Books by John Wilson

THE RUINED CITY by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 2, 2018

"Fascinating source material deserves a treatment less reliant on tired tropes. (Fantasy. 10-14) "
Drawn into a primordial struggle that threatens the balance of the world, Howard embarks on a journey through time and space. Read full book review >
THE THIRD ACT by John Wilson
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Sept. 11, 2018

"Read it for the history lesson. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 14-18)"
Three Chinese international students discern their destinies as they navigate living and studying abroad. Read full book review >
Released: March 7, 2017

"This unique compilation of firsthand impressions of the Great War will be a valuable resource for adults and teens with an interest in this turning point in world history. (index, timeline, further reading) (Nonfiction. 12-adult)"
A young Canadian soldier's reminiscences from the western front. Read full book review >
THE MISSING SKULL by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 20, 2016

"A mysterious game that is unfortunately not that much fun to play. (Mystery. 9-12)"
Twelve-year-old Steve is thrilled when his enigmatic grandfather announces it is finally his turn to take a trip, but camping on a remote lake in northern Ontario seems pretty lame compared to his twin brother's epic adventure in Central America. Read full book review >
DARK TERROR by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 25, 2015

"A fascinating war tale that will have young readers digging in for a captivating read. (Historical fiction. 10-14)"
In 1915, 15-year-old miner Alec Shorecross decides to leave the army and join the Royal Flying Corps but finds himself in an "underground war" instead, in Wilson's second novel marking the centenary of World War I (Wings of War, 2014).Read full book review >
BROKEN ARROW by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2014

"Informative but not inspired. (Mystery. 10-14)"
Steve's dream of a relaxing holiday in Spain is disrupted when he receives an email from his brother that makes him question everything he knows about his grandfather. Read full book review >
WINGS OF WAR by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 22, 2014

"A fine, old-fashioned-feeling coming-of-age tale set in the World War I skies. (Historical fiction. 9-14)"
Sixteen-year-old Edward Simpson dreams of being a pilot, and World War I affords him the opportunity. Read full book review >
LOST CAUSE by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 10, 2012

"A tale driven by its informational purpose, with only a short story's worth of plot. (map and family tree, not seen) (Fiction. 11-13)"
Posthumous messages and tantalizing clues send a teenager from Canada to Barcelona in search of a hidden chapter from his beloved grandfather's past. Read full book review >
VICTORIO'S WAR by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2012

"Despite fair measures of bloodshed and gunfire, all the long thoughts and dusty desert trails will make the pacing seem slow to readers who haven't already thrilled to Jim's earlier adventures. (Historical fiction. 11-14)"
A sad tale threaded with deaths, regrets and the importance of memory and story concludes this three volume narrative of a young Canadian wanderer in the Old West. Read full book review >
GHOST MOON by John Wilson
ADVENTURE
Released: Nov. 1, 2011

"A tale of the Old West with a sturdy historical base and nary a dull moment. (Historical fiction. 11-14)"
A young wanderer lands in the middle of New Mexico's Lincoln County War in this middle volume of the oater Desert Legends Trilogy. Read full book review >
WRITTEN IN BLOOD by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

Sixteen-year-old Jim has left his 1870s home in Canada and, based on clues from an old letter, is traveling to the Mexican border village of Casas Grandes in search of his long-missing father. Along the vividly depicted trail, he encounters several lightly sketched characters who offer him their stories. Each one usefully provides hints to his father's past. Some, like Ed, are purely, over-the-top, evil. Others—cave-dwelling, half-Apache Too-ah-yay-say; amiable, elderly Mexican Santiago; and Nah-kee-tats-an, another Apache, who conveniently shows up precisely when most needed—provide key information and wisdom as Jim draws his own conclusions about his mysterious father. Violent, graphically depicted death abounds. Near the climax, Ed's exposition on the past goes on for too many pages to be fully believable, and much of the dialogue is similarly expository. Still, chapters are short and action filled, Jim is a likable character and reluctant readers will find this to be a fast-paced, easy-to-swallow tale of the Old West. (Historical fiction. 11-14)Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Dec. 1, 2009

A modern-feeling hero is our tour guide through a vicious war that devastated southern France. The year is 1206, the place is the Languedoc region of France and Peter and John's adolescent religious debates have been growing more heated. As religious conflict between the Catholic Church and the Cathar heresy increases, the boys—best friends all their lives—can't avoid the tension. Though both are good Catholics, Peter humorlessly disapproves of John's thirst for knowledge, and by the time the Albigensian Crusade begins three years later, the boys have parted. Peter's become the right-hand man of the fanatic inquisitor leading the Crusade. John, on the other hand, has served first a troubadour, secondly the Viscount of Carcassonne and finally the heretic Beatrice. The more John learns, the more he questions both the Catholic Church and the gentle, idealized Cathars. The characters are thin, uninteresting vehicles for this historically accurate view of the Crusade, but the densely gruesome journey will please enthusiasts of historical wars. (Historical fiction. 12-14)Read full book review >
DEATH ON THE RIVER by John Wilson
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

