Book Review
Sunday, May 19, 2013
A Shelf of New Books to Enthrall Keys Locals

"Vair" by Stewart Dickson (Virtual Book, paperback $15.95)

A "vair" is one of three ornamental furs allowed on heraldry; any pretender caught wearing one could be put to death. This novel of the same name opens with an historical note: "In 1536 the English King Henry the Eighth suffered a near-fatal fall while jousting near London. For more than three hours he lay unconscious, near death. Some believe that traumatic injury marked the emergence of the bloodthirsty tyrant remembered today."

Stewart Dickson's "Vair" begins in the Vatican's secret archives in Rome and weaves its hair-raising way through Sicily; Washington, D.C.; Roosevelt Island off Manhattan; London and Oxford; the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland; Copeland in North Carolina; the Outer Banks and Palm Beach in Florida and Brooks Cay in the Bahamas. It is in our own waters off South Florida that the Coast Guard must protect today's Prince of Wales from Cuban interests.

Blood and intrigue commingle until we arrive at this historical note at the end: "Within three months of Henry's traumatic fall from the horse, Anne Boleyn was executed; his aunt was also beheaded in the Tower, followed by his uncles, cousins and other relatives and friends of the Plantagenet camp."

Patrick Stewart, a Scottish-born journalist who died in 2011, covered the British royals before spending much of his professional life in New York City with his wife of 25 years, the fellow journalist Gunna who has steered this exceedingly intriguing book to print. -- Reviewed by Mark Howell

"And Then There Was One" by Peggy Butler (coming soon from SeaStory Press, $15)

Those who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s faced the twin terrors of tuberculosis and polio. The latter has been all but eradicated by vaccine but TB is still with us -- no longer a death sentence but rather, like AIDS, still a threat.

Romance novelist Peggy ("Starfish") Butler, formerly a Key West resident, has been working on a new book that's veritably a bible of nursing history from 1955 until recent times. It centers on a nurse's memories of the A.G. Holley State Tuberculosis Hospital in Lantana. This year's community college nursing students will be amazed by her story that glides from the rich narrative of a child growing up in southern Ohio and turns dreams of a career in musical performance into a passion for nursing, matriculating on a once-universal and now virtually unknown institution, the teaching hospital. As an R.N. she came to A.G. Holley.

The "one" of Butler's title turns ironic in her sad and dismaying postscript: "On July 2, 2012, because of an order by Gov. Rick Scott, the grand old hospital closed its doors in the midst of what the CDC in Jacksonville called the worst tuberculosis outbreak in 20 years." So now there is none.

Text is available from the author at -- Reviewed by C.S. Gilbert

"Interception City" by Parker T. Matson (Black Mask, paperback $8.99)

"Interception City" by the author of "Killing Liberty" is a very witty book if only for the author's point of view and the voice he chooses to use for it. The actual story is set in a decaying community in the Everglades and is about as funny as this quote on the dedication page ("to my sweetheart of a wife"): "The truth may or may not set you free but it will definitely get you killed." It calls itself a "morally complex" crime thriller and the points of its compass include murder, police corruption, racial tension, illicit sex, family betrayals, bored teen brides; heartless killers from Miami, Internet swingers, assorted nut cases and a fun-filled but violent high school reunion. Stars of its firmament are the story's heroes, Jim Starke and his sidekick Horace Thurman, Jr., who make sure that some live, some die, but no one walks away unscathed.

Interception City -- called Intersection City, incorrectly, by the map makers -- may or may not feel like home to you but we found this book to be seriously hilarious.

Parker T. Matson is the pseudonym of Robert W. Fisher, a crime fiction writer, movie producer and screenwriter who abides in Hollywood, California, Flint, Michigan and Key West. "I'm getting farther south with each book I write," he tells us. "The one I'm working on now, 'Killing Time,' is set in Key West itself and will be out from Black Mask" (it's a division of Disruptive Publishing) "in just a few months."-- Reviewed by Mark Howell

"Shark Point" by Ernest Hamilton (Kindle and Amazon softcover, $21.95)

This story is set deep in the Ever-glades during the Great Depres-sion. The author is a certified public accountant and was born in Key West. Ernest Hamilton then spent his next six years in the river of grass before it became a national park. He returned to Key West in 1941, graduated from high school here, joined the Air Force in 1950 and graduated from USF in 1963. He's lived in Jupiter ever since.

"Shark Point" opens in 1932 with Florinda Harrison fretting about a "dreadful decision" she has to make. It's been 10 months since Buddy went out on his hunting trip and he hasn't returned. Life has been unendurable since then and she and her three small children desperately need help if they're to survive.

One small hope remains. There have been rumors of a white man living with the Indians near Lake Okeechobee. Florinda's father-in-law, Deputy Sheriff Jim Harrison, has gone to investigate. Can she hold out for a while longer or not?

Hear the insects. Smell the animals. Feel for the people. The details are for real. -- Reviewed by Mark Howell

"Worthy of Trust and Confidence" by J. A. Ballarotto (Pirate 43 Press, paperback $13.66)

This year is the 50th since President John F. Kennedy was killed in public in broad daylight and, c'mon, we're still no nearer to the truth than on that November day. So believes J. A. Ballarotto. A former Secret Service agent, since 1987 he's been a criminal defense attorney with offices in both Trenton, New Jersey, and Key West. He continues to, as he puts it, "assume responsibility for protecting the rights of those wrongfully accused throughout the United States."

His new book, which begins just before the assassination, its narrator working for the Presidential Protection Division. It truly begins with the author's disclaimer: "This novel suggests an interpretation of an historic episode that is shrouded in more mystery and is the subject of more debate than any other single event in the history of the United States ... The story and opinions here are not approved, endorsed or authorized by or associated in any manner with the United States Secret Service, the FBI or any other government entity."

Perhaps, then, we have a chance at getting to the truth. -- Reviewed by Mark Howell