Mar 252015
Man, as much as I love Ace Atkins writing Spenser, here's a guy that would be able to continue that series really well. This is totally new book featuring Wyatt Storme that will have me pick up the reprints coming soon as well for sure.
Wyatt Storme is an ex-football player and Vietnam veteran who is visited by his old pal and psycho sidekick, the ex-CIA agent Chick Easton. Chick asks him for help protecting a bad boy movie-star during the shoot of a Western movie. There's also an old enemy of Storme lurking around.
Storme is a really cool guy, a real John Wayne kind of guy. Tall, honest, kind to women and a bit of a loner. He also gets in quite a few witty lines in the Spenser veign. Chick is an almost superhuman sidekick, where there's of course some comparisons to Hawk
The story is paced well with enough twists and action and a shift to the POV of Storme's old enemy that nevers confuses or annoys.
Great, old-fashioned PI writing and a MUST for fans of Spenser, Elvis Cole or my own Noah Milano.
One of my favorite books of the year so far.
Mar 252015

I had a plan for this week’s post.

The plan was this. Here in the UK there’s a radio show called Desert Island Discs. It’s been running for decades – literally; the first one was in January 1942, and it’s now on its fourth presenter. The premise, for those not in the know, is that a celebrity with an interesting past chooses the eight records (it dates back before the days of vinyl) they would want with them if they were cast away on a desert island. Don’t ask me why it’s eight, and definitely don’t ask me how they’re going to play them. It’s just a radio show.

Music doesn’t do it for me; if I was choosing my eight discs they would include things like the original recording of Under Milk Wood with Richard Burton, and a wonderful long-player I’ve owned since I was fifteen (I think it’s only available in vinyl), of excerpts from Hamlet, also with Richard Burton.

So rather than discs, for purposes of this week’s post, I was going to choose my eight desert island books. Which in one way is far more practical than discs.

Except now I’m on the spot, and forced to make the choice, I’m finding it difficult bordering on impossible – OK, just impossible – to pare the list down much below twenty. And even then, I want Complete Works compendium versions of so many authors’ books that it’s pretty clear how I’m going to end up on the desert island in the first place: the ship will sink under the weight of all those books. And no, I don’t want them on an e-reader, thank you very much; my usual objections aside, there’d be nowhere to recharge it.

So, to give myself more time to consider the extremely important issue of which eight books am I totally unable to live without, I’m sending out a challenge.

Which eight books, or failing that which eight authors, would you want to find on your desert island?

No prizes or giveaways. Though maybe I’ll get some titles to add to my book wishlist.

Mar 252015

MICHAEL CRAVEN – The Detective & the Pipe Girl. Bourbon Street Books, trade paperback; 1st printing, 2014.

   I’m going to go back a way before I begin. I don’t know the exact year it was, but it has to have been sometime in the early 1970s, soon after my wife and I moved to this house in Connecticut where we’ve lived ever since. The local comic book dealer put on a pulp and paperback convention, and Paul you can tell me if I’m wrong, but as I recall, it was in Wethersfield, the next town over.

   The guest of honor, or one of them — that I don’t remember — was Mike Avallone. Among other things, he was the creator of Ed Noon, the leading protagonist in quite a few private eye novels. During the panel of size one he was on, he was lamenting the “death of the PI novel,” among other matters. In the Q&A session that followed, I had the temerity to point out that there were these new guys in town, a fellow named Spenser and another chap who shall remain Nameless.

   Mike, of course, would hear nothing of it. They’ll soon be gone, was his response, and soon enough, mark my words, he said, nobody will be writing about private eyes any more. I guess you know where this is going. Here it is, nearly 50 years later, and not only are PIs not dead as a genre, they may be more plentiful than ever before. (I may be exaggerating there. Robert B. Parker and Bill Pronzini, each in their own individualistic way, were responsible for a big boom renaissance in the field, starting in the early 70s and continuing on into the 80s and today. You can fill in the names of the other authors who came along on your own, I believe.)

   Mike was wrong, but while I obviously didn’t press him on the point, I felt then as I do now, that much of his complaint was that publishers didn’t want any any more adventures of Ed Noon.

   Forgive the long intro, but this, all of the above, is what came to mind while I was reading The Detective & the Pipe Girl, the first recorded case of a Los Angeles-based PI named John Darville. (Craven has written on earlier book, Body Copy, a PI novel with ex-surfer turned Malibu private detective Donald Tremaine as the leading character.)

   I haven’t read the earlier book, but I have so far managed to not read it. Not yet, that is, based on how much I enjoyed reading this one.

   I’ve been thinking about it, and while I’m sure that every other review that you read of this book will tell you what a “pipe girl” is, I’m not going to. I’ve checked on Google, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the term is Craven’s own invention, and once again I’m going to let him tell you about it when you read this book, and if you’re a PI fan, I hope you will.

   Darville, who tells his story himself, is hired in this book by a famous but now aging film director to locate a girl he had a small affair with before his wife found out. Which he was OK with, he says, but he was able to stay in touch with her until recently. The phone number he has for her is not working, and she is not returning his attempts to talk to her again.

   So, OK, the plot’s not a new one, but Craven has is own voice, or Darville does, in a usual but still different wise-ass sort of way, and while we meet many obvious Hollywood types while Darville tries to track the girl down (which he does, and I’ll say no more), we also get a guided tour through all parts of the many neighborhoods that make up the greater Los Angeles area, with many asides as he does so. Since I was there not too long ago, the names of the towns and the streets and his digressive impressions of them were very familiar to me.

   The plot is not without its flaws, and I could include a few of them in this review, but once again I’ve decided not to, except for one, the long overly expository ending, easily excused, I think, in the overall scheme of things. It’s also a happy ending for Darville personally, I’m happy to say, and he concludes the book with a few truths about life, of which the least is the following, but it still resonated with me when I read it for the first time:

    “If you ever find yourself standing outside a crowded restaurant in the hot sun on the weekend waiting to be seated for brunch, it may be time to rethink things.”

 Posted by at 1:41 pm
Mar 252015
Once again two stories unfold at once in Charity Ends at Home (1968), Colin Watson's fifth satiric exploration of life in the less than idyllic village of Flaxborough. Mortimer Hive is a private detective working on a routine divorce case yet as an apparent former Foreign Office worker he acts if he is on a spy mission. When reporting to his client he resorts to absurd code names and narrates his surveillance of the philandering couple in a grandiloquent jargon.

While Hive is alternately flirting with the local barmaid and making his telephone reports Inspector Purbright and the Flaxborough police are investigating the peculiar drowning death of Henrietta Palgrove who was found upended in her ersatz wishing well used as a home for her pet goldfish. Mrs. Palgrove was noted in Flaxborough for her avid volunteerism and her ongoing letter writing campaign to her favorite charities. Pet charities, one might say. Quite literally. Mrs. Palgrove was devoted to rescuing animals, most especially dogs. She had recently fired off an insinuating letter to the secretary of the Flaxborough and Eastern Counties Charity Alliance (FECCA) threatening her with exposure of mismanagement of funds from the Rover Holme charity. And who is that secretary? None other than the irrepressible Lucilla Teatime.

The two plotlines converge when Purbright's team begins questioning Leonard, Mrs. Palgrove's husband. It soon becomes apparent that Leonard is not only considered the prime suspect in his wife's death but is also somehow involved in the case Mortimer Hive is working on. But is Leonard Hive's client or his target? a series of anonymous letters proven to have come form Mrs. Palgrove's typewriter also add a bit of mystery to the case. It appears she was in fear for her life and the content implies a murder conspiracy had been in place. Miss Teatime proves to be quite a linguistic sleuth using her knowledge of charity publicity to make sense of the ambiguous letter solving one mystery that Purbright failed to see through.

 The ending may a bit to similar to Watson's previous book (Lonelyheart 4122) with another scene in which the killer tries to silence someone who knows too much. Still, Charity Ends at Home is as lively and engaging as all of Colin Watson's crime novels. This time Watson unsheathes his satirist's rapier wit and targets the indifferent authority of schoolmasters, the bluster of self-important civil servants, the paradoxical selfishness of charitable work and the zealotry of its devoted volunteers.

Mortimer drives the story with Miss Teatime riding shotgun compared to her starring role in Lonelyheart 4122. Despite his pompous speech, his chauvinistic view of women and his undeserved vanity Mortimer Hive is a thoroughly affable character. In the dialogue sequences with Miss Teatime we get a hint of not only a close friendship but some shady business in their past. It's clear that Hive and Miss Teatime are miscreants of one sort or another but Watson isn't letting us know exactly what they got up to in their checkered past. It's one reason that you'll want to keep reading more books in the series. I'm going to be a bit let down when I get to the end. There are only nine left for me to read out of the total of twelve books.

* * *

Reading Challenge update: Silver Age card, space E6 - "Borrowed from a library"
 Posted by at 12:07 pm
Mar 252015
“The two of us are on a mission to make De Quincey part of the pantheon of 1800s English authors. For a long while, TDQ (as Robert and I call him) didn’t receive his proper credit—because of the suspicion that an opium addict couldn’t have been a major author. This guy was a big deal and deserves to be treated as such. Robert and I are spreading the word.”

- David Morrell and Professor Robert Morrison are pairing up to pull Thomas De Quincey back from the edge of obscurity. Join the cause by reading Inspector of the Dead, Morrell’s new historical thriller featuring De Quincey as a detective.

Looking for Absolution

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Mar 252015
by Holly West

Bless me, oh Gods of Publishing, for I have sinned.

I have a confession to make. It's a long time coming and I hang my head with shame as I write it, but perhaps my admission will give me the peace I'm so desperately searching for. Either that or the commiseration of other writers who are in the same sinking boat I am.

It seems I have become a "non-finisher." In the past year, I've written no less than one hundred thousand words on two separate projects. Project One has been started and re-started three times. Project Two, which I spent the entire summer writing at the expense of Project One, was abandoned somewhere around forty thousand words. Oh, I plan to pick it up again. I just don't know when.

Neither project is anywhere close to THE END. Should I even mention Project Three, a historical mystery set in post-WII Philadelphia that I started writing before Mistress of Fortune was even published? I laid that one to the side because I just can't figure out the story I want to tell.

I turned in the manuscript for Mistress of Lies in November 2013, which means I haven't finished a book in over a year. After completing MOL, I had these grand visions of starting my next project--a stand alone novel set in contemporary Venice, California--and finishing it within six months. Such hubris! I am not that writer and never have been. The only thing that pushed me to write MOL in less than a year was a giant sword etched with the word DEADLINE hanging over my head.

But in spite of this, I come from the Chuck Wendig School of Finish Your Shit. I don't want to be a writer who hops from project to project, always writing but never completing. It mortifies me to admit that I can't seem to pick a project and stick with it to the end.

To me, not finishing projects is just another form of work avoidance. Oh, I can understand the occasional starting of something then realizing it just doesn't have legs. It happens to all of us. But at this point, I'm just f*cking around. Writing words because in order to call myself a writer I have to write but not doing the real work that FINISHING entails.

I've never been a writer who writes for the love of writing. Oh hell no. I write for the love of finishing. That's where the satisfaction is for me. I write because I love to read and I endeavor to give other readers some of the same pleasure I've received from books over the years. I can't do that if I'm not finishing.

(Is it just me or did this conversation somehow turn a little bit sexual?)

Here, then, is my solemn pledge. I've just re-started my current project--that stand alone set in Venice--for the fourth time. I WILL FINISH IT BY JUNE. If it's good enough, I might even send it to my agent. I don't expect you to hold me to this because I know you've got your own shit to worry about, but maybe saying it here will reinforce the deadline in my mind.

Thank you for listening. I'm ready for my flogging now.

Criminal Minds 2015-03-25 07:07:00

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Mar 252015

Re-Write Nightmares

by Clare O'Donohue

Q: Sometimes great ideas go horribly wrong. Is there a book with a genius premise that you'd like to rewrite?

I'm stumped on this one. I've read books that have been disappointing, even infuriating. But have I quietly rewritten it in my head? That's a really good question.

And the answer is: probably, but I'll be darned if I can come up with an example.

Certainly not my own work but that's because I'm scared to read my early books. What would I do if I hated a character or realized I'd gotten the ending all wrong? Would I chase down everyone who bought the book and explain how it should have been? That's a bad dream (or a great movie premise).

And in terms of other people's books...

I didn't like The Executioner's Song, though Norman Mailer won a Pulitzer for it, so what do I know? It's a terrific idea, chronicling the life and death of Gary Gilmore, who fought for his execution rather than against it. I'm not a huge fan of Mailer's writing, but I thought the subject would overcome that. Apparently not.

The Da Vinci Code is another on that list, but for different reasons than Robin. Also not a fan of Dan Brown's character development, but in this case it was the central premise of the book. I didn't buy it. It's not like anyone could prove the big secret of the novel that prompts some people to kill to expose it, and others to die to protect it. You could shout it from the rooftops, offer all the closely guarded paperwork you wanted - but for the faithful, you would just be some crazy person with fake documents, and for non-believers, well, what would they care? Since I didn't buy the idea, the thrill of the chase was a bit dull for me.

But I don't think I'd want to rewrite these books, just learn from them that nothing is universally loved. Which is what I try to remember if I happen across an amazon reviewer who wonders why I got the ending to my book all wrong.

Mar 252015
More Double Trouble

Passion Playmate 
by Hank Janson

Cover by Robert Maguire
Printing History
Written by Stephen D Francis (1917-1989)

Gold Star Books IL7-18
February 1964

The Sad-Eyed Seductress
by Carter Brown

Cover by Robert McGinnis
  Printing History
Written by Alan G Yates (1923-1985) 

New American Library
Signet Books
November 1961

 Posted by at 4:31 am
Mar 252015

2015 Postcard FrontWith the Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention less than a month away, PulpFest chairman Jack Cullers and his stalwart corps of volunteers have been manning the presses and rolling off copies of our annual newsletters. With the ink barely dry, the latest edition of The PulpFest News–member’s and dealer’s editions–have been stuffed into envelopes, stamped, and addressed. Now they await delivery to the U. S. Postal Service and from there they’ll be off to your home.

Although our newsletter will be filled with information about this year’s convention–including a look at our programming, information about our hotel, early-bird shopping details, our Saturday night dinner, registration details, and much more–please stay tuned to our announcements here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We’ll be regularly providing updates in the coming months. So be sure to bookmark our home page, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

In addition to all the news about PulpFest 2015 that’s fit to print, a registration form will be included with your copy of the newsletter. If you have not received your copy of our newsletter and registration form by April 15th, please contact David J. Cullers at or at 1272 Cheatham Way, Bellbrook, OH 45305. Please let him know whether you want our member or dealer newsletter and he’ll get one off to you.

If you can’t wait, click on the words “member” and “dealer” in the paragraph above to download copies of this year’s newsletters. Start your planning now to attend PulpFest 2015 and join hundreds of pulp fiction fans at the pop-culture center of the universe. We look forward to seeing you in August in beautiful, downtown Columbus.

(Watch for our post cards at the upcoming Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention, featuring artwork from the November 1944 issue of WEIRD TALES. The artist is Matt Fox, an illustrator who painted about a dozen covers for “the unique magazine.” Fox also worked for other pulps, including CRACK DETECTIVE, FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, and PLANET STORIES. In the 1950s and 1960s he was an artist for Atlas Comics.)

 Posted by at 12:57 am