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Wednesday, December 7, 2016
2:43 pm est
Novel and Appearance Schedule
six months of research and “living” with a tall, unconventional character who “told” me her name was
Faith Little, my fourth novel and the third in the historical Novels of Phoenixville… series, has been published!
Just in time for your holiday gift giving!
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s is set in at the turn of the last century, with flashbacks and recalls to historical events and (most interesting) character
backgrounds that occur in the 1800s. Not to brag (but I will), I just have to say that three of my advanced readers really
liked it! And these three, folks, are my worst critics. Issued by B’Seti Pup Publishing, this intriguing romantic novel,
which is really a mystery (my first?), is available for purchase in both paperback and Kindle formats on amazon.com. Just
click the cover photo in the side panel or the title at the beginning of this paragraph. And for those of you in the Phoenixville
area, copies will also be available at both Gateway Pharmacy (165 Nutt Road) and the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area (204 Church Street; Hours: 9 to 3 Wednesday
and Friday and on First Fridays and Sundays).
Now, I’m beginning to get a bit of reputation around town
as the historical novelist of the area. And, as such, I am now on local television (information below), doing yet
another few book signing, and have even been invited to participate in the local library’s literary series.
Television Interview: The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War II with Dr. Lou Beccaria, the host of And Now You Know, is airing three times a day (egad!) on the local
TPN channel (22 on Comcast; 29 on Verizon). Here are the times:
Sun: 7:30am 5:00pm 9:00pm
Mon: 7:30am 5:00pm 8:00pm
Tues: 7:30am 5:00pm
7:30am 5:00pm 9:00pm
Thurs:7:30am 5:00pm 8:00pm
Fri: 7:30am 5:00pm 8:00pm
Sat: 7:30am 5:00pm
And for those of you who are not in the area, here's
a link to the video online (of all places...YouTube!): https://youtu.be/Y8JYw9_dNG8
Book Signing: Saturday, January 14, 2017, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Gateway Pharmacy,
165 Nutt Road, Phoenixville, PA 19460. Copies of all four of my novels will be available for personalized encryptions and
Phoenixville Library Lecture Series: Monday, February 13, 2017, 7:00
p.m. at the Phoenixville Library, 183 Second Avenue, Phoenixville, PA. German
Prisoners during War World II at Valley Forge General Hospital. Lecture by Jack Ertell from the Historical Society of
the Phoenixville Area and discussion of my novel, The Prisoner’s Portrait.
are the dates and times so far. So, please mark your calendar and join us!
And now, back to work on yet another
novel about Phoenixville! Teaser: This one is told by a mansion…
Have a great day and enjoy all your reads!
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
2:01 pm est
The Lambs of War
Sometimes, the best way to cope with the stark realities of life is to escape into an even harsher one. But,
hopefully, one with the prospects of a brighter, better outcome. Which is exactly what I did this past week. When things fail
and are terrifyingly disappointing, I turn to books; my surest and safest refuges in times of uncertainty. Even if the one
I turned to was brutally stark and unmercifully truthful.
The Lambs of War, by Brian McManus, is a grim look into the world of Nazi Germany, circa 1943. Caught
up in the throes of war and the horrors of brutal, misguided anti-Semitism, Isaac and his wife, Flora, have been avoiding
the Nazi authorities for years. Commodore Adolf Ahrens, a respected food merchant in Bremerhaven, has them under his wing
as employees in his household until the Gestapo discovers he is harboring the young Jewish couple. He calls a former friend,
whose son is a camp officer at the Ravensbruck Labor Camp, hoping to save his charges from the upcoming “sweep”.
He makes a deal that they will be able to stay together as husband and wife. But when they arrive at the camp gates, they
are separated: Isaac to work in the household of the cruel Captain Heinrich Wurtzmeuller; Flora to join the ill-treated women
who slave in the Ravensbruck munitions and clothing factories.
And then, Flora is told that Isaac had been shot and killed the very afternoon of their arrival…
McManus is a very capable storyteller. His plot lines
are straightforward and tightly drawn, with a few clever “Surprise, I didn’t see that coming!” twists that
keep the reader on the edge of the seat. Or, in my case, up late until the wee hours of the morning eagerly wanting to know
what happens next. With a deft brush, he paints a stark picture of sadistically cruel Nazis, with their insatiable greed,
infighting, and jealousies; juxtaposing their hate with the almost pure and hopeful love that Isaac and Flora have for one
another. I was mesmerized by his intuitive insights into Isaac’s mind, as well as those of his other well-developed
characters. In addition, it is evident this author has done quite a bit of research about Germany during World War II, not
to mention capturing vivid and often lurid details of life in a forced labor camp. Even his background geography was spot
However, while the author has a distinct flair for writing, there is a distinct lack of competent
editing. Too many grammatical errors, typographical mistakes, often misused words, and more than occasional awkward phraseology
were distracting, crippling what could have otherwise been a smooth, stunningly superb read. In my own experiences as a self-published
author, one instantly loses credibility as a capable novelist when the literary standards of our profession are cast aside
for the sake of expediency.
