The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey–4.5 stars

Billy Coffey is the author of four novels:  Snow Day (2010) Paper Angels (2011), When Mockingbirds Sing (2013) and The Devil Walks in Mattingly (2014).

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From his website:

“When you’re raised in small-town Virginia by a redneck father and a Mennonite mother, certain things become ingrained. And when you marry a small-town girl and have two small-town kids, all you want to do is pass those ingrained things along.

Like believing the best life is one lived in the country enjoying the pleasures it provides—summer nights beneath the stars, rocking chairs on the front porch, deer grazing in the fields. And believing that no matter how iffy life can get sometimes, there are some things that are eternal and unchanging.

But above all else, believing that in everything there is story waiting to be told.”

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BillyCoffey.com

If there’s one thing Billy Coffey knows how to do it’s write a story. His syntax is as compelling as the story itself.

How did I like this book? Not as much as I liked When Mockingbirds Sing.  And that’s not because it was poorly written. I think it’s because it was a heavy, emotionally-wrenching story. Which is probably what Coffey was going for. You definitely feel invested in the characters because he makes the weightiness of their guilt very real to the reader.

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BillyCoffey.com

Basically, the story is about a sheriff and his wife going through life carrying a load of guilt for something that they did in high school that resulted in a death. There’s another character that feels this weight as well. They do all sorts of things to appease the weight of their sin. They go through life unaware of available grace.

What I do like about Coffey books are the ghosts. Not in the Casper-sense. But metaphorically and perceptually. The mountains and hollows of Virginia are known for such things, and the setting for this book was perfect for the “ghosts” that haunt the characters of this book.

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BillyCoffey.com

I read all 385 pages in one sitting. It didn’t bore me and that says a lot about how well this book was written. I’m easily distracted when reading fiction and I like a story that keeps me engaged. This one did.

In some ways, Coffey’s writing in this book reminded me of Ted Dekker’s. I’ve not read all of Dekker’s books, but the ones I have read deal with supernatural issues similarly. If you like Dekker, I have no doubt you’ll like Coffey.

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I’m no expert, but I think if Coffey could have incorporated a few breaks of levity in the book, I might have enjoyed it more. Again, it was a heavy read emotionally. But if you like a book that grabs you by the collar and won’t let you go, a book you can’t stop thinking about after you put it down, you’ll like this one.

I give it 4.5 stars.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author, David S. Brody regarding his new release, Powdered Gold

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I’m excited and honored to introduce you to David S. Brody and his latest release, Powdered Gold. I’ve written about Brody before, and I read three of his books over Christmas break while recovering from surgery. I’m happy to say Powdered Gold: Templars and the Ark of the Covenant kept me as entertained as his two former books in the series, Cabal of the Westford Knight and Thief on the Cross.

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From his website:

“David S. Brody is a Boston Globe bestselling fiction writer. He served as a Director of the New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA) and is an expert on the subject of pre-Columbian exploration of America. A graduate of Tufts University and Georgetown Law School, he resides in Westford, Massachusetts with his wife, potter and novelist Kimberly Scott, and their two daughters. In his spare time he coaches youth sports and Special Olympics, skis, and plays on adult ice hockey and softball teams.”

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I exchanged several of emails with David while reading his books, explaining that I was fascinated with his study of the Templars in North America. I learned tons reading his books. He was very patient with my questions and that impressed me a lot.

Description of Powdered Gold from Amazon’s site:

Cameron Thorne and Amanda Spencer continue their investigation of ancient artifacts which reveal the true, secret history of North America.

Cam and Amanda don’t for a second believe the Ark of the Covenant is hidden in a cave in the Arizona desert. But when a militant survivalist leads them to a radioactive replica of the Ark, filled with a mysterious white powder, they begin to wonder if legends of Templar Knights visiting the American Southwest on a secret mission might be true. What is this strange white powder? And is it the key to understanding the true power of both Moses and the sacred Ark of the Covenant?

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Now for the interview:

[Disclaimer: David S. Brody writes for the secular market and his books may be offensive to some readers of the Christian or Jewish faith. The thing to remember is that these are works of fiction with fictional characters.]

Your characters believe, in your words, that “ancient Jews” and “Christianized Jews” came to Arizona around 800 AD. Do you believe that as well? Why or why not?

My characters find artifacts in Arizona which leads them to this conclusion.  On their face, this is the story the artifacts tell (they contain a narrative, written alternately in Hebrew and Latin, carved into them—the narrative uses various dates circa AD 800).  The artifacts have been analyzed by forensic geologist Scott Wolter, who believes they are authentic.  So it is certainly possible that some group of peoples who spoke Latin and Hebrew found their way to the American southwest many centuries ago.

Karla’s Note: I could not find free use images of these artifacts, but you can see them on David’s website.

I like including dogs in my stories and I noticed that you do, too. Do you have a dog or cat?  

I do have a dog and I grew up with cats.  (SPOILER ALERT:  If I could have one “do-over” in “Cabal of the Westford Knight,” it would be that I don’t let the villains kill the dog!)

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One of Karla’s furry editors, Jake.

How did you get the idea to use Survivalists in Powdered Gold?

There was nothing in particular that prompted me to include a survivalist character in the story, other than I think the survivalist community is a fascinating and colorful subculture of our country.

Your books deny any supernatural explanation for miracles in the Bible. Is this your worldview? Do you only believe in those things that you can explain, touch, see?

I’m not sure that’s a fair summary of my books.  In my books, particularly Thief on the Cross my characters explore and debate the tension and seeming contradictions between “faith” versus “reason.”  I do think many of the so-called “miracles” in the Bible can be explained by historical events.

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Do you personally believe that Ark of the Covenant is really just a radioactive power source?

The Ark of the Covenant is a fascinating object.  In addition to carrying the Ten Commandments, it knocks down walls, fells enemies, emits electric-like charges, causes facial burns and even gives the Philistines, enemies of the Israelites, hemorrhoids after the Philistines capture the Ark in battle (after suffering for a few months, the Philistines returned the Ark to the Israelites—see 1 Samuel 5 and 6.)  I believe the Ark contained, or itself was, some kind of power source.

Are you a fan of the TV show, Ancient Aliens?

I’ve never watched it.

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Karla: “I have to admit I’m surprised Brody hasn’t watched it. I think he’d get a good chuckle.”

Do you believe Moses was a huckster as your characters describe him?

Honestly, I struggled over the use of the word “huckster” in the book since Moses is such a revered figure.  But it is the conclusion the characters in the book would have reached based on the evidence in front of them, so I kept it.  Somehow Moses was able to convince the Israelites to follow him into the desert for 40 years based solely on his claim that he had been instructed by God to do so.  That’s a tough sell, no matter what the circumstances.  Then we start to analyze some of Moses’s behavior—he had the golden calf melted down and the gold somehow dissolved and laced into the water, which he forced the Israelites to drink.  What strange behavior, unless he somehow knew the dissolved gold would serve to make the Israelites more malleable and willing to follow his instructions, like some kind of drug.

I note that I am not the first to wonder about Moses, as Sigmund Freud in 1937 wrote a book entitled “Moses and Monotheism” in which Freud theorized that Moses may have been an Egyptian pharaoh.

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What main message are you trying to convey in this book?

I think the main thing I would like readers to take away from my novels is an understanding that there is a lot of evidence that explorers came to North America before Columbus.  If so, what were their motivations, why were they here?  I believe that religion, not surprisingly, often was a key motivating factor.

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Do you have any questions for Brody? Leave your comments and questions below!

Introducing pre-published author, Tom Threadgill!

I’m extremely excited to introduce you to one of the best writers I know: Tom Threadgill.

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When I first read Tom’s work, I was blown away by his talent. When you read his book, you’ll see why. His writing is seamless and spell-binding. Usually when I read a break-out author’s first work, I find myself editing. When I read Tom’s, I got caught up in the story. It gave me the creeps. And that’s a good thing, because he writes creepy Christian fiction! I see big things in this man’s future!

If you want to be among the first to get to know the next John Grisham/Dean Koontz/Ted Dekker, here’s your chance!

Take it away Tom!

Karla:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Tom: I worked for a large corporation and moved all over the southeastern U.S. for almost thirty years before retiring to a small rural community in west Tennessee. My wife and dog tolerate me as much as possible, though I sometimes catch them conspiring. We have two sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, three grandsons, and were recently blessed by the birth of our first granddaughter!

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Karla: How precious! Nothing like a new baby granddaughter. I have four of them! We’re blessed, aren’t we? It’s hard to tear yourself away! But back to writing. As a new author, it’s important to develop a solid online presence. Where can we find you online?

Tom: The best place to start is on my website, aptly named tomthreadgill.com. I’m also on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Karla: When you’re not cuddling your grandchildren, where do you write?

Tom: Usually I’m in a leather recliner in the living room with a laptop. I’m easily distracted so I use earphones to play music and coffitivity.com. My co-writer/dog is usually somewhere nearby offering advice.

Karla: Sounds like my “office,” too. What is your process? (Spreadsheets, Snowflake, Lists/Outlines, Seat of the pants?)

Tom: Definitely a seat-of-the-pantser, although I prefer the term “organic writer.” I’m pretty much making it up as I go! I started with the vaguest of notions about the story, and fleshed it out as I went. The downside is that at several points in the story my characters surprised me and I had to rework some of my previous work.

Karla: I know how that is. I do the same. Tell us about your book.

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Tom: Hollow Target is a suspense/thriller novel about FBI agent Jacob Thomas as he pursues a serial killer. The murderer is using the Old Testament as his instruction manual, and Jacob is “spiritually scarred” due to an event in his past. It’s written so that the reader sees the world through each of their eyes.

Karla: Why should readers pick it up?

Tom: First of all, it’s Christian fiction. That can mean a lot of things, but for me it means it’s a story of redemption. Secondly, I try to write in a way that shows Christians as real people with struggles, doubts, and problems, but there’s no preaching in the book. Finally, I think it’s a great story with fantastic characters. But I may be a little biased. 🙂

Karla: How did your book come to life?

Tom: That’s a novel in itself! I never set out to write, but decided for my thirtieth wedding anniversary to pen a semi-autobiographical book for my wife. It was epically bad, and I figured I’d better learn something about writing before trying again. Hollow Target actually originated from a writing prompt I saw in a magazine.

Karla: That’s fascinating! My current work in progress actually originated as a short story. I love when that happens. Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Tom: Tough call. I think the one I have the most fun writing is the serial killer, Ryder (Levi) Talbot. I’m not sure what that says about me though. But I think my favorite is probably Maggie Keeley, Jacob’s partner. She has some quirks that are based on my wife, and I’m a sucker for a strong female character.

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Karla: I love that! How did you name your characters?

Tom: Not well, apparently. They’ve gone through several name changes so far!

Karla: Are the characters based on people you know?

Tom: I use a few mannerisms from different people I know, but nothing too specific. I intentionally stayed away from tying any character to someone I know. Except the serial killer. You know who you are.

Karla: What is your favorite scene in the book?

Tom: I can’t tell you, because it’ll ruin it. I can say that while I was writing it, I kept flashing back to one of my favorite scenes in the original Indiana Jones movie.

Karla: That’s funny. What a lot of people won’t know when reading this book is how naturally funny you are. If they read your blog, they’ll pick up on that. I hope you write a humorous book soon. But tell me, why Christian fiction?

Tom: I don’t want to put anything out that wouldn’t be pleasing to the Lord. If I have any talent in writing, it’s from Him.

Karla: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Tom: I’m a big hockey fan (Go Preds!), which oddly enough is pretty rare in a southern farming community. Who knew? My wife and I like to spend most of our vacation time in the Smoky Mountains, and love riding our Harley there. I’ve also started doing a little woodworking as a hobby. So far I still have all ten fingers.

Karla: Another thing I love about you–Harleys and the Smoky Mountains! (These are a big part of my book, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots.)

Tom is modest as well as funny, and is a gifted photographer. Be sure to check out his blog to see his photos, too. I am honored he’s given me permission to use them on my Silent Sunday blog posts. (Click on pics to see them in all their splendor.)

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Watch for Tom’s book and I’ll keep you posted, too. When it comes out we’ll do another interview. I can hardly wait to see it in print! Write on, Tom! And congratulations on that beautiful granddaughter!

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