Oct 292014
Retired Navy SEAL Nate "Nasty" Jepson meets a man on the run, carrying a bag full of beef sticks. When the guy gets killed and Nate manages to get away safe with the beef things get dangerous. When his landlady gets kidnapped things get even more personal.
While he struggles to stay alive and tries to get to the bottom of things Nate Jepson also finds some time for romance.
Nate is a pretty cool and competent PI, but not the kind of superman you might expect if you read that he used to be a Navy SEAL. Sure, he can take care of himself but he also gets scared a little and is not a flawless fighter.
The book's biggest strength is also the weakness. We really get in the head of Nate as he tells the story. It's a nice voice, and I really liked the guy. In some places all his asides started to slow down the pacing a bit, though.
If the writer tightens the writing just a tad this will be a great new series.
Oct 292014
I was really happy with this novel, one of the best of this writer in years. Where most of the last few novels seemed a bit by-the-numbers and more of an episode of Law & Order then the great mystery series this used to be this one has Mr. Kellerman returning to form.
When psychologist Alex Delaware gets involved in a custody case the losing party bears him a lot of ill will, endangering his life. When people start getting killed and an innocent child goes missing he, together with gay detective Milo Sturgis investigates.
What makes this one so great is that we see Alex do more than just investigate crimes. There's a whole plot other than him just helping out Milo. It made the story more varied and enjoyable. Also, there was a bit more action than the endless theorizing and interviewing of the last few novels.
Here's hoping Mr. Kellerman continues in this way.
Oct 292014

Lynne Patrick

A few days ago my husband raised his head from the sports pages of one of the weekend papers and mused aloud, ‘How do you punctuate this to make sure it means what you want it to?’

I managed not to punch the air and utter a yell of triumph. Instead, I replied mildly,’What?’

He read a sentence which, in the way of these things, could have meant two different things, depending on the judicious placement of commas and hyphens. In the event, the journalist, or possibly sub-editor, if they exist any more, had got it right; the newspaper was a respectable one, and clearly some people still care about these things.

Husband isn’t usually one of them, so the air-punching and yelling, or not in this case, was, I think, an understandable reaction given this maths and science graduate I married, who can make numbers sing and dance, often shows signs of having cut school the day they did punctuation (yes, in those long-gone days we actually did punctuation at school), and doesn’t often get why it matters so much to me. Any indication that my protestations actually have an impact comes as a welcome surprise. No doubt he found English lessons as tedious as I used to find maths – though maybe at the time a little voice in the back of my mind told me I should pay attention because some of it might be useful one day. The little voice was right, and I tried, but a few years ago when weekly sales figures and annual balance sheets played a large part in my life I had reason to wish I had paid more attention.

Numbers invade everyone’s life, even if it’s only to keep track of what we owe on our credit cards. But whole days can go by when the only numbers I encounter are on the cars and houses I pass on my morning walk, or the keypad of my laptop as my fingers hit the rest of the keyboard or twiddle the mouse. Whereas words... Well, words are the stuff of life, aren’t they? They’re the way we communicate, gather information, entertain ourselves. Live our lives, in fact.

So surely it should follow as night the day that we need to use every possible means to ensure they mean exactly what we want them to mean. If you get my drift.

My favourite example of how the humble comma can move mountains. Well, OK, maybe not mountains, but...

Can you sing, Maria?

Can you sing Maria?

I know. You’ve heard it before. At least, regular followers, if I have any who aren’t bored senseless by my constant banging on on this subject, have heard it before. But I’m not apologizing. It matters. I’ve read three uncorrected proofs of new books in the past ten days or so, every one of them littered with glitches: misused or absent commas, sentences I had to read three times because they could have been taken three different ways, all manner of errors which someone, preferably the author, really ought to have picked up before the book arrived at the uncorrected proof stage.

The stuff of life, I called words. More so for writers than for anyone else. They’re the tools of our trade. And if schools don’t teach kids to use them properly any more (I suppose there’s a case to be made for encouraging creativity by not covering the pages of a story in red ink), it’s down to the publishing house to ensure that the book that makes it to the shelves is the book the author meant to write.

And that means editors. They’re not a luxury.

Is anyone listening out there?

