Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: THE ASSASSIN'S BETRAYAL by Mark Allen

I've known Mark Allen for a while now as a fellow author, blogger, and all-round action-adventure novel enthusiast. We've been corresponding back and forth for years, and we talked a lot about his planning of the sequel / not-sequel to his first full-length novel, THE ASSASSIN'S PRAYER, which came out a couple of years ago, and did pretty darn well. Mark liked how some things turned out, but in retrospect wished he'd done other things a little differently.

The result of all that experience and contemplation is THE ASSASSIN'S BETRAYAL, and I have to say, the wait was worth it. This story has everything that Mark pulled off to perfection in his first novel, and polished smooth any rough spots the first book might have had. There's action, there's sex, there's gunfights and swordplay, knives and chainsaws, welcoming dive bars and swimming pools filled with hungry sharks. In short, everything you need to tell an awesome, over-the-top-but-not-too-far action story, and make it a real page-turner.

And I say that last out of experience, because I downloaded the Kindle edition of the book late one night and read the first few pages before bed. Then next night, I picked up where I'd left off, and was so engrossed and caught up in the book's rapid-fire pacing, I stayed up well past one o'clock in the morning because I literally couldn't make myself put the book down and go to sleep - I knew I'd just lie there awake, wondering what was going to happen next.

So, if you're into the modern action-thriller genre, dig assassins and gunplay and a book with a significant body count, you cannot go wrong with THE ASSASSIN'S BETRAYAL. Pick it up!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: KILL ZONE by Zeke Mitchell

I must admit to feeling rather conflicted about this book. Author Zeke Mitchell clearly loves the "Men's Adventure" genre of fiction made so popular in the '60s through the '80s, as well as '80s action movies such as COBRA or INVASION U.S.A., and every ounce of that love was poured into writing this book. There are a bunch of direct and indirect references, both in tone and otherwise, that show the intent of making Kill Zone a child of its inspiration.

On the other hand, I think this diamond is still just a little too rough. While the author is able to craft a solid action sequence, and the overall plot of the book flows well enough as a series of action set pieces, I think the story definitely needed some more constructive criticism. I'll give a rundown in no particular order of importance:

- The term "kill zone" appears in the body of the book thirty-eight times. While using the title of one's work in the body of said work is fine in a rock ballad, in a novel it is generally frowned upon, and while once or twice is fine (that, "Okay, I get it" moment), several dozen instances are way too many, and immediately jar the reader out of the narrative. After finding multiple uses in the first chapter, I stopped reading to use the Kindle search feature - which gave me the total. If I am that distracted by the over-use of the term to stop reading and do a word search, this is a problem.

- I understand the desire to make the character a lone hero. Many of the best protagonists of the genre are "lone wolves", but when you pay attention to the books and movies in question, the protagonist is always interacting and balanced by a host of secondary, supporting characters. In this book, aside from "interacting" with bad guys by riddling them with bullets, Thorn only makes a couple of phone calls and delivers one or two extremely short bits of interactive dialogue. Without someone to play off against, either a partner or a recurring antagonist, we spend way too much time just reading Thorn's own inner monologue, which got somewhat tedious, especially during the more fast-paced combat sequences. The author really should have just focused on the action-reaction-action-reaction of the fights, rather than the repeated running mental commentary in Thorn's head, which slowed the pace of the text down somewhat.

- The author's writing style isn't going to work for everyone. Many short, clipped sentences, as well as paragraphs separated by other "paragraphs" of extremely short sentences, or even single-word paragraphs. While this device is good for demonstrating a pivotal moment, it's repetition throughout the novel weakens the impact of the device when it is needed most.

- Although it is just playing to the source material, I thought the idea that the government would send a single man - albeit highly successful and well-trained - to dismantle through violence a criminal empire responsible for a *global* drug epidemic a little far-fetched. Yes, I know, the one-man army trope is a classic one, but I feel the hyperbolic nature of the story was a little extreme, especially as this is the first book in the series. I feel like now, there isn't a lot of leverage to up the ante in subsequent stories. This complaint is just personal preference, but I would rather have seen a smaller, more "street level" story - perhaps Thorn being sent to nip in the bud a drug kingpin right on the verge of making it big, rather than one whose drugs are causing a global catastrophe affecting millions upon millions of lives.

All the above being said, I still enjoyed the book a lot. Technically, the ebook was well-formatted, and I only caught a couple of very minor typos, of the sort that always slip through no manner how carefully a book is proofread. The book's cover is absolutely superb, and no doubt has caught the eye of many of the book's buyers, leading to that "one-click" impulse buy, as does the short but very evocative product description. As of right now, Kill Zone's Amazon book ranking is hovering a little above 2,000 in the Kindle Store, which is extremely good for a debut indie novel.

In conclusion, if you're the sort who enjoys '80s action movies starring Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, et al, as well as serial Men's Adventure novels like The Executioner, Able Team, The Death Merchant, and so forth, I think you'll enjoy this book, and you can pick it up on Amazon by clicking here.. There's a ton of action right from the get-go involving fast cars, big guns, explosions, knives to the face, flamethrowers, rocket launchers, more explosions, people's heads being blown off, even bigger guns, and a couple more explosions. While I have been somewhat critical above, I hope the author doesn't take it as discouragement from writing more books in this series, but rather as helpful feedback.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Author Sean McLachlan Interviewed Me for Black Gate Magazine

This week, Sean McLachlan interviewed me for Black Gate Magazine, a website filled with interesting articles about books, history, fantasy worlds, and many other topics which might visit folks who visit me here. You can find the interview by following this link.

Sean is a highly talented author, having written for Osprey Publishing for many years. I used his book on Civil War Guerrilla tactics while writing Renegade's Revenge, and he's helped me immensely over the years by beta-reading a number of the Commando novels.

 You should take a moment to also stop by Sean's blog, Midlist Writer, and also drop by his Amazon Author Page. I've really enjoyed everything he's written, from his TRENCH RAIDERS series of World War One adventure novels, to his TOXIC WORLD series of post-apocalyptic fiction, and if you like historical supernatural horror, check out his HOUSE DIVIDED series of Civil War Horror novels. All of it is top-notch fiction.