Former private dick turned author Jake Donovan rides the rails to New York City looking to finish the final chapter of his latest mystery novel. The B...moreFormer private dick turned author Jake Donovan rides the rails to New York City looking to finish the final chapter of his latest mystery novel. The Big Apple doesn’t hold fond memories for Jake, it’s an unwelcome reminder of what he gave up to pursue his literary aspirations. Home to his former girlfriend, stage actor and the recently engaged Laura Wilson, New York offers painful memories of a long lost love.
While in town, Jake decides to meet up with Mickey, a fellow gumshoe and his old business partner. It’s clear something has Mickey on edge but before Jake can pry it out of him, Mickey is gunned down in cold blood. Can Jake track down Mickey’s killer or is he next in line for the big sleep?
I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Michael Murphy pens a solid mystery that is rich in 1930s culture. The crackling dialogue, the prohibition era setting and the plot are in the same vein as a Hammett or Chandler whodunit. I liked the addition of real life social heavyweights in the New York scene like Babe Ruth and Cole Porter and although I felt the main characters were a little thin, the mystery played out well right up until the very end.
The Yankee Club is the first in Murphy’s Jake & Laura series with a second novel slotted for a January 2015 release from Random House imprint, Alibi.
The citizens of Prosperous, a small town in the state of Maine, have been a fortunate bunch. Over the years, the town has thrived and its inhabitants...moreThe citizens of Prosperous, a small town in the state of Maine, have been a fortunate bunch. Over the years, the town has thrived and its inhabitants have flourished. But when the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter bring Detective Charlie Parker to town, secrets threaten to come to the surface. Can Parker uncover the truth about Prosperous’ darkness or will he end up like many before him – fed to the town.
Connolly opens the twelfth installment of his acclaimed Charlie Parker series with a bang. Louis, Angel and Parker have been hunting The Collector for months and believe to finally have him cornered. When things go awry, the focus shifts to the town of Prosperous following a recent event that threatens the town’s peace. Throughout the rest of the novel, Connolly moves between Parker and a select few of Prosperous’ authority figures creating a quick pace that doesn’t let up until the book is finished.
Louis and Angel are in top form, as always, and Parker’s adversaries are signature evil Connolly creations. With a series so established, comes a large cast of characters. Throughout the novel, several folks from Parker’s past make an appearance or two showing the reader just how deep Connolly’s universe is. It’s a giant sandbox with which he can bury and unearth whomever he wishes.
Connolly ends the novel in an interesting place and as an audience, we’re not sure where he’s going to take the series from here. If you can’t tell, I’m trying to be as vague as possible to avoid potential spoilers. We’re told that Parker may never be the same, that his friends and family are worried about his well being. Charlie Parker is getting older and you’ve got to wonder, as a fan, just how long he’ll be able to keep up with the demands of the job.
As always, I’m anticipating just where Connolly is going to take the story next. I love when he treads into dark territory and The Wolf in Winter is about as bleak as they come.
World Wrestling Entertainment just surpassed their fiftieth anniversary and what better way to celebrate their history than with a massive coffee tabl...moreWorld Wrestling Entertainment just surpassed their fiftieth anniversary and what better way to celebrate their history than with a massive coffee table book! Author Kevin Sullivan (no, not that Kevin Sullivan) takes the reader from the promotion’s early beginnings as Capitol Wrestling Corporation to the boom period of the 1980s, to the envelope-pushing programming of the late 1990s, all the way to the global media presence they are today.
Full color splash photos coupled with rare shots of items like Vince McMahon’s handwritten schedule from the tenth WrestleMania, early event programs, and throwback merchandise make this book a visual treat. Aside from the main narrative text, Sullivan inserts quotes from legendary performers and current-day grapplers. If you’re a big, big fan of the industry, there’s probably very little that you’ll learn but if you’re anywhere from a casual fan to a newcomer, it’s a great way to kill a few afternoons.
One thing worth noting is the consistent hypocrisy from Vince McMahon in regards to the Monday Night War. As we all know, history is written by the victors and when the dust settled on the battlefield for pro wrestling supremacy in 2001, Vince McMahon and WWE stood tall. However, the same thing is reiterated here just as it has been in prior documentaries, interviews, and books; the employees of WWE cried foul when it came to the fiercely competitive World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and their architect Eric Bischoff.
