Jun 222014
 
That's a long subject line, isn't it?

We were on a smallish trip earlier this week: we went to Denmark, where we've never been. We visited Legoland, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (highly, highly recommendable) and the vintage Tivoli entertainment park in the centre of Copenhagen. It was a fun trip, for most part, but I'm not going to write about it. Instead, in the spirit of this blog, I'll say something about the books I read during the trip. I had nothing with me but my Kindle. I download only free e-books, since I don't have a credit card with which I could buy e-books, so I'm dependent on what comes free. Even with this approach, I've managed to accumulate a pretty good selection of new noir and hardboiled writing, with some westerns and horror thrown in. Mentioned should also be some classic noir stuff that's coming from publishers like Prologue Books.

Okay, to the books. Peter Brandvold's better known as a western writer, but I've never read any of his books in that genre, but they seem quite good. I read his short novel Paradox Falls that I think is mislabelled as horror. It's more like a suspense thriller, with a possible serial killer hunting some hikers in the Colorado mountains. The book reads pretty fast, but the ending is a bit abrupt. There was also some interesting stuff on being a writer that seemed a bit autobiographic, as the main character, a sympathetic young man yearning for his early love affair, makes his living writing sex westerns. Paradox Falls could've been published as a cheap paperback in the early eighties, and I mean this as a good thing.

Allan Guthrie's Kill Clock was even a shorter book, a novella-length tale of Guthrie's occurring character, Pearce. Guthrie tells his brutal tale with short sentences, but also manages to make Pearce a sympathetic character in all his bruteness and tendency to sudden bursts of violence. Kill Clock also has a good plot for a novella. Recommended quite highly.

Paul Levine's Last Chance Lassiter is the first Jake Lassiter story I've ever read, as I'm not very keen on courtroom thrillers. But this one was so funny and entertaining I'd be willing to try more of Levine's work. Very fluent writing, very smooth plotting, some quite funny wisecracking.

J. David Osborne runs Broken River Books that's a very interesting crime and horror fiction outfit specializing in edgy and bizarre neo-noir. Osborne's own short story collection Our Blood In Its Own Circuit is full with, well, edgy and bizarre stuff that's not easily labelled. I read the first three stories on our flight back, and two of them were very strong: the titular story is about Mexican cops who bathe in the blood of chickens, and the western story "Amends Due, West of Glorieta" is full of shocking violence and characters straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel. Check out this free Broken River Books sampler!

I also started Gerard Brennan's novella The Point, a brutally realistic story about two brothers whose life goes to hell when they move to a small town on the seaside and the other one starts dealing stolen cars. The plot could be more original, but Brennan's clipped style makes it interesting. I'm only halfway in the middle, so there might be some surprises coming.
Dec 092013
 
Wanted to read something short and catchy and reverted to my Kindle that I've used all too rarely for these past months. Charlie Williams's novella Graven Image had landed free on my Kindle just some time ago and I decided to read it.

And it's very good stuff, smooth but edgy, funny but smart, violent, brutish and noirish. It's the story of a fallen man who tries to make it good, but never succeeds. You want him to, even though he's not a good man, but you know from the start it doesn't end well for him.

I just kind of lost in the end. I really have no idea what went down. Maybe someone could explain it to me? I'm sure the fault is all mine, not Charlie Williams's.
Aug 102013
 
I've been reading some stuff on my Kindle, mainly stuff I've picked free from Amazon, new gritty and noirish crime fiction from both side of Atlantic. I've liked a lot some of the stuff I've acquired, for instance Juaréz Dance by Sam Hawken and Tony Black's bleak novella The Storm Without (of which I didn't do a blog post). I also liked Lawrence Block's short story "Keller on the Spot" quite a bit.

But I've recently dropped two novels by new noir writers I was reading on Kindle. The other one was sloppily written and edited, and the other one had ridiculous characters and the police work depicted in the book wasn't believable. I was going to post a review of the books, but then I got to thinking I wouldn't be doing much of a service to the writers and their publishers (the other one of the two writers has just a book out from a small publisher working actively in the neo-noir business). Then I got to thinking that as a critic that's just what I should be doing: pointing out what these writers and their publishers are not doing very well and keeping readers out of the bad or mediocre stuff, but then I got to thinking again and then I decided not to post.

What do you think? I'm really an outsider in these circles, since I'm essentially a foreigner to all American, British and Scottish writers mining this area, but then again, someone might benefit from my point of view.
 Posted by at 7:43 pm
Dec 242012
 

Did Santa (or anyone else, for any reason or holiday whatsoever) bring you a new Kindle from Amazon this year? Yes, I know there are other models of ebook readers, but I have to stick to what I know, which is the Kindle. And if you have a new one, or even an old one, you may be looking for some ideas about Kindling books - that library of traditional mysteries you've always wanted to carry around with you but never had enough baggage room before.

Well, here are a few suggestions to help you load your Kindle with some fine reading material for a long winter's night or two.

To begin at the beginning, why not "bulk up" and get The Classic Mystery Collection (100+ books and stories) for just $2.99. That includes ALL of the original Sherlock Holmes stories - the four novels and the 56 short stories. It has Hercule Poirot's debut appearance in Agatha Christie's "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" and also her first book about Tommy and Tuppence, "The Secret Adversary." Two of Chesterton's books of Father Brown short stories are here, along with "The Man Who Was Thursday." Ever read E. C. Bentley's "Trent's Last Case"? It's here. And a whole lot more. Sure, there's a lot of "stuff" you may not like - or you may discover some new authors whose works demand exploration. It's worth a shot.

One of my all-time favorite mysteries, still at the top of most lists of "impossible crime" books, is John Dickson Carr's The Hollow Man, originally published in the U. S. as "The Three Coffins," now newly re-released as a Kindle book. if you have never read this one, you are in for a treat. What is it about? In the very first paragraph, Carr sets out this challenge to the reader:

“To the murder of Professor Grimaud, and later the equally incredible crime in Cagliostro Street, many fantastic terms could be applied – with reason. Those of Dr. Fell’s friends who like impossible situations will not find in his casebook any puzzle more baffling or more terrifying. Thus: two murders were committed, in such fashion that the murderer must not only have been invisible; but lighter than air. According to the evidence, this person killed his first victim and literally disappeared. Again according to the evidence, he killed his second victim in the middle of an empty street, with watchers at either end; yet not a soul saw him, and no footprint appeared in the snow.”

And that's exactly what you will get.

Another of Carr's impossible crime masterpieces, written as Carter Dickson and featuring Carr's other great creation, Sir Henry Merrivale, is "The Judas Window," with one of the nicest locked room explanations you'll ever encounter. As Sir Henry reminds you throughout, the solution was simply that the murderer used a "Judas Window" to carry out the crime in a locked and bolted room. What's that, you may ask? Why almost every room has one...if you know where to look...

And there's so much more...for example:

  • The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers, my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey book;
  • The House Without a Key, by Earl Derr Biggers, the book that introduced the great Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan;
  • The Roman Hat Mystery, starring Ellery Queen, the detective, and written by Ellery Queen, the writer (Frederick Dannay and Manfred B. Lee), featuring a murder in a crowded Broadway theater.

I'm sure you get the idea. There are lots and lots of mysteries eagerly awaiting placement on your Kindle; you can build a TBR pile that is the envy of those of us with teetering hard copy piles. The cold, dark and stormy nights are approaching - be sure your ebooks are ready!

(Disclosure to keep the gummint happy: if you should actually buy something via one of my links to Amazon, I get a few cents - literally - as a commission. Now don't you feel better for knowing that?)

Nov 262012
 

Today is "Cyber-Monday," a major sale day for online merchants. And to mark the day, Amazon has an amazing deal for mystery readers - well, for ALL readers, to be sure, but I'm primarily concerned about my mystery-loving friends. Anyway, if you have a Kindle (if not, they're on sale, too, folks), Amazon has announced literally hundreds of Cyber-Monday-ONLY deals on great mysteries and all kinds of other books at unbelievably low prices, including lots of classics for $2.99 or less each.

It means that my TBR pile continues to grow, thanks to this new stack of Kindling, if you will. Fortunately, the pile is a virtual one, and I am in no danger that it will collapse and bury me under the sheer weight of unread books. But at those prices - which, I believe, are only for today - I'm stocking up. Yes, that includes Golden Age authors, like Dorothy L. Sayers, along with writers such as Donald E. Westlake, Anne Perry, Ruth Rendell, Charlotte MacLeod, Ira Levin, Lawrence Block, Patricia Wentworth, Robert Goldsborough, Ellery Queen, Stuart Kaminsky...you get the idea. And that's just from the first 10 pages of what appears to be a 53 page list, and that's just for mysteries.

Again, today only. Stock up while you can! (Disclosure, I probably get a nickel or two if you buy any of those from Amazon through my link. I assure you I've already spent a lot more than that to get some of these for my Kindle. But caveat lector, I suppose...no, not related to Hannibal...)

Sep 142012
 

by Alexandra Sokoloff

Funny how the first day of September FELT like the first day of fall, a temperature drop of 15 degrees, the onset of Santa Ana winds, and an actual blue moon.  All pretty auspicious if you ask me.

Fall is my favorite season by far. It always feels like the real new year to me, that back to school energy.

I’m excited for this fall/New Year and also overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed because I’m...

- Selling my house (yes, one of the five most stressful things a person can do. Some even say it's #1!), and looking for another.

- Apparently I need to buy a new car, too. And if you think selling a HOUSE is stressful, baby - just trying being a femme the way I am definitely a femme and figuring out how to buy a car without a S.O. man involved...

- I have two conventions to get to in the next two weeks (the Writers Police Academy and Bouchercon)  Which is AWESOME, don't get me wrong, but the devil is in the details. Southwest should be paying ME at this point, is what I think.

- I haven’t done last year’s taxes yet (yes, I DID get an extension, I'm not THAT much of a femme...)

- I’m trying to get a new book, the sequel to Huntress Moon, out in November

- I need to do some serious Halloween promotion for my other books. That means OCTOBER.

- Everyone expects me to do an intensive story structure blog series for the month before and during Nanowrimo and I can't imagine NOT doing it.  That also means OCTOBER.

- I have a group anthology that we’re planning to release as an e book in OCTOBER.

Piece of cake, right?

Cue hysterical laughter.

Let's get real. I can’t possibly do all of the writing things I should be doing this fall.  I’d need to be a whole other person on top of the person I am to get it all done.

And yet I am surprisingly cheerful about all of this.

I have theories about this optimism. First, I took a vacation for the first time in ages (actually it was half work, but still, half a vacation in AUSTRALIA is pretty great!) and I can feel that my whole outlook has been rearranged; I’m still having crazy Australian dreams, too, a fun perk.  And I came back to real life and even as I wade back into the deluge, I feel that enough of it will get done for me to keep on keeping on, the world hasn’t come to a standstill because I took some time off.  Good to know!

Also, it’s a huge weight lifted that Huntress Moon is doing so well. Between that launch and the sales of my other e books, I’ve made the Top 100 Indie Bestselling Author list, and the relief that I actually made the right choice in breaking out into e publishing, and that I might actually understand how to make this work on my own, is vast. Besides that, e publishing makes actual sense in a way that traditional publishing never did: I know what I have to do and I understand approximately why it works, and I see the quantifiable results month by month; there’s no longer that bullshit cloud of mystery around the whole process that there used to be.  And I KNOW WHEN I'M GETTING PAID now that I'm not subject to the whims of publisher "float".  Believe me, that makes my life a whole hell of a lot easier, just that.

I am further encouraged that my author friends like Murderati Zoe and Rob and Brett and Dusty, and other author friends in the Killer Thrillers! collective, who have always been doing the same kind of traditional publishing that I have been doing, are now doing much better at e publishing -  by doing the same things that I am doing.

That’s a really fine feeling to have.  Stabilizing, even.

I have a lot to handle this fall, but grueling as it all may be, it’s all positive, compared to a lot of not so fun stuff I’ve had to handle in the last few years.  I’ve made some extreme choices that thankfully have paid off.

And I know what I need to do in the next three months: 

- Finish Book 2 in my Huntress series by the end of October

- Sell my house

- Find a new house that’s a good investment, hopefully by the end of the year

- Buy a new car, but rent one until I have time to actually look properly

- Launch the anthology

- Do my taxes (grrrrrr...)

- Go to Bouchercon and the Writers’ Police Academy

- Do a research trip to San Francisco

- Do the promo runs I need to do for Halloween

- Keep up with social media

- Dance more (a point really driven home now that I'm being able to take class with my favorite hip hop teacher in NC while I'm prepping the house. I can barely walk, but OHH, it hurts so good... and better than that, I feel human again.)

- Enjoy life!!!!!

So, 'Rati, what I want to hear today is - What is YOUR fall (New Year's) resolution list?

- Alex

Huntress Moon, an Amazon bestseller!

Jun 172012
 

The folks at Amazon are having one of their daily Gold Box Specials, making a number of mysteries available for 99-cents for the Kindle. Here's the information. The books are readable on the Kindle, of course, and on any number of free apps which you can download to read Kindle books on other readers, such as iPads and regular computers.

And, yes, if you get one of these, I get a few cents. I promise not to spend it all in one place. Sheesh.

Anyway, these deals are for today (Sunday) only.

Mar 302012
 

Today and the next few days, I'm giving DIG TEN GRAVES away for free on Amazon. Click here to download it. It's that Kindle promotional deal you've probably heard about, in which authors can offer their work for free in order to... what? Entice? Seduce? Gather more reviews and tags?

Whatever the outcome, I like the idea of reaching more readers. If you don't already have DIG TEN GRAVES on your Kindle cue, pick it up, why don't you, or help me spread the word if you're feeling particular generous. If you aren't easily offended, you'll probably like it. If you ARE easily offended, it'll give you the momentary joy of having something to be upset about. Win-win.