A Northumberland Periodical - Spring 2015's Issue
At first glance...
I met Milissa Mackey in her
Northumberland Echo office.
Although she misspelled
my name, she gave my
book a great review.
In the intervening years,
all typos have been corrected.
The OCR - scanned document...
Title banner: “From stone-faced to pale with fear: a book review” By Milissa Mackey
I confess that when I sat down to begin reading Cousin Bertie by Phoenix Elvis Nicholson I was more than a little
afraid. The book, set in White Stone, has a supernatural, scary stories to tell in the dark aesthetic, but that's not what I
was wary of. The thing was, I had just met the author and liked him immensely. Having promised him a review but being
a lousy liar I was worried about what I might wind up having to say. Among my friends and loved ones I'm known as a bit
of a stickler, and even some of the greats of our time leave me feeling cold. I'm looking at you, Stephen King. Luckily,
Cousin Bertie is a good read, and almost unbelievably unique, so I don't have to worry too much about alienating my
The story begins when siblings Susan and Michael take a trip to White Stone, to visit their relation "Cousin" Bertie.
But as it happens, not everything is quite as they remember it, or quite as it seems on the surface at the old farmhouse.
A blend of family reminiscences, tall tales and scary campfire stories, this book has a voice all its own. Though it's
technically narrated by one character, it's the titular Bertie who does most of the talking, and talk she does. As she
recounts various episodes from her long and interesting life, the reader puts together a picture of a much more wondrous
and sinister White Stone than they might have pictured before.
Unlike Stephen King, Nicholson is not an author by trade. I gather he fell into it by way of being a born raconteur who
found he had stories to tell. Cousin Bertie is self-published, and should be approached a bit more forgivingly than a book
put out by a big publisher. There is an occasional typo, and the paragraph spacing takes a few chapters to resign yourself to.
However, the obvious pleasure Nicholson takes in telling his tales amply compensates for those rough edges.
Though I usually prefer a less-is-more approach to writing, I found myself taken in by the textured and detail oriented
style that Nicholson employs. "Oh jeez," I found myself thinking on several occasions, "Where in heck is he going with this?"
Invariably, it went not at all where I was expecting.
This is the first in an ongoing series called Trilogy White Stone. Only the first two books are currently published,
but Nicholson keeps finding stories to tell, so fans of Cousin Bertie need not despair. Chances are good that there will be
many more like it forthcoming.
.Cousin Bertie is a slim volume and the chapters are episodic, making it easy to pick up and put down at the reader's
convenience. It's a perfect fit for summer reading, especially when a chill up your spine might be the perfect remedy for
the heat and humidity.
Cousin Bertie and the sequel, Harry's Haunts are available on Amazon.com.
That was my very first interview as
a "newly minted" Independent Author.
From frequent visits to Milissa's office
and witnessing her humanitarian efforts,
I felt as if getting to know her was a
truly remarkable experience.
Only wish there had been a video running
to share every word said and to
show the amazing office decor...