The Realty of Honest Reviews and Book Blog Tours

Last Saturday, March 1, 2014, I received an e-mail from the publicist who arranged the March Book Blog Tour for my novel, Running with the Enemy. She was writing to let me know that one of the tour hosts who’d agreed to read my book and review it on her blog wasn’t going to read it and there wasn’t going to be a review posted on that Blog (I’ve removed the blog’s name and it’s host’s name from this post).

Here’s the reason for the change: “I wanted to let you know that (the book Blog host) handed the book off to one of her other readers who requested it. She never told me that it was for one of her reviewers and not herself.  That reader found it too violent and couldn’t finish it. (The blog host) won’t be posting a review but will be posting a spotlight of the book instead.  I really have to wonder if there are people who think you soldiers were out in the field eating bonbons, rather than shedding blood for your country!  I thought I made it crystal clear in the invitation that this was not a feel good, romanticized fluff novel.”

Here’s my response to the publicist who arranged the tour:

It’s understandable that many readers in North America and Europe might be repulsed by the violence in the novel, because more than 93% of Americans, for instance, have never served in the military and even fewer have fought in a war.

There are more than 316 million Americans today, but only 1.8 million served in the Korean War; 2.7 million in the Vietnam War, and 2.3 million in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

That means that in the United States, less than 2% (this number is probably much smaller due to the deaths of veterans over time) of the population has been exposed to the violence of war. Only a combat veteran understands what it’s like and we’re an often misunderstood minority most Americans would rather sweep under the carpet.

Low Res e-book and paperback covers joined December 13

e-book cover                                     paperback cover

In fact, the only exposure to war most North Americans experience is the romanticized, sanitized, Hollywoodized versions of war that is one of the reasons I joined the US Marines in 1965 thinking of glory and not gore. Over the years, I’ve only seen a couple of films that came close to real combat. Most films are fantasies that glorify boozing, violence and sex, and the few scenes of violence are usually edited (sanitized). This may explain why the big money makers from Hollywood are usually fantasies or cartoons like the recent Lego film that a neighbor said was silly.

It was in the summer of 1965 in MCRD (Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego) that I started to wake up to a reality often not found in films. That summer of training was harsh and demanding where fear coursed through our blood daily as the drill instructors pushed us to the physical and mental brink of collapse and sometimes beyond to strip us of our ignorant innocence and convert us into killing machines willing to die on command.

Then right out of boot camp, we were shipped to Vietnam, where my childhood dreams of glory and heroism from watching John Wayne movies (and other films) evaporated and never returned.  Instead, I came home in 1966 a heavy drinker with a heavy dose of PTSD and night flashbacks so vivid that I often awoke in a cold sweat in a semi nightmare state where I was back in the battlefield being hunted by the Vietcong.

Even to this day, I feel helpless if I don’t have a weapon within easy reach—a knife or a firearm. I still sleep with a .38 caliber pistol. If I lock that weapon up in the gun safe, I can’t sleep. I lay awake all night listening to every sound wondering how long it would take me to open the safe if someone broke in the house.

My medical provider is the Veterans Administration (VA), and on the door to the VA clinic I go to is a sign that says we have to leave any weapons in our cars—don’t bring them inside.

When I stopped swilling the booze back in the early 80s—after my first marriage ended—I started to manage the anger that comes with the PTSD so it wouldn’t consume me and destroy my life totally. The anger is always there like a simmering volcano that occasionally flares up. This may explain why I prefer the life of an introvert. Crowds make me nervous.

Running with the Enemy, although fiction, represents what I experienced in combat, and why I used that 1880 General William Tecumseh Sherman quote to open the book.

War, like rape, is hell. War does things to most of the troops who actually fight in combat. It’s also why I can’t condemn combat troops who end up committing atrocities like the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam or what happened in Abu Gharib prison in Iraq where there was torture and abuse. Those troops didn’t need to go to prison for what they did. They needed help to recover from the combat trauma that ruined their lives. Maybe a mental hospital/prison would have been a better place to end up with help to heal if healing was possible.

Many if not all of us who joined the military mostly do so out of patriotism—naive and innocent we went off to war singing patriotic songs, and then, like a Dr. Jekyll, many of us combat veterans came back as a Mr. Hyde changed for the worse. For us who manage our demons and stay mostly in control, we must always be on guard to control the dark stain on our souls that was birthed in combat.

Running with the Enemy, not for the faint of heart, is on sale for .99 cents through March (2014) and in April the price returns to $3.99. A few pull quotes from reviews might paint a more complete picture of the story.

A judge for the 21st Writers Digest Self-Published Awards said, “Quite good and has a lot to say about the nature of conflict.” Another reviewer said, “Well written with very graphic language and violent scenes, but a very good suspense book.” A third reviewer said, “I was sucked in by the nitty gritty feng shui of the book; then repelled by the sexual violence.”

The reality is that as authors—if we are honest—we have no control over how any reader will respond to our work.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Reading with my ears

It seems that these days I listen to more audio-books on CDs than I read tree-books. As I was writing this review for the last three audio books I’ve listened to, I was still crawling through the same tree-book I’ve been reading for over a month.

I could listen to music while driving; the news or NPR—as my wife and daughter prefer—but for decades I’ve filled my road time with audio books first on tape and now on CDs. In fact, now that I’m a published author, Blogger, Tweeter, etc., I find that my time to read tree-books at home is limited and the hours I spend in my car each week offers more time to read but with my ears.

The first audio book in my trio of reviews is of “Portrait of a Spy” by Daniel Silva.

What impressed me the most about Silva’s “Portrait of a Spy” was the complex, unpredictable and challenging world of politics and loyalties that it reveals in the Middle East. I’ve read about this often in the news but reading about it in fiction brings it into focus so it is better to understand.

The main character is Gabriel Allon. He and his wife are Israeli assassins and in this story they work with the CIA—with Israel’s spy chief’s blessing—to end the thread of an American-born Islamic cleric in Yemen who once worked for the CIA but is now a terrorist who has been behind several attacks in Europe and the UK that took many innocent lives and wounded more.

What made this novel even more interesting was Gabriel’s real-[ fictional]-life cover as one of the world’s most renowned restorers of Renaissance paintings by the great masters—work that often sells for tens of millions of dollars at auctions. This plot thread is woven into a story that includes Islamic terrorists, spies and assassins and eventually these plot threads merge as the world of art helps them find the target.  And how they get there is what makes reading [or listening] to this story worth your time.

Second was Janet Evanovich’s “Explosive Eighteen”.

I’ve listened to most of the Stephanie Plum novels written by Janet Evanovich and the LOL humor is always appreciated. Stephanie Plum, as usual, finds herself in double-trouble with bad guys [or women] as she balances the two men in her life: Joseph Morelli, a Trenton vice detective, and Ranger, a fellow bounty hunter and former member of America’s Special Forces. Stephanie’s problem is that she loves Morelli but her libido has trouble resisting Ranger.

“Explosive Eighteen” opens with Stephanie returning from a Hawaiian vacation early because Morelli and Ranger had a knock down fight over her in that Pacific island state. If she hadn’t been on that early flight back home, she would have never gotten into the mess this story is about. The man sitting next to her on the flight home slipped a photograph into her carry-on bag. Soon after landing, that guy gets murdered and next the FBI and several criminals types are after Stephanie to get that photo she threw away. The trouble is no one believes her.

The third novel was “Judgment Call” by J. A. Jance.

I enjoy Jance’s work, and I’ve listened to several of her books. In “Judgment Call”, the high school principal of Joanna Brady’s daughter—who discovers the body—is brutally murdered, and it is the elected Sheriff of Cochise County—Joanna Brady—who heads the joint task-force to catch the murderer.

The investigation isn’t made any easier when Brady discovers that Debra Highsmith, the principal, isn’t who she seems to be leaving Brady with another mystery that has to be unraveled before she can search for anyone who might have had a motive to kill her.

One element in this enjoyable novel was the plot thread that focused on the teen world of social networking and how rumors and gossip ruin lives. The message is strong and clear that parents must be more involved in their children’s lives even when the children are teenagers in high school.  Studies show that the average American family spends about three-and-a-half-minutes in meaningful conversation with their underage children on a weekly basis and this story helps showcase that American parenting tragedy.

There are 10,080 minute in a week, and it is unforgivable that the average parent in America spends only three-and-a-half minutes in meaningful conversation with his or her children. That’s 0.0347% of a week.

When my wife and I were raising our daughter, we often spent thirty-minutes to an hour or more in meaningful conversations with her every day and maybe that explains why she is in her fourth year at Stanford.

If you read or listen to this novel, pay close attention to how Sheriff Brady deals with her daughter when this issue of Internet abuse and misuse comes up. Maybe parents who fit the American average could learn something from the good Sheriff—that is if they read or listen to books.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”