Category Archives: General Posts

Life-and-Death Decisions

Life or Death Decisions in the Canadian PrairiesLURE by Jeff Marschall (© 2019) begins on an interesting, fast-paced note. Dr. John Mueller is an intern doing a research project at a university lab in somewhat remote Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Mueller is bored with the dark, cold winter weather as well as his minor research project. His outlook abruptly changes as two supposed “agents” of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accost Dr. David Devilliers, Mueller’s lab director, and demand that Devilliers turn over his cancer research. Mueller witnesses the altercation, takes Devilliers’ laptop and escapes with it, with the bogus agents in hot pursuit. Life-and-death decisions could result.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book does not maintain the fast pace. A close third-person narration that follows Mueller as the protagonist dominates LURE and effectively crimps the story’s style. For most of the book, the reader is subject to Mueller’s uncertainty and indecisiveness about what to do with Devilliers’ research. Such flip-flopping indecision creates an all-too-human, but unsympathetic protagonist.

In addition, women in Mueller’s life are rather stereotypical. Stephanie, Mueller’s ex-girlfriend, exhibits self-centered, egotistical attitudes. “Stephanie had natural presence and loved attention.” “She always wore jewelry…She could talk passionately and knowledgeably about amber, pearls, the many varieties of agate and jasper, and more that he couldn’t remember.” “She was always very careful about her appearance.” Signs of expensive tastes? When having a few drinks during a meeting with Stephanie later in the book, Mueller notices, “Stephanie wasn’t far behind, although she was definitely more accustomed to drinking wine; he suspected her tolerance was quite a bit higher than his, despite his greater body mass.” Signs of a drinking problem for Stephanie? Even Mueller’s mother is stereotypical. “When he got home, his mother was there, standing in her spotless kitchen, quivering with curiosity.”

Population Expansion, Life-and-death Decisions

On the positive side, Marschall takes on hot, current social topics such as population expansion and, to a lesser degree, climate change. (Population expansion comes up because Dr. Devilliers’ research involves a cure for cancer and, thus, a longer life expectancy for some people.) Conversations with some of the folks wanting to steal Devilliers’ research highlight Mueller’s indecisiveness. The reader is never certain what Mueller’s definitive opinion is about these topics. Who gets to decide who lives and dies by withholding medical cures, among other means? Unless readers take the final actions of Mueller and new girlfriend, Julie, as an answer. One that involves a seeming lack of remorse and a good helping of current-state capitalism. (The movie, Avengers: Infinity War, in its way, also looks at population control on a universal scale.)

I received a free copy from the author to give my honest opinion.

Foodie Memoir – Save Me the Plums

Foodie Memoir - Save Me the PlumsI just finished reading Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl, one-time editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. She steered the magazine for about 10 years, up until they closed it about 10 years ago now, I think.This foodie memoir is fantastic, quick paced and easy to read. It takes you inside the monied, glitzy world of Condé Nast  (not sure if it’s still that way, more bean counters now, I assume) and upper-crust, white-tableclothed restaurants. While at Condé Nast, Reichl got limo service and a clothing allowance….

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Short and Sweet-Short Literature Pro Market

Short and Sweet reference book for writersDo you write short fiction, nonfiction or articles? Want to get paid? If so, Short Literature Pro Market 2019 by TC Michael is your go-to reference for getting your short and sweet writing out into the world. With more than 170 listings, this reference book covers a lot of ground.

Short Literature Pro Market 2019 consolidates the information needed to approach markets that pay for articles and short stories. This reference work covers Continue reading

More Murder and Mayhem

More murder and mayhem are on tap. Some of us are always on the lookout for the next great mystery read. Whether you like Golden Age mysteries, cozies, or something more modern or hardboiled, here are a book and a few websites that can help you to get your fix.

MYSTERY AND MAYHEM IN PRINT

Whodunnit - More Murder and Mayhem DescribedWhodunit? A Who’s Who in Crime & Mystery Writing
Edited by Rosemary Herbert
© 2003

An enlightening and entertaining information compendium on hundreds of classic and contemporary characters who populate the mysteries we love to read and the authors who created them. Are academic sleuths like Amanda Cross’s Kate Fansler your thing? How about sharp-tongued narrators or sidekicks like Archie Goodwin in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series? What about Ian Rankin’s noir offerings? As Dennis Lehane says in the Preface, “Rosemary Herbert has gone to great pains to compile a compendium of not only the elder statesmen and stateswomen…of crime fiction history, but also the new blood…”

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Love Gone Savage – Gripping Love Poems

Love Gone Savage by Shana Marlayna ChowLove Gone Savage
By Shana Marlayna Chow
© 2013-2017
Published March 2017

The poems in Love Gone Savage by Shana Marlayna Chow grip you in a vice. From the instant you begin reading they pull you into a world of love, trust, distrust and brokenness on the one hand and optimism and perseverance on the other. These poems are not about cooing and infatuation, but about love somehow gone awry.

Her poetry stands on its own but is as clear and intense in vision as the love poems of Pablo Neruda, Ted Kooser (see especially his book, Valentines © 2008) and various poems of Rumi. Although Chow’s vision may sometimes seem harsh, it reverberates today when love may never feel like a sure thing—the search for a soulmate by a passionate, independent woman. But a sense of purpose and confidence shines through the poems that on the surface seem only to reflect a sense of emptiness and the pessimism of another broken affair.

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Mystery-Review Website Roundup

Here we go with a mystery-review website roundup, These websites review mystery, crime, thriller, spy and suspense books. Some of them also incorporate author interviews and book lists.

The Real Book Spy

New Iberia Blues by James Lee BurkeAccording to Ryan Steck, owner of The Real Book Spy, the site presents “full coverage of all your favorite thriller authors, and their characters, unlike anywhere else on the web!”

A few of the book reviews currently offered on the site are Daughter of War by Brad Taylor, Crucible by James Rollins, New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke and The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk. Steck also offers author interviews with such luminaries as Brad Thor, Sean Parnell, and Brad Taylor, among others.

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Mark of the Spider – Supernatural Thriller

The Mark of the Spider
by David L. Haase
© 2018

Mark of the Spider by David L. HaaseThe Mark of the Spider is an installment in David L. Haase’s Black Orchid Chronicles, a supernatural-thriller series. On a working trip to the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, photographer Sebastian Arnett searches for rare orchids to photograph. At the invitation of an Australian attaché on a mission to locate mineral deposits, Arnett joins his group’s forays into the interior. When an old, indigenous woman offers him a shot at the ever-elusive black orchid, Arnett and his mates take her up on it. But they get, and lose, more than they bargained for.

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CrimeReads – Mysteries, Thrillers and Crime

For those who love mysteries, thrillers and true crime, CrimeReads will satisfy your cravings. An offshoot of Literary Hub, CrimeReads presents news, essays and excerpts. This website offers discussions about mystery, noir/hardboiled, suspense, espionage/thriller and legal/procedural genres. For example, currently available is the 11/28/18 posting, “Writing Crime Fiction for the Podcast Generation: Chatting with Two Authors Who Are Bringing Mystery to the World of Scripted Podcasts.” Another is the 1/17/19 post by Lisa Levy, “Mothers and Daughters and Psychological Thrillers: The Rise of Mother-Daughter Noir.”

CrimeReads interviews Matthew Quirk about The Night Agent

For suspense and thriller readers, check out The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk, published this month by William Morrow. Also, check out the interview with Matthew Quirk on CrimeReads.

Like unusual protagonists? Look for Erica Wright’s 11/23/18 post: “Unexpected Investigators: 9 Mysteries That Challenge Our Expectations for Crime Fighters.”

The website partners with numerous publishers from Akashic to W. W. Norton & Co. and everything in between. Other partners include venerable groups such as the Baker Street Irregulars as well as up-and-coming Down & Out Books (and magazine). According to the website, “Each day, alongside original content and exclusive excerpts, CrimeReads is proud to showcase an editorial feature from one of its many partners from across the literary crime community, from publishers big and small, bookstores, non-profits, librarians, and more.”

So, check out CrimeReads. See what’s happening in your favorite genre and what new books are forthcoming. Plus, find out what books are nominated for the 2019 Edgar Awards. Or, listen to a horror or true crime podcast.

For other book-related websites and apps, take a look at my previous posts about Felony & Mayhem and Litsy.

Felony and Mayhem: Murder Abounds

Felony & Mayhem
felonyandmayhem.com

Sorry for the lapse in posts over the last few weeks. The holidays got in the way; a pleasant time, but busy. Anyway, during the holiday season, I found two websites for those who like to read mysteries, one of which I’ll discuss here.

Felony and Mayhem Abound

Patricia Moyes mystery offered by Felony and MayhemThe folks at felonyandmayhem.com bring out-of-print mysteries back to life by reprinting them. For lovers of Patricia Moyes, Ngaio Marsh and S. S. Van Dine’s Philo Vance series, this site is a must-see. Additionally, “The Felonious Backlist” boggles the mind with the likes of Robert Barnard, Simon Brett, Elizabeth Daly, Reginald Hill and dozens of others.

According to the website, they “also publish an increasing number of first paperback editions of books previously published in hardcover, and (particularly) first U.S. editions of books that initially came out overseas.” In recent years, they also “brought out [their] first original: Annamaria Alfieri’s The Idol of Mombasa, a historical mystery set in 1910s British East Africa, which will be followed by another title in that series in January 2018.”

Mystery readers and writers: Check this website out. You won’t be sorry.

As the mystery lovers at Felony & Mayhem say, “Life is too short to read bad books.” I couldn’t agree more.

Next time, I’ll talk about my other find: CrimeReads.

Shanks – Unlikely Detective

Shanks on Crime
by Robert Lopresti
© 2003-2014

Shanks - Unlikely DetectiveShanks on Crime by Robert Lopresti is a collection of short stories about Leopold Longshanks and his wife Cora. Longshanks is a mystery writer and an unlikely detective. who, with his wife, Cora, in the background gets into some unusual situations. Shanks, Longshanks’ nickname, then unravels the crime or misdemeanor, all the while protesting that he’s a writer, not a detective. The stories are interesting enough, such as when Shanks sets out to catch the person who mugged him and pays for the miscreant to go to vocational college rather than be convicted and sent to jail. But all the stories follow the same general pattern and pacing, which makes the collection seem rather dull. Overall, a nice set of stories, just not fast-paced.

Several of these stories first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine between 2003 and 2014.

Rob Lopresti also writes novels and blogs at sleuthsayers.com and Little Big Crimes.