The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

April 30, 2009

Spring blossoms.

And so do the books. I swear, I put two books on the shelf, go away for ten minutes, come back and there are six books on the shelf. Who said they could invite friends over? Or...maybe I'm not practicing safe reading.

I came across a small stash of old Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and I've been sampling the stories. Maybe it's the years on the stories and the way our culture has changed, not to mention my reading preferences, so without meaning to knock any of their stories I have to say that I'm more impressed by stories posted on some of the finer ezines today. Writers like Paul Brazill, Keith Rawson, and Patti Abbott - among several others - have some damned fine fiction posted around the 'Net at A Twist of Noir, Crooked, Bad Things, and numerous other sites. No one should think that because they get to read the 'zines for free (mostly), that he's getting shortchanged on the stories. There is some muy fabuloso fiction out there. Writer Sandra Seamans - no slouch at abbreviated crime fic herself - has generously posted a list of crime fic ezine links in the sidebar of her blog, My Little Corner. Take a few minutes and check some of the stories out. And remember, often as not the writers got paid nothing for the story, so if you like one be sure to leave a comment saying so.

I seem to have read fewer books than usual this month. Put it down to spring fever and say no more. Far and away the best of the bunch were Fifty Grand by Adrian McKinty; Dope Thief by Dennis Tafoya; and Hannah Berry's Britten and Brulightly. I've already written reviews on these three books so 'nuff said.

Olen Steinhauer's The Confession is also praiseworthy. This tale of murder, politics, betrayal and abiding love behind the Iron Curtain is a winner. There was one small CSI-type piece of evidence that struck me as being unlikely or out of place for the time period, and if anyone who has read the book can tell me what it was I'll let you be a guest blogger here for a day. That small, almost unnoticeable bit of unlikelihood aside, The Confession is a terrific follow-up to an equally terrific book, The Bridge of Sighs.

Death at Bishop's Keep by Robin Paige is an historical mystery. It's well-written, beautifully researched, and the plotting is pretty tight. There's more going on here than just getting a tour of the Victorian England countryside with a few famous names tossed in as bait for the unwary reader. I'm not a big fan of this type of book, but that aside, I find no fault in the writing or story. People who do like this sort of book should like this one more than most.

Ray Banks's Sucker Punch is my kind of book: Darkly funny, edgy, profane. This is the second book in Banks's Cal Innes series, and I did feel a bit lost for not having read the first one. But it's not going to be a hardship to go back and catch up either.

Mating Season, by Jon Loomis, is another tale that mixes dark humor and murder. Loomis creates good chemistry between his lead investigators, and the dialogue is snappy without wearing on the reader. I wish I'd cared more about who killed the rich bitch -- no case without her, after all -- but I was a lot more concerned about the woman who had Alzheimer's.

I think I covered Old City Hall by Robert Rotenberg in the comments elsewhere. In short, a good story could have been improved on with stronger characterization, particularly in regard to the dialogue which was pretty much of a muchness.

So I only really have one book that I strongly recommend not reading. In fact, if you have this book taking up space in your TBR fortress, remove it and donate it to someone you dislike. Ben Benson's The Venus Death, from around 1955 or so, is rife with cliched characters and situations, and the prose is unremarkable.

So that was the month of April for me. No book festival, no LA sunshine, no cool shirt with a pithy comment printed on it, no shades, no autographs, no meeting famous authors, no wearing said authors' hats, no photos of me standing next to Robert Crais. It would have been a pret-ty low month for me except for one thing: Michael, you were 100% right about the zinc nasal gel. My gratitude, sir, goes all the way to the bottom of the Kleenex box. This video is for you. And I know your wife will appreciate it.


  1. Wait.. wait. I've just finished a LOL-fit, and I have to wipe my eyes! I think I hurt my ribs trying to keep it quiet here at work. That man flu video is sooooo good--and so true! And as for my wife, I hope she comments on it (I emailed your post to her... right after I composed myself).

    So glad to hear that the zinc nasal gel worked out for you. That stuff is freak-inducing effective. Yes, there's still no cure for the common cold, but using that stuff is the next best thing. Of course, researchers years from now will probably write a paper uncovering the real cause of some terrible disease was traced back to the use of zinc nasal gel...

    And Jen and I missed not having you there, but hopefully the postman is bringing you that small piece of Festival of Books for you to enjoy ;-).

  2. OMG! Has someone been spying on Michael? Even the bad accent? Also, I will not be passing out "Poor Little Bunnies" anytime soon. Just ask him.

  3. No bunnies? That's harsh. You probably don't even own a bell. [shakes head sadly]

  4. BTW, I'm really enjoying the heck out of Fifty Grand.

  5. I'm glad to hear it. I think MWA is going to have to have some dandy excuses to keep it off the Best Novel shortlist next year.

  6. I had to laugh at your two books growing to six. We will never catch up, will we? Isn't that great?

  7. Never catching up is ok. Great even, as you say. But I keep falling farther behind. And with every new book I bring into the house I can hear the TBR stack groan a little louder.

  8. My books reproduce, too! I was so proud of myself for reading 7 on vacation, and then came back to 7 new ones!

    Michael and I did miss you at the festival. A picture of all 3 of us with RC would be pretty awesome I think!

    And I just have to figure out how to take the hat home with me next time! ;)

  9. Sometimes I think short stories have changed over time more than novels. The style especially. They used to be more like a novel shrunk down, now they have their whole own pace and structure.

  10. My pleasure, Paul. I'm glad I set myself a goal this year of reading 50 short stories. I've past that mark, and am really enjoying the short form much more than I thought I would.

  11. Sandra Seamans' blog has become my second crime fiction blog stop after The Rap Sheet, good stuff.

  12. Good stuff indeed. There are more good crime fic blogs than I really have time to devote to.