That being said, McManus does provide us with a rude, more than realistic awakening
that overflows with action, suspense, romance, pursuit, and the ever-present persistent quest for survival. The Lambs of War is a no-holds-barred insight into what misogyny, racism, cruelty, sexism, and the lack of basic human decency and kindness
can easily foster. It is, without doubt, a rip-roaring good story that, despite its flaws, should not be missed. Nor its message
Monday, September 5, 2016
4:29 pm edt
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
I grow up,” my inner child is saying, “I want to be a writer…just like Amy Stewart. I want my latest character
in novel number four to be as strong, as courageous, as smart, and witty as Constance Kopp, new Jersey’s first lady
deputy sheriff, in Stewart’s second historical novel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble (A Kopp Sisters Novel). One can only hope.
The second in her Kopp Sisters series set in the early 1900s in Bergen County, New
Jersey (the first was Girl Waits with Gun, reviewed on this blog on Sunday, July 12, 2015) this quite readable and
most enjoyable book is a veritable tour de force. Stewart, who gave us many wondrous non-fiction natural science exposés
– including my favorite, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks –
has once again provided us with a literary rendition of the life of…well, a lady cop. (That’s right, folks. Our
intrepid heroine was actually dubbed Cop Constance Kopp! And she’s back!) And if truth is, as they say, better than
fiction…Well, then Deputy Sheriff Kopp – as other critics have noted – is the American answer to Jaqueline
Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs. Only Amy Stewart’s, I have to say, is a tad better. The character of Constance doesn’t
seem fictionally squeezed out of one’s imagination into a word processor, but was obviously written with a natural fluidity
as if she had been lifted from the pages of history onto the pages of a literary mystery. Which she was. Actually, so far,
into two of them, with yet another one on the horizon.
“Books,” a reading buddy said to me over lunch
one lazy summer afternoon, “must, to me, be amusing as well as entertaining. Most important, they must elucidate –
be enlightening.” In Lady Cop Makes Trouble, the author certainly meets all these criteria. Deputy Kopp’s
first-person insights into and about the lives of female inmates and the fugitive convicted criminals she searches for (based
upon the actual cases Constance Kopp worked on during her tenure as a Deputy Sheriff) are well crafted illuminations. Observations
of Sheriff Heath’s as well as her own family are both humorous and poignant. And the little touches of early 20th
Century Americana and the painstaking detailed fictionalizations of real-life incidents interspersed throughout the plot line
elevate this novel to a most satisfactory read.
While a master at bringing the not-so-dull, often drab tales
of science to life, Stewart has, indeed, also mastered the art of storytelling. Definitely put Constance and her adventures
on your Autumn to-read list. Her many adventures will keep the cockles of your heart warm and intrigued as the (very-much
welcomed) cooler weather begins to set in.
Enjoy the read!
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
1:56 pm edt
Ashes of Fiery Weather
I cannot believe I have posted a book review since June. Not by my own choosing, mind
you. it's been not only a long, hotter than hot summer, which has really done me in. Not to mention that the past two or so
months have been fraught with a few personal trials and tribulations. The least of which included having to replace my trusty
ol' laptop. But with my new Dell and
the promise of cooler weather in the next few weeks, I am, I hope, back on track.
The title of today's novel -- as well as its content -- is quite apropos
of not only this on-going spate of heat and humidity but also the new exhibit opening Friday at the Historical Society of
the Phoenixville Area: "Smoke, Fire, and Bravery: A History of Phoenixville's Fire Companies". Both the well-written
novel and the fabulous display have brought back many memories from back in the day...
My father’s oldest brother was once a Captain
in the Dobbs Ferry Fire Department. I don’t know or quite remember which station (there are three in the now expanding
village, I think), but I do recall him riding on a hook and ladder in Memorial Day parades, clad in full dress uniform decorated
with the many medals he had earned. My Da, not one much for heroes, called him “a brave soul, putting out fires, saving
lives…” Uncle Dougie succumbed, or so the urban family legend goes, in the line of duty, very much the courageous
captain his younger brother so admired.
help but recall his memory when I read an advanced copy of Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe. It is a seminal tribute
to the 343 members of the Fire Department of New York City who lost their lives in the line of duty during the 9/11 tragedy;
the fifteenth anniversary of which is next week. This debut novel’s publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt couldn’t
have been more timely. Nor more poignant.
Set in Brooklyn, Ashes of Fiery Weather tells not the stories of firemen, but of seven women,
all members of the Irish clan of O’Reilly who, as the title aptly suggests, “weathers” the various tragedies
of fires their men – husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins – as members of the FDNY are called to
fight. It spans a blazing history of the family in Brooklyn from 1918 through September 2012, each account told from the perspective
of a woman, including a wife unexpectedly now a widow; a mother silently grieving for her losses; a sister determined to follow
in her brother’s footsteps; a daughter coming to gripes with adulthood; a unexpected cousin, newly discovered. Each
story is told in a rich, flowing writing style that uses simple words and phrases to convey complex emotions and situations;
probing into the abyss of all aspects of familiar relationships.
To say Donohoe is a genius of a writer is an
understatement. Her literary talent, reminiscent of Flannery O’Conner, Eudora Welty, and William J. Kennedy –
with a subtle dash of Keatsian poetic nuance – polishes each plotline facet into a sparkling diamond of wisdom, wit,
and heart-wrenching circumstances. Her characters are so real, one could almost hear their Irish Brooklyn brogues ringing
in the ears. This author stunningly and compassionately renders each woman’s story in excellent juxtaposition of intertwining
families as they bravely face alongside their men the most terrifying experiences of their (and our) lives. It is, to say
the least, one of the better, most finely crafted, most satisfying novels of the year.
Ashes of Fiery Weather is a must read that will fire up the deepest imaginations of reality, leaving you burning for more.
Monday, June 20, 2016
1:36 pm edt
This week, I am not only celebrating one
less than a major milestone birthday (which is next year), but also my fortieth (40th) year living here in Phoenixville.
I am celebrating rather subduedly, wondering how the hell the years breezed by so quickly since as a young and eager twenty-nine
(You do the math!), I travelled cross-country from the Mid-west for our country's Bicentennial Celebration.
Girl Scout program director at the time, I conceived the idea of a commemorative train trek from Louisville through Chicago
and then on to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. The 50 or so girls who participated switched trains twice
en route, slept in basements of local churches, attended most of the celebrations, and learned a lot of American history as
they toured Independence Mall, Elfreth’s Alley, Valley Forge, and three museums.
After five days, they
left. And I, having fallen in love with the charm and history of Phoenixville and the surrounding area…I stayed. Forty
years later, I have lived here longer than my birthplace of Dobbs Ferry, NY. And, as most of you know, I am so enamored, I
am now writing about it. My “Novels of Phoenixville…” series (The Prisoner’s Portrait and,
just recently, the Schuylkill Monster) is steeped in this burgeoning borough’s rich history and feature fictional
stories based upon real facts and incidents. Number three (Columbia Hotel) is in the works.
in my rambling research travels, I came across a most talented, witty, down-to-earth, hold-no-bars writer who now makes it
her life’s work delving into the little known, salient facts of our nation’s history. I want you to meet Sarah
Vowell who, hailing from Montana and now based in New York City, tells it like it is, er, was from a most unique perspective:
her own, sometimes biased, but totally historically accurate point of view.
Vowell was once a contributing editor
for Public Radio International’s This American Life, and has written seven non-fiction books on American history
and culture. Her conversational writing style is fluid and vivid, putting herself smack dab in the middle of each event she
recounts. She is both wise and irreverent, poignantly funny, and couples little know facts with uniquely brilliant observations.
In ways so creative, they give one pause and beg to suspend belief. In short, her books are fun and interesting to read.
And more than just informative. They are also entertaining.
I just finished her latest, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, about the dashing young Frenchman who eagerly romps alongside General George Washington through the American Revolution.
Vowell recaps the more salient battles and strategies of the Colonialists – aided by French troops and naval forces
(as well as Louis XVI’s many francs) – as they fend off the occupying British forces. I once considered this part
of our history dull. Its dates and names just more annoying facts to learn in school. But under Vowell’s carefully constructed
and wonderfully exhuberant tutelage, they came alive. Needless to say, I learned a lot about our forefathers, as well as our
beloved Marquis de Lafayette after whom so many American places are named.
I enjoyed Lafayette…
so much so that between writing my own hopefully engaging chapters, I am now reading Vowell’s Assassination Vacation
and The Wordy Shipmates, intending to zip through the rest of her entertainingly educational
– and inspirational – oeuvres during the coming summer months.
Now, that’s the way to relive,
relearn, enjoy, and write about history!
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J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville
during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her fourth novel.