The Winemaker’s Secret – Arthur Coventry, WWII veteran, returns home and establishes a winery to honor his fallen comrades.
But is it with a clear conscience?
One of our two intrepid friend’s gets to the bottom of the “Russia” scandal. Well, kind of.
– There he is. Let me getcha’ a beer. How was the vacation with the missus? Where did you get to again?
– Russia. The wife has always wanted to go. And seeing as the Donald has given it his blessing, I thought, what’s the harm?
– So, you were in Moscow!
– Yep, for seven days. Saw all the sights, too. Red Square. Took the wife to the ballet at the Bullshit Theatre one night.
– You mean the Bolshoi?
– Whatever. And saw that dead guy they have laid out in this huge mausoleum.
– Nah, he didn’t look like one of the Beatles . . . We even toured the Kremlin.
– Get outta’ here?
– Sure did. Though I got lost during the tour looking for a bathroom. That food over there was something else.
– What happened?
– Well, I wandered around for a while and ended up finding a nice little spot to squat. And right when I was getting comfortable, I overhear two guys chatting in the room next door. And I think one of ‘em was Putin.
– He had gas?
– Nah, the President of Russia. So, I thought to myself, this’ll make a fine memento, so I started recording them on my phone. Here, listen.
“Mr. President, we must talk. The American F.B.I. is on to me.”
“Oleg, Oleg. Relax. We knew that they’d eventually find out about your relationship with that greedy bastard Manafort. Do not worry my friend.”
“But, if they put two and two together . . .”
“And what? My plan has already exceeded our wildest expectations. And you know I have some doozies at times. Can you believe we stole back the Crimea and the rest of Europe did nothing?”
(both men are heard laughing)
“Yes, Mr. President. That was good one. And what about Olympics!”
“We don’t speak of that one, Oleg. Damn drug testing.”
“So, you are not worried, Mr. President?”
“Why should I be? If we get away with our plan, we make billions when America loosens sanctions. And if not, we still create havoc in their pretty little democratic system.”
“You aren’t worried about what people will say about you?”
“Me? Oleg, my friend. And I call you my friend because I own you and could kill you at any moment. Nobody like me now. What have I to lose?”
“And what will become of your secret weapon over there?”
(grunting and groaning drowns out the voices)
– Jesus! What’s that noise. Is he strangling him?
– Nah, that’s me. That borscht does a number on your insides.
– So, what happened after that?
– The usual. Though, a word to the wise. I’ve got to warn ya’, Russian toilet paper is not too gentle on the old private parts.
– No. I meant about the rest of the conversation.
– Oh. Battery died on my phone. The wife left the charger at the hotel.
– So, we’ll never know who his secret weapon is?
– I guess not. But if anyone can figure it out, I’m sure the Donald can.
An excerpt from my upcoming novel, Turn a Blind Eye, set partially in Ireland.
September 18, 2014
At the corner of Rogers Lane and Baggot Street, just a brisk two-minute walk to the east of St. Stephen’s Green, you would find Toner’s Pub. The iconic Irish bar had occupied that same corner since first opened by James Toner in 1818. A sign, hanging on the wood panelling inside the front doors, proclaimed its snug Voted Best in Dublin 2010. The snug – a quaint Irish tradition – was barely two metres wide and three long and enclosed on three sides by floor to ceiling walls, a solid oak door the only access point. The fourth side, with a row of head-high windows, provided a limited view out to Baggot Street. Beneath the windows, a matching set of two small ancient church pews. For those seeking anonymity from prying eyes, it was the perfect locale.
Inside the snug, Eamonn Mahoney nervously paced the flagstone floor and checked his watch for the tenth time in the past four minutes. The meeting had been scheduled for four p.m. It was now ten minute’s past and Stuart Clancy was late.
– Typical bloody Clancy.
Eamonn muttered as he paced three steps to the wall before turning and striding three steps back to the door of the snug. Outside, overhead, dark grey clouds rolled in from the west. The threat of rain promised a fitting end to another lacklustre Dublin day. Eamonn paused to sip from his pint of Guinness, carefully placed it back on the beer mat upon the rickety end table and resumed his pacing.
Eamonn Mahoney had better places to be, better things to be doing, than glad-handing a stuck-up politician, especially at such a popular meeting place – discreet snug or no. He was accustomed to working in the shadows. Deep behind the scenes. This locale was far too conspicuous for his tastes.
Now in his late forties, Eamonn was short and wiry with streaks of grey throughout his thick black hair and the coldest of blue eyes. He was a planner, a schemer and a master surveillance operative for the New IRA. If you asked his opinion, he’d tell you that the feckless politicians of Sinn Fein, together with the Catholic Church, had sold the IRA down the river in the ‘90s. Effectively denuding its importance and leaving the true believers as nothing more than a marginalised terrorist group. Eamonn was still one of those true believers in the cause for complete Irish independence and today’s meeting was all about, he prayed, keeping that cause alive.
Eamonn was about to check his watch for the eleventh time when he heard the snug door open behind him. The door swung shut and the latch fastened before he had time to turn. He spun around slowly to face Stuart Clancy. For the past ten years, Stuart had been a member of the Dail Eireann, the lower house of the Irish government, representing the Sinn Fein party. Previously, a highly-placed member of the Provisional IRA.
Eamonn gave the politician a once over and was struck by how much he had changed over the years. Gone was the straight-backed, imposing, military presence he had first been introduced to almost ten years ago, in its place, an extra twenty kilograms hung from his frame that had curved his shoulders with the added burden. A once thick head of hair had thinned, lost its sheen and had retreated mightily from a pair of thin, grey eyebrows. His face, florid and bloated, displayed the tell-tale signs of a man who drank too much and had become all too comfortable perched behind a desk. Only his sparkling green eyes revealed the familiar fire of old. Clancy’s shirt buttons strained beneath his suit jacket. He loosened his tie and the top button of his collar with his right hand as he hung his coat in the corner with his left.
– Argh ‘tis a pleasure to see you, boyo. Let me get a good look at you. You haven’t changed a bit. How long has it been now?
Clancy shook Eamonn’s hand and slapped him on the shoulder before collapsing onto the leather cushion of one of the two time-worn pews set along the wall.
– Must be close to ten years, Stuart. You look well.
Clancy patted his stomach and smiled.
– Don’t bull shit a bull shitter, Eamonn. I look like shite, and you know it. This is what eighteen years of being a politician will do to you. Running the country is thirsty work and builds up quite an appetite.
Clancy laughed heartily, Eamonn smiled and concluded that becoming a pompous ass must have also been part of the package.
– So, tell me why we had to meet here at one of the most famous pubs in Dublin? Don’t you think we should have been a little more inconspicuous?
– Eamonn, Eamonn, relax. Everyone knows me, correct?
– I expect so.
Eamonn halted his pacing, stared up at the wood-panelled ceiling and blew out a stream of air waiting for Clancy to continue. Clancy nonchalantly picked a loose threat from his trousers.
– My being here is nothing out of the ordinary. I’m just out visiting with my constituents. Of which you just happen to be one with whom I’m having a quick private chat. You’ll leave when we’re done, and I’ll stay and mix with the lads. In ten minutes, no one will remember that you even existed. Would you have me slink into a pub known to be frequented by your crowd? And if I’m recognised there, what then? Trust me, boyo, this is for the best.
And trust him he did. A lot could be said about the integrity of Stuart Clancy, the politician, but as a loyalist to the Republican cause, few were his measure.
