Recent Read: The James Deans

Deans

 

With Moe Prager, author Reed Farrel Coleman has created one of the great modern day P.I.’s. Like many private dicks, Prager is a former cop. His career ended due to a freak accident that occurred during the days the city was in lock down and hunting for Son of Sam. Unlike most fictional P.I.’s we meet Moe is not walking the mean streets twenty-four seven. But he is smart and tenacious.

There are so many things to like in this book: characters are well developed, the writing is sharp and direct and the landscape descriptively detailed. Coleman knows New York City. You feel it in his writing. The narrative is smart, fast moving with plenty of twists.

The James Deans is a gritty and relentless tale, and though it’s only May, I know this book will be on my top ten list.

Recent Read: Beyond the Truth

Beyond

Bruce Coffin is a new author for me, but after reading he’s latest Detective John  Byron novel, number three in the series, I look forward to reading more. Beyond the Truth is a detailed police  procedural. A fast  paced tale about a Portland, Maine police officer, a man with a long and stellar record, who finds himself involved in the shooting of a teenage robbery suspect. The kid, a local high school sports star, had a gun, but no gun is found at the scene. During the investigation, Byron has to deal the press, politicians, and his superiors all with their own agendas that could impede the truth. Meanwhile, Byron has his own personal demons to battle.  Beyond the Truth is a complex tale with nicely drawn characters, and a super ending that won’t disappoint.

 

 

 

Recent Read: A Florida State of Mind

Florida stateFlorida! The land of sunshine, beaches, Mickey Mouse, and Disney World; it’s the happiest place on earth, or so it likes to bill itself. Florida is also the land of hanging chads, gator wrestling, 17-foot pythons, uncontrolled urban sprawl, low paying jobs, a history of violent colonization, and real estate con men; land swindles were so common, Hollywood satirized it in the Marx Brothers film, Coconuts.  Florida is the land where the Outback Steak House is considered the best place to eat, and Fried Gator Tail is a delicacy.

Florida was weird from its early beginnings. Spain was the first to try and colonize Florida but found the unfriendly hot and humid weather as well as the hostile Native Americans overwhelming. The Spanish government gave way to the Government of the United States which after multiple wars and battles forced most of the Native American population to move west.

Florida does have its good side too; the winters are mild, if non-existent. Many beaches are pristine, that is if you don’t mind seasonal red tide, and you can thank Floridian born John Gorrie for air-conditioning. You can also thank Florida for Faye Dunaway, Tom Petty, Jim Morrison, Wesley Snipes, authors Carl Hiassen, Judy Blume, Lisa Unger, and many others.

While other states can try and claim the number one spot for strangeness (California?), Florida consistently ranks number one. The most recent stories about weird Florida alone since I read this book involves the Mayor of New Port Richey, and his immediate replacement both were arrested within a month of each other, and then there was the woman crossing  I-95 naked, dodging cars as she attempted to retrieve her dog,

Author James D. Wright explains the good and the bad in his new book A Florida State of Mind. As Wright points out, Florida likes to bill itself as the happiest state in the country. In truth, depending on the survey you look at it ranks between twelfth and twenty-fourth. Wright lays out an entertaining history of the weirdest state from its earliest days right up until the 21st century. The book is nicely laid out in chapters dealing with its history, growth, politics, tourism, and the environment. An entertaining read on a subject that is never boring.

Note: I received an ARC from St. Martin Publishing.

 

 

Recent Read: Pray for the Girl

Pary

Within the first few pages of reading Joseph Souza’s latest thriller, Pray for the Girl, I knew I was in for a page-turner that would not stop churning. Having finished the book, I am happy to report I was right.

The story is set in the small town of Fawn Grove, Maine. It’s here we meet Lucy Abbott who has returned after 15 years, most of the time working as a sous chef in New York City. Before that, Lucy was stationed in Afghanistan as a medic where she lost both her legs after an IED went off. Lucy’s life has not been easy since. Physical and psychological problems have plagued her. Returning to her hometown of Fawn Grove she is living with her wheelchair-bound (MS) sister, Wendy, her husband Russ and their teenage daughter Brynn. Lucy suffers flashback nightmares due to an honor killing she did not attempt to stop during her time in Afghanistan. Now upon her return, a teenage high school age Afghan girl is buried up to her neck and stoned to death. The local town Detective in charge of the investigation is anti-immigrant, and Lucy soon becomes obsessed with the case.  Soon after, a second kid, a non-Afghani, turns up dead near the same field the girl was killed. While the first killing seemed like a ritual within the immigrant community, the question now arises as to why was a local boy killed. The deeper Lucy investigates, the more questions come up as to who is responsible.

In Lucy Abbott, Joseph Souza has created a character like no other. Pray for the Girl is a twisty, disturbing suspense thriller taking on issues of PTSD, bigotry, nationalism, and the continuing struggle of small-town America when the one local industry supporting most residents is on its last legs. The comfort and facade of peaceful small-town life hides dark, cruel secrets that are about to be exposed.

Pray for the Girl will be published on April 30th.

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

Stones

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

Murder

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

fatal blow

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.