“The Last Refuge of Scoundrels: A Revolutionary Novel” by Paul Lussier (Warner Books, 2001)

New Views of the Revolutionary War

The Last Refuge of Scoundrelsstarstarstar

In a time of struggle, Patrick Henry once said: “ The distinction between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders are no more.  I am not a Virginian – I declare as an American.”  This a nation and in turn its people were born.  But this momentous event takes place on page 124, well into the story; before this there is much to be revealed about the events leading up to America’s declaration of independence.

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels: A Revolutionary Novel” by Paul Lussier tells the story that has never been told before.  It talks of war and revolution, of fighting, death and struggle – just like any good history book – but it also talks of brilliant men like George Washington and John Hancock, acting like children.  While John Hancock apparently had a penchant for smashing expensive china to relieve stress and anger, and George Washington was actually not too bright and supposedly had to excuse himself often due to his small bladder.

Researching for ten years, Lussier has taken notes from disregarded oral histories, diaries and personal letters, weaving these unheard tales into the charging revolution for American independence.  Lussier’s cast features a host of renowned names: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and George Washington.  There are also two lesser known figures: John Lawrence and Deborah Simpson, who play the main characters, controlling the revolution, making it run, orchestrating its major characters into making a country of sovereignty.  Lussier delves into events like the Boston Massacre, with the “true” viewpoint of the event, being that of a silent affair; the Boston Tea Party, which is where one gets the first sense of an America; the Minute Men, “the youngest and strongest militia boys trained to be called out on a minute’s notice”; the beginning of the Revolutionary War on April 18 and 19, 1775; the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place on Breed’s Hill nearby.

At certain pivotal points during the book, Lussier uses a method of relaying the historical knowledge of a specific event, and then revealing the actual circumstances that took place.  This presents an interesting and often amusing insight into this period that is celebrated in the founding of this country.

On the whole, The Last Refuge of Scoundrels is a very entertaining read, for not only does it provide historical knowledge that we can all use, but it gives the reader little trinkets of detail that one could always find use for at some public event to enlighten the audience with.

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Originally published on February 26 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Shopgirl” by Steve Martin (Hyperion Books, 2000)

Shopgirl: Two Unique Lives Coming Together


This is a story about a relationship; a relationship between a young woman of twenty- eight and a middle-aged man of fifty, but I guarantee this will be like no other book you have read.  This book contains passion, the highs and lows of life, the LA scene, the San Francisco scene, a millionaire, a poor girl struggling to get by in her boring life.  It contains, love, true love in its vibrant form.

Literature has been created right here in LA by a talented actor and former Cal State Long Beach student, Steve Martin.  Shopgirl is a book that will be remembered for a long time for the simple reason that it remains true to its character, its plot, and its actions in every way.  When you read his charming words, you become his characters, smiling at their happiness, feeling sad at their depressions.

As I said, this involves a middle-aged man and a young woman who meet and sort of fall in love, except they realize this isn’t true love.  He’s a millionaire who often comes down to LA from Seattle to do business.  He’s not married and takes great enjoyment in sleeping with a girl in every town.  She’s a girl long out of college, struggling to be an artist, working at a nondescript store in a nondescript mall.  Then they meet and the reader is taken on a journey of unique proportions.

Shopgirl should (and likely will) become a necessary text for creative writing classes.  Two amazing characters are created in this book, and as the reader delves further into their respective psyches, they begin to learn how said character will act and react.  The characters’ descriptions are so complete that I have yet to see this replicated in another book.

Shopgirl is also the sort of book you can read over and over, and still never become bored with.  The words are beautifully well chosen.  The similes are partially dry, but present a great perspective to the setting.  The jokes are humorous and their origins possible only from the mind of Steve Martin.  The story is priceless.

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Originally published on February 19 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Diagnosis” by Alan Lightman (Pantheon, 2000)

A Good Prognosis for The Diagnosis


The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman is a captivating book that I a perfect example of one of the best story-writing techniques; throughout the book, right up to the ultimate pages, the reader has no real idea what the main character is going to do, or what the author is going to make him do.  A useful tool that keeps the reader hinged onto the book, riding the edge of their seat, until the end and only then will they feel satisfied.

The opening portion of the book features the main character, Bill Chalmers, a successful businessman in a successful company (as to what the company does, this is never revealed but only hinted at, an interesting side point in this age where dotcom companies come and go like boy boys), taking the train to work.  As he passes from station to station, amnesia begins to set, until he comes to a point where he does not know who he or why he is on the train.

This is the onset of some sickness that cannot be diagnosed by any kind of doctor, be they medical doctor or psychiatrists, hence the title.  Throughout the book this sickness worsens, reducing thee main character to a helpless man in wheelchair, his job now long gone, his family falling apart, his life a complete disaster for which there is little hope.

Near the book’s conclusion some sense of revenge for the great travesties and cruelties wreaked upon Bill Chalmers is repaid, with a final understanding of what it is that is wrong with him, and getting back at the people from his enigmatic business who fired him for below acceptable performance, even though they knew he was sick.

Surrounding Chalmers are a handful of strong characters: family, doctors, friends, and a lawyer, each with their own unique intricacies that make the book on the whole a very entertaining reading.

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Originally published on February 12 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Horns” by Joe Hill (William Morrow, 2010)


Joe Hill’s second published full-length novel, Horns, is a fun and original story that seems to be a joke a first, then turns into something completely different and terrifying, and then transforms into the unbelievable.  Ignatius William Perrish wakes up from the night of all benders.  He tries to collect his thoughts and recreate the events from the night before, but is unable to.  He knows he drunk a lot, remembers next to nothing, and apparently has grown a pair of small horns overnight.  The problem is every time he confronts someone to help him with this “problem,” they treat him like he’s the devil and pour out their deepest, darkest desires.

His high school sweetheart, Merrin Williams, turned up dead almost a year ago, and while Ig had the finger pointed at him at first, he was never convicted.  Ig had been sleeping in his car that night after arguing with Merrin.  But now, as Ig tries to find someone to help him deal with his horns, he finds most of the town still wholeheartedly believes he killed her.  Ig feels like he’s the only guy who’s sure he wasn’t involved, and he plans on finding out who exactly killed the love of his life, even if the truth kills him.

Joe Hill has created a great, original story that could very likely have come from the mind of his father, Stephen King, but as the book continues, the characters develop and become more complex; it becomes not so much about the overall story, as what the characters choose to do and how they react.  Horns then becomes a book that Stephen King could never write, but one that any Joe Hill fan will thoroughly enjoy.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 26th 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.