Category Archives: review

“Antiques Don’t Bounce” by Richard Bullivant is a breezy, delightful read


This is a delightful book because it manages to achieve what few books do: It makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. ANTIQUES DON’T BOUNCE by British author RICHARD BULLIVANT is proof that craft of writing will never go stale as long as there are authors who can look around their ordinary worlds with a sharp eye and tell us about what they see and experience in a way that seems magical.

The story follows the journey of a young college student seeking a business degree performing a mandatory year of work service in the real world of doing an ordinary job. Out of sheer lack of direction he drifts into a bottom-basement, entry-level position with a firm whose primary function is transporting antiques. It’s basically a glorified moving company, or what the Brits call “a removal service” although what they move in this case is often unique and highly valuable. The year is 1977.

This is not a plot driven book, and the view-point character is merely a voice in the background. But think of it more like Homer’s Odyssey. In that epic tale Ulysses find himself blown off course, cast away and thrust into a vast world of strange unknowns. He encounters bizarre characters and experiences strange new lands.<> In this case, the sprawling London firm, Lloyd & Taylor Ltd., is the ocean, and our student, like Ulysses, is tossed about from department to department to work as a common gopher or more accurately: a jack-of-do-whatever-we-tell-you-to-do. Like Ulysses, he grapples with confounding situational problems and meets eccentric (or comically dull) characters in each department.

Richard Bullivant

Bullivant’s ability to bring alive common folks as vibrant, fascinating characters is a primary strength of this book. You’ll meet drab clerks, salty truckers, smooth salesmen, cagey warehouse workers, a boozed up messenger grunt, prissy art dealers, small-town blokes – each an absolute enchantment.

The author is also able to convey to the reader a marvelous feeling – such as the joy of a breezy drive through the countryside on a lovely spring day – in a way that makes you feel you’re actually riding along on a lark through Merry Old England. It’s great escapism,

As the year comes to an end, I have read and written reviews for more than 100 books, and Antiques Don’t Bounce easily makes my Top 10. If this book doesn’t find best-seller status, I hope it achieves a significant niche audience or cult following. It’s the kind of book that you “discover” and makes you feel like you found a gem.

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

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The Green Age does not break a lot of new ground, but it’s message is more urgent than ever — our planet is in deep trouble and we need to move beyond the Industrial Age


I’m not giving this book my tip-top recommendation, but this should not indicate to anyone that I do not recommend this book without reservation. I hope everyone buys this book, reads it, and thinks a lot about its central message – that we simply must, as a species, move beyond our current petro-chemical consumerism dominated Industrial Age to a sustainable clean-energy, local organic food and local community-based “Green Age.”

If we don’t, the human race may not be headed toward extinction, but our children will increasingly find themselves struggling through dreary lives within a dirty, gritty, crowded, violent, dystopian nightmare kind of world.

So why not a full-blown rave for THE GREEN AGE? At this point you can continue to read my discussion or just drop out here and buy this book. Anyway, here I go:


I’m person who has already largely transformed my life toward living the Green ideal. I grow just about all of my own food. I am blessed to live in a remote rural area, and so I have plenty of room to maintain three modest gardens, on which I produce hundreds of pounds of vegetables. I also keep chickens which lay more eggs than my wife and I can use, and, yes, I butcher chickens in the fall for meat. My chickens have a free-range, Nirvana kind of existence, and a percentage of them meet a blink-of-an-eye end after a blissful summer of chicken fun and freedom.

I do everything without any gas-powered machines (not even a walk-behind tiller) or artificial fertilizers. My chickens supply the manure for the gardens, and the gardens in turn supply them with yummy corn and other stuff to eat the rest of the year. It never ceases to amaze me how a semi-crippled guy like me (I came down with harsh case of arthritis 25 years ago) armed only with a spade and a hoe, can grow so much fresh, organic food, and only working at it a few hours a day from spring to fall. (Our growing season here in northern Minnesota is barely 100 days).

