Reviews

Storytellin: True & Fictional Short Stories of Arkansas

I loved these stories: fictional tales cleverly linked to genuine family stories. They are engaging, sometimes witty, sometimes insightful, occasionally disturbing, and they offer a foreigner like me a small insight into the mountainous regions of Arkansas: their people, their culture and their history. Fascinating to read and very enjoyable. ~ Kathy Shuker

*

Indeed, Jack Cotner has delivered Storytellin’ at it’s finest by juxtaposing accounts from generations of Cotners next to fictional tales triggered by those family events. A fine collection of memoir and short stories in a single volume. As one reader pointed out, two books in one. Loved it. ~ Nancy Hartney

*

If you like short stories and are interested in tales from the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains, this is a great read. The author chose an unusual format for this collection. Each story is actually two tales, one being a recollection of family and the second a fictional tale inspired by those true family experiences. The author’s claim that he comes from a family of “wonderful storytellers and colorful characters” is confirmed through a collection of stories that reveal the hardships and happiness that run through generations of mountain folk. Some of the stories will make you laugh out loud, some will make you want to cry, and some are just downright scary.

My interest was captured because I live in the mountains of this region and, having met the author and some of his family, knew he’d inherited the “storytellin” skills of those who came before him. I liked it so much I bought copies for my friends. Quick read, rich characters, and an insider’s view of life in the small towns and rugged mountains in the first half of the 20th century. ~Susan Holmes

*

I really enjoyed this book. Marble King was my favorite. Wonderful read. ~ Dr. W. W. Weed

*

Mystery of the Death Hearth: A Runevision Novel

The Mystery of the Death Hearth is the first of the Runevision series, written by Jack R. Cotner, whose previous published works include a collection of true and fictional short stories set in Arkansas in the early 1900s.

As a lover of historical fiction, I found this novel to be excellent. It is very well written with an interesting setting and an intriguing murder mystery. It is evident that the author has extensively researched the period and region in which the story takes place. His descriptions of the traditions, religious practices and way of life of the characters involved draw us in beautifully as the mystery unfolds. Cotner’s writing style suits the period well and lovely, descriptive phrases abound. Each chapter is preceded by a fascinating poem, as well as the date in both the Roman and Celtic calendars, adding a further dimension to the text.

The story takes place in the 5th Century AD in the Celtic lands of the northern and western regions of mainland Europe. The many settlements and scenic sites in the fictional Brendan Valley – through which runs the Moryn Gweneth River – provide the setting for the action. It is an area in which the Romans have found strong resistance to their rule and Christian beliefs as the Celtic people cling to their age-old way of life. As to be expected, this is the cause of constant tension between the Celts and the Romans stationed in their conquered lands.

The plot revolves around the daring theft of a Roman treasure – which includes the magnificent Great Cross, made of Celtic gold and amber and claimed by the Roman Church. The robbery from the wagon transporting the treasure from Cross Abbey to Hierlaneum does not go according to plan and murder ensues. The band of robbers includes not only Celts but Romans, all wanting the Cross for different reasons. Thus, motives become a major focus of the investigation that follows.

The task of solving the mystery and finding the Great Cross falls to young Celtic magistrate, Weylyn de Gort. We follow him through the investigation as he works on the behalf of his superiors in the Elder Faith. It is not an easy task, as complications and danger arise from every side, both Celtic and Roman. Weylyn must follow the directions not only of the Celtic Elders but of the Roman Enforcement officers sent from Rome on news of the theft of the Great Cross.

To complicate matters still further, Weylyn is tasked with discovering the whereabouts of a feisty young Celtic girl who has disappeared in search of her grandfather, and with unravelling the mystery of the Celtic runevision. And throughout the excitement of the chase, Weylyn must try to sort out his own future with a woman whose religion and ideals are contrary to his own. All this is with an assassin hot on his heels – a man to whom killing is no obstacle to getting what he wants.

All in all, the book presents an intriguing and well-crafted mystery with well rounded characters. It should appeal to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with an historical setting. ~Patricia Bunting

*

I enjoyed this book very much. It has a very interesting story line. I would recommend to all my friends. Great reading. ~ Andrea Utecht

*

Many twists and turns in this story. I enjoyed this book enough to give out copies to my entire family for Christmas. ~Greg ‘Doc’ Holley

*

Rich in detail and dripping with intrigue, this novel is a winner! The author explores the culture clash that occurs when Romans move north into lands historically held by the Celts. The story begins with the theft of money, precious gems, and an artifact made of Celtic gold and amber that had been seized by the Roman church. Even as the Romans dispatch soldiers to search for the missing treasure, the Celts are searching, too. The theft is soon followed by murder and the disappearance of a Celtic elder and his granddaughter. Soon a Celtic magistrate is on the trail and finds himself a target of an assassin.

It’s clear the author has researched his topic extensively. The mystery itself is intricately plotted, and the story is fast paced and exciting. A definite read! ~Susan Holmes

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