Posts tagged ‘Mark C. Jackson’

BOOK REVIEW by Charles Johnson



Book Three in the Zebadiah Creed series

Published by FIVE STAR, a part of Gale, A Cengage company

ISBN; 9781432868505   Genre: Western    268 pages

Reviewed by Charles Johnson

In the Western genre of books, there are gunfights, posses heading the bad guys off at the pass, hotly contested poker games in smoky saloons . . . and in BLUE RIVERS OF HEAVEN (as well as the first two books of the Zebadiah Creed trilogy) these trite situations are calm afternoon teas compared to the adventures Mark C. Jackson concocts for the reader to experience. There are no such cliches of this genre: Jackson sees to that with great effect. The author is deeply skilled in his descriptions of fights, chases, and even the tension created in the exchange of heated words before any physical action actually occurs.  To top it off, Jackson finds fresh new ways to bring action to the western genre that will wow the reader; sometimes with a level of brutality, sometimes with unexpected sensitivity.

Zebadiah Creed, the protagonist of the book, is not necessarily a moral man, but he certainly adheres to what he sees as the correct way to behave in different instances.  Give him a formal dinner and he will know what to do.  Face a surly crowd, and he will make choices of wisdom.  Present a young lady for him too woo, and Zebadiah can be smooth and suave as any cultured gentleman.  Yet, his flaws will betray him from time to time, and that makes for an interesting character.  And yes, even a man such as Creed has his love interests that he deserves.

The backdrop of this story is varied: there are dank prisons, fancy plantations, joyous riverboats, and cabins in the woods filled with a variety of circumstances that are unique and sparkling.  Every scene moves from one to the other with no delay.  This keeps the reader’s attention at a peak that rarely sags throughout the book.  As for characters, there are several of varying stature from the first two books – and it is also important to note that Jackson’s characters are none of your one-dimensional western characters – no dumb farm hands, no schoolmarms – characters are fully developed in every way – the good ones and the bad ones equally.  Even the horses have personalities

BLUE RIVERS OF HEAVEN continues the story of Zebadiah, tying in a good many portions of the first two books (AN EYE FOR AND EYE and THE GREAT TEXAS DANCE).   In this book, Zebadiah is manipulated into a position of being forced to assassinate a rather important person – but you’ll get no spoiler here as to who and how it all turns out – Zebadiah’s adversaries use every tool for force our hero into the unsavory task – just more of that great action that author Jackson so readily delivers.

Some technical thoughts: the chapters are short, which enhance the pace of the book.  There are no vocabulary challenges – the language is well handled, even in a few instances of profanity.  I wonder about the title as well … it is not as clearly connected to this book as the titles of the first two are connected to theirs.  HINT:  Read all three books close together – it will help keep track of the characters and situations as Zebadiah courses through his adventures.

Thanks to the writing and storytelling skills of author Mark C. Jackson, BLUE RIVERS OF HEAVEN delivers a great deal of action, setting and personality with vivid descriptions of all of that, and then more.  Perhaps that means book four isn’t far off…..


THE GREAT TEXAS DANCE by Mark C. Jackson: A Book Review by Charles Johnson

By Mark C. Jackson
The Tales of Zebediah Creed, Book Two
Five Star Publishing/Cengage
297 Pages
ISBN: 9781432868505

With as much fervor, with as much energy and fast pace, and with characters that illuminate the story with incredibly animated foibles, Zebediah Creed again rides out an adventure that is just as exciting and fun as his first exploits in Mark C. Jackson’s first book “AN EYE FOR AN EYE”.

This adventure finds Zeb and his friend Grainger on an urgent mission. They have been dispatched from the Alamo, where Jim Bowie and friends are facing slaughter at the hands of Santa Ana. Zeb and Grainger must find Sam Houston and convince him to rally reinforcements to the famed small mission before it is too late.

And no errand goes perfectly. The pair must find decent horses to ride, which they manage to locate from a woman who runs a ranch with a strong hand – and a special connection with the cause. Our men find Houston quite easily, but he is not at all easily swayed by their mission. Zebediah and Grainger find themselves shuttling between Houston and other military officers, all of whom are reluctant to join in on the Alamo battle. Our two find themselves caught between factions that battle in the Mexican-
American war with what appear to be insurmountable chances of survival.

