The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


“Kilt him a b’ar when he was only three.” Grab your coonskin cap, powder horn, toy musket, rubber tipped arrows and get ready...Davy’s back! It’s Davy Crockett, the legend that will not go away. I was ten years old when Walt Disney decided to promote “Frontierland” at Disneyland by hiring Fess Parker to portray Davy Crockett for five episodes between December 1954 and February 1955. Well, Bob Thompson has written a book reminiscent of “On the Road with Charles Kuralt ”, except the author is stalking only one person... the famous Davy Crockett. Mr. Thompson retraces Davy’s life throughout Tennessee, Alabama, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and finally San Antonio, Texas, where he meets his demise at the age of 49. This is a wonderful book, but still leaves the reader with the question - What made Davy famous to begin with? So many of Davy’s accomplishments are agreed upon or rejected as myth by so many historians and eye witness accounts that the reader doesn’t know what to believe. Does it matter? I don’t think so since little proof exist about many of the exploits of the late 1700’s and 1800’s frontiersmen. Did Daniel Boone and Kit Carson (see Blood and Thunder) really do all the things the pulp novels and almanacs say they did? It is known that many of the stories were made up for monetary purposes only, and as the years went on, a copious amount of them were accepted as pure lore.

The author tells the reader that the idea for this book came about as he was driving with his daughters, Lizzie and Mona, and the Burl Ives song came on the radio: “Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee...” (The Ballad Of Davy Crockett). This piqued the girls interest in Davy, Andrew Jackson, and eventually, Abe Lincoln. It also lit a fire in Bob Thompson and stimulated him to hit the road and find the real Davy Crockett. So off to Tennessee he goes. He finds Davy to be a semi-illiterate poor farmer of nine siblings. The author finds many museums and the Davy Crockett State Park in Tennessee with curators and relatives of Davy’s willing to tell their stories. Davy, still unknown at twenty seven, joins the Tennessee militia to fight the marauding Creek indians, who are on a murdering rampage. Davy runs for Colonel in the local militia and wins. His beloved wife Polly dies and he marries a widow with two kids, Elizabeth Patton. He runs for state legislature and wins. Other than the fact that he was elected to a state office, a known bear hunter, and an indian fighter, I still don’t see how his legend started. He was a dirt poor tenant farmer. Davy then runs for Congress as the advocate for the poor man and wins. While in Congress, other congressman considered him a hick. ”He had been told that he did not understand English grammar. That was very true. He had never been six months at school in his life.”

Davy makes an enemy out of President Andrew Jackson.  Davy can’t get his poor man’s free land bill passed but gets re-elected anyway. Davy is still a poor tenant farmer, but his uniqueness earns him some tall tales. His slogan “Always be sure you are right, then go ahead” appears in almanacs along with other suspect quotes by Davy. Many books are written about Crockett’s adventures, true or not. Davy is defeated by a Jackson crony. “At age 45, he was a dirt poor tenant farmer once again.” Davy later wins election to congress from a new district in Tennessee. While congress is in session, Davy takes his autobiography (most likely written by a friendly congressman) on tour! According to Bob Thompson, this is probably the first book tour in the USA. Unfortunately, hobnobbing with the rich and famous while on tour causes Davy to lose the support of his poor Tennessee voters. He is defeated by a peg-legged Adam Huntsman. Davy forgot the country saying, “Don’t get above your raisin’ “, meaning: “Don’t forget who you are; don’t leave your people behind.” Davy’s reaction to losing his congressional seat was ”Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will goe to Texas.” Davy Crockett, “half man, half legend-was setting out for his last adventure of his life at age 49, but he was still dirt poor. And we are only half way through this intriguing book. The best is yet to come because the author and several Crockettologists discuss Davy's death at the Alamo. A Mexican officer's manuscript and The Dolson Letter put Davy's reputation in jeopardy. I found this part of the book mind-blowing! This is a must read book.

I’m still mystified by this iconic hero, known as Davy Crockett. Published Crockett almanacs state that the following are some true happenings: “He halted a charging bear just by staring at him.”; “He sang duets with a friendly buffalo who had a fine bass voice.”; and Davy is reported to have written this last entry in his journal at the Alamo: “Pop, pop, pop! Bom, bom, bom! Throughout the day-no time for memorandums now. Go ahead!-Liberty and independence for ever!” I don’t know, what do you think? (Just kidding.) Many historians believe (according to the author) that Davy didn’t know anything about Texas’s fight for independence when he wandered into the skirmish between the Texians and Gen.Santa Anna of Mexico. He saw it as an opportunity to finally get his own land for his family (he had six children from two wives) and a way to get back into politics as the representative for the new territory of Texes (the spelling at the time). Bob Thompson says that four movies were made about Davy in the early 1900s; then, interest about Davy Crockett waned until Walt Disney decided to resurrect Davy with Fess Parker, who, by the way, played Daniel Boone in the 1960's. This is a remarkable book for any reader interested in history and folklore. As a side note, there is no known meeting between Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, even though they were alive together for 34 years and Kentucky (Boone) and Tennessee (Crockett) abut each other. Go figure.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Davy Crockett, a man with hardly any formal education, is credited with many sayings and axioms.The reader has to determine if they are real or fabricated. The following Crockett quotes are reported to be true and are provided by Wikiquote:
I would rather be beaten and be a man than to be elected and be a little puppy dog. I have always supported measures and principles and not men. I have acted fearless[ly] and independent and I never will regret my course. I would rather be politically buried than to be hypocritically immortalized.” This is from a letter, after Davy was defeated in the 1830 election.
“I am now here in Congress... I am at liberty to vote as my conscience and judgment dictates to be right, without the yoke of any party on me, or the driver at my heels, with his whip in hand, commanding me to ge-wo-haw, just at his pleasure. Look at my arms, you will find no party hand-cuff on them!” Part of a letter reported in Davy’s 1834 book A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett .
“I am sorry to say I do doubt the honesty of many men that are called good at home, that have given themselves up to serve a party. I am no man's man. I bark at no man's bid. I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the white house, no matter who he is. And if this petty, un-patriotic scuffling for men, and forgetting principles, goes on, it will be the overthrow of this one happy nation, and the blood and toil of our ancestors will have been expended in vain.” From Davy’s tour to the North and Down East in 1835.
I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world. The best land & best prospects for health I ever saw is here, and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here. There is a world of country to settle.” From a letter to his children on 1/9/1836, a couple of months before his death.
“We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.” In a speech to the US House of Representatives.
Although our great man at the head of the nation, has changed his course, I will not change mine. ... I was also a supporter of this administration after it came into power, and until the Chief Magistrate changed the principles which he professed before his election. When he quitted those principles, I quit him. I am yet a Jackson man in principles, but not in name... I shall insist upon it that I am still a Jackson man, but General Jackson is not; he has become a Van Buren man.” Davy talking about President Andrew Jackson.
I have never knew what it was to sacrifice my own judgment to gratify any party and I have no doubt of the time being close at hand when I will be rewarded for letting my tongue speak what my heart thinks. I have suffered myself to be politically sacrificed to save my country from ruin and disgrace and if I am never again elected I will have the gratification to know that I have done my duty.” Comment by Davy on his final election defeat on 8/11/1835.  

Monday, July 8, 2013


It’s 2051 and a ‘dinosaur killer’ asteroid is heading for earth. Is this the same asteroid that the Watchstar people sent a rocket  with nanotechnology into outer space to meet twenty-five years ago? The craft’s mission was to bring the asteroid into earth’s orbit for mining purposes. But when the nanobots reached the asteroid, they were never heard from again. Welcome to the world of puzzlement and wonder. By that I mean it’s a world of: nanorobotics ( bots ) killing, or curing people; politics too muddled to understand ( at least for me ); indian tribes that are now the athletic and intellectual elite of the world; and people who could change their appearance and health by the type and amount of bots put into their system. I’ve read many of Larry Niven’s books, and this is the first time that I didn’t understand every concept. Is it his writing partner, Matthew Joseph Harrington’s fault? By the way, why do all these sci-fi writers take on partners? This book gave me a dose of author Vernor Vinge’s addling thoughts. I did like the book, but didn’t like having to refer to Wikipedia for scientific lucidity. Also as usual, Niven gets away with having way too many named characters by having a ‘cast and crew’ list in front of the novel. How about 51 notable personage, including the three main bot entities.

