Big Flies


By Keith Hirshland



Leland Davis is on a quest to find the secret behind his dad’s life. Who was he? How did he become the man he was? Meanwhile, Chester, his dad, is shown in his early years, developing into something he himself wouldn’t have dreamed.

So we have a man after his fathers life and the father’s life. It thought the premise was fine, but the story itself was half interesting and half confusing.


Leland Davis: wealthy, owns a dog, drives a Wagoneer, parents dead, 6’2”, blue eyes, brown/black hair

Chester Davis: Leland’s dad, faux travel writer, thief, blue eyes, took martial arts, liked safecracking

Donald Thompson Richards: Nickname is Snoshu, short dark hair, brown eyes

Denny King: bar owner, dad was a cop

There were a couple more characters and the cast was interesting. I would have liked to have seen more of Donald’s personality come through or at least resonate stronger because I liked him. He had a unique personality. Denny and the girl at the end were also unique.


Again, Donald’s shows up with a good voice. There were Mr. and Mrs. Landers and I liked how they spoke.


The book is divided up into the past and present with the headings of These Days and Those Days. Those Days showed the life of Donald and Chester and how they grew up and what they became.

The author attended the James Patterson class on short chapters.

So, now the problems. How to do this without playing spoiler. About half way through I understood the beginning of the book where it listed three notorious unsolved crimes. I thought the premise of the story and Chester becoming who he was very interesting.

I did have difficulty knowing the passage of time. The book doesn’t tell the ages of Chester and Donald when they had their adventures. It only explains how they grew from children to young men, but the specifics on time didn’t go well for me.

One major confusion was that a major portion of Leland’s These Days scenes…weren’t real. I won’t tell anymore but that didn’t settle well with me. The author tried some coincidence type stuff at the end and that didn’t work either. It happened too quick.

Because of this the story fell apart and became confusing. Leland visits the site of his father’s death but there didn’t seem to be anything relevant in that. He learns who and what his father was…but how he discovered it wasn’t explained. It it was, I missed it. Because of this, Donald’s story didn’t fill out like it should have.

I was disappointed after it was revealed that pages and pages of story didn’t actually happen. And from then on I tried to find a point to the whole thing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


Haven Of Evil


By Melvin Rivers


After a flood takes their home, Kevin Wilson and his wife Sandra find a rental place in the small town of Havenville. However, there’s a history to their house and death and demons await all who come to live there.

Fairly typical haunted house, demons, ghost-y tale. Nothing real original. Low level scary stuff.


Kevin Wilson: Unemployed, drives a Taurus, former reporter

Sandra Wilson: Library assistant, 33, Kevin’s wife, has an Associates Degree in Library Technology

Frank: drives a pickup, gray scraggly hair

Marge Crabtree: realtor, drives a Mercedes

Joy Springs: librarian, 30s, red hair, freckled, drives a VW Beetle

Nate Hill: reverend

Katherine Ford: Sandra’s mother, light complexion, greying hair

There is another character but to give a description of him would play spoiler. It was a disappointment that Marge didn’t have a bigger role since she was a main character in why the Wilson house is haunted. She shows but in a few scenes but I thought should have had a bigger role. Not too much description for a lot of the characters, including Kevin.


Katherine’s voice was distinctive.

The main problem here was the internal dialogue by several characters. Shown in italics, but too lengthy. People don’t think in longer complete sentences that run on for paragraphs. The narrator, being in close, should have told the thoughts.


This is a shorter book and a relatively quick read. Profanity.

This could and maybe should have been a longer book because there could have been so much more ‘story’, more horror.

No emotions were shown or else glossed over. We don’t see Kevin frightened or Sandra scared. Kevin acts as if the visitations by the demons are nothing to get overly worried about. At least that’s the way much of it comes across.

The twist at the end with Kevin’s friend was okay but might have been stronger had there been something to be scared about. The demon visits to several characters weren’t at all scary and the conversations tended to turn young adult. “Who are you?” “Why don’t you turn around and see for yourself.” Yeah, not very frightening.

I guess I just wanted more of everything. More action, more emotion, more scary stuff, more twists, more originality, more guts to the story.

