Sep 25, 2008

The Given Day

“I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day. I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.” James Joyce

This describes the writings of Dennis Lehane.

In all tomes there is a readability factor. I will quantify here. This is the part of the equation where the individual reader takes over from the publishing industry, the “literary” and “genre” critics, and call a good read.

I was fortunate enough to read THE GIVEN DAY by Dennis Lehane in early spring, wrapped up in ribbons and bows and with a letter signed by the publisher. The extras meant nothing. The fact that I had a completed new work from one of the most gifted novelists of our generation meant a lot. Being entirely American, I, of course devoured the first 100 pages in under an hour. And then I went back, reread the words I’d been given and took the others more slowly.

Sitting from my lofty chair of first to read, I’m looking at the reviews and pro or con, I believe most are missing the point.

Dennis Lehane, true voice. He began with “genre fiction”. Every review makes note of Patrick and Angie, of the two stand-alones, of the “soon-to be a major motion picture”…. Of the worthy attempt or brilliant execution.

Me? In THE GIVEN DAY, I’ve found another layer of growth in an already astounding writer. Dennis Lehane , more than any writer today, speaks to his readership. A readership that will continue to grow. Over a decade ago I posted that Lehane “is an author you can travel into the dark with. He will find you light or he will give you hope”

THE GIVEN DAY is a book about America in the early twentieth century. Centralizing on two main characters, one Black and one White, it projects an argument to the readership from the first swing of Lehane’s bat. We have the Babe in at the D.H, position. Soon we move to Tulsa and are firmly tarred and feathered by Boston. Lehane speaks of America; race relations, unions, policing, terrorism, romance and even pandemics. He has stepped back in time to survey where we are today and why, in all probability we’ll revisit yesterday tomorrow.

I have, as previously mentioned, adored this writer because he allows me to wrap myself up in a blanket, grab a cat or a cuppa’ and sink into his world. This time is a little different, like playing hold’em with all the cards up. If you’re reading this blog you’re not reading the book and do not know . Dennis Lehane whom we all thought was a brilliant mystery writer has now become a “literary writer”.

A seven hundred page book needs to be epic and readable. This book covers those two bases just dandy. Base three; will you care when you’re done? If you don’t I’d be surprised. Hitting for home? I suspect, no, I predict, the book will have more and more readers as the years go by. It is that good and that readable? Remember when our English Teachers were demanding we adore Hess? Lawrence? Out of the park baby…..

This is an author with a higher level of skill and a future undetermined. My mother claims he speaks like a contemporary Conrad, my Grandmother proclaims his symbolism akin to Fitzgerald’s. I liken his plots to the best of Faulkner. Three women, one generation of readers. A generation that will grow and not abate over the years.

Remember Joyce. Read THE GIVEN DAY and let me know what you think of it. It is a book that like a good vintage will only get better with time.

Sep 21, 2008


As prep work for our upcoming Baltimore excursion I have been re watching a lot of Homicide. I'm half way through season 5 right now.


If I throw someone in a room and start acting like Pembleton I'd like to apologize in advance.

Sep 18, 2008

The Desert

So I’m not going to try and say a lot. James Crumley is gone. Laura Lippman has posted an interview she did with Jim for Crimespree a few years back on her Memory Project. To say that one of my favorite moments in the history of our magazine was having the finished copy with Jim on the cover in my hands is understatement. There are tributes coming in at an amazing rate and if you visit Sarah Weinman’s blog you’ll find them.

As a writer Crumley was and will remain brilliant. His writing has inspired many to take the step into our genre and there are more who’ve read him and stepped up their game. Will it sound particularly odd if I say he may have inspired readers even more. His canon of work is far too small and some may have failed to find it but if you have you’ll understand my point. There are many writers out there who have great works just waiting to be read. And when you find them it’s like discovering the best secret in the world. But you need to trust yourself to look first. Crumley’s THE LAST GOOD KISS gave me that trust to look. I’m still looking for the next THE LAST GOOD KISS. I’ve found a lot of great books, but somehow doubt there’ll ever be another reading experience quite like Crumley. In his uniqueness lies his genius.

The first time we met I was giddy. He forgave my fawning and started a conversation. The second time we met I was introduced to the lovely Martha. My moments with the pair were too fleeting. My memories of the pair larger than life. And I know I’m not alone. I cannot name all the folks I’ve seen introduce themselves to Crumley and each and every time he met somebody new, his eyes began to twinkle, his tongue began to sharpen and the stories began to flow. Our hero was just a dude from Texas. With a story for every occasion. A Gentleman for all time. For all of us, today is a very long day and a little piece of all of our tomorrows is now missing.

For those nearest and dearest to Mr. Crumley , I can only say…. Hell I’m not a writer, but my heart goes out to all.

