& The Rest

Reading and Diversity

Reading & Diversity

Reading books about criminals, thugs, and lowlifes is an escape for me. Hell, reading books about people like me acting in complete desperation is even an escape, an odd one I will grant you that. I also enjoy reading books by authors that are different than me, an old white straight guy.  I try to search out for these authors, but given my choice of genre is dark crime fiction, the pickings are slim in the small press world.

So I branch out in the mystery genre to the more popular stuff like serial killer thrillers, cozies, psychological thrillers, police procedurals, and PI book. And when I read these, I am usually disappointed. Hell, I’m even more disappointed when I read these books published by the Big 5, look at my reviews of Meg GardinerCJ Tudor, and Steve Hamilton as proof. The way many of these books resuscitate old worn tropes I find tiring and lazy, but many readers do find pleasure in them.

Here’s my problem. If I don’t try are read books outside of what I like, the authors I review will skew 85% male and 15% female, 85% white and 15% writers of color. I know this because those were my stats from last year. Not only is that an issue for readers of this blog, but most importantly this is an issue for me as a reader. Reading over a large pool of writers gives me an opportunity to hear voices that I would not normally be acquainted with and I like that.

So I continue my search of books in the expanded mystery genre that includes many writers who I am unfamiliar with in hopes of finding something good, something I enjoy. And, boy, do I like finding them.

For example, the only reason I picked up Marietta Miles’s “Route 12” was that it was written by a woman and I’m more than happy I read it. “Route 12” has stuck with me these past two years like no other book and it is one I believe that should be in the canon of contemporary crime fiction. Seriously, it’s that good.

I’ve also been lucky a few more times in my search of the mystery genre with JJ Hensley’s “Bolt Action Remedy”,  Leye Adenle’s “Easy Motion Tourist”, Stephen Mack Jones’s “August Snow”, and Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s “Snare”.  Even with all the crap I have to sort through, these are the books and writers that make it worthwhile to read outside my comfort zone.

This post started as a review of Carol Wyer’s “The Birthday” (Bloodhound Books), but it changed drastically as I wrote. “The Birthday” wasn’t for me at all, but if you dig the typical police procedural that is out there today, this may be for you. Buy: Amazon

Thanks for stopping by Unlawful Acts and reading this article.

Reading & Diversity

Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

As I am reading a lot of crime fiction of late I am finding out what I like and what I don’t like. I’ve pretty much established that I’m not a fan of the psychological thriller — at least I haven’t found a recent release I’ve loved. Now I can add to the list the superhero thriller, guys — mainly guys — who can do anything without making a mistake and get out of any jam. The guy is usually an ex-Ranger or some other elite armed forces unit. He is an incredible shot whether at short-range with a pistol or long range with a sniper rifle. He is also an expert at hand-to-hand combat and usually has some good hacking chops when the need arises.

All of this kind of makes my review of Steve Hamilton’s Exit Strategy (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) kind of weird because I liked the story, but not so much the genre. Exit Strategy is filled with non-stop action and Hamilton can write at a furious pace. This book is the proverbial page turner.

The door to the bathroom opened. Quintero looked away for an instant, just long enough for Mason to grab the barrel of the gun and pull. The gun went off, the sound dampened by the suppressor, and the slug going right through the soft wood of the closet door. As Quintero pulled back, Mason went with him, heard Lauren’s scream as he rolled all the way over the bed, onto the floor. Quintero shoved his fingers into Mason’s bullet wound, making him cry out in pain. But he didn’t let go of the gun.

The two men remained locked together, the gun held at an impasse between them. Mason knew he didn’t have the strength to hold on. Not today. Quintero’s face was above him, the face that represented everything in his life that he had no control over, and now as he felt his hands slipping from the gun he wondered if this face would be the last thing he’d ever see.

But then another face came into view. Lauren, standing above and behind them. She had on a white robe and was holding something, a silver pole, which she wielded like a sword. Lauren raised the pole above her head, then brought it down hard on Quintero’s back. The man’s eyes went wide, and the breath left his body, as Lauren swung the pole again, this time hitting him square in the back of the head.

If one peel’s past the superhero mythos, Hamilton’s allows his lead character Nick Mason to show a glimmer of a humanity. Stuck in a job he hates, Mason moves through his life day-by-day executing the tasks assigned to him otherwise those he loves will be killed. Though this might be typical fare, Mason’s flicker of humanness helped me enjoy a genre book I might not necessarily would have. If the superhero thriller is your thing, you will find Steve Hamilton’s Exit Strategy a blistering and fun read.