Barracuda

October 22, 2009

BarracudabookcoverMike Monahan

Booksurge, 2008

235 Pages, Fiction/Thriller

3 ½ out of 5 stars

Micko is a likable NY cop who, after being shot in the leg, is sent on a vacation to Bikini Atoll where he plans to rest and scuba dive to regain his strength and more importantly, his confidence. When he arrives he is thrown into a world of organized crime and underwater intrigue, where a mysterious barracuda mutated by atomic fallout terrorizes all who come near.

Written by a retired NYPD detective and professional dive master Mike Monahan, Barracuda is NYPD Blue meets Jaws, with Russians.  

By far the best thing about Barracuda is all the underwater dive stuff. Filled with intricate detail, these segments are superbly written and Monahan shows he is clearly experienced (if you check his website, you’ll see that he has dove all over the world), executing each dive sequence with expert precision. The first underwater expedition to a sunken WWII aircraft carrier accomplishes what few books have: it took me to a place where I have never been and fascinated me throughout the entire journey. Just imagine exploring an aircraft carrier that has been sitting on the ocean floor for sixty years, surrounded by colorful aquatic life, landing on the flight deck all alone as if you’ve descended onto your own private universe.

Spellbinding.

Once the story moves forward, several threads open and Micko is dealing with the exploits of two marine scientists, the Russian Mafia, a gang of renegade divers, lots of backstabbing, and of course that menacing underwater monster known as “It.” Monahan moves the events along quickly and never once forgets that he is telling a story, and Micko is the type of protagonist that you want to root for from beginning to end.

Barracuda is filled with violence and carnage: points. And there is a very pornographic and very X-rated sex scene with a hot Russian seductress: big points. But what prevents Barracuda from being great is that the subplots are not as well developed as the dive segments. While the author really knows his stuff when his characters are on the water, sometimes the rest of the story seems thrown together. The Mafia storyline, involving a complicated money laundering scheme and a tell-all ledger called the Bible, does not feel right. Do crime lords really document all of their illegal transactions and then leave the evidence lying around where any bystander can pick it up? And it’s never clear exactly what money is being laundered, how this money is being earned and whose hands it’s flowing into and out of, yet the good guys seem to have it all figured out. It lacks authenticity.

The rebels feel like an afterthought. Who are they rebelling against and what are they trying to attain? Incomplete details such as these leave the reader confused, forcing them to accept these situations at face value – which means they’re not as intriguing as say, a detailed underwater adventure to a sunken warship.

Another place where the book suffers is in the grammatical narrative surrounding “It.” It’s good to know what the underwater monster is up to, and to see the surface events through his eyes but the writing is confusing and grammatically incorrect. Take this passage:

“It never closed Its eyes, but went into a trance-like state that would give It rest and recharge It.”

Or this one:

“It didn’t know what had caused It to come out of Its trance, but Its instincts told It that danger was near.”

Not only are there too many Its, some of the Its are not used correctly. Substitute the name “John” for “It” and see what happens:

 “John never closed John’s eyes, but went into a trance-like state that would give John rest and recharge John.”

 Or

“John didn’t know what had caused John to come out of John’s trance, but John’s instincts told John that danger was near.”

I am not an English teacher but reading passages like these make I wish that I had gone to school to get a degree so that I could teach grammar and be happy with I. Sorry to have to call this out so bluntly, but this bugged me, and after awhile these passages became incredibly difficult to read and made the book feel like a 2nd or 3rd draft, instead of the polished masterpiece it deserves to be.

Here’s hoping Monahan can minimize these issues in his next book, whatever that may be, because the plot and story he weaves together makes me curious about what he plans to do next.

So if you can get past some issues, and every book has them, Barracuda is an intriguing crime story with plenty of action and adventure. Filled with lots of life-threatening twists and lots of dangerous storylines, it all ties together in one of the bloodiest, most chaotic finales I’ve read in some time. If you can stomach the violent imagery of human beings being literally ripped apart by a psychotic, mutated underwater predator, and you can tolerate the anguished hollering of innocents being scorched to death by burning fuel and stray fireworks, and love the idea of hot sex with a tantalizing Soviet-era dominatrix (who doesn’t?), then open up a copy of Mike Monahan’s Barracuda, sit back, and absorb!   

Strengths: great underwater intrigue, good premise, strong pacing, vivid imagery

Opportunities: underdeveloped subplots, grammar(in some places)

Will appeal to: fans of cop/mafia drama, scuba divers, fans of thrillers and crime novels

Barracuda is available from amazon.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, October 2009


Kate Heflin = One of Us

October 14, 2009

Hey, check out Megan’s Bath over at Kate Heflin’s blog The Easily Distracted Author. Kate is going to be blogging some fiction and the prologue and first chapter of this very interesting story are up. It’s quite good so far….head on over and give Ms. Heflin some comments – but she’s a lawyer, so play nice otherwise she’ll take you for all you’ve got and then some!

kate


Author Interview: D.M. Annechino

October 12, 2009

daniel2I have the pleasure of bringing you my conversation with D.M. Annechino who wrote an excellent book, They Never Die Quietly (Boogle review right here). In fact, it is so good that it was recently picked up by Amazon Encore. Way to go Daniel! Good luck with the exciting “2nd round” release of your great book!

The Boogle: Thanks for taking the time to participate in this virtual interview. Why don’t you start by telling us what They Never Die Quietly is about?

DMA: Although it seems like this novel is about a serial killer, the main theme is more about Sami Rizzo—the homicide investigator assigned to head the investigation. She is a woman trying desperately to define herself as a competent detective, good mother and someone worthy of love.  In spite of my desire to have the limelight focused on the protagonist, the general consensus is that Simon, the serial killer, stole the show.

TB: He certainly did. Quite a compelling and frightening man! What inspired you to write this book?

DMA: To be honest, there was no obvious motivation. I had already written three prior novels—all thrillers. But I wanted to kick it up a notch by creating a villain so evil that he pushes the reader’s imagination to its limit.

TB: What did you enjoy about writing this thriller?

DMA: Actually, it made me a little uncomfortable. Because the villain is a religious fanatic and I was raised Catholic, I did have to take a breath every now and then to keep focused. What I enjoyed most was writing, “The End”.

TB: How did you research this book?

DMA: First I read several books that outline police procedures. Then I researched several nonfiction books that dissect the minds and motivation of serial killers. I put the pieces together, added a sprinkle of this and a sprinkle of that and Simon was born.

TB: Simon is a fascinating character. Walk us through the process you used to put him together.

DMA: I didn’t want to stray too far from the profile of the most notorious serial killers. So, I started with a handsome, intelligent man whose outwardly appearance seemed non-threatening and well bred. I added a lunatic dead mother who lived in his brain, a twisted idea that he was enlisted by God to purify the world, and just to make him even more terrifying, I created “another self”, whose rage made him capable of the most unspeakable acts.

TB: You and I have talked at length about some of the themes and characters in They Never Die Quietly. What sets your book apart from other suspense/thrillers?

DMA: More than anything, I tried to keep turning up the heat with each new scene. For the grand finale, when detective meets villain face to face, the pace of the book is almost exhausting. Many people have told me that they actually had to put it down, walk away from it, and take a breather. My goal was to create a story with non-stop action and relentless dramatic tension. Also, Simon’s method of killing his victims is, arguably, more horrific than any serial killer—real or made up—in history.

TB: How did you go about getting it published?

DMA: Like many novelists today, I self-published in hopes that the book fairy would bless me with a publishing contract. And that’s exactly what happened. Amazon.com recently launched a new division called Amazon Encore. And they have expressed interest in acquiring the exclusive rights to my book. In fact, I signed a contract with Amazon on August 17, 2009.

TB: This is the ideal situation for many of the authors who visit this site. Can you walk us through the process of how you landed a publishing contract with Amazon Encore?

DMA: When Amazon Encore was created, their goal was to identify exceptional self-published books that were well written and commercially marketable; books with greater potential than their sales indicated. The editors at Amazon Encore performed a comprehensive search on the Amazon.com web site looking for books with outstanding reader reviews. Then they would order a copy of the book, read it, and decide if they wanted to acquire the rights. In my case, the editor who read my novel loved it and contacted me. In a sense, I guess you could call it dumb luck and good timing.

TB: What advice do you have for other authors with regards to publishing?

DMA: The publishing world has truly evolved. The big guns rarely give a first-time novelist the time of day. But now that there are a number of high-quality sources where an author can self-publish, the publishing game has really changed. The big thing is not to get discouraged. Since 1992 I’ve written four novels and each has earned a truckload of rejection letters. But you have to keep writing and must focus on the fact that each “no” gets you closer to that “yes”.

TB: Who are some of your favorite authors and what are some of your favorite books?

DMA: Although I write thrillers, I prefer to read literary fiction; stories with beautiful narratives, well-developed characters, and poetic-like passages. Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy is one of my favorites. I also enjoyed Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and Peace like a River by Leif Enger.

TB: What’s next? What are you currently working on?

At the urging of Amazon Encore and my literary agent, I am writing a sequel to They Never Die Quietly. My goal is to create another serial killer who is so beyond evil he will make Simon look like a choirboy.

TB: Good luck! And be sure to keep us posted on your progress!

Be sure to head on over to Mr. Annechino’s blog, and check out They Never Die Quietly which is available here.

Check out my review of They Never Die Quietly.



So….

October 2, 2009

Sarah Palin’s written a book. Apparantly it took about as long as it will take me to write this blog post. The cover was just released and it’s quite striking…

original

I must admit that 1/2-term former governor Palin has never looked better than she does in this cover photo, which goes back to our discussion of book covers. You can’t expect Sarah Palin to write a book and not put her picture on the cover…after all, it’s always been about her and always will be.

Remember our discussion of your writer’s platform? While Palin turned this thing out in a matter of 4 months, it took me 6 years to write The Cigar Maker, which included researching stacks of books, visiting and touring Ybor City, and constantly writing and rewriting. Yet Sarah will sell over a million copies of her book in the first month while I’ll likely struggle to reach the elusive 1,000 mark.

Palin’s book (like many before) is the perfect example of writing being sold on name recogniton alone. What’s the lesson here? It’s all about platform.

Platform, platform and more platform. Who the heck ARE you??? We often struggle as writers simply because no one knows who we are. By building a platform you’ll have wider appeal, better name recognition, more fans = more sales. You might not sell as many books as Palin but it can make all the difference in reaching that next milestone.

With that I must decide: do I continue to build my platform? or should I just change my name to Sarah Palin…?


Big Funny

October 1, 2009

bigfunny 5 out of 5 stars

48 pages, comic

Various artists, 2009

Saturday morning as a kid at my house meant hours and hours of cartoons – powered by Betty Crocker blueberry muffins, orange juice and my father’s bad breath. I will always cherish memories of Wile E. Coyote flying over the canyon in his Acme roller skates, or watching him smack into the pavement after his Acme catapult failed to launch him into the roadrunner’s path. Seeing that innovative predator who never gave up always takes me back to the days when I could rely on Saturday morning cartoons to keep me amused for hours.

There was one other thing that was a constant staple of the childhood weekend: the Sunday comics.

Full color, filled with wacky characters and social commentary, and more often than not: funny.

Whatever happened to the glorious Sunday comics of yesteryear? When the characters were pop-culture celebrities whose adventure pages were fought over at the breakfast table? When older brothers snatched the paper from younger brothers, or fathers camped out in the bathroom to enjoy a few valued minutes of solitude while snickering at the antics of Hi and Lois or B.C.?

As our world becomes more digitized, the newspaper medium is swiftly going the way of the cassette tape…the artifacts are recycled or tossed, left to rot in some attic or basement while its owners encourage the rise of reality TV and accelerate the death of the evening news.

Like the gray wolf and the bald eagle, the Sunday comics have become endangered.

Sure, you can always find them online but it’s not the same. The Net lacks the excitement of waking up early to be the first to grab the paper off the porch, throwing the black and white pages aside to devour the color comics before your older brother yanks them from your grasp. It’s no fun for your dad to bring his laptop into the toilet while he enjoys his morning dump. Just ask Dad: there’s nothing like flipping through the newspaper and watching your fingertips turn black with ink while looking around the bathroom for a pack of matches so your children are spared of your stink.

Which brings me to Big Funny (click to see the comics!), a wonderful tribute to the original Sunday comics. The International Cartoonist Conspiracy, Big Time Attic and Altered Esthetics have collaborated to produce a modern oversized newspaper comics section reminiscent of the legendary comics of the old days. Like saving an endangered species, or resurrecting one long extinct using nothing but DNA from old, crumbling comics and colorful memories of Sunday morning, Big Funny celebrates the history and future of comics. With 48 pages of hilarious original comics drawn by local artists who all share a passion for the medium, Big Funny is packed with quirky characters and ridiculously endearing adventure whose artistic quality is as good as any comic you’ve ever seen.

Some of the highlights include:

Bud Burgy’s “Authoritative Expert J. Wiggins” a bald-headed judge of authorized fashion.

Jesse Gillespie’s “Little Emo in Slumbaland,” a colorful and visually gratifying fantasy of hip-hop dreams.

Daniel J. Olson’s vivid, eye-catching “Hey Rube!” (check out Super Maxi-Pad Girl #2 – on sale now!…same link: just click it! you can’t resist knowing more about Super Maxi-Pad Girl)

Kevin Cannon’s exciting Saturday matinee serial, join-in-the-middle-of the-action cliffhanger “Army Men.”

Bob Lipski’s “Uptown Girl” makes an appearance but it’s the minimalistic “Sulky Girl,” hilarious in her simplicity, who steals the page.

Steve Mason’s “Talewinds: Little Jimmy” is the story of a bicycle tire turned B-movie blob.

“Middle Management” by Andy Singer is perhaps the best addition to the feature with a fascinating and surprising commentary on big government and the concept of spreading the wealth. And if you’re a fan of social commentary, Big Funny has plenty of it, from banks that are too big to fail to Lupi’s* “A Breast Abreast” a visually captivating look at public breast feeding…and then there’s Steve Stwalley’s “Bongo the Monk” which introduced me to the concept of monkey sushi.

As video tapes are replaced by DVDs are replaced by Blue Ray which will be replaced by movies being beamed directly to your TV, and music went from radio to LPs to tapes to CDs to iTunes, what will be the future of the Sunday comics? As the newspaper industry slowly dies, they’ll certainly take the comics unless there remain some who love the feeling of those pages and those full color comics. As our entire world goes digital, it’s nice to sit back and kick it with a copy of Big Funny – so nostalgic you’ll end up with ink on your fingers.

These artists slave over a labor of love. I hope you’ll check out Big Funny, which is available here for only $5.

*full disclosure: Lupi is my wife! :)

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, October 2009


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