Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cracking the box on Gotha G V from Ares Games

First off let me set the stage.  I was a big fan of Wings of War, the precursor to the new Wings of Glory game.  No, I didn’t like it because it was painfully historically accurate.  Wings of War/Wings of Glory was never designed to be some cumbersome, slow, ponderous but nauseatingly accurate game recreating WWI aerial combat.  It is best classified as a ‘Beer and Pretzels’ war game.  Fun, fast, and more playable than accurate.  It’s the kind of game you can teach a seven year old to play.

I took my minis to a recent meeting of the League of WWI Aviation Historians group at the Smithsonian for a nice battle.  It’s the kind of game where you could teach the rules in about three minutes.  In our fight we had Ernst Udet tangle with Eddie Rickenbacker.  It was fast (17 minutes of play) and fun.  If you want to get a child or grandchild into WWI gaming, this is THE game system for that. 

When I heard Wings of War was dead I was hoping someone would carry the torch.  Wings of Glory has continued the tradition of the game system…thank goodness!

Okay, I purchased the Oberleutnant Walter Aschoff’s  Gotha bomber a week ago and wanted to share it.  First off the bombers are big in keeping with the scale of the game.  The wingspan on this miniature is six and a quarter inches!  The base is much larger to support the miniature.  With it you get the rules addendum, appropriate counters, a special bomber maneuver card deck – basically everything you need to take this bad boy into the skies.  Ares Games has released another Gotha and two Caproni’s in this bomber release. 

If you have not played bombers in Wings of Glory/War, they are slow, cumbersome, and dangerous to engage.  They bristle with machineguns and can take upwards of twice the damage that a fighter aircraft can.

The paint scheme looks good on this model.  Bear in mind I’m a biographer of WWI aviators, not an expert on the aircraft itself.  The miniature is mostly metal and has the same level of details common with the others in the series.  There is something almost hypnotic about this beast, especially when you add in other (smaller) fighters. 

In my solo playtest I discovered that tangling with a Gotha was costly – mostly in the form of a Nieuport that went down quickly.  It takes 2-3 fighters against a bomber like this. 

The series is adding a new batch of fighters in June including the Fokker E series and some DH-2 minis.  If you haven’t tried out Wings of Glory yet, now is the perfect time to jump in. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My latest book, Secret Witness, is now available!

It is shameless plug time!  My newest book, Secret Witness, is now available for sale.  I am given to understand that the Kindle version is coming shortly (any day now).  Secret Witness is my first true crime book about a bombing murder in my hometown in 1967 and the incredible investigation that apprehended the killer.  

Here’s what the experts say:  "Secret Witness reads like a Jim Thompson noir novel, burrowing into the dark crevices of the rural American landscape. But this is no fictional work of fevered imagination; it's the real thing. Blaine Pardoe nimbly explores his story of murder, sex, and psychopaths in what makes for a crackling good read. This is a real 'can't put it down' page turner!" —This from Arnie Bernstein, author of Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing  

I even got a great review from Publisher’s Weekly – compared to Hitchcock and Grace Metalious (author of Peyton Place.)  They said the book is compelling…and it’s hard to top compelling.

The story of Secret Witness is compelling and terrifying.  Here’s the typical press kit stuff:  Every small town has a moment when the real world abruptly intrudes, shattering the town's notions of itself and its people. For citizens of Marshall, Michigan, that moment came August 18, 1967. Nola Puyear was working downtown at the Tasty Cafe that morning when she received a package. She opened it and was instantly killed in a fiery explosion.

In the months that followed, law enforcement and prosecutors wrestled with a crime that to all appearances was senseless. Evidence recovered from the blown-up restaurant, including a bottle of pills that had been tainted with lye, suggested a concerted plot to murder Mrs. Puyear. But why had someone wanted to kill the well-liked woman, by all accounts a pillar of her close-knit community? For that matter, was Marshall really the quaint paradise it seemed to be?

Secret Witness brings to light startling new evidence and freshly uncovered facts to address these and other questions that, to this day, surround one of Michigan's most brutal murders. Based on extensive interviews with surviving prosecutors, police, and witnesses, Blaine Pardoe re-creates the investigation that pried into Marshall's dark underbelly and uncovered the seamy private lives led by some of the town's citizenry but led to only tenuous theories about the bombing. The book also examines the pivotal role played by the Secret Witness program, an initiative by the Detroit News that offered rewards for anonymous tips related to violent crimes. What's ultimately revealed is the true depth of evil that occurred in Marshall that day. Every small town has dirty little secrets. This time, they were deadly.

Included in the book are notes for book clubs.  If you have a book club, I’m more than willing to join you virtually and take your questions about the story or the writing of the book. 

I will be in Michigan the first week of June do to some speaking and book signing events and I encourage you to come and visit if you are in the area.  Here’s the current scheduled events:

Monday June 4:
Be Scene On the Air TV Interview (Battle Creek) (noon)
The Marshall District Library (lecture about the book) 7:00pm

Tuesday June 5:
Battle Creek Historical Society (lecture),6:00pm Kimball House Museum

Wednesday June 6:
WBCK Radio – 8:45am
Albion Public Library – (discussion) 12:15pm

Friday June8:
The Marshall District Library (lecture about the book) 1:00pm  (tentative)
Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo (book signing) 7:00pm

Saturday June 9:
Barnes and Noble Books, Battle Creek, (book signing) noon

And yes, I will be happy to autograph previous books I’ve written! I have some events planned in Virginia as well…more on those as they get closer.  I hope some of my friends still in the area can drop by and say hello. 

Oh, and it goes without saying, please go out and buy this book!  Yes and B&N have it! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers - A Review

So, after a few years of patient waiting – I saw the Avengers last night.  First off, let me say ‘light spoiler alert.’  I will hold back on many details but don’t let me ruin the film for you.  If you want the high-level review – the word I’m going to use is ‘Awesome!’ 

Let’s face it, we all wondered if Josh Whedon was going to be able to pull this off.  I mean seriously, bringing Ironman, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America to the same screen and do it well?  We knew it wouldn’t be easy. He did so and it was surprisingly good. 

I’m not going to dive deep into the plot points.  Unless you’ve been dead or in a cave somewhere, you probably know that this story is about Thor’s brother Loki bringing chaos and mayhem to Earth.  Loki rocks as a villain, complete with monologuing moments that are priceless. He’s a complete bad-ass in every sense of the word and made a worthy opponent for such a cast of heroes. 

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury finally got some action in the series of Marvel films, which was great. 

I have a soft spot for Captain America and the film did a good job with the character. 

The character that shined, at least for me was Bruce Banner/The Hulk.  Let’s face it, the two attempts to jump-start the Hulk have been marginal.  The Norton Hulk was the best to date, but we didn’t really care about the character.  Mark Ruffalo's Hulk and Banner characterization was great.  The Hulk only gets two words in the film, when he tangles with Loki, and even my wife who hates these kinds of films laughed out loud at that part. 

Black Widow was neat on multiple levels.  When she ‘interrogates’ Loki, she was awesome. 

The Tony Stark/Ironman character stole the film.  I always get the impression that Robert Downey Jr. isn’t acting in the role of Stark- that that’s just how he is in real life.  His lines are great.  This is not Ironman 3, but it almost could be.   

We have the death of one of the minor characters but one of my absolute favorites.  I won’t ruin it for you but I wish we hadn’t seen him die.  At least he got one more shot in. 

There were a few scenes, as a writer, I would have liked to see. Captain America at the grave site of his beloved or at the marker for Bucky Barnes would have been nice.  He’s a man out of time.  There’s an assumption made that everyone he knows is dead, but we don’t know that for sure.

I would have had a scene with Pepper Potts and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman from Thor) going out to get drinks.  Pepper was in the movie, which I was pleased to see, Portman was not. 

We didn’t get much airtime with Hawkeye, but I will admit he is a badass in the scenes we do get to see him. 

The humor in the film is everywhere and cuts the right balance between funny and pushing the envelope.  I heard more people laugh in the theatre I was in than I’ve heard in most comedy films in the last three years.  Yes, it was a nerd-fest, but still, the geek have inherited the Earth. 

Of course the film is set up for a sequel.  Let’s be honest, hauling in $80 million on Friday alone in US, they are going to be hard pressed to not bring this cast back together again.  GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!