My Comic Book History and Two Titles You Should Consider

My introduction to the world of comic books started when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s. I started collecting comics as a reward when my grade school would have Read-A Thons, where you would pledge to read so many books at a certain time, and the solicited pledges would pay you so much money per book. At the end of the session, you could get prizes, including comic book subscriptions, along with another school project where the student would sell subscriptions of magazines at a discounted price. It was at this time I had subscriptions to Marvel’s Star Wars and GI Joe comics, and I remember my brother having the Conan The Barbarian series (Yes you could get comics sent to your mailbox).  I also would buy certain issues like The Transformers and DC Comic’s digest books, which had titles like “Batman The Brave and the Bold”, “Superboy”, and “The Legion of Superheroes”.

My DC Comic digest collection.

When I hit junior high school, another collecting habit started for me, along with a new love; Professional Wrestling.  Many of my school mates followed wrestling (it was a huge thing in the 1980s as opposed to the product now), and my local newsstand carried several of the famous Stanley Weston owned magazines, like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Sports Review Wrestling, and even the WWF had their own magazine (along with some other non remembered knock off brand mags). I started trading off my comic books for the wrestling magazines, which also helped me in writing my own wrestling fanzine at the time. The comics were worn out and had writing in them, so they weren’t worth anything, and at that age, we didn’t think of keeping them for future use. Even though I still have my magazines, the few comics I have left are also worn out and were water damaged due to a basement issue, but I still enjoy reading some favorites like DC’s “Shadow War of Hawkman”, and the few Avengers issues, one where they battled on Mount Olympus.

Being a wrestling fan is not that different from being into comic books. Both have outrageous characters and villains, and the good vs evil story is always present. In the 1980s, comic books were not considered “legitimate “reading from our teachers, and neither was wrestling magazines, with the exception of one teacher I had, who encouraged me to read my wrestling magazines. When I started teaching high school English, I encouraged my students to read comics, graphic novels, magazines, Magma etc. Now comics are considered the norm and popular from the successes of movies to TV Shows.  Many pro wrestling personalities are comic book people, from Jim Cornette and Jerry Lawler (who actually owned a Batmobile), to wrestlers like The Rock (GI Joe) and Batista (Guardians of the Galaxy) are used in the films. Former wrestler CM Punk and the late Ultimate Warrior also had their own comics or have written for comic companies.

I was brought into the comic world in the mid 1990s when my brother created his own comic, which was featured as AR Comics, and had a premier issue that took him to many comic conventions. His cover had a hologram cover, which you could move the book back and forth that made the characters jump out at you (A few years ago DC used this method- maybe my brother was too early for that to catch on). He also created a comic strip for the Kent State University daily paper, called “Hunt”, which featured my likeness as a weasel animal that wears a KISS shirt. The comic was popular among the students and was right on the same page as Peanuts and the other national comics.

Some of my favorite characters growing up in the comics was Batman, Superman, Thor, Dr. Doom (although I hated how he was used in the movies), The Joker, and Hawkman (once again, not a fan of how he was used in the few episodes I have seen on TV of “Legends of Tomorrow”).  I was a big fan of a short run series from Marvel called Team America, which had the heroes riding motorcycles. I was also a fan of The X-Men’s Beast, being a mutant that read books (which is ironic now since most people don’t read anymore, and are considered mutants if they do).

A few years ago, I started getting back into the comics, and became a fan of the DC’s New 52 series “The Birds of Prey”. I’m sure purists have their problems with the New 52 series, but I really liked the story and the artwork. Right when I started to get into the series (I started in issue #28), the series was shut down. I also would get some novelty issues from Kiss and Alice Cooper, but the storyline wasn’t that exciting to me. I then started collecting for a Christmas gift the reboot of Marvel’s Doctor Strange for a friend of mine who was a huge fan of the character (this was before the Marvel movie came out). I didn’t think the artwork was that great (it seemed he had no face).

It wasn’t until recently I went to a local comic store for the “Free Comic Book Day” and picked up a few comics, like Dr Who and Wonder Woman, that I started to like where some comics were heading.  There are two titles that I want to review that may peak your interest that I found very interesting.

  1. X-Men Blue (Marvel Comics). This series just started in 2017 (As of the writing it is on issue #6), so there is plenty of time to get hooked on this series. As I mentioned earlier, I was a fan of The Beast character, and when researching the character, I found out that in one storyline, he leaves the X-Men to be a professional wrestler.  This story involves the members in their younger selves in a separate timeline and the group teams up with their normal villain Magneto. The group is led by Jean Grey, and involves The Beast and some other pop up villains and characters in the X Men Universe.  According to the Issue #1 front page, the storyline states :

Fearing a war among the mutants was on the horizon, Hank McCoy, A.K.A. The X-Man known as Beast, pulled the Original X-Men, including a younger version of himself, forward through time. Now they are trapped here. Separated for a while, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast and Angel have been reunited and are determined to show the world that they are the heroes they were always meant to be.

The comic is a great storyline, written by Cullen Bunn, having the younger versions of X Men battle people and encounter things that they know from the future. The artists, Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni, have some great work-better than some of the other comics out there. The book keeps you turning page after page, and unlike some books out there, keeps the reader wanting the next issue.  Keep in mind that Beast is his younger self, not the furry blue creature seen in the movies, but that does not hinder the storyline. As mentioned before, the series is still new in the series, so finding them should not be a problem, and like many DC and Marvel Comics, a collection of the issues 1-6 should be out soon, if you want it in one collection.

If you are fans of other X-Men characters, there is also an X-Men Gold series that also is pretty new, with Colossus, Nightcrawler, Logan, Storm,  and Prestige, with Kitty Pryde as the leader.  I haven’t seen this collection or know what it’s about, but X-Men Blue is my pick for someone who likes the characters (of course there is the normal X-Men comics out there too), and would like to have an original story.

  1. Deadman : The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love (DC Comics). I think sometimes DC Comics gets a bad wrap on its characters.  Some people think of the characters like Batman from the 1966 TV Series (which I loved and wrote a blog here that you can find in the archives, with contributor comic creator Chris Yambar), or the Batman vs Superman movie (go see Wonder Woman movie and it will change your mind).  There are some really cool characters from DC, and Deadman was one for me.

I first discovered Deadman in the 1980s from the previous mentioned “The Brave and the Bold” Digest series, where he teams with Batman. The character has recently been used in the DVD Movie “Justice League Dark,” along with Swamp Thing and John Constantine.

