Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Debut Novel Review: I Am Pilgrim, on the Saturday Morning #MINI post


Another first for the #MINI: The Debut Novel Review. I mean, who needs reviews more than a debut novelist? (And I hope to be a debut novelist soon, so hopefully what comes around will go around.) First up:  I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.

A quick aside before I get into it: I have a theory (which is mine): The best book John Grisham wrote was A Time To Kill. It was also the very first book he wrote--by flashlight at his desk so no one else in his law firm would know he was already at his desk. You have to be passionate to get up at 4:30 in the morning, trundle off to work, and write your manuscript by flashlight, and that kind of passion translates into a very good book. A Time To Kill is a very good book--Grisham's best--but it wasn't good enough to get published. Many people don't know that it was only after The Firm was published to critical acclaim--and excellent sales--that Grisham's publisher took a chance on A Time To Kill.



An author's debut novel has to be very, very good. Why? Because otherwise it wouldn't get published. Name recognition is huge is world of books. As evidence to support this statement, please consider that the names of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy are still being stamped on the cover of newly written books--despite the fact that both are passed away. (Ludlum has been dead for over a decade, yet he still draws readers.) This is why I am starting the Debut Novel Review--to even the playing field a little for my fellow debut novelists.

Ok, enough digression--a fearful habit of my blogging self. On to I Am Pilgrim. (Warning: No Spoilers in this review.)

 Debut Novelist Terry Hayes

Everybody looks for something different in a book. I like good writing. My wife enjoys a good premise. Daughter #1 likes fast-paced action. Son #1 is drawn to a twisting plot. Son #2 loves great dialogue (and he can be heard--often--reciting lines from his favorite books again and again.) Daughter #2 is a fan of memorable characters. (And yes, I have a lot of children.)

Great books--and debut novels--have all of these. I Am Pilgrim is no exception. I was drawn in to the writing from the first sentence:

'There are places I'll remember all my life--Red Square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother's bedroom on the wrong side of Eight Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theater of Death.'

That's good writing. But I Am Pilgrim doesn't stop there: there are memorable characters (the main character, Pilgrim, and the well-conceived bad guy, Saracen) for daughter #2; an excellent premise--only one man can stop a pyschopathic jihadist on a mission to destroy America--for my wife; great pacing and lots of action for daughter #1; crisp dialogue for son #2; and a superb, serpentine plot for son #1.

Yes, I Am Pilgrim is the ideal book for my family--it's also the ideal book for you. Click on the link to I Am Pilgrim and give it a try--and support a debut novelist!

That's a wrap, folks. Thanks again for your time and attention, and stay tuned to PeterHogenkampWrites for news about my own debut novel, Absolution

What are your favorite debut novels? Please let me know by responding in the comments. I'll end by posting several selected reviews of I Am Pilgrim:

The Guardian review of I Am Pilgrim
NYTimes Book Review of I Am Pilgrim
Kirkus Reviews; I Am Pilgrim

cheers, :)


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   


Thursday, March 12, 2015

3 Authors You Should Be Reading, on the Thursday Afternoon #MINI post


You're at the airport, staring at the bookshelf prior to catching a twelve-hour plane ride to Bali, desperately seeking a fresh voice in #thrillers. Let's not take anything away from Lee Child or James Patterson or Steve Berry or James Rollins or Gillian Flynn or Michael Connelly or David Baldacci (great authors all) but you have read their excellent books already and Daniel Silva writes only one--phenomenal--book a year, so what does one do? One consults the infinite wisdom of the #MINI, that's what. This is what the #MINI says: There are many other great thriller authors out there--too many to name on the #MINI--but here are three that you should not ignore:

1) Joseph Kanon:  Everyone has a bias, and I believe in stating your bias from the get-go. I have a soft spot for superbly written thrillers with a literary feel, in which the setting becomes another character in the book. That summary screams Joseph Kanon, the author of seven novels including Istanbul Passage, The Good German and Leaving Berlin. There are so many things I like about Kanon's writing--the rules of the #MINI are clear, short and sweet--but I will mention just two. If you like to escape when you read a book, try Kanon: when I read Istanbul Passage I was in Istanbul (no, not literally), post-war Istanbul, that is. His writing can take you not only to places but periods of history, not an easy trick. But it's Kanon's prose I like best, straightforward and at the same time convoluted, deep and yet superficial, simple but sometimes as complex as the plots Kanon weaves with deft touch. My fellow Daniel Silva fans, give Kanon a try. Here are some selected reviews:

LA Times Review of Istanbul Passage
The Telegraph review of Leaving Berlin 
The New York Times Review Of The Good German
Joseph Kanon's Website



2) Olen Steinhauer: Espionage is a complex, multifaceted world, and nobody paints this world better than Steinhauer. So subtle are his brushstrokes that the reader is often confused about who the good guy is. (Who is the good guy, anyway?) And yet Milo Weaver, the protagonist from Steinhauer's Department of Tourism trilogy, is sympathetic despite the ambiguity, the shifting loyalties, and the violence. If you are wondering what the life of a modern day spy is like, pick up a Steinhauer novel (start with The Tourist.) My fellow Le Carre fans, give Steinhauer a try. Here are some selected reviews:

 The Washington Post review of The American Spy
Cleaveland Plain Dealer review of The American Spy
Olen Steinhauer's Website



