Cat Ellington’s review of The Doll

The DollThe Doll by J.C. Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“You wouldn’t dare! Annabelle would hate you, Christie would hate you, and I WOULD HATE YOU.”
— Talky Tina, The Twilight Zone – Season 5, Episode 6: Living Doll (1963)

Since that timeless Twilight Zone episode premiered on its respective network 54 years ago, it has not been very often that one could happen upon any horror novel—or even a horror film—featuring a doll possessed by and utilized as a host for evil and not immediately liken the modern day tale(s) to the cult legend, Talky Tina. In point of fact, the venerable Rod Serling, creator of both The Twilight Zone and one of its most eerily paralyzing characters, Talky Tina, has obviously inspired the works of quite a few creatives in both film and literature, including Stuart Gordon, director of the cheesy B movie horror epic Dolls (1987), Tom Holland, director of the cult slasher film Child’s Play (1988), Maria Lease, director of the petrifying Dolly Dearest (1991), Charles Band, director of the cheesy B movie horror epic Blood Dolls (1999), John R. Leonetti, director of the bone marrow-chilling Annabelle (2014), and let us not forget the most sickeningly legendary of all the inspired—”Amelia,” the third and final nightmarish tale in the Dan Curtis directed Trilogy of Terror (1975).

Anytime one’s creative work has such an impact where the influence of it still reverberates over the course of decades in the wake of its release, that’s called genius. Sheer genius. And Rod Serling, in his time, had been sheer genius; his creative vision was exceptional! To this day, gifted creatives, like J.C. Martin, are still shining contributing spotlights on evil dolls—though it may have also been the cheesy B horror teen film, Doll Graveyard (2005), directed by Charles Band, that brought inspiration to the polished Martin for the horror narrative presently under review.

All speculation about inspiration aside, J.C. Martin’s superlative-written The Doll is one extremely frightening anecdote. And I enjoyed it to a very immense extent.

The Island of the Dolls is an actual tourist destination in Mexico—and a very popular one at that—legally named Isla de las Muñecas. The real world’s Island of the Dolls displays an innumerable collection of “decomposed” dolls, in both parts and whole. And though the real life Island has an eerie reputation for being haunted by otherworldly powers of spiritual darkness, that reputation neglects to dissuade curious peoples, the world over, from paying visits to the “ghostly” locale. Unfortunately, in this tale of spine-tingling fiction, there is no differentiation, as our main protagonist, Joyce Parker, takes her daughter Taylor on holiday to Mexico. While there, in the sun and fun of North America, Joyce and Taylor visit the Island of the Dolls led by a tour guide who provides his tourists with a brief summary of the Island’s history, then leaves them to explore the Island freely, so long as they remember to take a hands-off approach to the hanging dolls. Taylor soon spots a must-have dolly which joins the child and her mother on their trip home. And as the sinister pages turn, a nightmare unfolds.

J.C. Martin does a dazzling job with the horrifying suspense that is The Doll. And due to its pagination (30), I will refrain from analyzing the unearthly novella in more comprehensive detail. But if you’re like me and pride yourself on being an ultimate horror buff, then The Doll is not an effort that the horror shelf in your e-library should be deprived of.

Five terrifying stars.

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Cat Ellington’s review of The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don’t Read The Newspaper (The Boondocks #1)

The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don't Read the NewspaperThe Boondocks: Because I Know You Don’t Read the Newspaper by Aaron McGruder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Political correctness be damned!

The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don’t Read The Newspaper (The Boondocks #1) is nothing less than what has come to be expected from one of the most undisputed—or disreputed, depending upon whom you query—names in the uproarious comics genre, even the same being Aaron McGruder.

It had been the final year of the 20th century (1999) that the now internationally-renowned cartoonist launched to fame with his now internationally-renowned comic strip, via Universal Press Syndication, which orbits around the lives of two young brothers (in terms of both race and blood relation) named Huey and Riley who suddenly find themselves uprooted from Chicago’s jet-black southside only to be newly planted in the lily-white suburb of Woodcrest—where the two have been brought to live with their granddad, Robert Freeman.
The move is undoubtedly a shock to the young systems of Huey and Riley, both of whom, by the way, unaffectionately refer to their contemporary, “whitewashed” surroundings as the ‘Boondocks.’

The two pro-black youths don’t necessarily care for their new, lighter-hued neighbors, and proceed to verbally inform those of the Caucasian persuasion of as much…in no uncertain terms.

Funny, thought-provoking, powerful, educational, keen on self-awareness, and evidentially racially-charged, The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don’t Read The Newspaper (The Boondocks #1) is the tour de force comic strip collection that started it all for its ingenious author and illustrator, McGruder. And the said strip, I might add, would also go on to inspire its own syndicated show to be featured on Adult Swim, a programming block of Cartoon Network, from 2005 to 2014—garnering (55) masterful episodes.

Since the beginning of its publishment in the Chicago Sun-Times, expressly, have I considered myself to be a die-hard fan of McGruder’s first-rate and truth-spewing comic strip series, The Boondocks. And I definitely don’t doubt that any new reader of the illustrated creation—or any new viewer of the show on DVD for that matter—will too progressively become one. For the nontraditional The Boondocks is in itself an acquired taste.

Five-star warranted and stratospherically recommended.

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Cat Ellington’s review of The Skin Room

The Skin RoomThe Skin Room by Morgan Fleetwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
— Proverbial expression
Credit: Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord(?)

Seven things about this Morgan Fleetwood-composed “memoir” of double murderer, Alex Melville, hooked and reeled me in right from its opening: The Italian setting—namely Sicily; the coffee bar; the confectionery shop; the fine chocolates; the espressos; the cappuccinos; and the canolo siciliano. Because the same are some of my most loved places and things in life. The account had me there.
But then, of course, the witness would continue to travel onward, towards its destination. And it was to be a very cold and terrifying destination. One from which I would find it impossible to free myself.

If Morgan Fleetwood’s The Skin Room were to be commissioned (by a motion picture studio) for the purpose of a feature film adaptation, it would only be wise for the producers of the impending film work to acquire the awesome virtuoso, Gabriel Yared, to score the visual.

As Alex reminded me, and heavily so, of Matt Damon’s “Tom Ripley” in the 1999 psychological suspense thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by Anthony Minghella, it seemed that the only soundtrack I could hear, while reading The Skin Room, was Yared’s haunting orchestration.

Plagued by various insecurities and the overall confusion of an identity crisis since adolescence, Melville shares his testimony with the reader of how his mother regretted his birth, due to his gender. For mother had her particularities: She desperately wanted a daughter. The troubled woman would soon decay, but before doing so, she made it her mission to recreate the unwanted boy child: She gave him the middle name, Andrea; she clothed him in dresses and other “girly” attire; she doused him in feminine fragrances; and pink was to overrule blue—in all aspects.

Melville’s piteous excuse for a mother would eventually conceive again, bring to term, and birth a girl, to be named Sonia. And with Sonia’s birth came more of a hellish childhood for Alex.

An age-old recipe: Check. All the required ingredients: Check. The prepping of a textbook psychopath: Check.

A prospective cross-dresser and serial murderer, Melville, too, has his particularities: Natural blondes with long legs and well-kept skin (and teeth). Like mother’s and Sonia’s. And his first potential victim fitting such a profile? A Sicilian “working girl” named Valentina Aurora.

Inspired by actual events (according to Alex Melville), the chilling disclosure, witnessed in the multilingual author’s own words, unveils a grim portrait detailing his history as a fugitive double murderer of two individual women: a prostitute named Valentina, and a young university student named Natalia, the daughter of his interrogating officer, one Inspector Ferreira.

Incidentally, both killings were motivated by revenge.

The reader is dared to follow along as Melville spills his guts, for lack of a better expression, to the Inspector, a man whom he comes to ardently loathe.
Melville witnesses . . . and witnesses.

But is his witness well founded? Only few know, including Melville’s Creator, Melville himself, the Inspector, and perhaps a handful of others—which also incorporates Melville’s father, John Melville, an avid coin collector who’s just waiting for the day when Alzheimer’s would simply stop teasing his mind and consume it already.

Quite a bit happens on the pages of this noir tale. And there were moments of tediousness—unintentional or otherwise.

Would unreliable be a better choice of words to describe this Morgan Fleetwood-scribed “memoir”? There are those who will say as much.

Any human host, utilized by the otherworldly entity named murderous spirit, will almost always find himself or herself infused with a sort of superhuman strength. And I proceeded to consider this well as I sat reading Melville’s admission:

The testifying subject defied to survive a deadly vehicular collision while traveling at full speed along an Italian coastline, even suffering whiplash in the process, but is still somehow able to: emerge from the shattered wreckage and drag his potential victim’s dead-like weight across the coastal road to a rocky cave, bounding her wrists and ankles, survive and endure a serious (abdominal) stab wound, which he sustained while on the run in Paris, commit robbery and auto theft, travel from Paris to Luxembourg, by way of a TGV, all while freshly wounded?

I’m not insinuating that I deny Melville’s confession, but only that it’s a questionable one. In any case, the well-composed author’s readers have a choice as to whether or not they receive his divulgence as actual fact.

Still, The Skin Room is an intriguing read, and Morgan Fleetwood himself, a splendid writer. Very elegiac. And whether Melville’s profession be true or faux, that is for his Creator to know . . . and judge.

Let a broken man not see his reflection in a cracked mirror, lest what he seest on the outer surface lead to a deeper fracture on his innermost soul.

Alex, be whole.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Howarth Press, as well as both Simon Cain and Morgan Fleetwood. Howarth Press and Simon for choosing Reviews by Cat Ellington to be a recipient of this work, in exchange for my honest review, and you, Morgan, for your literary contribution of a supremely-penned work of nonfiction.

In addition, Morgan, I thank you for your special gift of a personally signed paperback copy of The Skin Room, as an honor to both myself and Reviews by Cat Ellington. You can be certain that I will forever treasure your personal edition. And by all means, my family will care for and duly honor the narrative, even generationally.

— Cat Ellington

Analysis of “The Skin Room” by Morgan Fleetwood is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington:

Date of Review: Friday, August 18, 2017

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Cat Ellington’s review of Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis

Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby TravisBlackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis by Edgar Swamp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Much like Jonathan Doe of Grand Theft Octo fame, Bobby Travis, star of Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis, is a human portal of wicked folly to whom the way of uprightness is an abomination.

Edgar Swamp’s personally witnessed foreword sets this debaucherous account into motion as the proficient author affirms before his readers’ eyes of how it all began when he, Swamp, met this really hot chick at a bar where he once worked and ultimately took her home. The author continues to attest that both he and the beautiful woman first came (pun intended) to the threshold of intimacy, and then crossed it into ecstacy. Inebriated out of her mind during their steamy copulation, as Swamp continues to assert per his foreword, the hot chick—whom the novelist addresses as Cassandra, though that is not her real name—blacked out and awoke the next morning with no memory whatsoever of the sensual activities from the night before. As things went, according to Swamp, the lady didn’t know where the hell she was, or even who the hell he was for that matter. And that, as acknowledged by Swamp, had been his very first up close and personal encounter with another mortal who had yielded to temporary amnesia, or a “blackout,” if you will, after a long stretch of boozing and drug-abusing. As the assertation specifies, it was the experience of this particular (wham, bam!) one-night stand that influenced the consummate Swamp to compose the idiosyncratic narrative currently under review.

Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis introduces its reader to well, Bobby Travis, the thirty-seven-year-old owner of a swimming pool cleaning service and the tale’s star witness, as the fictional storyteller, who is Bobby Travis, spills the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about his ignominious (not judging him, mind you) life—or shall I say, lifestyle. Travis is a member of some of society’s most dilapidated groups, being they as follows: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). In fact, the first four chapters of this possibly appetite-spoiling (depending upon whether or not you’ve a weak stomach) description casually begins with Bobby Travis presenting himself to each recovering assembly, individually. And it is while attending his many meetings with those of his fellow disreputable kind that Bobby Travis pours out his bleeding heart, testifying in exquisite detail of his constant backsliding. Here, the reader is made privy to an extreme overindulgence of the many drinking, drug-misusing, sexually-charged, and gambling-addicted pleasures that life has to offer, including, but not limited to: hard liquor binges, various drug experimentations, drug-induced blackouts, horse race betting, sports betting, and constant sexual encounters with both strangers and semi-strangers—ranging from traditional penile and vaginal fornication to girl-on-girl oral pleasure to man-on-man oral pleasure to man-on-man anal penetration to bondage to turkey basters inserted in the anus…and even to felching. Yes, and even to felching. And Travis’ savory (or unsavory, depending on one’s POV) submissions will stimulate—in those readers who behold them—much arousing, gasping, ewwing, icking, oohing, and ahhing. For know for a certainty that many of the details in this witness come with a gross-out guarantee.

Set in sunny California, this diary form-written disclosure of a dopefiend’s hell fully showcases its grand scale addict, Bobby Travis, accompanied by a compact collective of standout players who each possess his and her own site in Travis’ sordid life.

Carolyn is a tempestous and self-loathing bitch of a (drunken) woman with whom, during one of his many drug-assisted blackouts, Bobby engaged in intercourse. Carolyn incidentally conceives, the consequence of their one-time cavort. But the child, a female to be named Gina, would soon be proven as inconsequential in the eyes of both of her harrowing parents—especially in those peepers of her alcoholic, dope-headed, sexually-transient, gambling addict of a father. Because, as is witnessed, Travis has neglected the child since her birth, forever preferring a livelihood of shameless debauchery to her. Though Bobby (when sober) loves his only child and covets to do right by her, his many demons repeatedly win him over—relapse after relapse. Still, regardless of his (many) screw-ups, Gina, now a wise and oh so intelligent 15-year-old, loves her daddy’s guts, and hopes for the achievement of a solid father-daughter relationship between them.

