Sunday, September 18, 2011


If you're trying to escape reality a bit and want to enjoy an unusual, intriguing, fast-paced novel, the latest book by Paul Malmont should be just about perfect.

"The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown" (Simon & Schuster, $26) will whisk you away to 1943, when America was involved in the middle of World War II.

Malmont, the author of "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril" and "Jack London in Paradise," offers an exciting tale that features many major science fiction authors as main characters.

Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp play a central role in this smooth and exceptionally clever literary mixture of fact and fiction.

Heinlein is recruited by the Navy to form a "Kamikaze Group" of writers to work on a special project at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

The authors are set up in a military laboratory, hired to try to make an assortment of science fiction themes a reality, including the creation of death rays and force fields.

Pulp magazine writer L. Ron Hubbard joins them in a madcap adventure that will take them on unexpected journeys.

As the war tensions increase, the U.S. government is expecting great things from this group of authors as the country struggles to stay ahead of Nazi military innovations.

An interesting plot twist is developed as the heroes investigate the ruins of a mysterious energy facility near Long Island that was created by Nikola Tesla.

There are many well-crafted, intriguing scenes as the group of authors challenges authority on various levels. They are joined by a variety of other pulp-era writers, including Walter Gibson (creator of "The Shadow") and Lester Dent (creator of "Doc Savage).

Malmont delves deep into the lives and relationships of the talented young authors, offering insights into Heinlein's insecurity about his writing skills, Asimov's marriage problems and his fascination with robots, and Hubbard's many unusual experiences during the war.

Cameo appearances by young Ray Bradbury, superfan Forrest Ackerman and even Albert Einstein add to
this highly distinctive, well-plotted adventure novel.

This is ideal reading for anyone who loves pulp magazines, science fiction or historical thrillers. It falls in the same category as the recent Captain America movie - or Michael Chabon's "Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." It's simply an exciting, nostalgic tale that's great fun.

Malmont, who works in advertising, attended the Interlochen Arts Academy.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.

This review originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal on September 18, 2011


Sunday, September 11, 2011


"Circle ... Home" by local author Melissa Dey Hasbrook (Femistiza Press, $20) is an intriguing new book  that isn't that easy to categorize.

It's a mixture of contemporary poetry, prose, maps, photographs and artwork, deftly combined to offer a thought-proving volume that's intriguingly different.

The self-published volume is the debut publication of the small press Femistiza; Hasbrook received an emerging-artist grant earlier this year from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.

The oversize trade paperback features excellent cover art and small line drawings of turtles and spiders by Linda Robinson, which are also scattered throughout the volume.

This is a collection of poetry and prose rooted in mid-Michigan, using journal observations, personal family photographs and prose.

The first part of the book deals with "Stories from a Stone," where Hasbrook uses journal entries and photographs to reflect on the state of the family land that used to be the Kowalk dairy farm on Clark Road in DeWitt.

After offering images of the original 1890s title abstracts to the property, Hasbrook continues with "the land, once called DeWitt," which first appeared as an e-book in 2009.

This section includes poetry, vintage photographs and prose, some dealing with memories, ancestors and future land development. "The Tin Sequence" details the horrors of the introduction of smallpox to American Indians.

Hasbrook continues her skillful storytelling in the next section, offering insights into generations of various family members.

The last part mixes more genealogical poetry with an exploration of the fate of the Mason Esker, an ancient glacial riverbed that flows from DeWitt through the Lansing area to Mason.

Hasbrook's combination of thought-provoking poetry and memorable images is accompanied by notes that explain the relevance of the graphics. She also provides a selected list of sources and inspirational materials.
The author is a local community organizer who began the HerStories Project as a grass-roots program to celebrate stories about women in 2010, expanding the events this year to celebrate gender.

Hasbrook's earlier creative publications include "Echoes of Women (2006), a collaborative chapbook, and "Blame It on Eve" (2007), an e-book on CD of her poems.

Portions of "Circle ... Home" have been published on her website

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books since 1987.

This review was originally published by the 
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, September 11, 2011.




Family relationships are of the utmost importance in a pair of compelling page-turners that are likely to keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning.

Each book is written by a best-selling thriller writer and comes complete with unexpected plot twists, lots of violence and a nasty villain.

"The Accident" by Linwood Barclay (Bantam, $25) is a superb, taut thriller by the author of "Never Look Away" and seven other acclaimed novels.

After a brief bloody prologue, Barclay shifts into high gear, introducing Glen Garber, a small town Connecticut contractor struggling in today's tough times.

When his wife fails to come back from a night school class, Garber begins to worry. Soon, his worst fears are realized: his wife is dead in a car accident that claimed two other lives.

Garber's wife is accused of being drunk and responsible for the accident; Garber can't believe it. As he investigates, other facts don't add up. Garber, the father of an 8-year-old girl, faces significantly more challenges and an expensive lawsuit.

Barclay ratchets up the tension with the body count rising. Garber's life gets very complicated and soon a relentless killer makes him a target. If you haven't read any of Barclay's books, you're in for a treat.
"Eyes Wide Open" by Andrew Gross (William Morrow, $25.99) is the fifth novel by an author who's become more famous for co-writing many other thrillers with James Patterson.

Jay Erlich, a wealthy New York State doctor, gets upsetting news that his nephew has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff in California.

Erlich flies out to comfort his older brother Charlie and Charlie's wife Gabrielle. While their son Evan had mental problems, they don't believe he was suicidal.

Jay doesn't either; he investigates and discovers a murder that's possibly related. He unearths deep dark secrets involving his brother and a notorious mass murder that took place decades earlier.

Gross based this tense thriller on a few real life situations - his own nephew died in a suspicious fall off a cliff. The Charles Manson-like character is based on Gross' chance encounter with the real Manson Gross had years ago.

The prologue of this novel is set in Michigan - and the victim's parents were from Lansing.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books since 1987.

This review was originally published by the 
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, September 4, 2011.



There's still a little time left to make a great escape before Labor Day and you don't have to pay for gas!

The latest book by M. Chris Byron and Thomas R. Wilson will whisk you away for a journey into the past, in "Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike"(Arbutus Press, $35)

Subtitled "From Sand Trails to US-31" this over-sized pictorial volume covers significant territory and includes a brief introduction from well-known historian Leroy Barnett.

This isn't a dry, scholarly history book with detailed, mostly outdated, heavily footnoted information. Instead, it's a thoughtfully created, attention-grabbing book chock full of memorable images from old photographs and vintage post cards. It's complemented by striking graphics from many colorful advertisements and travel brochures.

The first chapter provides excellent history of the West Michigan Pike, showing how the scenic route was developed, constructed, expanded and promoted. It notes the initial importance of bicyclists and explores further growth from dirt roads to solid pavement.

The trip along Lake Michigan's eastern shoreline begins at Grand Beach and goes all the way to Mackinaw City, with stops at every minor village, sleepy small town and bustling city en route.

Appropriate maps also are offered; areas like Benton Harbor, Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Ludington, Frankfort, Traverse City, Charlevoix and Petoskey are all well-represented.

Byron and Wilson, longtime collectors of historic Michigan ephemera, postcards and photos, have turned their hobby into a fascinating endeavor.

Their earlier books, "Vintage Views of Leelanau County" and "Vintage Views of the Charlevoix-Petoskey Region", won Michigan Notable Book Awards from the Library of Michigan. Their third book, "Vintage Views of the Mackinac Straits Region" was published in 2007.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books since 1987.

This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, August 28 2011.