Shattered Peace Review

The quiet community of Russell Island has suddenly captured the attention of the entire world. On this small island in Chesapeake Bay, Kiril Varga, Deputy Prime Minister of Balkania, has been found dead. After examining the body, the island's one man police department, detective Starrett Knight, discovers that the victim was executed mobster-style -- with a bullet to the back of his head; a discovery that will not only interrupt the Balkanian peace talks occurring in neighboring Oxford, Maryland, but one that will also disrupt the peace of the residents living in the region. In Joseph Keough's murder mystery Shattered Peace Russell Island becomes a point of convergence: as the press, New York City police detectives, and FBI agents all descend upon the previously tranquil hamlet to solve this international case.

Russell Island is a place of retreat for Starrett Knight. Following the death of his wife and child, the detective escaped to this idyllic island to recover from his personal loss. After several years on the island, he managed to slowly recoup from the death of his loved ones; gaining strength from close friends and the serene landscape and living conditions he found in the new location. However, in the opening pages of the novel we see that Starrett (nicknamed "Star") is still in a real sense stuck -- bound by grief and unable to move on with his life. Ironically, it takes the tragic death of a stranger to free his mind from morbid rumination upon his own tragic circumstances.

Early in the investigation a piece of information surfaces that makes this particular case very personal for Star: his friend, Ellen Mannery, an artist, resident of Russell Island, and wife of his best friend Steve Mannery, is suspected of being involved in the killing of the deceased diplomat. Several years before the murder, while she and her husband were separated, she had an affair with Kiril Varga. And although she and Varga were no longer seeing each other, the fact that his body was found on the remote island implicates her in the crime. Consequently, Star, convinced of Ellen's innocence, approaches the investigation in attack mode, vigorously working to prove that she is being framed for the murder; while desperately seeking to uncover evidence pointing to the real perpetrators of the crime.

Although ostensibly a story about solving a murder, the real plot of Shattered Peace revolves around the dynamic and grief-stricken protagonist, Star Knight. The pressing necessity of proving Ellen's innocence reinvigorates a mind that has perhaps grown slightly dull, or at best bored, due to the complete lack of crime on Russell Island. With his investigative skills resurging with a vengeance -- as Star uncovers hidden clues and makes connections that impress (and at times astonish) New York's finest and the FBI agents assigned to the case -- he also discovers that he still possesses other life instincts that had been lying dormant in his body and being since the death of his wife.

The romantic relationship that develops between Star and Stephanie Dolan, the smart and stunning Maryland newscaster covering the case, enlivens Knight's erotic impulses; and amplifies the entertainment value of the story underway. In addition, the emerging friendship between Star and the like-minded New York City detective, Frank Petracci, provides the narrative with another engaging element. The witty banter between the detectives, the titillating romance between Star and Stephanie, and the incredible way in which Star and the investigative team piece together the clues of the case, make Shattered Peace an intellectually stimulating and emotionally thrilling book. In particular, witnessing the beleaguered Star rise from his shell of suffering proves extremely edifying and cathartic.

Reading the surprising conclusion of the story, one is left craving a sequel. It is a work that is suitable for mature readers; and one that would make an excellent motion picture.

Why We Love Gatsby

The popularity of (and critical admiration for) F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby has grown, shrunk, and grown again since its publication in 1925. It was modestly successful at first, then nearly forgotten, then eventually recognized by scholars as one of the great novels of the English language. The book's revival and survival at the top of American literature is certainly due to Fitzgerald's skill with words, but it's also a result of his creation of a character who is particularly compelling to Americans. The book also has a theme we instinctively understand.

As the book opens Jay Gatsby is in the process of self-reinvention. He has made a great deal of money in a criminal trade, a business never actually identified but presumed to be bootlegging. He downplays his criminal past and plays up his great wealth to win back Daisy Buchanan, a girl who had rejected him years earlier because of his poverty.

Gatsby embodies much of what we Americans admire. He has succeeded in his business, made himself extremely wealthy, yearns for a rise in social status, and hasn't forgotten an early love. He ticks all the boxes. So, even though he's a criminal who's using his ill-gotten money to steal another man's wife, we tend to like him and are saddened by his death. Victimless crime is not something we particularly hold against him. Gatsby is not just self-made, but also self-remade, and we admire him for that.

American history is filled with men (and they are usually men) who can be called "Gatsby-like" or "Gatsbyesque." They've made money in some unsavory business and they want to hide that fact in order to be accepted by respectable society. Sometimes they've gone straight, while sometimes-like Gatsby-they haven't entirely left the old life behind. But they've learned to compartmentalize and want to be acknowledged as something they're not. The Gilded Age-the decades before and just after the turn of the last century-was filled with self-made businessmen who hoped people would forget their ruthless business practices and remember their charitable work and their lavish lifestyles. Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt-the Robber Barons became the American aristocracy.

Scott Fitzgerald was probably thinking of all of them as he incubated Gatsby and its title character in 1923 and 1924. The Robber Barons weren't necessarily criminal but they were willing to stretch the bounds of ethics to make their millions, but they each hoped that their sumptuous homes and their generous gifts to worthy causes would mask the origins of their money. But Fitzgerald also had in mind a character whose scale was somewhere below baronial level, a man who could not just downplay but completely obscure the origin of his money.

When I was researching my book The Best There Ever Was: Dan Patch and the Dawn of the American Century I quickly realized that the great pacer's second owner, Manley E. Sturges, could easily be described as "Gatsbyesque." He obscured his early origins and the source of his money (illegal gambling casinos) so well that even his ownership of a celebrated racehorse resulted in entirely inaccurate biographical information about him. As I discovered more about his background, I concluded that he was not only "Gatsbyesque" but may have been a model for Fitzgerald's character. See my earlier article "The Connection Between the Real Gatsby and Dan Patch" for more information, check the book's website or read the book for the details.

Used Book Sales - It's Getting Harder to Find the Newest Books of Your Favorite Novelists

The digital age of eBooks is progressing and evolving quite dramatically. I am not sure if you have been following all this but there have been DOJ cases and monopoly investigations and lawsuits over companies, plus search engines scanning old books. So far, there have been nearly 100 million eBook reader type personal tech devices sold now. Hey, as an author of eBooks, I'm all in, as in; "Bring it On!" I say.

The other day, I had an old friend come by my place, and he said; "wow, you have a lot of books," and then he said "soon this place will look like a museum," because no one is going to have actual books in the future, only eBooks you see.

Indeed, that's funny, but it's also very true isn't it? But guess what, the used bookstores are starting to dwindle, and they don't have as many newer books as they used to, and I have a theory as to why. You see, many novelists, my favorite ones included still come out with several new novels per year, but most of these books are sold electronically, not as hardback or paperback books in the big box bookstores. So, if fewer actual books are sold each consecutive quarter moving forward, there will be fewer used books available, and the gap could be over 50%, as in many cases 50% of these books are now sold directly via the Internet to eBook readers.

Now then, let's say that you have all the books by a certain author. Perhaps you collect romance novels, spy novels, true crime, detective, science fiction, horror, or historical fiction and you have certain authors where you have every single book that they have written. You have them prominently displayed on your library at home. You make sure to buy books that are damaged from the used bookstore, so that they look good on the bookshelf, and it is a sense of pride and a great conversational piece with your friends that come over to your home.

Can you see how this might be much more difficult in the future, and this is something very common amongst well-read fans of the top authors. In the future, this may not be possible unless you are willing to pay full price at the bookstore, but that can run you thousands of dollars a year, considering many of these books from the top novelists are quite expensive if you buy them new in the store.

This will limit the number of books you can read, or feel that you can or should afford. Eventually, you may be forced to get an eBook reader, and get all your books electronically as is the popular trend right now, and I expect that it will continue. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.