Melissa, who has subjected her body to hundreds of men and women for the function of illicit sexual acts, is the woman with whom Bobby becomes familiar while attending his SAA meetings. The two “recovering sex addicts” begin a sexual correlation, proceeding to carry out their habitual parking lot trysts in the backseat of Bobby’s miserable pickup truck after every group meeting.

Tony is the bartender at Hooligans, a local watering hole frequented—and quite often—by Bobby. In addition to his being an active participant in Bobby’s liquor drinking setbacks, the stony Tony also serves as Bobby’s personal pharmacist, providing the substance-squandering protagonist with many illegal and difficult-to-pronounce compounds that read like a pharmaceutical label: synthetic cathinone, ethylphenidate, pyrovalerone, and benzodiazepines, in coexistence with other chemicals that all end in “am,” such as, clonazalam, flubromazalam, diclazapam, and etizolam. Of course, there is also the standard Xanax.

Teddy is an officer of law enforcement and Bobby’s first cousin. The two are very close, even from since the time of their shared childhood, and Teddy sincerely loves Bobby, whom, as things go, is no stranger to the same law that Teddy is sworn to uphold. But no matter how hard Teddy tries to help his perceivably hopeless cousin, Bobby, clean up his life by adhering to the straight and narrow, Bobby’s many demons repeatedly win him over—relapse after relapse. And Teddy soon fears that death will be the demon that finally wins Bobby over for good.

The unrebuked devourer of this narrative is a bookie named Terry. Terry clings to Bobby like a ruinous leech, hungrily feeding on not Bobby’s blood, but rather his finances, already pithy from the major funds that abruptly parted ways with him in favor of drugs and booze—or to be those of the strange women with whom his body had been joined right before his blackouts. Terry, while trolling GA meetings in search of new, weaker victims to skin, financially, no less keeps his sticky fingers on Bobby, for the purpose robbing the unsuspecting addict blind in the form of race track bets and sporting bets.

Simon Blackwell is a local boss of the British Mafia, and a shark to whom Bobby owes $15,000.00—the debt incurred at a Keno table during one of Travis’ drug-fueled blackouts. As a matter of fact, Travis, who often undergoes blackouts during his methamphetamine binges, has gotten in over his hard head with many vicious, earthly beings during those spells, only to (miraculously) awake the next morning with no memory at all of his egregious diversions from the day or night prior. And there are a quantity of vicious, earthly beings in vast pursuit of him…for none other than the purpose of settling their monetary scores, even if by way of taking part in Travis’ bodily destruction.

Such as is the lot in life for those who lead deplorable existences, the natural progression of this fiction brings about death, murder, overdoses, incarcerations, poverty, diverse hardships, and a number of other curses that gleefully befall the sinful, from its capturing beginning to its pulse-throbbing end.

In stark contrast to its interior beauty, the exterior surface of Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis is unmistakably ugly, projecting a wretched, cutthroat demeanor and the whiff of a perverse stench that ought not be trifled with by those who embody faint hearts. Assuredly, I say to those of you prospective readers, that this tale is in itself cruel, nasty, and filthy—saturated in hardcore obstinacy and debauchery. The lascivious (though terrifically humorous) composition certainly lives up to its title.

Frankly, Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis is a narrative that weighs in pros and cons.

The pros:

Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis is at once an emotionally rewarding story of hopelessness and redemption. Spurted in fear, doused in courage, scorched in hatred, and salved in forgiveness, it is a dexterously-penned and extremely gripping composition that sheds a bright light on the very iniquities that ensnare so many people in the real world on a daily basis. Though cold in spirit, the physical witness is genuinely heartfelt. And it is an effort which I found quite challenging to put into terms without selling out too much of its soul.

Swamp’s writing is flawless. And his investigation? Pristine. The author’s sublime examination of heterogeneous narcotics was not lost on me, and I surely don’t suppose that the same will float adrift on any other reader. Equally admirable is the way that Swamp digs deep into the lives of his characters, rendering to the reader comprehensive biographies of history, where the beholder actually feels as though they personally know each member of the author’s problematic ensemble.

A writer myself, I have come to greatly understand genuine talent where those of my fellow scribblers—regardless of his or her branch of language expression—are considered. And in truth, I can discern erudition in the written word from even a mile away. Edgar Swamp, with all due respect, is evidently one in possession of such blessed wisdom. And his scribbled artistry in this effect will serve as a major addition to the account’s pros.

The cons:

While lovely in its own right, and with its own uniquely individual personality, Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis, overall, is not an unoriginal inspiration. For I have read many a novel that featured similar storylines before, and it is for a surety that I will possibly read many more a novel of indistinguishable sorts. Also, however quickly-paced in the majority of its entirety, there were quite a few moments where the narrative became sluggish, dragging its bloated self along…perhaps from too many drugs and too much liquor. Such is to be expected—I guess—in a tale of this nature, but still, those slower-paced details were momentum killers.

