Strike Up The Band.

They began to assemble on Friday morning, coming in from across the world. Some had been there before, all were well paid, all believed the man in charge was completely insane.

Chefs flew in from Manhattan, Paris, Saigon, Seoul, and Rio. There were four barbecue gurus from Alabama. Two entire families and their taco trucks showed up as well to make tamales, enchiladas, sopapilla, and churos. There were three men from northern Minnesota with hundreds of fresh fish and enough oil fryers and batter to feed a couple of platoons. Two small craft breweries and one boutique distillery worked six months each year to produce the liquid refreshment.

The musicians were equally eclectic. There was a Dixie Land band, one big-band orchestra, three different rock groups ranging from bobby-sox pop to thrash-metal, and two of the best cover bands money could buy, all of them session musicians from Nashville, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other points of the compass.

A tobacconist from Key West had arrived late that afternoon with a large assortment of fine cigars and exotic cigarettes. All were kept in a specially built foodtruck/humidor that Carson had personally designed.

Riverbend Tents had been there since dawn, setting up the stages and food tents, and by noon forty mobile trailers fitted out as bunk houses and shower facilities would be on site to provide air-conditioned luxury to the employees. The three giant diesel generators at the edge of the lot were muffled beyond any others in the industry, and barely audible across the property. That’s where the four water tankers were parked under their own air-conditioned tents.

Carson McNally wandered among them all, visible with his cowboy hat and recognized by the horrendous injuries to his face and left arm. He was not only the most successful trader in agricultural products that Kansas had ever produced, but he owned the six hundred acres where the event was staged, just outside of a small town in west central Kansas.

The rules were simple: come on time, keep your mouth shut, turn out the best of whatever it is you did, and don’t ask any questions. This, of course, led to speculation about his motives the second year of the event. That year they only had one cowboy band, a keg of beer, and a side of beef that cooked all day over a wood fire. At the end of the day, everyone was handsomely paid, and they left all of the food and beer with Carson. Not a bit of it had been touched.

Each year the event grew larger, Carson grew older, and the rumors regarding his sanity spread a bit farther down the road. Three years previously his grandson, a worthless little piss ant who loved his inheritance more than he valued his grandfather’s love, had sought a court injunction over the “wasted funds and obvious signs of dementia.” Not only didn’t that prevent the event, but the subsequent disowning in the will moved his miserable backside outside the penumbra of light Carson provided to the region. No close call on the sanity hearing either, the judge dismissed that as well. He’d better have, he’d been Carson’s poker buddy since 1974.

At 0500 on Memorial Day, Carson gave the high sign to the Dixie ensemble, and they broke out in the finest rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic that any of the assembled had ever heard. For the next half-hour they played a variety of martial music as the cooks turned out enough breakfast to feed several dozen men. Carson ambled around the field, stopping occasionally to stare up into the morning sky. The motion of his head indicated that he was following some slow object as it descended to earth and alighted near him. None of the hired-hands saw what it was, and assumed the old man was hallucinating. But the checks were already deposited, and if that’s what he wanted, that’s what he got.

Standing in the middle of the field, Carson spoke to the man who stepped out of the balloon basket as he would to an old friend.

“Hiram, it’s a joy to see you again this year. Any others coming besides your crew?”

“No, Suh. No others to speak of. After all, President Lincoln only had a small air force as you would call it. My men were the onliest ones to die in service. God blessed my brethren and kept them safe.”

“In any event, Hiram, I’m glad to see you gentlemen. Please avail yourself of food and drink at the tents. Rest a while.”

Hiram grinned through the snaggled teeth common in his day, “I rest round the year, Mr. McNally. I believe today I’ll have some fun. Only day we get to enjoy such doings. You are a generous host and we are at your service.”

Carson watched the men move across the abandoned bomber training field and move to the tents. You could no longer see where the runways were, even from the satellites. But as he looked out over the distant tree line, he knew the boundaries.

So did the triplane that sputtered toward him and bounced down the field. Carson stepped aside as the pilot dragged the tail in a wild arc and cut the engine.

“Is this the McNally party?”

Carson walked up to the old war bird and marveled at the fabric skin and pintle-mounted machine gun on the tail. He hadn’t seen one of these before. Today was shaping up to be special.

“Yes it is. I’m Carson, your host. And you, Sir?”

“Captain Jon Dumont, American Army. I didn’t believe it when they told me about this soiree, but here it is. I’ll be whipped. Is it true that you’re the only one that can see me?”

Carson gestured toward the balloon next to the airplane. “The other pilots and crew can see you, and you them. The food and drink is real. My employees will not be able to see you, or respond to you, but it will all sustain you and taste good. Please help yourself to whatever you’d like.”

“Mr. McNally, Colonel Agnostos told me all about this, and he’ll be along shortly. Thank you for not forgetting us on Decoration Day.”

Carson gripped the man’s hand and gazed at the sky.

“Captain, it’s my honor to do this. I should be in the quarters with you at your place. But the medics kept me alive after my helicopter crashed, and the nurses in Da Nang brought me back after the doctors had written me off. I’m a blessed man.”

“What of your crew?”

“They’ll be along, I expect. They’ve been here every year but one. I can’t wait.”

Captain Dumont saluted and wheeled toward the tents. Beer, even after 99 years without one, was no doubt still a great thing to a man who had just landed again for the first time in almost a century of solo flight.

Carson picked up a lawn chair he’d set between the old runways and unfolded it. Sitting in the sun he watched the first wave of single-engine fighters land and parade to the taxi area. Each pilot and observer waved as they headed off toward the barbecue and beer. Some made a bee-line toward the 5 Star restaurant he’d set up to serve French Cuisine. The sun was now well into the sky, and the heat was starting.

Over the next four hours the planes came in larger numbers. Pursuit planes from The Flying Tigers, Mitchell Bombers from all over the fight against Facism, B-17’s, and all of the other birds that made up the stuff of legends.

Finally the B-29’s came in at altitude and spiraled down in a giant cone of silver and contrails. The chirp of tires as they roared down the runway was almost lost in the big band music amplified over the speakers along the taxi-way.

The Dog Tired Doorman taxied up to his chair and the crew dropped out of her belly. Her nose art was a joy to behold, and not a drop of oil leaked from her engines.

Joe Agnostos, Lieutant Colonel, USAAF, walked over and bear hugged Carson. The two men couldn’t help but grin.

“What’s keeping you down here, you old maniac? I figured sure you’d be up with us by now?”

Carson surveyed the first of the F-9 fighters as they dragged their tail hooks across the arresting wire he’d put in just for the Navy and Marines. “Well, Joe, since you first showed up that day in 1987, I’ve quit drinking. That’s added a few years on to my stack.”

Joe nodded sagely. “You were sure hammered that day, Carson. We were doing our annual fly-by of the training base and could tell you were miserable. Glad you quit the hooch and put away the thought of expediting your departure.”

Carson wiped a tear away. “Yeah. They all think I’m nuts, but since you guys showed up in the Doorman, I’ve been doing all right. Got a reason to carry on. Now I take care of other veterans. Every man and woman who works my businesses is a vet. Some of these kids have it rough. Hell, I got deep pockets. Money’s not good for nothing if you can’t take care of your brothers.”

Turning to view the party across the field, he spoke so softly that his voice carried only three feet. “Long way from that first year when you spotted me: a bottle of bourbon and a shotgun feeling bad for myself. God’s turned me around by sending you guys to watch over me.”

Joe patted Carson’s shoulder. “You’re a good man. We know it, He knows it, and I think the kids still down here with you know it. Speaking of which, isn’t it about time for your crew?”

The two men turned toward the Southwest. If one drew a line along their gaze, it would land squarely in the southern half of Vietnam. After a minute the sky darkened with B-52s, Thuds, and enough Huey’s to blank out the sun. For a long moment the earth shook with the roar of forgotten and scorned men who demanded to be recognized.

In a parade that resembled spinning maple seeds, the two were surrounded by aircraft that settled down in the dusty field, engines spooling to a quiet hush.

Joe saluted Carson and walked toward the beer tent.

Carson stood, weeping, as his crew piled out of the helicopter and raced to embrace him. The five men who’d been with him on that Medevac mission, backed away and saluted him. They all grinned as brightly as the sun.

“Lighten up, Lieutenant. It’s not like we’ve been gone all that long. Hell, we just saw you Veteran’s Day.”

Carson laughed and blew his nose. “Yeah, but you guys still stink like jet fuel and that makes my eyes water. Anyone want to grab some chow?”

“We sent Simmons to go grab something. We figured we’d wait here with you until the rest of the crews arrived.”

Carson sat back down in his chair. The arthritis was killing him. “Yeah. The rest should be along shortly. Then we’ll whoop it up. Those kids know how to party as well as we did.”

With his crew standing behind him, the group watched as the rest of the aircraft came in to the field. There were some recce birds among the mix, including a whole bunch of Navy spooks from the Cold War. The crews ambled over and thanked him, even offering tours of their top-secret EA-3B. Carson declined and wished them well. Darned nice kids those linguists.

The smallest group was arriving just as noon struck. There was a big C-5 galaxy among them, and it was quite a sight to see; his Huey would have fit inside.

The final aircraft were all helicopters and fighters. No big toys on the list the last few years. When Extortion 17 landed, the SEALS raced over to his chair. This was their first year at the party. All of them gave profuse thanks and then jogged to the bar. Some things never changed.

One last bird circled the field as though doubting the thousands of assembled aircraft that covered 153 years of military aviation were real. Pulling pitch at the last second, the pilot gently set her down right in front of Carson and his crew.

The crew of Marine Aviators looked stunned. First timers. Not quite used to the rules of their new game after going down in a training mission just a few weeks earlier.

Carson got out of his chair, walked up to the pilot and rendered a salute. “Welcome to the party. You’re home again. We all thank you for what you’ve done. Now go and have a beer. I suspect you’re thirsty.”

The Devil Dogs grunted approval, returned the salute, and headed toward the mob listening to thrash-metal at the tents.

“Okay, crew. Let’s get out of the sun. It’s time to put that flag back to full staff and I’m not letting anyone else have that honor.”

To the observers in the tent, one crazy old man had finally had enough sun. To one old man, he was in the best place on the planet – among friends who were his brothers and sisters for eternity.

* ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Have a blessed Memorial Day. Be safe. Remember all of those who gave it all to keep us free. It’s not about the beer (well, a little…) but about the honors.

A silent salute to the comrades who have gone on ahead to secure the battlefield. We’ll be there soon.

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If you enjoyed this story, I’d be honored if you’d buy my book, Assault on Saint Agnes. It’s a five-star rated novel that you’ll no doubt enjoy. I appreciate your doing so, as it helps support my writing. Just use the button below to buy an autographed copy that’s available until June 12th at a reduced price for Fathers Day. The Kindle and Audio versions are at: Amazon.com

Thank you.


Special Fathers Day Purchase Price of only $13.00 & $3.50 shipping (tax as well for Minnesota residents) but way cheaper than Amazon. Price valid until June 12th, 2016. Please put your autographing instructions in the box below:



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Today’s Post Is The Kind That Ends In A Quiz.

Yeah, that kind of deal. So you have to read all the way to the bottom or you miss the point of this whole insane exercise known as blogging.

Father’s Day is on the horizon. I know there are all sorts of you that would like to get your dad, husband, son who’s a dad, a stranger you haven’t met yet, something nice for that special day. How about an autographed copy of Assault on Saint Agnes. Yes, being the sentimental type, I’ve lowered the price so that Amazon can’t even touch it. All I ask is that you remember to review the book. I’m at that magic point where every review counts more than it’s weight in gold. That isn’t hard, as it’s just ephermeral bits of data and they hold no actual weight, but you get the point and let’s-not-nitpick.

