The Week that Was

 Erin Mitchell  Comments Off
Sep 192014

by Erin Mitchell

Some relatively random thoughts/observations this week…

In case you missed it, the Bouchercon programming schedule has been posted. Click here to view/print/download it. There are nine panels at a time this year, so chances are good everyone will be able to find something of interest.

Last night, Scotland voted no to becoming an independent country. Voter turnout was 84.6%. I didn’t have a dog in this particular hunt, although I was hoping for a different outcome. But I’ve been fascinated with the role media (social and otherwise) and IRL events/discussion played in this process, because I think there’s a lot to be learned for the book world.

Because I am lucky to work with some of the best storytellers (not to mention publishers) out there, I have a couple of clients on the September 28 New York Times Best Sellers list. One of them is a brand new book, Robert B. Parker’s BLIND SPOT by Reed Farrel Coleman. It’s fair to say that Reed honors Mr. Parker’s legacy in a way that only he can, and readers are loving it. The other is a book first published some 22 years ago, Lawrence Block’s A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES. This has long been a favorite book of mine, and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie this afternoon. And Hard Case Crime has done an amazing job with the movie tie-in edition of the book!

The new iPhone and iOS8 are here. Or there. I mean, I don’t have a new iPhone, but lots of people do. I did upgrade to iOS8. I find it interesting that Apple has apparently abandoned any focus on selling books, particularly given that one of the new iPhones is big enough to be a pseudo-tablet.

Fall is upon us. Heck, it’s even snowed in South Dakota. The next few months will bring an abundance of amazing books, and now would be a swell time to preorder a few of them.

Have a great weekend!


Sep 192014

This from Language Log, a University of Pennsylvania site:

Matched guise among the tombstones

liam and tjLawrence Block’s 1992 novel A Walk Among the Tombstones has been made into a recently-released movie. I haven’t seen the movie, but in the book, the character TJ carries out what sociolinguists would call a “matched guise experiment”.  This is a technique for measuring language attitudes by having the same speaker read a passage in two different ways, and asking hearers a series of questions about the speaker’s intelligence, honesty, or whatever.

TJ is a sort of updated Big Apple version of Sherlock Holmes’ “Baker Street irregulars”:

TJ is a black teenager I met about a year and a half ago on Times Square. That’s his street name, and if he has another name he’s kept it to himself. I’d found him breezy and saucy and irreverent, a breath of fresh air in the fetid swamp of Forty-second Street, and the two of us had hit it off together. I let him do some minor legwork on a case a little later on with a Times Square handle to it, and since then he’d kept in infrequent contact.

Matt asks TJ to check out the pay phones that were used in making some ransom demands.

“I gather the phones had the numbers posted.”

“Oh, right! That’s what I left out. Second one, the one way to hell an’ gone out Veterans Avenue? Where everybody look at you real strange? That phone did have the number posted. The other one, Flatbush an’ Farragut, it didn’t.”

“Then how’d you get it?”

“Well, I resourceful. Told you that, didn’t I?”

“More than once.”

“What I did, I call the operator. Say, ‘Hey, girl, somebody screwed up, ain’t no number here on the phone, so how do I know where I callin’ from?’ An’ she say how she got no way to tell what the number is of the phone I’m at, so she can’t help me.”

“That seems unlikely.”

“Thought so myself. Thought they got all that equipment, you ask them a number at Information an’ they can say it about as fast as you can ask it, so how come they can’t give you the number of your own phone? An’ I thought, TJ, you fool, they took out the numbers to fuck up dope dealers, an’ here you go soundin’ just like one. So I dial 0 again, on account of you can call the operator all day long an’ never spend no quarter, it a free call. An’ you know you get somebody different every time you call. So I got some other chick, an’ this time I took all the street out of my voice, I said, ‘Perhaps you can help me, miss. I’m at a pay phone and I have to leave the number with my office for a call back, and someone defaced the phone with spray-painted graffiti in such a way that the number is impossible to make out. I wonder if you could possibly check the line and supply it for me.’ An’ I ain’t even through sayin’ it when she’s readin’ off the number for me.

Matt is impressed:

“I’m stunned,” I said. “I didn’t know you could talk like that.”

“What, you mean talk straight? ’Course I can. Just because I street don’t mean I be ignorant. They two different languages, man, and you talkin’ to a cat’s bilingual.”

These days, 20-odd years after the period where the novel is set, pay phones are sort of like square-rigged sailing ships. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie replaced this aspect of the plot with something involving throw-away cell phones or texting via TorChat.

And street kids are more likely to be like Billy Baker than like TJ. But it’s a nice story.

Neat, innit?  TJ’s an important player in the film, and Brian “Astro” Bradley nails the part perfectly.

 Posted by at 2:20 pm
Sep 192014


Released yesterday, Broken Monsters, the new genre-bending thriller by Lauren Beukes. Both creepy and compelling, the novel is already receiving raves from NPR to The Guardian. In it, a Detroit police detective investigates the strange murder of a young boy, whose lower body has been replaced by the hind quarters of a deer. Her previous novel, The Shining Girls (a favorite among indie booksellers), was an intricately plotted tale about a time-travelling serial killer who stalks his victims, bright young women who burn with potential, across six decades. Both are available from Hachette Book Group. (And why wait 1-4 weeks to get your copy when you can stop by your favorite indie bookseller and get one today!)

Also available, Lauren Beukes’s two earlier sci-fi novels, Moxyland and Zoo City, the latter of which won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Friday’s Forgotten Books, September 19, 2014

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Sep 192014

Boston Noir. edited by Dennis Lehane, 2009

Rather than trying to talk about the entire collection, let me mentiont three of the stories I liked most.

Animal Shelter by Lehane, is the original source fot the current movie THE DROP. In this story, a bartender at a drop bar in Dorchester comes across an abused dog left in a trash can. This leads him to Nadia, who lives close by. They form an attachment brought about by caring for the dog. Also in the action is Marv, Bob's boss at the bar, a man yearning to move up in the organization now run by Chechens, and Nadia's former boyfriend, a crazed sociopath. This is a terrific story and I think I prefer it to the script Lehane produced for the movie. It is lean and beautifully told. A gem

Oddly enough The Reward, by Stewart O'Nan also concerns an abandoned dog. In this case, a young woman, barely surviving on her salary as a taxi driver, hopes her rescue of the dog will reap her a reward. She is also in care of and bullied by her father. O'Nan is not a crime writer and in this one noir is more implied that explained. A very fine story though.

Lastly Femme Sole by Dana Cameron concerns the attempts of a woman to hold onto the bar in Boston's north end that her father has willed her. She runs up against a bunch of tough men, not least of them her abusive husband. She outfoxes them. Until...

I have read at or read entirely a lot of this series. Because they attempt to include local writers, some of the stories are by people who really don't have much experience writing short stories. Or local celebrities that may help sell copies. This means their quality varies considerably. This seemed like one of the better collections.  Patti Abbott

Sergio Angelini, SHOOTING STAR, Robert Bloch
Joe Barone, SHELTER, Harlan Coben
Brian Busby, A Look at FFB from our Canadian contributor
Casual Debris, THE UNDERPAINTER, Jane Urquhart
Martin Edwards, MURDER IN KENSINGTON COURT, Phillip MacDonald
Ed Gorman, SUSPENSE PATROLPhilip Macdonald
Rich Horton, TIME AND THE GODS, Lord Dunsany
Randy Johnson, FEATURING THE SAINT, Leslie Charteris
Nick Jones, THE BLUNDERER, Patricia Highsmith
George Kelley, SMOKE AND MIRRORS, Neil Gaiman
Margot Kinberg, A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE, Malla Nunn
B.V. Lawson, THE OXFORD BOOK OF AMERICAN DETECTIVE STORIES, ed. Tony Hillerman and Rosemary Herbert
Evan Lewis, THE PROUD RIDERS, Brian Wynne (Garfield)
Steve Lewis, DARK PLANET, John Rackam
Heath Lowrance, Four Elmore Leonard Westerns
Todd Mason, Some Suspense-Fiction Anthologies and Fantasy Fiction: Beyond and Alongside Tolkien: Among His PeerNeer, THE HAND IN THE DARK, Arthur J. Rees
J.F. Norris, ACT OF FEAR, Michael Collins
James Reasoner, THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE, Bill Pronzini
Richard Robinson, STAKEOUT ON PAGE STREET, Joe Gores
Gerard Saylor, I, SNIPER Stephen Hunter, CRASHED, Timothy Hallinan
Kevin Tipple, A VAMPIRE NAMED FRED, Bill Crider
TracyK, THE WINE OF ANGELS, Phil Rickman

Sep 192014
(This post originally appeared on August 20, 2007) I’ve been a fan of Bill Pronzini’s work ever since I read his Man From U.N.C.L.E. novella “The Pillars of Salt Affair” in the MFU digest magazine sometime in the late Sixties. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that Pronzini had written that story. It was published under the house-name Robert Hart Davis, a tribute by publisher Leo Margulies
Sep 192014

WILLIAM O. TURNER – Mayberly’s Kill. Doubleday “Double D Western,” 1969. Berkley X2017, paperback, 1971; later printings, 1977, 1982.

   Turner wasn’t a prolific writer, so I took a short amount of time to come up with complete bibliography, more or less. The major secondary source used was 20th Century Western Writers, 2nd edition. [I've moved the list of books and stories to the end of this review, rather than here at the beginning, where it first appeared.]

   Turner was born in 1914 and died in 1980. [If you go through the list of books he wrote], you can see that his career had the usual ups and downs and various digressions that a good many of his fellow writers did. He started in hardcover in the mid-1950s with what looks like solid western historicals.

   When he was dropped by Houghton Mifflin, he was picked up by Doubleday – but for not all of his books. Then comes the usual mixture of hardcovers and paperback originals, along with some books that came out first (or only) in England, with some hardcovers eventually never having softcover editions.

   Catch Party was a posthumous book, and why it came out from Zebra, who never did any of his other books, so far as I’ve been able to learn, is a minor puzzle. (Not one that’s keeping me up at nights, you may reassured to know.)

   Moving on to the book at hand, what the first few paragraphs reminded me of was nothing more (or less) than a good old-fashioned private eye novel:

    Zach Mayberly sat with the scrubbed surface of the kitchen table between him and the girl. She was small and slender with a delicate face and black eyes. She was young. Nineteen, she said. She sat straight and looked him in the eye and answered his questions readily. A little too readily, he thought.

   “How long did you live up there on Grizzly Creek?”

   “Since I married Eduardo. That was in February, two years ago.”

   “And Eduardo was killed Wednesday, the fourth of April? Three weeks ago tomorrow?”


   The room was dark, low-ceilinged, a typical Mexican kitchen. Susanna Velasquez was not Mexican. This was the house of her sister-in-law, Eduardo’s sister.

   The killer of Susanna Velasquez’s husband Eduardo is not Mayberly’s primary interest, but the two men who had been staying with the couple may be the Ambrose brothers, the men whose trail he’s been following. That they may have had something to do her Eduardo’s death is largely incidental, but Susanna’s subsequent and hasty later departure seems to confirm that something shady had occurred, up there on Grizzly Creek.

   Mayberly soon discovers an even better lead to follow, however, when he learns that the sister of the woman whom one of the men married is also looking for the them. Her sister’s son was living with her after she died, having left her husband, Sip Ambrose, but when the man stole his son back from the sister, she is doggedly tracking them down, hoping to get the boy back.

   Another bounty hunter, a fellow named Yadkin, is also the picture, as well as a Pinkerton man named Deeds. The latter also makes himself a good friend and traveling companion of Melanie Coates (that’s the sister), which somehow displeases Mayberly, and for more reasons than one.

   This is a slim novel, taking up only 188 pages of normal-sized type, and believe it or not, what I’ve told you so is only the beginning. Eventually all of the characters in this novel – the two outlaws and the boy; Susanna Velasquez; Mayberly and the girl; Yadkin and Deeds – find their way to a free-thinkers’ settlement called New Sanity, which the Ambrose brothers (Tucker disguised as a woman) have hopes of taking over, with the aid and abetting of one of the more nefarious members of the group already there, not to mention a stockpile of dynamite.

   If you’re thinking that this sounds rather ludicrous, I guess it does, but it all makes sense as you’re reading it, in a smile-to-yourself kind of way. When all of the plot threads come together, it is truly a delicious sight to behold, and since the copy I read was a third printing, as you will recall, I imagine that I’m not the only one to have thought so.

   Turner was very much a writer in the traditional mode, as off-beat as the setting his characters find themselves in may have turned out to be. The level of language he uses, it occurred to me once while I was reading, seldom exceeds a young adult level – even though more than a few events may be sometimes a little darker than that – but if clarity in story-telling is a virtue, then Turner was a fellow who had it.


The Proud Diggers. Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1954. Paperback editions: Dell #844 1955; Berkley, 1980.

The Settler. Houghton Mifflin, 1956. Paperback editions: Dell #947, 1957; Berkley, 1977.
War Country. Houghton Mifflin, 1957. Paperback: Berkley G-433, 1960.

The Long Rope. Doubleday, hardcover, 1959. Paperback: Hillman #183, 1961.

Throttle the Hawk. Ward Lock, British hardcover, 1960. Paperback: Berkley, 1966. (*)
The Treasure of Fan Tan Flat. Doubleday, hardcover, 1961. Paperback: Berkley, 1975.

The High-Hander. Ace Double F-186, paperback original, 1963. (Bound back to back with Wild Horse Range, by Louis Trimble.)
Gunpoint. Berkley, paperback original, 1964.
Destination Doubtful. Ward Lock, British hardcover, 1964. US paperback original: Ballantine U1050, 1965.
Five Days to Salt Lake. Ballantine U2252, paperback original, 1966.
Ride the Vengeance Trail. (*) Berkley F1264, paperback original, 1966.
Blood Dance. Berkley F1439, paperback original, 1967.

Mayberly’s Kill. Doubleday, hardcover, 1969. Paperback: Berkley X2017, 1971.
A Man Called Jeff. Berkley X1650, paperback original, 1969.
Crucifixion Butte. Mayflower, British paperback, 1969. No US edition.
Place of the Trap. Doubleday, hardcover, 1970. No paperback edition.
Call the Beast Thy Brother. Doubleday, hardcover, 1973. Paperback: Berkley N2739, 1975.
Thief Hunt. Doubleday, hardcover, 1973. Paperback: Manor Books, 1974.
Medicine Creek. Doubleday, hardcover, 1974. No paperback edition.
Shortcut to Devil’s Claw. Berkley, paperback original, 1977.
Catch Party. Zebra, paperback original, 1988.

(*) If Throttle the Hawk appeared as a Berkley paperback, it was under a different title, with a high likelihood that it was Ride the Vengeance Trail, which is not included in the 20th Century bibliography.

NOTE: 20th Century also lists a non-western by Turner, The Man in the Yellow Mercedes, Berkley, 1979, but no book of this title, by Turner or anyone else, could be found in the online WorldCat.

   Short stories, with no information that any of these stories had earlier appearances:

   “The Proud Diggers.” Contained in Wild Streets: Tales of the Frontier Towns, Don Ward, ed., Doubleday, 1958. WWA anthology.
   “Blackie Gordon’s Corset.” Contained in Frontiers West, S. Omar Barker, ed., Doubleday, 1959. WWA anthology.
   “The Tomato Can Kid.” Contained in Western Roundup, Nelson Nye, ed., Macmillan, 1961. WWA anthology.
   “The Lobo Parker Legend.” Contained in WWA Presents: Great Western Stories, no editor stated, Berkley Highland F1055, paperback original, 1965.

— Reprinted from Durn Tootin’ #7 , July
    2005 (slightly revised).

 Posted by at 2:17 am
Sep 192014
A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey (Pegasus)

The Gist: “And so after 12 novels, 16 short stories, two television adaptations, and four radio plays, Darkness, Darkness marks the final appearance of John Harvey’s stalwart and long-serving detective, Charlie Resnick,” explains the blog Crime Fiction Lover. A Polish-descended detective inspector with the police in the East Midlands city of Nottingham, Resnick made his debut in 1989’s Lonely Hearts, conceived of by author Harvey as “very much in the mold of Frank Furillo,” the middle-management type in charge of the eccentric squad on television’s Hill Street Blues—only “instead of wearing smart off-the-pegs suits, [he] was outfitted by the same tailor as Columbo.” The redundantly titled Darkness, Darkness finds Resnick “even more melancholy than usual, filled with regrets and thoughts of his own mortality,” writes Adam Woog in The Seattle Times. “The rumpled, canny and jazz-loving Resnick is also retired and bored--until a young detective, Catherine Njoroge, asks for help investigating the recently discovered remains of a woman [Jenny Hardwick] who had disappeared in the mid-1980s. That period was a dark moment in England’s history: a bitter coal miners’ strike that devastated the nation. It also tore friends and family apart--as with the murder victim, a strike supporter, and her husband, a miner who became a scab rather than strike.” Harvey, says Kirkus Reviews, “seamlessly weaves together the present-day investigation into Jenny’s death--a process complicated by not only the passage of time, but also the lingering distrust stirred up by the strike and its aftermath--and the last weeks of Jenny’s life.” A secondary plot line about Njoroge’s confrontations with an abusive ex-lover adds further emotional depth to this yarn.

What Else You Should Know: Jake Kerridge, who writes about crime fiction for Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, had a nice take on Resnick’s legacy, when this book was first published in the UK this last summer:
In the early-to-mid-1990s it looked like Resnick was set to be the new star British sleuth, and although by the end of the decade he had been superseded in the public’s affections by Ian Rankin’s [John] Rebus, Harvey’s books have hogged the critics’ superlatives, even being compared by Elmore Leonard, no less, with Graham Greene, no less.

Rebus may be the greater imaginative creation, but Resnick seems to me to be the more authentic portrayal of what the average real-life copper is like. Over the years he has become more of an observer than a man of action, and indeed this book finds him retired from the fray and advising the police in a civilian capacity. There are intimations of obsolescence--he is baffled by some aspects of modern life and no longer even recognizes most of the names on the bill at Ronnie Scott’s--but unlike Ruth Rendell’s increasingly bewildered Inspector Wexford, Resnick still convinces as a competent detective.
However, it’s Raven--a pseudonymous reviewer for Crime Fiction Lover--who gets the final word here: “Obviously to avoid spoilers, I will make no reference to how Resnick bows out [at the end of Harvey’s new novel], but think I am definitely not alone in mourning the loss of this character [from the] crime fiction arena. With Darkness, Darkness, Harvey has conjured up a fitting and emotive final outing for this long-lasting and influential character. As a stolid fan of John Harvey I thank him for it--the final scene is perfect. We’ll miss you, Charlie Resnick.”

READ MORE:Author John Harvey Interview: Resnick’s Last Case,” by Lynette Pinchess (Nottingham Post).