My final word:

If Lou Reed’s classic recorded opus, “Walk On The Wild Side,” were adapted into a 357-page novel of crime fiction, Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis would be it. And this colored girl here, after finally being released from the sleazy grip of its smutty plot, is in dire need of a hot and soapy shower.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Createspace Publishing, as well as Edgar Swamp himself, for the author-issued copy of Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis, in exchange for my honest review.

Analysis of “Blackout: The Life and Sordid Times of Bobby Travis” by Edgar Swamp is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington:

Date of Review: Monday, August 14, 2017

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Cat Ellington’s review of Tradur Gurl: The Sandy Allen Trilogy Series

Tradur Gurl: The Sandy Allen Trilogy SeriesTradur Gurl: The Sandy Allen Trilogy Series by P T Dawkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Finance is a craft that can become an art with skill and proper application.”
— Michael Milken, former Wall Street financier… and media-dubbed “Junk Bond King”

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies and cuts through to the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”
— Michael Douglas’ “Gordon Gekko,” Wall Street (1987)

“People are gullible. Scamming investors has been going on since the beginning of time, and I don’t think it’s going to end. Don’t let Wall Street scam you, like I did.”
— Bernard Madoff, former non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ… and Ponzi scheme operator

“You have to believe in what you do in order to get what you want.”
— Larry Ellison, Oracle Corporation co-founder… and Catamaran aficionado

“Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.”
— Warren Buffet (Chairman, President and CEO), Berkshire Hathaway

“…You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”
— Eddie Murphy’s “Billy Ray Valentine,” Trading Places (1983)

“There is no nobility in poverty.”
— Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street

“Keep your friends close, and/but your enemies closer.”
— Al Pacino’s “Michael Corleone,” The Godfather II (1974)
Credits: Sun Tzu, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Petrarch

. . .A bundle of very interesting and famous quotes, succeeded by a bundle of very interesting and famous adages:

You reap what you sow … Money cometh, money goeth … Steak today, beans tomorrow … Laugh today, weep tomorrow … When it rains, it pours … You just can’t win for losing … If you’re digging a hole for someone else, you better dig two—one for yourself … If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em … Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul … Not a pot to piss in or a window to toss it out of … Be careful how you treat folks on your way up, ’cause you gon’ see those same folks on your way down … Live by the sword, die by the sword … Every dog must have his every day; every drunk must have his drink … and so on … and so on …

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong on the pages of Tradur Gurl: The Sandy Allen Trilogy Series, the P.T. Dawkins-formulated vice grip of a financial thriller. And if the tenebrous side of Wall Street, including insider trading scandals, hedge fund rackets, Ponzi scheme flimflams, or any other shadowy financial exploits of the like are attributes that strike your fancy, then Tradur Gurl—set directly in New York and indirectly in both Seattle and Belize—is a narrative that comes with a must-read declaration. For the preceding quotes and adages provide perfect examples of what the composed plot entails.

And now, on with the analysis.

Sandy Allen, an international Ponzi schemer and intellect of insider trading, and Ivan Diversky, an impetuous and injudicious Jesse Livermore wannabe, co-star in this roadrunner-paced parable of surfeit and financial espionage on the Street.

Caught, tried, and convicted of her contemptible crimes, Sandy Allen (a.k.a. Jennifer Salem), prisoner No. 3856197, is serving hard time at the Blaine Corrections Center for Women for her role(s) in a number of unlawful activities during her tenure as a Wall Street tribeswoman, which had involved briberies, Ponzi scheme operations, insider trading (including pump and dump gyps), tax evasion, and etc. While Sandy sits rotting on the inside, her former partner—and lover—in crime, Michael Franklin (this tale’s Danilo Silva), lives the life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams on the outside with the woman for whom he left Sandy, that woman being named Angela Messina. Incidentally, Franklin and Messina have faked their own deaths to avoid prosecution…and imprisonment: Franklin, for his part in the Ponzi intrigue and insider trading affairs; and Messina, for murdering her own husband in order to collect on the huge insurance payout.

Sandy knows, not thinks, but knows the two are still alive, and tries to verbally convince anyone who has ears to hear of her beliefs. But two of those who have ears to hear—one Officer Hicks and the unnamed prison warden, Sandy’s penitentiary overseers—still believe that she’s full of bull, desperately trying to obtain emancipation. There is, however, a third pair of ears willing to hear the career criminal’s theory that her former, supposedly dead partner, Michael Franklin, along with his new lady love, Angela, are undoubtedly alive and well. And that third pair of ears are attached to the pitiless head of a private investigator named Silas Marker. The gifted gumshoe, an old acquaintance of Sandy’s during her high rolling Wall Street days, has his investigative services acquired by the inmate Sandy for a huge fee. With stolen money converted into Bitcoins, Sandy offers to pay Marker to find Franklin and Messina. But Silas wants to charge Sandy “doctor’s fees” for the extensive work he would have to do on her behalf, including travel expenses. And those fees are distinctly steep. Nevertheless, as despairs begans to settle in that she’ll never know the outside world again unless the two presumed dead are found, Sandy reluctantly agrees to the greedy sleuth’s outrageous price.

