Best lists are bunk. One of the reasons is that it is impossible to read all the crime fiction books (major or small press) and come up with a list. There are other reasons, but what Best of lists are good for is adding books to your TBR.
I’ve split this list into four parts and the part most people have come to read is at the end.
Favorite Books of 2017 That I Didn’t Read But Other People Really Seemed to Enjoy
Keep it tight, criminal, and compelling. Give Rudolph a black eye, shove a dreidel in someone’s eye (yes, Hanukkah is fair game too. Come one, come all.), and give us a good read to cozy up to the fireplace with while downing a tall glass of stout.
Acceptances begin right away, just please be sure to keep it under 700 words. We’re being strict with this. Anything over will not be read. When submitting, please let us know you want it to be considered for the Twelve Daze of Christmas series and send us a short bio along with the entry. Thank you, one and all.
Ragnar Jónasson’s Whiteout (Orenda Books) is out. The Crime Review writes, “All of these elements combine to make Whiteout a masterful exercise in “classic” mystery writing. You should absolutely pick up Whiteout, and the rest of the Dark Iceland series, and get into the winter mood!” The Suspense is Thrilling Me says that “If you enjoy nordic crime fiction with slow building suspense, mystery, and characters who are easy to grow fond of, please give this series a try! Highly recommended!” And lastly Novel Gossip writes:
No one does imagery as beautifully as Jonasson and Whiteout was no exception. There is always a strong sense of claustrophobia in his books and the weather always plays a huge role in the story taking on a life of its own. The writing is gorgeous, it’s hauntingly poetic and I always pause a few times while reading to let the words really sink in.
D.K. Hood’sDon’t Tell a Soul (Bookouture) is out. “Don’t Tell A Soul is an absorbing, clever and dark book. Delving into small-town America and creating a sinister snapshot of life in a sleepy Montana town, it is compulsive and moreish,” says Bibliophile Book Club. Stardust Book Reviews writes that it is a “fantastic book, but don’t take my word for it – go and read it, you won’t be disappointed!” And Ginger Book Geek thinks that “for a debut novel, Don’t Tell A Soul is extremely well written.” Novel Deelights says it “is a solid start to a new series.”
Caroline Mitchell’s Murder Game (Bookouture) is out. Mrs Bloggs’ Books loves “the way Caroline Mitchell writes” and there is “an authenticity” to it. Sean’s Book Reviews writes, “”This is one of the greatest series that I have read and it will come as no shock to some that all of Caroline Mitchell books are top of the line and just suck you in.” Jen Med’s Book Reviews writes:
This really is a brilliant series and if you haven’t read any, you must start from book one. Not because the book contains too many spoilers, it can easily be read as a standalone to be fair. It is simply that you will be missing one hell of a treat if you start and end here, a journey through some cracking stories with a heroine who is just one hell of a lot of fun.
Guess what, there’s another Bookouture book out and it is Angela Marsons’ Broken Bones. Novel Deelights writes that “it left my head spinning. I’m exhausted, really I am. My mind is totally blown.” By the Letter Book Reviews writes that “Angela Marsons has yet again nailed and delivered an outstanding five star read. Broken Bones had me hook, line and sinker until the shocking end.”
Books n All says that Larry Enmon’s Wormwood (Bloodhound Books) “is an absolutely brilliant book.” Bookstormer writes that Wormwood is “a brilliantly written novel, with storylines that keep you hooked all the way through. ” And By the Letter Book Reviews calls it ” a brilliant start to a brand new crimes series.
Clea Simon’s World Enough (Severn House Digital) is out. At Criminal Element, Thomas Pluck writes “Despite the looming presence of money and corporate greed, Simon keeps the story focused on the personal, like all the best noir.
Fahrenheit Press has two releases this week. First is Cal Smyth’s The Balkan Route. The blurb says that “Smyth blends Nesbo and Mankell to create a perfect slice of Balkan noir.” The second release is the second in the Hanne Drais series by Ally Rose, Finding Colossus.
Brash Books has two releases as well. Leo W. Banks Double Wide (Brash Books). James Sallis says that “Double Wide is classic crime in its best new clothes, Goodis-style grand failure and Chandler’s streetwise knight welded to the same frame and left baking in the Arizona desert till only the essential remains.” Max Allan Collins raps up the Perdition series with Road to Paradise.
Here at Unlawful Acts we reviewed four books. Jim Thomsen was quite happy with Christopher Swann’s Shadow of the Lions (Algonquin Books) and I really liked R. Daniel Lester’s Dead Clown Blues (Shotgun Honey). Two other books we reviewed were Christopher Bollen’s The Destroyers (Harper) and Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide (Midnight Ink)
Dead End Follies reviews Glenn Gary’s Transgemination (Beat to a Pulp). Ben Leviere writes:
I liked Transgemination, but I thought it was a little lengthy and over-the-top for what it was. By any means, read it. You could order it today and read it in one sitting for Halloween night without breaking a sweat. I didn’t like it more than I like the usual medico-legal, weirdo Glenn Gray, but it was a pleasant experience even if it went on for just a little too long.
I had a similar take on this book back in September. I said these two disparate things: “Transgemination is not a great book, rather it is sci-fi pulp that grabs on to the back of the black-and-white B-movies I grew up with.” and “Gray’s Transgemination is something to lose yourself in from a farm in Nebraska to the hills in West Virginia; it is pure escapism and sometimes that’s just what you need.”
At MysteryPeople Scott Montgomery reviews Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals by Rick Ollerman (Stark House). Montgomery writes “Ollerman weaves new, more personal pieces through his work, giving it the feel of an educated fan sharing the books he loves with another. He will put you on the trail of new authors and maybe challenge a few of your opinions, all without spoilers. After reading Hard Boiled, Noir, And Gold Medals, Rick Ollerman will need no introduction.”
At Crime Fiction Lover, Mal McEwan reviews Aaron Poochigian’s Mr. Either/Or (Etruscan Press) which is a novel in verse. Yes, a novel in verse.
Mr Either/Or is endlessly quotable with rhythms and beats that lodge in your brain. This book was eight years in the writing and there is really no spare fat on its bones. That’s as you would expect with poetry; it’s a distillation where every word matters, where every phrase counts, and it is simply not possible to pad out the pages with fluff and filler. This is a book to keep and re-read.
But I don’t know about Mr. Either/Or after reading his little bit.
Gunfire! Silencers! You hit the floor
on instinct but your host’s too slow—a slug
explodes his forehead, brains Rorschach the wall.
Ginger Book Geek says of Patricia Gibney’s The Lost Child (Bookouture), “Well I thought that The Stolen Girls was well written but The Lost Child is even better written. This is certainly one series that just keeps getting better and better.” And Steph’s Book Blog writes that “it’s fast paced Irish fiction.”
Ali – The Dragon Slayer says that Antti Tumainen’s The Man Who Died (Orenda Books) “a thriller with a difference, totally engaging”.
This is a book that is so much more than a dark thriller. Yes it is utterly brilliant plot wise, full of twists, but it is also the story about a mother who wants to provide for, and keep, her son. That’s what is at the heart of this story, that much needed personal and emotional element, and that is what I feel makes this book so very special. It really is unlike anything I have ever read before …
There are many hidden depths to No Bodies, the plot is intriguing in how Robert manages to run more than one plotline simultaneously, some parallel, some cross-over, each one bringing another spin to the plot, making No Bodies a book which will be hard for any reader to put down.
Elementary V Watson says of Adrian Magson’s Rocco and the Nightingale (The Dome Press) that it is “a cross between Poirot and Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano” and that it “contains evocative descriptions which set the tone of the novel perfectly.”
Lloyd Otis’ Dead Lands (Urbane Publications) has a couple of reviews this week. Ali – The Dragon Slayer writes, “Dead Lands is a place of judgement on so many levels, quite eerie to think not much has changed in the intervening years because in some respects it could be set today. A good debut from Lloyd I would definitely take a look at what he does next.” Rae Reads says:
There are lots of themes covered in this story and to be honest they are pretty relevant in the here and now just as they were in the 1970’s. Although I think the 70’s time period works so well within this story making things just that little bit more interesting with a different feel along with a slight edge too.
The Quiet Geordie “really enjoyed” Janice Frost’s Their Fatal Secrets (Joffe Books) saying “it was a well paced and gripping police procedural and had me guessing right up until the very end”.
Ann Girdharry’s London Noir is “really tense and full of suspense at times and I thought it was a great crime thriller …” writes Donna’s Book Blog. The Writing Garnet “found Good Girl Bad Girl to be a lot more gut wrenchingly intense than this book, however, I still thoroughly enjoyed London Noir and I would recommend this book and the entire series in a heartbeat.”
At Col’s Criminal Library, Coleman Keane reviews Steve Goble’s The Bloody Black Flag (Seventh Street Books) saying, “Fair to say this is my first pirate mystery and if Steve Goble keeps churning them out like this one, probably not my last. Best book ever? No but a lot here to like.” Keane interviews Goble as well.
Richard Rippon’s upcomingLord of the Dead (Oblierati Press) is reviewed by BibloManiac saying, “Lord of the Dead is a great police procedural that feels refreshing and new. Rippon has a distinctive voice and his prose is polished, pacy and engaging.”
Random Things Through My Letter Box reviews Jenny Blackhurst’s The Foster Child (Headline) saying, “The Foster Child is deftly plotted and entirely believeable, it is meticulously crafted with a gradual unfolding leading to a jaw-dropping ending that delivers more than one shocking reveal.”
The Big Book of the Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett, edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Publishers Weekly
World Enough by Clea Simon (Severn House) BOLO Books
One of the best books I’ve read in 2017 was Danny Gardner’s A Negro and an Ofay (Down & Out Books). Not only is Gardner’s book exceptional, it talks about some ugly truths in the States. Joe Clifford, author of Give Up the Dead, talks with Gardner at The Thrill Begins.
Danny: There’s something about black American humanity that unsettles people. That’s why our human rights are doled out incrementally. First we get emancipation, then representation, but that’s rolled back to three-fifths human status by Jim Crow. Then we get an occasional upgrade, say housing or education, just to lose that ground as well. Then we have the Civil Rights Movement, and the Voting Rights Act of 1968 is passed. That’s where the line stopped for most Americans. The burn in my heart obligates me to depict black folk as human beings. True souls who don’t always exist in relation to whiteness. And, in our private and most basic lives, don’t live in relation to anyone. That’s the most provocative portrayal of black life I figured I could offer: that black folk in America just really want to be left alone to exist. Same as everyone else does. I got a question from a reader in Sacramento once about whether or not I fear I’m alienating readers by putting social issues in my fiction.
Steve Lauden, author of the upcoming Hang Time (Rare Bird Books), interviews R. Daniel Lester, author of the incredible Dead Clown Blues (Shotgun Honey). Over at Do Some Damage, Marietta Miles, author of the upcoming May (Down & Out Books), turns the tables on Lauden and interviews him.
At Never Imitate Jackie Law interviews Nathan O’Hagan and Wayne Leeming of Obliterate Press. Their first book Richard Rippon’s Lord Of The Dead will be released this week.
Paul D. Brazill interviews K.A. Laity, publisher of The Blood Red Experiment.
At Do Some Damage, Holly West talk about NaNoWriMo, writing advice, and what’s she’s doing.
As part of Crime Fiction Lover’s New Talent November, Paul D. Brazill offers up bloody mess of new writers you should be reading: Paul Heatley, Martin Stanley, JJ De Ceglie, Chuck Caruso, Nick Kolakowski, Henry Block, CS DeWildt, James Newman, and Marietta Miles. What a list!
At MysteryPeople Scott Montgomery interviews Mike McCrary, author of Steady Trouble.
I knew I wanted to do something a little different from my other stuff. I wanted a character who was damaged, but in a different way than the usual crime / thriller badass heroes.
She’s not a raving alcoholic cop with a dead partner or disgraced hit man out to help the world be a better place. She’s was involved in a horrible attack during childhood that she doesn’t even remember because she suffered a head injury during the incident. Some characters might have taken that tragedy and folded up into a drug addict or turned it into an inspiration and become a lawyer or whatever, but this trauma molded Teddy into something different. Not a victim or a shining light of goodness, but something else.
She became a force of nature created in her own image. She’s carved out a strange life for herself, but all on her terms. I wanted readers to have sympathy for her but never pity her. That character setup also allows for a lot of great twists and turns because we’re learning about her as she learns about herself and a past that she didn’t know existed.
At From First Page to Last, Adrian Magson, author of Rocco and the Nightingale, writes about the lack of technology in his Roco series since it is set in the 1960s, “The first pleasure for me as a writer was forgetting about the technological world of contemporary spy fiction. ”
Jennifer Hillier interviews fellow Canadian author Andrew Pyper in The Thrill Begins’ Passport Series.
Pyper: think setting and nationalism can be awkward bedmates a lot of the time. The assumption that where an author situates her story says decisive things about her identity or the things that story may say is often wrong, or at least misleading. To me, no matter where I set my stories they’re Canadian stories. It’s the point of view that matters: the voice, the undercurrent, the way in. When I set a novel in the United States, for instance, I’m saying something about the US from a Canadian perspective – necessarily so, as that’s my perspective as a Canadian. Think about Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I often think about how that is such a Canadian book even though it is set in a dystopic US and deals with many of the tendencies of the American systems of power. Which is to say, it’s a novel about America, not an American novel.
At The Kill Zone author Sue Coletta has some tips about blogging, social media and the dreaded SEO.
At Elementary V Watson, there is a series called “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” where writers stop by and talk about their day jobs and writing. This time around is Tana Collins, author of the Inspector Jim Carruthers series on Bloodhound: Robbing the Dead and Care to Die.
