Welcome to Tales of Fascinating

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My name is Jim Doran and I’m a writer of genre fiction. My blog is composed of short stories, reflections on writing, and shameless plugs for my novels. I’ve written one novel and plan to publish another in 2019. Please visit the pages on my blog. I update the website often.

Purchase my novel on Amazon: Kingdom Come

Read more about Kingdom Come here: What type of novel is Kingdom Come?.

Read about my upcoming novel here: On Earth As It Is.

Learn more about Kingdom, read more stories, and enjoy art inspired by the world here: Kingdom Come.

Or scroll down to enjoy the latest blog posts.

Review of Zeph1rum

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After reading the first two books in this trilogy, I was itching to dig into the “conclusion.” I put conclusion in quotes because the author plans many more in the series, but I had hoped this installment would bring the narrative in the first two books to a proper conclusion. I’m happy to report that the novel provides a satisfactory ending to Ameena Jardine’s (AJ) investigation into serial killer Copernicus.

The last novel, Abbac1, left our favorite detective in a perilous situation, but without revealing too much, she survives that encounter. The recovery is a long and slow process, and AJ’s PTSD has resurfaced with a vengeance. Nevertheless, AJ continues her investigation into the drug cartel The Fasciata as well as the serial killer Copernicus. Will she bring the cartel down or stop the killer? Surprisingly, these questions aren’t the focus of the novel. Plot takes a backseat to character in this installment.

The author has effectively put her main character in crisis and her conflict is the center of this novel—not the mystery. Although the plot, settings, and theme are still very much present in Zeph1rum. Two memorable scenes include AJ’s recovery and investigation into a crime scene because of the writer’s masterful style. I grew to root for AJ over the trilogy. She has a rock-solid family, supportive friends, and a boss who believes in her. What could make her a more well-rounded character? Add affection for some dangerous characters, of course.

Near the end, AJ solves some elements of the trilogy as we would expect from our main character. In previous installments, she shared the “aha” moments with other characters. In this one, she’s the sleuth following the clues, coming into her own as a detective.

All together now!

A wedding, family issues, prognostics, and PTSD episodes all play a significant part in this absorbing novel. Even my favorite humorous detail, the beloved desk scar, makes an appearance. I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first half. The conflict, as I said before, is front and center and plays a huge part in the resolution.

Endings are fickle elements in books. They can elude the best of writers. I’m happy to report that Zeph1rum nails the ending. It’s suspenseful and imaginative. I’m partial to the type of ending that occurs here, and the main character’s arc was completely believable and satisfying. How I feel about a book hinges primarily on the opening chapter and the climax, and this book’s ending won me over.

The final section of this book contains a number of appendices that contribute to the work embodied in the novel. Everything is there…including recipes! I really enjoyed how much the author has thought about her world and what she shares in the final pages. As I said in a previous review, this is a novel about details, and Karma Lei Angelo goes above and beyond documenting the material she used to build AJ’s world. This is so fun that I wish more authors would provide similar contributions.

Overall, the book has a satisfying conclusion but remains open to future installments. Zeph1rum is a thrill ride about characters, honor, and ultimately love. I’m happy to recommend it.

In Search of Happily Ever After

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“And they lived happily ever after.”

A common, if trite and clichéd, ending to a fairy tale. It paints a picture in the reader’s mind that nothing untoward will happen to your beloved characters after this point in the narration. Usually, the characters have suffered enough through the stories. In the Grimm version of the fairy tales, the witch tries to kill Snow White not once, but three times and Rapunzel is left wandering a desert. In Anderson, the Little Mermaid does not capture the prince’s heart.

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Let’s dispel this common misunderstanding right off the bat. Not all fairy tales end happy. The aforementioned Little Mermaid and the Little Match Girl both do not end happy by anyone’s definition of the term. The phrase is usually not found on the end of the traditional interpretations of the stories either. My imagination pictures a Middle Ages parent, exhausted from a day’s work in the field, finishing the fairy tale, and the wide-eyed children asking for more. Knowing this is coming, the parent simply says “And they lived happily ever after” to cut short the requests for the story to continue. It also can be a reassurance to the children that their favorite protagonist did not suffer any longer.

Let’s explore the theme of happily-ever-after endings in fairy tales. Is it possible to have an ending that both is happy and makes for a good story? I ask this question in light of our post-modern, information-overload world. The top three stories on CNN the morning I wrote this was a meteorite may have struck Cuba, a child abuse article, and a FedEx worker found dead of the cold (ironically calling to mind the Little Match Girl). Fortunately, no one was hurt in the meteorite story, but people two hundred years ago never worried about meteorites hitting the Earth as much as we do because we simply have more information.

Philosophically, if our lives end in tragedy (death) then how could there be happy endings? As an example, if Snow White were a real person, we know that she must die of something. Pulmonary tuberculosis, or consumption as it was commonly called in the past, might have killed her. Perhaps Sleeping Beauty was murdered in a political intrigue that sought to overthrow her husband, and Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” depicts a ticked-off Giant’s wife searching for Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) for revenge.

Are we allowed to write happy endings given what we know? Most people say “for children, it’s acceptable.” But don’t children suffer? Some children are present when their parents die. Children are abused and treated as non-persons every day. Why do they get an exclusive on happy endings? I reject that happy endings must be limited to children’s literature only. If we are to accept them, we must accept them for all ages.

I think the problem exists in one letter of the phrase “and they lived happily ever after.” The “d” in “lived” is, unfortunately, the hardest part to swallow. It implies the character is dead and every event after the story was a happy one. Despite a world telling us different, we do have happy endings. Marriage, births, adoption, retirement, vacations all are examples of events that, in general, are generally viewed favorably. The moment your first child speaks, the welcoming of a new pet, the purchase of a new home may all be happy events. I’m writing of a joy-level of happiness, but I am happy when I wake up on a October day and it’s foggy outside. Saturday mornings and Sunday evening dinner both make me happy. But not ever-after, you say. No, I suffer like everyone else, but it’s the moments of happiness that make the suffering worthwhile. And sometimes when I suffer, I’m still happy. When I brave the weather to pick up my son from college, I’m fairly worried. It’s a subtle form of suffering but it’s worth it to greet my son at the end of the journey.

Can a story end happy? I say yes. You can end a story on a high point for the characters. Our lives are not composed of a series of low points. Happiness exists in moments, and those moments are significant.

But can we have a happily-ever-after ending? I would say it’s possible if your outlook on life at the end of it is “overall, I had a good life.” I’ve met people who have endured monumental suffering, yet they will tell you that overall, life has been good to them. The tragedy at the end of life, death, is not such a tragedy when viewed this way, even for those who don’t believe they are transitioning to another form of life.

Picture Snow White again, dying of tuberculosis on a divan. While she’s in agony, she looks around and spies her faithful husband, her seven companions, an enemy-turned-ally huntsman. She’s experienced romance, friendship, safety, loyalty, and many happy memories. The power and riches won’t save her now. Those things don’t matter. She realizes it’s the quality of the relationships that matter in her last minutes before death. She knows she has lived a happily-ever-after life as she closes her eyes and relinquishes her life.

Review of Super

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Super is the first novel of (so-far) three books and multiple short stories. It depicts a world where certain people have fallen into a coma and emerge with superhuman powers — able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and all that.

An action adventure, Super starts with not-so-mild-mannered Zita Garcia on a blind date which goes bad quickly. We are introduced to Zita and discover she’s quite a handful to people who break the law. After Zita emerges from her coma, still powerless, she finds she and her companions are all stuck in a locked-down medical facility. While the world outside is starting to adjust to living with superheroes, Zita’s world is all about getting out of this “jail” to continue her extreme sports activities. Unfortunately, villains have designs on the people in the institution and one night, all hell breaks loose.

