A Kiss for Luck
By Ken Blaisdell
- Paperback:383 pages
- Publisher:Lightkeeper Press (2014)
- File Size:2933 KB
- Print Length:383 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage:Unlimited
- Publisher:Lightkeeper Press (March 2, 2014)
- Publication Date:March 2, 2014
- Sold by:com Services LLC
A Kiss For Luck! is a story set during war, but it is not a story about war. It is five separate yet intertwined stories about the people whose lives are touched by a simple yet extraordinary gesture.
In the spring of 1942, with the US at war with both Germany and Japan, the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation converted its factory from making juke boxes to turning out M1 Carbine rifles. By the end of the war, they would produce almost a quarter of a million of those weapons.
Part-I of the story takes place in the spring of 1944, and chronicles the lives and loves of a group of young WOWs (Women Ordnance Workers) who make up the swing-shift assembly line. One night, the girls get the idea to use their precious war-rationed lipstick and kiss a slip of paper, then write over their lip print, “A Kiss For Luck!” They then secretly tuck the slips into their rifles as a little reminder to the soldiers overseas of what they are fighting for … and what is waiting for them when they get home!
The practice is soon discovered and halted by the Army brass, however, and fewer than 500 weapons with the special talisman ever make it out the door. This book is a collection of stories connected by one of those rifles.
In Part-II of the story, the rifle, along with thousands of others, is loaded onto the Liberty ship Donald E. Shea for delivery to England in support of the fast-approaching D-Day Invasion. The crew includes a cantankerous chief engineer with a litany of stories about how he lost his two missing fingers, a by-the-book captain, a young farm boy on his first trip to sea … and a Nazi saboteur bent on stopping the ship from ever reaching England.
Part-III of the story takes place in England during the build-up for the invasion of Europe. It follows an American Army sergeant as he trains for D-Day, and also gets to know the local people, including one special young lady; a student nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital … and a rival for her affections, a fellow sergeant in the British Army who likes to settle things with his fists.
In Part-IV the rifle has made it into the hands of a gutsy and clever young woman in the French Resistance. A literal femme fatale, she uses her sexuality against the Nazis as effectively as she does her rifle. She and her band of partisans risk their lives nightly to derail trains, cut telephone lines, pinpoint targets for Allied bombers, and generally harass the hated Nazis in any way they can.
Part-V takes place ten years later, when, through the chance reading of a French newspaper, a writer and former war correspondent living in Chicago discovers the rifle in a farmhouse in the middle of France. Intrigued by the Kiss For Luck! slip it contains, he travels to Europe to follow the gun’s history backwards, chronicling the stories of the people whose lives it has touched—which now include his own—until he makes it all the way back to the rifle’s hometown of Chicago.
Get the tissues. First thing I did upon completion of reading this was to email Ken and ask if this way a true story. It reads and feels like it.
This is a difficult review to write because I do not want to get gushy.
At first I thought the stories would be shorts, but then they just connected with the previous one until at the end we complete the circuit.
This book will stick with me, more than because my maternal grandfather was in WWII. There’s something within these pages that places you with the characters. Not just an escape reading, not a war book, not a romance or adventure, or any type of rah-rah story.
As I said, I thought these characters were real. I felt I was being taken down memory lane during a time of uncertainty and hope.
In Ken’s own words: “And, yes, they are all fictional. But it is another welcome compliment that you felt the need to ask.
All of the background details; where and when the gun was made; life aboard a Liberty ship; the build-up to D-Day; Jeeps and tanks; life within the French resistance are all meticulously researched facts. It is only the characters and their specific situations that have been made up to weave those facts together. (I have even put all that research together into a presentation that I have given at Rotary Clubs, libraries, and book clubs.)
Two of the characters in the Liberty ship story, however, are closely based on my father, who served aboard the “floating targets” during the war. One is the 17-year-old oiler-wiper Frank (the same as my dad at the time), and the other is the ever-cussing “Second” (the colorful but loving man my dad became later in life).
While I’m not aware that anyone ever put a “Kiss For Luck” slip in any weapons, it was not unheard-of–and very welcomed–for a GI to find a packing slip in a box of ammo or something with a pair of lips emblazoned on it.”
Ken takes you on a world tour into our past. A past of death, loneliness, fear, determination, and hope. I realize this sounds corny, but sometimes the simple truth is corny and innocent. It’s what we hold dear and fight hard to keep. It’s the family stories we long to hear and then learn, years later, the storyteller kept the pain and ugliness of war from us. As my dad told me, there are some stories only another solider could ever understand, no matter the country.
Writers tell stories. Some, like our fictional correspondent, tell true life. Some, like Ken, tell us fictional tales we escape into and which will never leave us. A Kiss For Luck was weaved so that I couldn’t tell the difference and, frankly, still hope these characters are alive and well somewhere under their own names and lives. I miss them. And, I’ve repeated myself, so let me add why they feel alive…as you read you will see the story within your mind. It will unfold as a movie playing before you. You hear their voices. You know what they look like. They are the heroes of everyday people doing their best to survive and win.
It’s not easy to write a story within a story within a story leading to yet another story. To stay connected, but separate. And then pull every bit together in such a logical and emotional wrap-up. It all makes sense. There’s no extra pieces left hanging around or is anything forced into place.
I didn’t want to stop reading. I’m a little sad that this journey is over. I’m walking away in complete satisfaction. There’s no doubts. No questioning as to how this could have all happened.
Mr. Blaisdell, you’ve set yourself up…I have more of your stories to read and something tells me I won’t be disappointed. However, I’ll go on the record right now that nothing will ever touch A Kiss For Luck’s heart and soul.