Deadman, whose name is Boston Brand, was a trapez artist who was murdered during a performance by a person called “The Hook.”  His spirit is given power to possess any living being to search for the murderer. His debut was in 1967, so he is not a new character, but is not used that often (maybe the creators used the Dick Grayson family story to create a new character?)

Deadman

“Dark Mansion” is a 3-issue series where Deadman is trapped in a mansion, along with female Berenice, who has the skill of being able to communicate with the dead.  She has a complicated relationship with her boyfriend Nathan, who is a writer that hides in an office in the house while trying to write a book.  The spirit in the house, named Adelia, along with another dark spirit shows up at the house.  When the spirits show up, Nathan starts experiencing bad headaches.  It is up to Deadman and Berenice to unravel the spirit, the health of Nathan, and find out why Adelia is trapped in the house.

This comic has an old gothic feel to it, from writer Sarah Vaughn’s plot, to artist Lan Medina’s wonderful work. The artwork is so good that it looks almost like paintings, which also helps the gothic dark look of the series.  The glossy pages are just as wonderful that add to the comic. This book series has a Dark Shadows type feel to it, or a throwback to the early horror comic days. This is only three issues long, so the tale is wrapped up nicely without having the reader run back for a 20 issue arc before seeing how the mystery is unraveled.  This was a wonderful comic series that had me spending a lot of time just staring at the artwork and taking my time getting through the book. Seek this out if you are a horror/mystery fan.

These two titles made me see that there are some good comics out there, besides the normal titles of Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Avengers titles. If you have not considered comic books lately, or are not sure what comics to look at, maybe these titles can help you start. Also, go to your local comic store. I’m sure they would be happy to help you out-that’s how I found out these titles-by visiting a local comic store, in my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio, called WatchTower Heroes, and just talking to the owner. Unlike some other comic book stores in my area, the owner was pleasant and very helpful in my choices. It is at WatchTower that the owner recommended me to these choices, which lead to me writing this page (for more information go to http://www.WatchtowerHeroes.com, check out their facebook page, or @WatchtowerHeroesComics)

Comics books have grown with many unique story lines and characters, not just the good guys and bad guys (there are still those out there), but there are many books out there that there is something for you or for gifts. Search them out and you may find something of your liking.

 

Book Review: “Crazy” Is A Super Book!

“Anyone who knows me knows the best way to ensure I do something is to tell me I can’t.”

 

Those words definitely describes AJ Mendez Brooks, who takes the reader through her life in her book “Crazy Is My Superpower” (Crown Archetype Books, 2017). Her book covers not only her time in the wrestling ring, but also how she overcame adversities through a rough family life and her struggles with bipolar disorders.

Brooks writes about her early life as a child moving from several apartments after being evicted due to her parents failures to pay rent and the normal bills, to living with friends and family members houses or apartments (with her whole family living in one room). She describes her parents marrying and having children at a young age as one reason for her growing up fast without a normal childhood, moving to motels and dealing with her father’s drug and alcohol abuse, along with getting toys that were brought home from the dumpsters.

Brooks , however, does not make the reader feel sorry for her upbringing, but ads some great humor in the book, such as the time she was in grade school and writes about her early story-time experience at school. She writes that “The only story-time experience I have ever enjoyed was last year, when I swiped Stephen King’s Cujo off my 1st grade teacher’s desk and began reading it out loud during recess.”

Brooks writes in most of the book how she found out her mother was bipolar, but they refused to discuss it, nor get treatment for it. It was only later that Brooks found out that she herself was bipolar as well.

Brooks writes about how she overcame her pre-wrestling days by having good grades that landed her into a prestigious college, only to find out her mother spent the money that Brooks was saving for the admissions fee.  She talks about how her brother and sister ended up leaving the family after they graduated high school in order to get away from the lifestyle, leaving her to try and care for her family while chasing her dreams of school.

If the reader is looking for a normal wrestling biography, this is not the book. The majority of the book talks about her struggles with the disease, while at times, using humor or references to Pop Culture, such as comic book characters like The X Men, Harry Potter, and other 1990s TV Shows like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” However, there is several chapters on her stay at the WWE’s Developmental League in Florida (FCW), where she gets several offers to move up to the main roster, only to have it yanked away from her. She ends up staying in FCW so long that she becomes the girl for all the other female wrestlers to have their matches with before they moved up to the main roster.  She writes that she was so in love with her dream of being a wrestler that  “Day in and day out, every second not sleeping or eating” was focused on wrestling or watching wrestling tapes in Florida.

Once Brooks made it to the WWE, she was put in storylines with Kane, Daniel Bryan, and future husband CM Punk, and discussed how management thought she was not only too small, but not marketable, where she ended up being so popular she became one of the top selling wrestlers in the company for merchandise.  She writes briefly about when she and Punk started dating after being thrown together in a storyline, along with their friendship before they started dating, and finally their wedding where she writes, “And the rest of the story is just for us.”

Brooks discusses her friendship with former wrestler Kaitlyn (real name Celeste) and Brooks’ decision to retire after several injuries. She also tells stories of her love for animals, along with advice for women on various subjects via journal entries.

Normally the lack of wrestling stories would distract me from the book, but Brooks is such a great writer and combines humor into a serious topic that the book is wonderful.   The book deals with someone embracing the disease and conquering it as best she could, along with overcoming her background without making the reader feel sorry for her (although it’s a wonder how she made it through some of her childhood). This book is a great tale of overcoming obstacles and ending up on top of the world, no matter how big the dream may be. Even if you are not a wrestling fan and have no idea who AJ Mendez Brooks is, this is a book that keeps the reader turning each page without slow spots in the book.  Maybe Brooks will write more books in the future (maybe with more wrestling stories), because she has the talent to be just as successful a writer as she was a wrestler.

 

“Crazy Is My Superpower” is available now at any bookstore and online sites.

Book Review: Motorhead Book Deals A Winner

In his book “Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motorhead” (ECW Press, out May 2017), Martin Popoff takes the reader through an entertaining and informative journey through the early years of the Metal Band Motorhead.  The book focuses on the classic lineup of the band from 1977-1982, featuring members Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Taylor, and Eddie Clarke.

The book begins by examining the early days of how each member ended up in the band, including how Kilmister was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, along with his time in the band Hawkwind. His trouble at the border in Canada led to his dismissal in Hawkwind, and started his creation of Motorhead, which eventually led to hiring Clarke and Taylor.

There are many entertaining stories in the book, including Clarke’s audition for the band, which he had to pay for the audition space, and was told (several days later) he got the gig when Lemmy showed up at his door with a leather jacket and a bullet belt. Clarke says that Lemmy told him that he got the gig, “turned around and off he went.” Other stories involve Lemmy’s first show where he played only 20 minutes, the band becoming the loudest band in music, and the band’s jokes with media reporters, including walking out on a female journalist, and an interview session that involved a fire hose.

