Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books, December 5, 2008

Kerrie Smith (Mysteries in Paradise) reading.

Trey Barker --In the last fourteen years, my short fiction has been seen pretty much everywhere. I've written everything from crime to mystery, horror to science fiction, mainstream, westerns, the odd love poem or two, a play, and hundreds of non-fiction articles. My first novel, "2000 Miles to Open Road," came out a couple years ago, and you can still find my short collection ("Where The Southern Cross the Dog") and my short novel ("Veil of the Soul") if you look hard enough. I used to be a reporter and now I'm a cop, patrolling the roads for the Bureau County (IL) Sheriff's Office


There are certain literary memories that are indelible: ‘Katy and the Big Snow,’ the first book I ever checked out by myself from the Anson Jones Elementary School Library; ‘The Shining,’ which first made a restless 7th grader want to write; ‘The Grifters,’ which left a beginning writer sweetly exhausted from Thompson’s literary speed and muscle.

And THE CHURCH OF THE DEAD GIRLS which left me in absolute awe of the written word.

I had been seduced by language before, but never with so much depth. The prose was as gentle and lush as the continuous, soft waves of a lake rather than the pounding surf of the ocean.

But at the same time, it was the language's very gentleness that built to a razor's edge. I believe to this day that part of what drew me so intensely to the book was that poetic language could run in such stark contrast to the subject matter.

Dead girls.

Dead teenaged girls.

Dead and mutilated teenaged girls.

Strong stuff, indeed. Maybe Dobyns’ book is a thriller, maybe a mystery. It could be literary horror and it could be reportage in the sense that it lays open small town America. But the label doesn’t matter. Call it whatever you want. Hell, call it a high school biology teacher's call to arms, for all I care...just make sure you read this book.

There is a great line that’s been repeated in just about every review the book ever got and I’ll repeat it: “It is dreadful not to be allowed to have secrets. Years ago I happened to uncover a nest of baby moles in the backyard and I watched them writhe miserably in the sunlight. We were like that."

Ah.... It is the very air of great literary art. Breathe some and you'll be a better person for it.

Kaye Barley is a long time reader of most anything and a fairly new blogger also of most anything ( She lives in the beautiful North Carolina mountains with her handsome husband of 22 years, Donald, and their faithful companion, Harley Doodle Barley - the cutest Corgi on God's green earth.

The Pierre Chambrun series by Hugh Pentecost

Hugh Pentecost. I thought I had remembered the
PERFECT forgotten books. Perfect! Couldn’t wait to squeal about an author who I haven’t heard mentioned in forever. You can imagine how my chin hit the floor as I read Lesa Holstine’s November 28th blogwhen the name Hugh Pentecost jumped off the page at me.

But, Lesa and I do tend to enjoy a lot of the same books, so perhaps not too surprising. Except this was a series which ended in 1988! How ironic is it for the two of us to want to re-read and remember these books at exactly the same time, and want to bring them to “Friday’s Forgotten Books?” It gives even more emphasis to the fact that they deserve to be remembered. Lesa did her usual excellent job inbringing these books to life and stirring some interest.

If you haven’t already read the Pierre Chambrun series, I too encourage you to try to find them and give them a try. I
think my love of and curiosity regarding all things having to do with hotels must stem from discovering Kay Thompson’s ELOISE at an early age. I find myself drawn to books which have hotels as a “character.” Especially a luxury hotel, which is a world unto itself. Upon discovering this series, I was in heaven. I continue re-reading the novels and short stories simply to lose myself in the Beaumont Hotel.

Hugh Pentecost was the pseudonym of Judson Philips (1903-1989). Philips was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America and served as its third president, in addition to being Grand Master in 1973. Pentecost’s luxurious Beaumont Hotel is the leading character in 22 books. When asked if the Beaumont was based on the Plaza, the Ritz, or another luxury New York City hotel, Mr. Pentecost replied that although he knew these grandhotels well, none of them were as well known to him, nor as well loved, as his own Beaumont, which was as real to him as his own home.

While we don’t ever find Eloise scampering the halls of the Beaumont, there’s a host of interesting characters with their own stories and secrets to keep us entertained. At the start of the series, which was begun in 1962, we’re introduced to Pierre Chambrun who is the much admired, well loved, lord and master over the Beaumont. We’re also introduced to a cast of supporting characters – most of whom arestill employed by the hotel when the series ends in 1988. The
re are few character changes; but the changes are important to the series, and I think perhaps one of the reasons for its successful, long life. They include replacing Mr. Chambrun’s original insignificant secretary with the intriguing Ms. Ruysdale. The involvement between Chambrun and Ruysdale is developed slowly and intricately during the series until the very last line in the verylast book leaving no mistake as to the nature of their relationship.

