King John by Edmond Manning ~ Book Review by Ulysses

King-JohnTitle: King John

Author: Edmond Manning

Publisher: Pickwick Ink Publishing

Cover Artist: LC Chase

Rating: 4.0 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 09/10/2015

Length: Long Novel (~ 100K+)

Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Gay Fiction


English attorney Alistair Robertson can’t quite believe an astonishing tale of kingship and transformation he hears at Burning Man, the annual counter-culture art festival in the Black Rock desert. Who are the Found Kings? Is “being kinged” as magical as it sounds?

Determined to find the mysterious garage mechanic named Vin who helps men “remember who they were always meant to be,” Alistair catches his quarry amid the extravagant sculptures, fire worshippers, mutant cars, and lavish costumes. After searching for three years, he’ll finally get to ask the question burning inside him: “Will you king me?”

Wandering together through the desert, Vin Vanbly and Alistair explore Burning Man’s gifting culture and exotic traditions, where they meet the best and worst of their fellow burners. Alistair’s overconfidence in Vin’s manipulative power collides with Vin’s obsessive need to save a sixteen-year-old runaway from a nightmarish fate, and the two men spiral into uncontrollable, explosive directions.

In this fourth adventure of The Lost and Founds, beneath the sweltering summer sun and the six billion midnight stars, one truth emerges, searing itself on their hearts: in the desert, everything burns.

My View:

I was palpitating in anticipation of Edmond’s latest book. Once I got my hands on it I plunged right in, and managed to read all of it over a two-day period—one of them a strange half-working day that took me into NYC on the train and all over the city in a taxi and on the subway. It was the anniversary of 9/11, and the setting for “King John” is a year after 9/11, which is very much on Vin Vanbly’s mind as he walks the dusty avenues of Burning Man, 2002.

Before I started writing this, I used the miracle of Google and looked up pictures of Burning Man, 2002.

Manning’s description is faithful, excellent, in fact; but I’m a visual person and I wanted pictures of some of the things he describes. I’ve got friends who have been Burning Man aficionados for years. It never sounded like my thing – but it is clear to me how it is their thing. It’s also evident why Edmond Manning set his latest in the Lost and Found Kings series at Burning Man. It tells us a great deal about Vin Vanbly and, quite honestly, is the only place this particular episode in the Vin Vanbly epic could possibly take place.

Dressed as a Bedouin, Vin strolls through the untrammelled hedonism of Burning Man, revelling in its gift economy (no cash exchanged) and atmosphere of radical acceptance (Burning Man, like the world at large, is mostly straight people, but gay people are welcomed, unlike the world at large, even now). He is on the hunt for a potential king; but what he discovers throws him off track.

Faithful Manning readers know that Vin is always fumbling forward – forever making mistakes that force him to rethink his plans and create new machinations to succeed in finding his king. But this book takes it a step further. Vin is off track for most of the plot; we see him so completely disoriented that we understand this is a very different story than the others. Once again, because we see everything through Vin’s eyes, we are dragged into his bewilderment just as we share in his joy. There is nothing more emotionally distressing than a control freak who’s completely lost control. “King John” becomes as much about Vin’s kingship as about the subject of his attention. It is a lot of fun – if you find emotional rollercoasters fun.

You have to be a certain kind of person to embrace Manning’s world of lost and found kings. You have to be somewhat silly; but you also have to have the kind of emotional makeup that allows you to tap into deep personal emotions as you read. As a reader, you have to participate in the book personally.

You have to be willing to cry on the NYC subway.

Confession: Burning Man is the kind of purgatory I imagine I’ll end up in if I’m punished for sins in my lifetime. All my life I’ve been about control, carefully groomed outward appearance, scripted public behavior. There isn’t much appeal to me in a place where all my calculations are thrown out the window. And the lack of access to showers and plumbing. shudder This is why the notion of Woodstock never appealed to me, either. But somehow, I know that if I was kidnaped and taken to Burning Man, it would do me good; just like reading Edmond Manning’s books does me good. Through Vin’s adventure I can vicariously shed all my armor and let loose all my fears. There is always something cathartic about reading these Lost and Found Kings books. This is Manning’s genius – and it derives from the great heart this writer clearly has.

So why only four stars? Manning has chosen to end this book with a sort of emotional cliff-hanger unlike the endings of his previous books in the series. Intellectually I see why; indeed the ending made me anxious to read the next volume. But the calculated choice to end his book on a note of psychological and emotional suffering undermined the exaltation that preceded it. I didn’t feel better at the end of this book. I don’t think Edmond had any choice. He did what he had to do. But sometimes authors have to take a few hits when they do what they have to do.

That doesn’t mean I love him any less.


King John on Goodreads
Pickwick Ink Publishing
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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