Alan Hlad’s new historical novel is ‘A Light Beyond the Trenches’

The two previous historical novels by Akron author Alan Hlad were set during World War II. The third, “A Light Beyond the Trenches”, goes further back in time, to World War I, and also makes the unusual choice that the protagonists are Germans, the enemies of the Allied powers.

This is because it is based on a true story.

Anna Zeller, daughter of a widowed watchmaker, works as a nurse in a military hospital in Oldenberg and is the first to admit that she is not very good at it. One day, she eats a quick lunch in the hospital garden and sees a doctor walking with a patient who has been blinded in battle, accompanied by his pet German Shepherd. The doctor receives an urgent call and leaves the dog with the patient; Anna sees the dog instinctively guiding the patient around obstacles in the way.

The doctor is Gerhard Stalling, and he then decides to open a school for guide dogs in Oldenburg. Anna sees an opportunity to do more good and seeks employment there.

Anna’s fiancé, Bruno, studied chemistry to work in the family’s dye-making business, but the War Department requisitioned him to make chemical weapons and assigned Bruno to develop them. Bruno becomes increasingly horrified by the death and injuries he inflicts.

One of the wounded is Max Benesch, who was a pianist before the war. He is blinded by the poisonous gas deployed by Bruno and is sent against his will to the guide dog school. Because he is Jewish, no one but Anna and her father will allow him to board with them.

The characters of Max and especially Bruno are realistic and moving as Max contemplates his visionless future and Bruno torments himself with the atrocities he has committed.

“A Light Beyond the Trenches” (368 pages, softcover) costs $15.95 from Kensington. Alan Hlad is also the author of “The Long Flight Home”, about the War Pigeon Service, which dropped carrier pigeons in German-occupied France, and “Churchill’s Secret Messenger”, about a young Englishwoman whose language skills are used in covert sabotage. operation.

‘The Last Laugh’

Anyone who’s read “The Initial Insult,” the first book in a young adult horror duology by Cardington author Mindy McGinnis, will either be thirsty for the conclusion or too traumatized to continue. For the former, ‘The Last Laugh’ continues a brutal mashup of ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and ‘The Masque of the Red Death’.


The characters in “Insult” are Felicity Turnado, daughter of a privileged family, and her former best friend Tress Montor, whose parents disappeared when the girls were in fifth grade. Felicity was with them, and Tress is sure Felicity knows what happened. She intends to extract this information by encasing a chained Felicity in the coal chute of an abandoned house where a wild high school party is going on above them.

In “Laugh”, Felicity’s voice is missing (guess why) and has been replaced by that of Tress’ cousin, Kermit “Ribbit” Usher, son of one of the most prominent families in Amontillado, Ohio. Ribbit has joined the community in search of Felicity and knows he will be the one to find her, as he has been obsessed with her since the night he found her, that night the Montors disappeared. Ribbit is the victim of the worst hazing popular students can conceive, but he has plans for revenge.

Tress lives with her drunken grandfather Cecil, who operates a seedy zoo with exotic animals that she must care for. Cecil often locks her out of his trailer, forcing her to sleep with the animals, and her only money comes from selling drugs. She was attacked by a jaguar that escaped from the zoo, and her arm is taped down, which doesn’t help with the vicious infection.

“The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” are incorporated into this gruesome sequel, which contains scenes that would shock even Poe. Readers should be warned that this is the darkest of darknesses.

“The Last Laugh” (384 pages, hardcover) costs $17.99 from HarperCollins and has a publisher’s age recommendation of 14-17. Mindy McGinnis is also the author of the addiction drama “Heroine” and the survival story “Be Not Far from Me.” She won a 2016 Edgar Award in the Young Adult category for her historical gothic thriller “A Madness So Discreet.”


Ohioana Book Festival: Mindy McGinnis is one of approximately 110 authors who will participate in the 2022 Ohioana Book Festival, which will be held virtually Thursday through May 1. Other authors include Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean), Kinley Bryan (“Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury”), David Hassler (“Dear Vaccine: Global Voices Speak to the Vaccine”, featured in Book Talk April 17, Jyotsna Sreenivasan ( “These Americans”) and Thrity Umrigar (“Honor”). Panel discussions and panel discussions will include Building a Mystery, Buckeye True Crime, All Are Welcome: A Celebration of Community and Diversity in Books for Young Readers, and A Journey to the Past: Historical Fiction Check out the listings and schedule at

Buckeye Children’s Book Award: “Something Good” by Wooster author Marcy Campbell is one of five nominees in the Grades K-2 category at the 2022 Buckeye Children’s Book Awards. Voting, open to all Ohio students, begins September 1 and ends November 10 on

Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights): MV Perry signs his novel “A Revolution of the Mind,” 1 p.m. Sunday; Barb Pennington signs her photographic collection “Extraordinary Women from an Ordinary Place”, Sunday at 2 p.m.

Hudson Library and Historical Society: English documentarian James Fox talks about “The World By Color: A Cultural History,” during a Zoom event at 6 p.m. Monday. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, James Rollins discusses “Kingdom of Bones,” 16th in the SIGMA Force action-adventure series, 7 p.m. Wednesday. Register at

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow Branch, 2121 Snow Road): Douglas Stuart (“Shuggie Bain” won the 2020 Booker Prize)” discusses “Young Mungo,” about two young men falling in love in gang-ridden Glasgow, with Cris Harris, author of “I Didn’t Love You With All My Heart,” Tuesday from 7-8 p.m. From 7-8 p.m. Thursday, former FBI Task Force officer Paul Holes talks “Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases” and his work that helped identify the Golden State Killer. Tickets are $25 and include a signed copy of the book. Advance notice for a sure to be popular event: Don Winslow ( “The Force”) talks about his new novel “City on Fire,” a detective novel set in 1980s Rhode Island, from 3-4 p.m. May 1. Subscribe at

Dover Library (525 N. Walnut St.): Robin Yocum, whose “A Brilliant Death” was nominated for a 2017 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original, will talk about his Ohio fiction, including “The Sacrifice of Lester Yates” , 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Register at

Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library (Coventry Village Branch, 1925 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights): Eugene Marten reads his thriller “Pure Life,” 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday. Register at

McKinley Presidential Library and Museum: Gretchen Sorin, author of “Driving While Black,” will present a virtual talk on the book at 7 p.m. Thursday. Register at

Supper Club Music Box (1148 Main Ave., Cleveland): Radio executive John Gorman, author of “The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio – A Memoir”, former WMMS radio personalities Ed “Flash” Ferenc and Denny Sanders and buzzard logo designer David Helton joins the Cleveland Stories Dinner Party series at 7 p.m. Thursday. Dinner is $20; the conference is free. Go to

trusted books (1884 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls): Clarence Bechter will sign “The Time of My Life with Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers: 3000 Miles from San Diego, California, to St. Augustine, Florida,” Saturday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

apple books (12419 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights): Jacob Joseph signs “Abandoned Ohio: Rustbelt Derelicts,” noon-1:30 p.m. Saturday; Tim Hartnett signs “No Beard or Bowtie Required: Cocktails for the Craft-Curious,” 2-3 p.m. Saturday.

Visible voice books (2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland): Jamie Lyn Smith reads from her debut collection of short stories “Hometown” and Kate Norris reads from her novel “When You and I Collide,” at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Email information about local books and event notices at least two weeks in advance to and Barbara McIntyre tweets at @BarbaraMcI.

Irene B. Bowles