Tobacco & Tomes

A review of Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake & the book Later by Stephen King

I filmed a first impressions, “Pop-the-Top”, tobacco review of Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake last weekend, in which, I found the blend to be “just ok”.  The video for my first impressions, and review of the book Later by Stephen King, can be found here (FYI, watch the video until the end for a special surprise).  

I must confess, I failed to acknowledge, mention, or even purposefully detect the perique in the Former’s Bird’s Eye blend during my initial impression.  The only indication I found during my first smoke experience was the deep, rich fruit notes I detected on the nose when smelling the freshly opened tin.  Now that I have been able to smoke this blend over the course of a full week, I am much more “in-tune” to what the blend has to offer and will discuss my final score below. 

Info & Overview

Brand: Former’s 

Category: VaPer 

Blend Components: Virginia; Perique

Flavorings: None

Cut Type: Broken Flake

Available Packaging: 50g tin

Price: $10.50 USD

On to the review…

From the Tin: From the tin, the tobacco is presented as broken flakes.  Understandably, the manufacturer sells this tobacco as a flake tobacco; however, the flakes I encountered were broken, not full flakes like that of Orlik Golden Sliced or Dunhill Flake.  The tobacco is very, very dry upon opening the tin, almost overly dry.  This is a bit concerning, as the tobacco will not only burn hotter while smoking but may be too dry to age well in the cellar.  The broken flakes are light golden and yellow in color.  The perique is not evident unless you purposefully look for it.  The smell from the tin is a straight up hay barn, no qualms about it.  Due to the dryness of the flakes, the tobacco required no dry time.  To be completely honest, I almost considered re-hydrating some of the tobacco but did not do so.   

Tasting Notes:  I always find it interesting how a blend changes from the first bowl to the lasting crumbs of an empty tin.  We all hear it said, and it is absolutely true, if you don’t like a blend at first, give it some time and see how either it or your tastes change.  My initial tasting impressions of Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake was not bad by any stretch of the imagination; however, after giving the blend my full attention over the past week, the tastes really became clear.  Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake offers the smoker tastes of grass, hay, spicey black pepper, wheat/grain, and dry cereal, similar to bran flakes.  Initially, I thought I was tasting a leather quality but after smoking almost the entire tin, I realize it wasn’t leather, but an earthy, dried fruit note found from the perique.  Side note, I only found this taste to be present a few times.  In fact, it was so random I’m not completely comfortable listing it as a given taste you will experience while smoking this blend.    

Overall Impression:  First and foremost, quick cadence smokers be warned!  If you pull hard or fast on this tobacco, it WILL give you tongue bite.  Maybe it’s due to the dryness, maybe it’s the sparce perique…  Either way, this is a tobacco to be slowly sipped and enjoyed.  As I scored this tobacco “just ok” in my initial impression, I continue to hold strong to that thought.  The tobacco is a good quality and I’m glad I had the opportunity to smoke it; however, there is really nothing special about this blend.  It’s a pretty standard Virginia flake (with a sprinkle of perique) and with all the various options on the market, there are much better choices I can put my time and money into.  For me, the major drawback of the blend is its extreme dry character.  I feel this probably hurts the quality of the tobacco more than it helps.  Is it worth a try?  Sure!  Will I be filling voids in my cellar with tins of Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake?  No.  Score from my initial impressions to the end of the tin, not changed.        

Tobacco Initial Impression Score: 3 out of 5 pipes

Tobacco End of Tin Overall Score: 3 out of 5 pipes


by: Stephen King

A new novel by Stephen King, I couldn’t resist giving it a read.  Not to mention, I am a sucker for the cover art on a book and Later, screamed interesting read.  I know, I know, “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” but let’s be real people.  All of us do it, whether intentional or not.  So, coming out of the pandemic and having the chance to read the new King novel, I took total advantage.  I will say, I was hesitant to purchase the book as the last few King novels have been less than satisfying, thus, not warranting a second read.  Therefore, I took advantage of my local library’s online e-book option called Libby.  Not only was I able to read the novel for free, but the book is also automatically returned on its due date.  I’m typically terrible about returning books to the library on time, so this is a welcomed change for me.      