The “Classic” lineup: Clarke, Kilmister, and Taylor.

The book follows each of the band’s recordings, with a track by track commentary about the songs, along with interviews by the early band members and fellow musicians that were around the band at the time.  Popoff intertwines the interviews from magazines along with his own personal interviews to make the book feel like the reader is sitting right next to those speaking.

One of the most entertaining parts of the book is towards the end, where Popoff covers the breakup of the classic lineup.  He gets the perspectives of Clarke and Taylor during each step of the separation, including the relationship between Kilmister and Plasmatics lead singer Wendy O. Williams, which had a major impact on the breakup. The flow of the book during this part feels like a VH1 “Behind The Music” episode, with the author doing a great job of getting as many sides of the story as he could.

The book, at the beginning, dealt a little too much on discussing the argument if Motorhead was a Metal Band or just a Rock Band, but the rest of the book was an easy and wonderful read. There are some great stories told by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister about Lemmy helping Snider’s band gain respect right before Twisted Sister’s major breakout. There is also a small part covering Clarke and Taylor’s music careers after they left the band, including when Clarke formed the band Fastway, as well as the last lineup of Motorhead before the deaths of Taylor and Kilmister.

My limited knowledge of the band Motorhead was their song “Ace of Spades,” Lemmy’s recording the entrance music for WWE Wrestler HHH, and seeing the movie about Lemmy, but Popoff’s book was such an entertaining read, it makes someone who does not know much about the band become educated, along with wanting to dig into the band’s recordings.  The book is very detailed with the track listings going through the years, along with Popoff’s writing coming from a fan of the band, and not just writing a historical piece. A true fan of the band will enjoy this book as well as the casual one. Martin Popoff and ECW Press have a must-read book for metal fans in “Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers,” whether or not the reader is a Motorhead fan.

A special thanks to ECW Press for the Advanced Reading Copy of the book. For more information about ECW Press, go to www.ecwpress.com.

For information about Martin Popoff and his other books, visit www.martinpopoff.com

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Book Review: Bach’s Life on Skid Row is an Enjoyable Ride

bach-book-cover

 

One of the biggest bands in the late 1980s was Skid Row, who was known all over MTV for their songs “18 and Life,” “Youth Gone Wild,” and “I Remember You.”  Singer Sebastian Bach was one of the most recognized faces in the hard rock magazines and on MTV. His recently released book “18 and Life on Skid Row” takes the reader through the wild ride the band had during stardom, along with his career after the band on Broadway and TV.

The lengthy book (424 pages) starts with Bach describing his early years growing up in the Bahamas, California, and Canada. His early childhood was one of a child loving to sing in a church choir until he discovered the band KISS in 1978 at age ten, which made him want to be a rock singer. The book goes through the time his father took him to see KISS on the Dynasty Tour and meets Jon Bon Jovi years later at a wedding which helped him find his way to the guys that started Skid Row, which he states that “Whereas the focus on my previous bands was more about the look than the sound, Skid Row was first and foremost about the sound. The Songs.”

The book takes the reader through the wild tours with Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, and being on the Moscow Music Festival. Since Bach was known for his partying, the band got in trouble with several bands who were trying to become sober.

Bach also talks about his friendship with Guns n Roses Singer Axl Rose, along with some wild times he shared with Rose, his relationship with a famous 1980s actress, and his friendship with original Kiss Member Ace Frehley.

Like any band from the 1980s, Skid Row also dealt with some business issues, like having to pay Gary Moore money for the name Skid Row, Bach not getting songwriting credit for some of the biggest hits, and finding out that even though their second album “Slave to the Grind” was the #1 album its first week on the charts, the band was in a short fall.

“If we blew up too many bombs, drank too much booze backstage, all the fun stuff would be paid for after we paid the management and accountants. We would pay to play if we didn’t watch the budget.”

Bach also states his side of why the band broke ties with him, saying that “Nobody really understands why we broke up,” and when approached about a reunion, he writes, “ People ask all the time why we don’t have a reunion?..the real reason we are not together, in my mind,  is publishing royalties.”  The story about the band breaking up with Bach over being the opening act for the KISS Reunion Tour is also covered in the book through Bach’s perspective. His thoughts on Skid Row’s “Subhuman Race” album (a favorite among fans years later) and why during that tour he realized the music world was changing are in the book.

skid-row
Bach with Skid Row.

Bach also takes the reader through his solo career in music, his reality shows for VH1, his appearances on the “Gilmore Girls” show, and his time on Broadway in Jekyll and Hyde, Rocky Horror, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Overall the book is a great read for fans that like this era of music, however some things are just glossed over (but then again the book is long enough, some things had to be left out). One thing that is not covered in the book is how Bach feels about the lineup of Skid Row after he left the band, and there are only a few mentions of his former band mates Snake Sabo and Rachel Bolan after his time with the band was over. He also doesn’t give much in depth information about his solo touring, except mentioning a few of the albums (not much about the band members or road tales). There is not much bashing in the book, which is a relief to other books in the genre, and Bach even talks about how his partying affected his attitude looking back now. The inside cover of the book has a pull out mini poster of Bach, which to some may sound cheesy, but since he grew up in the era where albums were popular and  buyers wanted things like that in the album, it is well suited for the book.

I saw Bach in 1997 on his solo tour in Boardman Ohio, and enjoyed his work, along with the band Skid Row after his departure. This book was enjoyable and worth the money to read about one of the most underrated singers of the time.

“18 and Life on Skid Row” is available from Dey ST. , which is part of Harper Collins books.

 

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Book Review: Sterban’s Start with a Legend to Become One.

 

sterbans-book

Richard Sterban’s and Steven Robinson’s 2012 Book “From Elvis To Elvira” My Life On Stage” is an interesting read from someone who has been singing professionally for decades.  Sterban is of course known for his time as a member of The Oak Ridge Boys, but his stories early in the book about working with Elvis provides an insight about Elvis that readers may not know.

I got the autographed book at an August 2016 Oak Ridge Boys show to add to my collection (I have Joe Bonsall’s books “From My Perspective” and “On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys” on my Kindle), and read the book in less than 10 days. The book is just shy under 300 pages, and is full of text, which sometimes is not the case with self published or smaller book companies.

