A.B. Funkhauser and I collaborated on a projected about writing historical fiction. Here’s the link to her website where it’s posted. It’s both rich in content and handsome in design. I’ve reviewed both her books Scooter Nation and Heuer Lost and Found on previous blogs, so check them out by clicking on the images below. As for our words of wisdom re historical fiction, GO HERE NOW!
Here’s what Alex Pilalis of Dublin, whose The Awakening of James Island I recently reviewed, thought of The Yellow Rose.Five stars, children!
The Yellow Rose is an impressive, authentic Western, filled with the usual tropes of war and Revolution and romance, but with enough of its own charm to be fresh and new while still feeling familiar. I found it to be a very thrilling read.
The lead, Sam Houston, is a hero straight out of the old westerns, and I could easily see him standing toe to toe with the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Or for a more contemporary comparison, I also saw a bit of Mel Gibson’s Maverick in him too. Especially with his playful interactions with the secondary lead, Emily West, a tough, smart, sexy free woman who’s always far more intelligent than anyone gives her credit. Both characters are very well realised and it was fun and interesting to live with them for the duration of the book.
The writing is relentlessly authentic, and was a joy to read. I could tell that a lot of research, time, effort and care went into this book, and reading about its history and development raised my appreciation of it even more.
There is a somewhat jarring shift in voice between the chapters, third person for Sam’s chapters, and first person for Emily’s, but it’s not such an issue that I didn’t become accustomed to it soon enough. I would also have liked for some of the supporting characters to have been fleshed out a bit more, and to have spent a little more time with them, as some seemed like very interesting and complex people, while the focus mostly stayed with Sam and Emily. Aside from a bit of a lull around the middle, the pacing and story keeps moving enough to hold interest and maintain its charm.
I would highly recommend this book to any lovers of westerns, history, romance, and good old-fashioned frontier fun.
Alex Pilalis in The Awakening of James Islandhands us over to a chaotic future universe charged with mystery and danger. James is a young man with almost no memory or known history. He works in a fairly menial job at a construction site, but does not know where he came from or what his purpose in life might be. The city where he works is a crossroads of a variety of interplanetary creatures and vehicles that keep him both trepidatious and confused. Soon after we enter the story, an alien named Evan comes into his life in a dramatic fashion I won’t spoil for readers by describing here. Evan claims to know and be responsible for James destiny, but won’t reveal details, and James mistrusts his claim. Multiple harrowing adventures ensue.
Pilalis has a wonderful talent for creating excruciating situations for his many-talented characters and for devising astonishing escapes. Excitement, suspense and surprises await on nearly every page. I wasn’t, however, surprised to find on reading Pilalis’ bio after I’d finished the book that he’s spent considerable time in the video game industry. I could really picture some of those situations he invented coming right out of the small screen, zooming and leaping through and over obstacles as if someone had a thumb on a controller.
One caveat for me was that James himself seemed seldom able to analyze situations or devise his own escapes. I’d have liked him to be a bit more self-sufficient, stronger of mind and body and able to extricate himself from dilemmas instead of having to nearly always depend on others. However, this is the first of a series, and I anticipate he’ll grow as the tale goes on. With that small reservation, I highly recommend this novel and await the sequels.
I usually try to come up with a title for these reviews that references, but does not include verbatim the title of the book. This time, I can’t improve on the title, so I say to and about A.B.Funkhauser, great title for an equally great book.
“Scooter” Nation is a nice double-entendre. “Scooter” on the one hand hooks us into Scooter Creighton, one of the main characters in Funkhauser’s debut tale, Heuer, Lost and Found. On the other hand, another of the novel’s most significant elements involves a fleet of motorized scooters ridden by aggrieved disabled people who zip around protesting both handicapped access and other community political issues.
Heuer involves the shenanigans of the owners and operators of a family-held mortuary with a tangled web of relationships, both fiscal and personal. Scooter opens with that same mortuary in the hands of the unfortunately-named Jocasta Binns, the main surviving member of the conflicts in Heuer. (Tantalizing glimpse: You find out how Jocasta came by the name of a legendarily incestuous Greek queen.)
Binns is a deeply angry and unhappy Martinet who alienates her staff and family and inspires a rebellion. The tactics of the rebellion could have been carried out only in a funeral home, which makes for great reading. So, as in all of Funkhauser, you see common human interactions carried out in a most uncommon environment.
In my review of Heuer I complimented Funkhauser on her “zesty prose” as well as her characters. Here’s a two-in-one quote that illustrates both.
Enid. . . should have puked all over her shoes. She should have spewed all over Carla too, but she didn’t. . . her guts steadied steadied to a workable calm just like they always did in the face of a threat.
You’ve got both a reaction on the part of a major character as well as a mirror into her internal life. Furthermore, her emotional responses manifest in real action later in the novel. Thus, the lives of Charley Forsythe and Scooter Creighton and the rest involve us not only in entertaining capers but in deep and meaningful emotions as well. A terrific read with, I understand, a sequel on the way. Keep ’em coming, A.B. And to the rest of you, join the audience.
A North Carolina friend to whom I recommended Deep South wanted me to look at Larry Brown’sFather and Son.She said it gave her insight into how some of the families in her area of the semi-rural south, where she had a long career as an educator, came to be who they are. If so, There are some grim realities down there. However, local as the dysfunction might be for the purposes of this single novel, it’s also I’m sure an unfortunate universal reality beyond the borders of the Southern U.S.
Glen’s just out of prison after serving three years for the drunk-driving killing of a young boy. He’s full of more anger and resentment than a penful of Timothy McVeigh’s. He’s a natural expert at laying off the blame, so he’s got a number of scores to settle in the small community he’s come home to. Brown gives us a younger brother to whom we can compare Glen. They are close enough in age to share parenting and backgrounds. Unlike his brother, “Puppy” is not particularly mad at anyone, though he’s anything but that of a model citizen. He’s pretty fond of cards and beer, to the detriment of his kids and wife.
Glen has a kid as well, and the mother wants him back in the house. She’s wary, but she wants to make it work. Glen can charm when he wants to, so we see that softer, cheery side of him as well. Still, he’s not ready for anything like responsibility. What he’s ready for is some good old fashioned binge drinking and vengeance. And off he goes.
I don’t like to describe story lines much beyond this point because it kind of takes oxygen out of a tale to know everything beforehand on first reading. Suffice it to say that the relationships in Glen’s and his father’s family are complex, bordering on incestuous, and make for quite a cast on which Glen can work his criminal instincts. And it’s perhaps the insight into the criminal instinct which is the most significant thematic element of Brown’s novel. What would make a person do something like that? We ask that all time, don’t we? Sometimes you can suggest an answer, more often not. But Father and Son will give you a shot at a response and a rousing story beside.