Friday, October 15, 2021

The Body On The Beach ~A Novel~ By Patrick J. Collins

Constabulary officer Frank Fallon has just returned to his seaside home of Harbour Grace after 15 years with the Constabulary in St. John's. Demoted from his position as Corporal because of behavior unbecoming of an officer, the seasoned policeman finds himself on the beat in a town where he is forced to relive the painful memories of his past and the loss of his one and only love, beautiful Marie Callahan.  Bitter recollections quickly turn to a quest for justice, when Marie turns up dead on Martin's Beach.  As Frank sets out to investigate the suspicious death of his former lover he is forced to revisit past relationships and confront personal demons that continue to plague him at every turn.  The Body On The Beach is a well crafted piece of detective fiction that offers both suspense and a sense of vicarious satisfaction. As Officer Frank Fallon embarks upon his criminal investigation, hidden secrets and collusion are revealed and the sad tale behind the body on the beach is one you just don't see coming. 

"My Lord. Oh my God. It's Marie."

Seeing the love of his life, the woman he once hoped to marry, a victim, sprawled lifeless and cold, was too much to bear.  Too crushing.  He wanted to hold her.  Cradle her.  Comfort her.  Save her.   But he knew it was futile.  It was too late.  Fifteen years too late.  After all these years, discovering his very first love in such a horrifying context was beyond disturbing. 

He was numb with shock, his face buried in his hands.  But he had to come to his senses.  He was a policeman. As Frank rose to his feet, he glanced around, hoping that he hadn't been seen. Thankfully, it appeared he was still alone.  


The Body On The Beach by Patrick J. Collins is Collins' eleventh and most recent book. Written in memory of Alice Williams who tragically died in 1902, this mystery narrative is inspired by her suspicious death; a death whose cause has never been revealed.  Set in the 1920's, the bustling town of Harbour Grace is under the rule of the Prohibition Act and the judicial brass are tasked with maintaining law and order.  Officer Frank Fallon is a skilled officer but bitter about his demotion and seeks the comfort of forbidden spirits to help him get through his day.  Readers will relate to Fallon's flaws and will sympathize with his heartache but at the same time will be impressed with his investigative skills and dogged determination to find out what happened to his beloved Marie.  Readers will also be intrigued by the beautiful Christine Sullivan, daughter of the Chief Inspector who demoted Fallon, and will enjoy how the criminal investigation unfolds while a new story of love and romance develops. Collins cleverly crafts a completely new level of entertainment through the interplay of these two characters. 

Collins has done an excellent job at creating a story that flows seamlessly. It is well paced, making the story interesting and keeping readers hooked until the very end. The Body On The Beach by Patrick J. Collins is a wonderful read for any armchair detective who enjoys an escape from reality and an opportunity to step back in time.  It is a Flanker Press publication. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Operation Trafficked by Helen C. Escott

 Lena pulled at the loose skin around her eyes and dabbed more concealer at the corners, the bruises from the last client almost hidden beneath the thick cream.  These men didn't seem to notice or care about the cigarette burns on her legs or whip marks on her back. 

Her thin fingers ran down her neck, tracing the covered bruises from her last client's fingers.  She gasped when his face flashed before her.  He giggled as he squeezed the life from her body.  His rotten teeth and putrid breath stabbed her nostrils.  Thick spittle dripped from the corners of his mouth and fell on her face as she slipped into darkness......

She had survived, but it left her dead inside.  The nightmare continued.  There were clients waiting.

Sgt. Nicholas Myra and Cpl. Gail McNaughton have teamed up in Helen C. Escott's fourth crime thriller, Operation Trafficked.  After the murder of a young sixteen year old girl in a downtown hotel,  a special joint forces operation headed up by Myra and McNaughton seeks to investigate a sophisticated ring of international criminals specializing in human trafficking and the sale of women and children for sex.  As they attempt to piece together the events that led to the gruesome and untimely death of the young polish girl, they discover that what was once considered the oldest profession in the world is very much alive and well in the city of St. John's, Newfoundland and its surrounding areas. Suddenly a new realization emerges; these girls aren't just sex workers; they are sex slaves, often held against their will for the pleasure of powerful men who occupy the upper echelons of society.  

Dedicated to the thousands of women and children who are trafficked everyday,  Helen C. Escott crafts a story that is both shocking and gut wrenching.  Told in the third person point of view,  the author does a superb job at providing insight into the backstory of each woman, drawing readers into the plight of each of the female characters and elevating them to real people deserving of our empathy and support.  Whether it's the young mother, herself abused as a child, and now sending naked photos of her 7 year old daughter to her unknown boyfriend in a foreign country or a young Russian teen who has just discovered she has become pregnant by one of her johns,  readers will be sickened but also saddened that such a market exists in our very own neighbourhoods. Though the subject matter is heavy, there is relief!  Throughout the narrative, Escott also weaves the continuing story of Sgt. Nicholas Myra, first introduced to readers in her first crime thriller Operation Wormwood and that of Cpl. Gail McNaughton, whose investigative skills are revealed in Operation Vanished.  The duo and their team of cracker jack investigators are undaunted in their efforts to seek justice and in turn are able to provide closure to the families whose loved ones have gone missing.  Readers will have a hard time putting this book down.

Operation Trafficked by Helen C. Escott shines a very bright light on the heinous crimes that exist when a marginalized group are exploited for pleasure and gain.  Kudos to this award winning author for giving a voice to the voiceless! Operation Trafficked is a Flanker Press Publication.


Monday, August 30, 2021

The Stolen Ones by Ida Linehan Young

Yearning to discover her roots, Emma Carter of Boston, Massachusetts is on a quest to discover her biological family using an online DNA service when a pandemic strikes claiming Emma as one of it's earliest victims.  Emma's daughter Darlene and grand-daughter Tiffany are now left to navigate the craziness that plays out before them while trying to deal with the sudden and tragic loss of the matriarch of their now, small family of two.  However, Emma's DNA search has uncovered a wealth of information with a direct connection to ancestors in Newfoundland.  In an attempt to complete her mother's final work of uncovering the mysteries of the past, Darlene and Tiffany travel to the island province in search of answers.  Little do they know that they would be so warmly welcomed by Aunt Ammie and her entire kin and that Newfoundland would begin to feel like home.  As Darlene pours through the century-old journals left by her ancestors Doctors Peter and Mary Nolan,  she begins to form a strong emotional bond with her long lost relatives and begins to unravel other mysteries  yet to be discovered.  The Stolen Ones by Ida Linehan Young is a modern day story of love and loss, heartbreak and healing and provides proof that knowing one's roots can serve as a powerful antidote against adverse life experiences.

Darlene's pasted smile didn't leave her lips as she gazed around the room.  A tall man was helping an old lady from the rocking chair in the corner.  Once she straightened, he let her go, and she scuffed across the kitchen toward them.  Every eye in the room - and there were many - was fixed on them. 

" I'm Ammie," she said as she held out her hand.  "Most folks call me Aunt Ammie or Nana."

Darlene and Tiffany moved forward to meet her.  She didn't immediately take their hands but moved her fingers instead along Tiffany's red hair as her eyes brimmed with tears.  In the coveted silence, Ammie lived out some long-ago memory.  Her eyes changed with the waning intensity of the recollection, and she returned to the present.  "You're the spit of my grandmother, Mary," she said breathlessly.  "From my earliest memories, her hair was the colour of yours." 

Tiffany blushed. 

"There's no mistaking, you're our family," Ammie said with resolution as she held their hands.  Darlene was surprised by the strength of her grip.  She pulled each of them to her and hugged them.

The Stolen Ones is Ida Linehan Young's fourth novel complementing three previous works of historical fiction that were issued the Silver Medal for Best Series - Fiction by the Independent Publisher Book Awards.  Being Mary Ro (2018), The Promise (2019), and The Liars (2020) chronicle the 19th century lives of the fictional characters of John's Pond and North Harbour.  Inspired by a curiosity of the past instilled by her grandparents, this latest piece of fiction by Linehan Young continues to tell the historical tale of Mary and Peter Nolan through the lens of a modern day story.  The author does a superb job at crafting a tale that begins in modern day Boston and then seamlessly moves back and forth from the present day to that of John's Pond, 1878.  Readers will delight in the authenticity of the story and it's main characters Darlene, Tiffany and Aunt Ammie and will likewise be inspired by the tragedy and triumphs of the ancestral Nolan family.  It is this mingling of past and present where the true story unfolds, new questions arise and old mysteries are solved.   

Having read the first three books in the Linehan Young series, I was keen to read the continuing story of Peter and Mary's life together and really enjoyed watching their lives unfold before my very eyes.   I also appreciated the tidbits of factual information researched by the author which are detailed in the historical notes at the end of the novel.   Linehan Young's ability to weave these facts into the fictional storyline is a testament to her love for the culture of her home province of Newfoundland and the rich art of storytelling that was passed down to her by her father and grandfather.  Though not required, I strongly suggest reading the entire series from the beginning and getting to know the wonderful characters of John's Pond and North Harbour. Once you start, each book is sure to captivate you and propel you to finish the series.  The Stolen Ones by Ida Linehan Young is a Flanker Press publication.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Dildo, Newfoundland by K. Bruce Lane

A town built on fishing and whaling, the Trinity Bay community of Dildo, Newfoundland usually provokes a wide smile and a chuckle or two.   Though Dildo is one of the many Newfoundland place names that would make the heartiest of souls blush it is certainly not the only place name that would raise an eyebrow or two.  Ranking up there with other Newfoundland place names like Spread Eagle, Come By Chance and Blow Me Down, most community names are unusual monikers originating from early English and Irish seafaring terms or from early explorers that mapped our shores.  So, how did  Dildo get its name? Likely, as historically documented in 1711, it refers to the thole pin stuck in the edge of a boat to act as a pivot point for rowing but not everyone would agree and there does exist many colorful stories amongst local peoples about the namesake of this community.  One thing is true, though, and that is the fact that this picturesque little town will capture the heart of any and all who visit. Why else would American late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel declare Dildo as the sister city of Hollywood?  A leisurely perusal of K. Bruce Lane's book entitled Dildo, Newfoundland will show you why. 

Lane's book will take readers on a leisurely photographic tour of this quaint town located one hour west of the capital city of St. John's.  For the armchair tourist, this book is filled with bright colorful photos of the people and places that make Dildo famous, arranged in a softcover book that can be easily held. From pictures of the little dory's tied up to the wharf to the fish hung out to dry, readers will be transported to a quieter setting, free from the hustle and bustle of city life. Images are arranged singly, in couplets and some are single images displayed over a two page spread.   Photos of lobster pots waiting to be thrown into the water and cut wood readied for the upcoming winter offer a glimpse into the work life of the people of Dildo. One can almost hear the splash of the harbour water while fisherman gut their catch, the screeching of the hungry gulls overhead, and the banter of locals (and tourists alike) as life in this quintessential community unfolds before our very eyes.  I would be remiss if I did not mention the pictures of the boldly colored period houses characteristic of a bygone era.  These photos contrast beautifully with the more modern photos of the signage, restaurants and local watering holes typical of a vibrant, modern lifestyle.  Through well-curated images and interesting text detailing  historical information about Dildo,  K. Bruce Lane has done a superb job at portraying the simple life and times of a community that has gained international notoriety.  Dildo, Newfoundland is a wonderful coffee table album for any homesick Newfoundlander living away or for anyone who needs (dare I say?) a little Dildo in their life.

Dildo, Newfoundland is a Flanker Press publication. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

My Father's Son by Tom Moore

Felix Ryan, a middle aged high school teacher from Curlew, Conception Bay is facing the biggest battle of his life.  While attempting to stare down a serious mid-life crisis that leaves him questioning his entire existence, Felix receives a phone call from his ex-girlfriend Tammy to return home.  A big American oil company led by a larger than life Texan named John Baron and his cracker jack lawyer had begun purchasing land from the local residents with a plan to begin extracting oil from the ground.  As the town becomes divided over the potential new wealth a fracking operation would bring, Felix's aging and eccentric father embarks upon yet another crusade to reveal the truth about big business, religion and life.  As the battle lines are drawn, Felix is also confronted with the realities of his existence and unknowingly embarks upon his own crusade to take back his life.  
My Father's Son is Tom Moore's sequel to the award winning The Sign On My Father's House. It is a story about the triumphs and tribulations of life and fighting for what you believe in.  

I rose from the table like a man rising from the grave.  I left the walls, the dust, the echoes behind, and I moved into a new dimension.

From the outset of the novel the reader quickly discovers that all is not well with the main character Felix.  Standing, both literally and figuratively, on a wet precipice atop Signal Hill on a wet day in St. John's is not typically where one would be standing especially when wearing black leather shoes, however, this is where the main character finds himself just like the icebergs making their way south, "on its journey from water to ice and back to water again".  The reader will come to appreciate these types of symbolic references that help to solidify the deeper meaning of an otherwise easy and entertaining read.  Punctuated throughout the narrative along with setting and plot details that are iconic to St. John's and outport life really makes this book appealing.  What Newfoundland Townie wouldn't know The Ship Inn, Soloman's Lane, Rocket Bakery and the Health Science Centre?  As the narrative moves to the small town of Curlew,  Moore invites the reader to bear witness to the soap opera-like antics of a small community that has become too familiar with itself.  From affairs, to secret pregnancies, abuse and even murder Felix is finally forced to confront the truths of his life and the reader takes guilty pleasure in becoming a part of it. 

