SCARECROW

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Mar 312012
 



SCARECROW
By Matthew Reilly
St.Martin’s Paperbacks
457 pages

When this reviewer can chew through four hundred and fifty-seven pages of fiction as if it were a ball of yummy cotton-candy, you know there is lots of awesome action in those pages.  “Scarecrow” by Matthew Reilly is easily one of the fastest paced action thrillers I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring.  From the very first page to the last, it takes off like a rocket ship cutting through one massive, terrorist style threat after another pitting our hero, Special Forces Marine Captain Shane Schofield against a veritable army of the deadliest professional killers in the world.

The plot is about as melodramatic as these kind of books can get.  A super secret group of arms dealers wish to create a second Cold War so that there will be a renewed demand for their product; a need that has lessened considerably since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  They plan elaborate missile strikes against the major cities of both the east and the west, using weaponry that can be traced back to specific nations and thus throw false blame on them. What the group doesn’t know is that amongst them is a psychopath who has no interest in a “cold” war, but rather this monster is intent on starting Armageddon and seeing the world destroyed.

The only thing that can foil this global scheme is the fact that all the missiles can be aborted by one universal “kill” code; a code that requires near super human reflexes to administer.  There are only fifteen men in the world, soldiers, who have such reflexes to properly activate this “kill” switch.  Thus the clandestine group puts a million dollar bounty on their heads, literally.  They also set a time-table as they want these targets eliminated before the launching of their insidious plan.  

Captain Shane Schofield, code name Scarecrow, is one of those targeted for execution.  Of course, he isn’t that easy to kill and when he escapes the first attempt on his life, he immediately begins to turn the tables on his hunters.  At the same time he is fleeing these crazed killers, he is using his Pentagon contacts to figure out what is actually going on and by the last quarter of the book, Scarecrow has unraveled the plot and begins racing against time to save the world.

Honestly, there were times when reading Reilly’s over-the-top outlandish action sequence where I was thought even Michael Bay couldn’t do justice to this gung-ho Road Runner cartoon brought to life.  There is more action in this one book than any other dozen bestselling thrillers on the market today.  Reilly is the quintessential New Pulp writer who understands the rules of break-neck pacing and the objective of entertaining the hell out of his readers.  He does both masterfully.  It is no wonder he has a huge fan following amongst action readers; this reviewer being the latest recruit.
Note, “Scarecrow” was written back in 2003 and the dog-eared copy I just read was sent to me last year by my Canadian colleague, Andrew Salmon, a long time Reilly convert who knew I’d get a bang out of it. I just couldn’t imagine just how big a bang it would be.
Mar 312012
 
Paperback 513: Nite-Time Books (???) 3001 (PBO, 1964)

Title: Flying High  
Author: Eve Linkletter
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: Not for Sale (gift to the collection from Doug Peterson)


NT3001.FlyingHigh

Best things about this cover:
  • About the unsexiest naked lady I've ever seen on one of these covers. It's like she rolled around in charcoal. The GIGANTIC smirking floating head isn't making things any sexier.
  • She's got a vaguely Bettie Page look, but nothing of Page's charm or allure. First you're gonna have to clean her off. Then give her context. then maybe a slightly less art-school-modely position. Then take a bat to that bloated piñata hovering over her left shoulder.
  • That dude's hat is jiffy popping past captain's hat toward chef's toque.
  • This is the lowest-rent paperback publisher I've ever seen. I actually don't know what the publisher's name is. GSN??? NT (Nite-Time)??? The publication page says "Fitz Publications." I think it's homemade / Canadian.


NT3001bc.FlyingHigh

Best things about this back cover:
  • Yeah, that's how you usually spell "Bob."
  • "... a doll who turned out to be one of the boys..." OK, now I'm intrigued.
  • Semicolon? Really? Come on. That just hurts.
  • Eve Linkletter wrote some queer (in both senses of the word) stuff for Fabian or Saber or one of those cheap Fresno outfits run by Sanford Aday in the late '50s / early '60s. I've never seen her name elsewhere. 

Page 123~

The bar was almost deserted except for about nine people.

So ... not deserted at all. Gotcha.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Mar 312012
 

Q: What makes Silas Cade different from other (unofficial) PIs?

Mike Cooper is a novelist. In his latest, CLAWBACK (Viking, March), an assassin has begun shooting the rottenest, worst-performing financiers on Wall Street. “Don’t bail them out, TAKE them out!” – it’s a good tagline for a thriller, and Mike really hopes it remains fiction. More at mikecooper.com.
This is the interview I had with him.

Q: What makes Silas Cade different from other (unofficial) PIs?
A: Not too many enforcers have a CPA :) Silas’s niche is sorting out financial issues for CEOs who don’t want to wait around for the audit committee, and he brings an unusual combination of accounting acumen and over-the-top combat experience to bear on gray-zone problems.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: I have a finance background myself. Anyone who’s sat through interminable budget meetings, stared bleary-eyed at vast spreadsheets for hours at a time, or tried to explain basic accounting to those numbskulls in operations – they know: the idea of bringing automatic weapons to work has real appeal. Silas first appeared in a few short stories, which I wrote mostly to amuse myself – the idea of a hitman accountant was pretty funny, in an inside-joke kind of way.

Q: Why did you decide on the whole financial setting?
A: Silas was already established, and then Wall Street cratered the world economy – it seemed like fate. Penny-stock fraud is one thing; taking down the banksters responsible for global economic collapse is a mission Silas couldn’t pass up.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A: For years I was expecting ebooks to take off … and they went and finally did so. Anything that gets good writing into the hands of more readers is a good thing. Of course, the sheer ease of publishing electronically has also resulted in a deluge of bad writing. The key buzzwords are Gatekeeping and Discovery. Gatekeeping is dead, smashed, obliterated, pulverized; anyone can publish anything now, and just about everyone seems to be. So it’s all about Discovery. How will readers sort through the vast fields of possibility? Plenty of people are trying to solve this problem, and I don’t think we’ve seen the answers emerge yet.

Q: What's next for you and Silas?
A: Silas appears in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE next month, and in a sequel from Viking next year. As Silas himself has pointed out, when your job is taking down corrupt bankers, you won’t want for work any time soon. With luck he’ll be around for some time yet, helping Wall Street heal itself.

Q: How do you promote your work?
A: Oh, the usual – Facebook, Twitter, website commentary, guest blogs (like this one!), some radio interviews and so forth. It’s hard work.

Q: Tell us a bit about the Shamus Award you won.
A: Another series characters of mine is a Japanese private detective, and his second story “A Death in Ueno” earned the Shamus in 2006. I do have a novel-length manuscript featuring him, but have been unable to sell it.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
A: Literary fiction in the realistic school, history, technology and plenty more. In high school I read nothing but science fiction and fantasy; a few years ago I got back into that, and someday I hope to publish an SF story or two. For anyone interested, I post the books I’m reading over at Goodreads.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
A: I wouldn’t tell Pike to his face that he’s a psycho :) Sidekicks are an effective device, though often somewhat underdeveloped. That Pike is now starring in his own standalones is interesting – I’m not sure that Hawk, fun character though he is, could hold up an entire novel by himself.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
A: Sadly, I think the strongest influences now come from Hollywood – high speed, action, quick-cuts, absurd violence. The PI novel as a genre has been in eclipse for some years. I’d like to think a renaissance will occur, but when it does, I think it will be less about fedoras in the rain and more about exploding Ferraris.

Q: James Tucker came up with the following question: Have you ever been involved in a crime?
A: Ha! Good one. The closest I think I’ve come to crime is changing money illegally – I spent years in Asia when I was younger, and in countries with controlled economic regimes, buying local currency on the black market was more or less essential. At least for penniless backpackers. But it’s been the straight and narrow for me otherwise.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
A: “How many copies of your book should I buy?” Excellent question! – one for every friend and relative you have. Or two.

Reuse, Recycle, Don’t Abuse

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Mar 312012
 

Marilyn Thiele

I love books. Bound, paper, physical books. That’s obvious from some of my past writings. There is nothing I enjoy more about my work than opening a carton of brand new books and placing them on the shelves. Handling them is an almost sensual pleasure. Thus when I see these lovely objects mistreated, my emotions range from sorrow to anger.

A large part of my business is selling used books, and I get the majority of them from customers who exchange them for credit toward more books. This arrangement gives me a view into the ways readers handle (or mishandle) their reading material. I can’t help but believe it also gives me an insight into their character (yes, on this point I become judgmental, and work hard to hide it from the offending parties).

Most people bringing used books to my store are serious readers, lovers of books, and their offerings are neatly stacked in boxes or bags, having been reluctantly culled from overflowing shelves and hoping to find another loving home. Frequently the owner will watch as I pick through their collection, pointing out books he or she especially loved and occasionally deciding that one or two must return home. Too often, however, books are packaged like the trash, thrown randomly into plastic garbage bags so that the covers twist and tear, pages fold, and paperbacks develop an unfixable twist or curve. It seems that these books are brought to me as an effort to save disposal costs rather than in the hope of sharing the bounty with another reader. Opening these bags can be heartbreaking, yielding dark thoughts about “book abuse.”

Some misuse or maltreatment of books is less obvious at first glance, but keenly observed by the discerning book re-seller. Books seem to be convenient coasters, yielding covers decorated with coffee rings or other, usually sticky, substances. They are a convenient place to note phone numbers, appointments, and shopping lists, especially on those blank or nearly blank early pages. Dog-eared pages indicate how frequently the reader stopped for a while, or how many places she thought worth returning to. Can’t they find a slip of scrap paper, even a piece of tissue, to mark these places? I give away bookmarks with purchases in a partial attempt to keep pages smooth. It is hard to tell how many cracked spines these days are due to the appalling practice of leaving a book open, face down, flat, until it is read again. As you might guess, I handle the books I read gently, and often when I finish, even with a mass market paperback, you can barely tell it’s been read. Yet more and more frequently I find spines cracking and pages spilling out in new books on the first reading, leading me to believe that lax manufacturing standards rather than abusive book handling may be the cause.

 Other signs of abuse or indifference are the “rolled” paperbacks, missing covers, and storage in damp basements (or around here, barns).  I don’t fault someone for wanting to roll back half of a book as if it were a magazine, if that makes reading more comfortable for them; it’s their book. But it creates heavily creased, rounded spines, loose pages, and a book that looks ugly on the shelf. It’s definitely not my image of a “gently used” book, per my advertising. When customers return rolled books I know they have purchased from me in good condition, I bite my tongue to keep from saying, “What have you done to my baby?” Missing covers are sometimes just damage from rough treatment, but on occasion people have turned up with whole cartons of paperback books with the front covers neatly torn off. When I explain that I can’t take them, not only because they are incomplete, but because they were most likely sold illegally, and explain about returned books and authors’ royalties, etc., I get sheepish hemming and hawing but never a straight answer on where they came from. Books that smell of mildew usually come in large batches when people are cleaning house (or barn), and it doesn’t take much explanation about why I cannot resell them. More common are the “wavy” pages and brown stains from those who claim they read in the tub (never that anything was spilled on the book, or that it was left outside). As with the rolled books, I support anyone who reads their own books in any way they want, in the tub, or in the rain. I just want them to understand that the book is not then very appealing to anyone else.

Our county’s Friends of the Library organization is currently preparing for their annual book sale, which features over 100,000 books and raises significant funds for library programs. (For those in the New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania area who may be interested, it is in the National Guard Armory in Flemington, New Jersey on April 21 and 22; www.hclibrary.us, click “Friends of HCL” for more information.) As a book dealer, I am not allowed to help with the sorting of the donated books (volunteers get to purchase early), but I was there this morning with my own donations, watching neatly packed boxes as well as trash bags (and even trash containers, which the owners wanted back), being unloaded. I know from several customers who are volunteers for this event that they observe the same spectrum of book use and misuse that I see. (For those who might attend this sale, please note that the “abused” books are discarded and you will find a great selection of books in good condition).

As to judging character by the way a person treats books, I will use a real author’s words, which were part of the inspiration for this piece:

                “One paperback was placed, spine splayed open, on the side table. I don’t like to abuse books like that, but on the other hand, one of my guests was probably reading it and wanted to mark the place. I picked up a bookmark from a stack I keep on the table (which was right next to the paperback) and placed it in the book on the appropriate page, then closed the volume to try to save what was left of its binding.” (from An Uninvited Ghost by E. J. Copperman)

Alison Kerby, the first person narrator here, is obviously a person of impeccable character; she does her best to save a book while trying to be tolerant of a guest who has mistreated a book but is at least reading. We learn elsewhere that in furnishing her guest house she has acquired over two thousand books for its library. She’s a woman after my own heart. And the anonymous, oblivious guest? Probably the villain.

 

Don’t Read This Book

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Mar 312012
 
You can’t sleep. It started like that for all of us, back when we were garden variety insomniacs. Maybe you had nightmares (God knows we all do now), or maybe you just had problems that wouldn’t let you sleep. Hell, maybe you were just over-caffienated. But then something clicked.

That was when you took a long walk down the streets of the Mad City, stopped being a Sleeper, and started being Awake. But that click you heard wasn’t from the secret world snapping into place. It was the sound of the Nightmares flicking off the safety and pointing a gun at your head.
Don't Rest Your Head is a tabletop role-playing game by the amazing and talented folks over at Evil Hat Productions about what happens when the real world shudders into focus and all those nightmares and boogeymen you thought were just inside your head come out to play.

The mastermind behind Evil Hat, Fred Hicks (one seriously smart and talented motherfucker) has put together an anthology of short stories based in the world of Don't Rest Your Head titled DON'T READ THIS BOOK. Thirteen tales of madness and desperation, fear and disquiet.

And it's coming your way.



That there's the cover right there. See that line-up? And me, right up there near the top (It's alphabetical, in case you hadn't noticed). Holy shit there's some talent in this book. Truth be told I'm more than a little intimidated. These are some top notch writers and I'm jazzed they let me into the club.

Comes out in a couple months or thereabouts. Look for it when it does.

 You won't be disappointed.

If you’d like to vote for Matthew Scudder…

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Mar 312012
 

…now’s your chance. A Drop of the Hard Stuff has been shortlisted for a Spinetingler award, and the polls are open right now. It’s pretty simple, you just click here, scroll down through the categories, and vote as the spirit moves you. Scudder’s in the “Legend” category, limited to authors of nine or more books. You can vote for him, or you can vote for one of his competitors. Wisconsin residents would probably welcome the opportunity to vote for Fighting Bob La Follette, but there doesn’t seem to be a write-in option.

The Scudder novels have probably had more than their fair share of awards over the years, but one for A Drop of the Hard Stuff would certainly be welcome, as the book continues to sell well. It’s newly available in trade paperback, the eBook edition has been reduced in price to a much more palatable $9.99, and the Mulholland Books hardcover is still a strong seller almost a year after its original publication. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have discounted the hardcover to $14.12, which is less than the list price of the paperback, so if you’ve somehow managed to resist owning a copy, well, maybe it’s time to surrender to the inevitable.

As some of you will have discovered, three of the Scudder titles have gone out of print in recent years. I’ve regained the publication rights, and eBook editions of A Stab in the Dark, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and A Long Line of Dead Men are now eVailable at $4.99. As with The Night and the Music, the collection of original Scudder short stories, I’m also publishing these three novels as trade paperbacks. Like The Night and the Music, they’ll be priced at $16.99 each. You’ll be able to obtain them readily from online booksellers, but (except for a handful of mystery booksellers) you won’t find the books on store shelves.

I’ll have signed copies for sale at our online bookstore, and there’ll be a blog post when we’re ready to take orders. Meanwhile, I just wanted an excuse to show you the covers:

Aren’t they pretty? You’ll note, too, that each is numbered to indicate its place in the series. While it’s not necessary to read a series in order, a lot of people prefer to, and I’ve long wondered why publishers don’t package their series fiction accordingly. Sometimes titles serve that function—the brilliant Sue Grafton is a perfect example—but in other cases a simple numeral works admirably.

The eBook links posted above are for Kindle, but the books are available on all other platforms as well. For convenience, here are the Nook links: A Stab in the DarkA Walk Among the TombstonesA Long Line of Dead MenThe Night and the Music

And Smashwords: A Stab in the DarkA Walk Among the TombstonesA Long Line of Dead MenThe Night and the Music

And Apple: A Stab in the DarkA Walk Among the TombstonesA Long Line of Dead MenThe Night and the Music

Remember, if you’d like to vote for or against Matt Scudder, and make your selections in the Spinetingler Award’s several other categories as well, just click here


The Great Mark Evanier on The Three Stooges

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Mar 312012
 
Ed here: One of my all time favorite writer-bloggers Mark Evanier talks about the apprehension of some Stooges fans feel about the upcoming Stooges film. As a Stooge maniac myself I'm with Mark. Nothing than "ruin" the Stooges.

Knuckleheads on Parade


In the last few weeks, I've had pretty much the same conversation with at least three separate friends...not the guys in the above photo but about them. There's a new movie coming out in which current actors portray the Three Stooges and these Stooge fans are worried it will sully the good name of Stooge. My attitude in response is like, "Really? You're concerned about the dignity of the Three Stooges?" I submit that if you think the Three Stooges ever had any dignity to lose, you don't "get" the Three Stooges.

Did the Three Stooges ever turn down a script? Did Moe ever say to their director, "My character wouldn't say that"? More to the point, did Larry ever say, "No, Moe wouldn't hit me with one of those"?

I knew Larry a bit. I briefly met Moe Howard, Joe Besser and "Curly" Joe DeRita but I spent a few hours of quality time with Larry Fine when he was living in the Motion Picture Country Home. If you mentioned one of their films to him by name, he'd display no recognition of the title but he might wonder aloud, "Is that the one where Moe hit me with the tire iron?" Oddly enough, I hear Dame Judith Dench asks the same thing if you quiz her about anything by Shakespeare.

I've told this before here but one of the saddest/strangest things I ever saw on a TV news show occurred the day Larry died. The local CBS crew rushed cameras over to Moe's house and interviewed him on his front lawn. Moe was crying and his lower lip was trembling so much, his mouth was literally out of sync with his own voice. He was sobbing and saying, "He was my best friend...he was like a brother to me...I loved him so." And as he was saying this, they began rolling footage of Moe smashing pottery over Larry's head, running a saw across his skull and ripping out handfuls of Larry's hair.

I loved the Three Stooges. I still love the Three Stooges. I will always love the Three Stooges and there's no movie anyone can make that will change that.

And one of the things I love about them is that they had absolutely no standards. They would do anything, anything. You know how freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose? Well, those guys were as free as a human being in show business could be. They had no standards to live up to or even down to. Someone would say to Moe, "Hey, how about in the next scene, you drop your pants, then stick your brother's nose in a light socket and electrocute him?" and Moe would just ask, "Okay, which side should I be on?"

for the entire piece go here:
Mar 312012
 
Yesterday Spinetingler Magazine announced its nominations for Best Stuff of '11. As you might expect, it's chock full of goodness.

Your humble hack was nominated in two categories-- "Best Opening Line", in THE BASTARD HAND, and, more surprisingly, the David Thompson Community Leader award for Psycho Noir. That one threw me for a bit of a loop, but-- as they say-- I'm grateful and honored to be nominated.

And no, before you ask, THE BASTARD HAND was not nominated for the Best New Voice category. But that's okay. Did you see the list of talent that was nominated? It's all top-notch stuff-- I can't feel too bad about losing out.

Thank you to everyone who submitted THE BASTARD HAND and Psycho Noir for consideration, my gratitude to you is boundless. I cast my votes this morning. May I implore you to head over there post-haste and do the same? Here's the link: Spinetingler Awards.

In other news, since I started giving DIG TEN GRAVES away for free yesterday, its moved almost six hundred copies and as of this writing it's #19 in Horror. I'd love to see it break into the top ten, so spread the word, okay?
Mar 312012
 
Western pulps sported photo covers from time to time, as you can see from this example, the first such I've run here. I'm not a huge Gene Autry fan -- when it comes to singing cowboys, I think Roy Rogers has Gene beat, hands down -- but I generally enjoy his movies. I can't complain about the authors in this issue of CRACK-SHOT WESTERN, either: Frank C. Robertson, Paul S. Powers, L.P. Holmes, Claude Rister, and Lloyd Eric Reeve. This isn't a particularly well-known Western pulp, so it must not have been very successful, which might mean that having Gene Autry on the cover was an effort to boost sales.