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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TV Review: Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza on GSN!

Hey there!

Laughter is the best medicine. It may not cure cancer, but it certainly can’t hurt. And it definitely cures the blues. So when I saw that Drew Carey was coming back with a new improvisational comedy show, I was more than a little geeked up.

We used to watch Whose Line is it Anyway? when it was on ABC all the time. And when it went off the air, even the reruns on ABC Family were sometimes enticing enough to watch. There’s just something magical about the fact that these funny guys can make simple improv games into amazingly hilarious results with no preparation!

Now on the Game Show Network (GSN) we have Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza and the hilarity has continued and seemingly become better! Comedian and game show host Drew Carey gathered some of his old friends and a few new ones at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada to record a number of episodes airing during the week. Each 30 minute episode may seem short, but we’ve found ourselves having to pause and rewind several times (thanks to our DVR addiction) because we’ve been doubled over with laughter.

Some of the actors and comedians who have helped out Drew include:

Each episode works pretty much the same way, focusing on three or four improv games. Each game is hosted by a different player. Some of these are familiar, such as Sound Effects, Greatest Hits, and Sentences. Others are new like Freeze Tag, Question This (improv Jeapardy, which is hilarious), and Two Headed Expert. Each game may involve two or more of the players and typically goes for five minutes or so.

Here are a couple of clips (probably NSFW) for you to enjoy:

If you like improv comedy, you really can’t miss Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza on GSN!

–Fitz

p.s. If you miss the old Whose Line show, be sure to check out the episodes collected on DVD!

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DVD Review: Cities of the Underworld: The Complete Season Three

Hi there!

Don Wildman is back and exploring the dark, unseen corners of the world in the 13 episodes of Cities of the Underworld: The Complete Season Three. Once again, Wildman finds adventure in the unlikeliest of places, bringing stories to life previously unheard and unknown by the public.

As with the previous seasons, host Wildman gets down, dirty, and sometimes dangerous going into the amazing and forgotten places that sometimes lay right beneath our feet in each episode of Cities of the Underworld. We often forget that over time, human habitation tends to reuse good locations – sometimes going as far as building on top of the ruins left by prior generations.

And with almost childlike enthusiasm and curiosity, Wildman enters the unknown with a camera crew and cool surveillance equipment to share his discoveries. That’s part of what makes the series work. Wildman exhibits the same fascination with these places as normal people would. And luckily for us, he gets dirty and we get to watch from the safety of our living rooms.

In Season Three, Don explores historical sites from both modern and ancient times, sharing not only his own observations, but the stories of others who share his passion for the past. From Los Angeles and Las Vegas to ancient Ethiopia and Rome, he takes us to places and times we may never see any other way.

“Land of Manson” takes us behind the scenes of bootlegger hideouts beneath the streets of Los Angeles where crooked cops aided and profited from the illegal liquor trade of the Prohibition. From there, we visit a forgotten “Ghost Station” from a lost subway system in Los Angeles shut down by the auto industry to kickstart car sales. And then we see the Death Valley ranch where Charles Manson and his girls lived away from prying eyes in the time before they were convicted of murder.

In “City of Blood” we go beneath the streets of London to the many dark, dank places where infamous killers such as Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd would hide their nefarious activities from the authorities trying to stop them. We also learn of the body thieves stealing fresh corpses and selling them to medical schools when such bodies were hard to come by legally.

And in “Tunnels of Hell” we learn more of Okinawa during the dark days of World War II. One of the war’s bloodiest battles was fought on and off the islands’ shores and many thousands of soldiers and civilians alike lost their lives fighting for what they believed in. Wildman even dives deep enough with special scuba gear to see one of the U.S. Navy ships downed by kamikaze pilots during the battle, capturing amazing images of the holes blown in the sides of the vessel and the monument placed there much later commemorating the deaths of those on board.

Wildman makes the history of these places come alive through his own narration, interviews with experts, and first-hand accounts of more modern events, making this a fun and educational program. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you check out Cities of the Underworld on the History Channel and the Cities of the Underworld: The Complete Season Three DVD collection. Who says history has to be boring?

–Fitz

p.s. Click below to pick up the Cities of the Underworld DVD sets at Amazon!

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