In Curlew the past met the present: the old saltbox homes from the war years stood beside the new split levels of the 1970's.  Some of the older ones were abandoned or kept as summer homes by nostalgic offspring.  They mostly housed mice these days, and annual touch-ups were as much as they could expect.  Many of these annual repairs got lost in the world of good intentions.  Roofs leaked and eaves sagged in various degrees of neglect.  Some, well back from the road, had fallen in on themselves, desolate, slipping back into the invisible past. 

Author Tom Moore does a superb job at developing authentic characters, that are true to form, in the novel My Father's Son. The lovely Ellen Monteau (Felix's true love) is sharply contrasted with Tammy, the cigarette smoking, gum chewing woman that ends up capturing Felix's heart.  And of course this story simply would not exist without Father, Walter Ryan, always at the ready to fight a cause.  Everyone knows "a Walter" but it is his crusade and dynamic personality that drives this story, helps the reader to realize the importance of standing up for what is right and eventually shows Felix how to be the son is was destined to become.

"Then what is the answer for Curlew?  And for Newfoundland?"

"Paternalism is no good. It leads to people like your last speaker, Reverend Stone, who says, 'Turn over your lives to me and I'll save you.' John Baron has the same message. Give me your land and I'll save you. It's all the same scam." 

"But Mr. Baron built a big hotel and a huge church here in the town.  Isn't that a good thing?"

"No, it's not. People can be bribed with those things for a time.  But the shallowness of materialism, and religion, and paternalism only stifles growth. The individual must grow, but can't grow under the yoke of an oil baron, a fishing merchant, or a minister."  

My Father's Son by Tom Moore is a well written and enjoyable read.  It is entertaining and at times thought provoking. Though not required, a read of Moore's first novel The Sign On My Father's House will give the reader an excellent introduction to this great story. My Father's Son is a Flanker Press publication. 



Don't Be Talkin' ~ Recitations and Other Foolishness From Newfoundland and Labrador by Harry Ingram

My first encounter with a recitation was in a high school English class.  The teacher stood before the teenaged audience, and with a booming voice and exaggerated actions, engaged us with a spirited delivery of The Creation Of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service.  As the rhythmic pattern of the poem bounced along, the story of old Sam unfolded, leaving us completely spellbound and entranced.  And when the last line was spoken we were left speechless, some of us applauding for the rousing performance.  When I received my review copy of Don't Be Talkin' by Harry Ingram, I reflected back on this wonderful memory and immediately opened the book to have a read.  I was not disappointed.

Newfoundland and Labrador has been blessed with a distinct storytelling tradition. Such literary performances are woven into the cultural fibre of our province and have existed ever since the first European settlers came to our shores in the fifteenth century.  In fact it has been said that the unofficial history of Newfoundland lives in the songs, stories and recitations that can be heard in the kitchens of outport communities and upon the stages of organized events like the St. John's Storytelling Festival.  Though many of the old timers recite poems that shed light on days gone by, Harry Ingram is a storyteller whose 21st century recitations speak to a childhood in Arnold's Cove and the funny side of everyday life.  While growing up in this Placentia Bay community, Ingram listened to recitations on radio and record and was inspired by his Uncle Mose who would write and perform his own recitations.  In this debut publication, Ingram has done a superb job in writing and presenting a compilation of light hearted, humorous poems recounting everything from Great-Uncle John's Christmas to the troubles with remote controls. With a few more serious, short stories thrown into the mix, Don't Be Talkin' is a fun and entertaining book for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and for those who just want a good laugh. 

Everyone knows one, / And that there's no doubt, / Someone all negative, / Yes, down in the mouth. //  I know one quite well, / He's my Great-Uncle John, / But it's not of his wit, / Or his charm I'm so fond. // But crooked as sin, / That's a way to describe 'im, / Opinions he got, / And don't care if you like 'em. // Yes, he's that friggin' crooked, / I'll tell you right now, / If he died tomorrow,  He'd be screwed in the ground. //

Ingram's topics run the gamut! From humorous recitations on parenting such as "Good Night Little One" and, my personal favorite, "Don't Ask" to the rum-running adventures of a Skipper from Placentia Bay in "Just Inside The Gate". Who wouldn't be entertained by a most unfortunate labour dispute at the North Pole by some very tired reindeer in the recitation entitled "Havoc At The North Pole" and in "The Square Root of Pie" readers will delight in reading about the stolen pies by a clever baker from Marg's Bakery.  Ingram really decides to "ham it up" when he tells us about the three legged pig known as Sir Frances Bacon in the poem "The One About The Pig"  and readers will be left impressed by the enterprising group of ladies who barter with tea buns in "Trouble With Tea Buns".  Skipper Bill's tale of a big bull moose named Jerome in the poem "Jerome" is hilarious and of course in this year of 2021 no book of recitations could be complete without a pandemic poem called "The Other End of This". On a more serious note, Ingram also includes some heartfelt stories and tributes to people, like his Dad and sister, who have influenced his life.  

