June's Literary Blog

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Monday, September 30, 2019

High Stakes

Like others in the industry, I am not sure why publishers release books to the general public on Tuesdays. Some say it’s because book sale tallies are on Monday to determine what titles make “the list”, making and Tuesday the start of a new selling week… I suppose that’s as good a reason as any. Regardless, tomorrow is the big day for High Stakes, the sixth in John F. Dobbyn’s Knight and Devlin thriller adventure series.

Michael Knight, a young Boston attorney with a taste for mystery and intrigue, finds himself the caretaker of a rare Stradivarius violin that contains the code that reveals the location of a vast treasure hidden in the fifteenth century. The violin, sought after by Russian, Chinese, and Romanian gangs, is thought to have been in the possession of Vlad Dracula, whose historic bloodstained tyranny gave rise to the myth of vampirism. Regardless of it provenance, Knight swears to protect it at all costs while the three gangs vow to obtain possession. Even it means Knight’s demise to achieve their purpose… Solve the code and retrieve the treasure.

A former law professor at Villanova University, John couples his legal expertise with a profoundly vast knowledge of history and legends in this fast-paced novel that takes his reader from the streets of Boston to a criminal-infested nightclub in Bucharest to a European museum and thence to the Carpathian Mountains. Entwining the present with secrets from the past, greedy forces collide in the search for not only monetary riches, but for the riches of righteousness and truth. Will Michael Knight, with the aid of Lex Devlin, his partner, and the irascible Billy Coyne, Boston’s deputy district attorney, succeed in his quest to crack the code? Or will he be overtaken and defeated by one or all of the three international gangs? Peace and international security are in danger… And with the odds stacked against Michael, these are, indeed, high stakes.

While I tend toward “lighter” mysteries and historical novels – written mostly by women – I thoroughly, from time to time, enjoy a good “Dobbyn read”. Yes, John’s novels are rugged and often ruthless, but they are more than not imbued with a sensitivity rarely found in other thriller genre offerings. John writes of love and friendship; of beauty and compassion; of fairness, equality, and justice. Sub-themes that take center-stage on the last hair-raising pages… an ending that will likely be remembered for a long time.

John F. Dobbyn is the master author of great thrillers. And High Stakes is probably one of his best novels and sure to be on the best-seller lists for a while. It should not be missed!

Enjoy the read!

3:10 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 27, 2019

Finding Her Voice

I have never adequately mastered the disciplined skill required to write a good short story. Sure, I’ve published two volumes of them, but they are, at best, fairly decent reads. Nothing to boast about… None of them reaching the high caliber of short stories authored by Natalie Zellet Dyen whose literary collection, Finding Her Voice was released two weeks ago. Natalie not only has mastering the discipline and skill this genre necessitates, but she has raised it to a whole new art form.

In my last two blogs about Natalie’s creative writing, I touted her talent and squarely placed her in the middle of my top ten Favorite Authors list, behind Margaret Atwood, Amy Stewart, Jennifer Chiaverini, and John F. Dobbyn. Today, with the 17 stories in her overwhelmingly wonderous – and wonderful – collection, she has captured first place. Let me tell you why…

Unlike a novel, a short story must be, well, short, concise, and to the point, focusing on one theme and, preferably, one or two major characters. It takes far greater discipline to keep the structure tightly in check and still tell a complete tale within a few pages than cranking out a lengthy novel whose plot and subplots may twist and tumble over themselves until the final denouement. Natalie is the mistress of skill, whose well-defined characters and succinct plot line(s) pop up to instantly grab your attention. Reading Dyen is akin to the first sip of a perfectly mixed gin martini. Your whole mind and body are captivated by the heady thrill… And you wish that sensation to go on forever.

The majority of Natalie’s stories focus on the lives of women of all ages and backgrounds. Several are dystopian while others speak to realities… of growing old while attempting to defy time; generational conflicts between daughters, mothers, and grandmothers; marital problems; sibling rivalries… She even touches upon the egotistical psychology of performance artists (men!). Each and every story a stand-alone literary masterpiece; each and every one, singularly sparking her reader’s imagination and igniting questions… What if that is me? What if isn’t?

Natalie, like myself, spent the better part of her professional life first as a French teacher, then long – to my mind – tedious years as a technical writer. We worked together, sharing an office then a thin wall separating our small cubicles; often teaming up to complete a project… She was then, as she is now, a very talented disciplined writer, ensuring each T was crossed, each I dotted. No step or procedural detail left unwritten. I enjoyed listening to her patiently explain the software we worked on; reveled in her often-satirical sense of humor; loved her astute insights into even the most mundane. But it wasn’t until she retired and took a Creative Writing course that she truly found her voice.

And what a voice it is! Natalie speaks to the hearts and minds of each of us, regardless of age, ethnicity, culture, and/or political persuasion. Her voice is crisp, soft, often cajoling; sometimes adamant and demanding, but never harsh. It speaks volumes ringing out from the thin volume of Finding Her Voice. It is, I have often remarked to her, music to my eyes.

I, for one, am delighted that Natalie has finally found her creative voice. May it continue to ring out loud and strong… The world needs more authors like her… Intuitively and astutely speaking of and to the truths of our lives, even if they are couched in splendidly glorious fiction.

Enjoy the read!
4:02 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Kopp Sisters on the March

The neatest thing about reading a book by Amy Stewart, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is that I learn something new. A gin type I haven’t tasted before. A minor, though important historic detail or person glossed over by more eminent others. Since I started reading Stewart’s Kopp Sisters Novels series, I’ve amassed a wealth of information about American life – specifically crimefighting, police work, and women’s issues – in the early 1900s. In the fifth, Kopp Sisters on the March (A Kopp Sisters Novel), to be released this coming Tuesday by Houghton Mifflin Hardcourt, I discovered the National Service Schools and Beulah Binford…

If you haven’t read the first four Kopp Sisters Novels, the following will be a spoiler. But, at the end of the fourth, Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, Constance, the eldest, is summarily fired from her Deputy Sheriff position by the newly-elected unscrupulous Sheriff. She spends the better part of the next six months wallowing in her loss, unable to again find her place and purpose in life. When her know-it-all bossy-pants sister decides that she, Constance, and Florence, the youngest Kopp, are going to attend a six-week National Service School in Richmond, Constance reluctantly agrees.

Upon arrival, the sisters find the military-style training camp for women is, as Constance puts it, “all theatre; just for show”. She is disappointed that the 200 women in attendance – most of them spoiled New York debutantes and socialites – are only taught skills “suitable for women”: cooking, basic first-aid, sewing… and not any of the military skills taught to men: hand-to-hand combat, driving, and weaponry. Five women rebel against drilling with wooden rifles and begin meeting at night, intent on acquiring real guns. When a freak accident befalls the camp matron, Constance accepts command of the camp and joins them, teaching them martial arts and how to fire a gun.   

All of this, however, doesn’t not occur in the beginning of the novel. The master of character juxtaposition, Stewart introduces a secondary major protagonist, Beulah Binford who, in the very first chapter, is fired from Pinkman Hosiery for sleeping with the owner. Once again in her nefarious life –in real-life she was involved in 1911 in a shocking scandal in Richmond – she finds herself destitute and in need of someplace to hide. Taking on the persona of Roxanna Collins, a wealthy New York socialite, she wends her way to Richmond, where she becomes one of the Kopp sisters’ tent-mates. Their lives closely intertwine… Not only does Constance have to deal with day-to-day camp politics, she is now compelled to cope with Roxie…

Stewart is one my most favorite authors. As I did the other novels in the series, I thoroughly enjoyed Kopp Sisters on the March, inhaling it all on a rainy afternoon. However, while Beulah Binford’s sordid life’s tale makes for a most interesting read, Constance, Florence, and Norma are intensely overshadowed by it. Stewart seems to have been enamored of showing how the wonton woman might have reformed to the point of, sadly, setting the Kopp sisters aside. I was disappointed that in accommodating Beulah, short shift was made of Norma’s quest to introduce carrier pigeons as a primary method of communications, Florence’s ambition to entertain the troops, and Constance’s desire to join a fledgling CIA. No offense, Amy, but these last three sub-plots, if expanded and that of Beulah minimalized, would have made for more relevant reading as the title suggests. Kopp Sisters on the March is more Beulah Binford Finds a Way than not.

In the first four novels, Stewart based most of her plot lines and characters’ actions on fact; she knew exactly what the Kopp sisters did at any given moment in both their real and novelized lives. In Kopp Sisters on the March, however, the talented author freely admits, she had no idea what they were doing prior to The Great War. Much of the plot lines here are fiction; pure supposition based upon, of course, solid historical research. But whether the Kopp sisters – and Beulah Binford – for that matte did attend a National Service School is unknown. Except that Beulah did make a failed attempt to train to join Red Cross. And unlike three of the first four, Stewart switched from the first-person narrative to the third. Wishing to “get into the heads of some of the other characters”. Especially those of Constance and Beulah. This makes for really interesting and in-depth reading but, to me, how best to relate a character’s thoughts and feelings than in their own words?

That last bit being said, reading Kopp Sisters on the March, like all of the other Kopp Sisters Novels, is a delightfully welcomed adventure. A glimpse into the hearts, minds, and lives of three of the most captivating, yet lesser-known women in American history. Three whom everyone – especially women – should learn about and, with their straight-forward gutsiness, panache for life, and eagerness to attain their deepest desires and ambitions, be inspired by and strive to emulate.

Thank you, Amy Stewart, for bringing them into our lives. Please keep their stories coming!

Enjoy the read!

5:14 pm edt          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill 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

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



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 sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,