December Newzine

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Dictionary.com contends that the Word of the Year, 2018, is misinformation. Our point of view is why should there be only one?

      Stan Lee

As you’ve no doubt heard, American Master Stan Lee died on November 12th. While much has been written about his impact and accomplishments, we ran across this that we’d not heard about when it was originally printed. From November 2007 issue of The Atlantic, this is Stan Lee’s “powerful definition of the American idea”. Take a moment to read this: America is a Dream.

      Awards!

It’s that time of year again, award season for books! Announced on October 27th (we are a hair late) are the CWA Dagger Award Winners. Grats to one and all!

The CWA Diamond Dagger:Michael Connelly

The CWA Gold Dagger: Steve Cavanagh – THE LIAR

The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger: Attica Locke – BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD

The John Creasey Debut Dagger: Melissa Scrivner Love – LOLA

The CWA ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction: Thomas Harding – BLOOD ON THE PAGE

The CWA Historical Dagger: Rory Clements – NUCLEUS

The CWA Short Story Dagger: Denise Mina – “NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT”, BLOODY SCOTLAND

The International Dagger: Henning Mankell – AFTER THE FIRE 

The CWA Debut Dagger: Bill Crotty – THE ETERNAL LIFE OF EZRA BEN SIMEON

Highly Commended: Joseph James – RIVERINE BLOOD

The CWA Dagger in the Library: Martin Edwards.

November 15th: National Book Award Winners

      Word of the Month

Bunyip (noun – plural -s – bun·​yip | \ˈbənˌyip\) – impostor, phony

Bunyip comes to us from Australia, where the word originally had the meaning “a legendary wild animal usually described as a monstrous swamp-dwelling man-eater.” Bunyip comes from an Aboriginal language, and began appearing in print in the 1840s.

The “impostor” meaning came shortly thereafter, appearing the following decade.

“…and they one and all recognized the bone and picture as belonging to the “Bunyip,” repeating the name without variation.”

              — Geelong Advertiser and Squatters’ Advocate (Victoria, Aus.), 2 Jul. 1845

Thanks to Merriam-Webster website for the word & definition

      Links of Interest

October 31st: Judge’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover fetches £56K at auction

October 31st: The Scottish writer who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula

November 1st: Medieval ‘Porpoise grave’ remains a mystery

November 1st: Gunpowder Plot: 1605 Thomas Percy link found in archives

November 1st: Portland’s Rose City Book Pub, a bookstore and bar, now open

November 1st: Pride and Passion: Jane Austen novels the Brazilian way

November 1st: Killing Eve: How the hit BBC show’s killer soundtrack was made

November 2nd: West Side Story’s gangs get new moves after 60 years

November 3rd: Ian Rankin Interview ‘I couldn’t get on with War and Peace’

November 3rd: ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ to Release Campaign Setting Book in 2019

December Issue: Jack Reacher Still Won’t Quit, 23 Books Later

November 4th: Murdered mob boss gave stolen Boston art to IRA, says former Met detective

November 5th: Booksellers show unprecedented act of solidarity

November 5th: Morbid exhibits of UCL’s Pathology Museum

November 6th: Why a Book Tour Is More Brutal Than a Political Campaign

November 6th: How Stan Lee led the 1960s superhero revolution

November 7th: Drowning cow saved by ‘mermaid’ on a swim

November 7th: Collection of ‘obscene’ books on display at Oxford University

November 10th: How Edgar Allan Poe Got Kicked out of the U.S. Army

November 12th: Enigma code veteran to take secrets ‘to end of my days’

November 12th: ‘A pas de deux of sex and violence’: a poet’s guide to film noir

November 12th: Amazon asked to share Echo data in US murder case

November 13th: Arrest in hunt for ‘Ross from Friends’ lookalike

November 14th: Reusable coffee mugs that can be borrowed like library books

November 14th: The Birth, Death, and Long Afterlife of The Gashlycrumb Tinies

November 14th: Too short’ Tom Cruise to be replaced for Jack Reacher reboot – Maybe they’ll get it right this time?

November 15th: John Sandford: By the Book

November 15th: Lost Disney ‘Oswald’ film found in Japan

November 15th: Megan Abbott’s Work Diary –‘My Psychiatrist Notes How Tired I Look, Which Is Great’

November 15th: Seattle high-school teacher shares ‘the wonder of books’ with students on a different kind of field trip

November 16th: Mark Twains Complicated Relationship with the Typewriter

November17th:Elite library sorters race to process books in cutthroat competition. Also: Aaron Sorkin talks To Kill a Mockingbird, a fanfic writer talks going pro, and the rest of the week’s best writing on books and related subjects.

November 18th: 4am Starts and Spinach Smoothies – Dan Brown on How to Write a Bestseller

November 18th: Dan Brown on Trump – “Reality Has Surpassed Fiction”

November 18th: Bookstore’s Tweet On The Sale Of A Children’s Book After 27 Years Goes Viral

November 19th: The Birth, Death, and Long Afterlife of The Gashlycrumb Tinies ~E is for Edward who wrote a gory masterpiece.


September 15th: French bookshops revolt after prize selects novel self-published on Amazon ~ Booksellers refuse to ‘jump into the wolf’s mouth’ and order Marco Koskas’ Renaudot-longlisted novel online

November 19th: Canadian literary prize suspended after finalists object to Amazon sponsorship


November 20th: How Agatha Christie hides her plot secrets in plain sight

November 20th: NYTimes ~ 100 Notable Books of 2018

November 23rd: Stop Thief! An otter on the loose is eating koi from a formal garden

November 23rd: Laura Lippman ~ Books That Made Me

November 26th: The isolated Albanian artillery base hidden in a cliff

November 28th: Margaret Atwood to write Handmaid’s Tale sequel

November 28th: Harry Potter are endless tie-ins diluting the magic?



      Word of the Month – Continued

phony (adj.): also phoney, “not genuine,” 1899, perhaps an alteration of fawney “gilt brass ring used by swindlers.”

His most successful swindle was selling “painted” or “phony” diamonds. He had a plan of taking cheap stones, and by “doctoring” them make them have a brilliant and high class appearance. His confederates would then take the diamonds to other pawnbrokers and dispose of them. [“The Jewelers Review,” New York, April 5, 1899]

The noun meaning “phony person or thing” is attested from 1902.

thanks to etymonline

      R.I.P.

November 2nd: Raymond Chow: Film mogul who discovered Bruce Lee dies at 91

November 7th: Kitty O’Neil: Wonder Woman stuntwoman dies at 72

November 7th: Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, Long-Serving Times Book Critic, Dies at 84

November 12th: Douglas Rain: Actor who voiced Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey dies

November 12th: Stan Lee

November 25th: magician, author, and actor Ricky Jay (he was in a terrific crime movie filmed here in Seattle, David Mamet’s House of Games)

      Word of the Month – Lastly

huckster (n): circa 1200, “petty merchant, peddler” (often contemptuous), from Middle Dutch hokester “peddler,” from hoken “to peddle” (see hawk (v.1)) + agent suffix -ster (which was typically feminine in English, but not in Low German). Specific sense of “advertising salesman” is from 1946 novel by Frederick Wakeman. As a verb from 1590s. Related: Huckstered; huckstering. (thanks to etymonline)

       What We’ve Been Doing

    Amber

Don’t forget to check out my original mystery! Finder Of Lost Things

Jenn McKinlay – Hitting The Books

IMG_1506Lindsey Norris, Library Director of Briar Creek Library, didn’t seek out trouble this time. She just gazed out the window during the weekly crafternoon meeting, when she witnessed the hit-and-run of one her patrons. The weird thing? Lindsey is pretty sure the car sped up and swerved into Theresa Huston. But who would want to hurt the former tennis pro? When the driver turns up dead in the car with a stack of library materials in the passenger’s seat – Lindsey can’t help but do her own investigating…

I am so glad I stuck with this series! This installment is an excellent read! The mystery itself is engaging, and the variety of subplots (which are woven in flawlessly) are hilarious. I also enjoy how McKinlay is able to keep her library angle fresh and interesting for her readers.

I would recommend this book (which you can start with, provided you know going in that this installment isn’t close to being the first-in-series) to anyone looking for a fun fastpaced cozy read! Seriously this book moved at a quick clip from cover to cover!

Brandon Sanderson – Legion

Stephen Leeds is a genius.IMG_1472

Kinda.

Stephen can learn any new skill in a matter of hours, has a photographic memory and is considered the smartest man on the planet. But unlike Sherlock, who utilizes his mind palace to recall information from the depths of his psyche, Stephen speaks with his aspects.

What’s an aspect? Glad you asked…An aspect is how his brain outsources its knowledge. Stephen only has access to the information when that particular hallucination is advising him. A new aspect pops into existence each time Stephen acquires a new skill, like learning Hebrew or astrophysics. Each aspect (or hallucination, but most of them don’t like this term) comes complete with their own name, unique physical features and is nutty as a fruitcake in their own unique way. Stephen has forty-seven aspects and counting.

Having gotten tired of being studied by people with strings of letters after their names (which made him rich), Stephen and his team of imaginary experts now solve mysteries; such as locating a missing scientist and his revolutionary prototype or figuring out who stole a dead body and why.

Perfectly ordinary cases, well except for the teleporting cat…

Stephan Leeds is one of the most unique characters I have read in a very long time, and I’m kinda bummed that Sanderson only wrote these three novellas featuring this extraordinary detective!

While this novel is composed of three individual components – it doesn’t feel that way. There’s an overarching mystery which helps to marry the three together. Plus Stephen Leeds’ (as well as his aspect’s) voice is consistent thru the entire book, which also helps keep the continuity.

Then there’s Stephen himself who provides a fascinating point of view to read from. He’s quirky (not crazy as he repeatedly tells us), but all of his aspects are mad as March hares – which causes no end of hilarity! Plus watching how he’s learned how to cope with the nuances of his own mind is inspiring (for those of us still trying to master our own).

Then there are the mysteries themselves, which Sanderson jampacks with action, levity, and depth. Skin Deep’s (the second novella) resolution contains one of the comical twist endings I’ve read in a long while.

Overall I think anyone who enjoys mysteries with a splash of strangeness will enjoy reading Legion and I cannot wait to badger Fran into reading this book! (Which, BTW, is much harder now that we don’t see each other five days a week – perhaps a letter writing campaign? Everyone likes getting mail that isn’t a bill…Right?)

Seriously if the shop was still open I’d be putting this book into your hands and telling you to trust me – you’re going to love it!

    Fran

9781616957759-1-400x600Okay, I know you don’t like short stories. I get it, I do.

(Not you. You love short stories, and you probably already have this anthology. Just have my back, ‘kay?)

But I’m asking for a leap of faith here – this is a “trust me” moment.

Last year, Soho Press put out a Christmas/Holiday anthology called The Usual Santas. Eighteen short stories, all holiday themed although not necessarily Christmas themed. And you must read this book.

I’m not kidding! Holy cats, is it FUN! Dark in many ways, laugh-out-loud funny in others, compelling no matter what. Stash it in the car so you can read while you’re waiting in line. Tuck it into your jacket for when you’re on the bus. Hell, put it in the bathroom, and read the occasional story there.

This is a holiday buffet that simply can’t be beat. And see, just look at all the authors – Martin Limón, Peter Lovesey, Helene Tursten, Stuart Neville, Cara Black, Colin Cotterill, and James Benn, whose quote about the anthology,  “The Usual Santas: a very good example of that kind of thing.” is perfect.

Oh, and fair warning. When I get older, I’m changing my name to Maud.

You’ve been warned.

    JB

I have stacks of books around here that I had gathered during my decades at the bookshop that I never allowed myself enough time 9780671869205to read. I have one pile of biographies of jazz masters, or painting masters, of history and biography and I am now getting to some of them. Starting in early October, I picked up David McCullough’s Truman. While the President and I come from the same area, and I knew the basics of his life, I have to say I really knew very little about HST’s life.  This thousand-page book won McCullaugh the Pulitzer Prize and every page shows why. It has been worth every moment of the nearly two months it took to read it!

I did take a couple of breaks. One was to read the latest Lee Child (great news they’re going to find someone LARGER to play Reacher) and Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers (disappointingly thin on detail in comparison to the Truman tome…).

From page 947-8 of the McCullough:

“The opening installment of the Memoirs, titles ‘The Most Momentous First 18 Days’ appeared in the September 25th issue of Life, with a cover photograph of the former President and the First Lady standing in front of their Independence home.  Doubleday’s publication of Volume One, called Year of Decisions, followed five weeks later, with an author’s autographing party in the grand ballroom of the Muehlbach, on Tuesday, November 2, 1955.

“To the delight of the publisher, Truman had agreed to sign books for all who came. ‘I expect to use, probably, a couple of $1.75 fountain pens that I bought at the Twenty-five Cent Store, along with a half dozen others that I happen to have, and I don’t want any advertising stunt [for the pens] whatever,’ Truman had written to Samuel Vaughan, Doubleday’s advertising manager. ‘I will go along with any party arrangements which you make for Doubleday, but don’t get me into any advertising for pens, cakes or anything, because I won’t do it.’

“Arriving in Kansas City a few days in advance to make arrangements, Vaughan was distressed to hear people asking why they would want to come to such an occasion for Truman, ‘when we see him all the time anyway.’ Greatly concerned, Vaughan worked to line up Battery D {Truman’s WWI comrades} veterans, the Boy Scouts, anyone he could think of, to be sure there was a crowd. But he need not have bothered. More than three hundred people were already in line waiting before the party began.

“‘Hand Firm to the End’ was the headline in the next morning’s paper.

“It was almost unbelievable. ‘I had no idea it would be anything like this,’ Truman said as he saw the crowds grow, the people still coming, hour after hour. His hand fairly flew as he signed books, until he was doing six to eight autographs a minute. If there ever was a demonstration of his extraordinary vitality, this was it. He kept going hour after hour, not only signing his name but greeting people. ‘There, that one’s all slicked up,’ he would say with satisfaction, finishing his signature and handing over the book.

“By the end of the first session, he had signed over a thousand copies. In all, incredibly, he turned out four thousand autographs in just five and a half hours. Reporters on hand, his publishers, watched in amazement. Earlier, when Ken McCormick of Doubleday has suggested to Truman that perhaps he might prefer to have the autographs done by a machine, Truman had replied, ‘I will autograph as many as I can. I am not an expert with a machine, and I would rather do it by hand.'”

Truman turned 77 six months later on May 8th.

So what to read next????????

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THANKS FOR STAYING WITH US!

~ UNTIL NEXT YEAR ~




Shop Small Independent Businesses 

This Holiday Season.

They go away if you don’t…

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

IMG_9841

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…

IMG_9854

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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