(this picture was taken by Ali Karim at Bouchercon 2003; Ken Bruen, James Crumley and John Connolly)

Sep 16, 2008

Extra opportunities for Bouchercon

In keeping with our music titles theme we are going to be having a Karaoke bar running concurrently with the panels. This will be a half hour for authors or anyone else for that matter to do what ever they want to do for a half hour.

The spots will be filled on a first come first serve basis by having the people interested contacting:
bcon2008 @ (remove the spaces when emailing)

Deadline is Sept 22nd.

Want to sing Rolling Stones songs? Go for it.

Want to read from your book? Want to recite Norman Mailer? Want to roller skate while discussing research techniques?
Want to bring a lap top and show Wizard of Oz while playing Dark Side of the Moon?

It will be your half hour to do what ever you want to do.

Shoot off an Email to Judy with a song title, brief description and who is involved.

Sep 13, 2008

Jesus of Cool

I spent my birthday gift certificate on CD's. It was really good timing because one of my all time favorite albums has just been re issued on disc.

Nick Lowe - Jesus of Cool

I originally bought this as an import record way back in the late 70's. A local radio station played imports on Sunday nights and they played a track called "I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass", the song hooked me right off and I had to have it.
The rest of the album is great too, and the new version also features bonus tracks including the demo version of "Cruel to be Kind".
A couple real stand outs on this are Little Hitler and 36 inches High. Great lyrics and a nice new wave pop rock blend backing.

"So It Goes" is also a hypnotic cut and it has a wonderfully cool chorus.

I think this should be a must own for every fan of great music.

I also bought a few other albums.

Joe Jackson's Rain

CD comes with a bonus DVD with interviews and live performances and a tour of Berlin. Very fun.

The music is great. It's a bit of a flash back to Night and Day with a little Look Sharp added. Jackson has never stopped growing as a musician and this latest release is amazing. His vocals are spot on and his high notes still give me chills. The fact that he's playing with a trio really lets the piano stand out and the drums seem a bit more prominent. Uptown Train is a favorite of mine, very jazzy and cool.
If you are fan you really need this.

Ray Davies -
Working Man's Cafe

I love the Kinks, and as a result I love all their solo stuff too. Ray Davies is a genius of songwriting and this album was written after a tour of the states that started less than two weeks after 9/11. He had to do the tour by car and he really got a good look at our country.
Wonderful tunes and again, a bonus DVD with Ray's home video from the tour.

Alice Cooper -
Along Came a Spider

Joe Konrath let me know this was out. He said it was great and I agree.
Alice doing another theme album, one long story in songs. This time out it's about a serial killer.
This album rocks and I love the music. After a couple listens I realized how creepy some of the lyrics are. I can't stop listening to this and now I want to see him live, again.Classic Alice Cooper.

Sep 6, 2008

Bouchercon approaches

As I type this Bouchercon World Mystery Convention is only 32 days away.

I know it's coming fast because about the only time I see my wife Ruth is when she's on the phone, on the computer or sleeping.

I'm busy too, but not as busy as she and Judy are.

So... a few thoughts.

A lot of people are obsessed with whether or not they have a panel. Part of me understands it, but in truth there is a lot more to Bouchercon than sharing a table with four or five other people for an hour. Opportunities for authors are at every turn. The place is crawling with fans and readers and if a panel is the only way to reach them, you may be doing something wrong. Walking the bookroom is a good way to bump into fans, at other panels, in the bar, the lobby, at one of the parties, hell, outside having a cigarette. Its actually hard not to meet fans.

If you are a fan coming for the first time a few pieces of advice.

Comfy shoes will make your feet happy all day.

Spend a few minutes every few hours in your room barefoot and enjoy the silence....

Eat a big breakfast or carry snacks. You may get caught up in the whirlwind and forget to eat. My first Bouchercon I went two days with ot food and didn't even know it.

Don't be afraid to talk to people. We're all there because we love mysteries and crime fiction and thrillers.

You can't go to every panel. It's just not possible. A few things make choices easier. Pick panels with people you may not get a chance to see again soon. Pick panels with people that you are interested in but haven't read. Or just pick panels named after favorite songs...

Most everything is open to the public, don't be afraid to attend. There will be some movies showing, there will be a pub quiz, a opening night party.

Spend a little time and enjoy Baltimore. It's a great city and there is a lot to see and do. The Barnes and Noble at the inner harbor is amazing and really cool inside, it's an old power plant.

If you buy too many books to bring back there are two places within walking distance of the hotel that ship. a Fed Ex/kinkos and an office max. I sometimes ship clothes and bring the books on the plane.

And if you have fun, don't forget to sign up for future Bouchercons at a discounted rate.

This is going to be a great weekend.