Novels

Reviews

This is what readers say.

RING OF STARS

Amazon Five Star ReviewAn alternative to hopelessness

Richard Sanford has the ability to paint visions of a future many of us fear in dreams and one that daily comes closer to reality, while at the same time offering more security in holding onto the simple things that have bonded us together, a bond that even apocalyptic possibilities seem to avoid. In RING OF STARS he has created an Everyman in Walker Beale that anchors our faith in the basic kindness of human caring.

Placing his story in the near future rather than an unnamed distant world that would strain credibility, Sanford gives us Walker Beale, an executive with a company called Xynapse (note his tongue in cheek alteration of the word synapse—that connecting thread between cells and between thoughts and between past and future) that makes video games. A painfully familiar condition named outsourcing leaves Walker with choices, and the choice he makes is to recognize the meaning of a vision that the world is headed toward violent self-destruction. Instead he opts to create a Gilead based on the warmly remembered drive-in movie theaters. Walker envisions his Ring of Stars—a magical drive-in theater created with Hollywood chards that reflect light and a huge screen onto which movies can be projected as well as lights from destructive forces can be deflected.

Walker's obsession to create this haven is not without critical changes in his life: his marriage is threatened, his daughter is more distant than geography would define, and he ignores the advice of friends. Though his ultimate dream once realized appears a failure—not many enlightened people are left to attend his theatrical vision—in the end his dream becomes a reality: Walker has provided a safe house in the middle of the Nevada desert while the world outside crumbles.

While Sanford's story is one of those novels that comfortably consumes readers, it is more than a well-crafted novel. Sanford has provided a huge dollop of nostalgia—as well as a vision or a hope or evidence—that courage in the presence of potential annihilation is possible, if only a few stand against terror.

Grady Harp, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

A visionary glimpse into where our country is headed

Ring of Stars is the visionary and entertaining story of one man's response to events in a dark American future. In this prescient novel, things are falling apart fast. Sprawling tent cities, violent confrontations, government crackdowns, assassinations, and incipient civil war are all part of the deteriorating cultural landscape. As happens in the best of books, one man's personal crises are intertwined with the larger story.

Walker Beale has recently cashed out of his executive slot at a software development company. Driven by his changing fortunes, he experiences a Field of Dreams-like vision—he will build a drive-in movie theater. It will be an antidote to the mindless violence and the death of the imagination that he sees all around him. But the Nevada desert is not as benign as an Iowa cornfield. And time is running out for him, as real life threatens to overtake his dream.

Walker presses on with his slightly mad construction project. His single-mindedness takes its toll on his marriage and his relationship with others. He becomes estranged from his wife and has an affair with a beautiful reporter who has publicized his quirky venture. He worries about his daughter Sophie, away at school in Chicago. Another friend who has emigrated to Canada tries to convince Walker to flee to British Columbia. But by then it's too late, the borders are closed off and there's no way out of the country.

Richard Sanford has written a novel that is uncomfortably close to what a near-term future might hold for us. Walker Beale is a haunting character, driven and keenly attuned, an artist at heart. But he is also representative of a middle-aged segment of our society, with memories of how American life used to be and hopes for a better future than is unfolding now.

When the Ring of Stars drive-in opens, it is a failure—patrons are few. But over time more and more people are drawn to Walker's quirky anachronism. It becomes a place of refuge. Finally, as events close in on Walker, he finds himself leading a band of refugees in a breakneck race to the Ring—to the last safe place—or is it?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good read and a glimpse into where our country is headed, if we ignore the signs that sent Walker Beale on his personal odyssey into the Ring of Stars.

Stephen Billias, author The American Book of the Dead

Getting back to a place in the heart

Walker Beale, a marketing executive at a computer games company, had a remarkable memory—especially of going to drive-in theaters with his parents, lying on the hood of their car, and feeling the projector light over them as if it was a huge white river. He even remembered the smells that came from the concession stands, like those in county fairs. He recalled hitting baseballs in the back yard. And all of this while feeling perfectly safe. Walker yearned for that time when kids could walk alone and go to the corner for a root beer float and safely make it home. That was better than the evening news reporting: "Two shot on the North side."

There were a lot of drive-ins in that era, and there was a general spirit of kindness and generosity. People helped each other out, and that orientation of peacefulness and cooperation was America. No looking over your shoulder. Just looking forward to going to the drive-in.

Then one day at his company, Walker was informed that the creative, stimulating work he had been doing was going to be outsourced to another company. The company was going in a different direction, a very dark direction. Its new goals were out of sync with Walker's, and he felt it as a death of a kind. If he remained and went along with the new agenda, he felt he would be guilty by association. He made a difficult but courageous decision; he would leave the company and build a drive-in movie theater as a way of getting back to an earlier time… a community of consciousness, not turf, not political ads or attacks. Where people would not have to worry about their kids or friends being the latest victims of random acts of violence, where intelligence and good intentions meant everything. For Walker, the drive-in was much more than a movie venue, it was the full experience, a way of getting back to a place in the heart.

This is one of the most thought-provoking novels I have read. It is a call to all of us in this land to stop the violence, the assassinations, that have overtaken our culture. Thank you, Mr. Sanford, for reminding us of what could be.

A Chicago reader

This is definitely one to try

Sanford has certainly come of age as an author. His prior works dealt with a variety of themes culled from his varied background and often painful personal experiences. This new work creates an entertaining and insightful, albeit chilling, view of the near future and the protagonist's attempts to find meaning in a future characterized by shattered beliefs, factionalism, and social unrest. Sanford's writing style has evolved, and this new work should be well received. This is definitely one to try.

DWD

LONG TIME GONE

So easy to pick up and so hard to put down

Richard Sanford's Long Time Gone is a superbly written novel set in America's turbulent year of 1968. The search for a missing heir involves an unlikely cast, from the ghost of a best friend to a Buddhist from Detroit, to a girl-woman soulmate. A fictional memoir to the revolutionary changes of a bygone era, Long Time Gone is an enthralling and highly recommended tale, just the kind of novel that is so easy to pick up and so hard to put down!

Midwest Book Review

Normal people shaping extraordinary times

In this masterfully woven tale of discovery and loss, Cal, a familiar young loner, sets out in search of a childhood friend gone "off the grid" during a time of turbulent social transformations. His quest takes him through the vast expanses of a racially charged United States in the 1970's. Leaving his hometown and the weighty humidity of the Mississippi River Valley his trail forces him to dive deep into the underground world of draft dodgers and radical activists. Cal takes readers on a path through the dizzying brightness of Florida's beaches and musty college crash pads of Boston where the young and naive are trying to make sense of a changing world, often with cruel and harsh outcomes.

For younger readers, this story illuminates a specific time and captures the great awakening of American awareness and political engagement, its best intentions and unfortunate consequences. The sheer suspense and certainty of being part of a defining moment in history carries the reader through an emotional roller coaster. I was left asking myself, How did we get from there to here? Has consumerism vanquished our demands for justice? Where is the fire? I recommend this book for anyone interested in gaining a more nuanced understanding of an exceptional era in U.S. culture and history.

Ahmad J. Aaf

A resonant novel of the Sixties

Cal is a young man born during that indeterminate span of years between the last Depression-era babies and the first boomers. Adopted, seeking a moral compass, Cal abides by the small southern river town values of his best friend's father—until the family's younger son leaves home and the father sends Cal to bring the youth back. I've been riding along with Cal as his journey takes him to Daytona Beach, Boston, Chicago, and points west, sharing in his confusion as his perspective alters.

Long Time Gone is evocative and nuanced, moody and delicately lyrical. Partly paean to the varied land- and weather-scape, partly road trip a la Kesey or Kerouac, partly history lesson, partly mind trip, the protagonist's growing awareness of what drives his friends, acquaintances, countrymen, lovers, and eventually, himself, resonates with me.

A Northwest reader

The 60s novel I've been waiting for

The events of 1968 serve as the backdrop for this well-written but accessible novel about a young southerner looking for a missing friend and finding himself. Sanford takes his protagonist, a country dj named Cal, from a small-town Mississippi River town to springtime Daytona Beach, then up the East Coast to a Cambridge crash pad and a summer romance in Boston, and finally to the Chicago convention with a group of militant anti-war demonstrators. The chapters on the Chicago riots are especially well wrought, but every scene has the true feel of the 60s counterculture. Cal's search for the younger brother of his war-casualty best friend mirrors his personal quest for purpose and identity. A remarkable book.

A Midwest reader

Mesmerizing fictional journey

A mesmerizing porthole into a time of turbulence and change. Readers cannot help but experience their own metamorphoses as they follow Cal's journey across America, through the sixties, and into himself. Sanford shows a true passion and genius for the art of fiction—for his fiction truly is art. Whether you choose to see the book as the story of an intriguing character finding his own space in time, or a road map through the altering perspective of a pivotal decade, you cannot help but be touched by the literary beauty that is Long Time Gone.

A Seattle reader

The one novel to read this year!

This book should be designated a national treasure! It is the best novel of the sixties I have ever read. The characters are so real, their beliefs and cause so moving, that I am reminded once again why that time changed all of us. Mr. Sanford knows what's he's doing—the written word is truly his calling. Fortunately, true passion in fiction is not dead. I will cherish Long Time Gone always!

A Northwest reader

ROADKILL

Check your tire pressure and keep your gas tank full

In this suspense/horror novel, Sanford never allows blood and gore to take the place of thoroughly heart-pounding passages of escape and battle; and Sanford provides enough fleshing-out of his characters so that the reader never knows who might make it to the end of this particularly rocky road. In the tense battle/chase scenes, all the stops are pulled out in a visual driving-through-hell sequence. Check your tire pressure and keep your gas tank full; if you've ever peered into your rear view mirror, wondering just what might be back there in the darkness, then this book is for you!

Tom Piccirilli, Pirate Writings

Sanford brings back true horror

When two young men attempt to open a new entrance to a tunnel beneath the foothills of northern Oregon, they accidentally cut through a sealed doorway to the tomb of ancient beasts of prey. And these awesome creatures have only one creed: kill and eat.

When Charlie Hardin, a truck-driving alcoholic trying his damnedest to stay dry, and Melissa Frankel, an innocent nine-year-old on a trip to the beach with her parents, cross paths with these vicious killers on a lonely stretch of Oregon highway, they must pit all their wits and strength against the horrid creatures in norder to save their lives.

In this riveting, edge-of-your-seat reading, Sanford brings back true horror as we all knew it with The Birds, The Thing, and Wolfen.

Write Way

Highly Recommended

This book quickly became a favorite of mine. In fact, I read the whole thing in one sitting which is rare for me. It concerns some pterosaur-like creatures claiming victims who happen to be traveling along the same road they are. The book is well-written, full of monster action, and the pace remains breathless. I recommend this book to all horror fans and hope it hits the digital format soon, making it easier to be discovered.

Brandon Blankenburg, author Night of the Killer Roos

THE CALLING

Prize is holiday trip to terror

A chilling horror debut is crammed with terror and tension in a tale which focuses on a couple who win a raffle prize of a week's holiday at a beautiful mansion set deep in the woods.

The couple, Dana and Louis, should be enjoying a second honeymoon, but the pressures of their everyday lives are hard to shrug off.

Then they meet the owner of a house nearby who has a strange influence over Dana.

The suspense builds with the introduction of a watcher outside the mansion and an animal that kills a man in the woods. Gripping stuff.

Bookshelf

Old Alfred Hitchcock would love this one

It is a startling debut in the terror field. A young couple win a raffle prize of a week's vacation in the Alpenhurst mansion, tucked away deep in the backwoods.

Idyllic? Maybe, but is the over-friendly neighbor for real, and what of the watcher in the trees, and the man said to have been horrribly done to death by some animal in the forest? Sanford shreds your nerves twang by tingling twang!

Pride Magazine