Bullet Points: Daffy and Dagger Edition

 ANTHONY NEIL SMITH, J. Robert Janes, Veronica Mars  Comments Off on Bullet Points: Daffy and Dagger Edition
Feb 242014

• Last Friday, Evan Lewis of the blog Davy Crockett’s Almanack of Mystery, Adventure, and the Wild West kicked-off a “nine-day extravaganza celebrating slick-tongued reporter Daffy Dill” of the fictional New York Chronicle, a character created in the 1930s by Richard Sale and popularized through the pages of Detective Fiction Weekly. So far, Lewis has posted “The Dancing Corpse,” a “never-reprinted adventure from the September 7, 1935, issue of Detective Fiction Weekly”; assembled a gallery of Dill magazine covers; and offered readers the Daffy adventures “A Dirge for Pagliaccio” and “A Slug for Cleopatra.” Coming up this Friday, Lewis promises, will be “an in-depth look at the life and times of Daffy Dill by Monte Herridge–an article that originally appeared in the 2013 Pulpfest magazine PEAPSTER. And to wrap things up, on Saturday the 29th we’ll have still another ‘new’ Daffy story, coming your way for the first time since 1937.” This extravaganza is certainly proving to be a lot of fun.

• The coming film adaptation of Veronica Mars had already earned one place in the history books, thanks to its record-breaking Kickstarter campaign (remember how it accumulated $2 million in financing in under 11 hours?). Now, reports Moviefone, the “movie will be the first to be simultaneously released by a major studio in theaters (270 theaters) and made available for purchase and to rent on the same day: March 14, 2014.”

• Meanwhile, watch for the long-awaited Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie to premiere on January 16, 2015. Unfortunately, this means it won’t be out in time to be part of the 50th anniversary celebration of U.N.C.L.E.’s September 22, 1964, NBC-TV debut.

• The British Crime Writers’ Association announced today that digital publisher Endeavour Press will be the new backer of its annual Historical Dagger for the best historical novel of the year. “Endeavour Press are proud to be sponsoring the CWA Historical Dagger,” says Richard Foreman, the company’s founder. “As both readers–and publishers–of crime fiction, Endeavour Press are keen to support the CWA, an association which continues to foster relationships between its authors and the growing readership for crime novels. Also, as someone who has spent the past decade promoting both history books and crime fiction, it also gives me great personal satisfaction to help reward authors for their hard work and talent, whether they be debut writers or more established names.” The winner of this year’s first CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger will be named on June 30.

• How’s this for a peculiar progression? Author J. Sydney Jones (The Keeper of Hands) recently e-mailed yours truly, J. Kingston Pierce, asking for information about how to contact Canadian novelist J. Robert Janes (whose new Jean-Louis St-Cyr/Hermann Kohler tale, Carnival, is due out in mid-May). The result is an excellent new interview with Janes in Jones’ Scene of the Crime blog.

• This comes from In Reference to Murder: “Thanks to Crime Fiction Lover for noting that Crime Story, a new festival for crime fiction lovers, is coming to Newcastle [England] at the University of Northumbria on May 31st. The organizers have added a fun twist: they’ve commissioned author Ann Cleeves to invent a fictional crime which will then be investigated by various experts including forensic scientists, police detectives, and legal eagles.”

• Won’t somebody please step up to help Linda Dewberry, the proprietor of Olympia, Washington’s Whodunit? Books, who has put her mystery bookstore on the market?

• R.I.P., Maria von Trapp, who, the Moviefone blog notes, was “the last surviving member and second-eldest daughter of the musical family whose escape from Nazi-occupied Austria was the basis for The Sound of Music, has died. She was 99.” There’s more about von Trapp’s passing in Britain’s Daily Mail.

• In the Kill Zone blog, Mark Alpert reconsiders five “classic novels that offer useful lessons for thriller writers.” Good choices, all.

Al Capone–in the flesh!

• Nancy O of The Crime Segments continues her reviewing of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series with this piece about his 1949 novel, The Little Sister.

• Journalist and onetime cartoonist Keith Thomson, the author of 2011’s Twice a Spy and the brand-spanking-new thriller Seven Grams of Lead (Anchor), writes in Mystery Fanfare about his 2008 journey to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and his subsequent fantasy about having had an eavesdropping device planted in his left wrist during the course of that visit. Read the whole piece here.

• I love great unsolved mysteries.

• Flavorwire’s new list, “10 Times Oscar Got It (Unexpectedly) Right,” posted in advance of next Sunday’s Academy Award presentations, includes at least three winners near and dear to the hearts of crime-fiction fans: Gene Hackman’s “Best Actor” Oscar for The French Connection (1971); Robert Towne’s “Best Original Screenplan” win for Chinatown (1974); and Isaac Hayes’ “Best Original Song” prize for “Theme from Shaft” (1971).

• Saved from the Paper Drive seems to have a cache of old Have Gun, Will Travel comic books, and has been rolling them out in the blog one by one. Its latest sampling, “The Vigilantes,” comes from 1960. This link should take you to previous entries in the series.

More from Michelle Monaghan on True Detective.

• Hmm. I must have missed seeing the recent news alert that Anthony Neil Smith, the author of Hogdoggin’, All the Young Warriors, and assorted other works of fiction, has confessed to being “Red Hammond”–the man behind XXX Shamus (Broken River), a “porno P.I.” novel that Jedediah Ayres applauds as “incendiary.”

• And as a balance against all the recent “you must read these books before you die” directories, Janet Potter offers some worthy suggestions in The Millions of what sorts of volumes really deserve your attention in the near future. Her best two bits of advice, I think: “You should read the book that you hear two booksellers arguing about at the registers while you’re browsing in a bookstore” and “You should read the book that you didn’t read when it was assigned in your high school English class. You’d probably like it better now anyway.”

Aug 012012

By Steve Weddle

Sheesh. Where to start, right?

First, our own Jay Stringer has his OLD GOLD out. It’s a great book. I’ve read it. I dug it. You should read it. In fact, I’ll grab a commenter and get you a copy.

Also, Sean Chercover’s THE TRINITY GAME is just out. Look here and you’ll have to get your own copy.

There’s this thing about Carroll Bryant.

And I guess I should mention some of this Harrogate-gate stuff. (In America, we end all scandals in “-gate” ever since President James Buchanan was caught one Thursday night, nuts-deep in a bowl of Watergate Salad.) Anyhoo, you can catch up here and here.

A couple of issues raised from the same author. One is alleged racism.

The other is that an author creates a bunch of accounts using faked names and gives himself many positive reviews. We’ve walked around this issue before and, certainly, will do so again.

This week, I’m thinking about books and video games.

Someone said something sometime along the lines of this: “If video games had been invented before books, we’d be telling our kids to quit staring slackjawed at sheets of paper and get interactive by joining their friends playing video games.”

It’s a matter of the more established thing being established because it had been established, I suppose.

So, along the lines of “what if this thing had come before that thing,” today let’s play THE LIBRARY GAME.

Imagine for a second that public lending libraries never existed. If you wanted to read a book, you had to buy it, or perhaps borrow the one book from your friend, who had to buy it.

Heck, maybe used bookstores don’t exist, either.

Imagine a world in which, in order to read a book, you had to purchase a copy of that book. In hardback.

Imagine how happy publishers would be. I picture them all having lunch in Manhattan, frolicking about in their bowls of Watergate Salad. (Do Yankees eat Watergate Salad?)

Consider that the norm for, let’s say, a thousand years.

Now, go out and try to start a public lending library.

Hey, we’re going to let you have this book for a few weeks. You don’t have to purchase it. Just bring it back when you’re done, so we can let someone else read it for free.

Bwahaha. Fat chance, right?

Seems to me that, if libraries didn’t already exist, you’d never be able to start them.

The ebook lending fight is just a small part of it, you know.

Take this, from a PW article last year:

When it comes to e-books, the numbers are especially notable, because only half of the big six currently allow libraries to lend e-books (Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan currently do not enable e-book lending). In 2010, Macmillan CEO John Sargent called library e-books “a thorny problem” for publishers. “It’s like Netflix, but you don’t pay for it,” Sargent famously said. “How is that a good model for us?”

So, the library buys a couple of copies of SALAD RECIPES and lends them out to a couple of people every 14 days. You want to read SALAD RECIPIES, so you add your name to the waiting list. Which is fine, as you’ve been reading THE HARRIET LANE STORY for the past week and are due to get BACHELOR CONFIRMED when a patron returns it within the next few days. You’re set. You read many, many books from the library. Your tax dollars at work!

Publishers, and some authors, get mad when you use the library. Or when you buy a used book. I’m reminded of something Neil Smith said on Twitter one day, many months ago. He said that he didn’t care whether you got his books used or at the library or found them in a dentist’s office. He was just hoping folks read and liked them.

And, yet, there’s a huge disagreement in The Community about whether —
Writers who sell their Kindle books for 99 cents are devaluing writing
Free book pushes online are a bad thing
Libraries are draining sales 
Ebooks being lent is ruinous 
And on and on.

I grew up visiting my town’s library, my school’s library. I’d find books I liked by authors I liked, and I’d end up buying other books by those authors. I think many people do that. The library might have two of seven books from an author. If you like those two, maybe you’ll buy the other five.

I don’t get to the library as often now as I did when I was a kid, but I still scan the catalog often. If I’m interested in a disposable book – some thriller I’m not likely to savor – I might check the library. If they don’t have it, I’ll check the bookstore – either physical or digital. Maybe I’ll grab the book there. For me, libraries are still important, still vital to finding new authors.

I’m much more likely to take a chance on an author if I see a good-looking book on the Just Arrived shelf than if I see that same book for $25.95 at my local indie or $12.95 online.

I am not a full-time author. I am not the president of a book publishing company. I don’t see libraries as taking money out of my pocket, and I don’t have their much more nuanced understanding of what this means for profits.

I’ve worked in the newspaper industry for (counts fingers, removes socks) years. We’ve always sent subscriptions to local libraries so that patrons can read the paper without having to purchase copies.
I’ve never considered that money out of my pocket.

But publishers and authors are looking for the right “model,” and that’s not exactly the same thing that the libraries are looking for.

Libraries are successful when 1,000 readers line up to read the two copies of GONE GIRL. For publishers, this could be seen as a problem.

You can search the Internet yourself if you want, but various sites suggest that libraries account for about 10 percent of book sales for authors. Do indie bookstores account for more?

Are used bookstores “lost sales” for authors? Are yard sales?

For some authors and publishers, libraries are “lost sales” in the same way piracy is — or used books.

When someone tells you — “Oh. Here’s my copy of GUN MONKEYS. You have to read it. Here. You’ll love it” — does Victor Gischler die a little inside?

Some authors, including Neil Smith, love for you to get a used copy.

Some authors, including Paulo Coehlo, love for you to get pirated copies of their ebooks.

Cory Doctorow loves for you to get his ebooks, many of which are free.

Other authors want to hand you a free copy of their first book in a series in hopes that you’ll spend $9.99 up the new second book.

And in with all of this is the fight over ebooks in libraries and, oddly enough, paper books in libraries.

Seems odd to ask if there’s a storm that’s been brewing, that’s getting more stormy — with libraries on one side and publishers and authors on the other, but, well, there it is.

How did libraries become the bad guy?

Dead Men, Compulsive Gamblers, Lousy P.I.s, and Corrupt Deputies

 ANTHONY NEIL SMITH, James Reasoner, Martin Stanley, Victor Gischler  Comments Off on Dead Men, Compulsive Gamblers, Lousy P.I.s, and Corrupt Deputies
Jan 232012

DEAD MAN: BLOOD MESA– James Reasoner
This is the fifth book in the very exciting Dead Man series created by Lee Goldberg. I’ve enjoyed the previous volumes, but this time out is a must-read due to the presence of writer’s writer James Reasoner. If Reasoner’s name is on the cover, I’ll read it; it’s just that simple. Blood Mesa finds our hero Matt Cahill (on a quest to find and destroy the evil Mr. Dark) in the middle of an archeological dig on a sinister mesa in Arizona. But the archeology students have no idea they’re about to uncover an ancient evil, tied mysteriously to Mr. Dark, that will bring out the corruption in their souls and force Matt to take extreme action to contain the situation. Reasoner really ratchets up the action in this novella—by the time you’re twenty or so pages in, things heat up and don’t cool down again until the staggering end.

THE GAMBLERS– Martin Stanley
Kandinsky is a hardcore gambling addict and loser who owes far more than he can repay to loan shark. He’s a guy who’s screwed from the get-go. But when he overhears a plan to rob a drug dealer, he convinces himself and his friends—who are even bigger losers than him—that they can pull off a miracle. THE GAMBLERS is a sprawling, complicated novel with lots of intriguing characters, a great sense of humor, and a beautifully constructed sense of impending doom. The large cast are all tied together in really clever ways that you wouldn’t suspect, and as each of their personal sagas play out, and wind closer together, you’re left slightly amazed that Stanley is able to pull it off. It’s a very well-structured novel, but Stanley’s real strength is the depth and believability of his characters.

TO THE DEVIL, MY REGARDS– Victor Gischler & Anthony Neil Smith
Two of the best crime fiction writers of this generation, Gischler and Smith deliver a solid, fast-paced novella that mostly lives up to everything you’d expect from such a pairing. Z.Z. DelPresto is a P.I. who is, frankly, not very good at his job—hired to keep tabs on a wealthy wife, he almost immediately falls into bed with the wife’s sexy but under-age daughter, and when the girl winds up murdered DelPresto is the prime suspect. In a mad scramble to clear his name and find the real killer, DelPresto gets the crap beat out of him a few times, almost accidentally uncovers deeper secrets, and generally explodes whatever expectations you might have about the P.I. hero. This is a re-release on Kindle of a novella Gischler and Smith wrote back in ’01, and you can see inklings of the things both writers would later use to greater effect—which is to say: as good as this novella is, both writers are far, far better now than they were then. Still, this is a very solid piece of work, with a breakneck pace, some real laugh-out-loud moments, and great characters.

YELLOW MEDICINE– Anthony Neil Smith
And speaking of Anthony Neil Smith… YELLOW MEDICINE is the first book in the story of self-destructive, corrupt-but-complex, loser-hero Deputy Billy Lafitte. After irrevocably messing up his life in Louisiana, Billy is now a cop in a back-water burg in Minnesota. In a short period of time, he’s managed to establish himself as King of the Hill, controlling the county’s criminal element by force, intimidation, and shady dealings. But it’s a precarious perch he’s on, and when sexy Drew (bass player in a psycho-billy band) needs his help pulling her boyfriend out of a bad situation, Billy’s position starts to crumble. His past begins to catch up to him, and next thing he knows, he’s caught up in an epic struggle against backwoods meth cookers, a government agent who wants desperately to bring him down, and… wait for it… Islamic terrorists. Billy is an absolute gem of a character, so real you want to punch him in the face with every crap decision he makes, and yet still hope against hope that he can somehow prevail as his situation gets steadily worse and worse. This is vintage Smith, right here.