Recent Read: Early Autumn

EarlyRobert B. Parker was at the to of his game in his early books.  Early Autumn was the 7th in the Spenser series and remains one of his best.

Spenser is hired by the mother of  15 year Paul Giacomin to find her son who has been kidnapped by the father. More out of spite than love. In truth, neither parent wants the teen. The boy seems disinterested in life; he does nothing except look at TV. When asked a question he shrugs. With uncaring parents, Spenser determines that if the boy is to survive in life, he needs to become autonomous: independent, learn how to do things for himself.

Spenser takes the young teen up into the woods of Maine, staying at a cabin owned by Susan Silverman, Spenser’s lady. Here Spenser teaches Paul structure, and how to work with his hands. Spenser tells him he needs to finish what he starts and learn what he is good at doing. It doesn’t matter what you do; you just have to have something in your life that is you.

Spenser meanwhile digs up dirt on the parents. The father is involved with mob figures; the mother sleeps around with men and now has a boyfriend who’d doesn’t want the kid around.

This not the typical Spenser crime novel, though Hawk makes an appearance and when Hawks around people die. And there is plenty of the smart-aleck remarks you expect from our hero. Still, the story is more about Spenser mentoring the teen boy; teaching him to be self-sufficient, learn to live on his own and wanting something for himself in life. As usual, there are vivid descriptions of New England.

Recent Read: The Hangman’s Sonnet

Hangmans-SonnetRobert B Parker’s Jesse Stone is one of my favorite characters. Jesse was once a promising shortstop until he suffered a career-ending injury. After that, Jesse became a police officer with the L.A. Police. He developed a drinking problem (Johnny Walker Black) after his wife Jan left him. It cost him his job. He eventually got the position of Chief of Police in the small fictional Massachusetts town of Paradise; mainly because the town’s political honchos knowing his damaged history thought they could control him. They didn’t know Jesse.

The Hangman’s Sonnet, Reed Farrel Coleman’s fourth book in the series,  picks up not too long after where Debt to Pay finishes with the death of Jesse’s fiance Diana. With Diana death, his drinking, always a problem, has unraveled forcing one on one interventions from co-workers and friends to help Jesse keep his job. Meanwhile, the management team of Terry Jester, one time called Boston’s Bob Dylan, has approached Jesse about a big industry party to be held in Paradise to publicize the release of Terry’s first album in decades. The recordings mysteriously disappeared before its release as Jester himself did a J.D. Salinger at the same time, and has not been heard from or seen since. The few who heard the album years ago say it is a masterpiece and would place Jester in the top ranks of artists.

Meanwhile, two thugs, King and Hump, recently released from prison, break into the home of a wealthy old lady. They have been hired by a third person, to retrieve some important items, they themselves are not even sure what they are looking for which makes the job difficult. The thugs tear up the house as they search. Unfortunately, during the home invasion the elderly woman, tied up and gagged, dies. No one was supposed to die.

Jesse is working the case, trying to hold on to his job, and his drinking problem all at the same time. He eventually comes to the conclusion that somehow the missing Jester tapes and the break-in resulting in the old woman’s death are connected. If he’s wrong, his job could be once again in jeopardy.

 The Hangman’s Sonnet is a fast-paced read, though there may be a little too much time spent on Jesse’s drinking which is full tilt boogie. Coleman though is a good storyteller and he captures Parker’s rhythm and nuances perfectly.

 

Recent Read: The Deep Blue Good-by

The DeepThe master of Florida noir, John D. MacDonald was admired by writers like Stephen King, Lee Child and Dean Koontz among many others. MacDonald’s most famous character was Florida’s dark-knight Travis McGee.  In his first adventure, there were 21 books in the series, McGee willingly helps out, he called himself a “salvage consultant,” a young woman recover illegal funds her father stole and smuggled back home during the war.  His fee is fifty percent of what he recovers.

Travis’ methods of getting information are not always, I guess you can say legal. In this book, he strips one drunk guy, ties him up in a shower, hits him with cold water to sober him up, and then with hot scorching water to get him to talk. That said, McGee can be introspective, philosophical, sometimes cynical, and does have his moments of charm with women. Florida isn’t all fun in the sun.

 

Short Story Fiction with a Twist

Dive into the dark side with some short story fiction. A cunning mix of tales filled with love, revenge, lust and murder. (see reviews below)

Devious Tales is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble as an e-book  and  as a paperback, and from Kobo  as an e-book.

Murder with a Twist is available as an e-book at Amazon.

Murder with a Twist Book Cover Final-001

Reviews

“John Greco’s stories delve into the dark side of human nature. What makes his stories particularly striking is that his characters (devious, at times creepy and horrendous) are also quite ordinary people who remind us that we too have a lot in common with them.” – Carol Balawyder author of Getting Mr. Right

“With a decidedly noir streak and some very surprising endings, this book of dark tales will intrigue and fascinate fans of mysteries.” – Jacqueline T. Lynch author of Ann Blyth Actress, Singer, Star and Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain 

“With finely drawn characters who leap from the page as living, breathing people you might see in your neighbourhood? Do you like getting inside the heads of these characters? Does the one-two punch of an unexpected twist, or even an expected twist, make you set aside a book with a satisfied smile? Okay. You are looking for John Greco’s Devious Tales.” Patricia Nolan-Hall – Blogger at Caftan Woman

Recent Read: Sunburn

Sunburn

Laura Lippman’s latest novel, Sunburn, sizzles evoking the long-ago classic noirish, pulp fiction of writers like James M. Cain, David Goodis, and other genre masters. It’s a world filled with deadly, duplicitous dames and the guys who fall foolishly hard for them.

Polly Costello, at least that’s her most recent name, arrives in the sleepy town of Belleville, Maryland. It’s a nothing town where zero happens; a seemingly perfect place to hide out for a while. Polly’s dangerously sexy and cold-blooded. Still, she may have been hurt more by those in her life than the pain she has inflicted on others.

Polly had a good childhood, but at seventeen years old she became pregnant by a guy in his early twenties. Her life spiraled downhill from there. They married, he became a crooked police officer in Baltimore. He also began drinking too much and beating her when she didn’t listen to him. After one too many beatings and a threat to kill her and their child, who has cerebral palsy, one night in bed while her husband was sleeping she stabbed him right through the heart.

The battered wife defense didn’t work in court and Polly spent a few years in jail, but received a pardon, along with a few other women, from the Governor. She soon found herself pregnant and married again to another jerk. Fed up with her bad luck, one day Polly decides to escape from her life. It helped that with the aid of a crooked insurance agent; she sued the hospital her first daughter was born at and won a two million dollar settlement. Her husband knows nothing about the money, and she will have to keep it that way until he is out of the way…divorce.

With the settlement money tied up, Polly’s working at a local dive in Belleville as a waitress. One day, in walks Adam Bosk. He claims he is a salesman, and his truck broke down. He has to wait for a part will be sticking around for a time.   He’s good-looking, in a Ken doll sort of way, and she’s just plain hot. Neither plan on getting involved with the other or falling in love, but things happen even though no one seems to be who they are.

With a pissed off husband, and a crooked insurance man after her, plus a lot of sexual heat between Adam and our anti-heroine, the question becomes will it work out for Polly and will our lovers live happily ever after…or not. Sunburn has the definite feel and mood of a modern day version of The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Lippman builds it all up devising an ending that will not disappoint the reader.

Recent Read: The Woman in the Window

WomanWith its nod to cinema’s master of suspense, A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window is a thrill filled ride of twists and turns that do not let up until the final pages.

Anna Fox is an agoraphobic mess who has not left her home for almost a year. She spends most of her time watching film noirs like Gaslight, and plenty of Hitchcock: Spellbound, Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, and Vertigo, drinking lots of Merlot, mixed with too many meds. She also likes to “look in” on her neighbors via a 35mm camera through the window of her expensive home in uptown Manhattan. Her only companion is her cat.

Anna’s husband has left her and taken their daughter with him. She misses them, but they do talk a lot by phone. She’s a child psychiatrist. However these days her only patients are with online chats. Of the neighbors, she spies on the Russell’s, Alistair, Jane, and teenage son Ethan are the most intriguing. They are a troubled family, and it is with them that the author’s tale begins its glorious spin.

