And the Incident Report is back on track after five days of Bourbon and Bouchercon. Last week I reviewed Jennifer Hillier’s “Jar of Hearts”, though I found well written–leagues better than most psychological thrillers–the plot discrepancies were too much for me to bear. I also reviewed Tom Leins’s’ self-published novella “Slug Bait” which is not for the weak of heart; hell, it’s not for most people, but I loved it.
Jim Thomsen stopped by for his weekly column, Shoulder Wounds. Thomsen surprised everyone in the crime fiction community by liking the all four books he reviewed: Mindy Mejia’s “Leave No Trace”; Ronald Colby’s “Night Driver”, Michael Pool’s “Texas Two-Step”, and Rachel Howzell Hall’s “Land of Shadows”. I kid Jim, but I know from my experience in reading as a reviewer, you want to like all the books you read in a week, but sometimes that’s not possible.
Unlawful Acts’ Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the weeks of September 2nd through September 15th with links to news, reviews, and new releases.
There were a lot of award ceremonies these past few weeks.
2018 Barry Awards
- Best Novel: Karen Dionne’s “The Marsh King’s Daughter” (Putnam)
- Best First Novel: Jane Harper’s “The Dry” (Flatiron)
- Best Paperback Original: Allen Eskens’s “The Deep Dark Descending” (Seventh Street)
- Best Thriller: Meg Gardiner’s “UNSUB” (Dutton)
2018 Macavity Awards
- Best Mystery Novel: Anthony Horowitz’s “Magpie Murders” (Harper)
- Best First Mystery Novel: Sheena Kamal’s “The Lost Ones” (Morrow)
- Best Mystery-Related Nonfiction: Martin Edwards’s “The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books” (Poisoned Pen Press)
- Best Mystery Short Story: Paul D. Marks’s “Windward” in “Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea” (Down & Out Books)
- Sue Feder Memorial Award: Best Historical Mystery: Rhys Bowen’s “In Farleigh Field” (Lake Union Publishing)
2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards
- Best Crime Novel: Alan Carter’s “Marlborough Man” (Freemantle Press)
- Best First Novel: Jennifer Lane’s “All Our Secrets” (Rosa Mira Books)
2018 Shamus Awards
- Best PI Hardcover: T. Jefferson Parker’s “The Room of White Fire” (Putnam)
- Best First PI Novel: Kristen Lepionka’s “The Last Place You Look” (Minotaur)
- Best PI Paperback Original: Rich Zahradnik’s “Lights Out Summer” (Camel Press)
- Best PI Short Story: Robert S. Levinson’s “Rosalie Marx is Missing” in (May/June 2017, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
2018 Anthony Awards
- Best Novel: Attica Locke’s “Bluebird, Bluebird” (Mulholland)
- Best First Novel: Kellye Garret’s “Hollywood Homicide” (Midnight Ink)
- Best Paperback Original: Lori Rader-Day’s “The Day I Died” (Morrow)
- Bill Crider Award for Best Novel in a Series: Sue Grafton’s “Y is for Yesterday” (A Marian Wood Book)
- Best Anthology: “The Obama Inheritance” edited by Gary Phillips (Three Room Press)
- Best Short Story: Hilary Davidson’s “My Side of the Matter” in “Killing Malmon” (Down & Out Books)
- Best Online Content: Jungle Red Writers
- Best Critical/Nonfiction Work: David Grann’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Doubleday)
If you haven’t had the chance to read Ace Atkins’s tribute to Burt Reynolds, it is well worth your time.
I hope you knew how much your movies, your cool style, have meant to me both as a writer and a Southerner. After a few bourbons, I’m quick to point out that Smokey and the Bandit wasn’t just a car chase film. It was about us racing into the new South, knocking corrupt cops, racist bikers, and the slow mean old ways the hell out of the way. Each one of those films, those core action movies—Deliverance, White Lightning, Smokey and the Bandit, Sharky’s Machine—had so much to say about the emerging Deep South. The clash of good vs. evil, man vs. nature, the Bandit vs. Buford T. Justice.
Jesse Rawlins interviewed Alec Cizak, author of “Breaking Glass”, in Story and Grit. If you haven’t purchased “Breaking Glass” yet, I recommend you do, it’s as good as it is disturbing.
I can’t think of any subject I would consider taboo. Having been raised by a wild pack of self-proclaimed intellectuals, there would have to be a deeper purpose to writing about a dangerous subject. Thus, a story about, say, child abuse, that revels only in its depiction of child abuse, wouldn’t impress me. What is the writer “saying” about this subject? That’s very important. I come from the Kubrick school of thought when it comes to what a piece of art should do. Kubrick said if a film has both form and function, meaning, it’s thought-provoking and entertaining, then the film is a success. This is very much how I approach writing. I want people who simply want entertainment to be entertained. If someone does a little thinking after finishing a piece I’ve written, even better. All that said, I’m not at all interested in a piece of fiction whose singular purpose is using suffering as a means to entertain its audience.
One of the better panels I went to was the Southern Fiction panel moderated by Eryk Pruitt, author of the forthcoming “Townies”. Members of the panel included Steph Post, author of “Walk in the Fire”; Alex Segura, author of the Pete Fernandez Mysteries; S.A. Cosby, author of the forthcoming “My Darkest Prayer”, and New York Times best-selling author Ace Atkins.
Gabriel Valjan, author of Roma, Underground, was also there enjoying the panel, but he went one step further. He transcribed it! Go give it a read, you will not be disappointed.