The book starts off with Sterban talking about his early childhood and his love for singing and Gospel Music. One story involves him walking home from a concert in the rain, trying to protect an album he purchased at the merchandise table hoping the cover was not ruined by the time he made it home.  He talks about his early influences and his start in the Gospel Music Business. It was his involvement with J.D. Sumner and The Stamps that helped him get the job as a backup group for Elvis (One interesting fact is Sterban states that The Oak Ridge Boys was one of the other bands at the time that was rumored to be up for the gig as well).

One of the more interesting chapters in the book is called “Suite Life,” where Sterban talks about his time with Elvis.  He discusses about Elvis’s hatred for singer Bobby Darin, and the time Darin showed up at the hotel Elvis was staying at, and Presley pulled a gun on Darin. Sterban tells a tale of Elvis throwing knives at the TV Speakers when Robert Goulet was on the television.  However, the book is not a trashing of Elvis and has some lighthearted stories, including the time Elvis pulled a practical joke on the members of the group via a fake death threat that resulted in a fake shoot out, and the time Elvis had a golf cart race that lead out of Graceland and onto the highway in early morning.  Sterban writes that Elvis loved practical jokes, but after his divorce with Priscilla, the all night sing along concerts after shows and the jokes that he was known for became less and less.

By the time Sterban joined The Oaks in 1972, he writes that Duane Allen and William Golden almost sold their publishing rights to the Gospel Songs and went to Johnny Cash to see if Cash would buy them. Instead of buying the only thing the group had left, Cash gave them a loan and allows the group open for them because Cash believed the group would be big. Sterban also details how the Christian Community gave the group backlash, and even walked out on shows when the group adding lights to their stage show, which seems unheard of now days with pyro and spinning drum sets are now added to many Christian Bands’ live shows. Even with the backlash, the group still stood by their faith, which Sterban mentions being a part of a Jimmy Buffett recording session that they almost walked on, but due to their contracted agreement, they recorded the record.

sterban-singing

One of the parts I enjoyed most about the book is Sterban’s take on William Golden leaving the band and the Oaks replacing him with guitarist Steve Sanders. He writes that when Golden left, “If we only talked our way through those situations, it would have likely, saved us a lot of heartaches, but we just didn’t do it. Instead we walled ourselves off from each other and allowed perceptions to take us over.”

He also states that “Looking back, more than anything else, we suffered misunderstandings caused by a lack of communication.”

This honesty is rare in books where bands have to deal with member changes and usually becomes a blame game against the member who leaves the band. The reader who has followed the band knows that in the end Golden comes back into the band  (and is still touring with him today), which from seeing their live show, one can tell how much respect the members each have for one another after so many years of touring.

The Steve Sanders part of the book intrigued me, because there is not much written about that time period and what happened internally. Sterban writes that “Steve was a talented singer-and a heck of a showman-but he fought the demons of depression and drink. They were equal partners in his troubles, his professional demise, and sadly, his premature death in 1998.”

Sterban also writes that “In the months leading up to Steve departing the group, we could sense the end was near. We knew he wasn’t happy-and we certainly weren’t happy.”

There is more on the Sanders era of the band in the book, not much, but it describes what happened when Sanders left the band, but in an honest way that is not bashing the person , and does not gloss over his contribution to the band which was still making hits after Golden’s departure.

The book is filled with stories of Sterban’s views on each member of The Oaks and their roles in the band, the political figures they have met and performed for throughout the years, his love for baseball, wine, cycling, and beaches. There is a story that involves the press confusing him being with a disco singer as well which is worth the read.

This book is overall a great read for anyone that likes music, whether it’s Country Music, Gospel, or early Rock and Roll. Even though Joe Bonsall seems to be the one member that puts out more books than the others, don’t bypass this one, because it was funny, entertaining and knowledgeable (Now will Duane Allen write one soon? We will have to see).

Oak-Ridge-Boys

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This book is available at: http://www.amazon.com, http://oakridgeboys.richardsandsouthern.com/  and at Oak Ridge Boys Concert Merchandise Tables.

 

 

Work Cited

Sterban, Richard and Steven Robinson. “From Elvis To Elvira: My Life On Stage.” Richards and Southern Books, 2012.

Book Review: Collins Proves He’s Not Dead in Lively Book.

“The word that is constantly used to describe me is workaholic…Simply, I’m asked to do things I can’t possibly turn down.”

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This quote by Phil Collins is how he describes his career in his book “Not Dead Yet,” from his start as the drummer for Genesis to his exploding solo career in the 1980s and 1990s. When a person has had a career like his, the book should be an exciting (and in Collins’s case) and exhausting ride.

The 366 page book covers his early years growing up as a child actor, where he had parts in movies with Dick Van Dyke, The Beatles, and even on stage (unfortunately those movie scenes ended up on the cutting room floor). He also talks about the early years of him drumming in various bands, where Jon Anderson of Yes once gave Collins his number to join Yes before his Genesis gig, which he describes Genesis’s first U.S. tour that the band was already in debt before they hit the shore.

The Genesis years is covered in detailed in the early parts of the book, where singer Peter Gabriel almost left the band in 1974 due to a film project, along with the band’s refusal to put their next album on hold, which Collins states, “ So’ Peter’s back because of a better offer didn’t work out.” When Gabriel finally left the band and auditions for singers was held, Collins sang the parts of the demos for the new album. Collins says about trying out to be the lead singer, “ So I say ‘How about I have a go?’ And the rest of the guys shrug and say ‘Might as well.’”  He states that band members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks “later tell me it’s like one of those cartoon light bulb moments” which the band decided that Collins would be the new singer.

There are many stories about his transition into the solo career, all of which Collins claims that it was because he had some songs demos and the other band members also were doing solo work. His songs “In The Air Tonight” and “Against All Odds” were started as early as 1979, according to the book, which in 1981 (when Phil signed his solo deal), the record company did not want to release “In The Air Tonight” and settled on “I Missed Again” as the first single for the U.S.

Once the hits came in the 1980s, Collins was everywhere, much to the hatred of some critics and fans, especially with his double billing at Live Aid, but Collins states in the book that his other friends in the business asked him to be a part of the show, like Sting and Robert Plant. When he agreed to join Plant, Collins talks about how it turned into a nightmarish event that ended up trying to be a Led Zeppelin reunion, which Collins showed up to the event just to play some songs with Plant, and turned into a monster.  Collins also says that Duran Duran was originally also to do both shows at Live Aid until they decided only to perform the U.S. part of the event.

collins-and-don-johnson
Collins with Miami Vice’s Don Johnson in one of many acting gigs Phil has had through the years.

