June

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      Odds~n~Ends

Purges, Bloodletting and the Evil Eye: The Bizarre Case Notes From ‘Quack’ Doctors in the 17th Century

From Rare Historical Photos:

The bookmobiles – Vintage photos of traveling libraries, 1910s-1960s

The Old Cincinnati Library before being demolished, 1874-1955 

Lost Weegee Crime Photos Revealed! Hiding in a junk-store box, unseen for 82 years. Historians, journalists astounded! 

The Spy Case That Made Adam Schiff a Russia Hawk

Paranoid and Madcap, The Manchurian Candidate Is Our Timeliest Novel

From the June 2019 issue of The Atlantic: Female Spies and Their Secrets  “An old-boy operation was transformed by women during World War II, and at last the unsung upstarts are getting their due.” A review of four new books on the topic.

Ten Women Mystery And Thriller Writers You Should be Reading

From The Atlantic: ‘Serial Killers Are a Uniquely American Phenomenon’ 

Long Read: Who killed the prime minister? The unsolved murder that still haunts Sweden.

Bentley’s $250,000 book is the Bentley of books

      Coupla Podcasts!

From Slate: The Queen: Linda Taylor committed abhorrent crimes. She became a legend for the least of them. A new podcast on the life of America’s original “welfare queen.”

From NPR: White Lies: In 1965, a white minister was murdered in Selma, Alabama. For more than 50 years, witnesses buried the truth about what happened.


From Chris Pavone: The morning when normal ended: A personal account of September 11

      Words for the Month

Dude: “Before there was ‘bro’, there was ‘dude’: that informal address that slaps you on the back with one hand, gives you a White Russian with the other, and says, ‘hey, I woke up at noon too, man’. For the past 20 years, Jeff Bridge’s portrayal of The Dude in the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski (1998) has epitomised the seductive spirit of dudeness. Dishevelled, stoned and disorientated, The Dude’s laid-back attitude is difficult to square with the artsy origin of the word itself, which seems to have entered popular discourse in the early 1880s as shorthand for foppishly turned-out male followers of the Aesthetic Movement – a short-lived artistic vogue that championed superficial fashion and decadent beauty (‘art for art’s sake’) and was associated with ostentatiously-attired artists such as James McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

It’s thought that ‘dude’ is an abbreviation of ‘Doodle’ in ‘Yankee Doodle’, and probably refers to the new-fangled ‘dandy’ that the song describes. Originally sung in the late 18th Century by British soldiers keen to lampoon the American colonists with whom they were at war, the ditty, by the end of the 19th Century, had been embraced in the US as a patriotic anthem.

By then, an indigenous species of fastidiously over-styled popinjays had emerged in America to rival the British dandy, and it is to this new breed of primly dressed aesthetes that the term ‘dude’ was attached. Over time, the silk cravats and tapered trousers, varnished shoes and stripy vests worn by such proponents of the trend as Evander Berry Wall (the New York City socialite who was dubbed ‘King of the Dudes’) would be stripped away, leaving little more than a countercultural attitude to define what it means to be a Dude (or an El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing).”

thanks to the bbc

      Author Events

June 3: Owen Laukkanen, Third Place/LFP, 7pm

June 5: Sujata Massey, University Books/Mill Creek, 7pm

June 6: Meg Tilly, Village Books, 7pm

June 6: Leslie Budewitz, Third Place/LFP, 7:pm

June 7: Cara Black, Third Place/LFP, 7pm

June 12: Thom Hartmann, Powell’s, 7:30pm

June 18: James Ellroy, Powell’s, 7:30pm

June 19: James Ellroy, Seattle Town Hall, 7:30   [ Ellroy is getting lost of coverage these days: James Ellroy: ‘I’ve been canonised. And that’s a gas’and James Ellroy thinks he’s a moralist – do you agree?]

