Recent Read: Hollywood vs the Author

HollywoodYou don’t have to be an author or a movie lover to find this collection of interviews/essays fascinating. It’s well known that writers in Hollywoodland are considered cesspool waste or at best necessary evils. This book is a sobering look at the life of writers who dare to go Hollywood. Among the authors included are Lee Goldberg, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Lawrence Block, Max Allan Collins, Alexandra Sokoloff, and T. Jefferson Parker.

After reading this interesting and entertaining collection my recommendation to any author who finds himself in the position where a Hollywood producer is offering you an advance on your book, it’s best to just take the money and run.  Let them do with it what they will. They will change it, adding characters, removing  characters, locations, motivations and everything else for reasons that may or may not make sense to you. Once you sign on the dotted line you have no control on what they do to your story and your characters. What they can’t change is your book. Your vision, your story remains the same between between the pages of the book. It will remain intact in bookstores everywhere. So unless your in the Stephen King stratosphere of authors either stay away or take the money and run.

Recent Read: Rough Country

FA04CBBB-5CE3-4539-9F39-B59FD8BE8966 Rough Country is John Sandford’S third novel in the Virgil Flowers series and my first book by the author. While on what began as a relaxing fishing trip in Northern Minnesota Virgil is contacted by his boss Lucas Davenport to check out a recent murder at a nearby resort exclusively for women, some of who are of the gay persuasion. The victim is Erica McDill, an executive from the Twin Cities. shot while kayaking. Virgil teams up with local police as the investigation leads to a series of suspects along with a few more murders.

Virgil is a complex character: a charmer, drinking beers with the locals and as the son of a preacher he at times quotes the bible. He loves the outdoors and has parlayed this interest into a sideline career as a writer for outdoor specialty magazines. As a lawman, he does not like guns, but will use them if necessary. He is cool dude with the ladies, though his love life is practically on hold here since most of the women are gay, and while they are not interested in a sexual romp with him they do remain charmed by this smooth talking but tough law man.

Rough Country is  solid read that will keep you entertained.

 

 

 

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Recent Read: A Time to Scatter Stones

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It’s great to have Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder back, even if it’s a short trip. The two charges leveled against the book by many Amazon and Goodreads reviewers are 1) the book is too short and 2) there is too much sex. In both cases, these are complaints not worth listening to. In the first case, the book is listed, blatantly advertised as a novella. Complaining that a novella is too short is redundant! As for item number two, the blind, the uninformed ant all those who miss the point will whine and complain, but for those who get it, will understand that Mr. Block has written a timely tale of what we read or hear about almost every day, the idea of sexual consent.

In this story, An aging Matt Scudder and his wife Elaine Martell get involved in helping  Ellen, a younger woman, Elaine met at her support group for women, all former call girls. Ellen is being stalked and harassed by a former client who does not understand or won’t accept the meaning of the word no. We only know him by the name of Paul. Paul manages to terrorize Ellen forcing her to consent to his demands without breaking the law keeping the police at bay and making Ellen a helpless victim. Paul is obviously getting off feeling the power he has controlling Ellen.

In helping Ellen, Scudder finds himself searching for a man he has no idea who he is nor what he looks like. In digging in, putting pieces of a puzzle together,  Matt skirts the legal process himself.

A Time to Scatter Stones is a satisfying return with an old friend facing a #metoo world. It’s a short visit, but I for one did not need a full blown three and fifty-page novel to satisfy my soul. Nice to have you back Matt.

Recent Read: Murder at the Summer Theater

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Ex-con Elmer Vartanian and millionaire Juliet Van Allen, The Double V’s, are back in  this cozy New England mystery; the fifth in the series. The setting is summer theater and author Jacqueline T. Lynch creates a fabulous sense of time (1950’s) and place (Summer theater on the Connecticut shore). The leading actress is missing and the amateur detectives soon find themselves embedded in the theatrical world; Juliet as an actress and Elmer as a backstage hand.

A few years back Lynch wrote an historical, well researched, and entertaining book (Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain: 70 Years of Summer Theater on Mt. Tom, Hokyoe Massachusetts)  about the history of live summer theater on Mt. Tom. With the surplus of information she acquired writing this fascinating non-fiction book, Lynch was well equipped to use much of it as background for her novel.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for backstage mysteries, and Murder at the Summer Theater is satisfying as both a mystery and for the smell of greasepaint and the roar of the crowd.

You can read an interview I did with Ms. Lynch a few years about her biography of actress Ann Blyth here.

Recent Read: Hard Feelings

 

hardRichard Segal is going through a rough patch in life. Since beginning his new job, he cannot land a new account as a network systems salesman and is worried about getting fired. Meanwhile, his wife Paula has just received a promotion which irritates his fragile male ego. There are other worries too: Richard has started drinking again, he is having flashbacks of teenage memories and a bully named Michael Rudnick who sexually abused him, and if this is not enough he fears his wife is having an affair. In the middle of all this he runs into Rudnick on the street one day. Rudnick, now a lawyer, doesn’t recognized him but Segal has become obsessed with revenge.

Jason Starr writes dark noir like stories about seemingly average characters with hidden amoral streaks that once exposed lead them down violent, train wreck type paths of destruction.

 

 

 

Recent Read: Fatal Blow

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Becky Miller discovers her husband Walter is cheating on her with a local waitress. After 14 years of marriage, the spark had gone out in their marriage. Reading hubby’s emails, Becky learns the waitress wants Becky out of the picture pressuring Walter to marry her. Becky, an avid reader of crime novels and a member of a book club, develops a cunning revenge plan of her own.

Meanwhile, Detective Sean Richardson and his partner Maggie McClinton are called in to investigate a murder. A female’s torso is discovered floating in a local canal. While not yet identified all clues point to it being Becky Miller who has been reported missing by her husband after not returning home as expected after a meeting with her book club.

The narrative is told through two characters points of view. Becky’s story is told in the weeks leading up to her missing. Richardson is current time as he investigates the death of the woman found in the canal. The body is eventually identified as that of Becky Miller. The narrative’s points of view continue to move back and forth between Becky, in the past, and Richardson and Maggie investigating Becky’s death. We follow Becky’s clever plan for revenge only to see how it goes terribly wrong for her.

Author James L. Thane has created an intriguing police procedural/suspense thriller with shades of classic Hitchcock. Fatal Blow is the 3rd book in the Sean Richardson series but works as a standalone. Enough twists to hold your interest right to the end.

Book Review: Fugitive Red

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Jack Harper is  stuck in an unhappy marriage. He and his wife Maria have been  in a downward spiral for years. Jack is an ex-alcoholic and former musician who is now a real estate broker. Maria has a corporate job and is the main bread winner in the family. They have an eight year old son, Jacob, who they both love, but he is their only connection these days. They barely talk and their sex life went down the tubes years ago.

When an old friend of Jack’s, a hot shot in the music industry, comes to town and brags about his extra-marital affairs meeting women through a dating website strictly for married people in unhappy relationships. Unhappy Jack reluctantly takes the plunge. On the website he “meets” Sophie  whose on line name is Fugitive Red. They have a few steamy conversations, she likes rough sex, and Jack’s soon convinced they made a real connection. The two agree to meet at her Manhattan town house  for a get together. When Jack arrives, he find Sophie dead…her head bashed in and a red tie around her neck.

He calls the police to report the crime and quickly becomes their number one suspect. Jack’s life quickly spirals out of control with not only the police on his tail, but after Maria discovers his involvement with the dead suspect she tosses him out on the street, changing locks on the door of their apartment, cutting off his credit cards and getting a restraining order. When two more bodies show up, one Sophie’s husband, Jack is in for a complete meltdown.

Jason Starr writes brilliantly flawed characters. He captures the grit and nuance of New York in this twisty suspense filled thriller. You will find Fugitive Red hard to put down.

 

Book Review: The Man Who Came Uptown

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Both crime fiction and book lovers will rejoice after reading George Pelecanos’ latest novel The Man Who Came Uptown. He not only gives us a character dictated crime story, but  pays tribute to book lovers and the joys of reading.

Incarcerated in a Washington D. C. prison,  Michael Hudson discovers a love of books thanks to Anna, the prison’s librarian. Michael’s love of reading opens up new worlds and possibilities that he never imagined. Anna encourages Michael and other prisoners at their weekly meeting to not only read but understand and discuss what the author is saying.

One week Michael does not show up. He’s been unexpectedly released from prison. Charges have all been dropped due to a shady P.I. named Phil Ornazian  who convinced the witness in Michael’s case not to remember a thing. Suddenly, Michael is no longer wearing an orange jumpsuit and is a free man. Phil lets Michael know that he owes him and some day payback will be requested. A free man, Michael is determined to go straight. He gets a job, buys himself a bookcase and books to read.

Ornazian is the kind of P.I. who walks the edge when it comes to good and bad, He wants to provide for his wife and kids and sometimes that means taking a walk on the wrong side of the law. He hates pimps who live off women and helps one hooker get out of the life by robbing the pimp and giving her enough of the money he stole for her to get out of town and start a new life some where far away.

When Ornazian needs a wheel man for one of his jobs, he calls in his favor with Michael Hudson; the dude knows how to handle cars. Michael doesn’t want to get involved, but Ornazian lets him know that the witness who forgot everything he saw could suddenly have an epiphany.

The Man Who Came Uptown is a tale about the love of books and about making choices. The kind of choices we all have to make in life. Sometimes we learn from them and sometimes we die.

 

 

 

 

 

Recent Read: Big Driver – Stephen King

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Stephen King’s novella, Big Driver, originally part of King’s Full Night, Dark Stars collection is a tale of not so sweet revenge in line with the film I Spit on Your Grave.  Tess Thorne, an author of cozy mysteries, is attacked, brutally raped repeatedly and left for dead, on an empty back road while she is on her way back home from a speaking and book signing engagement at a library. Afraid to tell anyone about her rape she seeks revenge on those responsible, two brothers and their mother (the mother it turns out is the library’s event planner and recommended the shortcut to Tess). With the help of her inner voice and a GPS named Tom, The author’s perpetrators get their bloody revenge.

The horror in this King tale is more grounded in reality, or as close to reality as King can get, along the lines of Dolores Claiborne and one of my favorite of King works, Misery (another story about a writer).

 

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.