This riveting look at the Civil War's horrifying Andersonville prison through the eyes of an 18-year-old inmate has the power to shock and to compel young readers' interest while uncovering exciting history for them. Wilson doesn't shove the history down his readers' throats. He merely writes a tension-filled story packed with appalling events that really happened, although his protagonist, Jake, is fictional. Jake's character development takes center stage as he tries to survive in the prison's hell on earth. The young soldier finds himself burdened with guilt over things he did to survive and did not do to save others. Worse, he's tied to Billy Sharp, a murderous thief who includes Jake in his nefarious activities and intends to continue doing so. The author paints clear pictures of Jake and Billy, along with sketches of others both strong and weak, virtuous and vile. When the war ends and he tries to sever his ties to Billy, Jake gets the chance to redeem himself. This engrossing novel leaves an enduring impression. (Historical fiction. YA)Read full book review >
FOUR STEPS TO DEATH by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

A million people were killed in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, one of the worst battles in history, and the intertwined stories of three people, each told in third person, offer a human-scale account of the cataclysm. Conrad Zeitsler is a tall, aristocratic German tank officer who's confident of finishing off the Russians and being on the Volga River by August. Vasily Sarayev is a Russian soldier hoping to be a hero. And eight-year-old Sergei Illyich Andropov is caught in the middle. As in Wilson's previous Battle Scars (2005), plot contrivances, forced coincidences and a predictable ending undermine the telling. Much history of the battle and of Stalinist Russia is related, but too much of the dialogue exists to convey information rather than further the story. The maps provided are helpful, but no sources are listed that might lead young readers further. Since little exists on the subject, however, this will be a start. (afterword) (Fiction. 10-13)Read full book review >
BATTLE SCARS by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2005

In the sequel to The Flags of War (2004), the alternating voices of Nate and Walt McGregor and the slave Sunday tell their entwined stories from the Battle of Shiloh until their escape from Richmond's Libby Prison a year and a half later. The three manage to be at key points of the Civil War, from Gettysburg to the New York Draft Riots to Colonel Shaw's 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Fort Wagner. Frederick Douglass and Harriett Beecher Stowe make appearances, and there's even a nod to The Red Badge of Courage in the name of Walt's captain, Henry Fleming. Though the characters are never fully realized and seem more like pieces being moved on a game board, Civil War buffs will find much of interest in the descriptions of battles, prison rats, treachery and the ebb and flow of the war. Overall, a satisfying read. (author's note) (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
AND IN THE MORNING by John Wilson
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2003

Through the diary of young Jim Hay, Wilson offers a soldier's eye view of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the events leading to it. Jim's 16th Highland Light Infantry battalion lost 511 of its 750 men, one theater in a war of horrendous carnage—one million casualties by battle's end—and ten million lives lost in the war overall. As in many war stories, Jim goes off to battle with great optimism, expecting early victory and a quick return to his girlfriend, Anne Cunningham. By mid-story, Jim says, "Still the war goes on," and later: "Oh, Anne! I long to be somewhere clean, where the air is fresh and horror is only a thing of storybooks." The diary includes letters, snippets from newspapers, and lines of poetry. The format has possibility but lacks imagination: the newspaper clippings don't look or feel real, and the storytelling voice is flat, nothing that grabs emotions and involves the reader in the story. Burning lice over candles, descriptions of weather, mentioning books being read, the death of a father and mother, the shooting of a deserter, bloodshed on the battlefield—all are blandly related, with little power or weight. What will hold attention, though, is the hint of a family secret: "Every family has secrets. Ours is no different. One secret concerns the lad who wrote this diary." Readers who persevere will be rewarded with a satisfactory conclusion in which the diarist's fate and the family secret are revealed. May be of interest to readers of war novels or anyone wanting to learn more about WWI. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1998

Wilson's first US publication is an overblown British reworking of that all-American movie fantasy, the rape-revenge story. Hours after stellar student Lyndsey Barratt suffers the humiliation of receiving her drama-school diploma in the absence of her parents (her ineffectual father, who couldn't bear to be seen in public with her wheelchair-bound mother, begged off), she's suffering the torments of hell. The cricket team from nearby Winstanton School, flushed with their latest victory, has taken offense at her entrance to the railroad car they're occupying and has retaliated by raping and beating her. Nor will it do any good, despite the best attempts of British Transport Inspector Frank Illiffe, for Lyndsey to press charges: The jolly cricketers have already planted evidence to discredit her, and Illiffe's treacherous liaison officer is only too eager to help out a local HQ chief's boy and the other ten perps by tightening the legal noose around the victim. So Lyndsey, shepherded by her twin sister Linda, disappears from Hope Green Hospital, and the case, in the absence of a complainant, grinds to a halt. Justice, however, continues to grind exceeding small, and when the murder of one of the cricketers comes to Illiffe's attention years later—apparently he's the victim of an S&M scene that got out of hand—Illiffe wastes no time in linking it to a rash of dead cricketers. ``Ten members of a school cricket team dying within such a short time was definitely odd,'' muses Illiffe, who rushes to protect the life of the only surviving rapist, George (``Porgy'') Weston. En route to the splashy finale, Wilson leaves no button unpushed—there'll be pornographic videos, a miscarriage, and reams of computer lore—but it's hard to care about the outcome when the prospective victim is so loathsome and the meager surprises so eminently guessable. Reminiscent not so much of any earlier literary tradition as of slasher films from Sisters to I Spit on Your Grave. Read full book review >