Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday’s Forgotten Book Club (Wild Night -- L. J. Washburn)

Occasionally, on Fridays I will be participating in Patti Abbott’s brainchild—reviewing forgotten books. The idea is that there are books that are really good, but they don’t get as much readership because people have “forgotten” about them. Today I’ll be discussing Wild Night by L. J. Washburn (© 1987 published by TOR books).

I discovered Washburn in a used bookstore offering of Epitaph, her first western novel, published by M. Evans. I found the writing easy to follow and engaging. The flyleaf listed Wild Night as her first novel, and winner of the American Mystery Award and The Private Eye Writers of America's Best Original Paperback Award. I found a used copy of the PBO and read it.

Wild Night is technically classified as a Mystery—a P.I. story in particular—but bears a great resemblance to the genre Western. The hero, Lucas Hallam, is an old used up cowboy who had to turn into a private eye as the world changed around him. His experience as a Pinkerton and Texas Ranger come in handy as he moves to Hollywood to get work as an extra in early Western movies, and finds himself hired to solve mysteries in Tinsel Town.

This is probably the best of the Hallam books although Washburn is a great writer for diversion whether reading her mysteries, westerns, or (and I’ll just have to guess on this one) her romance novels.

Four and one-half reading glasses for this novel that’s too good to forget. Pick up a copy of the pbo if you can find it, or choose the perfect-for-library-shelves re-release in hardcover from Five Star (1998).

—Benjamin Potter, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kept: The Message of Jude – W. David Phillips

© 2007 Missional Press, Smyrna, DE

Pastor, student and mastermind behind Missional Press, David Phillips inaugurates his new venture by presenting us with what he calls a “devotional commentary” on one of the most neglected books in scripture.

In content, Phillips’ commentary is thoughtful and encouraging. He takes the text of this short letter tucked quietly away in the shadow of other letters and the Revelation of John, and opens them to the reader. He openly deals with the difficulties presented by Jude including the writer’s use of non-biblical authority as an authority for his first-century readers. Phillips relies heavily on commentaries by Hillyer, Moo, and Davids for his background working of the text. Even so, the interpretations are well presented.

The design of the book is excellent as well with a clean look. It creates an excellent first outing for both author and publishing venture. The publishers left wide margins for the student of the book of Jude to interact practically with the interpretations made by the Phillips.

In discussing the text, Phillips uses a style that both speaks of his years in pulpit ministry and endears him to his readers. As a strong supporter of the missional movement among evangelicals, Phillips gives a superb analysis (based on Jude) answering those concerned about change for change’s sake. Comparing first-century believers with many Christ followers of today, he says,

some in the community of faith were on the verge of adopting the new and doing away with the old. The problem is not with adopting new methodologies. The problem is when the new is clearly corrupt and false theology. (see page 38)
Here Phillips indicates that, according to Jude, we should test the validity of new methods in relation to their consistency with the Gospel. When the new leads people away from the Gospel it is corrupt.

If I had one problem with Phillips’ book, it falls into the editorial category. There were several places where typos and misused words jumped off the page at this former English teacher. However, with the attention given to properly handling the Word found in Jude, I would still give Missional Press’ maiden voyage four out of five reading glasses. It’s short, readable, and faithful treatment of the Word.

—Benjamin Potter, April 10, 2008

Lying with Strangers – James Grippando

© 2006 Madison Park Press, New York

Grippando is one of those authors that I’ve enjoyed since his debut. For several years I got first editions hot off the presses (before the wife and kids came along). Now I’m about four or five novels behind. He’s one of those lawyer-turned-author guys who often writes a good suspense novel or legal thriller.

In Lying with Strangers, he writes about a lawyer-turning-author whose personal life is falling apart all around him. The real focus is actually on the lawyer’s wife, Peyton, who is a promising young doctor who is being stalked by a maniac. During the course of the story, Kevin (the lawyer) has ups and downs as he betrays his marriage vows, accuses Peyton of doing the same, sells his first novel with the promise of greater things to come, and then finds himself fighting for his job at a top Boston law firm because of the similarities between his characters and his colleagues.

While the story has some really good points, and the plot is one that could really catch the reader’s attention, Grippando is off his mark somewhat in this novel. The novel groans on for over four hundred pages, the characters are flat, and the thread is disjointed. The only character that really draws you in is the mysterious stalker, and it’s just the mystery about who it might be that beckons.

Lying with Strangers can’t even be used for a good escape because it won’t hold your interest. I give this novel two sets of reading glasses (for the villain).

—Benjamin Potter, April 10, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Roswell or Bust – Henry Melton

© 2008 Wire Rim Books, Hutto, Texas

Henry Melton just won the Darrel Award for his first novel Emperor Dad. Melton is a writer who has traveled all over the United States and across many countries, and has just begun to put those travels to good use in the form of Young Adult Science Fiction. He started the Small Towns, Big Ideas series with Emperor Dad and followed it up with this month’s Roswell or Bust.

Joe Ferris, a teenager trapped in the family business, wants to see the country. He hates his life because all his siblings seem to have escaped the life of helping out in the family’s Railroad Motel in Las Vegas, New Mexico. When one of the regulars “John Smith” disappears suddenly leaving behind a strange device that looks like a remote control (but not his room key), life quickly becomes un-mundane.

Joe meets John Smith’s daughter, Judith, who, even though she is mute, has a knack for leading Joe into strange situations and then leaving him stranded. The story takes us all over the Southwest exploring the secret bases set up by Men in Black suits who are keeping the country’s biggest secret—the alien survivors of the crashed spaceship of 1947.

The secret society known as the Trust, is falling apart at the seams because the well-loved and respected leader is losing his health and his son has not garnered the same loyalty as he took the helm of the Trust.

Reading Roswell or Bust will give let you enjoy Science Fiction, even if you haven’t been a big fan in the past, and will clue you into why Melton was chosen for an award from the SF community in his first outing as a novelist. It’s a great escape (and not only for the aliens who’ve been kept captive for many decades). Get a copy soon, as the hit the web-based and brick and mortar stores. I give it 4 ¾ reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, April 7, 2008

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