Wednesday, March 18, 2020


The Guilty Die Twice  
By Don Hartshorn
A 2020 release from
TCK Publishing

An emotional, intense, persistent battle between attorneys who are brothers. Jake Lynch is the fictional District Attorney in Austin, Texas. His younger brother, Travis, also an attorney, struggles to make ends meet as the novel opens. Texas is a capital punishment state and part of the novel deals forcefully and thoughtfully with that issue. 

The story is not, however a sociological or psychological treatise on the rights and wrongs nor on the social implications of an existing approach to capital murder. This is a bare-knuckle, stirring confrontation between opposing points of view in the persons of Travis and Jake.

The well written narrative switches between a decades old execution of a truly evil and unrepentant character and the truly awful results of the penetration of the modern drug culture into every aspect of Austin’s society. And while the well-defined characters raise several important tragic issues in the investigations and trials of some of the characters, the pace of the novel drives the narrative in relentless fashion through personal, political and even racial aspects.

Readers can ignore the sociological aspects and read the novel as a fine fascinating adventure. Or one could use the story as the basis for thoughtful debate. Either way, I recommend the novel without reservation.

Thursday, March 12, 2020


An intense, moving tale of five Hmong women from (almost) birth to maturity. This is not fictional tale, this the real stuff, related on a simple unadorned stage by these five women. They tell their real personal stories with the help of a professional writer and two co-directors. The series began in 1962 from Ping Chong + Company and known as Undesirable Elements.
The women’s stories were personal, and by turns uplifting, sad irking and even embarrassing. But the seventy-five minute production on the bare stage is often mesmerizing and worth attending. The production is available at Park Square Theatre through March 15.


Unspeakable Things    
by Jess Lourey
A 2020 release from
Thomas & Mercer

Even today a lot of people think of the Upper Midwest, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, as flyover land; as bucolic peaceful farm country where people live happy lives and all the children are above average. Like anywhere else, that isn’t entirely true. Darkness lurks in dim corners of dirt-floor basements, strange creatures walk at night, spirits seem to lurk around dim corners, and even family life can be questionable.

This novel is a story of one spring and summer in the young life of Cassie McDowell, a twelve-year old, sensitive and aware girl living with her troubled family on a small farm on the outskirts of Lilydale, Minnesota. Her family consists of an older sister, mother and father, a veteran of Viet Nam. He is a struggling artist who drinks too much and conducts wild and often strange parties, apparently on an errant whim.

The author’s grasp of the mental processes of young girls, their shifts in attitudes, seems to this aging reviewer to be spot on. Whether hiking through the groves or biking down winding rural roads or swimming in the local creek, Cassie and her companions seem to live the perfect life growing up. Except

Except there is always something there, something else that seems dark and menacing; something that dims the hot summer sun and increases the creaking stair sounds that might be her father coming to her bedroom.

The novel is tense, extremely well written, carefully aimed at a teen-age audience, yet patently attractive to an adult reader as well. The author is to be congratulated for obvious talent and gets high marks for the descriptive passages, the constant forward drive of the plot and the characters. I would have preferred some expansion of the resolution which seems a little abrupt. Nevertheless, this reviewer strongly recommends this novel with no reservations.