Here are the specific details on the novel:            

Info & Overview

Title:  Later

Author:  Stephen King

Publisher:  Hard Case Crime

Publication Year:  March 2021  

Genre:  Fiction/Crime/Horror

Number of Pages:  272

Price:  $9.56 USD (mass-market paperback); $9.99 (Kindle e-version) 

On to the review…

As discussed in my video review of the book on YouTube, I am using a new review system similar to what I use when tasting wines.  I will be breaking my thoughts into the following categories: Successes, Struggles, Suggested Audience, and Score.  With that being said, let’s dive right in. 


  1. It was easy to relate to the characters in the book, especially the main character and narrator of the story, Jamie Conklin.  Maybe it was the modern-day era that made the connection to characters smoother, or maybe King just did an overall better job at bringing out the details of each person.  Either way, the characters in the book were well done and helped make for a good story.  
  2. Building off of Success #1, King does a really nice job of having characters appear and reappear throughout the story (hints the book title Later).  I especially found an interest in the reappearances of Jamie’s mom’s NYPD detective ex-girlfriend Liz.  The way King manipulates her relationship and personal desire to other characters was very well done. 
  3. The final success complement’s King’s persuasive writing.  Even though this was a fictional story, the manner in which it is written and delivered makes it highly believable and realistic.  The setting for the story is modern day in New York City (or just on the outskirts of the city itself).  King continuously pulls the reader out of reality then expertly pushes us back in.  The set-up is so good one may think something similar to this story could indeed happen in real life.  


  1. There were editing issues within the kindle (e-book) version of the publication.  Simple things such as “s” on the end of words that would never have needed them or made sense for them to have a plural or possessive plural function.  Also, there were random symbols and letters in some of the words and sentences.  For example, “As I wal%ked up the 3tepes, I noticed the door slightly ajars”.  I’m sorry but at the level Stephen King is publishing, there should be zero editing errors, no exceptions.  I hope these errors were not found in hard copies of the book and am allowing the benefit of the doubt that it had to do with some kind of electronic upload/formatting failure when pushed to kindle.  
  2. If you follow King on any type of social media, you undoubtably know his philosophy and moral stance when it comes to politics.  The same can be said for reading his books.  There were a few parts in the story where King used his writing platform to make stabs at individuals in today’s current political world.  Whether you agree with his stance or not (I am NOT opening that can of worms on this website.  Visit your friendly local news organization to find all the political gossip you can handle), the jabs and snide remarks toward those he agrees and disagrees with are unnecessary and do not help push the story plot forward in any way, shape, or form.  The book would be just as effective and enjoyable without bringing the political rhetoric into the story.  After all, I read to escape the bull crap of this world (such as politics), therefore, when it follows me into my pastime, I begin to look for other authors to satisfy my storytelling needs, who understand, fictional stories can do without real-life horror.  
  3. The final struggle of the book is two-fold as the first part is somewhat the cause of the second.  As mentioned above, the main character is a young boy named Jamie Conklin, and Jamie can see dead people.  Yes, this theme has already been successfully achieved by M. Night Shyamalan in the 1990’s blockbuster hit The Sixth Sense.  Although a touch different than the Bruce Willis film, as dead people only last three days and must tell the truth when asked a question, King did do a nice job of using Jamie’s unique skill to bend the plot into an enjoyable rat-race (read the book and you’ll better understand what I mean).  With that being said, the second part of struggle three is related to this special ability.  King uses it to abruptly end the book causing the entire story to fall flat and just end in a “happily-ever-after” sort of manner.  A very tense moment at the end just kind of stops and literally, “walks out the door.”  Really!?  We had all this major build-up and were staged for the grand finale and what do we get?  A moldy bologna sandwich.  I don’t know if deadlines were tight, ideas had run dry, or he was just looking for a sequel opportunity (mark my words now…See You Later by Stephen King, set to debut December 2022).  No matter what the case, this is becoming characteristic of King’s writing.  He just doesn’t finish strong anymore.  That was one of the reasons I started reading his work 20+ years ago.  He wrote a great story with a very satisfying ending.  No, it may not have been a happy ending, but it was satisfying.  King has lost his touch when it comes to a solid finish.  Period.  Best word to describe it, unfulfilling.                    

