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Cover of the Week

Vintage Cover Art (Rowena Morrill): Isobel by Jane Parkhurst

Rowena Morrill vintage cover art

Rowena Morrill is a SF and fantasy artist who has some really great vintage pulp covers to her credit. The above illustration is from the horror novel Isobel by Jane Parkhurst. Even by the high standard of vintage pulp covers, this one stands out as an outstanding example of compelling horror artwork, which has altogether vanished due to some incomprehensible reason. Can you feel the evocation of the dark? Does it give you the creeps?

In his blog  Too much horror fiction, Will mentions that this was Morrill’s first cover art. Too good a debut even for someone too talented!

Here is the front cover of the paperback:

vintage cover art


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Opinion & Featured Articles

Top 5 High School Dropout Writers

high school dropout

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” — Oscar Wilde

Of course, B Schools can’t teach you to be Steve Jobs or Bill gates. And a doctorate in literature can’t make you Harper Lee. There’s no denying the fact that no investment pays like education, but some people are just too good and lack of formal education can’t stop them from being famous. Here are five legendary writers who showed us they don’t need a degree in literature to write timeless classics.

Charles Dickens

charles dickens
The well loved author of The Pickwick Papers permanently dropped out of school when he was 15 and started working as a clerk in a solicitor’s office. Financial difficulties ruined his chances of completing education. ”Although I am not an educated man, I am able, I am thankful to say, to have an intelligent interest in most things.” Who dare question the talent of Charles John Huffam Dickens?

Rabindranath Tagore

rabindranath tagore

The first non-European to win Nobel Prize in literature never attended school. Widely considered as one of the most creative artists of the modern era, Tagore wrote novels, poems, plays and was also famous for his paintings.  He is the only person who wrote national anthems for two countries — India and Bangladesh. Tagore had a great circle of friends, which included Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Romain Rolland among others.

Mark twainMark Twain

Who can earth could twist English language better than good old Mark Twain? The author of the great American novels — The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — dropped out of school when he was just twelve and became a printer’s apprentice. Considered as one of the greatest American humorists of all time and regarded as the father of American literature by Faulkner, Mark Twain proved that you can earn respect as well as fortune without education.

William Faulkners   William Faulkner

Faulkner started off pretty well as a student, lost it somewhere in the middle and never graduated from high school. The struggling student eventually became a Nobel Prize laureate and wrote classics like The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom that are considered among the best English language novels of the 20th century.

George bernard shawGeorge Bernard Shaw

“Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents.”

Shaw is possibly the most perfect example of a self educated artist and was an outspoken critic of school education. He was a voracious reader, and a dedicated student of art, literature and history. However, he had little faith in formal education and dropped out of school when he was fourteen. Remember Pygmalion? You can make a person erudite and sophisticated without imposing the burden of school education, can’t you?


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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book review: The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen

The Spartak Trigger Bryce Allen

This is the second thriller I read this week from a debut novelist. And just like Kill with a Borrowed Knife, it turned out to be an awesome ride. Let’s take a look at Bryce Allen’s The Spartak Trigger.

The story

Shane Bishop is an amoral cop turned set-up artist. He has become an expert in framing people for criminal offenses in lieu of money. But Shane’s luck runs out as he is outsmarted by a government agent and the ex-cop gets framed for what turns out to be a high profile murder.

Shane’s only hope to get out of the situation rests with a piece of crucial evidence, but he is forced into high risk espionage jobs. He finds himself in mortal danger as he deals with a Russian extremist group and tries to retrieve a computer program that can wipe out the World Wide Web.

What is Spartak Trigger

The US developed an extensive network of communications system in response to Russia’s Sputnik. However, they had no idea that a Russian agent had set up a self-destruct code that can cripple the entire communications system including the Internet. Gentlemen, welcome to the secret of the Spartak Trigger.

What’s so good

The Spartak Trigger follows typical Russian-European thriller style, but it doesn’t feel cliché. For a debut novelist, Mr. Allen delivers a surprisingly decent dose of twist and turns. The plot does seem a bit implausible at times, but it keeps the readers well hooked till the end. Most importantly, the author exhibits fantastic story telling skills.

The characterization is done with a high degree of dexterity. Particularly Shane’s character is extremely well developed and believable.

Thriller fans won’t be disappointed.

About the author:

Bryce Allen was born in Atlantic Canada in the early-1980s. He graduated from the University of King’s College in 2004 with a BA in History and currently resides in the United States.

The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen on Amazon

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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai by Michael Wreford

 Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent AiTired of 007? Michael Wreford brings you a brand new MI6 contract agent — George Quant — with sharp claws and deadly intelligence. Nope, you’ll be missing the cold war politics here for Wreford’s Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is a thriller primarily set in China. Quant doesn’t fight authoritarian despots or space attacks backed by some insane crime genius. This top notch thriller focuses on cyber terrorism.

What’s the story

Quant, a journalist and a freelance MI6 agent, arrives in Beijing to find himself in a deceptive world of spies. He is a fugitive and doesn’t know who to trust. Quant is carrying a DVD labelled as “Citadel” — an antivirus programmed to fight against a unique virus that can attack major networks across the globe with extreme precision. He is the only man who can stop the attack, but odds are heavy and the web of conspiracy around him is intricate and strangulating. Quant is left with difficult choices in the face of extreme danger.

What’s so good

The trademark sign of a good thriller is its pace. Kill with a Borrowed Knife runs faster than a Japanese bullet train. Considering the non-linear plot structure, this is quite surprising. There are flashbacks that throw light on past events from Quant’s life, his relation with a Moscow-based handler called Karen, and developments in Phnom Penh and London. Nonetheless, the interest in the plot never drops.

The characters are remarkably well sketched and multi-layered. The dirty dealings, shady characters in the world of international espionage are delineated meticulously. The dialogues are cool and authentic with touches of Chinese, Russian and French phrases, which make things more credible and believable.

The best thing about Quant is that he is not an invincible superspy like James Bond. The guy is a normal human being vulnerable to attacks and bleeds like any of us.

This is a fun read and recommended for fans of the genre.

About the author

Michael Wreford is the pen name of two authors who collaborated on their debit novel. They are experts in Chinese and International relations and have lived in Beijing, The Hague, Hong Kong, New York, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Wreford’s Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai on Amazon

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