Review: The Bullet Catch by John Gaspard

In the world of magic, the Bullet Catch is an illusion in which a magician appears to catch a bullet fired directly at him. The magician catches the bullet in his mouth or, sometimes, his hand.

In John Gaspard’s novel, The Bullet Catch, Chicago magician Eli Marks has one possible murder to solve and yet another murder to prevent.

BULLET-CATCH-book-listWhen Eli grudgingly attends his 15-year reunion, he feels he finally appears on the radar of his once unapproachable high school crush, Trish– after all, her shady husband spends the evening tossing back too many drinks and hanging on other women. But he doesn’t count on Trish being a widow the next time he sees her . . . the very next morning! The death is ruled a mugging, but a mugging-that-might-not be-a-mugging, and Eli uses his connections with the DA’s office (his ex-wife) and the police department (her new husband) to dig around for the truth. Meanwhile, his old school friend, Jake, is set to star in a movie – a biopic of a magician who died performing the Bullet Catch. The production is sinking fast, and Jake is sure someone believes the death of the leading man will generate box-office gold.

With Eli Marks, Gaspard has created a witty, sympathetic, hero who is almost unnervingly likable. He is intelligent without being arrogant, loves his family and friends, displays common sense, and yet is fallible. Eli seems to be able to win anyone over. Even his ex-wife, with whom he claims to have a contentious relationship, shows him concern and warmth on occasion. I would like to be able to say Eli was so perfect, I did not believe the character, but I bought him completely. I am still trying to figure out how Gaspard managed to develop such a wholly lovable hero.

The Bullet Catch has a quick pace and dialogue that engages the reader from the first page. In fact, I was struck by how much this book relies on action and dialogue. The novel contains very little internal analysis or examination of emotions by its characters. When I had finished The Bullet Catch, my impression was that I had been reading a screenplay, rather than a novel. I was not surprised to read later that Gaspard has directed six low-budget movies and written books on the subject of low-budget film making.

The “screenplay” feel of the book is evident from the first chapter. The Bullet Catch is the second in Gaspard’s “Eli Marks Mysteries.” As with any series, the author is faced with the question of how to bring the reader up to speed on what transpired in previous novels, if at all. The Bullet Catch opens with Eli in the chair at his therapist, to whom he proceeds to relate the plot points of the prior book. The scene may as well have been prefaced by the announcement, “Previously, in the Eli Marks Mysteries . . .” The therapist’s office is a functional device, but a bit heavy-handed.

Nevertheless – screenplay, novel – a little of both – I enjoyed the author’s smart incorporation of details about the magic industry, as well as Eli’s relationship with his much-older uncle, Harry. John Gaspard has written a great character into an original storyline –If it seems to have been written to fit into an allotted time slot on cable TV, it doesn’t detract significantly from the reader’s enjoyment of the novel. I will definitely be seeing/reading more of Eli as Gaspard expands this promising mystery series.

Paperback: 282 pages

Publisher: Henery Press; First edition (November 4, 2014)

ISBN-10: 194097643X

ISBN-13: 978-1940976433ck

Review: Literature for Every Learner- Laurie Westphal

literature for every lernerWhile I am not an expert on educational methods, as a librarian, I have had the opportunity to assist middle school students with assignments related to the literature included in their class curriculum.  The students were often required to use complex technologies in accordance with requirements dictated by the local or state school system.  While the finished products were overwhelmingly attractive, they mask the reality that students too often do not have a working comprehension of the literature. In the past, I have likened this trend to spreading decorative icing over a hollow cake.

Laurie E. Westphal’s Literature for Every Learner (Grades 6-8): Differentiating Instruction with Menus for Poetry, Short Stories, and Novels, tackles this problem by presenting multiple projects for each piece of literature that require various levels of critical thinking and a thorough understanding of the readings. The projects described in the book address not only various learning methods, such as visual, auditory, through a technique known as differentiated learning.  Differentiation provides a structure for successful teaching of students at different learning levels with multiple paths to master content and process information.  The system provides a method for instructors to develop teaching materials and employ assessment tools that allow all students in their classroom to achieve, regardless of differences in ability.

I was very impressed by Wesphal’s proposed learning methods, as well as by the organization of the book, itself. “Literature for Every Learner,” contains reproducible “menus,” each based on the levels of Bloom’s revised taxonomy, from which students can select the projects that most appeal to them and align with what they perceive to be their learning strengths. Additionally, the design of the menus ensures that students must mix and match multiple activities, including projects that will stretch their skills.

pub. Prufrock Press (2014), Paperback, 192 pages

Review: “Torn Shapes of Desire” by Mary Anne Mohanraj


torn shapes of desireTorn Shapes of Desire was originally published in paperback by Intangible Assets Manufacturing (March 31, 1997). That first edition was produced in protest of restrictive censorship laws that were being considered at the time, among which was The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). The CDA was the first notable attempt by the United States Congress to regulate pornographic material on the Internet. In 1997, in the landmark cyberlaw case of Reno v. ACLU, the United States Supreme Court struck the anti-indecency provisions of the Act.

Mary Anne Mohanraj was born in Sri Lanka and came to the United States as a toddler. Her classical, traditional parents did their best to raise their eldest daughter for the life they expected for her–the educated wife of a man she might meet only a couple of times before accepting him in an arranged marriage, but Mohanraj wanted a different life. While a student at the University of Chicago, a chance run-in on the early Internet with and rec.arts.erotica changed her destiny.

She found herself shocked, not by the graphic nature of the newsgroups but rather by the poor quality of the writing she found there!

Mohanraj believed she could write better erotica than she was reading. Upon receiving the praise and encouragement she had not experienced posting her non-erotic fiction on rec.arts.prose, she quickly built up a collection of short pieces of erotica.

In the Introduction to Torn Shapes of Desire, Mohanraj relates, “I write these stories as part of my own attempt to change the world. I write stories with strong consenting women, to remind people that strong women are sexy and that consent is crucial. I write stories with characters of various sexual orientations and genders, to spread a little awareness. I write stories dealing with taboo subjects. Mainly, I try to write stories with real people — people who love and hate and fear and sometimes have sex for all the wrong reasons; people who have lives and hopes and dreams beyond the immediate sex act. I’m trying to shape a healthier world…”

Torn Shapes of Desire contains forty of Mary Anne Mohanraj’s best Internet Erotica short stories and poems.

Other authors: Dale L. Larson (Photographer), Tracy Lee