June 23: Thom Hartmann, Seattle Town Hall, 7:30pm

      Words for the Month

gavel (n): A “small mallet used by presiding officers at meetings,” 1805, American English, of unknown origin; perhaps connected with German dialectal gaffel “brotherhood, friendly society,” from Middle High German gaffel “society, guild,” related to Old English gafol “tribute,” giefan “to give” (from Proto-Indo-European root *ghabh “to give or receive”). But in some sources gavel also is identified as a type of mason’s tool, in which case the extended meaning may be via freemasonry. As a verb, by 1887, from the noun. Old English had tabule “wooden hammer struck as a signal for assembly among monks,” an extended sense of table (n.). [thanks to etymonline]

      Links

April 30: Final chapter for a Mar Vista bookstore — and its unique community

April 30: Spying whales and other undercover animals

May 1: How The SF Chronicle decides which books to review

May 1: Graves of British couple murdered in Guatemala in 1978 found

May 2: ‘You are loved’ – the power of an anonymous note and gift

May 3: The Troubling Obsession with the “Sexy Psychopath”

May 3: Matthew McGough on how an LAPD officer hid a murder for nearly 30 years

May 3: Seven simple ways to boost your creativity

May 4: New details of Harper Lee true crime book revealed as briefcase mystery solved

May 4: With its second generation taking ownership this year, Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville keeps the past in mind as it heads into the future.

May 4: The working poor in the Hamptons: I cleaned a rich author’s swimming pool while writing my own novel

May 5: Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan review – a man of no mystery

May 7: Dickens novel that joined Captain Scott on doomed expedition goes on display

May 7: 30-year-old murder of a hiker is yet another case solved due to a Genealogy Site

May 8: ‘Furious Hours’ Tells The Tale Of Harper Lee And Her Unfinished Work

May 8: A Night at James Bond’s Favorite London Martini Bar

May 9: Publisher David Godine to step down from his namesake publishing house

May 10: The real experiments that inspired Frankenstein

May 11: Did Ernest Hemingway copy his friend’s ideas for Cuban classics?

May 11: Anna Sorokin: Why do con artists and fraudsters fascinate us?

May 11: The children’s bookshop selling diversity

May 11: Brazil National Museum: ‘Little surprises’ salvaged from the ashes

May 14: Crossbow German deaths

May 15: Classic Ferrari worth millions stolen on test drive

May 16: Couple goes fishing, catches burglars’ bag containing guns and sorority pins stolen 26 years ago

May 16: From Agatha Christie to Gillian Flynn: Women mystery writers list 50 great thrillers by women

May 16: 10 Must-Refer to Spots for Mystery Fans

May 16: French doctor charged with poisoning 17 patients

May 17: How the FBI Cracked the GozNym Malware Case

May 18: Lost volume sheds new light on Tolkien’s devotion to Chaucer

May 20: Who said indie bookstores are dying? Not in the Bay Area, thank you

May 20: Why the New York Public Library Has 7 Floors of Stacks With No Books

May 21: Patrick Marks’ eco-conscious bookstore celebrates a decade of greening books

May 21: New Coke Was a Debacle. It’s Coming Back. Blame ‘Stranger Things.’

May 22: How the CIA tried to train cats to spy on the Russians: the strange, true story of Acoustic Kitty

May 24: How the stories of Jack the Ripper’s victims are finally being told

May 25: By Her Own Hand showcases rare books and manuscripts by women

May 26: Hannibal Lecter author Thomas Harris: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever made up anything’

May 27: Can Reading Fiction Really Improve Your Mental Health?

May 27: Quarry to be drained in 40 year police hunt

May 28: $42,000 worth of comic books stolen in smash-and-grab from Denver store

May 30: Cartoon scavenger hunts brighten Portland

      R.I.P.

May 11: Alvin Sargent, Spider-Man screenwriter, dies at 92

May 12: Peggy Lipton, star of “The Mod Squad”, dead at 72

May 13: Doris Day, Hollywood actress and singer, dies aged 97

May 14: Legendary comic Tim Conway dead at 85

May 17: Herman Wouk, Best-Selling Novelist With a Realist’s Touch, Dies at 103

May 24: Navajo Code Talker, New Mexico Sen. John Pinto has died at 94

      Words of the Month

gawk (v.): “stare stupidly,” 1785, American English, of uncertain origin. Perhaps [Watkins] from gaw, a survival from Middle English gowen “to stare” (c. 1200), from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse ga “to heed,” from Proto-Germanic *gawon, from Proto-Indo-European *ghow-e- “to honor, revere, worship” (see favor (n.)); and altered perhaps by gawk hand (see gawky). Liberman finds this untenable and writes that its history is entangled with that of gowk “cuckoo,” which is from Scandinavian, but it need not be from that word, either. Nor is French gauche (itself probably from Germanic) considered a likely source. “It is possibly another independent imitative formation with the structure g-k” (compare geek). From 1867 as a noun. Related: Gawked; gawking. (thanks to etymonline)

      What We’ve Been Doing

   Amber

Version 5Finder Of Lost Things: 

Don’t forget to check out my weekly serial blog! This week Phoebe finally figures out who exactly her mystery passenger really is! Hint: it’s not great news…

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Dim Sum Of All Fears – Vivien Chien

Okay for those of you who enjoy lighter mysteries but dislike the cute titles and themes – I suggest you remove the cover & title page of this book and read on.

