Review: Dead Man Running by Steve Hamilton

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

51fmkloqdvl-_sy346_Alex McKnight has had a long rest:  five years since he appeared in the last novel in this great  series.  And he needed it for this, the 11th novel in the series.  It seems a tourist traveling in Europe remotely checks his home where he recently installed security cameras, and discovers an illegal entry.  Moreover the intruder, Martin T. Livermore, is having sex on the marital bed.  It turns out the female is dead.

Police capture the culprit, who refuses to speak to anyone but Alex McNight, who is thousands of miles away in the upper Michigan peninsula.  He promises to lead McNight to his possible seventh victim, who may be alive.  Alex accedes to the perp’s wishes and, along with all kinds of law enforcement personnel, is led into a trap where only McNight and Livermore, who then escapes, survive.  Thus begins a grueling chase to save the victim as well as capturing Livermore.

Actually Livermore, with his superior intellect, sets up a challenge for Alex, based on an obscure relationship between the two, unknown to McNight.  The author maintains a steady tension throughout the novel, a characteristic for which he is famous. At the same time, the plot develops in countless deviations as Livermore keeps Alex on the run until the novel concludes in an unexpected fashion.

Recommended.

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Online Issue 15

 

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Darrin Doyle’s short story collection, Scoundrels Among Us, hit shelves this week and Darrin is here to talk about the common thread that ties these stories together. “A lot of fiction contains somebody doing something bad or wrong, but often they’re making bad decisions for themselves (or to themselves). My collection features many folks (mostly men) behaving in creepy, questionable, violent, or otherwise unseemly ways.”

I found the collection to be a celebration of the absurd and highly entertaining. Darrin also shares what’s on his TBR pile – including works such as Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, Christine Schutt’s All Souls, Christine Sneed’s The Virginity of Famous Men and Katie Chase’s Man & Wife.

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Hunter Shea admits his love for Real Housewives and talks about the scariest night of his life and inspiration for Creature. Hunter also talks about his cats, Iris and Salem, in this author assistant feature.

Judy Penz Sheluk talks about her writing companion, a pup named for a character from NCIS: Gibbs

James Oswald talks about writing from the female perspective, insights from social media and claims to be “rubbish” at performing one specific author task.

Reviews:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Scoundrels Among Us by Darrin Doyle reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Solemn Graves: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery by James R. Benn reviewed by Theodore Feit

The Sinners by Ace Atkins reviewed by Theodore Feit

A Book To Look Up

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What is ‘voice’ anyway?

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Thoughts on Horror

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I suspect there could be as many conversations about what horror is as there are about what noir is. Laura Lauro’s tweets pointed me to the Aeon.co article by M.M. Owen, which is well worth a look.

“Horror is what anthropologists call biocultural. It is about fears we carry because we are primates with a certain evolved biology: the corruption of the flesh, the loss of our offspring. It is also about fears unique to our sociocultural moment: the potential danger of genetically modifying plants. The first type of fear is universal; the second is more flexible and contextual. Their cold currents meet where all great art does its work, down among the bottomless caves on the seabed of consciousness. Lurking here, a vision of myself paralysed in the dirt, invisible to those I love.”

 

Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

51zyshlrvtl-_sx329_bo1204203200_The Sixth World that Rebecca Roanhorse writes about in Trail of Lightning is an amalgamation of what’s left of the United States after the Big Water. Yes, a flood has not only wiped out the coastlines, but most of the country and billions of people world-wide.

Welcome to a world where monsters are real, the gods of the Indigenous survivors of Big Water walk the earth and wreak havoc.

Enter Maggie Hoskie, Monsterslayer. When a young girl is taken from her home by a monster that poses a distinct new threat, Maggie comes out of exile to hunt the monster down. She’s a person who’s endured a lot of loss; her parents, grandmother and the god she loves are all gone. The only distinction is that the god chose to leave her while her family is deceased.

Maggie’s clan powers enable her to kill efficiently and swiftly, but they also alienate her from others in Dinétah, where she lives.

.Trail of Lightning centers on Maggie. It focuses on how she became what she is and the losses she’s suffered. As she gets to know Kai barriers begin to break down and ultimately she’ll have to choose between the god from her past or the man in her present. Maggie will also have to make decisions about what she wants from her life and whether or not she’s willing to open herself up to people, in spite of the possibility of losing them.

This is a story that exists in a rich alternate reality, in a not-too-distant future that it’s easy to believe in. One of the things I appreciated about it was that there could be whole series of books written about what happened in the wake of the Big Water, before the Wall was built. The landscape that Roanhorse is using is so rich there’s a sense of a well developed history that has brought the Diné to where they are in the current storyline.

Maggie is a formidable female character who waits for no man to rescue her and shares her heart sparingly. She is principled and cares about people, evidenced by her willingness to do whatever it takes to stop the monsters who are slaughtering people. She’s even willing to die herself, a willingness that may be tested before the novel’s end.

I was completely lost in this story as I read and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Maggie and her world. Even when I thought I could see where the story was going, surprises were in store that kept it from feeling anything but predictable or familiar. Roanhorse has done an exceptional job crafting a rich group of characters and creating The Sixth World – a word I can’t wait to return to. This is a fantastic read for those who love speculative fiction with strong characters, a good mystery, action, a bit of horror and a healthy dose of supernatural beings.

Review: The Sinners by Ace Atkins

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

51aml8mdo2bl-_sy346_Quinn Colson finally is going to tie the knot, but events tend to interfere with the planning, much less the ceremony itself.  It’s a good thing Maggie Powers, his betrothed, is an understanding woman.  As sheriff ofTibbehah County, Mississippi, Colon is hoping for some quiet, but an invasion of a couple of gangsters, a drug war and assorted underworld internecine strife tends to interfere.

Moreover, Quinn’s best man, Boom Kimbrough, gets a job driving trucks for a shady outfit that traffics in drugs and women.  When a couple of wannabes, the Pritchard brothers, who grow the best weed, want to branch out and hijack Boom’s semi, the gangsters blame Boom as a conspirator and almost kill him, giving Quinn additional incentive to take action.

The latest in this long-running series, the novel is written in the inimitable style Ace Atkins has developed to portray the south inhabited by the characters he writes about.  The series consists of excellent crime novels, filled with colorful characters.  Recommended.

Review: Solemn Graves: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery by James R. Benn

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

 

51kjn0zzfgl-_sy346_The adventures of Billy Boyle during World War II bring him close to the front lines shortly after the D-Day invasion of Normandy to investigate a suspicious murder of a communications major in a farmhouse. He arrives with Big Mike at the house which was occupied by a Nazi military police group and now serves as headquarters for an American battalion.

The investigation is hampered by the existence of a ghost army nearby operated by actors and technicians who perform theatrical stunts to mislead the German forces.  Shrouded in secrecy, it makes Billy’s task more difficult.  And, of course, the various potential witnesses have their own agenda, withholding information vital to Billy’s solving the case. As a result, Billy dives into the biggest operation of the invasion forces, seeking to interview a Nazi officer behind German lines.

Like all the previous novels in this wonderful series, the descriptions of the battles and army operations are real and gripping. The Billy Boyle series only gets better with each new book.   Each has been highly recommended, and Solemn Graves joins that list.

Review: Scoundrels Among Us by Darrin Doyle

Darrin Doyle’s new short story collection, Scoundrels Among Us, is packed full of stories that take us inside bizarre situations or introduce us to colorful characters, who are sometimes off-color and other times average people caught in abnormal situations.

5139ixbgzpl-_sx311_bo1204203200_I have to be honest. Short story collections are very hit and miss for me. You get less of a sense of genre and focus, because each story can have a radically different setting, subgenera classification and style. One story may feature a character you love and the next story can focus on a character you loathe.

This short story collection is immensely entertaining. It’s a celebration of the absurd. Sometimes, situations escalate, and the story is about what an otherwise normal person does then. Sometimes, the story centers around something unfathomable, like a dangling man way up in the sky. Scoundrels Among Us has everything from stole Presidential pickles to exploding genie heads to pissed off neighbors that earn their place on the pages. Some stories shock while other stories amuse, and some make you see the world in a different way.

I never like to give too much away, and with a short story collection you have as many premises and endings as you have stories. The title story, Scoundrels Among Us, had a Bruenesque brutality to the swiftness of the action and the unexpected outcome.

Other stories had me thinking about identity (Insert Name) while others had me thinking about how clearly we see our children (Water Fowl). I could go on, but what’s crucial here is that this is a well written collection of a various stories that are at times provocative and at other times absurd, but always entertain. Doyle has the ability to see beyond the black and white of our lives and spin even the mundane on its head to produce compelling stories, some of which I’ve even re-read.

 

Check out what’s on Darrin’s TBR pile and our interview with him about the colorful characters featured in Scoundrels Among Us.

Online Issue 14

TSP OI14 coverAuthor Lee Murray talks about her novelInto the Sounds, and how traveling has shaped her life and writing, the actor she’d pick to play her protagonist for the series and her faithful author assistant, Bella.

Stuart R. West drops by to talk about his faithful companion, Zak, and his novels Secret Society (which may be one of the most original takes on a serial killer story) and how a real-life ghost town inspired Ghosts of Gannaway.

Jon O’Bergh is back to share the music his characters in The Shatter Point would listen to.

S.D. Hintz is also giving us the goods on the nosey neighbors who inspired The Witching Well and the reason he may just live in the creepiest house, ever.

ICYMI, Brian talked to Steph Post and Nik Norpon about their tattoos. And there’s a new story up at Zombie Cat: Waiting on the Stress Boxes by David Hagerty.

Goldilocks and the Dark Barometer

Every now and again, someone writes about the darkness that permeates Young Adult fiction. This leads to speculation about whether it is too dark, and summaries on the topic. I could do likewise, but I felt  already did that so well, I don’t need to.

What I did decide was that I would focus on reading some popular YA authors and titles and see what I thought. So, reads over the past few months classified as YA have included Nightwolf, Salt, The Fragile Ordinary, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Out of all of these offerings, Nightwolf is probably the darkest. Salt has monsters and The Forest of Hands and Teeth has zombies, but Nightwolf focuses on real horrors some kids today live with, and although it isn’t pure noir, there is a sense of hopelessness and futility that permeate the story. It isn’t what I’d call cheery. The other titles have varying degrees of hope – for resolution of problems, for overcoming difficult situations, for the future. I didn’t find any of this unrelentingly dark.

Now, your mileage may vary. But here’s the thing. Young people are dealing with a lot of crap. We did, too, in our day. They’re trying to figure out who they are, what they want out of life and what others expect of them. They have to make decisions that will shape their entire future. And they’re looking at a war of words between politicians that might lead to war with North Korea and all kinds of other crap going on that could change their future. They want to assume control of their lives but they aren’t adults, so they’re caught between taking responsibility for their actions and having limited authority for their choices.

And everything they do is presented on social media for all the world to see.

Frankly, the stuff I’ve heard about via the kids over recent years has been numbing. They are far more aware of a lot of crap than I ever was. And I specifically started watching The Walking Dead because their biomom was watching it with them when they were eleven. Brian and I always felt we should have some sense of what they were watching and being exposed to so that we could have informed conversations about it, so a show I’d resisted watching became part of our regular viewing. (And they had some good seasons, so for a while it wasn’t a chore at all.) Frankly, if they can watch that when they aren’t even teens, it’s got to be pretty damn hard to top that level of darkness in fiction.

People read for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is to escape. Another is to learn about things they otherwise wouldn’t get answers about. And another is to help them process things they’re dealing with.

Hells bells, I’m just glad to see young people reading. You want to read dark? Read on, I say.

Reviews:

Review: Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

 

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

 

Review: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

 

Review: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

 

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

 

Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

 

Bye Bye Kindle Boards

From their new terms of service:

“You agree to grant to KBOARDS.COM a non exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, transmit, sublicense, create derivative works of, publicly display, publish and perform any materials and other information you submit to any public areas, chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups or forums of KBOARDS.COM or which you provide by email or any other means to KBOARDS.COM and in any media now known or hereafter developed. Further, you grant to KBOARDS.COM the right to use your name and or user name in connection with the submitted materials and other information as well as in connection with all advertising, marketing and promotional material related thereto, together with use on any other VerticalScope Inc. web sites. You agree that you shall have no recourse against VerticalScope Inc. for any alleged or actual infringement or misappropriation of any proprietary right in your communications to KBOARDS.COM.”

You have to email and ask for all your information to be removed. Always nice for some assholes to come along and change the terms of service after the fact so that people’s information is already being sold. Jerks. Time to sign off.

Hulu Programming Campaign for Letterkenny

Now, Brian’s new favorite show is a Canadian show called Letterkenny. The first two seasons are on Hulu, and he wants them to get all the seasons added. So here’s hoping some of you will have a full appreciation for the quirky humor and jump on the bandwagon. Season 1 has a running joke starting episode 2 that has payoff in the final episode of the season…. just brilliant. These clips have nothing to do with the ostrich fucker, or my favorite joke about a certain book, or even the super-soft birthday party, but they do help set the tone of the show.

 

Now, this one… maybe not young kid friendly. But a great illustration of ‘show not tell’ writing. I know exactly what Wayne and Daryl think about Squirrely Dan’s revelation about his sexual experience without so much as a word from either of them.