I've decided this summer to go back and indulge in some favorite series back to back to back - Ian Fleming's Bonds, Freemantle's Charlie Muffin books,...moreI've decided this summer to go back and indulge in some favorite series back to back to back - Ian Fleming's Bonds, Freemantle's Charlie Muffin books, O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise series, Travis McGee, Vachss, and I thought I'd start with a return visit to Lew Griffin. Sallis hits the sweet spot for me as an author who honors the genre while using it to express his own personality and take on the world. Sallis is continually paying tribute - to New Orleans, to interesting books and authors, to music - and I wonder how much of my appreciation for this series stems from the fact that he and I (or Lew Griffin and I) seem to enjoy the same things. Among the many literary references made here are Kenneth Fearing (an author with a similar approach to genre, as Sallis notes, playing with "the great divide between high and low art") Blaise Cendrars, Montaigne, Blake, Agee, Whitman, etc etc. - and as often as not he's mentioning some of my favorite folks. I'm not always sure I know what Sallis is up to in this series, and at a second reading I suspect he wasn't always sure either, and I enjoy and respect that. Chandler wasn't always sure either - this business of being a tarnished knight has more to do with an attitude and a way of being right with oneself in a world full of wrong than with any snappy resolutions of plot. (I would suggest - to fans of Lew Griffin - The Driftless Zone and its sequels by Rick Harsch).(less)
These are some really good stories. I was so totally going to use the terrific terror tale "Evelyn Grace" for my library storytime, until I got to the...moreThese are some really good stories. I was so totally going to use the terrific terror tale "Evelyn Grace" for my library storytime, until I got to the very last word of the story, which would probably get me fired. (-: (less)
I'm immersing myself in Dorothy L. Sayers right now, although starting at the end and moving backwards. "Gaudy Night" is a fine, introspective piece o...moreI'm immersing myself in Dorothy L. Sayers right now, although starting at the end and moving backwards. "Gaudy Night" is a fine, introspective piece of fiction exploring the independence of women, as a series of increasingly malicious poison-pen attacks breaks out at Shrewsbury College, and Harriet Vane is drawn in to trying to identify the culprit. The clashing personalities of the college are reflected in Harriet's own deeply conflicted inner struggle as she attempts to come to terms with her feelings regarding her erstwhile savior and desultory suitor Lord Peter Wimsey. Harriet is a beautifully rounded character - smart, funny, and convincingly perplexed by her own and her paramour's emotions, and the conflicting demands of her life as a woman, an artist, a friend, and a lover. She is the real draw here, and should be quite a surprise for readers used to more formulaic classic mysteries. (Very many mystery writers today invest a good deal of insight and psychological detail in their characters and their detectives from book to book, and it is often thought that much of this approach got started with Ross MacDonald's psycholigically rich mysteries, but here is a mystery novel with a lead character of unrivalled humanity). This really has to be one of the landmarks of mystery fiction, and I think works equally well for puzzle fans and readers of stylish literary fiction, as well as those who love academic stories and veddy British settings.
Lord Peter Wimsey proposes marriage, oh, four or five times during the course of this book. And even as the perplexities mount at the ladies' college and the mysterious perpetrator of the attacks threatens to tip over into violence, we struggle with Harriet to cope with her quandary, whether as very much her own woman she should allow herself to become the wife of a rich, noble Alpha Male - a perplexity that includes her charming struggle with her own insecurities and perhaps her fear of intimacy. The book bristles with intellect right down to its frequent epigrammes, and yet ultimately it is less a novel of ideas than a satisfying battle between the heart and the head.
A good batch this year - I read these every year to find stories for Thrilling Tales, so I'm reading with a focus on more inherently clear and satisfy...moreA good batch this year - I read these every year to find stories for Thrilling Tales, so I'm reading with a focus on more inherently clear and satisfying stories - and Coben has a fair number of these. I've been wanting to do a Brendan DuBois story in the storytime for some years now, and I think "Ridealong" is finally one that will work w/ the format, as there are some very good twists. Less certain about risking a story co-written by Tom Franklin ("What His Hands had been Waiting For") about two ruthless lawmen patrolling the wastes of a big delta flood who wind up with a dead looter's baby on their hands - it is kind of McCarthy-esque in its funkiness and even some alluded baby cannibalism and people freak out about a babe in jeopardy, BUT it still might work. One great uncanny piece - "Last Cottage," told in the plural first person voice of villagers who are trying to oust a happy family - very odd but I still might try it for TT. And finally one of the Max Alan Collins / Mickey Spillane 'collabos' that is classic Mike Hammer, and that I think I will do, even though it has a perfectly stomach churning sadistic climax. A good bet every year, but this is a pretty strong year.(less)
Nesbit really had the gift for stirring a bit of real charm and humor into her unsettling stories: try "In the Dark," for a good example. I'm going to...moreNesbit really had the gift for stirring a bit of real charm and humor into her unsettling stories: try "In the Dark," for a good example. I'm going to read this one for our Thrilling Tales adult storytime podcast for May, and it should be spooky fun.(less)
Ordinarily I take to memoirs of difficult upbringings like a duck takes to pepper, but the writing here is so amazingly strong and poetic, I was reall...moreOrdinarily I take to memoirs of difficult upbringings like a duck takes to pepper, but the writing here is so amazingly strong and poetic, I was really blown away by this. I suppose it seems banal to say it, but the language just rings true, not in a naturalistic, mimetic way, but honed and burned into truth. So often a narrative like this seems to be straining to be believed, or to make an impression - seems to be more about the act of speaking up, of testifying or witnessing what has been lived, so that we the reader sit respectfully, shaking our heads a little, saying yes, I see, but not really seeing. There is a distance. In Yuknavich there is no distance, and she very much makes you see, makes you feel, something of the life she has lived, and how she has felt it, the pain and pleasure of it, the despair and the sublimity. It is the kind of transformative language that - for example, but in a very different way - makes James Agee's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" an all-time favorite of mine.
The style? Sometimes spare, sometimes stream of consciousness or experiential, expressionistic, and also candid and opinionated. Poetry, but without all those annoying, precious line breaks. I've belabored it enough: just a damn fine piece of writing. I'll definitely be re-reading this one. (less)
I've been devouring a lot of these old Hitchcock collections from the 50s and 60s, and this one is good enough that I'll be using lots of them in my a...moreI've been devouring a lot of these old Hitchcock collections from the 50s and 60s, and this one is good enough that I'll be using lots of them in my adult storytime at the library, though I'm not seeing the stories mentioned by other reviewers here. The stories in my (paperback) ed are:
Premoniton, by Charles Mergendahl A Shot from the Dark Night, by Avram Davidson I Had a Hunch, and... by Talmadge Powell A Killing in the Market, by Robert Bloch Gone as by Magic, by Richard Hardwick The Big Bajoor, by Borden Deal The Gentle Miss Bluebeard, by Nedra Tyre The Guy That Laughs Last, by Philip Tremont Diet and Die, by Wenzell Brown Just for Kicks, by Richard Marsten Please Forgive Me, by Henry Kane A Crime Worthy of Me, by Hal Dresner When Buying a Fine Murder, by Jack Ritchie
Maybe they did a new one with different titles - I'll definitely look for some of those others. (less)