I am also close to moving completely off the grid. I’m about 80% there. I heat my home with dead wood from the trees around my home; I never have to cut a live tree. My wood is sustainable because I can never come close to using more wood than nature can provide locally. But I still want an even cleaner source of heat because wood, while sustainable, is still carbon-intensive. Therefore, I want to advance to solar and/or wind, and I’m getting there – both for heat and basic electricity.

My wife and I grow so much food and my chickens produce so many eggs that we can easily give some away, to friends or a local food shelf. I never use chemicals to deal with insects or other pests. If I have a problem, I mix a concoction of water, garlic, peppers and a tiny bit of dish soap and that takes care of most bugs we have here.

None of the above is by any means my full-time job; I slave away as a freelance writer/journalist 10 hours a day, six to seven days a week. I haven’t had a vacation in years, but then, my life is my vacation.

I do have a car; it’s an 18-year old clunker that gets about 25 mpg, but I only drive it a short distance maybe once a week. I work at home so I don’t need to commute. We don’t make a lot of money, but we live well. My wife and I have a small one-bedroom house that’s nice, clean and paid for. We have some modern stuff, such as TV (antenna) and Internet (wireless), but not much else. We don’t have “big toys” like snowmobiles, motorcycles, ATVS, boats or that kind of stuff.


I tell you all this because I want you to know that I am a person who has come a long way toward living the Green Age lifestyle this book is advocating. I want to assure you it’s an okay life, but that it comes at a certain price, and I am doubtful that the majority of people today are, as yet, willing to pay the price.

But even if people are were willing to pay the price, there are many difficult roadblocks – practical, psychological, sociological – for them to overcome – although I am proof that it is possible, and many others have done it, and many better than me.

I tell you all this so that you understand that the criticisms I am about to offer are couched in the background of person for whom a Green lifestyle is not an intellectual abstraction, but a day-to-day reality.

The first reason I withhold a top rating is this: There is little radically new information in this book. It’s more or less the same points and philosophies I have encountered in dozens of other books, which I began reading in the late 1970s when I was in high school. Back then I read Thoreau, of course, but also such books as “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carlson and “The Greening of America,” by Charles Reich and “The Whole Earth Catalogs” of Stewart Brand. Moving on into the 80s I read stuff like “Limits to Growth” by the Club of Rome, and I tended to buy every issue of Mother Earth News. I am also a fan of practically-yet-poetic essayists, such as Wendell Berry, and so on.

Many other books are tangential to the Green Age concept, such as “The Tao of Physics,” by Fritjof Capra and “The Re-enchantment of the World” by Morris Berman, “Critical Path,” by Buckminster Fuller and “The Day the Universe Changed,” by James Burke. These and other books re-examine our fundamental paradigms of time, inter-connectivity, and which call into question the efficacy of reductionism in science and society.

So the Green Age echoes what has been said in a lot of other books — but I should give the authors a pass on this because perhaps not everyone is as widely read, and so the perspective offered here may be new and enlightening to many.

For me, the biggest drawback is the latter ¼ of the book, or so, when the authors give advice and examples from their own lives which seek to demonstrate the principles they outline.


For example, one of the authors describes his careful driving practices using his Prius hybrid. First, anyone who wants to strike a true blow for the Green Age would not buy a Prius. He or she would not buy a car at all in favor of walking, biking and using public transportation. The next best choice is to buy a used older model car – (a recycled car!) – that gets decent gas mileage – especially like my two previous cars – the GEO Metro (no longer on the market), which has a 3-cylinder Suzuki engine with mileage that rivals the Prius without requiring the considerable amounts of rare metals and nickel-metal hydride batteries required by the Prius.

Yes, the Prius is a better choice than a new-model conventional car, but the gain is extremely slim when judged on a global scale. If given that both vehicles travel 160,000 lifetime miles, a conventional vehicle requires 6,500 Btu of energy per mile compared to 4,200 Btu per mile for a hybrid, and that’s taking into account all parameters, including materials, building the cars, shipping them, etc.

