Saturday, August 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Men Made of Stone --By Logan Lo


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In a world where circumstances can dictate the course your life will follow, does it mean we can't decide to change its direction? If it weren't for evil, would we know what being 'good' means? In this life, you must have balance.  And who knows better about order than an organized gang.  When a child is young, for some, they don't sit down and decide, "Hey, when I grow up, I want to be a gang member in organized crime."  Sometimes, it's just the way the cards are shuffled.

Mark Han operated a computer store in Chinatown, NY, wherein an interesting young man entered the store to purchase computer chips.  This was at a time when computers and the internet were being cultivated in the 90s.  Mr. Han didn't have any reason to suspect anything was wrong in his store--just another would-be customer. And it also didn't hurt this customer sealed their deal by dropping an easy $5,000 on the counter, further solidifying the contract.  Han was pleased he'd be able to use the money for his son's education.

Meanwhile, Ben waited outside his grandfather's home for his father to pick him up and take him home.  It was very unusual for his father to ever be late.  Ben figured he must have had a last minute errand and was running a few minutes behind. Unbeknownst to him, his father was at the store being brutally beaten which eventually led to his murder.  Being from a close-knit community, someone contacted Ben's grandfather to advise that his son, Mark, had been killed.  Unfortunately, he was left with the horrifying task of informing his grandson his father would never be coming home to them again.

On the day of his father's funeral, he refused to cry. It wasn't until he asked his grandfather if he could be alone with the casket before his father was lowered in the ground.  Ben broke down and made a vow to avenge his father's murder.   Ben set his sights on getting even with the person or persons responsible for murdering his father.  Here, Ben made the decision to begin his life in organized crime.

The journey the reader ventures down is one of violence, greed and misunderstandings. Ben, who later received the nickname 'C' for 'Crazy' earned the name rightfully.  He became a ruthless assassin of sorts on a mission to take down all the FGs "Five Ghosts of the East and West" of Chinatown.  

Souls became broken; blood painted the streets; spirits lost.  People that Ben thought he could trust turned out otherwise for some.  Unknown heroes came out from behind the shadows to assist Ben.  When all is said and done, there will only be a few standing--for only the strong survive!   The ending was superb!

Lo left no stone un-turned.  The story moves quickly and what's nice is he gives you a cast of characters in the beginning of the book.  Make sure you bookmark that page (for those with capabilities.  Some eReaders  don't do this).  I had to go back a couple of times to understand what each level of the gang activity meant.  Once I got the hang of the characters and who they represented to each gang, it was on and crackin', while I munched on popcorn gettin' ready to kick ass and take names!  The reader will most definitely, without a doubt, feel the pain!  Ooooh yes indeedy!  My adrenaline was on 500!  What an incredible high!

 
This story was well written and I loved the lingo between the different gang members. I would not suggest reading this book if you are of the squeamish variety.  There is plenty of bloodshed and the way some of the members die will leave you ready to hurl. OMG, downright vicious, but so deserving, if you know what I mean!  I couldn't get enough!!!!! (LOL)

I loved this novel!  Outstanding edge-of-your-seat-heart thumping-ready-to-kick-ass-type of action! You will root for the good guys even though they're bad. Doesn't matter, each of these characters bring something interesting to the table for the reader to take notice.  When the small stories begin to melt into a larger picture, you truly begin to see just what really is going on, and more importantly, why! Logan is a gifted writer and has a unique way of telling a story which brings it to life.

If you haven't read this, or was wondering about taking a chance on reading it, GO FOR IT! You will not be disappointed!  Buckle Up 'cause you damn sure are in for one hell of a ride! This is definitely, hands down, a Five Star good read!!!!!


WEEKEND'S BOOK AFFAIR! PRESENTS

A few weeks ago, an author by the name of Logan Lo contacted Mello and June about reading a book he'd written.  What I instantly liked about Logan was his approach.  He took the time to check out my reading habits and read past reviews I had done on the type of book he had available.  That really impressed me because I had never had an author who actually took that kind of time to find out what I enjoyed reading.  At that point, even if he had written a dud, I still would have given it the respect it deserved just from the way he presented himself.

As you've just read above, I totally enjoyed this novel!  It has Logan's own flare to it, but reminds me of literary works of yesteryear such as Mario Puzo's The Godfather.   In fact, Logan shared with me when he saw my review on The Godfather he knew I was his audience.  Wow, to have someone think so highly of your opinion spoke volumes to me. Needless to say, Logan and I have struck up a great internet friendship and he has one hell of a sense of humor.  There are several sections in his novel that I fell out laughing.  It wasn't all fighting and anger.  It had its funny moments which I find books of this nature need that balance.  If it were all just about revenge and murder, the story would lose its appeal, but Logan managed to keep the story flowing and engaging while adding humor. What a nice touch!

Since I'm excited about this book and getting to learn a little about Logan, Mello and June requested an in-depth interview about The Men Made of Stone and about the man himself, Author, Logan Lo.  So, without further ado, let's get to know the man behind this fast-paced novel.


GETTING TO KNOW AUTHOR, LOGAN LO

 
1. The Men Made of Stone was very well written. Your characters were so believable and your knowledge of the inner workings of the gangs in Chinatown was amazing! How did you go about researching for this action-pack novel?

Thanks - that’s high praise from someone that reads as much as you do. Well, the core of every good story is some bit of truth. There actually were two gangsters that ran around a major modern city with huge swords – but in London in the 1950s and not NYC in the 1990s. They were the Kray brothers and I remember thinking, “What if they were here in New York? And what if they were part of the Asian gang scene?” I think a lot of great stories start off with “What if?”

That’s one side of the story. The other side came from growing up in the bloody 80s and 90s of NYC. At that time, a gang called the Green Dragons refused to play by the old Chinatown rules and tried to start their own gang, separate from the established system, which was a major part of why NYC was so violent at the time. I took these two stories and blended them together to make something of my own. Interestingly, the story of the Green Dragons is being made into a movie right now with Martin Scorsese called, “Revenge of the Green Dragons.” It’ll be interesting to see what he does with the same germ of a story.

2. I’m such a huge fan of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. You stated to me you wanted to pay homage to The Godfather, which I feel you demonstrated perfectly. Out of all the great classics you could have chosen to pay homage too, why The Godfather? 

Me too! I felt that The Godfather was such a great book about family and organized crime and it set the stage for all Italian-American mafia stories. Now the terms of omerta, godfather, and mafia are such a part of the tapestry of crime novels. But there’s no touchstone like that for Chinese organized crime, which has been around for just as long. 

So I wanted to write a work of fiction that made this particular slice of organized crime as accessible to my readers as Puzo did for his readers. He accomplished this by focusing on themes that people could relate to and characters that people cared about, all within the context of some pretty dark material. That’s difficult to do – but he did, of course - and that's something I aspired to. Hopefully readers will think I accomplished the same goal.

3. When writing a book dealing with violence, there are bound to be characters the reader will fall in love with that get murdered. What is the process you go through, as an author, on how best to know which characters should stay and which ones must go?

That’s a really great question. When you write, the characters begin to have a life of their own and you start to care about them. When I plotted the whole story out, I had an idea who would die and what would happen but as I wrote the story, I didn’t want them to. I liked them. But at some point, it would have been a very different story if some of the characters didn't die because this was necessary to move the story along. The master of this is George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones who said, “I want you to be afraid to turn the page (and to do that) you need to show right from the beginning that you're playing for keeps.” Because life is about playing for keeps and if I can kill one character that you loved, you’ll be invested to find out who makes it and if that life really mattered at all.

4. In line with question number three, when you do make the decision how your characters will end up, are you concerned with the reader’s perception? 

I’m less concerned with the reader’s perception than I am with the story ringing true. Can a person really be in 20 gun battles and not get wounded or die? Can a small gang really fight larger, more entrenched, organizations without the right people and money?

There’s a line in the book based on something I once heard someone say, which was that Chinese stories end sad. There’s something about the usual American stories where the guy always gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after. But that’s not the way life is. And that’s why I think The Departed – based on the Chinese film, Infernal Affairs – really shook a lot of people. They weren’t used to that type of story, where the hero is killed. Likewise, with The Godfather, you’re thinking that the Vito and Sonny are going to make everything alright. But that’s not what happened and the reader has to continue reading to see, “OK, this is like real life - where’s this whole thing going?”

5. Despite some of the violent scenes, you managed to put a great deal of humor into the story. One thing I truly appreciated was how you were able to talk about race relations in a way that wasn’t offensive. One character in particular made a comment, “he was WWC” and another asked what does that mean, and he said, ‘Walking While Chinese.’ I fell out laughing because being African-American, I can relate to this, as many times my people refer to it as DWB—Driving While Black. Some people may not see the humor, but there were several humorous areas that made the reader think. I’m curious, how did your race of people react to the racial epithets some of the characters used? 

It’s a real thing, isn’t it? People actually say things like DWB or WWC. I think the job of an author is to tell a story and sometimes that story has people that are narrow-minded or ignorant, and this all comes back to that goal of writing something believable where the reader in invested in what happens. 

As for my Asian friends that read the book, they loved it for the same reason I think you did. “I totally see that!” 

6. I’m a huge fan of ‘blood and guts kicking ass taking names’ type of novels, which this novel certifies hands down! What were some of the challenges you faced writing this story? Trust me, you brought the pain! That had to be interesting to actually write it with such intimate detail. Tell our readers what Logan goes through to write such raw and gritty scenes?

