Monday, July 29, 2013

Literary Lions Chat

In July of 1958, Raymond Chandler, creator of the detective Philip Marlowe, and Ian Fleming, who dreamed up super spy James Bond, were brought together in conversation by the BBC. Seven months later, Chandler was dead. The two things are not connected, but it made for a once-in-a-lifetime meeting and also represents the only known recording of Raymond Chandler’s voice.

Here Brain Pickings offers both the recording and transcribed highlights of the conversation between these two quirky literary greats.

This Just In… Theft of the Star Tracker by Lisa Tiffin

When their highly technical science project is stolen, brothers Drew and Alex Richfield are thrown into an action-filled battle with bully, Brett Larson, who always seems to be just one step ahead of them. 

Drew and Alex must learn to work together to stop Brett from registering their GPS Star Tracker as his own in the Annual Science Fair. At stake are the brothers’ reputations, their relationship and the Grand Prize!

You can order Theft of the Star Tracker here. Visit author Lisa Tiffin on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Ice Cream Flavored Like... Books?

What would make more sense than ice cream flavors inspired by books? Well, quite a lot actually, but that wouldn’t make much of a story! And this one is more fun. From the Quirk Books web site:
It's National Ice Cream Month! It's also July, and it's also very, very hot. And while we love all the regular kinds of ice cream just fine (you can pry Chubby Hubby from our still-warm, heatstroke-dead hands), we wondered what would happen if worlds collided and books became ice cream (not literally, though, because that would be gross). Get your hybrid freezer/bookshelves ready, because here are six tasty samples!
Sadly, these seem to be fictional flavors, not real ones. Still, a fun daydream for a sultry late July day.

See all of the flavors here.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chandler as Art

Master crime writer Raymond Chandler was born on this day in 1888. The author started writing detective fiction at the age of 44 because, at the height of the Depression, the former oil company executive had lost his job.

Chandler was one of the most influential voices of American detective fiction. His books include the masterworks Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Little Sister (1949), and The Long Goodbye (1953).

In a 1942 letter to Blanche Knopf, Chandler explained his thoughts on the duality of his work:
The thing that rather gets me down is that when I write something that is tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, I get panned for being tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, and then when I try to tone down a bit and develop the mental and emotional side of a situation, I get panned for leaving out what I was panned for putting in the first time.
Still, from the very beginning, Chandler had his fans. According to The Telegraph, W H Auden wrote that Chandler’s “powerful but extremely depressing books should be read and judged, not as escape literature, but as works of art.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Planet a Little Lonelier

At a time when record heat waves around the world have many people concerned for the future, layoffs at a certain publishing company have observers worried about a different kind of Planet. From The Guardian:
As news emerged that iconic Melbourne travel publisher Lonely Planet was to shed its editorial staff as part of an overhaul following its sale by the BBC, writers, travelers and daydreamers took to Twitter with the hashtag #lpmemories to share their sense of loss. The stream reads like an obituary to the heyday of travel writing, an honest ode of affection for the largest travel guide publisher in the world.
You can read the full piece here.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Bill Gates Book Club

What do Oprah Winfrey, Jon Stewart and Bill Gates have in common? Aside from drive, passion and a certain geeky charisma, all three have created themselves as literary stylemakers almost as a by-product of the other -- much more visible things -- they do.

Bill Gates reading.
Oprah started it, of course: offering her reading choices with Oprah’s Book Club beginning in the late 1990s, instantly creating author celebrities while making reading newly cool. (Thank you, Oprah!)

Jon Stewart’s cachet at the head of his particular niche of the literati was slower blooming, but bloom it did and these days a talk spot on The Daily Show (which isn’t) pretty much guarantees a leap to the bestseller list and competition for Jon’s attention is understandably high.

The newest reading choices being offered up from the geek elite are coming from Bill Gates, the guy who (ahem) gifted us with the Windows operating system. On his blog, Gates not only shares what he is and will be reading, he also selects a title for future review, then asks readers to read along while he makes his assessment. His most recent review, of Jared Dianomd’s The World Until Yesterday (Viking), was posted on Gates’ blog earlier this week:
The World Until Yesterday made me think about how we have had to overcome some deeply ingrained behaviors in order to develop a modern, interconnected society. As Diamond explains, in a hunter-gatherer society, you trust people in your own group because you know for the most part they share your interests. But when you encounter strangers, you have to assume they’re dangerous. You have a strong incentive to do this: If you don’t, and you turn out to be wrong, they could end up killing you or stealing your food. 
Things are different in a modern society. You probably passed by a lot of strangers today without having to figure out whether they might try to kill you or take your lunch. That is a very primal fear we have overcome in order to live in large cities.
Consider how important this has been for global trade and international travel. How many strangers have to do business with each other every day to make the global economy work? Although globalization has been driven by inventions like the jet engine and the standardized shipping container, it wouldn’t be happening unless we were also able to overcome a natural suspicion of strangers. It is another reminder of humans’ amazing ability to adapt.
There are other, deeper observations. As well, Gates invites readers to add their own thoughts, while promising to review other selections from his summer reading list in future. Among them, Patriot and Assassin (Royal Wulff Publishing) by Robert Cook. “A friend of mine gave me this novel and insisted that I read it,” Gates writes. “It’s a thriller about terrorists plotting an attack on U.S. soil. I don’t generally read a lot of fiction. I think The Hunger Games was the last novel I read. I bet this one will involve less archery.”

One would hope!

You can see all eight of Gates’ selections here.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

This Just In… The Tiferet Talk Interviews by Melissa Studdard

The Tiferet Talk Interviews is a fascinating collection of 12 interviews transcribed from the Tiferet Talk Radio Show, hosted by Melissa Studdard. 

Some of the world’s most notable writers and spiritual leaders share their thoughts on writing, tolerance, and the world we live in today. Gain incredible insight into their perspective on ways to tell the truth of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft. 

The Tiferet Talk Interviews includes a special introduction by Donna Baier Stein and interviews with Julia Cameron, Edward Hirsch, Jude Rittenhouse, Marc Allen, Arielle Ford, Robert Pinksy, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Robin Rice, Jeffrey Davis, Floyd Skloot, Anthony Lawlor and Lois P. Jones.

You can order The Tiferet Talk Interviews here. Read more about the Tiferet community here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Oates: “Write Your Heart Out”

Want writing advice from master author Joyce Carol Oates? As The Huffington Post noticed and collected, all you really have to do is follow the 75-year-old author on Twitter.

Oates is the author of more than 40 novels, including the National Book Award-winning them (1969) and three that were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize: Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), and Blonde (2000).

"Read, observe, listen intensely!--as if your life depended upon it," Oates Tweeted yesterday morning. And, a little later, she reminded us all of something deeply important: “You are writing for your contemporaries--not for Posterity. If you are lucky, your contemporaries will become Posterity.”

You can see the full bouquet here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

William Blake Cottage on the Market

A cottage where English poet and painter William Blake once lived recently came on the market for the first time since 1928.

The cottage in Felpham, West Sussex, is currently listed for £650,000 -- which is close to $1,000,000 US -- and is described as ”A most picturesque 17th Century brick and flint period cottage set in a sheltered walled garden in the heart of the old village within 250 yards of the foreshore.” However, MobyLives suggests some copy possibilities if Blake were, himself, writing copy for the Felpham cottage:
NEW LISTING, ABSOLUTELY OUT OF THIS WORLD: Away to sweet Felpham for heaven is there: / The Ladder of Angels descends through the air / On the turrett its spiral does softly descend / Through the village it winds, at my cot it does end. 
You can see more cottage sales copy as would possibly be submitted by Blake here.

According to Wikipedia, Blake moved into the cottage in 1800 “to take up a job illustrating the works of William Hayley, a minor poet. It was in this cottage that Blake began Milton: a Poem (the title page is dated 1804 but Blake continued to work on it until 1808). The preface to this work includes a poem beginning "And did those feet in ancient time", which became the words for the anthem, "Jerusalem". Over time, Blake began to resent his new patron, believing that Hayley was uninterested in true artistry, and preoccupied with "the meer drudgery of business".

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Today: Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant

Those who love their historical fiction blended up with the searing accuracy of solid research blended with a storyteller’s flare for the dramatic will love Sarah Dunant’s Blood & Beauty (Random House). Dunant’s fictional encounters with Italian Renaissance families have left sheafs of fans in her wake and Blood & Beauty will add even more: it seems like the best of a very good lot.

Under Dunant’s hand, the Borgia’s emerge with a complexion quite different from the one painted by popular history. Dunant’s Borgias are a more human bunch. The result is a more humane read than might be expected. As the title suggests, this is a family connected indeed by beauty, but more importantly by blood: the connections that matter beyond all others.

Fans of Dunant’s previous novels, including the dazzling Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan will be far from disappointed by Blood & Beauty. In fact, with its infamous cast, careful research and luscious leaps, this may be Dunant’s most thoroughly enjoyable novel yet. And those who adore it need not feel dismayed: only 10 years of Borgia time are covered by Blood & Beauty. It seems that fans will have more Machiavellian power plays to look forward to. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

This Just In… Everybody Has A Dream, Right? by Maxwell Radford

Everybody has a dream. At least, that's what 21-year-old Damien has come to believe. Kicked out of college and left to fend for himself in the unforgiving streets of Atlanta, Damien knows that his days of freedom are numbered if he can’t escape the violent and risky world he’s fallen into. 

Damien’s dream of being a movie director seems unreachable, until a close call with the police renews his fire for achievement. Sharing his renewed faith in hope and determination with his friends, an aspiring singer named Shari and a struggling college student with a violent past named Kevin, the three young people embark on a journey to claim the one thing everybody told them they didn’t have: a future. But reality is a harsh mistress. Have the seeds of change that have been sown in Damien, Kevin and Shari’s brains been planted too late?

You can order Everybody Has A Dream, Right? here. Read more about author Maxwell Radford here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Rowling Outed as “Mystery” Novelist

Though it started out as a big secret, the fact that Harry Potter creator JK Rowling published a mystery novel under a pen name earlier this year didn’t stay secret for long.

The Cuckoo’s Calling was published in April under the name of debut detective novelist, Robert Galbraith.

In a statement sent out through Rowling’s publicist yesterday, the novelist expressed regret at the loss of her temporary anonymity. “I hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.”

Sales of the novel have escalated since the author’s true identity was revealed by The Sunday Times over the weekend, leaving bookstores everywhere short of stock.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

This Just In… Call Me Ismay by Sean McDevitt

The year is 1912. A London newspaper reporter makes a horrifying discovery involving a member of the House of Commons.

It seems that Edward Lyons is no casual participant in the popular seances and occult practices of the day. His involvement is said to run far deeper. Indeed, as the reporter gradually uncovers, Lyons is in fact a vicious, bloodthirsty vampire.

Sensing that fate is conspiring against him, Lyons decides it’s time to head for America. His means of escape is by traveling on what -- to him -- is just another ship. However, he makes a rather unfortunate choice: the ship he’s sailing on is the brand-new Titanic

Meanwhile, Titanic’s owner -- J. Bruce Ismay --  is a pampered, blessed “man about town.” As he prepares to sail aboard Titanic, he cannot possibly know it will be the ship’s one and only voyage. He will be hopelessly stuck in the middle of a collision with destiny that doesn’t involve just a ship and an iceberg.

You can order Call Me Ismay here. Read more about author Sean McDevitt here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Non-Fiction: Women of the Frontier: Sixteen Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, and Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller

I never tire of reading about the amazing women who made this country great. They are the backbone of the country, and in many ways their struggles and triumphs represent the very best we have ever had to offer.

They are the backbone of the country, and in many ways their struggles and triumphs represent the very best we have ever had to offer.

All of these maybe-truisms are highlighted by the stories of the 16 women featured in Women of the Frontier. The book is part of the Chicago Review Press Women of Action biography series, intended to introduce “young adults to women and girls of courage and conviction throughout the ages.” And though the book is considered to be juvenile non-fiction, readers of all ages will enjoy these fascinating accounts of these female forebears who made a difference.

Colorado businesswoman, Clara Brown, freed from slavery at the age of 57, went west with the hope of finding her daughter, Eliza Jane, who had been sold to another family in childhood. In Central City, Clara made a fortune first in laundry and then real estate. Ultimately she spent the fortune first in trying to find Eliza Jane, then in bringing former slaves to Colorado.

The tale of Cynthia Ann Parker was astonishing. Taken from her family by the Commanche when she was a young girl, Cynthia married a famous chief and had three children with him. When she was recovered from the Commanche by the army and returned to her family 24 years later, Cynthia no longer remembered English and would do little beyond keening for the husband and sons she’d kept behind.

I loved Women of the Frontier completely. Miller brings her subjects to perfect life, recreating a time when even simple acts could be difficult and have great impact. It’s tough not to feel inspired and uplifted by her stories. ◊

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Friday, July 12, 2013

This Just In… Suburb by Steven Kedie

Tom Fray leaves university with a simple plan; get a job, save some money and go travelling. 

To put his plan into action he moves home to the suburbs of Manchester where he finds the people he left behind all stuck in the same routines as when he went away. 

Feeling trapped between his old and new lives, Tom is desperate to escape. Then he meets Kate, a married neighbour and his simple plan becomes a lot more complicated.

You can order Suburb here. Visit author Steven Kedie on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Change One Thing

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” -- Leo Tolstoy

It’s a certain way of looking at the world. You look and things are as they are. Change one thing, and the world is a different place.

None of that was quite the point when the hashtag #BooksWithaLetterMissing started trending on Twitter a couple of days ago. Even so, some wags stepped up and created art for the silly titles that were being tossed around where everything is different because nothing has stayed the same.

The examples here -- and a whole lot more -- were created by Twitter user @darth, whose name is nothing like a clue to his or her identity. “not the darth you are looking for,” says @darth’s Twitter bio. “i only exist here, on twitter.”


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Teenagers at the End of the World: Young Readers Dance with Dystopia

Why are young readers so enthralled with fiction focused beyond the end of the world? Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. Veronica Roth’s Divergent books. David Estes’ Dwellers. Ally Condie’s Matched. I could go on. Easily. On and on and on. It’s a long list. And growing. Dystopia is hot with kids right now. The question is, why?

The Guardian’s “Children’s Book Doctor,” Julia Eccleshare, figures she might have it worked out. Eccleshare suggests that dystopian novels “offer young readers the chance to think about what kind of world they would create for themselves if they could forge everything again.” As Eccleshare points out, “Breaking and making is at the heart of a great many stories; the devastation of the old highlights the importance of the new when it is rediscovered or reinvented.”
In addition, stories such as these empower children by trusting them with roles far beyond reality. Typically, the destruction wipes out "good" adult rulers; children step into the breach. It's not a new fictional phenomenon. Earlier examples include Robert Swindells Brother in Land, a classic title of the 1980s reflecting then current concerns about the possibility of a nuclear bomb being dropped, in which a group of children have to manage on their own after the adults have been destroyed and Marcus Sedgwick's Floodland, published at the turn of the millennium, in which, having seen her parents sail away to safety, a young girl has to navigate Eel Island and its inhabitants if she is to survive when the east of England is subsumed by flood water. In both, and in the many dystopian novels of today, an apparently bleak world is re-imagined and lit up by children who understand clearly what is worth saving as they step from childhood to adulthood. Frequently, family is let go while friendship or trust in others becomes the future foundation. Navigating that space is what all adolescents need to do which is why they like this kind of fiction so much.
You can see the full piece here.

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This Just In… Angel Killer by PJ Nunn

The death of a child is every mother’s nightmare. But what if the child has no mother? What if their little bodies are discarded like garbage and no one even seems to care that they’re gone? 

Shari Markham, psychologist for the Dallas Police Department, knows what it feels like to be unclaimed and unwanted. She can’t turn away, even if it means demons dancing in her dreams at night. But when her relentless pursuit of information to help apprehend a madman gets a little too close, he turns the tables, warning her that his next scheduled victim will be her own three-year-old granddaughter, Angel. 

“Dr Shari Markham demonstrates skills Charlie Fox would be proud of in this tense hunt for a deranged serial killer. Crackles with romantic suspense." -– Zoe Sharp, author of Die Easy and the Charlie Fox Thriller series 

“Tense and enthralling, ANGEL KILLER is a first-rate story of nail-biting suspense and unpredictable mystery. From page one it grips the reader and never lets go. Bring on more of Shari Markham, Dallas PD profiler. She's a winner!” -- Joanne Pence, author of the Angie Amalfi mysteries

You can order Angel Killer here. Visit author PJ Nunn on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Biography: Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas by Eric Fischl

The idyllic suburban childhood was a facade. What appeared like American perfection from the outside was, from inside, a living hell. Eric Fischl’s mother was an alcoholic, their family life often violent and dark. Fischl, thought of as America’s foremost narrative painter, attributes this early duality with the focus of his art:
I began to experience a profound, dizzying sense of disassociation. I became acutely aware of the disconnect between appearance and reality, between people’s emotional needs and desires and the status symbols and objects they surrounded themselves with….I became increasingly aware of the differences between what things looked like and how I felt as my world spun erratically and dangerously off its axis.
Fischl’s art came of age in the turbulent, decadent 80s and in Bad Boy (Crown), the artist spends a fair amount of time with us in New York in that decade of almost violent artistic change: the drugs, the friendships and what it was to be a rising star in that place and time.

Throughout the book, Fishchl’s own words are peppered by sidebars written by friends and family. His wife, celebrated landscape artist April Gornik, painters Ross Bleckner, Julian Schnabel, Bryan Hunt and others, writer/actor Steve Martin and even tennis great John McEnroe, with whom Fischl swapped tennis lessons for painting lessons for many years.

Fischl emerges from this self-portrait as the truly great talent we know him to be. He writes engagingly about his life and his journey as both an artist and a person, while continuing what he calls “the great debate”: What qualifies as art? And, in a way, where does art stop and life begin? “I’ve been searching for a sense of wholeness and belonging all my life,” Fischl writes at one point. “If there’s been any theme uniting the stages of my life and my art, it’s been that theme of redemption -- the recovery of openness, intimacy and trust.” ◊

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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Monday, July 08, 2013

This Just In… Travels With A Road Dog: Hitchhiking Along the Roads of the Americas by RK

When she was 20 years old, RK decided she didn’t want to live a dreary life and so she quit her job packing goods at a warehouse, left her boyfriend and gave away her belongings. With only a blanket, some clothes and a little money, she left the world as we know it to hitchhike and vagabond around four countries in the span of almost five years.

The term “Road Dog” can mean both “to live on the road” and “a traveling companion”. Not only did RK live on the road with basically a cooking pot, tarp, matches and a blanket, but along the way, she picked up a Shepard/Lab puppy. Jambalaya became RK’s traveling companion through Mexico, the Bahamas, the U.S., parts of Canada and Venezuela.

These are the incredible stories of a young woman who discovers herself and the world around her through her radical love affair with the road. 

You can order Travels With A Road Dog here. Visit author RK on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Florida Keys Gear Up for Hemingway Festival

Acclaimed author Lorian Hemingway is the granddaughter of the great writer. She’s also the director of Hemingway Days, a five-day-long festival that celebrates the life and work of the beloved American author.

The 33rd annual Hemingway Days Festival runs from July 16 to 21 in Key West and is comprised of events intended to celebrate Ernest Hemingway as well as the work of contemporary authors of the region.

Highlights of the Festival include the announcement of the winners of the  Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, which will take place on the evening of the 19th. The competition annually awards $2500 to emerging writers of short fiction.

During the festival, attendees of Sloppy Joe’s Bar on Duval Street, a one-time Hemingway hangout, will be treated to a Papa Hemingway lookalike contest. More than 120 stocky, white-bearded men are expected to travel from all over the United States for the chance of being called “Ernest.” Many of the competitors come dressed appropriately in the safari garb or wool fisherman’s sweaters most reminiscent of Hemingway’s classic attire.

And though Hemingway was best known for his novels and short stories, Papa wrote poetry as well. The Key West Poetry Guild will stage a reading and celebration of the author’s poems at the Blue Heaven, the landmark restaurant that stands on the site of a boxing ring where Hemingway once refereed neighborhood matches. Admission to the event is free.

See more information on these and other events here.

This Just In… Through A Mother’s Eyes: Poems Of Love, Loss and Moving Forward by Jackie Barreau

A glimpse into how one mother has learnt to cope with the loss of her two sons, and support a third child through a rare genetic condition. Through A Mother’s Eyes: Poems Of Love, Loss and Moving Forward deals with the subject of grief and loss, and features a collection of poems, interspersed with quotes and breathtaking images. It will inspire and move you, as you are taken on an incredible journey of love, hope and courage.

You can order Through A Mother’s Eyes here. Visit author Jackie Barreau on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Crime Fiction: Miss Montreal by Howard Shrier

With three cracking good novels already under his belt, Canadian author Howard Shrier has delivered a fourth that will not disappoint his many fans. His debut novel, Buffalo Jump, garnered an Arthur Ellis Award in 2008, and a year later he repeated that achievement with Jump’s sequel, High Chicago. Born and reared in Montreal, Quebec, Shrier began his career as a crime reporter for the Montreal Star in 1979. Maturing as one of recent crime fiction’s shining stars, his latest effort, Miss Montreal (Vintage Canada), takes him back to the place of his youth for a story that will resonate with anyone who knows the city, and will earn Shrier many new followers.

Sammy Adler was not a natural athlete: as a 12-year-old at camp, he was the bane of every baseball coach, his peers scrambling to fill the lineup with other boys. But another camp kid, Jonah Geller, took Sammy under his wing, coaching him in the proper batting stance, how to read a pitcher, the proper swing. Sammy tried to take it all in and adjust his game, but there’s a limit to what one person can teach another. Sammy’s seminal moment came when he hit a line drive into the first baseman’s glove for the game-ending out.

By all rights, Sammy should have been consigned to the Hall of Shame, the subject of cruel jokes that would follow him for the rest of his life. But somehow all of that doesn’t matter when, decades later, Jonah Geller--now a private eye working out of Toronto--suddenly receives a call from Sammy’s grandfather, Arthur Moscoe, telling him that Sammy is dead. He’s been bludgeoned to death, a Star of David carved into his chest.

So opens Miss Montreal, a real corker of a tale.

Although they’d drifted out of touch over the years, Jonah Geller was Sammy’s closest childhood friend. The 83-year-old Moscoe, dying of cancer and unconvinced that Montreal’s finest will bring Sammy’s killers to book, now hires Jonah to investigate Sammy’s murder. Because Jonah can’t turn for help to his usual partner, Jenn Raudsepp--who remains in Toronto, recovering from bullet wounds suffered during their previous case--he instead calls in Dante Ryan, a reformed hit man who travels from Boston to give him a hand. Volatile at the best of times, Ryan is especially unpredictable as he tries to cope with his wife having left him and taken their son with her; but he shows up, bringing with him a small arsenal of weapons and an attitude to match.

The police probe into Sammy’s death is not helped by the fact that one of the detectives on the case is a staunch Francophone who refuses to cooperate with Jonah. As a journalist, Sammy had made his share of enemies. Recently, he’d been working on two stories: the first one about how Afghan immigrants were adapting to Quebec. Jonah questions a young Afghan woman Sammy had interviewed for his story, but she’s evasive. Jonah and Dante leave her company having learned little. When they meet her again, this time away from her father’s shop, they find that they’re being tailed by a couple of Syrian thugs.

The second story Sammy was pursuing focused on an influential right-wing nationalist politician, Laurent Lortie, who seeks to keep Quebec for the Quebeqois--the French-speaking people who comprise the historical core of the province, and who feel that their language and culture are being threatened by the wave of immigrants. That tension dates from the original conflict between the two founding peoples, the French and the English, and persists even 200 years later. Lately, though, the tensions have been ramping up, with threats, beatings and fire-bombings.

How might Sammy’s two story leads have figured into his death? Jonah and Dante must weave their way through the troubled waters of multiethnic Montreal, aided only by a detective who hates Anglos, to thwart a plot with explosive consequences.

With its evocative back-story about two adolescent boys struggling to fit in with summer camp life, Miss Montreal had me hooked from the start. Shrier deftly sets up the reader for the poignant news of Sammy’s demise, and uses that hook to lead us effortlessly into an atmospheric tale that captures glimpses of Jewish Montreal in the 1950s and carries us forward to the changing face of the city today. As James Lee Burke does with Dave Robicheaux and Cletus Purcel, Shrier offers up a good cop/bad cop team in Jonah Geller and Dante Ryan. He combines that here with a topical plot full of twists and virtually nonstop action. All in all, Miss Montreal is the strongest entry in an already very strong series, and leaves this reader looking forward to Jonah Geller’s next outing. ◊

Jim Napier is a crime-fiction reviewer based in Quebec. His book reviews and author interviews have been featured in several Canadian papers as well as on such websites as Spinetingler Magazine, The Rap Sheet, Shots, Reviewing the Evidence and Type M for Murder. Napier also has an award-winning crime-fiction site, Deadly Diversions.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Jon Hamm and James Franco May Star in Sound and Fury

How does a new film adaptation of The Sound and the Fury starring James Falco and Jon Hamm sound? We thought it sounded pretty good, too.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Franco is planning on starring in the latest adaptation of William Faulkner’s 1929 novel as well as directing.
Notoriously difficult to film (like most Faulkner novels), “The Sound and The Fury” most famously made it to the screen in 1959 with a Martin Ritt-directed adaptation and Yul Brynner playing lead character Jason Compson.
Franco has a (slightly) more relaxed summer ahead of him after pulling out of “The Garden of Last Days,” the adaptation of the Andre Dubus III 9/11 novel he was set to direct.
He’ll concentrate instead on his acting turn in Wim Wender’s new drama “Everything Will Be Fine,” which shoots this summer in Montreal; oversee the three features based on his story collection “Palo Alto” for which he’s recently launched a crowd-funding campaign on the site indiegogo (more on that in a separate post); and work to get “Sound and the Fury” up and running.
You can see the full piece here.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Young Adult: Allegra by Shelley Hrdlitschka

Music is the connective tissue of Shelley Hrdlitschka’s ninth novel, Allegra (Orca Books).

A performing arts high school is not proving to be the school Allegra dreamed about. She had imagined being able to dedicate herself completely to dance, which is her passion. But in some ways, it’s been a rude awakening. It’s still school, and not only must she deal with the cliques and mundane classes she’d have to take at other schools, here she is also expected to come out with a well-rounded arts education and that’s not what she had in mind at all. She is disconsolate when she’s forced to take music theory, something she’d figured she was beyond. But she finds herself surprisingly fascinated, not only by the material, but by the interesting and attractive young teacher presenting it.

It’s not long before Allegra finds herself falling hard for Mr. Rochelli and she’s certain he feels it, too. But what if she’s mistaken about what she feels are his intentions? And, after a while, even that isn’t important. It just doesn’t seem possible that he doesn’t feel as she does.

The love Allegra feels for Mr. Rochelli lifts the girl through her days. She feels elevated. And it isn’t just what she sees inside. Others notice the change in her, so of course she figures, the love must be real.

The truth, of course, is far from what it appears to be. But as Allegra discovers the nature of these truths, she also finds fresh aspects to her own talents.

I liked Allegra a lot. Allegra herself is engaging enough to be a welcome companion and while some parts of the conclusion seem inevitable from the beginning, there are enough twists to make the outcome interesting. And it satisfies. Readers 12 and up will like this one. ◊

Sienna Powers is a contributing editor to January Magazine.

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