Category Archives: Florida Authors

US Congresswoman kidnapped by Shining Path guerillas held for ransom high in the Peruvian Andes

Shining Path, by William Schnorbach. Aristos Press. 295-page hardcover $29.95. 346-page trade paperback $17.00.

Billed as “A Lone Wolf Thriller – Book One,” book is a piece of novelistic history that sets several fascinating characters against the turmoil in Peru born of corrupt government and a brutal revolutionary force named “Shining Path” by its founder, Manuel Ruben Abimael Guzman Reynosa (usually reduced to Abimael Guzman). He considered himself to be the fourth sword of Marxism, inspired by the Maoist third sword (following Marx and Lenin). Mr. Schnorbach focuses his narrative on four months toward the end of a twelve-year nightmare of violence for the Peruvian people. 

The principal characters are U. S. Congresswoman Marta Stone, who plans to grab a Senate seat in a forthcoming election; a Native American undercover CIA operative and “sky walker” who uses the moniker Lone Wolf, super-skilled and dangerous; and Antonio Navarro, co-founder of Shining Path who knows the movement has lost its moral compass. The three form an alliance of necessity in a world in which loyalty is bought and sold.

After Marta is abducted in Lima and held as a prisoner of war, Lone Wolf (whose legal name is Josh Barnes) is assigned to rescue her. Antonio (hereafter “Tony”), also imprisoned, is protecting her.

The novel proceeds by rolling out an unhappy mix of action and exposition. The action scenes are stunning whirlwinds of sensory experience. Over and over, Lone Wolf’s special martial skills, offensive and defensive, are on display along with other brands of physical prowess and mental acumen. He is a great planner as well as a great improvisor. He knows how to beat the odds when his team is overmatched.

Schnorbach

He, along with Marta and Tony, must make their way through difficult terrain with insufficient nourishment and a determined, well-trained enemy. They deal with injuries and exhaustion.

Mr. Schnorbach handles this action scenes with great skill, offering vivid descriptions of the rugged environment and building pulse-racing tension from episode to episode. . . .

To read the review in its entirely, as it appears in the May 17, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 18 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Shining Path

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Game warden adventures reveal an important side of Florida’s nature

Bad Guys, Bullets, and Boat Chases: True Stories of Florida Game Wardens, by Bob H. Lee. University Press of Florida. 272 pages. Hardcover $24.95.

Though its main purpose lies elsewhere, this vivid treatment of the life of game wardens underscores the fact that Florida has been impressively dedicated to the stewardship of natural resources. Across the state, smaller and larger preserves – some quite enormous – protect the habitat of wildlife. Mr. Lee’s book enables us to visit stunning (and sometimes scraggly) locations. 

The author’s focus is on the people who work for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), a combination of two previous agencies. FWC has over eight hundred conservation law enforcement officers and another thirteen hundred additional employees. The conservation officers and investigators (“game wardens”) “have full police powers and statewide jurisdiction.” From the tales Mr. Lee has collected, readers will learn that this is no job for the timid.

There are bad guys out there illegally killing or capturing wildlife for profit. They are often skilled, sometimes organized into gangs, and always ready take enormous risks to satisfy their greed or their addiction to the thrill of violence.

The seventeen chapters offer a variety of stories illustrating the skills and courage of these wardens. Although sometimes the main business is to wait in hiding while anticipating the actions of lawbreakers, most often the stories are brimming with confrontations and high-stakes action.

Bob H. Lee

Among the earlier narratives is the fascinating story of Eastern Airlines flight #401 as it streaked downwards into the Florida Everglades marshlands. Bob Lee tracks the ensuing discovery of the wrecked plane by an airboat-driving young warden, along with his role in the compromised rescue operation. His was Gray Leonhard’s first experience of such a disaster. His long game warden career included hundreds of search-and-rescue operations in which the FWC assisted other law enforcement and rescue agencies.

There are more airboat chases in the book than airboat rescue missions. Whatever the vehicle, game wardens need to foil criminal actions such as deer and turkey poaching, gill-netting operations, and other illegal activities. Confrontations with alligators, snakes, and other dangerous species are also part of a game warden’s work. Alligator and snake skins are profitable commodities, and there are laws governing the harvesting of these money-makers that wardens must enforce. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 10, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 11 Naples and  Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Bob Lee

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Characters bedeviled by trauma and loss explored in bestselling author’s latest effort

The Red Hunter, by Lisa Unger. Touchstone. 368 pages. Hardcover $25.99.

