new Havok story: “SAND-DRAKE”

Today’s the day! My story Sand-Drake is now available on Havok Publishing’s website and you can read it for free right here. (After today, the story will only be available to those with a paid subscription to Havok.)

Sand-Drake is about a princess trying to save her sister’s life. The story world is inspired by Tatooine and Arrakis, and I had such a good time writing this story while listening to Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for Dune. If you decide to check out Sand-Drake, I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it! ❤

Eva-Joy

book review: MAMMOTH by Brian McBride.

After the death of his father, misfit and aspiring paleontologist, Tommy Rhodes, seeks refuge in the ramshackle lighthouse that stands guard over the city of Mammoth, Washington. Left in disarray by years of bad weather, it’s the perfect place for Tommy to hide from everything that’s gone wrong with his life – and to party with his band of friends, the Jailbirds – the only family he has left.

After a storm uncovers a secret hidden in the walls of the old lighthouse, Tommy unravels a mystery beyond his wildest dreams and the deadly conspiracy that surrounds it – and Tommy’s entire life seems tangled at the heart of it all.

Tommy and the Jailbirds – Jude, Maya, Mars, and newcomer Lydia – are thrust into the middle of a deadly hunt for the truth that will challenge their bond, uncover the secrets that lurk beneath the surface of Mammoth, and test just how far they’ll go to set things right.


Mammoth is one of those stories that I didn’t even know I wanted until I read it—it’s also unlike any other novel I’ve ever read. The vibes of Mammoth remind of Indiana Jones, The Outsiders, all the Enid Blyton adventure books I read as a child, and Mystery Lights of Navajo Mesa (a Last Chance Detectives story). But Mammoth is also its own, unique story. Although there isn’t even a hint of magic in the story, the phrase that keeps popping into my mind when I think of Mammoth is ‘urban fantasy.’ There is a heightened sense of reality about this novel, one that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. Storms rage, the sea churns, and adventure awaits.

At the heart of Mammoth is its cast of characters. Tommy, grappling with the sudden death of his father. Maya, growing up well-to-do, but at odds with her life and her mom. Jude, doing everything he can to protect his little brother and break the generational cycle of violence and hatred. Mars, a sometimes unwilling—yet always loyal—participant in his friends’ adventures. And Lydia, whose heart breaks for the injustices committed by her brother Reid. These characters grabbed me and I was surprised to find myself tearing up over some of them—mainly Tommy and Jude. (Surprised, because I didn’t expect an adventure/treasure hunt novel to evoke such emotion. XD)

There were a couple things I didn’t love about Mammoth: the villains’ motivations and plans didn’t always make total sense to me (and neither did the events that happened a hundred years in the past, specifically why a certain horrific slaughter took place). Part of my confusion was probably because I read Mammoth so quickly, but I do think certain things could have been explained with more clarity. And then, I had a certain expectation for the last few chapters of the book that didn’t come true. (Basically, there was an antagonistic character that I expected/hoped would turn out to be an ally after all—and it didn’t happen.) That’s a purely personal thing, of course, and most of you guys probably won’t even think of that character the way I did. 😉

Mammoth sucks you into a world of treasure hunts, class divides, salt seas, brave characters, and secrets—so many secrets. Highly recommended to those looking for a gripping, high-stakes adventure novel.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Eva-Joy

interview with author Emily Hayse.

Today, I’m very excited to join in the book release tour for In the Glorious Fields by bringing you an interview with Emily Hayse herself. Read on for behind-the-scenes details of how Emily brought the world and beloved characters of the Western Territory to life!

Congratulations on the release of In the Glorious Fields! How are you feeling now that all three books have been published?

Relieved? Lost? Nervous? A little bit in awe? This was such an undertaking and to have it be over definitely feels strange.

Did you plot the whole trilogy before you wrote the first book, or did you only have a rough idea of how it would all end when you started writing These War-Torn Hands?

I had a rough idea of how it would go. Lots of little things in place and general directions. I knew what the overarching storyline was going to look like, roughly, and I knew the smaller things would fall into place as I started fleshing out the world and the characters.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing In the Glorious Fields? What was the most fun/enjoyable?

Definitely the emotional aspect. I actually gave myself writer’s block simply from dreading a couple of the plot points that I knew had to happen but I didn’t want them to happen. It was probably one of the hardest books I’ve ever written, emotionally speaking. I think what I enjoyed the most was just getting one more book with these characters. Not everything goes right for them, but at least they live well.

What books, movies, TV shows, and/or music did you turn to for inspiration while writing In the Glorious Fields?

I read bits of favorite Louis L’Amour novels, particularly Sackett ones, I watched some Bonanza and Rawhide, and I watched The Magnificent Seven, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Conagher, Gettysburg, and various films with members of my cast in it. Music was all over the place, but I do have a playlist I’ve posted on my website you can check out. It’s a mix of soundtrack, folk, pop, country, and sacred.

Who are your top three favorite characters from the whole trilogy?

Oh man, don’t ask this! Raymond Lacey, Alan Swift, and then Kate Carnegie.

Which Knights of Tin and Lead character do you relate to the most?

Kate. She’s maybe a little bolder than me, but she speaks my language. I love being in her head because she sees the beauty in the land the way I do, and she has hopes and dreams that make her almost giddy with happiness sometimes.

Any hints about your next project?

It’s a shorter standalone novel, and it’s sort of Roaring 20s style mixed with The Illusionist or The Prestige. You can look forward to that releasing at the end of the year, probably.

The Prestige is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I’m even more excited for your next novel now. Thanks so much for this interview!


EMILY HAYSE is a lover of log cabins, strong coffee, NASCAR, and the smell of old books. Her writing is fueled by good characters and a lifelong passion for storytelling. When she is not busy turning words into worlds, she can often be found baking, singing, or caring for one of the many dogs and horses in her life. She lives with her family in Michigan.

Website ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads


Today is the last day you can receive awesome, free merch for ordering In the Glorious Fields! Check out Emily’s Instagram post for more details.

My review of These War-Torn Hands ~ Buy it on Amazon

My review of The Beautiful Ones ~ Buy it on Amazon

My review of In the Glorious Fields ~ Buy it on Amazon

That’s all, folks!

If you’ve read and enjoyed any of the books in this trilogy, who is your favorite character? Let me know in the comments! (My favorite is Archer Scott. <3)

Eva-Joy

my favorite book series.

source: Chris Lawton.

Just like the title says, today I’ll be listing my favorite book series and talking a bit about why I love each one. So here goes! (This list is in no particular order. I love alllll the books.)

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

All hail the queen of fairytale retellings. XD This series features excellent, engaging, and clever retellings of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. My favorite characters are Winter, Cress, Jacin, and Kai.

Knights of Tin and Lead by Emily Hayse

Still not over this trilogy. The writing is beautiful and the characters in particular have stolen my heart. (Plus, I love books that make me cry…as one does.) And in other news, I have an interview with Emily Hayse coming on Monday—pretty excited about that!

Once Upon a Western by Rachel Kovaciny

I love these comforting, thoughtful western fairytale retellings! Once Upon a Western is the only on-going series on this list. It’s also probably the most ‘unconnected’ series, as each book is a standalone. However, there are little connections between the books, especially when you read the short stories that Rachel releases semi-regularly. (Check out the Goodreads series list for a full run-down.)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I used to reread this series every year. While I don’t do that anymore, that doesn’t mean my love for The Hunger Games has gone anywhere. Suzanne Collins really knows how to create a gripping plot and fascinating characters. And that extends to her prequel novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins

Honestly, I think I love this series even more than The Hunger Games. It’s not so dark, and there are so many truly likable characters. Middle grade fiction for the win!

Songs in the Night by Jack Cavanaugh

This series, spanning the 1930’s to the 1980’s, is special to me for many reasons. I have reread it so many times and the characters truly feel like family. If you’re a fan of well-written historical fiction, I highly recommend Songs in the Night!

Little Women by Lousia May Alcott

Still super annoyed by Jo’s Boys, but other than that…what a wonderful series. Heartwarming and uplifting.

Out of Time by Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes created something truly special with this trilogy that chronicles Parvin’s journey to live a life that glorifies God, a life that actually means something. As someone who wastes far too much time, Out of Time will always be a needful series for me personally.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I doubt that Lucy Maud Montgomery knew that Anne’s story would span from childhood to motherhood when she first started writing Anne of Green Gables. But I’m so glad we got eight wonderful books about Anne and her family. (Technically nine if you count The Blythes Are Quoted—which I don’t, not really.)

Enola Holmes by Nancy Springer

Still have yet to see the film, but I adore the books. Enola is a fun heroine, the mysteries hold up well during rereads, and Springer’s portrayal of Sherlock himself is just lovely.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Did I save the best for last? Possibly. Narnia is my happy place, my homeland. Each individual book may not rate five out five stars from me, but the series and mythos as a whole are pretty close to perfect. For Narnia and for Aslan!


Did you spot any favorite series on this list? Any new ones that intrigued you? Do let me know in the comments!

Eva-Joy

five reasons you should read the Knights of Tin and Lead trilogy (+ ‘In the Glorious Fields’ review!)

Today’s the day! In the Glorious Fields, the third and final book in the Knights of Tin and Lead trilogy, is now out in the world. I was privileged to receive an e-ARC a few days ago, and I’ll be reviewing it a little later on in today’s blog post. But since the review probably won’t mean as much if you haven’t read the first two books, I thought I’d start out by convincing you to read the whole Knights of Tin and Lead trilogy. I hope I can! ❤

Reason #1—The KOTAL trilogy retells King Arthur legends in an Old West setting.

How cool is that? My limited knowledge of King Arthur’s story stems from the Great Illustrated Classics abridgement of Howard Pyle’s take on the legends, so I caught very little of the retelling aspect of the KOTAL trilogy. (You can definitely enjoy it with no knowledge of the original legends!) But the vibes, people. Chivalry, courage, and the tiniest bits of magic—all wrapped up in a vivid Old West setting. I’d gladly read a dozen books written in this story world.

Reason #2—The characters are lovable, and there’s someone for everyone.

The Knights of Tin and Lead trilogy has a large cast that only expands as the series progresses. The final book has something like ten different POV characters (with several more that don’t get POV chapters). If that thought is intimidating, don’t worry—it’s actually quite easy to keep everyone straight, once you get into the story. (There are also helpful character lists at the beginning of each book.)

And like I said above, there is a character for everyone: upright heroes, antiheroes, complex villains, three sets of awesome siblings, married couples, younger kids, a wise, old mentor…and more! I love them all. (Or nearly all.)

Reason #3—The writing itself is beautiful.

Emily Hayse has a gift for writing beautiful, evocative prose that lands you squarely in the world of the Western Territory. (Or any other story world she happens to write about.) I may or may not have felt a bit of writer’s envy while reading the trilogy. 😉

I’m inches from death, and yet all I see is the poetry of it: the dust from the spent bullets rising in the golden light of morning; the smoke from the guns hanging on the air over the rocks like mist; the green, beautiful land cut down the center with a golden stream.