I write a pretty well-read blog; when I was still single, I had over 500 daily readers. In it, I never cursed and just talked about my life. When I wrote my book, a number of my blog readers bought the book and read it. Some couldn’t finish it. Others remarked that it wasn’t what they expected.

That’s the thing with writing - you’re not writing about you, you’re telling a story about someone and something else. Stephen King, I’m told, is one of the nicest people you could meet. But if you read him, you assume he’s a psychopath. 

When I was a kid, I used to have to carry two wallets; one with a few bucks to give to a mugger and one to actually use. When it comes to violence, I was never cool enough to be in a gang, but I was on the receiving end of a lot of violence growing up. I always wanted that violence to mean something and in a way, it did, as it ended up in the book.

7. How many years have you been writing?

I suppose as soon as I was able to put a sentence together as a kid. We all learn how to write and draw as kids. Some of us just never stopped, I suppose. 

8. If you could be any of the characters you’ve invented, who would it be and why?

My favorite character of the book is Danny the Priest. In some regards, he’s quite simple. He loves his pistol, he loves his gyros, and he loves his friends. In other ways, he’s quite deep – he never kills on a Sunday, is deeply religious, and has his very defined sense of right and wrong. There’s something about someone that sees life very simply yet knows there’s more to it.

9. Are you an author full-time or part-time? If part-time, what do you do for a living and why did you decide to write?

I think everyone dreams of making enough money doing what they love that they can just do it full time. For now, I’m a lawyer in the big city, but I like to say that we are what we constantly do. Boxers box, swimmers swim, and I suppose a writer writes. John Grisham once said that, as a lawyer, he wrote on legal pads in between court cases whenever he had a moment. I think he did that because, while he made money as a lawyer, he was always a writer. That’s pretty much what happens most days: I find a free moment and bang out a conversation or a scene and I save it for something else in the future.

10. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Oddly enough, I teach a sword and knife class! It’s something I picked up after I started the novel, purely by coincidence. I also wrestle but I’m really terrible at it.

11. As an author, often times we’re asked who our favorite authors are. This time around, I’d like to ask who some of your favorite ‘Independent’ (not well known) Authors are?

I was actually just mentioning to a friend of mine that I missed the old LiveJournal. Right now, Facebook has essentially replaced it as the social networking site but there was really no place as good for long form writing as LiveJournal. Some of the people I read wrote some just brilliant things and I actually wrote a few of them, encouraging them to take their materials and put it into books, but I don’t think any of them did. 

But I do have to say that, when it comes to true crime, TJ English has got to be one the best. He’s not so much independent as not all that well-known but he actually is one of the few authors that wrote about Asian-American crime in NYC – as well as Italian and Irish – and really seemed to get it right. Pick up his Born to Kill or The Westies for some really compelling non-fiction crime.

As for fiction, most of the Hard Case Crime series are modern classics and I’ve enjoyed a few of them.

12. The publishing world is constantly evolving. What made you decide to self-publish as opposed to using a traditional publisher? 

I used to be a technology writer for CNET and worked there for years in technology. The ability of people to generate high quality content on their own with publicly available tools is something I always try to take advantage of. I think that it just makes more sense to at least test out the waters on your own before anything else.

13. How long did it take you to write The Men Made of Stone? 

I like to tell people that it took 12 years to write about 50% of it and two years to write, edit and finish the rest. When I started writing the book, the 1990s were just a few years in the past, but life and work kept getting in the way. When the market turned in 2008, I lost a lot of clients and so I thought, “If I’m ever going to finish this book, now’s the time.” So I devoted a solid year to getting it right.

14. Will the public be hearing from Logan Lo in the near future? If so, can you tell us some of your projects? Do you have a timeline as to when your next work will be available? 

I would hope so! I’ve been working on a follow-up idea to TMMOS for a while now but I actually took a bit of a detour from crime fiction lately.

I was single for a while and my blog was mostly about my single life. So I took a lot of the things I saw and did while single – I’ve since gotten married to my awesome wife - put them into two books: A Great First Date and A Great Online Dating Profile. Very different stuff from TMMOS but, as I said, writers write.

But I’ve since returned to my follow up story and I’m hoping for at least a short novella in the next year or so – I’ll definitely keep you posted!



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Mello and June would like to extend the sincerest Thank You to Author, Logan Lo, for taking time out of his very busy schedule to sit down and rap with us.  Do you see, ladies and gentlemen, why I have so much respect for him?!   You can't help but to feel as though you know him personally.  I urge you to download a copy of his book on Amazon or pickup a copy wherever books are sold.  

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon:  The Men Made of Stone






Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

When Others Say You Can't,
Show 'Em YOU Can!