Oct 24, 2009

Audio Book review: NINE DRAGONS.

Hachette Audio
Unabridged version
Release date: Oct 13th, 2009
MSRP: $39.98

One of the things I have always enjoyed about the Harry Bosch books was the progress. Harry is not a static character, over time we have seen his life change. People have come into, and out of, his life. Some have had a major impact, others not so much.

This has never been more true than in Nine Dragons. Fans of the Bosch books know his daughter, Madeline, lives with her mother in Hong Kong. Now, he finds his world and that of his daughter colliding. Events unfold that will forever change both of their lives forever.

The story begins with Harry investigating the murder of a man that Harry knew. Not well, but they shared a moment that has stuck with Harry for over 15 years. As is usually the case, Harry doggedly pursues the case, even when threats are made.

But his life is rocked when his daughter is taken hostage. With little in the way of clues, Harry heads to Hong Kong to being a frantic search to rescue her. He is joined by his ex and her boyfriend. When all is done, their lives will never be the same.

Len Cariou does a decent job here. His handling of the female roles is a bit jarring, but that has more to do with his voice than the actual use of it. He reading is smooth and seems to be a good fit with connelly's words.

Michael Connelly is a crime fiction legend, and with good reason. His writing is tight, with nary an once of fat. He expertly mixes story and character and manages to keep us guessing up til the very end. If you are a fan of Bosch, this is a must read/listen. If you are unfamiliar with him, come on board and enjoy the ride.

Jeremy Lynch

Oct 19, 2009

Audio Book Review: VOID MOON


Cassie Black has worked hard to put her criminal past behind her. The night she was arrested, her life changed in more ways than one. A job went bad and Cassie lost the love of her life. fter serving time in prison, she now sells Porches to the Hollywood crowd. She fights the itches and urges of her past and stays on the straight and narrow.

But there is one thing from her past she can't let go of: her child. She gave birth in prison and put her baby up for adoption. She knows where the child lives and keeps an eye on her. When she hears that the family is moving to Paris, Cassie is forced into action. Her plan: Find one score that will allow her and her child to live comfortably in the Bahamas.

So starts Void Moon. Over the course of several days, Cassy finds herself confronting people from her past, people that are responsible for the collapse of her previous life. Events lead her to Vegas, a city she vowed never to revisit, and to the very casino that was the setting for the most painful experience of her life.

Connelly is a master storyteller. He creates memorable characters that still real enough that you can imagine them living around you. In Void Moon, he does a nice job of mixing characters and plot, not letting one dominate the other. The ending is a bit convoluted, but not enough to hurt the overall quality of the tale.

L. J. Ganser does a fine job here. His voice never grated, truth be told, I did not think about him at all and was able to focus solely on the story. A quality that I like in an audio book. He puts the story front and center.

Michael Connelly is a true mystery icon. His characters are always engaging and Void Moon is no exception. Fans of crime fiction will enjoy meeting Casie, Karch and company.

Jeremy Lynch

Bouchercon 2009


Bouchercon, that magical place. This year was so fabulous and as Judy and I kept on proclaiming WE ARE NOT IN CHARGE!!.... which really is a lovely feeling.... much more so when you see the number of attendees grow over the one that was your child by two hundred people even though it is a city much harder to get to for most and a suffering economy. And Indy was magic because of the organization of Jim, Mike, Moni, Meg, Lynn and as SJ said at Saturday awards "I'll not name names because there are so many I'll forget." They pulled off a beaut with a ton of effort. Being in the Midwest they were also able to acquire more space and tried some new things this year. A Crafts Room? (amazing success) YA programming? 500 school children met mystery writers on Thursday and Friday. Continuous Conversation? Brilliant.
There was more. The programming was marvelous. The GOH interviews not to be missed. Everywhere the eye could see there were new friends and old and I managed to take in a playoff game from the same pov as my very first Bouchercon.

I've been in this community for ten years now, urged to attend my first by none other than Robert Crais back on the old hard-boiled AOL board. It was in Milwaukee and he didn't attend but perhaps my largest thank you to anyone in the mystery world is owed to him (and I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people). Because there is nothing quite like Bouchercon in the world if you're a mystery fan and without his gentle nudging I may never have discovered the live world of Crime-Fiction. I really look forward to seeing him at the next two Bouchercons (interviewing Lee Child in San Francisco) and as Male American GOH in St. Louis. In fact, I hope to raise a glass.

