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Monkey Love by John Paul Allen (2008 Biting Dog Publications.)  Read more about the author and the novel  here.

      I met Mr. Allen at the World Horror con in Toronto, first at his table, then when I was drunk off my gourd at a hotel party, having a jolly good time, when he approached me, sat down in front of me, and told me he’d been looking for me, wanted to give me Monkey Love.  I’d momentarily forgotten I’d spoken to him at his table, and in my stupor he looked to me like a younger Willie Nelson who really really wanted me to read his book.  I was all ears and

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(All reviews copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Nicholas Grabowsky and Diverse Media, all rights reserved.   All book cover images are owned by their respective owners and used by permission.)

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neglected the attention of my company to converse with him, but they were as drunk as I was and blended into the party crowd.  I’ll never forget that moment, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him.  Here was a guy who was searching parties with a book in hand and a mission to deliver it just for me, and at that moment I was honored, no matter who he was.  When I soon afterward looked over the book, I remembered speaking with him at his table, finally.  The book was a signed and numbered limited edition, and as it turns out something I now prize in my library.  I’m very grateful to making his acquaintance and introducing me to his writings.

     John Paul Allen is relatively an up-and-comer in this industry, his first novel the celebrated Gifted Trust debuting in 2003 with the chapbook Hello Neighbor following, then with Weeping Mary in 2004.  I say up-and-comer very loosely; his name and talents have circulated around to the point where he has achieved notoriety and high esteem just with his short works alone.  I must say I’m very proud of him.

     To the point with Monkey Love itself:  the story is simple, dealing with a couple where the husband dies in a plane crash and his lover, Sandra, an expert in Anthropology, moves on to study gorillas in Uganda with a team of scientists.  As it turns out, she becomes fascinated with one particular ape who bares a mark so similar to her deceased husband’s tattoo that she begins to think this ape might be a reincarnation of her poor Richard.  That leads to an obsession, and……

     Need I say wow.  Great writing, great reading, and Allen has all the makings of a writer with the talent and ambition that equals success in this big wide world of writers and wannabes.  Excellent stuff, even with House Guest, a short story included in the book.  Love every word, and keep it up, John Paul, ‘cause if you don’t, I’m gonna be the one going around looking for you at the next writer’s con we both attend!  

     Hell, I’ll look for you anyway…. 

The Expendability Doctrine by Patrick Mackeown (2006 BookScape.)  Read more about the author and the novel  here.

The Coming Evil: The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell (2007 Xulon Press.)  Read more about the author and the novel  here.

     Murder and Big Oil, and all the juicy details incorporating suspense and bigwig corporate greed with a narrative not unlike a scholar well-versed in the ways of telling a nice compact and seasoned storytelling prose is what The Expendability Doctrine is all about, and so much more.  Granted, need I say again in my online succession of giving reviews of books outside my typical genre,

     Dras is the proverbial Prodigal Son, a guy who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the philosophies and ideals of his older brother who happens to be a Protestant pastor of the small town of Greensboro, is a typical rebel who defies the very elements that defines the values instilled by the traditions of his brother and his father before him.  And then comes the Stranger, an embodiment of evil who ventures into town and creates all sorts of

I have found a novel submitted to me that had taken some time to get around to because the nature of the ones I review are first and foremost, I have found something more than appealing, something that breaks away from the kind of material I choose to read and put forth the time to write what I think of.

     This is Patrick’s first book, followed up by The Cardinal’s Blood, and I suspect he’s building on making a career out of this sort of thing, and well deservedly so.  His writing is first-rate and he does a remarkable job with moving the story along without all the boring nonessential details that suspense thrillers involving corporate schemes and espionage and police-investigators-solving-larger-than-life crimes often present for me.  Normally, it’s not my cup of tea.  But with this one, it is.  And truly, it’s all in the way Patrick Mackeown writes but not expressly that, it’s because he presents himself as learned with this material, and I also suspect an underlying statement in regards to the state of the world regarding oil.

     Basically, the wife of a wealthy executive involved with the oil industry hires a hit man to off her husband, which sends her fleeing out of the country only to end up in the gaols of third-world-country Libya, while back in Britain the law is trying to piece things together in what at first seems to be a simple murder mystery.  As the mystery, much as the plot, unravels, there is so much more to what is going on…..on a personal level to not only the wife and her estranged son as well as the police officers involved, but on a global level as well.  Ultimately, the whole of the story makes the common man, the reader, not only more aware of the workings of behind-the-scenes dealings of oil executives on an international level, which is very educational, but it pulls you into that world and gives you a hell of a read.

 

chaos and mayhem, making things not only really suck for everyone, but is a necessary element for those like Dras to either come to terms with the Christian realization and empowerment that he requires to face and ultimately defeat this evil, or to die a terrible death like the other victims of the onslaught instilled by the devilish Stranger who invades the town to claim un-Christian souls.

Greg Mitchell (not to be confused with the Greg Mitchell author of contemporary political and social bestsellers and commentaries for ABC News), is a man after my own heart.  He has a love of creatures and monsters and the sort of creepy supernatural elements that, together with a yearning and knack for sitting down and writing about it, sows the seeds for someone great in the field.  Firstly, Greg does have within him the makings of a great writer.  His writing method is in its beginning stages, professionally, which is to say quite honestly that I should expect from him in that writing style to perfect his stuff to the point where he stands out and becomes more and more original, achieving that mark that pinpoints one writer from another, which makes a reader of the genre for years and years on end to say hey, that’s Greg Mitchell’s work.  He has yet to achieve that, but he’s on his way.

Now, this is personal, so follow me here:  I’ve spoken of Greg’s style, so now here are two points for him expressly, involving story originality and the expression of faith, and I say this from experience in that I, too, set out to tell a story of similar formula with the same expression of faith, to which, as my readers know, was blown all to hell in many ways when my first novel shifted along with my life and was as a consequence reconstructed.  Firstly, the storyline itself, though highly readable, is way too predictable and follows a straight-forward plot scheme duplicated thousands of times….an evil comes to a town where a certain rebellious soul must figure out how to defeat it.  And the evil has no motive but to simply do evil deeds, has no true indepth character or core motivation outside of itself, and the characters have no meaty integral driving substance that sets them apart from what readers are used to reading.  The book is dripping with fundamentalist evangelical Christian rhetoric, where salvation only lies with whether or not the characters accept Christ as their personal savior.  For a work of fiction along the lines of monsters and creatures and mayhem that invades a small town where townsfolk must fight against it, such a simple scenario need not be, and that’s not to say the author’s faith and message should not be sacrificed.  It should be reinvented, reconstructed, re-expressed to say the same things while taking the reader into an exciting world no one’s ever entered before, while taking the preachiness and doing what, for instance, C.S. Lewis did, making the tale and its construction come first and its message be an underlying element expressed better in interviews.

I must be harsh with this, because I’m honest, and believe me, as a Christian and as a horror writer, I’ve been there before and I only say this in hopes that Greg takes what I say as not a negative review, because it isn’t, but a lesson from one who knows.  I highly recommend this book to those of Christian persuasion who normally read nothing else outside the boundaries I speak of, but I know Greg will find after he flexes his literary muscles further that he can broaden not only his appeal and audience, but become a more seasoned, professional writer admired by the world as well.