Collins talks about his acting career after he broke as a solo artist, from the movies “Buster” and “Hook,” to his “Miami Vice” appearance.  There is a funny story about Dustin Hoffman on the set of “Hook” that created more cutting room time for Collins. He tells tales about several actors ( He and Johnny Depp in a bar) and rumored projects that included a Dr. Who TV special.

The book discusses his failed marriages, his relationship with his children, and his later drinking problems, which “my pancreas is on the verge of shutting down.” His hearing loss and pain of decades of drumming is also discussed.

drumming-phil

The book overall is a good read, with lots of honesty and comedy , such as when Collins made a deal as a child with his mother to go halves in paying for his first drum set, he states, “I will sell my brother’s toy train set..It’s doesn’t occur to me that I should have asked his permission.” There are great stories about his friendships with his Genesis band mates, the truth about how he felt when Gabriel left the band and his honesty with his career and failed family problems. For drummers, this is a great read, getting his point of view of both playing in a band and as a solo act, along with the medical problems he encounters, but the book is filled with great stories and is an enjoyable adventure. This is a great Rock and Roll book.

 

Collins, Phil. Not Dead Yet. Crown Archetype, 2016.

 

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My favorite Phil Collins video and song- “Do You Remember?” (1990)

Book Review: Showing Some Love for Good Vibrations.

mike-love-book

“For those who believe Brian walks on water, I will always be the antichrist.”

 

Those words by Mike Love of the Beach Boys have not rung more true to many fans of the band. In his book “Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy,” Love, along with James S. Hirsch, tells his side of the turbulent history of one of America’s greatest Rock and Roll Bands. Lawsuits, fighting, and tragedies have been the backbone of the band, and this 422 page book covers it all through the lead singer’s perspective.

Love starts the book with his early years of growing up, and the closeness of him and Brian Wilson, although their fathers were at odds. Love claims that Murry Wilson was always jealous over the fact that the Loves had more money than the Wilsons, which caused conflicts throughout the families (Mike and Brian are cousins).  The book walks through the start of the Beach Boys and how Murry became the manager of the band that started a dictatorship running the band, even charging the members a fine for cussing, showing late, or drinking. Love also discusses their early bad record deal with Capitol Records, where an album cost $3 at the time, and the artists received $.3 for each sale. Capitol got $1.80 for each album sold, plus deducted session time until it was paid off.

Even during the early years, the band had rotating members, although most people know the band as Love, Al Jardine, and the Wilson brothers (Carl, Brian, and Dennis). Al Jardine was never liked by Murry, according to Love (along with David Marks) because they were not family.

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Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnson, Brian Wilson, Love, and Al Jardine.

Love tells a story that when Brian played “Surfin U.S.A” to fellow artists Jan and Dean,  Jan recognized the melody as Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and wanted the song to record, saying that they were friends with Berry and could get permission to use the song. Wilson refused and gave Jan and Dean “Surf City,” which went to #1. Years later, Berry sued and won a lawsuit and got songwriting credits against Wilson.

Love states that he helped co-write several of the bands big hits and was never credited for the songs. Every time he asked Brian why he wasn’t credited, Brian claims that Murry “messed up” and would get it changed. Years went by, and it was never changed until Love sued (and won) Brian in court.

The book details the recording of the Beach Boys albums, including Brian’s strange methods, especially when he started doing drugs, along with some of the traveling stories throughout the years. Love talks about the rivalry with The Beatles, saying “The Beatles knew how to merchandise, not just with T-Shirts, stickers, and posters but with lampshades and lunch boxes and pinball machines. The Beach Boys? Uncle Murry made buttons that read ‘I know Brian’s Dad’” and “we lacked management.”

Love takes the reader through his various marriages, along with those from other band members, the media starting lies about his relationship with Brian, making him out to be the villain of the band. Love walks through the suing of Brian with the copyright issues, along with the slander lawsuit in Wilson’s autobiography, and the relationship of the band with Eugene Landy, who was brought in two times to help Brian Wilson’s health. He also talks about how his discovery of Transcendental Meditation influenced his life. He also walks the reader through the deaths of Dennis and Carl, and the relationship of the band and John Stamos.

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Brian Wilson, Love, Al Jardine, Carl and Dennis Wilson.

Love details how the contracts worked in the record company and how he ended up being able to own the name The Beach Boys, while there are different members in two different touring bands.

The book is an interesting read, especially for a fan of the band for years. Regardless of what personally people think of Mike Love (and whose side people are on between him and Brian Wilson), the reader has to give the author the benefit of the doubt, and Love’s book is honest. He states his opinions of what occurred through his eyes.

The topics dealing with the record companies and the contracts is a great section of the book, which any musician should read about how the business works. The parts about the most recent Beach Boys reunion tour for the 50th anniversary is also a great read, talking about how the tour ended up being a loss in the U.S. overall. He also talks about how getting together for the last Beach Boys album “That’s Why God Made The Radio” was not what Love thought he was getting into. I would’ve have like a little more insight on one of my favorite Beach Boys Albums , the 1985 “The Beach Boys,” but maybe there is not much to tell. It seemed to be just passed over, especially since it was the first album since the death of Dennis.

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The band during the 50th Anniversary Tour (Bruce Johnson, Al Jardine,Brian Wilson,Love, and David Marks).

The book overall is worth the read, especially since it is 400 pages long, which is rare for most books. Love has had a long career, which is why the book is so long. The book is not an “I wrote all these songs, and here’s why I hate Brian Wilson,” but talks about the one time closeness of Love and Brian, even during the lawsuits (At one point in the book he says, next to Brian, Carl Wilson was the most musical of the band).  Do not let whatever personal views of Love distract getting a chance to read the book. This book has quite a bit of business errors and cautions that artists may need to read.

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Love Mike and James S. Hirsch. “Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy.”

Blue Rider Press. 2016

 

Christie is Still The Queen.

agatha-christie-signing-book

She is the most well known mystery writers ever to write, along with one of the most popular writers in any genre. Agatha Christie’s  (Sept 15 1890-June 12 1976) books have been read everywhere from high schools to reading groups all over the world, along with her stories adapted into TV Movies for years, especially on PBS,  the BBC, and most recently on The Lifetime Channel.