So 4,200 Btus is better than 6,500 but that like a guy who weighs 400 pounds saying he is on a weight-loss plan because he is skipping breakfast once a week.

But wait! The latest Prius models will come equipped with an updated battery system which will enable owners to charge them up by plugging them into the grid, rather than relying on batteries only charged by the gas engine of the Prius. This modification will eliminate any advantage the Prius has over conventional vehicles because 45% of the nation’s energy is generated by coal. In this case, a grid-charged Prius will have a net carbon footprint that is greater than a regular car.

To be fair, I think the author’s larger point may have been in demonstrating the proper “green attitude” in the way he drives his Prius because he was eschewing an emphasis on time, speed and aggressive driving habits, and this serves as a metaphor for an attitude that should be applied universally to all aspects of our lives and activities.


The example of a Prius and careful driving habits is somewhat representative of the other lifestyle examples the authors offer after they lay out their theme. They encourage us to change our general view about the way we model our world and work, and what life should be about. To that end they suggest developing goal-setting behaviors, and they also suggest that we enhance our creativity with activities like meditation and enlisting the power of dreams.

I also have meditated most of my adult life. I began my first session of Zen meditation on May 11, 1981, and have not missed a single day of Zen in more than 31 years. I also am an adept and practitioner of lucid dreaming and leveraging dreams to enrich my life and creativity. I’m all for it.

The point is, dreaming and meditation is fine and dandy – and will make the world a better place if more people practice them – BUT — there is a certain point when the rubber has to hit the road – and you have to do something. To the author’s credit, they exhort the maxim of Gandhi – you must “be the change.”

Being the change means doing something solid and real. It means planting a garden, and then actually and truly displacing your “grocery store” foods with the food you grow – and I mean really displace! – it’s not as easy as you might think over the long term, and to do it month after month, year after year.

You have to forego driving a car, or actually stop driving the car you have, say, 75% to 90% of the time. Not easy to do, especially if you live in the middle of nowhere like I do. We don’t have any trains or buses here, so if you don’t drive, you don’t go anywhere. You have to be okay with that. But going Green means choosing to shift your life away from the automobile – extremely difficult to do because of the deep and fundamentally entrenched power structures of our society.

And so forth.

But my point is that after an eloquent theoretical statement of what it means to be Green, and outlining what kind of mind-sets, cultural and sociological changes that are needed to bring about a Green Age — the authors then offer examples of practicality that come off as “Green Lite” (granted, this may be unfair and others might disagree)–

— it’s just that, to practice better driving methods in a $22,000 mass-produced hybrid car built in enormous factories using enormous natural resources simply isn’t going far enough — not nearly — it’s not urgent enough – it’s just a teeny tiny nod toward having at least the right attitude -but that’s not what this is going to take. (As journalist Fareed Zakaria points out, we can drive all the Priuses we want and use all the spiral compact fluorescent bulbs we can – and India will eat the carbon savings for breakfast and China will finish the leftover savings for lunch.


As for meditation — what 31 years of daily Zen meditation has revealed to me is that meditation is not a self-help program. It’s not something to make yourself feel good, nor is it a path to some kind of cosmic bliss. What 31 years of meditation reveals is that your feelings may not necessarily be altered by the way you live – whether that be the ultimate Green Age ideal lifestyle, or a carbon-intensive Industrial lifestyle. I have lived both – I am still me. Whether you are living Green or living “dirty” the central dilemma, mystery and fundamental nature of your existence will remain the same. What this means is that a Green Age WILL change society. It MAY NOT change you. It’s possible that living Green may make you even more melancholy. That’s what happened to me. Or you might be happier. Everyone is different. Whatever the case, you have to come to grips with it. In this sense, the Green Age is a lot like meditation. You don’t pursue it to gain something. In fact, if you do pursue meditation to gain something, you’ll only get lost. If we pursue the Green Age to bring about bliss and happiness for all – then we’re in for a rude awakening – or I should say, we’ll never awaken.


