Friday, February 03, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 3 2017

  From Charlie Stella's blog
Cemetery Road by Gar A. Haywood … Although originally published in 2009, Cemetery Road and its author turn out to be one of my best finds in 2016. Character introspection isn’t something I usually favor, but when it’s done with grace and sophistication, it is wonderful.
The protagonist and narrator, Errol “Handy” White, tells a tale of guilt and the tragic consequence of best intentions. As a young man, Handy ran with two best friends, R.J. Burrow and O'Neal Holden (a.k.a. O). As young men will sometimes do, they engaged in petty thefts that were as harmless as they were dumb. When a young girl, Olivia, takes one of those regrettable first hits of cocaine, the kind that kill, an act of vengeance via theft becomes a bloodbath of far-reaching proportions. Handy’s brother Chancellor was in love with Olivia, but it was Handy who took her death to heart and felt the person responsible for the cocaine, Excel Rucker, should have to pay. Handy puts a plan of fairly simple vengeance into play, but the unintended consequences affect more lives than Handy or his two best friends could ever have imagined.
In the years that have passed, Handy’s background includes a move to Minneapolis and a marriage that bears a daughter, neither of which event has worked out all that well. The author does a wonderful job of teasing the reader while peeling the onion a layer at a time. Handy has issues with his daughter, who has fallen victim to substance abuse and has a burning desire to know who her mother was and where she might be. Handy also has a trip to make, which after a prologue, starts with a return to L.A. for the funeral of one of his two best friends. J.R. was murdered, but over what is the question. J.R. also had a daughter and wife, and although his murder has thus far been deemed a drug incident, J.R.’s wife refuses to accept the assumptions. J.R.’s daughter is a reporter who also has questions, so when Handy shows up and is also unconvinced about the effort the police are making to find his friend’s killer, he does some investigating of his own.
Nobody likes politicians, and throughout the novel, we’re not quite sure about O’Neal and/or his role in anything that has happened. He’s become a local mayor with more than old friendships to concern himself with, never mind the cause of one of their deaths. It all has to do with the plan of vengeance Handy proposed to his two friends back in the day. Has it come back to haunt them?  No spoilers here, but the trip the author masterfully takes us on is compelling. Just as Handy’s background issues with his daughter and her mother, the act of vengeance is similarly revealed in stages that will keep readers glued to the page. Handling guilt and searching for some measure of redemption are powerful emotional trips to engage. Haywood takes us on such a trip through his wonderfully articulate and soul searching protagonist, Handy White, but perhaps the genius behind this novel for me was the empathy I felt for Handy’s hot-headed friend, J.R. The ghost of guilt that haunted his entire life was ever present, and it lent all the credibility necessary to understand Handy’s seemingly suicidal quest for redemption.
Cemetery Road is smart, sophisticated writing. The collection of starred industry reviews and high praise from newspapers were well deserved back in 2009. Trust me, this baby has staying power. I don’t keep every crime novel I read on the shelves in my writing room at Casa Stella, but this one will take its place on the top shelf along with some of my other favorites.

Sergio Angelini, DEATH IN THE CLOUDS, Agatha Christie
Mark Baker, CAT KILLER, Sandy Dengler
Yvette Banek, ANY TWO CAN PLAY, Elizabeth Cadell
Joe  Barone, DEARLY BELOVED, Jane Haddam
Les Blatt, NIPPED IN THE BUD, Stuart Palmer
Bill Crider, BENEATH A PANAMANIAN MOON, David Terrenoire
Martin Edwards, THE SIXTEENTH STAR, E.C.R. Lorac
Curt Evans, THE RUMBLE MURDERS, Mason Deal
Richard Horton, Threshold of Eternity, by John Brunner/The War of Two Worlds, by Poul Anderson
Jerry House. THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET, Lester Del Rey
George Kelley, Batman in The Brave & The Bold: The Bronze Age Omnibus Volume 1
Margot Kinberg, MURDER IN BOLLYWOOD, Shadaab Amjad Khan
B.V, Lawson, VOICE OUT OF DARKNESS, Ursula Curtiss
Steve Lewis, LITTLE MISS MURDER, Michael Avallone
Todd Mason, BETTER THAN ONE by Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight; BLACK COCKTAIL by Jonathan Carroll
J.F. Norris, THE SCREAMING PORTRAIT, Ferrin Fraser
James Reasoner, DEVIL'S BUTTE, Ray Hogan
Richard Robinson, THE XIBALBA MURDERS, Lyn Hamilton
Gerard Saylor, REVOLVER, Duane, Swierczynski 
Kevin Tipple, Barry Ergang, THE CRAZY MIXED-UP CORPSE, Michael Avallone
TomCat, THE CRIME COAST, ELizabeth Gill
TracyK, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, Raymond Chandler 
Prashant Trikannad, THE DICTATOR, Pablo Neruda
Westlake Review, FLASHFIRE, Richard Stark


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thanks Patti - a great crop (or whatever the collective noun for a forgotten book review is) :)

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Hello, Patti! Could you, if possible, include my review of the poem The Dictators by Pablo Neruda? The link is Thank you.

TracyK said...

Thanks for including the review of Cemetery Road by Gar A. Haywood. He is an author I am interested in, so that was helpful. And thanks for bringing all these links together.

Anonymous said...

As always, Patti, a great selection of reads here. Thanks for including mine.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wish I could get my book posting on a forgotten Friday schedule. Hard for me to plan ahead it seems.

Mathew Paust said...

My apologies for not having a book report this week. Been battling a deep-chest cold and laptop problems. I did manage to come up with a little verse inspired by a scary coughing spell I had on Thursday. Posted it here:

Mathew Paust said...

Sorry, here's the hyperlink version:

pattinase (abbott) said...

You capture the feeling so well. Didn't realize you wrote poetry. Bravo!

Mathew Paust said...

Thanks, Patti. Only when the muse grabs me by the throat.