Reading Corner | Shag author Howie Thompson pens first novel

Reading CornerJune 22, 2014 

“Double Shot ,” the first novel by local author Howie Thompson, begins with Butch Davidson recalling his days as “the most prolific killer in the world.”

He and five other assassins, selected because of their extraordinary talents and expertise in guerilla warfare, are asked to eliminate or reduce any threat harmful to the U.S. or other free nations “by any means necessary.”

General James Stand, “the most evil man in the world,” plans to develop a new world order and chose the six to accomplish the task, making Butch the leader. The assignment will take about 10 years to complete, and each member of the team, four men and two women, will receive a million dollars for each hit or elimination he or she makes. No heads of state, including POTUS, is exempt from scrutiny. The goal is to “adjust the balance of power in the world” and to make the U.S. the greatest country in every aspect, bar none.

“Double Shot” is a combination of fantasy, science fiction and mystery. The misadventures of the team become more and more outrageous as the group goes on its way to creating an ideal land. Destruction by a meteor interconnects with elimination of threats and world leaders to establish the new world order. The assignments the six team members fulfill are reminiscent of the ‘60s-’70s television program “Mission Impossible.” The outcome is more compatible with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth than James Hilton’s Shangri-La with terror and elimination being key words.

Thompson spins a tale of subterfuge, murder and unreality in “Double Shot,” but he needs to find an editor who can correct grammatical errors and several other details. The book keeps the reader involved, wondering what will eventually happen to the world, who will survive, who won’t.

He provides local color by having four of the characters entrenched on the Grand Strand. The shag, cornhole, North Myrtle Beach clubs and other references to the area are part of the novel. The second book in the series, “Impact,” is due out in 2015.

Known for his extensive coaching experience, specifically in soccer and basketball, Thompson has written several nonfiction books about sports. Two of his recent publications, “And the Bands Played On” and “Fat Harold,” concern the official dance of South Carolina, the shag.

His books, including “Double Shot,” are available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, goodreads.com and various local businesses.

Jo Ann Mathews, For The Sun News

Review of ‘Invisible Ellen’

Peek-a-boo.

You probably can’t remember it, but that was a pretty fun game back when you were a baby. Can’t see you. Where’d you go? You can hide, but you can’t run.

Fortunately, you’re able to handle that kind of excitement now. Unfortunately, you have more grown-up reasons to want to be swallowed up by the ground or, as in “Invisible Ellen” by Shari Shattuck, to be ignored. Forever.

Though she really didn’t like to dissect the facts, Ellen Homes sometimes wondered how anyone could be nearly 300 pounds and still be invisible.

At least, that’s what she figured she was because nobody ever noticed her. Nobody ever saw her, even when she was standing right in front of them. And, truth be known, that was the way she really preferred things.

Invisibility had its advantages: she could people-watch and keep notes; people did odd things when they didn’t think they were being observed. Invisibility also meant that Ellen could do her job as an overnight cleaner without drawing any unwanted attention. She could see – and remain unseen.

Understandably, then, it came as quite a shock the day that a blind girl “saw” her on the bus. It was so surprising that Ellen became intrigued, and uncharacteristically followed the girl home – which was a good thing, since she was able to save the girl from being mugged. As a thank-you, the girl, Temerity, invited Ellen for dinner (as a rule, Ellen didn’t “do” restaurants), and thus a friendship was born.

But what did Ellen know about friendship? She’d grown up in a series of foster homes, having been abandoned at age five by her mother. She didn’t have family, and she didn’t want friends. Still, Temerity had tenacity and lived up to her name.

So when the pregnant girl across from Ellen’s apartment almost lost her baby, Temerity helped Ellen do what was right. When the guy in the next apartment nearly died from a drug deal, she made sure that Ellen felt safe enough to bear witness. And when Ellen overheard the planning of a major crime, Temerity helped her tear the cloak off of everything…

I think if I had to describe “Invisible Ellen” in one word, the word would be “quirky.”

It’s so quirky, in fact, that I almost quit it several times, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. The situations that can best be described as “only in a novel,” the characters are over-the-top oddball, and it’s hard to seize enough about them to like them.

At first.

But then author Shari Shattuck’s misfits begin to get under your skin. Ellen starts to open up and become more than one-dimensional. Scenarios become less cartoonish and more like real life. Temerity settles down – and so will you, with this book, because it gets much, much better. Better enough to be called “good.”

And so, if you can handle quirk with the promise of a pay-out, this novel is worth a try. For you, “Invisible Ellen” is a book you should see yourself reading.

Terri Schlichemmeyer, For The Sun News

Book signing at Old Bridge

The Pelican Bookstore is holding an author signing at the Old Bridge, 109 Shoreline Drive, Sunset Beach, N.C., on June 24 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Marybeth Whalen will be signing her newest release, “The Bridge Tender,” while sitting at the original bridge tender’s desk at the Museum at the Old Bridge. Visitors can purchase books at the Old Bridge to be signed for $17. The proceeds from the sale will go to continue the work of the Old Bridge Preservation Society.

Whalen’s previous novels “The Mailbox,” “The Wishing Tree”, and “The Guest Book” also feature Sunset Beach.

At 5 p.m., the Old Bridge Preservation Society will be hosting A Moment In Time as part of its summer series. Locals will tell tales and stories about Sunset Beach and its surroundings and share some of the history from bygone times. This program is free.

For more information about both events, visit oldbridgepreservationsociety.org or call 910-363-6585 for more details.

If you have book- or author-related news, email features@thesunnews.com. Items and reviews run on a space-available basis.

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