You know, being a parent, / Sometimes you don't know, / If you're doing it right, / So you go with the flow. // Like a little while back, / About a month or two, / I was fixing the mower, / Or at least trying to. //  When a voice behind me, / Made me quite perplexed, / As my eight-year-old daughter asked, / Daddy, what's sex? //

Don't Be Talkin' ~ Recitations and Other Foolishness From Newfoundland and Labrador is a fantastic read!!  This is an all ages show contained within the covers of 180 pages; an open ticket that will leave you busting a gut and coming back for more time and time again. Don't Be Talkin'  is a Flanker Press Publication. 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Rough Justice by Keith Mercer

The early 19th century was a time of great growth for St. John's.   Under the administrative control of a colonial government and with a growing population and a demand for services, the lack of a municipal government within a community of landlords that were largely absent most of the time created conditions that were unsavoury at best. Though municipal taxation faced great resistance, lawmakers of the day made great strides in attempting to improve building construction, fire services and water and sewer in the growing fishing town. A small number of constables paid from the sale of tavern licences managed to keep some semblance of peace through nightly patrols but the government largely depended on the garrison and the clergy to keep peace during times of crisis. In 1870, however, with the threat of maritime conflict fading, the Governor of the day, Stephen Hill,  was informed that the garrison would be recalled and that Newfoundland would now have to pay for its own security and defence. And so, born out of desperation, began the Newfoundland Constabulary and what would become the oldest police force in Canada.

Rough Justice, written by Newfoundland historian and Memorial University graduate, Keith Mercer, chronicles “the first detailed study of policing in early Newfoundland.”  A project of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society and published in 2021 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Constabulary's establishment, Mercer utilizes a case study approach to "shed light on the social history of law and order in both St. John's and the outports" focusing on the "lived experiences of the largely anonymous men who filled that position" as constable during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Mercer's historical analysis is garnered from detailed surveys of court records and documents organized chronologically over the course of two centuries.  Through the use of frequent storytelling and the presentation of various case studies Mercer presents a scholarly account of a colony-wide endeavour to bring law enforcement to the area  known as the Old English Shore.  The eight chapter narrative is thorough and in depth, citing archives and publications and also including maps, tables, appendices, a bibliography, and an index.  An 8 page album of black and white photos provides a visual context for the time period that Mercer comprehensively recounts  in presenting the colony-wide endeavour to shed light on the social history of law and order in the fledgling colony. 

The Newfoundland experience was one of continuity and incremental reform rather than sudden change brought about by political or legislative milestones - in this, there are striking parallels with policing in other colonies and cities in British North America.

The narrative first begins chronicling some of the the earliest visitors to our shores; the fishing admirals.  These mysterious fishing-ship captains selected the best beach space or fishing room but often ignored the legal responsibilities that came with the position, laying the groundwork for the introduction of the first constables in 1729. Chapter 3 details the birth of police constables in Newfoundland, officers normally from middling occupations such as planters and whom played an active role in regulating taverns and enforcing observance of the Sabbath. The work was dangerous but the constables are seen as important figures in their communities and were elevated to a status of wearing a uniform and receiving a salary while playing active roles in serving the district and superior courts. Chapter 5 details the tavern-keeper system which remained in place until the first full-time constabulary was created in 1812 and Chapter 6 tells the story of Newfoundland's most prominent police officer, William Phippard, who led the way in fighting crime on the streets during a postwar depression.  As a lover of all things history and all things related to my culture, I found Rough Justice to be both an interesting and comprehensive analysis of subject matter not often explored yet crucial to the growth and development of a modern society.  Though it was a slow going read with highlighter in hand, I often found myself revisiting many concepts for the sheer interest and amazement of the historical context in which it was presented.  There were many "Did you know?" moments that I simply could not contain!!

Rough Justice is a solid, well written and expertly researched record of how Newfoundlanders lived and worked a century and a half before the formal establishment of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. It is the story of those many men who quietly enforced the law and helped to make communities safe through the maintenance of public order.  In the words of Chair Edward Roberts of The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society it is "a valuable contribution to the public record of Newfoundland's past".  Rough Justice is a Flanker Press publication.