Steal this picture for your Facebook post.

Steal this picture for your Facebook post.

Here’s the discount button. It’s different than all the other buttons, and if you come back after the 12th of June it will be gone. Yes, limited time offer. But what a deal. I truly wish my dad could read the book. But the dad-gummed Kindle platform doesn’t work in Heaven. (I think they cut a deal with Nook, but I digress.) So hit the button right now, make your payment, and I’ll autograph the book (hopefully several books) and mail it/them right away. You have nobody but yourself to blame if you get him a fruitcake you forgot in the fridge again this year. Don’t be that person.


Autograph Instructions



See, you survived your purchase. Now, because you’ve been an exemplary reader, I will let you in on a secret. I’m giving away two audio books and two Kindle versions to the first four people that respond in the comments. That’s the quiz: are you paying close attention, or did you see the book promotion and run? Specify which you’d like (audio book or Kindle) and I’ll do my best to provide. I’ll email you if you win, and post the winners here.

Which reminds me, over on my Facebook author page, I’m giving away stuff as well. Some nonsense about liking the page and sharing the post that’s pinned to the top of the page. Yup, more free stuff.

Now, the quiz is over, and I’ve shilled. Here’s where I do some actual writing stuff.

During the past month, I’ve had more moments lost in the Ozone than I have in years. The juices really flow once you kick that first book out of the box and let it loose in the world. I am amazed that I haven’t been killed by a falling piano, or something, given my wandering attention span.

I spend hours each day thinking about books to write, scenes from the sequel, dialogue, characters I want to create, and you – my readers.

I have been blessed with some amazing reviews. Head over to Amazon and read a few. Not a one of them bought-and-paid-for (except my mom, who demanded $10 or she’d write a bad one.) I’m blown away by 62 of you who took the time to review the book so far. The average grade is 4.8 out of 5 stars. Amazon has deleted over a dozen (that I am aware of) because they think I’m cheating somehow. So if you’ve read the book, and reviewed it, please go and check to see if your review is still there. If not, please consider leaving another review. They can’t kill them all. Well, actually, they can. But those of you who have reviewed the book have been very kind and I want to reward you with something special. So the free stuff is above, the discounted price link is up for the next few weeks (until June 12) and this Friday I will be writing my annual Memorial Day flash fiction piece.

I’m partial to them. I’ve read that if an author can’t cry when they read their own stuff, they’re not writing well enough. I promise to shed a tear again this week. Stop back Friday for the post.

Thanks for putting up with me. I love having you here. So here’s the final item: Today I broke into the top 81,000 books on Amazon for sales ranking. Thank you. I hope to be bringing this back when I’m in the hot 100.

Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#396 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Spies & Politics > Terrorism
#589 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Crime
#648 in Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Literature & Fiction > Mystery & Suspense

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Perilous Judgment: A Book Review ****

Seems some of you really like my book reviews. Others wonder why I don’t give a plot synopsis. I’ll give you all the details below the fold. But let’s cut to the chase and sell some books for my friend, and fellow Genesis Winner (2014), Dennis Ricci: I present Perilous Judgment.

Perilous Judgment

Perilous Judgment

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

Dennis Ricci

Dennis Ricci

Why no plot synopsis? Because I think it’s lazy of me to bulk up the blog with stuff you can read over at Amazon.com (Like the reviews on my book – Say, have you read it and reviewed it yet? Assault on Saint Agnes? I need your review!)
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Now I have my pitch for the day in… Seriously, you trust me to tell you what I liked/didn’t like about the book. The synopsis is up to you. I’m going to feed you the spices and sweets that readers seem to want more than the publisher’s notes about the release.

My usual disclaimer applies: This is an honest review. I don’t shill for friends. But it does help to be my friend if you want your book reviewed. Otherwise, I’d spend the rest of my life reviewing books for people. I want to have fun here as well!

With that being said, here’s the review I’m posting on Amazon for Perilous Judgment about the time this blog gets published:

Perilous Judgment Is A Genesis Award Winner For A Good Reason

I received an advanced reviewer copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

What separates Christian fiction from secular fiction is often hard to ignore. In many cases, there’s an overload of wholesomeness and goodie-two-shoes “here’s my favorite Scripture” writing. Dennis Ricci avoids that like the plague, but hews to the guidelines of not using excessive violence, sexual imagery, or foul language.

Because of that, Perilous Judgment is a safe read for anyone with an aversion to rough language and sex. Not that there isn’t plenty of action, violence, and drama in the book, but it’s done for a purpose and doesn’t break the rules. In other words, it’s a good yarn without the offensive items that a lot of secular authors would have gratuitously thrown in. No salacious bits!

The writing jumps back and forth between a few major characters, and if you lose track of who’s up to bat, it can set you back for just a moment. I read the book during a very distracting period of my life, so I have to figure normal people (not squirrels with shiny objects like me) will have no problem.

Lots of good sub-plot devices, clever ruses, and some image painting that leave you feeling the dust of Mexico on your brow as you look for a cool drink and some frijoles. I think about frijoles often, and that makes this a good thing. Lunch Tuesday was frijoles. So if you can put me in mind of a thing that strongly you are doing it right.

One of the main focuses in the book is the immigration issue. Dennis rightly points out the inequities in the current situation in his story, and that was the only thing that gave me a single moment’s pause. I’m not sure if that’s because of my personal convictions on the issue, or the conundrums the characters faced. I’ll leave that for the reader to decide.

Summer’s upon us (except in Minnesota where it’s still freeze-warning season) and this would be an excellent book to take to the beach with you.

I give it 4 stars!

Now, click this link and go grab a copy. Grab one of mine while you’re at it – Genesis award winners need love no matter what year they won!

 

Assault on Saint Agnes is now available. Just click this link to find all the options! (I recommend the autographed copy. It’s cheaper than from the big stores, I scribble in it, and you get it mailed within 5 days. We all win.

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew.” Those few words, and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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You’d Better Know The Following Things If You Want To Keep Your Man Card.

Come to think of it, you’d better know most of this stuff if you plan on owning a house, surviving in the city, ever go camping, travel abroad, or consume oxygen. But since I am semi-regularly accused of not deserving a Man Card because I review books that are written by female authors, some of them romance novels, I feel the need to validate my chromosomal arrangement publicly. (Yes, I’m a binary kind of person. You haters can all skip the insults. I still think that assigned gear should be kept for the duration. Funny that way…)

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

Let’s keep this very basic:

You absolutely have to know what a junction box is, and why you need the locks for the knockouts. If those terms escape you, you probably don’t have a 100 year old house with brittle wiring. It is a useful skill. Do not tell the building inspectors you have employed it.

Gleefully misappropriated from the people at Garvin Industries (http://www.garvinindustries.com/electrical-junction-boxes/3-1-2-and-4-octagon-junction-boxes)

Gleefully misappropriated from the people at Garvin Industries (http://www.garvinindustries.com/electrical-junction-boxes/3-1-2-and-4-octagon-junction-boxes)

You have to know how to load a semi-automatic weapon, preferably a handgun, and safely unload the weapon. You also have to know how to shoot it. Buy a stainless steel one so that you don’t have to be a fanatic about cleaning. If you think you don’t need a gun, you’re probably relying on people like Bobby Kurtz to take care of you. He’s a fictional character. Good luck.

Toilet snake. Plunger. Clogs. Here’s a link to fix it yourself. Plumbers run over $100/hr. It’s worth your time to learn this stuff. If you have a chronically clogged toilet, or a slow draining one, it may be due to a family member’s medication. It impacts the stool and makes it stick to the pipes. Adding a few drops of dish washing liquid once a week (Dawn is good) helps keep the pipe clean. It breaks up the blockage and saves big money and flooded bathrooms. Add a bit as the toilet is flushing, and again as the bowl fills.

Don’t get your water downstream from a campground, a farm, or a slow moving part of the river. You can boil it all day long and it will still taste like the sewage from upstream. If you are out in the woods, and have no other source of water, for heaven’s sake use a filter that eliminates Giardia. Chlorine and boiling don’t always eliminate the stuff that really can kill you in the water. Filter it, chlorinate it, boil it. If that doesn’t work, reflect on how you made God mad at you to the point where He reels you in for drinking water.

Overseas travel: If you are with a tour group, you are a target. Yeah, you. Make sure your tour company is reputable, protects your life with briefings on the local situation, and employs armed guides and guards in really dangerous areas. I’ve enjoyed more than one meal at a restaurant where the guy at the door was carrying a pump-action 12 gauge. Made me feel downright good. If that barkin beast didn’t keep me safe, nothing would.

Learn how to grow a few vegetables. I don’t know why, but that always seems to be on these lists.

Learn how to properly operate a circular saw. Not doing it right can cause the loss of handy things like fingers. If you own a house, you will need one sooner or later.

Be prepared to move on a week’s notice. Not that you are planning on fleeing the authorities, but what if that dream job came up in a remote city? What would you need to bring with you? What could you leave behind? (The answer is most of the crap in your home could stay there and you’d never miss it. If that’s the case, why not get rid of it now?)

Learn how to prepare a meal for fifty people. Doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s a skill that can come in handy if you need a job. More than one restaurant has hired the cook just because they had some vague idea how to move food down the line in a timely fashion.

Learn CPR. Everybody should know how to do this vital task. You might help someone else keep their man card by keeping them alive.

Know how to gut and skin an animal. Not that you need to practice on your neighbor’s cat, but at least know how to do it if you’re in an emergency situation.

Get a platinum Visa card with a $40,000 limit. Then you can skip all the stuff above and hire people to do it.

But then again, I’ll be asking for a loan.

Have a great day. Stop back Thursday for a book review of Perilous Journey by Dennis Ricci.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is now available. Just click this link to find all the options! (I recommend the autographed copy. It’s cheaper than from the big stores, I scribble in it, and you get it mailed within 5 days. We all win.

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew.” Those few words, and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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A Fall Of Sparrows – Book Review Time! Yes, Five ***** Stars.

Since I have nothing else to do this month (except promote Assault on Saint Agnes) I thought I’d review a fellow author’s book. Lest you accuse me of only happy-happy-joy-joy reviews, you should know I read a lot of books that never get here. Less than four stars and I won’t review it. If it’s on this blog, I really liked it. Mind you, none of that “My publisher asked me to do this” stuff in my house. It’s gotta be good.

A Fall of Sparrows, by Paul J. Bennett.

A Fall of Sparrows

A Fall of Sparrows

Also, since I am fairly lazy, I thought I’d just post my Amazon review of the book. Yeah, I’m like that – why write something twice!

I grabbed this book because it’s from the same publisher as my book. Brand loyalty and all that.

Now, after reading this exceptional tale of courage, honesty, and the touch of The Holy Spirit in one man’s heart, I can’t wait to read more from Paul J. Bennett. As a matter of fact, sitting down and talking with him about this book is on my list of highlights when we have our author’s meeting in August before the Christian Festival for Athanatos Ministries and the press it supports.

I’ve read my share of Civil War books, and this ranks up there with Karl Bacon’s work. I gave Bacon 5 stars for both of his books, and Paul is every bit as engaging.

Much of the story is told in the first person, from the eyes of the Hero. This is a man bedeviled by the real world, seeking the spiritual. He comes to realize that one can either be, or not be, true to his faith.

While the book relies on a Christian viewpoint, and uses the character’s faith to bring home certain points, it is equally a story of the times, abolitionist issues, and the moral dilemma of just war.

Mr. Bennett is a gifted author who’s words flow like the river of life through the work. I aspire to write this well.

I can heartily recommend this book to Civil War buffs, Christian fiction enthusiasts, and anyone who loves a very well told tale.

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