My rank:

Yellow Belt


Full Ratchet


by Mike Cooper



Silas Cade is not your ordinary financial auditor who investigates company fraud. He’s the guy you call in when you need some serious juice. Former special operations Cade gets in, finds what needs to be found by whatever means necessary. In Full Ratchet, Cade’s latest job takes him to Pittsburgh to look into some hinky bookkeeping by a small company that makes seismic detectors. Cade works his way through the company in short order to find the problem but afterward is followed to his motel. And his residence in Manhatten is broken into. Cade is now a target and to save himself, he has to find out the truth behind curtain. Russian mobsters and an attractive assassin, however, want a different outcome. Oh, and let’s not forget one other issue with which Cade had to contend…his long lost brother.

Sometimes, you just need a bullet ridden, explosive, car crashing story and this one fills the bill. Cade’s CPA work hides in the back seat in short order as Cade runs into problems from the get-go. I like his style of ferreting out the wrong-doers in the Pittsburgh company. This story throws Cade into a puzzle and he has to work his way through the minimal clues to find the answers. While avoiding guns aimed at him at nearly every turn.


Silas Cade: financial auditor, owns a Sig Sauer P226, grew up in New Hampshire, foster child, former military, lives in NewYork

Dave Ellins: Cade’s older brother, foster child, owns a welding shop, race car driver, was in prison for auto theft

Harmony: blonde, assassin

There’s not much details on the characters. A little background on Cade and Ellins, but that’s okay. You’re not here for deep emotional issues and a character driven story. This is an action thriller, so the characters stay, relatively, surface. I like Cade’s slick, cynical attitude. He’s knowledgeable and his past military experience comes through. Ellins I also like because of his driving skills.


Pretty standard. Cade’s voice as well as his friends come through pretty well. Conversations stay on point and aren’t lengthy.


First person from Cade’s POV. Profanity. Some good cynical humor. Fast action, minimal descriptions just to get you into the picture without going into long details. The book reads like Cade is telling you a story of what happened last week during a car ride you and he are taking. Quick points, then moving on. I thought a bit about this because my original inclination was to give it a blue, but because of the different type of story (I mean, a CPA with a gun, for heaven’s sake), I’ll bump it up one rank to:

Brown Belt


The Remote Viewer


By Mark A. McCormick


After Jonas Lux is informed his family has been murdered, he takes a turn for the worse. Rescued by a psychiatrist, he is soon recruited by a shadowy government group. For little does Jonas realize, he has an amazing gift – that of remote viewing. And he will be tested beyond imagination as he is soon in a battle against terrorists.

I had hoped to be wowed by this book because I am interested in the topic of remote viewing. Although a nice premise, this book is fraught with errors and, in time, loses its sensibility.


Jonas Lux: remote viewer, 30s, 6’, brown hair, muscular, probation officer and bondsman, stock car racer

Clermont W. Crawford: Retired USAF Major, deep raspy voice

Stanley White: Lux’s boss

Cayce Markham: psychiatrist, 5’6”, blonde, green eyes

Kyle Mahoney: large frame, bald, mustache

Aaron ‘Doc’ Dias: doctor, short, balding, high pitched voice

Mohammad Oman Islami: owns a yacht

There are a few other characters including the bad guy in Oman’s employ. I didn’t mind the characters but they weren’t explored or used deeply enough. What does Lux’s enjoying stock car racing have to do with the story?


Major problems here.

– tag line that aren’t tag lines: …” Cayce shyly blushed. That’s not a tag. That’s an action.

– not in the book but an example of a constant error: “I’m going to the store.” He said.

– Internal thoughts and dialogue are unnatural and confusing with real dialogue

– too many people bellow and shout

– two people in the scene so: he shouted at him- is not necessary

– missing or incorrect punctuation in dialogue

– said out loud or shouted out loud was used too much


Titled chapters. Some profanity.

A lot of telling and not a lot of showing. I wanted to see the training Lux went through to hone his skills. There was a scene where Dias is telling Crawford about a potential problem with Lux if his emotions aren’t checked. But this should have been shown, not just told about. And the problem never really manifested itself. Other aspects of the RV came to be important.

Tense problems

Continuity problem: In one scene Oman arrives at his South American Ranch. A few pages later, he is calling his ranch from some west African island with no explaining how he arrived there.

As I said, the premise was interesting. A bad guy is placing atomic EMP devices all over the country. Unfortunately, one leaks and he gets sick…for three weeks. And the RV people can’t find him during those three weeks? What was happening during those weeks? Actually, it was a month since the next scene showed another week had passed.

When Jonas goes rogue, only one RV is looking for him. Really? I would think Crawford would have most of the team on the job not only to find Jonas but the bad guys.

