Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books, October 2, 2009

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


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 and at Chasing Heroes, a site all about...hereos! (

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.


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.

Todd Mason
Kerrie Smith
Martin Edwards
Paul Bishop
Rick Robinson
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
Scott Parker
Bill Crider
James Reasoner
Jim Winter
Bill Prozini/Steve Lewis
The Rap Sheet
Kieran Shea
Steve Lewis 2
Terrie Moran
Eric Peterson
Rob Kitchin
Rick Robinson


Deb said...

I really enjoy this feature--it's opened my eyes to a lot of books and authors I wouldn't have found otherwise.

One comment about Gone with the Wind: It's been 40 years since I first read GWTW and for many years it was one of my re-read favorites. However, anyone new to the book should be forewarned that the racial attitudes in it are absolutely appalling. If you can focus on the love triange of Rhett-Scarlett-Ashley and the panoramic sweep of the Civil War, that's fine; but the black characters are presented as either selflessly devoted servants (like Pork and--of course--Mammy), stoic ciphers (Dilcey), empty-headed nincompoops (Prissy), or creatures of fear and revulsion (like the man who tries to rob Scarlett and tears her clothing). Most egregiously, Margaret Mitchell includes a passage (written in the omnicient narrator's voice, not the voice of one of the characters) in which she states flatly that most slaves were happier being slaves and that many of their former white owners were in constrained financial circumstances because they continued to take care of their former slaves.

It's interesting that in Bill Crider forgotten book review today he mentioned noticing the homophobia in a book that he hadn't noticed at all when he first read it over 30 years ago. Patti then commented that homophobia and sexism now jump our at us. I agree--and would like to add that racism is another of those "isms" that jumps out at us when we read an older book. Undoubtedly GWTW has its charms as a book about a determined woman hopelessly in love with the wrong man, but there's no way around its terrible depiction of Black people. So if you decide to read it, be prepared.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Deb-how about writing about a forgotten book in the coming weeks?

Deb said...

I'd love too, but I don't have a blog--I'm just a reader who loves to discover new (to me) books & authors.

Let me know if there's a way I could do it without having a blog and I'd be glad to share a "forgotten" fave!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Deb-I can post it right on here like the first three today. Readers are more than welcome. Many of the links are to readers, not writers. How about October 23rd? (I'm taking the 16th off)

Deb said...

October 23 would be great--when do you need it by? Also, I hate to sound like a complete techno ignoramus (although, if the shoe fits...), but do I email it to you or what?

pattinase (abbott) said...

By the 21st would be swell. You can email it to me ( with a few lines about yourself. I'll find the cover for the book you choose. Just type it right on the email. Thanks! Glad to have you onboard.

Iren said...

I just added my late edition to my blog.

Frank Loose said...

Another comment on GWTW. I understand what Deb is saying about the racism present in the story and how unsettling it is to read about. I can't speak with examples in the book since I haven't read it since high school. But, it seems to me that to depict the Civil War and post CW years realistically meant having characters reflect the racism of the times, and the horrible attitudes and treatment of people that rose from it. Mitchum needed to be historically accurate. To write otherwise, would have created a false view of the world in the 1860s. One purpose of fiction is to examine the human condition, a condition that is flawed to say the least. I would rather see this accuracy, as uncomfortable as it is to read about, than have an author sugar coat things to avoid discomfort.

Regarding Margaret Mitchell herself, she was anything but racist, from what I have learned about her. She regularly supplied scholarship money to enable african-americans to go to college. This at a time when racism was still playing out strongly in our society. It seems to me she wouldn't do this if she shared the values and views of the characters she created in GWTW.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Frank-I guess it depends whether it comes across as the author's voice or that of the characters. Haven't read it in 40 years so I don't know.

Deb said...

Frank--Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Margaret Mitchell was running around with a white sheet and hood(although the Klan does figure--somewhat sympathetically--in GWTW), I'm simply saying that to our 21st century minds, the black characters are not presented as full characters, only as shorthand versions of how a white southerner of Mitchell's time (1920s-30s) would see them. I think this is one of the reasons I don't recall much complaint about Faulkner's depictions of African-Americans. Yes, he shows them as products of the world around them and as limited by their lack of educational and employment opportunities in the Jim Crow south, but he also shows them as fully human, as having a life beyond the places where they connect with white society. (For example, Nancy in "That Old Evening Sun" who is trying to avoid being beaten or possibly killed by her husband.) The black characters in GWTW just don't have that three-dimensional substance.

I agree, you have to understand the era in which a book is written and the era about which a book is written, and when the book is good enough, intriguing enough, interesting enough, you have to cut it some slack. But you can't go back to thinking like someone would have eighty years ago in order to make a book palatable. That's why I like what Bill Crider wrote today about the homophobia in his forgotten book jumping out at him whereas 30 years ago when he first read the book, it made no impression.

I guess the best analogy I can make is to the casual anti-semitism in Agatha Christie's books. I love Agatha Christie and I'm guessing I've read everything she wrote at least twice, but whenever a character is given a name like Solomon Cohen, I wince, because I know she's going to be very negative in a casual, dismissive way. That doesn't stop me from enjoying reading her work, but I can't pretend the anti-semitism isn't there.

I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who observed, "Once a mind has been stretched, it will not return to its original dimensions."

P.S. Thanks for the invitation, Patti. I will start going through my forgotten faves pile and send you something before the designated date.

Frank Loose said...

Deb ... I agree with the points you're making. It holds true to many many authors from the past. I can think of John D. MacDonald and his hugely popular Travis McGee series. When i first read them in the 1960s and 70s, the role and view of women as presented in those stories felt fine to me. Upon re-reading them in the nineties i became aware of how sexist they were. The books hadn't changed, but the world had changed, and how I viewed the world had, too.

Still, I think we have to be careful in how we attribute the thoughts and views of a character with the author who created the character. They are not always shared.

Barbara Martin said...

I would sooner read Gone With The Wind then watch the movie for the upteenth time. There are always so many things in a book not found in the movies. It truly is a wonderful book.