3) Robert Wilson:  Robert Wilson could write a book about watching grass grow, and I would enjoy reading it. That isn't to say that his plots aren't interesting, because they are--layered, serpentine and unpredictable--but it is to say he puts words together in such a way that makes for good reading. And he stitches characters together as well as the best writers of literary fiction, characters that live and breath and think like we do. I love Wilson's cerebral style, his elegant prose. Wilson's A Small Death in Lisbon is on the short list of my all time favorite books, but all of his books are good, and I would recommend any of them.  My fellow Ken Follet fans, give Wilson a try. Here are some selected reviews:

The Guardian review of The Ignorance of Blood
Publisher's Weekly review of A Small Death in Lisbon
Robert Wilson's Website

Ok, that's a wrap. Thanks again for tuning in, and do NOT forget to check out The Intern, the serialized novella I am writing on #wattpad. (The Intern is approaching its conclusion, and continues to close in on the top 10 of the General Fiction genre on #wattapd.)  For those of you wondering about first book of The Jesuit thriller series (my mother and her Canasta group,) my agent is in the process of submitting to publishers as we speak, so I hope to have some news within a few weeks (or months.) I appreciate your support.



Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.






Saturday, March 7, 2015

Movie Review: The Theory of Everything, on The Saturday Evening Blog Post



There is a reason Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for best actor in a leading role: If you are a fan of outstanding acting, pick up the clicker now (yes, before you read the rest of the review) and watch The Theory of Everything: Eddie Redmayne's Stephen Hawking is just that good. Again and again I found myself thinking I was watching actual footage of Hawking, as opposed to an actor's portrayal. Felicity Jones shines as well, as Jane Wilde Hawking, the renowned astrophysicist's first wife.


The cinematography is excellent, a collage of lenses, angles, and colors that brings the viewer back to Cambridge in the sixties, when Hawking was still a young man. The camera tells us that there is something wrong with him--but there is enough ambiguity in the telling so that we don't know what. And I loved the score, which perfectly compliments the moving pictures without becoming the focus of the viewer's attention.

Ok, so 5 stars for both the dramatic and cinematic aspects of the film. Now on to the literary aspects...


Here's where the problems start. Let's begin with genre. The Theory of Everything doesn't have one. Watching it, I would say that it has elements of a romance, a drama, and a coming of age story, but it doesn't meet all the requirements of any of the three. Before I watched it, I was thinking it was going to be a biopic of Stephen Hawking's life, but there is little in the way of information about his life that the average viewer doesn't already know. The focus of the movie is the relationship between Hawking and his first wife, Jane, which should make it a romance, and it starts out well enough in this regard. But when problems between Stephen and Jane lead to a dissolution in their marriage, there is not enough development of the issues between them--almost as if the screenwriter wanted to gloss them over. One minute they are the ideal loving couple, the next they are Splittsville?

It took some research to figure out why this had occurred. The movie was based on a memoir written by Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, which Jane wrote originally in 1999 after Hawking divorced her to marry his nurse. In 2008, she revised the book heavily after Stephen divorced his second wife and reformed a relationship with her. I felt as though the screenwriter was trying to let us know that they had divorced without dragging either party through the mud. But divorces don't occur in the absence of screams, fights and tears, no matter what the screenwriter would have us believe. In trying not to tarnish either the individuals or their relationship, the writer tarnished both, making the people seem unrealistic and the relationship surreal. Conflict drives stories, and who has ever heard of a divorce without conflict?



Now on to the abrupt ending. Ok, so I am a writer and I can make my books any length I want, right? So I shouldn't complain about a movie, where the length is controlled? Actually, almost all writers have the same issues about length (other than JK Rowling and Dan Brown obviously) that screenwriters do. And a movie about the relationship between Stephen and Jane should show us why they reunited, not just tell us that they did by putting in a lovely scene with the two of them at Buckingham Palace.

But, as Meatloaf said, Two out of Three Ain't bad....



So, four stars for The Theory of Everything, based on the outstanding acting, excellent cinematography and fantastic musical score. Enjoy.

Ok, thanks again for your viewership and support. Please let me know what you thought of the movie--I am always interested in other people's opinions. In other news, The Intern is nearing its conclusion on #wattpad to excellent reviews and a top 10 spot in General Fiction. Give it a look.

Cheers, :)


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.








Sunday, March 1, 2015

#MINI Book Review: Lincoln's Bodyguard by TJ Turner




Lincoln’s Bodyguard (Oceanview, April 2015) is historical fiction at its best: authentic, thrilling and just plain good fun. Author TJ Turner starts out with the interesting premise that Lincoln's bodyguard Joseph Foster stops John Wilkes Booth before he can kill Lincoln in Ford’s theater, and moves on from there: to a post-Civil War America that remains as divided as it was prior to the war; to a presidential administration torn by competing influences and petty jealousies (sound familiar?); to a postbellum South ripped apart by an occupying Federal Army at war with a stubborn Confederate insurgency.




Historical fiction is either made or broken by the research that went into the writing, and Turner did not disappoint: Lincoln’s Bodyguard is steeped in history—but reads like a thriller, taut and fast-paced. It is obvious that Mr. Turner knows his history, but he also knows his writing; the prose is fluid (and not overdone), the dialogue is genuine and appropriate for the setting, the characters are well-developed, and the pacing is fast, but not rushed.



Stories drive books, however, and Lincoln’s Bodyguard features a good one, a tale about a man on a journey to save his country and himself, a journey filled with pitfalls, romantic interludes and lurking enemies. Turner displays a veteran’s skill in his debut novel, which bodes well for fans of the genre: I look forward to his next offering. I will end by posting the link to the Amazon page: Lincoln's Bodyguard by Tj Turner. Give it a try.





Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.