Friday, January 30, 2015

Interview with Donald Michael Platt, author of Close to the Sun

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Donald Michael Platt to Flashlight Commentary to discuss his latest release, Close to the Sun. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Donald. Great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Close to the Sun.
Close to the Sun follows the lives of two Americans and a German from childhood through the end of WWII. As boys, they idealize the exploits of WWI fighter aces known as chivalrous Knights of the Skies. Hank Milroy from Wyoming learns his first flying lessons from observing falcons. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen accumulated during WWI. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field. The young men meet exceptional women. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe believes she is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German intelligence. Elfriede “Elfi” Wohlmann is a frontline nurse. Mimi Kay sings with a big band.

Flying fighters over Europe, Hank, Karl, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat victories and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and firebombing of entire cities. Callous political decisions and military mistakes add to their disillusion, especially one horrific tragedy at the end of the war.

How do Hank, Karl and Seth differ as characters?  
Hank is the son of a Wyoming rancher. Seth is a sophisticate from San Francisco. Karl is of the old German aristocracy. 

The novel also has strong female cast. Why did you feel that balance important? 
Close to the Sun is set during WWII, which brought out in women strengths they might not have discovered had there been no war.

Historically speaking, what drew you to WWII and what did you enjoy about researching the event for you work? 
WWII was a “current event” for me. I was 13 when it ended. I have loved reading and writing History, taught it. Later I met many fighter aces from the USAAF, Luftwaffe, and the RAF. One became a great friend, and he suggested I write Close to the Sun and offered me permissions.

Your narrative touches on many themes. Which is your favorite and why? 
All three male protagonists as boys romanticized the WWI gallant Knights of the Skies and who inspired their desire to fly. During WWII, war in the skies became less chivalrous with certain exceptions, and they become disillusioned through horrors of modern war, outrageous political decisions, military stupidity, and personal experiences.

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
Hank flying General Patton low into the Grand Canyon – based on a true event.

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it?  
Aerial combat New Years Day 1945 was difficult because I had to create a narrative that made sense amidst so much chaos in the skies from 4 POVs.

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
I thought about spending more time describing the home fronts and decided those chapters would have slowed the pace of the story. I also did not go into detail about the death camps for two reasons: that material is more effective  in novels where the MC is a prisoner in the camps; and the horror of the final chapters would have had less impact.

Historical novelists frequently have to adjust facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Close to the Sun and if so, what did you alter? 
I created composite main characters, fictional USAAF bases, Seth not being sent home after being shot down, and both Seth and Hank being sent to the Continent with Patton’s Third Army as interpreters during the final weeks of the war.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
The one character with whom I would have shared conversation and drinks is Hank Milroy. The reason is simple. He is based on my real life friend from the AAC, USAAF, and USAF who suggested I write CLOSE TO THE SUN.

Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast of actors to play the leads in a screen adaptation of Close to the Sun, who would you hire? 
I am not all that familiar with actors in the age group late teens to mid-twenties. I would have to mention them by type physically. Hank/early William Holden; Seth/early Spencer Tracy type/Karl/younger DiCaprio type; Brax/young Robert Stack type; Winty/young Sally Field cuteness but blonde; Mariya-Xenia/Kidman or Theron or Beverly Michaels type/ Elfie/Natalie Portman type/Mimi/any current young singer with a true voice and who needs no studio gimmicks.

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? 
I am nearing a final draft of a dark novel set in 1946. After that, I have too many novels in my head to think about the next.

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PRAISE FOR CLOSE TO THE SUN

“Donald Michael Platt’s Close to the Sun is an amazing story told from the perspective of average male fighter pilots in the onset and during WWII, juxtaposing between various men from many sides of the war. The details in this novel were spectacular, creating imagery and depth in the scenes and characters, as well as the dialogue being so nostalgic and well-written it felt right out of a 1950’s film. The romantic nuances of his storytelling felt incredibly authentic with the tug and pull of the men being called to serve and the women whom they loved who had their own high hopes, dreams, or work. I loved how he portrayed this women the most—strongly and fiercely independent. I’ve read several other books by Platt, and this is the best one I’ve read yet! I couldn’t stop reading. ” – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book

“Donald Platt’s Close To The Sun, is nothing short of Historical Fiction gold. Platt’s flair for emotionally provocative storytelling makes this book attractive to both male and female readers. Seamlessly weaving the threads of action and feeling into a brilliant tableau of humanity. This is a masterfully penned tale of war, ambition, love, loss, and ACES!” – Frishawn Rasheed, WTF Are You Reading?

