?

No! It’s his real name – George Oliver Onions. Interestingly, he later legally changed his name to George Oliver in 1918 (gee, I wonder why), as which point his real name became his pen name.


What Mushroom Town Is About

The setting of Mushroom Town is the tiny fictional hamlet Llanyglo, Wales. The time is the early 1880s. Llanyglo is little more than a few merchant shops, three tiny churches and some scattered dry-scrabble farms. But the tiny town has an ideal location next to the ocean, and potentially a terrific beach for water recreation of all kinds.

Llanyglo catches the attention of Edward Garden, a shrewd, well-to-do English businessman. He initially brings his family to spend two weeks in a seaside cabin to bolster the failing health of his 9-year-old daughter.

However, Mr. Garden knows a secret about Llanyglo – he has inside information about a new rail line that will soon be laid down and pass very near the hamlet – which means that, for the first time, this once remote, inconsequential region will suddenly have easy two-way access to the bigger cities of England, such as Manchester and Liverpool.

Mr. Garden recognizes the potential to transform tiny Llanyglo into a resort town – it’s an ideal, peaceful and lovely get-away by the sea for the bone-weary residents of England’s grimy, coal-dusted cities of the north. Thus the title, Mushroom Town.

So little Llanyglo “mushrooms” in just a decade from a sleepy backwater town to an energized, thriving, crowded tourist destination with gigantic new hotels, tourist shops, a Ferris wheel, lamp-lighted pavilions, a magnificent boardwalk pier that thrusts out into the ocean, and which is bordered by fancy restaurants.

Against this backdrop is played out a clash of cultures – the backwards, kind, rural and simple people of rural Wales are confronted with shocking quickness the invasion of the Saxon English who bring their big money, big-city ways and big demands to Llanyglo.

Although I said character development is strong, there really is no viewpoint character in Mushroom Town. The hamlet of Llanyglo itself and its culture are the primary characters. The tumultuous events surrounding the urban transformation of the town are what drives the narrative.

Should You Read It?

I have always said that those who want to find a powerful experience through literature must give as much as they receive from a significant piece of writing. Certainly, a book such as this one will try the patience of modern readers – but you have to remember that long, plodding paragraphs and whole chapter filled with description and no action was the style for late 19th and early 20th Century writers.

However, if you settle in and read slowly and patiently, Mushroom Town will seep into your bones and vividly transport you to late 1800s Wales – it may be the next best thing to actually stepping into a time machine and going there for real. You’ll experience a simpler times in a blissful rural, mountainous region next to a sparkling ocean – a time before hyper-capitalism, crass commercialism and shallow tourism despoiled something once natural, earthy and beautiful.

The last segment of the book affected me deeply. In the final 100 pages, or so, Mr. Onions paints for us a powerfully tragic love story between a wealthy young Englishman and a penniless Welsh gypsy woman – two people from entirely different worlds, cultures and classes – whose different circumstances will almost certainly doom their love – or will it?

The love story between a wealthy Brit and a gypsy (the latter at the bottom of the caste even among the Welsh as compared to the English of those times) serves as an amazing metaphor which captures the plight of Llanyglo not as a mere phenomenon of sociology, but as an event with implications for the very soul of humanity itself.

People, have no doubt: Oliver Onions was a major literary talent. His work deserves as much readership today as do some of his contemporaries, such as E.M. Forester, Thomas Hardy and W. Somerset Maugham.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

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The Eldridge Conspiracy by Stephen Ames Berry is a pulse-pumping manly man’s science fiction thriller that will please conspiracy buffs, and others


Hey, it’s time to step into the Man Cave for some sizzling science fiction red meat broiled over flaming coals soaked in testosterone fluid – all guaranteed to keep you turning pages faster than a well-oiled Uzi spewing metallic death into a crew of murderous Russian mercenaries!

Yea, verily, my friends, in these pages:

.357 Combat Magnums will explode heads and splatter brains;

Ice picks will be plunged with morbid glee into skulls;

Throats will be slit slowly, and blood will gush forth;

Samurai swords will hack off arms and heads;

Soldiers will be splattered with attack helicopter missiles, bursting their bellies and disgorging their entrails as they fall howling in agony over fortress walls;

—–> A sweet and petite craft artist will have her neck slowly twisted and snapped by a Super Nazi from the future! <——

A nice mommy (also an artist) will get tossed off a tall building;

A dagger will plunge into a dude’s eyeball …

Admittedly, some people will escape death after merely being punched, slapped, beaten, karate chopped, tortured or kicked in the groin – but have no fear. Those that escape with flesh wounds and bruises will soon be followed by others that have no chance of survival after a hollow-point slug obliterates their cranium like a honeydew melon.

But wait a minute … at this point, I know what you’re thinking of asking me, your reviewer: “Ken, will there be hot sex is this book?”


In The Eldridge Conspiracy you will be treated to scorching sex scenes that will pulsate your mojo to the Nth degree and leave you drained with literary orgasmic joy, and lusting for more!


Sex – check.

Death – check.

Now let’s go for the triumvirate! FOOD!

I’m here to tell you, friends, that in this novel, the eatin’ is flat-out rightious and proper-good – and I’m talkin’ full course meals with all the fixins accompanied by selections of fine wines, ales, liquors, whiskeys coffees and teas!

You are invited to travel along with our characters as they nosh with unrestrained relish:

* Coq au vin served steaming and savory with garlic, onions and white wine sauce;

* A juicy sirloin complemented by a fine Bordeaux;

* Yummy clam chowder;

* A heavenly dish of chicken linguini with garlic and wine sauce, onion and hint of orange and basil;

* Chicken Marengo;

* Apple pie made with sweet and juicy apples baked with cinnamon sided with vanilla ice cream;

* Shepherd’s pie;

* Rabbit;

* Boiled scrod;

* Blueberry muffins with steaming hot coffee …

On only two occasions, as far as I can tell, is the food substandard for our heroes, such as when Jim and Dee endure a “somber lunch of soup and salad” and another occasion when Kaeko and Temmu glummly gulp down some rather greasy haddock in a run-of-the-mill seaside diner.

That’s life.

The great thing about THE ELDRIDGE CONSPIRACY is that it’s a stunning sensory smorgasbord — pungent and redolent — but never gratuitous. There’s a decent science fiction plot here centering on an icon of conspiracy theorists – The Philadelphia Experiment. This was a supposed attempt by top government scientists in 1943 to render a Navy Destroyer, the USS Eldridge, invisible with some kind of spooky high-tech cloaking device based on quantum mechanics ka-ka.

A lot of fringe thinkers really believe it happened, but whatever. It makes a terrific premise for a sci-fi yarn. Author STEPHEN AMES BERRY takes what is essentially a formulaic genre novel — and by dint of shear literary muscle — makes it fresh, entertaining, thrilling and compelling.

Berry does an amazing job of presenting a raft of characters, every last one of which is vivid, real, likable or loathsome, and keeps all of their time-lines, actions, and interactions seamlessly melded — we never get confused.

At the risking of stooping to prosaic usage: This is a really, really, really good read. If you’re looking for a well-crafted page turner to devour on the beach this summer, look no further. I recommend this one.

Finally – sad to say – I’m afraid I must issue The Eldridge Conspiracy and the author my famous DWI citation. In this case, DWI stands for “Dead Wife Infraction.” The author, Mr. Berry, came razor close to earning a one-star demerit for committing this DWI – but the overall strength of this book overcomes and lets him escape with a 5-star commendation.


In recent months I have read these books which have inflicted DWIs upon their readers:

SEASON OF THE HARVEST” by Michael Hicks: Hero is a tough FBI agent with a dead wife.

THE GIFT OF ILLUSION” by Richard Brown: Hero is a tough cop with a dead wife.

A WORLD I NEVER MADE” by James LePore: Hero is a sad doofus with a dead wife. (Note that LePore DOUBLES DOWN!! Not only does the hero have a wife in the freezer, the hot, sexy French detective he falls in love with has a DEAD HUSBAND!! Woooo-hooooo!)

The “CHARLIE PARKER” thrillers by John Connolly: Tough private eye with a dead wife.

And that’s just recently. Think about all the other characters from literature and film that have dead wives. Secret Agent 007, James Bond? Yes, he has a dead wife. The fictionalized version of Scottish warrior William Wallace? Has a dead wife. Mel Gibson’s character in the Lethal Weapon films? Suffering from memory of his dead wife. Bobby Simone of famed TV show NYPD Blue? Tough New York cop with a dead wife. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Inception. He’s some kind of operative with a dead wife.

I could go on, and way on.

So, Stephen Ames Berry slips by with only a warning DWI citation (this time) by strength of having written an overall superior science fiction thriller.

My advice: Buy this book. It’s great.

Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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‘Chupacabra’ is a Free Science Fiction eBook That Reads Like A Script For A Made-For-TV B Horror Movie


You know the way sometimes you’re flipping channels and you get to the Science Fiction station and notice they’re running some obviously super low-budget made-for-TV movie with some ludicrous premise – and you settle in to enjoy watching an extremely bad movie?

It’s that well-known “it’s-so-bad-it’s-good” phenomenon. A couple of years ago I happened upon a Sci-Fi Channel offering about a guy who turned into a giant mosquito! Ha, ha! Did you see that one? Boy, it was so screamingly dumb! But it’s fun to watch goofy crap like that occasionally because – well, I’ll just leave it to some psychologist to score a government grant to explain to all of us the why-we-like-bad-entertainment phenomenon.

But I mention this because I have just finished reading the short novel, CHUPACABRA, by DALLAS TANNER. I’ll come right out with a theory I have about this offering: I’m thinking that Mr. Tanner may have first attempted to write a script for a made-for-TV B movie, shopped it around, got no bites, and so decided to turn his script into a short novel.

As the title suggests, this is a yarn with the legendary CHUPACABRA– the goatsucker – of mostly Latin American legend, at the center of the premise. Chupacabra is a crypto-zoological beast with vampire-like tendencies that preys on farm animals. It sucks its victim dry of blood – but leaves the meat.

Unfortunately, reading a bad science fiction novel does not deliver the same pleasure as watching a bad movie. I think it’s because you have to work harder – you know, with the reading, and all. When you watch a terrible TV movie, you just sit back with a beer and a bag of Cheetos and let the dreck come to you. When you read a B-novel, there’s all that effort with the squinting at words and turning of pages, and such.

As fiction, Chupacabra makes every conceivable literary mistake a writer can make to ensure that this will be a truly terrible piece of writing – cliché-cardboard characters, blocks of exposition without action, absolutely no original concepts, and supremely poor editing.

Consider: One of the characters is a lovely Caribbean-born scientist who is something of an expert on the Chupacabra. She is alternately identified as: “an astronomer,” “an astrologer,” “an astronomist,” and “a technician.” I take pains to point this out to show you that I am not merely being purposefully mean and snarky in my review, but that I am only applying the unfortunate credit to where the unfortunate credit it due.

You might be surprised that I am going to say now that this author is almost certainly a far, far better writer than this novella suggests. I’ve been making my sole living as a freelance writer and editor for almost 30 years, and one develops an instinct for those who have “got it” and those who never will. Dallas Tanner has what it takes to be a genuinely fine writer, believe me — I can just tell – but no one will be able to tell from reading this book.

Note: You can get Chupacabra free ebook here: FREE SCIENCE FICTION EBOOK

Join Ken Korczak in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Out of the Night by German-Born Writer Jan Valtin Is An Amazing Book With A Well-Earned Cult Following


One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to find a local used bookstore, go in, prowl the shelves and hunt for treasure. I’m intrigued by big dusty books resting anonymously among the rows, seemingly forgotten.

Recently in such a hallowed venue I spotted a large midnight blue hardcover titled OUT OF THE NIGHT by JAN VALTIN. I flipped to the copyright page and saw it was published in 1941. It was 749 pages. Without looking closer to see what it might be about, I laid down three or four bucks, took it home and started to read.

I quickly discovered I had stumbled upon an extraordinary book!

Out of The Night is the autobiography of a German-born man who became communist spy for the Soviet Union.

At the end of World War I, Valtin was a boy of 14 just trying to get by in a country shattered by war. To say that times were tough after the ruination inflicted upon the land would be a vast understatement. All the basics of life were scarce – food, shelter, jobs, security. Valtin writes:

“I would awake hungry, and was still hungry when I went to sleep. Hunger wiped out the lines between adolescents and full-grown men. A sack of flower was worth more than a human life. When a fruit cart of a peasant from Vierlanden was turned over in the street and a middle-aged man tried to shoulder me aside in the scramble for winter apples, what else could I do but stand up and hit him in the face. I was in my fifteenth year.”

Germany was on its knees and the communists saw great opportunity to inculcate the defeated masses with Marxist philosophy.

Valtin found that working as a gopher and bicycle messenger boy for communist operators was a way to get along in the chaotic environment. His father, a torpedo man in the German navy, never returned home. His mother was unable to provide for him. The only future Valtin saw for himself was to — somehow, some way — ship out to sea. His goal was to hire on as a deck hand for a merchant ship or freighter, starting as the lowest grunt, and work his way up to captain.

But Valtin never broke loose from his connections made with the communists of his youth – and so he injects himself into a hair-raising career of ever-increasing party activity, scheming, manipulations and intrigues. He took on ever-more dangerous assignments, acting as a courier and spying on other German political factions, including the budding fascist movements.

What ensues for Valtine is a life of sizzling danger, international plotting and spy games. He was often in the dark about who he was actually working for. He eventually becomes a double agent, spying also for the brutal German Gestapo, playing both sides off the other. He trucks with supremely dangerous characters and inhabits a shadowy world of mind-blowing complexity and perpetual uncertainty.

It reads like a thrilling John le Carré spy novel, except it’s all true – but wait a minute! – is it really all true?

Well: It eventually came to light that Jan Valtin was the pen name for a man by the name of Richard Krebs. Of course, there’s nothing unusual about a writer publishing under a nom de plume, and considering that he made many enemies along the way, one might expect him to publish under a different name.

However, this autobiography was so incredible it attracted the attention of a lot of smart and resourceful people, including the German writer ERNST VON WALDENFELS. He was able to show – by gaining access to documents released after the fall of communist East Germany in 1990– that a lot of what Krebs claimed to have been doing as a Soviet-Gestapo double agent was greatly embellished or exaggerated. Krebs was also a skilled fiction writer, having published several novels.

On the other hand, large portions of his life story are true – and by any measure – Richard Krebs led an astonishing life of danger and adventure. Incredibly, he later served with the U.S. military in the Philippines during World War II! So he worked for the communists, Nazis and the Americans all at some point in his career! I haven’t even mentioned the times he spent as a sailor, captain of a Soviet ship, a copper miner in South America, and a stint as a prisoner in San Quentin! (He was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon while in the United States).

So, Out of the Night may be an obscure book, but it retains a well-earned cult following today. Readers will receive a vivid inside look of what life was like in Post-World War I Germany, and a greater understanding of how Germany veered off onto the horrifying path leading to the even greater tragedy of World War II. You will also vicariously experience the frightening life of a spy. It’s an amazing book.

Join Ken Korczak in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

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The Hangman’s Daughter: Part Historical Fiction, Part Horrer, Part Mystery Thriller, All Good


THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER is an English translation of a German novel that achieved best seller status in Europe and began doing well in the U.S. market after being offered as a Kindle selection on The translation is well-handled by LEE CHADEAYNE, a member of the American Literary Translators Association. Its original title is Die Henkerstochter.

Author OLIVER PÖTZSCH creates a vibrant fictional world set in 1659 Bavaria. The action takes place in the tiny village of Schongau, which is a real location in Germany near the Alps and the Lech River. In fact, Pötzsch was inspired to write this novel after an intensive study of his family’s genealogy, which led him to discover that he is actually descended from a long line of professional executioners, or hangmen.

The title is something of a misnomer because the hangman’s daughter herself plays only a supporting role. The hangman, Jakob Kuisl, is our main protagonist, and he’s a wonderful character indeed – that’s because he is complicated mixture of stunning contradictions. When ordered to, he will hack off the head a convicted man, no matter how flimsy the evidence, or torture women before he burns them at the stake based on ridiculously trumped-up charges of witchcraft.

On the other hand, Kuisl is highly intelligent and in his chest beats the heart of a humanitarian. He is smarter than just about everybody else in town, and he’s even a far superior healer and physician than the two local “quacks.” In short, he is a Hangman with a Heart. (Hey, maybe that would be a better title)?

Anyway, the plot centers on an accusation of witchcraft against a kindly midwife – who just so happened to have delivered the Hangman’s kids – and who is also known for her kindness toward orphaned children. The charges are prompted by the brutal murders of several local children, whose lifeless bodies are discovered to have “witch signs” tattooed on their backs.

The plot quickly thickens, however, as the Hangman suspects the midwife is innocent, is certainly no witch, and he begins snooping around for the truth. With the aid of a young doctor, Simon Fronwieser, the pair proceed like a post-Medieval version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. They began to uncover a tangled conspiracy that reaches to the very center of the Schongau’s wealthy burgomaster and aldermen elites.

For me the novel works on almost every level. Superior character creation, good enough plotting, excellent description of scene, setting and background – although I will say there are stretches of tedium with too much detail inserted as the author does his best to keep us turning pages while dangling mysteries just in front of our noses, but always out of reach – until the end. There was a tad too much of this unnecessary teasing for my likes, but others might disagree.

