Sunday, April 28, 2013

JD's Review of 'The Far Out Cafe' by Stuart Chambers

Stuart Chambers' 'The Far Out Cafe' comes at you like a sustained burst of machine-gun fire.

The book has two parts to it; the first is set in the Vietnam War, while the second deals with its immediate aftermath for the survivors.

Chambers' description of the insanity of the conflict and the dehumanising of those affected is gripping, the writing intense and staccato in places. Many books have been written about that particular conflict, but only a few (at least for me) capture the psychotic unreality of individuals who have lost their moral compass. This book has that ring of authenticity to it, with throwaway descriptions of tactics and weaponry and almost casually-described slaughter.

The second half of 'The Far Out Cafe' chronicles the shifting alliances and damaged lives of the remaining protagonists, including Daniel the main character who develops an Ahab-like obsession with a man-eating shark. The narrative has a number of twists and turns which keeps it fresh.

This Indie novel would benefit from some objective editing and a little pruning in the second half where the pace slows a little. None of this, however, significantly detracts from what is essentially a visceral and ultimately a very human tale, and one that is well told.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Talk to the Hat: Claude Bouchard

JD   Today’s guest visiting me in Dubai is Claude Bouchard, author of the best-selling ‘Vigilante’ series. Welcome, Claude, or should I say, “Bienvenue”?

CB   Why am I suspended over a shark tank? 

JD   We are at the famous Dubai Mall, the biggest shopping centre on the planet. While we were here I figured you’d like to see the amazing aquarium. Huge, isn’t it?

CB   It is. But that doesn’t explain why I’m suspended over it.

JD   It’s insurance. If you get boring or cheeky I press the button and you’re shark meat.

CB   And where’s that creature of yours? What’s his name? Digby?

JD   Digby’s on vacation in New York with his Auntie Kerriann, so it’s just you and me.

CB  Yeah, and about a thousand onlookers.

JD   Oh, stop moaning. Now, according to my notes, you’re Canadian. Why on earth were you born in Canada? Do you have no imagination?

CB   Things were a little iffy in the U.S.S.R., Vietnam, Cuba, Angola and Portugal, to name a few, when I was born so I tended to stay away from such places. The fact that my parents, particularly my mother, were in Canada also played a role in determining my place of birth. Anyhow, from what I’ve learned, you’re a fine one to talk. A man your age who can’t decide where the hell he wants to live and traipsing from one continent to the next like a damned gypsy. Are you on the run or what? Last thing, about that imagination question you had. Bite me.

JD   I have no intention of biting you, but there are one or two fishy friends below who probably wouldn’t mind having a go. Hmmn. Canadian … That’s practically French, right? Do you eat garlic?

CB   I am NOT practically French. I’m Canadian and proud of it.

JD   Proud? Are you serious? Go on then: tell me five good things about Canada. OK, look, maybe that's a bit difficult. Just tell me three.

CB   Ha! I’ll tell you ten though I’ll bill you for the extras.

1 – Canada invented basketball, giving tall people a purpose in life.
2 – Canada has loonies, toonies but no damned pesky pennies.
3 – Nobody can say “eh” like Canadians can.
4 – Canadian winters give everyone ample opportunity to wear their coats and boots.
5 – Maple syrup.
6 – Igloos.
7 – Dogsleds.
8 – Beavers.
9 – Caribou.
10 – Poutine.

JD   Pathetic. I think I almost wish you were French. OK, let’s talk about your scribblings before you start singing the Canadian National Anthem or something. What made you want to write the ‘Vigilante’ series instead of, say, erotica? There's probably more money in erotica, right?

CB   My initial intention was in fact to write erotica but every time I’d sit down to get some writing done, I’d start to giggle and blush. I eventually got over that but then ran into a wall when I realized the complexity involved in developing stories in this literary genre. I mean, the list of plot possibilities is endless and only gets more difficult to manage once you throw in potential settings. For example, should the story unfold in a bedroom, bathroom, garage, supermarket, beach, tree-house, boat, hammock, trampoline or while free-fall skydiving? Already mind-boggling, add available character choices (policeman, hairdresser, pool-boy, schoolteacher, ranch-hand, housewife, etc.) and it’s enough to make you dizzy.