Without giving too much away, Zita discovers her powers and becomes involved in a kidnapping case. She doesn’t seek out justice, but finds herself often in situations where she must use her powers against evil-doers, both human and superhuman. I won’t reveal her abilities–as that would be spoilerific–other than to say she has multiple gifts and her primary power is quite creative.

While there are actions scenes aplenty, the characters also have time to themselves to interact and learn their new abilities. The plot engaged me from chapter one and I never wanted to put it down. Despite her abrasive nature, I enjoyed Zita’s personality and found it a refreshing change from the modern “dark” hero or the “I regret having any powers” anti-hero. While Zita doesn’t decide to become a crime fighter, she consistently makes moral choices in dangerous situations — always the true test of a hero. This made me root for her through the novel.

I’ve read a lot of comic books and graphic novels so superhero origin stories aren’t anything new to me, but I enjoyed the playful way Zita’s origin story was told. I liked how she and other characters had to learn their powers and how and where she exercised them. I also found Zita’s arc in the story interesting. And while I think others may want her to go from less snippy to more heroic, I’m glad she didn’t. It gave her an edge and makes her unique among other people in tights.

The story’s narrative style is difficult to follow at points and it took me a while to get into the flow, but eventually I got it. The plot and characters carried me over the rough spots, but you may want to read the first chapter to get a sense of the book. I think others may have wanted to dig deeper into Zita, but there’s so much going on in this novel, I’m happy to leave that for a future offering.

This novel exudes fun. It’s a positive take on the superhero genre, and it hits all the required sequences you would expect. Overall, I’m glad I picked up Super.

The Sequel to Kingdom Come

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Kingdom’s Crest

I am happy to announce the sequel to my first novel Kingdom Come, entitled On Earth, As It Is. This book will be a standalone novel as well as a sequel. Most characters will return, and a number of new characters will be introduced. I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that more of this novel will be set on Earth than the first one. If you like the world of Kingdom, however, not to worry! There are many scenes on both worlds.

The novel starts with Earth couple Harold and Sondra discovering the queens of the fantasy world of Kingdom have been kidnapped. The queens have actually been transported to Earth and must find a way back. However, as part of the curse that brought them here, they must disguise themselves as regular women until they return. And with fairytale queens like sweet Snow White, lovestruck Cinderella, or warrior-minded Helga, the main characters have their hands full keeping them out of trouble.

Kingdom Come barely scratches the surface of the characters of the fairytale queens. As this novel takes place three years later, the queens have been ruling Kingdom and have a better understanding of each other. They’re less polite—more like a family—than in the first novel, but they also have stronger bonds now.

The novel will be classified as a new adult, fantasy novel acceptable for all genders and for a mature (14+) young adult. It contains mild profanity (lighter than a lot of YA novels), some violence, and a light, romantic scene. The novel’s themes explore what it’s like to be someone in their early twenties, and, while it’s certainly rooted in fantasy, the book has scenes of people raising children, worried about their jobs, and other “normal” activities. Before you ask “What kind of a fantasy is this?”, rest assured, the novel contains sword-fighting and monster-vanquishing a-plenty as well.

Technically, the book will be about the same length, illustrated by the great Daniel Johnson, and available on all major bookseller sites. I strive to bring you the best product I can. It has been critiqued by a number of different people, and it has been professionally edited. I want to make sure you will get your money’s worth.

I hope to publish in spring of 2019. As time passes, I will update this post with a more accurate date. I hope you pick it up, read it, and enjoy it. I had a blast writing it.

Jim Doran

Review “I’m Not Saying It”

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I don’t read romance novels, not as a rule, but because I’m more of a mystery, fantasy, sci-fi sort of reader. However, I love all things Ireland so when I saw the romance novel “I’m Not Saying It” was set on a small island off the coast of Ireland, I had to check it out. The story blurb intrigued me and I thought I’d expand my reading tastes a bit.

I’m glad I did.

The novel follows a week in the life of a successful travel blogger and vlogger, Shade and musician and mysterious guy Diarmuid as they meet on an island. They decide to not talk about their past or discuss much about themselves, but live as much as possible in the present. After one night of heavy drinking, they agree to meet again. And after a few days of being together, they find they are…let’s say they aren’t saying it.

I found Eóin Brady’s first novel quite a treat. The writing is first-rate, the characters are sufficiently complex, and the twists and turns well done. It has a lot of great humor and some scenes, especially those involving a drone, which were quite imaginative. The dialog is witty and snappy, and the emotions both Shade and Diarmuid feel are genuine. You get a sense of Shade early in the novel by “When travelling to a new country, one of the first things Shade learned in the language was how to say goodbye.” The novel is third-person omniscient so you bounce back and forth inside both of their heads.

Ireland comes alive as well. I felt I was on the island as I read the book and passages like “The gnarled, stunted trees shaped by the wind were like frozen, black tendrils of smoke seeping from the cracks in the stone.” and “The moon was only a quarter full, a great eye always looking off somewhere else, a curious moon.” The culture and atmosphere of the country add to unique story as I had hoped when I picked up the novel.

The chapters zip along, bringing us deeper and deeper into the worlds of Shade and Diarmuid. Music, shared fears of small creatures, blog entries, and unexpected wakes tell not only the tale of a romance but an Irish contemporary as well. I can almost picture a person doffing an Aran-sweater relaying one part of this story or another. I have a soft spot for Irish tales, so this was right up my alley.

The author noted he is working on a sequel to this novel. There are missing pieces in both the main character’s back stories, so I’m eager to return to the world of Shade and Diarmuid. I hope they end up on a certain Emerald Isle once again, drone in hand.

Kingdom Come References

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Kingdom Come Image

Warning: Many spoilers ahead for Kingdom Come!

One of my goals in writing Kingdom Come was to mix in traditional characters with my own characters to create a fairy tale world where everyone lives together. Has this been done before? Yes. Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”, Chris Colfer’s “Land of Stories” series, and many more. I found Colfer’s books after I had finished my first draft and enjoyed it, but was relieved I had done something different. My world is religious, political, and true to the origin stories. I read a lot of fairy tales researching the book, and one of my objectives was to sprinkle in the more obscure tales into the main narrative.

First, spoilers about the cover (above). The front cover is an acrylic painting Daniel Johnson made for me and it hangs, framed, in my room. He and I put a few Easter eggs in the painting. From left to right, we have Snow White, Cinderella, Penta, Valencia – the Little Match Girl, and Helga. All are fairytale princesses from various authors. My Snow White and Cinderella are Grimm’s version which differed from the more popular versions (e.g. Cinderella’s slippers are golden not glass like Perrault’s. See https://tinyurl.com/y8mm929p). Naturally, the large version of the painting has more detail. The rose in Snow White’s hair was placed there to evoke the thought of the character “Rose” Red without drawing her. I chose white instead of red because of the rose in Snow White’s hair when Hero first meets her. Cinderella’s banner is purposely folded because the slipper is a dead giveaway. Cinderella is the happy princess and somehow I wanted to express this, but I didn’t want her to smile at such a serious scene. If you look at the bottom of her coat, you’ll see two buttons and hem that curves upward. Smiley faces? You bet. The hem of Valencia’s shirt reflects her poor condition of course. But if you flip her upside down, you may spot sharp blue flames with black smoke (her skirt) . Originally I was going to ask Daniel to depict her with colors like a match, red at the fringe with a yellow band above, but I chickened out. Helga has her trustworthy flail by her side and knives in her belt. If you look close enough you’ll spot she’s wearing a cross. Appropriate for her nature. Let me say that a lot of creativity in this illustration is thanks to Daniel and his research. I came to him with a vague idea and he crystalized it. My wife and I chose many of the colors of the women’s clothes.

Regarding the novel itself, the queens are all fairy tale characters although you may not recognize them all. Penta is a combination of the Italian story “Penta” but her origin story more resembles “The Girl Without Hands.” ( In Kingdom Come, she refers to it on pages 256 – 257). Cinderella/Radiance is, of course, Cinderella herself (P. 279 – 280), but she’s also the ballerina in the “The Steadfast Soldier.” Snow White is the famous “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (P. 66, entire “The Lady under Glass”) but also  Snow White of “Snow White and Rose Red.” (P. 57, 71). Valencia is of course, The Little Match Girl (P. 204 – 205, et. al.). Helga is the Marsh King’s Daughter (P. 160 – 161). There is another Icelandic fairy tale entitled “Helga.” She based on that one too, but I removed most of the chapter dealing with that origin story.

The other characters are from famous fairy tales too. Rose Red is from “Snow White and Rose Red” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” (P. 45). Jorinda and Joringel are from the fairy tale of the same name as is Honest John. Roger, particularly his leg, is from “Ten Brave Soldiers” as well as the “Steadfast Tin Soldier.” (P. 303). He’s actually also the prince in Cinderella too as they marry after the novel. I liked the idea he becomes royalty because of her and not the other way around. Bettle’s children are “Hansel and Gretal.” (P. 216). Goldilocks appears on page 196-197. The donkey, dog, cat, and rooster are “The Bremen Town Musicians.” And Turducken fulfills the “The Elves and the Shoemaker.” In all, there are eighteen fairy tale references in the novel.

More spoilers.

Planet speaks in contractions only when talking to Harold. When Harold wakes and overhears her talking in her sleep, she is clearly having an amorous conversation with someone. You can tell it’s Harold because she uses a contraction.

These lines, in a conversation between Harold and Penta back at the Inn of Five near the end of the book, have a funny backstory.

Harold: “Do you think Daemon will return?”

Penta: “As sure as the Lions will lose the Superbowl.”

Originally, Penta was supposed to go to Chicago and her original response was “As sure as the Cubs would lose the pennant.” I thought her ending up in Chicago a lot more of an overwhelming experience than in Detroit — larger buildings, more activity. As they say, “man plans and God laughs.” Well, God laughed at me because a few months before I went to publish, the Cubs won the pennant! This left me scrambling. I wanted a pop reference and a sport reference, and it had to be a failing team. I like the Lions and hated writing that line, but if it had to be, it had to be. On the plus side, knowing Detroit better than Chicago, I was able to pinpoint exactly where Penta appeared in the city and where she went instead of the vague nameless alley I had in mind in Chicago. I hope to share Penta’s backstory with you one day — there’s a lot of interesting tidbits that define her character.

This blog has gone on way too long, but I’m happy to pull back the curtain a bit in the hopes you enjoy the story even more. If you haven’t read it, shame on you for reading this blog, but I hope it piques your interest enough to give it a try.

 

Review 30 Days Without Wings

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The novel, 30 Days Without Wings, a fantasy novel aimed at YA readers, tells the story of Elise, a fairy who trades in her wings for legs and her tiny size for human height. Elise is at the age where she must declare what she will do for the rest of her life in front of a fairy council. She makes an unusual request and asks for a manifest, a leave of absence for 30 days, to live with another colony. In her case, the other colony is a human neighborhood. Elise thinks she’ll be more comfortable in the world of homo sapiens than fairies. Don’t try to guess why she wants to leave the fairy world. I guarantee it’s darker than what you think.

The council grants her leave, and with the reluctant help of a friend, Elise’s legs elongate and she proceeds to stomp through the forest, adjusting to her legs as well as her loss of her wings. Her travails as a human at first made me laugh, and the initial scenes are creative. Elise finds a job and a place to live rather quickly and with a touch of help, is enrolled in high school at her self-proclaimed age of sixteen. Elise has thirty days to decide whether to stay with the humans or return to the fairies.

I thought I had this story figured out after reading the early chapters. The novel unfurled as I expected as she turned human. I enjoyed the pixie’s observations of being so tall. After she finds a job and enters high school, I predicted what would happen next, but suddenly the novel took an unexpected turn and then another. I expected one character to follow a stereotypical arc you’d find in stories between an awkward fantastical creature and a ruggedly handsome boy but the novel took him in a different direction. The climax was both logical and satisfactory. I was surprised how innocent it started and how complex it ended. In this way, it exceeded my expectations. I anticipated the angst, the longing, but not the realistic portrayal of how a story like this would naturally play out.

This novel has surprising depth for its length. The author, Tabatha Shipley, packs a lot into her plot and characters without a lot of detail and wrings a great deal of emotion out of her readers.

Promise Kept

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At the end of 2017, before I published Kingdom Come, I made a list detailing how I would promote my first novel. The most exciting entry was a promise I would make to the reading community. I would offer new content each month to anyone who would visit my blog. I always knew the content would mostly consist of short stories, various prequels I had written while revising my novel, but I also planned to display some original artwork from Daniel, the artist of Kingdom Come. Naive dude that I am, I had this vision that people would come back each month as I posted the new story or illustration and would wait in anticipation for my next entry.

It didn’t happen quite that way.

After I uploaded my December offering, I looked back and realized that, while the throngs of people eagerly holding their breath didn’t happen, I gained something else equally important. I started the year with six stories and plans for three illustrations. I ended the year with eight stories (one in two parts) and three illustrations. In other words, I didn’t have enough content to cover the year when I started and I was worried I would fail to dream up new stories, or (worse) publish substandard submissions. I’m proud of the stories I wrote this year which were The Dwarf’s Report, Do Not Save the Princess, and The Witch, the Flower, and The Golden Goose. Their ideas, their quality, and how they contribute to Kingdom are as important as the rest of the stories.

The second hurdle was finishing a short story each month. I also decided to finish a huge project at the same time, and I was determined to complete it in 2018. In my priority list, I ranked that second than my monthly short stories because of my public promise though I knew no one was holding me to it. I struggled because my heart belonged to my big project, but my brain knew I had made this promise. I was overcommitted. I managed to make monthly goals and get in the stories while I worked on the project at the same time. As it turns out, the big project hit a significant milestone at Thanksgiving, so I was more relaxed working on the last month’s story.

While patting myself on the back here, the other lesson I learned was the best goals are those we achieve together. This wasn’t only my effort. Daniel Johnson provided illustrations of my novel, allowing me a much-needed break at various points. And Lauren Nalepa and Dan both illustrated front covers for the stories, giving the tales the needed zing required to entice readers. My goal wasn’t achieved strictly through my own toil, I had help, and I cannot express my appreciation enough to my two artists.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2018 with this blog and these stories. When I recently met with my friend Dan, he pointed out that my short stories, when combined, are the length of a novel. Essentially, I wrote and revised an unplanned novel in 2018. How cool!

I’ve always worried about what would happen if an agent or publisher did reach out and set a deadline for me to give them my work. Would I be able to handle it? This 2018 promise has given me the confidence I can make deadlines. If the due date is reasonable and I prioritize my time correctly, I can set small goals (i.e. one story per month) to reach major milestones (i.e. an entire novel).

I certainly didn’t achieve all my writing goals in 2018. I wanted to make significant progress on another novel in 2018. Yeah, I didn’t come close to that one. But I learned from that goal as well. I made progress toward it which is important, and I’m not discouraged. It becomes a 2019 goal. Do not let your lack of progress discourage you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Journey on, and when you reach your goal, you’ll see the work, not the accomplishment itself, is as important as reaching the end.

If you are reading this and have read any of my stories, thank you for making the effort. Know that, without a reader, an author’s work goes unnoticed. My goal is always to entertain and make it worth your time to read my work. I hope you have enjoyed the journey as well.

And maybe the stories won’t stop…

Review of Merona Grant and the Lost Tomb of Golgotha

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Cover

I should’ve been born in the time of pulp magazines when Doc Savage and The Shadow ruled the shelves. Running home with my latest August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, or titles like “Lagoda’s Heads” would’ve been a thrilling experience. Alas, I was born too late and had to buy reprints. However, my guess is George Lucas did run home with pulp magazines under his arm and today we have a certain ophidiophobic (fear of snakes) archeologist embedded in pop culture, Mr. I. J.

Recently, I spotted Brina Williamson’s Merona Grant and the Lost Tomb of Golgotha on a reading list on Amazon. The fantastic cover harkens back to the great adventure movies of all time, including a film involving “lost arks.” As you can imagine, I purchased it immediately, and it secured a spot as the next book on my reading list. I could not wait to start reading it. Could. Not. Wait.

A few chapters in, I knew I had acquired a well-plotted novel with interesting characters. The book was all-sorts of pulpish joy. I was concerned it would be too much like a Professor Jones adventure as it was similar to the beginning of the first movie. I’m happy to report this book follows its own trajectory.

Merona Grant, self-proclaimed adventuress, is hired to find the lost thirty silver pieces of Judas he received for the betrayal of Jesus Christ. Legend surrounds where the silver ended up. A wealthy aristocrat, a dog sidekick, a doctor from Australia (but not from the outback), and a linguist who helps bring them together join forces when a map to Judas’ tomb is discovered. Merona, in desperate need of money, brings in a pilot who…gads…happens to be the only man in the pack of treasure-seekers. Before you can say “H. Rider Haggard,” bullets and chase scenes ensue. Following that, our heroes fly away (with not one but two cliffhangers in the air) and start following a unique map to the (deep announcer voice) Lost Tomb of Golgotha. There are puzzles and traps galore before they reach the tomb. Unlike in the Bible where Golgotha means “Place of the Skull” for a certain reason, the Golgotha in this novel is a literal skull-shaped place.

Characters are fleshed out more than in a typical pulp adventure story. Merona is no Indiana despite her pugilistic and gun skills, her trademark adventurer’s special “weapon”, and her affinity for her hat. She has a rich backstory and a ruthless manner of which Dr. Jones would not approve. She shares with most heroes a dogged determination and insightful nature which serves her well in this adventure. Her team’s dynamic make for snappy dialog and exciting scenes.

The writing is top-notch and contains just enough description to enliven the story but not too much to bog down the narrative. The settings, which I don’t want to give away, are exotic and on-the-mark for this type of story. The plot devices are imaginative and the way characters deal with them realistic. The enemies are sufficiently menacing, although I wish the final main encounter had lasted a bit longer. Everything you hope for in a novel like this is delivered with enough imagination to fill two books instead of one. The reader will not be disappointed.

I want to highlight three elements of Merona Grant and the Lost Tomb of Golgotha. The first is if you’re going to write an adventure novel, you have to have good pacing. This novel, over 400 pages, rarely lagged. What made Raiders such a classic movie was the breathtaking sequences, each topping the one preceding it. The same is true here. The pacing is excellent and the cliffhangers are not the typical “A car raced toward them.” The heroes are in real danger and they realistically solve their problems. The second is the snappy dialog of Merona. She has some of the best witticisms I’ve read in a long time. An example occurs when a pug-ugly comes to threaten her to pay a debt and informs her her time is up. Her reply? “Oh please. You’re not the “time’s up” kind of guy…No, I’d peg you as more of a first or second warning goon, which means I have at least a month before the real threats start.” I noted at least ten instances when I laughed out loud and the eleventh, a reference to where Merona grew up, is a classic. And the last highlight, but not least, is the author is also the illustrator. The novel comes with sketches throughout which absolutely drew me in and brought the story alive. I refrained from flipping through the illustrations before I read the story. It was hard, but I’m glad I did because it was a delight each time I came across a sketch.

Remember how I said at the beginning that I wanted to hold a pulp novel in my hands and have the fun a young person may have had in the 1930s? This novel will indeed give you that experience. If you remotely enjoy the pulp fiction of yesteryear, or want an adventure story stuffed with thrills, pick up Brina Williamson’s Merona Grant and the Lost Tomb of Golgotha. You won’t regret it.

All images Copyright (c) Brina Williamson