Eamonn had first worked for Clancy back in 2006. Clancy had entered politics eight years earlier and, at that time, in conjunction with his Sinn Fein brothers across the border in Northern Ireland, had disavowed all ties with the Provisional IRA. That was the public, Stuart Clancy. From the Good Friday peace accords in 1998 to the final disarming of the IRA in 2005, Clancy played the consummate politician role to perfection. Supporting Sinn Fein’s leader, Gerry Adams, by denouncing violence and calling for calm. Clancy had helped to sooth a fractured nation; albeit, though, one that had still not reclaimed the North from the British. That struggle in Northern Ireland continued but was now fought in the halls of the Dail and parliament, rather than as a guerrilla war on the streets of Belfast and London. The new weapons of political savvy and back-room deals replacing the guns and bombs of old.
However, Eamonn knew of a different Clancy.
In January 2006, Eamonn, a loyal member of the New IRA – one of the many offshoots of the banned Provisional IRA and dubbed the Real IRA by the press – was summoned to meet with Clancy. He could still clearly recall that meeting, even the exact conversation, with a younger, leaner, Clancy.
It took place on a farm outside of Donegal.
The 250-kilometre drive to the Stag’s Head pub in Donegal from Dublin took him almost four hours. He could have taken a faster route but wanted to avoid crossing the border into Northern Ireland. With the British manning the border, Eamonn considered it enemy territory, so best to keep off of their radar unless absolutely necessary.
He found the pub on the Main Street without any problem, then settled in at the bar and waited for his contact to arrive. He was halfway through his third pint of Guinness, wondering when the contact was going to show when a young lass with fiery red hair tied back in a ponytail sidled up next to him at the bar. She ordered a pint of Harp from the bartender, tossed a few coins in his direction, then turned to face Eamonn.
– So, what might your name be then?
Twenty minutes later Eamonn was contemplating ditching the meeting and heading off with the redhead named Moira when he finally twigged that this was the contact. Arm in arm, they left the bar together and made their way to Moira’s car. Their destination was a farm house ten kilometres north of town. For anyone bothering to pay attention, it appeared that a tourist had just struck it rich with one of the local lasses.
Once in the car, Moira was all business, no more small talk, a Clannad CD playing softly on the car stereo the only sound. Dotting the countryside was the occasional hawthorn tree, windswept and gnarled from the harsh North Atlantic winds. Lulled by the soft mystical tunes, he watched the verdant, yet barren, fields roll by endlessly. Eamonn mused that the setting perfectly highlighted why his people were so adept at writing music more suitable for crying along with than for singing.
After aimlessly traversing the country roads for the better part of thirty minutes, Moira abruptly turned left through a set of ancient stone gate posts jogging Eamonn from his torpor. They bumped along the lane for a further kilometre, winding left then right, before the rocky path ended at the steps of an old farm house. Moira pointed Eamonn in the direction of a barn fifty metres away, before disappearing inside the farmhouse.
The old wooden structure, with a corrugated iron roof, nestled up against the tree line that bordered the western edge of the property. If Eamonn had to guess, he would have thought it last received a splash of paint while de Valera was alive. In the diffused light of the barn Eamonn could faintly make out three cows feeding on a bale of hay, a gaggle of hens pecked seed from the ground at his feet. And in the far corner, standing to attention, three men.
– Eamonn Mahoney.
A statement, not a question.
– Yes, Sir.
– You come highly recommended.
– Thank you, Sir. I try my best for the cause.
– We have a small job for you that I believe will put your talents to best use.
Eamonn was a tactical expert. Although slightly built and ill at ease with physical confrontations, he still had his uses. His speciality? Researching and planning operations down to the minutest of details.
The man in the middle, the tallest of the three, walked towards him and handed him a buff legal-sized envelope. From the closer distance, the man’s face was now visible.
– Do you know who I am?
Eamonn held his breath to steel his nerves. He surmised, who wouldn’t?
Stuart Clancy had been a legend in the IRA, but had since gone into politics and, if you believed the rumours, had abandoned the cause.
– Yes, sir.
– So, what are you thinking?
How best to answer, ruminated Eamonn. He was led to believe this was a job to do with the cause. Was he being set up? If so, then it was already too late. He swallowed and took several deep breaths to both buy some time and to bring his breathing under control. He decided honesty the best policy. His priest would be proud. He hoped the faint praise wouldn’t be delivered posthumously.
– I understood that I was here to do a job for the cause. If not, I’ll be on my way.
Clancy let out a booming laugh.
– Be on your way, boyo? Shall I call you a taxi? Spot you the fare? I don’t think so.
The smile disappeared in an instant.
– Open the envelope.
Eamonn slid a fingernail under the flap of the envelope and withdrew a photo.
– So, you know who I am. Do you also know who that fine fellow is?
The face that stared back at Eamonn was instantly recognisable. Middle-aged, balding, wire-rimmed glasses that framed a gentle face. It could have been a photo of any village’s local priest. But you’d also have to have been living under a rock for the past twenty years, especially in this small corner of the world, to not recognise the face of Denis Donaldson.
Donaldson had been an IRA volunteer since the 1960s, later becoming a senior member of their political wing, Sinn Fein. In the 1990s he was Gerry Adam’s right-hand man and ran Sinn Fein’s efforts in soliciting political and financial support in New York.
And, just recently discovered, had for the past twenty years been a spy for MI5 – British Intelligence.
– I see by your reaction you recognise the traitor, Donaldson. And by letting you see my face you know how serious this is, and the consequences if you should fail.
Clancy’s brush strokes were more those of a slap-dash house painter than a French impressionist, but the resulting picture was still crystal clear. Clancy’s role in the cause was as strong as ever; an assignment was being presented to Eamonn and failure was not an option.
– We know Donaldson is hiding out up here in the north . . . somewhere. Maybe over the border. Maybe not. Exactly where is for you to find out for us, then you will devise a plan to ensure he can be quietly eliminated.
– Why me? Don’t you have operatives up here that could do it for you?
Clancy paused, hands behind his back. He turned and took a few paces towards the cows that were still feeding at the back of the barn.
– Are you familiar with the term blowback, boyo?
Clancy turned to face Eamonn, his green eyes boring into Eamonns. He searched for the slightest hint of fear, the most minuscule sign that Eamonn doubted his abilities. Eamonn held his gaze, then answered.
– Aye, Sir. Unintended consequences of an action that can compromise another party.
– Close enough.
Clancy broke eye-contact and continued his pacing. The hens at his feet momentarily interrupted from their own search mission.
– We can’t afford any blowback on this one. We can’t run the risk of someone known to be a sympathiser by the locals caught nosing around. You’re from Dublin, no one knows you up here. Hell, no one knows you in Dublin.
Eamonn was already putting together the brief outline of a plan in his mind as Moira drove him back to his car waiting in Donegal.
Because of the press coverage his story had received Donaldson was too well known to hide out in plain view, at least in a town of any consequence. Therefore, Eamonn surmised, he would need to be tucked away somewhere very isolated. Isolation meant he would require assistance with even the most basic of necessities, and all in a home not listed in his name. Who best for that? For a man abandoned? Eamonn intuited, only family would be able, and presumably willing, to answer Donaldson’s last prayer.
An internet search of Donaldson’s extended family and property holdings uncovered nothing until, by chance, Eamonn hit on a lead. A newspaper article written long ago about Donaldson and his family spoke of a vague family connection to a small village north of Glenties where the extended family had vacationed, albeit infrequently.
It took Eamonn the better part of another month to pinpoint a small farmhouse eight kilometres outside of Glenties and then positively identify Donaldson. The hideout was more a shack than a farmhouse, with no running water or electricity. In fact, as it was so isolated, planning the remainder of the operation proved to be a breeze. He passed on the intelligence he’d gathered, along with the plan he’d devised, to Clancy’s people and waited for their response. A week later he got his reply.
The operation was scheduled for the nineteenth of March before being abruptly aborted at the last moment. Just as the team were performing their final scouting of the shack, Donaldson received an unexpected visitor. And, as it turned out, not just any visitor but a member of the press. Donaldson had been outed. The ensuing discussions that took place back in Dublin to determine all potential risks stretched on interminably.
It was a further sixteen days before further intel had Clancy convinced that the reporter’s investigation had no links whatsoever to Eamonn’s surveillance, and thereby, Clancy’s involvement. On the fourth of April, with the threat of blowback averted, Donaldson was summarily executed for his betrayal. In the subsequent investigation by the Gardaí; no proof of IRA involvement surfaced only rumours, and Eamonn had made his mark with the powers that be.
A further three years were allowed to pass before the Real IRA found it politically expedient to claim responsibility for the killing. The killers of Denis Donaldson forever to remain free. The trail long since had gone stone cold.
And there was to be no blowback.
– So, Eamonn, after all these years you’re probably wondering why I’ve asked you here.
Eamonn turned to face the corpulent politician.
– I hope it’s for a job? You’ve not found a use for me in over five years. Not since the O’Donovan surveillance.
Seamus O’Donovan had been a low-level IRA operative whose drinking had gotten out control and his loose talk had come to threaten the security of their smuggling operations in the north. Eamonn had been dispatched, north to Sligo, to assess the situation. Over the course of four days and countless pints at the Embassy Hotel, Eamonn gained O’Donovan’s trust sufficiently to set the man to talking. It was worse than they had feared, O’Donovan was expecting to come into a sum of money in the not-too-distant future. Unfortunately for O’Donovan, he’d not live to see that future.
His body was found floating in the Garavogue River the morning after a heavier than usual session at the pub. Locals bemoaned the fact that he wasn’t the first drunk to lose his balance and fall from the footbridge that crossed the fast-flowing river, and certainly wouldn’t be the last. Though Eamonn suspected he was one of the few that got a tiny helping hand. Well, actually four hands. Eamonn was amazed how quickly and efficiently the two men sent to help tie-up the loose ends went about their work.
Upon receiving the news of O’Donovan’s death, the Gardaí hastily moved up the planned raid on a certain dockside warehouse. They were unsurprised to find it totally cleaned out.
– I joined the cause to be of service, not twiddle my thumbs eking out a living working for crap wages as a telecom flunky. And last time I checked, the British were still in Northern Ireland.
A trickle of sweat worked its way down his back. Eamonn grabbed his glass from the table and downed the remainder of his Guinness. It had gotten warm in the cramped space of the snug. The fug of body odour rose from his clothes to mix with the scent of stale beer and wood varnish.
– Settle down, would you? No need to get worked up so. We are on track to regain what is rightfully ours, but in today’s world we must show patience.
– Patience? How long until the Catholics are a majority in the north? And by then will they remember our struggles when it comes time to vote? Or will they see their future as one with the loyalists?
– You make a good argument, Eamonn. Perhaps a life in politics was your true calling.
He found it hard not to show his contempt for the once great man that had gone to seed. Eamonn jammed his hands deep attempting to control his anger.
– Relax, boyo. You know I feel the same way, times are changing, but some things never change. We have to keep our message strong and consistent with our brothers in the north so that the wee ones don’t forget their heritage. And you know what that takes.
Eamonn certainly did. In politics, it all came down to one thing. Money. And if you had enough you could control the narrative. Money equated to power. The power to seduce the press which, ultimately, shaped people’s opinions. To bankroll campaigns. To influence elections.
– Our fundraising efforts over the past few years have, shall we say, been less than satisfactory. And with elections coming up . . .
Clancy sighed, thinking, weren’t they always?
– . . . We need a significant cash infusion. Am I making myself clear?
The gears were spinning in Eamonn’s head.
– Ah, I see I’ve gotten your creative juices flowing. How about I give you a little time to think things over, just like you did in the old days.
Clancy stood and grabbed his coat off of the hook. He unlocked the door of the snug, and as he reached for the door handle, he turned back to Eamonn.
– A couple of final items, Eamonn. Let’s meet here again in two weeks, shall we? Same time. Be sure to lock the door behind me. Then give it fifteen minutes before you leave the snug if you’d be so kind, that’ll give me time to get downstairs to meet with a few old friends. Oh, and just like the old days . . . No blowback, boyo.
