Terrible times call for superhuman responses, and nowhere can we find better examples than war. Unfortunately, humans aren’t at their best unless challenged, deprived, threatened, or persecuted. An excellent example of this truth is this book set primarily in France In WW II. Based on notes, memories and interviews about Jean Claude Guiet, by his son Daniel Guiet and coauthor Timothy Smith, Guiet was a duel citizen. When time came for him to be drafted, Uncle Sam was smart enough for America’s sake to recruit him as a spy in occupied France.

He was the radio operator in one of a number of Allied underground teams parachuted into France, left to function independently, and survive if they were able. Blown away. Dumbstruck. Speechless. Lots of descriptors for a work that’s full of words, experiences and emotions about people in war. What sticks with me upon reading was not the thrill and chill episodes, but the sheer strength and courage of the team, one of whom was Violette Szabo, who eventually was captured, tortured and executed. Indeed, the life expectancy of any of the teams involved was estimated to be about two weeks. Jean Claude survived, playing his part not just in vital communications but also in assault and defense actions. All at the age of about 20. We also see the enthusiasms and energies of young adulthood. Incidents that would seem impossible for most people—climbing mountains, sneaking around forests, become challenges to be exuberantly overcome by Jean Claude.

This is a valuable work for anyone interested in military history or politics. More than that, it reminds us on every page that the words “Free World” came at an immense cost to humanity. Some things are more important than money, status, fame, even the law and rules. One of those is an individual’s personal code of ethics and honor. Regardless of nationality or religion, ultimately we each should strive to do what we think is right.

Scholars of Mayhem: My Father’s Secret War in Nazi-Occupied France, by Daniel C. Guiet  and Timothy K. Smith (Penguin Books, 2020)


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Colorado Women in World War II, by Gail M. Beaton (Timberline Books, August 2020)


More than seventy-five years ago, the war AFTER the war to end all wars (WW I), AKA World War II ended. While the war itself was no cause for celebration, it did bring massive changes to American society. We geared up for an uber-national effort, factories turned to making war implements and support for the troops, people raised their own veggies, millions made-do and did-without.

Another major kick in the seat of the pants was to the American labor force, which had its locked gates slowly pried open by females. With little support for the concept of equal rights, women moved into the job market and filled all the pink collar and service positions in the nation that it always had, but also broke limits in new occupations. Colorado was no different, as women soldered, sawed, hammered, flew hither and yon, studied medicine and aeronautics, doctored and nursed, gave tea parties yes, but also marched with men in the service, except for combat.

Colorado Women in World War II could be a handbook for how to move ahead, shove your way into the mainstream. Author Gail Beaton chronicles numerous individuals as they learned (and sometimes loved) to fill critical, vital roles, earning the respect and accolades of their male peers along the way. We always like to imagine that our generation is responsible for major developments, and, we hope, improvements in our society. Beaton clearly credits our foremothers for their courage and fortitude. Shame on our country that some of the most impressive were the insuperable odds against which women of color, all colors, and of differing sexuality struggled simply to claim their right to contribute to the war effort.

Among the fascinating glimpses into life for women during the war—bathing from a helmet, cowering in the depths of a ship under fire, working 12-hour shifts, caring for dying soldiers—the book provides a treasure trove for vets, women, historians, and military buffs. Despite avoiding front line combat, danger and privation still lurked everywhere. Beaton braids nearly eighty oral histories—including interviews, historical studies, newspaper accounts, and organizational records—and historical photographs to reveal women’s participation in the war, exploring the dangers and triumphs they felt, the nature of their work, and the lasting ways in which the war influenced their lives.

The fortitude and creativity with which they shattered limits to create new opportunities for women sets the bar high for following generations. And they did so while saving the entire nation from disaster and despair.


Why do we, well, really me, love apocalyptic novels? Is it because they voice our fears about our so-called civilization? Or is it because we secretly wish our society and all the crazy people and things that happen would get their comeuppance?

In any case, here’s another in the series, but one that’s stunningly well written as well as an attention-grabber. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, published in 2014 and thrust into best-seller and best-book status, rings so true, every character—and there’s plenty of them, from an eight-year-old girl to a thumping good, evil, self-proclaimed prophet –could be your friends and neighbors.

Mandel’s fourth novel takes place primarily in the Great Lakes region after a fictional swine flu pandemic, known as the “Georgia Flu”, has devastated the world, killing most of the population. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015. Although critics praise the understated nature of Mandel’s writing, I think that’s a misnomer. She simply lays out the characters and plot in a realistic, matter-of-fact way, so the 300 survivors in one area who take refuge in an airport function exactly like you’d envision your friends and neighbors would.

There’s lots of action, fighting off bad guys, battling for sheer survival, but also much insightful psychological and thoughtful musings about nature and humans and the earth’s future. Mandel’s talent as a literary author is indisputable. She doesn’t consider herself a “scfi” writer, but “literary.” I hesitate to use that term because it seems to scare people. Believe me, readers will adore both the content and the style.

Perhaps I’m not panicky over our current COVID pandemic because it’s not nearly as extreme as the other dystopian novels I’ve read—Ashfall, A Journal of the Plague Year, Hunger Games, Ship Breaker, Divergent, Rule of Three. When I close the covers of a book, I return to the world in which every one I’m attached to still survives and the culture around me still has unbelievable riches and opportunities. Yet each of these volumes, and most especially Station Eleven, carries a warning not to get too comfortable. For unless we improve our ways, that world could become one I don’t want.

Terror Proves Thrilling Once Again


            Science fiction/fantasy author Laurence St John tackles action-adventure in his third novel in the Metatron series. In his new release, Metatron: Dagger or Mortality, he creates a young adult hero who “sustains constant action.” Superhero-in-training Metatron, 15-year-old Tyler struggles to stop the relentless animosity of a demonic figure and his accomplice.

            People today are all-too-familiar with terrorism and fake news. St John uses a similar scenario to place his protagonist in a situation as the suspect of a mass murder. A headline reads “Terror on the East Coast – Two Million Dead!” Fake or real (in the book)? St. John quickly grabs the reader’s attention, then poses the ultimate question: Can superheroes really be killed?

            Tyler believes a Superhero’s responsibility is to make the right decision, then follow it through to the end. But what if the outcome results in his death? He’s been in isolation for eight months so he could focus on completing his superhero training. Not even one day after his completion, Master Pat Tanaka urgently summons Tyler to help him.

            Kelltie, an evil girl, is threatening Tyler’s destiny of being a superhero by framing him for what will be the largest mass killings in American history. She also teams up with Black Shadow, a ruthless demonic figure with his own agenda — to use the Dagger of Mortality and kill Metatron.

            Feeling vulnerable, Tyler gets inspiration one last time from his Master instructor. He faces the Black Shadow, who seeks revenge for an unknown reason, and Tyler must render the most arduous choice of his life. He’ll save himself, save his beloved girlfriend Kendall, or save millions of helpless people and hinder Kelltie’s plan The story is set in New York, Nevada, and Massachusetts, where the action-packed adventure opens your mind’s eye.

            Author Kenna McKinnon said, “Teens and adults alike will identify with Tyler and his all-too-human angst as he executes superhero feats in a way only St. John’s hero can accomplish, with many twists and surprising turns of events in this young adult thriller.”

            St. John hails from just south of Toledo, Ohio. He’s currently working on book four and five in the Metatron Series. During the day, he works for Precision Strip, a company dealing with processing of raw material. During his off-hours he creates his novels.

            Metatron: Dagger of Mortality is published by Ogopogo Book, an Imprint of Imajin Books. For more information visit http://getbook.at/DaggerofMortality or imajinbooks.com. Reach Laurence at www.laurencestjohn.com; http://twitter.com/laurencestjohn; http://www.facebook.com/laurenceastjohn.



The Thrill of Writing About Love

By Khaled Talib, author of thrillers

In my newly released thriller, Gun Kiss, the protagonist falls in love with the co-protagonist, a common occurrence in books of all genres. As I sought reviews for the novel, I queried a book blogger who agreed to read it, but it didn’t turn out well for me. The blogger was abusive in her review of my book, highlighting nothing positive about it. In fact, she even went so far to say it wasn’t a book she would recommend to anyone. Yet she cared enough to publish the review on her blog, book cover and all. Why bother if she hated it that much?

That blogger was just one of the many reviewers I had contacted. Of course, I didn’t agree with the reviewer’s unsubstantiated comments. Like other authors, I have enjoyed my fair share of positive reviews. Gun Kiss was no exception as it also received praise from some renowned critics.

I could have responded to all her nitpicking, but I didn’t see the need because other reviewers and readers didn’t have problems with them. However, the blogger complained that “like instantly” after seeing her once. She added: “Had seen her once, when he rescued her and now he [sic] in love.”

It seemed to me the reviewer’s closer attention to my words would have revealed the depth of the story. I had explained the protagonist’s reaction when he first sees the co-protagonist, a famous Hollywood movie star, despite the circumstances in which they were both embroiled. I explained his excitement and infatuation amidst chaos, then later some reflection of thoughts when the protagonist was in a better situation.

But really, why shouldn’t a character in a book fall in love instantly? It’s not unnatural. I knew someone who fell in love with his wife in a heartbeat at university, then proposed to her after two weeks. I also know cases of men who got married within a day’s notice. Some people might surrender to love slowly, but others experience it at lightning speed. What has time got to do with the human heart?

An important realization for authors in order to reach readers is that the story must sound believable. It must sound authentic. To do that, all writers know that they must control their imagination while infusing information or facts that sound realistic, albeit in the realm of fiction. While writing Gun Kiss, I didn’t stray from the lessons I’ve learned. I did no wrong in creating scenes where the protagonist expressed his love for the co-protagonist. In fact, I wrote those scenes reinforced by fact.

ABOUT GUN KISS: A Hollywood movie star is abducted by an obsessed drug lord. With the help of a reluctant army friend, Blake Deco, a former US soldier, mounts a daring rescue across the border. What he doesn’t expect is to have feelings for the actress—or that a killer is hunting them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A former magazine journalist and public relations practitioner, Khaled lives in Singapore. His journalism stint included a three-year stay in Egypt. The author is a member of the International Thriller Writers. Gun Kiss is his third novel.

Official Website: www.khaledtalibthriller.com

Amazon: http://getbook.at/GunKiss

(Also available on Kindle Unlimited)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/khaled.talib/

(This piece is based on an article that originally appeared in Marie Lavender’s I Love Romance Blog, https://iloveromanceblog.wordpress.com)