Friday, April 3, 2009

News Release and Reviews

Reviews on a couple of books I've read lately and a news release on an award winning book. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

EMPTIES, George Zebrowski, Golden Gryphon, $24.95, 163 pages, ISBN: 9781930846593, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Has the world gone crazy or is it that you are losing your mind? How can truly weird things be happening and you are the only one who sees them as they are? That’s the problem that is facing police detective, third class William Benek after he is called out early one morning to investigate the death of an old wino.

Benek is a loner. He has no friends at work and scarcely speaks to the other residents in his apartment building. He has no girlfriend but does show a passing interest in a new girl in the apartment building. That is until he meets Dierdre Matera at the scene of another strange death. A priest is found dead with his brain on the floor beside the body, as was the earlier wino.

Their meeting sets of a chain of events that leads to a strange love affair and Benek wondering about his sanity even more. More deaths occur and Benek is unable to get anyone to believe what he has found out. They think he is losing it.

Zebrowski has written a darkly surrealistic comedy noir that is pleasing to read and adds to the list of interesting, thought provoking works of his career. It’s the kind of story David Cronenberg would have made right after SCANNERS. Thanks George, this one’s a gem.

THE PURPLE CULTURE, Stephen Boehrer, Oceanview, $24.95, 206 pages, ISBN: 9781933515243, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

This is a very well written, interesting multi-layered novel. While it starts out as a typical lawyer driven courtroom drama, it continues as a study into insanity and sexual abuse by the clergy and ends up as an indictment of the Catholic Church and their history of maintaining THE PURPLE CULTURE.

The premise is that three Bishops have conspired to move pedophile priests around in the church rather than removing them from their roles and facing the truths of what is going on. As the trial is presented, we are treated to the thoughts of the Bishops, memories of the victims and families as they follow the trial, and memories and thoughts of other clergy and staff members.

The Prosecuting Attorney is looking at an open and shut case while the defense is doing its’ best to come up with a plan to get them off even though the facts all point to their guilt. The plan they come up with is extremely unorthodox and interesting.

Boehrer was a priest in the Catholic Church for almost ten years and the telling of this story makes you wonder how close the line between truth and fiction is drawn. If I have a complaint about this book is that it is too short. It is well written, interesting and thought provoking. I hope Boehrer has another book in his literary repertoire.

Mystery Novelist Christopher Valen Awarded The Garcia Prize for Best Fiction Book of the Year:

Christopher Valen Wins Prestigious Honor for debut novel, White Tombs

St. Paul, Minn.St. Paul novelist Christopher Valen has been awarded The Garcia Prize for his debut mystery, White Tombs. An annual award presented in conjunction with the national Reader Views Book Awards, The Garcia Prize is awarded to the best fiction book of the year. White Tombs also won Best Mystery of the Year honors.

White Tombs (Conquil Press, ISBN: 978-0980001723, $14.95, Mystery) introduces protagonist Detective John Santana. When a prominent leader of St. Paul’s close-knit Hispanic community is murdered, Detective Santana promises the widow he will bring down the killer.

Despite the snow and bitter cold, the case heats up quickly—suspects are killed before they can be questioned; Santana’s alcoholic partner’s trigger finger draws the attention of Internal Affairs; a sexually explicit photo of a murder victim surfaces in an unlikely place; a snow plow becomes a deadly weapon; and police brass threaten to pull Santana off the case.

Hunted by an assassin out for revenge, his violent Colombian past, and the younger sister he left behind, Santana’s simple vow to a dead man’s wife could be the oath that costs him his life. Everybody knows Minnesota winters can be deadly. But if the weather doesn’t kill Detective John Santana, the bullets might.

A chilling, harrowing, and suspenseful tale, White Tombs has garnered lavish praise, including:

“Valen's debut police procedural provides enough plot twists to keep readers engrossed.” – Library Journal

“A superb police procedural starring a fascinating lead detective. Santana is a wonderful new addition to the sub-genre.” Harriet Klausner, The Mystery Gazette

“This book goes well beyond just being a detective story. The characters are fantastically well-developed and the writing is solid and elegant.”
Reader Views

"Truly a 5-star read."
Armchair Interviews

"John Santana puts Valen's police procedural in a class of its own.” Abigail Davis, author of Hanging Katherine Garret

"Fast-paced, suspense-filled, and packed with accurate detail. A gripping story of revenge, murder and official corruption." Brian Lutterman, author of Bound to Die and Poised to Kill

Christopher Valen ( is a writer and college professor who lives with his wife in the St. Paul, Minnesota area. Valen’s second novel, The Black Minute, will be released in September 2009 by North Star Press. White Tombs is available wherever fine books are sold. The Reader Views Awards is an annual literary awards program that recognizes excellence in independent publishing. Founded in 2005, Reader Views ( is based in Austin, Texas.

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