Saturday, August 8, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Helena P. Schrader

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Helena P. Schrader, author of Balian d'Ibelin: Knight of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Trilogy).

FQ: Helena, I’ve certainly read a number of your books and interviewed you in the past, but I must ask: If you had to choose one battle or one noble figure that you’ve written about during all of these incredible books, which location or person would you have loved to see and/or meet, and why?

SCHRADER: Frankly, I'd be terrified of meeting any of the historical figures I've written about. I'd worry that I'd misinterpreted something, or that they were angry with me for the way I portrayed them. I doubt any of them would be terribly interested in me or my books either. They had more important issues to worry about. The greatest compliment I ever received was from a Battle of Britain RAF pilot, who read my Battle of Britain novel "Where Eagles Never Flew" and wrote to tell me I'd got it "smack on" the way it was "for us pilots." I still glow when I think of his words. That was the highest possible compliment, and I'm so proud. Because of his assessment, I consider that book the best of all my novels to this day. Yet while Bob Doe and I corresponded a few times after his first letter, I would still have been shy about meeting him face to face -- and I hadn't written about him specifically! No, I think I'll keep away from any possibly embarrassing confrontations with the characters in my books. 

FQ: What was your life like being an American diplomat in Europe and Africa? Did this time give you a calling to write about history?

SCHRADER: I became interested in writing about history long before I got to college much less into the diplomatic corps. It was more the other way around, I think. My fascination with international history made me long for the opportunity to 1) live abroad in places with rich history (e.g. Ethiopia, Germany, Greece) and 2) witness ( and maybe in a tiny way influence) history directly and personally as a diplomat. 

FQ: What intrigues you most about all you’ve learned while researching the Crusader states? Is there one thing that came as a huge surprise to you that you can share with readers?

SCHRADER: That the crusader states were inhabited predominantly by Christians at this time, but extremely tolerant of Muslims and Jews, enabling a very successful multi-cultural and multi-lingual society to thrive for nearly two hundred years. The inhabitants of the crusader states were anything but religious fanatics and bigots; they were savvy, flexible, adaptable and tolerant for the most part -- and astonishingly effective in retaining their position in a hostile world. The popular image of fanatics fighting constantly and brutally against the more civilized and enlightened Muslim world around them is based on ignorance and propaganda. 

FQ: You must truly love the research facet that goes into creating these books. Were you always a researcher at heart? Is there ever a time when you get bored, or need a shot of energy when writer’s block sets in? If so, what do you do to reinvigorate yourself?

SCHRADER: I do love the research. When working on a particular project, I tend to immerse myself in an era as comprehensively as possible, including trying to find music, food, clothes from the era etc. What that means is that I rarely have time for reading for pleasure, especially books about different periods or places. I feared getting distracted from my topic and losing, not interest, but purity. 

Most of my life, I worked full-time in a demanding job that filled more than 40 hours of every week. I also had a family. In short, my time for writing was very limited. Rather than being bored or experiencing writer's block, I usually had a backlog of things I needed to read and write. I never had enough time to get bored or suffer from writer's block. Even now, in retirement, I find I've over-committed myself with respect to two contracts for non-fiction books, overseeing (but not doing!) the translation into Greek of the last book of my Leonidas Trilogy, articles for history journals, re-issuing some of my older books (Hitler's Demons, Where Eagles Never Flew) and the re-write of Knight of Jerusalem. The result is I have not moved forward on the next book in the Rebels of Outremer series as I had planned/expected. 

FQ: Is there some belief or attitude in today’s world – that existed in the past – you wish we’d gotten rid of by now?

SCHRADER: I suspect most historians would agree that nearly every form of evil we encounter in today's world has been with us for millennia. I remember reading a quote about corruption at and the disastrous environmental impact of the Olympics -- written about 500 BC. Political intrigue, bigotry, misogyny, racism, exploitation, egotism, greed -- you can find it all in the Iliad and ever since. 

FQ: Will there always be, in your opinion, war? (Whether that be race wars, country vs. country, etc.)

SCHRADER: Yes -- thank God. Aggressors, exploiters, bullies, the most vicious tyrants and all forms of abusers of mankind would much rather just have whatever they want from whimpering and terrified slaves. War happens -- as Clausewitz wrote -- when the injured party, when the victim, says "NO!" It is self-defense not aggression that causes war, and I hope that some people will always be prepared to stand up for themselves and for the weak and the oppressed and abused around them. 