The Beautiful Ones

Reason #4—The stories are truly epic in scope.

With each book, the scope of the world and the series itself expands. The characters travel hundreds of miles, going all over the Western Territory in their attempts to stop the curse on the land from taking them all. Months, then years pass. Relationships that will last until death (and beyond) are forged. Friendships are shattered, then built back up (or not). Our heroes deal with the curse on the land, the monsters within it (human and otherwise), and their own flaws and failings and fears—all against the backdrop of towering mountains, soaring blue skies, and dusty trails.

Reason #5—The entire trilogy is out now.

It was torture waiting for In the Glorious Fields, I tell you. I don’t think I’ve ever anticipated a book more eagerly—and I’m not just saying that! (The fact that I read my e-ARC in four hours flat kinda speaks for itself.) But now, you can have the entire series on your Kindle in seconds. No more waiting—just binge-reading. 😉


And with all that said, here is my review of In the Glorious Fields!

Series finales can be tricky to pull off in a stakes-raising, reader-satisfying way. But Emily Hayse has done just that with In the Glorious Fields, the final volume of the Knights of Tin and Lead trilogy. Even with the large cast of characters, so many different POVs to juggle, and a dense plot that covers much ground and many months, In the Glorious Fields moves along at a brisk pace (the short, snappy chapters really help). Every beloved character gets a chance to shine and show what they’re made of—reminding us why we fell in love with them in the first place.

Because this trilogy is a retelling of the King Arthur legends, In the Glorious Fields does contain much tragedy, death, and darkness. At one point in the story, I began thinking “If this [specific, spoilery situation] isn’t resolved, the previous two books will be ruined for me as well.” But I shouldn’t have feared. In the Glorious Fields ends well—with hope, goodness triumphing over evil, and new beginnings. I truly couldn’t have asked for more.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Have you read any of the books in the Knights of Tin and Lead trilogy? If you have, I’d love to fangirl about the stories and characters with you. If you haven’t, you can find the entire series for sale on Amazon—and add it to your shelves on Goodreads.

Eva-Joy

my top ten favorite movie musicals.

Since writing my review of Guys & Dolls, I’ve had musicals on the brain. The last time I compiled a list of my favorite musicals was wayyy back in 2017 (and that was only old Hollywood musicals). Time for a new list, methinks! This particular list will focus on live-action movie musicals. No Jane Eyre, Hunchback of Notre Dame, or A Tale of Two Cities. No animated Disney films either. With that made clear, let’s jump in!


10. Guys & Dolls (1955)

Wasn’t actually sure if Guys & Dolls would get this spot, as the other contender was Mary Poppins (1964). Nostalgia or Sky Masterson? XD But you know, although I love the trifecta of Saving Mr. Banks, Mary Poppins, and Mary Poppins Returns, I don’t fully love MP itself. And Guys & Dolls is so fresh and fun—my current musical crush, in fact. (It will probably climb higher on this list the more I watch it.) Since I just wrote a whole blog post about my love for G&D, I’ll direct you there instead of elaborating further right now.

9. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Intrinsically tied to my childhood. The songs, the crazy story, the characters. CCBB is one of those special, personal films that I love but can’t really explain why.

8. Newsies (1992)

If they ever do a real, true movie version of the Broadway musical, it will probably be much higher on this list. But the 90’s film, the OG, is still a lot of fun. The songs are iconic to the max. And you get to see Christian Bale sing and dance. And Bill Pullman’s in it!

7. State Fair (1945)

The first time I watched State Fair, I was fresh from watching The Ox-Bow Incident and, probably, The Purple Heart. So it was such a relief to see Dana Andrews in a happy, cheerful, sweet role. ❤ (I wish the story had focused more on Pat and Margie’s story than Wayne’s doomed crush. Sigh.) The feel of this film overall is cozy and heartwarming—so heartwarming. (I dare you not to cry when Pa and Ma Frake see their humble dreams realized at the fair.)

6. The Greatest Showman (2017)

I find myself relating more and more to Hugh Jackman’s Barnum as the months and years go by. And his character development throughout the film is impeccably done. Like?? He starts out singing “it’s everything you ever want, it’s everything you ever need, and it’s here right in front of you” while imagining himself as the greatest showman, and then he sings the exact same thing at the end of the film while watching his daughters perform on-stage, as he sits beside his wife, having given up the circus life to be with his family. I LOVE IT.

5. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

I used to think this musical was misogynistic. But it’s not. Sure, Adam is awful at the start (and remains so for most of the movie). But the film doesn’t condone his behavior! Millie is the true hero(ine) of the story. She’s my heroine. Overall, the characters (especially Millie, Benjamin, Frank, and Gideon) and the fun songs are what keep me coming back for more.

4. White Christmas (1954)

Best to watch at Christmas, but you can really enjoy White Christmas any old time. As with most of the musicals on this list (if not all, besides Guys & Dolls), I’ve seen this one so many times that I have it about memorized. I still love it though. Your favorite couple (Phil and Judy or Bob and Betty) says a lot about you, I bet. 😉

3. The Happiest Millionaire (1967)

Apparently, when I watched this movie as a toddler, I walked around the house afterwards imitating the alligator roars. I’ve been a fan ever since, lol. This is a movie that I really associate with my grandfather, so it’s special in that way. Sure, maybe it’s a bit too long. But the songs and the story and the characters are all great. Again—NOSTALGIA.

2. The Sound of Music (1964)

I think, having grown up with it, I tended to take The Sound of Music for granted. But it really is one amazing movie musical. Recently, I rewatched it and was blown away by how truly Great a movie it is. One of those impeccable films that never gets old. Love the Captain and Maria’s relationship after they’re married. They’re so comfortable and natural together—it’s very sweet!

1. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Singin’ in the Rain has been on my list of top ten favorite movies for years. It’s possibly one of my top five favorite movies. Catchy songs, memorable characters, a fast-paced plot, a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at ‘the pictures’, and one of the best villain comeuppance scenes in movie history. Utter perfection. (Also featuring Gene Kelly as possibly my first actor crush. Those were the days…)


Have you seen any of these musicals? What are some of your favorite movie musicals?

Eva-Joy

movie review: Guys & Dolls (1955)

For the longest time, all I knew about Guys & Dolls was that my mom didn’t want my siblings and I to watch it. (Understandable—I wouldn’t show it to my younger siblings today!) That kept it off my radar for quite a while. Recently, however, I learned that one of my friends considers Guys & Dolls to be, most likely, her favorite musical. How could I not give it a try? (Though I will confess however, that, even with that recommendation, I doubted I would like it much. Oh me of little faith. 😉)

Anyway, I watched Guys & Dolls. And rewatched it. And now I love it. So…review time!


THE STORY

Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) is (in)famous for running the “oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York,” despite protests from his fiancée Adelaide (Vivian Blaine) who just wants Nathan to settle down and live a normal life. There are a bunch of guys in town, ready and eager to play, but Nathan has a problem—he doesn’t have the $1,000 needed to rent a place at which to host the game. You see, the crap game is illegal and new locations are hard to find, especially with a certain Police Lieutenant Brannigan (Robert Keith) breathing down Nathan’s neck.

To raise the money, Nathan bets high-roller Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) that Sky cannot persuade Sister Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), a worker at the Save-A-Soul mission, to accompany him to Havana within the next twenty-four hours. Sky accepts the bet and what follows is a delightful musical involving two different romances (and no love triangles!), a number of great songs, and lots of fun in general.

As a writer, I find Guys & Dolls to be an excellent example of the writing advice that says every major character should have a goal, some motivation that carries them not just through the story as a whole, but through each individual scene as well. Not only that, but it’s best if there’s an internal goal and an external one—and better still if those two goals conflict. Guys & Dolls does all of that beautifully. For instance…

  • Nathan wants to run his crap game and make lots of money. BUT he also loves Adelaide and doesn’t want to lose her.
  • Adelaide wants Nathan to quit the game and live a normal life and marry her (they’ve been engaged for, um, fourteen years). BUT if she can’t make him quit—is she content to accept him anyway?
  • Sky wants to win the bet Nathan made with him. BUT he also finds himself falling in love with Sarah for real and doesn’t want to hurt her reputation.
  • Sarah wants sinners to come to the mission so that headquarters won’t shut them down. BUT the only way to make that happen is to go to Havana with Sky (long story).
  • Brannigan wants to shut down Nathan’s crap game. BUT (or AND) deep down he also wants Nathan and Adelaide to be happy. (I promise I’m not making this up! Didn’t you see how he jumped on the ‘Nathan’s going to elope with Adelaide tomorrow’ bandwagon? I mean, he even suggested it! And he *spoilers* walked Adelaide down the aisle/street.)

See? It’s all sooooo good and rich.

THE CHARACTER(S)

So, yes, they’re all great: Nathan, Adelaide, Sarah, Brannigan, Nicely-Nicely, Big Jule, Arvide Abernathy, and so on. Honestly. I have such fun hanging out with them.

But Sky Masterson, you guys. SKY MASTERSON.

Guys & Dolls is the first Marlon Brando movie I’ve ever seen. All I really knew about him before was that he starred in The Godfather (which I haven’t watched). But, well, I’m a tiny bit obsessed now—not just with Brando, but with Sky too. Which honestly surprises me! I think if I’d gone into the film expecting to like Sky, I wouldn’t have? Idk? But because I had zero expectations, I think I fell in love with him the way Sarah does in the film. I found Sky insincerely charming and problematic at the beginning of the film (though also funny, hehe). But as the story progresses, Sky begins to change—and so did how I felt about him.

The big swoon-worthy moment (for me) comes around the middle of the film when a half-drunk Sarah, thinking it’s a good idea for her and Sky to just stay in Havana, protests “I know what I’m doing!” And Sky says, dead serious, “Do you, kid? I don’t.” Because he’s never been in love before! And it’s all new and strange! And he’s changing almost without knowing it! This is the guy who was saying just a day ago that women were—to sum it up in one word—interchangeable. But now he’s falling in love and realizing that everything he said to Nathan on the subject wasn’t actually true. Such good character development. I melt.

Later on, Sky tells Nathan that Sarah didn’t actually go to Havana with him—lying for Sarah’s sake even though it costs him $1,000. And I melt even more. Because…MAN. I just love him. ❤

Well, they’re adorable. (source)
Also, this.

(Did I write this review mainly so I could fangirl about Sky? Maybe a little bit…)

THE SONGS

What’s a musical without a bunch of unforgettable songs? Definitely not Guys & Dolls! XD

For the past several days, my brain has been all “I’ve got the horse right here/His name is Paul Revere” or “Call it sad, call it funny/But it’s better than even money/That the guy’s only doing it for some doll” or “Follow the fold and stray no more/Stray no more, stray no more.” Or lines from almost any of the other songs. Gets borderline annoying, not going to lie. But also…they’re great songs!

It’s hard to pick favorites. ‘The Oldest Established’, ‘I’ll Know’, ‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘A Woman in Love’, ‘Luck, Be a Lady’, ‘Sue Me’, ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’—so many good ones. (‘More I Cannot Wish You‘ and ‘I’ve Never Been in Love Before‘ are also beautiful—the second one especially—but they weren’t included in the film. Sigh.)

