Dec 282013
 
Back in the days when I was planning and editing the short-lived paperback series of the Arktinen Banaani publishers one of the manuscripts I was sent was Victor Gischler's Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse. I didn't read it at the time, because it seemed obvious from the start that the series wouldn't continue for long. I'd read Gischler's Vampire A-Go-Go and enjoyed it, but thought it wouldn't fit the paperback line easily; here's my blog post on the book. The manuscript of Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse I'd printed out came up when I was cleaning my desk before the holidays and I decided I'd finally read it, but instead of reading the book from the printed sheets, I ordered a copy from a web store.

I'm glad to tell you that Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse (GGGOTA) is a very good book. It's funny, exciting and violent, but there's also some warm humanity in the depiction of the protagonists. The set-up is good: one man has lived in a cage for nine years after the apocalypse (which is explained away in a short sentence, which is a good thing) kills three mysterious men he encounters in the woods and starts to think he should try to find out what's happened to the mankind. He also misses his wife he hasn't seen in nine years. Not all about their marriage is explained in the beginning and Gischler keeps important things away from sight till the second half of the book. The collapsed society of the near future is plausibly done, even though it's a mix-up of westerns and Mad Max. Gischler takes things over the top, but does that very well. GGGOTA is a grand adventure in the style of Huckleberry Finn. I would've gladly taken the book in with the Finnish paperback series, but alas the series didn't see the light of day after five books (and four that came out in hardcover - the format change didn't change a thing, even though we added two Finnish books in the bunch).


GGGOTA may not be to everyone's taste, but I liked the heck out of it. One point, though: I didn't like the scene with the crazy man-hating transsexual.

It seems Gischler managed to fund writing the sequel, but the book doesn't seem to be out as yet.

Didn't mean to do this as a part of the Forgotten Books meme, but here's a link to Todd's blog with the other links.


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?



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.
Jan 052012
 
I was lucky enough to end 2011 with two great reads, and to start 2012 with a couple more, equally good.


Just a couple days before the New Year, I got SOUTHERN GODS, by John Hornor Jacobs, in the mail. Dug right into it, as it was one I’d been looking forward to for a while. It did not disappoint. An inspired cross-pollinization of hard-boiled detective with creepy Lovecraftian horror, SOUTHERN GODS is pacey, structured beautifully, and just barrels along like mad toward a genuinely scary climax. There were several scenes in this book that actually creeped me right the hell out, which is a rare occurrence.


On the last day of the year, I dug into Andrew Bergin’s TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT, which was probably the oddest book I read all year. I had a few books in front of it on the TBR cue, but a terrific cover and an intriguing first page caused this one to jump the cue and become the last book of the year for me. Again, there’s some remarkable genre cross-over going on here, a sort of noir-ish flair rubbing up against a dystopian, Philip K. Dick bleakness. I was worried that Bergen, as a writer entirely new to me, wouldn’t be able to sustain the charm and solid writing in TSMG’s earliest pages, but I needn’t have worried. The man’s imagination is vivid and consistent, and his love of old films (woven so nicely throughout the story) will appeal to anyone who grew up watching Bogart flicks.


Went with a known quantity as my first book of ’12. Victor Gischler has never let me down, so I pulled up THE DEPUTY to ring in the new year. Gotta tell you, I think this is my favorite Gischler so far. The novel takes place over the course of one long, blood-soaked night as our young hero—a part-time deputy sheriff with no experience and no skills to speak of—must stay one step ahead of a wily group of professional killers. There’s lots of balls-out action in this one, great characters, and dead-on pacing.


Finally, last night, Tom Piccirilli’s FUCKIN’ LIE DOWN ALREADY has got to win some sort of award for Most Grueling Novella ever. Mortally wounded, and with his dead wife and son in tow, Clay sets out on a road trip to Hell, bent on revenge. His life seeping away with every second, he keeps holding on, holding on, until his bloody job is done. This is a gruesome, violent ride, horrific and heartfelt.

And that’ll do it this time.

By the way, this will probably be my new approach to talking about books here at Psycho-Noir. Just a round-up, sort of, every Thursday or Friday, of all the noteworthy things I’ve read over the week. Hope that works for all of you.