Tin God by Terese Svoboda

If you are looking for a fast paced plot and traditional characters then Tin God by Terese Svoboda is probably not for you. Part of the University of Nebraska Press Flyover Fiction Series, Tin God is instead a more dream like exploration of the timelessness of the earth and vagaries of human nature. Oh, and it is narrated by G-O-D. If you enjoy skillful prose used to illuminate interesting perspectives then you will enjoy Tin God.

The plot, such as it is, focuses on two stories set in the plains and separated by some five hundred years. In the first, a bumbling conquistador finds himself lost among the tall grasses and whispering natives after having fallen off his horse. Thanks to his blue eyes the natives take him for a god and send out a young virgin to try and capture his essence.

Five hundred years later in the same field we have two young men trying to find a bag of cocaine that they tossed out the window with a cop in hot pursuit. The search is complicated by the recent devastation of a tornado. Jim, who owns the land, needs to turn it over in order to get his government check. “Pork” needs to find the expensive bag of drugs before anyone else does so he can get on with his life as a male “dancer.”

The narrator god alternates between these two stories and slowly unwinds them – while musing on her interaction with humans and vice-versa – until we come to a climatic resolution of sorts. The story threads meet when Jim, digging with a back hoe and leaving his own monument to the past, uncovers traces of the conquistador’s travels.

So what to make of this short unique novel? I must say that I enjoyed it. It is unconventional and can be slow in parts, but it is also evocative and thought provoking. It isn’t the kind of book you pick up and can’t put down until you are finished, but I found it to be an enjoyable bedside table read. Below are my scattered thoughts and reactions.

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The Devil's Halo by Chris Fox

Here is an interesting question: Can you raise serious issues or ideas in a paperback thriller? Now I am not talking about a literary novel that uses aspects of the thriller genre. I know books that often get classified as genre fiction deal with serious ideas. No, I am more interested in whether the kind of book you might take to the beach or read on the commute to work can contain some serious ideas underneath the action driven plot. If you read a Tom Clancy type novel, for example, do you think about the wider political implications?

What motivates these musings? I recently finished reading The Devil’s Halo by Chris Fox and it raised this question in my mind.

The plot is quite complex but let me sketch it out briefly. In 2010 tensions between Europe and America are at an all time high. NATO is defunct and Germany is bankrupt. A larger European Union led by France and joined by Russia seeks to challenge US dominance. Given the continued American military, economic, and cultural dominance Europe decides to draw the line at space. The US, seeking to protect itself from a dangerous world, is working on a space shield which will ensure its military power for years to come.

Terry Weston, an expert in industrial espionage in contract with the CIA, is thrust into this dicey situation when a blockbuster Hollywood movie is stolen prior to its planned worldwide simultaneous release. It seems the same technology that was thought to protect this military action flick is used by the US Military. Weston succeeds in retrieving the film, but in the process stumbles on to a plot of epic proportions. Soon Weston and his wife, a highly trained physicist, are pulled into a dangerous race to prevent a technological Pearl Harbor.

The book is basically a high tech spy thriller, and a rollicking fun one at that, but it raises some serious issues along the way. There are basically two levels to the book. On one level is the highly entertaining action/espionage plot and on another is the underlying political tensions which raise very real issues. I am not an expert on the technology and spy craft involved, but I feel confident in asserting that much of the action side of the plot is . . . hyperbolic shall we say.

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Deadfolk by Charlie Williams

Charlie Williams is yet another author I hadn’t heard of until the kind folks at Serpent’s Tail sent me one of his books. The book was Fags and Lager, but being the geek that I am, I wanted to read the series in order. So they kindly sent me Deadfolk to get me started. I am not an expert on English Noir (which I take to roughly be Deadfolk’s genre), but I have to say if you like this style – or just enjoy black comedy with a somewhat violent twist – add Deadfolk to your list.

The narrator and lead character is Royston Blake. Blake is Head Doorman at Hoppers Wine and Bar and Bistro in the West Country town of Mangel. Normally things are good for Blake. He drives a Ford Capri 2.8i and walks down the street with his head high. But things begin to take a turn for the worse as rumors begin to spread around town the Blake has “lost his bottle.” To make matters worse, Mangel’s family of toughs the Muttons have decided to leverage his momentary lapse of courage for their own good.