Banished, permanently, from the Securities industry, Sandy, working from the confines of prison with a mobile device smuggled in by none other than Officer Hicks, for a price, of course, is a woman who knows her way around the main boulevard that is Wall Street and its many side roads of monetary purloining. And after suffering the loss of a $100,000.00 Bitcoin at the hands of hackers, the imprisoned Sandy is running out of funds…and time. She needs a set up on the outside in order to grab hold of more money. And who comes to mind? An old familiar day trader from her past named Ivan. Ivan, unbeknownst to Sandy, is also submerged in his own misery. He’s on the run from the Seattle mob after ripping the outfit off to the melody of $25,000.00. The crime family wants that stolen money back, plus $5,000.00 interest. But it is $30,000.00 that the broke-as-a-joke Ivan doesn’t have…until he sees the notification icon on his phone indicating a message awaiting his attention. After Sandy reaches the reckless flop of a day trader by means of his magnified Linkedin profile, the two crooks, using the aliases “Tradur Gurl” and “Why Me Coyote,” conspire to get rich quick again. This time through illegal “pump and dump” activities, where they plan to cleave the ill-gotten profits fifty/fifty.

Infiltrate an award-worthy supporting ensemble:

• Betty Diversky Gray, Ivan’s impressionable sister and heiress of their late mother’s estate: An old bungalow in Yonkers and tens of thousands of dollars in cash. Betty loves her baby brother, Ivan, and only wants him to settle down with a nice lady who’ll love him and take good care of him. Betty is misled to believe that her dear ol’ brother, Ivan, is the leader of some big time Wall Street day trading tribe, but Betty’s conviction, undisclosed to her, has been established on the rock of deception.

• Charlie Gray, Betty’s imbecile of a husband and Ivan’s brother-in-law. After being fired from his job of sixteen years as an insurance company representative, the newly unemployed Charlie, initially opposed to Ivan, now wants to try his hand at day trading. And he contacts his “hot shot” brother-in-law to request Ivan’s mentorship. Ivan, after a bit of self-seeking consideration, which includes coercing the doofus Charlie into borrowing $75,000.00 in cash from a payday loan outlet against his and Betty’s house, concurs to take the unwary Charlie under his broken wing and teach him the Wall Street rope-a-dope. A great proverb awaits.

• Silas Marker, the no-nonsense—at least when it comes to money—private investigator hired by Sandy Allen to locate the whereabouts of Franklin and Messina. And he does. It only takes the skilled shamus a matter of days to discover the two malefactors living the good life on a palm tree-lined beach in Central America—Belize, to be more specific.

• “Hairy Hands,” the Seattle mob’s one-man collection agency sent to New York to pursue the $30,000.00 that the temerarious Ivan mugged the criminal set of.

• William Casey, head of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) enforcement for the greater New York area. Casey, using an office computer system called HAL (the name inspired by the notorious 9000 series of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame) detects a possible pump and dump sham in progress, and immediately starts an investigation into who may be operating the stratagem.

• Agent Margaret Stark, a tall and beautiful brunette officer of the SEC. Margaret Stark is personally selected by William Casey to shepherd the Commission’s pump and dump investigation efforts.

• Blackie, a Wall Street “large block” head trader and this storyline’s Bud Fox. Blackie is recruited—uh, blackmailed—by William Casey to act as an undercover informant so as to assist Agent Margaret Stark in the Commission’s pump and dump investigation efforts.

• Michael Franklin, $100,000,000.00 Ponzi scheme mastermind and Wall Street charlatan. A man who faked his own death in order to evade prosecution for his frauds. Franklin is referenced as this novel’s Danilo Silva based on his noted actions of deviousness. For they, his actions, bare a slight resemblance to those of Silva, the main protagonist of Grisham’s respectably-penned legal thriller, The Partner.

• Angela Messina, husband killer and prospective life insurance swindler. A woman who, along with Franklin, faked her own death in order to evade prosecution for her villainy.

Unable to rest peacefully, Tradur Gurl tosses and turns from start to finish, the result of its acutely troubled cast—although it be an acutely troubled cast rendering triumphant performances around a plot full of excitement, a systematic building of grasping suspense, and financial industry havoc. Tradur Gurl is a fascinating account also garnished with an intriguing dash of mystery. And for a literary work of only 252 pages, Tradur Gurl reads like an anectdote with a pagination of 452. The narrative is well-rounded, sharp and scintillating; its pace, lickety-split.