“Fast-paced and riveting I couldn’t get enough of Hank, Karl and Seth’s exploits! CLOSE TO THE SUN is a thrilling novel that leads readers through idyllic dreams of heroism and the grim reality of war. Platt provides readers with a unique coming-of-age story as three adventure-seeking boys discover far more than how to be an aerial combat pilot. CLOSE TO THE SUN is an amazing tale of adventure, heroism, war and the drive within us all that keeps us going when things look bleak.” – Ashley LaMar, Closed the Cover

“I found Close to the Sun to be an entertaining read, it was well written, with well developed characters, these characters had depth and emotion. A unique plot, told from the point of view of pilots prior to and during World War II. It was a well researched and interesting book” – Margaret Cook, Just One More Chapter

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Author of four other novels, ROCAMORA, HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, A GATHERING OF VULTURES, and CLOSE TO THE SUN, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST.

Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood, Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman.

After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Currently, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN.

Website ❧  Facebook ❧  Twitter


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Format: Print & eBook
Publication Date: June 15, 2014
Released by: Fireship Press
ASIN: B00L1RWLYE
Length: 404 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Check Out All the Stops on Donald Michael Platt's Close to the Sun Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, January 26
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, January 27
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Wednesday, January 28
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Friday, January 30
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, February 2
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, February 3
Guest Post at Latte Da
Friday, February 6
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews
Wednesday, February 11
Review at Back Porchervations
Thursday, February 12
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Monday, February 16
Spotlight at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 14, 2015

When Julie Crawford leaves Fort Wayne, Indiana for Hollywood, she never imagines she'll cross paths with Carole Lombard, the dazzling actress from Julie's provincial Midwestern hometown. Although the young woman has dreams of becoming a screenwriter, the only job Julie's able to find is one in the studio publicity office of the notoriously demanding producer David O. Selznick—who is busy burning through directors, writers and money as he begins filming Gone with the Wind. Although tensions run high on the set, Julie finds she can step onto the back lot, take in the smell of smoky gunpowder and the soft rustle of hoop skirts, and feel the magical world ofGone with the Wind come to life. Julie's access to real-life magic comes when Carole Lombard hires her as an assistant and invites her into the glamorous world Carole shares with Clark Gable—who is about to move into movie history as the dashing Rhett Butler. Carole Lombard, happily profane and uninhibited, makes no secret of her relationship with Gable, which poses something of a problem for the studio as Gable is technically still married—and the last thing the film needs is more negative publicity. Julie is there to fend off the overly curious reporters, hoping to prevent details about the affair from slipping out. But she can barely keep up with her blonde employer, let alone control what comes out of Carole's mouth, and--as their friendship grows - soon finds she doesn't want to. Carole, both wise and funny, becomes Julie's model for breaking free of the past. In the ever-widening scope of this story, Julie is given a front-row seat to not one but two of the greatest love affairs of all time: the undeniable on-screen chemistry between Scarlett and Rhett, and off screen, the deepening love between Carole and Clark. Yet beneath the shiny façade, things in Hollywood are never quite what they seem, and Julie must learn to balance career aspirations and her own budding romance with outsized personalities and the overheated drama on set. Vivid, romantic, and filled with Old Hollywood details, A Touch of Stardust will entrance, surprise, and delight.

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I've such mixed feelings about Kate Alcott's A Touch of Stardust that I hardly know where to begin. There are things I loved about it, but there are things I disliked in equal measure.

I suppose I should make it clear that I think Alcott had a good idea here, several of them in fact. Problem is they don't make a remotely cohesive story when packed like sardines in a single narrative. I'm sorry, but someone needed to take a pair of scissors to this piece and break it down into two or three separate novels. Fleshed out and streamlined, I'd have easily given every one of Alcott's ideas four stars if not more and I'm one of the stingiest reviewers I know. 

I'm not exaggerating when I say Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite movies, so it should come as no surprise that I think Alcott was onto something in fictionalizing the details of its filming. I enjoyed the scenes Alcott created, but I couldn't help wondering why Julie spent so much time on set. Julie doesn't work for Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel or Butterfly McQueen. I hate to point out the obvious, but Julie spends the bulk of the novel attached to Carole Lombard so her almost constant presence makes little sense in the grand scheme of things, especially as her employer is so often elsewhere. 

