June 2020

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    Stuff That’s Just Too Cool

Odd Job’s Lethal Bowler from Goldfinger Surfaces

LeVar Burton still loves reading aloud. His storytelling might be what you need right now.

John Grisham: Why Indie Bookstores Are Essential 

A journal Jim Morrison wrote in Paris will soon be up for auction. 

The Washington Post’s virtual literary event calendar is now available. Readers can find an updated list of national bookstore, library, author events and more!

A variation on “The Dog Ate My Homework” story: Fun fact ~ John Steinbeck’s dog ate the first draft of Of Mice and Men.

    Serious Stuff

Dirty money piling up in L.A. as coronavirus cripples international money laundering

The Dark History of America’s First Female Terrorist Group 

Why it’s so hard to read a book right now, explained by a neuroscientist 

Declassified FBI Photos Show the Horror of Being a First Responder in Jonestown 

What to Make of Isaac Asimov, Sci-Fi Giant and Dirty Old Man? Despite Calling Himself a Feminist the Author of the Foundation Stories Was a Serial Harasser

A renowned scholar claimed that he discovered a first-century gospel fragment. Now he’s facing allegations of antiquities theft, cover-up, and fraud.

An Alaska School Board Will Keep Classics on the Curriculum after an Uproar over Their Removal

The World’s First ‘Incel’ Terrorism Charge

The Atlantic lays off dozens of staff members as pandemic hits media budgets

    Local Stuff

‘Starting a New Chapter: Seattle Booksellers, moved by community support amid the shutdown, say ‘indie bookstores will thrive again’

How Seattle book workers have adapted to coronavirus shutdowns — and what they’ve been reading

Starting a novel while stuck at home? Seattle author Elizabeth George shares tips in ‘Mastering the Process.’ 

What Happens to Powell’s Books When You Can’t Browse the Aisles?

    Words of the Month

bada bing (adj?): According to this interview, James Caan just improvised the words during the filming of that scene from The Godfather. Others attribute it to the rim shot produced by drummers during a comedian’s set. Others, yet, say it goes back to a skit on “The Jackie Gleason Show”, which may’ve gotten it from some earlier forgotten use in the Catskills or vaudeville. In this 1965 album, Pat Cooper says it at 14:27 into his recorded performance – it goes by very fast. Clearly, the modern use stems from The Godfather in 1972.

    Awards

Bryan Washington has won the £30,000 Dylan Thomas Prize. 

Here’s the shortlist for the £10,000 Caine Prize. 

The NYPL has announced the 2020 Young Lions Fiction Award Finalists.

The National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize goes to DIBS for Kids.

    Book Stuff

Inside the wild double life of rare books dealer John Jenkins

Legal Thrillers for Literary Snobs

Social isolation (and video chat) is bringing renewed attention to the art of the bookshelf

The Most Important (and Literary?) Meal of the Day 

Christie & Sayers & Allingham & Tey: Celebrating the Crime Queens of the Golden Age

The Cornerstones of Country Noir

Anything can be a Penguin Classic with this handy cover generator.


My First Thriller: Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly on ‘fake news,’ COVID-19 writing and his nonprofit-set thriller


How Novelist Megan Abbott Learned to Write for Television

Scott Turow on the One Character Who Keeps Coming Back to Him, Again and Again

Powell’s Books will be back, CEO Emily Powell pledges, but not soon

For Bookstore Owners, Reopening Holds Promise and Peril

For booksellers in L.A., a partial reopening brings hope and anxiety

Barnes & Noble is slowly reopening stores to shoppers in a few states.

‘Economic duress is nothing new’: Can America’s oldest black bookstore survive the pandemic?

Legendary Paris bookshop reveals reading habits of illustrious clientele

Research finds reading books has surged in the UK during lockdown

I wish more people would read … Damon Runyon’s short stories

Coronavirus Shutdowns Weigh on Book Sales 

Coronavirus forces National Book Festival to shift to online-only format this year

Martin Edwards on the Enduring Popularity of Traditional Mysteries 

25 GREAT INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES IN THE U.S.

    Other Forms of Entertainment

Otto Penzler’s list of Greatest Crime Films of All-Time Continues

Michael Mann Is Talking to Directors, Wondering When They Can All Go Back to Work 

Before there was Jessica Fletcher, there were the Snoop Sisters.

Scrubs: A sitcom that’s actually aged well?

Hollywood’s Women in Criminal Justice: Sometimes Fact, Sometimes Fiction


Luca Guadagnino to remake Scarface with Coen brothers script

Scarface Hitman Geno Silva Dies of Dementia at 72


Die Hard With a Vengeance: The strange saga of Laurence Fishburne and how it ended up in court

“Hightown”: An Old-School Crime Drama That’s Thoroughly Modern 


Armed Guards and Death Threats: Inside the Making of Netflix’s Harrowing Jeffrey Epstein Documentary 

New book claims Bill Clinton had an affair with Ghislaine Maxwell

New Jeffrey Epstein doc should finally lead to a reckoning with Bill Clinton


    Words of the Month

contretemps (n): From the 1680s, “a blunder in fencing,” from French contre-temps “motion out of time, unfortunate accident, bad times” (16th C.), from contre, an occasional, obsolete variant of contra (prep.) “against” (from Latin contra “against;” see contra (prep., adv.)) + tempus “time” (see temporal). Meaning “an unfortunate accident, an unexpected or embarrassing event” is from 1802; as “a dispute, disagreement,” from 1961. It also was used as a ballet term (1706). [thanks to etymonline]

    RIP

May 10:Thomas Reppetto, Crime Watchdog and Historian, Is Dead at 88

May 12: Simon & Schuster President and CEO Carolyn Reidy Dies at 71

May 19: Leonard Levitt, Reporter Who Riled NYPD Brass, Dies at 79

May 28: Larry Kramer: Elton John leads tributes to playwright and Aids activist

    Author Events

nope, not yet…

    Links of Interest

May 2: Real-life Indiana Jones reveals £100million treasure trove dating back to 1200s

May 6: New Zealand coronavirus: Massive car heist under cover of lockdown

May 8: Authorities Recover 19,000 Artifacts in International Antiquities Trafficking Sting

May 11: Medieval Arrows Inflicted Injuries That Mirror Damage Caused by Modern Bullets

May 12: How It Felt Learning My Dad Is a Serial Killer

May 12: The Spy Who Handed America’s Nuclear Secrets to the Soviets

May 13: French serial-killer expert admits serial lies, including murder of imaginary wife

May 14: This AI-generated dictionary is very cool and also terrifying.

May 15: Why Do Some Writers Burn Their Work?

May 15: Lisa Scottoline’s daughter, Francesca Serritella, makes a name for herself as a novelist with ‘Ghosts of Harvard’

May 17: Dirty Harry’s blood-soaked San Francisco was a terrifying reality

May 17: Michael Jordan: NBA legend’s trainers sell for record $560,000

May 18: Text Found on Supposedly Blank Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

May 18: Sir Frederick Barclay’s nephew ‘caught with bugging device’ at Ritz hotel

May 18: Neil Gaiman spoken to by police after 11,000-mile trip

May 19: Do police sketches actually help catch criminals?

May 20: How to find a book without knowing the actual title

May 21: Bill Clinton and James Patterson reunite for a second thriller

May 21: A Crime Reader’s Guide to the Pope of Trash

May 21: Tony Hadley, a radio quiz, one syllable – and a $10,000 riddle

May 21: ‘I wrote my wife a poem every day for 25 years’

May 22: Loon stabs eagle through heart

May 22: Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize

May 22: The Great Elmore Leonard Renaissance of the Late ‘90s

May 23: Berlin WW2 bombing survivor Saturn the alligator dies in Moscow Zoo

May 26: Canada tow-truck turf wars lead to nearly 200 charges

May 26: On Dracula‘s birthday, remember the copyright battle over the illegally-adapted Nosferatu.

May 26: ‘The Genetic Detective’ ~ CeCe Moore’s True Crime Career Started Out In An Unusual Way

May 27: About That Time Whitey Bulger “Won” the Mass Millions Lottery

May 27: What Do You Do With a Stolen van Gogh? This Thief Knows

May 27: Roman mosaic floor found under Italian vineyard

May 28: Sherlock Holmes and the Womanly Art of Self-Defense – Or, how to incorporate late 19th century suffragette self-defense movements into a Sherlock Holmes pastiche series.

    Words of the Month

melch (v.) to yield easily to pressure (thanks to Says You!, #522)

    What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

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Guess What!!!! Season 2 of Finder of Lost Things is nearly ready to start posting! The story is finished and 2/3 of the photography is finished! So in the next couple of weeks it will go live!!! Woot!

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A Murderous Relation – Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell is back, and let me tell you, I’ve been looking forward to the next book in this series – and it didn’t let me down!

Though I must say when I read the flyleaf, I was a bit worried. As this story is set smack dab in Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror – and let me tell you everyone and their second cousin who writes historical mysteries in Victorian London eventually puts Whitechapel into their story…with varying degrees of success.

Happily, Raybourn has done a great job of incorporating the very well known string of murders in an intriguing way – while also skirting the specter that still haunts those cobblestone streets. By not only making sure we see the women as human beings (which often gets overlooked) but feel the fear that gripped London due to the London Police’ inability to apprehend him.

However, first and foremost, Veronica is asked by the royal family for help in making sure her half-brother and heir-to-the-throne doesn’t get caught in an indelicate position with someone who isn’t his future wife…Veronica initially says no…but then Lady Welly falls ill…and Veronica and Stoker decided to snoop around a bit.

And action, old enemies, and anarchy ensues.

I loved reading Rayborn’s mystery, writing, and flare from cover to cover! BTW – you don’t HAVE to read them in order…but if you read this one first, then go back and start with number one…well, you’ll have spoiled a portion of the tension in the earlier installments. So while you don’t have to read them in order – at this point I think you should! (You won’t be disappointed!)

Fran

So, isn’t 2020 a total pip? Something exciting around every corner, right?

Yeah, about that. So I decided to take a break from anything suspenseful, and on the recommendation of my favorite New Mexico hair stylist turned mask maker, I decided to read The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A. J. Jacobs.

9781416599067Jacobs has found his niche in journalism and writing. He doesn’t just try new things, he immerses himself in them to see how they work. For example, one of his experiments is detailed in a book I have yet to read called “The Know-It-All”, where he reads every word of an encyclopedia. He also lived Biblically for a year. His wife is a saint.

In My Life as an Experiment, A. J. Jacobs has put together some of his smaller projects. For example, one chapter deals with unitasking – focusing solely on doing only one thing at a time. Literally just one thing. If you’re eating, don’t talk. No background noise, just eat.

Another deals with telling the absolute truth, no filters. He did this for a whole month. It’s amazing he has any friends left, and did I mention his wife is a saint?

What could be just stupid and mockable is the way A. J. Jacobs writes. He’s smart. He’s funny as hell. And he lists his sources and resources for things he does. He approaches each experiment with total concentration and absolute focus, true, but he never loses sight of himself, his wife and kids, and his sense of delight and enthusiasm. If it doesn’t interest him, he won’t do the experiment. It has to be meaningful and interesting and educational to him.

And it will be to you as well.

Now, what I didn’t realize when I started My Life as an Experiment, that at the back, before the source list and acknowledgments and whatnot, there’s another subsection for each chapter. He makes some observations about what he wrote, and some of the details that didn’t go into the flow of the narrative but are still fascinating. There are a couple of Appendices that are equally fascinating.

It’s not a mystery. It’s not true crime unless maybe one instance of identity theft. But it’s interesting and fun and humorous and exactly the change I needed right now. I think you’ll enjoy it too.

JB

Still reading and enjoying and amazed by John Connolly’s“The Sisters Strange”, his Charlie Parker novella being written and published as it is ready. At this writing, there are nearly 40 short chapters.  It’s a neat trick to pull off and a great story – as usual.

Not really sure how long I’ve been reading the Nate Heller books from Max Allan Collins. Maybe before SMB existed? They’re a terrific mix of true crime events and hardboiled fiction as Collins puts his private eye into historical cases and provides his solution to the events. In an early one, the determination isn’t that Zangara wasn’t trying to shoot FDR that day but intended to, and did, kill Chicago Mayor Cermak. The first few books deal mainly with the Chicago Mob and the hit was ordered by them for Cermak’s treachery.

The books deal with nearly all of the famous and lurid crimes and figures of the 20th C.: Bugsy Siegel, the Lindbergh Kidnapping, the Black Dahlia case, the Torso Murders in Cleveland, the disappearance of Earhart and the death of Forrestal, and, of course, JFK.

9780765378293The new book, Do No Harm, inserts Heller into the Marylin Shepard case and reunites the PI with a number of figures – Eliot Ness, F. Lee Bailey, Flo Kilgore (his stand in for journalist Dorothy Kilgallen) – and re-creates the case, the crimes, the trials, and the suspects. As usual, it’s great fun.

However, there’s one major problem with the story: on one hand, Sam Shepard is portrayed as a philandering rogue, on another as a man whose beautiful wife found sex painful and allowed what we’d now call an open marriage, and yet on a third hand, the victim is said to have been having a torrid affair with a neighbor. Well, which is it – she found sex painful or she was having a torrid affair with the mayor? Collins doesn’t resolve it, or, I suppose, leaves it unresolved as just another aspect of the case muddied by the different views of those involved.

At any rate, I look forward to Heller’s next case, whatever it may be. Not many more big cases for Heller to tackle, but then Collins is always full or surprises. I recommend the book AND the series!

9781501176890In The New Iberia Blues, Dave and Clete and Alafair continue their peculiar journey through live, with irritation and love, anger and confusion, dealing with the horrors we inflict upon one another, intentionally or not. Some horrors are minor while others scar the mind. And in this small corner of the world, we’re lucky we have these people to tackle the bad guys.

Burke’s writing skills haven’t lost a step. He knows where the world has been – literature, too – and isn’t hesitant to show the trail. “Every literary plot is either in the Bible, Greek mythology, or Elizabethan theater. Hemingway said it was all right for an author to steal as long as he improved the material… Read Charles Dickens’s journalistic account of a public execution in London. It will make you want to flee humanity”. Maybe so, but humanity also produces prose like that of James Lee Burke. So let’s stay a bit longer, huh?

 



BUY SMALL ~ SUPPORT SMALL




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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