P.T. Dawkins makes the complexity of Tradur Gurl look effortless. The author’s scrutiny of Wall Street culture is of the best quality … of an astonishing degree … and of meritable awe. There is absolutely no greater evidence in an effort of written fiction than a vast knowledge and extensive research. And here, on the pages of this insightful tale, lies immense evidence of both a vast knowledge and extensive research on the part of its adroit scribe, Dawkins—himself a 28-year veteran of the investment world.

From the rain soaked city of Seattle to the hustle and bustle of New York’s gargantuan financial district to the serene and utterly beautiful island paradise of Belize, the high-speed Tradur Gurl transports its readers on a first class, all-expenses-paid journey into the lives of the rich and infamous. And it is not an excursion that I would advise any genuine fan of hard-to-put-down financial thrillers to forgo.

But before you board, you might want to take along an additional quote as a carry-on:

“Money is your life blood in this profession. Run out and you die.”
— Sandy Allen, codename: Tradur Gurl; Ponzi scheme operative… and insider trading initiator

Five closing bell rings—I mean, stars.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank, Inc., as well as P.T. Dawkins himself, for the author-issued copy of Tradur Gurl: The Sandy Allen Trilogy Series, in exchange for my honest review.

Analysis of “Tradur Gurl: The Sandy Allen Trilogy Series” by P.T. Dawkins is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington:

Date of Review: Friday, August 04, 2017

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Cat Ellington’s review of Grand Theft Octo

Grand Theft OctoGrand Theft Octo by Niels Saunders

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grand Theft Octo is Elmore Leonard meets Carl Hiaasen!

Craziness is the foundation on which the mischievous novella, Grand Theft Octo, is built. From the first page, even to the last page, the reader is constantly being sprayed with a hypertonic mist of craziness.
. . .And I personally loved it.

In this fleeting—albeit hilariously dark and grimly emotional—narrative, we’re introduced to its principal protagonist, one Jonathan Doe—a fabulist and klepto grifter—as he is currently embroiled in his latest deception. Jonathan Doe, recently fired from his job for pilfering, is now standing before the troubled soul and failed businessman, who is Harry Jenkins, posing as a horticulturalist. Harry, a man who not only talks to his individually named plants, but plays special music for them as well, is about to entrust Jonathan—whom he truly believes to be a plants expert—with his homemade aboretum for the princely sum of $500.00 per month…for four months. The mark, Harry (who once worked with Jonathan for the same company from which Jonathan was terminated and Harry resigned), loves his plants beyond what is explainable, and gives the con man, Doe, specific care instructions for his precious vegetation before he departs, including feeding them only mountain spring water. And Doe convinces Harry that he, Doe, has it all under control. But he, Doe, doesn’t. And things began to spiral out of control.

It, however, doesn’t stop there. Jonathan Doe’s con is long; his lies always laid on extra thick. And in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, the daredevil fabricates a new sham. This time, he fraudulently wears the distinguished hat of a Taxidermist. And when hired—by a mob boss named Lewis Caputo—to prepare a wealthy family’s deceased Bassett Hound for a taxidermy, Doe, not knowing the first thing about the process of freeze-drying dead animals, attempts to run a double-cross on the mobster, after collecting his pay, of course, and soon perceives that he has finally bitten off more than he can chew. Here is where Sarashina, a real Taxidermist, makes her entrance. The pretty Japanese practitioner—who was formerly married to a world famous actor named Hank Butterfield—takes a liking to the con man, Doe, and goes out of her way to help save his arse. But does the threat of a potential syndicate-ordered contract on his life cause the foolhardy Jonathan Doe to at least meet his senses half way? Absolutely not.

Jonathan Doe has invented numerous swindles, and breezed right on through them all, unrepentant and without any fear of retribution. Hell, Doe doesn’t even foster a nagging guilt on his conscious … Until he teams up with the sixteen-year-old Herbert Malt, and designs and prints out a stack of adverts that announce his latest double-dealing scheme: Professional octopus teaser.

The star of this wild and twisted comedy crime caper, Jonathan Doe has made the acquaintance of many a sucker, and outslicked many a slickster … Until his smug insincerity maliciously lures him into the path of one Rupert Whistler.

Set in the imaginary town of Vestibue, Grand Theft Octo, scribbled by the evidently talented Niels Saunders, packs a hilariously ruthless gut punch from start to finish. And I seriously could not stop laughing out loud while reading certain scenes in this wonderfully researched prose. Indeed, it is a novel with exquisite taste…an inky heart…a conniving mind of its own…and an exciting, action-packed ending. So sit back and relax with a glass of your favorite wine, why don’tcha, as Saunders provides the perfect pairings of fancy gourmet burgers and fancy gourmet hotdogs; black Périgord truffles, white Alba truffles, cave-aged Gruyère, pommes soufflés, and steamed la Bonnotte potatoes. And expect to be thoroughly entertained.

