Friday, January 20, 2017

Poetry Review: FOREVER WORDS: The Unknown Poems

Johnny Cash
FOREVER WORDS: The Unknown Poems
Blue Rider Press / Canongate Books, 2016
144 pages

Johnny cash was much more than he seemed, as the “Man in Black” he acquired a reputation. Such a label does nothing but reduce his personality down to a dark and sombre state, which is drastically unfair. Indeed, as indicated by John Carter Cash’s forward, none of us really knew his farther. Most of all Cash was human; he had many layers, some of which his words began to reveal and some of which will never be known.

Whilst working my way through this collection, I couldn’t help but hear Cash’s voice in my head. I’m a big fan of his music, and I’m familiar with a large number of his tracks. Perhaps because of this it came through when reading in a similar metre. Some of the longer poems were eerily familiar. I could hear him singing with his strong pronunciation of certain words. It was a wonderful experience.
Of particular note for me was a poe
m called “Forever.” The title of this edition was clearly named after it, and it is the strongest one in here:

“You tell me that I must perish
Like the flowers that I cherish
Nothing remaining of my name
Nothing remembered of my fame
But the trees that I planted
Still are young
The Songs I sang
Will still be sung”

It was written just a few months before his death in 2003. And for me it says a great deal. He speaks to his creator; he questions his fate. Death is coming for him, as it does for all of us, and he spits in the face of his end. He may perish, but his songs will be sung. His name may diminish, his notoriety forgotten, but his songs will still be sung. At the day of his death he is still young. His body is old, and his heart heavy, but his songs are young. They will always be remembered. In a sense, he cheats death as his words enter the realms of immortality: the realms of forever.

To relate back to my original point of layers, as strong as this poem is, it stands in direct contrast to the track “Hurt.” The lyrics of this speak a different tale, of a man who would gladly put aside his “empire of dirt” and do things a little differently if given a second chance. This was released in 2002, and the point is he clearly felt conflicted things about his name and legacy. Just a year later his words sounded more accepting and resigned. Cash was a complex man; these poems do show a glimpse him no matter how brief or how fleeting it may be.

Due to the nature of the writing here, I only recommend this to those who are already familiar with the artist himself. If you are not a fan, this won’t be for you.


Bookworm Sean is a book obsessed English student who can usually be found over on Goodreads, raving about his latest read. Recently poetry has become one of his favorite literary forms of expression; thus he has started to read more and more of it.

Book Review: WORLD GONE BY, by Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane
William Morrow, 2016
320 pages

I am reading this series, the Coughlin Series, so out of order. I started with LIVE BY NIGHT (Book 2) because I wanted to read it before seeing the movie (starring Ben Affleck, which, by the way, I enjoyed both). And rather than go back and read Book 1, THE GIVEN DAY, I decided I'd read Book 3, WORLD GONE BY. My reason being, THE GIVEN DAY deals with Joe Coughlin's father, and Books 2 and 3 deal with Joe. Anywho . . .

WORLD GONE BY takes place roughly ten years after LIVE BY NIGHT (Click HERE to see my review of LIVE BY NIGHT). Joe Coughlin has his hands full. He is still down south, in Tampa, doing his best to run an honest business, but out there is a bullet with his name on it, there is a rat in the organization, and Joe--he's seeing ghosts!

In WORLD GONE BY it all comes down to someone owing you a favor. Joe never goes soft. He has just never been about the killing. He never considered himself a gangster, just an outlaw. But along the way, did all of that change?

Not nearly as complex as LIVE BY NIGHT, but still an amazing crime novel, WORLD GONE BY seems like the perfect end to an amazing trilogy.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Monday, January 16, 2017

Book Review: LIVE BY NIGHT, by Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane
William Morrow, 2012
402 pages
Crime / Fiction

I first discovered Dennis Lehane when I stumbled upon a paperback copy of Mystic River. I knew then I loved this writer. And although I then read several more titles, for some odd reason I drifted away from his books. No blame placed on the author whatsoever!

LIVE BY NIGHT has kind of a Departed, or Scarface feel to it. It was layered with an array of characters, three different settings, and constantly twisting plots! The story takes place during prohibition. And even those of us who are considered history-challenged know what happened when booze was outlawed?!? Speakeasies, moonshine, and gangsters sprang up everywhere!

Despite being the son of a Boston police captain, Joe Coughlin, has become an outlaw. He starts out small-time with the Bartolos brothers, Dion and Paolo. Given bad information they decide to hold-up a card game. Little did they know it was Albert White's game. Albert White was bad news. One of the big bad names in Boston. Once Coughlin realizes the error, he also realizes it is too late to stop what is already in motion.

When things get hot in town, and Coughlin knows it is best to back-off some, he commits to once last heist. A bank job. Only problem is, people are onto the game. Cops are tipped off. Nothing goes as planned. Coughlin does time in prison. Attempts are made on his life. He has a chance to turn things around, and takes it, placing himself in the hands of Albert White's enemy, Maso Pescatore.

Tasked with running the operation in Florida, Coughlin begins a new life, improving on his old way of life. He turns the swampy mass of Tampa into a thriving rum-running business for Pescatore. His rise to the top creates a host of enemies. There is no sleep for the man on top when there is always someone scheming to knock you down, or take you out.

Prohibition won't last forever, and as the end of a dry-reign is in sight, Coughlin clearly sees the writing on the wall. What is going to happen to his empire, to his family, to him?

At the movies not long ago, they showed a trailer for an upcoming Ben Affleck film, LIVE BY NIGHT. I knew that was a more recent Lehane novel, and immediately picked myself up a copy. I had to read it. My interest in Lehane has been restored. I devoured the novel in a few nights. it was absolutely absorbing. (Be advised, LIVE BY NIGHT is actually Book 2 in Lehane's Coughlin series).

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
and The Vaccination Trilogy