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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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Waltzing Mathilde

Mathilde, my mother, was born in Berlin in 1924. Her father was assassinated by Hitler’s men in 1933. By 1945 she had lost three of her four brothers in the war. She met my father in 1948, a charming Sicilian from Brooklyn who was stationed in Germany with the U.S. occupation troops. He promised to feed her regular meals and take her from the rubble of war torn Germany. She accepted the offer. What she didn’t know was that under his charm was a vicious brute, who beat her and then sent her to work in a sweat shop after they landed in Brooklyn.

Mother escaped my father when she met a wonderful Jewish man, Mootzy, who moved her out of Brooklyn to Shady, New York. Since Mother was not a German Jew, but a German German, this was indeed a strange, but wondrous stroke of luck. 

Shady, a tiny hamlet on the outskirts of Woodstock, is nestled in countryside reminiscent of the rolling hills of England and the pine forests of Germany. Shady & Woodstock was full of artists, musicians and writers, and Mother’s older sister said it was more like Germany before the war, than the Germany of the fifties and sixties.  

But all the beauty of Shady, the luck of surviving the war and escaping my father could not wash away the pain of the price of war. Sitting at Mother’s side as she lay dying, I listened to her war stories. She tried to tell me these stories so many times over the years, but I couldn’t listen then, because I had friends to play with, things to do, and I was, after all, an American, as far removed from the truths of war as any country has ever been. 

Waltzing Mathilde (Non-Fiction)
By Dennis Manuel
Independent Publishing Platform
Price $0.99
148 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“The Story of Love And Sadness.”

Born in 1924 Germany, young Mathilde lost her family to the madness of Hitler, and then had to survive the war, and later the rape and beatings from Russian troops before meeting a young American soldier who took her to America, where she raised two boys in another kind of hell. It wasn’t till they left her abusive husband and moved to Shady, a part of Woodstock, that life settled down some. But the young mother worked two jobs to feed and raise her children.

This is the story of that young woman as remembered by her son, from the stories she told of the war, and her losses: surviving WWII, labor camps, starvation, and the Russians. It is also the story of her love for her sons, and theirs for her. Woodstock consisted of Bearsville, Shady, and Lake Hill, and was an artistic utopia until the music event of 1969, when everything changed.

It is a story of love and sadness, as this mother who suffered so much was still to suffer more in her life when a cancer the size of a football was discovered in her stomach. When we read about WWII and Germany, we only think of the madness that Hitler brought upon the world, but we forget to look at the German people who suffered because of him. The author has brought that reality to us in his memoirs of his life and the suffering his mother endured all her life. It is well written, and gives insight into another reality of that war. Highly recommended for those who study wars, and for those that want to see love come out of something so evil as war. But we should never forget, wars are when parents lose their children, and wives lose their husbands, and children their fathers and mothers. And we should never forget why we never want to go to war again. This is a story well worth reading.

Tom Johnson

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trouble My Bones

Trouble My Bones (Horror/SF/Fantasy)
By L. Joseph Shosty
Coming in October
Rating 5-Stars

“Well Structured, And Well Written.”

“Morality For Alchemists And Thieves” is a wonderful little yarn about a debt to be paid. Elihu The Poisoner is an alchemist on a trip to meet his destiny, for demons are seeking his life, and one man has proven traitor to him. Stopping at an Inn, the innkeeper tells him that he knows who he is, and seeks his help in a coming matter. Being religious he has refused service to a murderer who is a gangster. The leader now wants to kill the innkeeper. Elihu agrees to remain and meet the leader and his men instead of the innkeeper. He has also promised not to harm anyone.
“An Incident In Cain’s Mark” tells the story of a nephew going to the town of Cain’s Mark to make arrangements to ship his uncle’s body home, and to discover, if possible, what had killed him. He already knew the legend of the haunted mansion, Sallow House, but not the story behind it. One man had been driven mad, however, so he wanted to see for himself what it was about. He learns from the local undertaker the story of the Wickersham brothers, Bertrand and Peter, two genius inventors, one handsome and joyful in life the other short and ugly, and angry in life. How they finally challenged each other to build an electrical man, and how it turned out, and the results that left the village of Cain’s Mark hiding in fear when the night approaches.
“Operational Costs” features Achiles the interplanetary mercenary and his rented robot assistant, Swiss. They are on the planet Bergot, searching for an ancient temple where Achiles was hired to steal the idol.  Like Indiana Jones, the temple has many traps, and the operational costs may be more than the job is paying. There is some nice humor in this one.
“Zombie Love Song” is a short love story from the post-apocalyptic zombie era. A soldier is wounded in the war and meets a lovely medic, falling in love with her. But he never sees her again after she signs up for another mission in the war zone. After the war he tries to find her but discovers she had been bitten and turned, eventually becoming a guinea pig for scientists to study. He writes her a love letter, knowing it will never find her.
“Know, O Emperor” is a tale of our future race discovering an ancient ship from Earth in deep space, its destination Whitehome. Six thousand humans have lain in stasis, awaiting arrival to colonize Whitehome after an exodus from Earth 800 years ago. But everything has changed since they departed Earth, and mankind has evolved from their previous form. Before removing the humans from stasis, they bring in John Pi, a black man of similar human form to those ancient people. One is then revived, and Pi discusses the situation with him. The man wishes his people to be removed from stasis so he can talk with them. After his speech, they all commit suicide. It was not expected by the modern race, so they try to figure what is to be done, since there were four such ships in the exodus from Earth, and the other three have not been found yet.
“The Hard Part” concerns a Japanese family working on a mining planet who make first contact, but don’t tell anyone. When their job runs late they’re called into the company for an explanation and then tell about the alien contact. Well, that is bad news, for they’re really not the right people to make first contact. John Chapman, a clean cut white man is sent to make the official first contact, and the rest is history, though it tears the family apart. Now that they’ve done the hard part, John Chapman will take all the credit.
“Pair’s Man”: Sam had worked for Mr. Pair for a long time, always faithful, always on time, and never had a bad word about his boss. When Mr. Pair gave his eulogy, he broke down admitting he wasn’t as good a man as Sam thought. But when Mr. Pair passed on, guess who comes to his funeral service?
“Leprechaun John”: The story begins at a drunken party with her friends in a bar with a stuffed leprechaun. From this point the girl goes through life in a drug high, seeing herself in the bodies of others, at different ages, and the horror of a misspent life through all periods. This one was really hard to get into, but I suppose the moral of the story, perhaps, is awakening at birth knowing what your future is going to be. Not a good prospect for some.
“The Crippled Sucker” concerns a poker game on a fast train headed for the mining camp on Whiskey. Prince, Gomez, Lucky, Dobro, and new man, Brown were playing cards at the table. Charlie, a robot is dealing. Brown has the crippled leg, but someone is cheating. There are too many tens in the deck. This was a nice entry, with a neat twist.
“An Offering At Midnight”: Mr. Wood takes young Sonny Crane with him on the drive to herd horses to market. The life of the cowboy is dying, and progress is coming, but they stop along the trail so Mr. Wood can leave an offering for something.
Here are ten fascinating stories to tell at campfires on dark nights. From zombie war to first contact with aliens, and settings in the old West, as well as faraway worlds and haunted houses.  The stories are well structured, and well written, some with a touch of humor, some with horror, and all with an interesting outcome. Personally, I found the first three stories the best, with my favorite being Operational Costs. The story I least liked, perhaps, was Leprechaun John. Good pulp yarns that could have appeared in Weird Tales or one of the weird menace pulps eighty years ago. Written today with modern sensibilities. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Jimmie Dale Alias The Gray Seal

"Few characters as obscure as Canadian novelist Frank L. Packard’s gentleman cracksman, Jimmie Dale the Gray Seal, have had the impact and long term import of this one. Almost unknown today, Packard and his creation not only exerted a tremendous influence on the pulps he came from, but established many of the tropes of the modern superhero in comic books. From his secret lair, the Sanctuary, his multiple identities, and his calling card, a gray diamond paper seal, Jimmie Dale set the pattern for the mystery men and super heroes who will follow."

- David L. Vineyard

In the summer of 1912 New York City was being terrorized by a bizarre organization of metal-clawed criminals who ascend stonewalls as easily as others climb stairs. Dubbed the Spider Gang by the press, they roamed over every part of Manhattan from neighborhoods of squalid tenements to the most luxurious mansions of the rich. It wasn't wealth that they sought however; instead it was the City's most beautiful women who were being carried off for some sinister purpose.

A new challenge for the Gray Seal! The very first in a long, long line of crime-fighting urban vigilantes has returned in an all new novel length adventure. More than a century ago bored society millionaire Jimmie Dale hid his identity behind a mask and slouch hat to become the safe-cracking master criminal known as the Gray Seal. His objective was excitement rather than financial gain, but quickly decided that justice was a still more worthy goal. Dale became feared and hunted by both the police and the underworld as he waged a one-man war on evildoers the law could not stop. Commanded by the mysterious woman of a thousand faces known as the Tocsin, Jimmie Dale pits himself against those who prey on the weakest members of society. The Gray Seal novels of Frank Packard influenced a wide range of heroes including The Shadow, the Spider, and the Green Hornet. The Gray Seal strikes again!

Jimmie Dale Alias The Gray Seal (Crime Mystery)
By Michael Howard
Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN #978-1548060466
Price $15.99
374 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“Return Of An Old Favorite”

It’s 1912, and The Spider Gang is terrorizing New York. Halvard Romeron, a Norwegian, has arrived in the city that never sleeps, and his gangs of weirdly dressed men who can climb building walls are kidnapping young, beautiful women of different races. It’s believed they are to be used in the white slavery market.

Marie LaSalle, only known to Jimmie Dale as The Tocsin, has sent him as The Gray Seal out to try to find and rescue the women. In the meantime, Dan Reid is in New York and Marie LaSalle reveals to him that she’s still alive, and tells him about The Crime Club that is searching for her, so she must remain in hiding least they murder her like they did her father and uncle. While in town he decides to assist the daughter of his old friends in her current search for the missing women.

I am an old fan of the Jimmie Dale mysteries from the turn of the twentieth century, and this brand new novel is a treat, bringing back great characters and action. I must say, the old stories are a bit dated a hundred years later, but the current author has brought a more modern sensibility to the stories, making for a fun read. The story actually begins in 1920, as Jimmie and his wife, Marie look back on their beginning in 1912, a few years after she had recruited the robin hood thief to help her in her fight against gangdom. The Gray Seal predated most of the masked Robin Hoods and vigilantes of the pulps, including Johnston McCulley’s famed Zorro. Future crime fighters would follow The Gray Seal’s use of leaving a mark (a gray seal) noting the crime was his. Zorro would leave the “Z” mark on his opponent’s with his sword, The Spider would leave a crimson mark of a spider on his victims, and The Black Bat would leave a black bat image on his victims. However, in this new story, the seal was mysteriously absent this time, though mentioned in passing. Highly recommended for both old fans and new. An old favorite has returned.

Tom Johnson

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Set The Night On Fire

In 1971, Josie Corsino is unmarried Josie Pastore, a fresh face chosen from her LAPD policewoman class to be an undercover operative.

When the story begins, she's immersed in the politics and schemes of one of the most active radical organizations in LA, but after three years on assignment she's weary of the lifestyle and tired of lying about who she is. Josie wants to “come up,” and do police work with the same opportunities as her male counterparts.

Before that can happen, she's arrested during a demonstration in downtown LA and upon her release from jail is told by her department contact that one of her fellow undercover officers has disappeared. Members of his group have filed a missing persons report with the police department in which they publicly blame the LAPD for his sudden disappearance. It would be an embarrassment for the department to admit the officer was spying on this particular group, so Josie is given her final undercover assignment—find the missing officer.

For protection, she forms an unlikely alliance with another UC as her search leads to an underground network of violent radicals with ties to celebrities and political figures who are unwitting participants in an imminent plan to destroy innocent people and property. By the end, both her personal and professional lives are about to undergo some drastic changes.

Set The Night On Fire (Police Procedural)
By Connie Dial
The Permanent Press
ISBN #978-1579624026
Price $29.95 Hardcover
304 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“Harsh Reality”

This is the fourth story in the Josie Corsino series, but is the first after she graduates the police academy. Picked as an undercover officer, she infiltrates a radical group. Three years as an undercover cop she’s ready to move up, but they have one more assignment for her. She partners with another undercover officer, Dave Soriano. Their assignment is to find a missing officer. The trouble is someone in the upper echelon of the city may be releasing the names of undercover cops. This could prove fatal for them.

The harsh reality of the undercover police officers inside the underground is a dangerous job, and one that could get them killed if found out. The author was an experienced police officer in the LAPD, and was familiar with all aspects of her job, including undercover work, thus her books are very authentic reads. She retired a captain and the commanding officer of the LAPD's Hollywood Community Police station after nearly thirty years on the job. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson