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SCORPIO RISING book review: “Speak to the stones and the stars answer.”

28 Jun

SR3 ebook thumb7th-star heaven! 

Every now and again, I get a book review that makes me feel guilty. First, it’s so good I don’t believe it, so I keep going back to re-read it. Make sure there’s no hidden sarcasm, some kind of back-handed compliment.

But no, it is true and well written, as Papa would say. I get a warm fuzzy feeling from re-reading it. Somewhere out on the west coast, a smart sensitive woman is stroking me, and I like it.

But it reminds me again of why I write for this niche – because I know my tribe is out there, and I write for them.

Here’s what Laura of Oregon posted on Amazon:

Seven stars (out of five) to Alan Annand!

As book one in a series named “New Age Noir,” Scorpio Rising lives up to its series name in every way. With spare, yet brilliant prose, multi-faceted character development and seamless dialogue, the complex stories within stories unfold, and suspense gathers momentum surrounding the many esoteric and intuitive profiling techniques of the humble and honest protagonist, Axel Crowe.

I will begin book two, Felonious Monk, immediately. Then I will set about reading everything Alan Annand has written to date. His intelligence, his mastery of his craft, his humor, and his keen insight into the precarious toe dance on the high-wire we humans are set upon to undertake is profound.

I have to say, without explanation, that there is a certain subtle balance inherent throughout this book. While in any murder mystery there are the inevitable terrible and dark elements, in Scorpio Rising the presence of the light and conscious elements are woven into the vast tapestry that comprises all life – not as opposites, not as existence being black or white, nor it being good or evil – but as necessary parts of a grand dance in which everything is connected in mysterious ways.

As poet Theodore Roethke wrote, “Speak to the stones and the stars answer.”

 ~~~~~~~

Alan Annand is an astrologer and writer of crime fiction, including his New Age Noir series featuring astrologer and palmist Axel Crowe, a criminal profiler with a horoscope.

AmazonAppleBarnes&NobleSmashwords

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SR for print spread v3 jan 2013 web

Book review: The Experiencers by Val Tobin

14 Jun

the experiencersFor anyone who’s ever lent credence to the notion that aliens visit Earth, The Experiencers by Val Tobin is frighteningly real. Michael Valiant is a black ops assassin for a government agency that shields alien presence from public knowledge by silencing UFO researchers who know they are here among us. Carolyn Fairchild is a psychic medium who functions as a sort of spotter for her local research group, and when they see something they shouldn’t, Valiant and his partner are dispatched to shut them up before they blog about it.

Just when Carolyn’s group starts having fatal accidents at the agency’s hands, Valiant has a crisis of faith. He’s discovered our government is in league with the alien “establishment”, with the joint goal of global subjugation. But Valiant learns there’s a rebel alien base in a wilderness park, whose mission is to work with the people, not against them. So instead of killing Carolyn, Valiant enlists her help to find the base. Now the agency wants them both dead before they reach the rebels.

The Experiencers is written with a deft hand, and well-paced between thoughtful character development and straight-on action scenes. Lurking in the background is some entirely plausible bleeding edge technology. The few psychic episodes are both real and out there. And for the tender-hearted, there are a couple of poignantly human sex scenes between two people thrown together by fate and accepting it. Meanwhile, pursued by government men with stones where their hearts should be…

Amazon, Apple, Barnes&NobleSmashwords

William Gibson’s novel, Zero History = Zero Story

19 Jan

zero historyIf either the author or his publisher had subscribed to truth in advertising, this book should have been titled Zero Story.

Once upon a time, after reading Neuromancer a couple of decades ago, I thought William Gibson was a SF genius for the brilliance with which he’d described a wired world of the future.

A couple of years ago I read Spook County and was horribly disappointed with a vaguely-futuristic novel that appeared to have no plot. Since then, Gibson has apparently been pushing the limits of his ability to anesthetize unsuspecting readers with more of the same.

In all fairness, Gibson is a fine craftsman of prose. It was pleasurable and effortless to read Zero History, at least insomuch as I could feign an interest in the latest fashions in clothing, architecture, vehicles and interior design, to which he devoted an inordinate percentage of word count in this tiresome excuse for a novel.

For the life of me, I struggle to recount what Zero History was all about. Essentially, a bunch of characterless nerds trying to determine the identity of a designer of leading edge military clothing. But if I looked for a plot, I was out of luck. I felt like I was downtown on a Saturday night, endlessly circling the block in front of a popular restaurant, looking for a parking spot that never materialized.

I was fed up with this novel in less than 40 pages. I persisted to the end (400 pp) only in the vain hope that perhaps this once-esteemed writer would show some purpose and redeem himself in the next chapter… or maybe the next… or maybe the last. Never happened.

In the acknowledgements section, Gibson went to great pains to thank his wife and daughter, editor and literary agent, and a dozen others who supposedly helped to midwife this bastard. Of those, shame on his agent and editor, who didn’t have the stones to tell him, this is an insubstantial piece of crap and you can do better.

If ever I reach this stage in my writing, I can only pray I have more honest people in my life to counsel me.

~~~

HARM’S WAY: This 99-cent book is terrible!

14 Dec

AA & halloween handsAs a writer of mystery suspense, I try to be edgy. For the most part, it’s a juggling act – being the wild man I know myself to be versus the decent guy that my editor (wife) wants me to be.

All of my books cultivate an atmosphere of moral jeopardy, sex and violence. Most of the time, despite my editor, I manage to work in enough action, intrigue, mystery and suspense to keep readers flipping the pages, looking for more jeopardy, sex and violence.

Rarely do I get the kind of off-the-scale reaction I’ve secretly being craving, like this recent review on Barnes & Noble of my mystery/thriller HARM’S WAY:

“This book is terrible! It touched on every low-life, criminal thing in the world. Lying, cheating, stealing, kidnapping, rape, torture, murder, porn, snuff films, drugs, Mafia. I probably missed some, but if it’s bad, it was covered in this book.”

Okay, you had me with low-life.

Finally, someone has seen my inner wild man and damned him with faint praise. Well, maybe not so much praise as outright condemnation. But as some Hollywood agent said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Sadly, the condemnation of HARM’S WAY isn’t universal. Other B&N reviewers haven’t been quite so astute as the one above, and have mistakenly seen this book as an exciting and page-turning romp.

Some of them said: “Get comfortable, you’ll be up all night reading. Once you start you can’t put it down. Exciting, keeps you on the edge of your seat. Fast-paced suspense, interesting, plenty of twists and turns. Highly recommended.”

To date, there’ve been 19 reviews on B&N, averaging 4.5 stars. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong here, because most people are completely missing the point – that I am a low-life crime writer who wants to corrupt readers.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/harms-way-alan-annand/1106579631

Meanwhile, the crowd at Amazon and Apple are obviously reading the book backwards, because their reviews are also far too complimentary. On Amazon, 20 reviews average 4.0 stars, while at Apple, 46 reviews average 4.5.

thumb_HW

One-liners from Amazon: “One of the best reads in a long time. Everything you want in a story: suspense, action, strong characters, sex, romance and a great storyline. All the twists and turns in the plot make it a page-turner you can’t put down. Hot action keeps you on the edge. A great mystery and detective book.

http://www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-Alan-Annand-ebook/dp/B005LVXIA2

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/harms-way/id471751935

So the jury’s still out. But did I not plan and execute the narration of multiple heinous crimes? Did I not portray men and women in acts of degradation and violence purely for my own gratification? Did I not kill their children – Innocence, Grace and Hope?

Why don’t more readers hate this book? Am I not edgy?

Read HARM’S WAY and cast your vote.

HARM’S WAY by Alan Annand: Top 10 in hard-boiled mystery!

12 Dec

thumb_HWFor the past three months, HARM’S WAY has been in Amazon’s Top Ten category for hard-boiled mystery thrillers.

Originally published by St.Martin’s Press in 1992 , I extensively rewrote this book for re-issue as an ebook in 2011.

Lee Harms, investigator-for-hire, is on the cusp of an on-and-off-again love affair with confidante and astrologer Celeste when fate serves up a witch’s brew of trouble.

Start with a broth of sexual intrigue, toss in a troubled redhead, stir in two kilos of cocaine, dissolve a few pages from a psychiatrist’s notebook, and bring to a boil the fury of a crime family whose son dies in a midnight bacchanal. Money ignites the fire under this cauldron, but sex, violence and the darker forces of human nature keep it bubbling.

As dangerous as it gets, Harms must rely on his own wits to out-maneuver crack-crazed thugs, libidinous porn stars, and a deranged young woman with a troubled past. But when criminals kidnap his own ten-year-old daughter, he plunges into their underworld to rescue her from harm’s way.

Upon its initial release, here were some of the reviews at the time:

“For Canadian writers setting hard-boiled stories in Canada, the closest thing yet to a US-style private eye is Montreal investigator Lee Harms in Harm’s Way by Alan Annand.” ~ Rara-Avis Reviews

Harm’s Way is a solid P.I. thriller, a nastier-than-you’d-expect slab of pornography, cocaine, gangsters, incest, madness, torture and vengeance.” ~ Thrilling Detective

“Energy, superior punch-‘em out sequences, and humor.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“Underneath the New Age trappings, divorced ex-cop Harms is plenty hard-boiled, using fists, guns and sheer wit to escape the many tight spots here.” ~ Publisher’s Weekly

In its latest reincarnation, HARM’S WAY has garnered 20 reviews on Amazon averaging 4.0 stars. http://www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-Alan-Annand-ebook/dp/B005LVXIA2

On Barnes & Noble, there are 18 reviews averaging 4.2 stars. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/harms-way-alan-annand/1106579631

And on Apple iTunes, there are 46 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/harms-way/id471751935

More good news: just in time for Christmas, HARM’S WAY is now priced at only $0.99 for the ebook edition.

And for anyone who still enjoys a physical book (now just $7.65), see Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-Alan-Annand/dp/0986920622

~~~~~~~~~

Book review Al-Quebeca: “Annand is a master craftsman of reader anxiety.”

15 Aug

thumb_AQA book review of Al-Quebeca recently appeared on the Serenity Now website, written by Val Tobin. Following is an excerpt:

For Sophie Gillette, Detective-Sergeant Homicide of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), it starts out as a routine investigation of a hit-and-run during a January snowstorm in Montreal. It ends in a terrorist plot to disable the electrical grid, behead a visiting governor, and kill thousands of hockey fans with poison gas. These two events sandwich between them a generous filling of biker wars, arms smuggling by First Nations warriors, militant student activists, drug financiers, and a rogue professor with a doctorate in chemical toxicology.

As if that weren’t enough to keep Gillette occupied, she’s recently suffered the loss of her brother to a covert military operation in Afghanistan, and her mother has turned to the bottle to assuage her grief. She also has to deal with being an attractive woman in a male-dominated work environment. As with author Alan Annand’s other novels, the lead character in his latest offering, Al-Quebeca, has more than a heaping helping of issues with which to deal.

How his detective, Sophie Gillette, follows the trail of brain matter and paint chips from the hit-and-run scene to the terrorist cell makes riveting reading. Annand is a master craftsman of reader anxiety. Much of his magic lies in his painstaking research. As with his other novels, he’s been meticulous in attention to detail, and ensuring what he writes is credible.

He also faced the challenge of writing from a female perspective. When asked about it, Annand says that he’d wanted his protagonist to “face the challenges of discrimination, physical struggle and self-doubt that made the choice of a female lead seem appropriate.” Annand succeeds in not only making Gillette a believable character, but also manages to make the reader forget she was written by a man.

All of the above make Al-Quebeca an exciting, suspenseful novel with well-rounded characters and richness of setting and plot. But what makes it particularly compelling, as well as frightening, is how plausible it all seems. In an April 2013 blog entry, Annand talks about the likelihood of something like this happening, and says, “I wrote the first draft of Al-Quebeca in 2009 and revised it several times since then. Each time it all seems even more inevitable.”

Fans of astrologer/palmist/private investigator Axel Crowe will be delighted to hear that Annand is currently writing a sequel to Scorpio Rising called Felonious Monk. He’s also rewriting his first published novel, an SF mystery set in post-apocalyptic New York, called Antenna Syndrome.

Get Al-Quebeca in Kindle or paperback at www.amazon.com/Al-Quebeca-ebook/dp/B00CHQOY8O 

All other digital formats at www.smashwords.com/books/view/309140 

Read the full original review at:

http://www.serenitynowgifts.com/resources/articles/al-quebeca_book_review.php 

Warning: This novel contains trace amounts of astrology!

19 May

thumb_HWThe other day I was browsing through some recent Amazon reviews of my hard-boiled mystery thriller Harm’s Way. It was originally published years ago under a pseudonym at St. Martin’s Press, but I rewrote it in 2011 and self-published it under my own name, eventually offering it free in 2013 to pique interest in my other mystery/thrillers.

In one review the reader complained that Montreal wasn’t Los Angeles and I wasn’t Raymond Chandler. Although I’d suspected the latter already, I was still pleased he’d correctly identified a writer whose style I’d emulated in writing the novel.

The reader went on to grumble, however, that the novel contained too much cat, as well as too much astrology. Just to paint the big picture, my private investigator owned a cat which was savaged by a rogue Doberman in the first chapter, thus requiring the attentions of a lady vet with whom my hero subsequently became, um, intimately involved.

As for the astrology, my hero had a longstanding astrologer lady friend with whom he occasionally sought counsel. In the novel, astrology was discussed in two scenes totalling less than 1400 words; in a novel of approximately 80,000 words, that’s roughly 1.7%.

Although little more than a page and a half every hundred pages, it was obviously too much – constituting a near-toxic dose for my reader, whose belief system was apparently so challenged by those few pages that he fell into a fever of intolerance, almost shutting down his reading experience.

In all fairness, perhaps he does suffer from allergies – probably to cats, but maybe also to open-mindedness. There’s a lot of that going around. Even among some of my own friends, who know I’ve been a professional astrologer for 30 years, there’s this attitude: Practice astrology all you want with the kooks you call your clients, but when it comes to writing novels, please don’t inflict that nonsense on the rest of us.

Luckily, I’m still amused by the ignorance of people ever ready to criticize things they know nothing about. Ironically, many of astrology’s harshest critics never read any serious books on the subject, nor consulted professional astrologers. Everyone wants the easy route, and clearly it’s less effort to develop an uninformed opinion than an informed one. As Sir Isaac Newton chided a fellow scientist critical of Newton’s interest in astrology, Newton said, “Sir, I have studied the subject. You have not.”

Anyway, that review got me thinking… Do we now live in an age where the public’s attitude toward astrology is as virulent as its allergy to peanuts, shellfish and soy? Do I need a consumer label on my book covers, saying: “Warning! This novel contains trace amounts of astrology. Those of a fragile mind are cautioned to browse elsewhere less you catch a New Age virus.

thumb_SRGood thing this particular reader hadn’t discovered my New Age noir mystery thriller Scorpio Rising, whose content dedicated to astrology, palmistry and other esoteric subjects runs to 10%. If he’d read that, he might have died of anaphylactic shock, and I’d be facing a lawsuit.

~~~

Alan Annand is an astrologer (Dipl-FAS, Dipl-ACVA) based in Toronto. He is also the author of several mystery thrillers, and some of his novels feature shockingly-realistic depictions of major and minor characters who are also astrologers.

Booknote: The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene

5 Jan

the power and the gloryOver the years, I’ve read all of Graham Greene’s books. His writing is impeccable, and his characters are often trapped in some backwater of life, whether literal or figurative, in which faith struggles against despair.

This novel centers on a “whisky priest”, hunted and hounded by Marxist “Red Shirts” in the service of an anti-clerical Mexican government that in certain states has driven the Catholic Church into hiding. This sounds like SF, but actually happened in the mid-1930s.

As do many Greene characters, the nameless priest carries a heavy load of guilt. In his case, it’s the illegitimate child he fathered during the years when priests were de-celibatized and made to act like real men. Now he’s escaped into the jungle, running from the Red Shirts and administering baptisms, confessions and last rites to faithful peasants.

It’s a bit of an allegory, with the priest as Christ, a peasant Judas and a Marxist lieutenant as Pilate. The novel moves as slowly as an anaconda on a heavily humid day, but the language is deft and the story is as old and rich as the Bible.

~ Alan, Toronto, 5 Jan 2013

Something Wanton This Way Comes

20 Oct

Ever since the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey, reading glasses the world over have been fogging up with heavy breathing. Publishers, having taken the pulse of this phenomenon and found it throbbing, are now trolling through their backlists, looking for something salacious to satisfy the public’s new appetite for literary erotica.

Lacking fresh product to satisfy growing demand, book marketers are now desperate to put new lipstick on old tarts. A major search portal and a men’s magazine are rumored to have joined forces, and are buying up the rights to hundreds of literary classics. After tweaking the titles, a small army of hacks will then refurbish the story lines with just enough romance and raunchy sex to make readers come back for more.

Expect to see some of these titillating titles appearing as stocking-stuffers for mommies everywhere this Xmas:

  1. A Massage in India ~ E.M. Forster
  2. A Whore’s House ~ Heinrik Ibsen
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlust ~ Lewis Carroll
  4. All the King’s Women ~ Robert Penn Warren
  5. As I Lay Coming ~ William Faulkner
  6. Briefing for a Descent into Her ~ Doris Lessing
  7. Chiquita ~ Vladimir Nabokov
  8. Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. Fagtime ~ E.L. Doctorow
  10. Girl Farm ~ George Orwell
  11. Hot Little Women ~ Louisa May Alcott
  12. I, Priapus ~ Robert Graves
  13. In Search of Lust Time ~ Marcel Proust
  14. King Leer ~ William Shakespeare
  15. Lady Oral ~ Margaret Atwood
  16. Midnight’s Chicken ~ Salman Rushdie
  17. Native Bastard ~ Richard Wright
  18. Necromancer ~ William Gibson
  19. Never Let Me Come ~ Kazuo Ishiguro
  20. Obsession ~ A.S. Byatt
  21. On the Broad ~ Jack Kerouac
  22. Play Her As She Lays ~ Joan Didion
  23. Sluthouse Five ~ Kurt Vonnegut
  24. Something Wanton This Way Comes ~ Ray Bradbury
  25. Son and Lover ~ D.H. Lawrence
  26. The Executioner’s Thong ~ Norman Mailer
  27. The French Lieutenant’s Boy ~ John Fowles
  28. The Lord Of The Cock Rings ~ J. R. R. Tolkien
  29. The Penis is A Lonely Hunter ~ Carson McCullers
  30. The Portrait of a Ladyboy ~ Henry James
  31. The Pot-Weed Factor ~ John Barth
  32. The Sex Adventures of Augie March ~ Saul Bellow
  33. The Sex Tourist’s Guide to the Galaxy ~ Douglas Adams
  34. The Way of All Flesh ~ Samuel Butler
  35. The Way We Love Now ~ Anthony Trollope
  36. Uranus is a Harsh Mistress ~ Robert Heinlein

Hide in Plain Sight: book review by Val Tobin @ Suite101

9 Oct

Take one rich twin and one poor twin, throw in a bipolar wife, shake violently, and you have the makings of another delicious crime novel by Alan Annand.

Alex Carson’s life has turned into a country song. He owes the government thousands of dollars in taxes, courtesy of his fraudulent accountant; his wife, Connie, is bipolar and his dog is dying. What he doesn’t realize is, things are going to get much worse. During a visit to Alex’s wealthy brother Dave, which Connie turns into a quest to get financial assistance, Connie causes Dave’s death after a heated argument.

Alex decides that the only way out of this mess is to take Dave’s place and allow Connie to go establish an alibi, thereby avoiding the ordeal of having to ‘fess up to the police about what had transpired. The execution of Alex’s creative solution makes for a crazy wild ride as we tag along in Alex’s first person narrative.

Inside the Mind of Alex Carson

According to Annand, who agreed to talk with Suite101 about his book, his use of the first person was designed to, among other things, “oblige the reader to suffer in sympathy with Alex, no matter what morally questionable actions he had to follow through on.” And suffer the reader does. Exquisitely.

During this charade, Alex must share a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, a woman stolen from Alex by Dave years before. He must also maneuver his way around Dave’s various existing relationships, including one with the housekeeper, with whom Dave may or may not have been having an affair.

Following Alex on his adventures in Dave Land makes compelling enough reading, but the questions that arise about what was going on in Dave’s life at the time of his death compound the intrigue and the tension. When you also factor in the logistical issues with which Alex must contend, reading the story becomes an addiction.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder and How to Dispose of a Corpse

Annand, as always, has done his research to make everything in his novel authentic and credible. Dave suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, something with which Annand was familiar via an extended family member who had the disease. Having Dave suffer from GBS was a unique twist that makes things more demanding for Alex playing Dave, and of course makes it more entertaining for the reader. Connie’s bipolar disorder also spices things up, but it also provides a glimpse of what it might be like to be married to someone who is bipolar.

The most intriguing questions presented by the novel, and dealt with deftly by Annand, however, relate to Dave’s body and how Alex deals with it: How can Alex store the corpse? Where will he keep it? How can he obscure the time of death? How can he create a new, believable cause of death? Can he really pull it off? Should he really pull it off? The practical considerations run neck and neck with the ethical ones.

Tension and Sleepless Nights with Hide in Plain Sight

Alan Annand has an uncanny knack for forcing the reader to read at breakneck speed to get past all the tense moments, while at the same time making him/her wish the ride would never end. The first time you read Hide in Plain Sight, you will want to savor it, but it’ll be impossible. As the tension and questions mount, you can’t help but read as fast as you can to see what happens next. It is a most delightful form of torture.

Don’t pick up this book if you’re looking for a bedtime reading cure for insomnia. But if you’re looking for suspense, tension and the queasiness that comes from participating in questionable activities, then this book is for you. This is the perfect book to take on a flight or on vacation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT  (psychological mystery suspense) eBook $2.99, paper $9.99.  A man assumes his twin brother’s identity in order to alibi his own wife who’s accidentally killed his brother in an argument. But when he finds himself sharing a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, he faces bigger challenges and harder choices.

www.amazon.com/Hide-in-Plain-Sight-ebook/dp/B0050K1EZA

www.smashwords.com/books/view/59291

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Val Tobin is a Feature Writer for Suite101. Formerly a software developer, she has pursued her interests in the occult, paranormal and spiritual fields through formal studies in nutrition, mediumship and parapsychology, all of which have become active professional avenues. For more information, see her website at:  http://www.serenitynowgifts.com/

 

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