Another important change is losing a likeable key character, Alison Barnwell, public relations manager. Alison marries and she and her husband move away from the city to open their own hotel. By replacing Alison with Mark Ha
skell, the series gains its “voice.” Its through Mark that the rest of the stories are told. The relationship between Mark and Pierre is very much like that between Nero Wolfe and Archie. A relationship which would not have been as wholly believable with a female character during this time period. One additional recurring character who remains a favorite is the elderly Mrs.Victoria Haven. Penthouse resident. One time stage star, and legendary beauty. A woman of great dignity, intelligence, mystery and humor. My favorite booksin the series are the ones which include Mrs. Haven.Into this close, closed and tight knit community fall the adventures of the richand famous, infamous, innocent or not so, scrupulous or unscrupulous, always intriguing visitors with mysteries begging to be solved.

Cormac Brown" is my pen name. I'm an up-and-slumming writer in the city of Saint Francis and I'm following in the footsteps of Hammett...minus the TB and working for the Pinkerton Agency. Some of my stories have appeared in Flashing In The Gutters and you can find my work in Powder Burn Flash as well as Six Sentences. My story "Tit-For-Tat" appeared in the premiere issue of Astonishing Adventures Magazine and I have two stories coming up in the next two issues of that magazine.

"A conscience is a luxury no private dick can afford."

Mike Shayne from HEADS YOU LOSE (page 46) Brett Halliday

Before "Hammer" became the detective name most synonymous with "Mike" and way before Horatio Caine perpendicularly sidled up to people to pelt them with bad puns and clich├ęs, there was another Mike that had the red-headed crime fighting market cornered, Mike Shayne.

This book was given to me by a friend and "Heads You Lose" is a reprint of the 1943 story "Blood On The Black Market." This was the eighth Mike Shayne story to be printed, according to the Brett Halliday forward. So in a sense, the 1950's cover can throw a reader's expectations off, though not me, I read it with open mind in terms of wanting to soak up the era.
The history buff/dilettante in me feasted on all the details of WWII black outs, gas rationing, the old speed limits (which would've drove me out of my skull, 35 mph on Florida's highways???) and black marketeers.

Mike Shayne likes a sip of cognac...or four and he tugs his earlobe in this book, almost as many times as Carol Burnett typically did in one season. You can see Dashiell Hammett's influence on Halliday. Shayne puts the booze away like Nick and Nora did, though unlike them, he didn't have quite as many quips, bon mots, and he was lacking a dog. He made moves on one character's wife while that character was still in the room, just like Ned Beaumont. And Shayne tried to pit good and evil against each other...though he didn't manage with quite the same finesse as Ned did.

Other observations-

In this book, the Miami Dade Police Department sure has absolutely no reservations about drinking while on the job. Everybody in this book seems to have a two cigarette pack-a-day habit. Bad editing strikes again! Cointreau is not wine, mon Dieu!

My second favorite bit of dialogue is...

"You're a fool," she said drearily. "We could have had so much, but you're afraid to believe in anything. You're cursed with the need to look beneath the surface for a hidden motive. I feel sorry for you."

Shayne's laugh was sardonic. "Hidden motives are my meat," he confessed.

Kieran Shea was born and raised in New Jersey. His crime fiction has appeared in THUGLIT, PULP PUSHER, DOGMATIKA, MUZZLE FLASH, PLOTS WITH GUNS and DEMOLITION. He takes his coffee black and lives outside of Annapolis. MD.

Kieran Shea, WARLOCK, Jim Harrison

If one is new to Harrison's work, this tightly-paced tale of intrigue is a quirky and hilarious introduction to the man who, I think, defines the last shreds of American wilderness in modern fiction.

It's also sort of a crime novel.

The main character, Lundgren, is a bit of a macho buffoon--an unemployed whip-smart, non-profit professional who takes a gig serving as a debrouillard/trobleshooter for a wealthy physician. After giving himself a code name "Warlock," Lundgren takes on all comers like a freshly-minted gumshoe--whether it's doing battle with redneck logging interlopers or spying on his employer's wife and son in Key West's underbelly--Lungren is an affable hero.

The novel is also a great introduction into Harrison's passion for fine food, literature, the outdoors and assorted prurient diversions.

I gave this book away to someone and next to his novella "The Man Who Gave Up His Name," this is my favorite Harrison work.

Some more forgotten books.

Bill Crider
Randy Johnson
Martin Edwards

Paul Bishop
Scott D. Parker
Kerrie Smith
James Reasoner
David Cranmer
Michael G. Jacobs
Steve Lewis
August West
Gary Dobbs

Ali Karim


David Cranmer said...

Patti, I did Border Guns by Eugene Cunningham on Monday that will fit into today's forgotten books.

August West said...

"Blood on the Black Market" was one of the best Mike Shayne mysteries. And I believe his wife (Phyllis?) dies in it. I remember it as being one of the more serious novels that the Miami P.I. appeared in.

Charles Gramlich said...

I want to get ahold of some of those Mike Shayne books.

Paul D Brazill said...

I'd never heard of Mike Shayne before today but he sounds like my mug of slosh.Indeed.