Washington’s Secret Six Review

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution

TITLE: George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved The American Revolution

AUTHOR: Brian Kilmeade & Don Yager

GENRE: History

PAGES: 272

I love History. I love spy stories. This book gave me both!

George Washington is a hero of mine. He always has been. This book gives a fascinating look into the development of the first spy ring in America, and how they operated. The fascination for me was in how the spies at the time operated. There was no phones, cell phones, computers, automobiles, or anything we take for granted in today’s day and age.

Now, as a person that loves history, I have to admit there was nothing new for me in this book. I felt myself comparing it to Alexander Rose’s Washington’s Spies, and to me that was wrong. I try my best not to do such comparisons. Be that as it may, I will say that this book gives the information in a clear and concise manner that is understandable for a person of any education level.

Was it enjoyable? Yes. Was it informative? Yes. Did I learn anything new? Not really. Would I recommend it to my friends? Yes.

The bottom line is I give it 4 bookmarks out of 5.



Introducing Zen DiPietro

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-What is your name?

Zen DiPietro

-What genre do you write in?

Science fiction. That includes military, adventure, space opera, and humor. Basically, if stuff explodes, butts get kicked, and people laugh, I’ll write that.

-What drew you to this genre?

The concept of endless possibility. If I wanted to write an Amish daredevil in space, somehow, that’s possible. There’s nothing that’s too out there. Nothing out of reach. That allows for so much free thinking and creativity that there’s no way to run out of ideas. Plus, you get to plug all that into the actual human experience. Everything is an allegory for something else, all the way back to Gene Roddenberry, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, and beyond. Sci-fi used to be as subversive as it got, because people could use it as code for current-day events. A lot of my own writing is based on current and recent events, but taken a step or two or twenty further. It’s the what-ifs, the could-bes, and just-imagines that keep me dreaming.

-What book(s) have you written?

My biggest series to date is Dragonfire Station, which is a series of series. Each set of books, the original series, Mercenary Warfare, Chains of Command (not yet published as of this writing), and Rigby’s Rebellion (not even written yet), can be read independently of one another, in any order. Of course, there’s a reading list if you want to go in chronological order.

I’ve also written a series of humor novellas in my Dodging Fate universe. Those have been in the Pew! Pew! anthology series, but I’m working on the novelization of those stories right now. I think the art is going to be amazing, mostly because of a seven-foot-tall pink mutant with muscles as big as her epic confidence. I’m really excited to bundle these stories together, add new ones, and publish them as their own series. There’s a lot of cheeky parody, centered around a redshirt named Charlie Kenny, and even though he’s destined for a terrible death, he braves the cold vacuum of space. Fortunately he has the help of the previously-described Pinky and the girl of Charlie’s dreams. Greta has preternaturally good luck, and has a way of balancing Charlie out. The stories are laugh-out-loud funny, lighthearted, and hopeful. I’d say they’re wholesome fun, except for the occasional f-bomb.

 -What is your current release?

Going for Broke wraps up the Mercenary Warfare series. It’s the fifth book in the series and delivers adventure, laughs, deception, a wee bit of saving the day. The series is lighthearted, humorous, and fun. I had a great time writing these characters, who, as mercenaries are unlikely heroes and endearingly criminal. Fortunately, the characters in Dragonfire Station don’t go away at the end of a series. They show up in the other ones, too.

-How much research went into that book?

Being the last in the series, all the concepts were quite developed, so I didn’t need to do a lot of research. It’s nice when you can just go where the characters take you.

-What was the hardest part of writing that book?

Writing a book ending is tough, but writing a series ending is way tougher. It has to be satisfying, wrap up all the loose ends, and leave the reader with a “woohoo!” feeling. I’m not much for cliffhangers or “you decide” endings. I think the reader deserves the entire payoff of emotions after investing in a series.

 – Where can your book(s) be found?

The Dragonfire Station series in ebook form is exclusive to Amazon. Though that’s a bit of a bummer for people who like to read on other ereaders, I always put my books up DRM-free, so they can be converted to any format. Also, paperbacks can be ordered from any Barnes and Noble or most other book retailers.

-Reading time is valuable. Sell me on your book.

I write for readers, not for myself. I think the reader deserves a work that has been edited, revised, and proofread until I just can’t look at it anymore. I value smooth writing that’s easy to read, fun to experience, and makes the reader really love the characters like they’re real people they actually know. I’m a huge geeky sci-fi fan myself, and I always endeavor to pack all of those breathless, thrilling, exciting moments that light up my imagination into my books.


How Does One Celebrate?

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You may be wondering how does the House of Ninetoes celebrate Valentine’s Day? At a bookstore! Come on people, you had to know this answer. If not, then you really have not been paying attention…

My wife and I are avid readers. We do not have a television in our bedroom, only a boombox so we can listen to music while we read, but to be honest the music is there more for me than her. I like mood music when I read, it enhances my experience.

When I first met my wife, she was sitting in a corner alone. I approached her and we started talking. We got onto the subject of books and when I asked what she was reading she replied “Oh, nothing you would be interested in.” That may be true. BUT…she is a reader! For me that was important. Let’s face it, if you are going to find the perfect person for you, there has to be some interests in common. Not all, but some. And the biggie for me was reading.

The best part of being with a reader is we tend to take each other out of our respective comfort zones. I am history/political/thriller and she is mystery/paranormal/romance. I could list all of our interests, but these are the top three for each.

Now, if you were to tell me I would read anything from the “Romance” section of the bookstore I would tell you that you are off your nut! Yet, for the love of my life, I have read one or two. It did not kill me, barely wounded me as a matter of fact. Would I read another one without prompting from my beautiful mrs.? Probably not, but then again you never know.

So, grab your sweetie, take her to lunch or dinner, get her some chocolate, then…take her to the bookstore!!!!

Happy Reading!

5 Questions With C. Courtney Joyner

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C. Courtney Joyner is an award winning author of comics, screenplays, and novels as well as producing over 25 movies. He was kind enough to take time out of his day to answer 5 Questions.

It has been said that to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. With that in mind, please answer the following questions.

None of these questions is easy – they’re all deceptively complicated, especially when we look back at all our writing influences, so I might have gone off the rails a bit with the answers…

But, at least, they’re pretty complete!

-What book got you interested in reading?

Very tough, because there was the reading I was doing for school, and then, for myself, comic books, Famous Monsters of Filmland. Anything connected to the movies, especially horror, and comics. We lived in Philadelphia, and every Sunday my father would get the Bulletin, and the comic section was huge, and printed across the pages, not jammed together in miniature. All that great stuff from King Features. I was fascinated by The Phantom, but especially Prince Valiant. There was Hal Foster’s stunning artwork, but also the writing, which was quite dense for a comic strip.

Remember Archie Goodwin’s stories in BLAZING COMBAT? Lots to read, those descriptions, to compliment the art.  Stuff that had a message that was surely going over my head at the time, but the Warren magazines also lit a fuse, I think. His work in CREEPY and EERIE, too (no VAMPIRELLA – yet!); words married to images.

When I was in the 7th grade, we were assigned TREASURE ISLAND, and it really took my head off.  Stevenson broke some sort of a chain in my mind, that the “iconic works of literature” – as we were told – had to be stuffy, and without energy; I wanted everything to be written by Stan Lee, but TREASURE ISLAND opened my eyes to all the other wonders, thank God. After that, there wasn’t a paperback spinning rack safe from my grubby, little hands.

-Do you have a favorite genre to read?

I’ve always been drawn to adventure fiction, whether it was Edgar Rice Burroughs or Donald Hamilton or Alistair MacLean; I know that’s a pretty wide swatch, but what could be better than a double-dose of John Carter, and then FEAR IS THE KEY?

The classics pull me to them, in all genres, and by “classics” I don’t always – usually – mean something written a century ago.  I’ve always loved Elmore Leonard, whether it was out west – I still feel that HOMBRE and VALDEZ IS COMING are two of the finest westerns ever written by anyone – and the crime fiction sure doesn’t need my endorsement. An incredible string of tough classics, with such great use of language.  BANDITS, 52 PICK-UP, HIGH NOON IN DETROIT – and that’s just the tip – amazing stuff.  My first trip down the detective dark streets was Ross MacDonald’s THE BARBAROUS COAST.  He led me to Chandler, of course, with LADY IN THE LAKE being my favorite. Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME knocks me out every time I turn a page.  Now?  I think Lee Child is terrific, and Ludlum’s first BOURNE books don’t get nearly the credit they deserve.

There are even some movie and TV tie-ins I could point to, that have been dog-eared over the years, just re-reading a chapter or two.  It’s not a precise answer, because I love having a stack of stuff to grab from, new and old, to lose myself in, depending on how I’m feeling, and what genre’s working me that night.

And horror? So much washes through the mind, but some people just read horror fiction by the truckload, and I’m not one of those folks. Still finding my dosage with the movies. But DRACULA remains the fiction template for me – the first person horror narrative, done in Stoker’s inventive style. A great example of its period – like Conan Doyle, the original book seems frozen in time – but what single work of genre fiction has inspired so much, and for so long? Plus, one day, I just had to sit down and find out what Christopher Lee had really been talking (complaining) about for all those years.

But no book has ever frightened me as much as Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE.  I dearly love the Robert Wise film, but Jackson’s words will stay with me to the grave – which I think was her intention!

-Is there a book you have read more than one time?

Many, many.  In fact, I’m certainly at fault for going back to older stuff, rather than grabbing something new from the bookstore or Amazon.  One of the times when I really immerse myself, it’s when I’m about to start a project, and if it’s a western, I always go back to Leonard’s VALDEZ IS COMING.  It just hits me, and gets my mind, and sense of language in the western mode.  At least I think it does – could just be an excuse to re-read one of my favorites.  Also, to have at hand, Frank O’Roarke’s MULE FOR THE MARQUESA, which became THE PROFESSIONALS.  When I was tackling NEMO RISING, of course, Jules Verne was everywhere, but so was Burroughs. And also, I was so impressed with Joe Landsdale’s TARZAN novel, in the way he captured the word-rhythms, and Burroughs’ style with action, which was of another time. That was important to me, to be able to hit those grace notes on the page, that remind the reader of the time the story takes place, but still propel the action along at a modern pace. A real balancing act.  Very, very hard to do, but J.L. did it with his Tarzan – which is a wonderful rainy-Saturday read – and was a great help to me as a superb example of working with another author’s characters, respecting their origins, and still making them your own.  I also re-read Nicholas Meyer’s SEVEN PERCENT SOLLUTION and WEST END HORROR, which are also amazing examples, but staying away from LEAGUE like the plague, so I wouldn’t be influenced by something so close to what I was attempting.  With all this literary inspiration, I still wanted to make my own mistakes.

I did get to tell J.L. my feelings about Tarzan, for a few minutes, at a writer’s convention, and he was quite kind, and very modest about my praise, but I carried that book around like a security blanket the whole time I was working on NEMO.

-What got you interested in writing?

The movies. One zillion percent.  I’m quite new to the world of fiction, with a hell of a lot to learn, but movies, and my experience of writing those films, is what brought me to this point.  I always wanted to be a screenwriter/director, have done both, and then I found my way to a different shore with fiction.

-Was there a book of yours that was difficult to write? Which one was it and what made it so difficult?

All three were tough, each for a different reason.  I’ve done a fair amount of film journalism – lots of articles, and written a few movie books – and had some short stories published in collections – but I’ve only written three novels.  And they were all three contracted for, they weren’t spec manuscripts that I had in a drawer, so when I started writing novel-length fiction, I really was starting at ground zero.

All three – SHOTGUN, SHOTGUN: BLEEDING GROUND and NEMO RISING, besides being period pieces, are also trying to create echoes of another form. The SHOTGUNS are – I hope – a reflection of my love of Euro-westerns, and I’ve tried to create that feeling on the page, even to a style of writing action and violence that I hope is cinematic.  NEMO RISING was even more to the point, since I’d written the project first as a spec TV pilot over fifteen years ago, and that script was what the editors at Tor read, and what I used as my outline.  And it was amazingly difficult working that way – beyond not being used to it – but I found new ways to work through the story, new avenues that I hadn’t explored in the script because I’d tried to keep everything compact, and moving like lightning.  Well, I discovered I could do that with the book – God knows I tried – but it was a real process getting there, probably because I thought working from a script would be easy, and for me, it was the opposite.  The script was a sign post, and I followed it all over the place, until finding the right way to lay out this fantasy-adventure, with this huge canvas, but I had to explore when I was writing it, and that took time, because I’m sure I was making rookie mistakes.


And, I have no idea how the sequels are going to go!

Title: Nemo Rising, Author: C. Courtney Joyner

Title: Shotgun, Author: C. Courtney JoynerTitle: Shotgun: The Bleeding Ground, Author: C. Courtney JoynerTitle: These Violent Times, Author: C. Courtney Joyner


Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln!

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It is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday!

There are a ton of books about Mr. Lincoln. Which ones are the best? Well, dear and faithful reader, I am glad you asked. As it turns out, I can help you with that very question!

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Movie Tie-In Edition)

The absolute best book about Abraham Lincoln that I have read is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. This book illustrates how Lincoln rose from obscurity to become President of the United States, and then, brings former rivals together to do what was best for the country. This book is a must read for anyone wanting to learn about Abraham Lincoln.

With Malice Toward None: A Biography of Abraham Lincoln

Stephen R. Oates gave us a fantastic single volume biography of Abraham Lincoln in With Malice Toward None. This book is considered to be the seminal biography of Abraham Lincoln. Anything you would want to know about this man can be found in this book.

Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

Joshua Wolf Shenk;s Lincoln’s Melancholy give a great study as to how Abraham Lincoln took depression, what some would consider to be a weakness, and turned it into his greatest strength. Lincoln’s coping strategies, among them a sense of humor and moments of quiet reflection, and used them to held guide our country through some of it’s most turbulent times.

There are so many more books to list, but these three are the best that I have come across. If you want to learn more about our 16th president, I suggest going to a bookstore or library, and deciding for yourself which is the best book to help you.

Happy Reading!

The Ninetoes Recommendation of the Week 2/11-17/2018

This week is a “Twofer”.

Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by [Rose, Alexander]

Alexander Rose’s Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring is a detailed look at the Culper Spy Ring, which helped win the Revolutionary War. This is the book that inspired AMC’s  series Turn.

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution by [Kilmeade, Brian, Yaeger, Don]

Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger give a more concise telling of the same story. If you are looking for just the meat of the matter and not so much the entire story, this is the book for you!

Either way, the story of the Culper Spy Ring is one that should be read. It is a look at what was done to help ensure victory for the patriots in the Revolutionary War. Both books give a look at the time in which the Patriots could very well have lost the war.