Blake decides to take the advice of his pal Legsy and face the situation head on. Unfortunately, while this removes the problem in one sense, it leads only to more trouble. Blake would have down well to remember some good advice: the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. Instead, Blake is convinced he can dig his way out of this hole. What follows is an escalating path of violence and mayhem that includes using a monkey wrench as a weapon, a chainsaw named Susan, and a sawed off shotgun; not to mention arson, robbery, blackmail, and murder.

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Deadfolk by Charlie Williams

Charlie Williams is yet another author I hadn’t heard of until the kind folks at Serpent’s Tail sent me one of his books. The book was Fags and Lager, but being the geek that I am, I wanted to read the series in order. So they kindly sent me Deadfolk to get me started. I am not an expert on English Noir (which I take to roughly be Deadfolk’s genre), but I have to say if you like this style – or just enjoy black comedy with a somewhat violent twist – add Deadfolk to your list.

The narrator and lead character is Royston Blake. Blake is Head Doorman at Hoppers Wine and Bar and Bistro in the West Country town of Mangel. Normally things are good for Blake. He drives a Ford Capri 2.8i and walks down the street with his head high. But things begin to take a turn for the worse as rumors begin to spread around town the Blake has “lost his bottle.” To make matters worse, Mangel’s family of toughs the Muttons have decided to leverage his momentary lapse of courage for their own good.

Blake decides to take the advice of his pal Legsy and face the situation head on. Unfortunately, while this removes the problem in one sense, it leads only to more trouble. Blake would have down well to remember some good advice: the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. Instead, Blake is convinced he can dig his way out of this hole. What follows is an escalating path of violence and mayhem that includes using a monkey wrench as a weapon, a chainsaw named Susan, and a sawed off shotgun; not to mention arson, robbery, blackmail, and murder.

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The Blight Way by Patrick F. McManus

Patrick McManus is a well known outdoors-man, writer and columnist. He is famous for his laugh inducing accounts of life in the great outdoors for magazines like Outdoor Life and Field and Stream. And his collections of columns have been New York Times bestsellers.

I only know about Patrick F. McManus, however, through word of mouth. I haven’t read any of his work, but my wife and in-laws are all big fans. Having lived in the Northwoods they find his style of writing familiar and highly entertaining. So when I got a copy of The Blight Way, the first book in a new mystery series, I grabbed it away from my wife and started reading.

I am glad I did. The Blight Way is a funny, fast paced small town mystery. It is set in Blight County Idaho, hence the title, and features Sheriff Bo Tully. The Tully family have been sheriffs in Blight County for decades. Now being sheriff in Blight usually involves breaking up bar room brawls and feuds between neighbors and doesn’t require a great deal of sophistication or familiarity with the niceties of the law. And that is just fine with the Tully’s. But when a stranger in a fancy pinstripe suite is found dead on a barbed wire fence, the town’s gossip mill is working overtime and Tully knows he has a challenge on his hands.

Bo puts everything he’s got into getting to the bottom of it, which includes “Lurch” the crime scene expert; Dave the self-proclaimed Indian tracker and owner of Dave’s House of Fry; Susan Parker the attractive new medical examiner; and Bo’s seventy year old father, and former sheriff, Pap. After checking out the crime scene the team realizes that someone set up a high powered ambush, but things didn’t go quite as planned. It doesn’t take too long for Bo and Pap to figure out that this isn’t your normal Blight County crime. Problem is the townspeople don’t seem real eager to talk and clues are scarce.

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The Blight Way by Patrick F. McManus

Patrick McManus is a well known outdoors-man, writer and columnist. He is famous for his laugh inducing accounts of life in the great outdoors for magazines like Outdoor Life and Field and Stream. And his collections of columns have been New York Times bestsellers.

I only know about Patrick F. McManus, however, through word of mouth. I haven’t read any of his work, but my wife and in-laws are all big fans. Having lived in the Northwoods they find his style of writing familiar and highly entertaining. So when I got a copy of The Blight Way, the first book in a new mystery series, I grabbed it away from my wife and started reading.

I am glad I did. The Blight Way is a funny, fast paced small town mystery. It is set in Blight County Idaho, hence the title, and features Sheriff Bo Tully. The Tully family have been sheriffs in Blight County for decades. Now being sheriff in Blight usually involves breaking up bar room brawls and feuds between neighbors and doesn’t require a great deal of sophistication or familiarity with the niceties of the law. And that is just fine with the Tully’s. But when a stranger in a fancy pinstripe suite is found dead on a barbed wire fence, the town’s gossip mill is working overtime and Tully knows he has a challenge on his hands.