Seriously.

Chien does a beautiful job of making sure the theme is the foundation her mystery is set on, but never overwhelms the narrative. By keeping her book squarely focused on the murder mystery at hand and our detective Lana Lee, Chien successfully avoided the pitfalls, which normally plague this style of writing. Because never once while I was reading did the Noodle Shop theme ever once overwhelm or distract from the case our heroine was trying to solve (BTW- I’m not sure the description of ‘noodle shop’ is accurate anyways – as I think of ramen or pho places not family style Chinese restaurants, but that’s just my opinion) .

In fact, I enjoyed reading this book so much I sat down and read it all in one go – and it’s been a very long time since I’ve done that!

What kept me riveted to the pages for an entire afternoon was Lana Lee. An imperfect woman with bills to pay, a fondness for doughnuts, a pug, who still bickers with her older sister and who’s unexpectedly good at running her family’s Chinese restaurant (much to her sister’s dismay) while her mom’s off dealing with her own mother in Taiwan.

Plus – I have a weakness for amateur detectives who are constantly told to keep their Nancy Drew impulses in check yet cannot help themselves!

I would recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for a mystery with a bit less blood and a great atmosphere!

   Fran

Because I will always be an indie bookshop supporter, lately my go-to bookstore is Page 2 Books in Burien, because it’s within walking distance of my job, and let’s face it, it’s the place Jayne Ann Krentz went to for her signings after we could no longer help her out, so it’s obviously a cool shop. And believe me, it is!

They know me there, and of my former life here, so when I went in to order a couple of books (the new Patricia Briggs, because it’s Mercy Thompson after all, and the debut Juliet Grame, because she’s the publisher at SOHO who helped us out and has been just a gem, so of course I’m supporting her debut novel), the owner’s face brightened – I can’t remember her name right this minute, but I will, and I’ll add it in – and then dropped when I said I was there to order books.

Yes, she looked sad because I was ordering books. She wanted me to be in to ask for a job. She wanted to hire me, and honestly, has wanted to for a while now.

I come with impeccable credentials, after all, and a fairly comprehensive knowledge of how the book world works. And I do have contacts, even now.

They’re moving into a bigger space (yay, them!), and could use my knowledge and help. I flashed on the idea of setting up a packing station so we could get back to doing the Krentz ship-outs the way they need to be done, and imagining bringing in authors for signings, and generally helping amp up the profile. Not bragging; I know my worth here.

But I had to say no, and not just because our household has gotten used to me having a real paycheck complete with benefits, and an 8 – 5, Monday through Friday schedule, which bookstores simply can’t do. Either part, actually.

No, it’s more than that. I miss selling books, I seriously do. JB, Amber and I have been comparing dreams we’ve had over the course of this couple of years being out of the business, and we’ve all three dreamed of being back in the life. It’s compelling, it’s addicting, and it’s so often heartbreaking.

I’m fairly adaptable, and I could handle another shop’s routines, but I don’t know that I’d be able to compromise my grading of books. Could I bring myself to sell a true collector a book I knew was a C, when SMB prided itself on having the best? NOTE: I’m not saying Page 2 Books has lesser standards – not by a long shot! Everything I’ve gotten there has been great, but until you’re on the inside, you don’t truly know, y’know? And I absolutely have been in other bookstores where SMB standards were not met!

One of the things I love about my current job with the Department of Corrections is that I don’t have to deal with money. I kinda blew out my financial give-a-damn circuits worrying about SMB’s finances, especially at the end. I don’t even have to make change, and it’s a bigger relief than you might think.

Page 2 Books is a general bookstore, and I have no idea how one goes about stocking such a critter. It was hard enough with a specialty shop; the nuances of managing salable titles for a general shop just boggle me, but these folks do a great job! Still, it’s another skill set that I’m not sure I’m ready for.

