Tuesday, June 30, 2009


C.J. Box reading.

What actor is fearless on the screen? Or, expressed another way, lacks ego or vanity in taking on unglamorous parts when they probably don't have to.

I nominate Edie Falco. In Nurse Jackie, she is no glamor puss. Philip Seymour Hoffman comes close. Who else? Maybe Brian Cranston?


Monday, June 29, 2009

Theresa and Megan on the road again.

Check out Busted Flush's site for a way in which you can send our intrepid crime writers to spots of interest on their whirlwind tour.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

MY TOWN MONDAY, June 29, 2009

Megan reading.

Megan will be reading from BURY ME DEEP, discussing the impetus for the story, and signing copies at Birmingham Borders on Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 7:00. The store is located on Woodward Avenue at Maple (15 Mile) Rd in Birmingham. Here is an excerpt of Chapter One.

I am putting this on MY TOWN MONDAY in the hope that some Detroiters I may not know will see this and come to the reading. Megan grew up and attended college here. She also worked for a state senator before beginning graduate school. .

Publishers are not so anxious to send writers to the midwest nowadays. I'd like to show them we can turn out a decent crowd for a hometown girl. It's tough without a newspaper to write a feature story for her or most likely even review the book.

BURY ME DEEP has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal and was selected as one of NEW YORK MAGAZINES summer reads. Publishers Weekly and Booklist liked it too. Sarah Weinman lists it on her site as a pick of the week and calls it amazing.

Come out on the ninth and show the publishing world that Detroit still reads books. BURY ME DEEP sells for just $15. Simon and Schuster is the publisher. For the rest of her book tour schedule, see here

For more MY TOWN MONDAY posts, see the man in the top hat, Travis Erwin.

PULP PRESS Seeks Submissions

Donna Reed reading.


Pulp Press are currently considering submissions. We are looking for well written pulp fiction style stories, 23,000 words, featuring vengeance and comeuppance, the more extreme the better. Seriously, go to town. We want these to be feel good efforts where the reader puts the book down and is left with the sense that justice has been done rather than cautionary tales. Science fiction and westerns will be welcomed, though; if you do write crime chestnuts, something that doesn't promote coppers (i.e. a vigilante protagonist as opposed to a police person, now matter how hard bitten he/she is) will be preferred. Send first three chapters and synopsis, along with S.A.E to:
Pulp Press
25 Eastern Place
Please note: If you submit work without having previously read a Pulp Press effort then it's your own damn fault if you get rejected. So cowboy up

THE SUMMIMG UP, Friday, June 26, 2009

Suzanne Pleshette reading.

You can find all fifteen months worth of forgotten books here.

Craig Clarke, Road to Purgatory, Max Allan Collins
Bill Crider, You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up, Richard Hallos
Tim Davis, Double Cross Bind, Joel Ross
Martin Edwards, Praying Mantis, Hubert Moneteilhet
Ed Gorman, The Lodger, Marie Belloc Lowndes
Randy Johnson, Los Angeles A.D. 2017, Phillip Wylie
Chris Jones, Shannon's Express, Charles E. Friend
George Kelley, Miracle in Three Dimensions, C.L. Moore
Todd Marson, Partners in Wonder, Harlan Ellison
Eric Peters, The Takers, Jerry and Sharon Ahern
Stephanie Pintoff, Trent's Last Case, E.C. Bentley
Kerrie Smith, Murderous Remedy, Stella Shepherd
R.T. Sentenced to Die, J.A. Jance.
John Weagly, Hard-boiled, edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Dashiell Hammett reading.

TRUE BLOOD has my favorite opening sequence at the moment. It perfectly captures what's coming afterward. Music, graphics, etc. What one do you like? Or did you like?-- Or do none of them do it for you?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 25, 2009

(Any mistakes will be corrected on Sunday as will The Summing Up. I'm without a computer for two days while I see Cyrano and Three Sisters at Stratford Shakespeare Festival).

I removed all links not up at 9:30 AM to save frustration. Thanks.

Ed Gorman is the author of THE MIDNIGHT ROOM, SLEEPING DOGS and many other fine works. You can catch up with him at http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes.

The other night on his fine blog British novelist Martin Edwards wrote a piece about The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes. Among the book's admirers was Ernest Hemingway. The book was the basis for the the first "true Hitchcock" film as Hitch himself called it. I guess he looked at the previous ones as warm-up acts.

The set-up for the Lodger is standard stuff by now. In Victorian London a serial killer is loose. An impoverished couple takes in a lodger. Soon enough the wife begins to wonder if the lodger is the killer. Here's what I wrote Martin:

"The Lodger still works for me. The atmospherics are as compelling as the characters, this impoverished world of eternal and foggy night while an unknown killer stalks the London streets. I haven't read anything else by her but your mention of her letters containing few references to mystery writing doesn't surprise me. For all the chiller-diller stuff--as Ruth Rendell would call it--the book escapes the familiar by giving us a rich look at the lives of the husband and wife and their sad lives in poverty. This, to me, drives the book as much as The Lodger himself."

The Lodger gives the readers a visceral sense of Victorian London. The homely details of everyday life make the cunning and cruelty of the killer all the more real. In a few places the horror of the streets remind me of Jack London's mental collapse while spending time in and around Whitechapel (he later wrote about his time there). And yet this is played off beautifully against the placid, quietly desperate home lives of the married couple. It is rich true portraiture.

As Martin and a few of his respondents pointed out, Lowndes is frequently overlooked in histories of mystery fiction. I've never been sure why. She was certainly a far better writer, as someone pointed out, than Mary Roberts Rinehart and her imitators. In fact, though I claim no expertise, she was to me the most exciting chiller-diller writer until the great Elizabeth Sanxay Holding came along a quarter century later. And I'm sure that Holding, with her unnerving mixture of the homely and the phantasmagoric, doubtless read and studied Lowndes.

