Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Congratulations to Josh

This is my son-in-law, Josh Gaylord, and he's a prince among men. (I have written letters to his mother telling her that).
We all love him to death and that is why we are incredibly excited to announce

Manhattan high school teacher Joshua Gaylord's first novel, pitched as History Boys meets Blue Angel, about the intertwining -- and often darkly surprising -- relationships between the teachers and students at a school for girls, to Sally Kim at Harper, at auction, in a very nice deal, by Josh Getzler at Writers House (NA).

It's a terrific novel; witty, smart and true. Josh and Megan dreamed of being writers together in New York. Their dream came true. I am so happy for them.

I feel like Sarah Weinman today. And it's fun.

POV and Sex

I just started a recent book by a famous writer, a writer I don't read often because his stories are so male-oriented. This one has a female protagonist but it just didn't feel like a woman to me. If a woman is going to be just a man in spike heels and garter belts, why write from her POV? This is a man's *** dream of a woman, not a real woman. Maybe a woman can get away with writing a woman like this, but it feels wrong when a man does it, no matter how good the plot.

Having said this, I counted the POVs in my published short stories last night and, not including flash and ones that have multiple POVs, 24 of the 35 have male POVs. I don't know why this is the case and it isn't only in the crime fiction stories. It's all of them. When I used to take writing workshops, I got rapped for this, but I have never stopped doing it. The voice in my head is male more often than female.

How about you? Do you always write stories from the POV of your own sex? Does it take you out of the story when a woman is writing from a male POV or vice versa? Who does it especially well? Does it make it easier when it's third person rather than first? Do you expect "I" to be the sex of the writer?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Does Obama Need to Pick an Attack Dog for V.P.?

We've seen recently just how comfortable John McCain is in the role of an attack dog. He can choose a VP to moderate this approach. Or double his efforts if he likes with another grouchy misanthrope.

And we've seen just how difficult Obama finds playing dirty. Most would have succumbed to the temptation to attack during the primary, but he didn't.

So does Obama need to quickly choose a VP who can play the role of an attack dog in the campaign? Or do you think he can win by taking the high road for the next four months? Is nice a viable option?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My (Home) Town Monday, Philadelphia

My “Home” Town Monday, Philadelphia

Four years ago, my parents moved to Detroit to be closer to us and I became permanently estranged from Philadelphia. To go there and stay in a hotel would seem too strange and its very familiarity makes a visit uninviting.

I left Philly in 1970 when my husband (he was 25 and I was 22) took a position at a university in Detroit. But until my parents joined us, we visited Philly every year once or twice, spending many of our vacations in Ocean City, New Jersey, some in Rehobeth, DE.

Because of those annual visits, I was able to hang onto the things about Philly I loved. You know what they are: cheesesteaks, hoagies, Tastykakes, the Reading Terminal Market, the Art Museum, South Street, the riverfront, New Hope/Lambertville (where my husband grew up), Chestnut Hill, Fairmount Park, the Barnes Collection, the Jersey beaches, Pennsylvania Dutch country, Irish potatoes, the Phillies...and people that say merry to rhyme with hurry and not hairy. Ever once in a while, someone sends me a tin of Tastykakes or I pull out the recipe for Irish potatoes (candy) and make them, but it’s not the same. I've lost Philadelphia.

My family has deep Philadelphian roots. My maternal great, great grandparents, immigrating from Ireland and Wales, met and married in Philadelphia in the 1870s. A miner, he soon died from black lung disease. Destitute, his wife sent her two young sons to live at Girard College. One son, my great grandfather, became an attorney and eventually Philadelphia’s city comptroller. He lost his job when he foolishly paved his own street first in around 1900.

My maternal grandfather was an architect and worked for Charles Z. Klauder, the firm that designed many area buildings and the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh.

My father was one of nineteen children, raised in Sellersville, PA. His father supported this brood as a cigar maker in a small factory. The Nases have lived in that area for over two hundred years, undergoing five changes in the spelling of their name. Leave the area and you will never find the name Nase again. Recently, my brother traced the name back to the 1400s in Alsace Lorraine when it was spelled Nehs.

I grew up in the area then known as West Oak Lane—on Gilbert Street. I went to a terrific elementary school— Pennypacker on Washington Lane, then Leeds Junior High School and finally Germantown High School for a year. My grades fell in tenth grade and my parents, who could ill afford it, sent me to Philadelphia Montgomery Christian Academy where my grades improved and I stopped hanging out on street corners. I briefly was "saved."

And then I left Philly. And then my brother left. And then my parents left.

No matter how long I live in Detroit, I will always be from Philadelphia. It’s the kind of city that leaves its mark. It’s rough and tumble, its sports fans expect too much, it’s too humid, it has the scariest highway in the world, it’s not as glamorous as New York, or as architecturally interesting as Chicago, or even as cool as Boston or San Francisco, but it still feels like home. It is home. I just can’t go home anymore.

Check out more My Town Monday posts at Travis Erwin's blog:

What's Going On Here?

In the last week, two works from a major writer have made their way into my life. I don’t want to be specific here because I decided when I began this blog that I wasn’t going to say bad things about books or movies . Anyway, in both works, the first 2/3 was given over to presenting an engaging but confusing plot. The reader had no idea what was going on and had trouble even keeping the characters and timeline straight.

The last third was almost entirely exposition, with the writer, through various characters, explaining what had gone before. And it took all of that space/time to do it. Truly.

I wonder if this is the best way to tell a story. To be so driven to create suspense that you can’t allow your readers to figure any of it out on their own. To hide every clue that might allow them entry into the big picture. To make everything as obfuscated at possible.

Sure the first two-thirds were exciting, if a tad frustrating, but the last third was static--much like the Christie novels where Poirot explains everything to the room full of suspects. It was almost humorous—“oh, you thought that, but really it was this.….”he wasn’t who you thought he was,” or “you thought she was dead but really it was…”

What do you think about setting up a story like this? Do you mind all the exposition at the end? Do you like being confused till then

Saturday, July 26, 2008

He Knows Our Names!

