A First–My Name on a Book!

Finally picked up my copy of CC Humphrey’s A Place Called Armageddon today. It’s the first time I’ve had my name on the outside of a real, published book. See it… there on the back cover?

HOW COOL IS THAT!?!

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You could read my full review, or I can save you the time and just tell you (again) that it’s a great book and you should just go out and buy it. Really. Go buy it. Like now.

A Very Cool Little Announcement

Got this picture from fellow author CC Humphreys today. It’s the new cover for the US Edition of his excellent novel, A Place Called Armageddon. I reviewed the UK Edition last year. If you like historical fiction, this book is a must read.

If you look really closely at the back cover, (double-click to enlarge) you’ll see a familiar name. It’s my first appearance in a book like this, and I have to say, it’s pretty damn awesome.

Also, if you are in Seattle on September 23 at 2:30 PM, stop by the Elliot Bay Book Company to hear Chris read from his book, and, I assume, sign copies of his books. Chris is a fantastic speaker, and is well worth the time go and see.

Armageddon

Book Review: Vlad – The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys

Vlad

No too long ago, I raved about C.C. Humphrey’s book, A Place Called Armageddon. At the risk of becoming repetitive, here we go again – another C.C. Humphries book set in the dark times of the mid-1400’s, another book worthy of the term ‘Historical Literature’, and another book that deserves critical acclaim for its prose. An oh… the single most disturbing scene I have ever read in my life – two paragraphs that still give me the chills a week later.

This is the story of Vlad the Impaler, not the Count Dracula Bram Stoker made famous through his tales of vampirical practices. Vlad the Impaler – Vlad Dracula, Prince of Transylvania, Son of Vlad Dracul. Son of the Dragon. He was known by a dozen different names, and the fact that he was known by all these names at the time he lived indicates just how well-known, and how well-feared he truly was.

The story starts with the capture of the three people who knew him best: his best friend, his mistress, and the priest he confessed to. The first twenty pages are a bit convoluted, as each of the three is brought before a papal commission, bound to find the true story of the man. The true story begins with Vlad’s childhood, as a hostage in the hands of the Sultan Murad and the father of Mehmet, the boy who would become Vlad’s life-long enemy. From there, we follow Vlad as he grows and becomes a man, and from man to legend. Along the way, we trace the battles he fights and the atrocities he commits.

As we follow him, we see the world through his eyes, and his reasons for doing what he did. We’re forced to pity him, to root for him, to like him, then to pity him once more. Humphrey’s does an excellent job of playing with our emotions and taking practices that would be abominable today, and making them necessary for the common good of that time.

This is not an easy book to read, and parts are not enjoyable – nor should they be. This is not commercial fiction – you have to really read and let the words flow over you. Every paragraph is hammered in the forge of Humphrey’s craft. But it is a book worth reading because of that craft, and because it is interesting in its topic and fascinating in its detail… and disturbing in its images.

If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend this book. If you’re looking for sparkly vampires… go somewhere else, kid. This is deep, and it’s dark and it will be hard to forget.

In case you are wondering, the two paragraphs I spoke of earlier… two paragraphs that will haunt me forever… the end of page 101 and the start of page 102. I dare anyone to read those two paragraphs and not clench every muscle in their body. Very few books have ever caused that sort of visceral reaction in me, and the only other one I can think of off the top of my head was Stephen King’s The Shining, albeit for completely different reasons.

Read. Enjoy. But be forewarned.

Book Review: A Place Called Armageddon by CC Humphreys

armageddonAs soon as I saw the cover of CC Humphreys latest book, A Place Called Armageddon, I knew I was going to buy it. I love historical fiction books about famous battles, especially ones set in medieval periods. Just looking at my collection of Bernard Cornwell books about the period will confirm that pretty quickly.

As it happens, I first saw this book whilst I was selling it at a special table in the back of the main ballroom during Day 1 of the PNWA Conference last summer. I had met Chris a couple of times prior to the conference, and talked to him quite a few times while I was behind the desk and wandering about the conference, but somehow getting this copy signed eluded me. Now I really wish I had. This book is spectacular.

In 1453 AD, the Turks, led by Mehmet II arrive outside of the walls of one of the most famous cities in all of history: Constantinople. The city is just a shell of it’s once great self. Much of the population has left. Emperor Constantine, the last emperor of the Byzantine Empire, must pull together small bands of defenders from rival factions – the Greeks, the Genoans, and the Venetians – to save the city from the attacking Muslim legions who outnumber the men on the walls ten to one.

The story follows two brothers, Gregoras and Theon Lascaris as they are dragged forward towards a climactic battle to save the city. Gregoras and Theon have a history that barely allows them to call each other brother. One has been branded a traitor, and holds the other accountable. At the same time, we see Mehmet The Conqueror, one of his closest advisors, Hamza Bey, and a simple farmer, Achmed, as they prepare to attack. All of them are linked together through one woman, a fortune teller who sees greatness before them all, and death close on their heels.

A Place Called Armageddon is not a light read. It’s 459 very dense pages of Literary-Historical-Fiction. The battle, as  Humphreys notes in at the end of the book, was huge and would have filled volumes in and of itself. Humphreys placed as many facts in the book as possible, and then wrapped memorable characters and fascinating relationships around the history. Just for history and the plot alone, this book is worth reading.

But if you read the book just for history and plot, you would be missing something – perhaps the best thing about the book. There are good books with hum-drum words and adequate stories. This book is written with prose. Every scene is crafted with an eye for pace, a feel for flow and an ear for rhythm, as if the stage actor in Chris was reading every word on a stage in one of London’s West End Theatres (where he once performed). The words are mesmerizing and beautiful and hand-crafted to be perfect in every syllable. I’ve never bought an audio book in my life, but I would easily buy this one if Chris does the reading.

A Place Called Armageddon is one of the great books of the year. The copy I have is from the UK, and I know it was released in Canada in mid-August 2011. I’m not sure of the US release date. Hopefully it gets the recognition it deserves and is read by a wide and enthusiastic audience around the world. If you like historical fiction and tales of great battles and great bravery, this should be on your must-read list.