Tag Archives: historical thriller

The Fire Starters (Nicholas Foxe Adventures #3) by Jackson Coppley Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Adventurer and history-searching hero Nicholas Foxe returns, this time racing against the clock to stop a guild of fire starters who trace their origins back to the days of Ancient Rome as a plot to target places in the United States in author Jackson Coppley’s “The Fire Starters”, the third book in the Nicholas Foxe Adventures series.

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The Synopsis

In The Fire Starters, Nicholas Foxe uncovers a guild of pyromaniacs that traces its roots to ancient Rome. Were these modern-day fire starters responsible for the fire at Notre Dame? Were they responsible for a firebombing at The London Eye? Do they now have targets in the United States?

Nick finds an important clue deep in the ruins of Nero’s buried palace and realizes the fire starters work has just begun. The lives of thousands are at stake. Can Nick and his team stop the fire starters before it’s too late?

The Review

Jackson Coppley has done it again! The perfect blend of deep dives into history and mythology from around the world and incredibly rich and complex character development, the third book in the Nicholas Foxe Adventures series was an instant hit. As a fan of history, I loved the author’s research and the highlight of Ancient Rome and the surrounding cultures of the age of Emperor Nero showing off during the early chapters of the book, while also adding very human and personal character connections to highlight the danger and mystery that our world houses.

The thing that always makes a Nicholas Foxe adventure stand out for me is that the protagonist, Nicholas, remains vital to the narrative, and yet allows the story to develop fascinating characters with backstories that feel solid and well-developed, whereas some thrillers tend to have rushed character development instead. Having Nicholas’s connection to newcomer Ray Woodward was an amazing way of introducing this mystery of the fire starters, and gave the narrative a much more rich connection between the history and the characters overall.

The Verdict

Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code, author Jackson Coppley’s “The Fire Starters” is the perfect next chapter in the Nicholas Foxe series. The novels feel so cinematic and engaging, that one can only hope these stories make their way to the silver screen someday. The way the author makes history feel more alive and pronounced than it has in a long time in the literary world is great to see unfold, and I do hope that fans and I alike will be treated to more Nicholas Foxe Adventures in the future! If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jackson Coppley weaves stories from a sophisticated knowledge of technology and a keen sense of adventure. Coppley travels the world with his vivid imagination at work to create exciting stories with characters readers feel they know.

https://www.jacksoncoppley.com/

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A twist on the locked room murder tests a new investigative heroine in author T.A. Willberg’s historical fiction/thriller, “Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder”.

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The Synopsis 

The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant at Miss Brickett’s receives a letter of warning, detailing a name, a time, and a place. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see―her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and colleague is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie-style locked-room murder mystery, with an exciting new heroine detective.

The Review

It’s Sherlock Holmes meets James Bond with a heroine at the center in this explosive historical fiction thriller. The author does a great job of layering the narrative enough to weave together a complex mystery that will have readers analyzing every detail of the case and exploring this fully realized world themselves. 

Marion Lane is such a fantastic new heroine in detective mystery thrillers. The character’s growth over the course of the narrative is as equally exciting as the mystery itself, which delves into the heart of London’s underground scene and the vast mythology of this secret organization. The setting and tone play perfectly with the genre and story, as the city itself becomes as alive and memorable and the cast of characters. 

The Verdict

A gripping, suspenseful, and intriguing read, author T.A. Willberg’s “Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder” is a must-read narrative. The balance of character development, mystery, and setting help to elevate this historical fiction read to new heights and puts a unique spin on the classic whodunit style, closed room murder thriller storyline. With the hope that more stories within this universe will be told, this is not a book to be missed, so be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 8/10

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About the Author

T.A. Willberg was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and holds a chiropractic masters degree from Durban University of Technology. MARION LANE AND THE MIDNIGHT MURDER is her debut novel and launch of her detective series. She currently lives in Malta with her partner.

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The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A historian discovers an old Apothecary vial, and unravels a centuries old mystery surrounding a series of murders known as the “apothecary murders” in author Sarah Penner’s “The Lost Apothecary”.

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The Synopsis

In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course. Pitched as Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist, The Lost Apothecary is a bold work of historical fiction with a rebellious twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

The Review

A hauntingly entertaining and engaging read, author Sarah Penner does a fantastic job of crafting a narrative that speaks to both historical fiction fans and fans of a serial killer-driven thriller, with a focus on the struggles and hardships of women throughout 18th century England. 