Oct 292014
VanderMeer: I’ve read a lot of fiction on the noir/horror side, and it's very difficult for me to find something new in a novel of this type. Yet even the most horrible things you describe also have an element of unexpected beauty to them.
Beukes: The novel was always about the artistic impulse. It was always about the urge to try and create something beautiful, to try and remake the world in a way where things are malleable, where things can reach their potential. As far as [the antagonist is] concerned, he is looking inside people to try and bring something beautiful out in them, and he just does it in a terrible way.
With The Shining Girls, I wanted to write a real serial killer, which is a loathsome, empty, broken human being. There is nothing admirable about them. They are just scumbags. Impotent scumbags. That is what real serial killers are. They are opportunistic, violent men, and they have no insight into why they do what they do, and they are certainly not outwitting detectives while sipping Chianti and sautéing someone's liver. With this particular killer, I was much more interested in thwarted ambition. The creative urge, being possessed by the creative urge and trying to find your audience and not being overlooked. It's kind of a broken masculinity as well. It's a hungriness that the killer is filled with … He doesn't mean for this to happen the way it does, and I feel a lot of sympathy for him. Which is not to say that the acts aren't atrocious and horrific and awful.

What recent read really surprised you?

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Oct 292014
I rarely put much value on being surprised because I don't read whodunits. But THE GOOD GIRL offered a very late twist that caught me up. Didn't see it coming by a country mile. THE GOOD GIRL is a story of a kidnapping that careens out of control. I liked it all the way through but the ending sealed the deal for me.

What recent read surprised you?
Oct 292014
And... here's the second Adam Hughes cover for Harris Comics' 1992 revival of the Warren classic, Vampirella. Nobody drew sexier women in the 90s than Hughes.

You know, I think I bought a tee-shirt with this image on it.

Patricia Highsmith, comic book writer

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Oct 292014

Patricia Highsmith, comic book writer

I'm pretty sure the NY Times has now published three reviews of Joan Schenkar's new biography of Patricia Highsmith. This must be quite a book. The latest review, by Jeanette Winterson, makes fleeting note of Highsmith's days as a comic book writer.

"Highsmith had a kind of archive- attachment disorder; she adored lists. She chronicled, mapped, numbered and cross-referenced everything in her life, and even rated her lovers, but she wiped out what didn’t suit her and only vaguely acknowledged, when pressed by the more ferrety kind of interviewer, having conjured up a few story lines for Superman and Batman.

"In fact her job was much less glamorous than plotting for those superheroes, but the comic strip formula of threat/pursuit/fantasy life/alter ego/secret identity was the formula she used in all her work. The four-color, six-panel comic strip shaped Patricia Highsmith the crime writer like nothing else — however much she cared to cite Dostoyevsky and Henry James."

For the rest go here:

I got curious about her connection to comic books and looked around on the web to see what I could find. Here's from Wikpedia:

"In 1942 Highsmith graduated from Barnard College, where she had studied English composition, playwriting and the short story. Living in New York City and Mexico between 1942 and 1948, she wrote for comic book publishers. Answering an ad for "reporter/rewrite," she arrived at the office of comic book publisher Ned Pines and landed a job working in a bullpen with four artists and three other writers. Initially scripting two comic book stories a day for $55-a-week paychecks, she soon realized she could make more money by writing freelance for comics, a situation which enabled her to find time to work on her own short stories and also live for a period in Mexico. The comic book scriptwriter job was the only long-term job she ever held.[3]
Oct 292014

Josh Getzler

Last week, alert client Elaine Powell tweeted an article at me about a new feature of some UK writers conferences: Dog Walks with Agents. The title of the article in the Bookseller was "Literary Agents Try To Change 'Distant' Image"

It seems that at two literary festivals in England, one of the featured events was a morning jaunt where agents and authors bonded over their dogs, thus humanizing the agents, who might otherwise be thought of as foreboding or unapproachable.


I had a bunch of thoughts about this, all of which were surprisingly negative. I say surprisingly because a) I am a huge dog person, having spent much of my life cohabiting with various retrievers; and b) because I have made a serious effort since becoming an agent to be Out There and approachable. I have spent a lot of time at conferences. I am active on Twitter and Facebook, and have written this blog weekly for more than three years now. So why was my visceral reaction to roll my eyes at such a benign (and likely fun) event?

As I parsed it, I realized that there were two things. The first is that the places I spend most of my time talking to authors at conferences tends to be at the bar (along with everyone else!), where people organically gather at these confabs after a long day of panels and pitches. It’s not forced and it’s not scheduled. (Sometimes it can get sloppy, but that too can say something—how much to do want to work with the agent who starts spilling secrets after a couple of vodka tonics? Maybe it’s a strikeout, but to some, maybe a home run…) I don’t find it to be filled with peer pressure, and agents assume they are going to chat with people they don’t know—with the invite and the plane ticket is the unspoken understanding that you’ll hold court in the lobby.

The second issue I had with this article had to do with the assumption that agents are scary and intimidating and unapproachable, and they will be humanized through their relationships with their pets. There are two things about this: The first is that fundamentally I find that the vast majority of agents (like the vast majority of editors and the bulk of writers I meet, for that matter), are very nice and human (at least in small doses). We enter this business, as I’ve said any number of times in this space, because we want to LIKE things, to say YES, even though we ultimately reject the majority of queries we receive. But our mindset is largely positive and we at least TRY to be optimistic. So we’re approachable. Not like a golden retriever, but not like a komodo dragon, either.

But the other thing that I realized is that, while I am very happy to hang out at the bar with writers who either just finished pitching their manuscripts to me or are going to in the morning, I do think there is a very reasonable desire to be slightly distant from writers who are not clients. My social media persona (as is true with many of my peers), is what I want it to be, by and large. If you look me up, you will know that I play drums, love women’s basketball, am active in my synagogue and with some animal rights groups, am married with kids, and represent a lot of crime and historical fiction, some children’s books, and Other. And that’s fine. In fact, it’s more than many of my colleagues would put out there, but I think it’s enough to be interesting without oversharing.

My clients often know me better, but then, we have a closer relationship, and it’s a two-way street. They can know more about what I think about things, or some of my views. But I think it’s appropriate for there to be a bit of distance between agent and prospective client.  

Finally, I was wondering why walking a dog with me would give you an indication as to my knowledge of the crime fiction market, or how well I line edit (Sheila Boneham, don't kill me!!!!). Now I’m not being obtuse—I know that what breed of dog I have can give as much of an indication as to my personality as the brand of scotch I drink, and I can talk about noir with Frisbees as easily as with tumblers. But in the same way that certain manuscripts can be written perfectly well but have a tone that’s just slightly off, so too is the Dog Walking at the Lit Conference.


Oct 292014

BASIL DAVENPORT, Editor – Deals with the Devil. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1958. Ballantine 326K, paperback, 1959 (abridged to only 12 stories).

   I don’t deny the existence of a God, but I haven’t felt much need of one since I became a grown-up, so I leave the Almighty to those who do. But though I have never longed to find God, I have often wished there were a Devil.

   Old Nick has brought so much to our culture that I feel some disappointment that His Satanic Majesty lacks the flesh-and-blood basis given to legends like Wyatt Earp and Richard III — and never have I felt this longing more keenly than while reading Basil Davenport’s excellent anthology Deals with the Devil.

   In the excellent introduction to this volume, Davenport cites the Devil’s unique contributions to folklore and literature, from Genesis (Satan’s role in the Bible is small and open to debate, but he was always a rock star in the Christian church.) through Marlowe, Goethe and Stephen Vincent Benet.

   Were he writing today, he might have included Ira Levin, William Peter Blatty and Stephen King, but I prize this collection for its antique charm, as Davenport lays out a spicy buffet of authors like Dickens, Dunsany, De Maupassant and the ever-popular Anonymous, to Asimov, Boucher and the underrated John Collier.

   Davenport points out in his introduction that of the twenty-five tales collected here, the Devil loses out to God and Man in thirteen and wins in twelve. I also noted a tinge of sly humor running through the pages, perhaps best exemplified in Collier’s line, “Seated on a red-hot throne suspended over that pit whose bottomlessness I shall heartily envy.” (That one took a minute to sink in and be appreciated.)

   The effect, however is to make the un-funny stories seem much more grim and unsettling, as Satan is sometimes depicted as an ethical square-dealer (albeit a sharp one) and sometimes as brutal, duplicitous and (worst of all) a bit stupid.

   Whatever the case, a reader looking for a bit of atmospheric Halloween reading won’t go wrong here. As for me, I cherish the fantasy that when Steve posts this and my words light up the computer screen, I shall notice a bit of smoke in the room, a faint smell of sulphur, and hear a deep, ominous chuckle at my back….

 Posted by at 12:17 am
Oct 282014
Today we venture to Japan in Traveling The Globe. Tokyo will be our jumping off point in the final days of this special adventure of our quest to Travel The Globe. Tokyo is the the most populous metropolitan area in the world.

Assignment Tokyo
by James Dark

Hiroshi Sato was a karate champion who defeated all challengers. He was also a genius with a plan to put the world at his command. Mark Hood must go against him in both arenas and either one could get him killed.
Sign On For Tokyo  
by Alec Haig

The process that the company Instecon has developed for steel manufacturing is the best in the business, so good in fact that a foreign competitor will do anything to get the lead technician to come to their side, even if he does not want to. Alec Haig must find the lure and sever it.
Assignment: Tokyo
by Gil Davis

Again the CIA asks Dan Walker to take on an assignment, this time to help find out how the Red Chinese are convincing trained Army specialists to defect, and what happened to two CIA agents who have gone missing.
 Posted by at 11:22 pm