Friday, January 26, 2007

The World's Most Dangerous Bookstore

I've been meaning to link to this story on Bookgasm for several days, but alas I keep neglecting my duty. Apperantly there is a bookstore in OKC, Oklahoma that defies description--books stacked helter-skelter, magazines strewn around like wall-paper and a general disorder that can only be imagined. The story is longer than most blog posts, but it's worth the read. The pictures are great to. (It actually reminds me of my office, just a little.)

Go Here to read the article at Bookgasm.

The Defender by Bill Mesce, Jr.

This nifty little legal thriller is advertised as “a novel of Word War II,” and it doesn’t disappoint as either a historical novel or a legal thriller. Lieutenant Dominick Sisko has been charged with disobeying an order and cowardice. Sisko took his unit off the offensive and retreated down hill 399 against the order of a senior officer. His defense? The commanding officer, killed in the offensive, gave him the order to retreat.

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Voss, a family friend to Sisko, is called in by the Judge Advocate General to act as the defense. The court martial is rushed, and Voss finds himself running against the clock, the prosecutor and the truth. The story is more than it seems, and Voss is uncomfortable with both the over zealous attitude of the prosecutor and the facts of the case. The characters all have divergent motives, and Voss is faced with more than just a normal defense. He his faced with his own conscience.

The Defender is a fast-paced, and thrilling novel. Mesce’s writing shines in the courtroom scenes—the dialogue is crisp, realistic and the story his characters testify is engrossing. The characters have the feel of realism without an overbearing reliance on description and back-story. The setting is well drawn with tight, understated images. The Defender is a winner, and I enjoyed every page.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu by Lee Goldberg

I’m a snob. You may have noticed, or maybe not, but it’s true: I’m a snob. I have always had an attitude of superiority about tie-in novels. They couldn’t be any good. No, really. They have to be crap, because a real writer wouldn’t take characters created by someone else and write a quality story because if they, the writer, were any good they would be writing their own damn stories. Not something a publisher hired them to essentially ghost write, right?

Well, I was wrong. Dead wrong. I just finished reading Lee Goldberg’s Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu, and I enjoyed every minute. It is based on the USA Network’s television series Monk, and it captures the tone of the series, the rhythm, the dialogue, the humor, the flair, and the characters beautifully. It is an episode of Monk, only longer, more insightful and a helluva lot of fun.

The novel begins as any ordinary day for Monk: a murder scene complete with Captain Stottlemeyer, Lieutenant Disher and Natalie, but everything in Monk’s world is about to change. The city of San Francisco and the police department are in contract negotiations, and when they fail the police force is ravaged with a case of the blue flu.

That is, the police force generally, and the detectives particularly, call in sick as a protest against the failing negotiations. Monk is called back into active duty. He gets his badge back, and promoted to Captain over a rag-tag team of former detectives. They are scabs, but each of them wants to finish their careers with one more victory and a shot at dignity. The scary thing is, Monk is the sanest of the crew. There is an ancient detective suffering from dementia, a paranoid schizophrenic, and a Dirty Harry-type who has serious anger issues. Add a serial killer, a few seemingly random murders and Monk is in way over his head.

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu is a triumph. Lee Goldberg has transformed great television into a wonderfully humorous and rewarding novel. No one does a whodunit like Monk, and Lee Goldberg captures everything I love about the television series. The mystery is solid and intriguing, the humor is top-notch, and the characters are perfect. If you enjoy a good laugh, an enjoyable mystery, or just a great read, Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu is your bag.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mack Bolan Website

I stumbled across a pretty cool website this afternoon while I was avoiding a textbook--Operations Management. Oy! It really is as boring as it sounds. Anyway, I found a great site dedicated to The Executioner series created by Don Pendleton. I read these books voraciously as a teenager, and while I haven't read one in a few years, this site made me think I should pull one off the bookshelf.

They have a complete listing of titles and authors for The Mack Bolan related lines--Able Team, Phoenix Force, Super Bolan, etc. They even have a rating system set up where readers can rate and review their favorite titles--as of now, Doom Prophecy written by Douglas P. Wojtowicz and Eternal Triangle written by Mike Newton are in the lead with a respectful 9.73 rating. Cool.

Plus, now I know who really wrote that sucker! Super cool.

The site:
Or, go Here to click straight through.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Dangerous Man by Charlie Huston

It’s no secret I’m a big—hell, giant—fan of the work of Charlie Huston, especially his crime fiction. Does he write anything else? And I finally—finally!—read the final novel in his Hank Thompson trilogy, A Dangerous Man.

A Dangerous Man begins where Six Bad Things left off—Hank is working for the Russian mafia trying to pay off his debt. The four million dollars he stole is long gone, and his life has gone to shit. He doesn’t recognize the face in the mirror—literally—and the things he does to stay alive haunt him. The violence, the pain, and the death have caught up with Hank. He doesn’t have the energy, or the desire to keep going. He wants everything to end.

Charlie Huston is the future of crime fiction. His novels are well-plotted, adept and always edgy. They touch a nerve with solid, high impact prose, sharp dialogue and an overwhelming sense of place and time. They capture the culture with a snapshot of impotent, raw rage. The city streets are heartless, mean and cruel, yet Huston finds the soft, tender underbelly of the characters he writes. He makes them human. He makes you like them, all of them, from good to bad.

A Dangerous Man starts a little more slowly than the first two Thompson novels, but by page 50 it rockets out of the garage. The plot twists are unexpected and the writing, as always, is dark, literate and very entertaining. I loved this novel, and I can’t wait to see more crime novels from Charlie Huston. I’m just sad Hank Thompson won’t be in them.

2007 Edgar Nominations Announced

Mystery Writer’s of America has announced its 2007 Edgar Allan Poe nominations. The sad thing is, I haven’t read even one of them. Damn. I better get busy. On the good side, I did happen to see a few of the movies. Does that count?

Anyway, you know the drill. Picture your favorite celebrity on stage—fully clothed or not—drum roll please, and…

Best Novel

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard (HarperCollins)
The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Gentleman and Players by Joanne Harris (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Dead Hour by Denise Mina (Hachette Book Group - Little, Brown and Company)
The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard (Random House – Ballantine Books)
The Liberation Movements by Olen Steinhauer (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best Novel by an American Author

The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson (Random House)
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Crown - Shaye Areheart Books)
King of Lies by John Hart (St. Martin's Minotaur – Thomas Dunne Books)
Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith (St. Martin's Minotaur)
A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read (Warner Books – Mysterious Press)

Best Paperback Original

The Goodbye Kiss by Massimo Carlotto (Europa Editions)
The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson (Coffee House Press)
Snakeskin Shamisen by Naomi Hirahara (Bantam Dell Publishing – Delta Books)
The Deep Blue Alibi by Paul Levine (Bantam Dell Publishing – Bantam Books)
City of Tiny Lights by Patrick Neate (Penguin Group – Riverhead Books)

Best Fact Crime

Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger (W.W. Norton and Co.)
Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine by Capt. Joseph K. Loughlin & Kate Clark Flora (University Press of New England)
Ripperology: A Study of the World's First Serial Killer by Robin Odell (The Kent State University Press)
The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower (Dutton)
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson (HarperCollins – William Morrow)

Best Television Episode Teleplay

The Closer – "Blue Blood", Teleplay by James Duff & Mike Berchem (Turner Network Television)
Dexter – "Crocodile", Teleplay by Clyde Phillips (Showtime)
House – "Clueless", Teleplay by Thomas L. Moran (Fox/NBC Universal)
Life on Mars – Episode 1, Teleplay by Matthew Graham (BBC America)
Monk – "Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink", Teleplay by Hy Conrad (USA Network/NBC Universal)

Best Television Feature/Mini-Series Teleplay

Conviction, Teleplay by Bill Gallagher (BBC America)
Cracker: A New Terror, Teleplay by Jimmy McGovern (BBC America)
Messiah: The Harrowing, Teleplay by Terry Cafolla (BBC America)
Secret Smile, Teleplay by Kate Brooke, based on the book by Nicci French (BBC America)
The Wire, Season 4, Teleplays by Ed Burns, Kia Corthron, Dennis Lehane, David Mills, Eric Overmyer, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon & William F. Zorzi (Home Box Office)

Best Motion Picture Screenplay

Casino Royale, Screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Paul Haggis, based on novel by Ian Fleming (MGM)
Children of Men, Screenplay by Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby, based on a novel by P.D. James (Universal Pictures
The Departed, Screenplay by William Monahan (Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Good Shepherd, Teleplay by Eric Roth (Universal Pictures)
Notes on a Scandal, Screenplay by Patrick Marber (Scott Rudin Productions)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Copp for Hire by Don Pendleton

I was in junior high the first time I stumbled across Don Pendleton's Joe Copp series. I was a fan of his The Executioner novels--what junior high kid wasn't?--and when I bumped into Copp for Hire at my local library I gave it a try. I wasn't disappointed. Joe Copp is the kind of private eye hero who sprouted from the western tradition. He is a loner who resides on the fringes of society. A sad, noble man who exists more as a care-taker to society than a member of society. An American cultural icon, really. A John Wayne character personified, or any other cliche you want to throw in. He, the protagonist, needs society, but society needs him even more.

What's the point? I re-read Copp for Hire over the holidays, and I loved every minute of it. I had forgotten how heavy-handed Pendleton's portrayal of Copp was: I might as well tell you right up front. I'm a hardcase, and everyone I've ever dealt with knows it. A couple times I felt an urge to tell Copp to shut up about how damn-terrific tough he is, and get on with the story, but somehow I couldn't. It would be like telling Travis McGee to stop fucking the wounded birds. It's just part of who he is.

