Category Archives: Fiction

All fiction

Río Penitente

On the brink of fifty, Robert Gattling runs away to Mexico in a custom Mercedes motor home, searching for something he can’t define. After a harrowingly close call on a nabookcover-RioPenitente-smrrow bridge, he encounters two itinerant Mexican teenagers—violent, belligerent Berto and naïve village girl Conchita—who become Gattling’s reluctant wards, traveling companions, and partners in a scheme that the American concocts in an effort to finally rid himself of guilt that has plagued him throughout his extraordinarily fortunate life. Twice divorced, having succeeded at and abandoned two careers—the second of which made him rich—Gattling has never been able to forgive himself his transgressions, to see himself as having given more than he’s taken. The ghost of a homeless prowler who died twenty years ago, victim of an accidental blast from Robert’s shotgun, rides along wherever the traveler goes. Fearing that he’ll become just another aged Berkeley crank, Gattling flees his hillside house, with its expansive view across the San Francisco Bay, and his comfortable Bay Area life. He also leaves a lover, the pixyish real estate agent Mardi, denying himself the privilege of returning her heartfelt affection. But his problems with women and sex, like his guilt, follow him along the roads of Mexico. Even after he finds Selina—a mature and serene beauty with whom he can imagine building a new life—he cannot extract himself from entanglements old and new. Back in California, Gattling and the young Mexicans—along with mellow Don Luis, a wizened wanderer from Costa Rica—restore a grand old Los Angeles house for sale, a project aimed at establishing the immigrants in business. But despite Gattling’s admirable intentions, the house becomes a bizarre ménage, a dysfunctional polygamous family in which three women vie, with a remarkable degree of civility, for his favor while the twitchy, resentful Berto—ever primed to attack—prowls the periphery. In Ro Penitente, author Angus Brownfield has crafted a compelling, cerebral modern novel with elements of both the picaresque and the potboiler. In Robert Gatling, he has created a thoroughly sympathetic, deeply flawed character whose better impulses offer little defense against disaster.

The Dragon Moon: A Series of Dragon Tails

WhDragonMoonat if dragons living on the moon fell from the sky and secretly made their homes in trash dumps all over the world? Maureen Schlukbier’s The Dragon Moon will delight young readers with tales of friendship and fun as the fallen dragons are forced to live in seclusion and deal with familiar problems for children of all ages. Richly illustrated by Greg Carter, these delightful tales of funny, friendly, colorful dragons are sure to make any child laugh and wonder, “Why on earth would anyone be afraid of a dragon?”

Cabo Revenge

Ethan Cruickshank is back. More than a year after the violent breakdown that landed him in a mental hospital, the erstwhile private investigator—now comfortably relocated to the beautiful tip of the Baja Peninsula—finds himself recruited by two clients, both willing to pay handsomely for bookcover-CaboRevenge-smhim to round up same fugitive from justice. Andy Rosa, spoiled heir to an oil fortune, skipped bail while on trial for drugging and raping several young women. Is the rich bail-jumper hiding in laid-back Cabo San Lucas, Cruickshank’s new hometown? After checking with wife Dina and his calming therapist, Cruickshank decides to take the case, which has him patrolling the sun-drenched beaches and cruising the laid-back bars of the Mexican resort town. But who’s calling the shots for the odd collection of lowlifes running interference against the P.I.? After a smart, beautiful, American woman helps Ethan sort out clues, she becomes another victim of cruel violence. That makes the mission to capture Rosa and accomplices a personal quest for Cruickshank and his able young partner, former San Francisco cop Tony Suarez. With reinforcements both imported (a muscular bounty hunter from Oxnard) and local (an accommodating police lieutenant withmatinee-idol looks) they attempt a takedown that turns even uglier than they’d anticipated. In Cruickshank, Author Robert Wisehart has created a thoroughly human and deeply flawed protagonist who—when he’s in his right mind—knows how to laugh at himself and the absurdities of the world around him. In Cabo Revenge, Wisehart delivers a multi-layered, thoughtful thriller with a sense of humor as refreshing as an offshore breeze.