FQ: What doors will be opened to readers in the next book of this trilogy?

SCHRADER: Well, it is important for readers to understand that the next book in this trilogy has already been published. It is "Defender of Jerusalem." I do need to makes some changes to that book in order to ensure complete consistency with the new edition of "Knight of Jerusalem." I hope to have those changes in print later this year -- certainly before Christmas. But there are no fundamental changes to the plot or characterization of the current version. As I noted in the introduction to Balian d'Ibelin, it is because we know so little about Balian's youth that I had to invent a past for him -- and felt I wanted to revise that. The period of his life covered in Defender of Jerusalem and in Envoy of Jerusalem is too well documented for me to take many liberties. As a result, the second and third books in the Trilogy stand as they are -- except for very minor changes I'll be making later this year. 

For those who are coming to the trilogy for the first time, the next book in the series covers the period between the Christian victory over Saladin at Montgisard in 1177 and the surrender of Jerusalem to Saladin following defeat at the battle of Hattin in 1187. It was a period in which King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem was dying of leprosy and his sister and heir married a completely unsuitable man who rapidly alienated the barons of the kingdom. The barons were right: less than a year after this man usurped the throne, he led the entire army to an avoidable defeat that nearly destroyed the kingdom. These dramatic historical events form the plot around which the novel Defender of Jerusalem is built. 

FQ: After Balian, is there already an idea brewing?

SCHRADER: I interrupted work on the Rebels of Outremer series to make revisions to Knight of Jerusalem. The Rebels of Outremerseries covers the revolt by a significant portion of the lords and commons of the Holy Land against the illegal and tyrannical reign of the Hohenstaufens in Outremer in the thirteenth century. The rebels were led by Balian's eldest son, John, and after John's death by John's son -- another Balian d'Ibelin. I hope to return to that series by early next year. Meanwhile, however, I have the adjustments to Defender to complete and I'm re-issuing two older books, both set in WWII. These projects will keep me very busy in the short term -- not to mention my non-fiction history of the crusader states for Pen & Sword. 

FQ: It was a great pleasure, as always, to read your book!

SCHRADER: Thank you, Amy! It is wonderful to hear from enthusiastic readers. Thank you, too, for the opportunity to answer some questions about my writing. It's always good to reflect on what one has done or plans to do.


#BookReview - Balian d'Ibelin: Knight of Jerusalem

Balian d'Ibelin: Knight of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Trilogy)

By: Helena P. Schrader
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-62787-816-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 3, 2020

There are things you need to know up front in regards to this book, especially if you are a huge fan of this author, like I am. This is actually Book 1 of a “biographical” trilogy spotlighting the interesting life of Balian d’Ibelin. Now, if readers remember this amazing man from Helena’s previous work, it’s because in 2014, the first edition of Knight of Jerusalem was released after two years of research. But, as the author states, after learning even more about the Ibelins, as well as the Crusader states, it turned out that Balian needed a longer look when it came to his life, work, the battles he fought, and the man he truly was throughout his life.

Upon diving into this new series, you will once again be transported back to Jerusalem and learn more about the always fascinating land of “milk and honey.” Not only will this in-depth look perhaps alter your views of Jerusalem, but the author also gives us much more to think about when it comes to the look, feel, and beliefs that were held dear in the twelfth century.

Born the same year his father died, Balian’s beginnings included a mother who remarried. As the third son, his inheritance was zero; however, Balian was later granted the right to marry a dowager queen who brought quite a bit of financial security to the union. When it comes to documentation, Balian is best known for what falls between the years of 1177 and 1192. But, as this author always does, the fictional pieces of this story are brought to life with a true richness and color that shows in detail the path Balian took to eventually become a crusader noble of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. As the Lord of Ibelin during those pivotal years, he became the leader of the defense of the city during the siege of Jerusalem in 1187, and readers will be amazed to watch Balian’s life in this book as it all starts to play out.

