Judenrein by Harold Benhamin

Today we have a guest post by Harold Benhamin, writing about his just published novel, Judenrein. Over to you Harry:

When I started writing Judenrein, a thriller that imagines the destruction of America’s Jews as white supremacists seized power in Washington, the plot seemed like a paranoid fantasy. Now, with “Bugaloo Bois” openly calling for a civil war as they violently disrupt black anti-police demonstrations, the notion doesn’t seem so crazy all of a sudden. Indeed, 2019 had the most anti-Semitic incidents of any year in the US.

Hate is rising and becoming increasingly normalized. Neo Nazis are tugging at the levers of power in Washington. The president calls them “Good people.” They haven’t gotten themselves into control—and may never get that far—but they are closer to their goal, and far more open about it, than they have been in decades.

The basic plot of the book is borrowed from what happened in the 1930s to German Jews. They were set up as scapegoats for Germany’s problems. The Nazis stripped Jews of their German citizenship and wealth. Jews were rounded up an eventually murdered. The word the Nazis used to describe their “success” was “Judenrein,” meaning “Free of Jews.”

Judenrein updates this story to present-day America. However, the book is for anyone who cares about what’s happening in the United States. I’ve tried to make it a fun, suspenseful read, but it delves into the issue of hatred and white power and its dangers for all Americans.

Willemstad waterfront in Curaçao.

The vividly painted architecture lining the Willemstad waterfront in Curaçao did not happen by design. The capital city developed after the Dutch claimed the island in 1634. The only materials available for construction, mismatched bricks scavenged from ship ballast, were finished with lime plaster made from crushed shells, which dried to a dazzling white facade in the intense Caribbean sun. Apparently a former governor of the island suffered from severe headaches and thought this was made worse by the sun’s brilliant reflections off the white buildings. He ordered that building exteriors be painted any color but white. Despite later discovery that the governor was a shareholder in the island’s only paint store, the tradition of painting in vivid colors has endured, making Willemstad’s Dutch and Spanish colonial style architecture a stunning Caribbean sight.

Willemstad, Curaçao, the last of the ABC islands to visit, was the final port of call on our Six week West Indies and American cruise. A cruise that had it’s ups and downs due to the start of Covid-19. Unfortunately although we could dock here, we didn’t get to go ashore. Another time, another cruise…!

Cartagena, Colombia.

Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, has squares, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings. It was a South American stop on our Caribbean and American cruise. During the fabulous sail into port my head was full of Pablo Escobar and his drug charged career. This was soon forgotten when we hit the streets of the Cartagena, the Colombian capital. A riot of colour and noise filled the senses and left me reeling. The atmosphere was electric, the weather hot and sultry. My only regret for this beautiful and vibrant city was that I didn’t buy an emerald!

The Trees by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf 
Like something almost being said; 
The recent buds relax and spread, 
Their greenness is a kind of grief. 

Is it that they are born again 
And we grow old? No, they die too, 
Their yearly trick of looking new 
Is written down in rings of grain. 

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard

Poem by Thomas Gray

The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke:
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to These the fault,
If Memory o’er their Tomb no Trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village Hampden that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.

Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation’s eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their glowing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing ling’ring look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev’n in our Ashes live their wonted Fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th’ unhonour’d dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed Swain may say,
‘Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

‘There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

‘Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.

‘One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

‘The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn:’

THE EPITAPH

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark’d him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heav’n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear,
He gain’d from Heav’n (’twas all he wish’d) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
The bosom of his Father and his God.

Thomas Gray

“The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen” by Cameron Straughan.

Today I am very pleased to introduce another guest post, this time by author Cameron Straughan. I will certainly be taking a look at his book myself.. Take it away Cameron…!

Hello! I am an autistic author. I use absurd, surreal humour to help me cope. I use it to communicate how I feel, how I view the world around me and to reach out with the hopes of finding some common ground – shared experiences. After all, that’s the basis of laughter – recognition of shared experiences. I prefer using this method to all the negativity I see swirling around in contemporary society. I’d rather not criticize; instead, I’d rather have some fun. Sound good? Then you might like this news!

On July 1, 2020, I will officially release my collection of 23 interconnected, humorous short stories entitled “The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen” (paperback). It is currently available as an Amazon ebook.

My motivation for publishing this book is to help dispel the misconception that autistic people “have no sense of humour” and to suggest, in a fun way, how people can survive these chaotic times with their individuality in tact. Also, “horrifyingly absurd” millennial comedy seems ready for Anthony Zen; hit shows like BoJack Horseman and Rick and Morty suggest widespread acceptance of my particular brand of wild humour.

My writing style doesn’t preach – I facilitate; this is writing you can interpret. The reader can dig deeper (e.g. satirical elements, Buddhist teachings, absurdism, autistic features) or simply enjoy it as a fun, humorous read; I’m OK with either response. Anyway, the book certainly lives up to its name! If this sounds good to you, then please check it out!

https://cameronstraughan.com/

Cartagena port oasis.