There are incursions with splinter groups from the Mexicans. There are secret plots, there are major battles, there are moments of reflection, and, as in the first Zebediah Creed book, there are moments where our hero escapes danger by what passes for the skin of his teeth.

Mark C. Jackson’s action scenes are crisp and clear. The author does a good job of avoiding too many details, making sure he keeps the focus on the action. The dialogues are clear, advancing the story. The pace lets the reader relax after a harrowing crisis, but never lets the reader dip into complacency as Jackson builds into the next adventure with a satisfying degree. Descriptions of the battles – the sounds, the sights, the smells – are filled with clear, concise images that paint a great picture.

As for characters – the military leaders are not the saints we usually get in such books as this – they are flawed, and therefore interesting. In addition to the ranch lady and the military figures, we meet other well-developed characters – a young lad who finds his way to manhood; a prisoner who is less of a prisoner than the reader may think. There are even characters from the first Zebediah Creed book (AN EYE FOR AN EYE) that once again cross paths with Zebediah.

By the way, that is not to say that it is necessary to read the first book before reading this one – each novel stands alone, but yet, there would be value in reading them in order.

Mark C. Jackson has found a solid protagonist in his Zebediah Creed. And yes, there are signs of a third novel to follow – I will pick that one up as soon as I can.

BOOK REVIEW: AN EYE FOR AN EYE by Mark C. Jackson (reviewed by Charles Johnson)

book cover eye for an eye
By Mark C. Jackson
Five Star Publishing, a part of Cengage Learning
ISBN 9781432832971
210 Pages

AN EYE FOR AN EYE has a subtitle on the cover of the book: “The Tales of Zebediah Creed, Book One. Here’s to book two, three and four . . . and five and six and as many as Mr. Jackson wishes to spin out for us.

What a unique ride! I was expecting a western filled with cowboys and bad guys and gunfights, just like other books I’ve read from Five Star. Instead, I was led into a world of black market in fur trade. In AN EYE FOR AN EYE, we have a tale about our strong-willed hero Zebediah Creed as he pursues the small-time thieves that work for what amounted to crime bosses of syndicate – you know the sort; we grew to know them in the 1920s, during the bootlegging days of Prohibition. Except, maybe, these fur trading bosses were much nastier as to their sense of justice and morality. This is nothing like that Daniel Boone or Davy Crocket we grew up with in the sanitized 1950s TV shows, oh, my, no!

Our main man, Zebediah, is out to avenge his brother’s death, which is a standard plot device in your typical western. But no, here we meet so much more. A gang of marauders kill his brother, and Zebediah is left for dead. A preacher and his daughter see that his health is restored, and our Zebediah heads out on his vengeful crusade. Zeb travels from the backwaters of the Missouri, down into the Mississippi, gaining some experience among the fur trading business (legitimate and otherwise0 in both St. Louis and New Orleans. The further down the river he goes, the bar scenes increasingly lack in civility. But, in a clever and smug way, and in quite a paradox for the reader to experience, the author Jackson has those very same bars show a degree of sophistication in societal preferences as Zeb travels south on the waters.
There’s the sidekick – one British wag, who gives us reason to wonder where his loyalties reside. There are women – some tainted more than others – who hold influences of all kinds on the crime bosses. There are those who become allies of Zeb in ways that are unpredictable.

And lest I forget, there are the bosses. These gentlemen – and I mean that term in every way – may show culture and fine breeding, but they also are well-schooled in ways bring about suffering to those who oppose them without hesitation or second thought – and sometimes, those ways affect even those who just happen to be in the wrong place and the right time. Nefarious indeed!

The setting carries the reader down the rivers on rafts and riverboats, complete with the sound of steam and the slosh of the paddlewheels, and even a visit to a cult-like village. The city life of St. Louis, as classy as it first seems, is at best fourth-rate when compared to the company we meet in New Orleans, right on down to the fine living in the brothels, and even into the opera house. Vibrant descriptions of action, scenery and dialogue flow from Mr. Jackson’s mind with effective and emotive style.

In the books to follow, I am sure our author Mark Jackson will treat us to more wondrously evil villains, more suspenseful adventures for our hero, and more story and plot that will thrill us. His first book here is certainly an indication of all of that, and more.