The Last Best Friend – George Sims (Author), Martin Edwards (Introduction)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Had Sammy, on the towering ledge, been tempted by death, the last best friend? The endless embrace, offering oblivion and release from the remorse that Sammy felt for his parents and sisters left behind to be butchered at Auschwitz.”

 

Sammy Weiss was an Austrian Jew and socialist who was imprisoned in Dachau before WWII. He escaped to England and became a jeweler. London is where he met Ned Balfour, a dealer in manuscripts and autographed letters. They were to become best friends, though Sammy didn’t understand him.

“Ned. Part adult, part adolescent—who finds success ”boring”, who has a charming wife and delightful children yet wants to throw all this away.” 

Yes, Ned was a womanizer— single or married—it didn’t matter.

Now it’s early 1966 and Ned is middle-aged, at forty-two years old. He was vacationing in Corsica in the company of a very young woman,when he received an urgent telegram from Sammy. He wanted advice on a “terrible decision” that he made and asked that Ned call him on a specific date and time. Before he could do so, a telegram arrived from Ned’s ex-wife stating that Sammy was dead. He fell or jumped from the 10th floor of his building. But what didn’t make sense to Ned was that he knew that Sammy severely suffered from vertigo.

Distraught, Ned returned to London to investigate what actually happened. Not only does he discover criminal activity and secrets dating back to 1945, but through all this he starts to understand more about himself.

Author George Sims was an antiquarian bookseller who wrote more as a hobby. Maybe this attributed to his unorthodox use of excess description and superfluous activity, which does tend to bog down the story. But you find out that some of these characters were essential to the outcome of the story.

Though void of twists and turns, this dark novel kept my interest by slowly revealing clues that built up to a satisfying conclusion. I also found Ned’s continual self-examination while trying to find the cause of his best friend’s death to be particularly fascinating. At barely over 150 pages, the story is surprisingly complete.

Last Best Friend which was originally published in 1967 was recently re-issued by British Library Classic Thrillers.

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The Flawed Ones – Jay Chirino

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Exceptional

We can never be defined by our shortcomings or the conditions we live in, but we can certainly fight and believe that love always conquers all. Our hearts are not touched by our flaws, and that is what The Flawed Ones teaches us.

Mental illness, depression, addiction and the effects of it all can easily cloud our judgments and have us make the wrong decisions. However, once Jay confronts them all, that is when his life takes a turn. The people around him are his influential backbone and shed the necessary insightful perspective he needs to rebuild his life.

The book not only raises awareness towards the subject matter but it also provides an eye-opening realization for the ones that have no idea what people with mental illness go through. Addiction is something most people suffer from. The author provides much heartfelt backstory to what causes his downfall. Once he loses the love over his unstable lifestyle, he changes things around. The turning point then becomes his light and what transpires to be this beautiful book of celebrating life.

I found the book to be written with much care, and it took me on a delightful emotional journey. I recommend this book to people who wish to know how it feels to be surrounded by so much darkness and how to overcome it.

The literature was easy to understand and to follow. The concept and content were well connected smoothly, causing the reader to remain intrigued and interested. I believe everything happens for a reason and this book is one of those you really don’t wish to miss reading.

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Aviation: History of Aviation: Aeroplanes, Balloons and the Zeppelin – From: da Vinci and The Wright Brothers to Modern Fighter Planes. How The Icarus Dream Became a Reality – Henry Stewart

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Aviation: History of Aviation took a subject that I wasn’t particularly interested in and turned it into a fascinating read. It covers quite a lot in just 36 pages.

It starts out with humans’ early desire to fly with the myths of Icarus and Pegasus to later experiments such as to Leonard Di Vinci’s Ornithopter failure. It shows the history and science behind the hot air balloon and Zeppelin.

It goes into a concise history of the airplane as we know it now. From the Wright Brothers to the role of aircraft in WWII, why NASA was formed, and the Concorde and the breaking of the sound barrier.

It even goes into the possible future of aircraft. Flying cars?

If you never thought you’d be interested in Aviation and the history of flying, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I highly recommend this.

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Kings Of This World – Peter Bailey

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Kings Of This World is a sci-fi story about Matthew and Jeremy. Matthew wakes up one day noticing that everyone in London has gone crazy. Everyone is basically behaving abnormal, conducting actions that one would not encounter on a normal basis. Things like people having sex on the street, taking a dump, or killing each other over silly things.