We see this world at a time when the Holy Land was predominantly Christian. We also see a world where different faiths lived together in harmony; not pain. We are introduced to Maria Comnena, Queen of Jerusalem and the wife of King Amalric, and learn about her beginnings, her feelings about her marriage to Amalric I, and the cravings she had for more. This much-maligned woman, who was later called “scheming” by English chroniclers, is shown in other ways as Balian is inserted into her world, and every emotion is felt by the reader. From passion to anger, you can almost feel the building of a war that will explode further down the line as the relationship of Balian and Maria commence.

Although Balian has been a character in the Hollywood realm, portrayed as a blacksmith, it is the Arab writings that focus on Balian as being far more “like a king.” When it came to the roles of warrior, diplomat, and even servant, Balian had the skills and talents for each; he even had the backbone and strength to defy the famous Richard the Lionheart.

As a fan, it is no surprise that I loved this book. As a person who is intrigued by history, Helena has chosen to do this "historical biography” on someone who has now found a place on my list of the most memorable souls who ever swung a sword. I cannot wait to read the next phase of Balian’s life story as it unfolds.

Quill says: This goes beyond the “historical” label and straight into the realm of fascinating!

For more information on Balian d'Ibelin: Knight of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Trilogy), please visit the author's website at:


#AuthorInterview with Simon Plaster

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Simon Plaster, author of GREEZERS: A Tale of Establishment's Decline and Fall.

FQ: Okay. Lay it on me. Where do you keep getting these ideas? I mean, really, where/how did the idea/concept for this new book come about?

PLASTER: Hard to say, Amy. It might have been that old movie song that came into my head: "Grease is the word, is the word, is the word..." It's in the movie, Grease, that the two worst age miscastings in history were made: The bad boy, Kenickie -- leader of the black-leather-jacketed T-Birds -- was played by a guy who was 28 at the time. Even more egregious, his supposedly seventeen-year-old girlfriend -- bad girl Betty Rizzo, leader of the Pink Ladies Gang -- was played by Stockard Channing; a good actor but for crying out loud, she was 34 -- twice Rizzo's age -- when the movie came out. You'd think the latter dubious achievement would stand as the all-time record, but . . . Well, here's how one of your fellow book critics put it:

"In GREEZERS: A Tale of Establishment's Decline and Fall, Plaster satirically allegorizes United States resort to the decrepit monarchial system of the United Kingdom: Crowning Joe Biden -- arguably more of a mediocrity than even Prince Charles in their respective primes -- now six years deeper into dotage than the heir apparent to the British throne. As deftly dramatized by Plaster, neither has done anything to merit high office other than to stand and wait for his betters to go by the wayside."

Henrietta didn't realize she was part of an "allegorization" of course. She just went to work and the next thing you knew, a tale had been told.

FQ: Tell me your views on Henrietta. She makes me want to move to Oklahoma City just to hang out with her. Is she about to make many more tales while in the role of private investigator?

PLASTER: I wish you would come out here and lend a hand. Henrietta lacks good influences around her. As for her private detective career in particular, she needs a mentor such as she had in Harold Mixon during the early stages of her journalism career. Her current boss, "Lero O'Rourke ...Well, as they say out here about doofuses such as him: If stupidity was dirt, he would be an acre.

FQ: What do you think Henrietta's major characteristics/ traits are that allow her to stand out and make readers enjoy her so much?

PLASTER: Henrietta is uneducated, but is her own self keen as an acre of garlic. She is pretty as a picture, but not spoiled. She is honest to a fault about things that matter. Most of all, in my book, the thing that makes Henrietta a special gal is that she has pluck.

FQ: With this world as odd as it is now, what is your personal view on this pandemic and how books are "necessary" more than ever?

PLASTER: Information about the pandemic is too confusing for me to grip an opinion. As for books, I would have to say that -- except for the writing of them that gives me something to do with my time -- I think they are less "necessary" than ever.

FQ: Besides your books, your best book for 2020 is?

PLASTER: I am not much of a reader, Amy. Don't have the idle time.

FQ: What is the next idea? Where will we be the next time we see Henrietta?

PLASTER: Last call I heard from the "moose" is that Henrietta is still working for Lero O'Rourke, who has changed the name of his private detective agency to FISSION FYI and somehow found work doing so-called "opposition research" into this-and-that. I doubt it will go well for anyone involved.

FQ: Considering life in 2020, do you feel the "establishment" is declining and falling much like the subtitle of your book?

