Secret of the Templars (Templar #9), by Paul Christopher

Two stars (of five)

Christopher returns with a ninth novel in his Templar series that remains on perma-tepid, if not drifting towards cool. Lieutenant Colonel John “Doc” Holliday vows to find a long-lost Dead Sea Scroll that could have great implications for Christianity as a whole. During his search, Holliday also discovers a link between the Catholic Church and a number of art forgeries directly tied to the Nazis, putting these two unlikely groups in bed together. With this highly controversial information, Holliday embarks on his journey, teaming up with Interpol agent Peter Lazarus, to solve both mysteries and live to tell about his harrowing tale. With curious intensity, Christopher tells a story that has long-divorced itself from the Templar theme, but still rocks Christianity’s foundation.

As I have written of past Templar series novels penned by Paul Christopher, the wind has surely left the author’s sails and he is seeking only to propel himself forward with mediocre publications. The story, while sound, lacks depth or content to push it towards being a great novel. Christopher has left Templar queries behind in the dust and while he continues to push new and exciting mysteries, his dedication to the plot and thorough development of characters leaves the larger product lacking the needed content to make it worth the reader’s time. Should a reader wish to embark on this Templar journey, I can only recommend binge reading the entire series, so as to remember content from one novel to the next, as they become less memorable as the novels pile up.

As you did with your last series, Mr. Christopher, you left these books to wander out to pasture. For that, I can only ask why you do not stop writing them and begin something new, where you might find new inspiration and not tasteless drivel.

My Life with Piper: From Big House to Small Screen, by Larry Smith

Two stars (of five)

Having recently finished Season 2 of Orange is the New Black, I thought it poignant to tackle the short audio-bio of one Larry Smith. Smith is, of course, the real-life Larry Bloom from the show and offers his own perspective on the phenomena that is burning up the Netflix airwaves. Smith uses his short platform to offer up some of his own backstory about meeting Piper and correcting some of the views presented in the show and Piper’s own memoirs. In his short tell-some essay, Smith talks about meeting Piper, their struggles with her incarceration on both sides of the bars, and building a life after Piper’s release. Smith’s audio version includes an interview that includes Piper, where they laugh and offer cucumber sandwich banter about her new-found successes. Tepid seems too stiflingly hot a moniker for this.

Smith’s piece of literature is but an essay, which is made clear in its brevity and the interview portion added to the end of the audio rendition. This short insight into the life of a man whose lesbian girlfriend went off to face punishment, only to return to marry him, is light and even weak at times. Funny, for the reader (listener) to process, Smith makes it clear that he is a writer and lives off the spoils of his writing, yet his prose is so brief and seems to ride off the coattails of Piper’s life, memoir, and the Netflix adaptation. I would have thought, liked even, to get a full perspective of Smith’s struggles with the Piper situation and how he coped. With Piper’s book publication in 2010, and its subsequent success, one would think that Smith could take the time to put together some of his own thoughts in a full-length book over the past four years and not pen a short essay on his sentiments, riddled with Piper events and Netflix show insinuations that he wanted to correct. To show the other side of the coin, Smith had so much potential, but like the character depicting him in the show, he falls flat and looks like an oaf. As it is under 2 hours, I would recommend it to any reader who wants to see the epitome of riding another person’s coattails. Use it for the rush hour commute one day, or even for your jogging regimen, but do not spend money on this. Public libraries use our tax dollars for this reason, though even I would likely critique my taxes being used to obtain such drivel.

Mr. Smith, you shame yourself with such a weak dive into the literary world. Are you sure you are actually published in magazines anyone would have heard of, or are the titles you gave simply more name dropping to bolster a lacklustre image?