As it takes Matthew a few chapters to discover what is going on in the world, he meets Jeremy, who also happens to have kept his mind intact. They both seek reason and understand that it is all based on aliens taking over the land harvesting people to create a weapon.

I first wanted to congratulate the author on the novel approach to storytelling. I have read many books, but I have never read something like this before. The literature was easy to follow, and the story had a smooth paste to it. The subject matter did have some sensitive topics that may be disturbing for some to read but if you like thrilling horror style books, this would also suit your desire.

I am not a big fan of aliens and the notion of stories that revolve around them. However, the author’s innovative style of writing was enjoyable to read. I recommend this book to sci-fi readers.

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Interpretation: (An Artificial Intelligence Dystopian Nightmare) – Dylan Callens

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

I truly think Interpretation is one of the best science fiction novels I have read. It is a dystopian science fiction novel about Carl Winston. He has a son, Liam whom he adores. Everything seems to be going as normal until Carl takes his annual government test. His answers are considered  flawed, and that becomes a problem.

This is when the story takes an interesting turn. Carl is separated from his son, and the story is unraveled with many dark secrets and hardship in understanding the truth behind it all.

The government appears to be the owner, and the people are the creations. In this dystopian world,  human emotion, hope and dreams are interpreted differently.  This twisted and very novel story takes you on a journey where you don’t really wish to go. It constantly makes you think, “What if this was true and what if it happened now?”

I particularly like the father-son relationship between Carl and Liam. The added romance is also very pleasing. Eva and Carl’s connection is a nice additional touch in this simulated cold environment of mind control. The storytelling has a very intriguing psychological touch. Being controlled and having your mindset so strongly manipulated by others that you are not able to even distinguish reality , is written in such a professional way.

The story has no flaws, and the literature standard exceeded my expectations. I look forward to reading more from this author.

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How to be a Gentleman: What Every Modern Man Needs to Know about Manners and Behaviors to Attract Women Now (The Modern Ladies & Gentlemen Guides Book 1) – Niel Schreiber

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“…a real gentlemen holds his own and knows when to show strength of character and decisiveness with the aim of self-preservation, while still maintaining his chivalry and honor intact. A gentlemen knows his own worth very well and has enough confidence not to get taken advantage of.”

Being a gentleman is far from being a pushover and author Niel Schreiber explains it so convincingly in his short  guide How to be a Gentleman. 

Communication skills, attentiveness, proper etiquette and empathy are musts, as generosity is (which, by the way, has nothing to do with age or income). He then goes into detail on appearance and first impressions.

Most importantly, the author states that being a gentleman cannot be faked, but can be learned and developed. He shows  exactly how to accomplish it in this book.

Ideally, How to be a Gentleman should be read by every teenage boy, but will be of great benefit to men of all ages.

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Self’s Blossom – David Russell

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Exceptional

Self’s Blossom is a romantic novel about Selene. She is on vacation in Central America when she meets Hudson, and that is when her journey begins.

Her friend Janice is criticized when she tries to provide some advice to her, but there is more than what meets the eye with Selene. She has things in her past that tangle with her current affairs. Selene is a deep thinker and is probably considered to be a little self-obsessed.

The story has a subtle poetic literary standard to it. The main character is not as likable or, in many aspects, relatable to a woman; and that I believe sums up the reason why the story may not resonate with a lot of readers. The book is a combination of a romantic setting with the added erotic literature description with a sprinkle of a woman’s liberation.

What the book does possess is a very sweet, sensual, dreamy and romantic side to it that fiction lovers will appreciate. The work is well written and I believe it complements the genre it is relevant to. I believe the strongest aspect about this book is its world setting. Selene has so many thoughts and poetic discussion with herself that it is very easy to envision the surroundings she is in.

I recommend this book to romance readers.

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What Lies Within – Clare de Lune

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“…I learned how a body could become a beautiful contribution to the power of cosmetics…the most exquisite, deepest shade of blood red lipstick you’ve’ ever seen, rich soaps made from the finest fats…all those parts put to wondrous use for our benefit. And for those who used them. Little did they know: they were using me for forbidden sexual pleasure… The entire business cycle bloomed into a beautiful, profitable circle, one that hasn’t even been close to being broken since its inception.”

 

How could Sophia Varga get involved in all of this? She knows she has a physical need to kill and an even greater desire to control. Cutting up her victims for profit doesn’t even faze her. Is this behavior innate or was it from her mother, or Claude, her business partner?

While in San Francisco, Sophia spots Paul, and becomes obsessed with him. She envies his ability to show compassion; she wants to become more “human”, like him. Even sociopathic Sophia finds the need for self-examination. However, Paul winds up being more than she can handle.

That’s only part of the story though. There is Celestine, a photographer who is obsessed with Sophia; there’s also Tamara, a transsexual who runs a local coffee shop. Unbeknownst to each other, all three left New Orleans to escape to San Francisco. As the story progresses, they step into each other’s lives . By looking into their pasts, we then realize that they have a lot more in common than one would ever suspect.

This psychological thriller hits you from the beginning with perverse action and vivid detail. It will initially make you feel uncomfortable and you may want to hastily put it down at Chapter One, but please don’t. You’ll get sucked in— just like I did—and then won’t be able to put it down. What Lies Within is exactly want I crave in a thriller: a character-driven story (with flawed characters) and a strong, complex plot.

This is not for the faint of heart or stomach, but if you enjoy unique and gritty crime thrillers, this one is definitely for you. I’m look forward to more from this author.

Posted in Crime, Mystery and Thrillers, Dark/Sordid/Bizarre, NOLA, Our Best, San Francisco | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Zero Avenue: A Crime Novel – Dietrich Kalteis

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

1970s Vancouver- The young punk scene is vibrant and on the rise. Twenty four year- old singer/guitarist Frankie Del Rey just wants to make enough for her band, Middle Finger, to record an EP.

So to make money, she runs drugs across town and even across the Canadian-U.S. border for grower, manufacturer and dealer, Marty Sayles. She only sees this as temporary; and even when her relationship with Sayles goes sour, she can’t seem to get out. It doesn’t help that Sayles’ former chauffeur, now right-hand man Zeke Chamas, can’t stand her.

Bar owner, Johnny Falco lets new bands like Frankie’s, play at his club, but is behind on his rent to his landlord, who happens to be Marty Sayles. He has an idea to rob Marty’s pot field to pay his back rent, even though it’s pretty well monitored. Unfortunately, Falco can’t keep quiet about it, and Frankie’s bassist suddenly goes missing.

Though it is fast-moving, Zero Avenue has a simple, straightforward plot. The setting and characters make the story a worthwhile read. For instance, Frankie’s aunt Rita is a supporting character, but adds a lot to the story.

Those who want a quick read and remember the whole punk scene will enjoy this one.

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Mygale – Thierry Jonquet (Translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith)

Ah, revenge can be so sweet. Now mix it with obsession and a touch of madness, and it turns utterly twisted and bizarre.  Such is the case with the intense and fascinating novel, Mygale, written by the late French crime novelist Thierry Jonquet.

Richard Lafargue, a successful, well-respected plastic surgeon carries a dark secret.  He locks Eve, the stunning woman he lives with, in her bedroom.  If that isn’t enough, he forces here to turn tricks in a Paris apartment once a month while he watches. As you can assume, she despises him as much as he does her. Acquaintances would never figure out their sordid life as they both seem so content at the lavish parties they attend with the Paris elite.

In the underbelly of society we meet 21 year old Alex Barny. Though he has never been in prison or even in front of a court, he made a living by thumping people for his ’employers’. Strong and impulsive, he figured that he could make more money by committing his own crimes. But now he’s on the run. While robbing a bank he killed a cop and in the process caught a bullet in his thigh. He keeps scolding himself,  not for the crime, but for his stupidity. If his longtime friend, Vincent, was around, he would have thought things through and planned the perfect bank robbery.  However Vincent was nowhere to be found.

The lives of Alex, Richard an Eve intertwine but not in the way that you would expect. Jonquet takes the reader back in forth between the three and their stories and you shudder as you begin to figure it all out. Though the ending makes perfect sense, it is hardly what you expect.

Mygale takes the psychological thriller to an entirely new level. This novel is so unique, seedy and gritty, that you won’t be able to put it down.  It will also linger in your head long after you’re done with it. Surprisingly, at only 120 pages the narrative is concise but with elaborate detail while the characters are completely fleshed out.

This translated version of Mygale is part of the City Lights Noir collection and is so eerie and perfect for this time of year.

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Posted in Crime, Mystery and Thrillers, Dark/Sordid/Bizarre, French literature, Skinny reads, World Literature | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment