May 2020

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“Print culture will come back from all this. Books always survive, and anyone who thinks otherwise has probably never read one.” — Warren Ellis

Italy allows bookstores to reopen as an ‘essential good’

Bookshop hits $1 million raised for independent bookstores.

World Economic Forum: Book Sales Surge During Lockdown

      Serious Stuff

Annie Dookhan’s Drug Lab Crimes Compromised More Than 20,000 Criminal Convictions 

Daniel Pearl murder: Pakistani court overturns death sentence of accused 

In ‘Unprecedented’ Move, the U.S. Just Named a Bunch of Neo-Nazis a Terrorist Organization

The Hate Store: Amazon’s Self-Publishing Arm Is a Haven for White Supremacists

Alexander McCall Smith: ‘I hope the coronavirus makes us realise the ways we have abused the world’

The most dangerous active serial killer in 2020 

Inside Netflix’s “Innocence Files”: “The system is set up to attain convictions”

Here Are the Questions the Right’s Favorite Coronavirus Truther Isn’t Willing to Answer: John Berenson under the spotlight

A Good Journalist Understands That Fascism Can Happen Anywhere, Anytime

Crows Aren’t Bad Omens (But They May Be The Criminal Masterminds of the Bird World)

       Local Stuff

New book ‘Nature Obscura’ shows where Mother Nature is hidden in Seattle

‘We sent out an SOS.’ Seattle’s Stranger in the fight of its life

      Words of the Month

recumbentibus (n.)  A knock-out punch, either physical or verbal. (thanks to Says You!, episode #820)

      Awards

And the winner of the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction is…

And the winner of the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize is…

Coronavirus is topic one among newly announced L.A. Times Book Prize winners 

Here’s the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE READERS AWARDS


2020 Edgar Allan Poe Award Winners

The State of Crime Writing in 2020: Part 1


      Book Stuff

Woody Allen’s Memoir Is Shrouded in Secrecy. Why?  

Vidocq and the Birth of the Fictional Detective 

Border Stories: A Guide to the Novels of Don Winslow

Books Briefing: If Your Attention Span Is Shrinking, Read Poetry 

Filth in a time of handwashing: why lockdown erotica is the hottest trend in publishing 

Our new lockdown game: judging famous people by their bookshelves in their posts

Suing Hollywood: Author Tess Gerritsen took on a Hollywood studio for screenplay theft. It was just the start of a long, strange journey.

Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman Talk Noir, Scandals, and Pulpy Cover Art 

The 12 Darkest Endings in the History of Noir Fiction 

Elmore Leonard, Florida Man

We Owe More to Our Young Writers: On the Relevance of the Workshop

The Women Who Edited Crime Fiction

This Is the Book That Outsold Dracula in 1897

10 Must-Read Crime-Fighting Duos

Thanks to Bookshop, There Is No Reason to Buy Books on Amazon Anymore

What Personal Letters Reveal About Human Struggles

‘Everything collapsed like dominos’: How the literary world is adapting to survive lockdown

The 30 Best One-Star Amazon Reviews of . . . The Dictionary

What can we learn from Robinson Crusoe writer’s 1722 plague book?

Three May “Webinars” from Sisters in Crime! 

Majority of authors ‘hear’ their characters speak, finds study  

Barnes & Noble workers say warehouse is unsafe. 

Online Auction to Aid Comic-Book Shops Raises Over $430,000

Left-wing indie publishers have formed a coalition to support each other during the pandemic.

      Words of the Month

verbiculture (n) The “the production of words,” 1873, from Latin verbum “word” (see verb) + ending from agriculture, etc. Coined by Fitzedward Hall, in “Modern English.” He was scolded for it in the “Edinburgh Review.” (thanks to etymonline)

      Entertainments of other sorts

1971: Richard Burton and Liz Taylor on the set of Villain – in pictures 

‘It’s pure rock’n’roll’: how Money Heist became Netflix’s biggest global hit 

The Rise of Australian True Crime Podcasts

Don Cheadle on His Career and His Movies

The Showrunner of Murder House Flip on Why He Wanted to Flip Murder Houses


10 of the Greatest Con Artist Movies of All-Time 

Seven Fictional Con Artists and the Communities They Swindled

A Notorious Grifter Bought an Entire Restaurant With a Fake $400,000 Check


The movie role Dwayne Johnson lost to Tom Cruise (you can guess which one…)

HBO’s Latest True-Crime Documentary – Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered –  is Driven More by Twists Than the Truth

“Killing Eve” is back, with consequences

Here’s the first trailer for the new HBO series “Perry Mason”

Coronavirus: Banksy makes ‘bathroom’ lockdown art

Sunset Bloulevard Turns 70: Nancy Olson on Wilder, Holden and Why She Walked Away From Stardom 

Ross Thomas, the criminally neglected spy-caper author behind “Briarpatch” (an Edgar-winning novel and one of Bill’s all-time favorites!)


