A Novel Idea

One of my favorite places to hang out is the library.  Last week, my oldest son asked if we could go there so he could look up some things for a homework project.  While he was working on that, I naturally started browsing.  I always start in the New Fiction/New Non-Fiction section.  By doing this, I have stumbled onto some books that I may never have read (I love to do this at the book store, too!).

While looking at the new titles on the book spines, one jumped out at me – “Marley”.  Two things come to mind when I hear “Marley”: (1) Marley and Me (the movie about a dog) and (2) Jacob Marley from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (which I just read for the holiday).  I picked up the book and saw that surrounding the title were links of chains.  Marley’s Ghost in Dickens’ story appears weighed down by chains.

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As you can see by the cover, the book is indeed about Jacob Marley.  I read that this author, Jon Clinch, also wrote a “back story” to Huckleberry Finn, which focused on Huck’s father.  This backstory, gives new light to the story we all know so well.  That is what this book does, as well.  In Dickens’ tale, we don’t know much about Jacob Marley.

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We know that he was Scrooge’s business partner and that he is forced to walk the earth bearing the chains he forged in life.  But what led him to this fate?  Why is Ebenezer Scrooge the way he is?  This book tells us.  I am only a few chapters in, but am enjoying it so far.

It’s been done before – many times

This is not a new concept.  There have been many books, movies, and TV shows that explored how well known characters became the way they are.  Fans of the TV show Taxi may remember a flashback scene where Reverend Jim was drug free!  Jack Benny did many shows telling the story of how he met members of his cast.  The TV show How I Met Your Mother used this entire premise for the entire series.

It is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.  I loved the book, and loved the movie trilogy.  The novel was published in 1969, and the film was released in 1972.

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Marlon Brando played Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone Crime family.

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Two years later, in 1974, The Godfather Part II was released in theaters.  It consisted of flashbacks of how Vito became the Don.  The role was played by Robert DeNiro.

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But what about other characters?  Ed Falco’s 2012 novel “The Family Corleone” tells us.

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The book is based on an unproduced screenplay that Mario Puzo had written.  It gives us a look at some of the minor characters, like Luca Brasi, and how they come to know the Don and how they join the family. A couple books that “fill in the gaps” between the Godfather movie trilogy came out in 2004 (The Godfather Returns) and 2006 (The Godfather’s Revenge) written by Mark Winegardener.

Good characters – Good Stories

When we come to love good characters, we tend to want to know more about them.  We want to see them or read about them in another story or adventure.  Perhaps that why there are so many books that feature a star character (like Alex Cross, or Cotton Malone) or movie sequels (like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Toy Story).  In the 60’s and 70’s, many TV shows had novels or short stories based on characters (like Get Smart, Kojak, Columbo, and countless Star Trek books).

I LOVE the concept of exploring a well known character and shedding light on their back story. I am hoping this book on Jacob Marley does not disappoint.

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Looking for a good book??

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I love a good book.  I once heard a teacher call a book “a movie for your mind”.  This is so true.  I touched on this in a blog I wrote on using the imagination.  As you read a book, you create a character based on the descriptions the author gives you.  You and I could read the same book, but have two very different, yet similar pictures of what a character looks like.  You take the descriptions that are given to you by the author and the “movie” in your mind brings thrills, laughter, suspense, and more.

The problem that I run into, as do so many other people, is finding the time to read.  It’s much like finding the time to blog – sometimes I have an abundance of time, and sometimes, not so much. I have been lucky enough to read three great books in a row over the past couple months and wanted to share them with you – just in case you are looking for a good one to read at your leisure.

The Escape Artist – Brad Meltzer

I stumbled on Brad’s books when I saw the book The Fifth Assassin in the library.  I picked it up because I have always been fascinated with books about presidential assassinations.  One of the first reports I ever wrote in elementary school was on the JFK assassination.  This book was a part of his Beecher White Series, and I enjoyed it.  This lead me to read more by him.

I was excited for the release of The Escape Artist this year and it was on my birthday wish list.  It didn’t disappoint. From the first sentence (“These were the last thirty two seconds of her life”) on, I was hooked.  It was an amazing book that I did not want to end.

The book is about a government mortician named “Zig”, who works on all high profile and top secret cases.  He is assigned to work on the body of Nola Brown.  Nola, he realizes, is someone who was a childhood friend of his late daughter.  When the body arrives, one thing becomes very clear – it is not the body of Nola Brown. After doing some digging, he also realizes that Nola is still alive and he begins to look for her.  It becomes clear that there is some sort of cover up happening from the government higher ups, and as Zig discovers, a prominent historical figure (Harry Houdini) plays a big role.

This was a book that I could have read in one sitting, though time did not allow for that.  If you like a good thriller – check this one out.  It’s now out in paperback, or you can nab it at the local library.

The Bishop’s Pawn – Steve Berry

I stumbled on Steve Berry also while walking up and down the aisles of the library.  I have always been intrigued with the various symbols used by the founding fathers on currency and such.  Even though it is fiction, the film National Treasure starring Nick Cage, was something I could totally see happening.  Hiding symbols and secret codes and such to point to something like a treasure makes for such an amazing story.  Anyway, I read his book The Jefferson Key, which involves an assassination attempt on the President, a cipher created by Thomas Jefferson, and a mystery from Andrew Jackson that can change the Constitution (a pretty good book in itself)!

The Bishop’s Pawn is the 13th Cotton Malone novel, and involves the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. This book takes you back to the early days of Cotton Malone.  It involves a rare coin and a secret file of papers that contain some explosive revelations about the MLK assassination, can ruin innocent lives, and threaten the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.  After Malone is hired by the Justice Department to do a simple little job, he soon discovers that the Justice Department and the FBI want both the coin and the secret files.

One of the things I love about Steve Berry is his ability to take something from history and then work it into a great book.  The Jefferson Key, The Lincoln Myth, The Lost Order, The Columbus Affair, That Patriot Threat, and now The Bishop’s Pawn are all “must reads” for history lovers.

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

I have to be honest – I wasn’t sure what to expect here.  I have read many James Patterson novels and loved almost every one.  I really did not know what to expect from Bill Clinton.  The title of the book peaked my interest before I even knew who wrote it. I figured with Patterson helping, it had to be at least a decent read.  What I found was that this was a very realistic, believable, and enjoyable book.  I read it in a matter of two days.  It moved quickly and with the close of each chapter, made me want to read more.

The book opens with the President rehearsing for impeachment proceedings.  Then we learn of a threat to the United States.  The more you read about that threat, the more scary it becomes because it is a real possibility and if it happened would send the country into mass chaos. The threat involves a virus that would not only kill the internet, but would erase almost everything on anything connected to it.  Think about that!  Powerful.  At any rate, it is a race against time thriller which gives us a glance into the daily routine of a President as well as how he must juggle things and prioritize what is most important for the country and the American people.  I enjoyed it very much.

While the book itself would make for a fantastic film, however, Entertainment Weekly says that the Showtime network has actually decided to use the book as the basis for a series.  You can read about that here:

https://ew.com/tv/2017/09/22/bill-clinton-president-missing-james-patterson-showtime/

What’s Next?

I anxiously await the new book by Andrew Gross!  I stumbled on Andrew’s book 15 Seconds while walking through a local used book store. It reminded me a lot of Andrew Klavan’s True Crime.  It was a great page turner.  This lead me to pick up more and more of his books.  All of them were what Amazon calls “Suburban Thrillers”.  Then, I read The One Man.  WOW!  What an amazing book!  Imagine having to break into Auschwitz to find (and escape with) a renowned physicist, who is the one man whom the Allies believe can help them win World War II!  It was one of the best books I have read over the past few years!  He followed that with The Saboteur, which was just as good.  I would suggest adding both of them to your “to read” list.

Button Man is the new Andrew Gross book, and it just hit the stores.  I only know what I have read about it online, but I am looking forward to reading it.  Amazon describes the plot as ” a stirring story of a Jewish family brought together in the dawn of the women’s garment business and torn apart by the birth of organized crime in New York City in the 1930s.” I anticipate it being very good.

What are you reading?  Any suggestions for me?  Feel free to comment and let me know!

Happy Reading!