Oct 012014
 

Happy October to and from Mike Ripley, who greets the new month (as always) with a new column for "Getting Away with Murder" for the Shots Crime & Thriller Ezine. As always, you'll find news and gossip about new mysteries being released in the UK - and also about mysteries being re-issued.

I'm particularly happy to learn that the great Catherine Aird is publishing a new collection of short stories, some featuring her marvelous series detective, Chief Inspector C. D. Sloan and his not-so-marvelous sidekick, Detective Constable Crosby. Quite typically, it's called Last Writes: A Chief Inspector CD Sloan collection. She's not always easy to find, which is a pity, as she's a smart and witty writer. I see on Amazon that it's being released in the U.S. later this month. There goes another pre-order...

At any rate, there's a lot of news and even more interesting notes and comments in the latest Ripley. Take a look at it!

Oct 012014
 
THE BIG ADIOS was a fine weekly on-line magazine of Western fiction, and now it's become a quarterly digest with both e-book and print editions. I haven't had a chance to read this one yet, but I will be soon. There are some excellent authors in it, including my friend Jim Wilsky. Check it out!

The Walking Dead and their weird Death Fetish

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Oct 012014
 

THE WALKING DEAD is a show that really benefits from binge viewing, a quick two or three day blast dedicated to just barreling through to the end. That's the way I've watched each season, and I'm pretty sure I would never have maintained interest in it if I'd watched an episode a week. Luckily for me, I don't have/want/need cable, so it's an entirely Netflix streaming experience for me.

I'm one of those infuriating WALKING DEAD viewers who bitches and moans about the show and yet anxiously awaits each new season. Sorry. I know I'm wrong to do that.

But the thing is, the show is so... frustrating sometimes. Uneven. The first season was amazing and fresh, but the beginning of the second just dragged on and on, even watching it over a couple of days. And the second half of the third season, same deal. The show has always seemed to have trouble finding its pace, figuring out where it wanted to go and how it wanted to get there. It's difficult to balance great character moments with scary action, and even the most die-hard WD fan will probably admit the show hasn't always been successful in that regard.

When the show is good, though, it is very good indeed. There are some characters who I've grown very emotionally invested in, whether I like it or not. And the moments of action usually pay off very well, even if they come sporadically.

I'm happy to say, though, that I was really pleased with season four. They seem to have finally found that balance between character and action they've been striving for. It was the most enjoyable season since the first.

I'm not going to worry about spoilers here, since I assume that most WD fans are already caught up. So if you're concerned about reveals, maybe you should stop reading. I don't know, it's up to you.

Season four succeeded for many noteworthy reasons-- one, as I said, the pacing was as close to perfect as they've been so far. In 16 episodes, a LOT happened. The survivors lost their sanctuary in the prison when the Governor returned. We got an excellent pay-off to wrap up the Gov's story (and those three flashback episodes dealing with his adventures post-Woodbury were terrific). As walkers descended on the prison, the survivors were forced to flee, and the tight-knit group were scattered, none knowing the fate of the others.

It was an inspired idea, separating the group. It gave the writers amble opportunity to focus on each of them and tell stories that highlighted each of their strengths and flaws. It also gave us a chance to get to know some of the newer characters.

One aspect that really works this season is the new diversity of our heroes-- for the first time, WD has several significant black characters: not just Michonne, but Tyreese, Sasha, and new addition Bob. Each of them has their own deal and their own focus, which is worth mentioning because, previously, we had only T-Dog... remember him? Maybe not, because in the first two and a half seasons T-Dog just sort of hung around and never did anything worth mentioning. He never got a back-story, was never the focus of anything. When he died, it didn't even feel like an important moment, did it?

Also: the female characters REALLY shined in season four. I mean, they were all terrific and the writers did an excellent job with them. Carole really came into her own as a strong but flawed human being, making insanely difficult decisions and living with the consequences. Maggie kicked ass. Michonne, of course, got fleshed out a bit more and opened up. Finally, Beth got serious screen-time and proved that she deserves to be listed in the opening credits. And new addition Tara, the sole survivor of the Governor's group, had value right away (also worth noting, Tara is, as far as I can remember, WD's first gay character, another stride forward in diversity). Remember when the show had, basically, two female leads and both of them were irritating as hell and seriously under-developed? Lori and Andrea never worked for me, because they both seemed like an immature boy's idea of what women would act like during the zombie plague.

Speaking of Lori and Andrea, that brings me to what I've always considered the biggest problem with WD, and how I think they've addressed it somewhat in season four.

Death.

Death has long been a gimmick on WALKING DEAD. A plot point designed to shock you, even if it isn't satisfying from a story point of view. It's a weird kind of death fetish, substituting actual drama for shock. Yes, I understand that, if a zombie plague really happened, people we love would die. I get that. But you know... this is a story. And in a story, you need to rely on something more than "Who's going to die this season??" The writers (influenced, I'm sure, by Robert Kirkman) have focused on that, to the detriment of good story-telling. For the writers, with a gleeful glimmer in their eyes, to tease viewers with POTENTIAL CHARACTER DEATHS!! all the time is just sloppy and lazy and a cheap way to keep people watching. In season three, so many main characters died that my reaction when all was said and done was a combination of depression and antipathy. I didn't care anymore, and I wound up distancing myself emotionally. Too often, a character death signified nothing except... well, another dead character.

Season four proves my point, I think. It's the best season since the first, and guess what? Only ONE major character dies. Just one (note that by "major character", I mean someone who has been on the show for two or more seasons). And his death was a shocker. It was emotionally devastating and signified a HUGE moment on the show and what happens  next. It didn't feel gratuitous. It felt like: nothing will ever be the same now. It pushed the story forward.

That's how you do a character death. You give it meaning. You don't make it yet another useless death that does nothing to advance the story.

One death, and the best season yet.

Finally, and in relation to that, I just want to say that if they kill off Glenn (which there have been some hints about upcoming in season five) I'll be done with the show. This isn't just a pissy comment-- I consider Glenn essential to the show's success. Rick is, of course, the head of the show, and by extension Carl; Darryl is a fan favorite, so killing him off would be idiotic, unless they wanted to lose HALF their viewers; but Glenn is the HEART of that show and always has been. He's the glue that holds everything together on an emotional level.

I just hope the show runners realize that.

Promotion

 Books, Lynne Patrick, Writing  Comments Off
Oct 012014
 

As Lynne is unfortunately preoccupied this week, she asked me to step in once more, so forgive the intrusion.

A few years ago, authors never needed to worry about publicity (well, so I believe). The publisher would handle that side of things. These days, of course, the paradigm has changed, and even most of those published by the big houses have to handle their own publicity, unless you’re a major name.

As a writer, I’m very active on social media. Twitter and Facebook are my friends, and I also have a Facebook author page. Of course I have a website, and I tend to blog a couple of times a week. I do author events, libraries and wherever I can. For my most recent book I had bookmarks printed up to give away at events. Cheap but effective, and definitely useful.

But I’m in search of other ideas. It goes without saying (I hope) that most of my Twitter and Facebook activity is interaction rather than blatant promotion. That’s just sensible. Social media is about building a community, and communities need interaction to grow. Become a real person to others and they’ll be interested in you and what you do.

A readership is built one person at a time, and word of mouth is still one of the most powerful tools. People like your book and recommend it to others. As you build a back catalogue, people will search out the books, especially in a series.

Of course, there are some big breaks. An interview in a prestigious magazine, a review by an influential blogger, things like that. They all help in circulating the name.

What I’m curious to learn is what you think are good promotion techniques. There must be many I haven’t considered, and I’m eager to hear. Especially if they cost little or nothing.

Right, the ball’s in your court.

Wednesday Book Review Club, WELL READ, THEN DEAD

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Oct 012014
 

After several stories in venues like EQMM, Terrie Farley Moran has written her first novel. Don't you love the cover. You will probably enjoy the story even more.

Sassy and her BFF, Bridgy, have come to Fort Meyers from Brooklyn to open a combination book store/cafe. It's become a focal point for the community due to its many opportunities to both discuss books through several book groups and to have a nice breakfast or lunch. Both aspects of the business are treated seriously and you can imagine just such a place. (I hope there is one, in fact).

One day, one of their most faithful patrons turns up dead. Her death is followed by several other disquieting events and Sassy is drawn into solving the murder. There is more than she thought to be learned about her friend and her background.

This is a charming book. Terrie Moran manages to combine great location details, a group of fun and funny characters, lots of references to southern cuisine and life, references to books and food, some Floridian history and geography, and a mystery to solve without overloading the book with any one of them. And, oh, a cat named Paws who has a distinctive personality as well. I read this book during a particularly stressful week and it was a tonic. It is a smooth and quick read.

This is a terrific start to a series. Can't wait to see what's going on in Fort Meyers next.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy.

Oct 012014
 
I mentioned recently that I think most current thrillers are too long, but sometimes I get the urge to read one anyway. That's the case with THE VALHALLA PROPHECY, the latest book in the Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase series by Andy McDermott. I haven't read the other books in the series, although I have several of them, but it was easy enough to jump into this one. The story occasionally refers back
Oct 012014
 
Welcome to October and Traveling The Globe.
All through the month of October we will go on a journey to new and exciting places.
The premier stop on this adventure will Brazil's second largest city of Rio de Janeiro.

Today will are featuring three titles with Rio in the title


Checkmate In Rio
by Valerie Moolman




Award Books
May 1964
Charter Books
August 1979


The Rio Casino Intrigue
by F Van Wyck Mason


Reynal & Hitchcock
1941

Rampage In Rio
by  Lionel Derrick


Pinnacle Books
September 1981

 Posted by at 7:30 am
Oct 012014
 

Josh Getzler

 

Thanks to everyone for your good wishes while I was out with the shoulder surgery. Still barking a bit after two weeks, and I've got an I-Can't-Shave beard going and am still sleeping upright on the couch. But getting there. Thanks to Danielle Burby and Todd Moss for posting the past two weeks.

 

One of the more exciting things that happened in the past month is that Book Culture, an independent bookstore that lost its lease uptown, announced that it was reopening in one of the retail spaces below my apartment building. And instead of putting up the usual brown butcher's paper to cover the windows during renovation, they put up a happy sign telling the story of the return of a bookstore to the former site of an older store, Endicott Books, which was one of the inspirations for You've Got Mail.

 

This weekend, my wife and I were taking a walk and saw that there were a bunch of brightly colored stickies on the window of the store. Turns out that an anonymous Upper West Sider decided to create an Old School Pinterest board and put out a bunch of sticky pads and Sharpies and asked the neighbors to write notes about the new store, take photos, and post on Twitter with #BOOKCULTURE. And they did. And the neighborhood is truly giddy. More next week, but here are a couple of very happy pictures.

 

Bookstore stickies (2)

 

Bookstore sign (2)

Sep 302014
 

WESTERN UNION. 20th Century Fox, 1941. Robert Young, Randolph Scott, Dean Jagger, Virginia Gilmore, John Carradine, Slim Summerville, Chill Wills, Barton MacLane. Based on the novel by Zane Grey. Director: Fritz Lang.

   I don’t know if you spotted it right off, without my pointing it out to you, but if you did and it took you aback, just a little, I don’t blame you. But yes, indeed, Robert Young got top billing in this colorful tale of a crew of Western Union workers constructing a telegraph line from East to West across the United States, mile by mile.

   The movie is based on the novel by Zane Grey from 1939. The story is told in first person by Wayne Cameron, a tenderfoot fellow from Boston who has made his way west to make his way in the world. In the movie his name is Richard Blake, and naturally enough, he’s the fellow that Robert Young plays.

   But neither the top billing (in the movie) or the primary protagonist (in the book) make a bit of difference. This is Randolph Scott’s film all the way, from beginning to a somewhat quizzical end. Scott plays a cowpoke named Vance Shaw in both book and movie, but in the film he’s an outlaw, making his first appearance sitting in the saddle against a clear blue sky before making his escape from a posse on his trail by riding through and scattering a large buffalo head, filmed in beautiful closeup Technicolor.

   From here the book and film diverge considerably, although the head construction engineer for the crew working for Western Union and the new telegraph line is named Creighton in both (Dean Jagger in the movie) and both Scott and Young sign up. In the movie a rivalry between the two is fanned by their mutual interest in Creighton’s sister (Virginia Gilmore), complicated by the fact that Shaw’s brother (Barton MacLane) is still on the outlaw trail and determined to prevent the telegraph line from going through.

   Personally I think the movie would have been a lot better without the comedy antics of Chill Wills and (especially) Slim Summerville, but otherwise there’s action aplenty, and some very good acting on the part of Randolph Scott, torn between his loyalty to his brother and getting the telegraph line through. This wasn’t his first western role, but the many closeups he has this film show him well on his way to becoming the hard-bitten icon of the West he was soon to be.

   I’d also have preferred a different ending. Not that there’s anything wrong with the one we have, but this one jarred me a little, and it may you as well.

 Posted by at 9:19 pm