Book Review: Krimson by Thomas Emson

Hi all…

Vampires. In popular media today, vampires are more about masquerading as human in a human world than ripping your throat out and guzzling blood directly from your jugular vein with no pretense of any remaining humanity. These days, the word “vampire” tends to evoke images of wan, whiny teenagers or Civil War-era Louisiana gentlemen more than “cold blooded killers.”

Author Thomas Emson is working to change that. First with Skarlet in 2009 and now with the follow-up Krimson, Emson is embracing the monster in the vampire myth and providing hooks to thousands of years of history. And like the majority of human history, not all the monsters are inhuman. Sometimes it takes power-mad humans to resurrect the past even if they don’t quite understand the consequences of their actions…

In Skarlet, we were introduced to a modern-day London, England on the brink of change. A small group of men and women with bloodlines stretching back thousands of years have brought a drug to London’s youth. Distributed at a dance club called Religion, those who take the drug die and are reborn as vampiric killing machines with an unquenchable thirst for blood. One man – Iraqi war vet Jake Lawton – working as a bouncer at the club is drawn into this nightmare nobody can accept and fights against the monsters with a few companions he gains along the way.

What I loved about the first book was the use of multiple story lines from different eras of history. Emson incorporates the conquering of Babylon by Alexander the Great and battles between the Ottoman Turks and the British army in the 1920s alongside the Iraq War we’re still trying to finish and the modern day. Weaving in an alternate history based on real events made this a much more tangible tale to dive into.

Now with Krimson, the second book in the Vampire Trinity series, the story picks up three years later after the events of Skarlet. Jake is still fighting the good fight, but he’s getting tired. You can only go so long without sleep. And those left alive in positions of power in England are hunting him day and night, so his paranoia isn’t just due to exhaustion. He and his warrior woman Aaliyah have done damage to the vampire cause, but it’s like putting fingers in a dam about to burst – it’s impossible to cover all the cracks.

And like Skarlet, Emson does an amazing job of working an alternate history into the mix. This time it’s ancient Babylon and the time of Dracula in the mid-1400s. And though I wasn’t as surprised by the Babylon links this time around, I was very intrigued in how the Dracula myths were brought in. Again, the history set the stage for the events in the present day and was seamlessly integrated into what started in that first book.

After reading Zombie Brittanica, I was a bit concerned that Emson had lost his touch. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The first half of Krimson sets the stage and offers enough background that readers new to the series should have no problems diving in. For me, the action really didn’t get going until about the half-way mark. At that point it was as though a switch was thrown and we were in free fall to the end. All the characters of the first book are back and we start to see their individual threads get resolved one by one…

I can hardly wait for Kardinal, the conclusion of the trilogy, to be released in another year or two. Can Jake and his friends survive? Only Emson himself knows until the book is released!

If you want a taste of the book, be sure to check out the first three chapters at Thomas Emson’s website. Unfortunately US rights haven’t yet been sold, but you can order via Amazon and other retailers through international wholesalers!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these books at Amazon below!

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Book Review: The Secret History of MI6: 1909-1949 by Keith Jeffery

Hi!

To most of the world, James Bond is the iconic British spy for nearly 60 years. Through the Cold War, the Drug War, and even into a post-9/11 world, he’s been reinvented multiple ways and times in books and movies and played by actors from George Lazenby to Daniel Craig. Ian Fleming‘s creation with a license to kill has dominated the popular impression of British Intelligence. But spies don’t really exist in popular media as they do in the real world.

I’m sure the British Secret Intelligence Service (also known as MI-6) have had a few James Bond-like moments in their long and colorful history, but until now they’ve been hidden from public view. Keith Jeffery was granted unparalleled access to the MI-6 archives to piece together events from the agency’s beginnings to the start of the Cold War. Reading The Secret History of MI6, it was amazing just how much happened in those first 40 years starting in 1909. The real men and women who put their lives on the line to protect Britain from her enemies put James Bond’s antics to shame.

From the beginning, there was a conflict between the need for military intelligence, upon which wartime strategies could be formed, and foreign intelligence, upon which political and international policy decisions could be based. These interests were not always at odds, but the groups collecting the intelligence often sought to protect their sources at all costs, even from other agencies working on the same side. This reluctance to share actionable intelligence in a timely manner often hampered good decisions to be made by those in power. But Commander Mansfield Cumming hoped to change that culture of mistrust and offer a better solution.