It is very nice when your grandson knows your name, when he calls you Nana and Poppop or Grandma and Grandpa. You strut around proudly, knowing your connection with the next generation is solid. You matter in his life.

That's until you walk through a senior citizen's complex with him, taking him to see his great grandparents and realize he calls everyone over fifty Nana and Poppop, points to each of them and says Nana, Popop like he's counting. It's a designation as much as a name. I'm one of the many Nanas.

But hey, I'll come when called. We all will.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Summing Up, Friday, July 28, 2008

Thanks for all of today's contributors. I can't say how much I appreciate your willingness to come up with these titles and reviews.

Steve Allan, Getting Away With It, Steven Soderbergh
Patrick Shawn Bagley, Gunsights, Elmore Leonard
Joe Boland, Quick Change, Jay Cronley
David Cramner, A Trap for Fools, Amanda Cross
Bill Crider, Assault on Ming, Alan Caillou
Ed Gorman, The Pat Hobby Stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Kevin Guilfoile, The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
Lesa Holstine, The Pershing Pickle, Sandra Dallas
Randall Johnson, The Man Who Moved a Mountain, Richard C. Davids
Ed Lynskey, A Feast of Snakes, Harry Crews
John McAuley, The New Centurions, Joseph Wambaugh
Craig McDonald, Death Will Have Your Eyes, James Sallis
Paul McGoran, Deadlier Than the Male, James Gunn
Bill Peschel, Forgotten News, Jack Finney
Robert J. Randisi, The Falling Man, Mark Sadler
James Reasoner, Hopalong Cassidy, Clarence E. Mulford
Stephen Rogers, Death of a Citizen, Donald Hamilton
S.J. Rozan, This Perfect World, Ira Levin
Andi Shechter, Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages, Shirley Jackson
Jay Tomio, The Last Hot Time, John M. Ford

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, July 28, 2008

Kevin Guilfoile is the author of Cast of Shadows and Wicker.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

I first heard of Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination when I moved to Chicago and found a sci-fi bookstore near my apartment that had taken its name from the title. Bester is best known as the winner of the first Hugo Award in 1953 for his futuristic police procedural The Demolished Man. Although I considered myself fairly well-read in science fiction (a notion that would be exposed as delusional after a few weeks living around the corner from this store)

I had never heard of The Stars My Destination. The story is too weird and complicated to describe here. It's a revenge tale that is, on some level, a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. But the thing I remember most about reading it for the first time is how familiar so much of it seemed. The ideas in this novel I'd never heard of seemed to have influenced almost every science fiction novel I'd ever read. And it is a novel thick with ideas. From the moment the victimized and bitter protagonist is introduced (Gully Foyle is his name.

Gully Foyle! Guilfoile! I could hardly believe it!) I was riveted. One of the most memorable devices in the story is the concept of "jaunting," a newly
discovered capability of all human beings to teleport themselves. I became obsessed with the idea that every person had within him a latent superpower and that, once the secret was discovered, nearly anyone could learn to do it. It was a powerful atomic metaphor in the fifties, and it is no less powerful in the era of nuclear proliferation. The Stars My Destination is not a book that has been forgotten by science fiction fans. Indeed, many

think it's one of the great sci-fi novels ever written. But I don't know anyone who doesn't read widely within the genre who has even heard of it. Perhaps this is unsurprising. The casual dabbler in sci-fi might find Bester too fantastic for their tastes. (Even that awesome Belmont Avenue bookstore, The Stars Our Destination, is sadly gone now.) But if readers had any clue how many of the ideas in this book had, well, proliferated throughout twentieth-century fiction--both on the page and on the screen--they might have a lot more respect for it.

Ed Lynskey is the author of Pelham Fell Here and The Blue Cheer

A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews.

Back in 1976 when the USA was agog over the Bicentennial hoopla (the bumper stickers were plastered everywhere), a Georgia author named Harry Crews published a lean, savage noir titled A Feast of Snakes. I don’t know if it’s forgotten or not. I do know I haven’t forgotten it some twenty-five years after reading it for the first time.

The premise is simple enough. Every year rural Mystic, Georgia, sponsors a big rattlesnake rodeo. Everybody comes. It’s a free pass for the locals and tourists to go nuts over a wild weekend. Ex-high school gridiron star Joe Lon Mackey is the semi-literate, brutal protagonist.

But Joe Lon is no altar boy. Wifebeating, bootlegging, and hazing are his tamer pastimes. His hulking daddy trains prized pit bulls to compete in the local dogfights. His sister is mentally challenged, watching TV all day in her room. The local sheriff is a Viet vet with personal issues and demons. Joe Lon has a total meltdown right before your eyes. The ultra-violence crashing in makes little sense to him, but he feels powerless to slow or stop it. Or does he?

My take on all this is a biting satire on the American competition ethic (as I’ve written elsewhere). But there’s no shot for redemption in Mystic. Murder and mayhem drips off each page with castration, rape, and assorted horrors. As a matter of fact, the pit bulls and rattlesnakes soon look better than the primitive human crazies. Fortunately well-timed doses of genuine humor -- as always in the best of noirs -- leavens the dark-hearted stuff.

I see from Amazon that A Feast of Snakes was reprinted in 1998, and copies are available for less than four bucks. I also checked my local library system and find four copies of the original hardback are still in the fiction stacks. So, the title is somewhat available. A Feast of Snakes has to rank among the best fiction Mr. Crews has yet produced.

Craig McDonald is the author of Head Games and Toros & Torsos

Death Will Have Your Eyes by James Sallis

Death Will Have Your Eyes appeared in the summer of 1997 from St. Martin’s.

The novel debuted about the same time as Sallis’ Eye of the Cricket — arguably the finest of the novels in Sallis’ Lew Griffin cycle that is for me the high-water mark of crime fiction series and the works that most influenced my own published novels to-date.

Death Will Have Your Eyes, a spy novel like no other, is in some ways a mirror image of Cricket. In both books, rare men in search of another man venture out into the world, seeming to trust the gravity of their persona and movement into the world will draw their quarry to them. James Joyce’s eerie "Nighttown" sequence from Ulysses informs both novels.

