Book Reviews: Two Different Approaches to Success

Cover Design by Jody Waldrup.

Reading Self-Help books are like buying Greatest Hits or Live CDs-they are not for everyone, and sometimes only die hard fans can relate to them. Most Self-Help books are geared to business savvy people , or are written by people who are already rich via given the family business to run or given a heavy inheritance to start off. Some of the books are filled with ideas that are not available to every reader, such as working 2-3 jobs to be successful (most employers in today’s society will not work around any other schedule), or are geared to only the people that live in a bigger city where opportunities are everywhere (not everyone can pack up and move, and if they did, those cities would be overcrowded and the jobs would still be slim due to all the people taking them).

Skip Prichard’s “The Book of Mistakes” (Center Street Books, 2018) is a different kind of Self-Help book where the tips given are not only simple to incorporate, but is told in a fiction setting that makes the reader want to learn more.

The book follows several people in different time periods who get a hold of a manuscripts with the key to a successful future. The book starts off in the 1400s, and then jumps to current day time, following David, who is struggling through his job and life, barely making ends meet while working for a big time business firm. One day David sees a woman dropping a piece of paper on the street which has a time and place to meet. David decides to go to the meeting, hoping to find out what the secrets are, and if things go wrong, he can just state he was returning the paper that the woman dropped. David finds out that he was meant to get the paper and meets several different people (a bartender, a bodybuilder, a playwright, a banker, and some other people) during the next several months by “chance,” who end up telling him what the common mistakes are made by these people who wished they knew these tips when they were younger.

The mistakes given can be used to the normal everyday person (I won’t give out spoilers to all of them), with one being not letting someone else determine your value in life (the person’s value is more than they seem). This , along with the fictional setting, is something that makes the book unique, as opposed to others in the genre that write things like, “This is how I was successful. Follow these tips and here’s why it worked for me.”

The book jumps back and forth at times to the 1400s in following a girl whose uncle is trying to protect the manuscript from getting in the wrong hands. This brings an action theme to the book, which makes the reader keep wanting to know how the book ends up into those that teach David many years later.

Prichard’s book would draw fans of Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven, ” which brings random people along David’s journey in order to help him, while he meets them during everyday encounters. However, those readers that like business books, can also enjoy the book, with action thrown in as well.

“The Book of Mistakes” is a different type of Self- Help book that combines action and lessons (almost in parable style). This book can reach many genre of fans. One does not have to be a business guru to learn some of these lessons that can be used in any aspect of life, even those that just want to make themselves feel better and do some good in their lives. The book is a surprisingly good read for those that are looking for something different.


“The Book of Mistakes” by Skip Prichard (2018 Center Street Books ISBN : 978-1-4789-7090-3 ebook ISBN: 978-1-4789-7093-4) is available at and at


For other information on Skip Prichard, go to

Cover copyright 2018 by Hatchette Book Group, Inc.


Cal Turner Jr. and Rob Simbeck, in the book “My Father’s Business” (Center Street, 2018) walks the reader through how Turner’s father started a small store and turned it into the Billion-Dollar Dollar General stores.

Turner Jr. discusses his early childhood growing up, while his father started purchasing department stores in Kentucky. The first Dollar General was in Springfield, Kentucky, at a store that was struggling in sales. Cal’s father decided to take the idea of putting all items at a dollar once he saw how well other stores sold merchandise during their “dollar days’ sales. His father thought why not have a store that kept all items at a dollar? By 1957, his father owned 29 stores that equaled $5 million dollars in sales.

The book discusses how Turner Jr. wanted to go into the ministry, but was talked out of it, his stint in the Navy, along with his college years. In 1965, he started working at his father’s stores, working at stocking and opening the stores, where he claims he found his mission in life by helping people in a different way, which filled his need of a calling when he considered the ministry.

“My Father’s Business” is a leadership/business book that details how the family each had a role in the managing of the stores, how the company branded into a corporation and public traded business, including how they handled a Teamster/Union strike in the 1970s, which included threats on Cal Jr’s family, as well as a kidnapping attempt of his young son. The book also follows Cal Jr’s rise to become the president of the company and having to fire one of his brothers along the way. His rise to CEO and dealing with his father’s old ways of handling business is covered as he becomes conflicted on keeping a company successful while dealing with family members.

“My Father’s Business” is geared more for those that known something about the business world, and is not just a normal biography. There are parts in the book that lost me as a normal reader with no idea what the writers were discussing in terms of sales, profits, and percentages. There are sections about his faith, along with some Bible quotes, which gives a picture of what his family values were growing up in the business world.

Turner writes in a way that is not all business jargon, but those that are reading it as just a biography may fight through a few parts. For those that study economics and business related topics, this book will be a good read to find out how the small general store turned into a booming business.


“My Father’s Business” by Cal Turner Jr, with Rob Simbeck (Center Street, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4789-9298-1, eISBN: 978-1-4789-9299-8, special edition ISBN: 978-1-5460-7619-3) is available at


Both review copies were given courtesy of Center Street and Hatchette Books.


Author Q&A: Author Gary A. Smith Talks Horror Films and Writing.

Cover of Gary A. Smith’s “Vampire Films” book. Cover photo Robert Quarry in “The Deathmaster”, 1972, R.F. Brown Productions/World Entertainment Productions.


One of the great things about doing this page is that not only do I get some great books from awesome companies, but I get to interact with some of the authors as well. A while back I wrote a review on a book by Gary A. Smith, entitled “Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between” (MacFarland, 2017) Not only was it a great book, but Mr. Smith and I got to emailing each other after the post, discussing our love for horror films.

Gary A. Smith was a regular contributor for Little Shoppe of Horrors magazine from 1980 to 2013, and has authored 7 books on various aspects of film history. He was also generous to agree to a Q&A for me on not only horror films, but some of the book writing process.


Q: What made you become a horror film fan, and also, what motivated you to write books on the genre?