PLASTER: Amy, for crying out loud, our next President is likely to be seventy-seven-years-old when he takes office; same age as Ronald Reagan when they carted him out of the White House after eight years of occupancy. Our new President's likely garbled recitation of the oath of office is not likely to inspire confidence; not like, say, John Kennedy at age forty-three, when his rotting father -- another fishy-eyed Joe -- was five years younger than the "son" we are getting now. Biden's Veep is bound to be a nobody and next in line is Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, whose brain cells are also wore out. The so-called "establishment" that let this happen is mentally, morally and fiscally bankrupt in my book...

FQ: I have interviewed you many times before, so just for fun: Shakespeare, Colonel Sanders and Donald Trump are sitting at a table with you eating dinner. Tell me what you are all talking about. 

PLASTER: I expect most of the talk would be about women; same as with other guys at other tables. What I myself would like to say would be to the Colonel, who -- speaking of decline and fall of establishment -- had a great recipe, but ruined it. The KFC establishment is still serving chickens that are well battered, but must be old World War II surplus poultry stored in freezers since...Well, since about the time Joe Biden and Prince Charles were born!

FQ: Thank you again, Simon, for this book. You never fail to impress me. Amy

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Michael Pronko

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Michael Pronko, author of Tokyo Traffic (Detective Hiroshi series, Book 3).

FQ: I commend you for writing this book on the subject of human trafficking, and shedding light on the global issue. I read that in the United States, The National Human Trafficking Hotline has managed 51,919 hotline cases since 2007, but unfortunately most cases go unreported so the real impact is a lot higher. How bad is human trafficking in Japan?

PRONKO: The problem was not seriously addressed until recently. Japan only ratified some of the international protocols on trafficking a few years ago. I can understand how hard it is for police and task forces to root out this vicious crime, but politicians who ignore injustices like trafficking need to take action. Japan is ruled by government bureaucracy and they are slow to change. Meanwhile, the situation festers. The grey areas around trafficking make it especially difficult. The totality of trafficking includes “guest” workers on farms and fisheries, underage Japanese girls going on paid ‘dates,’ online ‘delivery health’ services and a porn industry with close ties to loansharking and debt collection. Japan has raised its compliance level with international norms and cracked down on some practices, but Japan remains a destination and transit point for international trafficking, while battling its own domestic trafficking.

FQ: Detective Hiroshi has a new girlfriend and they both participate in Kendo. Why did you choose this particular martial art for Hiroshi to experience? 

PRONKO: Kendo is one of the most traditional and popular of martial arts. Young men and women often join school “circles” for sports or other activities. That’s where Hiroshi and his girlfriend met. But I really chose that because I used to watch students at my university practicing Kendo. It impressed me deeply. For one thing, it’s really loud! People scream and hit hard. One of my students lost some hearing from an especially hard hit. As with most martial arts, the key point is less the physical side than the spiritual side. It’s maybe a cliché that Asians have some mystical interior world, but such practice really does encourage inner strength.

FQ: How do you decide what theme, or subject matter, you will base your thriller/mystery on when you begin writing?

PRONKO: I can never read the news without becoming infuriated. I worked for the editorial section of The Japan Times for years, so I’d select topics there by the degree they angered me. I often stew over these outrages and carry on arguments in my head. I keep stacks of articles and read through them from time to time. That provides start-up energy. I’m not sure what other people do with their anger, but I need to process it into some meaningful form. I’m equally motivated by awe-inspiring aspects of Tokyo and Japanese society. Anger and awe, though, aren’t enough. I wait to see if characters and story lines emerge. Often, they don’t, but when they do, they take on their own shape. I write things down as they develop and figure out how to process that emotional energy into story form. Scenes sketch themselves out, dialogue pops into my head, and I write all that down right away. Little by little, the topic and emotion transform into concrete images. If all of that sounds imprecise, it’s because I don’t understand how it happens myself.

FQ: When you’re in the process of writing a novel, from the initial idea, until the completed book is on the shelves, what task do you like to do the most? What part of the process do you like the least?

