2019 Finalist

The Councilman by Glenn Starkey

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

In his book, The Councilman, author Glenn Starkey has penned another fast and enjoyable read. Set in eastern Texas in the 1950s, this story is about a veteran's search for his mother's murderer. Our protagonist, Cory Hunter Bramley, is a Korean War veteran who returns to his hometown and discovers that his mother is only one of several women brutally raped and murdered in a similar manner during the sixteen years he has been away from the town. Cory gets a job at the town's general hardware store and soon meets a wide variety of both good and evil individuals in the small town. Cory befriends another newcomer to town, a World War II vet who survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and helps him get employment with him at the store. This friend is named Moses, carries a bible, recites scripture, and seems to know things about the future that he shouldn't. I found the book's conclusion somewhat unexpected and, as expected, satisfying. I recommend this book. 

Review by Bob Doerr (July 2019)


Author's Synopsis

In 1956 Morgan City, Texas, Cory Hunter Bramley has finally returned to learn the truth about his mother's murder. The killer may be gone, leaving Cory to chase ghosts, yet he's determined to know what happened that fateful day sixteen years ago. But truth comes in many forms. The town is under the thumb of a man who considers himself a king and makes Cory's search for truth more difficult. Five women have been brutally murdered since his mother and their killer remains at large as well. Cory must walk a dangerous maze of corruption, revenge, bootlegging, brutality and murder as he uncovers a bloody trail leading to the killer. But in the pursuit of justice, Cory didn't anticipate finding love with the forbidden Emily. The Councilman is a heartbreaking tale of vengeance, deceit, and the anguish of shattered souls wrapped in mystery and suspense.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-54394-100-5, 978-1-54394-101-2
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 234

The Batter's Box by Andy Kutler

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The Batter’s Box is a tour de force—a riveting tale of baseball, war, and the human spirit. Many writers are skilled at conveying one particular niche or historical period. Andy Kutler does it all. The book begins with the story of an elderly woman. Her body is frail but her mind still sharp.  She has reached that point at the end of life when she is secure in her own identity, satisfied with the experiences life has brought her, and needing nothing more than a sympathetic ear to hear her story.

Then quickly, the scene shifts, and the author is taking the reader on a nostalgic trip to a baseball diamond. The air is thick with the smells of dust, sweat, peanut shells, and hotdog grease. It’s 1941. Baseball is the national pastime, and playing ball is the dream of little boys everywhere.  Talented players are heroes, and their names resonate with those of us who lived through the forties and fifties. The sports enthusiast might be content to follow Will Jamison and his baseball career to the end of the book.

But the author has much more in store for his readers. It’s now 1944, and our hero finds himself in Belgium, headed into a confrontation that will eventually become known as The Battle of the Bulge. Kutner spares the reader nothing as he describes in gruesome detail the sights, smells, and deafening sounds of battle. Irrational men and hulking machines of death confront each other and leave only ruin behind.

Enough? No. It’s now 1946, and Will Jamison is back from the war. Peace is settling over the land again, the baseball diamonds are calling, and relieved young men are leaping toward a chance to be a hero with a bat rather than a gun. Will wants to join them, but two invisible wounds hold him back —one deep in a thigh muscle and the other burrowing deep in his brain. In those post-war years, no one knew or understood the term PTSD, and it was certainly not clear to those most affected. A loud noise—a flashing light—almost anything could trigger an emotional outburst the sufferer was helpless to withstand.

At the end of the book, the author brings us back to the present, with a surprise ending that echoes and wraps the entire package into one satisfying conclusion. This is an amazing story—well-written, beautifully designed, and emotionally satisfying. It stands head and shoulders above most of the books I have read this year.

Review by Carolyn Schriber (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

In 1946, a returning World War II veteran is determined to reclaim his place among professional baseball’s upper echelon and win back the woman he once fell for. Two months into the new season, at the top of his game, he abandons his team, casting aside his fame and riches and vanishing forever from the public eye. What drives a man to walk away from everything he cherishes, never to be heard from again? The Batter’s Box follows the path of Will Jamison, a star player with the Washington Senators who enlists in the U.S. Army following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When the war ends, Jamison returns to Washington, a decorated hero tormented by deep emotional scars. Burdened with a crushing guilt and harrowing memories he cannot escape, Jamison’s life is consumed by an explosive temper, sleepless nights, and a gradual descent into alcoholism. He must also navigate public misconceptions about mental illness in the 1940s, and stigmas that often silenced those who suffered and drove veterans like Jamison into dark corners. Will he continue on, alone with his anguish and misery? Or will he level with those around him, including the woman he loves, and seek the professional care he desperately needs, even at the risk of exposing his secrets and shame?

ISBN/ASIN: 9781944353216,9781944353223,9781944353230
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 304

Living Waters by Ed Waldrop

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

In Living Waters, by Ed Waldrop, the main character’s family was not rich, nor were they even very happy. AJ McClellan’s childhood was scarred by traumatic incidents. But AJ lived in the Low Country of South Carolina, and when things got bad, he took his dog and his fishing rod and sat on a dock—feet dangling above the water, watching the slow but constant ebb and flow of the tides in the marsh, smelling the distinctive odor of pluff mud, watching the sunrise and set, feeling the soft warmth of the air, and listening to the songs of birds soaring over the living waters. He was content, strong, confident—a strapping young man with a promising future.

But then came 9/11, and that boy went straight from high school into the Army to help defend his country—because that’s the kind of young man he had become. He spent six years in the Army, two of them in Iraq. The senseless destruction, the horrible sights of blood and gore, the stark fear that at any moment an explosion might turn him into a pile of stinking entrails—all those experiences changed him. He came home, whole in body but damaged in both mind and spirit. He wandered aimlessly through the southern states, unable to hold a job, given to flashbacks and nightmares, ridden with guilt and uncontrollable anger. Life seemed pointless.

His PTSD was not a condition easily remedied. It took a family death to bring AJ back to the Low Country. And there, slowly, the combined efforts of an understanding pastor, a beautiful woman who refused to give up on him, two rambunctious and doting dogs, and the slow, soothing rhythms of the living waters combined to ease his torment and helped him to rediscover the young man he thought had been destroyed forever.

This is a well-written and heart-wrenching book written by an author who understands the appeal of the Low Country. Readers who know something of South Carolina will be homesick; those who have never visited will be planning a trip. But more importantly, the author provides an intimate understanding of the tormented perceptions of a veteran returning from a devastating war. He offers an important message, one that will linger with readers long after they turn the final page.

Review by Carolyn Schriber (August 2019)


Author's Synopsis

Living Waters is the story of AJ McClellan, born in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. He was raised and nurtured along her creeks and waterways. Tragic events in AJ’s young life tested him deeply, but it was the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City that moved him to action. Determined to serve in his country’s defense, AJ joined the Army right out of high school, eventually doing two combat tours in Iraq. He would later leave the Army a broken man, emotionally and spiritually. He lived a vacant life in central Texas until an unexpected death in the family brought him home and began a redemptive journey for him of new life, new love, and new hope.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN 9781641111171, ASIN B07GX1593B (Kindle)
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 302