Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, April 28, 2013

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox (the first forgotten book)

It's difficult to remember, thirty years on, New York in the seventies, The City was facing bankruptcy, the streets were dangerous, frequent strikes left unattended garbage for the rodents, buildings crumbled. Paula Fox's novel Desperate Characters perfectly captures that time along with the similarly disintegrating marriage of Sophie and Otto Bentwood. The story begins with an unexpected cat bite. "Because it's savage," Otto answers Sophie's puzzled, "why?" It was a cat she was trying to feed that bit her. This well-intentioned act, this McGuffin, sends the couple off on a weekend odyssey, where ominous events continue to haunt the childless couple. They find little solace in each other and there is no easy resolution at the end. The quiet desperation that suffuses their story is heart-breaking. The writing is haunting, lucid, and succinct.

Fox has also written two books about her life (Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter), a few other novels (The Widow's Children) and many children's books. But nothing is finer than this one for me.

Ed Gorman is home again. Yippee!

TEXAS WIND, James Reasoner

We all have books we go back to several times over the years. For me one of the finest private eye novels I've ever read is Texas Wind by James Reasoner. It is a virtually perfect utterance, a story of a man, an era and a place.

While the set-up is familiar, "a missing daughter job" as Hammett once began a story of his, the op here, named Cody, gives us a Texas I'd never seen before and a private eye who might be the guy you have coffee with at the donut shop counter a couple days a week. The reality is what makes the dark surprises of the book stay real. A real person is telling you the story.

Texas is too often writ so large it becomes comic without meaning to be. James' social observations are worth the price alone. My favorite is a scene where Cody, a Southerner, wonders about a man because he's a Northerner. I've seen this written so many times by Yankees that it was a jolt realizing that it cuts both ways. I loved it.

Filled with exciting incident and humane observation, Texas Wind is one of those books that should be read by everyone who wants to write a mystery novel. This will show you how.

Livia Washburn, James' talented and lovely writer wife, is also a talented and lovely artist. Who knew? Here's her new cover for Texas Wind.

Sergio Angelini, MEMOS FROM PURGATORY, Harlan Ellison
Randal S. Brandt, CARAMBOLA by David Dodge.
Brian Busby, TORONTO DOCTOR, Sol Allen
Randall S. Brandt, CARAMBOLA, David Dodge
Bill Crider, DARK TRAVELING, Roger Zelazny
Martin Edwards, GARSTONS, H.C. Bailey
Curt Evans, THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS, John Buchan
Michael Gregorio, YARDIE, Victor Headley
Randy Johnson, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, John Burke
Nick Jones, Richard Stark's Parker Series
George Kelley, THE END OF THE NIGHT, John D. MacDonald
B.V. Lawson, THE ABANDONED ROOM, Charles Wadsworth Camp
Steve Lewis/ Michael Shonk, RISING DOG, Vince Kohler
Todd Mason, INTERSECTIONS: THE SYCAMORE HILL ANTHOLOGY edited by John Kessel, Mark L. Van Name and Richard Butner; MIRRORSHADES: THE CYBERPUNK ANTHOLOGY, edited by Bruce Sterling
Jeff Meyerson, KILLING CASTRO, Lawrence Block
J.F. Norris, BENIGHTED, J.B. Priestley
Ayo Onadate, A RAGE IN HARLEM, Chester Himes
James Reasoner, BEST OFFER, Robert Calder
Gerard Saylor, THE CONSUMMATA, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Ron Sheer, THE MANTLE OF RED EVANS, Hugh Pendexter
Michael Slind, BLOOD UPON SNOW, Hilda Lawrence
Kerrie Smith, DEATH MASK, Ellis Peters
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, BURN, John Lutz
TomCat, MURDER AT THE ABA, Isaac Asimov
Rich Westwood, REVELATIONS OF A LADY DETECTIVE, William Stephens Hayward
Jim Winter, CHARLIE OPERA, Charlie Stella


Anonymous said...

Paula Fox is also, I believe, the grandmother of Courtney Love.


pattinase (abbott) said...


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thanks for including me Patti, as ever - and congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Is that true, Deb? Who woulda thunk it?

In 1944, Paula gave birth to a daughter out of wedlock. However, she gave the child up for adoption. This daughter, Linda Carroll, became an author and psychotherapist and gave birth to musician Courtney Love.

Jeff M.

J F Norris said...

Can you please change my link to the one below?

Benighted by J.B. Priestley

Todd Mason said...

for me, in part:

INTERSECTIONS: THE SYCAMORE HILL ANTHOLOGY edited by John Kessel, Mark L. Van Name and Richard Butner; MIRRORSHADES: THE CYBERPUNK ANTHOLOGY, edited by Bruce Sterling

Bodies will demand sleep, it seems.

Unknown said...

It sounds like an interesting series. I will check it out

book marketing

Todd Mason said...

Doing the nails:

TOMCAT: Isaac Asimov
Jerry House: no THE in ATOMIC CHILI
Sergio Angelini: MEMOS rather than MEMORIES FROM PURGATORY

Todd Mason said...

And...the post title-date...a year displaced...