When The Briareus Project failed to bring back an asteroid into earth’s orbit for industrial mining, the company dissolved. However the main nano engineer, Dr. Toby Glyer, switched gears and became a physician in Switzerland who cures ailments with bots. Rocket scientist and test pilot May Wyndham is a patient/lover of Toby’s. They live in a world similar to Ayn Rand’s John Galt in Atlas Shrugged . By that I mean they live in their own world with discerning intellects who have given up on world politics and squabbles. The leader of The Joint Negotiating Alliance of Indian Affairs ( JNAIT ), Mycroft Yellowhorse, is in Toby’s circle of friends. His group is now recognized by most of the world as a nation, having their own currency and stamps. He is joined by a disillusioned and fired Department of Homeland Security analyst, Alice Johnson. These four will arrive in Ecuador against the backdrop of the Olympics ( the Indians filled with bots are dominating ) to figure out how to stop the 200 billion ton asteroid travelling at four miles per second and guided by nanorobotics.

Meanwhile China tries to stop the asteroid with catastrophic results ( you will have to read the novel to find out what happened ). Now it’s a race between the U.S.A. and the JNAIT to see who can build a spaceplane capable of stopping the asteroid. Both nations have good reasons to get there first. Meanwhile, the bots on the asteroid are watching all this transpire with their huge bot-made telescope! The second half of the novel is filled with tension and new developments. Like Niven’s Footfall , this is where he earns his reputation as one of sci-fi’s foremost authors. Whereas I might have been a little discombobulated with some of the scientific premises of the novel, It’s still classic Larry Niven and highly recommendable.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: I’m assuming that the reason for Niven’s partnerships with other authors is based on output. He can simply publish more books per year. His partners have included Edward M. Lerner, Robert Mandell, Jerry Pournelle, Stephen Hickman, Poul Anderson, Dean Ing, Gregory Benford, and illustrator, Sean Lam. These are all successful writers in their own right.

In, Larry was quoted as saying: “We need to take command of the solar system to gain that wealth, and to escape the sea of paper our government is becoming, and for some decent chance of stopping a Dinosaur Killer asteroid.” I’m assuming he was talking about the novel I just reviewed. Niven’s previous novel Bowl of Heaven written with Gregory Benford is not getting good reviews. Amazon shows a rating less than three stars with 129 customer reviews. This can’t be good news for Niven since I believe he wants Bowl of Heaven to be the first in a series similar to the many Ringworld novels.

I mentioned Poul Anderson in the first paragraph of this comment section. He was one of si-fi’s most prolific writers. He garnered seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards before he passed on in 2001. Some of his notable works (courtesy Wikipedia) are as follows:
Tau Zero -” Tau Zero is a hard science fiction novel by Poul Anderson. The novel was based upon the short story "To Outlive Eternity" appearing in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1967. It was first published in book form in 1970.”
The Broken Sword - “The Broken Sword is a fantasy novel written by Poul Anderson in 1954. It was issued in a revised edition by Ballantine Books as the twenty-fourth volume of their Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in January 1971.”
Hoka! - Hoka! is a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson. It was first published by Wallaby in 1983.”
Earthman's Burden - “ Earthman's Burden is a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson. It was first published by Gnome Press in 1957. The story "Don Jones" was original to this collection. “
There Will Be Time -”There Will Be Time is a science fiction novel by Poul Anderson. It was published in 1972 in a hardback edition by Doubleday and in 1973 in a paperback edition by New American Library.”

Monday, July 1, 2013


The author sent me a copy of this novel to review:

I loved the atmosphere of this maiden novel by Juno Ross. Many years ago, I was in New Orleans for a few days, and in the evening I walked the streets of this wonderful city. I would pop in various clubs for a jazz set and a scotch, then move on to the next club for an encore till the wee hours of the morning. Now, thanks to Juno Ross, I know what goes on behind the scenes. I honestly didn’t think I was going to like this novel, until about 100 pages into it. The novel seemed to have way too many characters, which in my mind is a huge error. The reader doesn’t want to remember 30 plus people and what they do for a living. Most successful writers keep the named characters down to three to a maximum of ten ( see Cormac McCarthy novels, especially The Road (Oprah's Book Club) ). However, Juno managed to pull it off. I was able to remember who was who. Surprisingly, I didn’t have that nonplussed look, I was mindful that Stu was on guitar, and Hans on the bass ( both minor named characters ).  So congratulations to a new author, Juno Ross. Juno is just one of the many nascent authors that I have read this year who could be the bellwethers of future literature.