What we get in Death is part road novel, part existential meditation and part bloodbath.

Along the way, both Death and Eye force radical reconsiderations of “fiction” and our relationship as readers to the characters living within the novels we savor.

In Death Will Have Your Eyes narrator/spy David Edwards reflects, "One thing I knew absolutely was that the stories we live by are as real as anything else is. As long as we live by them. Even when we know they’re lies."

One of the most obscure of Sallis’ novels, and, along with Renderings, perhaps the most interior of his fictional works, Death Will Have Your Eyes is, with Drive, one of the few of Sallis’ novels to be optioned for film.

"For three years I got these really nice checks in the mail for not doing anything," Sallis told me when I discussed the book with him a few years ago. “The guy who made ‘The Avengers’ film was in London and when the book came out there were piles of it in the bookstores. He saw it and thought, ‘I’m making this spy film and here’s another one.’ So it was optioned for three years. The option money for each year was more than I got for the hardback, so it was welcome.”

One has to wonder what that filmmaker was thinking. Although Sallis says he was inspired by pulp fiction, the Death Will reads deep…and seems rather a challenge to put on film.

"Sort of like Drive, it was something that I realized I wanted to do,” Sallis told me. “I wanted to write a spy novel. Because I love Phillip Attlee, Donald Hamilton — that sort of Gold Medal genre of spy novels. I wanted to write something that would be an homage to that. As a gift to myself, I decided I would write this novel that I’d wanted to.”

Sallis said he told his wife, “‘Nobody in the states is going to buy this book, but it will do well in Europe.’ And, indeed, it did well in Europe, and I had a heck of a time selling it here in the states. It came out here in hardcover, fell off the face of the earth and never had a paperback printing.”

And that is truly a crime.

John McAuley is the author of many flash fiction stories in venues such as Muzzle Flash, Clarity of Night, Flash Pan Alley and Flashing in the Gutters.

Joseph Wambaugh, The New Centurions

It might be a stretch to call anything by fomer L.A. detective/ best selling author Joseph Wambaugh "forgotten" but it surprises me how many people haven't read his earliest work. This novel doesn't have much of the dark humor I enjoyed in his later stuff but The New Centurions was a real eye opener to me when I read it in 1973. Prior to Wambaugh all I knew about police officers was the cardboard crap I'd seen on TV and films---the stereotypically fat, racist, southern sheriff and the too-squeaky-clean -to- be- true fair- haired boys of Adam-12. Wambaugh changed all that.

The basic plot of The New Centurions is about how police work in a major metro department affects several very different rookie officers who go through the L.A.P.D. Academy in 1960. Even though the story takes place almost fifty years ago, [up to the Watts riots of 1965,] it think it still holds up incredibly well. Maybe because one thing about police work is still the same today: Nobody's all sinner, nobody's all saint and if you see enough bad shit it's definitely going to change you. With this first novel Wambaugh wrote about those changes in a way that made people want to read about them. I hope a few more do.

Paul McGoran’s short story, “The Thanks You Get,” was published by the U.K.'s PulpPusher. He also write flash fiction for venues such as Muzzle Flash.

Deadlier Than the Male (1942) by James Gunn.

James Gunn (no relation to the sci-fi writer) was a 21-year old senior at Stanford when he wrote Deadlier Than the Male as a creative writing assignment. It was his only novel. He spent the next twenty-some years in Hollywood as a writer for movies and television before dying in 1966.

Gunn’s hardboiled thriller caused quite a stir in 1942. But there is so much wrong with it – plotting by coincidence, impossible dialog, extraneous characters – you have to wonder why.

Gunn is all tell and no show in DTTM. And yet, a little on-line research reveals that a first edition costs as much as $1,250.00. What’s going on here?

It seems to be a case of Hollywood-to-the-rescue. In 1947, RKO Pictures released Born to Kill, a streamlined piece of nasty noir based on Gunn’s thriller that redeemed the source material for all time. In a fortuitous configuration of good screenwriting, great direction and perfect casting, the basic premise of an ambitious psychopath (Sam Wilde) romancing a mercenary socialite (Helen Brent) received its ultimate expression at the hands of director Robert Wise and costars Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor.

In the film version, Gunn’s authorial flippancy has been transmuted into hard-edged cynicism, a stance that provides justification for Sam’s malevolence and Helen’s callousness. And mercifully, four impossible characters have been stripped away: a quack psychiatrist, his earth-mother masseuse, Sam’s low rent sister Rachel, and her fey boyfriend Jack. In their place, the screenwriters wisely inserted a sleazoid P. I. to pull various plot elements together and provide a final commentary.

We’ve all been disappointed by lousy movies devolving from novels we love. Once in a while, the opposite has to occur. In the case of Deadlier Than the Male, skip the book and see the movie instead.

Stephen D. Rogers: Over five hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than two hundred publications.

Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton

Donald Hamilton's DEATH OF A CITIZEN changed my life.

I was brought up to be polite and courteous, to put others first, and -- if I had nothing good to say -- to say nothing at all.

Then, as a young teen, I opened DEATH OF A CITIZEN. Read it, flipped it over, and read it again. And again.

Matt Helm was a no-nonsense protagonist who thought for himself and did what needed to be done. If he was polite and courteous, he was polite and courteous because he'd decided to be, not because someone else how told him how to behave.

Some may say I'm splitting hairs here, but DEATH OF A CITIZEN taught me not only self-awareness but self-determination.

Sure, Helm killed people, but nobody's perfect.

No book is perfect. DEATH OF A CITIZEN comes very close.

Take the following exchange. Helm and his ex-lover Tina are traveling together. Teasing has lead to a game of tag, and the longer-legged Helm eventually brings her down.

"'Old,' she jeered, still lying there. 'Old and fat and slow. Helm the human vegetable. Help me up, turnip.'"

It's funny and it's fitting and it's a damn fine piece of writing. I've read the book dozens of times and still continue to be blow away by that paragraph.

As a bit of background, Tina and Helm (or Eric, as he was known at the time) worked together during the war as government assassins. He gets out once Germany is defeated, marries, and leads a normal life until Tina reappears.

