Friday, July 09, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books, July 9, 2010

Check out my review of Winter's Bone at Crimespree Cinema.

Jen Forbus is a former high school English teacher who loves nothing better than to talk books with fellow book lovers. These days she works for the National Association of College Stores to pay the bills, but her true loves are her two chocolate labs, four cats, and her crime fiction blog. Why she still lives in Northeast Ohio where the dreaded snow comes every year
is one of the world’s great mysteries.


Published (in the U.S.) by St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2004

THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS is the follow-up to Ken Bruen’s smash beginning of the Jack Taylor series, THE GUARDS. Returning from a short self-exile to London, Taylor finds himself back in Galway and back to his old habits when he’s approached to investigate who’s been killing young Tinkers, a gypsy group. When he agrees to take on the case, he takes on all the hate and intolerance that follows this band of travelers.

Taylor continues to succumb to his drug and alcohol addictions while investigating the Tinker case, and his wife from London shows up in Galway, much to everyone’s surprise.

Ken Bruen has without a doubt taken his place at the table of the great crime fiction writers. One of his signature writing elements is his allusions and direct quotes of other works and writers. His respect for and knowledge of the genre is astounding. But his unique style and voice have stretched the genre, and it is his work that is now influencing other writers. It will be his work that is alluded to and quoted for years to come. THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS, originally published in 2002, found its way to the U.S. two years later in 2004 and has since joined the crime fiction Canon.

Bruen addresses the subject of prejudices in a multitude of ways throughout THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS. Of course, there is first the outcast group of the Tinkers. In addition, Ken’s friends Cathy and Jeff give birth to a less than “perfect” child and they fret the life their child will have. And of course, Jack Taylor, himself, faces the role of outcast in his daily life, having been dismissed from The Guards, abusing drugs and alcohol, nursing a poor relationship with his mother.

The loner, alcoholic detective has become cliché in many ways, but Bruen manages to keep Taylor fresh and distinct. There’s nothing cliché or stereotypical about Taylor. Once the reader thinks he/she has Jack figured out, Bruen throws a twist in the game. The twist is never outlandish or unbelievable, just unexpected. Ultimately, that’s what makes readers connect with Taylor. Despite the darkness and despair, there’s always a tiny sense of some kind of hope. It may come in the most unexpected ways, but it’s there.

Ken Bruen is also very poetic in his writing style, which works to enhance the emotion of his novels. And when he accents that with the dark humor, THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS is a book that simply touches every corner of a reader’s soul.

José Ignacio Escribano was born in the middle of last century in Madrid, where he was educated; got his first job, married and had a daughter. Together with his family he left Madrid to live and work as a commodity trader on four continents. He has family ties in the other two. He considers himself a citizen of the world. By the end of the last century he returned to Madrid and began teaching. His interest, International Trade and Finance. He enjoys reading crime fiction.

Trouble is My Business by Raymond Chandler.

When Patty Abbott asked me if I would care to contribute with a favourite book of mine to Friday's Forgotten Books, I did not think twice. I’m also most grateful for this opportunity to re-read a long time favourite, an almost forgotten book on my bookshelves: Trouble is My Business by Raymond Chandler. Penguin 1950. 248 pages. ISBN:,,9780140109801,00.html#reviews

This is a collection of short stories that were first published in various American magazines:

- "Trouble is My Business" (August 1939, Dime Detective Magazine)

- "Red Wind" (January 1938, Dime Detective Magazine)

- A non-detective story "I'll Be Waiting" (October 14, 1939, Saturday Evening Post)

- "Goldfish" (June 1936, Black Mask),

- And "Guns at Cyrano's" (January 1936, Black Mask)

My copy is dated in 1982 and I probably read it back in 1986. Each story does not provide only an idea of Chandler’s writing but it also raises our interest on each tale. They are not simple sketches of Chandler’s later masterpieces, but they hold their own rights.

I highly recommend all of them but if I have to highlight just one this will be “Red Wind” which is probably best known for its opening lines: There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

Red Wind opens with private-eye John Dalmas (in my copy, changed later to Marlowe), sitting in front of a glass of beer at a cocktail bar. There is only one other customer, besides the bartender, a drunkard playing checkers with his empty glasses of straight rye whiskey. The quietness of the place is interrupted when a dark guy rushes in asking for a lady. "Tall, pretty, brown hair, in a print bolero jacket over a blue crepe silk dress." And not only Dalmas/Marlowe but the reader as well is shaken by this description. At this stage the drunkard swept a gun from somewhere and shot the dark guy. “So long, Waldo,” he said and slid towards the door. Dalmas/Marlowe regrets he did not have a gun. "I hadn’t thought I needed one to buy a glass of beer."

I don’t want to give away more of the plot. If you have already read it I hope I have encouraged you to read it again. If you have not read it yet just go and get it, you will not be disappointed.

The Raymond Chandler Web Site:

Ed Gorman is the author of A TICKET TO RIDE and many other fine novels. You can find him here.

Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Judith Rossner

When Looking For Mrs. Goodbar was published in 1975 it was such a sensational hit that I put off reading because I assumed it would be not much more than trendy titillation. When I finally got to it I was stunned by how fine a writer Judith Rossner was and how truly her novel reflected the times.

Based on a particularly ugly murder in New York City, Rossner offers us the life of one Theresa Dunn, a lower class but good looking Irish Catholic teacher much respected by her colleagues and much pursued by the men she finds in the singles bars she haunts looking for sex and a release from her self-loathing and depression, the by-product (she has always thought) of polio that left her with a warped spine. Even though surgery corrected the spine, it did not correct her image of herself as as a freak, especially when she contrasts herself with her glamorous sister.

To me this is the definitive novel of the 70s, the so-called "me" decade. Theresa has always sought out men she believes can rescue her in some way--from the bastard professor she had an affair with as a student to the numerous hot shots of various kinds (Madison Avenue, theater) she meets on her nightly excursions. Her illusion is the illusion of the decade, as Rossner suggests, that the freedom she revels in is a spiritual prison. Waiting in the wings was AIDs of course.

Then comes the time when she meets the drifter who will kill her the very night he meets her. Rossner, both her and in all of her novels, demonstrates that serious literature can find mass appeal when the story is as powerful as this one. An overplayed movie version appeared soon after publication of the book but its ham-handedness destroyed the subtle and ironic truths of Rossner's brilliant novel.

Jerry House lives in Southern Maryland. He can be reached at

The Wind in the Rose-bush and Other Stories of the Supernatural
by Mary E. Wilkins Fr

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (whose married name was sometimes preceded by a dash) was a popular 19th and early 20th century author. She has been credited with an astonishing 238 novels as well as several short story collections. Her duties as secretary to Oliver Wendall Holmes, Sr., brought her into contact with many of the literary lights of the day. Amazingly versatile, she produced a number of works of very high standard. In 1902 she began a series of supernatural stories which were published in Everybody's Magazine. One of her publishers, Doubleday Page, had an editorial relationship with Everybody's and brought out The Wind in the Rose-bush the following year. About the same time, however, Everybody's was sold to another company which had no use for "outlandish" or "morbid" stories.

With Everbody's market closed to her, Freeman went on to different kinds of fiction. Our loss. While her other work (both deservedly and otherwise) has faded into obscurity, the six stories in The Wind in the Rose-bush remain among the best of its kind. It was the fashion in turn-of-the-century popular fiction to portray family life in a mawkishly sentimental manner, but in Freeman's stories, the domestic trumped the sentimental. Her characters are real people with real flaws, while the supernatural hides quietly in everyday events, slowly coming into light. Several of these stories are standard fare in anthologies collecting "great" supernatural stories.

Here are the contents:

The Wind in the Rose-bush
The Shadows on the Wall
Luella Miller
The Southwest Chamber
The Vacant Lot
The Lost Ghost

Notice that I keep using the word "supernatural" rather than "ghost". Some of the six are true ghost stories; others are ghost stories only by courtesy. Mrs. Freeman does not bother to explain the supernatural in these stories: she allows the reader and the characters to experience it -- which is more than enough. The most accomplished of the stories may be "Luella Miller", who is a woman who may or may not be a psychic vampire and whose influence may or may not have been transferred to her home. In "The Lost Ghost", two gossiping ladies are diverged from telling the expected ghost story by an altogether different ghost story. "The Southwest Corner" gives us a haunted room that grows more menacing as the story progresses. The first of "The Shadows on the Wall" is that of a murdered brother; the next...?

These six stories were later combined with five lesser stories to form the Arkham House publication of The Collected Ghost Stories of Mary Wilkins-Freeman (1974). Despite that title, there evidently several of her supernatual stories that remain uncollected.


Joe Barone (earlier)

Bill Crider (7/2)
Scott Cupp (7/2)
Cullen Gallagher
Ed Gorman (7/2)
Glenn Harper (7/2)
Randy Johnson (7/2)
B.V. Lawson (7/2)
Le0pard 13 (7/2)
Steve Lewis (7/2)
Todd Mason (7/2)
Kevin Tipple (7/2)

Patti Abbott
Paul Bishop
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Cullen Gallagher
Glenn Harper
George Kelley
Randy Johnson
Chris LaTray
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Bill Pronzini
Todd Mason
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Kerrie Smith


Richard R. said...

I agree with José Ignacio Escribano that "Red Wind" is the best of a set of very good short stories in the collection, or at least it is my favorite. Living in Southern California, I have felt that Red Wind many, many times, and it does make people jumpy and sometimes violent. Chandler is a master. If I had to play that old "desert island" game and cold take just one mystery-crime author's works, it would be Chandler, without a doubt.

Anonymous said...

Patti - Thanks, as always, for assembling these : ). I love being reminded of books I haven't read in too many years, and learning about books I didn't read when they came out. Just love it!

Jerry House said...

I was late coming to Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series and I'm now almost caught up. I finished The Killing of the Tinkers last week. A powerful, powerful book.

Michael Carlson said...

Very nice piece on Margaret Millar, certainly much under-appreciated and nowadays as you say almost forgotten...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Michael. She was unique, I think, in her approach.