The Agency Press

Kirkus Review: Man Of The World – Book 1 of The Odyssey Expedition

Kirkus Review (Starred Review)

A witty, resilient Liverpudlian sets out to visit every sovereign nation in the world in this travelogue.

British adventurer Hughes plans to visit every country and territory in the world. In order to satisfy Guinness World Records, he agrees to follow a few basic rules: He can’t travel by plane, nor hitchhike, nor use anything other than public transportation; he must set foot on dry land in each place; and “A visit to a far-flung territory does not count as a visit to ‘the motherland.’ ” This first installment of a planned trilogy begins on Jan. 1, 2009, on the border between Argentina and Uruguay and ends, 133 countries and 6 territories later, on Dec. 31, 2009, at the Egyptian pyramids. It covers the author’s journey through the Americas, Europe, and Africa, and it’s bursting with fascinating, hilarious, and occasionally terrifying anecdotes. While traveling across the Gulf of Mexico, he nonchalantly recounts that a yacht captain used “a fishing hook to put stitches in [his] head with no anaesthetic other than a bottle of scotch.” In the Congo, he’s inexplicably thrown into a prison cell that “was like somewhere you might wake up if you were a victim of the Jigsaw Killer” in the movie Saw. Yet the mood is almost always upbeat, and readers will succumb to Hughes’ deliciously blunt humor: “the fact that I still hadn’t suffered the squits the entire journey…only goes to prove that my DNA should be extracted and cloned in order to create the race of ginger super-soldiers that will one day RULE THE WORLD.” The book is made even more amusing by editor’s notes that occasionally translate the author’s Liverpool slang: “Helga rustled up some scouse (Liverpool stew) for me to eat and it was proper boss la…. Editor’s Note: Apparently in Liverpool this means really good.” The straightforward, chronological approach leaves little time for evocative description, but it adds to the urgency as the author visits country after country. It’s also carefully illustrated with maps and information cards throughout. Readers will be eager to read the next book in this series.

A riveting journey recounted by an irrepressible, highly likable narrator.

Kirkus Review: Albert – An Autobiography

Kirkus Review

Novelist and true-crime writer Borowitz (Death Play, 2016, etc.) shares an autobiography that he wrote during a precocious adolescence.

The author, who was born in 1930, has written books and practiced law for decades, but this memoir doesn’t portray those years of experience and observation. Instead, it captures a young boy’s view of his own life; Borowitz says that he likely wrote it when he was about 13, possibly for a school assignment, and kept it ever since. After an opening that relates his family’s emigration from Central and Eastern Europe to Chicago, the author’s birthplace, he tells of his infant years and his development into an inquisitive child. As one might expect from a teen’s memoir, the book and its chapters are brief, favoring short observations over more intensive examination of the author or his surroundings. One chapter offers an account of his time as an ambivalent camper, surrounded by much more enthusiastic participants at Wisconsin’s Camp Menominee, while another describes the thrill of his first plane ride. Borowitz’s boyhood coincided with World War II, and he provides a unique, youthful perspective, sharing his confusion, for example, that a 1938 newspaper headline, “Nazi Escape from Justice Seen,” didn’t refer to a jailbreak. His authorial voice is often appealingly wry and self-aware, providing a funny portrait of a cautious, smart, and somewhat hapless child in a world of strong personalities. Borowitz writes charmingly of his first-grade art projects: “I had no respect for the anatomy of the body in my drawings, and my characters often appeared in positions which even contortionists would consider impossible.” The charm gradually lessens, however, during a lengthy closing chapter on the Borowitz family’s Mexico trip, which reads like a string of names and places, much like a student’s report on how he spent his summer. Overall, the book is clearly the work of a clever young writer, and it’s no surprise that Borowitz grew into a successful author. That said, it still essentially reads like a teenager’s school assignment, and therefore its target audience, beyond the author’s friends and family, is unclear.

An often charming but slight literary artifact, capturing a writer early in his career.

Press Release: 100 years after Jules Verne’s death, ATBOSH Media Ltd. publishes obscure novel featuring a Reality TV like competition around the United States for a $60 million prize

100 years after Jules Verne’s death, ATBOSH Media Ltd. publishes obscure novel featuring a Reality TV like competition around the United States for a $60 million prize

Recent release of Jules Verne’s “The Will of an Eccentric” from ATBOSH Media Ltd. offers a “Modern Edition” of a relatively unknown travel adventure novel in which Verne creates a contest that turns the United States into a life-size board game.


Press Release: Former Members of the Cleveland Orchestra Give First-hand Impressions of Conductor George Szell in New Book of Interviews, Stories & Anecdotes Published by ATBOSH Media

Former Members of the Cleveland Orchestra Give First-hand Impressions of Conductor George Szell in New Book of Interviews, Stories & Anecdotes Published by ATBOSH Media
Pratfalls, ego clashes, and psychodramas infuse classical music on the grandest scale in this reminiscence of the Cleveland Orchestra under its legendary leader — Kirkus Reviews.

Kirkus Review: Tales from the Locker Room: An Anecdotal Portrait of George Szell and his Cleveland Orchestra

Kirkus Review

Pratfalls, ego clashes, and psychodramas infuse classical music on the grandest scale in this reminiscence of the Cleveland Orchestra under its legendary leader.

During his 1946-70 tenure, the Hungarian-born conductor George Szell turned the Cleveland Orchestra from a second-rate ensemble into what many considered the world’s best orchestra and conducted many landmark recordings of the classical repertoire. He accomplished this through relentless rehearsals, dictatorial control over the tiniest details of performances, and domineering mind games aimed at bending musicians to his will. In this loose-limbed retrospective, Angell, a bassist who played 15 years under Szell’s baton, and Jaffe collect stories from Cleveland Orchestra musicians who both loathe and lionize their former boss. They tell of nerve-wracking auditions, lies and manipulations regarding their contracts, and horrible elevator encounters in which trapped musicians struggled to make small talk with him. They also relate his countless onstage insults and belittlements, from the cutting (“We’d be happy to accommodate to your small tone,” he told a violin soloist who wanted the orchestra to play quietly) to the crude (“you play like a pig, a swine,” he informed another), and his ugly feuds with rebellious underlings, especially superstar oboist Marc Lifschey, who “played like a gypsy whore,” Szell proclaimed. They share stories of his sheer, demented hubris; in one tale, for example, Szell insisted that a pianist rehearse on a coffee table and then criticized his mimed “playing”; when the pianist objected, the maestro canceled his concerto. “Son of a bitch,” “bastard,” and “I despised him,” are among the verdicts that Angell and Jaffe elicit—but also common, and quite illuminating, are grudging-to-reverent acknowledgments of Szell’s profound insights into music and the sublime performances he extracted from the orchestra, surpassing what even the musicians themselves thought they could achieve. These rambling interviews, with commentary by Angell and Jaffe, don’t have much structure, and some of the anecdotes will seem obscure to nonmusicians, but readers will find most of the hodgepodge accessible and entertaining. From these vignettes emerges an engrossing, pointillist portrait of the emotional stress and artistic rewards of high-stakes music-making.

A revealing behind-the-scenes look at a great orchestra and the colorful genius who shaped it.

Kirkus Review: Secret of the Warlock’s Crypt

Kirkus Review

A 12-year-old working with his uncle, a historian, unearths clues to an old, macabre unsolved mystery while searching for a deceased millionaire’s missing artifacts in this middle-grade novel.

Mike Hilliard works alongside his uncle Robert “Otto” Hilliard, an employee of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. Otto’s research into the life and death of the ruthless Titus Morley attracts the attention of Lawrence Piddle, a professor of religion at Dartmouth College, but Mike begins to suspect Piddle’s interest in the case is more than educational, especially after one of Morley’s journals under the society’s care suddenly goes missing. A priceless collection of masks and books disappeared following Morley’s demise in 1872, when his oil refinery exploded. Cryptic drawings, maps and symbols in Morley’s voluminous journals lead Mike to the location of Morley’s mausoleum. Secretly teaming up with his uncle’s colleague Billy Hayworth, Mike pays a late-night visit to the tomb, where he uncovers a secret room in which literally soul-stirring horror awaits. Dedicated to author John Bellairs, Hayes’ debut novel offers age-appropriate chills, including death masks, rotted corpses and the walking dead, as well as flashes of mildly queasy terror (“A sickening sound filled Jeremiah’s ears: the sound of cracking sticks and crushed hen eggs”). Hayes writes ably about the architecture of the story’s pivotal locations, but his main character is inconsistently drawn. Mike is said to like ghost stories, and he perks up at the thought of an adventure, but his reactions suggest he wouldn’t be especially eager for thrill-chasing. At one point, when his uncle casually mentions body hopping, Mike “choked on his soda and nearly spit it out.” And while a tauter pace and more humor would liven things up, a solid foundation has been laid for a series of further adventures with Mike and Otto;  Otto proclaims, “The Western Reserve Historical Society will get to the bottom of it…. Rest assured. We’ll get to the bottom of it all.”

For young readers who, like Mike, are “always up for a good story, especially an historical one.”