Are Angels Real?


The spiritual beings known as angels have been widely documented in the Torah, the New Testament Gospel and the Holy Quran. Heavenly beings have also littered the spiritual tales of Native Americans, Hindus, and Buddhists. So, are they real?

DO ANGELS AND DEMONS REALLY EXIST? That’s the focus of the latest fiction ebook from The Solari Publishing Group entitled “The Angel of Grace“. It’s a wildly entertaining story about a guardian angel who enlists her biggest fan to escape the clutches of a shape-shifting demon. It’s a story within a story, expertly told by up-and-coming author Frederick S. Blackmon.

The main character, Darren, loves to read fiction books about angels and demons, but never expected that his favorite character was a real life angel. When she begins appearing to him in dreams and visions his first reaction is that he’s going insane. Yet, with the help of a gypsy fortune teller, his surly British neighbor and a teenage computer whiz, Darren sets off on a quest to find the real Angel of Grace.

  • Jay Prew

Fist Fight in Heaven – Review


With the severity of the Native American plight, escapism is a very realistic and practical defense against misery. This is quite evident in Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven. In this novel, Alexie captures an elaborate depiction of reservation life. The characters are terminally suspended in the abyss commonly known as the Spokane Indian Reservation. As Alexie catalogs their hardships, the characters of the novel indulge in the comforts of alcoholism and unbridled imagination. Through alcoholism, the character Thomas Builds-The-Fire uses the depths of his own creative mind to hide himself in the past.

There is a commonality among the reservation Indians in the novel that centers on alcoholism. The men and women of the Spokane Indian Reservation see their world largely through a thick, alcoholic haze. Drinking is a powerful defense against the stark reality that nothing ever changes on the reservation. In this state of shared depression, this familiar stupor, the reservation Indians cloak themselves in sorrow. If the characters were unable to mend their hardships in reality, through alcohol they most certainly could bend their perceptions of truth. There are several instances throughout the novel in which Alexie describes alcoholic experiences as a positive means of escape. For example, in All I Wanted To Do Was Dance, Victor looks over to his drunken parents and “Everything was familiar and welcome. Everything was beautiful” (87). The warmth of the alcoholic embrace was apparently comforting to Victor, and he goes on to say that his father would “sit with a cooler of beer beside him…his bad breath and body odor covering me like a blanket.”(26). In Every Little Hurricane, Victor depicts his father drinking in a dream; Victor describes the alcohol as “near poison” and a “reservation tsunami”, using very negative connotations. Yet, Victor also portrays his Father as being bold while drunk, with statements like “[He] wasn’t shaped like a question mark…more like an exclamation point” (6). Victor reflects in hindsight that “He thought one more beer could save the world.”(88). So, throughout the novel, Sherman Alexie perpetuates this duality of notions toward alcoholism.

Though alcohol brought release, it also leeched away the sweet vitality of the reservation Indians. In the novel, drinking only serves to ruin relationships, twist lives and magnify their difficulties. Sherman Alexie brings this reality into full view by coupling this theme with every drunken interlude. For example, “I…wished I was drunk enough to pull the trigger” (43). “I got drunk…so I wouldn’t be scared.”(112) and “With every glass of beer…he began to understand too much about fear and failure” (134). These passages indicate not only the reality of such a grim comfort but also a continually deteriorating cycle within the Spokane Indian society.


Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson’s book Jesus’ Son portrays single serving slices of what it means to be alive. According to this provocative collection of short stories, there is more to being alive than simply breathing and eating.  This examination is relayed to the reader in terms of altered states of consciousness, jaded recollections and sexual fascinations.

In some of the stories, Johnson’s unnamed protagonist comes close to eloquently depicting the quintessential essence of life. Yet there are also times in the book when the main character’s outlook on life is noticeably sarcastic, morbid and morose. These odd moments of clarity are surprisingly off beat.

Although Johnson attempts a serious glance at the true meaning of being alive, the main character is often preoccupied with the trivialities of life. Characters come and go throughout the book and Johnson’s protagonist seems to regard them with little concern at all. Their lives seem to pass like a picture show before his eyes, lacking any real substance and consequence. In the story “Steady Hands at Seattle General”, the main character asks Bill if he’s still alive in the deeper, spiritual sense of the word. Bill replies that “it don’t get no deeper than the kind of shit we’re in right now.” (131). Perhaps at this point, the reader can surmise that the main character will delve further into this intellectual puzzle, but Johnson pulls back. Instead he compares the deeper sense of being alive with the stark reality of being on drugs at a hospital. Denis Johnson seems to be toying with the idea at this point. He never quite pulls the trigger.

Throughout the book, Johnson expresses a fixation on the existential triviality of being alive. This book reads more like a philosophical discussion that the reader is invited to eavesdrop on. Overall, I love the lack of rules and conventions in this book. It’s challenging and therefore, a great read.  In the year 2000 the book was adapted into a movie and was brilliantly directed by Alison Maclean.



The Eye of the Hunter – Dennis McKiernan

The Eye of the Hunter is a fantasy novel by Dennis McKiernan that was first released in 1992. It’s the generational tale of two little people called warrows on a quest to find and destroy the world’s most heinous foe. It’s a controversial book for some, mainly because of its many similarities to Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series. (Hey, if you don’t like it….write it better.)

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Tolkien has Middle Earth. McKiernan has Mithgar.

Tolkien has hobbits. McKiernan has warrows.

Tolkien has Elves. McKiernan has…well, also elves.

Clearly, there are similarities between these two fantasy series, but The Eye of the Hunter was a standout book for the entire genre. Personally, it was a milestone in my literary reading history. This was one of the first epic fantasy novels I had ever read, and it was truly EPIC. The adventure story trekked across the entire known world, going from frozen mountains to arid deserts, from side story to side story. In fact, anybody who actually finished the book should have won a medal. It was a long read, but well worth it.

Dennis McKiernan clearly read Tolkien’s novels and decided what was best and worst about them. It’s like revenge fiction, not fan fiction. Most noticeably, The Eye of the Hunter provides a greater depth to the different races of Mithgar. There is more focus on the long-lived nature of the elves. There are different races of humans in Mithgar. The vulgs are much nastier and horrifying creatures. The warrows also have more depth than Tolkien’s hobbits. Instead of being shy little humans with large feet, the warrows are more like a mythical class of creature all their own, with talismans and spellcraft worthy of any fantasy race.

The reason for the mythic and scenic triumphs of this weighty novel is McKiernan’s writing style. Although some would call it overdone and tedious, others would say it’s highly-detailed and descriptive. McKiernan is a master at using description to heighten suspense. Each scene is thoughtfully set up and the reader is placed so firmly in the setting that it becomes real. There were tense moments throughout the storyline that were magnificently written in terms of pacing and readability.

Like most people, I never read the other ten or so books in the Mithgar series. Yet I always came back to The Eye of the Hunter. It’s a standalone hit. I’ve read it nearly half a dozen times and can’t wait to introduce this fantasy tale to my little brave warrows in the future.

book cover
book cover

Ben-hur by Lew Wallace: A Clinic on Writing Historical Fiction

My favorite movie of all time is Ben-Hur, the 1959 Cecil B. Demil epic film starring Charlton Heston. The costumes. The sets. The drama. The chariot race. I couldn’t wait to read the book, the original Ben-Hur that was written by Lew Wallace in 1880. Surely, this would also become my favorite book, right? Well, not so fast.

Ben-Hur was the first Biblical novel, and it was widely successful in its early days. Until Gone With the Wind, this was the highest selling American fiction novel of all time. Ben-Hur was even blessed by the Pope. But was it a great novel?

Ben-Hur, the movie, was an epic motion picture. The book felt even longer and spanned more time than any of the films adapted from the book. The author’s description of setting and character was absolutely unparalleled. Wallace spent pages and pages just establishing scenes, placing the reader completely in the world of a young Judean prince out for revenge. Yet, the novel tended to drag on. It was middle heavy and stilted in places. Truly, the greatness of the work was in its historical backdrop and not in its character or plot development.

Then, there was Jesus. I loved the way that Lew Wallace placed Jesus as a supporting cast member in this story and not as the focal point. Ben-Hur is a Tale of the Christ, but not directly. It’s a book about the effect of Jesus Christ on someone’s life at the time. Judah BenHur encountered Christ once as a prisoner and once again while Jesus was on his way to crucifixion. These encounters were pivotal moments for the book’s main character and allowed the reader to imagine what it would be like to see Jesus through the eyes of a contemporary. Overall, this was a very effective literary element and made this Tale of the Christ stand out as a must-read American classic.

Ben Hur Illustrated Classics 1st Edition

Alas, Babylon – The End of the World is the Beginning


ALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank. This is a great American classic about the struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s like the AMC’s The Walking Dead minus all the zombies. The story is set in the late 1950s when the United States was deeply entrenched in the Cold War against Soviet Russia. The book begins moments before a nuclear war between the two nations, but this isn’t an action thriller. The nuclear fallout seems to miss a few pockets of humanity, one being the tiny Florida town of Ft. Repose. The story is really about Mark Bragg, a man trying to keep his family alive against the ever-present threats of bandits, starvation, and radiation.

“You see, all their lives, ever since they’ve known anything, they’ve lived under the shadow of war – atomic war. For them the abnormal has become normal. All their lives they have heard nothing else, and they expect it.” (Helen Bragg to Randy Bragg, Chapter 4, p. 84).

This is one of the most frightening quotes of the novel. It is, unfortunately, true for those who grew up during the Cold War. We were taught that a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was all but inevitable, and we were taught how to respond (Civil Defense fallout shelters in the basements of large buildings and the famous “Duck and Cover” films). For those of us who grew up in the Cold War, the abnormal (the ever-present threat of nuclear war and its aftermath) was normal. The Bragg children, Ben and Peyton, for whom the “abnormal” had become the “normal,” seem to have less trouble accepting and adapting to the new realities of life than did the adults.

4) “…The struggle was not against a human enemy, or for victory. The struggle, for those who survived “The Day”, was to survive the next.” (Chapter 6, p. 123).

No one, at least in the novel’s setting in Florida, ever saw an enemy soldier. There were no invaders or foreign troops to fight. The military fight was in the hands of the U.S. military. For the people of Fort Repose, the fight was not against an invader with a sickle-and-hammer insignia on his sleeve, but simply to survive. This was, by far, the hardest fight and one whose outcome could not be predicted. This is one of the major themes of the novel: survival.

Literary Quote of the Week

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was a light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” – J.R.R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)