Reading a weight loss book will not cause you to lose weight – eating less and exercising will – but you have to do it – yet many people read book after book on weight loss and stay fat, and weight loss is perennially among the best-selling category of book. Reading books about the Green Age will not make it so – you have to do something.

The authors might argue that you have to first rearrange consciousness before action can follow. That may be true, but transforming consciousness does not always or even necessarily lead to real world results. Thinking or reading about change is not change. As Gandhi said you have to “Be the change.” To their great credit, the authors make this clear — and this is what I hope the readers will take most seriously.

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

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Free ebook: “The Autobiography of a Cornish Smuggler” not much about smuggling, but a rather a man’s spiritual journey to renounce the greed, violence and suffering of the world


When I saw this free ebook, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A CORNISH SMUGGLER, I eagerly downloaded it and settled in for what I hoped would be tales of intrigue, danger and adventure on the high seas. The book is based on the manuscript of Captain Harry Carter an Englishman who was born and raised in Cornwall, and who grew up to adopt the life of a smuggler.

But there’s precious little about smuggling in this manuscript.

Most of the document written in 1809 by Carter describes his personal spiritual journey as a God-seeking Methodist after abandoning the illegal and harrowing life of a smuggler.

But I must also add that I was not entirely disappointed. His quest to find God and inner peace does not read like most of today’s (or any era’s) insufferable Christian tripe. Rather, Carter’s journey projects more like the journal of an acetic monk. He pitches no dogma, offers no haranguing lectures and does no proselytizing.

His journey might better be compared to that of a Buddhist renouncing all the material illusions of the world, or a Hindu seeker determined to focus only on the transcendent, and a desire to merge with the omnipresence of Universal Consciousness.

Carter’s strength is his ignorance, something he confesses to repeatedly throughout his many travails and travels. He possesses what Zen master D.T. Suzuki called “beginner’s mind.” Innocent like a child, he uses the broad tenets of Methodism, but finds his own way with constant simple prayer, fasting, singing (chanting), and a refusal to strive and grasp for wealth. He never resists the aggressive forces which confront him along the way. He only doggedly seeks peace, anonymity and to be left alone.

Carter is like a spiritual Ulysses, buffeted about by the winds of chance and circumstance. Like Ulysses, he often finds friends and aid at unexpected moments. His post-smuggling travels take him all the way to New York – which must have been a fascinating place in 1789 – back to England and then to France where he was caught up in the Reign of Terror precipitated by the French Revolution.

He becomes a political prisoner, but his incarceration is light-handed and mostly “in-house.” Carter demonstrates that a man who has absolutely nothing to gain, nothing to lose, and absolutely no worldly agenda cannot truly be imprisoned.

His aura of complete humility, his renouncement of all things material and his laser focus on aligning his soul with God is inspirational, no matter what your faith, maybe even for an atheist.

Even more famous than Harry Carter’s was his older brother, John, who to this day enjoys a lustrous status among Cornish culture. In Cornwall, John Carter’s star eclipses that of another legendary English social malcontent — Robin Hood — except Carter was certainly a real person and a real smuggler.

Smugglers were part pirate, part free-enterprise businessmen, part organized crime – but for the most part – few of them considered what they were doing wrong, even though they knew it was illegal under British law. The people of Cornwall were dirt poor. Their only options were to work seasonally in local tin mines as near slaves, scrabble out a living on a rocky patch of farm, or maybe eke out a living as fishermen.

Smuggling was a road to riches – it not only enriched the smuggler, but the loot trickled down considerably throughout Cornish society.

This document was published in 1900 under the auspices of John B. Cornish, who provides a helpful introduction and notes, and who is also listed as editor. A bit of Internet sleuthing turned up nothing about Mr. Cornish, so I’ll leave it at that.