I first discovered Christie’s writings in college during a Young Adults Literary Class, and within the past few years, I started reading her works again, from my local library and book sales (in fact both my mother and I are big fans of the books).  As with any writer, there are some good works and some bad ones in her collection, but even in the bad ones, the reader can find something to like in the novels.  Even if some of the stories have a weak plot line, her novels have great character interactions that every aspiring writer should study in my opinion.  So in honor of the week of her birthday, I thought I’d list my favorite books that she wrote (at least so far since I’m still diving into her collections). I will not be posting spoilers to these books, so you will not have to worry if something is revealed. The only revealing is my list:

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  1. At Bertram’s Hotel. This Miss Marple story was published in the U.S. in 1965. Marple is on vacation at the hotel, where she visited in her youth. Instead of a peaceful vacation of relaxing, there ends up a mystery. Clergyman Canon Pennyfather ( a great name in my opinion) heads to a conference but arrives a day late. When he returns to the hotel, he disturbs someone in his room. He wakes up 4 days later not remembering anything in a house hours away from London close to where a mall robbery occurs. Several witness claimed to have seen a person around the time of the robbery that is similar to the clergyman. It is up to Marple to determine who was behind the robbery and what happened during the time period Pennyfather cannot remember.

I liked this novel because of the great characters, especially the name of Pennyfather, which sounds very British, and how the book is more of a mystery and just a plain out murder.

partners

  1. Partners in Crime. This book was a short story collection, published in the U.S. in 1929, and features the characters Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. The couple is asked to take over the “International Detectives Agency” to interrupt spy messages. Even though the agency is a fake agency, the couple ends up getting involved in cases and they try to solve them in the way their favorite detectives would solve. They mimic famous detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, and even Hercule Poirot.

Not only are the stories easy to read, it shows how well of a short story writer Christie was, although most just known of her skills as a novelist. The characters remind me of two kids playing on an afternoon pretending to be spies and detectives. I also like how Christie uses her own characters, like Poirot, in the tales, which shows a sense of humor. Even though the name Tuppence is just strange to me, these are lesser known characters that deserve a read.

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4.The Mirror Crackd (From Side to Side).  This book is also just known as “The Mirror Crackd” in some publications, which was originally published in 1962 in the U.S. The title comes from a Tennyson writing, that is mentioned several times in the novel, which is similar to the references in “And Then There Were None,” and according to Wikipedia, this book is considered the sequel to “The Body in the Library.”

Miss Marple again is called to figure out the murder in this novel. Heather Badcock is murdered at a party after taking a poisoned cocktail, which later is found out to be intended for actress Marina Gregg.  Before the murder, Marina is seen with a frozen look on her face, either knowing or seeing something (or someone) that shocks her. What did she see or realize, and who is the murderer? Miss Marple must figure this out. While the police tries to figure out what is going on, there are 2 other murders that occur.

The story is rumored to be taken from real life film actress Gene Tierry’s life.  The book also, as mentioned earlier, has a reference to another literary work in the theme of the murders, which literary fans should like as well.

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  1. Three Act Tragedy. This book was published in 1934 in the U.S. and features Hercule Poirot, probably Christie’s most famous character. Also helping in this mystery is Mr. Satterthwaite, who was in previous books with Harley Quin (not the Batman character).

A dinner party thrown by a theater actor ends up with a murder of Reverend Babbington after drinking a cocktail where no poison was found afterwards. A few days later at another party where some of the same guests attend, another murder occurs with Dr. Strange (also not the comic book character) dying from nicotine poisoning. Once Babbington’s body was exhumed, it is found out that he too was murdered the same way. It is up to Poirot and Satterthwaite to find out what is going on and who is the murderer.

I liked this novel because of the tag team help from the main characters, as opposed to the normal theme of having just one person investigate. This novel has been produced on TV, and is also known as “Murder in Three Acts.”

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My copy of “A Murder is Announced” that I got at a book sale.
  1. A Murder is Announced. This was one of the first books I read after deciding to check into Christie’s other writings. Even though it is called a Miss Marple story, she has an overall minor appearance in the novel. Published in the U.S. in 1950, the novel centers around a newspaper ad that is placed stating a murder will occur in Little Baddocks, although the owner, Leticia Blacklock, knows nothing about this. Nevertheless, she prepares to have guests that night and when people are at the party, a masked man with a gun shows up, the lights go out, and shots are heard. When the lights are fixed, the gunman is dead, and Blacklock is bleeding from her ear from a grazed bullet. The gunman is recognized as a friend of Blacklock, named Bunny, who also lives at Paddock.

I like the theme of this story with the murder mystery party theme. Even though it may sound cliché now in the movies and books, the idea of a real murder happens at the party still works (although the book was published a long time ago). Christie’s writing and her characters make the tale enjoyable.

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  1. And Then There Were None. It is probably not surprising this is at the top of my list, because the book is one of the best- selling books of all time in any genre. There have been several movies made of the book, most recently shown in the U.S. as a Lifetime TV Mini Series in 2016, which I could not make it through when watching. The book was first published in the U.S. in 1939 after a name change, and besides “Murder on The Orient Express,” this is probably Christie’s most known book. As I wrote in a previous blog, “The Impact of Books” (https://lancewrites.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/the-impact-of-books/) , this is the book that I was first introduced to Agatha Christie.

The tale involves several people summoned to an island mansion, which each person had been involved in deaths of other people but never convicted. After a gramophone is played declaring the crimes, one by one the guests die. Who is behind the murders, and also more importantly, why did the person(s) do it? This book has you turning page after page in anticipation.

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My personal collection.

 

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My paperback collection.

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There is no doubt that Agatha Christie is one of the finest writers the literary world has seen. It is a shame that there are still many people who have not read her works or even know who she was, even though she is in the top 5 best-selling authors of all time (several sources have claimed her behind Shakespeare as #2, and some claim “And Then There Were None” is right behind the Bible in sales-it’s hard to find a definite account).  Maybe this list will help you search out a great author and dig deeper into her writings.

 

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Review: Nelson’s Stranglehold on the Book World

 

 

StrangleholdEvery day when I was in junior high and high school, , I would run home and turn on ESPN to watch the daily wrestling shows that they aired, either World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) from Texas or one of my favorites, the American Wrestling Association (AWA) out of Minneapolis area.  Every day the AWA was on, I’d see announcer Larry Nelson welcome me to an hour of wrestling that was different from Vince McMahon’s WWF at time. The AWA focused more on wrestling and less on comedic characters, which was exciting for me (I loved all wrestling, but I still love watching the AWA).

This is the second time I have read Larry Nelson’s book, titled “Stranglehold: An Intriguing Behind The Scenes Glimpse Into The Private World of Professional Wrestling.” The book’s copyright is from 1999 by Chump Change Publishing. I decided to re-read the book after several mentions of Nelson have appeared on one of my favorite wrestling podcasts. The book has some good and bad in it, which I am going to review.