It is at Bouchercon where everyone who works, reads, writes Mysteries comes together and reenergizes one another with their shared fandom.

This year I got to go school girl on Katherine Hall Page and high five Scott Phillips. I spent a bit of time with Charlaine Harris and giggled and got to congratulate Dana Cameron for winning an award in the lower 48. (are you sitting?) I spent quiet time with Ali Karim. Lauren Henderson and I caught enough up that it will be at least a weekend until I miss her desperately again. I was able to to see my friend Nathan Singer and did not expect that at all.

My Ram family was there to represent and I suspect next year will be largest contingency ever. In fact I'm counting on it (I am not in Charge).

We had a great luncheon with Hector from Minotaur where Crimespree shared the scoop with what's new and fabulous coming from their house. Little, Brown had a terrific party for everyone in their house and I was introduced to many of the editorial and publicity staff I did not know. Sadly I never did make it to Reagan Arthur in the crush. I still remember bombarding her like a whoo girl at an earlier B-Con when I found they were bringing Denise Mina's books to the states (hmmmm.... maybe she was hiding behind Jonathan King and Harlan Coben for a reason). And Harpers, what can I say, their staff has always been great to Crimespree, and walking around the room at Mo's on Friday I realized that almost all of their writers are family to me now.
Why, because we all get giddy at the idea of a good plot, the chance to put a mystery in another reader's hand that we know they'll enjoy.

Oh no, I'm not done yet Ben and Alison where there and so was Echelon's Karen Syed. Soho had such a presence, bringing in a ton of their writers and I finally met Justin face to face. I did miss Leighton Gage but saw his lovely bride several times.

Jeremy Lynch being there with both Jill and his mom was wonderful for me and dear friends Penny, Denny, Cristy and Timm. We have Jaxson now too. What could be better?

The Midwest MWA family was there in full force and here I'll forget names so I'm just going to say we were all proud to see Julie Hyzy get through two award speeches without passing out.

And the folks re-energizing Crime Fiction through their work as agents amazes me. I could wear buttons saying "I love Janet" and "I love David Hale Smith". I'd do it for Mr. Able too but he's just too classy. It would be crude.

Seeing them as excited as myself makes me know that there will always be this genre I love.

Deborah and Loren? You amaze me. Gayle, what can I say? You took a waif under your wings those many years ago in Vegas. And I cannot believe I wasn't at the Shamus to see Reed do a two-fer and Bob get his lifetime achievement award. Marthayn is pretty damned good at keeping a secret.

I acquired new family too, and somehow found time to interact with the folks I have known I'd adore but never really spoken with, it's truly all a blur. The difference between last year's and this? I will remember this blur. Vividly. From the amazing Christa Faust to the dynamic Heather Graham, the spectacular David Morrell to the up and comers Jamie Freveletti and Matt Hilton It was so good to see you all.

Ten years ago when I walked into the Ramada Inn in Milwaukee I had no idea what I was walking into. If this was your first Bouchercon I hope you have that same feeling tonight. And if you've never been I urge you to take a look at the site for Bouchercon by the Bay.

Jon and I won the Special Service Award and I have to say a little about that. Thank you very much. We are touched. We are gratified. Everyone in this community helps us do what we do everyday. Whether you subscribe to our Magazine or contribute it, whether you support your local mystery community or buy books (and I don't care, they can be print, audio, or electronic). Do you use your local library regularly? Have you suggested a mystery to a friend or relative in the past year? Did you buy a child a book? Did you write a book for me to read or make sure I got one you know I'd enjoy? I thank you then for your special service to us.
There is however a great and vast group of people who do more for this community than you can possibly imagine. Our fellow nominees both last year and this, the people who are running the websites that keep us all informed. Our fellow Magazine Publishers and the folks hanging on by their thumbs to the independent book stores. Mystery News is leaving us and that is not good. Lynn and Chris , along with George Easter, Janet Rudolph and Kate and Brian encouraged us in the endeavor of Crimespree more than anyone else in this community and have made our involvement explode. What they gave to us, we wish to give to you, or try. Mainly, Mystery gave us each other so we should be awarding you every year and we cannot afford 1700 plaques let alone the glorious award we received Saturday evening. So thank you