He held Eamonn’s gaze to ensure he’d gotten the message.
– Anything else you need?
Eamonn turned and stared out the window deep in thought. The height of the window obscured his view of the folks passing on the street, just the tops of the buildings across the road and the slate grey sky above were visible. A light rain had begun to fall.
– As a matter of fact, yes. Do you have the name of a good priest?
Our two intrepid friends discuss Texas’ hotly debated bathroom ordinance.
Mar 8, 2016
– Sit down and drink ya’ beer. And why are ‘ya dancing around like that? You look like a squirrel ran up ‘ya pant leg.
– I’ve gotta go to the bathroom, but I was just watchin’ the news, and it confused me about which one I should use.
– What’s so confusin’? You’re a man ain’t ‘ya?
– Sure, but they were interviewing this guy on the news. And he was sayin’ his rights will be violated if the gov’ment passes this new law making him use the ladies.
– Was he one of them transgenders?
– Nah, he sounded American.
– I mean, was he a woman who’s now a man?
– Don’t know. Is that a thing now, is it?
– Sure, some folks don’t like what they were born, so they change.
– Like in that movie with Robin Williams? Mrs. Something-or-other.
– Sort of, but the law is to protect the kiddies.
– From Robin Williams? I don’t think he’s a threat; God rest his soul.
– No. From the child molesters. Aint no tellin’ what could happen in there.
– You know, the other night my wife had the same idea. We’d had one of them spicy Indian dishes, and it did a number on me. Wanted to put a protective concrete dome over the bathroom, she did, like they installed at Chernobyl. Said it was to protect our kids.
– You can’t be too careful.
– Are these transistors known for that sort of thing? I mean molesting little ones, not dodgy number two’s.
– Nary a one that I know of, but I’m glad our State politicians are thinkin’ ahead.
– So, let me see if I’ve got this right. A girl decides to change teams and starts livin’ as a guy. Gets an equipment change – so to speak – and dresses every day as a man.
– Yep. And vice versa.
– But our politicians want her – him – to go to the ladies, even though she’s – he’s – now dressing every day in men’s clothing.
– You got it.
– And that’s to protect the kids?
– You’ve got a wonderful grasp on this situation.
– If you say so. . . . Hey, speaking of the little ones, did you see there was a shooting outside an elementary school today? None of the kiddies was hurt, thank God.
– Yeah, lucky that. But, what can you do . . .?
A collection of 5-star reviews that I’ve written for the folks at Readers’ Favorite and that I highly recommend:
Fenian’s Trace – Sean P Mahoney
Fenian’s Trace by Sean P Mahoney is the story of two young boys, Rory and Conor, and their journey into adulthood told through the exquisite voice of the local publican, Mr. Clancy. The early 20th century was a tumultuous period in the long and often sad history of Ireland. And as the boys come of age in the embryonic days of Irish Independence, their hopes and desires for a better tomorrow begin to take ever more divergent paths – as had their families before them. Throughout all of the tumult and the heartrending conclusion, the love shared between the two brothers endures.
I began Sean P Mahoney’s excellent novel, Fenian’s Trace, on a warm Texas afternoon. Within the first thirty pages, I’d lost all track of time. The late afternoon sun was lost to a steel-grey sky that hung heavy with the threat of rain, the smell of smoke wafting from a turf fire in the hearth filled the air. I’d been transported to a rundown farmhouse in County Clare in the early 20th century without having left the comfort of my couch. There truly is something both lyrical and magical in the way an Irishman can spin a yarn. Sean P Mahoney has that gift in spades.
Mahoney’s writing evokes the works of Sebastian Barry – in particular, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty – and, in a lyrical sense, William Trevor. Sean P Mahoney can claim his place at the bar between these two Irish masters and proudly hold his jar of Guinness aloft – for just the one, mind you.
The Great War – Dawn Knox
The Great War by Dawn Knox is an ambitious undertaking that recounts 100 stories, each told in exactly 100 words, on the 100th anniversary of WWI. At precisely 10,000 words, the book is a quick read, but the scenes that Ms. Knox’s sparse, yet vividly compelling prose evokes will resonate and remain with the reader for far longer. Aiding this imagery is the spacing of the stories; one brief story per page, giving the reader time to reflect before continuing. In fact, The Great War reads more like a book of poetry; if one would ever deign to call trench warfare poetic.
The stories themselves run the gamut of emotions; thoughts of home, thoughts of family members missing loved ones, comradeship on the front lines, the living hell of the trenches, to thoughts on God and the utter futility of their undertaking. And all recounted from the perspective of the English, French and German combatants, whom we learn have much in common.
One short passage sticks with me that perfectly encapsulated the war’s senselessness. Summing up a collective mindset of the combatants at the outset: A way to see the world, a lark, and a war that would soon be over. Only to quickly realize the utter desperation and hopelessness of their situation – if they lived.
“One man arrives in the trenches. He is young, strong and eager to engage in battle. He is warned to keep his head down but it is easy to forget this order when you’re young, strong and eager to engage in battle. Within minutes, the young soldier is dead. Another man arrives, keen to make his mark.”
Ms. Knox has produced a powerful piece of work to starkly remind us that our history should never be forgotten.
Guy’s Odyssey – Seth Bleuer
Guy’s Odyssey by Seth Bleuer is the haunting tale of an Iraqi War veteran that suffers a traumatic head injury in battle. Alternating between the cold of an Iowan winter, to the searing heat of the Iraqi desert, Mr. Bleuer recounts Guy’s past life experiences, and what has brought him, seemingly, to the edge of insanity.
As Guy continues to self-medicate to an ever-greater degree, his perception of time jumps from one period to another and has him wondering if he has truly found a tear in the time-space continuum, or is he just losing his mind. With this reality warp slowly tearing him apart, he leans ever more on a mysterious journal that he hopes will help solve the puzzle. Part of this time-jump process involves the swirling sands of the in-between. Through these tumultuous scenes, we learn of the painful parting with his childhood sweetheart, the loss of comrades on the field of battle, and, perhaps, the tipping point where he loses his best friend. Will Guy discover the secret to the disappearing sands before his time runs out? Is his destiny already written? Or can an acquaintance from his past provide hope?
Seth Bleuer writes with an urgency and realness that only someone who has endured the living hell of the battlefield could ever hope to capture. Guy’s Odyssey speaks of the utter despair of the modern soldier fighting a war they struggle to comprehend, and of a more intimate inner war that each soldier must fight upon their return. Guy’s Odyssey is a chilling and captivating novel that I highly recommend.
Buckland Gap – Charles Stanley Wiltshire
Buckland Gap is the debut novel from Charles Stanley Wiltshire and is as gritty and hard-nosed a portrayal of a city’s filthy underbelly as you are ever likely to read. Buckland Gap tells the story of David, a twenty-something thug that lives for nothing more than lager, cigarettes, sex and violence. His lifestyle is funded by unemployment checks and supplemented with random muggings. And as his travails descend into even more despicable acts, his life slowly but surely spirals out of control.
Mr. Wiltshire’s novel is set in the English seaside city of Portsmouth; specifically, the Buckland housing estate. And if his depiction of the city is even half way accurate, it will have the city elders cringing with embarrassment and their Office of Tourism shutting their doors. Reading Buckland Gap brought to mind the excellent novel by Kevin Barry, City of Bohane. But, whereas Barry’s Bohane was of a fictional Irish city set in the future, Mr. Wiltshire’s Buckland appears all too real.
Mr. Wiltshire has created a novel of characters you will feel no empathy for; an entire community that believes the rest of the world owes them something, and one in which not one person will ever take responsibility for their actions. For example, “David grinned at this, Kat was right. This country needed hardworking people who paid taxes so that geezers like him did not have to work.” – p.224.
You will pray it is not a true reflection of today’s world, but will find many striking examples of a path we have already begun to slide down. You’ll also feel like taking a cleansing shower after turning the last page, but will soon be eagerly anticipating Mr. Wiltshire’s next effort.
Feb 3, 2016
– Did ‘ya hear what my man Trump did?
– He’s finished the wall already?
– Nah, not yet. He told that Australian Prime Minister how the cow ate the cabbage, then hung up on him, he did.
– Did he now? Good for the Donald. Never did trust them Australians after they sprung old Hitler on us.
– I think he was Austrian.
– And that Arnold What’s-his-name. Utterly useless on Celebrity Apprentice.
– Well, he is following the Donald. What do you expect?
– So, what happened?
– It seems the Australians want to send us a few of their refugees.
– They what? But, I heard it was a lovely place down there!
– Nah, not their people, the one’s they can’t take in. Seems they’ve hit their limit. You know, like deer huntin’ season.
– Have they thought about building a wall? You’d think those Alps would stop most of ‘em.
– Again, I think that’s Austria. Remember? The Sound of Music. Julie Andrews.
– Now I know she’s Australian.
– You might be right, there. But I think the Donald, the true humanitarian he is, will probably help them out.
– Well, good for him. They have been solid allies over the years, haven’t they?
– Sure. They’ve fought beside us in every war since WWI. Hell, they even started fightin’ with us in WWII before Pearl Harbor.
– WWII started before Pearl Harbor?
– They even let us test nukes down there in that outback they’ve got.
– Really? That would explain those enormous rabbits they have.
– You mean kangaroos?
– Maybe. So, who is the Prime Minister of Australia anyway?
– Think it’s Crocodile Dundee.
– Good for him. Smart move to make a career change after Crocodile Dundee 2. What was that line he was famous for? “That’s not a knife? This is a knife!” And he pulls out that huge monster. Classic!
– Yeah, that’s what got Donald crossways. Donald was explainin’ how big his election win was, and ol’ Croc Dundee cracks a joke that his (win) was bigger. Apparently, Donald doesn’t take too well to size jokes.
– Can’t blame him there. Say, if they start sendin’ us refugees, think they’ll send Nicole Kidman to Texas?
– We can only hope.
Jan 27, 2016
– Seen what my man Trump is up to?
– Bombed CNN?
– No, no. With Mexico.
– He didn’t bomb Mexico, did he?
– Pay attention, would ‘ya. He’s makin’ them pay for the wall by taxin’ the frijoles out of ‘em.
– Really? Probably cheaper that way. I hear nukes are expensive. He’s a smart man that Donald. So, what’s the plan?
– 20% tax on all their products they send here. See how they like that!
– Huh? But, aren’t we the ones who buy their stuff?
– Yeah, but we’ll get it back somehow, later. Trust in Donald; he’s got it all figured out.
– So, my Corona will cost 20% more?
– Think of it as your patriotic duty.
– Can’t I be patriotic drinking Lone Star?
– Sure, that too. Either way we stick it to ‘em. See how they like it when we stop buying their stuff. They either pay . . .
– We. We pay.
– . . . Whatever, someone either pays, or we stop buyin’ their stuff and ruin their economy. And that’s why I voted for a business genius.
– I never did understand why they all wanted to come here.
– For a better life, I guess. Ever been to Juarez? The poverty . . . it’s heartbreaking.
– No, but I once spent a weekend in Amarillo.
– Close enough.
– But if we ruin their economy . . . Won’t poverty . . . Won’t more of them want to head north?
– Don’t worry about it, we’ll have the wall by then.
– And how big and deep did you say this wall was gonna be?
– Not sure, yet. Can I getcha another Corona?
– Sure. And more guacamole, too. I feel time runnin’ out.
– So why you askin’ about the size of the wall?
– Just wonderin’. ‘Cos, you know Mexico makes some pretty fine ladders and shovels.
– And that’s why the Donald wants to add more border guards.
– But . . .