A: I’ve been a fan of horror movies since I was about seven years old. That’s when they started showing the old Universal films on TV. I wrote a paper for a college film class comparing the Universal horror films to the Hammer remakes and my professor said I should consider writing books on similar subjects some day. 


Q: Do you have favorite horror actor (s) and why?

A: I would have to say Vincent Price. I love him in anything, especially the Corman/Poe films. 


Q: Do you have a preference in studio films (aka Universal, Hammer, AIP), if so why?

A: I love them all but I have to say “my heart belongs to Hammer.” The first Hammer films I saw was a double bill of Horror of Dracula and Revenge of Frankenstein. I was eight years old and I was instantly smitten. Why? Even at eight I was an anglophile. 


Q: What is your “Top 5” horror films that you think everyone should see?

A: Yikes! That is a tough one. It’s easier to say which are my top 5 favorites. There are better horror movies out there I’m sure, but these are my favorites. Not necessarily in any order: Brides of Dracula, The Mummy (1959), Pit and the Pendulum, Circus of Horrors, and Son of Dracula. 


Q: What (in your opinion) are the qualities that make a great horror film?

A: The actors must approach the material seriously. Tongue in cheek ruins a horror movie for me. Stylish direction can make a horror movie, even if the material isn’t that strong. I watched Baron Blood the other day and that was certainly a triumph of style over substance. Most of Mario Bava’s films are.


Q: In your book “Vampire Films of the 1970s” you list many different genres of vampire films, such as comedies, odd films, and even mention wrestler El Santo’s films. Do you have a favorite part in the book that you cover?

A: The Hammer films, of course. But the movie I most enjoyed writing about was Nocturna. I still haven’t recovered from that one! 

Compass International Pictures’s 1979’s Vampire Disco film “Nocturna,” stars Nai Bonet, John Carradine, and Yvonne DeCarlo, and Anthony Hamilton, with music by Gloria Gaynor.


Q: What is the most difficult part in the writing process that occurs for you in getting a book published?

A: Getting the publisher to do it the way I want it done. Some are very intrusive and want to change everything. McFarland was very good about the Vampire book but I have had trouble with them on past projects. 


Q: Do you have a regular writing process for your work? Do you write everyday?

A: When I am writing a book I do write every day. My most recent project is now at the publishers and I was fairly obsessed when I was writing it. I love doing research and this new book involved a lot of it.


Q: In the “Vampire Films” book, you discuss some odd films that are just guilty pleasures (for me it was “Love at First Bite” growing up as a kid seeing it all the time. Another is 1986’s “Trick or Treat” with Gene Simmons of Kiss for me.). Do you have a guilty pleasure film that is just fun to watch? Why?

A: Actually most of my favorite movies are probably guilty pleasures to other people. I suppose The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is my guiltiest pleasure. I never get tired of seeing it. Why? Because it is deliriously awful in every way. 


Q: Is there a film that you would like to see, but for some reason, have not been able to get a copy of? And why?

A: Without a doubt that would be the Italian film The Pharaohs’ Woman. I haven’t seen it in decades and, to my knowledge, a decent copy of it isn’t available anywhere. 

Q: In your opinion, which is the most scariest creature in horror, the slasher (Jason and Freddy), the vampire, or the monsters like Frankenstein and Wolfman?

A: The slasher types are the scariest because they are closer to reality. Michael Meyers in the Halloween films is terrifying to me, especially in the first film in the series. Now that’s a great horror movie! 


Q: Do you follow current horror films? If so, opinions on them, or what they lack?

A: I do see current horror films and, more often than not, come away feeling disappointed. All the fuss over The Shape of Water this year baffled me. Best Picture? Really? It was a B movie dressed up in A movie clothing. I’d rather see Creature from the Black Lagoon any day. The other horror movie up for Best Picture was Get Out; a retread of The Stepford Wives.  


Q: Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

A: The book now at the publishers is about best selling novels that were made into films. No horror movies, I’m sorry to tell you. Some of the movies I write about are The Egyptian, Captain from Castile, and The Foxes of Harrow. These are books and films which are largely forgotten now and shouldn’t be. I hope my book helps to remedy that situation.


Q: Do you have any advice for those that are writers that want to write about film or writing in general ?

A: My way has always been to provide a detailed framework that I can send to prospective publishers prior to sitting down to write the entire book. I always include an Introduction to the project and several sample chapters. This eliminates the heartbreak of writing an entire book only to discover that nobody wants to publish it. And please do your research and provide the facts to the best of your ability. It seems that errors abound in film books in particular and these mistakes tend to be perpetuated. 


A very special thank you goes out to Gary A. Smith for taking the time to this Q&A.


My review on “Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between” (McFarland, 2017 ISBN: 978-0-7864-9779-9 eISBN: 978-1-4766-2559-1) can be found here in the archives.

For information on ordering a copy of the book, visit McFarland’s site at

Book Review: “Boy Wonder” Looks at Dick Grayson’s History

Image c. 2015 Digital Vision.

McFarland’s book “Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder” (2015),edited by Kristen L. Geaman, is filled with essays celebrating the 75 years of DC Comic’s famous sidekick.

Throughout the many essays in the 360 page book, the history of Dick Grayson is discussed with an academic approach to the character. Not only does the book discuss the early days of Dick becoming the Robin character, but also his turn into the Nightwing creation. The essays also features how the character name “Robin” was possibly created (including a theory that Bruce Wayne was the original Robin) to the symbolism of the colors used in the designing of the costume.

There are some unique topics covered in the book, including when Grayson moved out of the Batcave and away from Wayne and teamed with Batgirl (but still under the “sidekick” shadow although he was trained by Batman, and was older than Batgirl). Also covered is how the creators of Robin were influenced by Robin Hood, and there are some brief references to the later Robins, Jason Todd and Damian Wayne.

Just like any academia themed book, there are subjects covered in the book dealing with a Freudian look at the Robin character, to a psychoanalytic criticism of Batman and Robin overcoming trauma in their lives, to the topic of the coming of age theme, when Grayson leads the Teen Titans, which he helps Superman and Deadman, all with quotes and story lines from the comic books to back up the theories.

