Book Review: Wildcase: A Rail Black Novel by Neil Russell

Hi again!

A little over a year ago I read a novel from a first time novelist, Neil Russell. City of War was a well-written thriller in the vein of Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler with a bit of the pulp of Elmore Leonard. It pulled together an appreciation for Hollywood, art, history, and intrigue that blew me away.

So when Russell asked if I’d review Wildcase, his follow-up to City of War, how could I possibly refuse? Especially when the new book ratchets up the intensity of City of War to eleven.

Where City of War focused mostly on the present day, with a bit of history thrown in, Wildcase relies much more on political intrigue and mystery in the present with a whole plot woven through it based in the events of the past. But don’t worry, Rail Black still kicks some serious ass with a bombshell at his side.

Where Hollywood and the California coast were central to the first book, Wildcase offers an interesting view of Las Vegas. Though I’ve been to Vegas personally a couple of times, even if I’m on a casino floor I’m as far from the high roller tables as I am from the moon. Rail Black knows people in high places and gets more than a touch of preferential treatment. And he knows how to handle those high rollers.

But more than that, Wildcase is a thriller with strong social commentary woven throughout. Sometimes the United States seems to pay lip service to a number of injustices around the world, from hunger, animals hunted to extinction, and war to entire generations murdered or sold into slavery. Individuals and particular organizations do what they can to save those they can, but there’s only so much they can do. When the authorities turn a blind eye to inhumanity it’s a bad thing for everybody.

In Wildcase, Russell introduces us to a group of characters who did what was right during World War II and saw it spiral wildly out of control over the next 60 years. It’s much more than a cautionary tale about good intentions however…

Even with the social commentary, this book has the same tight writing, great story, and pacing that keep you guessing at how the pieces fit together. It kept me turning pages more than a few nights wondering how everything would come together at the end. And it does come together in a spectacular ending.

If you like thrillers, give Wildcase from Neil Russell a shot. And if you haven’t read City of War yet, I’d encourage you to pick it up as well. Both are available in paperback or for the Kindle at Amazon.

I can hardly wait to see what’s next from Russell!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.
–Fitz

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Interview: Dr. Laurence B. Brown – author of The Eighth Scroll

Hi all!

One of the books in my queue to read and review is The Eighth Scroll by Dr. Laurence B. Brown. Though I haven’t had a chance to dive in, it’s been described as a thriller in the vein of The DaVinci Code from Dan Brown, so I’m definitely curious to check it out.

In the meantime, I was granted permission to post an interview with Dr. Brown to get a bit of insight into his thought and writing processes…

Q: One of my favorite things about your novel is that you write great action scenes. What would you say is the key to writing a great action scene?

You have to write an action scene as if you are living it. The most important trick is to show the scene, not tell it. Telling the scene (i.e., narration, like this: “Jack turned to Jill, who pointed her gun directly at him.” *yawn*) kills action, whereas showing the scene (i.e., painting a word picture: “Jack turned to give Jill the good news, and stared straight down the barrel of her gun. Her eyelids were squeezed shut and her face turned away. His heart first skipped a beat, then pumped hammer-blows into his brain.) turns the written page into a movie in the audience’s mind. Remember to tickle all five of the audiences’ senses, always throw in some unexpected twists, and never let the scene end the way the audience might expect it to end.

Q: Your story could easily be described as a page turner. What would you say you did consciously to achieve this?

To me, writing a page-turner is all about dramatic pacing. If the pace of the novel is too fast in the beginning, you lose your ability to ramp up the action toward the end. You have to hook the audience with each scene, end each chapter with a cliff-hanger, build tension throughout the book and bring it to a head-spinning, knee-buckling climax at the end. To enrich the story I interweave multiple subplots, each with its own dramatic pace. Then I bring all of these subplots to a crashing crescendo so each page of the ending brings a new shock or surprising satisfaction. It’s kind of like having multiple . . . uh . . . donut holes. Yeah, donut holes, each of a different and shockingly good flavor *smiles and waves* “Hey, kiddies, you all like Dunkin Donut’s, don’t you?” *whispers aside to the older members of the audience* “You know what I’m really talking about, right?”

In any case, you’ll see what I mean. And by the way, although I joke, one of the things I take pride in is writing clean. In the words of one reviewer, “My congratulations to Dr. Brown for writing an exciting and thought-provoking book that is suitable for the entire family. The book contained no obscene language and no scenes that could be considered “adult situations.”

Q: Your “modern period” takes place in 1987. Why did you choose that period instead of the 21st Century?

The “modern period” begins in 1987, but follows the characters through their adventure into present day. If I had started in the 21st Century, the timeline would have been too compressed to be workable.

Q: Where can we get a copy of your book?

You can find The Eighth Scroll for sale on Amazon by clicking HERE.

A big thank you goes out to Dr. Brown and to Jeff Rivera, Editor-in-Chief at the Gatekeeper’s Post for hooking me up with the book and the interview.

I’m looking forward to checking out The Eighth Scroll this summer!!

–Fitz

p.s. Check out this book and other thrillers below!

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Book Review: Zero Day by Mark Russinovich

Hi folks!

There was a time when a computer was just that thing on your desk at work or the giant monstrosity locked away in an air conditioned room in the basement. Now just about everything has a computer inside. Your phone and car are just for starters. What about the airplane you’re flying on? Or the power plant providing electricity to your home? We’re all more dependent on computers than ever before.

So what happens when those computers start to fail randomly for no apparent reason?

Zero Day by Mark Russinovich paints a chilling picture of what might happen if hackers lose interest in stealing credit cards and become more focused on cyberterrorism. First a passenger jet’s controls go dead when the computer goes offline. Then an oil tanker plows into a Japanese port and a nuclear power plant loses control… But that’s just the beginning.

When Jeff Aiken, a computer analyst who used to work for the CIA, starts investigating a failure at a large law firm in New York, he discovers that somehow a virus has corrupted data on the server. Not only is their financial data gone, but all of their litigation data as well. Though they have backups, Jeff does a thorough check to make sure those aren’t infected too and down the rabbit hole he goes. After hours of work, he uncovers a name – Superphreak.

At the same time, Dr. Daryl Haugen at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and part of the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is investigating other instances of computers shutting off. Critical computers at hospitals failed and caused medication confusion that led to patient deaths. Were they simply isolated incidents or part of a broader attack on US interests?

As Jeff & Daryl’s investigations progress, they find shocking coincidences and connections between the various computer failures in the US. Can the two computer investigators figure out what’s going on and who’s behind it before more people die? Can they figure out what, who and where Superphreak is before it’s too late.

I won’t spoil the plot twists and surprises for you, but I was hooked from beginning to end. It’s hard to believe that this is Russinovich’s first novel.

If his name rings a bell, it might be because you’ve seen it in conjunction with Winternals, a website dedicated to helping system admins manage, diagnose, troubleshoot, and monitor Microsoft Windows environments. It was so influential in Windows circles that Microsoft acquired it in 1996. Russinovich is co-author for several books in the Windows Internals book series, as well as a contributing editor for TechNet Magazine and Windows IT Pro Magazine. He has some serious geek cred.

Zero Day offers a scary scenario for what could happen via cyberterrorism. Hackers are only part of the problem and usually only out for their own best interests or to illuminate issues that need to be fixed. If terrorists can harness hacker knowhow and find ways to take down key systems, we’re going to be in a world of hurt. Russinovich does a great job of shedding some light on the possibility. Hopefully businesses and governments are listening.

He does get a bit deep into “geek speak” at times, describing the inner workings of computers, BIOS, and operating systems and how they relate to one another. If you don’t like the jargon, you can skim it and get the gist of what he’s after, but I found it fascinating to see just how far he goes to detail the potential of this looming threat. It doesn’t quite offer a step-by-step guide to destroying the world with a storm of computer viruses and ‘bots, but damn if it doesn’t come close.

Whether or not you’re a computer geek, Zero Day tells a compelling story with thrills and chills to entertain you. I found it more plausible and fun than Dan Brown‘s Digital Fortress, so I’m hoping that Russinovich gets ideas for further cyber thrillers to educate us while entertaining and scaring us!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these great books at Barnes & Noble below!

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