My bottom line is that I find this to be a remarkable tidbit of history. It may not provide much insight into the world of Cornish smuggling, but “Captain” Harry Carter is an endearing and admirable soul. I was delighted to to have met him through the words he left behind.

Ken Korczak is the author of MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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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.


“Red Coat” Is a Delightful Read

Review By Ken Korczak

What do you get when you take a taste of Thomas Hardy, mix it with some Zane Grey or maybe James Fenimore Cooper, and add just a tiny dollop of Charles Dickens – you get this fine novel, Red Coat, by DAVID CROOKES

This is a page-turning romp across four continents beginning in year 1873. Our hero is Jeffrey Guest, a pure-hearted young Lieutenant who leads a British cavalry troop. He is assigned to help police a lawless diamond mind in South Africa, and finds himself under the command of a sadistic, gleefully vicious superior officer, Major Spencer Shackerly.

Of course, when pure good meets pure evil, problems are bound to develop, and so they do. To make a long story short, Lieutenant Guest interferes with an attempt by Shackerly to gun down and innocent man – Lt. Guest ends up a fugitive facing military court martial, and later a trumped up charge of murder. He flees and the chase is on. The relentlessly evil Major Shackerly is determined to hunt down Guest and have him hanged.

This is a well-crafted novel most people will find an enjoyable read – however, I withhold a full five-star rating because I think the author commits a couple of literary misdemeanors that have become all too common in too many novels these days.

The first is that Crookes relies on some mind-boggling coincidences to prop up his plot and keep the action moving. The second is a more grievous problem: Most of the time when the hero gets into a serious jam, he does nothing to save his own hide. Instead, happy circumstances always seem to conveniently swoop in to extricate him from certain doom.

One of the hallmarks of great writing is that the protagonist should rely on his own resources, his own cleverness, his own desperation to figure out a way to defeat the forces tormenting him, and do it himself – but if he is constantly having his bacon saved by pure luck, or by the metaphorical cavalry thundering over the horizon just when convenient – it takes the punch out of the story.

Basically, Lieutenant Guest’s primary contribution to his own success is that he constantly runs for it. When he gets into real trouble, someone else saves him. It’s just a weaker form of writing.

However, I don’t want to leave anyone with any doubt about the sheer entertainment value of this novel. Red Coat is a top-notch read, even a joy to read. It’s compelling and easily a cut above the average novel on the market today. One of the better novels I have read in recent months.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Fring*ology: A Truly Marvelous, Sober Look At The Paranormal World


Imagine a baseball player who gets four or five at-bats in an important game, and every time he steps up to the plate, he blasts a home run into the seats. Author Steve Volk pulls off the literary equivalent of such a feat, with this marvelous book, Fringe*ology.

Volk weilds his pen like a meaty baseball bat, or better yet, like a sword of illuminating light. Chapter after chapter, he hits his subject matter out of the park. Amazingly, he does so while handling some of the most controversial, contentious and thorny issues of our day involving science and philosophy, belief versus nonbelief, religion versus atheism, life and death.

Volk is one of those rare writers who can levitate his words across the page, rising above all of the often vicious rancor and back biting that characterizes the ongoing battle between hard-line atheists and the most gullible New Age airy-fairy folks.

The primary proposition of Fringe*ology is this: There is a vast middle ground that must be considered when confronting subjects that carry what the author calls a “Paranormal Taint.” Ghosts, UFOs, religious experience, an afterlife, dreaming – Volk contends that our modern debate has descended into a deplorably unconstructive situation in which each side has retreated to their respective corners, where all they do is lob stink bombs at each other, deriding and criticizing each other – when the fact is that, almost certainly, neither side has a monopoly on the truth.

That old cliché, “less Heat and more light” virtually is reborn to become fresh again is this book as the author leads us through a well-researched, varied, detailed and sensible approach to paranormal subject matter.

Easily a 5-Star read, and perhaps one of the most important books for the mainstream reader written on this topic in at least 10 years.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA