Eighteen months worth of forgotten books are here, in a slightly convoluted fashion, should you be interested
Terri Thayer is the author of two mystery series, The Quilting Mystery Series and the Stamping Sisters Series. Her latest releases are OCEAN WAVES (A quilting mystery) and INKED UP (a stamping mystery). She can be found blogging on Fridays at http://www.killerhobbies.blogspot.com.
B IS FOR BURGLAR, Sue Grafton
B is for Burglar is perhaps not a so-forgotten book. But the second
installment in Sue Grafton's iconic alphagraphic series was an
important one. It won an Anthony and a Shamus award and offered up
proof that this was a sleuth and an author to keep an eye on.
This was the first mystery series that I remember wanting to follow in
hard cover, not being willing to wait a year for the paperback. I had
to read each book as soon as it came out. I had to own it. B is for
Burglar was the reason. The return of P.I. Kinsey Milhone, just two
weeks after the denouement of the case filed in A is for Alibi, is
welcome. She's still reeling from having killed for the first time but
her spunk and her wit and her heart are intact. Her dealings with the
local police in that case impact her here. She's unable to get the
help she needs and so is forced to form new alliances and, at the very
end, rely solely on herself. As every good sleuth should.
The puzzle is a good one. She's asked to look into the case of a
missing woman, Elaine Boldt. According to her semi-estranged sister,
she's supposed to be in Florida but her neighbors haven't seen her
there. Kinsey crisscrosses the country, looking for answers. In
Elaine's home base of Santa Teresa, California, she finds the remnants
of a murder. Her next door neighbor was killed just before Elaine left
town. Kinsey believes the cases are related, but can't quite pin the
two together. She follows Elaine's tracks, using her cat, her fur
coat and her unpaid bills as clues to her whereabouts. Solid detective
work, cultivating sources and drawing conclusions get Kinsey to where
she needs to be to solve the crime.
A good plot is essential but getting Kinsey's spin on the people and
places that surround her is much of the appeal of this book. We see
the beginnings of her relationship with Henry, her landlord and
Rosie. She has a quick wit and an unique vision of the world that
keeps readers coming back again and again.
Misa Ramirez is the author of Living the Vida Lola (available now) and Hasta la Vista, Lola! (available Feb. 2, 2010) from St. Martin’s Minotaur. Visit Misa at http://misaramirez.com and at Chasing Heroes, a site all about...hereos! (http://chasingheroes.com).
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
It may seem crazy to some to think of Gone With the Wind, a perennial favorite for close to 75 years now, as a forgotten book. Yet, among many women of my generation (I’m 43), it IS forgotten. That is to say, my friends KNOW about it, but they’ve never READ it. Something unknown keeps them away from it, tempted though they may be. They toss around all kinds of explanations as to why they haven’t read it: it’s dated, it’s too long, they don’t read historical, they’ll watch the movie instead...
I think they’re nuts!
I first read Gone With the Wind when I was in eleventh grade. I couldn’t put it down--even sneaking away to the back room of the little store I worked at to read when I should have been dusting shelves or stocking or any of a number of other retail tasks. But I had to see what Scarlett would do next. How Rhett would respond. What he’d do in return. I was lost in Atlanta, a city I didn’t know from Adam, but which held magical charm for me. And Scarlett’s life philosophy--After all, tomorrow is another day--are pretty good words to live by.
I’ve tried to get friends to through caution to the wind and read the book. I chose it for book club and it was a smashing success. Startling after all these years how the book holds up, how there is so much to discuss in terms of the Civil War, Scarlett’s choices, Rhett’s commitment and unique system of honor, carpetbaggers, yankees, midwifery, the South, and so much more. It was an interesting reminder, as well, to recall how different the movie is from the book. Katie Scarlett had children! Several children, not just the tragic Bonnie Blue Butler.
Scarlett was a feminist--of a sort-- before feminism existed. She used whatever means she had to--whatever was at her disposal--to get what she wanted, and she made no bones about it. Was she always right? No. In fact, usually she was wrong. But we cheer her on anyway because she’s so determined not to let life beat her down.
Gone With the Wind probably isn’t as forgotten as most of the books talked about on this cool web site--in fact, I could take the other side of my own argument and say it will never be forgotten--but to those women who’ve not made the leap yet, or who would rather watch the movie, and to my daughter’s generation (she’s 9), it could well become forgotten unless we, who love it, pass it on.
Here’s to Margaret Mitchell, for creating one unforgettable heroine and a book which should never be forgotten.
Ed Gorman is the author of dozens of novels in the crime and western genres. he also edits anthologies. You can find him here.
DANGER IS MY BUSINESS by Lee Server
Before he became known for his excellent biographies of Robert Mitchum, Ava Gardner and Samuel Fuller, Server wrote and co-edited several books about noir. I collaborated with him on two of them. His knowledge of noir films made me feel like the tourist I am.He also wrote one of the finest books on pulp fiction I've ever read, Danger is My Business. It's filled with full colors of cover from every genre of pulps and stories about the writers and artists and editors who made them so successful for two decades. Just one example--do you know how Myrna Loy got her last name? I didn't. It turns out the mysterious Peter Ruric, author of Fast One and several classic hardboiled Black Mask stories, gave it to her when she was still a dancer in a nightclub. Very little is known about Ruric who's real name was George Sims and who was born not far from Cedar Rapids. Each genre gets it own chapter-horror, adventure-western, private eye, romance and sex, hero pulps and science fiction as well as a chapter on the so-called Fiction Factories that ruled pulp land. The romance and sex chapter surprised me. These pulps took real risks given the prevailing morality of the era. Robert Leslie Bellems set the tone for the naughty hardboiled male writers while women turned in the real erotica. Same with the horror pulps. Looking at the covers I'm struck by how many of them depicted female bondage. The scantily clad (and usually great looking) heroines were always tied up by some fiend.We all know how a lot of blurbs work. One writer wants to help another writer so he praises the book. You can usually tell when the blurb writer is log rolling. "I don't think I've ever read a novel as stupendously suspenseful or as monumentally wonderful or as Nobel-worthy as Sure I Killed, I Killed Him Good. And there's print on every page! Honest!"But here are two blurbs that ring true for sure."Danger is My Business Takes me back forty years to my beginnings. Thank God for the pulps!" Elmore Leonard"Danger is My Business is pure gold. It is so much fun to read. Lee Server's enthusiasm is well-matched to a writing style so witty and a knowledge of the subject so wide-ranging that Danger I My Business is a total page-tuner, as involving as any of the magazines he's opened for us." Donald E. Westlake This is a book that belongs in your library.
Andi Shechter has been a publicist, chat host, interviewer, convention-planner, essayist and reviewer. She lives in Seattle with far too many books.
NO HUMAN INVOLVED, Barbara Seranella
The other day, in a fit of rereading (I get this way after trying two or three new books and finding them wanting) I picked up DEADMAN'S SWITCH by Barbara Seranella. This is a book I've read at least three times and will, undoubtedly read again. It was the last book Barbara wrote and I got annoyed thinking about that. It was the first book in a new series that featured a fascinating and terrific new protagonist, a woman with an interesting job in crisis management and an interesting life. Charlotte Lyon has obsessive compulsive disorder , an at times seriously disabling condition and Seranella it brilliantly – she was the "un-Monk" to me. (I know people with OCD and cannot watch the overbearing neurotic "Monk" who simply refuses to deal with his illness but instead expects the world to deal around him. Rrrrr.)
Sorry, off track. But see, the thing is that Barbara Seranella died in January of 2007 and that really frosts me. I'm still mad. I wasn't ready to lose a friend and to lose the person who created Munch Mancini, one of mystery's best protagonists. Her first book was NO HUMAN INVOLVED and it featured a character few of us had ever met. Munch was a junkie, an addict and was in trouble. In this first book, it's Munch's last day as an addict. She's going to get clean and sober. Throughout the history of the series, we watch her learn about all the life she missed while she was on drugs, all the hell she left behind and watch her try to get beyond it – something that's hard to do. She has debts she'll never pay, but she is learning to join society , as she puts it. Munch takes on responsibilities, sobers up without being preachy, faces the world pretty squarely and is just great to spend time with.
A couple years after I read NO HUMAN INVOLVED, I was hosting a discussion about hard-boiled mystery at a convention on a Sunday morning, It was a casual thing, a bunch of us sitting around in a circle and chatting. One of the participants in the conversation was so interesting, had so much to say and yeah, that was Barbara Seranella. I valued her friendship and the chance to catch up with her when she came to town on a book tour, and I miss her still. She had talent and used it. Her books are well crafted, and her protagonists unforgettable. This week, I'm reading my way through the Mancini series and being impressed all over again. I don't want her to be gone.
Bill Prozini/Steve Lewis
The Rap Sheet
Steve Lewis 2