You see, the professional wrestling landscape we all know today is not what it used to be. Each promotion controlled a set space in the United States (and Canada) and was therefore responsible for bringing wrestling to the masses in their allotted divisions. However, in the 1980s when Vince McMahon took the reins from his father and purchased the then WWF promotion, he decided he wanted to be the defacto presence in the wrasslin’ industry. He embarked on an ambitious campaign across North America to buy out his competitors and offer exclusive contracts to the nation’s hottest performers.
What WCW and Eric Bischoff did in the mid to late 90s was essentially the same thing. Fortunately for Bischoff, he had the ultra-rich Ted Turner bankrolling these massive contracts he offered to main event level WWE stars, luring them to his promotion. Now WCW used lots of other dirty tactics as well (including giving away the odd taped results of Monday Night RAW) but the ability to steal talent and use their established star power was their bread and butter.
While I've always been a hardcore WWE fan as far back as I can remember and I’m glad that they won over that disorganized mess, it’s hard to find any sympathy for a man who essentially did the same thing to everyone else in the country. I always cringe when I read/hear about this stuff because it’s simply not a valid complaint. Essentially, you reap what you sow.(less)
This collection is labeled as “Days of Future Past” but seeing as the feature presentation is only a two issue story, there’s a great deal of padding...moreThis collection is labeled as “Days of Future Past” but seeing as the feature presentation is only a two issue story, there’s a great deal of padding on either side of it and while DOFP is tremendous, everything else in here kind of sucks.
Before the stories even begin, we’re given a massive amount of history bringing us up to date on what has been going down in the X-Men universe. We’re treated to lots of epic storytelling involving the birth of Phoenix, the death of many mutant brethren, and Cyclops’ departure from the group, leaving Storm as team captain.
From there, we’re thrust into a story involving Doctor Strange and the team's venture into a version of Hell inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Nightcrawler is accused of murder and his punishment is brought about by a demon. Sounds cool, right? Well, I was bored to tears and this is mostly due to the horrifically bad dialogue. Tip to Chris Claremont - when you’re using a visual medium like comic books, there’s no need for your characters to tell the reader every single thing they’re doing using the very limited space you have for dialogue. Let the images carry you.
The Days of Future Past story line itself was fantastic and I’m beyond excited for the big screen adaptation in just a few short weeks. From the trailers I've seen, it looks like the screenwriters are playing around with a few of the roles each character has in the original story - which is fine by me. I already have a deep rooted appreciation for anything post-apocalyptic and Claremont and company really nail it. Again, aside from a few complaints about dialogue, DOFP is one of the great stand-out X-Men tales I've read.
The final story involves Christmas and while that’s all well and good in playing to my inner Christmas fanatic, it was in a tough spot having to follow the book’s title track.
If you’re interested in brushing up on the original source material for Marvel’s upcoming X-Men big screen presentation, pick this book up and skip everything else inside. DOFP is the only thing worth checking out here.
Officer Dale Everett Banks comes into money when he nabs fifty-two thousand from the trailer of known meth dealer Jerry Dean Skaggs. When Skaggs disco...moreOfficer Dale Everett Banks comes into money when he nabs fifty-two thousand from the trailer of known meth dealer Jerry Dean Skaggs. When Skaggs discovers his loot is missing, all hell breaks loose. You see, the money wasn’t all his – it’s owed to several partners as well as a crooked cop. With his back against the wall, Jerry Dean has his work cut out for him.
I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
When it comes to writing, there’s a piece of advice that you’re bound to receive: write what you know. When it came to the setting of Matthew McBride’s new novel and follow up to the excellent Frank Sinatra in a Blender, McBride took that advice and ran with it. A Swollen Red Sun, his new southern noir, takes place in the alleged meth capital of the US, Gasconade County. In a recent interview with Tim Hennessy of Crimespree Magazine, McBride said:
"I think a writer should use region and background to their advantage if the story calls for it. A writer’s background is their strength — one of their strengths — whether they realize it or not. You just tend to draw from the memories you know and the places you've been and the things you've done and seen and the people you've known. I’m a blue-collar factory worker. And I’m proud of that. Knowing who you are inside helps to keep the writing honest."
The heat, the rolling hills and the stretches of forest of Gasconade County are front and center in McBride’s novel and he uses his knowledge of the land to immerse the reader in the true desperation of its residents. Aside from the drug trade, the area is also home to many wineries as well as several hard working farmers. But with every region, there’s always going to be a cross-section of the population who just aren't cut out for that type of work. For those people, there’s always the drug trade to fall back on.
In a county with a population of just over fifteen thousand, there are nearly a dozen meth lab locations found – and those are just the ones known to the police. That's a lot of crank. McBride’s novel explores the struggle in keeping the area clean and the known offenders off the streets. However, with noir, the novel's protagonist isn't exactly the squeaky clean man for the job. While you could certainly do a lot worse than swiping cash from drug dealers, it's still not a noble move for a police officer. While McBride does show the reader a few glimmers of hope within the seemingly doomed community, you wonder if he thinks the area will ever improve.
And of course, there’s the writing. McBride shines again:
"Said he was prepared to shoot and meant it. Warrant or not. Justified or not. He’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."
"Banks watched the sun creep over the forest of oak trees and a crack of light broke through the night and grew longer and wider and ate the black like a fungus until the darkness was gone and there was light and it was day."
The only thing I really had issue with was the ending and that’s all on me. While the contents of the novel were as bleak as Sarah Palin’s 2008 vice-presidential aspirations, it sort of ends on a bit of a positive note. While it certainly fits well given McBride’s direction in the final fifty pages or so, I think I would have preferred a more grim aftertaste. Between Frank Sinatra in a Blender and A Swollen Red Sun, McBride has become a must-buy author in my books.
"Police business," he said almost gently, "is a hell of a problem. It's a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s no...more"Police business," he said almost gently, "is a hell of a problem. It's a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men . So we have to work with what we get— and we get things like this."
A man’s wife is missing and Philip Marlowe is hired to find her. When his search leads him to the discovery of a different dead woman, the self-proclaimed "Murder-A-Day Marlowe" has questions and by God, people are going to answer them.
I don’t really have a lot to say about this one other than Chandler is in fine form when it comes to quick-witted smart talk ("I said, just to be moving my mouth") with tremendous one-liners and similes. Chandler really gives Marlowe a beating in this one, it’s a wonder he can stand at the end after all the blackjack shots and slugs to the face. I’m sure he wonders at times if it’s really worth it.
Of the four Marlowe novels I've read so far, I felt The Lady In The Lake had one of the more coherent, easy-to-follow plots – that is up until the end anyway. While developments seem to uncover rapidly (honestly, Marlowe solves this thing in two days tops) and everything eventually ties together in the end, it felt pretty far fetched when summing it up. That isn't to say it’s a bad book; it’s as many have stated in the past, no one really reads Chandler for the plot and when the dust settled, this novel was perfect evidence to back that statement up.
Hannah arrives at a safe house in the middle of nowhere with a sleeping daughter and a bleeding husband. In a frantic attempt to save his life, she in...moreHannah arrives at a safe house in the middle of nowhere with a sleeping daughter and a bleeding husband. In a frantic attempt to save his life, she invites in a complete stranger to clean and close the wounds. Shortly after she settles down, Hannah notices an all too familiar mark on the stranger’s hand that may bring to light his true intentions. You see ,Hannah is on the run, and what’s chasing her may not be recognizable at first..
The book is about a lot more than that, trust me, but to fully divulge the plot would most certainly risk spoilers, so you can imagine that Stephen Lloyd Jones’ debut novel is a difficult one to talk about it. There’s a lot going on within these four hundred plus pages and while there are a few intense action scenes and thrilling moments (don’t trust that guy/woman/thing!), the whole plot feels like it’s going through the motions.
While the scattered timeline narrative used in Jones’ novel is often something I have issues with – obviously no fault of the author, just a preference on my part – it fit well given the subject matter. I liked the use of travelling through time (so to speak) to expand and flesh out the mythology surrounding the villainous Jakab and his relentless pursuit of Hannah and her predecessors.
Overall, I felt the story was OK but didn’t particularly knock my socks off. Jones is a hell of a writer when it comes to frenetic action – I’d love to see more of that from him in the future. In my opinion, he’ll definitely be an author to watch in the coming years.
"The wind was quiet out here and the valley moonlight was so sharp that the black shadows looked as if they had been cut with an engraving tool."
Marlo...more"The wind was quiet out here and the valley moonlight was so sharp that the black shadows looked as if they had been cut with an engraving tool."
Marlowe is tasked with tracking down and acquiring a stolen rare coin dubbed the Brasher Doubloon. Its owner, Mrs. Murdock, believes that her recently estranged daughter-in-law is the culprit. Unfortunately for Marlowe, there’s rarely ever an open and shut case and it isn’t long before he’s tied up in a web of deceit and murder.
I’m beginning to feel like there’s no such thing as a bad Marlowe story. While The High Window isn’t as quotable as The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely, the case is just as interesting and the twists and turns in the story had me guessing right up to the end. It also doesn't hurt that the majority of the supporting cast are deplorable, shameless characters and while their actions affect others in ways they may not have intended, when they’re shown the error of their ways, they couldn't give a damn.
One of the things I really enjoyed was Marlowe’s insistence that several of the folks he comes across ooze noir stereotypes (the sexy femme fatale, the tough talking club owner complete with big bodyguard). It’s one thing to write these characters but it’s another thing to call attention to it; almost like breaking the fourth wall so to speak.
As many have pointed out, it’s not really because of the plot that you’re picking up a Chandler novel and I’m beginning to see why. Chandler writes Marlowe with such bravado, it’s like Marlowe thinks everyone is either constantly bluffing or just plain full of shit. He’s seemingly always a step ahead and he’s got more lines than a coke dealer.
The High Window has a satisfying conclusion and once again reinforces why Chandler is considered a master of the crime fiction genre. Onward to book four!
Pilgrim is the code-name for one of the world’s foremost authorities in forensic investigation. Spending his entire career employed by a secret divisi...morePilgrim is the code-name for one of the world’s foremost authorities in forensic investigation. Spending his entire career employed by a secret division of the US government, Pilgrim rode off into the sunset by putting a lifetime of knowledge into what would become the definitive text on forensic crime scene investigation. But what happens when someone uses Pilgrim’s book as a manual for committing the perfect crime?
I received a free copy from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
The scope of Terry Hayes’ I Am Pilgrim is much larger than I initially expected. This tightly constructed, well researched thriller takes us around the world and into the lives of two very driven men on opposite sides of the spectrum. What begins as a squeaky clean murder scene expands into a global manhunt with the fate of the Western world hanging in the balance.
When I first heard the synopsis, I instantly associated it with a Jack Bauer adventure. I expected a macho superspy loaded up with overflowing bravado with a penchant for kicking terrorist ass. Luckily for us, the author is ambitious enough to take a 600 page novel and really give it some backbone. The character development is top-notch and when both adversaries finally do meet, the groundwork has been laid perfectly to support such a high stakes battle.
Without giving anything away, make sure you keep an eye on your pulse as the novel draws to a close. Despite all the work and all the room Hayes allotted himself to draw out the conclusion given the page count, he leaves it for the last thirty pages or so. That means that the storytelling is flying with white knuckle speed as Pilgrim tries to stop a global apocalypse. Great stuff.
Supposedly this is the first in a series and while I’m up for revisiting the character, I would have been fine with this existing as a stand-alone novel – it’s that strong. If you’re a fan of blockbuster movies, this is one of those rare instances when a book can perfectly capture that feeling. Read with popcorn.
Hank Palace leaves behind the comfort of a secure police compound to seek out his missing sister, desperate to see her one last time before a six kilo...moreHank Palace leaves behind the comfort of a secure police compound to seek out his missing sister, desperate to see her one last time before a six kilometer wide asteroid crashes into Earth. With humanity on the brink of extinction, can Hank find Nico or will he simply die alone in the ruins of America?
I received a free copy from Quirk Books in exchange for a review.
Winters’ World of Trouble is the highly anticipated finale to his Edgar Award winning Last Policeman trilogy. The books follow Detective Hank Palace as he struggles to find some sort of meaning to his remaining days in the face of impending doom. When the third and final book picks up, we’re only a few short days from impact and his efforts to locate Nico have led him to a police station in Rotary, Ohio. When an impenetrable entrance to an underground shelter is discovered, Hank leaves the station to seek out a sledgehammer - his own special key to unlock the door. On his journey, Hank meets several people who are preparing for the end of days in their own way while he learns more about his sister than he expected.
Unlike The Last Policeman and Countdown City, Hank spends the bulk of the story in one location, offering a distinctly different experience. He’s not working for the remnants of a police department, he’s not offering assistance to an old friend or client, he’s simply in business for himself; driven by a need to connect with the only family he has left. With the story moving closer and closer to the end, Hank becomes more relatable, more human and less like the crime-solving robot that we were presented with in the beginning of the story; you really feel for the guy.
In the end, Winters lived up to my high expectations and delivered a satisfying ending to his unique story. I’m looking forward to what he chooses to do next - I can’t wait.
“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance. I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I pu...more“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance. I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.”
While working a missing persons case, Detective Philip Marlowe finds himself drawn into a murder investigation. Jailbird Moose Malloy knocks off the proprietor of a local watering hole in his pursuit of a gal named Velma. While assisting the cops in hunting him down, Marlowe backs off the case when he realizes he won’t be paid for his efforts. However it’s not long before another job falls in his lap when Marlowe is hired to accompany a man in a money-for-jewelry trade off. When his employer is tucked in for the big sleep, Marlowe tries to piece the crime together, taking a few lumps in the process.
As abrasive as a sheet of sandpaper coated in shattered glass, Philip Marlowe isn’t one to check his attitude at the door. He’s also an alcoholic, a racist, and unapologetically hardheaded. With all these character flaws, why is Raymond Chandler’s signature series so damn enjoyable? It probably has something to do with Chandler’s endlessly quotable prose.
The backbone of any story worth reading is the way the author’s prose plays out on the page. You could have the most exciting plot imaginable but if the writing isn't up to snuff, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on, but sometimes an author can be so good that the plot is almost secondary. The true joy can come from random musings about life, death and everything in between or even the exceptional way an author crafts a setting or describes a character. Raymond Chandler is one such author and while the case surrounding Farewell, My Lovely isn't particularly outstanding, he is certainly a masterful storyteller.
Throughout the story, Chandler takes the reader in a multitude of directions and when Marlowe makes any sort of headway, a new element is introduced thus changing the case. It’s often a wonder Marlowe gets anything done when half the time he’s soaking himself in bourbon while seemingly trying to burn bridges with his smarmy attitude and general distaste for anyone he meets.
Farewell, My Lovely is an excellent novel and a more than worthy follow up to The Big Sleep. Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is one hell of an interesting character leaving me sad to know there are only six books in the series.
James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice is a structurally sound tent pole of the noir genre. While it inspired an entire generation of crime wr...moreJames M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice is a structurally sound tent pole of the noir genre. While it inspired an entire generation of crime writers, you’ll be shocked to know that it was met with a fair share of criticism when initially published. Due to a high volume of violence and sexuality (for its time), the book was shunned by critics and even so far as banned in Boston. Despite best efforts to keep the novel out of the hands and minds of American readers, the book’s originality and Cain’s undeniable talent ushered the novel into instant classic territory. It is now widely regarded as one of the most important crime novels of the 20th century.
Frank Chambers rolls into town with nothing more on his mind than his next meal. He finds himself in a quaint roadside diner and after jawing with the owner, he finds himself with a job. Before long, an attraction sparks between Frank and the owner’s wife, Cora. The two conspire to knock off her husband and hit the road but as one knows, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Frank and Cora are made for one another; the two are about as rotten as politician’s promises. They’re blinded by desire and consumed with the idea of life on the road and it certainly doesn't do them any favors considering how likable their mark is. In the end, I guess that’s the key to really great noir fiction; you've got to make your protagonists as irredeemable as possible and ain't nothing worth saving when it comes to these two.
For those like me who were a little bewildered by the meaning behind the novel’s title, there’s an excellent explanation on Wikipedia that made me love the book that much more. Obviously there’s spoilers ahead if you choose to check it out but I recommend giving it a look.
A body is found near a local swimming hole and the brutality of the murder is frightening. Deputy Danny Upshaw is charged with finding the perp and cl...moreA body is found near a local swimming hole and the brutality of the murder is frightening. Deputy Danny Upshaw is charged with finding the perp and closing the case. When it’s discovered the victim was gay, Ellroy brings the reader into the homophobic culture of 1950s Los Angeles while pushing Upshaw to his limit in his drive to tag the guilty party.
Elsewhere, both Mal Considine and Buzz Meeks become entwined in the communist red scare. Mal is using it to his advantage in an attempt to advance his fledgling career while Buzz Meeks is shaking down unions accused of spreading red propaganda.
It isn’t long until all three men are frying together in the same pan.
With The Big Nowhere, Ellroy was cooking with all the same ingredients used in The Black Dahlia: the seedy crime culture of 1950s L.A., snappy hard boiled dialogue, and compelling characters. So what was missing? It took me a while to pin it down but I think it eventually boils down to the narrative style. For whatever reason, I seem to prefer my crime fiction told in a first person narrative style. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad but I like to really get inside the head of the protagonist and uncover the case with him/her. I’m not saying that if a crime fiction author chooses the third person style he/she fails immediately; I just find it difficult to become fully immersed in the presented case.
Why does it matter so much with this novel? I think it suffers due to my own comparisons with Dahlia and just how much I enjoyed that experience. That being said, The Big Nowhere is itself a compelling story that has everything you could want in a dark, gritty gangland tale. While in my opinion it falls short of the tremendous Black Dahlia, it shares a similar tone and fans of the first novel in the L.A Quartet series should find some enjoyment in its followup.