Being a Batman fan, this book was interesting at parts, especially learning some of the story line ideas that has been used in the 75 years of the character. There is some information I was not aware of, including Dick Grayson actually becoming Batman for a time.

The McFarland company is geared towards the educational writings on the topics, but for this reviewer, some of the topics covered here were stretching the stories and the characters. Although one must respect the concept that comic books are now considered good enough readings for academic coverage in texts and even classes in colleges, some of the writings were just a bit too much for me, which seems to happen when some stuffy academia “know it alls” get their hands on topics. There are many great topics in the book (the essay on the colors of the costume, along with the writing suggesting that Robin’s costume was built from pieces of Batman’s suit are very interesting). The book even covers the influence of butler Alfred as a father figure type and his impact on Grayson.

This book would be best for those that are die hard fans of the Robin character, as opposed to someone who is a causal fan of the character. This is not a history book of the character, although the reader will find many references to the character’s past to create a historical timeline. “Dick Grayson: Boy Wonder “is a typical text book style that would be used for a college class- not that it’s a bad thing- it’s just a different feel for a casual reader. The packaging reminds this reader of the college criticism books that were read as an English Major in college, with some writings that are thought provoking, while others are just out there with the theories and read too much into the subject.

The reviewer is a huge supporter of the McFarland brand and the books. However, this book is not for everyone who is a comic book reader. If the reader is looking for a timeline Robin/Dick Grayson story, they may have to go elsewhere, but if the reader wants some intellectual thinking added to the Batman family, this will be the book for you. Kristen L. Geaman has compiled some great topics in the book, along with some others that are kind of strange, but that is the writer’s right to explore the topics.


Thanks to McFarland for the Review copy.


“Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder” Edited by Kristen L. Geaman (McFarland, 2015 ISBN: 978-0-7864-9788-1 eISBN: 978-1-4766-2085-5) is available at or at the order line at 800-253-2187.





Book Reviews: Maniscalco Books Great for Horror/Mystery Fans

One thing missing in today’s horror films and books is the art of building the suspense to the audience. Especially in the film industry, the horror genre tends to be missing the mystery aspect that draws the viewer in, keeps them engaged, and then brings the ending to a climax that keeps them talking. One person that has not lost this skill in the publishing world is Kerri Maniscalco with her book “Stalking Jack The Ripper” (Jimmy Patterson Books, 2016).

Maniscalco’s novel about a girl named Audrey Rose Wadsworth, who studies under her uncle the skill of forensic science in the Victorian Age, where young girls should be proper and social, is the type of horror/mystery tale that would be perfectly shown on classic horror TV shows like Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” show or any of the other 1950-1960s shows.

The story takes us through Audrey’s studies with her uncle, while her father and brother want her to be more of a socialite like many of the other girls her age. Even though Audrey likes training with her uncle and dissecting bodies for research, a local crime turns her into a sleuth trying to find out who is doing the murders of women in her area. Women start being murdered with their body parts being taken, which ends up being called the “Leather Apron” aka Jack The Ripper. Audrey and a young man who also studied under her uncle, named Thomas, start investigating the crimes, while also trying to help prove false accusations against some of the innocent people in their lives who are charged with being The Ripper.

Maniscalco’s writing combines great scientific elements with the horror and mystery of finding out who this murderer is, along with a plot that gives many false leads and turns among the characters. The reader is taken on a ride that not only is page turning, but makes them think they have the killer figured out, only to be swerved again. The author has definitely done research on the topic, along with the science of the time, with only a few changes in history (which she writes at the end of the book why she changed a few things here and there for the consistency of her plot). Even if one criticizes the few changes in the historical timeline, it doesn’t change the fact that the novel is well written and takes the reader on a suspenseful journey that those things can be overlooked.

Audrey Rose is a strong female character, one who speaks her mind among those in her life that expect her to act a certain way, while adding the Nancy Drew like inquisitive mind that makes her character wonderful. Although the Thomas character is extremely annoying, annoying, and unlovable, that does not deter from the theatrical mysterious chiller that makes the book so magnificent.

Maniscalco’s first novel is a gem, not only just for the Young Adult readers, but for the horror/mystery readers. Fans of old school mysteries, where the audience is slowly taken on a ride that has many accusations, false villains, and a shocking ending are advised to check out this book. If this book was a movie back in earlier days, one could see someone like the legendary Vincent Price of Christopher Lee playing a role in this story. Bravo to Maniscalco for not losing the great art of storytelling, along with the imaginative plot combining history, horror, and mystery.



Kerri Maniscalco’s second novel in her series, “Hunting Prince Dracula” (Jimmy Patterson, 2017) , takes the reader through another adventure with her character Audrey Rose Wadsworth.

The book takes place shortly after her last book, the wonderful “Stalking Jack the Ripper,” where the main characters Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell are sent to a university with other prospective forensics students in order to gain one of the top positions to stay at the school for future studies, which happened to be the one time home of Vlad the Impaler. After a series of strange deaths, including one of the train ride to the school, Audrey and Thomas decide that their investigated skills are needed to solve the mystery.

Much like the last book, there is banter between Thomas and Audrey, making the reader try and decide if Audrey really does have romantic feelings towards Thomas or not.   While the two characters are competing with the other students, and each other’s feelings, the townspeople start whispering that these murders could indeed be Vlad brought back to life.

The book has a more Harry Potter theme to it, with a gothic looking school with several students vying for one of the top spots in the studies. Instead of wizards, the book deals with historical rumors and myths about vampires and other undead creatures, along with many scientific references throughout the book, even more so than the first book in the series.

“Hunting Prince Dracula” has a more mystery theme to it than the “Stalking Jack the Ripper” book, where there was more of a horror feel to it compared to this book. The build up in this book seems slow, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The ending was a little predictable, revealing the person behind all of the antics (but that could just be because this is a Young Adult series, and this reviewer is much older). It is wise to read the “Jack the Ripper” book first, just to understand the interaction between the two main characters, along with understanding what Audrey Rose went through at the end of the first book. There are several references to incidents that happened in the first book that readers should know about and read the first of the series, although the reader could still get through the second without having read the first one, but it is advised to read it in a series.