Side-note: I know there was a LOT of rivalry between Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando during the making of this film, mainly because Sinatra wanted the part of Sky Masterson. But even though Sinatra has the better singing voice…I’m glad the casting worked out the way it did. I don’t care that Marlon Brando wasn’t a professional singer—he still threw all his acting (and singing) ability into the role of Sky.

And it worked out so well.


Have you seen Guys & Dolls? Who’s your favorite character? What’s your favorite song? Let me know in the comments!

Eva-Joy

the 8th annual Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon: Combat!—’Billy the Kid’

Check out the rest of the blogathon posts here!

The last time I participated in this annual blogathon (hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts) was back in 2019, when I reviewed an episode of The Fugitive. This year, I’m returning to my roots with a review of a Combat! episode (the very first year of this prestigious blogathon, I also reviewed a Combat! episode).

‘Billy the Kid’ is one of my top ten favorite C! episodes; I’m super excited to share it with all of you. There will be spoilers—if you want to watch this episode spoiler-free, it’s available on YouTube.

And now, on to the episode review!


We start out the episode with a good bit of archival footage. Shelling, explosions, all of that. Actually, this episode probably has the highest concentration of archival footage that I’ve ever seen in a single Combat! episode. Kind of boring, tbh, but the rest of the episode more than makes up for that.

Anyway, we then cut to the squad enjoying a little rest and relaxation—well, maybe not relaxing so much since they seem a bit nervous about all that shelling nearby. But still, it’s a rare moment of downtime for the squad. Nice to see. Honestly, this show could just be scenes like this and I would still watch and rewatch it (as evidenced by my love for the episode ‘Losers Cry Deal’, which is almost nothing but the guys sitting around, talking, etc.). But I digress!

Hanley shows up and announces the Mission of the Day. Saunders and his squad have been assigned to escort an artillery spotter in an attempt to find the Germans’ big artillery gun—the one that’s been making so much noise and causing so much trouble. Hanley also lets them know that the officer who will be leading today’s mission is Lieutenant Benton, the son of the famous, heroic General ‘Bull’ Benton. (According to rumor, General Benton led an attack on a village while standing in his jeep, a .45 blazing in each hand.) The squad perks up a little—maybe this Lieutenant Benton will share his dad’s tenacious spirit and dogged courage.

Then the scene cuts to a shot of Lieutenant Benton (Andrew Prine) travelling toward HQ (or the outpost or whatever it is). The truck (bearing Benton, his sergeant, a couple random GIs, and the artillery spotting equipment) pulls up alongside the squad. Benton steps out of the truck. As he gets out, he accidentally bumps his head against the top of the truck’s doorframe (is that the right word?). I don’t know if that was an intentional choice on the part of the director, or if it really was an accident. But either way, I love that detail. It’s very small, but it speaks to Benton’s inexperience. We learn in a few minutes that he’s never seen combat, that he’s been more or less behind a desk ever since he got into the war. So yeah. I love that little detail.

Sergeant Stoner introduces himself, then Benton: “He’s here to knock out that big German gun.” There’s a bit of a shocked silence before Saunders walks over and leads Benton away to see Hanley. The opening scene ends with Littlejohn grinning and shaking his head. At this point, the squad doesn’t know that Benton has never been in combat before. I just think they’re all a little surprised, simply because Benton is so young. Andrew Prine was 29 when this episode aired, but he honestly looks much younger. (Like, very early twenties, in my opinion.)

*opening credits*

With Benton off to speak with Hanley, Sergeant Stoner explains to the squad that Benton hasn’t seen any combat and generally runs Benton down in a pretty disrespectful way (calling him ‘Billy the Kid’, which is where the ep title comes from).

Stoner also asks about Saunders’ date of rank in an attempt to figure out who will be in charge of the mission—him or Saunders—”when the kid fouls up.” Saunders shuts him down brilliantly. “I don’t care what your date of rank is. I still run this squad, Stoner.” (One of Saunders’ many talents is getting guys to shut up when they’re being annoying.) Stoner subsides, obviously embarrassed. It’s a great moment in an episode chock-full of great moments. XD

Hanley calls Saunders back into his office so Benton can brief Saunders before they head out. Benton’s briefing is, well, brief, and it’s obvious that Saunders already knows everything Benton is telling him. But Saunders doesn’t say anything, just listens and agrees with what Benton says. It’s a nice contrast to Stoner’s disrespectful, dismissive attitude a couple minutes ago.

Saunders heads back outside to round up the squad. Benton thanks Hanley for his help. And then comes the moment that makes me love Benton.

Hanley: “By the way, how’s your father [super famous General Benton]?”
Benton: *pauses* *smiles the tiniest bit* “He’s fine.”
Hanley: *nods*
Benton, oh-so-casually: “How’s your father?”

Yep, I love him. And I wonder just how many times Benton got asked about his dad before he started throwing out that little comeback.

When Benton leaves Hanley’s office, Saunders points out that they’re bringing along double equipment. Two scopes, two radios, etc. Saunders suggests that they leave some of it behind, since the squad will have to carry everything themselves when they reach the front lines. Benton calmly overrides Saunders’ suggestion—all they equipment will be taken, no matter the extra hassle. It’s important to note that Benton is not nasty or abrasive about this. He simply says what he means, what he wants to happen, and leaves it at that. He doesn’t posture, make demands, or become petulant. He lets his rank and his word speak for themselves.

Hanley walks over to Saunders for a final word before the squad leaves.

“Lieutenant, he hasn’t had five minutes in the field,” says Saunders, referring, of course, to Benton.

“You have,” Hanley says.

(If I haven’t mentioned yet that I love these guys…I LOVE THESE GUYS. I wish that Saunders and Hanley had gotten more scenes together throughout the show. They did in the first season, but then it kind of petered out. And that’s a shame, because the two of them understand each other so well and have such a great friendship. We love to see it.)

The squad sets out with Lieutenant Benton, Stoner, a couple extra GIs, and a whole lot of equipment in tow. They haven’t travelled very far down the road when they’re stopped by a soldier who tells them that there are snipers up ahead. Benton listens to what the soldier, Saunders, and Stoner have to say (basically telling him he shouldn’t go on in the truck and that they can take all the equipment by hand), but all he says is “Thank you, sergeant. Let’s drive on.” Very calmly and coolly. And so they drive on (though not without a look from Stoner).

Of course they do run into some Germans. And of course there’s a firefight, which I won’t detail—except to say that, for someone who hasn’t seen combat before, Benton handles himself well. His rifle even jams for a bit, but he figures it out.

After the fight is over, Benton announces that they’ll now go forward on foot, carrying all the equipment. Once again, Saunders brings up the fact that there’s double equipment—a seemingly unnecessary burden on his men. Benton says “I know, sergeant. Everybody take a load.”

So they do. However, one of the random GIs forgets to bring both radios. When he goes back to the truck to retrieve the radio—surprise! One of the Germans from the firefight faked being dead. The German kills the GI and then Saunders kills the German.

“I hope it’s worth it, lieutenant,” Saunders say to Benton, as they stand around the dead GI.

Benton doesn’t respond as he stares down at the fallen soldier. Is this the first man he’s seen killed in combat? The first person he’s seen dead who was alive just a couple minutes earlier? We don’t know—the script doesn’t tell us. I tend to doubt it because, while there’s definitely something going on behind Benton’s eyes, I don’t think it’s shock at seeing a dead body for the first time. Plus, I don’t know if he’s been that shielded from the realities of war. But whatever the case, it’s a great bit of acting from Andrew Prine.

The squad keeps going until they reach the spot where Benton will do his artillery observer stuff. And he’s pretty competent! Which is nice. I like competent characters. Benton relays a bunch of information to Saunders and Saunders and Stoner send it in to headquarters or the artillery locations or…wherever. I’m kinda vague on the technical aspects of this episode. Guess it’s a good thing I watch this episode for the characters and interpersonal drama instead of ‘How to Be an Artillery Observer 101’. 😉

“He gets on target real fast,” Saunders says to Stoner, speaking about Benton. And of course Stoner has to be a jerk. “He’s only following the data I plotted for him, sergeant. Any corporal that can divide by two can do the same thing.”

Okayyyy, Stoner. Whatever.

Benton finishes registering their position—seems like their mission is complete. But before Stoner hangs up the radio, a new message comes through: the infantry in the area is pulling back, which means that Saunders and the rest will be all alone on the front lines.

They report the news to Benton. He thinks about it for a moment. Then, “This could work for us.”

Saunders explains that, with the infantry gone, the Germans can bring out their big gun and shell Benton, Saunders, and the rest off the ridge. And all Benton says (once again) is “Yes, I know, sergeant” before going back to observing the valley before him.

“Well, what are we going to do?” Stoner asks. You can hear nervousness in his voice.

“Finish the mission,” Benton replies.

Stoner protests. “I was sent on this mission because I have the field experience you haven’t had. I say we go!”

Benton regards him. “You’re out of line, sergeant,” he says. Calmly. Quietly.

Then he walks off.

Stoner and the rest stand there for a moment, and Stoner starts yelling at the squad. “You’re going to stand there and get killed just because you’re too afraid to talk back to Bull Benton’s little boy?” he demands.

“Lieutenant Benton’s in command,” Saunders snaps. And then he, too, walks off to talk to Benton himself.

In the conversation that follows, Benton opens up a little bit. Up to this point, he’s remained remarkably self-possessed. But as he goes into a bit of a monologue, there’s some frustration and bitterness that comes to the surface. We learn that Benton knows exactly what everyone says about him, what everyone thinks of him. Benton has to get that big gun, to prove to everyone that he is capable, that he’s not just ‘Billy the kid’. And, I think, to prove something to himself as well.

But as relatable as his motivations are, Saunders “isn’t concerned with [Benton’s] personal problems”. He’s concerned with the lives of his men.

“So am I, Saunders,” says Benton. “But I’m sticking to my plan.”

Up until this point, Saunders has given Benton a lot of space to do his own thing. But when it comes to the possible demise of everyone in the squad, Saunders can’t keep silent any longer. “You’re asking my men to risk their lives on a plan they know nothing about!”

I love Benton’s reaction to those words. (Or, more specifically, how Andrew Prine portrays his reaction.) It’s all in the eyes. A sudden realization. “Oh. That’s right. I haven’t actually explained my plan to anyone.” It’s like the thought that other people might have questions never occurred to him before, with how wrapped up he was in his own thoughts and worries and plans. “Oh…” he says. “I’ll fix that right now.”

So Benton goes back to the rest of the squad and explains his plan. The reason they drove to the front lines, even with the risk of snipers, was that Benton actually wanted the Germans to know that an artillery observer team was coming up to the front. The reason they hauled an extra set of equipment was so that they could leave one set to make it seem that they’d fled in a panic, while actually staying holed up in a cave nearby. Why? Because, if the Germans think that there are no artillery observers in the area, they might roll their big gun out of hiding—and then Benton can spot it and call in artillery to destroy it.

(Just want to say that whatever Benton lacks in experience, he makes up for with intelligence.)

After Benton explains, enemy shelling starts. Searching fire. “Let’s get out of here,” Benton says. He orders the squad to take one set of equipment to the cave and leave the other set at their primary position.

“We’re going to get clobbered,” Stoner insists. “We’ve gotta go back!”

“We’ll go back when he orders us to,” Saunders says.

But then a couple shells hit really close. Benton gets hit in the face with a bunch of rock dust, debris from an explosion. His eyes fill with blood and will soon be swollen shut, according to Doc, which obviously means that Benton can’t do anymore artillery spotting. (I know I keep bringing up Andrew Prine’s acting, but he really does SUCH a great job after Benton gets hit. Jerky hand movements, keeps instinctively trying to touch his eyes, but then forces himself not to…soooo good. Prine really sells it.)

“Let’s get out of here,” Stoner says. “He’s blind—he can’t finish the mission.”

“Sergeant Saunders,” says Benton.

“Yes, lieutenant?”

“I need one man to go back to the cave with me. You tell the rest of the men to go back. I just need someone to spot for me when they bring that gun out.”

Of course Saunders volunteers to stay. And of course the rest of the squad won’t let him go it alone. How will he defend himself when the enemy comes searching the area for any remnants of the squad? I just love how Littlejohn, Kirby, Caje, and Doc all insist on staying behind. My guys. ❤

But you know who doesn’t love it? Stoner. Because…naturally. “What are you?” he asks scornfully. “A bunch of heroes?”

(Yes, Stoner. Yes they are. XD)

“If you don’t like it, Stoner, take off. Nobody’s holding you,” Saunders says.

“Okay. All right.” Stoner moves off. “I’ll tell ’em where to pick up your dog tags.”

“Don’t let those [sergeant’s] stripes get to heavy for you on the way back,” Kirby mutters to Stoner. Stoner stops, looks at him…and then keeps going, away from his lieutenant, the squad, and the mission. Sigh.

This is getting very, very long, so I’ll quickly recap the next several minutes. The rest of the squad + Benton moves to the cave. A German patrol noses around in the search of any remaining observers. Saunders and Benton work together as a team to relay the big gun’s position back to the artillerymen so they can shell the gun into oblivion. It takes a few minutes and a few tries to nail the gun, but at last Saunders and Benton (and the shells) do just that. And Benton’s grin of pure relief is a lovely thing to see.

However, it’s not over yet! A firefight broke out while Saunders and Benton were spotting the gun, and it’s still raging around them. With the Germans’ big gun destroyed, Saunders joins the fray.

And someone else does too—Stoner. A few minutes earlier in the episode, there was a shot of him pausing in his walk back to friendly lines, adjusting his rifle, and then noticing his sergeant’s stripes. Kirby’s words come back to him. (Side-note: I absolutely love that it’s what Kirby says that gets Stoner to change his mind. Kirby has come a long way from his first season days where he would’ve been complaining right alongside Stoner.)

So yeah, Stoner pulls a Han Solo and comes back in the nick of time to help save the day. “What took you so long?” Saunders asks him when the fighting is over. And Stoner just shrugs, a little smile on his face. I’ve spent most of the episode greatly disliking Stoner, but somehow I always really do like him by the end. I’m a little bit amazed how the writers were able to give Stoner such a great, genuinely moving character arc in less than an hour’s run time (along with all the other stuff going on in the episode).

The two sergeants rejoin the rest of the squad. Everyone prepares to head out. Benton starts to stand, struggling a little, and Stoner reaches out and steadies him, helps him to his feet. “Thank you, Doc,” Benton says, unaware in his blindness.

Stoner pauses, like he’s searching for the right words. Then, “It’s me, Lieutenant Benton.”

“Stoner?”

(I always get a little choked up during this scene. Always.)

“Yes, sir. Let’s go, lieutenant.” It’s the same kind of thing Stoner has said several times in this episode, but this time it’s said differently. Respectfully, even. Benton smiles. And Stoner guides him as they walk back down the hill.

The End

Now that we’ve reached the end of this episode review, I’d like to say a few general (hehe) words about Benton. Benton is a young, inexperienced lieutenant, the sheltered son of a famous general. He could have been weak and cowardly. He could have been demanding and entitled. He could have had a chip on his shoulder, a relentless bad attitude that exploded in bitter outbursts and tirades. He could have been immature and stupid. I’ve seen many, if not all of those ‘qualities’ in other one-episode characters on this show.

But Benton is none of those things. Rather, he is a mature, intelligent, cool-headed young man trying to do the best he can with what little respect and responsibility he is given. He is under a lot of pressure—both external and internal—but he remains polite, (mostly) unruffled, and professional. The same can’t be said for many other characters who are much older and more experienced than him!

And Andrew Prine’s portrayal of Benton? Perfection. Literally. Combat! had some pretty great guest stars—James Coburn, Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, Charles Bronson, Jeffrey Hunter, Roddy McDowall…and the list could go on! But there have been only two guest stars whose characters I have liked so much that I view them as (almost) on par with The Squad: Rip Torn as Sergeant Avery in ‘A Gift of Hope’—and Andrew Prine as Benton. (They are also the only one-episode C! characters I’ve written fanfiction about, for what that’s worth.)

TL;DR—I love Lieutenant Benton and Andrew Prine, Your Honor.


Wow. That was quite a long blog post. XD Even if you just skimmed through it, thank you for taking the time to check out this episode review! Again, if you want to watch the episode yourself, it’s available on YouTube. (And, of course, I highly recommend it. *wink*)

Have you watched any episodes of this show? I’d love to fangirl over it with you!

Eva-Joy

the third wheel: a little rant about love triangles.

So. The third wheel, love triangles, and why I’m kinda mad right now.

*cracks knuckles*

Maybe there’s a better name for this character than ‘the third wheel’ (TV Tropes, help me out!). I don’t know. But if you don’t understand what I’m talking about…let me explain!

Say you’re watching a TV show, and there are two people on said show that you just know are going to end up together. You know it, your friends know it, the other characters on the show know it. That couple is endgame, no question. And then, perhaps in season two, another character is introduced, a character who starts dating one half of The Dream Couple. Drama ensues. But it’s all pointless. We, the audience, know that The Dream Couple are going to end up together—no matter what. And that new character? They end up getting shunted to one side when the writers decide it’s time to bring The Dream Couple back together.

And that infuriates me. (We’ll get to the whys and wherefores in a bit.)

A few specific examples of what I’m talking about:

Arrow. When Oliver Queen is rescued from a deserted island (after having been presumed dead), he returns to find that his best friend Tommy is in a tentative relationship with Oliver’s former girlfriend Laurel. Tommy loves Laurel and wants their relationship to work out, but eventually Oliver and Laurel cheat behind his back and Tommy spirals to the dark side because…that’s what had to happen, I guess. *fumes*

Downton Abbey. Matthew and Mary have been destined for each other ever since that first meeting. (*feels*) But in Season Two, Matthew engages himself to Lavinia Swire. Lavinia is an amazing woman. Sweet, kind, courageous, self-sacrificing…I could go on. But Matthew and Mary still have feelings for each other, and so Lavinia must die.

The Flash. Eddie commits suicide and thus the way is clear for Barry and Iris’s relationship. Eddie’s death is held up as a noble sacrifice, but it is horrific, heartbreaking, and ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of things (he killed himself to prevent time travel stuff from happening—but it still happened). This is the most infuriating example of all, in my opinion.

*is full of rage* (source)

Why I get so mad about this:

It makes the characters look bad. Loyalty in a relationship is such an essential quality. And when you have two characters pining away for each other behind the third character’s back, cheating on their boyfriend/girlfriend, trying to justify their actions, not being clear and open about their feelings, not really trying to tamp down feelings for someone who isn’t available to them, etc.—I can’t respect that! Who could? Love triangles so often make at least one of the characters involved look like a jerk. And I don’t want to spend time with jerks.

The whole thing is a waste of time for the audience. Like I said, we know that Main Character #1 and Main Character #2 are going to end up together. That’s just how storytelling works, ninety-nine percent of the time. (For the other one percent, watch Lost.) So having a third character pop up for the sake of drama? Yawn. Glare. Hard pass.

It’s unfair to the ‘third wheel’ character. Are these people fictional? Yep. Do I care? Nope. Not when it comes to this. Lavinia dies! Tommy dies! Eddie dies! Not only that, but they die with a broken heart. Plus, many audience members view the ‘third wheel’ characters as annoying hindrances to their OTP’s happily ever after—and they end up hating on those poor, defenseless characters because of that.

So what’s the solution?

You know what’s better than a messy love triangle that makes everyone look bad? A couple who remains loyal and true to each other, even when circumstances beyond their control drive/keep them apart. Or enemies to friends to lovers. Or no romance at all (for a change). Or a character who is already married. Basically ANYTHING besides the dreaded love triangle. And if you are going to have a love triangle, please, please treat the third wheel gently. Let the main characters be open and honest with the third wheel when they begin to realize that they have feelings for each other after all. Let that third wheel find a love of their own. Let everyone behave honorably.

Pretty please?


So! What are your thoughts on this? Do poorly resolved love triangles make you mad? Or am I getting too worked up about this? XD I’d love to hear from you!

Eva-Joy

the single line story challenge.

Katja at Little Blossoms for Jesus tagged me in the Single Line Story Challenge a while back and I’m finally getting around to participating. Thanks for the tag, Katja! I’m excited to dive into this.

THE RULES

Thank the person who nominated you.

Write five single line stories that fall under any of these genres:

fantasy
romance
thriller
mystery
western
contemporary
historical
drama
dystopian
adventure
sci-fi
paranormal
young adult

You can choose the five genres that are easiest for you, or you can challenge yourself to try something new!

Nominate five blogger/writers who you’d love to see participate and leave an open nomination for all writers!

You can do this challenge more than once.


Fantasy

Deep in the secret forest lived a people forgotten to all but themselves, and so they would always remain.

Mystery

The solution to the Detective Killer case had been clear all along, but Detective Casada had dragged out the proceedings as long as he could—no matter how deserved, it is always hard to give one’s best friend up to the cold hands of justice.

Historical

It wasn’t until the end of that day that I realized I’d lost my helmet somewhere back on Omaha beach—and I was sure glad that was all I’d lost.

Sci-Fi

Astronaut McCain watched the oxygen levels in the ship drop and asked herself why—if she had to die in space—it couldn’t at least have been in a cool way, like getting sucked into a black hole or being discovered and killed by an alien life form.

Western

The Travis gang held up the bank Friday afternoon, and Sheriff Morrison decided that retirement could wait one more day.


I have to leave for work soon, so I’m not going to take the time to tag anyone specifically. But if you want to participate, go for it! And I’d love to hear what you thought of my little stories. (I tried to make them as self-contained as possible. And the western is my favorite. Because…westerns. It’s also one of the most satisfying of the stories, in my opinion.)

Eva-Joy

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