Recent Read: Colorblind

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Colorblind is Reed Farrel Coleman’s fifth book since taking over Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series. It’s his best. Coleman has taken Stone, and while preserving Parker’s essence, made him his own. It’s a winning combination.

After a few months in rehab, Jesse  gets a second chance as police chief in the small Massachusetts town of Paradise. He is still struggling, both emotionally and mentally, to recover from the death of his murdered love, Diana.

When Jesse first became police chief of Paradise, years ago, it was a small town with not much happening. A far cry from his days with the L.A. Police. But like so much of America, Paradise has grown and changed. Barely able to settle back in to his job, there‘s a rape and death of  a young African-American, Felicity Wileford, who was jogging alone on the beach.  A few nights later, a burning cross is planted on the property of Dr. Ron Patel and his wife. The home was previously owned by Jesse. What the incidents have in common is Felicity was in a relationship with a white man and Dr. Patel, an Indian, has a wife who is white. Not long after these incidents, flyers are found on many parked cars placed there during the night. They are credited to an extremist right-wing group called  “The Saviors of Society.” A few nights later, the group targets Jesse’s deputy, Alisha, the first black woman ever hired as a police officer in Paradise, framing her for a bad shooting.

In this book, Coleman brings to the forefront a series of timely issues turning this story into a much darker version than earlier books in the series. Like the rest of America, Paradise is dealing with issues that have divided us. Don’t let that discourage you, just think about it the same way as if you’re watching a movie franchise and different artists have taken over from the originals. It’s different, but the same.

My Book Covers, My Photography

Book Covers1001I have been designing my own book covers, for better or worse, except for my first ebook of fiction (Murder with a Twist), and have been using my own photographs for the covers. Professionals say this is a potential road to disaster. I assume that may be true, but as a  photographer with a backlog of thousands of photographs available, it seemed to me I should be able to find suitable cover photos if I gave it the thought and time.  That said, in this post I thought I’d share some of the creative process involved in selecting the right photograph or photographs that work with each book’s subject matter.

Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames Per Second

My first ebook, Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames Per Second, consist of a collection of film articles from my film blog Twenty Four Frames. When I first became interested in photography, back in the 1970’s, I lived in New York City and many weekends were spent roaming the streets photographing. I sometimes merged my love of movies and photography by photographing the movie theaters that were all over the city. This was before the bland, box cutter multiplexes we have today.  Over the years, whenever I traveled I continued to photograph  classic  movie theaters that have managed to survive the onslaught of multiplexes.  One of these survivors is the Tampa Theater.

My wife and I moved to Florida some twenty years ago and we have attended many film showings at the Tampa Theater (built in 1923). I had photographed the exterior on a few occasions, but wanted to photograph inside the theater. One afternoon, with camera in hand and between film showings I took a series of shots including the one that graces the cover of Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames (I did ask for permission to shoot). The original photograph was in color but keeping in line with the book’s dark theme of film noir, I changed it to black and white giving it a darker look in line with the subject matter.  Below are both the original photo and as it appears on the book cover.

                    Tampa Theate-Aud - Book Cover    Book Cover_DSC_0583-005

 

Lessons in the Dark

Skipping over my first work of fiction (Murder with a Twist), Lessons in the Dark was the second book where I used my own photographs. The cover is a collage of multiple photographs of various New York movies theaters now all sadly gone except for the Paris theater on 58th street. Most were shot on black and white film which I did a lot of at the time.   Lessons in the Dark is collection of article  on films  that hold up a mirror to both our past, and our lives today. These are films though made thirty, forty or fifty years ago remain relevant to our world today. Life and art repeat themselves. The fear mongering, the racial hatred we hear today from plastic gods promising greatness  for America feeding the hate. I knew that I wanted to use a movie theater photograph and began searching through my files. I came to the decision the one theater would be too bland but realizing I have many  photographs of movie theaters and a book that looks back in time I felt a collage might work. I began arranging and rearranging my various theater photographs. There were multiple versions until I came up with the final cover. Below are a few of the original photographs used followed by the final book cover.

        Baronet & Coronet Theatres_CR1-001 Book Cover   Loew's S-002 book cover

42nd Street-003 book Cover    Loew's Oriental -1971 Book Cover

 

Lessons Dark Final Book Cover

Devious Tales

Devious Tales needed something dark and maybe a bit mysterious considering the subject matter. The original photo was taken in 2016 along Santa Fe’s Canyon Road, known for being a street filled with art gallery after art gallery, many artist owned and run. The photograph was taken outside the entrance way of  one of those gallery’s. The image was all shadows reflecting off the gallery’s adobe building. The photo came across to me as somewhat dark and shadowy. Below is the original photo, a black and white version followed by both the final ebook cover and paperback cover.

        Wall Shadow_DSC655_CW-6555          Wall Shadow_DSC655_CW_B&W-6555

 

                     Devious Tales Book Cover - Final (1 of 1)-001           Devious Tales Paperback Cover

In a future post, I will take a look at the making of the book cover for Bitter Ends, my upcoming collection of short stories.

Recent Read: Fear: Trump in the White House

FFBE3047-F521-43C5-8658-F29B7D1C1668Whether or not Donald Trump supporters like it, Bob Woodward is a well-respected investigative reporter, the author of 18 books, and has won two Pulitzer Prizes. His deals in fact and they have never been in dispute. Subsequently, his new book cannot be easily ignored. Fear: Trump in the White House tells the story of a president, who starts many of his days at 11AM, feasts on hot dogs and diet coke and more importantly lacks even a teenager’s view of world events.

 Woodward does not take sides, he is an even handed observer, listening and reporting. He expresses no personal opinion on Trump or others.  He just flat out reports. These days when there is so many one sided attacks by the news media Woodward’s style is refreshing.

For Trump everything boils down to money. He  questions over and over why are we spending billions of dollars on military resources in South Korea and we get nothing in return. When his team attempts to explain the military, and financial, advantages, he still doesn’t get it. Finally, Defense Secretary James Mattis blurts out we are preventing World War III!

What makes Fear most enticing and believable is it is based not just on the recollections of a variety of eyewitnesses but is supported by transcripts of conversations and exact dates

Less reliable books like Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff who relied mostly on Steve Bannon as his main source, and Unhinged by former White House aide and fired Apprentice star Omarosa Manigault Newman, both of whom had axes to grind  and present views that are most likely slanted. Woodward’s book is straightforward and provides a complex and frightening take at the inside workings of the Trump White House.

Fear: Trump in the White House is a riveting, page turning look at an ill-equipped, unpredictable, childish, cruel, compulsive liar with a short attention span who has no respect for anyone including his generals, staff and himself.

Recent Read: Baltimore Blues

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Baltimore Blues is the  first in author Laura Lippmann’s Tess Monaghan series. Tess is an out of work journalist after her newspaper shut its doors. Unemployed and skimping by on money, she accepts an offer from her good rowing buddy Rock to tail his fiancé Ava, a lawyer, who has been acting strangely. It turns dark when Rock is accused of murdering shady legal beagle Michael Aromowitz, who  Tess recently uncovered as Ava’s lover. They have been spending some special lunch time at a local hotel. Tess now finds herself trying to prove Rock’s innocent without getting herself caught in the crosshairs and getting killed herself.

Tess Monaghan is a great character  and Lippman surrounds her with a great cast of characters who are quirky and funny. From the get go you know that the city of Baltimore is as much a character in the book as the  people. Lippmann knows the city and you can feel its feel and taste throughout the book.

Baltimore Blues is a fine introduction to the series.

 

 

Fall Season 2018

fallThe unofficial end of summer and the beginning the fall season traditionally is the Labor Day Weekend.  Kids are back in school or soon will be, and the various arts begin to  release their upcoming films, music, and books. This all means it’s time again for my take on some of the books I most look forward to reading during these final months of the year. There are most likely some other releases that I am unaware of at this point that I would add to this list.  I hope so, I always like my ‘to read’ list to be high. Let’s hear what books you are looking forward to reading.

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The latest Jesse Stone novel from Reed Farrel Coleman who has done an amazing job in keeping the spirit and style, and adding just a bit o his own, of Robert B. Parker alive. Available in September.

Gate

From Hard Case Crime, a 1946 art heist from a Boston Museum turns into a twisty ride for the thieves, the police and some former college students. Coming in October.

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This sounds fascinating. A collection of short crime fiction inspired by the songs of the late Lou Reed. Available in early September.

Road

My thanks to Facebook friends, James Thane and Erin Mitchell for bringing this book, and author, to my attention.  The story is set against the assassination o JFK  which spiked my interest. Coming in October.

Lupica

Author/Sportswriter Mike Lupica bring’s Robert B. Parker’s P.I. Sunny Randall back. Parker introduced Randall back in 1999 with Family Honor. Five more books in the series followed before Parker passed away in 2010. Parker’s other long running series Spenser, Jesse Stone, and Virgil and Everett have all continued  with commissioned authors Ace Atkins, Reed Farrel Coleman and Robert Knott respectively carrying on the torch. Now Sunny is back.  On bookshelves this coming November.

Dark

Harry Bosch meets Renee Ballard in master Michael Connelly’s latest. Due October 30th.

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Crime ridden dark tales from the Sunshine State with John D. MacDonald, Lawrence Block, Tim Dorsey, Reed Farrel Coleman, Craig Pittman and others. Available in September.

Woods

My guilty pleasure of the season. Coming in October.

 

Doors

Another dig into the crime archives brings Oakley Hall’s  So Many Doors back into print after almost 60 years. Coming from Hard Case in November.

 

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From the man who brought you All the President’s Men now brings his sharp focus and reporting skills exposing the chaos of the first years of Trump’s White House. Due in September.

 

Small

Lisa Brennan-Jobs memoir of growing up the daughter of Steve Jobs and artist ChrisAnn Brennan.  Due early September.

Bitter Ends – New Collection of Short Stories

Bitter Ends, my new collection of short stories is coming soon. Looking forward to having it available either later this year or early next year. Below is a preview of the cover. More details to follow.

Bitter Ends2-003 Preview with Border

Recent Read: The Most Dangerous Thing

Laura1Considering that Laura Lippman’s most recent book (Sunburn) I will be ranking as  one of the best novels I read this year; it’s a modern day masterful noir, it made this most recent read by the author even more of a disappointment. The Most Dangerous Thing revolves around five childhood friends who have a dark secret. Like most friends from  school age days, they have gone on to adulthood and separate lives. With the recent death of one of the five, the remaining friends reluctantly find themselves reuniting. Long ago buried, dark secrets  resurface, unknown facts are exposed in a slow and lethargic fashion that make this book a perfect antidote for someone with insomnia. There are too many characters and too much character development that continuously slows the pace. Tess Monaghan, Lippman’s on going character makes a cameo appearance, but it does not help. I have read five of Lippman’s books, including Sunburn; all were terrific reads. I look forward to reading more of her work. The author is a fine writer, but this was a misfire.

Recent Read: The Chill in the Night

ChillThe young and beautiful lawyer Lainie Goff is on the fast track at her law firm until one night she disappears and  is soon discovered naked, frozen and dead in the trunk of her car at  Portland’s Fish Pier on a cold night in January. A witness, Abby Quinn, a young woman with a history of schizophrenia soon appears but just as quickly ends up missing.  Will she be found before the killer finds her? Did she really see the murder or was it a hallucination? Abby’s history of mental problems, she is known for hearing voices and seeing strange things, makes her an unreliable witness. Would a jury believe her testimony? Former NYC cop, now a Portland detective, Michael Savage is extremely determined, dedicated, and fighting his inner demons, along with his partner Maggie Savage are up against a slick and nasty killer. There are multiple suspects, all with good motives. First off there is Goff’s married boss/lover at the law firm. Did she threaten to out their affair to his wife after she was denied a partnership in the firm? There is  the ex-priest who now runs Sanctuary House, a home for abused kids, where Goff was a board member and volunteer. The organization is the sole beneficiary of Lainie’s will. Then there is the superintendent/handyman where Goff lived, a creepy dude with strange sex fixations including getting caught by McCabe sniffing Goff’s underwear.

The Chill of the Night is author James Hayman’s second novel in the McCabe and Savage series. It is my first book by the author. McCabe is nicely drawn.  We learn he has an artist girlfriend, an ex-wife, and a daughter he cares deeply about. His partner Maggie Savage comes across as more of a secondary character. I would like to learn more about her. Maybe, she will be more prominent and developed in later books in the series.

Set in Portland, Maine, The Chill of the Night is a suspenseful mystery/thriller and a entertaining read.

 

 

Recent Read: Mystery Inc.

OatesWhen I lived in New York City, there was a bookstore called the Gotham Book Mart.  The store had a long and famous history and was a favorite for many authors and other celebrities. Allen Ginsberg and LeRoi Jones worked there as clerks. Arthur Miller and Woody Allen were frequent visitors. Patti Smith’s book of poetry Witt was published by the Gotham Book Mart. That was in 1973 about the time I was making my own sojourns to the 47th Street location. At the time, I had no idea of the bookstore’s background and history, but the Gotham Book Mart was a book lovers’ ideal dream of what the perfect bookstore should be.

The Gotham kept coming to mind as I read Joyce Carol Oates eloquently written  short story, Mystery Inc. Bookstores like the Gotham Book Mart and the one described in Oates devious tale are a dying breed. Located in Seabrook, New Hampshire, Mystery Inc. is a charming, cozy, four leveled store with one level dedicated to rare signed first editions by Agatha Christie, S.S. Van Dine, John Dickson Carr and unsigned first editions of A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles.  There is much more, enough to make our narrator, Charles Brockden, salivate. The name is an alias and with good reason. You might say Mr. Brockden collects bookstores like others collect books. His method of acquisition is a deadly one for the owners. Brockden does not like to kill, but his desire to own the bookstores is more potent than his will see them in other less deserving hands. Unbeknownst to our narrator, he has never come  up against someone who likes to murder just for the sake of killing.

The owner, Aaron Neuhaus, is outgoing and enthusiastic and happy to engage with someone who loves books as much as he does. He invites our narrator to talk in his private office over a cup of cappuccino. Brockden likes the man and feels terrible that he  has to murder him. Still, he sees himself as the owner of the cozy store and even imagines himself marrying Neuhaus’ widow.

”Mystery Inc. was initially published as part of Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop’s  Bibliomystery series which has been ongoing for some years now with something like more than thirty titles in the series. It has since been published as part of a collection of short fiction by the author (The Doll-Maker and other Tales of Terror) and as a stand-alone.

Oates is a fabulous writer, and while you may be able to guess how it will turn out, this foreshadowing just makes it more chilling.