The story is not in New Orleans, but in the D.C./ Virginia area on the Potomac River. Basically we follow the aspiring careers of three jazz singers trying to make a success. We meet Lorraine Gilligan, a talented college student who can sing scat (skeep-beep de bop-bop beep bop bo-dope skeetle-at-de-op-de-day); Avis, the singer in her husband’s trio, who is unsure of the direction her family is taking; and Izzy, the cross-dressing heir to billions. Essentially, the chapters rotate between these three singers. Initially, I thought this style of writing was a bit muddled, but as the novel progressed, the reader saw how these chapters were going to unite. As I said before, we had a lot of characters, but we also had many jazz clubs, such as: The Fishtown Cafe, Gustave’s, Nitzka’s Restaurant, Mr. Cobblestone’s, and The Four Dudes. It’s amazing how the reader was able to remember all these facets. Now, we come to the important sidebar characters: Tips, Avis’s husband; Hardy Knox, the geezer emcee; Jim, the influential waiter; Contessa Baronessa L’Marquis, the wealthy 67 or 78 year old pianist; Dahlia, a singer; and William Leiderhaus, a bandleader/pianist. After a fashion, all of these characters and places collide to make a marvelous novel. I haven’t told you too much, so you have no reason not to buy your own copy of this avant-garde novel to enjoy.

I’m starting to like this Southern Gothic genre, especially by new authors like Juno Ross. I know the classic writers, such as, Tennessee Williams, Harper lee, and William Faulkner have their vintage novels in place, but it’s time to welcome new writers to this popular genre. You might ask: What are some of the rules of Southern Gothic literature? Lets see, does Juno have a disturbed character? Yes, we have William Leiderhaus ( and a few more ). Do we have a ostracized person? Yes, we have Izzy. Does the novel have repressed people?  Yes, we have all the singers. If you put all these facts together, this novel fits the Southern Gothic genre requirements. I highly recommend this inaugural novel by Juno Ross.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Comment: If you’ve followed my reviews and comments, you know that I’ve talked about Southern Gothic literature before. But not the great ‘jazz’ books. According to Theguardian here are some books that you can enjoy:
Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje. “This is a brilliant novel imagining Buddy Bolden, the man many feel more or less invented jazz in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century in New Orleans. There is no known recording of Bolden's music. And he spent the last decades of his life in a mental institution. Ondaatje's genius here is to re-invent Bolden and the world of Storyville – New Orleans Red Light District – and make us hear the music he played."

Jazz by Toni Morrison. “Set in Harlem during the Jazz Age, this is the story of interlocking characters in New York and how they made the journey north—tragic, ecstatic, terrible, thrilling. Morrison is one of the few authors who can really make her prose swing, can make you feel what jazz music meant, felt like, did to people, in its first great era."

 Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout. “A terrific and comprehensive biography of the most important figure in jazz, Pops gives you a fully realised Louis Armstrong. And Armstrong not only changed the way music was played, he changed American popular singing. Tony Bennett once said, "If you're not singing like Louis, you're not singing American."
Who could forget Louis singing: “I see skies of blue...Clouds of white...Bright blessed days...Dark sacred nights...And I think to myself...What a wonderful world.” It doesn’t get better than that.

Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson by Wil Haygood. “Sugar Ray Robinson was a boxer, or course, but this wonderful biography taught me more about the world of jazz – its ecology – than almost any other. Here is a portrait of black America, the "Sepia World" from the 1930s on. Robinson carted an old record player with him along with records – Duke Ellington, Fats Waller – so he could warm up to music. Then, he would go into the ring, as Haygood writes, "guided by the jazz in his head and the beckoning lights". He loved musicians, and they loved him. He was "the first modern prizefighter to take culture — music and grace and dance — into the ring with him." The last time I saw Sugar was in the early sixties walking down the street in Waikiki, Hawaii with a beautiful girl on each arm. After all those fights, I couldn’t see a mark on his face.