The Mechanic of San Martín

His neighbors know that Rigoberto Calderon keeps two families—one in the house that he shares with wife Carmen, next to his thriving auto repair garage in San Martín. and the other in the nearby city of Puebla. And yet they do not judge;  or at least they do not betray his secret. Rigoberto is el maestro—a respected businessman, a caring mentor to his adoring young apprentices. Doesn’t he give Carmen everything a woman could want—except bookcover-MechanicOfSanMartinfidelity? But Rigoberto proves not as strong as he seems, not as resourceful. He can fix what’s wrong with any automobile, yet when tragedy wrecks the machinery of his complicated domestic life, he despairs. He selfishly walks away from all those who depend on him, trekking into the Sierra Madre—where spirits still haunt places of power—in search of what? Solace? Meaning? Forgiveness? It takes an outsider, a beguiling norteamericana from San Francisco, acting on a solemn vow, to lead an unlikely rescue party of women and children eager to rescue Rigoberto. And it takes the help of a village healer, a brujo who knows know how to turn lust into magic, to jolt a soul-stricken man back to life.

Cabo Storm

A spoiled, intemperate Hollywood actress blows into beautiful Los Cabos, Mexico, churning up everything in her path—not least the becalmed career of private eye Ethan Cruickshank. Scarred by a hellish childhood ordeal, Ethan has always wielded hiCaboStorm-frontonlys tough-guy insouciance like a shield, screening off a vulnerability that lately—since wife Dina’s death—has pushed him into the emotional equivalent of a tropical depression. He needed something to jar him back into action, but this particular case and this sexy—if predacious—client were not what he had in mind. A tabloid bad-girl whose real life misadventures have overshadowed her inconsequential roles, Rio LeDoux is desperate for a comeback. Her business manager tabs Ethan to keep the star safe and fend off further scandals. Playing glorified babysitter on a location movie set isn’t his thing, but when the case suddenly evolves into a missing-person hunt, Cruikshank returns to peak form. Danger gathers like storm clouds just beyond the lovely Baja horizon as the investigator races to solve two mysterious disappearances while a Pacific hurricane bears down on the peninsula resort. Full of suspense and surprises, Cabo Storm delivers a Category 5 wallop. Fans of author Robert Wisehart, as well as newcomers to his Cabo series of thrillers, won’t want to miss this new Ethan Cruickshank adventure.

Cabo Sunset

A grieving Ethan Cruickshank reluctantly agrees to work for his old acquaintance and sometime nemesis Jeff LaForge, an online mogul. Private investigator Cruickshank’s job is to look into a series of what appear to be threats against LaForge. Like a lot of people, Cruickshank bookcover-CaboSunset-smwouldn’t mind so much if somebody took a shot at the egotistical businessman, but he’d hate to see anything happen to LaForge’s gorgbookcover-CaboSunset-smeous wife, an old flame. The danger suddenly becomes more than threat when one of LaForge’s employees is murdered. Why? And who would pay a trio of Nicaraguan thugs to attack Cruickshank with a baseball bat? Flying back and forth between his home in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and his former stomping grounds in California, the private eye struggles with a case that seems to make less sense the deeper he probes. Novelist Robert Wisehart places the reader in a maze of circumstance and misdirection, guided by a protagonist that—although he’s deeply flawed and sometimes a bit heavy-handed—manages to hang onto his sense of humor even more firmly than he does his sanity. In Cabo Sunset, Wisehart delivers another engrossing mystery set in one of the most gorgeous places in North America.

The Lion at Bay

In this sequel to The Rising, novelist Robert Wisehart returns to the incredible life of American statesman Sam Houston. In his two other Houston books,  Wisehart explored the fantastic adventures of a young white man who lived among the Cherokee yet became the close protégée of Andrew Jackson, the president who earned that tribe’s hatred. Known as a soldier, brawler, and prodigious drinker, Houston also became an orator and politician, rising to the governorship of Tennessee before personal scandal drove him from office. Then, as if in a second lifetime, leading the ragtag troops that improbably wrested Texas away from Mexican rule. The Lion at Bay finds an older, wiser, yet still-flamboyant Houston in the years after his presidency of the short-lived independent Republic of Texas. Happily married (to this third wife), with abookcover-TheLionAtBay-sm brood of rambunctious children, Houston tries to balance his newfound love of domesticity with his undiminished political ambitions. As a U.S. senator from the newly admitted state, Houston must repeatedly leave young wife Margaret and the family for the muddy streets of a raw, young Washington, D.C. He rubs shoulders with the likes of James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Winfield Scott, Stephen Douglas, Henry Clay, the cantankerous John C. Calhoun, and the upright Robert E. Lee as he struggles and schemes to prevent the coming war that he knows will devastate his native South. Houston—a slave owner uncomfortable with the institution of slavery—alienates old friends and political allies as he valiantly seeks to keep his beloved Texas out of the conflict. Once again, Wisehart enriches history with psychological insight and a novelist’s gift for rich, detailed storytelling. The Lion at Bay is a gripping story of a crafty leader who often broke rules but who could not abandon his deeply held principles.

Bugs@Play by Ann Blum

bookcover-Bugs@PlayAnts talk . . . No, really they do, but in BUGS@PLAY: Puppet Shows in which Insects Confront People-Sized Problems, so do butterflies, ladybugs, and cockroaches. There’s even a singing grasshopper. This collection of puppet plays is perfect for reading—in groups or alone—and the plays are just as well suited for performing in a classroom, at camp, or in any setting where children—from the elementary grades on up–enjoy finding out about the natural world.
Playwright Ann Blum’s charming, six-legged characters take on people-sized problems in stories that illustrate how to identify insects, the insect life cycle, insect defense strategies, and even ways that many insects actually make the world a better place for everybody to live in.
With fun at the forefront, Blum also blends in lessons in vocabulary skills and social development. Parents grandparents, after-school supervisors, nature center staff and more will find the plays an invaluable resource. The author includes helpful lesson notes to aid adults in talking to kids about the creatures depicted in each play and to aid budding artists in making their own insect puppets.
Ants, by the way, talk in a language of chemical scents. But let them tell you about it… .

Born for the Storm: A Sam Houston Novel

bookcover-BornForTheStorm-sm

Sam Houston, namesake of a great city, was among the most contradictory characters in American history. A war hero, statesman, maker of marathon speeches, prodigious drinker, brawler, and leader of the Texas revolution, he was also a peacemaker and diplomat. He served as governor of two different U.S. states and as president of the independent Republic of Texas. His two contrasting father figures were a Cherokee chief, who adopted the runaway teen Houston, and U.S. President Andrew Jackson, who later tasked Lieutenant Houston with moving Cherokee off of cherished ancestral lands in the Southeast. In Born for the Storm, novelist Robert Wisehart tells Houston’s story not as an arid history lesson, but as a grand, coursing adventure of the early 19th century. Wisehart puts the reader amid the swirling currents of the times and takes us into the thoughts of his compelling protagonist—a creation that hews closely to the facts surrounding the historical Houston yet possesses all the dimensions of a first-rate fictional hero whose faults sometimes overwhelm his considerable virtues. The novel follows Houston from his Tennessee frontier upbringing to his time among the Cherokee, his muddle-headed bravery at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, his first exposure to national politics in a raw young Washington, his tumultuous term as Tennessee governor and beyond. Along the way, the novel introduces us to a surprisingly tenderhearted Jackson, President James Monroe, the rock-ribbed statesman John C. Calhoun, future presidents James K. Polk and James Buchanan, and the poet-lawyer Francis Scott Key, among many other historical characters. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Born for the Storm is that Sam Houston’s life was so full of drama and adventure before he ever set foot in Texas. Readers of this book will be eager for Wisehart’s Houston sequel, The Rising..