Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 31, 2012

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad and Sam McCain series as well as some darn great westerns and standalones. You can find him here.


The only series I read regularly are those that offer worlds I want to visit. This may be because before I began reading mysteries regularly I read science fiction. World building is critical in sf and fantasy.

And it is in mystery fiction, too. Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie. John Dickson Carr. Indelible worlds. Or Mr. and Mrs. North. Craig Rice's various detectives working out of Chicago. Hammett, Chandler, Chester Himes' Harlem novels.

And Bill Crider's small town Texas series, the latest of which is MURDER AMONG OWLS (St. Martin's, $23.95) This time Sheriff Dan Rhodes has to decide whether Helen Harris' death was accidental or criminal. At certain points in his investigation his deputies are his biggest hindrance to solving what is now clearly a crime. Wizards they're not.

Any novel that references the Warner Bros. cartoon icon Pepe Le Pew on the third page is a can't miss reading experience for me. And Crider does this as he does everythin
g else--nice and easy. The sentences and the scenes flow so gracefully you might overlook the difficulty of keeping the writing so spot-on.

If you think Andy Griffith of Mayberry with an edge and a tart tongue you'll have a good sense of of the world Crider creates in these fine books. He's admirably unsentimental about his town and its people, seeing them for what they are. The good ones are good without being saints, the bad ones are bad without being Hannibal Lechter. Real people doing real people things.

Two highlights--the dog who's scared of the cat and a hilarious chain saw chase between a lunatic and his seventy-something would-be prey. I've never read this scene in any form anywhere else before. It is pure Crider and the essence of his best work.

You'll like Rhodes and his town. And for sure you'll want to come back for more.

The Millstone, Margaret Drabble, Patti Abbott

Margaret Drabble was one of my favorite writer in the late sixties and early seventies. She was able to make the concerns of young women seem important, serious, and legitimate. Yet her novels had a light-heartedness to them too.

Her characters seemed to be experiencing the things I was also at that time.

All of the early novels are great fun but THE MILLSTONE (1976) is one of my favorites. In this novel, a young woman is pregnant after a one-night romp with a gay friend. At first, she is eager to be rid of the fetus, but she eventually has the baby and discovers herself in the process.

I am also very fond of THE WATERFALL, JERUSALEM, THE GOLDEN and THE GARRICK YEAR. Drabble has continued to publish steadily having some 17 novels by now.

She is the sister of A.S. Byatt. According to Wikipedia, they are in a dispute lasting many years over a tea set and have not spoken. This happens more than you'd think, doesn't it? And is certainly the stuff of good fiction.

Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek
Eric Beetner
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Kurt Evans
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
Nick Jones
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubin
Todd Mason
Neglected Books PageLinkJ.F. Norris
Juri Nummelin
Richard Pangburn
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Ron Scheer
Michael Slind
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple
Prashant Trikannad


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I'm sorry I'm late but I should have my post read in ten minutes. Many thanks...

Deb said...

The tea set is just the mcguffin, the sisters have been in conflict since Byatt's sudden success with Possession. Prior to that, Drabble had been the "popular" author and Byatt was considered more of a "literary" writer. When Possession became such a popular success, the sisters' relationship was upended and has never been stabilized. In fact, a few years ago one of them accused the other of "mining" their parents' marriage for material with the somewhat unself-aware statement that only she could use the parents' marriage for literary inspiration. A real Olivia de Havilland/Joan Fontaine situation.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have only gotten through one book POSSESSION by Byatt. I'll take early Drabble any day.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, until you mentioned it the first time I had no idea that Drabble and Byatt were sisters. I guess they're the Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (still alive, still not talking in their mid-90's!) of British letters.

Ed's right that you cannot go wrong with Bill Crider's books. I would recommend every one of them but the Sheriff Rhodes series, to me, has Bill's "voice" down the most. Start from book one and go from there.

Otherwise, you might try BLOOD MARKS or THE TEXAS CAPITOL MURDERS, the latter a favorite of Laura Bush!

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Deb, you beat me to it. Didn't read the comment before I did mine.

I hear Slidell is in pretty bad shape. Have you heard about your house?

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Deb-I think a lot of people on here would like to hear about your Issac experiences. If you would care to write something, I would be happy to post it. But if not, that's fine too. We just hope you and yours are okay.

Todd Mason said...

I was going to say...the tea set thing is the stuff of bad fiction, but potentially the stuff of life...but dueling egos does sound even more likely. I'd hate to be either Bausch, or a Bronte, et al. Weird enough when the next generation tries it (so, I don't want to be Owen King nor Joe Hill, though I suspect Tabitha King has probably not let her husband's career bother her too much...pity that at least one other occasional horror writer was less secure about her husband's literary career, reportedly asking him seriously to give it up, at least as a writer). Though at least each Benchley, for obvious example, went in a very different direction.

Richard L. Pangburn said...

Mighty fine.

I have my own modest FFB entry today.


Juri said...

Patti: mine is up here:

Gerard said...

I had nothing worth submitting this week.

Deb said...

Thank you everyone who has asked about my situation here in Slidell. I'm happy to report that after a four-day evacuation to Natchitoches (which was actually quite fun because or oldest daughter goes to school at Northwestern State, plus we were staying at a Bed & Breakfast owned by an old college buddy of my husband's), a neighbor who had stayed called to let us know power was back in our area, so we drove back home today. Our area did not flood and our home was fine--although the back yard is a shambles, full of fallen tree limbs, and everything in fridge & freezer had to be tossed out due to loss of power. But who cares? Compared to Katrina, when I came back six weeks later my home and everywhere else was still devastated, it was like returning from vacation. However, many people have not been so fortunate: there was flooding from both the bayous and Lake Pontchartrain, so neighborhoods in two sections of town have major damage. Please think good thoughts for those people--like the teacher I work with who had to be rescued from her attic--both on the Northshore and those in Plaquemines Parish, and those in the coastal areas if Mississippi, which were very hard hit. If you can manage a donation to the Red Cross, I know that would be appreciated too.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

My Mum has plenty of books by Drabble but so far I have managed to resist (for shame) - something worth rectifying by the sound of it, thanks Patti.