For me The Lodger is timeless, a true classic.

Tim Davis: About Me "After making my escape at an early age from a seemingly predestined future that would have almost certainly put me to work in either the coal mines or steel mills in western Pennsylvania, I spent the better part of the next three decades traveling the world as an enlisted man (and later an officer) in the United States Navy. Then, when I finally pulled into port for the last time, I returned to college and prepared myself for my second career as a university-level teacher of literature and English composition. I've written articles and reviews for BookPage, Mystery News, America Magazine, The American Spectator, ForeWord Magazine, Southern Humanities Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Antipodes Journal, The Explicator, Secondary English, KLIATT, MultiCultural Review, BookLoons, and a few other print and online outlets. My research interests include Flannery O'Connor and William Blake, though my reading interests are eclectic (with a special fondness for mystery-and-detective fiction)."

Neglected Book: Double Cross Blind by Joel Ross
Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Anchor (July 25, 2006)

Travel back in time to the early days of December in 1941. Tom Wall is a combat wounded American citizen who had been serving with the Canadian forces in Greece and Crete, and he is now recovering in a hospital in London. Without understanding why, Wall is suddenly approached by someone from Britain's MI6, the agency responsible for the United Kingdom's espionage activities overseas. ? Inexplicably, the British have a special job for the American.
Agents promise Wall that the first part of his job will be rather easy. Wall, for reasons he cannot yet imagine, must simply pretend to be his brother Earl Wall and meet with a ruthless Nazi agent named Dietrich Sondegger, a German defector who has recently arrived in London and is now in British custody. ?
The second part of the job, according to MI6 officials, is also not too difficult: Wall, posing as his brother, must successfully and persuasively obtain some very important information from Sondegger, a fascinating and frightening man who will only talk to Earl Wall. And—if Sondegger's promised information is reliable—MI6, with Tom Wall's assistance, may finally be able to mitigate Britain's lonely and desperate wartime struggles against the overpowering forces of Germany.
MI6, in an attempt to keep the pressure on Wall, also tells their somewhat unwilling espionage apprentice of the downside to his mission: If he fails to obtain the information accurately from Sondegger, or even if he fails to obtain the information in a timely manner, dozens of espionage agents will lose their lives in Europe, and—perhaps more horribly—thousands of other unsuspecting people may soon lose their lives on a small island in the Pacific Ocean. ? So, young Tom Walls becomes a very reluctant recruit in the high-stakes world of international spying, and he meets with the repulsively self-centered Sondegger. And soon, because of Walls' involvement, the first week in December promises to become one of the most important weeks in modern history. ?
First-time novelist Joel Ross, in creating Double Cross Blind, has given hardcore fans of spy novels a fascinating and complicated tale of patriots and traitors, truth and deception, and honor and villainy. Teeming with action and overflowing with surprises, Double Cross Blind is one of those powerful, hard-to-put-down spy novels of intense believability and continuing relevance that readers will favorably compare to the canonical espionage adventures written by masters like Graham Greene and John LeCarre.

John Weagly is the author of THE UNDERTOW OF SMALL TOWN DREAMS (Twilight Books) and various other short stories and plays.

HARD-BOILED: An Anthology of American Crime Stories edited by Bill Pronzini & Jack Adrian, from Oxford University Press (1995) This[Photo] was, for me, the right book at the right time. I first stumbled across HARD-BOILED on a shelf in Borders in 1997. On impulse more than anything else, I bought it. I liked mystery novels, but didn’t think very far outside of the “body-on-the-first-page-killer-on-the-last-page” box. The variety of stories in HARD-BOILED opened my eyes to so much more. The stories, arranged chronologically from 1925 to 1992, give an incredible sampling of gritty tales of “disorder, disaffection and dissatisfaction.” I’d read Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson before, but this book introduced me to many of the other authors I love today: David Goodis, Lawrence Block and Elmore Leonard to name a few. As if the selection of stories wasn’t enough, the introduction gives a fascinating and concise history of hard-boiled literature. There are also informative biographies of each contributor. These reference sections, along, of course, with the stories, make this anthology required reading for anyone interested in the form. HARD-BOILED, along with a Film Noir Festival on Turner Classic Movies at around the same time, had untold influences on the writer I am today.

Bill Crider
Craig Clarke
Martin Edwards
Kerrie Smith
George Kelley
Eric Peters
Randy Johnson
Stephanie Pintoff
Todd Mason

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Francine Prose reading.

I read a lot of reviews/blogs and almost everyone, including my husband, likes BURN NOTICE. I don't get it. To me, it's nothing but car chases and blowing things up. And smart-alecky advice on being a spy in voice-over. Show me, don't tell me, I want to say. Does his mother have to have a cigarette in her hand in every frame?

Another good topic, what sitcom has ever portrayed the parents of the protagonist well? Save that for later and tell me: what TV show gets good reviews or is popular that you don't get?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bouchercon 2009

And now something for the ladies!

Did you ever think when you saw what's his name wear this thing that it would catch on.
Someone, I won't say who, reading.

Does anyone find this a turn-on?

(Okay, John Mayer) Good choice, JA.

Anyone else coming to Bouochercon? Is Indianapolis near James Dean's hometown? I'll have to check that out. I know I can hit Amish Country on the way down.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Children reading.

CORRIDORS is a one-time only literary magazine to celebrate a group of writers that came together thirty years ago. I was not part of that group--had never thought of writing seriously then. My story is a very different one from my usual stuff--and in fact I wrote it before I ever tried my hand at crime fiction.

If you look at the site at all, read the heart-breaking story of Steve Tudor, to whom the issue is dedicated. His name still resonates with all of those people who went through the creative writing program at Wayne State University and those in writing groups still associated with it today. Many thanks to Jane Dobija who put this all together and to Anthony Ambrogio who worked so hard to edit and create this site. Sorry to be so late with MY TOWN MONDAY.


Neil Young

Got your attention, men. I thought so.

Woody Haut today reviewed a book by Richard Lange called DEAD BOYS. In it, he quoted a passage where the author wrote about how deadbeat men gravitate toward Neil Young.

It has been my experience that most men/boys identify with Mr. Young's music. Do you? And if so, what is it about him? Explain it to someone who has spent a lot of time listening to him and saying, "Huh?"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

21 D & E

The man sitting in front of her sports
multiple earcuffs, a shaved head, and is flying
to San Francisco from Detroit with a baby
on his lap. A meticulously drawn reptilian battle scene
plays out across his flexing shoulder blades with
critical elements obscured by his sleeveless speedo shirt.

In 22D, she would like to tell him that if he walked
the child, joining the stoic and practiced procession
in the aisles, the baby might stop crying. But each time
she summons the courage, the baby falls asleep.
She swallows her words again, turns away
and gratefully nods off. But someone

Or paternal instinct soon tells this father that babies
must be bounced, and the child's purpling face
bobs up and down before her like a frenzied
jack-in-the-box. Face to face to face, the baby
seems to have targeted her as responsible
for his bumpy ride. He screams each time
she looms before him.

Paternal care is dispensed with licks
from Dad's own blunt fingers, grooming the
baby's hair into a splendid coxcomb and giving him
a jaunty look. Deplaning at last in California,
the baby lurches down the aisle, attached
post-umbilically to his father's torso
with knots, straps, handles-- all vaguely
echoing what nature has devised.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Fathers reading. And a Happy Father's Day to all.

What attracts you to a blog? Obviously common interests attracts. Do you continue to gravitate to a blog where the blogger never gravitates toward yours? Does the "personality" sometimes put you off? Does the politics of the blogger sometimes put you off? Does too much blatant self-promotion repulse you? What is the biggest attraction on the blogs you seek out? The biggest reason you stop going there?

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Summing Up, Friday, June 19, 2009

Fathers reading.

The Summing Up, Friday, June 19, 2009

Paul Bishop. The Pulp Jungle, Frank Gruber
David Cranmer, The Camera Clue, George Harmon Coxe
Bill Crider, Chandler, Willian Denbow
Martin Edwards, Israel Rank, Roy Horniman
Ray Foster, Live Now, Pay Later, Jack Trevor Story
Cullen Gallagher, On Crime Writing, Ross MacDonald
Ed Gorman, Live Girls, Ray Garton
Jerry House, The Man Who Called Himself Poe, edited by Sam Moskowitz
Randy Johnson, Kindred, Octavia E. Butler
George Kelley, Maigret's Pickpocket, Georges Simenon
Adrian Magson, Snowline, Berkeley Mather
Todd Mason, Somewhere There's Music, George Lea
Kyle Minor, The Buddha in Malibu and Other Stories, William Harrison
Scott Parker, The History of Mystery, Max Allan Collins
Eric Peterson, Never the Same Again, Jesse Sublett
James Reasoner, I Should Have Stayed Home, Horace McCoy
Kerrie Smith, The Mysterious Mr. Quin, Agatha Christie

R.T. Beautiful Somewhere Else, Stephen Policoff

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 19, 2009

Fathers reading.

Please welcome R.T. who will be joining us most Fridays.

Ed Gorman is the author of the July release THE MIDNIGHT ROOM. Look for him here.

LIVE GIRLS, Ray Garton

Live Girls isn't exactly forgotten but given the enormous popularity of erotic vampire fiction today it is terribly overlooked. It's my fourth favorite vampire novel in fact, right behind Dracula, I Am Legend and Salem's Lot. And it is as original and startling as any of the first three.

This is a two-track story for a portion of the book. Walter Benedek finds his sister and brother-in-law ripped apart in their apartment. Hard to believe a human could have done this. He begins to look into the background of his brother-in-law and discovers that the man spent a lot of time at a strange sex joint called Live Girls.

At the same time Davey Owen, a young man working for a trashy magazine, gets fired and loses his girl. He begins to come to apart, ultimately drifting into a peep show at Live Girl's. Garton creates some of the most powerfully erotic and threatening images of sex I've ever read. The sex is so compelling you almost forget the sinister atmosphere of the place. The book was originally published in 1987 and the plague of AIDs that killed so many permeates the atmosphere.

Davey's life begins to change after a single visit to the club. He will return many, many times.

The novel is by turns witty (Garton's take on low-brow publishing is very funny), creepy (Garton really puts you in the narrow filthy hallways and basement of Live Girls) and moving because Garton has made you care about his characters and their fate really matters to you.

This is urban horror at its nastiest and pulp fiction at its best.

Jerry House

THE MAN WHO CALLED HIMSELF POE, edited by Sam Moskowitz (Doubleday, 1969).

This book came out when Poe would have been a sprightly 160 years old, rather than the more mature 200 he would have been this year. During his bicentennial it seems appropriate to blow the dust off this book's covers and take a brief look at it. Following a short article (by Poe scholar Thomas Ollive Mabbott) about Poe's life, Moskowitz presents seven stories about Edgar Allan Poe:

"The Valley of Unrest" by Douglass Sherley, a rare short novel from 1884 about the writing of Poe's poem of the same title. Sherley, born in 1857, was known to have been in correspondence with a close classmate of Poe's at Virginia University.

Julian Hawthorne (son of Nathaniel) offers a brief story wherein Poe had led a "normal" life, "My Adventure with Edgar Allan Poe".

Bookman and Sherlockian Vincent Starrett's "In Which an Author and His Character Are Well Met" covers Poe's last days and is reprinted from Starrett's hard-to-find book Seaports in the Moon.

Going to more familiar territory, Moskowitz presents Manly Wade Wellman's "When It Was Moonlight" and Robert Bloch's "The Man Who Collected Poe", classic stories both.

"The Man Who Collected Poe" by Michael Avallone is an interesting riff on "The Cask of Amontillado" that Avallone wrote as a filler when he was editing Tales of the Frightened, a short-lived horror/mystery magazine.

Moskowitz tells us that Charles Norman's "Manuscript Found in a Drawer" is the last of a trilogy of Poe-based stories (only one of the three had been previously published). This one's a murder mystery involving Poe.

August Derleth used a story idea by H. P. Lovecraft to write "The Dark Brotherhood". The story anchored Derleth's collection of Lovecraft miscellany of the same title.

"Castaway" is an original story by famed SF writer Edmond Hamilton and deals with one of Poe's ambitions during his career.

Then Moskowitz gives us two pieces under the heading "Fiction by Poe?":

"The Lighthouse" starts with a 600-word fragment by Poe, then formed into a story and completed by Robert Bloch in 1953. A number of other writers have recently worked the same fragment, but Bloch's take remains the standard.

From September 1838 through June 1839 (when it folded), the monthly magazine The American Museum of Science, Literature and the Arts printed an on-going serial by "Peter Prospero", "The Atlantis". The book reprints the first four of the fifteen existing chapters. Whether "Prospero" actually was Poe (as some scholars claim) or was more likely to be Nathan Brooks, a close friend of Poe, is open to debate. Moskowitz covers both sides of the argument in his introduction to the story.

Finally there is a brief section of poems about Poe, starting of with a trio of sonnets by Adolphe de Castro, Robert Barlow, and H.P. Lovecraft. DeCastro and Barlow had been visiting Lovecraft and during one of their nightly walks through Providence they stopped by a graveyard where Poe was known to have visited and each decided to write a sonnet on the spot. The results were uneven. August Deleth's well-known "Providence: Two Gentlemen Meet at Midnight", a brief, untitled Valentine poem written by Poe's young wife Virginia, and an original poem "Baltimore, October 3rd" by Robert A. W. Lowndes close out this section.

Sam Moskowitz's story introductions provide additional depth to the collection.

Reading the book, I was struck by how many of the authors here led lives as strange as Poe. Hawthorne stuggled back from scandal; de Castro (real name Gustaf Danzinger) was an amiable charlatan; Barlow was haunted by his homosexuality; Derleth was cocky and arrogant and rather proud of his bisexuality; Lovecraft's odd life as been recounted numerous times; Sherley's books were printed on thick orange paper and were bound with string through punch-holes; Avo feuded as much as he wrote (and that was a lot). A few of the authors led normal lives, but had a major influence on a number of fields. Lowndes was a Futurian and journeyman editor -- I once heard him tell of how he nearly lost a job because he let the word "Hell" be printed in a western magazine he was editing; Hamilton's work in comics include creating much of the Superman mythos; Bloch was one of the pioneers of the use of psychology in crime novels. I'm not familiar with Charles Norman, and I suspect it's a pseudonym (any information would be appreciated).

All in all, a very interesting book, well-edited and recommended.

Kyle Minor is the author of In the Devil's Territory, a collection of short fiction. His work frequently appears at PlotswithGuns.com, and has also appeared in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Best American Mystery Stories 2008. He's working on a novel and a narrative nonfiction book this summer in Florida and Haiti.

THE BUDDHA IN MALIBU: New and Selected Stories

by William Harrison
University of Missouri Press, 1998

No one I know reads William Harrison anymore, but
back in the day, everyone did. Harrison was a regular contributor of short fiction to major literary journals such as The Paris Review, and also to commercial men's magazines like Playboy, and Esquire, where his most famous story, "Roller Ball Murder," first appeared. I don't know if this story is true or not, but the apocryphal version is that Harrison's students at the University of Arkansas called him "Dollar Bill," because he was always flying out to Los Angeles, trying to make a buck in the movies. At least once it paid off, if unsatisfyingly, when he paper-clipped his treatment for "Roller Ball Murder" to tear sheets from its run in Esquire, sent it to his agent, sold it, wrote the screenplay, and lived to see the film's director allow the stunt-men to rewrite Harrison's hard-earned dialogue badly enough to earn Rollerball the so-bad-it's-good cult status that Hollywood studios love (the green!) and writers hate (the shame!)

The Buddha in Malibu, a late-career reprinting of Harrison's best, is pleasingly all over the place. The book is divided into three sections whose titles explain th emselves: The Movies and Malibu, Africa and Anarchy, and The Future and Forever. Since Harrison was too wild and wooly to be widely embraced by the literati, my guess is that whatever posthumous legacy his name carries forward will rest largely on the futuristic stuff, but for my money, the best of his work is the Africa stories, which embrace a Hemingway-esque muscularity without the pared-back language in the way that Hemingway's style required. William Harrison's every impulse, even in the short story, is maximalist.

If you find yo
u like William Harrison's work after reading The Buddha in Malibu, there's plenty more left to explore. My favorite is his hugely obscure old-age story collection Texas Heat, which is still in print from the University of Texas Press, but the out-of-print novels and story collections from the New York houses that abandon him are all widely available, often for as little as a penny plus shipping on Amazon.com.

Here is a brief list of some other forgotten books that deserve your attention:

Wet Places at Noon, by Lee K. Abbott (a former student of Harrison's)
Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon, by Jorge Amado
Fay, by Larry Brown
God's Little Acre, by Erskine Caldwell
Hard Rain Falling, by Don Carpenter
We're in Trouble, by Christopher Coake
The Knockout Artist, by Harry Crews
Voices from the Moon, by Andre Dubus
How the Water Feels, by Paul Eggers
The House of Breath, by William Goyen
Steps, by Jerzy Kozinski
God's Grace, by Berna rd Malamud
The Least You Need to Know, by Lee Martin (another of Harrison's former students)
The Cement G
arden, by Ian McEwan
The Collected Stories of Leonard Michaels
Sugar Among the Freaks, by Lewis Nordan (yet another of Harrison's former students)
Heat and Other Stories, by Joyce Carol Oates
Son of the Morning, by Joyce Carol Oates
The People of Paper, by Salvador Plascencia
Blood Brothers, by Richard Price
Lie Down in Darkness, by William Styron

Adrian Magson's
'NO KISS FOR THE DEVIL' - is book 5 in the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer series.

SNOWLINE by Berkeley Mather (John Davies)

As someone has already intimated, being asked to talk about a forgotten book instantly brings a small problem: which one do you remember best and how much have you forgotten?
One title which also represents a series of forgotten books is 'Snowline' by Berkeley Mather, who wrote thrillers and screenplays, and who adapted the first Bond film, 'Dr No'. His real name was John Davies, and as a professional soldier, he clearly knew his subject, which was what old espionage hands refer to as 'The Great Game'. Spying, in other words.
Mather set some of his books in and around the hills of Afghanistan, with an assorted collection of spies, carpet-baggers, soldiers and opportunists. But his main character was Idwal Rees, a British spy, who operated undercover among the hill tribes, along with his Afghan tracker whose name, I have to confess, escapes me, but who was always central to the books.
The relationship between Rees and his tracker would probably be seen as slightly cliche'd in today's terms, and no doubt even slightly racist by some who look for that kind of thing, given that it was clearly Rees who was the boss. But the main focus of this book and others in the series, was the constant struggle against the Russians and others, who all wanted to gain supremacy in the region and, as current events seem to bear out, make a right mess of it in the process.
For me, Mather was the first of the spy writers to really captured my attention, because unlike Fleming, for instance, his writing showed great humour. He also had the skill to portray the hills and people of Afghanistan with a clarity which was totally convincing (to me at any rate - and I'm not too keen to go see for myself at the moment).
Thinking about the books now, which I haven't read since I was in my teens, I really must try them again. I know they were utterly absorbing then, and I read some of them more than once. But I think only another read will show how they have stood up to the test of time and the changes in thriller styles.

More forgotten books.

Ray Foster

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Quick Question

For Tribe. Joan reading.

Stories about angels. Anyone know of any I should read before trying one? Is there a literature that needs to be perused or pursued?


Founding Fathers reading.

THE MIDNIGHT ROOM is the fifth Ed Gorman book I've read. I'm breaking my rule in reading so many books by one writer, but I swear, no two of them are alike.

There is one commonality though; everyone of them pulls you into the story like a Kansas tornado. Most books today require patience in permeating the story. The first chapter often seems like a warmup. Not in Gorman's. You are involved in the story from page one. I think knowing where to start a story is a great gift and he does.

I got a bit nervous when I realized this one was about a serial killer. And a missing child. And about a gory package that arrives in the mail. But trust Gorman to turn your idea about what this book is about on its head and write a book about two brothers and the people in their lives. Both men are police officers and both get involved with this case.

The brothers are complex characters with a lot of baggage and trying to solve this case will try their very fiber. These two central plots circle each other warily. We get to know a lot of characters well in this book. But this is also a novel where things happen.

I was waiting to read another book about the political consultant from SLEEPING DOGS but this one was a real treat in the meantime. MIDNIGHT ROOM is out in two weeks from Leisure Books. You won't be disappointed. As usual.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Fathers reading.

The New York Review of Books has an article about Patricia Highsmith this week. Included in the article is a quote from D.H. Lawrence. "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer."

Certainly Ripley is the prime example. Lawrence himself though was talking about Natty Bumpo. You can see this play out in real life with men like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. But what about in fiction?

Do you agree with Lawrence's assessment? And if so, what are some good examples in fiction and in real life of this rather scary figure?

My Town Monday, June 15, 2009

Jose Saramago reading.

A follow-up on the piece on the death of WSU student Courtney Solomon, which I reported on a few weeks ago. I received this email from Yvonne Solomon, Courtney's mother.

Hello Patti,

A friend provided me with a copy of your article on Courtney ... to update you:

1. Wayne State University did provide me with Courtney's MPA posthumously several days ago. Our family is indeed grateful. She was an excellent student and an avid believer in education. In her memory, we established the "Courtney Solomon Scholarship Fund". We would like to get this information out to her friends and students at Wayne and for those who may be interested, the information is as follows:

The scholarship is through the Pearls of Service Foundation. It is an extension of our sorority, Alpha Kappa Sorority, Incorporated. The President is Terry Mann.

1. Checks should be made payable to the "Pearls of Service Foundation".
2. Please write "In memory of Courtney Solomon" on the memo line of your check.
3. Mail check to 19785 West Twelve Mile Road, #352; Southfield, MI 48076

We are truly thankful to the many people who offered their prayers to the family during this difficult time.


The WSU Development Office is also stepping in to help Mrs. Solomon with funding this scholarship.

For my part, I greatly admire a mother who could so quickly find a way to deal with her loss through altruism. I hope justice is served and the scholarship is quickly funded.

And for more My Town Monday posts, check out Travis Erwin.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Creative Writing Programs: Good, Bad?

Seth Harwood reading.

There is a long piece in The New Yorker this week about the efficacy of writing workshops. I did the Breadloaf thing a few years ago and because of my years didn't get to sleep with anyone who might advance my career. I was tempted to chase down Charlie Baxter, but my husband was with me and wouldn't give me the go sign.

My personal instructor, I won't mention her name, had one piece of advice that she ran by us like a mantra. "Go deeper into your character."

Not good advice for someone who didn't know how to plot.

I also did four university workshops. I don't think any of them really helped me as much as the 25 years of reading short stories and fiction that came before it, although my instructor was entirely supportive and the dearest man in the world.

It did help me to learn what a story was. Okay, "what's this story about"?" was the most common criticism. Duh, it's about Fred who hates his father. And then what?

Yes, I found it hard to plot. I still do. Did you take any writing workshops? What was the most valuable thing for you in learning how to write? What writer spelled it out best? I'm still looking for the magic formula.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Woman reading.

I am dying to see EVERY LITTLE STEP and UP but my husband is resistant to musicals and animated films. Okay, I dragged him to the broadway show of A CHORUS LINE twice but this is the DOCUMENTARY.
And I made him see one too many supposedly adult animated films. He just didn't get WALL-E.
Do you and your partner or friends have difficulty in choosing a movie you both will like?

I remember the debates in the video stores before I got complete control of the process with NETFLIX (he hates to do online noodling).
How do you work it out?

Friday, June 12, 2009

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, June 12, 2009

Joan Didion Reading

The Summing Up for Friday, June 12, 2009

Anonymous 9, Serenade, James Cain
Paul Bishop, Billie's Ghost, Chad Hautmann
Bill Crider Doubled in Diamonds, Victor Canning
Martin Edwards, Hopjoy Was Here, Colin Watson
Cullen Gallagher, .44, H.A. DeRosso
George Kelley, The Sword of Rhiannon, Leigh Brackett
Diane Killian, Black as the Colour of My True Love’s Heart, Ellis Peters
Kathryn Magendie, Tomorrowland, Howie Good
Todd Mason, Beyond, edited by Thomas Dardis
Juri Nummelin, Day of Wrath, Jonathan Valin
Scott Parker, Uncommon Grounds, Mark Pendergast
Eric Peterson, Let Us Prey, Bill Brannon
James Reasoner, Try Anything Once, Erle Stanley Gardner (A.A. Fair)
Kerrie Smith, THE JANE WHITEFIELD series by Thomas Perry

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 12, 2009

Naguib Mafhouz reading.

Diane's Killian's SONNET OF THE SPHINX, the third book in the Poetic Death series from Pocket Books, is now available

The girl with the guitar-case was standing alone at the Belwardine bus stop when Arundale parked the car before the station entrance, and went in to collect the records Professor Penrose had left behind.

Black as the Colour of My True Love’s Heart, Ellis Peters

Not everyone sees folk music as sexy and dangerous. But when I’m not writing mysteries I supplement my starving artist income by singing Celtic music, and let me tell you that it is not all “Scotland the Brave.” One of my all time favourite mystery novels combines music and murder. It’s Black as the Colour of My True Love’s Heart by Ellis Peters.

I first discovered this novel in our little local library, and I searched for a copy of my own for years (back in the day before ABE Books made book hunting a non-challenge). Just seeing it on my bookshelf gives me pleasure -- and every so often I read it again. The writing is classic British crime mystery, crisp and clever with that dry humour one expects. The plot is smart but it’s the characters that I still remember. It’s a series book featuring Peters’ beloved sleuthing Felse family, but the Felses take backseat to the romantic leads of this story: Liri Palmer and Lucien Galt.

Liri and Lucien, are two stars of the European folk music circuit appearing at an English folk music seminar at an isolated and creepy country house-- by the way, this takes place back in the 1960s when folk music had some serious street cred. They’ve been lovers off and on, but Liri suspects Lucien of being unfaithful, and she is not a girl to be trifled with. Lucien keeps swearing his devotion to Liri, but there are some mysterious gaps in his behaviour that he declines to explain. Before long murder takes centre stage at the festival.

What I adore here is how so many classic themes and motifs of folk music have been threaded through the contemporary plot: revenge, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty…it’s skilfully handled in a plot that’s dramatic and surprisingly touching. If you love old fashioned British murder mysteries, Ellis Peters is singing your song.

Short stories by Anonymous-9 can be found online at the websites of Beat to a Pulp, ThugLit, Yellow Mama, Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, and DZ Allen’s Muzzle Flash (defunct). A-9 is in self-imposed witness protection for good
reasons. Email: anonwrite9@gmail.com
Serenade by James M. Cain
I’ve spoken about my all time favorite short story in the Comments section of some blogs, and also in my first and only interview for BlogSpot Central. I’ve alluded to why I like it, but never actually spelled it out.

Crime fiction by definition is politically incorrect. Crime writers go into the dark corners of human nature and shine a light on the horrible capabilities lurking there. None more so than James M. Cain, widely regarded as the father of hardboiled and author of, as Ross McDonald described it, “a pair of American Masterpieces.” He was referring to Cain’s “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings twice,” two short stories made into Hollywood noir films. They are not my favorites, though, “Serenade” is, written in 1937.

I’ve searched the net for reviews of “Serenade” and no reviewer I could find comes close to nailing what the story is about. At first glance, it’s so politically incorrect that anybody standing up and cheering for it had better be wearing full body armor. It’s racist and homophobic. Or is it?

An opera singer finds himself down and out in Mexico after escaping his domineering male lover, also his impresario (or manager) as they called them back in the day. When the singer reclaims his heterosexuality with an earthy Mexican prostitute, and brings her back to America, he regains his ability to sing and soars to fame and fortune.

At this point, the verdict on the side of political correctness doesn’t look good. The unwritten conclusion a reader could jump to is that Cain was saying gay sex “castrates” a male artist. But there’s more to it than that. The gay manager is also highly manipulative and controlling. The opera singer was constricted in every aspect of his life by this man, and sex became a weapon to further dominate him. It’s the sex combined with his forced submission that proved so damaging. We more often see male/female stories that examine this dynamic. Cain gave it a rare twist.

“Serenade” sparked in me a complicated mental inquiry into male and female energy, attitudes, yin and yang, and how it all plays out beyond gender. I’m still learning from this story. The more I contemplate, the more it reveals.

Onto the charge of racism. As we know, the standards of Cain’s day were different. When the opera singer brings his new love to America, his superficial Hollywood friends slight her. Cain clearly shows this is wrong. Although the opera singer winces at her ethnic style of dress from time to time, he never makes her feel bad or openly criticizes her. When she is snubbed at a party, he chastises his friends and insists they leave.

Ultimately it is the Mexican woman who sees exactly what is going on between her man and the manager, and commits the crime to get rid of him for good. So although Cain does use verging-on-racist descriptives of the woman’s dress in the story, ultimately she emerges as the courageous heroine.

My favorite place to order Cain books is Barnes and Noble online, under the Used and Out of Print section. The prices are a fraction of what you pay new.

“Serenade” was also made into a movie in 1956, starring Mario Lanza, Joan Fontaine and Vincent Price.

Kathryn Magendie is a writer, editor, and co-managing editor of The Rose & Thorn Literary Ezine.

By Howie Good
Achilles Chapbook Series 2008

I was stunned by Howie Good’s collection of poetry entitled “Tomorrowland.” From the first poem Lullaby for the Nameless in which he lulls the reader into a feeling of nostalgic safety with an evening of children, grandfathers, and shop windows; only to lead them to the unexpected image of a firing squad listening to a ballgame on the radio. And thus opens Good’s poems that will keep readers off-balance, between the ugly and the beautiful, the good and bad, the dark and the light. He will take you to a quiet neighborhood and then guide you to its alley’s dark pathway where something horrid happened, where that alley remains as both reminder and testament to the heart of people and events.

In a contradictory Parable of Sunlight, on that “rare sunny day,” Good will point to you the “bodies in early states of decay [that] hang like gray rags from the trees,” and he will “wonder why and whether tomorrow is supposed to be just as nice as today.”

In paradoxical language and images, where one will feel as if between wake and restless sleep, Good is not afraid to slice open a scab and let ooze what lies beneath. How can one remain unscathed by language such as in Sleep Rituals, “…heating coils glow like the ribs of a starving dog, God rolls dice that have no spots, a mare with a burning mane screams in terror…”

There is a strangeling absurdity among the disheveled characters who walk that neighborhood with that strange alley—like the ticket taker who asks for identification and the poem’s narrator asks, “My dark laughter? The socket of my missing tooth?” I read Good’s poems more than once, more than twice, and then flipped through the book, looking for snippets for readers, but there are so many words into images that startle into intakes of breath that the entire book of poetry would be told if every “gem” were placed here in this review.

Reading Good’s collection will leave the reader, as I was, astonished, and at once both troubled and enriched. One may think from this review that Good’s poems are “depressing,” but the language is too beautiful to carry that term, for the use of image and character, plot and scenery—the stories Good tells—all make “Tomorrowland” a gorgeously startling read.

Howie Good is a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and is the author of six poetry chapbooks.

More forgotten books

Eric Peterson
James Reasoner
Bill Crider
George Kelley
Todd Mason
Kerrie Smith
Scott Parker
Cullen Gallagher
Paul Bishop
Martin Edwards
Juri Nummelin

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Jill Scott reading.

I wrote two days ago that I thought a story of mine was very much influenced by A PRAYER FOR THE DYING. I read once that O'Nan's book had borrowed the phenomenon (although certainly not the writing or actual plot) from WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP.

If you've never read WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP or seen the doc, I highly recommend both. The book and film use the negatives of the town photographer and the newspaper articles of the local reporter.

If you want to read a horror story beyond anything written by King or Koontz, give this a try.

I've spoken of it before because I used it in my last WIP. (Can it be a WIP if it's your last one?)

Anyway, if you want to get an idea of what the plague in O'Nan's book was like, its impact on rural Wisconsin, take a look. Your local university library will probably have it. Published in 1972 by Michael Lesy although reprinted in 2000 or so.

**My book group discussed PRAYER last night. They admired much about it but on the whole found it too bleak. I found it more enigmatic than on my last reding a decade ago. What book was too bleak for you, if any?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Four Play

In response to J. Kingston Pierce's tap on The Rap Sheet. I have no picture to match his great one.

Four Movies You Can See Over and Over

The Graduate
Bringing Up Baby
Double Indemnity

Four Places You Have Lived

Philadelphia (born)
Manchester, England (1994-95)
Amsterdam (1997)
Detroit, now and forever

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch

The Wire
Mad Men
The Office

Four Places You Have Been on a Vacation

Ocean City, NJ

Four of Your Favorite Foods

A Philly Cheesesteak

Four Websites You Visit Daily

The Rap Sheet
Monkey Cage
Rotten Tomatoes

Four Places You Would Rather Be

Seeing a play in the West End
Seeing Madame Butterfly in Venice
Walking along a canal in Amsterdam
Island Hopping in Greece

Four Things You Hope to Do Before You Die

Publish a novel
Drive a car
Conquer insomnia
Get to somewhere south of Mexico

Four Novels You Wish You Were Reading for the First Time

Catcher in the Rye, Salinger
The Postman Always Rings Twice, Cain
The World According to Garp, Irving
Die a Little, Abbott

Tag Four People You Believe Will Respond. (But the rest of you, join in too).

Bill Crider
James Reasoner
George Kelley
David Cranmer


Hope you'll come out to see Megan and Theresa if they're in your 'hood.

Bury Me Deep tour
New York City
Mysterious Bookshop
Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Time: 6:30PM
Location: 58 Warren Street, Tribeca
Contact: (212) 587-1011
Oxford, MS
Square Books
Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Time: 5:30PM
Location: 160 Courthouse Square
Contact: (662) 236-2262 or 800-648-4001

Borders Bookstore (Birmingham)
Date: Thursday, July 9, 2009
Time: 7PM
Location: 34300 Woodward, Birmingham
Contact: (248) 203-0005
BookPeople with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Time: 6:30PM
Location: 603 N. Lamar, Austin, TX
Contact: (512) 472-5050; 800 853-9757
Murder by the Book with Theresa Schwegel
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
2342 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX
(713) 524-8597
Poisoned Pen with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Thursday, July 16, 2009
Time: 7PM
Location: 4014 N Goldwater Blvd, Suite 101, Scottsdale, AZ
Contact: (480) 947-2974/1(888)560-9919
Los Angeles
Book Soup with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Friday, July 17, 2009
Location: 8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA
Contact: (800) 764-BOOK
Mysteries to Die For with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Saturday, July 18, 2009
Time: 11AM
Location: Thousand Oaks, CA
Contact: (805) 374-0084
Mystery Bookstore with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Saturday, July 18, 2009
Time: 2:30PM
Location:1036-C Broxton Ave, Westwood

Contact: (310) 209-0415
Book Carnival with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Sunday, July 19, 2009
Time: 1PM
348 S. Tustin Avenue Orange, CA
Contact: (714) 538-3210
Sisters in Crime-Orange County
Date: Sunday, July 19, 2009
Time: 3PM
Location: Irvine Ranch Water District
15600 Sand Canyon Ave, Irvine
Northern California
M is for Mystery with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Monday, July 20, 2009
Time: 7PM
Location: San Mateo, CA
Contact: (650) 410-8077
Harrogate, UK
Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival
Special Guests Lee Child, George Pelecanos, John Banville, Reginald Hill
Date: Thursday, July 23 to Sunday, July 26, 2009
Location: Crown Hotel, Harrogate
Panel: X-Rated: Sex, Drugs & Ultra Violence, with authors Caro Ramsay, Zoë Sharp,
Denise Mina, Stuart MacBride (moderator)
Date: Saturday, October 3, 2009
Location: The Banshee (2nd floor)
320 Penn Ave
Scranton, PA
Time: 12PM
Panel: Women Noir Novelists, with Denise Hamilton and Maggie Estep

Bury Me Deep (2009)

"In this novel based on the true-life case of the 'Trunk Murderess,' Abbott turns the stuff of sensational confession magazines into a rich meditation on the unclouded depths of the soul."

—Carl Rosen, New York Magazine (included in the list of "What to Read This Summer")

"Working once more (as in The Song is You, 2007) from a true crime, the infamous Brighton Trunk Murders of 1934, Edgar-winner Abbott brings the era to life, inhabiting the 'bright-eyed and twitchy-tailed' party girls in all their enthusiasm and desperation. Her nearly stream-of-consciousness narration is direct and powerful, straight from Marion’s addled and passionate brain. As such, it is full of repeated phrases: 'It was like a saber lain before. It was a saber, a gauntlet, somehow.' But for all the classic-noir simplicity, such as the use of repetition rather than elaboration for emphasis, her prose carries an urgency that brings hard-boiled crime fiction kicking and screaming into the modern age. Abbott takes readers on a wild thrill ride with an utterly believable and strangely sympathetic heroine."

—Starred Kirkus Review

"Abbott is a retro original, and her reimagining of the true story of Winnie Ruth Judd, the Trunk Murderess, is a frothy mix of character, plot, and period detail. As good-girl Marion finds what she is really capable of, her psychological portrait is as carefully imagined as the nightmarish world that lurks beneath the community’s caring façade. . . . [I]f you like time-traveling crime fiction, you’ll want to bury yourself in Bury Me Deep."

—Keir Graff, Booklist

"Edgar-winner Abbott explores gender inequality and its sometimes tragic results in her well-crafted fourth crime novel, inspired by the true story of Winnie Ruth Judd (aka the Trunk Murderess)."

Publisher's Weekly

Monday, June 08, 2009

Forgotten Books, Special Edition: A PRAYER FOR THE DYING

Originally published in 1999, Picador Books is using Stewart O'Nan's book, A PRAYER FOR THE DYING's 10th anniversary to release a paperback edition as the summer 2009 selection for "The Best Book You Never Read." I am always pushing O'Nan and my bookgroup will be discussing it tomorrow night.

If you only read one book by Stewart O'Nan, make it this one.

A few years after the Civil War, a soldier returns and takes up duties as both constable and undertaker in a small town that is soon beset by disease. The writing is so lovely and the anguish so real you won't be able to forget it. It's the kind of book, you will soon pick up at used book sales to pass on to a friend.

Don't let the unusual second person voice put you off. You will quickly get used to it and see it as a strength by the end. We all share in the narrator's horror. The "you" is entirely correct in this tale. Here's a brief interview with O'Nan at the time of its first publication.


It became very clear to me after reading this book after ten years that it had a significant impact on a story I wrote last year for Spinetingler where a mother wrestles with a dying baby while her husband is gone in the 1800s. Have you ever read a piece and discovered you probably inadvertently used themes or ideas?