Sep 152014
Dark Angel #2: The Emerald Oil Caper, by James D. Lawrence March, 1975  Pyramid Books If you’ve ever been reading The Baroness and thought to yourself, “This is good and all, but what if, instead of a spy, the Baroness was a private investigator? And what if she was black??”, then you are in luck, because the four-volume Dark Angel series answers those very questions. Like The Baroness,

1964: Books

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Sep 152014
It is 1964 here this week to celebrate my trip next week to DC to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the class that graduated the year before me. (It is more a reunion of the cheerleaders for me). I attended a very small school in Wyncote, PA and my graduating class was 21. The class of 1964 was 14.

So I have been thinking of that year and what was going on. I am starting with the books that graced the NYT Bestseller list of that week. Only one way to gauge what people were reading, I know, but a handy one.

Four books especially the first, dominated the best seller list in 1964. THE SPY was the biggest seller of the year.

THE GROUP, Mary McCarthy
HERZOG, Saul Bellow
THE RECTOR OF JUSTIN, Louis Auchinclos

I was a big fan of all four of these writers but may have not read these books until later.
Some of the other dominant books that year were: THIS ROUGH MAGIC (Mary Stewart), THE HAT ON THE BED (John O'Hara), CANDY (Terry Southern) ARMAGEDDON, Leon Uris, several books by Ian Flemming, THE MAN, Irving Wallace, JULIAN, Gore Vidal.

John Updike won the National Book Award for THE CENTAUR. 

Many of the non-fiction books dealt with the recent Kennedy assassination.

Some of the crime fiction that debuted that year included: A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY, Agatha Christie, THE DEEP BLUE GOODBYE, John D. MacDonald, POP 1280, Jim Thompson, FROM DOON WITH DEATH, Ruth Rendell, THE PERFECT MURDER, H.R. Keating

The Edgar went to  Eric Ambler for THE LIGHT OF DAY. 

Did you read any of these before or later?
Sep 152014
The plot where the protagonist is captured by bad guys and forced to work in their gold/silver mine is a common one in Western novels. I've used it myself. Paul Lederer, a prolific and top-notch author of Westerns, takes a crack at it in THE PRISONER OF GUN HILL, and it makes for a fine yarn with some unexpected twists in the plot. Luke Walsh is on the run through the Arizona desert after
Sep 152014

Jeff Cohen

SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know E.J. Copperman's true identity (and I'm guessing that category applies to no one at all), don't read any further. I wouldn't want to disillusion a reader. Or a non-reader. Or anybody else. 

So here's the thing: As was discussed in some detail last week, HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, the first Asperger's mystery featuring the fictional Samuel Hoenig, will be published by our very own Terri Bischoff's Midnight Ink in just a hair over three weeks, on October 8. It's a mystery involving and told by a man who has a high-functioning form of an autism related disorder, and it involves, as one might expect from the title, a missing head, in this case a frozen one.

It's also the first official collaboration between myself and E.J. Copperman, and that's sort of an interesting situation.

That's right, friends, it's the first book I ever wrote with myself.

The cover of the book clearly states the authors' names as, "E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen," as if that clears anything up. But the fact is I was alone in the room when it was written, although that's hardly a definitive indication that anyone called E.J. Copperman didn't write the book. E.J., after all, is me, and nobody's tried to keep that a secret for quite some time.

In and of itself (which is an expression that doesn't mean anything, but whatever), the fact that both of my names are up on the cover of the book is somewhat irrelevant. If you enjoy the book, it could be written by GruberHans Gruber and it wouldn't matter. If you don't enjoy the book, it could be a work of Pg-02-shakespeare-g_175920tWilliam Shakespeare (who as far as I know never knowingly wrote about Asperger's) and that would be equally unimportant. 

But sitting down to write the book a few years ago (it took a while to find a home, and thankfully Terri liked it), I honestly didn't know if it was going to be a Jeff book or an E.J. book, and I do actually approach the two differently, even if I'm not conscious of the effort at the time. So in writing THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD (which had another title back in those days), I was sort of channeling the E.J. side of my brain even while the Jeff side was poking his nose into it just to keep things on an even keel. So it really is a product of both.

I got the idea when Evan Hunter and Ed McBain (both of whom were actually Salvatore Lombino) wrote a book together. Now, that seemed like a great idea! You get two author names on the book for followers of either previously published writer, and you don't have to split the royalties! What's not to like?

It does irk me when (as a number of review sites and an online retailer or two) some people consider HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD as strictly an E.J. Copperman book and leave my birth name off it entirely. I mean, I worked as hard as E.J. on it--harder even, since I was doing the typing--and I think I deserve a little credit, don't you?

Having just sent off the draft of the second Samuel book, whose title has not yet been confirmed (and I've learned to keep my mouth shut about such things), I can say the second time around it was more of a total collaboration because now I was aware both names would be on the cover. There was more give-and-take, but either way, I got or gave because there wasn't anyone else there. Except our new dog ImageGizmo, who is adorable but chews things a lot.

So I can tell you something I never knew before: Collaborating with yourself can be fun and rewarding. But the best part, without question, is writing the authors' acknowledgments, when I got to thank myself twice.


P.S.: Our sincere wishes for a quick and easy recovery to our own Josh Getzler, just now starting toward getting his shoulder back the way it should be. We want you back here ASAP, sir, so get to work!

P.P.S.: While we're on the subject of Josh, he has informed me that HSG Agency, of which he is the "G", will match my total donation to ASPEN, the Autism Spectrum Education Network, when we tally it all up from the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE (announced here last week). Remember the rules: Buy a copy of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD and have it in your hands on its publication day, October 8. Take a picture of yourself with said book (or e-reader title page thereof). Post said picture on Facebook or Twitter and make sure I see it. I will donate (and now Josh will match) $3 for every picture posted up to 100 pictures that day. Don't miss your chance to donate to a very worthy cause without spending any extra money! And thanks, Josh and everybody at HSG! 

Sep 142014
Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

CHARLIE CHAN IN PARIS. Fox Film Corp., 1935. Warner Oland, Mary Brian, Thomas Beck, Erik Rhodes, John Miljan, Murray Kinnell, Minor Watson, John Qualen, Keye Luke, Henry Kolker. Story: Philip MacDonald. Based on the characters created by Earl Derr Biggers. Director: Lewis Seiler.

   Charlie Chan in Paris is an eminently watchable, and overall entertaining entry in the Charlie Chan series. Starring Warner Oland as the Honolulu-based sleuth, the film follows Chan in the City of Lights as he investigates fraud at the Paris-based Lamartine Bank.

   Joining him in his endeavors is “Number One Son” Lee, marking Keye Luke’s debut appearance in the series. Filmed with some unique camera angles in an atmospheric setting, the movie is one of the better Chan films I’ve seen recently. It’s just a bit darker, both thematically and visually. Chan even carries a gun in this one, and he’s not afraid to point it at suspects.

    Soon upon arriving in Paris, Chan encounters a mysterious disfigured-looking man who asks him for change. Chan, humble gentleman that he is, assumes the man to be a typical street beggar, and kindly obliges. But this mysterious looking man, who we are led to believe is a shell-shocked veteran from the Great War, shows up time and again, first in a nightspot where one of Chan’s female assistants is murdered and again in the Lamartine Bank. Who is this man on crutches and what has he to do with the bank fraud?

   Along the way, Chan has to solve not one, but two intricately linked murders. And although his journey begins in the bright lights of Paris, he ultimately ends up in the subterranean sewers of the Continental capital. There is a great use of shadow and lighting in the latter moments, when Charlie and a Frenchman assisting him meander through the murky depths of the city before stumbling upon a master criminal’s underground hideaway.

   In conclusion, Charlie Chan in Paris is a better than average mid-1930s crime film. True, there’s not all that much depth to the story and the plot does get a bit convoluted. But if you like Oland’s Chan, just sit back and take it for what it is. All told, this entry into the Charlie Chan series is certainly worth watching.

 Posted by at 11:27 pm
Sep 142014
A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller

EVELYN ANTHONY – The Tamarind Seed. Coward McCann & Geoghegan, hardcover, 1971. Dell, paperback, 1979. First published in the UK: Hutchinson, hardcover, 1971. Film: AVCO Embassy Pictures, 1974.

   Evelyn Anthony’s novels are a cross between romantic suspense, espionage, and thriller. Romance is the most important element; her main characters are drawn together by immense physical and emotional attraction, often under circumstances of danger and stress. Exotic locales, international events, and political intrigue round out her successful formula.

   The Tamarind Seed (made into a film in 1974 with Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif) opens with the arrival of Judith Farrow at Seaways Airport in Barbados. Judith, a young widow who is assistant to the director of the International Secretariat at the United Nations, is getting away from it all — mostly from the memory of a shattered love affair with a high-placed and very married British diplomat.

   Within days she forms a friendship with a man staying at her hotel, but this time Judith resists romantic involvement: The man is Feodor Sverdlov, a Russian diplomat, most likely a spy, and also married, to a physician who has remained in the USSR.

   Upon their return to New York, Judith and Sverdlov continue to see each other, but things are not simple for them. Judith, a British subject, is visited by members of her country’s intelligence establishment, warning her to steer clear of Sverdlov. And Sverdlov returns to find his male secretary mysteriously absent; his wife’s petition for divorce follows.

   When Judith delivers a frightening message from one of his colleagues, he fears for his life, and he defects to the British. But doing that means involving Judith in a desperate and dangerous scheme.

   This could be standard romance fare, except for Anthony’s strong characterization and skillful use of multiple viewpoint. Her backgrounds are well researched, and her grasp of international affairs keeps an otherwise typical love story moving along at a fast pace.

   Other noteworthy novels by Anthony are The Rendezvous (1983), which deals with Nazi war criminals; The Assassin (1970), concerning a Russian assassination plot during an American election; The Malaspiga Exit (1974), about international art thievery; and The Defector (1981), another novel about tom loyalties to one’s country.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

 Posted by at 9:42 pm
Sep 142014

Man Eater

J. Kingston Pierce,  the editor of The Rap Sheet and the senior editor ofJanuary Magazine, reviews Gar Anthony Haywood’s thriller Man Eater. 
Cutthroat film development executive Ronnie Deal (“smart, single, and beautiful — ‘heartbreak in a tall, dark hourglass,’ somebody had once called her”) is sitting in an L.A. bar one day, nursing her anger at a rival for fouling up her “breakout film,” when a “physically intimidating” black guy suddenly commences to wail on a “young, frail blonde woman” nearby. Reacting viscerally, her adrenaline poisoned by rage at her own manifest misfortunes, Ronnie shocks even herself by battering the thug unconscious with a beer bottle. Only later, when that same goon — freelance enforcer Neon Polk — subdues and rapes her in her own townhouse, then demands that she pay him $50,000 to leave her alone, does Ronnie realize the horror she’s invited into her life. And all because she’d impulsively defended a “career streetwalker” named Denise “Antsy” Carruth, from whom Polk was trying to retrieve $25,000 that had been stolen from drug dealer Bobby Funderburk. (Man Eater is nothing if not a gold mine of memorable appellations.) Now, determined to feel safe again from attack, and protect her reputation in the bargain, Ronnie decides that Neon’s lights have to be put out. Permanently.
To advance this plan, she decides to enlist the aforementioned Langford, an ex-con who did time for manslaughter and is now out on parole, trying to peddle an action-filled film script titled Street Iron. Ronnie figures to make “the most twisted screenplay-option ever conceived”: offer to purchase Langford’s work in exchange for him telling her how to whack Neon. But nothing goes smoothly in this tightly framed, sardonically humorous thriller. Langford initially resists Ronnie’s double-edged deal (he doesn’t want to go back to prison and lose contact again with his young daughter), though he ultimately agrees to help. Meanwhile, the gorgeous Ms. Deal’s weaselish colleague, Andy Gleason, is prowling for information he can use to destroy her, once and for all; a couple of deranged, drug-peddling brothers, Jaime and Jorge Ayala, have escaped their hospital beds and are gunning for Langford, who’d beaten them up during a dispute involving cold pizza; and Ronnie’s ex-husband is wheeling west from Colorado with a special passenger, intending to check up on her recent success. As these plots and subplots intertwine, often in unlikely ways that owe debts to Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, Gar Anthony Haywood delivers a standalone yarn that is as fast-paced as it is frothing with satirical commentary about the shark-infested suites of Tinseltown.
Man Eater shares its lightheartedness with Haywood’s Loudermilk novels (Bad News Travels Fast, 1995) and its more hard-boiled edge with his stories about L.A. private eye Aaron Gunner (All the Lucky Ones Are Dead, 1999), yet it’s unlike either series. The gorgeous, white Ronnie “Raw” Deal is a sharp-elbowed survivor with a determinedly concealed past and a wit that could flay layers from stone. (“I’ll tell you what’s ridiculous,” she says to Andy Gleason early in this story. “The fact that you were born without a tail, and can pass by a cheese tray at parties without eating everything on it.”) Her relationship with African-American Langford is slow to ignite, but there’s satisfaction in seeing these two find common cause. And a late scene in which the Ayala brothers — one more comically infirm than the other — threaten the two main characters is a guaranteed curative to anyone’s foul mood. Regrettably, several of this story’s actors never achieve much depth, and the subplot about Ronnie’s ex provides little more than a banal opportunity for 11th-hour poignancy. Such faults can be forgiven, though, in a novel as vital and entertainingly vicious as this one.
J. Kingston Pierce is a longtime Seattle journalist and editor of the crime-fiction blog The Rap Sheet, which has won the Spinetingler Award and been nominated for an Anthony Award. He also writes the book-design blog Killer Coversand serves as the senior editor of January Magazine. Pierce is the author of more than half a dozen non-fiction books, including San Francisco: Yesterday & Today (2009)Eccentric Seattle (2003) and America’s Historic Trails with Tom Bodett (1997).
Sep 142014

To the police, Archer Coe's death looked like a suicide - especially since it happened inside a room whose only door was bolted on the inside. To Philo Vance, the death quite clearly was murder. He was able to demonstrate his point pretty quickly - but he was far less certain about just how the murderer could have gotten out of that locked room. And while the police tried to figure out that mystery, Vance was far more curious about the presence in that house of a small Scottish Terrier. Perhaps that's why S.S. Van Dine's book is called The Kennel Murder Case. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.

"S.S. Van Dine" was the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright, and he appears in the stories as the Watson to Philo Vance's Holmes. The Kennel Murder Case originally appeared in 1933. It has a fairly ingenious plot - even when the locked room puzzle is solved, about three-quarters of the way through the book, it still leaves the murder in a sort of impossible crime situation. Philo Vance was an enormously popular character among mystery readers, and he influenced a great many American "Golden Age" writers, such as Ellery Queen.

I must admit that I find Vance rather difficult to take at times - he has that irritatin' habit of droppin' his Gs, rather like the early Peter Wimsey, don't y'know, and he thinks nothing of interruptin' his detecting to talk for pages on end about such things as Chinese vases. Granted, they play a part in the mystery just as that small Scottish Terrier does.

I think Vance is really quite bearable, overall, in The Kennel Murder Case. There are interesting characters and a very clever plot, and I think readers will enjoy it. At the moment, it's only available in an ebook version from Bloomsbury Reader.

The Challenge

As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one locked room mystery. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.


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Sep 142014

By Rob Brunet
Down & Out Books
277 pages

Danny Grant is a young Canadian just out of high school with absolutely no talent or ambition to get ahead in life.  More content to be a pothead slacker, he survives pulling whatever scams will bring him quick, easy cash.  Then he lands a dream job, watching over a huge crop of marijuana for a biker gang.  But is he has no clue who hired him.  All contact is done via texting etc.  Danny’s job is to make sure the plants, growing in a big barn on the abandoned country farm are kept watered until harvested.

For this he’s paid several thousand dollars a week; money he quickly loses at a local Indian run casino.  All of which leads to him accidently clubbing another slacker in the head with a baseball bat and the poor guy.  He buries the corpse in the woods behind a trailer park.  As soon as the biker gang sells their crop, Danny plans to take his final paycheck and vamoose.

But his luck continues to run bad and during the night of the drug exchange, a police officer stumbles onto the scene.  Then someone torches the packed grass and the entire barn goes up in flames.  Bikers and their buyers scatter and in the confusion a duffel bag containing seventy-five thousand dollars disappears.  In truth, Danny has escaped with it.  He buries the loot under the outhouse of an old man who lives in the woods and then is promptly arrested and sent to prison on a manslaughter charge.

And that’s just the opening chapters of Rob Brunet’s hilarious crime comedy filled with some of the craziest, eccentric characters you’ll ever find packed together between two covers; both crooked and decent.  The plot goes into high gear when it skips ahead to Danny’s release from prison, an occurrence that has lots of people excited.  These include Perko Ratwick, the idiot biker who had hired Danny in the first place.  Since that night of the barn fire, the rest of his grungy gang blame him for the loss of their money and fully expect him to make amends by retrieving it.  Then there’s Officer Max Ainsley, the cop who accidently stumbled onto the drug buy and interrupted it  He is considered incompetent by his colleagues for not having called in back-up and having allowed the money to go missing.  Add to this cast the sexy Linette, Danny’s public defender who wants the money for herself and seduces Officer Ainsley into helping her find it.

Of course the only person who knows where the money is hidden is Danny.  Imagine his surprise when he digs up the outhouse to discover the duffel bag is gone!

Trying to properly describe “Stinking Rich” is like trying to catch grasshoppers.  You no sooner snatch up one then a dozen jump up all over the place.  There are lots of other great supporting characters that fill this wacky crime story and this reviewer was shaking his head and chuckling often before the entire madcap carousel finally spun down to an exhaustive finish.  Rob Brunet is a gifted writer who somehow manages to corral a dozen insane characters and through them tell a tale unlike any we’ve ever heard before.  He is a name you want to keep an eye on.  We certainly will.

Sep 142014

Never been to a Bouchercon? Wonder what goes on there? Wonder if there's anything happening that you would find interesting? For that matter, are you a seasoned veteran or even a newbie getting ready for your first Bouchercon and wondering what awaits you there?

Here you go, my friend. The programming people in charge at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, CA, just two months from now, have released their preliminary lineup of panel discussions. Go ahead. Take a look.

What you'll find is up to NINE SEPARATE PANELS taking place during every hour-long time slot. The topics cover just about every sub-genre, from traditionals, thrillers and cozies to paranormals, historicals and serial killers. The problem, for those of us in attendance, won't be trying to find something interesting - it will be trying to decide which panel to attend out of two or three competing in the same time slot.

Naturally, I hope you'll attend the two in which I am taking part - but if you find other choices that are too tempting, I'll certainly understand.