The White Rhino Hotel by Bartle Bull ~~ A Review

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                                                The White Rhino Hotel   ~~ A Review

A sweeping epic reminiscent of Hemingway, Steinbeck and Kipling. But, none of these…a unique voice that will touch you deeply if Africa touches you. 

The setup for the legion of characters and the landscape of Africa took about 100 pages. By then I was hooked by the richly developed people that fill Bull’s story. The writing is pure prose.

“Remember these stories, Tlaga. My people live inside them. When a tale is told, everyone who ever heard that story is alive again….” 

“An alphabet makes the words that keep a people together….” 

The story is dusty, hot, dangerous and violent. But so is Africa.   Just when the new settlers think they’ve domesticated the continent, warrior ants, a herd of elephants and floods storm through.  Bull’s characters populate Africa but never effect it, much less conquer it. Olivio, the grotesque dwarf. The reader can’t help themselves, they love and hate him at the same time. The star-crossed lovers, Anton and Gwenn. Hugo von Decken and his son, Ernst. German pioneers homesteading their piece of Africa. The list goes on and on. 

The story begins in (literally) the last days of World War I as a German unit traverses the plains of Africa, toting along their prisoners of war, some severely wounded. I don’t write spoilers so that’s about all I will tell of the story. I adore fiction that teaches me history. I had no idea of a Soldiers Lottery for land in West Africa after the world war ended. Whereby soldiers who fought in Africa could enter a lottery and homestead land that belonged only to the African native.  

This is their story. But it’s also Africa’s story; how it was fought over and then the land was passed out as booty after the war. Given away even though none of it belonged to any white man. 
I highly recommend this book. Take your time, savor each word, taste the air of Africa. That’s what I did! 

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“Must Read” rating for “Butterflies & Bullets”

Eric Jones, a reviewer on, just wrote a lovely piece on “Butterflies and Bullets”, my book of Poetry, Essays and Musings. Click here to read it on their site, or scroll down for a reprint.

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Title: Butterflies & Bullets
Author: Trisha Sugarek
Rating:  Must Read!
Publisher: Trisha Sugarek
Reviewed by: Eric Jones

I knew Sugarek’s work in the past from her collection of short children’s plays, “Ten Minutes to Curtain”, which involve the complicated dynamics of growing up. Flannery O’Conner said that if you live through childhood then you have enough material to write forever, and Sugarek has been there and then some. Her short work for the stage has put her in the perfect position to transition from play to poetry with her new book, “Butterflies and Bullets”.

Even the title denotes the strange duality between innocence and loss, and that theme is prevalent throughout the work. Mostly in free form, Sugarek keeps everything in a minimalist range, lending focus to intimate moments like a man playing his Mandolin beside a fire, or the quiet landscape of the Serengeti just before rainfall. These truncated pieces of life feel like literary snapshots. These are Sugarek’s butterfly collection. Then, of course, there are the bullets.

The bullets are also set in free form, however they deal with much more happenings and are more narratively set. My favorite poem is one of these. “Hair Cut… Two Bits” chronicles the return of a barber from war-torn Europe in 1934 via a freighter into the Mississippi from the Gulf. The story, though scarcely a few pages, manages to convey the loss, struggle, and triumph of war given a single, near microscopic, experience. Not to mention that it’s all the more topical today, given the current mess in off the shore of New Orleans.

There are many that are like these, managing to say a lot with only a little. And given their accompanying illustrations by Lori Smaltz, which are printed small in keeping with the book’s minimalist structure, “Butterflies and Bullets” comes off splendidly. The collection feels complete and utterly whole, no piece of the pie excluded. Such close ups reveal that every place is connected. The ocean, if you look closely enough, looks just like rain on the blistering asphalt of your driveway. Shanty Irish curtains, at a certain scale, are indistinguishable from the sculpted wood of a Native American totem pole. This is the nature of Sugarek’s poetry, that when you pull back you see how different everything is, but when you put it under the microscope, a butterfly is really just a bullet with wings.