Sarah M. Chen talks about her novella Cleaning Up Finn (All Due Respect Books) at Charles Daly’s blog.
Jackie Law interviews Adrian Magson, author of Rocco and the Nightingale.
As part of Crime Fiction Lover’s New Talent November, Marina Sofia interviews Lloyd Otis, author of Dead Lands (Urbane Publications). Otis describes his book “as a journey back in time to a place many forgot. A place with real characters and a gritty underbelly that authentically represents a key moment in history. I hope a new reader feels transported there and enjoys the ride.”
Lilja Sigurdardottir, author of Snare (Orenda Books), stops by Anne Bonny Book Reviews to talk about character development.
I love writing multi-layered, complex characters that dance on the sometimes fine line between right and wrong. Somehow those types of characters connect to you in a deeper way as a reader. Probably we connect with them because none of us is 100 percent good or evil. We are all a curious mix of both, esentially well meaning people that sometimes do bad things.
Bill Crider, author of Outrage at Blanco and many more books, is interviewed at Western Musings.
Once again, I have to give a vague answer. I really don’t know what inspired the character, who started out as a character in a short story that kept getting longer and longer. I’ve been told that there was never a sheriff like Rhodes, but that’s okay. I like him, and readers seem to, also.
At The Strand Magazine, Claire Kendal writes about why we root for the serial killer anti-hero.
These clever fictional serial killers have much in common with the literary rake, the Don Juan figure who has little conscience but a psychological perceptiveness that allows him to manipulate others. These rakes are cultured men of taste. In this they resemble Dexter, whom we see in the opening credits shaving, carefully preparing and chewing his breakfast, then dressing; and Ripley, who kills to protect his country-gentleman lifestyle; and Lecter, who in another act of sinister empathy, persuades Miggs to swallow his own tongue as punishment for throwing semen at Clarice Starling. “Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me,” Lecter tells her.
At Mystery People, Scott Montgomery interviews Eryk Pruitt, author of What We Reckon (Polis Books). Pruitt says:
I love the South. I think it’s a wild, spooky, haunted, terrible, beautiful place and I’d have a hard time enjoying myself anywhere else. It’s my understanding that most folks think of the South and Southerners as a pejorative, but not me. I’m not down with the old ways, but rather what the kids call #NewSouth. A pot that melts. An all-inclusive gumbo of cultural collisions that enjoy a six-month tomato season.
That being said, the South is also a product of that disturbing past and that conflict should continue to churn out good fiction for quite a while. Themes of race and religion have only deepened and it’s been interesting to see how they’ve been dealt with in the past in Southern crime canon by William Gay, Daniel Woodrell, and Ernest J. Gaines. Since those pages have yet to be turned, it will be interesting to see how the newer guys like Greg Barth, S.A. Cosby, and Marietta Miles deal with them.
At Do Some Damage Scott D. Parker writes about adding his nighttime job as a writer to his daytime resume.
What does this have to do with flying that writing banner proudly? It comes down to my resume. When I updated my day-job resume, I debated whether or not to include my writing credentials. By that, I mean my mystery and western novels and stories. I opted for inclusion. In my interview, after all the day-job-type questions were asked, my interviewers asked me about my fiction. It enabled the three of us to have a few moments of informality and ended the interview on a jovial note. I found out this week that the fiction was one of the things that differentiated me above other candidates. My history degrees were also a factor. The clients were looking for something a little different and my liberal arts degree* and creative fiction writing set me apart. Another writer started the same day and she has a behavioral science degree, so we both are not your typical technical writer types.
In a mildly connection post at The Hard Word with Eryk Pruitt’s What We Reckon (Polis Books), Scott Montgomery lists ten books where the drugs are ” woven into the very fabric of the story and there is no other way to tell it.”
At Live and Deadly, Ragnar Jónasson, author of Whiteout visits to talk about how Iceland’s natures and environment influences the island nation’s writers.
At Writers Who Kill, Linda Rodriguez writes about the necessity of saying, “No.”
Steve Weddle, author of Hardball Country, chimes in on whether your should participated in NaNoWriMo at Do Some Damage. He thinks you should but like all writing advice it should be ignored or followed. I’m always confused about this. At SleuthSayers, Thomas Pluck, author of Bad Boy Boogie, also thinks it may be a good idea for you to participate.
K.M. Weiland admits lists aren’t everything, but they can help. In her “The Great Novel-Writing Checklist (Just in Time for NaNoWriMo!)” piece on Helping Writers Become Authors, she writes:
Today, I want to offer a fast novel-writing checklist of the five most important elements in any successful novel. (In a few weeks, we’ll also talk about the smaller things you need to be aware of in writing and revising.)
The “big” things on this list are the foundational things. They are the story. Get them right and everything else will fall into place around them.
Today, October 24, Electric Literature is opening submissions for personal and critical essays, as well as humor that reflects on the world of reading, writing, literature, and storytelling in all its forms. We’re particularly interested in pieces that examine the intersection of the literary world and other creative disciplines: film, fine art, music, video games, architecture — you name it. Submissions will remain open until November 6.
Rusty Barnes’ Knuckledragger (Shotgun Honey) is out. I’ve read Barnes’ recently re-released Ridgerunner which I liked. Nick Kolakowski, author of A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps says, “Knuckledragger is a fast and hard punch you remember for the rest of your life. The prose bursts with rough-hewn power, the pace is blistering, and the characters will break your heart. You couldn’t ask for a better slice of modern noir.”
Broken Glass Waltzes by Warren Moore (Down & Out Books). Vicki Hendricks, the author of Miami Purity, says, “I tried to read this slowly to prolong the pleasure, but found it impossible. The blend of obsession, darkness, and intriguing character and plot, as well as seamless literary style, wouldn’t let me go.”
Skeletal by Emma Pullar (Bloodhound Books) is out. This book, though technically a mystery, is probably more along the lines of a dystopian thriller.
Kathryn Croft’s Silent Lies (Bookouture) is out. Some reviews from the book’s blog tour.
“The pace is perfect, the characters are brilliant and the while thing over all is so good!!” – Donna’s Book Blog
“I can’t say for sure if it’s my lack of connection with the characters or perhaps the fact that the middle section felt slower for me or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood.” – A Haven for Book Lovers
“Silent Lies is a brilliant psychological thriller which will tense up your mind, flood your senses with apprehension and leave you sitting in a heap on the floor wondering what the hell happened there.” – Sweet Little Book
“This is an excellent choice for those who are fans of the ever popular psychological suspense in the domestic realm. Pack a bag and loads of caffeine with this one; you’ll have to stay up all night finishing it and will likely be a happy zombie by morning!” – The Suspense is Thrilling Me
““Silent Lies is a well crafted, addictive, and fast paced read which will leave you questioning absolutely everything.” – The Writing Garnet
“Silent Lies is incredibly intense and full of intrigue.” – Novel Deelights
“ This is one book that is certainly going to stay with me for a long time to come.” – Ginger Book Geek
“Overall, if you are a fan of psychological thrillers with a sort of “chick lit” vibe, then I feel like this will absolutely appeal to you.” – Clues and Reviews
Alexandra Sokoloff’s Hunger Moon (Thomas & Mercer) is out, this is the fifth in the Huntress/FBI Thrillers series. Noelle at CrimeBookJunkie loves the book saying:
What I LOVE about Alexandra Sokoloff’s writing is her skill at bringing current matters to the forefront and making the reader think -while at the same time entertaining the reader with a kickass story that really makes you feel empowered! I love this author’s writing style and the ability to make the reader embrace a story with the same passion that she has for the subject at hand.
The fourth in the Tara Sharp series, Sharp Edge by Marianne Delacourt is out on Deadline, an imprint of Twelfth Planet Press.
The Lost Child by Patricia Gibney (Bookouture) is out. Here are some reviews from its blog tour.
“Oh my goodness this book was fantastic!! I started it late one afternoon and read it pretty much non stop, this is definitely a book that grabs you so much that you don’t want to put it down!!” – Dona’s Book Blog
“Both shocking and strangely compelling, this is an absolutely cracking read in a series which is going from strength to strength.” – Jen Med’s Book Reviews
“It’s dark, gritty and intense with shocking developments and well executed twists.” – Novelgossips
T.R. Ragan’s Her Last Day (Thomas & Mercer) is out. Novelgossip writes that “was an effortless page turner”. This is the first in a series about PI Jessie Cole. The second book, Deadly Recall, will be out in March 2018. Criminal Element’s Kristin Centorceli says of Her Last Day, “If you like serial killer thrillers that genuinely thrill and have plenty of depth, now’s the time to discover Jessie Cole and T.R. Ragan.”
This past week was the first week with a contributor at Unlawful Acts. Jim Thomsen, a freelance book editor and crime fiction junkie, reviews Hart Hanson’s The Driver and Jame Pate’s Speed of Life (Fahrenheit Press). I reviewed Anthony Neil Smith’s Castle Danger: Woman on Ice and Eryk Pruitt’s What We Reckon (Polis Books).
Craft’s Nick Fuller Googins reviews Christopher Irvin’s Ragged; or, The Loveliest Lies of All (Cutlass Press) saying:
Ragged is no fable, but like any decent work of fiction it reflects a piece of ourselves in the pages. Through Irvin we see a world of animals, not a human in sight; yet he also serves us a powerful reminder involving the fragile architecture of trust and mutual aid that props up society, and how quickly it can all come crashing down.
More from the blog tour of Lilja Signerdardotter’s Snare (Orenda Books).
“This is a slow burning mystery, since the first page you know the end will not be good, will be explosive, it will not let you sleep till you arrive at the inevitable ending… be prepared.” – Varietats
“We have a tendency to idealise Iceland, with its dramatic volcanic landscape, enigmatic outpost culture, puffins and – yes – the hidden people. Lilja Sigurdardottir doesn’t play to any such romantic ideals, instead shining a light into the sordid side of Reykjavik during a period when, let’s not forget, Iceland’s real life financiers had ripped off private citizens, businesses and public bodies across Europe.” – Crime Fiction Lover
“Snare is a truly gripping read, elements of the storyline were so original, and this made it harder to predict were the plot was going.” – Keeper of Pages
“Readers looking to be swept up in a breathless, tense journey into the underbelly of idyllic Iceland will find Sigurdardottir’s story compelling and propulsive; readers looking for a character-driven Noir read will fall in love with the human, flawed, and endearing characters Sigurdardottir has crafted.” – Crime by the Book
“Snare is such a sophisticated, high stakes thriller with real heart; it’s dark, gripping and incredibly intense!” – Rather Too Fond of Books
“I thought that this book was great and it really gripped me – I loved the pace and the plot was spot on, I loved the detail and the characters of Ava and Jim were brilliant – I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book and have given it 5 stars!” – Donna’s Book Blog
“Again my only complaint would be the coincidences, I keep coming across them a lot lately in crime fiction.” – On The Shelf Reviews
“If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, Ruth Rendell, or Mark Billingham you will be gripped by this exciting new crime fiction writer.” – Orchard Book Club
“Crime and mystery fans will enjoy this novel but for me its the insight into Antti Tuomainen’s Finland which is most rewarding. In short this is delightfully genre blending caper about a man with only months left to live.” – The World’s Shortlist
“I really enjoyed reading this, loved every part of it, the character of Jaako and laughed out loud at some of his predicaments. The author’s wit and writing skill is present throughout even through a layer of translation.” – Mrs. Bloggs Books
“I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and I couldn’t put it down. It is full of dark humour and interesting and amusing characters.” – The Quiet Geordie
“The Man Who Died is an absolute treat of a book. From the stunning cover through to the final sentence. If you love a good old ‘who done it’, black humour and a thoroughly absorbing plot with interesting characters who you’ll remember long after you close the book, then you’ll love this story.” – Brew and Books Reviews
“While this is quite different from my usual reads it is definitely a book I would recommend if you fancy something a little different.” – Book Lover Worm
“The Man Who Died is dark, quirky, unique and hugely enjoyable – a real page-turner.” – Curious Ginger Cat
“This book isn’t a thriller in the traditional sense, yes there are moments of suspense and tension but it is much more an exploration of life and its meaning.“ – Beverley Has Read
“Honestly, buy it, read it, give it to people you like. It’s fantastic.” – Live and Deadly
From the blog tour of Lloyd Otis’ Dead Lands (Urbane Publishing).
“London at the tale end of the 70s is portrayed as a bleak space in which tough, varied characters flourish. Witty dialogue and well-crafted description characterise this novel, and the story is both fast-paced and intriguing.” – The Dorsett Book Detective
“What I really loved about this book was the gritty and yet matter of fact tone in which it was written. There is no glamourising the deaths and yet they are brutally authentic in portrayal.” – Jen Med’s Book Reviews
“Dead Lands is a thrilling crime novel by Lloyd Otis set in 1970s London. If you’re looking for something that is a little different and if you’re a fan of gritty crime thrillers then I would highly recommend Dead Lands. Brilliant writing.” – Hooked From Page One
“I don’t want to say much more about the plot, but it is definitely a gripping story. I really liked Rocco as a character and the various story arcs made for some great change of pace throughout the book.” – Bibliophile Book Club
As usual, you can trust Mel Comley to deliver a well written, perfectly plotted suspense. It’s like cuddling up with a hot chocolate, warming and comforting in its familiarity.
If you’ve never read Iain Ryan before, you are missing out. Tom Leins reviews Ryan’s first book Four Days saying:
Ryan’s prose is impressively understated: brisk and razor-sharp throughout, and his knack for nastiness and corruption recalls early James Ellroy. If you are sick of flabby police procedurals this grim novella is a welcome antidote. Make no mistake, Four Days trims away the fat and cuts to the fucking bone.
Bookgasm’s Alan Cranis reviews the new Stark House combined release of Australia’s Carter Brown’s The Wench is Wicked / Blond Verdict / Delilah was Deadly. Tipping My Fedora also review the books saying they are “highly amusing mysteries, which were only ever meant to read at top speed and not taken even remotely seriously, are really great fun”.
Crimespree Magazine’s Eise Cooper reviews Michael Brandman’s Missing Person (Poisoned Pen Press).
Released two weeks ago, Never Imitate’s Jackie Law reviews Christina James’ Fair of Face (Salt). Law writes, “A crime novel that held my attention and offered sufficient originality to make it worth the read. Where I am sensitive to what I regard as over emphasis on looks and dress, others will likely find this helps picture each scene.” Reflections of a Reader says that it is “a rollercoaster of a read”.
Off the Shelf Books‘ Victoria Goldman reviews Sarah Driscoll’s Before It’s Too Late (Kensington). This is the second in the FBI K-9 Thrillers.
Books of All Kinds reviews Alison Brodie’s upcoming self-published book, Zenka, saying that it is “a fast-paced, gritty, story of family, lies, love, and some murderous mobsters thrown in for good measure.”
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Robert Sloan writes that Willa Cather’s My Ántonia “does not deserve the status as a classic work but rather a secondary novel.”
Colman Keane reviews Thomas Waugh’s Nothing to Loose (Endeavor Press). The Damien Lewis blurb says that the book is “engaging and enjoyable”. Keane writes:
According to publisher, Endeavour Press – Thomas Waugh is the pseudonym of a bestselling historical novelist.
A Google search has Fantastic Fiction suggesting Waugh might be Damien Lewis “a war correspondent and thriller writer.”
I’d quite like for it to be Lewis, as I like the idea of him hat-tipping his own books. Beat your own drum man, because there’s plenty to be proud of.
By theLetter Book Reviews says of Louise Jensen’s Surrogate (Bookouture) that had their “heart pounding and adrenaline racing.”
S.E. Lynes’ Mother (Bookouture) will be coming out in late November. Brew and Books Review says that is “a deliciously dark, unsettling and clever read.”
Snazzy Books reviews Felicia Yap’s Yesterday (Mulholland Books) saying that it is “original, intriguing and beautifully written novel”.
Tom Leins, author of Skull Meat, reviews Benjamin Myers’ Turning Blue (Moth Publishing) saying, “Grim, gripping and grotesque, Turning Blue is an outstanding book, and easily one of the best British crime novels that I have read in the last decade.” Leins follows up the review with an interview with Myers.
Bookgasm reviews Leo W. Banks’ upcoming book saying “The setting and characters, along with the inventive plot, make Double Wide well worth your time.”
My first column at Do Some Damage is called “Do Writers Even Read Anymore?”.
A few months ago, J. David Osborne, writer and publisher of Broken River Books, posted a photograph of a dog side-eyeing the viewer. Osborne wrote, “When writers only seem to talk about all the TV they’ve watching”. How true. My social media feeds are filled news and views about the latest premium cable series or any of the numerous Netflix series and movies. And things do get heated from time to time. We all lost loved ones during the great Baby Driver Facebook War this summer.
Stop, click, and read S.W. Lauden’s interview with Peter Rozovsky. Seriously, do it now.
David Cranmer writes about the problems of way too much reading in genres and how to rekindle your love.
Admittedly, after hundreds (thousands?) of crime novels and Western shoot-outs, narratives begin to repeat, grow stale, though, when something fresh crosses my desk, like Frank Bill’s soon to be released The Savage, I’m thoroughly invested.
His prose is a stripped-down muscle car without a muffler, tender as a brick and soothing as a gasoline popsicle, arriving at a tone you might call old-testament-pulp, while the stories themselves bite and kick and howl, and are run through with notions of the bonds of blood and kin that threaten as much as they ever may comfort.
At The Trill Begins, the Writers Passport series continues with Jenny Milchman interviewing psychological thriller author Sophie Hannah. Hannah says:
I’m very happy with the label of psychological suspense, and/or psychological crime. I was influenced by brilliant writers such as Joy Fielding (See Jane Run) and Nicci French (The Memory Game), whose novels were mysteries but with a strongly psychological focus. They were the people – along with Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine and Agatha Christie – who made me want to write crime fiction, and they are all authors who are obsessed with warped psychology and unusual motivations. So, yes, psychological suspense feels like the right description. Domestic mystery and family thriller are not labels I’d ever use, and they’re not labels I like. Both sound reductive, and make me think of narrowly focused books that are all set in one family’s kitchen. All my books involve people outside the home as well as inside it, and many relationships that aren’t familial, and the action/focus is never confined to one house. I’d be happy with the label human relationships thriller but that sounds a bit odd!
One part writing boot camp, one part rollicking party,National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) celebrates its 19th year of encouraging creativity, education, and the power of the imagination through the largest writing event in the world. This year, NaNoWriMo expects over 400,000 people—including over 70,000 K-12 students and educators on our Young Writers Program website—to start a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. Throughout the month, they’ll be guided by this year’s theme: Superpowered Noveling.
Eryk Pruitt, author of What We Reckon (Polis Books), lists “Six Great Southern Crime Novels” at The Strand Magazine. There is a surprise or two in it.
Most writers who teach have variations on this story, and we all wonder how you can possibly want to write when you don’t enjoy reading. That’s like a guy who can’t stand heights wanting to skydive. Colorblind artists don’t get far, either. Or tone-deaf musicians.
I’m going to be brutally honest, I have in the past, reviewed a book that I greatly disliked and prior to posting it, I was having this inner battle with myself. Ultimately, I tried to shift the responsibility and emailed the review to a fellow blogger and asked them if they thought the review was acceptable or too harsh.
I will tolerate violence in well written books. Because when violence is well written, language somehow bathes the violence in a wash of human experience. But when violence is gratuitous, the shock value serving mostly to obscure poor or lazy writing, I put the book down. A recent case in point was a novel where the writer turned the victim of hideous and graphically told violence into a perpetrator of the same. The author portrayed this as a victory. I thought he turned the victim into a cartoon. Ditto for some police procedurals I’ve read where the violence was so over-the-top, it served only to trivialize real police work. I put those down too. When writers focus only on the physical details of violent behavior and ignore the emotional consequences to both the victim and the perpetrator, something important is missing.
BOLO Books lists some new paperbacks that may warrant your attention.
Do sci-fi and crime mix? Are they the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of genre fiction? Over at The Thrill Begins, Jake Bible thinks so.
Crime Fiction Loverinterviews bestselling author Ann Cleaves.
Bibliophile Book Clubinterviews Lloyd Otis, author of Dead Lands.
The cover for Andrew Nette’s Gunshine Stateannounced. The book will be re-released in February 2018.
At Scott Montgomery’s newish blog The Hard Wood, he interviews Kris Lackey about his new book Nail’s Crossing and the Chickasaw Nation.
Criminal Minds has posted about joining professional writing groups and such. Unsurprisingly Danny Gardner’s article is one of the best. Garnder is author of A Negro and an Ofay (Down & Out Books).
Mystery/crime writing is as much about the writers as what we write. It’s clear it comes from tradition, and while I don’t fully understand why the social factor among us is so powerful, I’m not living my life in fear of failure anymore so I don’t have to try to see around every corner to figure it all out before I proceed. I leap and then look in Mystery/Crime in ways I have never done in my life, much less career. Tradition matters to me as much as innovation. Allowing for the new is balanced with respecting that which is long-standing and honored. I received so much love, camaraderie and respect for my work and my commitment to it, I joined all these organizations partly to get the benefits and be in the know for my career, but mainly for one simple reason. I love what I do. I want to keep on doing it, and for that to happen, I have to make certain that I stand in good stead.
Elkay Ray stops by In Reference to Murderto talk about writing and her book Saigon Dark (Crime Wave Press).
The new film of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express got Scott Alderberg thinking about film adaptions of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Alderberg’s pick for the best adaption “is the British film Green for Danger, directed by Sidney Gilliat. It was made in 1946 and taken from a Christianna Brand novel written two years earlier.”
At Mystery Fare, Clea Simon writes about making the jump from cozies to noir with her new book World Enough.
Lilja Sigurðardóttir, author of Snare (Orenda Books), stops by Shots to talk about the importance of food in books.
If In Doubt Read interviews Adrian Magson, author of Rocco and the Nightingale.
On Robert Crouch’s self-published No Bodies, Novel Deelights says that “if you enjoy your cosy mysteries, I have no doubt you will like the Kent Fisher Mysteries!”
The Rap Sheet lists the winners of the 2017 Dagger Awards.
Best of 2017 are already coming out. Here’s The Stand Magazine’s list and Publishers Weekly. Both are wrong as they don’t include Jordan Harper’s She Rides Shotgun. J. Kingston Pierce put together both lists nicely at The Rap Sheet.
On Writing At My Reading Corner, Antti Tuomainen writes about a brief writer’s retreat with Steph Broadribb, Thomas Enger, Karen Sullivan and others.
Allison Brook aka Marilyn Levinson talks with Lucy Burdette at Jungle Red Writers about writing.
There are many, many books being published these days, and you want to make your book stand out as best you can. First of all, learn the elements that go into a good novel. This takes time. Join writing groups like Sisters in Crime. Take classes, either in person or online. Join a critique group that’s familiar with the type of book you write. You want to belong to a group that provides support and helpful criticism. Read in your genre. Keep on writing. Writing is a process. It can’t be rushed. Be aware of marketing, what is wanted in your genre, while nurturing your own style and voice. So much of this sounds contradictory, but this, too, is part of the process: to believe in yourself while keeping an open mind to those critiquing your work.
But those minor characters deserve your love and attention just as much as your main cast. It’s easy to write them as shallow stereotypes, but they deserve personalities all of their own, and feelings, and depth of character. Give them their moment in the sun.
For example, I used to do a lot of script reports for new writers. I read hundreds of scripts, perhaps thousands. Films scripts, TV scripts, play scripts. If old ladies appeared in those scripts they’d often be described as having white hair and wearing a cardigan. They were the most generic old ladies ever. They’d invariably call everybody ‘dear’ a lot. As in ‘hello, dear,’ ‘yes, dear’ and ‘would you like a cup of tea, dear?’
Because if an old lady appeared, you could bet your life that a cup of tea would be sure to follow. Now I love tea as much as the next fellow– milk, no sugar, since you’re asking – but I often wondered what would happen if instead of clutching a teapot the old lady would appear with a crack-pipe… or a DVD of extreme porn… or sporting a purple Mohican hairstyle.
Wednesday morning we all woke up to the horrible news of the unexpected death of Jonathan Ashley. I did not know Jonathan, I only knew of him. He was the author of the recently publishedSouth of Cincinnati (Down & Out Books) and the currently out of print The Cost of Doing Business and Out of Mercy. Some posts in social media paint a picture of a generous and tortured soul. Jedidiah Ayres writes, “Jon was a talented, insightful artist. He was also a friend whose personal expressions sometimes had the charge of exposed wire and raw nerve. I will miss his work, but I will miss our talks more.” Two of his short stories are currently available online at Flash Fiction Offensive and Yellow Mama.
Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for September 11-17, 2017
Alec Cizak will edit an anthology called Naptown Noir (Down & Out Books). All stories should take place in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you have an idea for a story, reach out to Alec.
Ed Kurtz’s collection of short stories, Nothing You Can Do is out on Down & Out Books. From the synopsis, “Here are seventeen tales of crime, murder, and vengeance from Ed Kurtz, author of The Rib From Which I Remake the World and Bleed, including the acclaimed stories ‘A Good Marriage’ and ‘The Trick.’From backwoods Arkansas to the sleazy side of Cologne, Germany, America’s first serial killer in nineteenth-century Texas to a broken family descending into madness in 1920s England, no one escapes their own darkest drives and everyone learns there is Nothing You Can Do.”
R. Daniel Lester’s Dead Clown Blues (Shotgun Honey) is available now. An abbreviated synopsis goes “Carnegie Fitch, once-upon-a-time drifter and now half-assed private eye, has a sharp tongue, a cheap suit and dog-bite marks on his fedora. Yes, that’s just how he rolls through the downtown streets of Vancouver, BC, Canada, aka Terminal City, circa 1957, a land of neon signs, 24-hour diners and slumming socialites.” Lester is the author of the now out-of-print Die, Famous!
Heidi James’ new bookSo the Doves (Bluemoose Books). Jackie Law’s review called it “ a disturbing, compelling, ultimately satisfying read.” Graham Smith’s The Kindred Killers, the second Jake Boulder books, is out now on Bloodhound books. New crime fiction from Cheryl L. Reed, Poison Girls (Diversion Books). Reed stops by BOLO Books to talk about her latest book about heroin and girls in Chicago.
Due poor time management, I will revisit these next week.
I reviewed Winnie M. Li’s Dark Chapter (Polis Books) which is a crime fiction novel about rape. I wrote, “There is no doubt that Dark Chapter is a difficult book to read, but it is also a great book to read.” I also reviewed Glenn Gray’s Transgemination (Beat to a Pulp) which is the polar opposite of Li’s book. Gray’s book is just a fun, pulpy, sci-fi read.
Ben Lelievre reviews Anthony Neil Smith’s Castle Danger: Woman on Ice (Bastei Entertainment). Ben also reviews Iain Ryan’s Harsh Recovery calling it “fucking awesome” and Ryan’s Civil Twilightsaying that it is “the most original novel in the Tunnel Island series.” Ryan is also looking for publishers for his twisted police procedurals, so if you think it might work for your list, please contact Iain.
As we get ready for the release Dietrich Kalties’ new book Zero Avenue in October, Colman Keane reviews Kalties’ 2016 release Trigger Fish.. Keane also reviews the first Jake Boulder book, Graham Smith’s Watching the Bodies. Keane says it is “enjoyable and entertaining.”
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Glenn Harper reviews Parker Bilal’s Dark Water (Bloomsbury USA). This is the sixth book in Pilal’s The Makana Mysteries that center around a private detective in Cairo.
Alan Cranis of Bookgasmreviews the upcoming release of Max Allan Collins’ Quarry’s Climax (Hard Case Crime) and Chelsea at The Suspense is Killing Mereviews J.J. Hensley’s upcoming release Bolt Action Remedy (Down & Out Books).
If you have never seen my Tumblr blog, The Look of Crime Fiction, please go take a look as it just focuses on the beautiful covers of crime fiction books. If you have been there before, I’ve added a few new covers over the last few weeks.
S.W. Lauden has an author roundtable so-to-speak where he interviews some participants of the Johnny Cash-inspired anthology. Lauden talks to Joe Clifford, the editor of Just to Watch Them Die (Gutter Books) as well as Jen Conley, Max Booth III, Danny Gardner, Lynne Barrett, Angel Colon, and Terri Lynn Coop. Here is what Gardner had to say:
I was fortunate to come up in an era where music easily crossed boundaries. It wasn’t odd for a young kid from where I grew up to dig rock and roll and country. My pops had an eclectic record collection and Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison was in it. Then the whole Man In Black thing. Black folk figured two things: Elvis Presley had an African American ancestor he didn’t talk about, and Johnny Cash identified with us more than anything else. Didn’t matter if it was true. I first heard “I Walk The Line” with a buddy of mine in his father’s station wagon. I remember being stirred by his voice.
The gun homicide issue in Chicago is something that sits with me constantly. At the moment I was invited to participate I was reflecting on the uptick over a few days. I scrolled through my phone for songs I had on hand and “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town” jumped out at me.
Confession time here: I’ve never read Tana French. Yeah, yeah, I know. The Writers’ Passport series over at The Thrill Begins has Mark Pryor, author of The Sorbonne Affairinterviewing French. She talks about the importance of setting in her books:I don’t think I could do a decent job of setting a book anywhere other than Dublin, at least not without moving there for a few years. For me,
I don’t think I could do a decent job of setting a book anywhere other than Dublin, at least not without moving there for a few years. For me, setting is an intrinsic part of the book – the characters and the plot are rooted in the setting; they wouldn’t be the same anywhere else – and Dublin’s the only place I know intimately enough to give it any kind of reality on the page. To set a book in a place, I need to know the subtle connotations of different accents and slang phrases, what it says about you if you drink in this pub versus that one, how crowded this or that particular street gets at different times of day and what kind of people are walking down it… I don’t know that stuff about any place except Dublin.
For many critics and aficionados, Out of the Past is THE noir film to beat the band, and Mitchum’s performance—along with his world-weary eyes and sardonic wit—represents the crème de la crème of the genre.
Cranmer is also one to point out some important articles to read. This time he pointed me to Nicholas Dawidoff’s Ross Macdonald, True Detective in the New Republic. Cranmer says of Macdonald that he is his “very favorite author of detective fiction.” Dawidoff wholeheartedly agrees saying:
It’s a detective’s fantasy, something very different from the fantasy detectives of Hammett and Chandler. Macdonald describes real detectives with the same technical fluency with which another great and underappreciated modern novelist, John Le Carré, portrays intelligence operatives.
In LitHub, designer Na Kim writes about what happensWhen Your Favorite Writer Does Not Like Your Initial Cover Designs: “My instincts as a designer had unwittingly betrayed me. I wanted to make a beautiful book jacket, but had forgotten why. I reminded myself that a well-designed book jacket ultimately serves the book it’s made for.
Paul D. Brazill interviews Aidan Thorne, author of the short story collection Tales from the Underbelly. Brazill also interviews L.A. Sykes who has a new short story collection Noir Medly coming out on Near To The Knuckle. Coleman Keane interviews Trace Conger, author of the recently released horror novella The White Boy.
I for one would love to be inside the mind of Steve Weddle, his most recent post on Do Some Damage, Where Are They Now: DOUBLE INDEMNITY is a case in point. I mean who the fuck does a “where are they now” article about people who all freaking dead by now. On second thought, maybe I don’t want in his brain. If you are enjoying Deuce, Jedidiah Ayres puts for a compendium of books and films to keep you occupied between episodes. Woody Haut’s Jazz and Film Noirlooks at several noir films and their jazz soundtracks. Haut republished this 2015 article from Noir City.
A new report is out that Amazon pays less taxes than its bookstore competitors. The Guardian writes, “The UK’s bookshops pay 11 times what Amazon does in corporation tax, according to a report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research.” Does the pirating of books hurt sales? Probably, but a recent study says, “Not so fast.”
Mikołaj Małaczyński, co-founding president of Poland’s Legimi ebook subscription program, tells Publishing Perspectives that according to his observations, “The most popular source of illegal copies are not sites that are accessible through search engines, but closed groups formed within various social networks. Their users exchange links to online cloud servers.”
Secondhand books are not as elusive as you think they are. You have to keep your eyes open, know where to look. Sometimes they can be right under your nose, other times you have to sniff them out like a wolf sniffing out its prey. After years of browsing, I can home in on a ‘wanted’ title like some kind of a heat-seeking missile. All it takes is a quick, sweeping glance of stacks upon stacks of pavement books, provided the titles are displayed prominently. With practice, you can hone book-spotting into an art.
In Do Some Damage, Sarah Ruttan thinks about the process, new ideas and just writing: “ We get better the more we write, and honing your skills is important.” Carmen Radke, author of The Case of the Missing Bride, on how (not) to write in Book Lover’s Booklist.James Scott Bell has some advice on How to Cure the Mid-Novel Sag in Kill Zone.
Mike Cooper, author of The Downside, has a wonderful post in Lit Reactor about choosing the right words from slang to translations. Here’s his section on technical jargon entitled Remember that Wikipedia already wrote that paragraph you’re polishing:
Johnny hefted his new Milwaukee M18 1” rotary drill. At 1350 RPM and 3.3 foot-pounds of impact the handheld power tool not only turned its drill bit, but also used a rapid, synchronized vibration to bore efficiently through concrete, stone and many composite building materials. It would have no trouble putting a hole in the six-inch cinderblock vault wall . . .
Yeah, yeah, all that proves is somebody knows how to use Google. Make it sing:
The hammer drill bucked like a horse under Johnny’s hands, pulverizing the cinderblock in a roar of dust and stinging chips.
I hate going to Entertainment Weekly’s website, it’s cumbersome, but sometimes there are articles like How Stephen King scared a generation of storytellers into existence that make me go there.
“I love to hear authors rave about On Writing,” says Caroline Kepnes, author of the stalker-thriller novels You and Hidden Bodies, one of countless novelists inspired by King (and as you can see below, endorsed by him, too.) “I think that book has helped so many of us stick to our guns and keep at it. That’s a book that was so empowering. He was so eloquent and incisive in that book. Here he is, larger-than-life Stephen King, and yet there he is across from you, telling you to chill out and work.”
Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for August 21-27, 2017
Apologies that this week’s Incident Report is a bit late but given my vacation, return to work, birthday, and taking our son to college, I’m okay with that. No short story links this week. They will return next week.
I know, I know, Matthew Revert’s Human Trees (Broken River Books) is not a crime novel. But given the three other books I have read from the publisher (Heathenish by Kelby Losack, Gravity by Michael Kazepis, and Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias) and Ben Lelievre recent review, Revert’s book became a must read for me.
Fahrenheit Press keeps on putting out interesting books. This week was Ian Patrick’s Rubicon. As the blurb says, it is the story of “two cops, both on different sides of the law – both with the same gangland boss in their sights.” I haven’t read anything from Penguin’s Europa Editions but I have always been intrigued. Suburra by Giancarlo de Cataldo and Carlo Bonini is getting a big publicity push based on its upcoming Netflix series.
I can’t say I missed it, but James Patterson released another book two weeks ago, The Store, this time he writes with Richard DiLallo.
Ben Lelievre says of Hard Sentences – Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz (Broken River Books), “(David James) Keaton and (Joe) Clifford put together a sweeping portrait of the Alcatraz experience, though and if you decided to crack this baby open, you’re bound to find something of your liking or something that transcends you idea of what prison stories can be.” Also over at Dead End Follies, Ben reviews Don Winslow’s The Force with expected results, “I’ve tore through The Force in two ravenous days of reading. It’s perhaps not Don Winslow’s best novel, but it’s up there with the best ones.”
Winnie M. Li
Next month Polis Books will be releasing Winnie M. Li’s debut crime novel Dark Chapter. I have already had a chance to read it and it is one of the best books of the year. It has already been out for a few months in the UK and has gotten many positive reviews. Dark Chapter is a difficult book as it is a fictional recounting of Li’s rape in Belfast. The book also has chapters told from the point of view of the rapist. As Jackie Law says in her review that it is “a powerful account of a crime that is too often maligned and misunderstood.”
Tom Leins, author of the recent Skull Meat, reviews Tony Knighton’s fantastic Three Hours Past Midnight (Crime Wave Press). Leins says of Knighton’s book that it “is a compelling slice on contemporary hard-boiled fiction, and one that cries out for a sequel – or sequels. Great stuff.” I am in complete agreement. Don’t miss Three Hours Past Midnight. On his blog Dirty Books, Leins also has an interview with Knighton.
Derrick Horodysk reviews Greg Barth’s Everglade, the fifth and final book of Barth’s Selena series. Everglade is hovering near the top of my TBR, shit, the entire series is on my TBR. I have been debating for weeks whether to just read Everglade or start at the beginning with Selena. In the Out of the Gutter review, Horodysk loves Everglade and calls the Selena series “one of the best noir series ever written.” I guess it is time for me to shit or get off the pot.
I am only hearing great things about Ryan Gattis’ Safe (McDonnell Douglas) whether it is on Eric Beetner and S.W. Lauden’s podcast Writer Types or Michael T. Fournier’s review in the Chicago Review of Books.
Donald E. Westlake Photo by Jean-Marie David CC BY-SA
If you are a crime fiction fan, the article this week that you most likely read is Scott Bradfield’s Donald E. Westlake: The Writer’s Writer’s Writer in the Los Angeles Review of Books. The article starts with a humorous story of Bradfield taking a writer’s conference with the legendary Harlan Ellison. Ellison, in his abrupt style, tells Bradford, “Throw out that fucking copy of Finnegans Wake you’re always carrying around and go read Donald E. Westlake. He’ll teach you everything you need to know about writing fiction. Oh, and pick up some acne medication while you’re at it. Your face’s a mess.” Bradford goes on to say:
Those first Westlake books zipped by so quickly that I wasn’t even aware I was reading them until they were over. And unlike all the “serious” and “noteworthy” books I usually tried to read, they never had me anxiously checking how many pages there were left until the next chapter, or looking up words in the dictionary, or skimming back over the previous pages to find something I had missed. Every image leapt off the page; every scene quickly set me in a location so vivid and immediate that it felt like I wasn’t entering some fictional space but simply remembering an actual location where I had already been. And every line of dialogue opened up the voice and personality of the character who spoke it.
If you haven’t read Bradford’s article and I highly doubt that, stop reading this and read that.
Over at S.W. Lauden’s blog, Lauden interviews Gary Duncan, founder of Spelk Fiction and writer of You’re Not Supposed to Cry (Vagabond Voices). Duncan maybe one of the preeminent experts on flash fiction. In the interview, Duncan says:
Good flash fiction can be so many things—a unique voice, an original situation, a new way of saying something—anything that makes you sit back and wish you’d written it yourself. If I’m reading a good flash, I can usually tell it’s going to be good in the first few lines. You often can’t put your finger on it, but you can just tell that this is someone who knows what they’re doing. A light touch is important—you don’t want to hammer it home or lay it on too thick. I like flashes that make you work a little, that give you just enough information to get you thinking. What’s the backstory? What’s being said between the lines? What’s the bigger story here?
Danny Gardner writes about his writing process and the amount of work he throws away in Criminal Minds. The next NoirCon is set for November 1-4, 2018. I don’t know about you but I can never keep up with Book Riot and their lists of books to read. I’m guessing that their posts are more research minded rather than to do’s, I mean who has time to be in five book clubs. Over at J. Kingston Pierce’s Killer Covers blog, a companion to his excellent The Rap Sheet blog, he has a huge post that will probably become the most popular page of Killer Covers, Pay Attention, Big Boy!.
. . . I’ve been having trouble enjoying “straightforward” books. I haven’t done the deep work of figuring out whether or not I’m a born contrarian, but I don’t even like reading books that are typically understood (by a majority of people, of course) to be “good.” Plots, characterization, pacing, all of it seemed boring to me, all of a sudden.
As good and weird as Osborne’s Broken River Books is, prepare for it to get weirder and better, if that is even possible.
Some interviews to catch up on are BV Lawson’s intervew with Jack Getz at In Reference to Murder. Getz has a new book out on Down & Out Books called The Black Kachina. Over at Mysteristas, Albert Tucher, author of The Place of Refuge (Shotgun Honey), is interviewed. Are you tired of me mentioning Tony Knighton? Too bad. You should be reading his new book Three Hours Past Midnight (Crime Wave Press) and also this interview with Scott Alderberg in Do Some Damage.
Noir at the Bar will be going at the National Book Festival this weekend. Noir at the National Book Festival will be rated PG rather than the usual R to NC-17 rating. Here is E.A. Aymar reading in the first DC Noir at the Bar. This was first published at Do Some Damage.