Nelson  (real name Larry Shipley) got his start in the radio business where he started interviewing wrestlers from the AWA as a way to boost ratings.  His first interview was Bobby Heenan who came into the studio thinking that Nelson wanted to fight Heenan. After the shows started to get popular, the station got pressured by the WWF to start having their talent on the air, not just the AWA Stars, which Nelson was not a major fan of because it was the AWA that helped them get started.  Through his work with the wrestlers on the show, he was hired to do some voice work for the AWA and some interviews, which led to his hiring full time with the AWA after the radio station dropped the wrestling show, which was on AM Radio, due to the popularity of FM Radio.

Nelson writes throughout the book about his partying habits (scotch and cocaine), which escalated by hanging out with professional wrestlers. When he was working on the interviews, which took place in Winnipeg Canada, the wrestlers would try to keep themselves occupied when on the road as well. Nelson writes about Rick Martel and Curt Hennig amateur wrestling each other in the hotel rooms, Larry Zbyszko would hide in his room and play the game Battleship, Nick Bockwinkel stayed in his room, and the wild activities of Wally Karbo, Stan Lane, and Road Warrior Hawk.

Nelson talks about his relationship with another AWA Announcer Ken Resnick, who was not liked by the other AWA Wrestlers or staff , and how Resnick walked out of the company the day of their big event WrestleRock,  after finding out that he was going to share the announcing duties with Nelson. Since the card was to have a concert to help promote the event, Nelson was asked to help suggest some acts due to his radio background. He suggested the rock band The Fabulous Thunderbirds, who were starting to break after the song “Tuff Enuff” hit radio. Owner Verne Gagne decided on Waylon Jennings due to his affordable salary and the music executives at the meeting also thought that Jennings could bring several fans of different genres to come to the event.

A few other great stories in the book talks about how wrestler John Nord and Greg Gagne (Verne’s Son) almost got into a fight at a interview taping over payment, Curt Hennig and Playboy Buddy Rose’s luck at the casinos when the AWA moved the tapings to Vegas, and how Bruiser Brody threw a mop bucket filled with vomit onto the owner of The Showboat Casino, where the tapings were held. He also describes the time The Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)  danced by themselves at a club, when NWA Champion Ric Flair tried to pick up and out drink Kathy Gagne (Verne’s son), and when Stan Hansen and Brody decided to go overhead bowling.

In re-reading the book, I was curious to see what Nelson’s take on the decline of the AWA.  He blames the major sign that the league was falling apart in competing with the WWF was the loss of the ESPN TV deal. He also states that when a toy company made the AWA action figures, the fans didn’t buy them and were a flop. He claims that he was never paid when the AWA made home videos trying to keep up with the NWA and WWF. Not being paid for his services, turning all his work into one day instead of three and four days, and bad business deals with Verne Gagne and other businesses all played a role in the league failing. Because of some of these events, Nelson decided to move to Florida with no notice to the AWA, and was then replaced by Eric Bischoff.

Larry-Nelson
Larry Nelson

The bad parts of this book deals with its editing. I know Nelson’s book is printed by a minor company or even self published company; however the editing could have been better. Most of the photographs “unless noted” are from Nelson’s personal collection, including the cover. The photographs, though, look like they were copied on a Zerox machine. Many of them are blurry, including the cover which features Nelson and Brody.

Another problem I have with the book is some of the inaccuracies in the book and typos. Nelson talks about wrestlers John Nord as “John Ord” and Michael Hayes as “Hays.”  He also says that Nick Bockwinkel vs Stan Hansen at WrestleRock was to be the rematch between the two, that Hansen “won the title from Bockwinkel in Chicago before a huge crowd”  (Hansen beat Rick Martel in 1985 in East Rutherford, New Jersey and WrestleRock wasn’t until 1986).  Another error stated in the book is Nelson telling the reader that the famous Bockwinkel vs Curt Hennig match that went an 1 hour draw on ESPN was “live from The Cow Palace in San Francisco” (It was at The Showboat Casino in Vegas in 1986, which is now found on the Curt Hennig WWE DVD).

Another match error in the book is when Nelson states that during the AWA merger with the USWA and World Class Wrestling, AWA Champion Jerry Lawler and Kerry Von Erich each won a match and wrestled two times.  “Lawler won the championship in his home territory of Tennessee, then wrestled Von Erich later in Texas, where Von Erich won.”

Just my research alone, Jerry Lawler beat Hennig for the title. He then fought Von Erich in a series of unification matches before the bloody SuperClash match. Lawler fought him in 1988 in Tennessee (which I assume this is the match he’s talking about) in 1988. Kerry and Jerry both punched the first referee for a DQ finish. The match was restarted by a second referee and Kerry pinned Lawler with a piledriver, which was banned in Tennessee. So Lawler was declared the winner by DQ, which in World Class Wrestling, the champion could lose the belt during a DQ. Both wrestlers left with their respected belts regardless.  Then there was a “Texas Death Match” at the Cotton Bowl in Texas, which the AWA refused to recognize Kerry as the winner due to a bias referee. Kerry then fought Lawler in Texas again for a TV Taping, where announcer Terry Garvin got involved when he threw a chair into the ring. The big match was at SuperClash, which Lawler won due to the referee stopping the bout due to Kerry’s bleeding. The way the writer writes Nelson’s take, Von Erich won the AWA Title, which he did not. And this was more than wrestling only two times.

Yet another error in the book details the ending of the AWA. Nelson says:

“A few key people stayed until the bitter end. Greg Gagne remained because he and his father, Verne, were the owners. Larry Zbyszko, who had married Kathy Gagne, hung on out of family loyalty. Nick Bockwinkel, with twenty years invested in the AWA, was also loyal to the end.”

Yes, Gagne and Zbyszko stayed (Zbyszko was the last AWA Champion), but Nick Bockwinkel was working as a road agent for the WWF in the last years he was in the business- the AWA folded in 1991, and Bockwinkel was in the WWF from 1987-1989. He was out of wrestling in 1991 from my research.  Bockwinkel even wrestled in 1987 at a WWF Show-a legends battle royal in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. This may sound like a small detail, but it shows that even Bockwinkel was gone from the AWA before it closed.

 

One interesting quote in the book is when Nelson talks about WCW, where Eric Bischoff was running the league at the time of the writing. Nelson writes, “If Bischoff’s ego trip continues, it is likely Vince McMahon’s WWF will win the current wrestling war.”  WCW ended up being sold to McMahon in 2001.

