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 http://www.centerstreet.com and at http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.

 

For other information on Skip Prichard, go to http://www.skipprichard.com

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 http://www.centerstreet.com.

 

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

Advertisements

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 http://www.mcfarlandpub.com 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 http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com .

For information on the author, go to: http://www.kerrimaniscalco.com.

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 : http://www.dacapopress.com .

For more about Scott Ian, go to: http://www.scott-ian.com

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 http://www.ecwpress.com.

 

For information about the author, go to his blog page at :                        http://radiofreecanuckistan.blogspot.com/

 

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 http://www.stevenverrier.com

 

For more information about these books, and other titles from McFarland Publishing, go to their website at: http://www.mcfarlandpub.com, 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 http://www.centerstreet.com or bookstores everywhere.

For more about the author, go to: http://www.michaelsavage.com 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 http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.

For more about Newt Gingrich, go to: https://www.facebook.com/newtgingrich or on twitter at: https://twitter.com/newtgingrich

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

 

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 : http://www.quirkbooks.com

 

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

http://www.gradyhendrix.com

 

Book Review: Universal Horrors a Great Text for Horror 101

Cover image: Gloria Stuart and Boris Karloff in “The Old Dark House,” 1932

Just like seeing Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster on screen for the first time, Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas’s “Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946 Second Edition” (McFarland, 2007) is a breath-taking moment just looking at the cover before the reader even opens to the first page.

This 616 page text looks like a college textbook that one would read in film class at a college university, but the writing and stories in the book is more than filled with basic facts about the cast and directors, and engages the reader to where they can’t put the book down.

The book covers the great history of the Universal Film’s horror history, where the run times were a little over an hour, no CG on the monsters (just great costumes and elaborate makeup), and all the little problems that occurred during the filming of the shoots. This was the Golden Age of the horror films, where production shooting lasted a few months and were double -billed at the theaters, where stars like Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. , and more were the marketable heroes of the day. The book covers the Carl Laemmle early days to the “New Universal” history of the company.

 

The book starts in chronological order throughout the book (after a brief historical introduction), starting with Lugosi’s “Dracula,” and continues through 1946’s “The Brute Man” with Rondo Hatton. There is a section at the end of the book covering the serials that were made (such as the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon), along with a small section of “Odds and Ends” which covers some of the films that did not constitute (or was wrongly billed as) “Horror Films.”

The book details some of the build ups to how the films were written, produced , and brought to the audiences, with stories of last minute changes in cast or props, management shake-ups at the company, and includes interviews via magazines, and by the authors themselves, with some actors and staff that were there during the filming. There is not just the well known Universal Monster films, such as “Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Wolf Man,” and “The Creature From The Black Lagoon,” but also rarer films that are not as well known, such as “The Invisible Ray” and ” The Strange Case of Dr. RX.”

The films covered are not just monster films, but covers the company’s journey into the mystery, thriller, and science fiction genres. The authors write detailed information, along with putting their own opinions of the films , to make the book a great movie companion that can be used as a reference for a lover of this topic. At the end of each movie, the authors provide reviews of the films by the Hollywood reviewers that were put out at the time, which shows even more of the astonishing research that the book must have taken to create.

The personal opinions of the authors may not be agreed upon here (Some of the favorites discovered here in the past few years such as Karloff’s “The Climax,” “The Tower of London,” and even Lugosi’s “Dracula” are not shared as positive by the writers), the views still provide background information and proof why they did not like certain films so it does not come off as offensive to the reader.

Each page of the book is double columned to provide an easier read , along with being allowed to combine all the information for each movie. The chapters are based on the years the films were released, and are separated nicely for a quick look up to find information of just a certain film. There are wonderful photographs throughout the page (usually several on each page) filled with cast photos, behind the scene shots, and promotional footage that were released

Being a fan more of the Universal era films when it comes to horror, as opposed to the Hammer Films, this book was a wonderful journey to read every page, from page 1 to 616. Not only was the book informative and entertaining, but this reviewer made a list of films to try and seek out to watch from the book. Every movie lover of this classic era should have this book, as a reference guide, along with studying more about the history of a bygone era of Hollywood. This is one book that will stay in this reviewer’s book collection and will be used over and over again.

 

Thank You to McFarland for the Review Copy of the book!!

 

“Universal Horrors :The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946 Second Edition” (McFarland, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-4766-7295-3 eISBN: 978-0-7864-9150-6) is available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or can be ordered at (800) 253-2187.

 

Book Review: A Dog’s Tale: “Mad Dog” Looks at a Legend’s Life

Book cover design by Tania Craan and cover image by Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

Fans of classic professional wrestling will enjoy “Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story (ECW Press, 2017) by Bertrand Hebert, Pat Laprade, and translated by George Tombs. The book journeys through the life of one of the toughest, yet unmentioned wrestlers from Canada.

The book was originally released in 2015 in French, but is now translated and available in English. Vachon was an interesting character, which this book covers. Vachon started wrestling at the local YMCA, and made it to the Olympics in 1948 before starting a career in professional wrestling. Vachon started out as a babyface (good guy), but got his big break when he became a heel (bad guy) years later.

The book follows Vachon’s territory days of wrestling, working for several different promoters for little pay, until moving on to other territories in Canada and the United States. His career later took him to Japan as well, making stops in the NWA, AWA, WWWF and the WWF territories throughout the book. He stopped along the way in Oregon, Calgary, and Quebec.

The book takes the reader through some great events in Vachon’s life, from teaming with his brother, Paul, to being in tag teams with Verne Gagne, Hulk Hogan, Baron Von Raschke , and his solo career, where he won the AWA World and Tag Team Titles.

Even though Vachon was called “The Mad Dog” in the ring, the book describes how Vachon was willing to help out many of the wrestlers get a break in the business (such as a young Roddy Piper), along with helping other wrestlers create gimmicks to help the wrestlers get over to the public. While many wrestling fans recall the viciousness in the ring that the “Mad Dog” portrayed in front of the crowds, the book shows a man that helped many along with way, along with guiding many more people.

The book covers his famous years in the AWA in the 1960s and 1970s, along with his stays in the WWF in the 1980s. There is the story about the famous incident on a plane that AWA owner Verne Gagne would take several wrestlers to events. Vachon , while the plane was in the air, decided to open the side door of the plane, which became one of the most told stories about wrestling on the road in history.

There are some fans that remember Vachon from his time in Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (WWF) during the early days of the Rock and Wrestling Connection, or his time in the AWA, but the book informs the readers about when Vachon was featured on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” getting mainstream press before Hulk Hogan or Andre The Giant received that kind of attention in the 1980s.

The book also shows the heart-filled downsides that Vachon suffered during his lifetime, from failed marriages to several car accidents, including the shocking story of when he was injured by a car while walking near his home, which resulted in having his leg being amputated. This ordeal is covered with detail, including the aftermath that included lawsuits being brought out.

There are great quotes in the book by wrestlers like Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, Nick Bockwinkel, and family members. The book not only is a biography of a wrestler and wrestling stories, but a behind the scenes glimpse of the man not seen by the general public when the camera was off.

ECW Press is known for putting out some great wrestling books, and “Mad Dog” is one of the enjoyable ones. This book is a biography of a wrestler, yet is also filled with some great history of Canadian professional wrestling as well. The authors have not only shown great research in the book, but present it in a way that flows nicely throughout the book without bogging down the reader with a bunch of dates. The 272 page text has the right amount of information without having slow parts in the reading.

Fans of the classic eras of wrestling (1960s-1980s) will enjoy this work, along with those that want to study more about Canadian Wrestling. The book was entertaining, knowledgeable, and heart-filled all combined in one setting. ECW has another winnner on its hands with “Mad Dog.”

 

“Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story” by Bertrand Hebert, Pat Laprade, and translated by George Tombs (2017 ISBN: 9781770413320) can be ordered at http://www.ecwpress.com along with their other titles.

 

A special thanks to ECW Press for the review copy of the book.