The story is perfectly written to explore the past of the apothecary while showcasing how this mystery impacts the life of struggling historian Caroline, who’s dealing with an unfaithful husband and must somehow find her true calling in life. The story does an excellent job of showcasing how this woman in the past became a serial killer, in essence, helping women throughout London either gain vengeance or escape impossible struggles utilizing poisons, while also making her plight sympathetic at the same time. 

The Verdict

A masterfully-thrilling, thought-provoking, and lengthy yet memorable read, author Sarah Penner’s “The Lost Apothecary” is a must-read. The story is inviting and engaging, while the protagonists keep the reader invested. The story is perfect for both fans of history-driven backstories with a modern twist that explores the struggles of women in the world while searching to gain more power and confidence in themselves, making the characters truly remarkable to read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. To learn more, visit slpenner.com.

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An Exclusive Excerpt From “The Lost Apothecary”

Nella

February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak—the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.

I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.

But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted dead.

I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying f lame of a single rush wick candle. I ran my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.

Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress’s husband, with his breakfast. Daybreak, 4 Feb. At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica.

The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears. Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me. An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.

But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the result of my fatigue—the hour was late—and the persistent discomfort in my joints.

I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest of apothecary shops.

In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women’s maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.

On occasion I read her entries—23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x—and the words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower’s head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She’d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no suspicion.

On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register hid betrayal, anguish…and dark secrets.

Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding, or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare: these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.

Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick. The sharp, black lines of his name defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.

I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable’s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.

I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean. An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother’s, now held little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.

Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open and expose what lay underneath.

Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and something inside meant to tear me open.

At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed inside of me.

Excerpted from The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Penner. Published by Park Row Books. 

The Day Lincoln Lost By Charles Rosenberg Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A web of conspiracy and corruption makes it’s way into one of the United States most impactful elections in the historical fiction thriller “The Day Lincoln Lost” by Charles Rosenberg. 

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The Synopsis

An inventive historical thriller that reimagines the tumultuous presidential election of 1860, capturing the people desperately trying to hold the nation together – and those trying to crack it apart.

Abby Kelley Foster arrived in Springfield, Illinois with the fate of the nation on her mind. Her fame as an abolitionist speaker had spread west and she knew that her first speech in the city would make headlines. One of the residents reading those headlines would be none other than the likely next President of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln, lawyer and presidential candidate, knew his chances of winning were good. All he had to do was stay above the fray of the slavery debate and appear the voice of compromise until the people cast their votes. The last thing he needed was a fiery abolitionist appearing in town. When her speech sparks violence, leading to her arrest and a high-profile trial, he suspects that his political rivals have conspired against him.

President James Buchanan is one such rival. As his term ends and his political power crumbles, he gathers his advisors at the White House to make one last move that might derail Lincoln’s campaign, steal the election, and throw America into chaos.

A fascinating historical novel and fast-paced political thriller of a nation on the cusp of civil war, The Day Lincoln Lost offers an unexpected window into one of the most consequential elections in our country’s history.

The Review

A truly unique and fascinating story that comes along during a time where our world is facing more injustice and painful experiences in the fight to bring equality and recognition to all people, not just a select few, author Charles Rosenberg’s “The Day Lincoln Lost” is a much needed political thriller with a historical fiction bend. 

The author does a great job of utilizing historical figures into the narrative while also giving ample room for new characters to come along for the narrative and bring about a new depth to the theme of racial equality. The horrors that the Black Community faced during this time period of slavery are showcased greatly within this narrative, and show that although slavery has ended, discrimination and hatred are still very much alive in this day and age, and only by learning from the past can we change. 

The Verdict

A good mixture of meaningful lessons and an intriguing political thriller that highlights the complex fight to end slavery and how the more prominent figures of that time rose to the level people now know them for, the author does an amazing job of introducing enough new material to keep readers invested in the narrative. Fans of the Historical Fiction genre and political thrillers will not be able to put this book down, so be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 8/10

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About the Author:

Charles Rosenberg is the author of the legal thriller Death on a High Floor and its sequels. The credited legal consultant to the TV shows LA Law, Boston Legal, The Practice, and The Paper Chase, he was also one of two on-air legal analysts for E! Television’s coverage of the O.J. Simpson criminal and civil trials. He teaches as an adjunct law professor at Loyola Law School and has also taught at UCLA, Pepperdine and Southwestern law schools. He practices law in the Los Angeles area.

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

Kentucky

Early August, 1860

Lucy Battelle’s birthday was tomorrow. She would be twelve. Or at least that was what her mother told her. Lucy knew the date might not be exact, because Riverview Plantation didn’t keep close track of when slaves were born. Or when they died, for that matter. They came, they worked and they went to their heavenly reward. Unless, of course, they were sold off to somewhere else.

There had been a lot of selling-off of late. The Old Master, her mother told her, had at least known how to run a plantation. And while their food may have been wretched at times, there had always been enough. But the Old Master had died years before Lucy was born. His eldest son, Ezekiel Goshorn, had inherited Riverview.

Ezekiel was cruel, and he had an eye for young black women, although he stayed away from those who had not yet developed. Lucy has seen him looking at her of late, though. She was thin, and very tall for her age—someone had told her she looked like a young tree—and when she looked at herself naked, she could tell that her breasts were beginning to come. “You are pretty,” her mother said, which sent a chill through her.

Whatever his sexual practices, Goshorn had no head for either tobacco farming or business, and Riverview was visibly suffering for it, and not only for a shortage of food. Lucy could see that the big house was in bad need of painting and other repairs, and the dock on the river, which allowed their crop to be sent to market, looked worse and worse every year. By now it was half-falling-down. Slaves could supply the labor to repair things, of course, but apparently Goshorn couldn’t afford the materials.

Last year, a blight had damaged almost half the tobacco crop. Goshorn had begun to sell his slaves south to make ends meet.

In the slave quarter, not a lot was really known about being sold south, except that it was much hotter there, the crop was harder-to-work cotton instead of tobacco and those who went didn’t come back. Ever.

Several months earlier, two of Lucy’s slightly older friends had been sold, and she had watched them manacled and put in the back of a wagon, along with six others. Her friends were sobbing as the wagon moved away. Lucy was dry-eyed because then and there she had decided to escape.

Others had tried to escape before her, of course, but most had been caught and brought back. When they arrived back, usually dragged along in chains by slave catchers, Goshorn—or one of his five sons—had whipped each of them near to death. A few had actually died, but most had been nursed back to at least some semblance of health by the other slaves.

Lucy began to volunteer to help tend to them—to feed them, put grease on their wounds, hold their hands while they moaned and carry away the waste from their bodies. Most of all, though, she had listened to their stories—especially to what had worked and what had failed.

One thing she had learned was that they used hounds to pursue you, and that the hounds smelled any clothes you left behind to track you. One man told her that another man who had buried his one pair of extra pants in the woods before he left—not hard to do because slaves had so little—had not been found by the dogs.

Still another man said a runaway needed to take a blanket because as you went north, it got colder, especially at night, even in the summer. And you needed to find a pair of boots that would fit you. Lucy had tried on her mother’s boots—the ones she used in the winter—and they fit. Her mother would find another pair, she was sure.

The hard thing was the Underground Railroad. They had all heard about it. They had even heard the masters damning it. Lucy had long understood that it wasn’t actually underground and wasn’t even a railroad. It was just people, white and black, who helped you escape—who fed you, hid you in safe houses and moved you, sometimes by night, sometimes under a load of hay or whatever they had that would cover you.

The problem was you couldn’t always tell which ones were real railroaders and which ones were slave catchers posing as railroaders. The slaves who came back weren’t much help about how to tell the difference because most had guessed wrong. Lucy wasn’t too worried about it. She had not only the optimism of youth, but a secret that she thought would surely help her.

Tonight was the night. Over the past few days she had dug a deep hole in the woods where she could bury her tiny stash of things that might carry her smell. For weeks before that, she had foraged and dug for mushrooms in the woods, and so no one seemed to pay much mind to her foraging and digging earlier that day. As she left, she planned to take the now-too-small shift she had secretly saved from last year’s allotment—her only extra piece of clothing—along with her shoes and bury them in the hole. That way the dogs could not take her smell from anything left behind. She would take the blanket she slept in with her.