Bo puts everything he’s got into getting to the bottom of it, which includes “Lurch” the crime scene expert; Dave the self-proclaimed Indian tracker and owner of Dave’s House of Fry; Susan Parker the attractive new medical examiner; and Bo’s seventy year old father, and former sheriff, Pap. After checking out the crime scene the team realizes that someone set up a high powered ambush, but things didn’t go quite as planned. It doesn’t take too long for Bo and Pap to figure out that this isn’t your normal Blight County crime. Problem is the townspeople don’t seem real eager to talk and clues are scarce.

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American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia by Frohnen, Beer, Nelson (Eds.)

I usually like to read a book in its entirety before I review it. In fact, until very recently I was hard pressed to not finish a book once I started reading it. I don’t like loose ends and I guess part of my personality wants to check something off the list and so feels uncomfortable with a half-read book.

This presents a problem, however, when you want to review an encyclopedia. Call me crazy but I am not going to read nine hundred and some pages of entries like a novel. The reason for all of the postulating is the recent release of American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia by ISI Books. I wanted to note the release of this great resource but I obviously haven’t read anything but a small fraction of its copious entries.

Here is a brief description of the volume:

American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia is the first comprehensive reference volume to cover what is surely the most influential political and intellectual movement of the last half century. More than a decade in the making and more than half a million words in length, this informative and entertaining encyclopedia contains substantive entries of up to two thousand words on those persons, events, organizations, and concepts of major importance to postwar American conservatism.

Its contributors include iconic patriarchs of the conservative and libertarian movements, including Russell Kirk, M. E. Bradford, Gerhart Niemeyer, Stephen J. Tonsor, Peter Stanlis, and Murray Rothbard; celebrated scholars such as George H. Nash, Peter Augustine Lawler, Allan Carlson, Daniel J. Mahoney, Wilfred McClay, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, George W. Carey, and Paul Gottfried; well-known authors, including George Weigel, Lee Edwards, Richard Brookhiser, and Gregory Wolfe; and influential movement activists and leaders such as M. Stanton Evans, Morton Blackwell, Leonard Liggio, and Llewellyn Rockwell.

Ranging from abortion to Zoll, Donald Atwell, and written from viewpoints as various as those which have informed the postwar conservative movement itself, the encyclopedia’s more than 600 entries will orient readers of all kinds to the people and ideas that have given shape to contemporary American conservatism. This long-awaited volume is not to be missed.

I have to agree with that last sentiment. If you have any interest in American Conservatism you will want to check out this work. I for one I am excited to have it on my shelf. I consider myself a student of the movement and look forward to many years of dipping into this volume to refresh my memory about key figures and organizations as well as discovering things I didn’t know about the “persons, events, organizations, and concepts” that have made an impact on American Conservatism.

The editors of this important volume are worth mentioning as well:
– Jeremy Beer is the editor in chief at ISI Books. His essays and reviews have appeared in First Things, Catholic Social Science Review, Touchstone, and the New Pantagruel.

– Bruce Frohnen is Associate Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law and the author of Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism and The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism

– Jeffrey O. Nelson is Vice President, Publications at ISI, founding publisher of ISI Books, co-editor of Remembered Past, editor of Henry Regnery’s Perfect Sowing: Reflections of a Bookman, and Russell Kirk’s Redeeming the Time.

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Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam by R.K. Mortenson

Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam is the second book in a series of Christian fantasy adventures by R.K. Mortenson published by Barbour Publishing. In the first book, Landon snow and the Auctor’s Riddle, the title character discovers a magical world while visiting his grandparents in Bottom Up, Minnesota. Through his adventure in this other world Landon is forced to think about what brings meaning and purpose to life. He learns that the “auctor” or author/creator of the universe is the source of meaning and that He has a plan for Landon.

In this second book Landon is heading back to Bottom Up during President’s Day Weekend. The day of the trip he is distracted wondering if he will again find an entrance to the magical world and see his friends. With all of this bottled up inside of him, when his sister Holly teases him about a girl at school he blurts out his secret. Holly is skeptical to say the least, but agrees to give Landon the chance to prove her wrong.

Sure enough, both Landon and his sister end up traveling through the tunnel that leads to Bottom Up’s famous library. Once in Wonderwood, like her brother before her, Holly is caught under the spell of Ludo and the great coin. But that isn’t the worst part, weird creepy shadows are taking over Wonderwood under the power of Malus Quidam. Landon must work with his friends Vates, Tardy Hardy, and Melech to save his sister and Wonderwood itself.

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