You Can’t Say American Psycho Didn’t Warn Us 

In Conversation: Mary Harron ~On almost losing American Psycho, fighting to cast Christian Bale, and why the movie’s reception reminds her of Joker.


My streaming gem: why you should watch The Killing of America 

Barry Sonnenfeld: On Making Blood Simple with the Coen Brothers

      Words of the Month

verbal (adj.) From the early 15th C., “dealing with words” (especially in contrast to things or realities), from Old French verbal (14th C.) and directly from Late Latin verbalis “consisting of words, relating to verbs,” from Latin verbum “word” (see verb). Related: Verbally. Verbal conditioning is recorded from 1954. Colloquial verbal diarrhea is recorded from 1823. A verbal noun is a noun derived from a verb and sharing in its senses and constructions. (thanks to etymonline)

      Links of Interest

March 31: ‘Stealing Home’ revisits Dodger Stadium’s nefarious origins

April 1: Portland comic book industry faces double challenge: social distancing and no new product

April 1: The Forgotten Kidnapping Epidemic That Shook Depression-Era America

April 2: The Writing Conference That Ended in a Russian Police Station

April 2: The Fallout of a Medieval Archbishop’s Murder Is Recorded in Alpine Ice

April 3: MI6: World War Two workers in rare ‘forbidden’ footage

April 3: Matt Lucas reveals the strange way he was hired for Bake-Off

April 9: Very rare’ handwritten ‘Hey Jude’ lyrics sell for £732,000 at auction 

April 9: Escape Into These Fantastical, Imaginary Maps

April 13: Donna Leon on Italian Culture, Environmentalism, and Her Long-Running Series

April 15: A Bookstore in Boulder Pivots to Bike Delivery of ‘Mystery Bags’

April 16: 500 Years of True Crime

April 17: The Mystery of a Medieval Blue Ink Has Been Solved

April 17: Gilded Age Women Who Got Away With Murder

April 20: Elliot Gould ~ The star of M*A*S*H, The Long Goodbye – and more recently, ‘Friends’ – talks about drugs, his fiery marriage to Barbra Streisand and getting his best reviews from Groucho Marx and Muhammad Ali

April 20: ‘Bored’ kookaburra bird in daily lockdown walk


April 20: Pierce Brosnan, the James Bond actor, recounted a table-pounding, martini-fueled chat with the “Pulp Fiction” director about making a James Bond movie together.

April 20: For your eyes only: Terry O’Neill’s unseen shots of James Bond – in pictures

April 21: Cary Fukunaga’s Original Idea for James Bond Sounds Like a Trippy 007 We’ve Never Seen Before


April 21: How a Mossad Agent and a Band of Survivors Hunted Down the Butcher of Latvia

April 24: Captain Tom tops the charts at the age of 99

April 24: Shakespeare Day 2020: Dame Judi Dench reads from Richard II

April 25: Dancer uses bin night to perform for neighbours

April 25: First edition of Roald Dahl book Gremlins up for auction

April 25: HK bookseller who defied China opens shop in Taiwan

April 25: Why the Mafia are taking care of everyone’s business

April 27: The Long, Winding History of Sexton Blake, the Adamantly British Crime Fighter. He was Britain’s most popular detective. Then he all but disappeared from the pop culture. Or did he?

April 28: Meet Nancy Wake ~ Socialite, Spy, and The Most Decorated Heroine of WWII

April 28: Why the FBI Almost Shut Down the Unabomber Investigation Before He Was Caught

April 29: The Valentine’s Day snake puzzle

April 30: The Bizarre Newspaper Hoax That Nearly Ruined Lizzie Borden

April 30: How Spider-Man Cracked the Comic Book Code

      Words of the Month

verbarian (n.) A “word-coiner,” 1873, from Latin verbum “word” (see verb) + -arian. Coleridge (or the friend he was quoting) had used it earlier as an adjective, and with a different sense, in wishing for: “a verbarian Attorney-General, authorised to bring informations ex officio against the writer or editor of any work in extensive circulation, who, after due notice issued, should persevere in misusing a word” (1830). (thanks to etymonline)

      Author Events?

nope…….not yet

      R.I.P.

April 6: Honor Blackman, star of “The Avengers” and Goldfinger, Dead at 94 

April 9: Mort Drucker, Master of the Mad Caricature, Is Dead at 91

April 15: Brian Dennehy, veteran stage and screen actor, dies aged 81 of natural causes

April 20: Richard Wadani: Austrian Nazi deserter dies aged 97

April 20: Sheila Connolly died in her beloved Ireland at age 70

April 29: Jill Gascoine ~ Pioneering British actress dies at 83

April 29: Irrfan Khan ~ a seductive actor capable of exquisite gentleness

April 29: Maj Sjöwall: ‘Nordic noir’ pioneer, author of the Martin Beck series, dies aged 84.   “The couple who invented Nordic Noir”.

      What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

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Ben Aaronovitch – False Value

Okay, I must confess…

I’ve fallen behind in the ‘Rivers Of London’ series. Not because of the writing, but due to the space between my ears and I’ve only recently been able to start reading books set after the 1950s.

And, for reasons beyond my ken, I decided to pick the series back up after missing the last two books. Yeah, I know. However, I think its the sign of a good author that the reader can restart a series – after missing one or two installments – and not be confused about what’s going on.

And Ben Aaronovitch is an excellent author.

I can admit, I was a hair confused for the first three chapters – but I think it was more out of concern for Peter Grant than the writing itself. I should’ve had more faith in my author and resisted the urge to check the last page or two to see if my faves were together again!

That being said – this was a great book! Peter Grant providing security for a tech company? I mean, he gets distracted enough without a bevy of unique vending machines to sample his way thru, board games to play, and killer drones to deal with!

This book is one of the most interesting transition books I’ve read in a long time, giving you hints, crumbs of new allies? New Baddies? And inklings of new stresses coming soon to his home life…

If you’ve never read the ‘Rivers of London’ Series before, I think you can start with False Value and be alright – keeping in mind, there are a number of books that come before it. (However, I would suggest going back and starting with number 1 – because who doesn’t enjoy a police procedural with magic?)

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Nancy Drew

Question, have you ever tried going back a rereading a series you loved and adored as a child? Only to find your adult eyes can’t see past some glaring flaws your younger self missed? This same thing happened to me when I tried going back and reread Nancy Drew. I did manage to wade my way through my favorites, but the vast majority I needed to set aside, so my memory and love of them wouldn’t tarnish.

The preponderance of coincidences abounding in the mysteries was my biggest problem with the books. My second was the seemingly flawless nature of Nancy herself, and because she’s written as the quintessential daughter/friend/sleuth, she lacks the nuance I crave as an adult.

All this being said – I still couldn’t help myself from watching the first episode of the new television show.

I mean its Nancy Drew, how could I not?

So I watched the first episode – and found myself tilting my head going, “Ummm…..Guys? Are you sure this is what you really meant to do?”

But in the name of research, I download episode number 2….then 3….and 4…..by the 5th I was hooked and bought the whole series.

Why? Because the show’s clever in how it skirts around my two biggest grievances of the books. First, the writers added a supernatural element. Ghosts, spirits, and corporally challenged beings roam Horseshoe Bay. Which doesn’t sound like it ought to work – but it does. This supernatural element takes away our sleuth’s reliance on coincidences and happenstance to solve crimes. Instead it gives Nancy and her friends a different, eerier, avenue of investigation which they use. (After they start believing that supernatural beings are in fact in play.)

My other issue, the lack of depth, is also addressed – because neither Nancy or any of her friends are flawless in this adaptation. For example, Nancy’s mother dies less than a year before the series begins. It’s at this point we meet Nancy Drew. Still angry. Still grieving. Still in a tailspin that’s trashed not only chance at a college career but created a deep rift dividing her and her father, Carson Drew.

Nancy’s life is complicated, messy, and her need to expose the truth costs Nancy dearly – but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The tv show itself isn’t without its issues. Owing mainly to the fact the majority (but by no means all) of characters are around eighteen – you get a fair bit of interpersonal drama. Which did, in the beginning, have me rolling my eyes saying, dude is this really necessary for the plot?

Turns out, yes, yes it is. So roll your eyes, throw popcorn at the tv – but keep watching! Because there are so many delicious layers to this show, so many reveals to be made – I promise you will get hooked!

   Fran

You know that John Connolly is an excellent writer with great characters, an incredible52771340._SX318_SY475_ story, and that fine balance between sadness and humor that his writing is addictive. Of course you know this.

But it wasn’t until I was partway through his latest Charlie Parker novel, THE DIRTY SOUTH (Atria, publication postponed to October 20!), the 18th of Parker’s travels, it finally struck me how easily John Connolly manipulates his readers. Well, me anyway.

See, he understands psychology and human nature, and how obsessive and irrational people can be. And by irrational, I mean that whole “just one more chapter” thing. You do it. You know you do.

So what John does is he throws in a couple of seriously short chapters, just paragraphs really, and you say to yourself in a dismissive tone, “Well, that didn’t really count as a chapter, and look, the next one’s short too, so I’ll just read a couple of short ones,” and the next thing you know, you’re caught up in his diabolical web, it’s 3:00 in the morning and the book just drops from your nerveless fingers. Just evil.

And he’s setting us up from the very beginning of THE DIRTY SOUTH with:

“Mr. Parker?”

“Yes.”

“This is-“

“I know. It’s been a long time.”

“It has. I hoped we’d never have to speak of this again. I’m sure you felt the same way.”

Parker did not reply and the man continued.

“I thought you should know,” he said. “They pulled a body from the Karagol.”

And then we’re swept back in time to when Parker’s wife and daughter are newly dead, when Parker’s beginning his long journey, and when things are barely beginning to unfold. This is the story of how Parker started to define the man we now know.

We meet the people in Burdon County, Arkansas, and they are  troubled and  complex, generally getting by, but someone’s been killing young women. Parker chances through, and becomes a catalyst. You know how that goes.

But this isn’t your typical Charlie Parker novel, and you’re going to be sucked into it, and the tensions between the people, and remembering the times. Oh, you’re in for a treat, I promise.

Also, John Connolly gets to play with language a lot in this one, and it’s beyond delightful!

Pre-order it from your favorite indie now. You don’t want to miss a moment of THE DIRTY SOUTH!

   JB

I AM SO JEALOUS THAT FRAN GOT AN ADVANCE COPY OF THE NEW PARKER NOVEL!!!

I am so glad she hadn’t told me she had it. I might have driven down to her house and burgled it!

So I have tried – tried, I say – to be satisfied with John’s on-going project, “The Sisters Strange”, his novella being written and posted daily. We mentioned it in the March newzine. It’s worth the wait. Each day.

“I once met a writer who believed some men were so morally corrupt that their depravity found a physical expression; in other words, their moral disfigurement manifested itself as an alteration to feature or form.  It was, I felt, a variation on phrenology or physiognomy, the discredited pseudoscientific convictions that the shape of a skull or face might disclose essential traits of character.  Were it true, the job of law enforcement would be made significantly easier: we could simply jail all the ugly people.”

That’s from the 15th section. Is that a chapter, or a part, or installment? Don’t know or care but the numbers give you a way to locate parts. As with his novels, Connolly is dealing with large-scale issues: good and evil, weird and normal, violence and the quest for peace. And, as with the novels, he’s introduced a number of memorable figures to populate Parker’s world: Ambar Strange and her older sister Dolors Strange, and the main menace of the tale (at least, so far) Raum Buker, who lives at the Braycroft Arms. Where does he get these names? I like to think in abandoned graveyards in the woods of Maine.  And then there is the odd and disturbing Mr. Kepler. Yesh.

” But evil – true evil, not the mundane human wickedness born of fear, envy, wrath, or greed – is adept at concealment, because it wishes to survive and persist.  Only when it’s ready, or is forced to do so, does it reveal itself.  Not even evil is free from the rule of nature.” [#15]

It’s exhilarating to follow this, to know John knows no more of what’s coming that we do. As a high-wire act, it’s something to behold. And a treat.

Come on, John – where’re we going?

Shop Small/Save Small

February 2020

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Every now and then we lose a member of the SMB family and, though they are perhaps not well known to you, we want to note their passing –

Jim Norman recently died. Hard to say exactly when he moved into the orbit of the shop but it certainly was way back in the days of our Jance events at The Doghouse. Jim was a HUGE Jance fan and he and his first wife Carol created and gave a J.A. Jance tour to show other fans places where key events in Judy’s books occurred. Carol was killed in a collision with a drunk driver and the tours ended.

Jim was a loyal customer for at least a couple of decades and was always ready with a large smile to match his big frame and followed it with caring questions in his deep, soft voice. We got to know his second wife, Lynne, at later Jance signings and when she’d stop by to pick up books for him after he retired to the Olympic Peninsula.

Jim had a big life. He was in law enforcement in California, and owned a bookshop at one point. That gave him a special fondness for Bill’s bookshop, and sympathy when we were having a hard time.

Our hope is that Jim and Bill have found one another and are sharing laughs and a meal in a booth at The Doghouse in the sky.

      Serious Stuff

On the Antifascist Activists Who Fought in the Streets Long Before Antifa ~ The Rich American History of Nazi-Punching 

Jo Nesbø: ‘We should talk about violence against women’ 

Satan, the FBI, the Mob—and the Forgotten Plot to Kill Ted Kennedy

Soul Assassin: The Brief Life and Death of Jerome Johnson. In 1971, somebody hired a young Black man to assassinate an Italian mafia boss. Five decades later, the mystery continues.

True Crime Podcast, “The Murder Squad”, Leads to Arrest in 40-Year-Old Cold Case 

Smorgasbords Don’t Have Bottoms – Publishing in the 2010s (obviously written before the news of the downtown B&N closed)


Rural Montana Had Already Lost Too Many Native Women. Then Selena Disappeared. 

New app created by Clyde Ford’s company aims to reduce number of missing and murdered Native women


Bombs and blood feuds: the wave of explosions rocking Sweden’s cities

A New Missouri Bill Proposes Jailing Librarians Who Provide Children with “Age-Inappropriate” Books

      Awards

Lee Child Announced as One of the Judges for the Booker Prize

Romance Writers of America Cancels Awards Program 

John le Carré wins $100,000 prize, donates the money to charity.

      Words of the Month

auld lang syne : the good old times

From “Auld Lang Syne”:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Robert Burns never actually claimed to coin the phrase “Auld Lang Syne”—he said it was a fragment of an old song he’d discovered—but scholars credit him with the song we hear every New Year’s.

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster for the definition!)

      Book Stuff

From the Book of Genesis to contemporary crime writing, a look at why “trouble is always the most interesting element in any story.”

Fiction’s Most Manipulative Masterminds

Chuck Palahniuk on His Childhood Love of Ellery Queen and Writing in a Good Mood

The Noir Poetry and Doomed Romanticism of Cornell Woolrich 

Reviving the Traditional Mystery for a 21st Century Audience 

The case of the Encyclopedia Brown mystery that makes no sense 

Walter Mosley: ‘Everyone Can Write a Book.’ 

Graham Greene and Dorothy Glover’s Amazing Collection of Victorian Detective Fiction 

The Strange Cinematic Afterlife of ‘Red Harvest’

A library found it was missing $8 million of its rarest items. Nearly three years later, a man on the inside admitted to selling the items to a local bookstore 

How One Librarian Tried to Squash Goodnight Moon. There’s a reason this classic is missing from the New York Public Library’s list of the 10 most-checked-out books of all time.

Why Philosophers could transform your 2020 

Sold: Pierre de Coubertin’s Blueprint for the Olympics. The 14-page speech is now the world’s most expensive piece of sports memorabilia.

Shakespeare’s First Folio: Rare 1623 collection expected to fetch $6m at auction

The Making of a Harlequin Romance Cover

How a Book Cover Gets Made: Nicole Caputo on Belletrist’s Studio Sessions

Bookshop.org hopes to play Rebel Alliance to Amazon’s Empire (not sure how this is not a repeat of Indiebound, but more power to ’em!)

Dutch Art Sleuth Finds Rare Stolen Copy Of ‘Prince Of Persian Poets’

Real Book Lovers Aren’t Afraid to Cut Them in Half

Feminist Zines Have Have Been Around Longer Than You Thought—Here’s Where One Began

Anne Brontë is the least famous Brontë sister. But she might have been the most radical.

“The Third Rainbow Girl” author on the true story of a double murder she didn’t set out to write

HAPPY 120TH BIRTHDAY UNIVERSITY BOOKSTORE! Here are some things you might not have known about it.

Nourishing ‘long roots’: In a year, Madison Books has forged an essential role in one of Seattle’s oldest communities 

Exclusive: watch the trailer for The Booksellers, a new documentary about rare book dealers.

      Other Forms of Fun

The Year in Sherlock Holmes A Sherlockian Review of 2019

The Most Anticipated Crime Shows of 2020

Brad Pitt Reveals The Reaction To Se7en‘s Twist Ending Was Not What He Expected 

Season Four ‘Fargo’ Trailer: Chris Rock’s Loy Cannon Battles Mafia to Control Kansas City 

‘Silence of the Lambs’ Sequel ‘Clarice’ Gets Series Commitment at CBS

Ross Thomas’s Edgar-Winning Novel Briarpatch coming to USA Network Feb. 2nd

Marvel to get first transgender superhero

      Author Events

February 3: Clyde Ford, Powells 7:30pm

February 12: Joe Ide,  Third Place/LFP, 7pm

February 13: Joe Ide, Powell’s 7:30pm

February 27: Charles Finch, Powell’s, 7pm

February 28: Charles Finch in conversation with Mary Anne Gwinn, UBooks, 6pm

      Words of the Month

Apricity: the warmth of the sun in winter

This word provides us with evidence that even if you come up with a really great word, and tell all of your friends that they should start using it, there is a very small chance that it will catch on. Apricity appears to have entered our language in 1623, when Henry Cockeram recorded (or possibly invented) it for his dictionary The English Dictionary; or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words. Despite the fact that it is a delightful word for a delightful thing it never quite caught on.

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster for the definition!)

      Links of Interest

January 3: “One Last Job, Then I’m Out…”: Broken Resolutions in Classic Crime Films A brief history of broken promises in noir.

January 4: ‘The ghost of Manzanar’: Japanese WW2 internee’s body found

January 7: Alpacas dine out on donated Christmas tree feast

January 8: Why We Love Untranslatable Words

January 9: Burglar cooks snack in Taco Bell then falls asleep

January 9: Did The Trojan War Really Happen?

January 12: Night rider: 21 years sleeping on a London bus

January 13: The True Crime Story That Changed My Life

January 14: My decade as a fugitive: ‘I felt I could be killed at any moment’

January 14: Billie Eilish to sing the new James Bond theme

January 14: The teenage Dutch girls who seduced and killed Nazis

January 14: ‘The Irishman’ tells us who killed Jimmy Hoffa; a lawyer with a secret trove of documents says the movie got it wrong

January 15: James Bond’s greatest hits – and biggest misses

January 15: The accidental Singer sewing machine revolution

January 16: Golden Age Hollywood was Full of Ex-Cons

January 16: Meet the NASA intern who discovered a new planet on his third day

January 17: Textbooks are pricey. So students are getting creative.

