As I wrote in a post two years ago, authors love to get reviews from their readers. Reviews are a report card on how our work is received, if we are entertaining the audience, and what we need to improve. Since I wrote that post a new fan has emerged. His name is Orville St. Clair and he reviews under the name of Old Sarge. Recently Mr. St. Clair contacted me and asked to write a more comprehensive review. I agreed, and here is what he wrote.
Hi! Do you have a ‘doppelgänger’? Not the evil twin kind! The word ‘doppelgänger’ is sometimes used in a more general sense to describe any person who physically or behaviorally resembles another person! I have one!
We’ve never met, only corresponded via email, but he is as near to being me as he can be (but more talented). Or maybe it is I who am nearly him. Anyway…..we each resemble the other. We both are southern gentlemen by nature, have white hair, white mustaches and white goatees!
We are both still sharp; mentally we are in the prime of life. I am 74, he is 68, and we were born less than 100 miles apart, in Russellville and Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Both of us were children of working class fathers (mine a plumber, his a turkey farmer). We both grew up with strong work ethics and worked for our fathers at an early age (an age that would be considered “child abuse” in today’s society, but in those days it was called “teaching responsibility”).
We both became addicted to science fiction at VERY early ages (books, TV, and, in my case, Saturday afternoon cliffhangers at the “Community” theater, where admission for the Saturday Matinee was $0.15 or two empty “Coke” bottles). For that we got the latest John Wayne “3 Musketeers” western (or a Tim Holt, or Bob Steele, “Lash” LaRue, or maybe a Johnny Mack Brown), a Warner Brothers Cartoon, a “Pete Smith Specialty”, and a chapter of “Commander Cody, Sky Marshal of the Universe”. Without knowing each other, John and I read the same books (thanks to the public library system) and watched the same TV programs (including, besides science fiction, stories from the action, detective and western genres, and anything about WWII)!
So…..See…..I have a ‘doppelgänger’! Let me introduce him to you. His name is John Bowers, and, you’re going to like John, a LOT!
This is a review about John’s work. My only qualifications for creating such a review are three in number. 1) The similarities between our lives. He is fascinated by all things military though he never served. I was a US Army soldier for over 20 years. Three of my uncles and I served a total of 103 years in the Merchant Marines, Army and Air Force. Dad enlisted in the Navy on December 8, 1941 and served 39 months on a cruiser in the South Pacific. My niece, Dana, served 3 years in the Marine Corps, all 5’-1” and 110 pounds of her. 2) John writes fiction books (mostly science fiction) while I read books (over 7,000 of them at last count, the vast majority were science fiction). And 3) I asked John if he would allow me to create a review of his work that delved a bit deeper into his ”’verse” as a Christmas present for him.. He graciously agreed!
I first became aware of John about three years ago, reading an online review (on Amazon.com) of one of his “Marshal Nick Walker” books. The reviewer gave the book 5 Stars, and the book sounded interesting, like “Gunsmoke” in outer space. I ordered Book One of that series for my Kindle Fire. It was so impressive that I have now read ALL of John’s books (sixteen total, I think) in less than 3 years. They are split, almost equally, between the “Marshal Nick Walker” series, the “Starport” series, and the “Fighter Queen Saga”). I have NEVER been disappointed by one of John’s books. . You can find some of my individual book reviews of John’s work on Amazon. All of John’s books are available in Kindle format at Amazon.com and his first paperback, “Bounty Hunter”, Book 4 of the “Marshal Nick Walker” series has just been published on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bounty-Hunter-Binary-Walker-Marshal-ebook/dp/B01079TAKE
I don’t refer to John as a “Novelist”, or as an “Author”, but as a “Storyteller”! That’s what John does, he tells stories! Interesting stories, tightly plotted and quickly paced. Real page-turners! They feature people that you will care about, in situations from which there is often no apparent escape.
All of the stories take place in the same “’verse”, where there are no aliens. A “’verse” where “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” is quite capable of creating all of the heartbreak and despair the human race can stand, all by itself! But, give them credit, some of the inhabitants never give up. Never!
John tells Science Fiction stories, and uses them to point a bright light on such potentially dark subjects as religious cults, war and the military, police and government service, slavery, bigotry, and the subjugation of women. Individual bravery in the face of overwhelming odds is a frequently addressed topic! John forces you to think about some things you’d probably rather NOT think about, then makes you glad you did. And….he balances out all of the negatives with stories of love and devotion, dedication and selfless sacrifice!
John’s stories have STRONG female characters, both military and civilian. I’m almost certain that John had some strong female role models in his life. They speak to me from the pages of his books. His stories are realistic, and are stories of conflict. The heroic types do not always survive to the end of the story, just like in real life. The violence content can be extreme at times!
John Bowers is GREEDY! OK, not really greedy. But most writers would be satisfied with ONE successful series in print, John Has THREE! They are the (5) “Starport” books, the (5) “Fighter Queen Saga” books, and the (6) “Nick Walker, U.F. Marshal” books. Any one of the books is worth your time! And…..if you read any of the books, from any of the series…..you’ll probably find yourself doing what I did, buying them all, from all 3 series.
The “Starport” and “Fighter Queen” books deal with global invasions of near defenseless, peaceful inhabitants by cruel, powerful, evil forces. The “Starport” books examine mostly undercover, behind enemy lines, Guerilla and “resistance” type small unit operations while the “Fighter Queen” books detail the all-out war between the evil Sirian Empire and the peaceful Vegans, and later the Sirian Empire and the Terrans. Again, typical of John’s fiction, there are plenty of heroic female characters, fighting, and occasionally dying, alongside their men.
The “Nick Walker, U.F. Marshal” books begin with Nick’s first assignment, after the completion of his training, shortly after the end of the revolt on Alpha Centauri 2. Nick is haunted by memories of an incident from that war, when as a sniper, from a church tower, he had been required, as his duty, to kill 200+ rebel soldiers in one day. He is still a young man, but already molded by the terrible realities of war.
To picture Nick, think of a whalebone and whipcord version of a young John Wayne, or James Arness. He would like to be idealistic, would like to believe that the law works, but understands that he can only enforce “his” version of the law. His version includes always doing what is “right”, what his conscience demands, and not necessarily always what is “lawful”. He is a dangerous man! Most Marshals carry a laser handgun. So does Nick, but he also carries a .44 cal. Magnum (for the intimidation factor, you know)! If he needs to kill, he kills, no hesitation!
Nick also has his problems with religious cults (you may know that John was brought up from childhood through age 45 in a cult). The Sirians, particularly as it concerns the indoctrination of their children, could certainly be considered a cult. While the gentle, respectful, religious “Cult of Sophia” advances a view of a cult that I would gladly embrace.
Nick suffers! Life does not treat him kindly! Through the first 5 books, he is brought to the point of complete personality disintegration. He has lost everything, his job, fellow lawmen, his best friend, and seen the love of his life ruthlessly murdered, in deliberate cold blood, by a cultist follower, on the cult leader’s orders. Nick has spent the last 2 years of his life, and all of his energy and resources, in a fruitless search for the cultist leader, to extract revenge. But he is out of leads and resources, his soul is crushed. He is something the 5 earlier books told you he could never be, a beaten man.
But as Book 6 begins, an old lover, long gone from Nick’s life reappears, with promise of a new lead. Question is, will Nick be able find a way to locate the cultist, or is he too far gone? Mentally? Physically? He is pretty far into the bottle at that point. If he is able to get his revenge, will there be anything of him left. Book 6, “Manhunt on Tau Ceti 4” answers those questions. It is the best, the richest, novel that John has written yet. I can’t wait to see what story John tells us next.
Orville R. St. Clair
SFC, US Army