James Reasoner reading.
Vanished by Mary McGarry Morris (recommended by Patti Abbott)
I don't know if anyone saw this book as the crime fiction it was ten years ago. It certainly is noir and straight out of the Woodrell universe.
A laborer is lured into helping an attractive woman he sees on the road. He deserts his family and embarks on an odyssey with Dotty, who is a femme fatale of the highest order. She has kidnapped a baby and the three cobble out a life on the road over the course of the next five years. Their fate is further complicated when they run into an ex-con and his family, who comes up with the idea of demanding ransom. This is one dark, often heart-breaking tale and amazingly Morris' first novel. Highly recommended. Her other novels aren't bad either
Rick Blechta is a musician who writes crime fiction, or if you prefer, a crime writer who plays music. His sixth novel, A CASE OF YOU, was released this past March. As always, the main character is a musician, this time a drummer in a struggling jazz trio. His fourth novel, CEMETERY OF THE NAMELESS, was an Arthur Ellis finalist for best novel in 2006. He currently resides in Toronto and is married to, what else, a musician. Check out his website:
richblechta.com and he is also part of a crime writing blog:typem4murder.blogspot.com
A WALK THROUGH WALES, Anthony Bailey
As someone who writes crime fiction, you'd probably expect me to talk about the book "that launched me on this career," but sometimes it's nice to find something off the beaten track and just kick back and enjoy it. This is one of these books.
Bailey is an accomplished travel writer and I immediately felt upon cracking it open that I was in good hands. The format of his narrative was simple. Starting on the south coast at the Welsh capital, Cardiff, he walked over a 3-week period to Bangor in the north.
The story is not about "And on your left is..." Around his deft description of the countryside, Bailey examines what is going on in Wales: the influx of Brits looking for vacation property, the influence of the nationalist movement on the Welsh and the pressures of the modern world exerted on this ancient land.
To me, though, the book really comes alive in the people Bailey meets and whose stories he weaves into the fabric of his narrative. They are utterly fascinating. Since travel to me is as much about meeting people as it is in seeing the sites, I found this facet of the book most attractive and memorable. As a matter of fact, it propelled my wife and me to spend three weeks touring around north and central Wales, poking into odd places and trying to get a grip on a country that is noted for swallowing people whole. We barely made it out ourselves, and if we ever do disappear, you will know where to look for us first.
Julie Hyzy is the author of the White House Chef Mystery series including STATE OF THE ONION and , new this month, HAIL TO THE CHEF. She also write the Alex. St. James series: DEADLY BLESSING, DEADLY INTEREST, and new last month, a collaboration with Michael A. Black, DEAD RINGER.
THE WAR OF ART is a great little book. And, at least in hardcover, a bit strange looking. My treasured copy is a slim 165 pages tucked into a hard silver binding with three small square mirrors embedded on the cover. Not the sort of thing I’d pick up on my own. It’s available in paperback, but I received this copy from my friend, Ken Rand, who was cleaning out his shelves and decided the powerful little volume needed a new home. This isn’t a mystery—it isn’t even a novel. THE WAR OF ART is (she sheepishly admits) a self-help book for writers. It’s a “get your butt in the chair and write” book, but it’s not for the faint of heart. When my friend sent it to me about a year ago, I read it that afternoon. Standing up. Pacing, actually. For some reason, I felt as though I’d be cheating if I sat while I read. Sections are small, sometimes only a single paragraph. It moves fast and I turned pages sometimes more quickly than I changed directions. The idea behind this book is that “Resistance” is what keeps us from staying in our writing chairs each day. Resistance is what creates our obstacles, encourages us to procrastinate, prevents our success. Author Steven Pressfield gives Resistance human characteristics in order to make his point: Resistance wants us to fail. And we, as writers, must fight Resistance.Sure, it’s a gimmick. But whether you call it Resistance, your inner critic, or the demon on your shoulder whispering disapproval, we working writers can’t simply wait for the Muse to hit in order to do our jobs. We have to keep our butts in our chairs every day. And we have to keep our eyes off the obstacles and on our personal goals. For me, THE WAR OF ART is a godsend. For me, it works. When I mention THE WAR OF ART to writer friends, I’m surprised to find that no one else has ever heard of it. Does this mean it’s been “forgotten,” or has it just not made the rounds yet? I don’t know. But I do know that I’m grateful to Patti for this blog invitation, and my opportunity to share this gem of a book with others.
Kieran Shea was born and raised in New Jersey. His crime fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Pulp Pusher, Dogmatika,Muzzleflash, Plots with Guns, Demolition. He takes his coffee black and lives outside Annapolis, MD.
92 in the Shade By: Thomas McGuane
92 in the Shade By: Thomas McGuane
I used to joke with my brother, an English teacher, that if you could whittle out the goofy sex and heavy drugs, this book should be taught as part of every school’s American literary curriculum.
No doubt, crime fiction fans point to the late James Crumley as having the preeminent opening line, but McGuane’s book, for me, has its own viable sucker punch—dead on today as it was when this book was originally released.
“Nobody knows, from sea to shining sea, why we are having all this trouble with our republic…”
It is an existential everyman’s tale, rife with insanity, deadly gunplay, and heartache. Funny too. Burnout Tom Skelton returns home to Key West to put his life back together and become a fishing guide. Only his own romantic visions and a killer rival named Nichol Dance stand in his way. But damn the consequences, Tom confronts his demons head on even if it could end up killing him.Long before the eccentric south Florida crime novel field became saturated, Tom McGuane was out slicing the sawgrass giving Charles Wileford a run for his money. They made a BAD movie of it with Warren Oates and Peter Fonda (if that is even possible—Warren Oates RULES), but hell, 92 in the Shade will flat out will slay you.
Scott D. Parker