She had also saved up small pieces of smoked meat so that she had enough—she hoped—to sustain her for a few days until she could locate the Railroad. She dropped the meat into a small cloth bag and hung it from a string tied around her waist, hidden under her shift.

Her mother had long ago fallen asleep, and the moon had set. Even better, it was cloudy and there was no starlight. Lucy put on her mother’s boots, stepped outside the cabin and looked toward the woods.

As she started to move, Ezekiel Goshorn appeared in front of her, seemingly out of nowhere, along with two of his sons and said, “Going somewhere, Lucy?”

“I’m just standing here.”

“Hold out your arms.”

“Why?”

“Hold out your arms!”

She hesitated but finally did as he asked, and one of his sons, the one called Amasa, clamped a pair of manacles around her wrists. “We’ve been watching you dig in the woods,” he said. “Planning a trip perhaps?”

Lucy didn’t answer.

“Well, we have a little trip to St. Louis planned for you instead.”

As Ezekiel pushed her along, she turned to see if her mother had been awakened by the noise. If she had, she hadn’t come out of the cabin. Probably afraid. Lucy had been only four the first time she’d seen Ezekiel Goshorn flog her mother, and that was not the last time she’d been forced to stand there and hear her scream.

The Ocean Raiders by Jackson Coppley Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Nicholas Fox returns as a mysterious artifact tied to the ocean and the death of a close friend lead him to a mysterious villain named Frost and a group of assassins in author Jackson Coppley’s “The Ocean Raiders”. 

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The Synopsis

More Action and Adventure

With

Nicholas Foxe and His Team of Code Hunters

Nicholas Foxe jets to Venice to spend time with an old flame. Expecting romance, Nick instead finds himself immersed in murder and intrigue.

Nevin Dowd, a billionaire who owns a number of high-tech companies, is in Venice to help save the city from the next big flood. His underwater excavation work uncovers a mysterious object with curious markings. He calls on Nick to decipher the code.

In Istanbul, British intelligence discovers an ancient letter which tells of a machine hidden in the ocean that can draw massive power from seawater, but at enormous risk. Is this seawater energy machine connected to the object Nick is trying to decipher?

In Switzerland, Nick’s team guards a device that contains advanced knowledge, including details of the seawater energy machine. A group of assassins working for someone known only as Frost, attempts to steal it. Who is Frost, and is he responsible for the murder of someone close to Nick?

Can Nick and his team of code hunters get to the machine first before it destroys Venice?

The Review

One of the hardest things an author can do is not only maintain but capitalize on the momentum of a first novel and put it all into the sequel, and yet that is exactly what author Jackson Coppley has done. The action, the intrigue and the mystery all came together naturally and left me as a reader on the edge of my seat. 

The author equally balances the sci-fi and historical action and mythology with great character development in this sequel. The shocking turn of events through the novel keeps readers invested in the protagonist Nick Fox’s journey, and the reveal of the mysterious Frost will leave readers floored as the nefarious actions of the criminal are revealed. 

The Verdict

An evenly paced action-adventure and science fiction narrative, author Jackson Coppley does a marvelous job of upping the stakes and drama of this harrowing historical fiction/sci-fi series with “The Ocean Raiders”. Full of intrigue, romantic promise, heartbreak and unimaginable threats, this is the perfect summer thriller for fans of a good action-adventure read, so be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jackson Coppley, a consummate storyteller, illuminates in his writing what happens when technology intersects with human behavior and emotion. Coppley weaves his stories from a sophisticated knowledge of technology and an understanding of human behavior. Coppley’s resume includes a dynamic career with leading world communications and technology companies, and the launching of what the press called “a revolutionary software program” during the rise of personal computing. As a world traveler, Coppley developed an interest in and an understanding of cultural differences and nuances which play an important role in his stories. His YouTube video on the Hmong people of Vietnam, as an example of how he investigates other cultures, received thousands of hits. It is this sensitivity about human behavior combined with the understanding of the potential of technology that brings to his writing a glimpse of what is yet to come.

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Website: www.JacksonCoppley.com

Check out this amazing review over at Author Anthony Avina’s Blog!

Interview with Author Robert J. Sawyer

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

My father was an author of books on macroeconometrics, his field of specialty, and my great uncle had written a definitive volume on antique salt shakers, so the concept of writing a book was never daunting to me.

I had some great school teachers—particularly in the fifth and sixth grade, where it happened to be the same woman, although she was Miss Matthews the first year and Mrs. Jones the second!—and also in high school who were very encouraging.

In fact, I’ve got a phone message on my answering machine right now from one of those high-school teachers, Bill Martyn, that I need to return. It’s been forty-one years since I graduated from high school, but he just called to say he’d loved my latest novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative.

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

This is the 75th-anniversary year of the birth of the atomic age, with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It seemed like a good time to try to delve, as only a novelist can, into the inner lives of the people who were responsible for unleashing hell on Earth: Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, General Leslie R. Groves, and, most notably, the scientific leader of the Manhattan Project, the mercurial, tortured J. Robert Oppenheimer.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The theme of not just The Oppenheimer Alternative but some of my 23 other novels, too, is that the world would be a far better place if the brightest people simply stopped making the things the stupidest people wanted them to make. No general, president, or dictator can make an atomic bomb—only geniuses could do that—and instead of saying nope, they dove right in.

The great irony is this: it’s arguable that, although Oppenheimer and others were salivating at the notion of an essentially unlimited budget—the spent two billion 1945 dollars, which is the equivalent of $28 billion today—to create the atomic bomb, the head of the German bomb project, Werner Heisenberg, knew the folly of letting a madman like Hitler have such a thing and so he may very well have deliberately failed to build one.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Well, “this particular genre” is one that actually I may well have created: hard-science fiction secret/alternate history.

My novel is a real, honest-to-goodness accurate and carefully extrapolated science-fiction tale built on sound science woven into the gaps about what we know really did occur between 1936, when The Oppenheimer Alternative begins, and 1967, when the novel ends. Nothing in it contradicts anything we know to be true, but the reader will be treated to what I hope they’ll consider a mind-blowing science-fiction tale as well as a heart-wrenching historical-fiction story.

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5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

Perhaps surprisingly, it would not be my main character, the J. Robert Oppenheimer of the book’s title, but rather his erstwhile friend and then betrayer, Edward Teller.

Although ironically Teller wrote his memoirs and Oppie never did, it’s Teller—the man often cited as the principal inspiration for the title character in the movie Dr. Strangelove—who leaves me scratching my head.

Teller really said, “No amount of fiddling will save our souls” and he really did go to see his dying colleague, Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, to, in Teller’s own words “confess his sins.”

But even with such apparent misgivings he just went right on pushing for bigger and bigger bombs—ranging in size from merely genocidal to ones that would trigger the extinction of most life on our planet—as well as shilling for Ronald Reagan’s fatally flawed Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) until the day he died.

What the hell was Teller thinking? He was great with kids, often carrying candy for them in his pockets, and he loved his own children and grandchildren—and yet he was monstrous.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Facebook, for a few reasons.

One: I’m a long-form writer—a novelist!—and so the character-count constraints of Twitter make it ill-suited for me.

And two, as all good writers know, the heart of good writing is revision: you can’t edit a tweet, and but you can go back even years later and correct typos or ambiguous phrasing on Facebook.

I long ago hit the hard-coded 5,000-friend limit Facebook has built into its architecture, but you can still follow me there—as 6,500 additional people do—and join in the daily lively discussions and debates we have there.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

In 1997, I came out of a deli in Los Angeles and saw Gordon Jump, one of the stars of WKRP in Cincinnati standing on the sidewalk, so I went up to him and said, “I’d just like to shake the hand of the man who uttered the funniest line in sitcom history.”

We chatted for a bit, and I asked what he was doing just hanging out in front of a deli. He replied a young wannabe actor had said he’d take him to lunch here in exchange for some advice about getting into the industry. I asked, “What advice are you going to give him?” And Gordon replied, “Don’t get into the industry.”

Seriously, this is an awful time to be a traditionally published author. In the thirty years I’ve been a novelist now, there have been enormous cost reductions for publishers—no more re-keyboarding typed manuscripts, no more sending page proofs by courier, instead of servicing thousands of small bookstore accounts mostly just servicing a few big ones, having authors do their own promotion via social media instead of publishers advertising their books, etc.

But every penny of those costs savings—every single one—has been kept by publishers, with none passed onto authors. Meanwhile, in addition to the production of print books for distribution to bookstores—the one thing publishers are good at—they also demand ebook rights, audiobooks rights, and they’re trying to get a piece of the film and TV action, too.

So, my advice is simply this: license your intellectual property as narrowly as possible and only let a licensee have rights to specific aspects of it that they have a great track record with, and make sure they’re making real money not just for themselves but for you, too.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’ve been asked to write a lengthy original audio drama, and I may, or may not, sign the contract for that; we’ll see. But really, the new books on my horizon right now are books that are new to me: I’m just catching up on my reading!

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About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada’s best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.

Robert Sawyer grew up in Toronto, the son of two university professors. He credits two of his favourite shows from the late 1960s and early 1970s, Search and Star Trek, with teaching him some of the fundamentals of the science-fiction craft. Sawyer was obsessed with outer space from a young age, and he vividly remembers watching the televised Apollo missions. He claims to have watched the 1968 classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey 25 times. He began writing science fiction in a high school club, which he co-founded, NASFA (Northview Academy Association of Science Fiction Addicts). Sawyer graduated in 1982 from the Radio and Television Arts Program at Ryerson University, where he later worked as an instructor.

Sawyer’s first published book, Golden Fleece (1989), is an adaptation of short stories that had previously appeared in the science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories. This book won the Aurora Award for the best Canadian science-fiction novel in English. In the early 1990s Sawyer went on to publish his inventive Quintaglio Ascension trilogy, about a world of intelligent dinosaurs. His 1995 award winning The Terminal Experiment confirmed his place as a major international science-fiction writer.

A prolific writer, Sawyer has published more than 10 novels, plus two trilogies. Reviewers praise Sawyer for his concise prose, which has been compared to that of the science-fiction master Isaac Asimov. Like many science fiction-writers, Sawyer welcomes the opportunities his chosen genre provides for exploring ideas. The first book of his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Hominids (2002), is set in a near-future society, in which a quantum computing experiment brings a Neanderthal scientist from a parallel Earth to ours. His 2006 Mindscan explores the possibility of transferring human consciousness into a mechanical body, and the ensuing ethical, legal, and societal ramifications.

A passionate advocate for science fiction, Sawyer teaches creative writing and appears frequently in the media to discuss his genre. He prefers the label “philosophical fiction,” and in no way sees himself as a predictor of the future. His mission statement for his writing is “To combine the intimately human with the grandly cosmic.”

The Oppenheimer Alternative by Robert J. Sawyer Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A chapter in history get’s a secret new chapter that showcases a thrilling possible sequel to one of history’s greatest, most powerful yet most terrifying projects in the name of science in author Robert J. Sawyer’s “The Oppenheimer Alternative”. 

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The Synopsis

On the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb, Hugo and Nebula-winning author Robert J. Sawyer takes us back in time to revisit history…with a twist.

While J. Robert Oppenheimer and his Manhattan Project team struggle to develop the A-bomb, Edward Teller wants something even more devastating: a bomb based on nuclear fusion—the mechanism that powers the sun.

Teller’s research leads to a terrifying discovery: by the year 2030, the sun will eject its outermost layer, destroying the entire inner solar system—including Earth.

As the war ends with the use of fission bombs against Japan, Oppenheimer’s team, plus Albert Einstein and Wernher von Braun, stay together—the greatest scientific geniuses from the last century racing against time to save our future.

Meticulously researched and replete with real-life characters and events, The Oppenheimer Alternative is a breathtaking adventure through both real and alternate history.

The Review

A brilliant combination of true historical events mixed with alternative history, author Robert J. Sawyer has created a masterpiece of a story. Delving into the deeper character growth of historical figures like Robert J. Oppenheimer, the author brings more of a personal viewpoint of these larger than life figures. With figures like Oppenheimer and Einstein being so notable and their work making them as infamous as they are, it was fascinating to see how facing the end of the world would have brought them together in a whole new way. 

The author does an excellent job of highlighting the brilliant minds at work historically during this period of time, and the science that they both discovered and worked in. The irony of choosing Oppenheimer as the protagonist is felt in the pages of this book. While he is notorious for his quote, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, the author not only does an excellent job of exploring the man behind the legend, but giving him the chance to fight for humanity’s survival as our own solar system threatens to turn against itself. 

The Verdict

Highly scientific and creative, “The Oppenheimer Alternative” by Robert J. Sawyer is a masterful work of fiction that both entertains and educates readers on the work done by scientists, the manipulation of scientific discoveries by politics and militarization, and the work that can occur when scientists use their brilliance to saving lives rather than destruction. Oppenheimer is a truly unique and memorable protagonist and readers will love the sci-fi turn of events as the story progresses, creating a one of a kind read that readers will not be able to get enough of. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada’s best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.

Robert Sawyer grew up in Toronto, the son of two university professors. He credits two of his favourite shows from the late 1960s and early 1970s, Search and Star Trek, with teaching him some of the fundamentals of the science-fiction craft. Sawyer was obsessed with outer space from a young age, and he vividly remembers watching the televised Apollo missions. He claims to have watched the 1968 classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey 25 times. He began writing science fiction in a high school club, which he co-founded, NASFA (Northview Academy Association of Science Fiction Addicts). Sawyer graduated in 1982 from the Radio and Television Arts Program at Ryerson University, where he later worked as an instructor.

Sawyer’s first published book, Golden Fleece (1989), is an adaptation of short stories that had previously appeared in the science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories. This book won the Aurora Award for the best Canadian science-fiction novel in English. In the early 1990s Sawyer went on to publish his inventive Quintaglio Ascension trilogy, about a world of intelligent dinosaurs. His 1995 award winning The Terminal Experiment confirmed his place as a major international science-fiction writer.

A prolific writer, Sawyer has published more than 10 novels, plus two trilogies. Reviewers praise Sawyer for his concise prose, which has been compared to that of the science-fiction master Isaac Asimov. Like many science fiction-writers, Sawyer welcomes the opportunities his chosen genre provides for exploring ideas. The first book of his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Hominids (2002), is set in a near-future society, in which a quantum computing experiment brings a Neanderthal scientist from a parallel Earth to ours. His 2006 Mindscan explores the possibility of transferring human consciousness into a mechanical body, and the ensuing ethical, legal, and societal ramifications.

A passionate advocate for science fiction, Sawyer teaches creative writing and appears frequently in the media to discuss his genre. He prefers the label “philosophical fiction,” and in no way sees himself as a predictor of the future. His mission statement for his writing is “To combine the intimately human with the grandly cosmic.”

Unknown 9: Genesis (Genesis Trilogy #1) by Layton Green

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman finds herself on the run and searching for answers as a broader conspiracy opens up in author Layton Green’s novel “Unknown 9: Genesis”, the first in the Genesis trilogy. 

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The Synopsis

To solve the enigma of her past, a brilliant but troubled young woman joins a deadly global treasure hunt.

Strange hallucinations have plagued PhD student Andie Robertson throughout her life. After years of consulting doctors, she decided the visions were a glitch in her own mind until her mentor, the famous physicist Dr. James Corwin, is murdered in Italy, and Andie finds a stack of ink drawings in his office that bear a remarkable resemblance to her hallucinations.

Shocked, Andie digs deeper and learns that Dr. Corwin developed a device that might shed light on the very nature of reality. She is even more stunned to discover that her mother, an academic who disappeared when Andie was a young girl, might also be involved.

Determined to find answers, Andie follows a trail of clues placed by Dr. Corwin, for reasons unknown, in museums and cultural sites around the world, highlighting human achievement as well as a tapestry of secret knowledge woven into the threads of history.

Yet Andie is not the only one searching. Powerful forces know of her mentor’s invention, including a mysterious elite society that spans borders and will stop at nothing to find the device. Now a target herself, Andie and a disgraced journalist embark on a perilous journey that might hold the key to a new frontier of knowledge-and which also promises to unlock the doors of her past.

From the author of the bestselling Dominic Grey novels, Genesis is a mind-bending thriller about how far two people will go for answers, and to save the ones they love.

The Review

A brilliant novel, the story unfolds as part of Assassin’s Creed, part X-Files, and phenomenal new mythology that readers will instantly fall in love with. The way the story shifts between the past and present make for a fascinating character study of both Ettore and Andie and Andie’s ally in the search for the truth creates a pairing reminiscent of Mulder and Scully on The X-Files, making this story feel much more cinematic in its approach. 

The author has brilliantly set up an ongoing storyline that will reach across multiple mediums in the entertainment world. From the incredible trilogy of novels laid out by Layton Green with this first book to video games, podcasts, comic books and more, this book is the launching point for a much larger narrative that is sure to unlock one of the modern ages best new mythologies. 

