Mother Land: A Review for Mothers Day

Stephen King reviews Paul Theroux’s new novel, Mother Land at the New York Times this week (PeaceCorpsWorldwide brought it to my attention).

King gives voice to the love-hate relationship so many readers have with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, novelist and travel writer, whose prolific career spans nearly six decades and whose vicious pen reaches the furthest places on the globe—including home.

“All self-educated readers (that would be most of us) have holes in our curriculum vitae, and I’m no different. I’ve read Dickens and Tolstoy but not Austen; most of Faulkner but little of Hemingway (and regretted what I did); all of Philip Roth, but none of Saul Bellow. Paul Theroux was one of my holes, a prolific writer I had always meant to get around to. Now that I have, I’m not exactly sorry, but I’m certainly gobsmacked, and although I knew next to nothing about Theroux’s life, by the time I’d read the first 100 or so pages of “Mother Land,” I began to suspect that what I was reading was not so much a novel as a kind of masked autobiography.”

Why the love-hate relationship? One answer here: Crossing Paths with Paul Theroux.

Happy Book Launch Day Vikram East!

Congrats to Vikram East today as he launches his debut novel, Fun in Ancient Greece. The book manages to do for homework what homework never did for books: make learning fun!

The assignment? Convince the elementary school principal to take the third grade class to one of four civilizations: Rome, Greece, Egypt, or China.

Fascinated by gods and warriors, Vikram chose to head off to Ancient Greece.

Stop by later for an audio edition and an interview with the young author. Enjoy!

Can Zeus and friends save the day?

Ms. Hollier’s school will be shut down if she doesn’t take the third grade back to ancient Greece. She has the students build a flying surfboard to take them there so they can gather the information—and an artifact—they need to save the school. Will the class make the discoveries in time to keep Collie Cosher Elementary open?

“Fun in Ancient Greece had me gripping my chair in amazement. This debut is one exciting adventure!”                                    -Shirkus Reviews

Guest Post–Michael J. Sahno

Today I turn over this space to author and book marketing consultant Michael J. Sahno. Congratulations to Michael on today’s re-launch of the novel, Miles of FilesCheck back in later for a review.

Marketing for Indie Authors

Before I started my own publishing and consulting firm, I spent about 15 years working full time as a writer. The job I had was marketing writing. What that meant is that I had to market, or advertise, to readers. I still do this type of work through my own company. Articles I’ve written have appeared in Fortune, Money, Good Housekeeping, Entrepreneur, and Woman’s Day.

If you’re an indie author, you are the Marketing Department for your company. So you have to know how to do more than just write a book and call it a day. You have to do (or hire someone to do) the marketing for your book. Unless it’s a children’s book, i.e., mostly illustrations, you’ll need content for that marketing. Continue reading Guest Post–Michael J. Sahno

Author Event Made Easy

You may attend this author reading in your PJs.

That is all.

Crook v Crook v Crooked Cop

nothingHardboiled noir fans: Bob Truluck delivers a lot more than promised in The Big Nothing. That’s no backhanded compliment.

The promise includes a vicious series of showdowns, a coterie of sadists and pervs, and a few well-intentioned rubes caught up in a game bigger than the pile they’re after.

The cast of criminals and dirty cops range from two common thieves of dubious mutual allegiance to a pair of sophisticated professionals with international pedigree and wild libidos. There’s the shifty lawyer and his boy-toy lover who play-act sex games of Russian Kapow, and a mothballed old crook bringing up the rear with his neophyte hacker.

Middle of them all is the sad-sack FBI gumshoe and his mysterious handler, who may or may not be running the game: ‘Milky wasn’t even sure what the guy was, if he was armed services, Special Forces, DEA, Secret Service or a fucking spook. Milky’d been led to believe the latter, but found out if you called the CIA joint in Virginia they’d say they didn’t know anyone by that name.’ Continue reading Crook v Crook v Crooked Cop

Writing Prompts, Spellcheck, and Academic Advice

51mb7-k9ztl-_sx331_bo1204203200_There are many, many reasons not to read Flash Fiction Funny while riding public transportation. The first and perhaps best reason is Taylor Mali’s The the Impotence of Proofreading, which will leave you bent over double and wheezing for breath, the workaday passengers all around contemplating the emergency brake at the back of the train.

In examining the pros and cons—mostly the cons—of relying on spell-check, Mali’s story reminds readers that ‘It only does what you tell it to douche. You’re the one with your hand on the mouth going clit, clit, clit. It just goes to show you how embargo one careless clit of the mouth can be.’ Continue reading Writing Prompts, Spellcheck, and Academic Advice

Two Pumps for the Librarian

Six months back, guy walks into the library. Hands over his Foreign Service novel.

“Here ya go.”
“What’s this?”
“It’s a book. Go ahead. Put it on the shelf.”
“Not so fast, sonny. Two Pumps for the Body Man? Sounds dirty.”
“You don’t want this novel for your patrons?”
“We want four copies of that novel for our patrons. And it must pass a review.”
“A review?”Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.13.53 AM
“You know. To keep out the funky shit.”
“Did you just cuss in the library?”
“Sir, I must ask you to keep your voice down. And please fill out this form to submit your book for review.”
“It’s a pretty funky book.”
“Funky how?”
“Terrorism. Foot fetishism. It mocks Dick Cheney. It’s a farce and a fiasco all in one.”
“Sounds great. Can’t wait to add it to the collection!”
“How soon will that be?”

It’s been a long wait. But I’m glad to say Two Pumps for the Body Man is finally part of the Fairfax County Library collection! Put it on your reading list today!

2 Pumps hi rezJeff Mutton walks the diplomatic beat protecting American officials in Saudi Arabia. An expert with guns and knives, grenades and rockets, he’s survived assaults and sieges, stabbings and chokeholds, car bombs, carjackings, criminal hits, and countless other enemy threats. But instinct tells Mutton the menace he now faces dwarfs all these killers combined. The fool!—his foot fetish has him in hot water again.

Part soft-boiled noir, part literary satire, Two Pumps for the Body Man is an unserious look at a serious situation, a grim reminder that no matter how high the barricade, how sharp the razor wire, there is no front line to the War on Terror. And the enemy is everywhere, even within.

B.A. East

NovelistEast Photo

Foreign Service Officer

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

B.A. East taught English Lit and Composition in Malawi as a Peace Corps Volunteer, at Brooklyn College Academy in New York, and at the American School of Asuncion in Paraguay. Later he joined the State Department’s Foreign Service, taking assignments in Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, Ghana, Mexico, and Washington DC. New Pulp Press released his debut novelTwo Pumps for the Body Man, in March 2016.


Views expressed on this blog are my own & don’t necessarily reflect the views of my employer


Email: chambepeak@gmail.com

Twitter: @hBenEast

Short Stories from the School for Damaged Children

ARE-YOU-HERE-by-Brian-Booker-9781942658122Deep oppression pervades Brian Booker’s collection of seven stories Are You Here for What I’m Here For? (Bellevue Literary Press, 2016). The mood is confining, suffocating, maddening, the writing evocative of a heart pulsing beneath the floorboards of a cabin far from anywhere. Booker awakens—allays—awakens—allays—and awakens again profound tensions: Something is wrong. Everything is ok. But something is wrong.

Prepare to contend with psychic turmoil, ordinary figures sick in unusual ways: “…The bus didn’t come and Francie caught a chill. Then she got sick, lost her legs; they burned her toys in the backyard. She ended up in that school for damaged children, sweet Francie among the mongoloids and midgets…”

Francie’s case is bad enough. And this isn’t even Francie’s story. It’s Gina’s story, Gina who let her sister catch a chill while she—Gina—awaited the attentions of a lifeguard on the last day of summer: “Gina’s mother had never let her forget that day at the pool.”

The collection’s eponymous story relates Gina’s stay, many years later, a grown woman, at a Caribbean resort, her pursuit of escape, a quest for release from the damage of the past. She’s enrolled in Sun Club Be* (don’t expect to be told what the asterisk is for; you’ll have to use your imagination), which as the brochure explains, offers “An experience for our guests whose journey includes a health challenge.” A hotel, she imagines, that is in fact a hospital “attended by nuns in starched habits, a Caribbean breeze blowing in at the window.”

Nothing in Gina’s stay is concretely wrong; rather the malice lies beneath: She couldn’t shake the notion that behind the sunglasses Russell/Raoul had a milky white eye or a ghastly scar. ‘Then we shall see you in the theater,’ the hypnotist declares.

The settings include wide-ranging diversity: a wealthy Langley neighborhood in the shadows of CIA headquarters; a mountain resort for slope-side partying; contemporary seaside towns and long-forgotten histories of remote American settlements. Throughout, Booker’s eye remains as focused as it is true. Regardless of time or place the human condition holds the center, riddled with self-doubt and confusion as the body gropes blindly through the dark, recoiling in discomfort at the unknowable objects it touches.

It’s in this groping that Booker excels. He removes us from group therapy on the committed psych ward and plants us inside the lives and the minds of those committed at a time preceding incarceration. His stories are like glimpses into the broken lives before Chief Broom and Randall Patrick McMurphy and Billy Bibbit appear in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, all the terrible realities that drove the Chronics and the Acutes to the hospital in the first place.

Reading this collection feels like holding your breath until you need to breath, letting out a little, a little more, a little more, a little more. Disturbing, unsettling, portentous—then fading all to black.

Guy Walks Into a Bar

Guy walks into a bar. Orders a Preston Lang.
Barkeep asks, “What’s a Preston Lang?”
“Rye. With a hint of the barrel.”
“Neat?”
“Yeah. That too.”


41-l5e7evnl-_sx313_bo1204203200_Anyone who missed Lang’s first two crime paperbacks, The Carrier and The Blind Rooster, ought to jump right in and read The Sin Tax. Hard, straight writing. Contemporary plot. All the author’s wry and unobtrusive observation of human habit.

Female baddy you can sympathize with flashes her gun to male ex-con baddy you can also sympathize with: “You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get a carry permit in New York. It’s insane. But once they give you one, they’re basically saying they want you to shoot somebody.”

It’s another New York setting—this time the Bronx and environs. Heads south to Delaware. But it’s a NYC story.

So is Janet serious? To protagonist Mark she’s serious as a heart attack:

It was a real gun, small and cold, looking like the smartest guy in the room.

There’s lots of Lang’s best ‘Who’s Hustling Who’ in The Sin Tax, a quest for money, smokes, and—less important—absolution. The petty take’s what matters. Watch it grow from 10’s to 100’s to ever bigger digits. Bigger as in life and death:

Only a psychotic individual would kill a man to make a point to someone as unimportant as Mark… once you erase a man as a form of communication to someone who isn’t even valuable to himself, there’s something very cold running inside of you.

Mark’s smarter than your average loser. But he’s not smart enough to avoid teaming up with your dumber than average loser, Slider. Slider delivers Mark straight into Janet’s hands, because smart or not he’s still just a two-bit loser, time served for busting a man’s head in a bar-fight and leaving his tongue on the counter.

To each his own vendetta in The Sin Tax, where even the winners get a taste the barrel.


Everyone knows that cigarettes will kill you. Mark works the overnight in a grimy deli in the Bronx, selling gray market smokes and bad meat. His hotheaded manager Janet pushes him to help her con their boss into paying cash for a truck full of tax-free cigarettes. Soon he finds that Janet is willing to do nearly anything to grab the money, and what they’re up to is a lot more dangerous than three packs a day. More.