Revealing more would only expose the many layers of twists that Finn has in store for his readers. He excels at establishing false impressions and misdirection throughout, though there are one or two minor clunks that can be guessed at or are a bit of a stretch to be believable. Still, this book will grab your interest from the beginning and will most likely keep you up late at night.

Robert B Parker, Spenser and Jesse Stone

Parker imageBetween 2005 and 2015, nine direct for TV movies were made based on Robert B. Parker’s Jessie Stone novels. Recently, I have been re-watching many of them, seven so far to be exact. Parker was one of my favorite authors. He passed away in 2010.

Parker SpenserRobert B. Parker was best known for his Spenser novels. Spenser, a Boston based, ex-boxer, poetry reading, gourmet cook, wise-ass talking, sensitive guy and tough in a fight as they come P.I.  A fictional decedent of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Hammett’s Sam Spade. Predictably, a TV series, Spenser for Hire followed starring a very dull Robert Urich. However, the problem was not just Urich; it was the scripts. Though the show has its admirers, on TV, Spenser lost a lot. He became just another vanilla filled version of every other TV detective seen before and after. Four made for TV films followed starring Joe Mantegna as our hero. They were an improvement on the series, though no one was going believe Mantegna was an ex-boxer.

Night PAIn 1997, Parker published his first Jesse Stone novel (Night Passage). Stone, an ex-L.A. detective, fired because of a drinking problem which began after his divorce from his wife, Jen. Jesse is hired as police chief of the fictional Massachusetts town of Paradise. The town council appointed him because they believed since he is damaged goods, they will be able to control him. Little did they know.

Night passThe first film (Night Passage) came out, as mentioned earlier, in 2005. Jesse is played by, with sharp assurance, by Tom Selleck. Jesse is damaged goods. He’s alcoholic, Johnny Walker Red his choice of drink. Moody, unwavering, iconoclastic and good at what he does.  Throughout the books, and the films, Jesse is a man coming to terms with himself. Though his divorce haunts him, he does go out with other women but admits to all them he is not a good candidate for a permanent relationship.

The first five films are based on Parker’s novels. The last four were originals stories written by Michael Brandman and Tom Selleck. The movies are consistently good without being great, nor ever slipping into the disappointing category. Visually, they nicely capture the atmosphere of small New England towns, though all of them were shot in Nova Scotia and the surrounding area.

After Robert B. Parker passed away, the Parker estate decided not to let Parker’s fictional anti-heroes die with him. They handed them over to other authors. Ace Atkins has been writing the Spenser series (six, so far with another coming out in May this year), except for one book (Silent Night) that Parker had begun, but did not finish before his death. The book was completed by Helen Brann, Parker’s literary agent, and close friend. Author Michael Brandman continued the Jesse Stone series. He was co-writer on most of the Jesse Stone screenplays, whether adapted from a novel or original. Brandman wrote the first three post-Parker Jesse Stone novels. Beginning with the publication of Blind Spot, Reed Farrel Coleman picked up the series. His fourth book in the series, Colorblind, with be published in September.

Short Story: Holcomb Bridge

Holcomb Bridge is a short story from my book, Devious Tales. If you like it and want more tales with a twist, you can purchase the complete book at Amazon (ebook and paperback), Barnes & Noble (ebook and paperback), and Kobo (ebook).  The paperback contains two additional stories.

Holcomb Bridge was the sort of small bridge you find in many small towns. This particular one though had little traffic during the day and was even quieter at night. That is except for Friday and Saturday nights when local teens came out here way after dark looking for a deserted area where they could park and neck. As a cop, I knew all this pretty well. I was also a teenager once myself, and having grown up here, I had fond memories of kissing Caroline McKay, Janie Newton, and a few other girls right on that bridge. Not at the same time of course!

      It’s a romantic spot. Especially if you got lucky and the moon was full, shining bright and reflecting off the river below. These days, this area of town was part of my regular patrol, and those nights of my teenage lust long gone except for the memories. I am married now to a great woman. Her name is Barbara. We have two terrific sons, Michael and Anthony. Still, whenever I drive by this bridge which is every night I am on duty, it brings back fond recollections of those late nights and early mornings. Today, as a police officer, I always left the kids alone.

     Unlike Ray Morton.

     Ray Morton was the police officer who patrolled this area back in those days when it was me and Caroline and Janie necking in the shadows of the bridge along with other kids. Soon as he spotted us, Morton jumped out of his car. He would shine a bright flashlight right at us and chase us all off threatening to tell our folks. Like we cared!

     Me on the other hand, I just drive by, take a quick gaze at the surroundings making sure nothing looks out of the ordinary and let the kids be. Necking and maybe smoking a bit of weed was not the worst thing you could do.

     This particular night though was a Wednesday. It was well past midnight, and the person on the bridge was not a teenager, and he was there all by himself. His car was parked right in the middle of the bridge. I pulled over stopping my car about twenty feet from him. I shut the headlights off and sat there looking at him for a bit getting the impression he didn’t even know I was there. He hadn’t moved. He was just staring down at the water. I quietly got out of my car and slowly walked over toward him until I was a couple of feet away. He still did not move or acknowledge my presence. I leaned over the railing and stared out into the darkness.

     “Nice night, a bit cool maybe,” I said.

     “I’ve seen better.”

     “How long you been here?”

     “I don’t know. An hour or so, maybe. Makes no difference.”

     “You know, I bet that water is still cold after our snowy winter.”

     He turned and looked at me for the first time, just for a moment. He nodded, “yeah, it probably is.” He then turned back to staring out into the dark nothingness.

     He pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Put one in his mouth and then offered me one.

     I shook my head. “Gave them up a while back.”

     “I thought of doing that too, but lately it just doesn’t seem to matter.”

     He lit up, took a long drag and blew out a mouth full of smoke.

     “You know, life gives you a lot of twists and turns,” he said. “One moment it makes you think everything is finally going to ease up and go well. You could settle down, be happy, and then…then you suddenly, unexpectedly get a big knife right in your gut ripping you apart.”

     “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”

     He took the cigarette out of his mouth and held it in right hand.

     “My wife died.”

     “I’m sorry.”

     “That’s what everyone says. They all say how sorry they are, friends, relatives, co-workers. They all offer help, food, comfort, companionship. Everything except for one thing.”

     “What is that?” I asked even though I knew the answer.

     “How do I get my wife back? She was everything to me, and now she’s gone. I’m alone.”

     “Do you have kids?”

     “No. Stella couldn’t have children, and that was okay with me. We had each other and always would, forever. At least, that’s what I thought. Forever ended sooner than expected.”

     With that, he flicked the half-smoked cigarette into the river below. We were silent for a few minutes.

     “You married?” he asked.

     I nodded in the affirmative, “we have two boys,” I said.

     “That’s nice. Like I said, Stella couldn’t have kids.  I knew when we got married that she couldn’t have them. She had a hysterectomy when she was nineteen believe or not. Cancer. But they got it all, and here we were twelve years later, and she was doing great. We were happy.”

     “What happened?”

     “The cancer didn’t come back if that’s what you’re thinking. It was a car accident. Some teenage kid. A seventeen-year-old asshole texting on her phone swerved, not paying attention to the road, slammed head on right into her. The doctors said she most likely died instantaneously. I guess that’s something to be grateful for huh?”

     He pulled out another cigarette and lit it up. “Maybe, it was cancer that killed Stella. The stupid human kind. You know what I mean?”

     “Unfortunately, I do. Kids, texting and driving. It’s not just kids,” I said. “Not to sound like an advertisement or something, but it’s an epidemic.”

     “Stupidity never dies.”

     “I’ll take one if you don’t mind.”

     “Thought you said you quit?”

     “Generally speaking…” I smiled.

     He smiled back and offered me the pack. I took one and lit up. We both stood there silent for a while again.  This time it was longer though I can’t say how long, but we finished that pack of cigarettes, I know that.

     The wind was beginning to pick up a little. It felt good.

     “I hated that kid,” he said suddenly. “Lord knows I did. Marcy Stevens, that’s her name. I know you’re a cop, but I’ll tell you anyway. I wanted to kill her. I wanted her not just to die, but to suffer before she died, actually suffer like I have been suffering now.”

     “Did you? I asked.

     “Did I what?”

     “Kill her.”

     He looked at me incredulously. “No, of course not. I had a lot of rage for a long time, and I thought up a lot of bad things. A lot of different ways to make her suffer. Run her down like she did Stella. Then run over her again and again, going back and forth. Then I thought of shooting her or stabbing her. But I…I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do any of that. Stella wouldn’t have wanted me to. She would have wanted me to forgive that kid. That’s the kind of sweet soul she was.”

     “Sounds like she was a wonderful person.”

     “Oh she was, she was.”

     “Have you been seeing anybody? Professionally I mean, a doctor.”

     “I did for a while, but I stopped going. I began drinking for a while, but I kept getting sick to my stomach. Never been able to tolerate booze well. I gave up on that too. That’s when I started coming out here to think. Thinking about a lot of things but mostly about,” he stops for a moment, “well, you can guess.”

     “Yeah, probably,” I said. “You should go back to the doctor.”

     “Yeah, but I have been coming out here for a while now. True, the first few times I came out here, I always had plans to…well, take the dive. End it all. But, somehow, I never did. Then I began coming out here as some sort of therapeutic thing. I’d talk to Stella, and for a while that was good. And she told me it was okay and I should go on with my life. Am I crazy, talking to a dead person?”

     “Lots of people do when they miss someone,” I said.

     “Well, believe it or not, it helped. I stopped coming here, and I thought I was over it all. You know, I figured I reached a point, with Stella’s blessings, where I could move on with my life. It was all okay for a time. A couple of months went by, and it was good. I even thought of dating. Then came one night when suddenly inside my head I felt all those old emotions and feelings come rushing back. The next night and the next were the same. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to come out here. It all came back. I wanted to jump again. I wanted it all to end. Then you appeared, and we talked. I’m okay now, at least for tonight.”

     “Well, I’m glad for that,” I said and truly was.

     “I guess it’s like being an alcoholic. You have to take it one day at a time.”

     “I guess, but I still think a doctor could help you along the way.”

     “You’re probably right. I should go back. Maybe next time you won’t be here to talk me down.”

     He looked at me.

     “I want to thank you,” he said. “You know, I just realized I don’t know your name.”

     “Moretti, Bob Moretti,” I said. “If you ever want to talk or need me, here is my cellphone number.” I took a card out and jotted down my personal number.

     “Mine’s Fred Smith.”

     We shook hands.

     By now, a couple of hours had passed, and the sun was beginning to rise slowly.

     “Wow, we’ve been here almost all night,” Fred said.

     “Time goes by when you’re having fun…” I said, trying to keep it light. “Like I said, Fred. Anytime. Just call me, and we can talk. I don’t want to come here again some night and find you down at the bottom of that river.”

     “I appreciate all this. Thanks, Officer Moretti.”

     “Bob,” I said.

     “Bob.”

     We shook hands again, and I walked over and got into my cruiser. I backed up to the end of the bridge and sat there for a moment watching as Fred got into his car. He was heading in the opposite direction from me.  His car started up. Suddenly, there was the screech of his tires. Bob’s car burned rubber as he drove right through the railings and off the bridge plunging into the cold river below.

     I waited for the rescue team to arrive. It took them a half hour to get here. By then the sun was almost up, and it was no longer a rescue operation. There’s no way Fred could have survived that frigid water, even if he survived the car’s dive into the river. Now, this was a recovery operation.

     They dragged the car out of the river. As expected, Fred was dead. Still strapped in with his seat belt which I found ironic since he planned on killing himself. Habit maybe?

     Also dead was the teenage girl, Marcy Stevens. She was tied up in the trunk of the car. Her cellphone was stuffed into her mouth and held there with tape.

 

 

 

Banned and Blacklisted – New E-book

I am a contributor, along with nine other authors, to the just published ebook, Banned and Blacklisted: Too Hot for Hollywood now available at Amazon for only .99 cents. Proceeds from the sale of this book go to the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Banned and Blacklisted

Favorite Books Read in 2017

As usual, my reading in 2017 was dominated by novels in the crime/detective/mystery genre. Author wise, it was particularly abundant with the works of Michael Connelly. In total, I  read nine of his books during the year, and still have some catching up to do.

Below is a list of my eleven favorite books read during 2017. They are in no particular order.29154543

 

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