The Verdict

Strong character development, bold new mythology and an evenly paced read make Unknown 9: Genesis by Layton Green a must-read in 2020, and one of our contenders for the best read of 2020 thus far. Action-packed, historical and scientific themes make the story pop out in a truly fresh way and will leave readers on the edge of their seat as revelations lead to more questions as the universe unravels before them. Grab your copy of the first book in the Genesis trilogy by Layton Green today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Layton Green writes in multiple genres and is the author of the upcoming Genesis Trilogy, the Dominic Grey series, the Blackwood Saga, and other works of fiction. Layton’s work has been nominated for multiple awards (including a two-time finalist for an International Thriller Writers award), optioned for film, and has reached #1 on numerous genre lists in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The Shadow Cartel was a #2 overall bestseller on Amazon UK.

In addition to writing, Layton attended law school in New Orleans and was a practicing attorney for ten very long years. He has also been an intern for the United Nations, an ESL teacher in Central America, a bartender in London, a seller of cheap knives on the streets of Brixton, a door to door phone book deliverer in Florida, and the list goes downhill from there.

Layton lives with his family in North Carolina. You can visit him on Facebook, Goodreads, or on his website (www.laytongreen.com).

The Plain of Jars by Nick Lombardi Jr. Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A grieving mother who lost her son to the Vietnam War learns years later that the ashes given to her by the military may not belong to her son after all, leading her to a journey of discovery that will leave her and readers shocked in author Nick Lombardi Jr.’s novel “The Plain of Jars”. 

The Synopsis

2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize entry!

What would you do if you found that the bones and ashes you were given by the Air Force were not the remains of your loved one? Dorothy Kozeny, a 64-year-old widow from a small town in Ohio, after getting no answers from the relevant authorities, decides the only thing to do is to go to Laos herself to search for the truth concerning her son’s fate. In 1990, accompanied by a trusted Laotian called Kampeng, Dorothy travels deep into the mountains of rural Laos, attempting to trace her son’s path through inhospitable terrain, an unforgettable trek that provides her with a rewarding, often humorous, and at times frustrating, cross-cultural experience. All clues lead her to a mysterious figure, an alleged CIA operative left over from the war, living in a remote and hostile area deep in the jungle. The second part of the book traces the life of this enigmatic character hiding in Laos, the two main characters linked through Dorothy’s son.

The Review

This was a powerful and emotional story that focused on the pain and loss families feel for loved ones lost to war, the horrors many soldiers witness and are forced to become a part of during war, the injustices committed during the Vietnam War, and the struggle to let go of violence and hatred to lead a more peaceful and happy life. 

While the story did a great job of showcasing both the more modern day struggle of a mother looking for her long thought dead son and the past of the son’s journey through a hellish war, his attempt to escape it, and those who ruthlessly fought to stop him, the true heart of this novel was the backdrop of Laos and the Plain of Jars themselves. 

Those unfamiliar with the history of this area and site should know that during the Vietnam war, more bombs were dropped by the U.S. Military on the Plain of Jars in Laos than in the entirety of WWII, and over 80 million of these bombs remain a constant danger to the people there as they failed to detonate at the time and remain hidden in the area. This story highlighted the struggle of the people of Laos and the horrors they and the soldiers in the country bore witness to during this war. The savagery in which soldiers and operatives were trained to become monsters, and the struggle to use peace and non-violence to combat that savagery, took a major portion of this book and readers will instantly connect with the characters as a result of this particular piece of the story.

The Verdict

This was a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, impactful and engaging read that fans will not want to miss. Author Nick Lombardi Jr. does it again with this memorable story that captures the era and history of this devastating war, and brings to life the unpleasant truths of the loss and pain it caused on both sides. In the end however, what truly stood out amongst all of this horror and heartbreak was the love and passion for which a mother fought to either find her son or at least get the truth of his passing out for the world to see. A mother’s love can be felt in every chapter of Dorothy’s tale, and makes her son Andrew’s backstory all the more powerful. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of Nick Lombardi Jr.’s novel “The Plain of Jars” today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Author Nick Lombardi Jr. has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and he speaks five languages. An event in California in 2011 in which a homeless man was beaten to death lead Nick to write his newest novel, Justice Gone. Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 

Online: FacebookAuthor Website