This delicately constructed thriller explores the distance and proximity between two women whose paths cross in strikingly unusual ways. The younger of the two, Zoey Drake, has lived through a lengthy and ongoing recovery from a devastating childhood trauma. Her parents were murdered before eyes in their rural home outside of New York City. Zoey, who barely survived, has lived with a rage she must control to function effectively. Rigorous martial arts training has been her coping mechanism and her security against being victimized in her adulthood as she was in her childhood. 

She has been reared and put through college by the man she calls Uncle Paul, and she assists him as he struggles with poor health. She supports herself through cat-sitting jobs and by helping her martial arts mentor teach self-defense to young girls. Nightmares haunt her, but she has gained a healthy self-confidence.

The place she was raised in is now occupied by a mother and teenage daughter. For Claudia Bishop, renovating this home is part of an extended recovery from a horrible assault and rape that occurred many years ago. Seventeen year old Raven, herself a troubled young woman, feels the need to follow up on the possibility that she is not the child of the loving man from who Claudia has been long divorced. Perhaps she is the daughter of the rapist. Her quest regarding her identity is one plot driver in this brilliant, complex novel.

Lisa Unger – photo by Jay Nolan

Signs of intruders lead to the revelation that somewhere between the house and the barn might be the buried fruits of a robbery gone haywire. There’s a possibility that individuals connected with the robbery are committed to recovering a million dollars. The theft involved corrupt police. It looks like the handyman Claudia has hired for the renovation was somehow involved, as was his brother – a desperate, soulless character recently released from prison.

Through shifting narrators and points of view, Ms. Unger orchestrates the series of revelations that lead to the final outcome. The suspense is almost unbearable in this fast-paced psychological thriller.

I don’t know of another writer working today who brings us characters with such precisely rendered emotional complications. Of course, they are put in situations – or can’t stop remembering situations – that give them a lot to process. Sometimes they are presented from a third person perspective, and sometimes they are briefly narrators. It’s not easy to make such (unrecommended) shifts work, but Lisa Unger makes it a compelling feature of her art. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 26, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and in the April 27 Naples, Palm Beach, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Red Hunter

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Putting one’s life on the line . . . of ruled paper

Look Beyond the Mirror: A Creative and Simple Approach to Discover and Write the Story of Your Life, by Penny Lauer. Privately published via the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform . 156 pages. Trade paperback $15.00.

The seeds for this highly effective guide to memoir writing, at once practical and motivational, is a course the author gave at the Renaissance Academy (continuing education division) of Florida Gulf Coast University. She approaches the project as first of all an exercise in self-discovery, a process without which the finished product would be of little use to readers – even if they are primarily family and friends. 

Ms. Lauer breaks the seemingly overwhelming task into a series of manageable steps, explaining the necessity of each step and offering, with examples, a preferred way of managing that step. Anticipating the inexperience and insecurity of her reader-students, she reaches out in a sympathetic, supportive voice.

The author provides detailed advice on how to develop a flow of memories unblocked by self-censorship. Memoir writers have to seek the emotional truths in the experiences they recall, then explore and fashion those experiences for their readers. Penny Lauer insists on the necessity of pushing ahead, generating as much material as possible, before grouping the material and editing.

Lauer

The steps in the book organize the novice writer’s working life. Ms. Lauer insists on handwritten manuscripts (pardon the redundancy) on ruled paper in notebooks from which the pages can be removed and rearranged. And she explains how and why this method works. She also explains the need for a protected place for the writing to get done.

I agree that her system can work and produce exceptional results. I also feel that as people mature as writers, they need to explore a variety of processes. Changing your habits is a good way of waking up your perceptions and your writing. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 19, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 20 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Look Beyond the Mirror

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Applauding the discovered truths of successful people from many walks of life

Show Me, by Randall Kenneth Jones. Smart Business Books. 376 pages. Hardcover $24.95.