And there’s figuring out who you can order from, how long it’ll take to get something in, juggling all the variables, not to mention merchandising and publicity. Running a bookstore is more work than most people think, and it’s certainly not as glamorous as we made it look! 🙂

If I was going back into the book world, it would be at Page 2 Books. They’re good people, and we think in the same ways. I like them. They’d be a good second home.

Well, okay, I’d seriously consider working for Jenny Lawson – yes, THAT Jenny Lawson – who’s opening up a bookstore in her hometown, and I’d be strongly tempted to work at Nowhere Bookshop, but that would have the added disadvantage to me of having to move to Texas, which definitely isn’t happening.

I miss the book world, I do. And part of me will always want to go back. Maybe after I retire from the DoC, if they still want me, I’ll think about it. But for now, the hurt is still too real, and I need to keep my distance. Oh, but someday, I’d love to be back again!

   JB

I WANT ONE!

Aston Martin is selling 25 limited-edition DB5s for $3.5 million each. They come equipped with all the spy gear 007 used.

unfortunately, this is the only one I will ever be able to affordc235c206-e91e-11e5-93c8-aaeda8637a98

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Support

Individuality, Neighborhoods & People

Shop Small Businesses!


 

August

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      Presents

If it hadn’t been for Seattle Mystery Bookshop, I would never have met Jonathan Santlofer (whose memoir THE WIDOWER’S NOTEBOOK just went on sale, complete with his original art illustrating it – you want it, you really, truly do!), and who just sent me a print of his original drawing of Anthony Bourdain.

Thank you, Jonathan! It’s amazing!

Santlofer's Bourdain

Jonathan's signature

Jonathan's inscription

~ Fran

        Special News from Hard Case Crime!

Friends —hard-case-crime-logo

Over the years, many of you have asked us if you could get posters or prints of Hard Case Crime covers. The answer has always been no — until now. We’ve just teamed up with the incredibly talented Paul Suntup who produces gorgeous, hand-crafted special editions of classic books and comparably gorgeous art prints of classic book covers. Together, we selected 14 of our favorite covers — by Robert McGinnis, Glen Orbik, and Gregory Manchess — and Paul has put all his enormous skill behind reproducing these covers at poster size (16.5″x24″) as giclee prints on acid-free art paper.

My jaw dropped when I saw just how beautiful these look, and I think you’ll be really pleased too. If you want to see for yourself and maybe order some to decorate your walls or for your Hard Case Crime collection, visit Paul’s website:
https://shop.suntup.press/collections/hard-case-crime. And if there are covers we haven’t done yet that you wish you could order, feel free to email me to let me know: editor@hardcasecrime.com.

But for now: please check out Paul’s beautiful prints. You won’t be sorry you did.

Best regards,
Charles
———–
Charles Ardai
Editor, Hard Case Crime

           New Book from an Old Friend!

Every now and then, one of the shop’s long-time customers let us know that they have published a book. We used to tell such folks “get it published and we’ll give you a signing”. We can no longer offer that but we can still give ’em a plug.

Henry Berman was one of those long-time customers. He’d come in and we’d talk mysteries and he and JB would talk baseball. Recently, he wandered into the hardware store where JB now works – to the delight of both, we think – and mentioned he had written a book. JB offered to mention it in the next newzine, so here’s the info. It’s not a mystery, but it sounds interesting:

Teens and Their Doctors: The Story of the Development of Adolescent Medicine, by Henry Berman, MD, and Hannah Dashefsky, BSN, RN, traces the development of the field from the first program, opened by Ros Gallagher at Boston Children’s Hospital, in 1951, to the creation of the Society for Adolescent Medicine (SAM), in 1968.

The book describes the growth of the specialty in those two decades, including how it was influenced by changes in society, and how practitioners responded to social change with approaches created to care for alienated youth, such as free clinics, mobile medical vans, and teen hotlines. The core of the book is composed of interviews with more than
eighty specialists in adolescent medicine, all of whom were trained by the pioneers of the field.

It also tackles the question asked of specialists in adolescent medicine: “What is adolescent medicine, anyway?” No simple answer is proposed, but the role these physicians play in caring for teens, and the characteristics of those who choose the field, are dramatized by scores of stories—from the humorous, to the poignant, to the heart-breaking.

Henry Berman is a board-certified pediatrician who has been practicing adolescent medicine since 1972. He is a Clinical Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and is on the staff of Seattle Children’s Hospital. [and he likes reading mysteries and the Seattle Mariners!]

        Author Signings

August 2nd, 7pm: Heather Redmond, Third Place/Lake Forrest Park

August 2nd, 7pm: Owen Hill (one of the authors of The Annotated Big Sleep – see JB’s write- up) University Books

August 7th, 7pm: Laurel K. Hamilton, University Books

August 15th, 7pm: Carola Dunn, Powell’s

        Words of the Month

squalid (adj): From the 1590s, from Middle French squalide and directly from Latin squalidus “rough, coated with dirt, filthy,” related to squales “filth,” squalus “filthy,” squalare “be covered with a rough, stiff layer, be coated with dirt, be filthy,” of uncertain origin. Related: Squalidly; squalidness; squalidity.

squalor (n) : from the 1620s, “state or condition of being miserable and dirty,” from Latin squalor “roughness, dirtiness, filthiness,” from squalere “be filthy”.

thanks to etymonline.com

        Links of Interest

The Daily Beast, February 27, 2016: My Lunch with ‘The Spider’ Who Nearly Wrecked the CIA

The Guardian, June 29th: Robert Harris: I’m Not Sure You Can be the World’s Superpower and Remain a Superpower

The Daily Beast, June 30th: The Kenyan Beach Town Malindi Is a Tropical Paradise—With a Mafia Problem

The Guardian, July 2nd: Alternative Nobel literature prize planned in Sweden

Seattle Times, July 2nd: Lit Life: Three true-crime stories that are stranger than fiction

Seattle Times, July 2nd: Adam Woog – Two new crime-fiction novels draw from real events

The Guardian, July 4th: Top Ten Books About Gangsters

AtlasObsucra, July 6th: Send Us the Greatest Note You’ve Found Written in an Old Book

The Guardian, July 6th: Gillian Flynn: Books That Made Me (“Agatha Christie blew my mind. Every character was evil”)

BBC, July 9th: How ‘Vertigo’ foreshadowed catfishing, AI and #METOO

Slate, July 9th: Raymond Chandler in the Age of #METOO by Megan Abbott

BBC, July 10th: The Ancient Library Where the Books are Under Lock and Key

BBC, July 10th: Original 1926 Winnie-the-Pooh map sells for record £430,000

BBC, July 11th: Joaquin Phoenix becomes the latest Joker

The Guardian, July 12th: Die Hard at 30: how it remains the quintessential American action movie

Live Science, July 13th: Possible Oldest Fragment of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ Discovered in Greece

Seattle Times, July 15th: A Book Lover’s Lasting Legacy: 5,000 Books Given to Yakima Valley Libraries

NWNewsNetwork, July 16th: We Might Have Been Looking For D.B. Cooper In Wrong Place For All These Years

King 5 News, July 18th: Seattle is home to the Northwest’s first “death museum”

New York Times, July 19th,  : Karin Slaughter: By the Book

LA Times, July 19th: Lawrence Osborne does Raymond Chandler quite well, thank you

Bustle, July 21st: Reading True Crime Makes Me Feel Less Anxious — And I Think I Know Why

KNKX, July 21st: Pinball In Seattle Had Corrupt And Violent Beginnings

Seattle Times, Sunday, July 22nd:

Adam Woog – Three New Crime Fiction Novels by Northwest Authors

Lit Life: Climb Above the Chaos of the Pike Place Market into a Book-Lined Oasis of Calm

  Megan Abbott Talks TV Projects, Raymond Chandler, and Women-Centered Crime Fiction

Washington Post, July 24th: A modern twist on a classic Agatha Christie novel

The Independent, July 24th: The Book List: The titles in ex-Talking Head David Byrne’s private library[this is a weekly column and past lists can be seen here.]

