Saturday, October 29, 2016

Press Release for My Novel: Nightmare in the Washington DC Subway

Press Release for Stephen Leary’s Novel Nightmare in the Washington DC Subway

Oct. 29, 2016

Thousands of passengers travel through the Washington DC Metro system every day, not really expecting anything exciting to transpire on their way to work. But a terrorist attack is always within the realm of possibility.

A new novel by author Stephen Leary explores the vulnerability and inevitability of terror on the mass transit system in the nation’s capital.

Nightmare in the Washington DC Subway is the story of a band of terrorists, on orders from their masters back in the Middle East, who hijack a subway train and proceed to torture and kill the passengers, creating fear and horror throughout Washington DC and the entire United States.

Experienced in the national security industry, Leary crafts a tale combining terror, horror, the supernatural, and politics. “My plan was to write a cautionary novel about an attack on mass transit, which millions of citizens rely on every day,” he said. “I want people to think about what they would do if it happened to them.”

Experts consider mass transit especially vulnerable to terrorism due to factors such as multiple entry points, unsecured travel routes, and the impracticality of searching or inspecting each traveler. Many aspects of the novel are realistic, but Leary weaves ghosts and elements of the supernatural into his narrative. “Any book about terrorism is part horror story,” he said. “But I didn’t want the novel to be entirely true-to-life. I wanted fantasy as well. That’s why I brought in a few ghosts.”

Not forgotten by Leary is the political element, of which he is particularly critical. Stakeholders such as the local city government, the subway administration, Congress, and even the president take turns blaming others for security inadequacies and taking credit for safety precautions already in place.
“Protection of innocent life is not the number one priority,” Leary asserted. “I make that clear in my book. I’m seeing our leaders implementing only the necessary safety precautions but waiting for a crisis to happen before they get serious. We need to ramp up security before the next crisis, not after.”

Contrasted with the politicians and administrators, the local police come off as performing a tough job in arduous circumstances. “The DC police are the good guys,” he said. “They play a crucial role.”

The attack in Leary’s novel occurs in Washington DC, a prime terror target, but it could happen anyplace in the country, he said. “Every city is a vulnerable and filled with soft target for terrorists wanting to make a political statement to the world.”

The book Nightmare in the Washington DC Subway is available through Amazon kindle or in print format.

Stephen Leary is the author of Failed World Order, The Infinite Cafe, and Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories. He can be reached by email: mesmerini AT

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: Pale Fire By Vladimir Nabokov

Pale Fire (Vintage International) by [Nabokov, Vladimir]

My book review of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire on Amazon:

Pale Fire is a novel in the guise of an academic commentary on a 999-line poem by the same name. The poem was ostensibly written by John Shade and the commentary written by his neighbor and colleague Charles Kinbote after Shade’s death.

But as with most Nabokov novels, things aren’t as simple as that. Kinbote may not be the ex-king of Zembla as he claims but the alter ego of Shade’s insane colleague Professor Botkin. But did either one of them write the commentary, or was it written by John Shade himself and neither colleague ever existed? Or was Shade a fantasy of Kinbote/Botkin? Did Nabokov “tilt” the text in favor of one explanation over the others, or did he leave us to ponder several equally plausible interpretations?

Pale Fire is included on book lists as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. The writing is an example of sustained brilliance and the plot has engendered dozens of academic studies searching for its true meaning and explanation.

This novel, more than any other, alerted me to the idea, as a writer, of multiple interpretations of a narrative—leaving the reader wondering who is who despite surface appearances, what really happened beyond what seems to happen, and which explanation of the text is the best among several alternatives.

My Amazon Book Review Page is HERE.

My Amazon AUTHOR page is HERE.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: More Matter: Essays and Criticism By John Updike

Here is my review of John Updike's book More Matter: Essays and Criticism. On Amazon:

More Matter: Essays and Criticism by [Updike, John]

More Matter is a collection of essays and criticism from the 1990s. The bulk of the text addresses literature, but Updike touches other topics, such as art, movies, and politics.

This doorstop of a book reaches 900 pages with several to spare, but nowhere in this entire tome do I ever feel that Updike is padding his writing, or going through the motions, or falling from his horse Pegasus, losing inspiration and writing mediocre sentences. That just doesn't happen with Updike. Instead, I wonder how he mashed all these wonderful thoughts into fewer than 1,000 pages. One gets the impression he probably left things out, that the book could have been even longer if needed.

What impresses me about Updike is the density of his prose, his unique and imaginative turns of phrase in virtually every paragraph he ever wrote. I've tried writing like Updike myself, but I become exhausted after a few paragraphs. I don’t suppose many writers will ever be accused to mimicking him.

He has something interesting to say about everyone and everything and possesses the knack of uncovering any writer’s weak and strong points. I feel as if he is revealing to me literary secrets no one else has discovered. And I never feel as if he’s wrong, or faking it. No, he hits the bullseye every time.

“I set out to be a magazine writer,” he wrote in the Preface, “a wordsmith...and I like to see my name in what they used to call ‘hard type.’” Updike will be remembered foremostly as a writer of novels, but his large corpus of stories, essays, and poems will remind future readers that he was one of the last of the well-rounded literary men who could and did write brilliantly in so many genres.

He never won the Nobel Prize, despite his consensus ranking as one of the most influential and respected literary men of the 20th century. Someone said his industrious production worked against him. A great writer couldn't possibly produce so much, was the prevailing attitude about it. I am wondering now if a handful of celebrated authors didn't write fewer pages in their entire careers than Updike in this single book.

Picking any page at random, I find Updike expounding in a fascinating manner on a topic I had hardly ever considered. All his essays are like that.

My Amazon book review page is HERE.

My Amazon Author Page is HERE.

Book Review: The Enormous Radio and Other Stories By John Cheever


Here is my review of John Cheever's book The Enormous Radio and Other Stories.
On Amazon:

In this collection are 14 short stories from the late 1940s to the early 1950s which had appeared separately in New Yorker magazine, which became a showcase of Cheever’s rare talent. In these stories, Cheever is seen abandoning his early realism in favor of introducing an element of fantasy into his narratives.

His characters seem unprepared and unsatisfied with life in the big city, and the emotional conflicts and spiritual emptiness that comes with it. The typical Cheever protagonist is affluent but emotionally distressed, and in conflict with his spouse.

The title story “The Enormous Radio” combines Cheever’s early realism with a touch of magical fantasy, yet the fantasy is restrained and mixes in with the realism. A married couple buy a new radio that they soon discover has the ability to broadcast private conversations taking place anywhere in their apartment building. They listen to their neighbors’ arguments and wonder if they themselves are happy. Not long afterward, their own conversations mimic those on the radio. One of Cheever's most anthologized stories, it made an impression on me as a writer and inspired my own short story "The Smartphone."

Cheever was known as a short story master, though he wrote some good novels as well, such as the Wapshot Chronicle, which won a National Book Award. In the second half of the 20th century, when anyone thought of the best American short story writers, Cheever was on the tips of most lips. He and John Updike appeared frequently in the pages of the New Yorker, probably the most influential publisher of short stories in those days.

The full list of stories:

Goodbye, my brother
The pot of gold
O city of broken dreams
The children
Torch song
The cure
The Hartleys
The summer farmer
The superintendent
The enormous radio
The season of divorce
Christmas is a sad season for the poor
The Sutton Place story
Clancy in the tower of Babel

 The link to my Amazon book review page is HERE.

Book Review: Magic and Mystery: The Incredible Psychic Investigations of Houdini and Dunninger


My book review of Magic and Mystery: The Incredible Psychic Investigations of Houdini and Dunninger.
On Amazon:

Harry Houdini (1874-1926) is remembered as the world’s greatest escape artist. Joseph Dunninger (1892-1975) was a mentalist largely forgotten now but who was extremely famous in the 1930s and 1940s. He was a precursor of The Amazing Kreskin. Both were debunkers of fake spirit mediums.

The first half of the book contains articles and letters to and from Houdini concerning “fraud and trickery” among spiritualists “who were preying on susceptible victims.” Dunninger’s own articles on spiritualism represent the second half.

Dunninger doesn’t discount the possibility that man “may exist in another world which he enters after death.” But the purpose of this book, given the current profusion (1967) of psychic fraud, is to “foil such fraudulent practices, in order that truth at length may prevail.”

Houdini’s manuscripts name names: Pierre Keeler of Washington DC victimized statesmen and their wives, who were very profitable dupes, their “intelligence and sophistication had been no match for [his] versatile trickeries.” We hear of the exploits of the Davenport Brothers, who were among the first to use a cabinet for spirit chicanery shortly after the Civil War. Mrs. Mary Williams and her “materializations.” Henry “Doctor” Slade, the originator of slate writing. Henry Rogers and his typewriter with messages from the illustrious dead.

A valuable book on the artifice of spirit mediums and their fakery as revealed by both Houdini and Dunninger.

The link to my Amazon Book Review page is HERE.