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The Pit
B. Colin Cubbage
Fiction Forest
Released September 1, 1999
Reviewed by Shery Ma Belle Arrieta

The Pit is the gripping adventure story of Kevin Drury, an undercover Humane Society Investigator sent to put down an organized dogfighting ring.

The story starts with the killing of a homeless man who stumbles upon an abandoned barn in Colorado where a pitbull ring fight had just been held the previous night. Described by the Colorado police as a case of "murder by dog," they contact the Humane Society to handle the case.

Having worked in similarly dangerous undercover HS cases over the years, Kevin Drury takes the long drive from Tennessee to Colorado in a Harley, leaving behind his very pregnant wife, Cassie, in the care of Anne Begley, Drury's "big boss." He acquires a new partner, Cheyenne McGraw, and together they uncover an intricately woven net of crime involving pitbulls, drugs and sex.

Action-packed, swift-moving, and brutally honest are what best describes Cubbage's book. Cubbage's characters come out as real as the next Humane Society investigator working on a real life case, or the next drug pusher on the street. Her narratives of what happens in professional and organized dogfights are startingly graphic and explicit, enough to make one wince at the picture they conjure. Her insights on the fates of the pitbulls, the "killer dogs", make one feel pity on the dogs, having only been trained to be what they are by their masters.

One of Cubbage's antagonists, Stanley Torres, comes out as a ruthless and cold man, having been the one to order his dogs to kill the helpless man in the beginning of the book. However, Cubbage was successful in bringing about a certain level of empathy and sympathy towards Torres in the context of a father losing his only son.

Cubbage's other characters--Jay Bailey, Marla Torres, Paula Dietz, Cassie Drury, Anne Begley, Cheyenne McGraw, and Drake "Mano" Martinez--are as alive and well-developed and all come off in the book as vital parts of the story.

If you're looking for an adventure read with a happy ending, The Pit is is far from a book with a happy ending. Kevin Drury's story in The Pit is the closest thing you can get to reality--not an all's-well-that-ends-well type of thing, but rather an insight into how the life of people like Kevin Drury gets to be after all the dust has settled.

Merlin Part I: The Old Magic
James Mallory
ISBN: 0446607665
Aspect Mass Market
TV Tie-in/Fantasy
August 1999; $6.99
Contact: Heather Fain
Reviewed by Eric Takehara

With the release of James Mallory's Merlin Part I: The Old Magic, the reader is granted another interpretation of the ancient Arthurian Legends. From the opening pages, the story is rife with images of dark foreboding as Mab, Queen of the Faery realms plots to restore her reign of sorcery after the emergence of religion in the old world. To do this she needs a champion.

Learning that no natural-born human can fulfill her wishes, Mab turns to mystic sources and creates a half-human, half-magic being she names Merlin. The story unfolds further as Merlin learns the ways of the world in which he lives; and some of those lessons show the young wizard that life can sometimes be cruel indeed. Yet, not all his learnings are negative. Merlin soon learns the joy of magic, though at this point, it is nothing more than a diversion. He also begins to learn about love.

Finally, after experiencing the loss of those he loves, and with war threatening the land he lives, Merlin will finally meet his destiny, Uthur Pendragon.

I must admit, however, that James Mallory's adaptation of the television series to novel form leaves many portions of the story untold. Unlike other adaptations, such as Independence Day and Star Wars, as I read, I felt as though I should have watched the movie before the novel for the full effect. Still, I found the underlying story a refreshing read as the old legends were once again retold.

John Gilstrap
Warner Books
ISBN:  0 446 40740 1
497 pages

Released, October 1, 1999
Reviewed by Sandra Morgan

John Gilstrap's first novel, NATHAN'S RUN, compelled readers to turn the next page. Gilstrap used well-defined characters, tight writing and a fresh plot centered on Nathan's flight from murder charges to propel readers into the story. Readers became the fictionalized audience that listened to Nathan tell his story to a veteran radio talk show host on the public airways.

In AT ALL COSTS the main character, Jake Brighton, is a likeable work a day fellow, with a beast of a boss. Brighton wants nothing more than a peaceful life until he notices a group of armed men gathering in the parking lot at Marcus Ford. Immediately Jake puts his coffee cup down and pulls a snub nose .44 from his desk drawer to defend himself.

With descriptive narrative like, "Jake Brighton had no idea how many of the stories about Marcus's tirades were true, but in his current position as spear-catcher du jour, the tales weighed heavily on his mind," Gilstrap allows readers to identify with his well-rounded characters before he projects them into fast-paced, white knuckled suspense filled with sinister conspiracies including espionage and murder.

John Gilstrap's newest novel, AT ALL COSTS, is as refreshing as an icy six and one-half ounce bottle of Coca-Cola. The secret to its success is in John Gilstrap's original formula.


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