Bustle, July 25th: In The Era Of #MeToo, I’ve Realized Just How Rebellious ‘Gone Girl’ Really Was

BBC, July 26th: Sean Connery Co-Wrote a Bond Film That was Never Made

Bustle, July 27th: Thrillers Have Always Been A Feminist Battleground — We’re Just Finally Noticing It Again

The Daily Beast, July 27th: Inside the Fiery Massacre at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen Estate

The Guardian, July 27th: ‘Dire statistics’ show YA fiction is becoming less diverse, warns report

BBC, July 29th: Tsundoku – the Art of Buying Books and Never Reading Them

Bustle, July 30: Books From Thomas Jefferson’s Personal Library Were Discovered In A Dumpster — But The Man Who Found Them Didn’t Realize It Until It Was Too Late

The Guardian, July 30th: Accidents at Amazon: Workers Left to Suffer After Warehouse Injuries

The Guardian, July 31st: ‘Spectacular’ ancient public library discovered in Germany

        R.I.P.

The Guardian, July 7th: Spider-Man Co-Creator Steve Ditko Dies Aged 90 (JB is heartbroken…)

Vulture, July 13th: Stan Lee Remembers Steve Ditko: ‘His Talent Was Indescribable’

 

        What We’ve Been Up to

    Amber

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So my least favorite time of year is upon us – sticky, sweaty heat filled long July & August days. Other than giving me something to look forward to (i.e., September and October) I struggle this time of year…However the one positive thing which comes out of me turning into an immovable lump of Amber on hot days is I read to distract myself!

My current fixation is Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, yes I know I’ve written about them before, but I think they are wonderful so I’m reviewing them again! I absolutely adore these witty, smart mysteries and right now I can’t get enough of them! And I believe anyone who likes an excellent light classic mystery should check these books out – post haste!

The series is set in and around Egypt (a place hotter than where I currently reside). Each features some kind of archeological (occasionally straying into anthropological) endeavor. But Peters’ doesn’t limit herself to just Egyptian history, she also adds in the build-up of WWI and WWII and how these events impact Peabody, her family and their activities in Egypt. With so many layers of history in these books, you might assume that they would be dry and dull affairs…

Let me dissuade you of this very erroneous notion!

While Peters does a fine job with the history, she never lost sight of the fact she was penning mysteries. They are hilarious, adventurous and clever in their construction. While not necessarily always playing fair with the reader her solutions never come out of left field and still make sense. She adds and subtracts characters from her narratives at will, so they never become stale – even main characters who we grow to love aren’t always safe. Which makes (me at least) need to read each book carefully – but rapidly – to make sure my favorites are still breathing at the end!

One other thing I appreciate about these books, which other double-digit-length-series should emulate, Peters never repeats the same introduction to her characters from book to book. She found inventive ways to introduce new readers to her well-established cast without her longtime readers skipping the whole first chapter because she cut-and-pasted the same intro from one book to the next.

You can pick up the series anywhere and start reading – Peters herself skips around in time when she wrote them – but I would recommend you read The Crocodile In The Sandbank first. It will give you the essentials, after that you can read the rest of the books at will.

In that way, Peters reminds me of Agatha Christie’s Poirot (though don’t read them thinking Peabody is like Poirot, you will be sorely disappointed) after you read the first, you can skip around. Neither author is particularly bloody, but I would not place them in the cozy range – there’s too much meat in their mysteries for that categorization. In my mind, both writers created classic detectives and puzzles for them to solve.

Now to segue into another historical adjacent mystery…

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Meaning? The history isn’t particularly accurate – being steampunk in nature with a side of vampires, werelioness, and a ghost inhabiting a dirigible. While perhaps not the most accurate in its’ historical essentials the characters possess such wit coupled with impeccable manners you can skate right over any other irregularities.

What I am trying to say is that Gail Carriger finally came out with the third book, Competence, in her Custard Protocol series!!

The Spotted Custard (the aforementioned dirigible) and her crew are back and on a brand new adventure! This time they find themselves in South America on a mission to save the last remaining Peruvian vampires. On said mission of mercy, they will navigate unknown currents, pirates and the local’s mistaken notion that several of the Custard’s crew are Nuns working for the Spanish Inquisition!

While Competence never loses sight of the fact that it’s an adventure story, the most interesting storylines occur amongst the ship’s crew. Trying to ethically reform Rue’s soulless cousin (so he doesn’t murder everyone on the ship). Percy Tunstell’s shocking discovery that he’s actually having a rather good time floating around the globe. And finally, Primrose Tunstell must figure out where her heart lies – with her fiancee back in England or with the werelioness courting her.

I could not put this book down! I loved reading about the Spotted Custard’s adventures (mainly) from Primrose and Percy’s point of view! It was refreshing! Their roles on the dirigible, personalities, and sensibilities are very different from Rue’s. This extra attention allowed for a higher amount of character development for the twins than occurred than in the first two installments.

Plus from start to finish this book was all go! There literally was never a dull moment! I had a tough time putting it down! I just had to know what happened next. I cannot wait for the last book of the series, Reticence to come out next year, to see where this self-proclaimed band of misfits winds up!

    Fran

9781633884397I’ve always maintained that Kat Richardson is one of the most intelligent writers I know, and that statement still holds true. Writing as K. R. Richardson, her new novel, Blood Orbit (Pyr tpo, $18.00) is thought-provoking, dynamic, complex, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Unfolding her world deliciously slowly, Kat introduces us to a world that is basically run by the Gattis Corporation, and where rookie cop Eric Matheson and his training officer, Santos, run into a nightclub, a jasso, with seventeen murder victims inside. Almost immediately, Matheson is assigned to assist Chief Investigating Forensic Officer J. P. Dillal, and they’re given a very tight timeline to figure out what happened. Otherwise, in this Company town, the Gattis Corporation will come up with a solution that will suit its own ends, regardless of the truth.

And if that isn’t enough pressure, CIFO Dillal has been cybernetically altered, but the modifications are new, untested, and in fact, not completely healed. And he’s disturbing to look at, which makes him unsuited for undercover work.

The world created by K. R. Richardson is so layered, so complete, and so alien that it will take several books, I suspect, to really get a grasp on it, but it is well worth the effort – and I promise you, it’s an easy effort! Her writing is so smooth, so well narrated that you’ll find yourself learning about the various people, the races, the government, the corporation, all of it without really trying. It just seeps into your brain until you can see the world.

And her people! Oh man, I love her people! For one of the races she’s developed a patois that I desperately want to hear spoken! I suspect it’s beautiful, and strange, and I find myself using some of the language, which gets me the odd head tilt. I’m good with that.

Make no mistake, Blood Orbit is a police procedural, and it’s noir. Very bad things happen to those we care about, and events unfold in complicated and dark ways, but the truth is out there, if Matheson and Dillal (and you with them) are willing to do what it takes to find it.

I absolutely have to re-read this book because I know I missed a lot of nuance in my rush to find out what happened, and I’m already vibrating in anticipation of a sequel.

Keep writing, Kat! We need more of this!

    JB

I’ve been reading James Lee Burke since I joined the staff of SMB in 1990. I was struck by Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell on an almost visceral level. There’s something about those two that resonated with me, both through Dave’s narration and Burke’s words, and the actions of the “Bobbsey Twins from Homicide”. I’ve had my criticisms of the series: how many goombas did Dave go to school with in this smaller Louisiana town, and weren’t these best friends getting a bit too old to be pulling the shit they were doing if they were in ‘Nam in the early years? I’ve been willing to ignore those quibbles because I loved these guys so much. But it started to feel as if it was time to retire the series, really, and I thought that the end of Light of the World would’ve been the great way to do it:

“I placed my arm around his waist, and together we limped up the slope, a couple of vintage low-riders left over from another era in the season the Indians called the moon of popping cherries, in the magical land that charmed and beguiled the sense and made one wonder if divinity did not indeed hide just on the other side of the tangible world.”

9781501176845But then came Robicheaux last January and of course I’m going to read it. There’s no way to NOT read a book about Dave and Clete. But I have to say this is an odd book. It is jumbled with Dave doing and saying things that Clete would normally say, and vice versa. Dave’s fictional daughter Alafair has become even more a depiction of Burke’s real daughter, the wonderful writer Alafair Burke. A noted, local, fictional novelist in this book is said to have thought his best book is one that got little notice, White Doves at Morning – which is a wonderful Civil War novel that James Lee Burke published in 2002. There’s continual reference to a series of murders and there’s a bit about them in the Author’s Notes at the front of the book, but there’s nothing in this book that really addresses those crimes and those references just seem misleading. Dave feels lost and makes comments to Clete about their ages. And though I enjoyed the sheer pleasure of Burke’s writing I finished the book not really understanding who did what and why they did it.

Oh well. At least I got over 400 pages of Dave and Clete, Alafair and Helen, and that alone is well worth the time.

Killing King by Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock continues the recent books and research on the assassination of Dr. King by filling in our knowledge of how organized and active what most of us have thought of as the KKK in the 1960s and showing the national efforts and range of these “humans”. The Klan was just one element of this crowd and, indeed, many of actors in this story were not members of the clan. They didn’t need it, they thought it too soft. Imagine that. The Klan just targeted blacks. These guys wanted the Jews targeted as much, if not more. They’re truly creepy.

The subtitle tells a great deal; “Racial Terrorists, James Earl Ray, and the Plot to 9781619029194Assassinate Martin Luther King Jr.” Do they say who fired the shot? I’m not sure. It’s a fascinating book but not for what it says about that horrifying day in Memphis but for what it says about the Southern white racists.

In light of Charlottesville, the recent press given to neo-Nazis, and the “alt-right”, this book shows once again how active these “people” have been all along and we who are humans and people have been fooled into thinking they’d gone away. But they’ve never gone away. They’ve been an ugly part of the American quilt all long. I don’t think I was naive about this but Killing King powerfully details their plots and plans, and makes it show in a different light.

One of the central ogres in the story is Wesley Swift, a preacher of hate and racial genocide whose rants had wide-ranging effects mainly due to tapes of his “church”. He and his followers were hoping to nudge the country into racial violence and, eventually they hoped, into a race war that would cleanse the continent. If you thought Charlie Manson was far out with Helter Skelter, the Caucasian monsters in this book were well ahead of Charlie.

What kept coming to me as I read this history was the racial terrorism that has continued since: Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations in Idaho; Robert Matthews, the guy who robbed the bank at Northgate and who split off to form The Order; what prison story or movie doesn’t mention the Aryan Brotherhood? Christian Identity, domestic terrorists – it all stinks of narrow-mindedness and a blood-thirsty belief that “we’re right, they’re wrong so they can die”… Where does it end?

Guess it doesn’t.

Lastly, I have to say something about Megan Abbott and Raymond Chandler and all of teeth-gnashing over are his books acceptable in the days of #METOO.

The new Annotated Big Sleep is a great deal of fun – mostly. 9780804168885It provides no end of local color to Chandler and LA at the time the book was written and published and does a great job explaining and showing how he cannibalized his short stories to be elements of his novels – in the case of The Big Sleep they do it nearly line by line. There are lingo explanations and word derivations. There are photos and illustrations – the original book on the left and the annotations on the right. As Otto Penzler is quoted on the back of the trade paper original, “What a great excuse to read this masterpiece again! The annotations are addictively fascinating, educational, and almost as compulsively readable as the novel.”

One complaint I have about the annotating authors is that they are far too PC. They’re putting today’s views onto an author who wrote this book 80 years ago!

Deciding who to read or not read now based on what and how they wrote 50 or 500 years ago is inane. Yes, in the hardboiled fiction of the early 1900s, women were demeaned and slapped around and viewed as dames and femme fatales. Some were portrayed as weak and some as praying mantises. Deciding to stop reading the authors now because they don’t measure up to our current political correctness or #METOOishness is as pointless as the arguments a few years ago to stop reading Mark Twain because he wrote the “n-word”. Guess that would ban Blazing Saddles, too… There’s a movie that couldn’t be made today and more’s the pity.

In no small way this is censorship.

Certainly we can take the authors’ time and atmosphere into account when we read their words but mature adults do that anyway, don’t we? We don’t think Shakespeare was anti-women because he manipulated Othello into murdering his wife, nor do we think it because Lady Macbeth was such a blood-thirsty femme fatale. Should “Hamlet” never again be taught or staged because he made Ophelia a “frail” who was so weak a woman that she drowned herself? 

The point is to not overlay our present views on the artists of the past because it isn’t fair to them or useful to us. “Present views” are continually changing like the width of ties or the height of hemlines. The shop once had a customer who actually professed that they’d never read a book in which the characters smoked. Imagine that! Let your mind wander and consider all that such a rule would eliminate from your culture. Isn’t there smoking in Some Like it Hot, West Side Story? There’s probably some in Mary Poppins! Egad!

Read Raymond Chandler for the beauty of his words, for the way he constructs a sentence, for the sparkle of his art because that’s what it is. Who really gives a damn who killed Owen Taylor? I never have and it’s never stopped me from loving the book. Let the things that make you cringe slide off to the side, don’t let them bother you, and slip into his pages.

“What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that.”

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