Bit by bit, the story fell apart and became unbelievable. I wanted to really get into the RV part of it, see and feel what Lux was experiencing. But it was mostly surface. Weak dialogue in places and weak writing layered throughout.

My Rank:

Orange Belt


A Silver Medallion

Cover - A Silver Medallion

By James Callan



Crystal Moore encounters an escaped Mexican slave worker and discovers the girl is only one of a group of workers for a very wealthy man. Hunter Blackwood is holding one woman’s children captive in order to force her to work for him. Crystal travels to Mexico to rescue the children. By doing so, she puts her life and the lives of others in mortal danger.

This probably should go more into the character section, but I like the plot despite my thinking that Crystal just didn’t fit the adventurer type.


Crystal Moore: drives a maroon LeSabre, black hair, slender, brown eyes, attended Stanford, late 20s

Eula Moore: Crystal’s grandmother, 75, 5/2: 95 lbs.

Rosa Bonita Lopez: Black hair, dark eyes, slender, widow

Dr. Lester Krupe: adviser at Stanford

Hunter Blackwood: is on the Dallas Symphony Board, widower, late 40s, 6”, brown hair, grey eyes

Brandi Brown: Crystal’s roommate

There are other characters throughout. I enjoyed the feisty Eula. There were three Mexicans: Jorge, Jose, and Juan. Three J names did get a bit confusing especially when in close proximity to one another.

Again, I mention Crystal. She just didn’t seem the adventurous type. She seemed naive in the ways of rescuing the children.


Eula’s voice comes through. Jorge is not too bad. Not much else to say about dialogue. Hunter’s at the end was low grade desperation. Eric’s “I’ll cap the bitch.” was ‘B’ movie.


While there was some tension and danger, it didn’t come until later in the book with the rescue of the children. Hunter sends a killer out to deal with Crystal but his part doesn’t come into play until after she returns from Mexico. I wanted more danger in the scene where she has her first foray with the paraplane. Days go by with her wandering around doing things and waiting and no danger.

Brandi’s faking death after being stabbed was not believable. Body instinct would have her react to being impaled.

There was a lot of repetition. Words and phrases. As an example, in one scene, Crystal thinks that the man was trying to kill her as he had almost killed Brandi. In the next scene that thought is repeated as dialogue. This happens a lot.

The author states at the beginning that some things about Puerto Vallarta are factual and other things are fiction. I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta and I wanted more descriptions of the town. The bit about the green flash at sunset is true. I’ve seen it.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


Scorpion Deception


by Andrew Kaplan



Six weeks out of a mission in the Soviet Union, and having turned freelance, former CIA agent codenamed Scorpion finds himself in Africa on a relief mission that turns deadly. In Switzerland, a hit team raids the American embassy and steals information listing names of government officials from various departments and agents…including Scorpion’s. The blame falls on Iran and as America gears up for possible war, Scorpion is pulled back into the espionage game to discover the truth. One enigmatic name surfaces: the Gardener. As Scorpion battles both time and enemy agents the discoveries he makes may determine not only the fate of himself, but they may have international repercussions.

I’ve read the previous Scorpion book and enjoyed it. This lot reminds me a lot of some of the old Ludlum plots. A big bad guy seeking domination and a lone agent hampered by his own people and the enemy seeking to discover the truth. Back when Ludlum was creating scenarios, it was Russians, Neo-Nazis, or a wealthy mogul seeking world domination a’la James Bond movies. Today, however, Arabs and Muslim terrorist groups are in the bad guy roles. Still the puzzle kept me reading.


Scorpion: real name is Nick, independent-for-hire agent, speaks multiple languages, gray eyes, scar over one eye, former Army Ranger and Delta Force, former CIA agent, mother died when he was a child

Scale: small stature, thin, over-sized hands

Sandrine Delange: French doctor, slim, attractive, chestnut hair, gold pupils surrounded by emerald green

Bob Harris: Scorpion’s former supervisor in CIA, sometimes wears glasses,


Typical. Each character uses speech and words fit for their background and Scprion fits in well with knowing the phraseology in each scene. Conversations don’t wander because there is so much action that dialogue is limited to giving the reader a slight rest between bullets flying.


Chapters are headed by location. Some profanity. Foreign words and phrases are translated. Action is quick and intelligent. Scorpion takes time to analyze but this only helps the reader appreciated the danger involved and the thinking doesn’t drag down the action. The time factor is a little difficult to handle other than in this book, time plays a factor because of the impending military action threatened. However, scenes begin with Scorpion already on site, not traveling so sometimes I didn’t know how much time had passed between scenes. Still, a fairly fast read with each chapter revealing a new bread crumb along the path.

My Rank:

Blue Belt




By David Lynn Golemon



A band of Pizarro’s men search for the lost treasure of El Dorado in the vast Amazon jungle. What they end up discovering is far more than they ever imagined. Present day: Scientist Helen Zachary leads a team into the Amazon wilderness in search of suspected heretofore unknown species of animal. When the expedition is lost, Niles Compton and his his Event Group are called into help. Problems arise with every turn because not only is the event Group up against various enemies both foreign and domestic, the truth behind El Dorado may have devastating consequences. From Nevada to Washington, D.C. to Montana to Louisiana, to a secret mine filled with wonder and horror the men and women of the Event Group race against time to uncover a secret thousands of years old.

It’s history mixed with fiction and speculation and I love it. It’s a complicated and complex plot and the above paragraph only scratches the surface. What a story unfolded here. Almost too much to get a handle on in so few words.


Helen Zachary: Chairperson of Stanford’s zoology department, Ph.d, blonde hair, divorced, ex-fiance of the director of the Event Group

Henri Farbeaux: holds the title of Colonel, international antiquities thief, blond hair, divorced, former employee of the French Antiquities Commission

Carl Everett: Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, second in command of security for the Event Group, former SEAL

Sarah McIntire: Army Second Lieutenant, geologist, member of the Event Group

Lots of characters, too many to mention but a few here. Master Chief Jenks is a stereotypical character seen and loved in many books (not Jenks himself, but his type of character). With so much going on, it is hard to get any real depth to the characters, but it’s not that type of book. I wasn’t expecting too much philosophizing or deep meaning soliloquies from anybody.


Many of the military men sound the same. Again, Jenks stands out. Conversations don’t drag and the lectures aren’t lengthy.


Story broken by parts. Each chapter headed by place and time. Some profanity. Very well written with an omnipresent POV. There is a lot of build up and Golemon is pretty detailed in each scene. The action comes quick. There is a lot here and Goleman manages to piece together bits from all over and somehow keep it believable. Technology goes over the top, but is fun. How Goleman kept everything straight is beyond me, but I admire an author who puts as much time to develop a story to its fullest as this one must have. He did his homework. This is fact, fiction, and fantasy all rolled into one and I love the stories where I want to jump into the action along with everybody. This is a lengthy book, but you will not get bored.

My Rank:

Red Belt


No Rest For The Wicked

Dane Cobain - No Rest for the Wicked

By Dan Cobain

Author Photo


People are disappearing and a group of supernatural creatures called Angels are responsible. How do they relate to a super-collider in Switzerland? Or to a young girl who’s personality is changing? Or to a priest trying to cope with a secret from long ago? Will the world survive?

This book is all over the map and although I thought at first the plot was intriguing, there are a lot of tenuous connections throughout with little explanation.


Robert Jones: drives a BMW, smokes, divorced with a son

Father Montgomery: priest, dyed graying hair, fit, 60s

Klaus Boerman: professor/scientist

A few others. The characters were okay. I didn’t feel close to any of them


Fairly okay throughout although the Angels speech is repetitive and hardly scary. There’s some dialogue that I scratched my head at, including a cop who replies something completely out of context to what his partner said.


Titled chapters headed by location.

One mild profanity (hell) I found.

Let me discuss the tenuous or distant connections and I’ll try not to play spoiler too much.

The super-collider was a big problem for me. Supposedly, the Angels were created when the scientists turned this ting on and conducted their experiments. Okay, but the Angels weren’t shown to be from the machine. In addition, there’s a continuity problem because in another scene it’s mentioned by the Angels that they have been around for centuries judging the wickedness of humanity.

The priest and Jones visit one of the collider scientists but it’s not explained how they knew to do so, how the priest knew the scientist, and nothing really was gained by the meeting.

The possessed girl was interesting (can you say Linda Blair?) but it wasn’t explained why the Angels chose her or why they should possess anybody in the first place. That part didn’t make sense to me.

There is an acronym cleverly related to the Angels, but the spelled out phrase doesn’t take into account all of the letters in the acronym.