Suggested Audience

Obviously, this story is written for a mature audience (adults), however, this would be an acceptable novel for a mature young adult or teen.  Also, if you are looking to dive into Stephen King’s work, this would be a good novel to start with for two reasons. First, there are no characters linked to a previous story/book and secondly, it is a horror novel, but it’s not demented horror like we find in several of his other stories (i.e., you will be able to sleep at night).   

Overall Book Score: 3 out of 5 books

So, there you have it, a Tobacco and a Tome.  Thank you again for visiting The Pipe Professor webpage.  Stay tuned, both here and on The Pipe Professor YouTube channel, for more literature, tobacco, pipes, cigars, and timeless treasure content.  I hope to post bi-weekly (alternating) Sundays on both platforms.      

Until next time, thanks for reading.  Cheers!  

Tomes and Tobacco – Book Review

The Outsider

by: Stephen King

The Outsider Book Review PicReading has not always been a passion of mine.  In fact, I used to pride myself on the circumstance that I went my entire high school career and didn’t check a single book out from the school library.  Now that I reflect on that ‘accomplishment,’ I’m not sure if it is a negative on me as a learner or the school as the educational provider?  Either way, I understand and accept that I missed out on a wonderful hobby during my teenage years and am thankful that during my undergraduate studies in college, I found my love for enjoying great literature.     

With that being said, several of you will question if Stephen King is an authentic author of great literature, and rightly so.  No matter your opinion, it is difficult to argue that King has not had a resounding influence on the fiction horror genre of writing.  In fact, King is probably one of, if not the, best known author in the category.

So, what prompted me to pick up this novel?  In all honesty, the cover caught my eye while schmoozing my local Half Price Books retail store.  I have read several King novels throughout my reading profession with the outcome being hit and miss.  Some of his work is amazingly written and has left a lasting effect on me as a person, others, not so much.  After, reading the leaf on the inside of the cover, I was completely hooked as to what the story was claiming to offer.  Further, being on sale (and having a coupon) prompted me to go ahead and purchase the book at well below retail.

Here are the specific details on the novel:

Info & Overview

Title:  The Outsider

Author:  Stephen King

Publisher:  Scribner

Publication Year:  2018

Genre:  Fiction/Horror

Number of Pages:  560

Price:  $30.00 USD (retail)


On to the review…


In the beginning of the story we are introduced to a character by the name of Terry Maitland.  Terry is a home grown, Middle America, all loving family man and upstanding citizen.  Being the loving husband and father of two girls, a local high school English teacher, and outstanding little league baseball coach, Terry is easily a likeable character from the start.  In fact, King does a very nice job setting the stage for you to quickly relate and sympathize with this character.  However, in the snap of a finger, you are thrown into an emotional roller coaster as Terry is arrested by his long-standing friend Detective Ralph Anderson for the rape and murder of a local boy who was a former baseball player on Terry’s little league team.

As the story develops we learn that several witnesses can verify Terry’s presence to be at the scene of the crime on the day and time of the murder, thus, making him the #1 suspect, and for Detective Anderson, an easy open-close case.  The only problem is, Terry was also attending an out of town professional learning conference on behalf of his school at the exact same time and date the murder was said to have occurred.  With his work colleagues being able to also verify his attendance at the conference, along with a video recording showing Terry asking a question to a session presenter, readers are emotionally forced into a very difficult position.  On the one hand, the witnesses and evidence (including finger prints and semen samples) verify Terry’s participation in the murder.  On the other hand, there is live footage of him attending the work conference in another city.  A city that is much too far away for him to have committed the murder and commuted back to the conference.  How can someone be in two places at once?  Essentially, this is the driving question that fuels the reminder of the novel.

In true King fashion, the novel, at times, is extremely graphic.  Specifically, when detailing the rape and murders that occur (yes there is more than one), King does not hold back.  I will humbly admit that while reading the book, there were several nights I had more trouble falling asleep than normal.  Yes, this is a story that will easily creep into the depths of your mind and linger until you find yourself alone and vulnerable.  In this regard, the book gets an A+ from me.  One of the characteristics I feel great books entail, is the ability to create a lasting impression on the reader long after the book has been put away.  The Outsider will certainly stay with you well beyond the last page.

With that being said, there were also some disappointments that the book presented.  If you are an avid reader of Stephen King, you will be familiar with the Finders Keepers trilogy that details the unique cases of private detective Bill Hodges and his assistant Holly Gibney.  Not to spoil too much, however, The Outsider takes place after Bill’s death, when Holly has taken on another partner in the Finders Keepers firm.  Yes, Holly Gibney is introduced as a main character about a third into this story. Although I enjoy the character Holly Gibney, I feel King has begun to turn her into somewhat of a ‘superhero’ in his portfolio of fictional characters.  Having been exposed to Holly in other books/stories, her character is always one step ahead, knows or obtains information from extremely awkward resources, and always seems to escape immediate danger.  As the audience, this character, and her ability to be successful under any and all circumstances, has become predictable, overused, and honestly, boring.

Further, I was also disappointed in the ‘good character’ deaths and the timing of those deaths.  Warning! Possible insight/spoiler: it seems as though King was getting to the end of the main story and realized he hadn’t killed off enough character’s with good moral compass/intentions.  All of a sudden, near the close of the book, we lose two secondary good guy characters in a scenario where the ‘main’ characters all survive a sniper rifle attack. For King to have the audacity to be as graphic as he is with the rape and murder scenes, I wish he would have a bigger pair when it came to cutting ties with some of the story’s forefront cast. Especially with George R.R. Martin setting a more current unexpected death tone in his Game of Thrones book series that easily removes reader’s favorite characters on a whim, I feel King lost his cojones in this one when it came time to shorten the ‘A’ list of characters. End spoiler alert.

Lastly, I felt the backstory the surviving characters had to develop at the finale of the story was extremely thin.  With today’s technology in the crime investigation world, there is no way the fabrication created to cover the remaining group would have stood.  In fact, when reflecting back to the cover story the survivors create, it’s almost goofy.  Maybe it was deadlines, maybe it was writer’s block, either way, more thought should have been given to the resolve of the story.

All in all, the book is an easy read and for the most part creepily enjoyable (in true King fashion). By no means is this his best work, however, it can certainly stand on its own.  I’m not sure I would spend the dough to purchase a new copy but would certainly encourage anyone interested in reading the story to wait and find it second hand or pick it up at your local library once available.


Overall book rating:

3 Book Rating

3 out of 5 books


Now to the small part most of the folks reading this are waiting for.  While reading this book, I dedicated one pipe and one tobacco to the entire story (as I do with most books).  I find that the tobacco remanence and smoking characteristics help insert me in a place that is dedicated to the target story I am reading.  My mind becomes familiar with the room note and tobacco taste, thus, reinserting me into the story’s context once I pick the book back up and begin reading.  For Stephen King’s The Outsider, I chose my 1970s GBD Prodigy Sandflame Ring Blast Freehand paired with MacBaren HH Vintage Syrian.  The smoky, sweet, rustic characteristics of the tobacco, paired with the easiest of draws and large bowl on the vintage GBD, made for the utmost enjoyment.  Yes, some of you may be classifying me to be just as crazy as King himself, however, every time I smoke this combination of pipe and tobacco, I am transported back to the story of Terry Maitland and the mysterious ‘thing’ that seems to be haunting mid-west America.  Don’t believe that it works?  Give it a try yourself.  I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.

Until next time, thanks for reading.  Cheers!

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature