Book Review: ‘The Man in the Black Fedora,’ by Tom Johnson

4.5 Stars for ‘The Man in the Black Fedora,’ by Tom Johnson

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Wrap a mysterious vigilante with a unique gift in an intriguing crime story with plenty of underworld hoodlums terrorising innocent people and you have a winning plot.

Add to that mix, a cast of believable, likeable characters, a swift and steady pace [this story never drags] and the result is not only a compelling story, but a fun one.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

The Man in the Black Fedora opens like a Hollywood screenplay with the authorThe Man in the Black Fedora dropping you right in the middle of the action. ‘You have to love books that grab you from the opening page. This one does!’

Kay Shannon, a 22-year-old nightclub entertainer, witnesses her boss dealing drugs with gangsters and is suddenly on the run.

Cornered, and moments from losing her life on a bridge, her White Knight saviour arrives in the form of a man in a black Fedora with his vigilante squad. The rescue is swift, and Kay is recruited.

From there, the story winds through a series of events including a rare and invaluable art heist, the murder of a pair of innocent shopkeepers, and a neighbourhood falling under the intimidation of a diabolical gang of ruthless hoodlums.

The author also, cleverly, employs some praiseworthy character development, and further elaborates on several mysteries, including the identity of the main vigilante, The Man in The Black Fedora.

The mysteries, there are several, build throughout, giving this story a nice appeal. When one is solved, the author quickly shifts to another never allowing the pace to falter.

The mobsters are vile, corrupt and murderous and well-deserving of the justice ahead. The vigilantes are good, decent and driven by a lust to see the streets safe and the good people protected beyond what the police can facilitate.

In writing the above, and while reading, I continually had the feeling I was in the midst of a script of a Batman film. And there are elements of that in the story. For someone who thoroughly enjoyed the recent Batman films, this made The Man in The Black Fedora even more gratifying.

[What I liked most]

Character development: The author was thorough with his descriptions, both of their physical appearance and of their motivations. I was able to visualise them. This is an intrinsic element in good story telling and Mr Johnson did a fine job.

Mysteries: For someone who has read every story Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote, more than a few times, this is a formula guaranteed to satisfy my literary desires.

[Criticisms]

One: I felt the author released the identity of the Man in the Black Fedora a bit early thus losing the opportunity for that final twist. It would have been nice, in my opinion, if it was left until the very end, or not released at all. This would have left the reader guessing and possibly set the stage for a sequel.

[Recommendation]

I give this a Very High recommendation. Though missing any great profundity, it’s good vs evil – light vs dark, the imagination is laudable, and I so liked the author’s creativity when depicting the rare gift the vigilante boss employed and how he used it against the underworld villains. The Man in the Black Fedora makes no claim that it is more than a fun mystery / adventure. And it satisfies all the requirements of that genre.

I enjoyed it to the very last page.

Review by T. E. Mark – Author

17/Feb/2018

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Book Review: ‘Twiggles Bound’ by Louise Pohl

41/2 Stars for ‘Twiggles Bound,’ by Louise Pohl

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Suspend, in fact, expel your imagination for this creative Fantasy / Adventure with a nice side of Science Fiction.

Sci-Fi, in lit or film, typically reaches a point where it crosses that fine line and ventures into the realm of fantasy. Time Travel – Advanced alien civilisations – Traversing interstellar space and time via wormholes, etc.

Twiggles Bound, by Louise Pohl, interestingly does the opposite.

Here is a pure fantasy tale, replete with a witch in the form of a sweet, sensitive girl, a Twiglers Boundtelepathic dog who is actually an alien from a distant galaxy, Trolls, and an incredibly powerful magic wand, to name a few incidentals, that just happens to cross that line into the world of Science Fiction. [Genetic mutation, radioactive fallout and a robot army are a mere smattering of the Science Fiction devices found in Twiggles Bound.]

And to top things off, Ms Pohl’s effort was distinctly meritorious.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

The world has been ‘mostly’ destroyed following a meteorite strike at a nuclear power plant, ‘remote probability, but feasible, right?’ and Earth’s remaining population is now divided between zombies and rapidly mutating Halflings. [Humans that are typically good natured and seldom, if ever, have a taste for human flesh,]

So far so good, as they say, and a fine setting for a good Sci-Fi yarn.

Enter Mike, a young, resourceful and richly idealistic Halfling who could very probably find brightness in the deepest darkest tunnel or mineshaft, and his devoted dog Twiggles. And Cherry, a young and deeply sensitive Gypsy, her preferred title over Witch, and her equally devoted cat Gompie.

Following their accidental discovery of a baby in a gutted bunker, and Twiggles’ ill-advised, albeit fortunate, feeding on Zombie flesh, the story makes a rapid departure from Sci-Fi into the realm of Fantasy / Adventure

As the delightful couple, and their pets, set out for safety, they will encounter the story’s excessively wicked, delightfully vile antagonist, the evil Dr Knarf, who, with his army of genetically mutated dogs, and determined plan to take over the world, as is in this case, is the embodiment of all evils.

Twiggles Bound, is bounding with energy, imagination, charm, likeable characters and wit.

From Twiggles repeatedly scolding Mike for his wandering thoughts about how beautiful Cherry is, [No jealousy here, there’s just a bit too much going on right now for romance pal] to Dr Karf’s vociferous outbursts, such as:

“Gibbles, with my evil Goo Gum army, and the vicious dogs, nobody will be able to defeat me. I’m going to rule this world, while making it miserable and evil.”

(and)

“Who is down here, and who dares disturb my evil sleep? When I find you, I’m going to use you for my warped experiments. I also intend to do nasty things to you, so come out and make my day.”

 And so on. [Okay, I admit freely that Dr Knarf was my favourite character in the story.]

[Summary]

This is a warm, entertaining, fanciful and heartening tale which delineates and elaborates on the brightness and darkness within people. It also touches, delicately, on the issue of the fragility of our planet from advancing technology.

With all the author put into this story, I could go on and on describing the intergalactic space travel, the collection of an infinitely powerful wand from a distant planet, the radiation eating Goo Gums, a robot army, an underground palace, and the final battle. But, I do believe I’ve reached my spoiler limit for this review.

[Criticisms]

Minor, and purely technical which made this a 41/2 rather than a 5-star review.

Chapter Length: Twiggles Bound, I believe, is mainly intended for young readers for whom shorter chapters are more appropriate.

Explanations: Again, for the younger readers, I believe better explaining Genetic Mutation, Radiation, and Accelerated Evolution due to radioactive fallout would have been prudent.

[Recommendation]

Did I like this book and would I recommend it?

The answer to both questions is a big, resounding yes.

Twiggles Bound was craftily written for young and mature readers. It makes a profound moral statement which neither dominates nor detracts from the story. It’s both simple and complex, credit the author for the neat balancing act, making it an ideal read for the entire family.

And if you’re an animal lover, which this author so undoubtedly is, you will love Twiggles Bound.

Review by T.E. Mark – Author

15/Feb/2018