However, I must confess I took the effortless route and went with the much simpler crime/mystery genre; some good guys, some bad guys, a couple of smoke and mirror tricks and the common but handy red herring and voilĂ , an easy thriller!

JD   Has the success of the series surprised you?

CB   Yes and no. No because when I set out to make my books available to the world, I was confident that they were good enough to entertain the majority of those who would read them and determined enough to get them out to those readers. Yes because it’s happening and that leaves me with a surreal feeling when I consider there are literally hundreds of thousands of copies of my works out there. It’s a fickle world and business so one never knows when all can abruptly end.

JD   Tell me about your latest book 'Femme Fatale'. And be quick about it. I want a beer.

CB   ‘Femme Fatale’ is my eighth novel and the seventh installment of the ‘Vigilante’ series. Two novels earlier in ‘6 Hours 42 Minutes’, Leslie Robb made her first appearance. At the time, my impression was that hers was a minor role, limited to that particular story. Hell, I didn’t even know if she’d make it out of that bank heist/hostage-taking fiasco alive. As it turned out, there was a lot more to this feisty, redheaded lesbian accountant than just good looks and she ended up guaranteeing herself a main spot in the following book as a new member of the government’s clandestine Discreet Activities team. As if that wasn’t enough, she then snagged the central role in ‘Femme Fatale’ where she flies to Paris to vacation with her new girlfriend, Dominique. The problem is, within twenty-four hours of Leslie’s arrival, Dominique and her younger sister disappear, turning Leslie’s vacation into a business trip of justice and revenge.

JD   You do internet marketing of your books, yeah?

CB   Yeah.

JD    How much time do you spend per week on Twitter and other social networks? Perhaps I should say anti-social networks.

CB   That’s a difficult question to answer as I’ve never actually monitored the time. My computer is on with open tabs on Twitter and Facebook ten to twelve hours per day but I’m not locked onto those pages. I’m also writing, editing, researching, blogging, corresponding, responding to interviews, maintaining my website, etc. Twitter remains my main channel to connect with readers, other writers and people in general where I have a following of over 363K as I write these lines so I do spend a fair amount of time there. It is, after all, part of my business activities. Best guesstimate? Twenty hours per week. As for your anti-social reference, that’s not an issue with me. Perhaps a reflection of your personality, John?

JD   That’s it. I’ve heard enough.

(JD hits the button and CB is dropped into the shark tank)

LITTLE BOY, POINTING   Mummy, there’s a man swimming with the sharks.

JD   Nope, doesn’t look like they’re going to eat him. Must be all that damn garlic.

‘Femme Fatale’ – along with all of Claude’s ‘Vigilante’ books – is available on Amazon.

You can learn more about Claude by connecting with him on Twitter @ceebee308 or by dropping by his website or by visiting his Amazon Author Page.

Go on, check him out. He’s Canadian. We should all support the less fortunate.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

To Alexandria (Upon Reading 'Love in the Time of Dinosaurs')

I think I recognize you now, poet,
Sitting there amidst quotidian things;
A jar, a dish, a coffee cup with one
Crimson smear. I see that faraway
Look in eyes staring out, viewing also
The hinterland beyond. I hear the sigh
Of one tasting the honeyed bitterness
Of history, and hearing whispered words
From phantom children in abandoned rooms.
I watch the hand of you, cartographer,
Mapping out diligently the fault lines
Of emotion and thought; without recoil
Meticulously cataloguing all
Fractures between observer and observed.

I think I recognize you now, poet;
The possessor of a heart that rises up
Touching the wonder in the everyday;
That yet can find the joy of simple things
Despite repeated falls of toxic rain
Filling the pools of memory. I see
Penelope gazing through the window
Of an empty house to the sea outside
Yet sensing that larger ocean within.
And so, with practical resolution
And shrugging off a profound weariness,
She soldiers on. The floor is swept, the meal
Prepared. She smiles, arranging yellow flowers
Whose petals trap flames from the fading sun.