Even though this book was slow build up, there is no complaints about the author’s writing style. Maniscalco has no sophomore jinx in her writing, although “Jack the Ripper” was a more enjoyable book overall for this reviewer. The great thing about Maniscalco’s writing in this book is that she leaves the reader wanting more, especially with her ending, where he hints yet another book in the series (NO Spoilers given on this page).

Overall “Hunting Prince Dracula” is a good read, especially for those readers that love science related themes on top of a mystery. The characters are strong, but if you are looking for a more horror/historical book, “Stalking Jack the Ripper” will be the best pick. Either book you choose, there is something good about Manicalco’s original characters and ideas.


Thanks to Jimmy Patterson Books and Little, Brown, and Company for the review copies.

“Stalking Jack The Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco (Jimmy Patterson Books ISBN : ISBN-13: 9780316273503) is an imprint of Little, Brown, and Company, a division of Hatchette Book Group, Inc.

“Hunting Prince Dracula” by Kerri Maniscalco (Jimmy Patterson, 2017 ISBN: 031655166X) is available at .

For information on the author, go to:

Book Review: Heavy Metal Star Gives a Lighthearted Entertaining Book.

Book design by Jane Raese. Jacket design: Kerry Rubenstien and jacket photographs :Scott Ian c. Travis Shinn


I admit , even though being a music fan growing up in the 1980s, I do not know much about guitarist Scott Ian. I know he is in the band Anthrax, was featured on the many VH1 specials, married singer Meatloaf’s daughter, and was in the show “Supergroup” with Sebastian Bach and Ted Nugent. Anthrax was not a band I listened to (they were too heavy for my likings, as I listened to more of the glam music from the area), but he seemed to an interesting person. In his latest book “Access All Areas: Stories from a Hard Rock Life” (Da Capo Press, 2017), Ian takes the reader on a fun (and wild) ride with some of his tales from the road and the people he met on the way.

The book’s chapters are not chronologically set, and just filled with stories that Ian wanted to tell, which makes the book more enjoyable. The book feels like the reader is sitting in a room while Ian is just letting stories fly, filled with humor and tales that only musicians could experience.

One of the early tales that he tells is how he grew up in New York as a KISS fan, and being made fun of for liking the band (even though he was a fan of bands that his other classmates enjoyed, like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin). This tale, much like the many KISS fans around the world experienced growing up, as many early Kiss fans were bullied and ridiculed for liking the band which most radio stations and critics hated. The touching story goes on to discuss how Ian would go to his local record store and await the latest KISS album to come out, along with asking every day if the band was coming to their area in concert. Ian tells the reader about the time he ended up giving his father KISS “Alive” album for his father’s birthday. The chapter goes on to describe finally seeing the band live for the first time, along with a few problems that occurred before the show with one of his friends that went to the show with him.

“Access All Areas” goes on to describe the events when Ian went to see the band Rage Against The Machine with Pop star Madonna, and the rest of the night’s festivities, to him and his friends searching for the ghost of actor John Belushi, when the band was on the television show “Married With Children,” and being cast on the show “The Walking Dead.”

Ian covers funny stories that the reader will enjoy, like the time hemet R.E.M. Singer Michael Stipe, Ian partying with celebrity chefs, baseball players, the time he broke into Metallica’s Kirk Hammett’s house to jam, and when he was recording an album with Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister was in the same studio (it would not be a crazy Rock and Roll book without a Lemmy encounter!!). The one chapter tells what Ian considers his wildest moment that he’s been a part of, which involves Nine Inch Nails Singer Trent Reznor.

Besides the touchy story about his love for KISS, another favorite story involves Dimebag Darrell’s pranking Ian late at night (along with Drowning Pool’s “Dave Williams), along with Ian’s revenge prank later.

The book is not all Rock and Roll stories. The book covers quite a bit of Ian’s love for poker, where he ended up being on several poker competitions. The longest chapters in the book actually covers how he first got into poker, along with his love of playing, including playing online while Anthrax was performing on stage, and the time he played online poker without knowing it after partying all night. Even though Ian tries to explain some of the terms and parts of the game to the reader (for understanding the stories he was telling), this was the least exciting part of the book. This is not a knock on the author (it’s his book- he can write what he wants), but even after the explaining of the terms, this reader was still lost. However, even though I am not a fan , nor understand the poker terms of the game, this just shows that the uniqueness of Scott Ian, not being just a rock guy who plays loud, fast music, and shows his depth as a person in his love for other hobbies.

Overall, the book is one of the better music books that I have read in a while, especially since I was not that familiar with Ian, aside from the facts listed earlier. The book comes in at 243 pages, and has mostly short chapters (besides the poker ones), which makes it a read without unnecessary parts just to fill pages. The writing keeps the reader engaged throughout (I read the whole book in less than three days), and was surprisingly entertained throughout. Even if the reader is not too familiar with Ian or Anthrax (which isn’t needed to read the book-there is not many references that one needs to know the history of the band), there are great stories that will make the reader laugh out loud.


Thanks to Da Capo Press  and Hatchette Book Group for the copy of this book to review.


“Access All Areas: Stories from a Hard Rock Life” by Scott Ian (2017, Da Capo   Press ISBN: 978-0-306-82523-1) can be found at : .

For more about Scott Ian, go to:

Book Review: Get Hip to the History of Canada’s Underrated Band

Cover design : David A. Glee Cover images: ZUMA Press Inc./Alamy

Michael Barclay’s “The Never Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip” ( ECW Press, 2018) is a different kind of music biography fitting for a band that had a different appeal in music.

For those who do not know about The Tragically Hip, they were a Canadian band who fans adored and topped the charts in Canada by doing things their way, not taking the normal path bands took. While many Canadian acts like Loverboy, Bryan Adams, Gordon Lightfoot, and rush made their way to the U.S. and had success, The Tragically Hip was always considered among some Canadians as one of the bands that never made it big in the U.S. but was loved in Canada, much like fellow musicians Blue Rodeo.