Overall the book is a good read besides some of the errors in it. Nelson very briefly states a sentence or two throughout the book about his partying, but it does not distract from the book, say like Sunny’s book did, which I reviewed for Slam Sports Wrestling (you can find that link in the March 2016 Archives at the side of this site). At 152 pages, one could read it in one sitting if one wanted. I do wish there were more stories about Bockwinkel, Zbyszko, Sgt. Slaughter, and others, but it is still filled with good tales. I think the AWA gets a bad rap in the wrestling world and whatever few books I can get on it, I’m going to enjoy it, and I enjoyed most of Nelson’s book.

 

A Special Thanks to The Great Brian Last for providing me with some last second information.

(Larry Nelson’s book is available at Amazon.com)

 

(Nelson, Larry and Jones, James. Stranglehold: An Intriguing Behind The Scenes Glimpse Into The Private World Of Professional Wrestling. Denver: Chump Change Publishing, 1999. )

 

 

The Impact of Books

For those that have followed this page now know that I write about Entertainment. I write about movies, music, TV, and of course Pro Wrestling. I also love reading and have been reading ever since grade school. I went to Kent State University and got a B.A. in English. I thought I’d do a list of books that had an influence on me. The list is non wrestling and non music (I will probably write another time on those two topics). Also, I am not listing The Bible in my list, just because it’s a given that that’s made an impact on me. Now here is a list of some books that have made an impact on me and are my favorites, in no particular order.

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L. Frank Baum, the creator of “The Wizard of Oz.”

1. “The Wizard of Oz” Collection by L.Frank Baum. Not only is the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” one of my favorite movies of all time, but as a kid I read the entire Oz books. One of my earliest memories of reading was going to my local library in Columbiana, Ohio and checking out all of the Oz books and re-reading them over and over. Most people do not know that there are 14 books of the original cannon. These books are not just great storytelling, but they also featured things such as televisions, wireless phones, and computers years before they were considered (the first book was written in 1900). We all know Dorothy’s trip to Oz (as in the first book, where the movie takes its inspiration), but characters such as Jack Pumpkinhead and a boy named Tip are lesser known. (Also in the 6th book, “The Emerald City of Oz,” Dorothy, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry move and live in Oz, where the original movie ends with it all being a dream) Some of the characters appear in the dark sequel movie “Return to Oz,” but I encourage you to check out the books, especially with the Fantasy Genre in books (thanks to Harry Potter and other series) being popular again.

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2. “Little House on the Prairie” collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder. These series of books were published from 1932-1943. These were another set of books I would enjoy early in my youth while visiting the library. I remember they were big printed books and were my first encounter with books with a female as the narrator. These books described the early history of our country as well, with settler life. The television show would also bring the tales to life. There were 8 books in the series that described farming life and the book “The Long Winter” (the 6th book in the collection) uses one of the worst winters in history (the winter of 1880-1881) as its premise.

 

 

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One of the best books I’ve read in a while- 13 Reasons Why.

3. “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. This book was released in 2007 and was a #1 Best Seller about a girl Hannah Baker who commits suicide. A few days after, the main character Clay (who had a crush on her) receives cassette tapes and a map that describes how 12 people played a role in her death. Once the person finished the tapes, they were to pass it on to the next name in the order they are mentioned. I can’t remember how I came across the book, but I could not put it down. I had to know how Clay was related to her death. This book is not just suspenseful, but for a Young Adult book it was well written and had a moral. The book has been used for anti bullying in schools, and will be Netflix series produced by Selena Gomez’s company (she is not starring in it, although originally there was talk of her doing it as a big screen film). This is one fairly recent book that I absolutely loved. Asher has another book that I like, called “The Future of Us,” and has a new one coming out this year, but I really liked this one the best of his work so far.

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4. “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. I bought this book at my local library book sale last year, and knew of the book, but never read it until late last year after seeing the movie “God’s Not Dead.” The book is used by the main character to prove to his professor the existence of God. I could relate to the movie (I took a class at Kent where the professor failed students if they believed in God), and when I realized I still had the book, I dug into it. The 1998 book is about a newspaper journalist from Chicago (an Atheist) who decides to investigate and interview several scholars about their belief in the existence of Jesus, and if he was truly who he claimed he was. The book is written as if the reader is sitting in a room listening to two people logically debate the topics. The book is deep with thoughts and information that makes the reader think about what they believe. The book also informed me on interviewing skills, since the author was a journalist. This is a book that every Christian should read.

 

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5. “Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie. The book was also called “Ten Little Indians.” The U.S. Version of the book was released in 1939 after having to change the title from a previous title. I first read the book at Kent State, and I remember liking it , but forgot about it until last year when I decided to read Agatha’s books as a goal. The book got me hooked on reading more of her works, in which she has become one of my favorite authors. The plot involves 8 people in England accused of a murder but they all escaped justice. When they arrive at a house, a record accuses them of the crimes, and they have been brought to the house on an island to pay for their crimes. One by one they start to get murdered. Christie is not only the top selling mystery writer in history, but according to Wikipedia, the book is the #5 best-selling books ever (The #1 is the Bible, so think about that). This is my favorite book of Christie and keeps the reader engaged all the way through with no dull parts to it. This is the book that I would recommend to introduce the reader to her work. There has been several television films and movies made of this work, including a recent BBC production.

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My favorite book, and still waiting for a decent movie version of this. Better yet Hollywood, stop making versions of it!!

6. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is my favorite book of all time. No matter how many times I read it, I get something new out of it. This 1925 novel is considered The Greatest American Novel by many, and I agree. I read this book every semester in college (and stupid me kept selling it back to the college bookstore. I finally received a copy years after I graduated for Christmas). I taught the book when I was an English Teacher at a Christian school during my two-year tenure. The themes about a lost love, The American Dream, and what it is to people, and the idea of changing a person’s past are universal. Another reason I love the book is that it is a short book at 180 pages. This, to me, is the book every writer wants to write, with characters that the reader remembers, does not have dull fillers to make the novel longer, and is relatable years after it was released. My girlfriend even got me a T-shirt of the cover of the book because I love the book so much. I have yet to see a movie version that captures the soul of the story. As much as I like Robert Redford, his version did not really do it for me, although most of it was the supporting cast, and the 2013 Leonardo DeCaprio version was awful in my opinion. I try to read this book once a year.

Great books not only keep you engaged while reading, but just like a great song, it transport you to where you were and the times you were living when you were reading the book. This is why I think reading is lost on today’s generation of social media-they do not have the patience or the attention to sit down and be taken away to another time and place. Hopefully this list may encourage you to discover, or rediscover these books. I’d be happy to hear what books have influenced you as well. Until then, happy reading!!!