The sensitive reader should be warned that there’s plenty of violence and bloodshed, gruesome scenes of torture and killings – including the violent deaths of sweet children – and other descriptions of sundry bloody human processes – not to mention and unflinching look at the all of the basic feces, urine and filth (human and animal) that the people of this time period lived in close proximity to before the advent of modern plumbing and sewer systems.

The Hangman’s Daughter is ultimately entertaining, loaded with dark humor, and the author has a natural sense of irony, which is generated by showing us the stark differences is the societal norms of 1649 Germany as compared to what we think of as rational and sensible today.

Looking back from the vantage point of our lofty perch of 2012, the people of the mid-17th Century seem a bunch of hopelessly violent, greedy, superstitious lunatics – but we have to remember – their world was “normal” and “rational” from their point of view. Before we judge them too harshly, imagine what the people of 400 years into our future will think of our “rational” society of today.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

Living off The Grid Will Orient You In The World Of Solar Power, Wind Power And Other Green Power Techniques


Pssst! Hey! What’s the difference between a volt and a watt? Or let me ask you this: If you build a solar panel out of 36 individual solar cells, and each cell produces ½ volt of electricity, what would be the total wattage capacity of that solar panel? What would be the total voltage output of this solar panel? How many watts! How many volts!!

I’ll answer those “simple” questions in a minute, but I bring it up because these are the details of just how electricity works, and writer DAVID S. BLACK thinks you should have a good understanding of the basics of electronics if you are ever going to “Go Green” and get off the carbon-belching grid.

In his book, LIVING OFF THE GRID, Black takes great pains to cover many of the minute details of how energy and electricity works, from fundamental theory, up to how today’s basic household electrical systems function.

If you are one of those people who has a burning interest in generating your own electricity with solar panels, wind turbines or both, this is an excellent book for getting a broad overview. David Black shows us that getting off the grid is definitely not easy, but far from impossible. He provides case studies of people who have done it. It takes time, some money, accepting a certain learning curve, and just having the grit and determination to start chipping away at your goal – maybe one solar panel at a time.

If you are looking for a detailed instruction manual that shows you step-by-step how to fit your home with solar panels, wire it, and free yourself from the grid – this book is not that. It’s more general, paints the overall picture of what you need, and the many different options available to you. But as I said, there are a lot of basic details about the fundamentals of generating power, which is stuff that’s worth knowing.

My view is that this is an excellent books for those need a baseline of understanding about the broad spectrum of options available for getting off the grid. When and if you decide to do the actual work, you’ll need to find more specific, detailed information.

Now: A watt and a volt are basically two different animals. Wattage speaks to the total electrical capacity a particular implement can hold, such as a battery or a solar panel. A 36-cell solar panel in which each cell generates ½ volt, it will obviously have an 18-volt generating capacity. But what is the wattage of that panel?

Well, most sellers of such panels will say a 36-cell, 18-bolt panel has a 60-watt capacity – but they probably would be wrong, according to my research into this. It seems that 60 watts is only the theoretical capacity. In reality, most 36-cell solar panels will hold 30 to 40 watts, for a variety of technical reasons. But it will still easily be able to charge a 12-volt battery.

And so this tells us something about the difference between a volt and a watt. A lot of people think that a volt is basically a sub-unit of a watt, as in: “How many volts in a watt?” but that’s the wrong question. A volt is not a sub-unit of a watt. In general, the wattage of an implement is the total amount of energy it can hold. The voltage is the amount that can be drained away from it, so to speak. Look at it this way:

Say you have a tank that can hold 1,000 gallons of water. Now say you attach a pipe to it that can drain the water out at a rate of 5 gallons per minute. Well the 1,000 gallons is like the wattage and the capacity of the drain pipe is like the voltage. See? I’d explain further, but I’m only a journalist and I don’t want to get into too much trouble.

But I’m thankful to David S. Black because reading his book made me discover that the details of electricity are fun and interesting, and he also makes the idea of freeing oneself from our slave-master, bloated utility companies seem a real possibility — even for mechanically challenged dorks like me.

Need a government grant for solar panels? Learn more about getting free government cash in Ken Korczak’s: SECRETS OF A GRANT WRITER

The Obsever Is A Good Enough First Novel, But A Diamond In The Rough


With his first venture into writing an “indie” novel, JONATHAN DAVISON demonstrates that he is a writer with a bright future. I found the majority of THE OBSERVER to be well paced, often compelling, and well-crafted. He ends chapters in a way that really makes the reader want to plunge ahead to the next chapter to find out what happens next.

Yes, certainly, this is a diamond in the rough. I’ll discuss some of those rough edges in a minute, but first, a very brief synopsis:

The story is set in the Ardennes Forest in the winter after the D-Day invasion in which the Allied Forces launched their final offensive against Nazi Germany. The fight was long, bitter and bloody. The story focuses on four British soldiers who become detached from their main unit in the snowy Ardennes. One of their band gets shot in the stomach, and his fellows make a heroic attempt to carry him out of their fox hole and back to where he can get medical attention.

As they trudge through the deep snow, they get lost, and nearly give themselves up for dead from exhaustion and hypothermia – but then they stumble upon an odd cabin in the middle of nowhere, inhabited by one exceedingly strange old man. The soldiers approach the cabin, which looks inviting with a cheery flickering fire — and let’s just say that’s when things get fantastically weird!

There’s much to admire about The Observer: Vivid, believable characters, excellent plotting, and compelling mysteries. The author ingeniously creates confounding situations that make us scratch our head and think (in a good way): “Just what the hell is going on here?” For me, the sign of a truly top-notch piece of science fiction is when I can’t predict what is going to happen next. This book scores well in this regard.

However: As others here have already pointed out, the editing is dicey (to say the least). I appreciate that indie authors cannot afford professional editors, but many of the typos in this book are of the very obvious kind that just about anyone should be able to catch.

But there is a greater deficiency that is more serious. The critical weakness is the ending – at that point when the curtain is pulled aside and we are allowed to have a direct look at why everything that happened to these characters did happen.

In mystery novels, there is often scene at the end where the clever sleuth or detective gathers everyone in a room, explains all the clues and particulars of the case, and then in an astounding crescendo – he names the murderer! All is revealed! Mystery solved!

In a sense, the author takes a similar tact, albeit with a lofty, science fictiony spin of the “Big Reveal” at the end. This tactic might work for some, but it doesn’t work for me. Instead, the author should have “forced” his character to use his own intelligence, his cleverness, and his undaunted, gritty drive to find clues as he overcame obstacles, battled dark forces – and solved the mystery himself – THROUGH HIS ACTIONS!

It’s one of the oldest rules of great writing: Show, don’t tell.

In short: The author should have SHOWED us solution of the mystery through ACTION – rather than sitting us all down in the end for an explanatory lecture. (The main characters literally sit down on a log as they to reveal all to the reader!)

The saving grace of the “Big Reveal” scene is that is has a certain emotional impact because Davison has made us fall in love with his heroic main character, the scrappy Brit, Albert Fox.

Over all, I give this novel high marks because, for the most part, it’s a compelling, entertaining read.

Join Ken Korczak for his adventures in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

For My Money, ‘Searchers’ Is The Most Frightening Book Of Alien Abduction


Over the years just a handful of UFO books have been able to creep forth and poke their icy, boney fingers into the soft underbelly of the deepest subconscious fears of the public, scaring the bejeepers out of millions of readers.

Whitely Strieber’s COMMUNION, for example, seemed honest and authentic, and therefore exceedingly unsettling and creepy. John Mack’s ABDUCTION was more scholarly and clinical, but because it was the work of a respected Harvard psychiatrist, it probably made even hardened skeptics think: “Gulp! I wonder if something like this could really be happening?”

But there is one book of UFO alien abduction I have read over the years which delivered that feeling of quesy fright like none other. This is a much more obscure book — it’s SEARCHERS: A TRUE STORY OF ALIEN ABDUCTION by RON FELBER.

An interesting aspects of this book is that Felber is an outsider to Ufology. Unlike Strieber, Bud Hopkins, David Jacobs and others who made careers and reputations by focusing on alien abduction topics, Felber is a mainstream writer and businessman. He has produced several books of fiction and nonfiction. But “Searchers” is his only work in the UFO genre. He appears to have written it only because a tip from an associate pointed his way to an extraordinary story that Felber found so compelling he had to write about it.

The book describes a sizzling night of terror as experienced by an ordinary middle class California couple, Steve and Dawn Hess. It was 1989 when the Hesses decided to head out to the Mojave Desert for a camping trip. Upon arriving and setting up camp in the middle of nowhere, the isolated couple began to see strange globes of light in the sky. They were unnerved but tried to explain them away in all the common ways. But then, events rapidly escalated to an profoundly frightening degree.

The “lights” moved toward their camp. Steve and Dawn Hess retreat to hide in their camper, only to be accosted by an array of eerie alien beings who surround them, look into their camper window, and seem intensely bent upon getting at them and probing every aspect of their beings. They perform devastating psychological invasions of their minds – at times, the couple is surrounded by dozens of bizarre alien manifestations of wide variety.

Dawn Hess described it this way:

“They (the aliens) wanted everything we had … everything …our minds, our bodies, even our souls, I think. It was like they drew it out of us with a syringe … every molecule. And it was painful and I thought we were going to die, or already had died and were being tortured in hell.”

After enduring a night of this hell, the Hesses returned to their normal lives and jobs, but all was not well with them. Nightmares, fears, anxieties, post-traumatic stress – everything that had happened to them had shattered their sense of what it means to be a normal human being.

It’s a remarkable story, and in the hands of an extremely skilled writer – Felber holds a Ph.D. in Arts and Letters – the result is one of the most terrifying books on alien abduction ever written.

A Mind Expanding Vision of Life And The Universe From An Islamic Intellectual


This is a fascinating book which I am going to recommend, but I start out with a warning: This is a translation to English, and the job of translating, although adequate, is far from perfect, and often very clumsy. It reads well enough to be understandable, but some readers may find the dicey English phrases and improper grammar distracting while trying to absorb the challenging concepts presented by the original author. (Note: I understand there may have been an update of the editing recently in a new edition of the book, but I have not viewed that edition, if such exists).

Despite this flaw, UNIVERSAL MYSTERIES is a book I hope a lot of people will read. This is exactly the kind of “expanded” perspective on the nature of religion and God concept that millions of people would do well to consider.

AHMED HULUSI is described as an “Islamic Intellectual” in his bio. Born in Istanbul in 1945, he has worked most of his life as a journalist, but has spent many years in the study of Islam and religion, and delving deeply into the mystical element of Islam, Sufism.

Certainly, there isn’t anything in this book that has not been revealed or proposed elsewhere — by other philosophers, Zen masters, Christian monks, New Agers, even secular scientists — but it’s extremely helpful to get yet another take on how to think of, or envision the Universe as one giant “Intelligence Singularity” (my term, not the author’s) that, at its most fundamental level, is the base of all reality, and is something that can never be divided from the “oneness” of itself.

I felt I got a fresh look at a subject I have been long familiar with — I only wish I could recommend this book more strongly, but native speakers of English will be in for an unpleasant surprise if they are not made aware of the awkwardness of the translation. (Although it may have been updated in a new edition).


Free Kindle Science Fiction, Free Nook Science Fiction: Clifford Simak, Hellhounds of the Cosmos


I’ve always had a soft spot for CLIFFORD SIMAK, and not just because he is one of the greats of the Golden Era of Science Fiction, and because he was the third person to achieve “Grand Master” status from the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America).

He’s special to me because he spent much of his life working as a hard-core, nose-to-the-grindstone newspaper reporter in Minnesota – and I also spent several years doing the same.

I also went to college at Winona State University, which is just across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin and fairly near Simak’s birthplace of Millville, Wisconsin. Many of his works are set in this rural, pastoral Wisconsin environment, which is a land of graceful bluffs, rolling hills, deciduous greenery and granite outcroppings.

What’s astounding about this free ebook selection, HELLHOUNDS OF THE COSMOS, is that it was published in 1932. Once you read it you’ll see why I select the word astounding. It’s the story of an inter-dimensional invasion by an alien species – but the “hellhounds” turn out not to be extraterrestrials – but rather, earth creatures from an unimaginably distant past — and another plain of existence!

I mean, how many other writers from small towns in Wisconsin were envisioning scenarios like that, much less finding the talent and moxie to pull off a story that was accessible to a mass audience? At the time Simak published this piece, he was working at at the Brainerd Dispatch, a newspaper in central Minnesota lakes country.

Reading this story gives one that fun feeling of watching an old black-and-white science fiction movie of the 1950s, except it’s more intelligent and demands that the reader expand his or her mind to grasp the concept —and the entertainment – of the plot and premise.

One of the things I really like about this piece is the vividly accurate picture Simak creates of a hustling-bustling olf-fashioned newsroom environment with editors and reporters working in a state sleep-deprived frenzy to deliver that big stop-the-presses! story to their readers.

Hellhounds of the Cosmos is a free ebook download from a variety of location, such as and here: HELLHOUNDS

For More Inter-Dimensional Adventures Of The Real-Life And True Kind, Go To: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

The Ghosts Of Varner Creek Is An Above Average Spooky Yarn, Maybe Even Way Above Average


Solomon Mayfield is 87 years old and running out the time clock on his life in a Texas small-town nursing home. Maybe it’s not surprising for a man so near the end of his life to see the occasional ghost come drifting through his room to float eerily over his bed. But for old Mr. Mayfield, seeing ghosts has been a regular occurrence since he was 12 years old.
The circumstances surrounding what triggered this special ability are at the heart of the plot of THE GHOSTS OF VARNER CREEK

This is a first novel for MICHAEL WEEMS, but he writes like a novelist with far more experience. His writing demonstrates the understanding that the best fiction is based on character. Yes, a truly great book needs more – plot, background, premise, conflict – all that stuff. But if you are able to create vivid characters and make the reader care about them, you’re more than halfway home to a great read.

Mr. Weems manages that and more. He wrangles all the elements of long-form fiction together sufficiently here to make for a fine novel.

So as the title implies, The Ghosts of Varner Creek has the restless undead as a central premise, but this is a very different kind of ghost story. It involves events that happened in a turn-of-the-century southern Texas, cotton-farming village that is still a few years off from getting electricity or them new-fangled “horseless carriages.”

Young Solomon’s father, Abram Mayfield, is a no good, violent drunk who only married Solomon’s mother, Annie, after he practically raped and impregnated her. Their subsequent life, as you can imagine, is not exactly one of marital bliss. To add heartache and pain to the whole situation, Abram and Annie’s first child is afflicted with Down Syndrome. Against this background, Solomon, a year younger than his mentally challenged sister, is doing the best he can to get along in a family that is isolated and dysfunctional, to say the least.

But how did all this ghost business get started? That’s what you have to read the book to find out — and few will be disappointed at the skillful way Weems cobbles, crafts and weaves together a story that is dark and gut-wrenching, but ultimately uplifting and hopeful.

This book has been recently available free as a Kindle selection, but as of this review, it is being offered for 99 cents – more than a fair price for a terrific read.

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The Ultimate Secret For Losing Weight Will Be Revealed In This Review


Over the decades, many forests have been clear cut and the wood pressed into pulp to make paper for the sole purpose of publishing books that tell you how to lose weight. How many weight loss books do you really have to read to get it through your head to eat less and exercise more, and eat healthy stuff? Well, apparently one more.

So here we have a short, very short Kindle book that is using electricity, probably generated by dirty coal, contributing to global warming, so that people can read yet another book that explains how to lose weight, which of course, is to not eat so much and get some regular exercise.

This book suggests basically a lot of exercises directed at the stomach, and so on.It has some eating tips, but suggests no specific belly-fat buring foods, although warns against some. For example, the author, Tony Donato, admonishes importantly: “Sugar is bad news!” And he says, “sugar turns directly into fat!” Holy moly! This will certainly come as a revelation to millions!

Here is another stunning revelation in this book: “All the energy in your body is provided by the protein, fat and carbohydrates that you eat.” Wow! You mean human beings cannot absorb energy directly by taking in cosmic rays, or use sunlight and chlorophyll to manufacture nourishment?

But, weight loss books sell and sell. Publishers know that. Weight loss gurus know that. So they keep churning them out, and people keep buying them, seeking that ever elusive Holy Grail: Losing weight. The way to do that, of course, it to eat less and exercise more. But maybe what Albert Einstein once said applies here: “The best theories are simple, but not too simple.”



The Night Sky: Denver Writer Maria Sutton Pens A Masterful True Story Of Love, War, Lives Devastated And Put Back Together


I’m tempted to say that writing a compelling, fascinating book is easy when it just so happens you have a great story to tell. That’s the case with author MARIA SUTTON, a Denver woman who was born in war-torn post World War II Germany in a Displaced Person’s camp to a Polish father and Ukrainian mother, both of whose lives had been shattered by war.

But even a terrific story still must be skillful rendering to make it a great read. I was delighted to find that all the necessary elements come together for an absorbing read in THE NIGHT SKY: A JOURNEY FROM DACHAU TO DENVER AND BACK

Maria Sutton came to America with her parents as refugees in 1951. Her parents were Paul and Julia Venckus. Maria had always assumed that Paul was her father. Then at age 13, Maria overheard a hushed conversation between her mother and a friend that tipped her off to an astounding revelation: Here real father had been a mysterious Polish military officer who had disappeared from their lives in Germany!

Young Maria was stunned!

What happened? If it was not electrifying enough to discover that your real father was another man entirely, the mystery was deepened by the oddly cyrptic behavior of her mother, who spoke in clipped but reverential tones of her lost father – when she could be coerced to mention him at all. It also became increasingly obvious that she had never stopped loving the man she was forced to abandon — for mysterious reasons — in favor of marrying another man, and fleeing her homeland forever.

And so begins an incredible 43-year quest for Maria Sutton to find her lost father, a man left behind somewhere in the shambles of a broken European continent. Without spoiling it, I will tell you that this is more than just a detective story involving one woman’s search for a lost father – what Maria eventually discovers penetrates emotionally to the bone. Since learning about the existence of her biological father, the author develops an idealized, personal mythology about what kind of man her father might have been, or maybe still is. Could he still be alive? What she eventually does find is – well, you have to read the book to find out!

Also at the heart of this story are some of the most fundamental elements of existence that we all wrestle with every day. You know, it’s the big questions: What is love? What does it mean to love another person? Why do some people deserve or receive unconditional love, whether they have earned it or not?


Who am I? What does my life mean? Why am I here? How did I get here?

Finally, I give the author high marks for her sharp eye for detail, and that she never slips into overt sentimentality. She writes with an unrelenting honesty, not allowing herself to avert her eyes from unpleasant realities — and all this while showing us the heroic side of humanity as well, of how ordinary folks can become extraordinary people when the world thrusts incredible events upon them.


Leslie Peltier’s Starlight Nights Is A Work Of Quiet Genius


Let’s just call this book what it is: A rare masterpiece. STARLIGHT NIGHTS was never destined to be a best seller, but it will enjoy permanent cult status among a small audience of sensitive people who love the stars, love nature — and perhaps a certain segment of society who will pine forever for a slice of American rural life that is permanently lost.

I hope it is not over-the-top to say that people may find reading LESLIE PELTIER’S ode to the stars a religious experience. This book will have a profound effect on those lucky few attuned to a more nuanced mode of existence — those who are able to see the incredible beauty is something as small as a wildflower or insect, or as grand as a night sky paved with glittering stars.

This is the story of a guy born in 1900 near the small town of Delphos, Ohio, and his life growing up on the farm. Early on he developed a love affair with stars and telescopes. Peltier gets zapped as a boy with the spectacular appearance of a stunning comet, known only as 1910a because it was the first comet discovered that year. It had to play second fiddle, however, because 1910 was also the year of Halley’s Comet famous return.

Peltier’s famous ‘Merry-go-Round’ observatory.

Peltier also describes being transfixed by the Pleiades which he spotted through the window of their rural farm house as a small boy — this was in the day before every farm had a yard light, and before the light pollution of surrounding cities began to blot out the beauty of the night sky. It began a life long journey of amateur astronomy, during which Peltier discovered 12 comets, made thousands of variable star observations, built observatories and published an occasional magazine article. He eventually came to be known as, “the world’s greatest amateur astronomer” — so designated by noted astronomer Harlow Shapley, head of Harvard College Observatory.

I purchased Starlight Nights some 50 years ago when I was 12 years old. I found it in a large cardboard box of random used books that were being sold off in a clothing store. While I waited for my mother to shop, I mined through the book bin and grabbed Starlight Nights — it was 50 cents. Wow! I still marvel to think about it! I didn’t know it yet, but 50 cents and a secondhand book was about to change my life forever!

Over the past five decades, I have read Starlight Nights uncounted times. Of the thousands of books I have read across the years, I can’t think of one that has affected me more profoundly than has this rare jewel in the starry pantheon of astronomical literature.

Join Ken Korczak in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Double Murder In A Small Minnesota Town: A Devastating True Story


It would be difficult to imagine the emotional pain of a proud mother whose beloved first-born son committed a horrible act — killing his wife with a shotgun, and then turning the gun on himself in a small-town double murder-suicide. These events took place near the tiny town of Kennedy in the far northwest corner of Minnesota.

The author, EUNICE RICH, opens up her heart with almost unbelievable candor, letting everyone in to share the story of her shock and mind-numbing anguish over an event so terrible, it would have to be ranked as one of the worst possible nightmares any mother might have to live through.

JUDGE ME NOT is truly a remarkable book, and has many surprising elements that take it well beyond the story of how a normal, hard-working, loving family in the American Midwest was forced to confront a reality that’s too brutal for most people to even contemplate.

The author not only outlines the gruesome details of the deaths of her son and daughter-in-law, but takes the reader on a journey of spiritual healing that is quite unlike any other I have ever read before. It’s really a special book. It gets my highest recommendation.

Join Ken Korczak in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Ken Wilber’s “Up From Eden” — A Classic “Must Read” Book


If you think about it, there must have been a time when human beings did not have the same kind of minds or “brand” of consciousness that we have today.

For example, imagine what it would be like to have no personal ego identification. Can you? Imagine being a human creature that was more akin to one of the “lower” animals, such as being a member of a herd. Rather than framing your reality in terms of “I” or “me” – you only identify yourself as a member of a group – but not even “a” member. You are the group.

This is just one theoretical past element of the human condition KEN WILBER explores in this amazing book, UP FROM EDEN: A TRANSPERSONAL VIEW OF EVOLUTION. Most people are comfortable with the idea that we have evolved biologically as a species, but what fewer people contemplate is that the physical body is not the only element of humanity that must have evolved.

Throughout the uncounted millennia – the human mind must have undergone enormous transformation as well.

At its earliest stage, Wilber calls the psychological make-up of the human mind the pleromatic-uroboric — an era when “people” were primates gathering and scavenging to survive with all the other animals. This is a state in which the individual hominid cannot distinguish the difference between his or her inner experience from outer reality. In a sense, “people” are embedded in a kind of unconsciousness. They function like animals, concerned with finding something to eat, staying warm, having sex – just getting along and surviving.

Somehow, Wilber suggests that the mind advanced out of this stage over eons of time – the mind transcends– to the next stage of development, which he calls the typhonic. This is an amazing advancement, since the individual now is able to see himself or herself as a separate from the rest of nature. The individual is able to think: “This is me, that is not me.”

But this is still a long way from people having the sharp distinction of being a “special” individual with a unique identity. It’s more like a blurred stage that might be dreamlike. The individual is moving along in an exterior world, distinct from it, yet partially absorbed in it as well. There is still no true language.

And so the march of human evolution continues: The next stage is the “mythic membership,” which is eventually transcended to achieve the ego stage. Finally, a man or woman can stand up and say: “I am me!

Note that Wilber suggests there might have been variations within each stage, such as a ‘lower ego’ stage in which a sense of individuality has emerged, but is still heavily tied to the group. Other scholars, such as Julian Jaynes, have offered similar scenarios. Jaynes, for example, suggested that even the ancient Greeks still had not achieved the full state of ego consciousness we have today. He famously pointed out that even the characters of the Iliad seem to act more like “pawns being pushed around a chestboard” than men acting with individual initiative. The proposition is that these Greeks were at a lower stage of ego development, acting more like members of a hive or herd than people with a sense of sharp self-identity — but almost there.

Wilber makes the case that humanity has been on a hundreds-of-thousands-of-years journey of evolving “upward” from a lowly unconsciousness state to higher forms of self-knowledge and awareness– and naturally we can’t conclude that we are at the journey’s end.

Just as we transcended – and absorbed and incorporated all the lower stages – we are now struggling to get beyond our ego-based consciousness toward further transcendence.

Up From Eden will be one of the most remarkable and challenging books you have ever read, if you dare to tackle it and are open enough to accept what it implies about the nature of humanity – which is both painful and hopeful in the extreme.

Come along with Ken Korczak to THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

The Bedbug Who Wouldn’t Bite Will Delight Children


Some of the best books are those that take commonly held beliefs, or an idea that’s generally agreed upon, and turn it all upside down. By doing this in a positive way you can often create a delightful situation that tweaks the imagination and tickles our inner impish, creative side.

That’s what accomplished Canadian writer MELODY RHODES has done in producing the charming, and just oh-so-super-sweet “THE BEDBUG WHO WOULDN’T BITE” series of children’s books. The main character, yes, is a bedbug. But before you conjure up an image of those creepy crawly little critters that have made a huge comeback in recent years – think instead of a fuzzy-wuzzy cute little guy who chooses to swim against the stream – he may be a bedbug, but he simply will not bite! He only has one goal: “Not to bite, but to sleep tight!” But wait! Maybe he has an additional goal – to be friends with your kids! (Everyone in unison now: “Awwwwwww.”)

Certainly this is bedtime book that will delight tots and even older children. Not only is it fun, sweet and cute, but also offers a chance to build child character and creativity And after all, the bedbug who won’t bite is making a choice to be nicer and friendlier – and that’s sets a great example.