I first heard of The Hip (the name the fans gave the band) when I was in my first band in 1992. We covered the songs “New Orleans” and “She Didn’t Know” from the 1989 debut album “Up to Here.” Although my guitar player and his girlfriend were big fans of the band, that was the only cassette I got of theirs. I respected them, but was into so many other bands at the time. Last year when I heard about their last tour (which was not called a “Farewell Tour”) after the medical condition of singer Gord Downie, I started listening to more of their music before the final show was aired on Canadian TV. When I saw that Barclay had a book out, I had to get a review copy.

Barclay’s book is not a typical rock biography of the band, the band had no involvement of this book, and never wanted a book out about them; they were always about the next tour or album, not wanting to look back, according to the author. The band did not cater to the media, nor did they care about awards like the Junos (the Canadian version of the Grammys), and did not follow the normal path of marketing to get big in the U.S. like other bands, such as starting out as an opening act and touring with big names, which is mentioned in the book. The band played smaller theaters that they knew they could fill by being the headliners. The band’s management decided that if The Hip would sell out smaller theaters, word of mouth would come around that people couldn’t get tickets to see The Hip, and make them in demand the next time they came to the city.

The book covers the early days of Downie and other members of the band, where Downie played junior hockey and some of his first bands were cover bands playing R&B songs. It details the making of their albums, and some of their tours, including the solo albums Downie recorded through the years. When the band started, they decided that all the songs would be credited to the band equally, instead of listing only the songwriters, which shows the band’s friendship and down to earth feel to them. There are stories about how the band was kind to those acts that opened for them, hanging out with them before and after the shows.

“The Never Ending Present” also takes the reader through stories by some of the road crew and friends of the band, with in depth stories about these people to give a feel of the members the public may not have seen. There is also stories and chapters comparing the band to other acts, such as a chapter comparing The Hip to other Canadian acts by comparing The Hip’s Canadian, U.S. and worldwide music sales. There is a chapter questioning why The Hip never made it big in the U.S. , even though they had big followings in places like Texas.

Barclay even writes a chapter about how some critics and fans (and other musicians) just did not see the appeal of the band, and how other Canadian towns despised the band, and covers the topic of if the band was “too Canadian” for most listeners.

Barclay gives some great comparisons and quotes from members of other Canadian bands, including Blue Rodeo, which is another Canadian band that I enjoy. There are many band and artist references in the book that music fans in America may not know, which some detail in the bands would be nice (saying this person who played in this band, as opposed to just mentioning the person’s name), but the book is published by a Canadian publisher, and with it almost 500 pages long, so one can’t complain too much.

This is a different type of rock biography. The writer covers complaints by critics and other musicians about what was the appeal of the band, which is something that most authors may not cover in a book about the band they are writing about. The chapters comparing The Hip to acts like Shania Twain (and other Canadian acts who made it in the U.S.) gets a bit overwhelming, along with some of the very detailed background information about some of the producers on the albums, managers, and other friends of the band. At times I felt like I wasn’t reading a book about the band and more about a guy who went on tour with Downie, and wanted the writer to get back on track focusing on the band. When discussing Downie’s last tour, the writer has a chapter comparing him to acts like Glen Campbell, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Lemmy from Motorhead, and Sharon Jones (all acts that were sick and died when most of the public did not know about their illnesses). With that said , though, Barclay shows great research and fans wanting to know everything about the band will enjoy this, more so than a casual U.S. fan like myself.

“The Never Ending Present” will appeal to fans of The Hip, especially since there are not many books written about the band, and at almost 500 pages, it will not disappoint the readers in dealing with the history of the band. However this is not a basic biography of the band, with comparisons and criticisms of the band added in that may throw some readers off. But one can not question the research and detail the author puts into this book. Non -Canadian fans may have to do extra research in some of the names that are dropped and interviewed in the book, but the fans of the band up north will enjoy this nonetheless, and even those that want a book of the band here in the States.


Thanks to ECW Press for the Advanced Reading Copy of this book.


“The Never Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip”     by Michael Barclay (2018 ISBN: 9781770414365) is available at ECW Press.


For information on ECW Press, go to


For information about the author, go to his blog page at :              


Book Reviews: A Two Count of Wrestling Books


Front cover photo by Myles McNutt.


Aaron D. Horton’s edited collection of essays, called “Identity in Professional Wrestling,” (McFarland, 2018) contains several writers detailing the different aspects in wrestling, such as gender, race, and the nationalities that make up the unique sport.

The collection starts with a historical look at wrestling, starting when soldiers wrestled each other during the Civil War, the Frank Gotch era, and up to the modern times. The essays are put into four main categories: Race, Gender, Culture and Modernity, and Wrestling and Media.

Topics such as how male managers and female valets have differed throughout the years, how Latino stars like Tito Santana, Pedro Morales, Alberto Del Rio, and Rey Mysterio were portrayed on television, to the differences between Japanese and American good guys are embraced. The writings on race covers how Japanese and German characters were used, along with the stereotypical “Russsian” characters (how most of them were not from the countries they claimed to be from).

One of the best essays, entitled ” ‘They Ain’t Like Us'” by Edward Salo, is about how the Southern attitude of fans helped define Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling, along with the racial aspects that was used in the league, and it’s influence on the WWF’s Atttiude Era.”. The essay describes how the characters like Tony “Dirty White Boy” Anthony and “Wild Eyed Southern Boy” Tracy Smothers became a North verses South storyline fight, and how Tammy Sytch’s feminist character as a manager helped develop into the WWF’s years later, which made her a superstar. Salo writes that the tag team The Gangstas helped created racial tension that carried to the WWF as well, influencing groups like The Nation of Domination and the tag team called Cryme Time. The essay shows comparisons to Cornette’s territory and the ideas that were used years later in the WWF, when Cornette became a employee of the company.

Another essay that was a great read involved covering the music in wrestling by Christopher L. Stacey, called “I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Stacey takes the reader through the wrestling acts such as Jimmy Hart, Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Valiant, and Jackie Fargo, who each made records and used music to help get them more popular in the Memphis area. One story mentioned in the section covers how wrestler Sputnik Monroe was friends with the founder of Sun Records, Sam Phillips, and how Elvis Presley dated a female wrestler at one time.

The essays in “Identities in Professional Wrestling” are filled with knowledgeable information, along with entertaining stories. It is informative to read opinions by writers in an academic way covering the multi-layers of the world of wrestling, along with reading the multi-cultural aspects that evolved throughout the years.


“Identity in Professional Wrestling: Essays on Nationality, Race and Gender” Edited by Aaron D. Horton (McFarland, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4766-6728-7 eISBN: 978-1-4766-3141-7)


Front cover photo of Jake Pappenheim, who wrestled under the name “Kurt von Poppenheim,” by Matt Merz

I have mentioned several times on this page (when discussing professional wrestling) that I grew up reading the wrestling magazines in the 1980s and 1990s, especially the famous Stanley Weston magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, Sports Review Wrestling, and others that dealt with the many territories where I could not view on local television. Steven Verrier’s “Professional Wrestling in the Pacific Northwest” (McFarland, 2017) details the territories in the Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia territories through 1883 to the present time.

The book is very detailed and researched, with citations from other sources like The Wrestling Observer, Slam Sports, and books by Dean Silverstone and Vance Nevada. It has a lot of history covered, especially early on, dealing with the promoters and early wrestling matches that lasted 2-3 hours long, until the sport started dealing with more entertainment aspects to attract audiences, and the impact wrestling had during the creation of television. There are several stories in the early pages, including one that states famous promoter Paul Boesch got his start in Seattle before creating his most famous promotion in Houston, Texas.

Verrier also covers the impact the NWA creation had on these territories, along with the Dumont Network’s influence on wrestling, which helped create its Golden Age. Wrestlers are mentioned briefly from the territory, such as Buddy Rogers, Killer Kowalski , and Luther Lindsay, who was considered the first African American star before Bobo Brazil.

One topic, over half way through the book, describes when the Department of Justice investigated the NWA in the 1950s, which originally had an impact on the way the league handled other promotions and the wrestlers. However the impact did not last long, as the promoters basically did what they wanted.

“Professional Wrestling” hits its stride when covering the 1970s and 1980s, when the author covers stars like Jesse Ventura, Adrian Adonis, Roddy Piper, Chris Colt, and other stars which fans my age would remember the most about the area. Promoter Don Owen was the most popular in the Oregon area, whom I read about in the magazines, with stars such as Buddy Rose, Rip Oliver, and Billy Jack Haynes. There is quite a bit on Piper, including a story where he showed his loyalty to Owen and Jim Crockett, even when he was the top heel for Vince McMahon Jr.’s WWF.

The 1970s-1980s section is my favorite part of the book, and wish there was more coverage on the wrestlers throughout the book, but then again, the book would have been almost 500 pages if everyone was covered intensely (the book is 230 pages) There is a humorous tale of how promoter Al Tomko created his own characters to compete with McMahon Jr. (by using the Jack Pfefer concept) using the names “Macho Man” “King Kong Bundy Jr.” and other nicknames that were being used by McMahon’s top stars.

Verrier covers the many promotions, not just in Oregon, but in surrounding areas, including the modern era that featured stars like Christopher Daniels, the future Daniel Bryan, and Davey Richards. It also has a brief sentence or two on Washington’s Suquamish Championship Wrestling (SCW), where my cousin has performed.

“Professional Wrestling in the Pacific Northwest” has so much history, that fans who really enjoy studying the earlier days of wrestling will enjoy, and not just remember the territory for people like Rose, Art Barr, and Matt Borne. Causal fans may not enjoy the early parts of the book, which feels like a text book, but overall the book is enjoyable, especially the Don Owen section for fans of the 1980s wrestling period.


“Professional Wrestling in the Pacific Northwest” by Steven Verrier (2017, McFarland ISBN: 978-1-4766-7002-7 eISBN: 978-1-4766-2967-4)

For more about Steven Verrier, go to


For more information about these books, and other titles from McFarland Publishing, go to their website at:, or call their order line at : 800-253-2187

Thank you to McFarland Publishing for the copies of both books.

Book Reviews: Double Dose of President Trump

Cover design by Jon Valk. Author photograph by Vincent Remini.

Let me preface this review by saying I know very little about the author Michael Savage, except he writes books and is a radio host that tends to be on the conservative side of politics. I have never listened to his show, nor have I read any of his other books. With that said, his book “Trumps War: His Battle for America” (Center Street, 2018) is an informative book that looks at his views on the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency and some of his obstacles that President Trump will be facing. I am focusing this review on the basis of the book as a literary piece, not having this a political writing (so those that do not agree with Savage’s views, this is not the point-I am looking at the book as a written work).

The book was originally released in 2017, but I am reviewing the trade paperback version, which includes a new Preface at the beginning, which Savage looks at President Trump’s first year in office. In this part of the book, Savage details how those in the Republican Party who are in name only (he calls RINOs), claim they want spending cuts , but yet feel free to add more spending bills that add to the deficit. He also states that he believes President Trump will have to cave in on his stance on the DACA Program in order to get the votes to build his proposed wall, which was a stable of candidate Trump’s campaign. Savage goes on to write that he was disappointed on President Trump’s stance on opening all offshore waters for drilling.

This book is different from a normal conservative personality writing a book , where they bash the opposite parties and praise everything the current president is doing. Savage does state his dislike for the policies of the Democrat party throughout the past several years, but he also criticizes the Republicans (especially Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan) and other moderates who just play the political game, which is one reason why President Trump got elected; the voters were tired of the typical Washington politicians.

Savage starts off each chapter with bullet points called “Savage Solutions,” where he details ideas that he believes needs to be handled, and how President Trump should handle the situations. Savage gives background on what he thinks the problems of each chapter started, why it is a problem, and how to solve it if he was advising President Trump.

Overall the book is an easy read, and Savage details his points. Again, he does not just let the conservative base off the hook when it comes to certain issues, which made this book an interesting read. I enjoy reading about politics at times, and this book overall was easy to read, without a ton of political jargon that tend to boggle many books in the genre. The overall bad thing about books like this (and having to review them) is that many readers have their minds set up on the political topics , or on certain authors who write these books, and therefore, no review could sway them either way to check out this book. I was pleasantly surprised by Savage’s take on views, and how he puts both major parties to blame for different problems facing the future of the United States. Yes, he was a loyal supporter of the Trump campaign, but he does point out mistakes made that he feels the administration has made. This was an enjoyable book to look at, and made me want to look at a few other books by this author.

“Trumps War: His Battle For America” (Center Street , 2018 trade paperback ISBN:978-1-4789-7670-7 ebook ISBN: 978-1-478-97668-4) is available at or bookstores everywhere.

For more about the author, go to: or on twitter at @ASavageNation .


Cover copyright 2018 Hatchette Book Group, INC

“Understanding Trump” by Newt Gingrich (Center Street, 2017) looks at the rise of Donald Trump’s political career that led him to become President of the United States.

Gingrich knows how things are run in Washington, being a former Speaker of the House and a presidential nominee in 2012. His insight on how things are run in politics add a knowledgeable insight to Trump’s political policies.

This book starts out explaining some of the tactics that Trump used during the campaign and how it was effectively used in winning the election, from his business background in use of branding (where he used his logo of “Make America Great Again” on his merchandise like hats, where other opponents just used their names), to his use of getting free publicity by using social media, where others spend millions of dollars in ads and media outlets. His background in business was also key in Trump’s attitudes , according to Gingrich, in knowing how to interact with people , getting things done on time and under budget, and working hard towards his goals. Trump’s use of holding rallies during (and after he won the presidency) was also an unique strategy that is mentioned in the book.

Gingrich also compares the differences between the two major parties as a whole, and how topics like the media handles each party. The book has some interesting comparisons that history readers may enjoy, when the author compares Trump and Abraham Lincoln, who both had similarities with the media attention when they both were elected.

At first glance, someone may think that this book is all Pro-Trump in the stance, but there are parts where Gingrich and Trump disagree on certain issues, including NAFTA, where Trump opposed, but Gingrich supported. Gingrich also has a section of the book where he makes his suggestions on how President Trump should approach his future and policies. Gingrich compares Trump to both former President Bill Clinton, who he says both would engage in the people that they were talking to (making that person feel like the only person in the room , and that their views mattered), to President Ronald Reagan as well.

The author uses his personal interactions with President Trump and his family from before and after Trump’s political career started. Gingrich’s interaction with Mr. Trump and his family puts a nice background of who President Trump is as a person. The book isn’t just a opinion of Trump, but the author uses quotes from President Trump’s “Art of the Deal” book, other news polls and columns, and uses part of an essay entitled “Intellectual Yet Idiot,” which is included in the back of the book to get the whole concept that is used in the book.

The sad thing about books like these is that if a person is not a supporter of President Trump or the Political Right, they will not give this book any thought and question any part of this review. However, there are some great information from history, from Bill Clinton, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan, that history readers would enjoy. There is also some of Mr. Trump’s speeches in the back of the book, including his Inaugural Speech.

This review is on the paperback version, which was recently released. The book was an interesting read, especially how Gingrich uses his past experiences in politics to give an insight to Washington, where some books written are by people who are guessing what goes on. President Trump fans will like this book, but there is still parts that others would find enjoyable if given the chance.



“Understanding Trump” by Newt Gingrich ( Center Street, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4789-2306-0 ebook: 978-1-4789-2307-7) is available at

For more about Newt Gingrich, go to: or on twitter at:

A special thanks to Center Street and Hatchette Books for the review copies of both books.


Music Review: The Oaks Takes Listeners on a New Revival

Art Direction, Photograph and Design: Brandon Wood


A few definitions for the word revival on are: 1. Restoration of life 2. A new production of an old play, and 3. An awakening. All of these word fit the latest release by the legendary Oak Ridge Boys, entitled “17th Avenue Revival” (Lightning Rod Records).

Coming off of their 2016 “Celebrate Christmas” CD (which a review can be found here in the archives), and their first Live CD in 2014 (“Boys Night Out”), the band here records a raw, non produced effort that is underrated with today’s music releases, which has massive overdubs and effects on the instruments and vocals. This recording, according to the press interviews some of the band members have put out in promoting this project, has a live feel to it, where the members just stand around the same microphone and sing just like they were in a church setting, not in separate rooms using different microphones.

The CD is produced by Dave Cobb, who worked with the group on 2009’s “The Boys Are Back.” Cobb takes a different approach on the normal Gospel feel to what the band is normally used to putting out in the genre, using songwriters such as Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, and the duo of Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark, who worked with the great Kacey Musgraves.

The opening song, the first single, called “Brand New Star,” has an R&B feel to the song, not a straight up Gospel tone, with William Lee Golden on the main vocals. The song then runs into a slow ballad with the soulful Duane Allen singing “There Will Be Light,” which is reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” in its mood and structure.

The Oaks each take turns sharing the lead vocals on the songs , with Richard Sterban singing “Walk in Jerusalem,” and Joe Bonsall singing lead on the songs “God’s Got It” and “Pray to Jesus.” The group shows their vocal harmonies on the choruses on most of the songs that show that the band still has the range that they have been known for.

The song “Pray to Jesus” has a humorous tone, as Bonsall sings the main vocals, which talks about how the character in the song use to complain about how their parents would talk about life and politics and now the narrator does the same at his older age. The narrator says how he goes to church and then heads off to the local mini mart to play the Powerball lottery. The song has a rockabilly rhythm to it, and with the humorous lyrics, makes it a unique choice to put on a Gospel CD, but it is one of the highlights of the collection. This song shows how the group’s willingness to stretch outside of the normal Gospel comfort zone from their past recordings.

The song “If I Die” (co-written by Vince Gill), is a slow ballad with Golden singing again, but the drums make this song, even though it is softly heard in the background. Maybe being a former drummer, this reviewer can recognize this, but Chris Powell’s playing on this song is different from the standard beat of gospel songs, using the normal beat with some soft fills in between to make the song quite full in the background for the ballad.

Just like the “Celebrate Christmas” CD, the group leaves one of the best songs for the very end. This time it is the song “Let It Shine On Me,” which has Allen starting off the song slow with just him and a Wurlitzer (played by Mike Webb), and then builds. Allen has proven in his last several CDs, along with singing live (the same goes with all the members), that he still can hit the notes at his age, where most artists half his age have lost their sound either live or on recordings (in the Country genre maybe Dwight Yoakam is the only other artist that can still hit their notes over the age of 50, and on the Rock side, Sammy Hagar, Barry Manilow, Huey Lewis, and Alice Cooper. Not a bad group to be in for the Oaks). Once this song kicks in, the electric guitar playing by Dave Cobb has a Reggae feel starting off and then, like a train starting to slowly build momentum, changes to a full out Southern Gospel feel. When hearing this song, the scene in the movie “The Blues Brothers” comes to mind, when they are in the church by James Brown- the song kicks into that kind of full on Gospel church party.

Overall the length of the songs, are short, with the longest song just over 4 minutes, and the shortest is around 2 minutes. The overall run time of the CD is 28 minutes. This is refreshingly short for a CD, and there is no unneeded fillings (song- wise or solo-wise) on here. One of the great things about this recording is that once the listener is getting the feel of the music, it’s already starting back to Track 1. The Oaks leave the listener wanting more with its short length, which is always a good thing in their case.

The title 17th Avenue Revival refers to the studio where the group recorded the release, which has a strong history of musicians. However, looking at the definitions of revival again, it’s clear that the Oaks show a new life in these Gospel songs that proves a new production of the something old, and definitively brings an awakening and respect for the musicianship, artistic approach, and just plain old listening fun to a CD that should not be mislabeled as just another Gospel Record.


17th Avenue Revival is available from Lightning Rod Records and is out now.

Track Listing: 1. Brand New Star 2. There Will Be Light 3. God’s Got It 4. I’d Rather Have Jesus 5. Walk In Jerusalem 6. Where He Leads Me I Will Follow 7. Pray To Jesus 8. If I Die 9. Let It Shine On Me

The Oak Ridge Boys are: Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.

For information about the Oak Ridge Boys, go to :

Book Review: A Hot History of Paperback Horrors

Cover art by Tom Hallman.

With the successes of the remade film “It” by Stephen King and the Netflix show “Stranger Things,” it seems like the horror/suspense genre may be making a comeback. King’s books are being carried around high schools and libraries just as much as they did when they had popularity in the 1980s. Grady Henrdix’s “Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction” ( Quirk Books, 2017) is an interesting journey through the history of the horror books that were found on the paperback racks.

The book starts off with a brief history of how books in the 1960s were called “Eerie Adventures” or “Stories of the Weird,” and then went on to be called Horror, thanks to the demand of the books after titles like “The Exorcist” and “Rosemanry’s Baby” in the 1970s, which made the genre “fit for adults.”

The book is put into sections based on topics such as the books dealing with Satan, murderous and strange children, haunted houses, and what is called “Inhumanoids” (werewolves, mummies and skeletons). The book also dives into the science horror themes, where ESP and aliens were the subjects of the books, to the return of Gothic and Romantic horror books.

The book covers rarer horror books that some may not be aware of, like when the blaxploitation craze created books like “The Black Exorcist,” by the company Holloway House, after films like “Shaft” became popular. One of the more humorous sections is when Hendrix takes the reader through books that had animals as the murderous evils. Many know about King’s “Cujo,” but there were evil cats, panthers, rabbits, bees,stoned Mexican bulls, along with killer crabs, whales, and plants that were being published.

Hendrix also covers the science horror genre that involved ESP, evil computers, skeleton doctors, the horoscope series, and other odd plot lines, like when scientists would take out small parts of people’s brains and see if the patients would notice that parts of the brain were missing.

“Paperbacks” covers the popular authors, such as Anne Rice, V.C. Andrews, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and R.L. Stine. A horror history of books would not be without Hannibal Lecter either. Hendrix also goes deeper into rarer themes and authors, including several books dealing with heavy metal music from the 1980s (in response to the PMRC Hearings), early teen horror, and role playing games (which the music and RPG books seem appealing that will be sought out).

The best part of this book is the glossy, full color photographs that details the covers of the books, along with pages designated to the history of some of the artists. Since there are so many books to cover, most of the books only get a small summary of the plot lines, which is great because then the readers can go out and try and find some of these so called “gems” to discover themselves. As mentioned before, the book is placed by genres, so there is quite a bit of jumping back and forth through the years throughout the chapters. The author adds humor to the book by stating a few of his opinions of some of the story lines, which is needed because it would be a strange trying to keep a straight, serious tone for historical purposes when discussing story lines such as Nazi Leprechauns, killer Smokey the Bears, or evil marionettes.

Overall the book has great information, although sometimes there are brief text that just name the titles of the books and moves on (once again, with so many books to cover, it’s allowed), the photographs and artwork is what makes this book the most appealing. The reader can spend several minutes on each page admiring the artwork and covers of the books and not even cover the text. Hendrix has a nice reference collection here in the book, which horror readers would love as a tool to help them add to their paperback book collection, all while not taking itself too seriously with the summaries.



Thank you to Quirk Books for the review copy of this title.



“Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction” by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-59474-981-0 e-ISBN: 978-1-59474-982-7) can be found, along with other Quirk Book titles at :


For more information about Grady Hendrix and his books, go to: