The Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of December 2nd through December 8th with news, book reviews and new releases.
This week I cover fallout from the Linda Fairstein debacle, cover blurbs, bad science, bad book covers that people actually like, and cozy covers which might have their own problem. There’s also an interview game in the News section.
Links to book reviews include “Best American Mystery Stories 2018” and its problems, Andrew Vachss is back with a novelette, Jackie Law’s review of Antti Tuomainen’s “The Man Who Died”, Colman Keane’s review of the Margaret Miller’s “Vanish in a Instant” (1952), and a glowing review of West Camel’s “Attend”.
New releases this week are “Bloodshot and Bruised” by Travis Richardson, “The One That Got Away” by Joe Clifford, “Frenzy of Evil” by Henry Kane (reprint), and a new Akashic Noir release.
For those of you that thought Attica Locke did not take any risks for calling out the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) for planning on honoring Linda Fairstein, well you were wrong. I don’t know if Locke has come into any retribution for publicly calling out the MWA for their Fairstein problem–she was involved with the persecution of the Central Park Five who were later exonerated–but Steph Cha has run into some problems due to her article in the Los Angeles Times.
The Problem with Abby’s Forensic Magic
Andrew Case, author of the Hollow Night series, wrote an interesting article regarding popular forensic science used to falsely convict innocent people. In “On Junk Science, Pop Forensics and Crime Fiction” (CrimeReads), Case wrote that their is a correlation between using bad science and the rise of “racial disparity in wrongful convictions” in the United States.
Case also covered the inherent problems that bleed into crime fiction. While a judge for the Edgar Awards, Case got to read many books that relied on “forensic magic”.
“There was the hair sent to a DNA lab for results in 24 hours (only in the most fortunate cases can DNA be extracted from hair at all, and labs are perpetually overburdened). There was the arson examiner drawing conclusions from the stumps of a burnt house. And there were spatter patterns, fingerprints, tire tracks, and bullet casings. Reliance on these methods has led to shattering consequences for the innocent, most of them young men of color. I am glad to say that I didn’t read a book that was solved through bite mark evidence. That is some progress.”
The Importance and Meaninglessness of Blurbs
Blurbs are problematic. If a reader pays attention to the blurbs of Stephen King and let’s say Don Winslow that reader will end up buying lots of crap and that’s a shame. Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s “We Need to Destroy the Blurbing Industrial Complex” (The Millions) is at times overly cute, but its spirit is in the right place. There is a problem, “Besides the plain blurb, there is now the “pre-blurb” that goes onto the advance readers copy and is used as a kind of literary chum to attract more blurbs.”
The Edmonton Public Library has a fantastic post, “The Complete List of Books Recommended by Stephen King”. And, oh, my god, it’s hilarious. The problem with King and others is that they blurb or tweet recommendations so much and so adamantly that the good books will get lost with the bad. Here is King’s tweet on Rachel Kushner’s “The Mars Room”.
As good as that is as a recommendation, I believe it gets washed away on books that are nowhere near as good.
Everyone Likes “The Infinite Blacktop” Cover and I Don’t Know Why
Oh, hell no. When an article purports to list “The 20 Best Book Covers of 2018” (CrimeReads) and leads off with the ridiculous cover of Sara Gran’s “Infinite Blacktop”, everything else that follows is tainted by what is one of the worst covers out there. Hell, it’s not even the best cover of “The Infinite Blacktop”, check out the UK version. CrimeReads can take solace as Book Riot also likes this horrible US cover.
And not one cover by JT Lindros in CrimeRead’s entire list, with covers for “Record Scratch”, “In Loco Parentis”, or “Boise Longpig Hunting Club” to choose from, this article was a swing and a miss. Check out “BOLO Books’ Top Covers of 2018” for some wonderful covers including “Boise Longpig Hunting Club”.
Do Cozies Have a Cover Problem?
Do cozies have a cover problem? That’s the question Fictionophile’s Lynne asked. Some book bloggers commented. The Quiet Georgie wrote, “A lot of them [cozy covers] are too fluffy and remind me of women’s fiction or romance, neither of which I read.” Misty of Mistybookspace blog wrote, “I think I tend to skip cozy mysteries because of their covers to be honest. They just don’t grab my attention because they are to cartoonist and look ridiculous to me.” Science Fiction writer Michael Seidel commented, “I enjoy cozy mysteries despite their covers, and yes, it’s those literary puns and the cover artwork that make me grit my teeth.” The best and most truest comment was from the blogger from Macsbooks, “Personally, I don’t care for the same-ole, same-same covers that I find on many thriller books. How many books can feature a woman running in a coat?”
Can you match the quote with the author being interviewed ? Links to the interview follow the writer’s name and that’s where you can find the answers.
“I even had a cousin unfriend me on Facebook.”
Gabino Iglesias (Book Riot)
“They have so many ways to completely destroy you.”
S.A. Cosby (One Bite at a Time)
“I’ve always had a bit of an anger issue.”
Beau Johnson (Story and Grit)
If you are on the Twitter, feel free (or not) to follow my Mystery and Crime Publisher list. Suggestions for publishers are appreciated.
What do you do when a short story collection edited by a woman doesn’t represent women at all? Thanks to Vicki Weisfeld for pointing this out on Crime Fiction Lover.
“If you’ve been scanning this piece looking for familiar names, you may also have noticed the near-absence of women authors. Joyce Carol Oates who has more than 100 published books is not a surprise in this list, nor is Charlaine Harris, who’s been publishing mystery fiction since 1981. It’s a real mystery why no other accomplished, newer female voices appear here. Women are somewhat more prominent in the list of Other Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2017 at the back of the volume, where nearly a third are women – 10 of 31.”
I have never read any Andrew Vachss and that is about to change. Ray Banks stopped by Do Some Damage with quite a bit of praise for Vachss saying that the first time he read Vachss, he blew his world apart.
“I didn’t know writing could be like that. Declarative sentences, meticulously crafted. Statements of fact. This is the world. This is the truth. This is important. And God help you if you don’t pay attention. His voice is that of the voiceless, his focus unparalleled.”
Vachss’s “The Questioner” (Utopia Books) is a 36-page novelette which you can read for free if you are an Kindle Unlimited subscriber or a whopping $1.99. Banks said that “the novelette’s ostensibly slight length is a bonus: this is a story that demands repeated reading, and promises to offer more with each experience.” Not only do I have to catch up on Vachss I need to read me some Banks too.
Antti Tuomainen’s “The Man Who Died” (Orenda Books) has been on my TBR since it first came out. Most of the reviews I’ve come across simply love the book. Jackie Law’s review on her blog, neverimitate, is no exception. “The Man Who Died” is translated from Finnish by David Hackston.
“This is a clever and entertaining take on the thriller genre, offering unexpected twists with just a touch of the surreal. Coming face to face with one’s demise may sharpen focus but death is, after all, a prospect anyone living could face on any given day. Deftly written with a satisfying originality this is a warm and witty but still suspenseful read.”
Margaret Miller has long been on my lists of writers I need to read. If I look beyond my computer screen to my bookshelves, there is a Margaret Miller collection sitting there. I bring this up because Colman Keane selected Miller’s “Vanish in a Instant” (1952) as his November pick of the month. In his review earlier in that month, Keane said that the book was “bloody marvelous”. He also wrote:
“Superb writing, superb plotting, hugely sympathetic characters – even the rich mother who thinks money can solve everything, wonderful insights into the human heart, great observations, and I got bamboozled at the death, with the outcome – incorrectly guessing the guilty at least twice along the way.”
“West Camel’s writing is what made this book feel so very fresh and unique; there are some wonderful descriptive phrases throughout Attend that added so much depth and colour to his characters and the settings. He is such an exciting new writer and I cannot wait to see what he writes next.
If you’re looking for a book that is dark, has very good writing, but very different to what is currently out there in the market at the moment, then I would highly, highly recommend Attend.”
The One That Got Away by Joe Clifford
Down & Out Books
Joe Clifford, author of the Jay Porter series, struck out with something different with his Down & Out release, “The One That Got Away”. When I first heard about this Clifford book, I was worried. The book description goes like, “In the early 2000s, a string of abductions rocked the small upstate town of Reine, New York. Only one girl survived: Alex Salerno. The killer, Ken Parsons, was sent away. Life returned to normal. No more girls would have to die. Until another one did.”
“The One That Got Away” seems so different than his Jay Porter series. But my anxiety about Clifford’s latest undertaking seems misguided as from what I’ve heard, Clifford seems to have done more than well with “The One That Got Away”.
Benoit Lelievre, in his Dead End Follies review, wrote that it was “another resounding success for Joe Clifford” and “it’s the type of book that lingers with you long after you’re done and that you’ll end up recommending to everybody.”
Frenzy of Evil by Henry Kane
Stark House Books
In a recent review of this 1963 book, George Kelly wrote that it is ‘a psychological thriller with plenty of twists and turns” and, in Bookgasm, Alan Crais wrote that the new edition of “Frenzy of Evil” gives readers “an opportunity to discover Kane’s considerable talents”.
Hong Kong Noir edited by Jason Y. Ng and Susan Blumberg-Kason
Every time one of these Akashic Noir books comes out, I’m excited. And then my excitement wanes considerably as I read excerpted short stories from a new release. But people seem to like them, so here it is as a reminder that one just came out.
Blooshot and Bruised by Travis Richardson
A boy makes a series of bad decisions after his father bans him from reading books. A Jewish family is forever changed when a boy with a Neo-Nazi background is thrust into their lives. A man’s epic downfall is narrated through a beer ad. An arthritic grandmother hopes to serve justice to an untouchable, evil sheriff. A heavy-metal rocker’s life takes a radical turn during the 1992 LA riots.
These are a few stories in BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED, a blistering collection of crime, retribution, and the fragile humanity that survives. Settings range from excessive mansions and freeway gridlock of California to clapboard houses and frozen hunting grounds of the South. Pathos and humor mix to create a complex portrait of Americans under pressure. Acclaimed author Travis Richardson presents this collection of sixteen stories including Anthony, Macavity, and Derringer Award finalists. These original tales divided between the South and West will leave an indelible impression on any reader.
“Travis Richardson brings us a collection of two-fisted tales—one fist stained with meth and tobacco juice, the other one with dabs of avocado and blood—in this outstanding collection of funny, dark and thrilling crime stories from both the West Coast and the South.”— Jordan Harper, author of Edgar Award-winning SHE RIDES SHOTGUN
“Steeped in blood and grit, BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED is taut, twisted, and thrilling. Travis Richardson has an exceptional talent for bringing shady characters to life in all of their vengeful, double-crossing glory. His stories represent the dark side of the American Dream, and they are unforgettable.”— Hilary Davidson, Anthony Award–winning author of ONE SMALL SACRIFICE
“Travis Richardson proves, yet again, that his name belongs at the top of the list of master short storytellers. BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED collects prose both sharp and serrated, then gives rise to a voice that is bleak, uncompromising, and funny. You won’t be able to put it down.”— Eryk Pruitt, author of WHAT WE RECKON and THE LONG DANCE podcast
Photograph for Incident Report No. 66 by Dmitry Ratushny and licensed for the public domain.