Better yet, “THE BEDBUG WHO WOULDN’T BITE” literally jumps right off the page to play with your tykes because it comes with a cute, furry little bedbug toy that will be glad to snuggle into bed with your child. Lest I forget, bedbug has a friend – “Mouse” – another delightful character that adds dimension and form to the bedbug universe.

When you think about it, if a ghost can be friendly, as in Casper the Friendly Ghost, and a mouse can be a super hero, as in Mighty Mouse – why can’t a bedbug be averse to biting? Well, it can, and so the time for The Bedbug Who Wouldn’t Bite has arrived. (See also: BEDBUGS ON AMAZON

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

Bottom Line: This Book Will Help You Sell A Lot More On eBay


As someone who was deeply involved in direct marketing long before the Internet came along (as a copy writer), I’ve observed with amazement at how swiftly the Web swept away everything that was known – or seemed to be known — about how to sell using what used to be called “direct mail marketing.”

Thousands of people once dreamed and lusted over the idea of starting a “mail order empire!” What you needed was a hot product and a really killer sales letter to “sell, sell sell!” In fact, you didn’t necessary even need a hot product! If you had sizzling sales copy that could grab attention, create interest, instill desire, persuade — and persuade with a vengeance – you could even sell those proverbial refrigerators to those proverbial Eskimos.

We used to call this the AIDA formula: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

If you could create those four things in your sales copy, you had it made. You could sell anything, baby!

But when Internet sites such as eBay came along (and other platforms) millions of people thought we were in an all-new world. You could throw all that “old stuff” out the window. It no longer applied! As for eBay, for example, most people assume that all you have to do is throw you item out there, sit back and let the magic of the eBay system do the rest. The eBay search engine attracts and audience of buyers, it tells about and displays your product, and so on. The joy! You no longer need to hire an expensive copy writer! You no longer had to work on icky stuff like target marketing or buying lists of “hot prospects.” You no longer had to sweat to dream up “attention grabbing headlines.” With eBay, the product practically sells itself!

Well, GREG PERRY is here with your wake up call. He has some exciting news for you. Guess what: All of that “old stuff” should not only be made new again, but the fact is, the “old way” of selling never really went away! Selling in the Internet environment does not mean you don’t have to do just that – work at selling!

In this book, eXtreme eBay,Greg Perry walks you through some of the most tried and true selling methods of all time. He explains to you why they are still relevant, and if you employ them on sites like eBay, you can supercharge your ability to not only sell, sell a lot more — but also at higher prices and profits for each item you want to move.

Perry expertly covers the fundamentals of direct marketing selling technique: Writing sizzling sales copy, writing killer, attention-grabbing headlines, using keywords effectively to attract more buyers – and he also covers some of the other best-of-all-time money-making strategies – such as the “up-sell” (do you want fries with that?), the “cross-sell” and the extremely important: “repeat sales.”

Those of us who have been around direct marketing for a long time, and who have paid our dues in the trenches of the pre-Internet realm, know that selling is selling – and that the fundamentals of the art of moving products did not disappear with the invention of the Internet.

I will say this, however: As a person who took years to learn to write persuasive, convincing, motivating sales copy, I can tell you that this is not a skill that just anyone can pick up easily. It is one thing, as Perry recommends, to write killer sales descriptions – it is another thing to do it well. To write truly marvelous eBay sales copy descriptions, you need to be a skilled writer. You have to know how to choose words, write tightly, lead the reader along, entice the reader, create desire in the reader – and that is a skill few people have, or will ever have – because it is high level of expertise — believe me.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try – or maybe even hire a professional copy writer to write your eBay descriptions for you if you are truly serious about selling, and selling a lot. The bottom line is, Greg Perry’s book, eXtreme eBay, reveals to you what you need to do to jazz up your eBay sales — anyone who reads this book will sell more on eBay and make more money on eBay — period.

Ken Korczak is the author of: SECRETS OF A GRANT WRITER


The Last Stage: Can A Man Find Meaning By Channeling The Soul Of Jim Morrison?


One of the unforeseen nightmares of economic prosperity is a dreadful existentialism or ennui that can develop in society, especially among young people.

When you live in a poor country, you have little time for fancy higher thoughts. Your daily struggle is to find something to eat, stay warm, maybe keep the mosquitoes and rats away at night, and hope some foreign invader does not muscle through to kill or rape you. Your focus and purpose is crystal clear: Eat and stay alive, and hope for something better.

But if you grow up in a well-to-do family from, say, a Chicago suburb, and your parents pay your way through college, and effortlessly provide for your meals and housing – then the minimum you have to do is hang out, listen to rock music, smoke dope while pulling a C+ average, watch TV and score some sex when you can.

Sooner or later, however, this lifestyle of relative ease can creep up on you and bite you in the ass – and hard!

Suddenly, you’re 28, 29, maybe 30 years old and you ask yourself: “What does it all mean? Who am I? What am I doing here? What’s my purpose? Certainly, there must be something more to life? Something deeper?”

Those are the kind of questions that began to torment Michael Gray, the not-so-easy-to-like antihero of Jim Cherry’s marvelous novel, THE LAST STAGE. Like many barely-thirty-somethings raised comfortably upper-middle class, Gray finds himself agonizingly adrift. Naturally, his mind seizes upon his only passion – his love for the 60s rock band, The Doors, and its dark, mercurial icon, The Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison.

From the platform of his desperate existential drift, Gray hatches a plan to form a Doors cover band. By a thrust of fate, it just so happens that Gray bears a considerable resemblance to his idol. Also, like Morrison, Gray has no singing talent – but he takes that as a positive sign – because it is well-known that, in the beginning, Morrison had no singing talent either. If Morrison could reimagine himself from unpublished poet and film student to rock ‘n’ roll front man, then why not Michael Gray?

Gray uses his Morrisonesque anti-charisma to hijack a promising young start-up band. He convinces them to sidetrack their own career to create “The Unknown Soldiers,” a Doors cover band. It will feature a certain non-singer Michael Gray as the front man, a leather-clad faux Mr. Mojo Risin. Among his hopes is to “create reality through fiction.”

The nation-wide tour of seedy bars and crummy, crusty clubs results in something like a Jack Kerouac kind of journey of what should be a quest for meaning — but what Gray ultimately discovers is – well, something different. Life is complicated that way.

And that’s just one of the elements I like about this Indie novel by Chicago-based writer Jim Cherry. The Last Stage is evidence that deeply talented writers exist out there, they’re fertile with unique premises for great books – and they’re writing and publishing them!

While mainstream publishers are obsessed with the easy cash of utter trash — teen vampire crapola, thriller lawyer novels or international spy romances – genuine authors, on the streets and in the trenches – are observing, watching, feeling, thinking – discovering the extraordinary in “ordinary” people struggling with down-to-earth problems – such as finding meaning in a country where the American Dream long-ago stopped making sense.

Cherry’s main character thinks he wants fame and adulation, but he seems also to understand that what his quest gets down to is a search for Reality itself – Reality with a capital R. He’s just crazy enough and desperate enough to believe that touring with a Doors cover band might actually make the discovery of “true meaning” happen.

Ken Korczak is the facilitator of: THE DR. 58 MATERIAL

The Hunt Is On For The Bones Of A Biblical Prophet: Hoesel Delivers An Entertaining Read


This is one of those books difficult for me to recommend too strongly because it’s not “great literature” equal to the ranks of, say, Hemingway, Joyce Carol Oates or Vonnegut. But it is a very good “B Novel,” if you know what I mean. Sometimes you’re in the mood for a good yarn with an interesting premise. And so in this case the author, DON HOESEL, delivers an enjoyable read.

ELISHA’S BONES might also be considered to be Christian literature, although I’m not sure. If it is Christ-lit, it’s very light-handed. It does not beat you over the head with “The Message” — so that makes it tolerable to those of us who don’t like to be preached at.

The plot involves an archaeologist whose exciting career of getting his hands dirty in the field and making new discoveries is well behind him. Now he’s just running out the time clock on his life working as a professor at some small college. But then a mysterious billionaire taps him to undertake an amazing mission — to find the ancient bones of the Biblical prophet Elisha. Apparently, someone squirreled them away somewhere centuries ago, and for a very good reason: Touching the bones of Elisha can bring the dead back to life!

And so our hero is thrust into a world of international intrigue, conspiracies, ancient wonders, and all the while he is pursued by the thugs and henchmen of other powerful interests who also want to get their hands on the magic skeleton.

There are some moments, well, more than a few, that really made me cry out “Oh come on!” because certain elements bordered on the ridiculous, even for science fiction where one is required to willingly suspend disbelief.

I will also say, however, that I thought this book was better than “The da Vince Code” by Dan Brown, (but I thought that was an awful book) — and Elisha’s Bones bears a very strong comparison (almost too strong) to a another book, “The Skeleton in God’s Closet,” by Paul Maier.

But, anyway, it’s an okay read, and I would buy another of Mr. Hoesel’s books.


Inner Paths To Outer Space: A Scientist’s Study of DMT on Human Subjects


Readers who are already familiar with the work of RICK STRASSMAN, MD, might be disappointed in this book because they will probably find a lot of material they had already read before concerning his studies involving the powerfully hallucinogenic synthetic compound, DMT.

However, anyone confronting this kind of information for the first time should find this book nothing less than astounding. Strassman is one of the few clinical researchers ever to receive permission to study DMT on human subjects, which he did in the early to mid-1990s. What’s interesting are the experiences reported by his subjects — whom were “ordinary people” and volunteers. Under the influence of DMT, they seemed to enter other worlds or alternate dimensions of reality, where they confronted bizarre “alien beings” including elf-like creatures, repitilian humanoids, UFO-type aliens and more. And that’s just for starters.

For those who are already familiar with Strassman’s findings, it’s important to point out that this book also includes considerable contributions from other researchers in this or similar fields, including Slawek Wojtowicz, M.D., Ede Frecksa, M.D. and Luis Eduardo Luna, Ph.D.

I was familiar with the work of Strassman, and I did find some of his material here “nothing new” for the most part; however, the essays of the other writers, especially Frecksa, was for me a new look at the nature of consciousness, and especially the possible quantum structure of the brain on the nano-scale. Extremely interesting.

For people who have never before heard about or read about the deeper implications of hallucinogenic compounds, synthetic or natural, on the nature of reality and consciousness, this book will be nothing less than an amazing revelation.

Most of the material has a high scientific and academic standard, though it sometimes does get a little “New Agey” here and there — but that’s okay. All in all, a fascinating collection of the writings of distinguished researchers which I am happy to recommend.

Ken Korczak is the facilitator of: THE DR. 58 MATERIAL

This Brain Surgeon Can Write A Mean Science Fiction Novel


Wow, BRIAN O’GRADY was soaring along, flying high on eagle wings of science fiction excellence, cruising to an easy stellar recommendation from me with this gripping book HYBRID – unfortunately, the eagle makes a couple of unscheduled landings to act like a turkey, tarnishing the luster from what might have been a contender for the Hugo or Nebula Award.

The most important impression I want to leave with the reader is that this is a terrific book; get it, read it and enjoy it – because I certainly did. O’Grady is simply an excellent writer. His strength in creating believable, complex characters and placing them in extraordinary circumstances is considerable. Science fiction legend Ben Bova said that all great SF begins and ends with character. If you create vivid characters and then give them incredibly tough problems to solve – and nearly kill them in the process of an unfolding plot – what you have is a thrilling book, making it a joy to turn each page.

O’Grady does all that. So what’s the problem? Well, for me, and inexplicably, O’Grady takes a couple of pointless detours – one is throwing in a bit about a conventional military action against Iran – which does absolutely nothing to advance his primary plot of biological terrorism.

But even that is not so bad as when it becomes obvious that O’Grady can’t resist grinding a certain political ax here and there. He seems to create scenes specifically just to show that “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the euphemism for torture, in this case, chemical torture) is more effective in getting tough nuts to crack than non-torture techniques. He takes a considerable dig at Vietnam-era war protestors — (you know, those deluded people who thought Vietnam was a horrific mistake) – but at one point, O’Grady can’t help but take a petty, below-the-belt shot at a liberal icon, the filmmaker Michael Moore. Why spoil a great work of SF just to throw a sucker punch?

It’s all forgivable, however! O’Grady has a bright future. I understand his day job is that of neurosurgeon, but if that doesn’t pan out for him, I think he can make it as a writer. I hope he develops a huge audience, and I eagerly await anything else this talented guy has to offer.


If You Need A Book To Remind You To Be Happy, Is It Already Too Late?


Do you really need an ancient Roman philosopher who has been dead for centuries tell you how to be happy? Well how about Oprah Winfrey then? Because she has this 100% earth-shattering advice for you: “Be happy with what you have; you’ll end up having more.” Wow! Is that really the case? That’s deep, yet so simple! Why didn’t I think of that!

Before some lunatic put a bullet in Abraham Lincoln’s head, the President is purported to have said: “People are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”


If it had been Joe Schlobotnik, the guy who owns the tire shop on a corner in my small town, who said, “People are as happy as they make up their minds to be” — it might sound like a vapid platitude. But since President Lincoln said it … well …

Perhaps Lincoln was channeling the long dead Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius who said: “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” Hmmmm again. Well, maybe I’m starting to see a pattern here – I don’t know.

Whatever the case, you can read quotes by all kinds of historic greats about how to jazz up your mind with super happy thoughts in SHADONNA RICHARDS’ new book, “Think & Be Happy” an obvious play on the title of the mega-best selling book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. There are 365 “happy thoughts” – one for each day of the year so you can charge your mind with a ray of light every day.

If you want to buy this book as a traditional book, it’s only $19.95! But as of this writing, I see it’s available as a Kindle selection for $2.99. (I downloaded my Kindle version while it was being offered for free!)

That $19.95 price is eye-popping for a guy like me, a person who ekes out a living as a writer. Why eye-popping? Because I could go to Google right now, search on “famous quotes about happiness” and instantly get a few thousand, or so, and start whipping them into shape for a full-length book. I bet I could get the whole book done in just day or two – wait a minute, I don’t “bet I could” – I know I could. Believe me, I’ve been in the writing biz for 25 years.

So a book like this by Ms. Richards, selling for $19.95, makes me want to hum once again: “Hmmmm.”

But I digress. The thing is, does it work? Does feeding your mind a happy thought from a book by a nice person like Ms. Richards – who after all is a nurse, which is a very sweet thing to be — really make you happy?

I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe it works for some people. Of course, you can find all your own happy thoughts for free on the Internet any time – and anyone who frequents Facebook is bombarded with similar messages all the time from well-meaning Facebook friends(at least I am). But if you want to pay $19.95 or $2.99 for this book well: “It’s all a matter of the way you think about it.” (And you can quote me).

Ken Korczak is the facilitator of: THE DR. 58 MATERIAL

Writing A Best Seller Is Easy When You Shop At The Cliché Store


You know, this is a fast-paced science fiction yarn that will keep you turning the pages, and you may even enjoy yourself. However, anyone writing an honest review should point out a number of aspects of this book that must be recognized for what they are: a lot of standard cliché characters, cliché subplots, cliché backgrounds, etc.

First let’s talk about the amazingly pervasive phenomenon of “dead wife syndrome” in literature and art today. I recently reviewed on this site “A WORLD I NEVER MADE” by James LePore. Main character: Has a dead wife. I also reviewed here THE GIFT OF ILLUSION by Richard Brown. Main character: Tough cop with a dead wife. Consider all the other dead wife heroes in recent movies and books: Mel Gibson’s character in Lethal Weapon? A tough Vietnam Vet haunted by the memory of his dead wife. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Inception? A tough investigator haunted by the memory of his dead wife. Bobby Simone in NYPD Blue? A Tough cop haunted by memory of his dead wife. How about good old 007, James Bond? Yep, he’s got a wife in the freezer, too!

The hero of Season of the Harvest? Why, by golly, he’s a tough FBI agent, a former Afghan war vet who has — yes — a dead wife! Wow! He’s also devilishly handsome, square-jawed and a silent loner. I mean, why create a new, unique interesting character when you can just go grab one off the shelf from the Cliché Store?

How about the female lead character in this book? Well, she can be found in Aisle 9 of the Cliché Store next to the baked beans. She’s a brilliant, genius scientist, who happens to be unbelievable gorgeous, totally pure of heart — and just so plain hot, hot, hot!

Don’t believe me? Try: Tara Reid as Aline Cedrac in Alone in the Dark (2005), Robin Riker as Marisa Kendall in Alligator (1980) and Saffron Burrows as Dr. Susan McCallister in Deep Blue Sea (1999). (I could go on at length).

What do they all have in common? That’s right. They’re all the same woman, except some are sexy blondes and some are sexy brunettes! They’re all brilliant single scientists with a hankerin’ for a tough cop with a dead wife!

You can bet your bippy that our super sexy science kitten will have an INSTANT ATTRACTION to the hard-as-nails, grieving ex-Special Ops military tough guy who could never love again … TILL NOW!

As for some of the backdrop, there’s a mega-high-tech underground fortified lab complete with concrete doors and scads of big screen computer equipment — and there’s even a few other major clichés thrown in for good measure.


How about this one: An important character is tragically shot in the chest by a nefarious traitor among the band of plucky heroes fighting to save humanity — only to turn up ALIVE! later because she was conveniently wearing a BULLET PROOF VEST! HA! HA! Didn’t see that coming!

I think in the last 3 or 4 Dean Koontz books I have read, Koontz dragged out the old bullet proof vest thingy 3 or 4 times. Perhaps Hicks and Koontz both have frequent buyer’s cards at the same Cliché Store.


But, whatever. I know that many people will enjoy this potboiler — and yes, even I will say I found this book a pleasant enough read. Go ahead and plunk down your mad money for a book. I did. I enjoyed it well enough.

Ken Korczak is the facilitator of: THE DR. 58 MATERIAL

Free Science Fiction Kindle Book: No Turning Back


After I read the prologue to this science fiction novel by SHARON T. ROSE, I was sufficiently impressed by the writing skill of the author to want to continue reading, and the first chapter did not disappoint either. I was treated to skillfully handled action scenes, enough strangeness to make me want to know more, and interesting characters – in short, this promised to be an above-average science fiction yarn. And for the most part it is, but perhaps only for a younger audience.

The story involves a titanic interplanetary war that has been raging for centuries. The good guys and the bad guys have basically reached a stalemate. Since neither side can defeat the other, what we are left with is a low-grade state of war that flares up occasionally, or settles back into cold-war tension. The central heroes are the “Descendants” who are seemingly ordinary people, but who have the ability to transform themselves into giant “suited” warriors with extraordinary powers and weaponry. They are fighting an ancient evil enemy called the Sukkers.

To be honest, the “Descendants” remind me a lot of the “Power Rangers” of kid television fame. The similarities are many. Both are young people who say or think of some kind of “magic word” which causes them to transform into powerful, suited fighting warriors. One might also compare the Descendants to a half a dozen other super hero groups, such as the X-Men who, again, are seemingly ordinary people but who have extraordinary powers, and who wear “suits” when they fight bad guys. So on this score, the author does not get high points for originality.

My view is that “No Turning Back” will appeal to a younger audience than a guy like me. I’m a jaded 52-year-old crank who has been reading science fiction for more than 40 years. I’ve read it all, the good, the bad and the ugly – and so I’m hard to impress. For me, this novel for me was “right in there” – not a ground-breaking work destined to be a classic, but an entertaining enough read for a teenage or young adult audience.

I also expect great things in the future from this writer, who has marvelous skill with words.

This book is a free Kindle downland:CLICK HERE

Ken Korczak is the author of MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Historical Fiction From A Modern-Day Christian Perspective

Review By Ken Korczak

LYNN AUSTIN is a skilled and polished writer with a well-developed knack for grabbing a reader in the first two pages and pulling them in by presenting a dire situation for characters we have only just met, yet somehow, we already care about. In this case, the book opens with gentle children being threatened by a band of tough soldiers who storm into their bedrooms and take them captive.

The horrible plans for those children quickly become apparent – they are to be burned alive as an offering to a pagan god. And the author does not flinch from the brutality, or let her readers look away. She dutifully has the young boys tossed into the brass maw of a bestial idol, where they scream horribly as they are engulfed by flames.

If this sounds like raw, edgy, cutting edge fiction, well, maybe it is, but this is Christian literature. I almost never read this genre because I am not a Christian, but I am willing to read anything with an open mind as long as a compelling story is being told. And this book delivers that – for the most part.

For me, again, not a Christian, I found many of the scenes rather preachy and repetitive of the basic Christian themes that the “True God” is one of “endless love and compassion” and that those who turn away from Him to worship false gods will face calamity in their lives, and so on. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this – it’s what Christian readers enjoy reading and what they want to read. They like reading a compelling story, while also having their belief system reinforced for themselves.

However, as an objective reviewer, I have to make other readers aware of what they are getting when they purchase this book. Yes, it’s a historical novel, a take on the ancient Kings of Judah in and around the years 700 B.C. to 800 B.C. – but one needs to know that this is historical fiction, but more accurately, fiction as seen through the lens of and colored by a modern day interpretation of a rather fundamentalist Christian belief system.

So if you are a believing, practicing Christian, this is almost certainly a top-flight read. For the rest of us, well ….

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

A Mind Bending Historical Thriller In The Colonial Americas

Review By Ken Korczak

This work of historical fiction by Elliot Pattison is one of considerable complexity. It builds a plot by first introducing the reader to a dizzying array of names and characters, situations, subplots and situations. But it expertly couches it all in a highly realistic, gritty late 1700s world where the average person experiences immense hardships and cruelty on a daily basis – something those of us today would find hard to imagine.

The protagonist is a hard-luck Scot made a criminal and prisoner on flimsy evidence by the evil, greedy British of the colonial era – he is imprisoned aboard a convict ship heading for the New World where he faces a life of indentured slavery in a plantation, except by luck of his background – training as a physician – and a mysterious murder aboard the ship – thrusts him into the role of a Sherlock Holmes kind of guy.

Our hero Duncan McCallum faces hardships aplenty. He is confronted with mind-bending mysteries to solve as the plot plays out against a background of life aboard a miserable ship, and then in the wild, harsh and dangerous American colonies.

The complexity of the plot makes it obvious that Mr. Pattison is an extremely skilled writer capable of creating vivid characters we care about. He makes the reader feel what it might actually have been like to live and struggle in this dangerous, but exciting era, when the desperate and adventurous alike strove to carve out a new life in a New World.

For me, the flow of the story is too often slowed down by some rather tedious and mind-numbing dialog, and a sort of overly rigorous attention to minute detail which I found frustrating – and at times – the characters act in ways that seem purely illogical — yet I would eagerly recommend this high quality piece of literature to anyone, especially those with an interest in the British colonial era of the Americas.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

Cliché Characters and Absurd Plot Elements Sink This One


So let me tell you why this book immediately earned a demerit from me – the main character is a tough cop with a dead wife. Why is that so bad? Because I recently read Season of the Harvest by Michael R. Hicks whose protagonist is a tough cop with a dead wife. I also just finished A World I Never Made by James Lepore whose male viewpoint character is a sad doofus with a dead wife. I also recently viewed the movie Inception featuring a Leonardo DiCaprio who is a tough agent with a (sort of) dead wife. How about Mel Gibson in both Lethal Weapon and Braveheart? Dead wife. Dead wife. The private eye Charlie Parker in John Connolly’s gothic thrillers? Poor Charlie is haunted by the memory of his dead wife. Russell Crowe in Gladiator? Dead wife. Even the great fictional secret agent James Bond, 007 himself — that’s right, he has a dead wife. Remember that great TV show NYPD Blue? Bobby Simone was a tough cop with a dead wife.

It’s just that – you know – I can’t stand this cliché any more. Hey, if you want to be a writer, then be a writer, dag gum it, and do a bit of work and thinking to create complex, fictional characters that have deeper motivations based on some kind of imagined life experience – rather than taking a cliché off the shelf, or borrowing a character from another book, and using him like some kind of “plug and play” module to generate shallow sympathy points.

But there are other literary sins here – one is a number of stretches were absolutely nothing happens to move along the plot. The most irritating bit is at least a full page of Kindle text featuring a scene where a waitress takes the character’s dinner order in a restaurant! In an earlier scene, the protagonist spends a chapter shooting pool in a bar with a buddy – he moans a bit about his dead wife – but the plot moves not one centimeter forward in this wasted stream of filler words.

I also spank the writer for a certain amount of absurdity. I realize this is a book featuring bizarre paranormal activity and that it is supposed to be fantastical and unreal, so to speak, but even events that are strange in horror books should create a sense of plausibility. For example, the bad guy of the book was once a traveling illusionist in 19th Century America and his “show” featured hypnotized members of the audience being forced to perform bloody orgies on stage, often ending in the brutal mutiliation and deaths of those audience members!

You know, even in the Wild West of 1800s America, there was rule of law, not to mention a more puritanical society, which would not have tolerated even the slightest public pornographic demonstration, much less bloody, sexual orgies with people killing each other in some kind of traveling fun show! Where was the town sheriff!? Who cleaned up the bodies after the “show”?

Come on! That’s absurd! It’s not plausible, even for a book of paranormal fiction!

Despite all the crimes against fiction, I give this author at least an “A for Effort” for doing some things right – including creating supporting characters that are vivid and believable – such as a sad little girl being bullied at school, and a three-time divorced grease monkey promoted to car salesman who has recently found wife No.4!. Now that’s what I’m talking about! This author has great ability to create unique characters when he wants to!

I realize this book was meant to be a fast, enjoyable summer read on the beach, and not great literature, ala Joyce Carol Oates or Gore Vidal, but even for light fiction the trangressions are too many to earn a positive review from me. I will say, however, with honesty, that I think Richard Brown shows great promise, he knows how to write, and I think we can all expect better books from him in the future.

Ken Korczak is a former professional grant writer. Find his advise on how to get free government money here: GRANT WRITING SECRETS