BookReview: Blacktop Wasteland

blacktopwastelandI don’t do a lot of reviews on this blog, but this reminds me that I really should do more.

I just finished reading Blacktop Wasteland by Shawn Cosby. I received a free electronic copy provided by the publisher (Flatiron Books) and this is my honest review.

I’ve known Shawn for only a short while. I first met him at a local “Noir At The Bar” event where we were both sharing readings for the crowd. I told my wife at the time I thought he was the best writer there. Now that I’ve finally read Blacktop Wasteland, I’m happy to report that my first impression was right on the money.

To say I liked Blacktop Wasteland would be an understatement. I loved it. The book is crime fiction and it is a gritty and realistic example of that genre. I write mostly mysteries. These two genres are cousins, and they both give the reader a peek at similar issues, but each uses a different focus. My experience with mysteries provided a good backdrop for enjoying this story because so many aspects of it were sub-mysteries of their own.

Cosby waltzes around plot structures in both standard and unique ways, the way Fred Astaire could dance an amazing solo, but then pull a mop into the mix and make you think the mop was dancing just as well as he was. Cosby makes effective use of flashbacks as well, and they weave in and out of the story the way Beauregard weaves in and out of the mess he has made for himself.

I am wary to share too many details because I in no way want to spoil this story for you, but in short, Beau has done his best to put a criminal past behind him and forge a family life on the straight and narrow. But the universal truth “life is hard” rears its ugly head and he figures just one more “job” might provide the easy money he needs to right his ship for clear sailing.

Then another more pertinent universal truth pops up: there is no such thing as “easy money.” It’s a deep well and Cosby effectively plumbs the depths of that well just until you think it can’t go any deeper, but you have to keep feeding the line because neither he nor Beau has reached the bottom yet.

Blacktop Wasteland is fast-paced and the plot employs a sinister intricacy that slides into your brain the way your feet can slide into a comfortable pair of old slippers. But don’t get too relaxed … you will need to strap on your reading comprehension hat real tight because even the tiniest of details may pop up to surprise you later. Cosby zinged me in this way several times and even made me laugh out loud more than once.

Be warned, the book is about lowlife individuals who lurk on the dark edges of society, so there is a bit a language, but I thought he used a measured amount that fit the dialogue. It’s a crime thriller so there’s violence too. If you are turned off by either of these I’d have to say, everything fits the story and this story is well worth reading on so many other levels. At the least, you should revel in experiencing this breakout novel of a gifted writer.

As a writer myself, I want to hate Shawn because I don’t need this kind of competition, but I can’t hate him, not at all, simply because I love his insight and skill so much. Look for Blacktop Wasteland in mid-July. If you can catch him reading at a bookstore or a local “Noir At The Bar” — catch him there, his readings are not to be missed. I’ll finish by just saying: WOW! Just WOW! A well-deserved Five Stars!

I’m sure it will be sold all over the place but an Amazon link is easiest right now … put this on your TBR list. Blacktop Wasteland.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. His most recent novel, THE HAG RIDER, is available at Amazon. Be on the lookout for his mystery thriller PENUMBRA, coming in August.

The Reviews are NOT In

reading the book

The third book in my Traces of Treasure series is coming out this October and I’m looking for new reviewers of this book and the other books in the series.

Why would anyone be interested in these books?

The answer is: I seriously don’t know.
I just write them and hope people find them entertaining.

But what I do know is this: the people who’ve read the first two books in the series really like them. But hey, not enough people have read them yet.  I also know that although the subject matter seems a bit male-oriented, seriously,  these books appeal to women as well as men. Check out the current reviews on Amazon if you don’t believe me.

These are mysteries centered on a sense of adventure,  with a good dose of obsession.  The hero of the series (so far) is Sam Milton.  He’s a bit of a loner and loser in the first book, The Fever.  He’s obsessed and he can’t help it.  He got arrested at nineteen and while in jail he helped a sick and dying wino who rewarded him with the riddle. It, the broken little man said, would help Sam find a long lost gold mine out in west Texas.

img_5454The Fever is a bit of a what-if scenario.  What if this happened to you?  Well,  you’d think about it, first dismissing it has hogwash. Then you might wonder to yourself late at night … what if? This is where the title comes in.  Eventually, you can’t help it. You catch the FEVER, gold fever.  When the book opens, a very tired and frustrated Sam is hiking out of the wilderness after yet another fruitless search. It’s dangerous terrain, the home of rattlesnakes and mountain lions.  He’s trespassing.  He sneaks in and out and drives the eight to ten hours back to his regular life, only to plot and plan his next trip. He’s careful. He has a set routine of procedures designed to keep him safe.

Then, after this latest trip, he stumbles upon the solution to the first clue in the riddle. It’s something he missed for years.  It was so simple. Yet, he’s at the end of his hiking season; or is he? The book is about his rush to get back into the field to check out his hunch, throwing out many of the safeguards he had built into his past searches.  Love? Family? Job? Who cares … this is gold we’re talking about.
A riddle and an obsession … what could possibly go wrong?
img_6739The second book, A Curse That Bites Deep, follows closely on the heels of The Fever.  Sam has relocated to the area, relieving himself of the strain of those long drives.  I’m trying not to add spoilers here, but suffice it to say, he’s much happier than he’s been in a long time.  He’s in love with a cafe owner who befriended him in the first book. Things are finally looking up for him, well, that is until people start dying.  One-by-one, people close to Sam seem to pass away.  Some deaths can be explained as accidents, but others are obviously murder.  As the situation continues to get even more complicated, he must take the initiative to confront the killer before the circle of death tightens around the love of his life.  Is it just a random homicidal maniac or is it the curse he had earlier been warned about?

LuckyStrike-WEBThe third book, Lucky Strike, due out in October, definitely proves that Sam’s lost gold mine is not the only treasure-oriented mystery in this small west Texas town. But our friends have a problem: something is definitely wrong but the details are not obvious.  They must claw and scratch their way through a bunch of muddled clues to put the pieces together. All the while they are facing a ruthless villain who seems to be everywhere at once.   It is a top-notch mystery, sure to entertain. This story is as much about Sam’s girlfriend Smidgeon Toll, as it is about him. See that image on the cover? That’s not blatant sensationalism–she does that more than once in this story.

I need reviews, so I am willing to provide PDF review copies of all three books to people who are willing to read and review them. Books 2 and 3 do have a bit of exposition so they could probably be read standalone. Of course, any review for Lucky Strike would be an advance review but if I get good taglines from an early review I can use that in the book. I have an early August cutoff for that.

I’m wanting to sell books, of course, so if there is a massive rush to the box office I might need to be selective.

So if you are looking for something to read, like to leave reviews on Amazon or even better … are a book blogger — help a guy out and drop me a line.  You can get more information on the books at http://thefensk.com — My email info is there as well.

Shoutout Sunday

It’s not just me, others are catching THE FEVER too.

Books by Marianne Reese

My Shoutout this week goes to author Thomas Fenske. I caught the reading fever from his book ‘The Fever’. Here is my five-star review:

I had the “I can’t stop reading this book” fever! An enjoyable read with a great storyline.

The protagonist, Sam, is obsessed with the lore of a gold mine and spends countless days/hours in his quest to find it. The characters were all likable, and I loved the uniqueness of their names.

This story is a reminder of how catching ‘the fever’ can consume your life, impact your relationships, and affect your moral compass. It also touches on the preparation needed when delving into an expedition full of unknowns.

Here are links to Thomas Fenske’s Amazon Author site and web-site:

https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Fenske/e/B0184BAVFU/

https://thomasfenske.wordpress.com/

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First Review!

cover-lg2aI was pleased to get the first review of The Mossback Cafe Cookbook today.  I’m still waiting to clear up some technical issues before uploading the book to Amazon, so this review is on Smashwords.  It is also my first review on Smashwords!

I just had to share it …

The review is by Laura Rittenhouse, a fellow writer.  I’m honored.  Be sure to look her up on Smashwords and Amazon!

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“I’ve read the front of the book and then, being held hostage to my sweet tooth, flipped to the back – the dessert section. I baked the coffee cake and my only complaint is I shared too much of it with appreciative friends. Next time I make it I’ll make sure I’m alone 🙂

There are a lot of recipes in here that I’ll try in the coming weeks – it is really a good cook book. But what pushed this to 5 stars for me was the fact that it’s a really fun companion to The Fever (which I’ve read) and, apparently, A curse That Bites Deep (which I haven’t – yet). This little cook book makes the novels seem almost like reading about friends.”

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To read the original review and download your own copy of this free cookbook, go to:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/712183

You can also get ebooks of THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP from Smashwords.  The novels are also available in paper and from other outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. More information on all of my books can be found at http://thefensk.com