This is a short story and that’s also a problem. With a short you have to get in, get the trouble started, get to the action and get a solution. This book spent too much time killing people and not enough time connecting the dots. The subplot with the priest’s secret was fine but it should have played a bigger role in the climax.

Speaking of: the climax was too cerebral, philosophical, not enough action.

Scary thrills were low, action low, tension medium-low.

My rank:

Orange Belt


The People’s House


By David Pepper


When a midterm election results in unlikely victors, reporter Jack Sharpe starts investigating. He discovers that certain people had access to certain voting machines. But that’s only the beginning. Who’s behind the conspiracy to rig an election? Who can be trusted? Sharpe won’t stop until he finds the answers.

Pretty good plot and timely since the recent debacle with the Democrat party. There are problems here and there but the premise is a good one.


Jack Sharpe: reporter, divorced, 6’2”, played football in high school and at Youngstown State, dad was a state senator, sister is dead, dad is dead

Lee Kelly: U.S. Representative, married, brown hair, 50’s

Tom Stanton: U.S. Representative, married with three children

Scott Sharpe: Jack’s son, attended the University of Chicago & Stanford Business School, married

Elizabeth Johnson: U.S. President, red hair, former TV news anchor

Oleg Kazarov: 6’1”, slight frame, pale, oily black hair, round head, smokes, dark eyes

A large cast but personalities come through I like Oleg and Sharpe as the distant enemies. Stanton is a good baddie.


Voices are fine. Conversations don’t wander afar.


The book is in Parts. Chapters are headed by time or location. A bit of profanity. 1st person from Sharpe’s POV and third person POV in some chapters.

One of the big things I found difficult was the time jumping. This story goes from X-days after the election to X-days before the election. After awhile, I stopped trying to keep the time line straight. Because of this I found it difficult, too, to keep plot points intact.

This book had almost no tension, emotion, or action. This cold have been a great thriller but Jack wandered around with a tail, an almost peaceful kidnapping, and very little ineffective violence. Yes, there were some murders, but they weren’t dramatic, just…there.

I’m not in the business of telling authors how they should plot their books, but this one could have used some attempts to kill Jack throughout, followed by the inevitable kidnapping near the end. Nothing. A lot of investigation and explanations, but that was about it.

The ending was long and drawn out. There was no climax, so to speak, because there was no tension when the good guy and bad guy meet. It was a good plot and took some thinking to write it. It told some truths about politics.

It just didn’t excite me all that much.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt

Bullet In The Blue Sky


By Bill Larkin



A massive earthquake devastate Leos Angles. Kevin Schmidt, a deputy with Orange County, is called upon to track down a missing Captain. Together, with hastily thrown together team they navigate the chaotic metropolitan streets. However, there are forces working behind the scenes to take advantage of the destruction…and to cause more.

A very interesting plot. A bit of action, a bit of thriller, a quest, a chase. It builds from a simple seek and find to international intrigue.


Kari Boyd: Black, drives a BMW 550, works in the Office of Emergency Services

CAP. Mara: LAPS detective, divorced with kids, Irish/Mexican heritage

Kevin ‘Schmidt’ Schmidt: Orange County Sheriff’s detective, father is a LAPS detective, has an older brother, attended US Long Beach

Roger Jenkins: Deputy Chief, black, 50s, small stature, wears glasses, graying hair, 5’8”, graduated Loyola

Karen Anderson: detective, athletic, 40s, short dark hair, freckles

Brett Gallon: tall, Lieutenant, 40s, attended UCLA, former minor league baseball player

Shawna Hogan: rookie cop, 20s, athletic

A nice cast of characters. Well rounded, each with different personalities and quirks and attitudes. More characters show up later in the book


I thought the voices were very well developed. Conversations had impact. Not too much miscellaneous stuff.


1st person from Schmidt PROV and 3rd person PROV throughout. Relatively short chapters. Profanity.

So, what can I say. I enjoyed the book. The action was good. I thought it depicted the devastation and the people fairly well. As mentioned the plot built and grew and turned into something I didn’t expect.

I think some details could have been expanded upon a bit more but I thought there was good emotion shown by the characters.

So why did I give it a lower then expected rank? I think it goes back to the details. A bit more would have rounded out the story well. Not details on the way the bad guys did what they did. I understand that being glossed over. But there were times when the travels through LA. could have been more detailed. More streets and well known sites described. Just a bit more. But it was still an enjoyable book and bring some of these characters back for a second round, I’m there.

My Rank:

Green Belt