I have I final antidote. In Milwaukee, you will all remember a Chocolate Party. It was organized by John Cunningham formerly of St. Martin's Minotaur. In Washington D.C. John and I almost broke the floor together jumping up and down when Val McDermid's PLACE OF EXECUTION won the award. Eight years later he works for DC Comics as a senior VP and I have found a husband, started a magazine, put on a Bouchercon with the help of my Co-Chair Judy Bobalik and many others. On Saturday night, in the Bouchercon Bar we leaned against the wall in the very back of the bar , just taking it all in and grinned, "It's always great, isn't it?" came out of our mouths at the same time.
So thank you Mr. & Mrs. Moffatt for deciding to celebrate your friend Anthony Boucher 40 years ago. You are and have created the greatest community in the world.

Love is indeed an endless mystery!

(wedding photos were requested)

Oct 13, 2009

Long-Time Mystery Reader, First-Time Noir Writer

Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve started this blog entry several times because I’m about to have a noir-influenced novel out after writing several classified strictly as “fantasy—and I’m painfully aware of coming off like “that guy.” You know “that guy”—the writer who switches genres and suddenly he’s also a huge convert to that genre in other ways. He writes articles and does interviews where he pledges his allegiance to his new paradigm and also gives half-arsed opinions on X, Y, and Z...and then six months later he’s on to something else shiny-shiny that catches his eye. Meanwhile, the true insiders—the core readers, reviewers, and influencers in that genre—are rolling their eyes and thinking “this guy doesn’t know crap.” I hate that guy, because I’ve seen that guy come galloping up on his white steed and assailing the ramparts of the fantasy genre more than once—probably about a dozen times. I don’t want to be that guy.



What I do want to say is that I’ve been an avid mystery reader—noir, police procedurals, hardboiled, you name it (although I tend toward the darker stuff)—since I was a teen and first encountered Raymond Chandler. I also reviewed mysteries for Publishers Weekly for seven years, and I can tell you that many times there was no greater joy than that gig, because they sent me fiction by so many writers I’d never read before. I discovered Ken Bruen and John Burdett and newcomer Francis Lin that way. I read so many mysteries between the PW gig and my own reading that when I visited Los Angeles for the first time we were driving down Mulholland and I started getting this strange sense of deja vu. About places and side streets I’d never seen before. Suddenly, I realized that I’d read so many LA detective novels that I was having flashbacks to scenes in books. Is that nuts? Maybe, but it was one of the best literary moments of my life. Totally cracked me up.



Give me a messed up detective (or cop) down on his luck, a difficult, morally ambiguous case with no apparent closure, and a bunch of leads that take him (or her) into the seedy underbelly of a city...and I’m in hog heaven. If it all ends in disaster and our anti-hero manages to just escape with his life, but keeps carrying on carrying on, all the better. Any variation on this works for me, which is why I love Derek Raymond, Ross MacDonald, the early Scudder novels (he was never the same after he got control of his alcoholism), Ray Banks, Mo Hayder’s first two novels, Henning Mankell and Meg Gardiner’s grimmer stuff, and that awesome duo of Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo who brought us the morose detective Beck. There’s also a certain Mr. Piccirilli—as newbies, we both came out of the horror genre—whose The Cold Spot is an instant neo noir classic for me. Then there are the really cool weird noir writers that excite me: Brian Evenson (Brotherhood of Mutiliation in Last Days, anyone?), Jack O’Connell, Paul Auster.



I like mystery fiction for, well, the mystery, of course, but also because it acknowledges the imperfections of people, institutions, and the world in general. It doesn’t gloss over those aspects of society we’d prefer to forget. Sure, maybe it over-emphasizes or even glamorizes those aspects at times, but it still gives us a window into a side of life with which most of us aren’t familiar. Or maybe I just get joy out of being down there in the grit and the grime without having to take a sucker-punch to the gut myself.





To which you might well say, “Yeah, but w are you doing a guest post for CrimeSpree?” They asked because I’ve written a novel with a fantasy setting that uses a ton of tropes from noir and hardboiled fiction. There’s an impossible murder case, a detective in a tight spot, a girlfriend who might or might not be on the level, a friend who might be an informant—all of which plays out against a visionary fantasy setting with spies and rebels.



I’ve never before written a novel that could legitimately be called “noir” or “neo noir”. Why now? It just happened that way—this particular novel required those elements. But I’m glad because it’s allowed me to express an aspect of my pleasures as a reader that hadn’t previously appeared in my fiction. That gives me a lot of satisfaction, and made me develop some writing chops I didn’t have before.



Of course, it could all go south, couldn’t it? That’d be the noir way—real life mimicking fiction, like sussing out Los Angeles from stuff read in books. But, you know what? If I have to skip town, that’s okay. I can always lie low in the next burg over, maybe even pick up some work as an unlicensed PI. When they find me face-down in that crappy by-the-hour motel right off the highway, I know at the very least you’ll want to find out who did it.

More Here:
http://www.finchthenovel.com/

Oct 12, 2009

Oct 11, 2009

American On Purpose - Craig Ferguson

I picked up this book the week it came out. It is really a gem. Ferguson talks about his life matter of factly and doesn't pretty it up for the book.

Reading of his childhood and his first times drinking made me think back to similar experiences of my own. In fact a lot of the book had some scary parallels for me. I was born a year after Craig, and quit drinking a year after he did. And while my experiences with drugs and booze were different they were also very similar. I also found that drugs were really just a way to drink more. And while I stopped drugs long before I quit drinking, I also got professional help to get sober.

Craig Ferguson is an extremely funny man. He is also very warm and genuine. After reading the book there is more insight into this. He is honest and genuine and that's why he is the success that he is now. His genuine affection for his friends, for the US and his family come through and you know it's the way he really feels.

I've always enjoyed his work, and after reading this book I have loads more respect for the man, which I am sure would embarrass him.

Thank you Mr. Ferguson for being who you are.

Oct 7, 2009

A Bad Day For Sorry

We've got a review for the magazine already so I'm tossing an extra up here on the blog.
It's a great book and so far 6 of our reviewers have read it and loved it.
Jon


A Bad Day For Sorry
Sophie Littlefield
2009
St. Martins

I think that the engine of the story, and the series presumably, is a strong one and definitely an interesting one, but isn’t quite a finely tuned one – though it will serve Littlefield well as a launching pad for future stories. The “correcting” of husbands’ wayward behaviors through force is such a grey area on so many levels, and raises so many questions, that this has a lot of potential to be fertile story ground.

A good bit of crime novels are sexist. There, I said it. There just aren’t a whole hell of a lot of fully developed female characters in relation to the amount of fully developed male characters. This isn’t a condemnation, though, just an observation, because sometimes it’s intentional but often it’s not. More than once while reading A Bad Day For Sorry I had to smile to myself, because at times it’s like a photo negative opposite of the rest of the genre because the two female leads are fully developed but the men are all two-dimensional. They are either enigmas or assholes, with nothing in between.

If, when Stella and Chrissie saddle up to rescue Tucker, A Bad Day For Sorry feels a bit like Thelma & Louise redux, it’s not because it is a rehashing of that movies themes but because, on quite a few levels, it is a direct descendent of it.

Stella is a great character, and future books in the series are going to have a hell of good time fleshing her out further. She has three dimensions and multiple facets. She is contradictory and tenacious. She frustrates. She has firm beliefs that are born from hard experience. She may be an alcoholic. She is a killer. She hasn’t fully confronted her past actions but has loosely reconciled with them. She remains, above all else, interesting.

Did I like the book? Yes, very much so. I found the book to be thought-provoking and engaging. This series and this character have all of the ingredients to be very commercially successful, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t.

Readers who pick this book up (and they should) will be in for a damn good read.

Brian Lindenmuth

Oct 6, 2009

Peter and Max - Novel from Vertigo


PETER & MAX
Bill Willingham
2009
Vertigo Books

PETER & MAX is, as the cover proclaims, a FABLES novel. Do you know Fables, the Eisner award winning set of graphic novels from Vertigo? No? Doesn’t matter except to say you may want to set aside some reading time for them after you finish this book.
Willingham has created a universe where “Fables”, those characters we all love from our childhood storybooks exist, having come to our world seeking refuge from their own lands. They have gathered together here on planet earth absolving one another from all past transgressions as they battle against a common enemy.
In the comic version our heroes and heroines include such luminaries as The Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming and on and on. The wonderful mind that created this series has, in writing this book, revealed that his is a pure genius.
Peter & Max you see, is the story of Peter the Wolf, Peter who ate a pickled pepper. It is the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, and that of little Bo Peep and with Willingham at the helm it is a story that now belongs on a shelf all of its own.
This story opens with Bigby Wolf informing Peter Piper that his brother has been sighted. Peter must now set off on what will probably be his final quest. He must confront his brother and try to end his evil.
The story flashes back and forth between the quest of today and the story of Peter & Max. Peter and his brother Max played the pipes with their dad for living, a meager but happy existence belonged to the Pipers. And then, in one day their existence was forever changed. First father gave the only family treasure (Frost the Flute) to Peter and then the Empire stole their lands. The Piper family with the family of their good friends, the Peeps was forced to run into the woods……
Using the meter and legend of fairy tales Willingham will hook you quickly, reveal to you the underbelly of storybooks more decidedly than anything ever written by the Grimms. For Peter and Max must end with one brother killing the other, but how did we get to this part of the story?
Willingham uses the fairy tales of our youth and the nightmares of our imagination to deliver an entirely unique Noir Novel.
Ruth Jordan

By the way, to make the FTC happy we would like to let you know that we received an advance copy of this book so that we could review it in a timely fashion.

Oct 5, 2009

LIFE ON MARS from UK to US


Well, as of tonight I've seen both versions of Life On Mars. The original UK version ran for two series (seasons) and it ended in a very interesting and talked about way. It is not definitive but lets the viewer draw their own conclusions. I loved it.

So, I hear they are planning a US version and I think "well that's just dumb"
The US television version of Coupling sucked. The didn't do too great with any number of other shows, and really, why screw with something so perfect?

Last week I saw the US version of Life on Mars at a DVD friendly store, and at a nice price. I like the cast so I figured what the Hell, how bad can it be? Turns out it isn't bad at all.

I have to say, after seeing the original cast line up I'm glad they made the changes they did.

Going in I expected a cheap rip off duplicating it or really butchering it. Sure enough, the first few episodes were carbon copies, right down to the dialogue. And then something magic happened. The show got notice that they were canceled. Normally bad news. But in this case they knew they had limited episodes to wrap it up and they did something truly amazing. They came up with clever and new ways to finish the story. I sat watching the last ten miinutes of the show in awe.
They pulled it off,they made it work.
I honestly don't know if they would have done so well had the show continued. But working under the gun they excelled and in my opinion truly succeeded.

The UK version has some advantages. John Sim as Sam Tyler was inspired. His portrayal of Sam was a man haunted and confused trying to make sense of thing outside his control. It worked as a story on a basic level and on a deeper level. Sim is amazing and I will watch anything with him in it (includiing the kick ass episode of Dr. Who that he did).

Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt was the back bone of the show, strong and unforgiving. A simple man who is driven to do his job and grab life by the gonads.

Liz White as Annie, Dean Andrews as Ray and especially Marshall Lancaster as Chris, all terrific in there roles. Lancaster really gave Chris life all his own, growth of character from episode to episode underplaying the role to perfection.

The US version rocked a pretty impressive cast as well. At first I could't help but make comparisons between the different versions, but soon they became a seperate thing. Kind of like reading about a character in a book and seeing them in a movie, seperate but the same, but both viable and unique.

Harvey Keitel really grew on me with his some what quieter but equally forceful portrayal of Gene Hunt. Michael Imperioli as Ray Carling was really great, and he looked like he loved the role. I think Gretchen Mol as Annie did a superb job and I expect to see her getting a lot more work soon.
My biggest reaction was Jason O'Mara as Sam, while good inthe role he just didn't seem to have the emotional impact the way Sim did. I truly bought into Sim being a tortured soul, while O'Mare simply seemed to be an irritated soul.

Both shows do a nice job of reflecting 1973 and its interesting to see the variations between the UK and the US.

In the end while I prefer the UK version I really liked both a lot and plan to rewatch them again soon.

All three are availble in the US, Season 2 of the UK version coming in Late November. I would recommend getting all three, put on some flared jeans and a paisly shirt, put on some classic David Bowie (Huny Dory) and sit back and get lost int this wonderful crazy world these amaing people created.

Buy the US version of - Life on Mars: The Complete Series
Buy - Life On Mars: Series 1 (U.K Version.)
Pre Order Life on Mars: Series 2 (UK Version)