Donald Hamilton delivers on multiple levels. Not only does he create entertaining plots, and write them well, he provides a rich array of three-dimensional characters.

Take, for example, what happens when Helm borrows a car, rushing home to save his daughter who's been kidnapped by Tina and her partner Frank.

"It was the ugliest damn hunk of automotive machine I'd ever had the misfortune to be associated with...

"[The gas attendant thinks differently.] 'That's quite a car you've got there. I tell you ... when they can get something real sharp made right here in America.'

"Well, it's all a matter of taste, I guess."

Helm might be his own person, but he understands and accepts that his way is not the only way. That's as rare in books as it is in real life.

One finds murder, kidnapping, and torture within DEATH OF A CITIZEN. The disembowelment of a pet cat. And yet, one finds the following passage while Helm waits for a female guest to leave Frank's hotel room.

"...the tartier the girl, strangely enough, the longer the skirt. You'd think it would be the other way around.

"This one was pretty well hobbled."

And after the woman leaves, and Helm follows Frank out of the hotel and under a nearby bridge:

"There were a couple of cars going past overhead. It was a good a time as any. I took out the gun and shot him five times in the chest."

Only later does Helm explain that Frank was too big and unimaginative to be made to talk. Killing Frank at least took him out of the equation, freeing Helm to concentrate on Tina.

"She licked her lips. 'Better men than you have tried to make me talk, Eric.'

"I said, 'This doesn't take better men, sweetheart. This takes worse men. And at the moment, with my kid in danger, I'm just about as bad as they come."

Between 1960 (DEATH OF A CITIZEN) and 1993 (THE DAMAGERS), Matt Helm appeared in 27 books. Donald Hamilton died in late 2006. He was just about as good as they came.

S.J. Rozan is the author of In this Rain and Absent Friends


Ira Levin wrote an exemplary work in every sub-genre he could find. I mean that literally: if you needed one example to encapsulate the possessed-by-the-Devil book, what could be better than ROSEMARY'S BABY? The mystery play? DEATHTRAP. The creepy "haunted" village? THE STEPFORD WIVES. These more famous works overshadow my personal favorite, Levin's contribution to dystopian literature, THIS PERFECT DAY. This is a perfect book. That the characters are outlines not fully fleshed and the settings are perfunctorily described are not failings in this book. They're the point: form as content. The story progresses through twist and turns until the penultimate and final twists, which are, as they should be, perfect. This skinny little book is out of print, but not impossible to find. It will repay every reader who picks it up, and especially if that reader's a writer.

S. J. Rozan is the author of In This Rain and Absent Friends


Ira Levin wrote an exemplary work in every sub-genre he could find. I mean that literally: if you needed one example to encapsulate the possessed-by-the-Devil book, what could be better than ROSEMARY'S BABY? The mystery play? DEATHTRAP. The creepy "haunted" village? THE STEPFORD WIVES. These more famous works overshadow my personal favorite, Levin's contribution to dystopian literature, THIS PERFECT DAY. This is a perfect book. That the characters are outlines not fully fleshed and the settings are perfunctorily described are not failings in this book. They're the point: form as content. The story progresses through twist and turns until the penultimate and final twists, which are, as they should be, perfect. This skinny little book is out of print, but not impossible to find. It will repay every reader who picks it up, and especially if that reader's a writer.

PS-Two weeks from today, (August 8) I will be on vacation. Brian Lindenmuth, out of Fantasy Bookspot ( volunteered to host. Please help me out by volunteering to to a review that day. If you let me know you are going to do one, I'll forward your name to him.

Check out other Forgotten Books

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top Reasons Why I Liked Mama Mia

Top Reasons Why I Liked Mama Mia

  1. 1. I like movies where people seem to find the women (over 50) attractive.
  2. 2. I like movies that feature women (over 50) in dominant roles.
  3. I like movies set in scenic spots—like Greece.
  4. I like movies where women (over 50) run, jump, dance and laugh hysterically.
  5. I like Meryl Streep—in anything.
  6. I like Colin Firth—in nothing (clothes, that is).
  7. I like musicals and there are very few each year.
  8. I like movies where people seem to be having a good time. Even if it’s feigned, I’m easy to fool.
  9. I like movies where it looks like I could sing or dance as well as the stars. I think I could.
  10. 1 like Pierce Brosnan, even more now that he has a little girth to him.
  11. I like ABBA, so kill me. If Mama Mia doesn’t make you feel like dancing, well, you must not be over 50. Or a woman.

Our Forgotten Books Thus Far

Because people are beginning to ask if certain books have been done, I thought I'd post the first thirteen weeks on here. It'll take up some room. I've tried to make the font small.

IF ANYONE HAS BEEN FORGOTTEN, PLEASE ADVISE. Cutting and pasting sometimes leaves lines behind.

Because of the oddities of this program, it will not allow me to add omissions in any easy way so please add:

Todd Mason's choices for Week 10, Signal Through the Flames by Victoria Rader, The Pleasure Tube by Robert Onopa, and The Moon's Wife by A. A. Attanasio.

If I figure how to get them in the right place without completely reformatting I will do that.

Week One, April 25th

Patti Abbott, Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
Patrick Shawn Bagley The Dog of the South by Charles Portis
Bill Crider, City by Clifford D. Simak
Josephine Damian, Don't Let's Go to the Dog Tonight by Alexandria Fuller
Clair Dickson, The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
Ello, When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza
Travis, Erwin, The Rock Orchard by Paula Wall
Eudamonia, The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Brian Lindenmuth, The God Files by Frank Turner
Sandra Ruttan, Dust Devils by James Reasoner
Sandra Scoppettone, Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
Anthony Neil Smith, Scar Lover by Harry Crews

Week Two

Steve Allan, The Temple of Gold, (Goldman)
Jennifer Archer, The Bronze Horseman (Pauline Simmons
William Boyle, Father and Son (Larry Brown)
Declan Burke. Thieves Like Us (Anderson)
Clair Dickson, The Westing Game, (Raskin)
Ello, Silk (Alessandro Barrico)
Christa Faust, Run (Douglas Winter
Angie Johnson-Schmidt, Sally’s in the Alley (Norbert Davis)
Ali Karim. Memoirs of An Invisible Man, (Saint)
Katrina Kimble, The Red Tent (Diamant)
Brian Lindenmuth, Generation Loss ( E. Hand)
Todd Mason, The Enquiries of Doctor Esterhazy (Davidson)
James Reasoner, Seven Faces, (Max Brand)
Sandra Ruttan, The 50/50 Killer (Steve Mosley)
Kay Sexton, Fred and Edie (Jill Dawson)
Gerald So, Spadework (Prozini) and Collected Poems (Justice)

Week Three

Patti Abbott: Roseanna (Sjowal and Wahloo)
Steve Allan: The Giant's House (Elizabeth McCracken
Stephen Blackmoore: On Strange Tides (Tim Power)
Declan Burke: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (Horace McCoy
Bill Crider: The Assistant (Malamud), Passing Strange (Sale
Sara Crowley: The Trick is to Keep Breathing (Janice Galloway)
Daniel Hatadi: Gun in Cheek (Bill Prozini)
Jen Jordan: One Man's Chorus (Burgess)
Lisa Kenney: A Fine and Private Place (Peter Beagle)
Brian Lindenmuth: Scalped (Jason Aaron
Todd Mason: The Lively Lives of Crispin Mobey (Gary Jennings)
Terrie Farley Moran: The Great Divide (Terkel
J. Kingston Pierce: The Lunatic Fringe (DeAndrea)
Keith Raffel: Kolymsky Heights (Davidson)
Peter Rozovsky: Harper and Iles series (Bill James
R2, The Criminalist, Eugene Izzy
Steven Torres: Moony's Road to Hell (Ramas))
Jim Winter: Blunt Darts (Healy)

Week 4

Steve Allan, Splinters of the Mind's Eye, Alan Dean Foster
Baglady, The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
Bookwitch, Sapper, Herman Cyril McNeile
Declan Burke, Wild at Heart, Barry Gifford
Bill Crider, The Night Remembers, Ed Gorman
Travis Erwin, The Me I Used to Be, Jennifer Archer
Ed Gorman, The Kidnappers, Robert Bloch and 361 by Donald Westlake
Kirsty, Other Stories and Other Stories, Ali Smith
Todd Mason, The Aleph and Other Stories 1933-1969, Jorge Luis Borges
Megan Powell, Cuckoo's Egg, C.J. Cherryh
Tom Piccirilli, The Hunter, Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)
James Reasoner, The Siamese Twin Mystery, Ellery Queen

J.D. Rhoades, THE BEASTS OF VALHALLA by George C. Chesbro

Jeff Shelby, The Standoff, Chuck Hogan
Kevin Burton Smith, The January Corpse by Neil Albert
Shauna Sturge, Crossfire, Jeanette Windle
David Terrenoire, Cruddy, Lynda Barry
Sarah Weinman, The Late Man, James Preston Girard

Week 5

Dick Adler, When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, Lawrence Block
Steve Allan, Horse Latitudes, Robert Ferrigno
Bookwitch, Home, Sweet Homicide, Craig Rice
Bill Crider, Revenge, Jack Ehrlich
Lonnie Cruse, We Have Always Lived in a Castle, Shirley Jackson
Jenny Davidson, Colors Insulting to Nature, Cintra Wilson
Martin Edwards, Reputation for a Song, Edward Grierson
J.T. Ellison, Songs of Innocence, Richard Aleas (Charles Ardai)
Victor Gischler, Clans of the Alphane Moon, Philip K. Dick
Ed Gorman, Spree, Max Allan Collins
Lynne Hatwell (Dovegreyreader), The Scapegoat, Daphne Du Maurier
Laura Lippman, A Novel Called Heritage, Margaret Dukore
John McFetridge, Cutter and Bone, Newton Thornburg
Todd Mason, Trouble Valley, Lee Hoffman
A.R. Pickett(Woodstock’s Blog) Alas Babylon, Pat Frank
James Reasoner, Day of the Moon, Bill Prozini and Jeffrey Wallman
Linda Richards, Swann, Carol Shields

Week 6

Joe Boland, Lightening of the Sun, Robert Bingham
Gerard Brennan, Sacrifice of the Fools, Ian McDonald
Ken Bruen, Michigan Roll, Tom Kakonis
Bill Crider, The Hot-Shot, Fletcher Flora
Deborah (Knit Lady) Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
Stephen Elliott, (an extensive list: see link from yesterday)
Alison Gaylin, The Dice Man, Luke Reinhart
Charles Gramlich, Desert Dog, Jim Kjelgaard
Lisa Kenney, The Dogs of March, Ernest Hebert
Kristy Kiernan, Into the Road, Adrienne Richard
Steve Lewis, Too Much Poison, Anne Rowe
Brian Lindenmuth, (an extensive list of forgotten Sci-Fi: see link)
Dick Lochte, The Honest Dealer, Frank Gruber
Stuart MacBride, Shooting Dr. Jack, Norman Green, Diamond Dove, Adrian Hyland
Todd Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to be Read with the Door Locked, edited by Harold Q. Masur
Jason Pinter, The Long Walk, Stephen King
Sandra Seaman, The Quiet Game, Greg Iles
Andi Shechter, Cut to the Quick, Kate Ross
Clea Simon, A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel
Wallace Stroby, The Rare Coin Score, Richard Stark
Dave Zeltserman, The Captain, Seymour Shubin

Week 7

Robin Agnew, The Last Witness, K.J. Erickson
Patrick Shawn Bagley, When the River Flows North, Howard Frank Mosher
John Baker, Murphy, Samuel Beckett
Joe Boland, The Art of Losing, Keith Dixon
Julia Buckley, I Don't Kow How She Does It, Allison Pearson
Sean Chercover, Derek Rayond's Factory Series
Bill Crider, Down and Dirty, W.B. Murphy
Travis Erwin, You Never Believe Me: And Other Stories, Davis Grubb
Anne Fraiser, Uther and Igraine and Sorrell and Son, Warwick Deeping
Steve Hockensmith, I Am the Cheese, Robert Cormier
Caroline Leavitt, After Life, Rhian Ellis
Steve Lewis, 57, Chicago, Steve Monroe
Lee Lofland, Postmortem, Patricia Cornwell
Jeff Marks, Home, Sweet Homicide, Craig Rice
Russel McLean, The Shark-Infested Custard, Charles Willeford
Medora, Guard of Honor, James Gould Cozzens
James Reasoner, The Sharpshooters, John Benteen
Clea Simon, Crooked Man, Tony Dunbar
Jay Tomio, Brittle Innings, Michael Bishop

Week 8

Patti Abbott, October Light, John Gardner
Joe Boland, Freak's Amour, Tom DeHaven
Gerard Brennan, Father Music, Dermot Bolger
Steve Brewer, The Tango Briefing, Adam Hall
Mark Coggins, Samurai Boogie, Peter Tasker
Bill Crider, One for Hell, Jada Davis
Deborah, Mother Love, Domini Taylor
Chris Holm, The Elementals, Michael McDowell
Ruth Jordan, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V. Higgins
Vince Keenan, Violence, Nudity and Adult Content, Vince Passaro
Larry, The Famished Road, Ben Okri
Steve Lewis, Pangolin, Peter Driscoll
Brian Lindenmuth, Four Kinds of Rain/Red Baker, Robert Ward
Tim Maleeny, Chinaman's Chance, Ross Thomas
Terrie Farley Moran, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
James Reasoner, The Dark Brand, H. A. De Rosso
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, Jamaica Inn, Daphne DuMaurier
Gerald So, The Spy Who Loved Me, Ian Fleming
Jay Tomio, Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler

Week 9

Gerard Brennan, Joseph O'Connor, The Salesman
Lyman Feero, Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
James Reasoner, Lewis B. Patten, Rope Law
Joe Boland, Thomas Perry, Island
Lesa Holstine, Stephen Cannell, King Con
David Corbett, Pete Dexter, God's Pocket
Bill Crider, Henry Kane, Too French and Too Deadly
Ed Gorman, John D. MacDonald, Border Town Girl
Steve Lewis, Donald Hamilton, The Ambushers
Robin Gorman Newman, Patrick McDonnell, The Gift of Nothing
Susan, Todd Borg, Tahoe Deathfall
Todd Mason, William Kotzwinke, The Exile
Lee Gold, Henrik Van Loon, Van Loon's Lives
Jim Ingraham, Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Week 10

Lori Armstrong, Naked in Death, J.D. Robb
Patrick Bagley, The Great Brain, John D. Fitzgerald
Joe Boland, Up in the Air, Walter Kirn
Gerard Brennan, The Salesman, Joesph O'Connor
Tony Broadbent, Funeral in Berlin, Len Deighton
Shannon Clute, New York Trilogy, Paul Auster
Bill Crider, Wolf House, Jack Lynch
Ed Gorman, Dog Soldiers, Robert Stone
Libby Hellman, Briarpatch, Ross Thomas
Lesa Holstine, Charms for the Easy Life, Kay Gibbons
Randy Johnson, The Mushroom Planet series, Eleanor Cameron
J.A. Konrath, Blackburn, Bradley Denton
Steve Lewis, Don Sturdy on the Desert of Mystery, Victor Appletion
Todd Mason, The Loner, Ester Wier
James Reasoner, The Ghosts of Elkhorn, Kerry Newcomb and Frank Schaefer
Peter Rozovsky, Bertie and the Seven Bodies, Peter Lovesey
Barry Summy, The Chrysalids, John Wyndham
Susan, Corpse de Ballet, Lucy Cores
David Thompson, The David Handler Series
Mary Ellen Walsh, Salvation, Lucia Nevai
Sarah Weinman, The Golden Road, L.M. Montgomery

Week 11-Kid’s Books

Patti Abbott-The Return of the Twelves, Pauline Clarke
Steve Allan-Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
Patrick Shawn Bagley, The Great Brain, John Fitzgerald
David Cranmer, Dig Alley Space Edxplorers' Series by Joseph Green
Bill Crider, The 21 Balloons, William Pene DuBois
Travis Erwin, Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
Lesa Holstine, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Betty MacDonald; Snow Treasure, Marie McSwigan, The Happy Hollisters, Jerry West
Randy Johnson, The Mushroom Series, Eleanor Cameron
Steve Lewis, Don Sturdy on the Desert of Mystery, Victor Appleton
Brian Lindenmuth, The Mouse and His Child, Russell Hoban
Todd Mason, The Loner, Ester Wier
Terrie Farley Moran, The Paperbag Princess, Robert Munsch
James Reasoner, The Rocket's Shadow, John Blaine
Sandra Ruttan, Twenty and Ten, Claire Huchet Bishop and Janet Joly
Susan Smith, The Ghost Next Door, Wylly Folk St. Jo

Week 12

Robert Gregory Browne, Control, William Goldman
Bill Crider, Death Tour, David J. Michael
Al Guthrie, Portrait in Smoke, Bill Ballinger
Woody Haut, Hard Rain Falling, Don Carpenter
Lesa Hostine, Bachelor Brother's Bed and Breakfast, Bill Richardson
Randy Johnson, Gone South, Robert McCammon
Claire Lamb, Kate Vaiden, Reynolds Price
Todd Mason, On Wings of Song, Thomas M. Disch
Craig McDonald, Four Corners of Night, Craig Holden
Karen E. Olson, Lockout, Lillian O'Donnell
Barrie Summy, The Sweet Second Season of Kitty Malone, Matt Cohen
Louise Ure, No Human Involved, Barabara Seranella

Week 13

Barbara D'Amato-HMS Ulysses, Alastair MacLean
David Cranmer, A Treasury of Great Mysteries, Haycraft and Belcroft
Bill Crider, Rafferty: Wrong Place, Wrong Time, W. Glenn Duncan
Jack Getze, Sleeping Dogs, Thomas Perry
Ed Gorman, Don't Cry for Me, William Campbell Gault
Lesa Holstine, A Dangerous Road, Kris Nelscott
Charlie Huston, Complicity, Iain Banks
Randy Johnson, Booked to Die, John Dunning
Colman Keene, Paco's Story, Larry Heinemann
Ken, The Anvil of the World, Kage Baker
Larry, Camp Concentration, Thomas Disch
Medora, Kristen Lavranstatter, Sigrid Undset
David Montgomery, Chinaman's Choice, Ross Thomas
Sandy Parshall, We Have Always Lived in a Castle, Shirley Jackson
James Reasoner, The Hangman of Sleepy Valley, David Dresser
Barrie Summy, Crackpot, Adele Wiseman
Jay Tomio Dossier, Stepan Chapman, Black Brillion, Matthew Hughes, Pandora, Holly Hollander, Coelestis, Paul Park, Sarah Canary, Karen Fowler, Brittle Innings, Michael Bishop
Dave White, Honor Among Thieves, Jeffrey Archer

Monday, July 21, 2008

Some Things I Thought About on the Drive to Stratford

How often do you call your cell phone to locate it?

Do you believe your community actually recycles all the stuff they collect from your recycling bin?

What's the most number of times you tried to type in a verification code before getting on a blog?

Are you as tired as I am of reading Tina Fey and Ellen Degenere's bios on the American Express ads? I mean is it that expensive to run more of them? I bet lots of people would give them that info for free.

Do you have one household problem that has followed you from house to house? (With us it's gutters).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Town Monday: Side Trip to Stratford, Ontario to Shakespeare Festival

The Stratford Shakespeare Theater Festival began in 1952 in Stratford, Ontario. Tom Patterson, a local journalist, was looking for a way to revitalize his town after train service to the town was discontinued. The town’s name provided his inspiration. The first year’s half-dozen productions were performed in a tent but today the town has four venues that perform plays from May till November. Two of those theaters hold over 1000 people, the other two are more intimate.

2008 Season

The quality of the productions is first-rate and actors from both the U.S. and Canada regularly perform here.

Stratford has turned the town over to the success of this festival and has lectures, musical events, gardens, a lovely river, multi-media productions, museums and other events to compliment this festival. It is a 3 hour drive from Detroit. We usually see 1-2 productions a year. This year we saw The Music Man, which was absolutely outstanding.

The town of Stratford is charming as well. It has numerous top-notch accomodations to fit all budgets as well as fine restaurants and shops.

If you are within driving distance of Stratford, I highly recommend a trip. Check out more My Town Monday posts at Travis Erwin's blog:

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Summing Up for Friday, July 18, 2008

Thanks to today's contributors. I am going to try and post a list of all the selections people have written about so far some day this week. So we don't forget these books again.

Barbara D'Amato-HMS Ulysses, Alastair MacLean
David Cranmer, A Treasury of Great Mysteries, Haycraft and Belcroft
Bill Crider, Rafferty: Wrong Place, Wrong Time, W. Glenn Duncan
Jack Getze, Sleeping Dogs, Thomas Perry
Ed Gorman, Don't Cry for Me, William Campbell Gault
Lesa Holstine, A Dangerous Road, Kris Nelscott
Charlie Huston, Complicity, Iain Banks
Randy Johnson, Booked to Die, John Dunning
Colman Keene, Paco's Story, Larry Heinemann
Ken, The Anvil of the World, Kage Baker
Larry, Camp Concentration, Thomas Disch
Medora, Kristen Lavranstatter, Sigrid Undset
David Montgomery, Chinaman's Choice, Ross Thomas
Sandy Parshall, We Have Always Lived in a Castle, Shirley Jackson
James Reasoner, The Hangman of Sleepy Valley, David Dresser
Barrie Summy, Crackpot, Adele Wiseman
Jay Tomio Dossier, Stepan Chapman, Black Brillion, Matthew Hughes, Pandora, Holly Hollander, Coelestis, Paul Park, Sarah Canary, Karen Fowler, Brittle Innings, Michael Bishop
Dave White, Honor Among Thieves, Jeffrey Archer

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Barbara D'Amato is the author of Death of a Thousand Cuts and White Male Infant.

HMS ULYSSES by Alistair MacLean

HMS Ulysses [1955] was the first novel Alistair MacLean wrote, and it’s a remarkable achievement. He had many other successes—The Guns of Navarone, The Satan Bug, Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare, Breakheart Pass, and many more, many made into movies, but HMS Ulysses remains his very best.

MacLean had served in the Royal Navy from 1941 through the end of the war, as Ordinary Seaman, Able Seaman, and Torpedo Operator, and saw action in the north Atlantic, escorting carrier groups in operations against targets in the arctic and off the coast of Norway.

HMS Ulysses throbs with authenticity. I read it at least twenty-five years ago and it still produces a thrill when I think of it. Not an easy book, often grim, always real, it is the tale of a light cruiser, put to sea to guard an important convoy heading for Murmansk. The convoy runs into crisis after crisis--German warships, an arctic storm, attacks from U-boats beneath, and from the Luftwaffe overhead. Slowly thirty-two ships are reduced to five. Then the Ulysses is called on to do the impossible--

As a depiction of the human cost of war, HMS Ulysses has never been surpassed.

Charlie Huston is the author of Every Last Drop and Half the Blood in Brooklyn
Complicity by Iain Banks

I don't know if it counts as a forgotten book, more like a
book that no one has ever heard of, but Iain Banks'
"Complicity" deserves to be known.
Broke in New York, I stumbled across the 1996 Bantam mass market edition.
I'd heard about Banks' cult novel "The Wasp Factory," but had never been
able to find a copy. On a flier I purchased this conveniently inexpensive
substitute. To this day I know of only one other person in the United
States who has read this former #1 British best seller, and I loaned that
reader my copy, the only copy I have ever seen in person. "Listen," I told
him, "I generally don't loan books. I give them away. If I have something
on my shelves that I want someone to read, I give them the book. I don't
want to ever worry about getting a book back. But this book, I can't lose
the book. I really want you to read it, but you have to get it back to me.
The covers can be torn and the pages dogeared, but I have to have this book
back." He read it, bowed down to it, and returned it to me via registered
express mail. What's it about? Told from two points of view (first person
reporter and second person killer), it's a cat and mouse about a serial
killer going about Britain and Scotland killing people in brutally
appropriate styles to suit their real or perceived crimes. Been there and
done that you have, but not with a writer up to Banks' snuff. The
complicity of the title is not just related to protagonist journalist
Cameron Colley's possible involvement in the crimes he's investigating, but
the reader's own involvement and enjoyment of the crimes. Putting the
reader in the front row of every murder with his second person narration,
Banks lets us stick the knife in, or close the book if we can't take it.
And trust me, there are bits that will be hard to stomach. That complicity
exists at another level as well. How much enjoyment can you draw from the
grotesque when you are cast as the executioner? You can read the book with
an eye toward answering that question, or you can skip over the morality
play and just rip through the pages as quickly as possible. A mad fucking
read, there are dozens of new and used copies available online, most of them
seem to be a 2002 Simon and Schuster TPB that I knew nothing about.

David Montgomery writes about authors and books for several of the country's largest newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe.

Ross Thomas, Chinaman's Chance, 1978

When Ross Thomas died in 1995, twenty-four of his twenty-five books were out-of-print – the only one that was still available in a current edition was perhaps his best. (A few years back, St. Martin's Press undertook a program to return Thomas' novels to print. Sadly, it was discontinued after only a handful of titles were published.)

Chinaman's Chance (1978) introduced readers to Artie Woo and Quincy Durant, two of the best, most memorable characters ever to appear in fiction. Lifelong pals since they hooked up in a San Francisco orphanage, Woo and Durant were lovable grifters, con men with hearts of gold ever searching for their next big score.

The bent duo usually plied their trade somewhere on the Pacific Rim, and Chinaman's Chance finds them in Pelican Bay, a small, down-at-the-heels (fictional) town south of Los Angeles. You wouldn't know it at first glance, but Pelican Bay is the most corrupt American city outside of Washington, D.C. Crooked politicians, bent cops, shadowy Company rejects and the Mob are all up for a piece of the action. In other words, the perfect setting for Woo and Durant to work their magic.

With his commitment to sharp and precise prose, Thomas raised the stakes for thriller writers, showing a generation of readers and writers that suspenseful writing could be lean, but still meaty. His keen eye for political chicanery and insight into the devious side of human nature helped him create stories that are as delightful to enjoy on the fifth reading as they are on the first. (That quality makes him among the rarest of genre writers.)

Thomas had a remarkable ability of making cynical characters likable and complex plots believable. His novels are "page-turners," but they're also insightful and poignant sketches of the human condition. He was truly an uncommon talent, and Chinaman's Chance ranks among his best. If you haven't read it...Well, now you know what you're missing.

Colman Keene is a prolific reader, sometimes notching a book a day, and the father of three in the UK.

Paco’s Story by Larry Heinemann

Originally published in 1986, this moving tale was in my opinion a worthy winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.

I first discovered this book in 1989, a period when I was obsessed with both reading and watching a lot of books and films about the Vietnam War.

The conflict was the first war that was delivered to people daily in their living rooms. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my interest must have been piqued by the coverage……..Saigon, Ho Chi Minh, Cu Chi tunnels, My Lai, MIAs, gooks, grunts, napalm……thousands of tragedies – from small to vast, personal to national……….I rubber-necked at a car crash of monumental proportions.

I had previously read and enjoyed Heinemann’s first book – Close Quarters.
Bagging a copy of his next work was a no-brainer.

Paco’s Story relates the moving tale of a survivor back in the US.
His post-war experiences are related through the voices of his dead comrades from the war.

Paco is the sole survivor of a base camp massacre, with a body held together by screws and steel, and a mind by whisky and painkillers.

Eerie, unsettling, disturbing, moving, powerful – all inadequate in describing the full effect this novel had on me.

Read it and weep – I did.

Sandy Parshall is the author of Disturbing the Dead and The Heat of the Moon (Poison Pen Press)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson has been one of my favorite writers since I was a teenager, and it saddens me that so few people read her work now. If younger people have read anything of hers, it’s likely to be “The Lottery” – a 1948 New Yorker short story credited with a deep metaphorical meaning and sociological insight that Ms. Jackson herself found amusing and baffling. It was “just a story,” she insisted. But what a story: a leisurely description of an annual ritual in an ordinary New England village, rendered in Jackson’s clear, evocative prose, and building to the death by stoning of a village woman.

My favorite Jackson novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, has the same stunning juxtaposition of the normal and the unthinkable that both captivates and repels readers in “The Lottery,” and it has the bonus of fully developed characters who pull you into their strange world instead of making you watch from the outside. I was delighted to read that the Penguin Classics Reading Group on Amazon made the book their July selection, bringing it to the attention of readers not familiar with Jackson’s work. But I was annoyed by the way the book was described in the reading groups announcement: “a nice creepy, angst-ridden horror story.” Creepy it certainly is, but you won’t find any of the ghouls, ghosts, and vampires usually associated with horror stories in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. This is a book about human nature and the lengths people will go to in preserving what they believe is a normal existence, and in the telling Jackson used many ingredients of classic gothic tales.

In 18-year-old Merricat, Castle has a supremely unreliable narrator, and much of the book’s power comes from her skewed perspective on events. Merricat, her older sister Constance, and their uncle are the only survivors of a poisoned meal that killed the rest of the Blackwood family. The truth of what happened has never been told, and local people view the survivors with revulsion and hostility, forcing them to live in seclusion on their estate. The three have developed rituals and delusions that allow them to survive. Their insular world is turned upside down with the arrival, as in most gothic tales, of a stranger. Cousin Charles, with an eye on the family’s money, installs himself in the household and sets about wreaking havoc with his relatives’ minds as well as their routines. This isn’t an easy or comfortable read, but it is a powerful story that exhibits all of Jackson’s strengths as a writer.

Here are some more suggestions for this week. - Ken

The following is several weeks’ worth of books from Jay Tomio and Medora from Fantasy Bookspot that I inadvertently missed. Thanks, Jay and Medora, and sorry.