Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston

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This book has all the elements of a good, modern-day crime/mystery novel – London’s wealthy class vs. the poor, a night club dancer who schemes to marry a man expected to inherit a fortune, the wealthy uncle whose death is the only way the young couple can marry, and a plot for what seems like the perfect murder.


The only difference is that this exciting work was written nearly 80 years ago. It’s part of a recently discovered treasure trove of novels from the British Library, all originally published during the Golden Age of British Crime writing. The current publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, plans a release of 12 books in total this year, and another 12 in 2016. The authors of the books were all pioneers in crime fiction or spy fiction – all before such genres officially existed.


This book’s author, Charles Kingston, wrote with a style that was on one hand clearly a reflection of an earlier London in style and customs, yet the plot and writing fit in beautifully with today’s world, as well. There’s no flowery language – it’s just an honest-to-goodness joy to read.


At the heart of the story are several characters of varying degrees of class and morals. It begins with young Bobbie Cheldon, who wishes to marry Nancy, a dancer at a Soho night club. He’s madly in love. She’s in love, too – with the prospects of the fortune and status Bobbie stands to inherit if his miserly Uncle Massy Cheldon would just pass away. Bobbie, with only a modest level of finances, knows that Nancy aspires to a high level of stature and fears he cannot yet provide it. Then, one day, the family maid tells him that her boyfriend has left her for a wealthy woman, courtesy of the suspicious passing of a wealthy uncle. Bobbie thinks of the similarities to his situation, and once he spends more time with Nancy’s unscrupulous friends Nosey Ruslin and dancer Bobby Bright, a plot hatches.


We are also introduced to Chief Inspector Wake of Scotland Yard, who’s already watching the activities of Nosey Ruslin and Bobby Bright. A clever cat and mouse game ensues, and to say more would give away key elements of the story. Then, just when readers feel the loose ends of the story are being tied up, the last 20 pages or so include not one but two twists that come out of the blue – a perfect end to a gem of a novel.


Originally published in 1936, Murder in Piccadilly is still relevant and highly readable today.

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The Naked Truth by Jean-Pierre Dorleac

designBeyond the beads and sequins, the glitzy parties and awards shows in New York and Hollywood, there lies the very serious profession of costume designing, as explained in The Naked Truth, by multi-award-winning designer Jean-Pierre Dorleac.

Not that there aren’t delightfully entertaining examples of the glamorous and fun side – those are plentiful. But he reveals, through personal stories, the truth about the 14-hour days, the last-minute changes, working miracles on a small budget, and the hopes of pleasing a multitude of producers, directors and stars. And though he has had a highly successful career, he doesn’t shy away from talking about the jobs he almost got, or the movies that failed. The only complaint is that it stops when it feels there is more to tell, which is a tribute to his writing.

The book opens in 1973. His career is already underway and he wins the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award for costume design. Over the years, as the book progresses, his career expands into many more plays, television shows and films, most of which the reader will remember vividly.

What’s intriguing is the way Dorleac interweaves celebrity stories and encounters with the real art and business of designing, from first idea to the actual production and beyond. It’s exciting to take his journey as his personal “star” begins to shine even more brightly with time.

The book is lengthy, but very fast reading, told in a chatty tone that doesn’t hesitate to be funny and touching, but also brutally honest, if not downright bitchy, in a delicious way.

The names read like a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood past and present, including Edith Head, Lana Turner, Louis Jordan, Ann Miller, Jane Seymour, June Lockhart, Henry Fonda, Brooke Shields, Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer, to name but a very few who are featured. There are tales of the darlings and the divas – a couple of them quite surprising. This isn’t “name-dropping”, however – these are the people he knew – the people he worked with and was friends with.

The Naked Truth should be mandatory reading for anyone considering a career in fashion or design. It should not only prepare them for the reality of design, but also inspire them to go forward. But film, stage and television lovers will be thrilled by the insider stories, too. It may well change the way we look at any production from now on.


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Atlantis Explained by Dennis Brooks

atlantisThe “Lost Continent of Atlantis” has been a mysterious topic of conversation and interest for many, many years. Where was it located? What happened to it…and when? Did it really even exist at all?

Author Dennis Brooks has spent the last 20 years seeking answers to these and many more questions, sharing what he’s found in Atlantis Explained, whose curious subtitle is Noah’s Flood and Why Europeans are White.