Author Michael Pronko

PRONKO: I like most parts of the process but have resistance to some parts. I love slathering ideas on scraps of paper, gathering up articles, and jamming them into folders. It’s almost a physical pleasure. Converting notes and ideas into narrative patterns is like a puzzle that you know has to work eventually, but still gives you a delicious delay. Imagining characters and visualizing settings has a freeing effect on my mind and is the part I like best. Drafting is hard, but it releases a lot of pent-up energy. As for rewriting, I ‘relish torturing a phrase once more’ as S.J. Perelman said, but after a long period rewriting, I’m zapped. I find promotion to be a drag, as it feels counterintuitive. Marketing doesn’t come naturally to me, so that’s irritating, too. Once the book is done, I want to start on the next one, so the promotion and marketing phase makes me feel stalled and uncreative. But still, there’s a lot to learn from each step of the process that can enhance the others.

FQ: How do you handle constructive criticism during your writing phase, and/or negative reviews once your writing has been published?

PRONKO: I don’t handle it very well. The more accurate the input, the more it ticks me off. But after the constructive criticism percolates for a while, usually I come around to it. I often don’t agree with what a beta reader, editor or friend suggests, but they identify weak points that I can work on fixing in my own way. As for negative reviews, it depends. Some make me wonder if they read the novel at all. Some seem mean-spirited for reasons that are hard to fathom. But others frame the novel in larger terms, or explain their thoughts, so I can accept those negative comments for what they are. Working with newspaper and magazine editors to deadline and receiving evaluations from students every semester, I’ve come to feel all feedback helps, if only to keep me humble. Or maybe especially to keep me humble. Even when it hurts, you have to step over it and move on. Anyway, I’d rather live a life open to criticism, good and bad, than to live hidden away psychologically.

FQ: In the book, detective Hiroshi has some issues with balancing his work and personal life, which of course upsets his girlfriend. How do you balance your teaching career, writing endeavors, and personal life, without making one aspect suffer?

PRONKO: I don’t handle this very well, either. Writing, teaching, living, they all suffer from time spent on the others. On any one day, I can manage one, maybe two, but the third ends up ignored. But I try to divide the day so that I can focus on just what’s in front of me. I carve out time and focus on just one of those. If I think about the novel in the middle of a class, I’d be too distracted to interact. If I start thinking about teaching while writing, it disrupts the flow. Wherever I am, I do let myself stop and jot down a note. Just getting it down lets my mind ease up and refocus on what’s in front of me. From one perspective, it’s a mess some days, but long run, I feel teaching, writing and living are deeply enmeshed, shaping and strengthening each other. That’s enough for me. I leave balance to jugglers and tight-rope walkers.

FQ: Your books have all been independently published, so you have a lot of experience with avoiding the pitfalls and frustrations of trying to get your novel seen by large publishing companies. What advice do you have for new authors who are anxious to get their writing out, and into the hands of readers? 

PRONKO: One day, I was out drinking with friends moaning about unanswered queries and my unresponsive agent at the time, when a musician friend said to me, you listen to indie label jazz musicians all the time, so why not for your books? I pooh-poohed that suggestion and ordered another drink. But on the way home, it struck me that that’s exactly what I should do. So, I did. It took a leap of faith. Everyone wants the approval, the imprimatur, of an authority, a famous agent or a respected publisher. I had that romanticized vision of writing for years. But it’s OK to just do the work and let the work itself provide authority. Independent publishing requires a lot of time and effort, and some source of steady income doesn’t hurt, but much more than that, it requires confidence and patience, and a deeply ingrained work ethic. It requires being independent in almost every way you can think of. I would have liked help, or luck, or a contract, but as The Little Prince said, it’s the time you spend on something that gives it its value.

FQ: Cryptocurrency is another subject that you touch upon in this book. What’s your opinion about digital money? 

PRONKO: I think the future of world commerce will eventually be digital money and regulating it will be hard. It’ll be a cat-and-mouse game for a long time. I think it will increase corruption, alternative economies and as-yet-unimagined problems, but it will probably go forward everywhere. It has the potential to really disrupt and destabilize the world economy, but it would take years for that to happen. So, maybe cryptocurrency can be brought under some sort of legal framework and oversight. If not, it will be like drug money, only much easier to cover up.

FQ: While I’m not fluent in any language other than English, I have learned enough of both Polish and French that sometimes I’m unable to think of the English equivalent when I’m writing. Does this happen to you too when you’re switching between writing in English and Japanese? 

PRONKO: Yes, all the time. Because the settings of the novels are always in Japan, sometimes I can’t remember the word for even basic things like floor cushions or vegetables in English. And some words seem so natural in Japanese that it’s hard to find a good translation, like genkan, the entrance area in every home. I suppose entryway is a good translation, but it doesn’t convey the same idea, because Japanese would take off their shoes and change their attitude upon entering an interior space. I try to include some Japanese words that fit without overwhelming readers.

FQ: Back in 2017 when I interviewed you for the first book, The Last Train, I asked what were the reactions to your novel in Japan, and you responded that you were working on getting it published. Have you been successful, and if so, how have your books been received?

PRONKO: I decided to focus on getting more novels completed in the series first. So, getting the novel into the hands of Japan’s voracious readers is still on my list, right after the next novel, a screenplay adaptation, a guide to jazz in Japan, and another collection of short essays. And did I mention my job teaching and my personal life? They’re on the list, too, somewhere.

Meet Author Michael Pronko

Meet the author of the popular "Detective Hiroshi" mystery series.  Just posted - Author Michael Pronko's "Meet the Author" page:

Monday, August 3, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Mark M. Bello

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Mark M. Bello, author of Betrayal High (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, Book 5).

FQ: Your books have touched a variety of subjects that seem to burst into today’s headlines. Can you begin by telling us more about this new book and where the idea first came from?

BELLO: My niece and nephew live in the Parkland School District and I have an apartment in nearby Delray Beach. I was in Florida while the Parkland was happening in real time. My young nephew was in lockdown and everyone was terrified. The shooting hit very close to home and I began to consider these cases. While the book is not based on the Parkland incident, questions began to occupy my thoughts: What are the root causes? How does a kid get these high-octane weapons? Where was security? How will the community cope and what will they do to recover? How long will it take them? How should the legal system respond? I began to research the issue and the result is Betrayal High.

FQ: Coming off Betrayal in Black, another horribly tough subject that is now everywhere with the Black Lives Matter campaign, how difficult was it to move from that directly into this – another subject that’s truly painful?

BELLO: I actually never thought of it like that, but you are absolutely correct—these are very painful issues. However, I consider it my responsibility to write books that challenge us to be better versions of ourselves, more tolerant of people who are different than we are, to stick out our hand in friendship, rather than a AK47 in anger. Because Parkland was kind of personal for me, it was not difficult for me to make the transition. I wanted to tell the story from multiple points of view, demonstrate that good and evil come in many forms, and educate readers about how the legal system can be used as a tool for change and retribution, without resorting to violence or law-breaking. The two novels are similar in that way. 

FQ: Is there a subject you won’t touch? And, in addition, is there a genre you, personally, dislike reading?

BELLO: It should be obvious by now that I find inspiration in real life events and how real people respond to them. I don't know that there's a subject I wouldn't touch, as long as it's a good fit for an appropriate legal response. As to genres I dislike, I won't go there—I know from experience how difficult it is to write a full-length novel and I admire all of my fellow authors, regardless of their genre. (I should run for political office, no?)

FQ: With the world in this state of pandemic, do you feel like people will be turning more to books than their TV screens? It’s still a great way to actually get entertainment. 

BELLO: Sadly, I don't. I think the vast majority of people would rather "watch the movie" than "read the book." I don't get it; a person gets a day or two's enjoyment from a book and only an hour or two from a movie, but I think we've become a visual society with a short attention span. I challenge your readers to prove me wrong.

FQ: Do you have a specific feeling when it comes to this country giving up our history? (Sometimes for an avid reader like myself, I feel a bit scared that books will become a thing of the past that our kids won’t know anything about.) 

BELLO: I'm not that pessimistic. Schools will continue to require reading and reading is an acquired taste. Curling up with a good book will continue to be a joy, even if books have to compete with multiple means of electronic media. I pray you're wrong and I'm right.

FQ: When you look at this series, do you see an ultimate end for Zachary? Are you interested in the future writing something outside of the courtroom/legal genre? 

BELLO: I do not have any current plans to retire Zachary; I enjoy writing about the lawyer I wish I had been. I'm not sure I'm talented enough to write out of my legal thriller genre. My novels are the result of 43 years of legal experience and I'm comfortable in that space. I greatly admire creative authors like George R. R. Martin who can write masterpiece series without having experienced anything similar to the genre of their writing. At my age, I don't think I could do that. I will never say never, though.