Speaking of Lombard, I felt the actress a vivid and colorful addition to Julie's world. That said, however, I didn't find her role in the story even slightly convincing. Carole has the glamour and personality, but her friendship with Julie lacked validity and her position as mentor seemed preposterous when Alcott's starry-eyed would-be writer has access to Academy Award winner Frances Marion. I understand the author's fascination with Lombard, but if she wanted to write about Mrs. Gable she should have let the actress take center stage. Marion plucking Ms. Crawford from an obscure secretarial existence would have been a better angle, believable and within the realm of Julie's ambition.

How Andy's story line failed to make the jacket description is beyond my comprehension. His personal ties to the conflict in Europe, the anti-Semitism he faces in Hollywood and his frustration with an industry that refuses to acknowledge the Nazi threat was solid gold. Alcott could have played that for days. Julie and Andy working on a script with the support of Lombard and Howard, battling to have their voices heard... I get excited just thinking about such a setup, but as it stands Alcott doesn't use the material to its best advantage and sadly regulates it to minor plot points that ultimately lack purpose or resolution. 

This review is turning into a novel in and of itself, but if you're still with me, please understand my concerns aren't limited to the story's construction. Alcott's narrative depends on an overwhelming amount of implausible coincidence and that bothered me to no end. Julie's first job in Hollywood just happens to be with David O. Selznick the day he begins filming Gone With the Wind? She gets fired hardly three pages in and just happens to bump into Carole Lombard who is so smitten with Julie's gumption that she immediately shelters the floundering Mary Sue under her protective wing? Excuse my impertinence, but gag me. The situation is impossibly far-fetched and even if it weren't, it bears far too much similarity to Tess Collins landing a position with Lucile Duff Gordon the very day Titanic sets sail in the opening scenes of Alcott's The Dressmaker. It's the same scenario in different trimmings and I was no more impressed this go round than I was the last.

I've other quibbles, but I think I've made my point well enough. As a novel, A Touch of Stardust has much to recommend it, but I can't ignore the poor structure of the story or its overabundance of plot. I don't mean to be harsh, but I think this one could have been much more effective if it had been executed with a tad more care and discretion. 

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“I love my work—I feel excited when it all comes together, when something special comes out of the whole messy process. But what good is it? We pump out movies on anything and everything. Here we are, doing a romance set in the Civil War, but we aren’t doing anything about Hitler.”
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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This Time Tomorrow: A World War One Novel by Rupert Colley

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: January 12, 2015

Two brothers. One woman. A nation at war. A compelling story of war, brotherly love, romance and betrayal during World War One. Vast in scope and intimate in the portrayal of three lives swept along by circumstances, 'This Time Tomorrow' moves from the drawing rooms of Edwardian London to the trenches of the Western Front and to the uncertainty of post-war Britain. When Guy Searight volunteers to fight with the British army in the early days of World War One, he leaves behind his girlfriend, Mary. While away fighting, Guy’s younger brother, Jack, seizes an opportunity to woo Mary for himself. Forthright and self assured, Guy has always looked out for his confident but frail brother and blithely promises his fretting mother that he’ll look out for him when Jack’s turn comes to join up. But embittered by Jack’s betrayal, Guy vows that when Jack has to face the horrors of war for himself, he won’t be there to look after him. When the brothers are reunited in the trenches of the Western Front, their thoughts are both with Mary. As Jack buckles under the strain of war, can Guy sustain his anger and allow his brother to suffer alone? A shocking event, catastrophic in its intensity and barbaric in its conclusion, forces Guy to re-evaluate his relationship with his brother, with Mary and ultimately himself. This Time Tomorrow: a World War One novel is a tale of love, loss and longing. 

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Rupert Colley's This Time Tomorrow was in impulse buy. I love war era fiction and despite its similarity to Private Peaceful, I thought the romantic story line had potential. The novel had a number of good reviews and I was genuinely optimistic going in which is probably why I fell so hard when the execution proved impossibly disappointing. 

Several reviews cited intense emotional drama and well-rounded characters, but I recognized neither between these pages. Take for example, Mary and Guy's relationship. The novel hinges on this affair, but the two are together only a few short paragraphs before Searight leaves for the trenches. Colley denies readers the opportunity to embrace this connection so there is no reason to get worked up when Mary is snogging Jack a few pages on. This happens over and over throughout the novel. The audience is told what the characters are feeling, but never experiences the development of those emotions. The end result lacks depth and appeared exceedingly superficial.

Colley's style was also difficult for me to get into. The narrative is very linear with little atmospheric detail or embellishment. The bones of the story are here, but it needed to be fleshed out. The narrative is also heavy with dialogue which would be fine if the conversations weren't wooden and stale. Nothing sounded genuine or authentic to my ears, a fact which greatly contributed to my lack of enthusiasm for the Searight brothers both on and off the front line. 