January 16: Spain billionaire guilty of trying to smuggle a Picasso

January 22: Burglar traps himself in Vancouver store

January 22: The art heists that shook the world – in pictures

January 24: The secret life of Yakuza women

January 24: Mummy returns: Voice of 3,000-year-old Egyptian priest brought to life

January 27: Philip Pullman calls for boycott of Brexit 50p coin over ‘missing’ Oxford comma. Critics fume over the omission of Oxford comma from phrase ‘Peace, prosperity and friendship’ as new coin enters circulation

January 27: Me and the G-Man. A crime writer’s research sparks an unlikely
friendship with an FBI agent

January 27: Man Sentenced to Probation Despite Stealing More than $1 Million From Dr Pepper (JB swears it wasn’t him…)

January 28: What Authors Can Learn from the Greatest Long Takes in Movie History

January 28: Tesco cat Pumpkin defies Norwich supermarket ‘ban’

January 29: Ken Harmon’s “Fatman: A Tale of North Pole Noir” to come to the screen (One of Amber’s favorite comic mysteries!)


Food Fights

January 8: How New York’s Bagel Union Fought — and Beat — a Mafia Takeover. The mob saw an opportunity. Local 338 had other ideas.

January 17: In 1930s New York, the Mayor Took on the Mafia by Banning Artichokes


      R.I.P.

Buck Henry, comedy icon beloved for The Graduate and ‘Get Smart,’ dies at 89 

Edd Byrnes, Who Played ‘Kookie’ in ’77 Sunset Strip,’ Dies at 87

Stan Kirsch: Highlander and Friends actor dies aged 51

Forensic Artist Betty Pat Gatliff, Whose Facial Reconstructions Helped Solve Crimes, Dies at 89

Former Seattle Attorney Egil Krogh, Nixon ‘plumber’ who authorized a pre-Watergate break-in, dies at 80

Terry Jones: Monty Python stars pay tribute to comedy great

‘First Middle-earth scholar’ Christopher Tolkien dies

      Words of the Month

forensic (adj.) “pertaining to or suitable for courts of law,” 1650s, with -ic + stem of Latin forensis “of a forum, place of assembly,” related to forum “public place” (see forum). Later used especially in sense of “pertaining to legal trials,” as in forensic medicine (1845). Related: Forensical (1580s). [thanks to etymoline]

      What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

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Finder of Lost Things – I am furiously working on the end of season two! So please be patient!!!! On the upside you’ve now got time to catch up if you’ve fallen behind!

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Shelley Noble – Tell Me No Lies

Lady Dunbridge is back, and her second stab at detection doesn’t disappoint! Her reputation for being of assistance in a crisis is growing. So much so, that when a man is found murdered (and ignobly shoved into a laundry shute) after a debutante’s ball – the host comes to Phil (our Lady Dunbridge) for help.

One of the best things about these books (so far) is how seamlessly Noble has taken the traditional English Manor House mystery and plunked it down in historic NY City amongst; the Great Stock Market Crash of 1907, Teddy Roosevelt’s recent departure as the head of NY Police Commissioner’s Board (thus leaving a vacuum and allowing dirty cops free reign again), and the Gilded Age of the NY City elite (partying in full swing).

Well, those who didn’t lose their shirts in the aforementioned crash…

Another reason why I enjoy this burgeoning series is the number of mysteries Nobel packed betwixt the cover of her books!

Not only do we have the murder at hand to enjoy watching Lady Dunbrige solve…We also have the continuing mystery of Phil’s maid Lily. To whom Phil hasn’t a clue what her real name is, where she comes from or her history. What she does know is Lily keeps a stiletto strapped to her ankle at all times, knows her way around locks, and speaks several languages.

Lily’s worked hard under the supervision of Phil’s butler Preswick learning her new trade as a lady’s maid – but the question is, can Phil really trust Lily?

Then there’s MR. X, a man who Phil possesses even less data on than Lily (including what he looks like). However, it’s his motivations that are the true mystery. Why is he footing the bill for her year-long lease at the Plaza? Why does he want her at the ready should he need her talents (social position, connections, and brains) to help solve murders (so far…)? Even more important are they working on the same side of the law?

Both of these carried over questions, which Noble does a great job of dropping bread crumbs to keep her readers following her questionable characters, are only the tip of the iceberg of curious people and tangled motivates present in her two books.

If you enjoy nearly bloodless, fast-paced, smart, witty historical mysteries, you’ll find the Lady Dunbrige Mysteries well worth your time.

Though, as my colleague below has pointed out – you need to start with the first book first! Ask Me No Questions. Otherwise, the second installment won’t have nearly the depth of flavor!

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Now onto a Television Show Review!

If you perused our Best of the Decade book lists we compiled and published in January, then you know The Rook by Daniel O’Malley was at the top of my pile. So let me tell you I was really excited when I learned, back in May, STARZ had optioned it into a television series! (Unfortunately, because I’m disinclined to sign up for yet another streaming service, I had to wait until January before it became available on iTunes. Hence why I am reviewing it now.)

Here’s the thing.

(There’s always a thing with adaptations.)

When I first started watching The Rook, I needed to squint my eyes and look at it sideways to see the original text on the screen.

Not only does the show delete several beloved (well maybe not beloved but definitely interesting) Court members.

If you’re looking to see the Chevaliers Eckhart & Gubbins (metal manipulation & contortionist extraordinaire), Bishop Alrich (vampire) or Lord Wattleman (who sunk a submarine while naked in WWII and never had his powers really explained – that I recall) striding across the screen – you’ll be in for a disappointment.

It’s also missing the incidents with the purple spores & all the chanting, the cube of flesh bent on absorbing people, The Greek Woman, the dragon, a rabbit, and well quite a bit more besides.

The screen writes also futzed, which is a rather tame word for utterly reworked, the plot. Oh’ there’s still plenty of intrigues, infighting, and backstabbing – never fear.

But the villains of the piece have shifted dramatically.

To say the on-screen adaptation bears only a passing resemblance to the book and lacks much of the original wit and whimsy is an accurate assessment.

HOWEVER.

This is the thing.

If you think of books, television, movies, plays, and musicals as different universes – creating an artistic multiverse if you will – then it should be accepted that what happens in a book won’t translate exactly onto a television screen.

This is what happened with The Rook.

Both versions occupy different parts of the multiverse, and both versions contain strengths and flaws…

…and I love them both.

Much of what I love about the book is utterly impractical for a television (or computer) screen. If they’d tried, I fear we would’ve end up with something like The Hobbit. Where Peter Jackson used so much CGI, the movie felt more like a cartoon and lost a lot of the charm the original Lord of the Rings trilogy contained.

So the writers needed to edit, manipulate, and rework the plot.

And where they ended up is not only relevant, it shines a bright light on an under-addressed problem in the world today – Human Trafficking.

The specter haunting the Chequy employees isn’t the Grafters and their flesh manipulation techniques… But Vultures, like Peter Van Suoc, who hunt down and kidnap EVA’s (acronym for Extreme Variant Abilities). Then take them to the Lugate organization to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

It makes sense. It’s compelling. It moves the story along. It is different.

Our other narrative mover and shaker Myfanwy Thomas – still wakes up in the rain surrounded by people wearing latex gloves, she still loses her memory, she still has a choice between the red & blue keys, she still writes her new self letters and she still pursues the questions of who she is & who stole her memory.

Perhaps the television version is bleaker than its counterpart in the book universe – but is that such a bad thing? The adaptation strays much farther into grey areas than the book ever did. Mainly by asking the question – what really separates the Vultures & Lugate from the Chequy at the end of the day?

So if you can wrap your mind around an artistic multiverse, I would highly suggest watching The Rook. Not only is the story compelling – but watching the treatment Gestalt received at the hands of both the writers and the actors – is brilliant.

Seriously.

   Fran

I’ve been deep in series-itis for as long as I can remember, and I’ve told you about these three before, so I’m not going to go into plot details because either you know already or I might reveal spoilers, so I’m just going to talk about them kind of generally.

Mind you, I LOVE THESE SERIES, so I’ll also remind you which is the first one in case you’ve been looking for a new series to read. They’re best read in series order, although with the first two, if you pick up the one I’m talking about, it’ll stand on its own, but won’t have the impact you’ll get if you read them in order.

Read them in order, dammit.

9781250207173First off, J.D. Robb’s Vendetta in Death.

Eve Dallas and company are back chasing a serial killer who is dealing out her perception of vengeance against men who have done awful things to the women who love them. She goes by the name “Lady Justice”, and her method of handing out said justice is brutal.

I know a lot of people dismiss Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb since she’s primarily known as a “romance” writer, but there’s quality in what she does.

I was witness to grace and strength, and for some reason it scraped me raw.” That one sentence sums up so much.

Start with Naked in Death.

Secondly, Ian Hamilton’s latest Ava Lee novel,
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Mountain Master of Sha Tin knocks it right out of the park. Hamilton’s come up with the most off-the-wall protagonist in a long time in Ava Lee. Who expected a Chinese-Canadian lesbian forensic accountant to be the star of a thriller series? And yet, here we are.

I really recommend having read all the books before this, because Mountain Master of Sha Tin kicks you in the gut, especially if you’re as invested in these folks as I am. And Ava Lee in love is much more vulnerable than you might think. Besides, you won’t necessarily understand all the triad position names unless you do.

And you won’t be as excited as I am to know that Ian Hamilton’s started a series that tells Uncle’s back story!

Start with The Water Rat of Wanchai.

And now for the hat trick.

John Connolly. Charlie Parker. A Book of Bones. That’s really all I should have to say, honestly.

9781982127510This world, Quayle said, would continue almost exactly as before, except for those who understood where, and how, to look. They would see shadows where no shadows should be, and forms shifting at the periphery of their vision. As for the rest, they would watch the rise of intolerance, and the subjugation of the weak by the powerful. They would witness inequality, despotism, and environmental ruination. They would be told by the ignorant and self-interested that this was the natural order of things.

But in their hearts they would know better, and feel afraid.

A Book of Bones is, in many ways, the showdown we’ve been waiting for, and we are not disappointed. It almost feels like things are wrapping up.

And then John Connolly ends the book with a twist that had me staring blankly into space, calling him a right bastard, and admiring the brilliance of the twist.

This series you have to read in order; you can’t just pick up A Book of Bones and hope to know what’s going on. Besides, you don’t want to miss the dynamics between Louis and Angel. Trust me here. For hardened killers, they’ll steal your heart, as will Charlie’s daughters, but for quite different reasons.

Start with Every Dead Thing.

We’ll talk again after you’ve caught up, say about the time Golden in Death, The Diamond Queen of Singapore, and The Dirty South are out and devoured. Honestly, I can’t wait!

   JB

Two bookshop dreams:

First one is harder to recall but I was trying to reassemble bookshelves. Can’t remember why they were unassembled but it was crazy trying to fit bolts into boards and match the holes so that nuts could go onto the bolts, I’m on my knees with my nose about four inches from the floor, my glasses were falling off, I was trying to dodge the feet of customers…

The second one was that I was expecting one of my old sales reps to come over so we could have lunch. David was one of our reps for Random House. But the guy who showed up was a young rep, a new rep, and he was expecting to take an order for books in a new set of catalogues! He didn’t know that the shop was no longer active. He walked back to his car and then I realized that I needed those catalogues so that I could finish the next newsletter… To make it weirder, the house were all of this took place was the house I grew up in, not my current home. I think these newsletter dreams happen when it is getting closer to posting these newzines.

Three shows to recommend:

On Netflix, “The Confession Killer”, a documentary about Henry Lee Lucas and his confessions to hundreds of murders. At that time, back in the late 70s and early 80s, he was thought to be the serial killer with the most victims. Then it all fell apart. This documentary is more about the way it all fell apart – the internal warfare within law enforcement – than the murders. Very well done.

Also on Netflix, “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez”, a three-part look at this man who was such a talented athlete but whose internal monsters – whatever their source – drove him to destroy it all. Very well done.

Lastly, from HBO: “The Outsider”, an adaptation of a Steven King novel about an awful murder and the people who are destroyed by it – and then it gets weird. Very well done.



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The Best of the 20 Teens

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Fran here. Happy New Year, everyone!

I was so proud of myself! I got my Best Of for the decade done, and down to a total of 10! I’ve NEVER done that before, so I was strutting!

Granted, a bunch of them were series, and that means ALL of the series, so it’s not like I read only ten books over the decade. We know me better than this. And the series are, in no particular order:

Louise Penny’s “Inspector Gamache” series. I came late to this party, but I am fully onboard!

Anne Bishop’s “The Others” series, including the follow-ups after the original five.

Ben Aaronovitch’s “Rivers of London” series. I think I’ve read the entire thing seven times.

Everything by Christine Feehan except the vampire and leopard series. Everything else. And I haven’t gotten to those yet, so stay tuned.

Carolyn Hart’s “Death on Demand” series. Seriously, I need these books.

William Kent Krueger’s “Cork O’Connell” series. They’re family to me.

Maureen Johnson’s “Truly Devious” series. And that’s going to spill over into this decade.

And then I had a few individual titles. But then, see, I remembered all the books I hadn’t thought of, not because they were bad, but because a decade is a really long time in the book world, and I hadn’t really given the whole ten years – which included the shop being open for most of it.

So I’m going to throw out authors and titles, and if you have questions, just ask. Because this is gonna be a LOT longer than just 10! Ready? Here we go:

Joshilyn Jackson – I love all of hers, but The Almost Sisters is my favorite. So far. Until she writes the darned phone book.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which has its own cult following, and I’m so pleased!

Seanan McGuire’s “Toby Day” series, along with everything else she writes.

Speaking of series I forgot before, Mike Lawson’s “Joe DeMarco” series. Now and always!

AND Tim Maleeny’s “Cape Weathers” series! Holy cats, I want more!

How could I overlook Craig Johnson’s “Longmire”? I don’t know what I was thinking.

John Connolly’s “Charlie Parker” series. More on that later.

Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook. Amber’s recommendations must be heeded.

Everything by Ben Winters (including grocery lists, I imagine) but especially Golden State.

Toni McGee Causey’s Saints  of the Lost and Found.

Seriously, anything by J. T. Ellison and Hank Phillippi Ryan. I love them both so much!

Alan Bradley’s “Flavia de Luce” series, as well as Ian Hamilton’s “Ava Lee”. Nothing in common except brilliant writing, and  cultural appreciation.

Can I throw in here Amber’s “52 Weeks with Christie”? Because wow. And her new blog, The Finder of Lost Things, is going to find a publisher soon, I’m positive.

To those of you whom I’ve missed, I’m so sorry! I really do love you! Blame it on my cold.

I’m going to stop here, but now it’s up to you. What did I recommend to you over the last 10 years that you loved? Or hated? I’m always interested where I missed as well as where I might have accidentally gotten it right.

A decade’s a really long time, y’all, especially when you read! Happy New Decade!