Book Reviews by C.B Smith
Book Reviews
by C.B Smith
As book reviewer for Mad Hatters' Review, I search trade publications and Internet sources looking for the new and notable independent publishing houses, understanding from experience that the most fascinating, challenging, and distinctive voices emanate from these quarters. It is these voices we wish to assist in bringing to international attention in our own small way.
 
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Zanesville by Kris Saknussemm Fishnet by Paul Toth The Adventures of Mao on the Long March by Frederic Tuten
Saknussemm Toth Tuten
   
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Zanesville, by Kris Saknussemm
Zanesville by Kris Saknussemm

You stumble into town in a fugue, wake up in a lucid dream and though not yet sure if it’s a nightmare, you begin to feel like it just might be. You find you don’t know whom you are where you are from or anything about yourself at all. But all is well you find, as those about you seem to possess some ideas meager and grand about who you may be, have been, or are going to become. Life is grand when your path is planned. But life is not so grand when you are given the name Elijah Clearfather, a man with a black hole for a past and engraved pseudo-prophetic sentences on his back. On he goes headlong into the byzantine empire of Zanesville as oddity after oddity presents itself each pointing deeper into the caliginous cultural mines of whose depth one can only guess. Then onward to seek and find the mystery entity, the lynchpin, and the big enchilada: Stinky Wiggler, who outlines for all The Conspiracy— “The Bing Crosby problem was intimately connected with Hiroshima—you just have to know how to read the signs. In 1966, the song ‘Winchester Cathedral’ won a Grammy Award—Mao Tse-tung launched the Cultural Revolution in China. Coincidence? Don’t kid yourself. In 1968, one of the most powerful Daimon operatives, Don Kirshner, introduced The Archies, a cartoon singing group that he could control completely—a lesson he’d learned after The Monkees had started acting up. That same year Sly and the Family Stone made their debut. The Detroit Tigers won the World Series—Joe Namath and the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in the Superbowl and Richard Nixon was elected. You don’t think these events aren’t directly connected to the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy? Don’t you see the pattern?”

If this seems a bit confusing and oh-my-gadd bizarro to you, imagine how it feels for Elijah Clearfather. And with some good time spent in this other man’s shoes, the necessary empathy is in place to dive headlong into this gleefully twisting tale, surfacing only when the journey is complete. So often it is as a reviewer that my sharp words are held in check as I read yet another offering whose merits raise it just a tad below mediocre. But Saknussemm has no concern in this matter, as this work raises the bar so high that the necks of all who follow will be straining as they behold the skyward view to Zanesville.

Publisher
www.randomhouse.com/rhpg/villard/

About the Author
Kris Saknussemm grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area but has for a long time lived abroad, in the Pacific Islands and Australia. A painter and sculptor as well as a writer, his fiction and poetry have appeared in such publications as The Hudson Review, The Boston Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters and ZYZZYVA.

Zanesville is his first novel and the first in a series of books called The Lodemania Testament.

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Fishnet, by Paul Toth
Fishnet by Paul Toth
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Oh, mercy mercy me, we say, as the scene opens center stage in the town of Mercy, California, where we first meet the painter, Maurice Melnick. It appears Maurice is attempting to paint his way to the place he once was and the world he left behind where his wife Sheila is still the she of some time past. And while the cells of the body regenerate every seven years, Maurice is hoping to effect a change beyond the cellular level by painting a portrait of his wife. Now Maurice seems an affable guy, in some case a laughable guy, but hey, can you blame a buy for trying? Not everyone agrees with this blame free position, however, his wife Sheila among them. She takes offence at all things Maurice, so it seems, leaving the reader unclear why it is Maurice remains so intent on finding this way back to her. Why so determined Maurice, another bow of obeisance to your deep sadistic urges? We can only assume he knows her best; maybe she is a cleverly concealed vixen behind the veneer. So into his imaginary underwater world he goes, safe and safer still as his womb of protectivity wraps itself around his frail and shivering shoulders. The nobility of his effort is surely admirable if not foolhardy but as Blaise Pascal said: "Love has its reasons that Reason knows not” To not have the answers is expected. To not ask questions is a crime against your own mind. And it is question atop question asked by Maurice as he attempts to set back the hands of time to a more peaceful time where a painting could change the world. This book should be read with a deliciously slow savor as the words and images invoked by Paul A. Toth set back the hands of time to a time more experimental when experimental was not a bad word. Really, he’s that good.

Publisher
http://www.bleakhousebooks.com/

About the Author
Paul A. Toth returned to his home state of Michigan after spending eight years in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Denver. His first novel, Fizz, and its successor, Fishnet, are available from retail outlets and major online bookstores. He has read in venues across the country. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best American Mystery Stories. Toth's story The Pop Lady Comes on Wednesdays received honorable mention in The Seventeenth Edition of the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, ed. by Ellen Datlow. He has guest edited for Opium Magazine and Word Riot, and reads fiction for Small Spiral Notebook. Toth is currently working on his fourth novel.

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The Adventures of Mao on the Long March, by Frederic Tuten
The Adventures of Mao on the Long March by Frederic Tuten
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If foreign mud were poetry, then Frederic Tuten’s The Adventures of Mao on the Long March is a poetic medal winner. Mud upon mud gathers astride as we follow Mao Tse-Tung and his hearty adherents through the hills and caverns of early 20th century China while Mao leads his troops forward into a future so bright they will have to wear shades, a future that will bring down among other things the Great Leap Forward, despite the fact that this in the end becomes the Great Leap Backward. But we cannot help but ring abundant with zeal for Mao and his band of Red Coat Warriors as they tread full of hope, optimism and empty bellies towards a future uncertain but most surely better. And who best to know but Mao, leader icon extraordinaire, a man amongst men whose vision cuts through the carbonized darkness of today as it looks toward a dazzling tomorrow. This combined with Frederic Tuten's subversive, witty and triumphant 1971 novel is caught somewhere between the clear-eyed rhapsodies of James Fenimore Cooper and Mao's own Address to the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature. Tuten peppers his deadpan textbook narrative of Mao's long march with loving parodies of Hemingway, Kerouac, Dos Passos and Malamud. Once again Tuten spins a tale as only a master tale spinner can, ringing lyrical prose upon rhyme like a true tunesmith. A Chinese journey minus a trip to the Opium den, this is a read well worth the admission price.

Publisher
http://www.ndpublishing.com/books/tutenadventuresofmao.html

About the Author
Frederic Tuten is an American novelist whose works are characterized by a highly ingenious and lyrical prose style, which at times is reminiscent of a bygone era. He has written five novels: The Adventures of Mao on the Long March (1972), Talien: A Brief Romance (1988), Tintin in the New World: A Romance (1993), Van Gogh's Bad Cafe (1997) and The Green Hour (2002).

Tuten currently resides in New York City's East Village.

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