Monday, August 18, 2008

Rinse and Spit Steven! REVIEW in Winston-Salem Journal

The Last Spartan
By John F. Saunders
Savage Press
218 pages
Reviewed by Steven B. Beach

As I read the last sentence of The Last Spartan, a chill ran down my spine - AGAIN. In the day I spent reading this relatively short novel, my pulse had accelerated, my emotions had stirred, and my engrossment meter had repeatedly pegged to red-line. But mostly, I’d simply enjoyed a wild ride trying to keep up with the reckless pace of this story featuring Frank Kane, ex-enforcer for the Spartans motorcycle gang. Upon learning that the author, John F. Saunders, is also a Greensboro dentist, I decided to look him up and ask the question that has been asked of authors since time immemorial:

S.B. “What possessed you to write such a novel?”

J.S. “I was complaining to my wife, Lynn, about paying hard earned money for a book, spending irretrievable time reading it, only to be disappointed by the whole experience. I told her I believed I could write a better novel than many that are being published today. Lynn responded with: ‘Then why don’t you?’ Next thing I knew I was spending evenings doing just that. The Last Spartan is the result.”

S.B. “Okay, it’s a novel about biker gangs, prostitution and efforts toward redemption of one biker with a particularly violent history. How did you come up with the Spartan theme?”

J.S. “Besides studying dentistry, I also majored in Greek history while attending UNC Chapel Hill. I’ve always been intrigued by the Spartans. They were unique in that they were a culture of warfare. Unlike their neighbors at the time, they didn’t farm, weave, or make pottery, they were all soldiers. They had slaves and the spoils of war to supply all that other stuff. There’s never been another culture so centered on warfare. It made sense to write about modern times for a modern audience; it was a small step, then, to connect the Spartan backdrop to modern-day people who also use violence to achieve their goals. Outlaw bikers fit the bill.”

S.B. “In my experience as a motorcycle enthusiast, I’ve attended biker rallies and known some pretty rough bikers. It’s easy for me to imagine a gang called the Spartans, and it’s easy to imagine a guy who could be so fixated with actual Spartans that he would base his life on them. But for an entire gang to be so taken by the idea as to address each other with the names of the Greek gods and to sit in carved thrones during the big meeting – well, I felt like you were stretching it a bit. What do you say to that?

J.S. “Rinse and spit, Steven, everyone else loves that part. Seriously, I felt that…”

S.B. “Fair enough. Overall, I must say I enjoyed your novel and most of it was very realistic. I liked the fact that Frank Kane lives in Greensboro and much of the action takes place in Atlanta, where I grew up. What are your plans for the future? Do you intend to write any more novels?”

J.S. “I hoped you’d ask that question since I’ll be at the Winston-Salem Barnes and Noble book store in August for a book signing, and I want everyone to know I’ll have plenty books to sign and sell. After that, it’s back to work on the next book in the Frank Kane series, which I hope to finish soon.

S.B. “Well, based on how much I enjoyed The Last Spartan, I look forward to reading it. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Oh, and thanks for the floss.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Good The Bad The Ugly

The Good: Jay Ford Thurston, author of Following in the Footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and Out of the Rainbow, has continued to sell books a the Viroqua, Wisconsin (his home town) Farmer's Market. There amongst the vegetables is Jay's portable bookstore. Way to go Jay.

The Bad: The book biz seems slower these days. Less website activity...possibly due to summertime fun. Fewer distributor orders...possibly due to summertime fun. Generally less book buzz...possibly due to summertime fun.

The Ugly: Returns. Oh how I hate returns. The bookstores and distributors have a free ride. They can return any title at any time for any reason and guess who pays? The publisher. Plus, the distributors bitch about inadequate packaging and then they return big boxes of books that are unprofessionally packaged and virtually sans protection to the point where 99% of all returned books are un-re-sellable. Guess who just got a big shipment of returned books?

All in all, is good. Let's make it better.