Katie: A Novel of Autism
By Ken Blaisdell
Genre: Murder Mystery
With the title character inspired by and modeled after his real-life niece, author Ken Blaisdell has woven an engaging and fast-paced whodunit that will not only satisfy the most particular readers of murder mysteries, but will at the same time educate them about many of the misconceptions and misunderstandings that plague people with autism. And he manages to do it in such a subtle and entertaining way that the book never becomes sappy or “preachy.”
In the opening chapters of Katie: A Novel of Autism it is obvious that Katie has stabbed Sandy, her live-in au pair, to death. Unable to speak, Katie cannot explain why she is covered in blood and why she was standing next to the body, stomping and flapping, when her parents found her. Her “mental instability” is seen by the local police as the obvious explanation for her behavior.
But the small town’s deputy chief of police, a strong-willed, intelligent young woman named Marty, begins to detect flaws in the “obvious,” and goes from being Katie’s arresting officer to being her staunchest advocate, trying to keep her out of a state mental institution by figuring out who really killed Sandy, and why. But as the story unfolds, the reader is left to wonder if Marty’s allegiance is misplaced.
In the course of the investigation, Marty’s all too common misconception of severe autism being a form of mental retardation are corrected not only by Katie’s mother, but also through Marty’s personal and endearing interactions with Katie herself. An entirely different world opens up between the two when Marty discovers that Katie is able to converse by typing through a controversial process known as “facilitated communication,” and she comes to the humbling realization that not only is Katie not retarded, but that she is in fact an interesting, intelligent, and often clever young lady who just happens to be trapped in a cruelly malfunctioning body.
I will admit I was uncomfortable to start. I had my own assumptions regarding autism and anyone like Katie and I hadn’t fully read the synopsis so I didn’t know Ken’s experience or the inspiration for Katie. I’ve reviewed Ken before and based on this past relationship I’m an auto-yes to his review requests. It’s also, because of this, I trusted the story to be respectful and knowledgeable…which is it.
Katie is everything you want a main character to be. She’s far more than someone we should ever assume anything about. Far more than who her mother and father believe her to be. Very much a case of don’t judge by the outside.
Marty is our active main and the interaction between her and Charlie is fun and quirky, the type of flirtation I enjoy reading.
Ken, you also got me. I did not figure the killer out and for that I’m kicking myself. And, I’ve just deleted the sentence I was writing because I don’t want to give anything away, even with this I’m second-guessing myself. But, I should have been able to get it right, it’s not as if you didn’t set it up for us to figure it out. Good job.
There’s no disappointment here, just a little murder with a bit of kick-arse and touch of stand aside bad-arsing we can all love.
By-the-way, I wouldn’t mind more Marty and Charlie, please. Even a visit with/from Katie.
The Wives of Logan’s Point
By Ken Blaisdell
Publisher: Lightkeeper Press (January 1, 2012)
Paperback: 287 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery
Publisher: Lightkeeper Press (November 10, 2012)
Publication date: November 10, 2012
For Karen Skinner suicide is the only option she has left. After enduring her husband’s cheating, lying, and violence for seven long years he has finally pushed her over the edge by having sex with the fifteen-year-old girl next door—in Karen’s own bed.
In the early morning hours in her suburban Connecticut home Karen ends her suffering with a single bullet to the head … her husband’s. But Karen finds herself not just relieved to be rid of her abusive SOB of a husband, she is shocked that the cold-blooded act of her “wife-assisted suicide” has given her a thrill unlike anything she has ever known before.
Thanks to Karen’s meticulous planning and attention to the smallest details, the case is officially closed as a suicide. She has fooled all of the investigators … except one. Tony LaCosta is sure that Karen murdered her husband—he just can’t prove it.
Six years later, Karen has remarried and has moved to the small coastal town of Logan’s Point, Oregon—and she is feeling the urge to kill again.
Karen is one of a group of six women who live around a cul-de-sac and share a closeness that transcends the friendship of just neighbors. When one by one her friends confide their marital woes to Karen she manages to convince them that they would be better off without their respective husbands, and that murdering them is not only much simpler, faster, and cheaper than divorce, but it is infinitely more satisfying. For Karen, however, the motivation to kill is always the same; the pure thrill of it.
Through Karen’s careful plotting and coaching, none of the deaths are even investigated as homicides. They are listed as natural, accidental, or suicide. Perfect crimes.
But a chance meeting threatens to burst the wives’ protective bubble of perfection when Karen runs into LaCosta at the Portland airport. Retired and in Oregon on unrelated business, he nevertheless finds the time to poke his nose into Karen’s new life. Although his investigation is unofficial, he finds the deaths of so many neighborhood husbands highly suspicious, and his detective’s instincts tell him that his prediction back in Connecticut, that Karen would eventually kill again, has come to pass.
Okay, you would think the synopsis/blurb has given everything away…Nope. Seriously, this story is a page-turner simply because you will want to know WTH is next. What can they possible get away with now, again, WTH, and a few oh no way.
Who cheers for the bad guy…gal…the killer(s)? You will. And, then, you’ll wonder maybe you shouldn’t be. Do you or don’t you want them to get what should be coming to them? I kept flipping back and forth.
And then…yeah, can’t tell you that one, or that other thing that follows, dang, not even the next bit. The ending’s ending, yeah, I finished Wives of Logan’s Point satisfied and peeved that it ended.
There was one little bit that I found slow and it slowed me away from the group and their story. I’m happy to share that it didn’t last, even made some sense to the overall story.
I have read about three of Ken’s books and currently reading another and all are different. All are entertaining and have pulled me in to the point I don’t want them to end.
I struggled all day with this review because it truly is a Total Winner. That says it all as far as I’m concerned.
Ken, you did it again.