There's nothing really special about Copp for Hire, other than it is a brutal, fast and eventful read. If you haven't tried any of the Copp novels, try one. You won't regret it. And if you do regret it, don't come crying to me. You may not know it, but I'm a hardcase. I've always been a hardcase. Don't push me, because I'll push back.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

David Beckham Signs with the Los Angeles Galaxy

You probably don't give a ratchet, but the world's most recognizable soccer player--midfielder David Beckham--has signed a multi-year contract to finish his career in MLS. Los Angeles, to be exact. This is exciting for not only Galaxy fans, but fans of U.S. soccer in general. This is--by far--the largest acquisition for a Major League Soccer franchise, and helps the league in multple ways: 1) just think of the cool marketing this will give the league (people who know nothing about soccer knows the name Beckham); 2) the league just got a truck load of hand delivered credibility; and 3) Damn, I get to see Beckham play here in Salt Lake next season, and more than once.

Okay, so he was in town last August with Real Madrid for a warm-up, but next summer he'll be here for real--I only hope Real Salt Lake with their top-notch front-line can kick the crud out of him and the Galaxy.

Welcome to MLS Mr. Beckham. We're glad to have you.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

No Dominion by Charlie Huston

Okay, I've been just a bit behind around here lately, but I'm doing my best to catch-up, and this post certainly won't help. I just wanted to brag. I received my review copy of Charlie Huston's latest Joe Pitt novel--the vampire P.I. who has more in common with Travis McGee and Mike Hammer than Lastat. It's titled No Dominion, and received a starred review from the venerable Publisher's Weekly. So it's probably pretty great, but you'll have to come back to read just how truly great it is--give me a week or two, and then SFReader a little longer.

Damn. I can't wait.

Monday, January 08, 2007

An SFReader Review You May Have Missed--Chasing the Roswell Alien

Last semester was a serious wanker, and as you know I got lazy with the blog, and so there were a few reviews I published with SFReader, but neglected to tell you folks about. Over the next week or so I'll get them online and let you scan a look, or you can always just go to SFReader and take a gander.

The first was a humorous, well-plotted novel about the alleged crash at Roswell, New Mexico written by Glenn Marcel titled Chasing the Roswell Alien. It is everything a story should be: funny, eerie, and dead on the mark. The author is a nephew to Jesse Marcel--the Roswell intelligence officer who broke the story in the early-Eighties--and the story has the feel of an insider. I highly recommend it. Go Here to read the review.

I recently read Marcel's Chasing Elvis for SFReader, and while it wasn't quite as good as Roswell it was a hoot--the opening scene finds Elvis--five years after his death--robbing a bank; a job he is more than just ill-fitted for. I'll let you know when the review hits the ether.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Eulogy to UPN

Where have you been, I imagine you're asking--UPNs been gone for several months, maybe more. Well, I've been busy, okay? And, better late than never--or so my Ma' always told me. Usually as she was giving me a late birthday present, which really was better late than never.

My girl and I have, over the past year or so, discovered television on DVDs--our local library has the world's largest collection of DVDs in general, and television programs in particular. We have watched The Shield, Deadwood, Wings, The Twilight Zone, The Rockford Files, Dawson's Creek, Veronica Mars, and a load of other old and new television series's. It's amazing just how much better they are without commercials--I actually like television again. Whew--I never thought I'd say that!

All this viewing has made me think of a few classic UPN programs: 1) Nowhere Man; 2) The Sentinel. In UPN's early days they made a few pretty damn good programs. Unfortunately they decided urban comedy was their future--about the same time The WB decided urban comedy wasn't big enough for them--and overnight they changed their format and all the creative dramas they fostered were gone. A case in point is the fun, maddening and super cool adventure series Nowhere Man. My girl gave me this series for Christmas last year--2005, for those who are easily confused--and we watched all twenty-five episodes in a matter of weeks. Bruce Greenwood is perfect as Tom Veil--he does confusion and desperation to an art form. It takes a look at identity, humanity and how easily either, or both can be fractured and altered into something nearly unrecognizable. It was created as an homage to the old British televison series The Prisoner, and it succeeded--unfortunately it was canceled after only one season. (I'm still waiting for the release of the secretly produced second and third seasons--cross your fingers for me.)

The Sentinel found a larger audience and a longer run than Nowhere Man, but it was no less fun. It features super-hero-type Detective Jim Ellison and his super-funky sidekick Blair Sandburg. Ellison is the sentinel, which esentially means he has hyperactive senses--he hears, sees, and smells better than the rest of us, and uses all of these, and more keeping the good people of Cascade safe from the hard side. The Sentinel is campy, fun and oh so entertaining. Season one is available on DVD, and I can't wait until they release season two, and beyond.

I really enjoyed UPN in its early days, and I wish for its merger with The WB to be successful--afterall we still have Veronica Mars to look forward to. It's too bad it will be UPNs last good drama. Good luck to The CW. May they give better and better programming--give the crummy wrestling and unlaughable comedies a break and go back to UPN's roots. How about a The Sentinel reuinion. I bet Blair is sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. Ring. Ring!