FQ: Are you already working on the next Zachary book? If so, can you give us an idea of what he’ll be up against next? 

BELLO: I recently completed my sixth Zachary Blake novel. It is being edited as I write this. Supreme Betrayal is about a young woman who bravely challenges the nomination of the President's newly selected candidate for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Why? Because the candidate sexually assaulted her twenty years earlier, and the boy's well connected, wealthy parents covered up the crime. Sound familiar? 

FQ: Where can people learn more about you and your writing? 

BELLO: They can find my books on Amazon and other online book distributors. My books are now available as audiobooks on Audible, Chirp, and other audiobook outlets. They can also go to my website at Mark M. Bello | Legal Thriller Author / Attorney | Michigan 



Sunday, August 2, 2020

#BookReview - Greezers: A Tale of Establishment's Decline and Fall

GREEZERS: A Tale of Establishment's Decline and Fall

By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: July 2020
ISBN: 978-0-9994-1855-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 2, 2020

Okay...I’ve said it before, I will say it again. If you have not become a fan of this author by now, you have either been locked in a closet for a really long time with no access to books, or you simply haven’t been listening to me. If it’s the first reason, I’m highly sorry for your plight and I hope you find freedom soon. If it’s the latter, then you simply make bad choices.

Yet again, Simon Plaster has penned a book that is a recipe of fantastic plot, great characters, wit, charm, and (my favorite) sarcasm. It’s also a memorable read and will have you heading back to read the rest of his great books that came before. In Greezers, we are introduced to a number of things. One happens to be a chain of auto lube shops that have been failing. Of course, their recent marketing scheme (team up with a chain of fast food fried chicken franchises and introduce a concept called “Lardo” to the public) hasn’t exactly been the best idea.

The auto lube shops are part of the empire owned by the DeGrasso family; so is the Trinita Coal & Oil Co. Now, the matriarch of this family is Nanette DeGrasso. She’s a feisty woman, to say the least, and definitely likes to rule with an iron-fist. She’s also 95, yet she seems to be able to still put people in their place when she wants to. Nanette, in her role as the all-wielding superpower of the family, is also overlord of the Oklahoma City based auto shop chain. When Nanette approved the idea for the “Lardo” sales campaign, joining up with a Ukrainian partner in order to make it happen, most of the watercooler gossip was about the fact that the matriarch may have lost her mind. People started wondering who on earth would be her successor when she finally bade farewell to Earth and headed straight into the underworld. Well, let us just say that this family has a gene pool that makes a family of dodo’s seem highly intelligent.

But someone needs to take over...eventually. Introducing Charles DeGrasso. Nanette’s son, he is the heir-apparent, so to speak, and is currently the Executive VP of the company. He’s waited for fifty years for his mother to head into the afterlife and he definitely wants to take command. His wife, Candice, by the way, is also more than sick of waiting for him to take his rightful position.

Joe DeGrasso is Nanette’s nephew. He is more than willing to pole-vault Charles and nab the reins of the company for himself. He wants the job, but he also has an ulterior motive. If he gets to be in charge, he can set up the next in line to take over which would be his own outcast son, Hunter.

Is that all, you ask? Nope. Leroy O’Rourke is a young lawyer who has his own scheme. He feels that getting “in” with Trinita and throwing himself into the race to be chosen as the next successor will lead him to one day sit where he actually wants to: the Oval Office in the White House.

Reader’s favorite, Henrietta – once a small town newspaper reporter – is, yet again, a part of this wonderful tale. She is still the same dauntless woman who is now heading toward the career of private detective. Answering a want ad she’d taken from the morning newspaper that read “Female Assistant to Private Investigator”, she walks into an odd looking building that, instead of housing the ACE Private Investigation Agency, houses Leroy O’Rourke, Esq.

Will she be hired? Will the matriarch die? Who in the family will take over? How many knives will be shoved into how many backs? Et tu, Brute? Oh, no. I will tell you none of the above. A read that pays homage in its own way to the Bard, himself, Simon Plaster has once again created a book that will have you remembering why you liked books so much in the first place...before all this technology stuff and constant pandemic news got in the way.

Quill says: This truly unique author has once again come up with even more truly unique characters you’ll love.

For more information on GREEZERS: A Tale of Establishment's Decline and Fall, please visit the author's Goodreads page at: