Thursday, April 27, 2017

“Burke’s Revenge” by William Brown

Bob Burke, retired from the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force, is now living near Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His home is called “Sherwood Forest,” and the estate comes complete with its own band of “merry men” – computer geeks, retired Special Ops soldiers like himself, his pregnant wife Linda and her daughter Elle. He remains chairman of a telecommunications company in Chicago, but he has put good people in charge of running its day-to-day operations. Life should be relatively quiet and serene.

Except this is Bob Burke, and “quiet” and “serenity” are two words that don’t associate with him. At a small college in nearby Fayetteville, a sociology professor named Henry Shaw and just returned from a trip to the Middle East. What no one but the FBI suspects is that Shaw has set up an ISIS cell, with members from both students in the college and soldiers at Fort Bragg. Shaw has become a Muslim, and is going to bring jihad to Fort Bragg.

To say that Burke’s Revenge, William Brown’s third Bob Burke suspense/thriller novel, is packed with action is to be guilty of gross understatement. From desert towns in Syria to the sleepy environs of Fayetteville, Brown stages more car bombings, killings, and explosions than a half-dozen similar novels combined. And the action bleeds authenticity, with descriptions of guns, knives, airplanes, and explosives so vivid and real that you know this is an author who knows what he’s writing about.

William Brown
Brown, the author of seven previous novels, has established himself as a master of military suspense, whether it’s World War II or the contemporary war against ISIS. He knows his military and how it operates, and he knows its politics, and how it operates. And he puts the knowledge of both to good use.

The more they understand, the more Burke and the people he’s working with realize that Shaw, and deadly as he is, may be just a side show. Three members of ISIS from the Middle East are also on the ground in the Fayetteville area, and what they are planning is worse than any car bomb or building explosion that Shaw dreams up. (I should point out that Shaw is a totally despicable villain, without any redeeming qualities, and it may cause me to look at sociology professors in an entirely different light.)

Burke’s Revenge snaps and crackles with action and excitement. It’s a wildly entertaining read.

Related - My reviews of Brown’s previous books:

Top photograph of Fort Bragg by Jonas N. Jordan, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Digital Visual Library via Wikimedia.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

“Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives”

Forty-one members of the Redbud Writers Guild have come together to provide stories of hope and redemption, often from very deep and very dark holes. Editors Shayne Moore and Margaret Ann Philbrick have assembled these 41 stories into Everbloom:Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives.

Organized into four sections – “Roots,” “Trunk,” “Branches,” and “Blossoms,” Everbloom is filled with a broad diversity of stories and poems – nothing seems similar or repetitive. These accounts do have one thing in common – they are riveting accounts of scenes, issues, events, tragedies, and triumphs in the lives of Christian women.

A missionary kid watches a local man beat his wife, and sees her father unable to do anything about it.

An old tree is cut down.

A career move takes away everything and everyone who is familiar.

From childhood, a woman lives with fear of abduction.

A much-wanted baby is lost in miscarriage.

A young woman is gang-raped.

A brother kills himself.

A short-term missionary trip becomes an introduction to AIDS in Africa.

A woman who can’t stop bleeding.

A pastor who becomes an activist for ageism – when her professor husband is told by his Christian college that they have to let him go for budget reasons, and, oh, by the way, could he train his younger replacement?

And more. A lot more.

These stories are the stuff of real experience and real life. But they’re more than stories – they’re lessons we can all apply.

Each story and poem has a prayer and a writing prompt, so the book becomes more than a collection. It’s an invitation to consider your own life and your own experiences.

I’m not familiar with all of the writers and poets included in the book, but I do follow the writing of several, including April Yamasaki, Leslie Leyland Fields, and Sarah Rennicke. That’s the other benefit of the book – to find new people to read and follow.

Everbloom is moving, and often heart wrenching, but it always about hope.

Top photograph by Rostislav Kralik via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Poets and Poems: Barbara Crooker and “Les Fauves”

It had been 30 years since we had been in London. One site on my “must-see” list was the Tate Modern, that monumental museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art and occupying a former power plant on the south bank of the Thames, directly across the Millennium Bridge from St. Paul’s Cathedral. Even if you don’t like contemporary art, the museum is stunning. The major exhibition at the time was the works of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, which I would see two days later. On this day, I simply wanted to experience the museum itself.

I wandered. And in the corner of a large room I came upon a painting by the British painter Meredith Frampton (1894-1984) entitled “Marguerite Kelsey.” Kelsey (1908-1994) was a professional model, and this painting of her from 1928 simply stunned me. I stood in front of it for a good 15 minutes, and then resumed my wandering. I went back to it before I left, and I would return twice more during that trip to see it. Two years later, I had a similar experience with “Interior 1981” by the German painter Anselm Kiefer, during an exhibition of his work at the Royal Academy of Art. As it turned out, that painting was part of Kiefer’s leading Germany to confront its Nazi past.

Art can move us to a stunned silence. It can also move us to write poetry, as the paintings of the Fauvism movement, roughly 1904 to 1908, moved poet Barbara Crooker to write Les Fauves, her newest collection. (The term for poetry inspired by other forms of art is ekphrastic poetry, and Crooker won a ekphrastic poetry award in 2006.)

To continue reading, please see my post todat at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Painting: Odalisque avec Anemones, oil on canvas (1937) by Henri Matisse; Philadelphia Museum of Art.