The antagonistic eel, if you will, of this story is the crime boss, Lewis Caputo. And it is to many people that Caputo has done tremendous harm, including to the likes of Jonathan, Sarashina (also known as Holly), and the A-list actor, Hank Butterfield, Sarashina’s/Holly’s ex-husband. For over twelve years, Sarashina/Holly and Hank have awaited the day to exact their revenge on Caputo. And now that they have Jonathan on their team, with his own ax to grind against the detestable Lewis Caputo, together the three wage war on their villainous foe. And it is to be a war for the crime caper genre’s record books.

While Grand Theft Octo is an amazingly-composed work of satirical fiction, one might think that the adverse consequences—which can result from living an unscrupulous lifestyle—would encourage the real world’s deceitful and crooked and lowdown and perfidious to straighten up and fly right. But, much like in the famous words of little Scotty Beckett: ‘They’ll never learn.’ Because despite those dangerous, and sometimes deadly, consequences, greed, that gluttonous spiritual monstrosity of excessive want, won’t allow such people to. For it, that spiritual monstrosity called greed, propels such persons to continue onward in their imposturous ways of living, even if such ways could possibly lead them to their own bloody demise.

It’s been said that cats have nine lives.
. . .It’s also been said that God watches over all damn fools.

I would recommend Grand Theft Octo until the end of time to those enthusiasts of crime caper fiction, were I permitted to do so. Because it is just that deftly-written of a novel. And I reckon that Carl Hiaasen, the storied Master of the Crime Caper, himself, and even Elmore Leonard, were the great man still here among us in the land of the physically living, would both stand in agreement.

Five gut-bustin’ stars.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Imperial Press, as well as Niels Saunders himself, for the author-issued copy of Grand Theft Octo, in exchange for my honest review.

Analysis of “Grand Theft Octo” by Niels Saunders is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington:

Date of Review: Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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Cat Ellington’s review of The Pact

The Pact (Parva Corcoran, #2)The Pact by John L. Probert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Either on a dark, cold, wet, and dreary day, or on a hazy summer’s evening at twilight is when John L. Probert’s The Pact should be read. For such are the mood projections of this relatively suspenseful novella. I say “relatively” because as the thriller does start out on a rather apprehensive note, in progression it begans to taper off into a lukewarm drama. And being a suspense thriller loyalist, that noticeable change slightly confused me. Frankly, I would have preferred for the 80-page prose to remain dark and cold and wet and dreary…
That is what I would have preferred, but it shouldn’t suggest I didn’t relish the undivided novel all the same.

Set in Wales, primarily at an exclusive—which is to say very expensive—women’s college named St. Miranda’s, the short thriller is launched with an uncanny first chapter that sets the entire plot. We follow Jen and Kerry, two young female students at the gender-segregated institution, as they make their way to one of the college’s residence blocks to meet up with their besties Victoria and Rachel, both of whom, by the way, round out the quartet of their friendship. The crisp, autumn night is creepy enough without Jen adding to it with her phobia of possibly being followed by a slasher rapist. The two-way conversation revolves around Jen’s nasty breakup with her boyfriend, as the two girls eventually reach their destination. Now together with Tor (Victoria’s nickname) and Rachel, the four girls laugh, chat, and drink cherry brandy as Tor calls to order the meeting of the “Suicide Blondes.” Everything seems fine, just four, very rich teenage girls living life and talking about relationships gone sour. . . until suddenly . . . the conversation floats off. It would be days before the remains of the four girls were gruesomely discovered in room 312. But did these girls commit suicide?
. . .Or were they murdered?

It’s a mystery that has many in the community baffled, even the British police. And that is why Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jack Willoughby is sending in Parva Corcoran as an undercover investigator to help unravel it. Parva agrees to join St. Miranda’s staff as a Biology teacher incognito. But certain members of the faculty at the centuries old gothic palace of higher learning—established out in the middle of nowhere and infested with many dark secrets—do not intend to suffer the arrival of any meddling newcomer lightly.

The Pact has a seriously fast-paced storyline which held my interest up until the very end. And I must say that I am now a brand spankin’ new fan of Parva Corcoran. Probert did a respectable enough job with the novella, shaking on just the right amount of dark suspense to give the effort its desired flavor. And for that, the author is worthy of applause.

I would, as a matter of fact, recommend The Pact to those who love a good suspense thriller with a chilling twist, but only under the advisement that they reserve it for a dark, cold, wet, and dreary day—in order to ensure better absorption.

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