Throughout the build up to the First World War, it was a matter of gaining the trust of the agencies depending on intelligence reports while building a network of field agents and informants that could reliably get a more complete picture of what was going on. Many of the same challenges of mistrust and information sharing existed for the next forty years as well. And always it was a balancing act between the need for information, the need for secrecy, and the safety of all assets involved.

The book provides a detailed accounting of many of the trials associated with developing the tools and techniques of spycraft – from learning how to record and transmit or transport reports from the field back to headquarters to finding cover identities and companies with which to hide assets in plain sight. Even the Import/Export business used by James Bond’s MI-6 was first used by the real MI-6 long before World War I!

Though the text does get dense and mired in detail at times, I honestly think Jefferey’s book should be required reading for any student of history or individual seeking to learn more about how MI-6 began. As events unfold through the years, I gained a new perspective on key events leading to World War I and II and the aftermath of each. The Secret History of MI6 is an incredible read. Perhaps in another fifty years or so we can read more about MI-6 history from 1950 to 9/11 and beyond!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great history books below!

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Music Review: Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – Skaboy JFK: The Skankin’ Hits of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

Hey!

Over the last 20 years, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies (CPD) may have been pigeonholed in some fans’ minds as a swing group. Fans of the band know they do so much more than swing and have been involved in the ska scene forever. Skaboy JFK: The Skankin’ Hits of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies focuses on the band’s ska hits from the past and a few new tracks for good measure.

Skaboy JFK focuses on the 1960s-era up-tempo form of pre-reggae Jamaican Soul known as ska. What is ska? For me it boils down to mixing Swing with Punk — a horn section, rock guitars, and an attitude. There are many definitions of ska, but they all seem to start in Jamaica and the UK in the 1960s and end when both RBF and No Doubt appeared in or near the mainstream in the 1990s. Personally, I don’t buy that ska is dead.

CPD toured with many of the big ska bands when they were coming up in popularity, including the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Fishbone, Reel Big Fish, The Specials, No Doubt, and Madness. During those days, they were focused on the “Zoot Suit Riot” fans, so they didn’t play a ton of ska in their sets.

Now in 2009 with two albums coming out on the same day, you’d think there would be more repeated tracks. But there’s only one track – “Hi and Lo” – duplicated between Susquehanna and Skaboy JFK, so if you pick up both albums you won’t be disappointed. With 12 amazing tracks on Skaboy JFK and 13 more on Susquehanna you can have a long swing/ska set that lasts a couple of hours!

Skaboy JFK focuses on the different waves of ska music – Traditiona/Bluebeat (“2:29,” “Soul Cadillac”), Two Tone (“Hammerblow,” “Skaboy JFK”), Third Wave (“Hi and Lo,” “Sockable Face Club”) and even a Fishbone-esque hybrid for good measure (“Slapstick”).

On the album, there’s definitely a few favorites of mine… “Sockable Face Club” being at the top of the list. Full of energy at an insane pace, it’s tough to object with lyrics like “You’re in my Sockable Face Club / You gotta punchable face, bub / Grab him, nab him / Everything you do makes me feel like you need to get a blackened eye…” Frenetic energy talking about a fight in the bathroom… And with piano licks that drive the song all the way through, this is one toe-tapping, fist-fighting ska tune.

Then there’s “Cosa Nostra,” which again focuses on a fight – this time it’s a day in the life of a mobster. “It takes some pressure to make a diamond / It takes some losin’ to win a soul / It takes a bleak house to run away from / It takes a warm bed to appreciate the cold world inside of you…” Who would have thought that being a mobster was so lyrical? The music takes a step back, with muted trumpets and a bass line that leads you through the mobster’s life.

I’m not sure what makes me like these songs about fighting, but I have to say that the music and energy in all of the tracks will keep me coming back for years to come.

Be sure to check out Susquehanna and Skaboy JFK: The Skankin’ Hits of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies when they are released on September 29, 2009 and check out their website www.daddies.com for upcoming news and tour dates! It’s great that the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies have returned with new music to prove that ska and swing are far from dead.

–Fitz

p.s. Be sure to check out this and other great Cherry Poppin’ Daddies music at Amazon below!

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