Cartagena port oasis, the sustainable zoo, is located on the Cartagena cruise port grounds. It is a government initiative showcasing a variety of the country’s natural resources and Colombia’s desire for a sustainable environment. The animals are not ‘wild’ as such, but many- the monkeys and parrots- appear to be free to come and go. Entry is free- you just walk through the zoo out of the port. The Cartagena port oasis initiative won the Organisation of American States’ First America’s Maritime Award in the category of Sustainable Tourist Destination Port.

The port is fun and informative and a fabulous surprise.

Bell Hammers:The True Folk Tale of Little Egypt, Illinois by Lancelot Shaubert.

So today I have a Guest Post from NYC author & producer Lancelot Schaubert, talking about his debut novel, Bell Hammers.

“The novels that stick with me stick with me because of beautiful moments, good characters, true themes, and the hilarious reality of life. And because I felt that way about the novels that stick with me, I wanted to write a novel that did those four things. I think you’ll find BELL HAMMERS does all four.”

1. Beautiful Moments. I tried my best to create moments in this novel you will encounter nowhere else. Nowhere else will you encounter the world’s largest hippo crapping all over a church lady dressed in bleach white Sunday clothes, only to get literally hosed off by her country club drunk husband. Nowhere else will you encounter small children trying to bring a small town online using barbed wire telephone lines. Nowhere else will you find six carpenters staging a sit-in because their forman won’t give them beer. There are some beautiful little trees and beautiful vistas involving meteor strikes and medieval sieges and castles in the small town of Bellhammer, Illinois.

2. Good Characters. Authors overthink characters too often. The thing that makes a good character good is, quite clearly, goodness. And I tried to highlight the goodness of my main character Remmy so that you fall in love with him forever. He takes great care of his neighbors, he sticks up to bullies, he loves his wife in an arm wrastling sort of way. Even when he’s weak or mischievous, you’ll find him strong in goodness and therefore BELL HAMMERS will stick with you long after you put it down.

3. True Themes. The lost father. The utopia of friends. The harmless prank. The big bad wolf. All of these show up in the story and create a third rail that gives deep and true meaning to the events of the plot of BELL HAMMERS. 

4. Hilarious Reality. The sheer unfathomable givenness of things like hammers, cigarettes, poop, and music covers the pages of this novel. You’ll find yourself, when you’re done, wondering about the really real.

It’s a book about four generations of carpenters staging a siege of practical jokes upon a major oil company. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be looking for volume two, guaranteed. 

___

Two excerpts of Lancelot Schaubert’s debut novel BELL HAMMERS sold to The New Haven Review (Yale’s Institute Library) and The Misty Review, while a third excerpt was selected as a finalist for the last Glimmer Train Fiction Open in history. He has also sold poetry, fiction, and nonfiction to TOR (MacMillan), The Anglican Theological Review, McSweeney’s, Poker Pro’s World Series Edition, The Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, and many similar markets.

Spark + Echo chose him for their 2019 artist in residency, commissioning him to write four short stories on top of the seven others he sold them.

He has published work in anthologies like Author in Progress, Harry Potter for Nerds, and Of Gods and Globes — the last of which he edited and featured stories by Juliet Marillier (whose story was nominated for an Aurealis award), Anne Greenwood BrownDr. Anthony CirillaLJ CohenFC Shultz, and Emily Munro. His work Cold Brewed reinvented the photonovel for the digital age and caught the attention of the Missouri Tourism Board who commissioned him to write and direct a second photonovel, The Joplin Undercurrent, in partnership with award-winning photographer, Mark Neuenschwander. He edits The Showbear Family Circus, which has some resources for writers over at http://lanceschaubert.org/resources/ and you can find him on Goodreads as well.

To preorder you can go to:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Usher

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Not quite sure why I persevered with this. Maybe because of the French setting, certainly not for the narrative, which was lost in a whole mountain of unnecessary description. Or for the main character, Heidi, who spent approximately three hundred pages wallowing in detailed self pity.



View all my reviews

Uvita Island, Limon Costa Rica.

Uvita Island, or Grape Island (English) is an uninhabited island off the coast of Limon in Costa Rica. Christopher Columbus anchored on the island during his final voyage to America in 1502.

We took a trip over to the island with TazMia Adventure Tours- find them on Facebook: TazMia Adventure Tours.

We paid $50 US per person for the whole trip. This included return taxi to the boat that would take us over- including a stop off at the supermarket, return boat trip and a tour guide to take us around the island. The tour guide- Larry- was fabulous. He walked us around telling us the island’s history and pointing out all the flora and fauna. The boat trip over took around fifteen minutes- a short journey down the river then hitting quite rough seas when we went over. Landing on the island was tricky but handled perfectly by the boat captain.

The whole afternoon was an adventure- exciting, informative and fun.

TazMia Adventure tours were amazing and 100% reliable- look for them around the port area- distinctive by their red t-shirts. One person will do the deal with you- agree a price and agenda, then pull everything all together for a brilliant trip- even found me a sloth!

Limon Sloth