When all is said and done, This Time Tomorrow was a bust. Not unreadable, but not for me and not something I see myself recommending down the line. 

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For this, all of this, they had endured the hardships and depravity of war; had lived daily with indiscriminate death, pain, boredom and fear. For this, they had sacrificed so much – their youth and the illusions that come with innocence.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 6, 2015

The World’s Fair is nearing its end, but the danger in Chicago lingers. It's mid-September of 1893 and Eloisa Carstairs is the reigning beauty of Gilded Age Chicago society. To outsiders she appears to have it all. But Eloisa is living with a dark secret. Several months ago, she endured a horrible assault at the hands of Douglass Sloane, heir to one of Chicago's wealthiest families. Fearing the loss of her reputation, Eloisa confided in only one friend. That is, until she meets Detective Sean Ryan at a high-society ball. Sean is on the outskirts of the wealthy Chicago lifestyle. Born into a poor Irish family, becoming a policeman was his best opportunity to ensure his future security. Despite society's restrictions, he is enamored with Eloisa Carstairs. Sean seethes inside at what he knows happened to her, and he will do anything to keep her safe-even if he can never earn her affections.

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My experience with Shelley Gray's Deception on Sable Hill can be summed up in the single word: snoozefest. I know that is blunt and I'm dreadfully sorry, but I'm not known for beating round the bush and I don't intend to start now. I call it like I see it and the second installment of the Chicago World's Fair Mystery series had me sawing logs.

First things first, if you haven't read book one, stop reading this instant and direct your attention to Secrets of Sloane House. I haven't read it, but having jumped into the series at book two I can honestly say that a) I was well aware I'd missed something and b) I was disappointed with how many details of that something were spelled out in the early chapters of the follow-up. If you take nothing else from my comments, please do yourself a favor and tackle these novels as written.

Now I know you're getting a little red in the face thinking I'm unreasonable for giving a two star rating over such a minor frustration and I don't blame you. I'd be thinking the same thing if I were in your shoes, but let me quash your argument here and now because I'm just getting started. My next point of note, Gray's pacing. Deception on Sable Hill is slow. Glacially so. The tension depends on class conflict over societal rules and expectations which might have been nice if I hadn't seen it in a million other novels. This is trite, clichéd, and prosaic situational drama. 

Hold on minute, what about the star-crossed romance between Sean Ryan and Eloisa Carstairs? Forget it, instalove from the beginning. The Society Slasher? Largely absent, and when all is revealed, highly predictable both in motive and identity. The World's Fair? Historically Gray incorporates some interesting details into Deception on Sable Hill, but the setting isn't a central part of the telling. I felt characters flat and marked a distinct lack of cohesion between the various elements of the story. Nothing clashed, but the various story lines didn't complement each other as much as I'd hoped. 

At the end of the day Deception on Sable Hill wasn't my cup of tea. I anticipated most of the plot twists and didn't care for the cast. Stylistically, the novel was too light for my particular tastes and I was overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the lack of creativity I noted in the underlying themes of Sean and Eloisa's story.

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“I know many a hardened man at the precinct who would’ve flinched at the sight of a lovely young lady bleeding on the ground. Violence has a way of preying on a person’s soul, I fear.” He grimaced. “All I can say is that I haven’t become so jaded by my job that I have forgotten about the sanctity of a life.”
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman: A Mystery by Tessa Arlen

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours/Netgalley
Read: January 8, 2015

Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it’s more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect. Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight. In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life—a superb treat for those who love British novels.

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They say first impressions are the most important, but I have to admit Tessa Arlen's Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman didn't make the most of the moment. I started the book on three separate occasions, each time setting it aside for something else. I don't mean to be harsh, Arlen's tone just didn't draw me in and had I not promised a review, I'm not sure I'd have stuck this one out. Thankfully, I'm a stubborn mule and I hate missing deadlines, so I dug in my heels the fourth go round determined to come out on top. 

I'm not sure when exactly, there was no definitive moment, but somewhere along the line I got into this piece. Stylistically, the novel never truly worked itself into my good graces, but I ended up liking the characters and story a lot more than I'd expected. Arlen's dry humor added to the feel of the novel and despite my initial disregard, I ultimately grew to appreciate where Arlen took this particular story. 

The highlight of the novel was undoubtedly the research Arlen put into it. Politics, contemporary culture, it's all there. Folded into the cracks and crevices of the story, the details she thought to include created a genuine ambiance that I'd never anticipated from a debut author. 

There is a certain refinement in Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, a form of storytelling that is far from common. I personally found it somewhat intimidating, but I urge readers to give it a chance, for it proved worthwhile in almost every respect. 

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“I can’t be the woman who is used as an example of indiscretion to future generations of silly girls.”
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Check Out All the Stops on Tessa Arlen's Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, January 5
Review at Reading the Past
Review & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, January 6
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Spotlight & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, January 7
Review & Giveaway at To Read, Or Not to Read
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Friday, January 9
Review at Mel’s Shelves
Guest Post on The Writing Desk
Saturday, January 10
Sunday, January 11
Review at Buried Under Books
Monday, January 12
Tuesday, January 13
Interview at Back Porchervations
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, January 14
Review & Giveaway at The Book Binder’s Daughter
Thursday, January 15
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, January 16
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Monday, January 19
Review at Beth’s Book Book
Tuesday, January 20
Review at The Lit Bitch
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, January 21
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Thursday, January 22
Monday, January 26
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, January 27
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, January 28
Review at A Book Geek
Thursday, January 29
Friday, January 30
Saturday, January 31
Review & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
Monday, February 2
Review at Book Nerd
Tuesday, February 3
Spotlight at I Heart Reading
Thursday, February 5
Review at Layered Pages
Friday, February 6
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection


The William Shakespeare Detective Agency: The School of Night by Colin Falconer

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: January 11, 2015

“My name is William Shakespeare. No, not that Shakespeare; and no jests please, I’ve heard them all. I’m the other one, the ne’er do well cousin, the loafer, known to family and friends as the dunce, the one who could not recite Cicero or Horace, who could never be as good as his clever cuz, the one who has just come to Bishopsgate from Stratford with silly dreams in his head and a longing to make something more of himself than just a glover’s handyman.” What he finds in London is Lady Elizabeth Talbot, who is willing to pass a few shillings to this blundering brawler if he will help her find her husband. Poor William does not realize the trail will lead to the truth behind the death of Shakespeare’s great rival, Christopher Marlowe – or to a lifelong love affair with a woman far above his station. Each book tells the story of William’s adventures as England’s first gumshoe, set against turbulent Elizabethan politics; of his romantic pursuit of the impossible Elizabeth Talbot; while charting the career of his up and coming dramatist cousin, the bard of Stratford, but just Will to his family.

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Christopher Marlowe
William Shakespeare has his moments, but he's not one of my top ten favorite authors, doesn't even make the top twenty, so accepting books in which he or his work appear is really dependent on how I'm feeling when I stumble over the title. Case and point, The William Shakespeare Detective Agency: The School of Night. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have given the book a second glance, but I was in the mood for something fun and Falconer's offbeat historical looked a good fit. 

I'm sure everyone knows appearance isn't everything, so I'm happy to say the unconventional idea delivered. Despite the odds, Falconer managed to avoid the stale stereotypes that plague these stories and offer up an action-packed narrative that was nothing short of entertaining. Historically speaking there is plenty of darker period detail to sink one's teeth into and I felt the author's nod to Marlowe and Kyd added much to the narrative.

William is a relatable protagonist and I liked that he wasn't particularly adept in his profession. He's intensely relatable and I think that played nicely against the persona of his famed cousin. I was less impressed with Elizabeth Talbot and the mystery itself wasn't as complex as I'd have liked, but it wasn't bad and I liked the hurdles William was forced to overcome in its unraveling. 

While not my typical fare, I found The William Shakespeare Detective Agency: The School of Night well worth the time I spent with it. Amusingly original and extremely creative. 

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“Jaded? Why should I be jaded? I have been in London for ten years, and what do I have to show for it? A handful of plays and ten shillings a week. And Marlowe’s shadow hanging over everything.”
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Check Out All the Stops on Colin Falconer's The School of Night Blog Tour Schedule


Saturday, January 10
Spotlight at Historical Readings and Views
Monday, January 12
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, January 13
Spotlight at Layered Pages
Thursday, January 15
Interview at Teddy Rose Book Reviews
Friday, January 16
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Monday, January 19
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing
Tuesday, January 20
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, January 22
Review at Just One More Chapter
Friday, January 23
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Saturday, January 24
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession
Sunday, January 25
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Monday, January 26
Review at Boom Baby Reviews
Wednesday, January 28
Review at Carpe Librum
Thursday, January 29
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Interview at Books and Benches
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Friday, January 30
Review at Brooke Blogs
Friday, February 6
Spotlight at Passages to the Past


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