Even with Lorraine Berry being a Manchester City fan, I’ll link to her article on why we should be reading Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard Mysteries.
And while the mysteries that the duo solve in every book are intriguing, it is Hap and Leonard’s hilarious relationship that keeps me reading. They keep me laughing because when they’re not saving folks in bad situations, they are, as the English say, “taking the piss” out of each other. The two bicker all the time. Their arguments and good-natured joshing are not over politics or the state of the world (although they do discuss these things), they’re sometimes over Leonard’s addiction to all things vanilla, which means he’s always up for a box of Nilla Wafers and a six-pack of Dr. Pepper and Hap is always up for hiding them or messing with Leonard’s stash. But they also discuss Hap’s inability to walk away from a situation that involves “rescuing” a woman from a bad situation. Leonard thinks that Hap is a dog and he gives him a lot of grief over it. Hap tells readers that he notices the way a woman looks and smells but readers will also come to understand that Hap is supremely loyal to the woman he loves. And Leonard is also in search of true love, but in East Texas, finding men who are “out” is not easy, which has led Leonard to get involved with men who turn out to hate their own sexuality.
Janice Law and Leigh Lundin wrote companion-ish pieces regarding the mystery trope of the young woman in danger at SleuthSayers.
From Law’s “The Most Poetical Topic”:
Poe presented his work as highly calculated, rational, and premeditated. All those psychopathic killers, ghastly diseases, mouldering castles, and subterranean vaults were not the inspiration of an all-too-accessible subconscious. Oh, no, according to the poet. They were selected rationally and carefully calibrated to produce the required effect on the reader. Which brings us to his very much pre-Me Too Movement quote: “The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” Stated so baldly, it’s an idea that should properly give us pause, but transferred to a big – or little – screen it appears to be money in the bank.
From Lundin “Woman in Peril”:
Evidence suggests we become more engaged and outraged when a pretty girl is killed. Outrage sells movies. It sells books. It stirs our emotions. [snip] Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Higgins Clark apparently scored emotional bullseyes. They knew how to play upon our fears, male and female. [snip] What if political, patriarchal, anger-against-women motives don’t drive the industry? Could something deeper be going on?
Go ahead and read these articles.
Sarah Weinman, author of “The Real Lolita”, profiled in Crime Reads.
She spent the summer of 2003 in London doing her thesis research, working in a forensic lab by day, hanging out at book events with crime writers by night, and attending the first-ever Harrogate-based Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. Then it was time to write her master’s thesis: she returned to her parents’ home in Ottawa to work on that, and it was then that she started her mystery-and-thriller-focused blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind: “When I was in London, blogs were a way for me to access New York, which I missed. New York was always the city of my heart, really from a very young age. At that point, I didn’t think I was going to go back, or I didn’t know how I could go back. Doing that blog was a way to reconnect with the City but also just to be around the crime fiction world in a virtual way.”
The LA Review of Books came in with an essay by Francesca Capossela, “Alive in a Magic Democracy: On ‘The Real Lolita'”.
The true violence of Lolita, and the motivation for Weinman’s book, is not Humbert’s sexual abuse, but his stripping Lolita of her voice: the very act of narration. “Real little girls,” Weinman writes, “end up getting lost in the need for artistic license. The abuse that Sally Horner […] endured should not be subsumed by dazzling prose.” Weinman considers Nabokov’s appropriation of Horner’s story likewise violent (though she apparently sees no irony in her own appropriation of Horner’s tale). The facts, Weinman believes, will resurrect, or at least avenge, these girls.
Over at ahsweetmysteryblog they began to take a look at Christianna Brand, a Golden Age mystery writer.
Despite her classic style, Brand barely fits into the perceived time period that marks the classic era. She published her first novel in 1941 and wrote almost all her crime stories up until 1955, after which, rather mysteriously, she stopped writing mysteries until 1977. Her work reflected the emergence in mysteries of the 1940’s was a time of more novelistic elements, including a new interest in the psychology of the characters, sometimes at the expense of the pure puzzle – but certainly not in Brand’s case. Her books benefited from her acute ability to create a compelling and sympathetic circle of suspects, yet they also incorporated wonderful twists of plot and expert misdirection. Perhaps the thing that most separated Brand from Christie and Carr is that in all of her books the reader feels a definite emotional wallop when the killer is revealed.
Ed Aymar, author of the forthcoming “The Unrepentant”, interviewed Jaime Freveletti about her new publishing house, Calexia Press.
EA: I hear that running a publishing house is a lot of work. And you’re already a successful writer with a number of different projects. So that sounds like a brutal workload. Why would you do this to yourself? JF: Like most professional writers, over the course of the years I’ve written some manuscripts that, for one reason or another, didn’t fit onto the big five marketing conveyor belt. I’ve met a lot of authors who have a few manuscripts like this as well. So, when I saw an opportunity to have a full blown publishing house, complete with distributor and sales staff, (Ingram Publishers Services), it just clicked with me. There are a handful of writers doing this today: Eric Beetner and the guys at Down And Out books, Jason Pinter of Polis, Meredith Wild of Waterhouse, and others, and we all add value to the world of books.
Roberto Saviano, author the newly translated “The Piranhas” and “Gomorrah”, interviewed at Crime Reads.
My point of view about organized crime has not changed, although 12 years have passed since Gomorrah was published. I still believe that the mainstream media approaches criminal matters in a folkloristic and superficial way, rather than describing the economic forces behind them. Take Gomorrah the TV series, which became a landmark for whoever wants to describe crime mechanisms in Italy. Often, you’ll find newspaper headlines like “Criminals rob like in Gomorrah,” “Gomorrah-style ambush,” or “Gomorrah-style murder.” Clearly, the criminal actions described in those newspapers existed before Gomorrah and will exist afterwards, but Gomorrah allows many journalists to explain events more clearly. It’s become shared, inherited information. I have never really stopped writing and talking about Naples, and I always feel a responsibility to depict my characters the way they are, meaning people just like us. What interests me is making the reader wonder whether he or she is really different from those characters, and if the answer is yes, the following question should be: why?
Everything I’ve read from the UK publisher Orenda Books has been outstanding. Turns out other people are noticing.
Unexpected, great reading experiences are like diving down a rabbit hole, or a new addiction that must be chased. You pick up a book by chance, having decided to try something new, and then it hits your tastebuds in just the right way. You need more. How do you find read-a-likes for those umami books that are excellent, but just aren’t that easy to classify? Sometimes, following the publisher works. I’m finding this to be true of my newest minor obsession: the unconventional mystery and thriller titles put out by Orenda Books.
Walter Mosley, author of the Easy Rawlins series, has a new book out called “Jane Woman”. It appears to be a bit different than a usual Mosley book. Anyway, he wrote this thing called “Enough with the Victors Writing History” for Crime Reads and it has this wonderful line in it:
In the current world so-called white men, descended from Europe, have crafted our understanding of history. Using the modern-day weapons of capitalism and war-time technology they have dismissed diasporic Blacks, Indigenous New Worlders, women and the monoliths of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Entire dynasties were eradicated. The number of genders was winnowed down to about one and a half.
Tod Goldberg, author of “Gangster Nation”, on the confluence of rap and crime fiction.
Of course there was plenty to not appreciate about the burgeoning form: the rote misogyny, homophobia, and, often, anti-Semitism…and, likewise, in the crime fiction I was reading, too, both of the classic variety and what amounted to contemporary work, these same issues kept popping up as well. And what is painfully obvious: there were no women, period, that weren’t either an object or in a body bag. It would be another few years before Vicki Hendricks’ Miami Purity flipped me upside down again, in a similar way. But when I was 17, I was just amazed with what these rappers could get away with.
The Verge on how Tor became one of the best science fiction publishers.
Since its founding, Tor.com has gone from a simple website to a full-fledged publishing operation. In addition to publishing shorter works of fiction, it also publishes a range of novelettes, novellas, and even some short novels, with books like Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti and Martha Wells’ All Systems Red earning considerable acclaim from the science fiction community. This week, the site published the anthology Worlds Seen in Passing: 10 Years of Tor.com Short Fiction, which celebrates the best of the site’s fiction in the decade that it’s been in operation.
Damn it, Max Booth III is going to have me read Gillian Flynn and Lee Child. Bastard.
Maybe it’s easy for the uninformed to shrug off Gillian Flynn as some kind of cookie cutter commercial writer. I guess it comes with the territory of becoming insanely popular. It’s that annoying hipster mentality, right? If everybody likes them, then they must suck. I won’t deny also once having this mindset. I’ve thought the same thing about writers like Lee Child, too. I’m too cool for these capitalist sellouts! my dumb rebellious brain would think, which was apparently all of thirteen years old. I only read real authors, like Chuck Tingle and Mandy De Sandra! Anyway, this is, of course, a terrible mindset. And besides, any doubts I might have once held about Gillian Flynn were immediately obliterated the moment I opened her novel, Dark Places, and read the opening two lines: I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.
An interview with Georg Pelecanos, author of “The Man Who Came Uptown”.
Always eavesdropping, always working. Part of my job involves sitting in a bar by myself, having a quiet drink, or dropping in on trials down at the courts. When I was a kid I rode the D.C. Transit buses down to my dad’s Dupont Circle diner, where I worked in the summers. I was listening then, too. The dialogue in my novels was what made movie and TV people reach out to me. It was my ticket in. But in general my prose has improved because of the discipline required in writing scripts. Screenplay writing is not easier than writing fiction. The form teaches you to do more with less. So my prose has gotten leaner since I’ve been writing for the movies and TV, and that’s a good thing.
Paul D. Marks gave us a guided tour of the Los Angeles that appeared in his newest book, “Broken Windows”.
A while back I did a tour of some of the locations in White Heat. Now, since it’s Hot Off the Presses—it came out yesterday from Down & Out Books—it’s the Broken Windows Tour of L.A. One of the things I really enjoy is writing about Los Angeles in the context of a mystery-thriller. In Broken Windows, P.I. Duke Rogers and his very unPC sidekick, Jack, are on the hunt for the killer of an undocumented worker.
Dietrich Kalteis on writing his latest novel, “Poughkeepsie Shuffle”.
These are some of the memories that helped set the stage for Poughkeepsie Shuffle, letting me weave in those sights and sounds and bring back a grittier but character-filled Toronto, the way I remember it in the mid-80s, back when nobody knew what a condo was. Across the lake from Niagara and Buffalo, the city has easy access to the U.S., making it the perfect setting for a story revolving around gun smuggling. What sparked the idea was an article I read about a gunrunning ring that operated between Upstate New York and Ontario and was eventually taken down by the OPP working alongside several U.S. law enforcement agencies. Another element that worked into the story was the increasing gang violence that was being reported back then.
Max Booth III on Stephen King as a crime writer.
Stephen King knows crime. He grew up mainlining pulp legends like Richard Stark and John D. MacDonald. He was a goddamn noir geek, if you want to know the truth. When MacDonald agreed to write the introduction for King’s debut collection, Night Shift, he nearly pissed himself. Read any interview or essay where King discusses his early inspirations, and you’re bound to find numerous hardboiled writers’ names machine-gunned out as a response. His books are littered with references to his writing heroes. Without crime fiction, there is no Stephen King. It has inspired his rage against the system, his attitude toward certain political states of mind. One has to wonder what King’s approach to writing would be like if he hadn’t grown up devouring pulp fiction. At the very least, I suspect his output wouldn’t have exhibited such an exuberant frequency. The life of a pulp writer depended on typing until their fingers bled, sometimes finishing entire novels in less than a month. They wrote stories about terrible people doing terrible things and readers still to this day can’t get enough of it. In King’s fiction, nobody’s perfect. Everybody has their baggage. Protagonists often commit crimes, take the law into their own hands, do whatever it takes to get shit done. It’s a simple, complicated truth, but there’s no denying the people who shape us into what we become.
Other news you can use.
- More on the loss of Peter Corris
- Roger Johns on how he kept his characters interesting in his second book, “River of Secrets”
- Susan Spann, author of “Trial on Mount Koya” (Seventh Street Books), on historical mysteries
- Jess deCourcy Hinds’s great idea that every book tour should include a public school
- David Zeltserman on a cannibal noir story and how it morphed into his latest book, “Husk”
- Will Viharo interviewed Eric J. Guignard, author of dark and speculative fiction
- Paul D. Brazill interviewed Beau Johnson, author of the forthcoming “The Big Machine Eats”
- Some Anthony Award nominees chatted twice about the state of the genre
- Rebecca Howie, author of the Sam Beckett Mysteries, interviewed at The Quiet Knitter
- Waterstones to buy Foyles
- Clea Simon, author of “World Enough”, interviewed at BOLO Books Composite Sketch
- Studies in Starrett gave us The Complete Publication History of “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”
- Barb Schlicting, author of “Edith Wilson: Fourteen Points to Death”, interviewed in Mysteristas
- Paul D. Brazill interviewed Dietrich Kalteis, author of “Poughkeepsie Shuffle”
- Paul D. Brazill interviewed Alex Shaw, author of “Cold East”
- 21 Ways to Organize Your TBR Pile: if your TBR pile is too organized, I’m a bit worried you’re a psychopath
- Sam Weibe, author of “Cut Your Down”, interviewed at January Magazine
- I love this “How It Happened” series at The Thrill Begins. This week it’s Julie Hyzy, author of “Virtual Sabotage”
- Another interview with Dietrich Kalteis
- Neil Broadfoot, author of “No Man’s Land”, interviewed in From First Page to Last
- Reed Farrel Coleman, author of “Colorblind”, interviewed in MysteryPeople
- K.J. Howe, author of “The Freedom Broker”, interviewed in Crime Watch
- Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of “Trust Me”, took part in BOLO Books Composite Sketch
- Jayne Baynard, author of “When The Flood Fails”, interviewed in Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan
- Alex Howerton, author of “Con Morte”, interviewed by Will Viharo at Digital Media Ghost
Writing a novel is actually searching for victims. As I write I keep looking for casualties. The stories uncover the casualties. – John Irving
If you are a reader of this blog then you know I am a recent fan of JJ Hensley, author of “Bolt Action Remedy” and the forthcoming “Record Scratch” at Down & Out Books. He had a recent article at The Thill Begins on how to write an action scene. Considering most action scenes are horrible, Hensley’s article is some good reading.
But I was a phantom. I jabbed again and he countered. We repeated this dance, me landing more of the punches, him landing several that did damage. As time wound down, I moved to my right and struck out with two sharp right jabs, planning to follow up with a hard left. However, he wound up with a huge right hook. But, HA! I saw it coming. Because I was fast. Lightning fast. So I ducked. But I was tired. I was a tired phantom. My ducking motion was really more of a bow which meant I exposed the back of my head. Dave was my friend. Dave saw the back of my head. Then I saw the lights affixed to the top of the gym, which was weird because why would the roof be in front of me? Ah. I was on my back. I didn’t even remember falling. That was when I really learned what it felt like to get punched
James Scott Bell on how to write negative lead characters. There are “three kinds of lead characters: the positive, the negative, and the anti-hero.”
Then there is the negative lead. This is someone who is engaged in an enterprise that offends our collective morality.
Some other writing links:
- Michael Bracken on word count, setting goals, and pressing on
- Marilyn Simonds on how long it should take to write a book
- Debra Lattanzi Shutika on her short story, “Frozen Iguana” for Art Taylor’s The First Two Pages
- Crime Fiction Coach
- Chuck Wendig on sometimes it’s okay to quit writing
- Joanna Penn on why these are good times to be a creator
- Dana Isaacson, freelance editor, on whether you should chase book trends or not
- Science fiction writer Albert Wendland on writing characters
- Discreet vs. Discrete
- Phil Hurst on the long game of social media
- James Scott Bell on how to give your readers unforgettable moments
- Jane Friedman on driving traffic to your website
- Paula Munier, author of “A Borrowing of Bones”, on how she became a mystery writer
- Roger Johns on his novel “River of Secrets” for Art Taylor’s The First Two Pages
- SJI Holliday, author of “The Lingering”, offered some tips on how to plot
Some short fiction to read.
- Peter Beckstrom’s “An Affidavit on Why I Stabbed Him” (Flash Fiction Offensive)
- Lee Blevins’s “The Big Pinch” (Story and Grit)
- Morgan Boyd’s “Boundaries” (Ugly Dad)
- Alec Cizak’s “The Bag Girl” (Tough)
- Kimmy Dee’s “Rosemary’s Bae” (Ugly Dad)
- T. Fox Dunham’s “Tongue” (Near to the Knuckle)
- Chinelo Enemuo’s “Eight” (Flash Fiction Offensive)
- T.L. Huchu’s “The Best A Man Can Get” (Retreats From Oblivion)
- Preston Lang’s “Sarah, Sweet and Stealthy” (Tough)
- Jeff Soloway’s “Mother of Virtues” (Shotgun Honey)
Colman Keane read a story a day for 31 days, here’s his list.
Louise Beech’s “The Lion Tamer Who Lost” (Orenda Books) reviewed in Chapterinmylife:
If I were writing this review with pen and paper then there would be huge splodges everywhere as I am properly ugly crying after devouring this book in just one sitting! Without a word of a lie, I could not put it down!
Dreda Say Mitchell’s “Blood Secrets” reviewed in Crime Book Junkie.
I absolutely LOVED the opening of this novel! The prologue sets the scene of the chaos that will ensue and man-oh-man was it a mess! As with all of Dreda’s novels, this book was rich with narrative and fantastic characterisation. You are right there, in the moment, ducking when something is thrown, joining in on the local gossip, the sweat dripping from your brow as you wait for the next chapter to deliver another OMFG-moment! SUPERB!
This is not so much as a review but rather a synopsis of Ernest J. Gaines’s “The Tragedy of Brady Sims” (Vintage Contemporaries).
This novel came out last year. I didn’t know Gaines was still writing. So, y’all should probably go buy it now, I just did. Roughy $7 on Amazon and it’s looking to be a quick read at 128 pages. Here’s the description from its Amazon page.
Ernest J. Gaines’s new novella revolves around a courthouse shooting that leads a young reporter to uncover the long story of race and power in his small town and the relationship between the white sheriff and the black man who “whipped children” to keep order. After Brady Sims pulls out a gun in a courtroom and shoots his own son, who has just been convicted of robbery and murder, he asks only to be allowed two hours before he’ll give himself up to the sheriff. When the editor of the local newspaper asks his cub reporter to dig up a “human interest” story about Brady, he heads for the town’s barbershop. It is the barbers and the regulars who hang out there who narrate with empathy, sadness, humor, and a profound understanding the life story of Brady Sims—an honorable, just, and unsparing man who with his tough love had been handed the task of keeping the black children of Bayonne, Louisiana in line to protect them from the unjust world in which they lived. And when his own son makes a fateful mistake, it is up to Brady to carry out the necessary reckoning. In the telling, we learn the story of a small southern town, divided by race, and the black community struggling to survive even as many of its inhabitants head off northwards during the Great Migration.
Antti Tuomainen’s “Palm Beach, Finland” (Orenda Books) reviewed at Crime Fiction Lover.
Tuomainen’s second foray into humorous crime fiction may remind you of Carl Hiaasen at his best. Elements of satire and farce and an apparently callous approach to violence are carefully blended with more serious themes, such as friends betraying each other, family loyalties, or reaching middle age and watching your dreams turn to dust. There is a lot of compassion in the way the author approaches every character in the book. At first sight, many of the them might seem to live up to the stereotype: the bumbling amateur criminals Chico and Robin, lifeguard babe Nea, professional criminal Holma and so on. It takes a skilled writer to give each of these secondary characters depth. Tuomainen achieves this by writing the chapters from multiple different points of view, but sticking throughout to the third person.
Michael J. Malone’s “After He Died” (Orenda Books) reviewed in Jen Med’s Book Reviews.
If you are looking for a fast paced, high action thriller then you won’t find it here. If you are looking for a beautifully written, atmospheric, tension filled slice of perfect domestic noir then this is your book. I love how this book quietly pulled me in and played with my sense of what I thought was real.
“Lost Films” (Perpetual Motion Machine), edited by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle, reviewed at Dead End Follies.
I thought that in general, the stories that used potential common ground with the reader worked best: infamous films, weird psychological phenomenon you read about on the internet, shared pop culture experiences, etc. The stories that didn’t have that had to work harder to scare me and sometimes ran out of space/momentum to do so because they were created without knowing what they were up against. But such is the nature of short story anthologies. It’s a pack of talented people all fighting for your attention. Overall I loved Lost Films. It might’ve not been as consistently scary as Lost Signals, but when the stories that were genuinely scary were perhaps some of the most terrifying I’ve read.
George Pelecanos’s “The Man Who Came Uptown” reviewed in Black Guys Do Read.
The book is not only a love letter to reading and the life-changing quality books have . . .
Also it was reviewed in the Chicago Sun-Times.
This is a book about love of family, the stresses that can lure almost anyone into crime and how hard it can be for someone like Michael Hudson to make it on the outside. But most of all, it is about the transformative powers of friendship and reading. The story is told in tight, soulful prose by a novelist who has devoted many hours to inmate literacy programs in D.C.
One of those longish newspaper book reviews, this time on Sara Weinman’s “The Real Lolita”.
In other words, fiction — like the novel that brought Nabokov international notoriety and renown. Yet fiction is rarely pure. Few, if any, novelists’ works ever issue solely from the creative imagination, untainted by the familial and romantic entanglements, cultural events and news, fake or otherwise, that can make writers’ inspirations so difficult to pin down, no matter how hard one tries. Nabokov was notably dismissive of such investigative efforts on the part of journalists or readers.
Dietrich Kalteis’s “Poughkeepsie Shuffle” (ECW Press) reviewed by Eric Beetner in Criminal Element.
Dietrich Kalteis has delivered another solid crime tale from the depths of the Canadian underworld. There are few others writing novels focused solely on the criminals who do it nearly as well. When the mayhem goes off, as it does right from chapter one, the chaos builds into a tumbling crash where surely not everyone will get out alive. And in the world of Poughkeepsie Shuffle, you might not know who to root for or why, but you’ll find yourself on the side of the best of the worst bad guys because there are no heroes here.
Roberto Saviano’s “The Piranhas” reviewed in Criminal Element
The Piranhas is dark and violent, but there is also beauty in it that comes from the camaraderie and young love that permeate the narrative. This is a book in which characters do bad things for all the wrong reasons, but that somehow doesn’t detract from their likability. Saviano—a household name to most international crime fans thanks to the success of his previous effort, Gomorrah, and the TV series it became—is once again in fine form here, and fans of strong, character-driven crime will find much to celebrate in this gripping, entertaining, distinctive novel.
Christopher Davis reviewed Tom Leins’ “Slug Bait”.
I know that Tom is one of the indies working his ass off out there, but I’ve never really read his stuff? I think we’ve been in a couple of anthologies together and some of the same magazines, but I just never searched out any of his stuff. We cross paths from time to time, but have never spoken other than a quick Right On as we pass somewhere on the internet. His latest short, Slug Bait is well worth the buck he is asking for it. I know what you’re thinking….fuck dude, you only gave the story 3 stars on Amazon? I tore through the short like the fires burning through California in well less than an hour, so some of that opinion is value, but I’m also one who believes more in 3 and 4 star reviews for indie writers. Come on the guy has people, right? He’ll have more 5 star reviews than you can fucking count in a week.
Angel Luis Cólon’s “Pull & Pray” (Down & Out Books) reviewed in Broad Bean Books.
Pull & Pray is not like anything I had read before, the action crackles on each page as do the characters. The dialogue is straight to the point, snappy and certainly keeps you engaged. The brilliant detail the author has provided regarding the heist is the forefront of the book and helps give you an idea of the actual work needed and the faith you have to have in others . . .
- Leye Adenle’s “Easy Motion Tourist” (Cassava Republic Press) reviewed in The View from the Blue House: “an interesting, dark tale of fighting corruption and crime in a city pervaded with both”
- Lisa Brackman’s “Black Swan Rising” (Midnight Ink) reviewed in Looks At Books: “just too much going on in this book”
- Clare Chase’s “Murder on the Marshes” (Bookouture) reviewed in Hooked From Page One: “an exciting introduction to a new crime series”
- Angel Luis Cólon’s “Pull & Pray” (Down & Out Books) reviewed in Hair Past a Freckle: “The snappy dialogue, palpable sense of threat and difficult relationships mean this gritty crime novel is entertaining throughout.”
- Phillip DePoy’s “Icepick” (Severn House) reviewed in Lesa’s Book Critiques: “open-ended mystery features fascinating characters, storytelling, and a fast pace”
- CS Dewildt’s short story “The Louisville Problem” reviewed in Kevin’s Corner: “is a good one. Like Suburban Dick, this short story is not for everyone”
- Tod Goldberg’s “Gangster Nation” (Counterpoint) reviewed in Bookgasm: “confident prose style”
- Jacqueline Grima’s “Only in Whispers” (Manatee Books) reviewed in Hair Past a Freckle: “an emotional and assured debut”
- Malcolm Hollingdrake’s “The Third Breath” (Bloodhound Books) reviewed in Kath Middleton Books: “engrossing and satisfying”
- Mary Kubica’s “When the Lights Go Out” (Park Row) reviewed in A Ticket To Everywhere: “an enthralling and very compelling read”
- Pierre Lemaitre’s “Inhuman Resources” (Quercus) reviewed in Crime Fiction Lover: “consummate storytelling ability and complex, often nasty characters”
- Caroline Mitchell’s “Truth and Lies” (Thomas & Mercer) reviewed in bytheletterbookreviews: “a heart stopping and enthralling read”
- Margaret Mizushima’s “Burning Ridge” (Crooked Lane Books) reviewed in Lesa’s Book Critiques: “whether you like police procedurals, working dogs, suspense, or the personal glimpses into the lives of sleuths, you might want to pick up Burning Ridge”
- Susan Oleksiw’s “Below the Trees” (Midnight Ink) reviewed in dru’s book musings: “an enjoyable tale”
- Karen Osman’s “The Home” (Orion) reviewed in Stardust Book Reviews: “a chilling and upsetting thriller”
- Robert Parker’s “Morte Point” (Endeavor Quill) reviewed in Live and Deadly: “The writing is good, though there are some plot holes and a book of this nature will always require some forgiveness for the license that it takes with our belief”
- Matt Phillips’s “Bad Luck City” (Near to the Knuckle) reviewed in Col’s Criminal Library: “a quick speedy read that entertained and didn’t disappoint”
- Nic Pizzolatto’s “Galveston” (Scribner) reviewed in Black Guys Do Read: “his writing is equal parts lyrical and woeful, at times filled with both beauty and brutality”
- Lilja Sigurdardottir’s “Trap” (Orenda Books) reviewed in Crime Watch: “Slick, but with substance”
- Jo Spain’s “The Darkest Place” (Quercus Books) reviewed in Brew and Books Review: ” a dark and disturbing read with many twists and turns”
- Martin Stanley’s “Fighting Talk” reviewed in Col’s Criminal Library: “Literature it ain’t but does exactly what is described on the tin. Enjoyable, violent, fast and furious.”
- Denise Swanson’s “Die Me A River” (Sourcebooks Landmark) reviewed in dru’s book musings: “a well-written whodunit that was both entertaining and enjoyable”
- Vanda Symon’s “Overkill” (Orenda Books) reviewed in Mrs Bloggs The Average Reader: “Fantastic writing. Pure quality.”
- John F.D. Taff’s “Little Black Spots” (Grey Matter Press) reviewed in InkHeist: “If you’re a horror fan and not reading his work, you are doing yourself a severe disservice.”
- Scott Von Doviak’s “Charlesgate Confidential” (Hard Case Crime) reviewed in Crime Fiction Lover: “keeps the plot moving along”
- Michael Wood’s “the Hangman’s Hold” (Killer Reads) reviewed in mychestnutreadingtree: “a brilliantly compulsive series”
Dirty Boulevard edited by David James Keaton (Down & Out Books)
Inspired by the outcasts, outlaws, and other outré inhabitants of rock legend Lou Reed’s songbook, Dirty Boulevard traffics in crime fiction that’s sometimes velvety and sometimes vicious, but always, absolutely, rock & roll. Inside, you’ll find stories from the fire escapes to the underground, stories filled with metal machine music, stories for gender-bending, rule-breaking, mind-blasting midnight revelries and drunken, dangerous, dark nights of the heart.
Upcoming genre stars like Alison Gaylin team up with crime fiction legends such as Reed Farrel Coleman, along with Cate Holahan, Gabino Iglesias, Tony McMillen, and many of the most exciting new names in crime and horror fiction, who teach us that a perfect day is often anything but, that the power of positive drinking is a destructive force rarely contained, and that knock-down-drag-out drag queens are probably way tougher than you.
Dedicated to the memory and works of Jonathan Ashley.
Proceeds will benefit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-8255.
The Way We Came In by Kelby Losack (Broken River Books)
I loved Losack’s first book, “Heathenish”, which I listed as one of my favorite books of the year for 2017. I am looking forward to reading this one. Book description below.
Rent’s due and Saturn is in Capricorn. My twin brother just got out of jail. He’s got some ideas.
Desperate Times Call by Hector Duarte, Jr. (Shotgun Honey)
Society is a tough place to live. Daily, it seems, a huge thumb presses down on us. What happens when someone pushes back, flips off the gigantic, karmic oppressor? Or simply caves in and decides to wallow in the gutter? Desperate Times Call is a collection of stories about people on society’s fringes and margins. Characters pushed to their limits, left without much choice but to give in, push back, or simply explode.
A high school senior comes home to find her drug-addicted father dead. She always suspected the day would come but it’s here. Now what? Tomas finally meets the girl he’s been chatting with on a social networking app only to find she looks nothing as advertised. In fact, she has a huge scar across the left side of her face that comes with a story that will change both of them forever. A father lets his anger get the best of him and must confront the consequences of faulty, impulsive judgment the best way he can think of: surprising his twin girls during recess. He’s packing sandwiches and a gun.
How do we answer when Desperate Times Call? (Buy)
The First Prehistoric Serial Killer by Teresa Solana (Bitter Lemon Press)
An impressive and very funny collection of stories by Teresa Solana but the fun is very dark indeed. The oddest things happen. Statues decompose and stink out galleries, two old grandmothers are vengeful killers, a prehistoric detective on the verge of becoming the first religious charlatan trails a triple murder that is threatening cave life as the early innocents knew it. The collection also includes a sparkling web of Barcelona stories–connected by two criminal acts–that allows Solana to explore the darker side of different parts of the city and their seedier inhabitants. (Buy)
Nightfall | Cassidy’s Girl | Night Squad by David Goodis (Stark House Press)
NIGHTFALL Jim Vanning stands at the window of his Greenwich Village apartment. It’s a hot, sticky night, but he’s afraid to go out. Vanning is haunted by memories of a car accident…and a gun. He’s killed a man, and he knows they will be coming for him. But will it be the cops or the criminals that find him first? Finally, Vanning decides to go out. He has no idea where he’s going, but he’s in a hurry to get there. That’s when he meets Martha…and soon realizes that she will either redeem him, or lead him to his doom. Either way, Vanning is rushing into the night…
CASSIDY’S GIRL Cassidy used to be an airline pilot. But that was before the crash. Now he drives a bus. And drinks with his friends. And fights with his wife Mildred, a slave to her temper, her body, her sex. But Mildred has found a new man to torment. So when Cassidy meets Doris, he decides to ditch his life, and take up with her instead. Doris is his angel, his way out. But Doris already has a lover—the bottle. Torn between his jealousy over Mildred and his new-found desire for Doris, Cassidy starts making plans to escape the desolation that is his life. But a man can only go so far to escape himself.
NIGHT SQUAD Corey Bradford was a cop but they caught him on the take, and bounced him. Now he’s a back alley pariah. He can’t even sit in at one of Grogan’s poker games. But when Corey saves the big man’s life one night, Grogan offers him $15,000 to find out who tried to heist him. Then McDermott of the Night Squad steps in and offers Corey his badge back to work with him to bring down Grogan. Corey is torn down the middle. The Night Squad can hand him back his prestige, his dignity. But Grogan’s bribe can bring him a small fortune, a way out. Make one mistake, and either side will kill him.
American History by J. L. Abramo (Down & Out Books)
The families of Salvatore Leone and Luigi Agnello had already been long-time bitter enemies in Sicily by the turn of the twentieth century.
In 1914, Vincenzo Leone, Salvatore’s oldest son, emigrates to Philadelphia to start a new life for himself and his family in the promised land. Several years later, Giuseppe Agnello, Luigi’s eldest, secretly marries Francesca Leone, Vincenzo’s sister, and the couple escape to New York City. Giuseppe leaves to serve his new country during the First World War. Francesca, alone and in need of support for herself and their infant son, Louis, travels to Philadelphia to live with her brother, his wife, and his two daughters.
The Spanish Flu takes the lives of Vincenzo’s wife and sister in 1917, and Leone moves with his daughters and Francesca’s son to San Francisco. Vincenzo Leone decides to raise Louis Agnello as his own child.
When Giuseppe returns from the war, he finds his wife and son gone. It takes more than five years for Agnello to learn the whereabouts of his family. Giuseppe travels to San Francisco with hopes of a reunion with Francesca and Louis, and becomes a victim of the hatred between the two families that has been recently transplanted in America by Vincenzo’s younger brother, Roberto. Vincenzo learns that Giuseppe had traveled to San Francisco to locate his wife and son, but Agnello had never reached Vincenzo’s door. Vincenzo begins to worry about the safety of sister’s son, and decides Louis will accompany him to New York City and to Sicily.
A failed attempt on the boy’s life results in Vincenzo’s death, and instigates a fresh and fierce hostility between the Agnello and Leone families that rivals the hatred and vindictiveness experienced in the old country.
American History is the epic, generational saga of the Agnellos and the Leones (in the Italian language the lambs and the lions)—a one-hundred-year conflict between Giuseppe’s descendants in New York City, law enforcers, and Vincenzo’s descendants in San Francisco, lawbreakers. (Buy)
Three Strikes by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, Charles Salzberg (Down & Out Books)
I Take Care of Myself in Dreamland by Ross Klavan
Bartok is left with scars from the Army but something else, as well-the memory of a strange, mystical experience that he calls “Red River.” Back home and out of luck, he wanders through 1970’s New York hoping to recapture this strange state. But others see Bartok as an easy mark for some very dirty business and their plan is to use him for murder.
Jammed by Tim O’Mara
Aggie is back in business. He’s no longer smoking bootleg cigarettes as he did in “Smoked,” now he’s smuggling another usually legal-and quite valuable-products: maple syrup. Unfortunately, on the way from the Midwest to New York City, he’s picked up an unwanted traveling companion, the fifteen-year-old daughter of his latest boss. It seems she wants to get to NYC to meet up with her on-line boyfriend, who turns out to be much more than she expected. All Aggie wants to do is drop off the syrup, pick up a paycheck, and get on home. Before he does that, he’s gotta play hero. Again.
The Maybrick Affair by Charles Salzberg
As World War II rages in Europe, it’s a couple weeks before Pearl Harbor and rookie reporter, Jake Harper, who works for a small Connecticut newspaper, is assigned a routine human interest story. A reclusive, elderly woman, has quietly passed away in her small cottage upstate. As Jake investigates the old woman’s life and death he finds that years earlier she was tried and convicted of murdering her husband in a well-publicized, lurid trial in London, England. And, after digging further, he, unearths evidence that she might have had a connection to an even more famous British serial killer and that the ramifications of this story might affect America’s entry into the War. (Buy)
Broken Windows by Paul D. Marks (Down & Out Books)
While the storm rages over California’s notorious anti-illegal alien Proposition 187, a young woman climbs to the top of the famous Hollywood Sign—and jumps to her death. An undocumented day laborer is murdered. And a disbarred and desperate lawyer in Venice Beach places an ad in a local paper that says: “Will Do Anything For Money.”
Private investigator Duke Rogers, infamous for solving the case of murdered starlet Teddie Matson, feels he must do “penance” for his inadvertent part in her death. To that end, he takes on the case of Carlos, the murdered day-laborer, as a favor to his sister Marisol, the housekeeper down the street from Duke’s house.
Duke must figure out what ties together Carlos’ murder, the ex-lawyer’s desperate ad and the woman jumping from the sign? And who is the mysterious “coyote”? Amid the controversial political storm surrounding California’s Proposition 187, Duke and his very unPC sidekick Jack are on the case. They slingshot from the Hollywood Sign to Venice Beach. From East Hollywood to the “suicide bridge” in Pasadena, and from Smuggler’s Gulch near the Mexican border back to L.A. again. Their mission catapults them through a labyrinth of murder, intrigue and corruption of church and state that hovers around the immigration debate in this searing sequel to the explosive Shamus Award-winning novel White Heat. (Buy)
A Minor Storm by J David Osborne (Broken River Books)
Book 2 in the Black Gum Series.
Shane returns to town with new plans, a new look, and a dead chicken.
Some other sites with new releases:
Thanks for stopping by and reading The Incident Report at Unlawful Acts.