This thoroughly entertaining and highly unusual self-help book is not embarrassed to carry the subtitle “Celebrities, Business Tycoons, Rock Stars, Journalists, Humanitarians, Attack Bunnies & More!” That’s truth in packaging from a marketing and public relations guru turned business practices columnist. SW Florida readers will know him from his “Business Class” column in the Naples Daily News and from his local stage appearances. The profiles and life lessons (business and otherwise) in this book grow out of that column – or, more accurately – the relationships built with the people Mr. Jones interviewed.  

Be prepared. A manic joy is in the air.

With so much material from which to choose, Randy Jones has organized his chapters by putting together delightful commentary on people whose natures or accomplishments just seem to make them good company. Some groupings are obvious – sports figures, professional communicators, and entertainers. Others are more intuitive: people with shared or overlapping visions of how to conduct one’s self effectively, honestly, and ethically in a complex world.  The many resting places the plan provides are welcome, as there is abundant wisdom in each vignette that needs to be absorbed.

The author simplifies the task in two ways. He begins each major section with material from his own life, especially the lessons of his early years in the Show-Me State. These memories thrum like a tuning fork, its vibrations setting in motion the mini-profiles of his admired interviewees.

 

Jones

The second way Mr. Jones focuses a theme is by offering quotations from his subjects that underscore that theme. Some are indeed pithy. From columnist Heloise we learn that “Housework is genderless,” a bit of wisdom with powerful social implications. From Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen we learn to “Make sure everyone on your team is given the chance to play to their strengths.” The sports metaphor rings true in life’s many arenas. Carly Fiorina asserts that “one woman can change the world because one woman changes the lives of everyone around her.”

Throughout the book, Randy Jones treats serious issues like a man on a tightrope hovering between extreme delicacy and laugh-out-loud astonishment. He positions himself as a fellow who can’t quite believe he has managed to find himself in the company – and with the friendship – of the many leaders whose contributions to the “can do” part of our culture he celebrates. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 12, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 13 Naples, Palm Beach, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Show Me

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Touring with young Elvis: the making of a phenom

Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida, by Bob Kealing. University Press of Florida.  280 pages. Hardcover $28.00.

Bob Kealing makes the case that the best Elvis is the earliest Elvis and that the managerial strategies of Tom Parker kept a great American original from reaching his full potential. By focusing on the emergence of Elvis during his Florida tours in 1955 and 1956, Mr. Kealing can handle in lavish detail the months of a young, unschooled performer’s leap from total unknown in May of 1955 to – by August of 1956 – a celebrated icon of a burgeoning culture without a name. A hillbilly rocker with a sexy performance style, Elvis had the girls swooning, their parents fuming, and the music industry paying close attention. 

Tom Parker helped shape the Elvis who caught fire, but his dominating and generally conservative decisions about girlfriends, songs, and – only too soon – insipid movie rolls, repressed rather than released Elvis’s unique talents. Parker shielded Elvis from other influences and demanded total loyalty.

Packaged in road tours to Daytona Beach, Tampa, Fort Myers, Ocala, Orlando, Jacksonville, and elsewhere, Elvis and the two musicians who accompanied him nurtured a distinctive sound blending various musical and cultural traditions. They learned by doing. They didn’t begin as headliners, but in a remarkably short time ascended to top billing. They moved from smaller venues to more prestigious ones and attracted both critical and supportive journalists who helped shape expectations.

Bob Kealing has the details. Ransacking print coverage of the young troubadour, interviewing scores of people who met him along the way, following the one-lane paths of those early tours, the author captures the spirit of time and place as a new kind of music made its way up of the charts. Mr. Kealing must have tracked down almost every young woman still alive with whom Elvis flirted in about a year and a half of performances. No longer young, they have great memories to share.

Kealing

 

As have other biographers and music historians, Mr. Kealing pays attention to the nurturing of Elvis by the genial owner of Sun Records in Memphis. When Parker pushed for the big time by switching Elvis over to the giant, less edgy RCA, something was already lost.

West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Pensacola, Miami, Lakeland, (Waycross Georgia), St. Petersburg – and then on to the greater stages of big cities, television, and movies. It’s as if once out of the Florida orbit, Elvis lost his essential self, smothered under packaging that distorted his true nature and gift. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 5, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 6 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editons, click here: Florida Weekly – Elvis Ignited

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Don’t think it can’t happen

Zero Day: China’s Cyber Wars, by T. L. Williams. First Coast Publishers. 350 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.

This fascinating techno-thriller grows out of the reality of nonstop cyberwar that, while largely invisible, is constantly going on all around us. Not only do nations spy on one another by hacking computers, in both the public and private sectors of enemies and friends, bandit freelancers are also at work. National infrastructures are vulnerable. What’s to keep major electronic grids safe from cyber attack? 

T. L. Williams imagines a situation in which China devotes its computer resources to bringing down the U. S financial system and thereby collapsing confidence in the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This outcome would be a giant step toward China surpassing the U. S. as the world’s sole or dominant superpower.

Cyberwars have complex offensive and defensive elements, and Mr. Williams portrays the technological strategies and tactics in fascinating detail. He brings us to the highest level of the U. S. security establishment and shows the bureaucratic workings, allowing readers to eavesdrop on the decision-making conversations of the key players. He also takes us into their private thoughts.

The catalytic moment is the discovery of a communication from a middle-rank Chinese technocrat who is at once in charge of a Chinese offensive and is motivated to “come over” to the American side. Someone needs to be selected who has the experience and skills to be Li’s American handler. Astonishingly, this person is Logan Alexander, the central character in this author’s earlier novels: “Unit 400: The Assassins” and “Cooper’s Revenge.”

The plot progresses through a Tom Clancy-like bombardment of technological detail, a soup bowl full of acronyms for government agencies (both American and Chinese), the shared expertise of U. S. cyberwar specialists, and the physical movements of the key players.

Williams

More than most novels with China settings, this one takes us not only to familiar places like Hong Kong, but also to far less known areas of that fascinating country. Readers also spend time in Washington DC and environs, Thailand, New England, and elsewhere. In each of these settings, Mr. Williams portrayss terrain, neighborhoods, individual buildings, offices, residences, and laboratories with vivid authority. He also details transportation systems and communications systems with great skill. . . .

 

 

 

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 29, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 30 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Zero Day

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A cruel past threatens to wreak havoc on an uncertain present

Mangrove Lightning, by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 352 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

Though many of Mr. White’s earlier entries in his Doc Ford mystery series have generated fear, not one has been as persistently scary as “Mangrove Lightning.” It’s an odd brew of local history, unnatural quirks in the natural world, grotesque legends, and even more grotesque characters. It is fed by events on different timelines that come into focus and then dissolve.  

Much of the plot revolves around the past and present doings of two families: the Barlows and the Lambeths. The Lambeths are a mysterious and evil-tainted tribe given to all kinds of perversions and crimes. Members of this weird family are huge physical specimens. The enjoy cruel satisfactions and a wide range of narcotics. Their human prey often disappears, perhaps boiled down to bones and chemicals. They have some connection to Chinese slaves. The Lambeths are not to be crossed. The influence of Walter Lambeth permeates his descendants, who seem to live under a spell.

Those who stumble into Lambeth country in the backwaters of SW Florida may not get out. They will be haunted by strange voices that repeat bloodcurdling threats. Doc Ford and his buddy Tomlinson find themselves among those who have to deal with the present generation of Lambeths, in whom cunning and madness coexist.

White – photo by Wendy Webb

The Barlows are represented by a premier and legendary fishing captain nicknamed Tootsie. Plenty of bad news in that family, but Tootsie is revered. His rebellious teenage niece Gracie is missing, and both Tomlinson and Doc are involved in trying to find and, if necessary, rescue her. Indeed, Gracie is only the latest member of Tootsie’s family to have been sought out to pay the price for some terrible doings that occurred in the mid-1920s. It seems as if a dark family feud is being played out. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the March 22, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 23 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Mangrove Lightning

 

 

BOOK SIGNINGS:

MARCO ISLAND, FL / Saturday, March 25 at 2:00 PM

Sunshine Booksellers, 677 S. Collier Blvd

http://sunshinebooksellers.com/

FORT MYERS, FL / Saturday, March 25 at 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble #2711, 13751 Tamiami Trail

https://stores.barnesandnoble.com/store/2711

SARASOTA, FL / Sunday, March 26 at 12:00 PM

Bookstore1, 12 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236

http://www.bookstore1sarasota.com/

DELRAY BEACH, FL / Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00 PM

Murder on the Beach, 273 NE 2nd Ave.

http://www.murderonthebeach.com/

CAPTIVA, FL / Friday, March 31 from 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, 5400 S Seas Plantation Rd

https://www.docfords.com/captiva-island/

FORT MYERS BEACH, FL / Monday, April 3 from 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, 708 Fishermans Wharf

https://www.docfords.com/ft-myers-beach/

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Classic Naples-based series says adieu with class

Death in the Dark, by Kinley Roby. Privately published. 277 pages. Kindle e-book $2.99.

This is Mr. Roby’s 11th and final Harry Brock Mystery. Though he had planned for it to be the last, an unexpected dilemma must have sullied the closure experience a bit. Accidentally deleting the almost completed text file and its backup from his computer (a cautionary tale, writer friends), he had to laboriously reconstruct his narrative. In the interim, the publisher of the first ten series titles decided to abandon the detective fiction genre, leaving the author with little choice but to self-publish it via Amazon’s Digital Services division.  

The good news is that it is here, but so far only as an e-book. A confessed fan of the series, I found it once again meeting the high bar of the others in most ways. Readers may trip over the typos of one kind or another that haven’t yet been corrected, but there are still so many things to enjoy.

Roby sets the series in a disguised version of Naples and environs. Those familiar with the area will have fun penetrating the place names (such as “Vienna Village”) the author invents for familiar locations, as well his presentation of the cultural environment.

Roby

Harry is still running his PI business, patrolling the patch of government land called Bartram’s Hammock on the edge of the Everglades. He inhabits a small house in exchange for warden duties, and he gets mixed up in cases that also involve local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. And, as in past adventures, beautiful women are omnipresent.

He is still spending time with his older friend and neighbor Tucker. These aging outdoorsmen are still doing a bit of farming. It’s a delight that Kinley Roby allows us to see them tending to pets with whom they carry on conversations. Harry and Tucker are an intelligent, humorous odd couple. Tucker’s niece Delia, temporarily living with her uncle, is one of several attractive women whom Harry admires and with whom a relationship almost blooms.

Plot? An enormous international trade in stolen art run by cutthroat thieves is leaving a trail of bodies and threatens to leave more if Harry and the law enforcement officials can’t put a stop to the menace. Some of those involved in this illicit industry are on the edge of cooperating with the authorities to save their own lives and perhaps some of their filthy lucre. The ins and outs of the complex schemes that all sides are hatching create the intellectual stimulation that Kinley Roby’s novels always deliver.

The dialogue between Harry and his friends in uniform captures the nature of their relationships as well as the ways professionals develop and refine plans designed to take down the criminals. Mr. Roby’s characters are well-delineated by their patterns of speech and other tools of this writer’s trade. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 15, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 16 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Death in the Dark

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A rooming house and an inn: two visions of fifties Boston

Kenmore Square: A Novel by Carol June Stover. Champlain Avenue Books. 264 pages. Trade paperback, $13.99.

Set in Boston during the 1950s and early 1960s, this curious coming-of-age tale involves unusual characters and several life-altering secrets. 

Iris Apple’s world is rocked at the age of 10, when her mother is murdered. Iris suspects her crude and cruel father might very well be the murderer, but she has no way of acting on her suspicions.

Nick Apple, son of a well-known Boston bookie, runs the Kenmore Square rooming house where the family lives among the down and out boarders. One boarder is very special: Madame Charlemagne, a once-popular performer who has become a recluse. The aging cabaret singer and young Iris assist and console one another in various ways.

As the years go by, Iris more and more feels an obligation to herself. At 18, soon after graduation from high school, this lovely but lonely girl with no suitors determines to find out what or who caused her mother’s death. The search requires that she first find out more about her mother’s life.

To accomplish her ends, Iris needs to make several trips from the bare bones rooming house to the elegant Wellesley Inn where her mother had worked before marrying Nick. The owner-operator is Buffy, who had been her mother’s best friend.

Carol Stover

Iris learns a lot from Buffy and in this way comes closer to understanding her mother — who, as it turns out, was not murdered by Nick. Iris also learns that the Wellesley Inn has fallen on hard times, though it is still well maintained. Buffy’s health begins to fail, and while there is a chance for Iris to follow the dream of working there, she feels she owes Nick something to atone for her suspicions. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 8, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 9 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Kenmore Square

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