His massive research reveals some compelling findings, and while he readily admits he doesn’t “solve” the entire Atlantis mystery, he puts forth evidence and theories that are fascinating to read and will perhaps pave the way in the future for other researchers or archaeologists to take the challenge even deeper.

Much of the theories are based on the writings of Greek philosopher Plato, but other seekers of truth, including some archaeologists and geologists from more modern days, form the basis for some conclusions.

It may surprise and excite readers to know that some theories place Atlantis close to home – the area around Florida, to be exact, especially what we now know as Tampa. Miami and Cape Canaveral. Much of North America (long before it was called “North America”) was affected, including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and New Mexico – again, all before any of the states were thought of as the United States, of course. The Gulf of Mexico may have been involved, as well.

Other evidence the author presents ties Atlantis to Noah’s Great Flood, and to the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

If one believes in the whole Atlantis concept (and there’s much reason to do so, it would seem), it’s clear that wherever and whenever, it was an event of massive destruction – earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, possible comet fragments falling to Earth – a chilling picture of what havoc a natural disaster can create.

Some of the writing is quite scientific and deep, with heavy emphasis on Greek mythology. The reader is advised to stay with it, even if it means skimming lightly over any portions that seem confusing, because overall, it’s a fascinating read.

And there really is a valid explanation for a question we have probably never asked – why are most Europeans white? Even if we’ve never thought about it, the answer is intriguing and does tie in to the Atlantis catastrophe. Suspend any disbelief, and just enjoy this book!

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Wake Up! Awakening through Reflection by Suzanne Ross

Product DetailsAre you looking to make some major changes in your life? Do you want to move beyond the past into a bright future? You could find a motivating series of workshops or classes to attend. Or – you could accomplish the same thing by reading Wake Up!, the second in the Up! Trilogy of inspirational books by Suzanne Ross. Ross has long been involved in fitness, as a trainer and also a motivator in the areas of mind, body and spirit. “We are spiritual beings having a physical experience,” she says. Part of the spiritual input in the book comes from Janet Myatt, a spiritual counselor and associate of Ross’s. There are many self-help or “make your life better” books on the market, but this one really is different. It’s presented as though it is part of a 10-day workshop led by Ross, and it definitely feels like the reader becomes an attendee. This makes it easy to progress as fast or as slow as desired. The book covers such topics as transformation, transition, closure, new beginnings, harmony, healing, reawakening, synchronicity, suffering and death and dying. The basis of the book is that we must look at our past – in all its glory or heartbreak – and then move away from it, in a sense, so as not to dwell there or repeat our mistakes time and again. For example, to experience happiness, the author says, we have to have known sadness. To appreciate health, we must have experienced sickness. Indeed, the biggest challenges in our lives, and the most difficult people we encounter are not actually mistakes, but were placed in our lives to help us grow and progress. This, she says, teaches us the most about life and about ourselves. Some of this may sound familiar to those deeply into spiritual and motivational works. But even so, a good jolt of recognition of these simple and obvious truths may really be necessary now and then. Ross makes the learning process move very smoothly, using her own experiences as examples, and then getting into interactive, almost “workbook” style areas for her readers to participate in. The message is that we need to identify major stages that transformed our lives thus far, and use them to build toward a future that only gets better. Readers are asked what they most want in life, and to then decide why they don’t already have those things. Following the steps the author outlines can help achieve these goals. Simple meditation, visualization and movement techniques also play a key role in the process, including a “fantasy reality visualization” called The Golden Dream, which is sure to be a favorite with readers. The book is written in a friendly, supportive way, yet it doesn’t shy away from asking readers to look back not only at good moments but at some painful events as well. It’s not always fun, but it becomes apparent that you really do have to “go there” in order to unravel patterns of the past and prevent them in the future. It’s well worth a read.

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Cast Away – For These Reasons – Economic Jihad by Jo M. Sekimonyo

Cast Away: For These Reasons: Economic JihadAny title that contains the word “Jihad” is bound to capture attention. Hopefully, it won’t also scare off readers, because there’s much to be learned in this book. To calm everyone’s nerves – this Jihad has nothing to do with terrorist atrocities. It is a serious look at the potential collapse and destruction of the world economy as we know it.

The author has an intriguing personal history and African heritage which he interweaves with the serious and insightful observations he makes about what he feels lies ahead in our world if we do nothing to stop it.

There  are a few “warm and fuzzy”, motivational quotes, such as “We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God”, or, “Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

But readers won’t get a chance to feel too cozy, because also included in far greater frequency, are observations such as “Nairobi has passed an ordinance criminalizing poverty instead of raging a war against inequality.” He reveals hard facts and thought-provoking insight into what he calls the “brutal economic system” known as Capitalism.

Sekimonyo’s goal is to expose injustice, irrational thinking and anything else he feels can bring down the economy, mincing no words along the way.

He looks deeply at poverty in obvious places such as Africa, Ethiopia, Haiti, El Salvador, and India but his major focus is on the United States. He exposes eye-opening facts such as the one concerning the U.S. Congress, which “came together to bail out banks and insurance companies, while in 2013 also slashed billions of dollars from the food stamp program. He takes on villains such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar al Gaddafi, but also Bill Gates, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein and (gasp!) Pope Francis.

Cast Away may not solve the world’s economic problems, but the author’s hard-hitting, raw writing style, and massive experience and research, is sure to wake up complacent readers and perhaps jump-start them into action.

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Shirley, I Jest! by Cindy Williams with Dave Smitherman


Product DetailsFor many fans, the name Cindy Williams is synonymous with “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley”, and rightfully so, since these were, and still are, iconic television shows.

But there’s so much more to the actress’s life and career that may not be widely known. Even those who fondly remember her from the classic films “American Graffiti” and “The Conversation” will be delighted by the back stories of these and other major projects that have formed the prolific career of Cindy Williams. She shares the stories with an honesty and sense of humor in her book Shirley, I Jest!, whose very befitting subtitle is A Storied Life.

Indeed, the stories flow easily, beginning with her less than perfect childhood. She reveals sensitive early family issues without bitterness or sadness. That’s about all the personal information readers will get a glimpse of, but there’s plenty of material to enjoy, beginning with shows she put on as a child for other children in the neighborhood. She writes in a way that places readers right in each situation with her.

What make the book the most fun are the numerous “insider” tales about the making of “American Graffiti” and “The Conversation” and other classics, as well as her first meetings with director Garry Marshall, and her future co-star Penny Marshall, long before their television sitcom collaborations began. It isn’t until about halfway through the book that the “Laverne & Shirley” phase begins, but there is no lack of interest until then.

Shirley, I Jest! is in many ways a book about “Old Hollywood”, if you can consider the 50s, 60s and 70s Old Hollywood. It’s a book that readers who lived those years with her will particularly relish. There are tales of encounters with Gene Kelly, Jim Morrison, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Harrison Ford, Little Richard, Ed Begley, Jr., Ron Howard and of course Penny Marshall, to name just a few.

In full disclosure, my partner Kenny and I were casual friends with Cindy Williams for several years, in the 80s and 90s. I knew she was talented and funny and delightful company. But the depths of her gifts and experiences not  only as an actress but as a writer were a wonderful surprise to me, and readers are bound to be happily surprised and entertained, too.

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Operation Angelica/The Vormund/Ames Files by Juliene Lloyd

Product DetailsIt’s impossible to read this book slowly – it’s too full of action and thrills and subplots every bit as fascinating as the main plot.

FBI agent Elizabeth Ashton arrives in Honduras, on a secret (non-sanctioned) mission that she’s doing “for Brian.” It turns out that Brian was her fiancé, killed with several others in a massacre there not long ago. The government gave up on the case, but Elizabeth will not rest until drug lord Hector Vega (the evil brain behind the massacre) is brought to justice, one way or another.

About this time, we also meet Brandon Casey and Mike Van Dellen, who work with a secretive group called Vormund/Ames. When Elizabeth returns home – “mission accomplished” – her world collides with theirs in a most frightening way. Readers may think this thrill ride of a book is over. Actually – it’s just beginning, leading to a special, potentially deadly, project titled Operation Angelica.

To tell more would be to give away delicious secrets, but readers should be advised to buckle up for a never-ending series of twists and high adventure. Elizabeth is a fascinating and strong heroine, and it’s clear by the book’s end that a sequel is planned. It’s good news, indeed, for readers who will be eager to find out more about her and about what new action-filled secret operation she and her co-workers will embark on next.

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