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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Monday, October 15, 2018

Fistful Of Rain

FISTFUL OF RAIN is the sequel to 2017's South California Purples. Set in 1975, it is the story of a nation, a rural county, and a small town coming to terms with turbulent change. The theft of a rancher's livestock ends in an assault that escalates into arson, and the murders of nearly a dozen people. Residents of a "hippie" commune are accused of having committed the acts that have led the small county to the brink of a range war, and of feeding the tensions between generations. Sheriff Ty Dawson, a cattle rancher himself, finds himself at the center of a battle between town residents and the "hippies" who appear to be threatening their way of life, a struggle that leads both sides to violence.

Fistful of Rain (Mystery)
By Baron R. Birtcher
The Permanent Press
ISBN #978-1579625184
Price $29.95 (Hardback)
Price $9.99 (Kindle)
288 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

It’s 1975 and America has just gone through the sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll of the 1960s and saw the end of the Vietnam War. There are small crimes of livestock theft in the area, which quickly turns into arson and then murder. A mysterious commune of hippies living in the area is the immediate suspect. The violence escalates putting Sheriff Ty Dawson in the middle of a powder keg that could explode at any moment.

This is a nice follow-up to the author’s South California Purples, but I have to admit that his favorite book for me remains Hard Latitudes. However, the author’s writing style kept me turning the pages in this latest book. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson


Sunday, October 7, 2018

No Shelter

Holly Lin is living two lives. To her friends and family, she's a pleasant, hardworking nanny. To her boss and colleagues, she's one of the best non-sanctioned government assassins in the world. 
But when a recent mission goes wrong causing one of her team members to die, she realizes she might no longer be cut out for the work — except the mission, as it turns out, is only half over, and to complete it will take her halfway across the world and bring her face to face with a ghost from her past. 
Things are about to get personal. And as Holly Lin's enemies are about to find out, she is not a nanny they want to piss off.

No Shelter (Spy/Assassin)
By Robert Swartwood
RMS Press
Price $15.00 (Paperback)
Price $      (Kindle)
338 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

In this first novel featuring Asian-American Holly Lin, we learn her background and that she works as an assassin for the government, her boss is Lieutenant-General (3 stars) Walter Hadden; she also is employed as his family’s nanny, which gives her total access to the general. She is the daughter of a Japanese mother and Chinese father. She had joined the Army after high school, and while overseas her friend was raped and beaten by a soldier. She took it on herself to get even when her friend committed suicide, and she was arrested for murder. General Walters got her out of jail and brought her to work for his assassin unit. This is a complicated plot in which her task originally was to retrieve a flash drive from an arms dealer and take him out. There was a party with prostitutes that night and she is brought in as one of them. After killing the arms dealer and his guards, she gets the flash drive and rescues one of the girls. The Mexican girl tells her there is a ranch holding thirty or more illegal Mexican girls slaves for prostitution, and she takes it on herself to rescue them. Naturally, this upsets a cartel and they want her dead. And so does terrorists who were after the flash drive that is now in the hands of the American government. People who are supposed to be dead show up very much alive, which complicates the plot – and her life – even more.

This is a good story with plenty of action, and Holly Lin takes a lot of beatings before it comes to an end. My one big complaint with the story concerns the character of Holly Lin. The author does everything right with her, but he fails making her a female Asian assassin, instead she comes across more as one of the boys. As good as this story is, I’m hoping the sequels bring out both her femininity and Asian background. There are male authors who write feminine leads quite well. For instance, Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee; Thatcher Robinson’s Bai Jiang; The Black Stiletto by Raymond Benson; and K.W. Jeter’s Kim Oh. However, Holly Lin is highly recommended for its great plotting and action.

Tom Johnson


Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Dollar-A-Year Detective

Retired Chicago homicide detective Jack Starkey is living what he calls every cop's retirement dream by owning a successful bar, The Drunken Parrot, and residing on a houseboat in Fort Myers Beach on Florida's Southwest Gulf Coast.
Mostly, it s been working out just fine. Starkey's drink of choice these days is diet root beer and not the hard stuff that ended his marriage and sent him into rehab. He's dating the lovely Marisa Fernandez, who owns a real estate agency and supplements his usual diet of Pop-Tarts and diner food with gourmet Cuban cooking.
But long-term serenity has never been Jack Starkey's destiny. One evening, Starkey's pal Cubby Cullen, the Fort Myers Beach police chief, comes into the Drunken Parrot to ask a favor. The Coast Guard found a sailboat drifting in Pine Island Sound with two dead bodies aboard, a bank president and his wife, both shot once in the forehead execution style. Murders are rare in town; Cubby asks Jack, who has more homicide experience than anyone in the local police department, to take a look at the crime scene just to offer an opinion.
Starkey agrees, not realizing that this will draw him into an investigation involving offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, corrupt state politicians, a Russian oligarch, and the angry father of a boy who's not getting much playing time on his Little League team. Even in his prime, Starkey would be hard-pressed to find a connection, and his prime is in his rearview mirror. This mystery follows in the tradition of John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, Lawrence Sanders, and other masters of crime fiction marked by compelling characters, stories with completely unexpected twists and turns, and a strong comic element that will keep a reader thoroughly amused while wondering what could possibly happen next.

The Dollar-A-Year Detective (Murder Mystery)
By William Wells
The Permanent Press
ISBN #978-1579625274
Price $20.92 (Hardcover)
Price $9.99 (Kindle)
224 Pages
Rating 3-Stars

“Typical Retired To Florida Police Detective”

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A big city homicide detective retires to Florida, buys a bar, lives on a boat, and has a beautiful sexy woman jumping into his bed. The local police run into a murder they can’t solve, and naturally call on him to solve the case for them. I think everyone who retires to Florida decides to write a murder mystery and use that plot. Jack Starkey is a retired Chicago Police Detective living in Fort Myers, Florida, with a beautiful Cuban lady friend warming his bed, and he finds life boring. Did I mention he lives on a houseboat and owns a local bar? Then along comes his friend the local police chief asking a favor. There has been a couple murders, execution style, and no one in the local police department is capable of solving the crime, so would Starkey be kind enough to lend a hand with all his experience.

This was a good read, regardless of the typical formula of retired detective from big city living in Florida where police have no experience. I’ve read this book a hundred times, or books just like it. That’s why I seldom read murder mysteries set in Florida, they all have this same formula – at least the ones publishers send me. To his credit, the author is a good writer and keeps the story moving, and the mystery comes together in the end. It’s just the formula I’m against. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Mask of Sanity

The Mask of Sanity (Sociopathic Murder)
By Jacob M. Appel
The Permanent Press
ISBN #978-1579624958
Price $17.81 (Hardback)
Price $9.99 (Kindle)
256 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

"The Study of A Sociopathic Killer"

Dr. Jeremy Balint has achieved a lot as a doctor and family man, and everyone sees him as a model professional in the medical field; a man who has everything. But under all that makeup is a sociopath, a person who can turn evil while doing good deeds. When he discovers his wife is having an affair with a fellow doctor, he decides to kill him. But knowing the police might suspect him immediately, he plans out a series of murders, leaving clues of emerald ribbons at each murder scene, and now the police suspect a serial killer, leaving a way open to kill his wife’s lover.

This was an interesting story, but no mystery to it, and was a bit boring. It is a good study on sociopathic killers, as we get into the mind of Dr. Balint as he plans and carries out each murder. And that, alone, is reason to read this novel. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson