Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Non-Fiction: The Science of Shakespeare by Dan Falk

Out in time to celebrate the 450th birthday of the Bard, author, science writer and broadcaster Dan Falk’s The Science of Shakespeare (Gooselane/Thomas Dunne) takes a sharp and engaging look at the science that formed and informed William Shakespeare’s still-beloved works as well as the science that was informed by him.

Falk’s books are accessible. I mean, they are also so much more, but that’s probably the best place to start. Falk tackles potentially mind-numbing topics and makes them not only understandable but enjoyable.

His first book, Universe on a T-Shirt, was about the quest for a unified theory of physics.

Next up, In Search of Time explored the physics and philosophy of time. These are the sort of science-to-philosophy journeys on which careers are made… and broken. But it’s that accessibility factor -- combined with real passion and knowledge -- that make me think Falk will end up in the former category.

In some ways The Science of Shakespeare is really about the history of science, but spun onto the axis of William Shakespeare. It’s a team up that works. What Falk is looking at here are the connections between the Bard and the beginnings of the scientific revolution and, as posited by Falk, how that combination changed the world as we know it forever.

The Science of Shakespeare is a triumph. A personal and yet informative look at science, literature and physics. This is great stuff. ◊

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Chinese Put Push on Books and Literacy

While retailers know that some book markets are shrinking, there’s growth out there, as well. In fact, in China, book sales are booming. In 2013 alone, online sales exceeded 16 billion yuan ($2.56 billion), a 30 percent year-on-year increase, according to a report published by the People’s Daily on Thursday, this from ecns.cn, the English-language web site of China News Service (CNS), a state-level news agency.

And though Chinese readers are buying a lot of books, what they’re reading may be quite different than their North American counterparts:
According to figures provided by baidu.com, China's largest Web search company, people between the ages of 20 and 39 search for books on the search engine more than any other age group. Men mainly search for books on the arts, textbooks, science and literature, while women search for social science books the most.
There are many recent book and literacy-related items at ecns.cn. So much so that, with the distinctive voice of a state-run agency, the news items often take on the patina of propaganda. But if it’s for a good cause -- literacy and reading awareness -- is it still propaganda?

Recently covered stories include news of the fourth annual “Reading Season,” which began earlier in April and will continue for three months; a story about an unidentified chauffeur who borrowed 2,846 books from a Shanghai library last year. (“The chauffeur said he reads fast and had time to read the books because he is required to wait in the car for his boss for a long time. He usually visits two library branches a day.”) A story about a group of Chinese publishers successfully starting to sell books using WeChat, the Chinese social media site and coverage of Beijing’s first 24-hour bookstore:
Sanlian Taofen Bookstore (STB) in Dongcheng District expanded its operating hours round the clock on April 8, with staff members' undoubted fatigue rewarded with plaudits and boosted revenue. 
Yuan Yue is one happy customer. The 28-year-old from Hebei Province welcomed having an alternative venue in which to read. "It provides a better place to spend the long night than at home," said Yuan.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

SF/F: Lovecraft’s Monsters edited by Ellen Datlow

I can’t imagine that there is a serious reader of SF/F and horror fiction in the English language that does not know Ellen Datlow’s name.

Not only is Datlow a sharp and observant writer, for 30 years she has been one of the ranking editors in the genre. She was the fiction editor at OMNI and is the editor of over 50 anthologies, many of which have been featured somewhere in January Magazine over the years. (Often under my byline. And I’ll admit it: I’m a fan.) So needless to say, when a book with Datlow’s name on the cover enters my world, I sit up and pay attention.

In this case, though, there was more than one reason to take notice. In Lovevcraft’s Monsters (Tachyon), Datlow brings together some of the top SF/F and horror writers working today and has them play in Lovecraft’s bizarre world. And that’s a delight. To see the likes of Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Bear and many others writing what is, in one way, very much like Lovecraftian fanfic is very little short of wonderful.

Nor is this Datlow’s first foray in this sub-sub genre. In 2009 she edited Lovecraft Unbound, a book that contained “mostly new stories inspired by Lovecraft.” In Lovecraft’s Monsters, Datlow says she feels she has pushed “thematic boundaries to the breaking point,” with stories from some authors not known for the type included in the anthology.

The stories are weirdly wonderful. But so, also, is the artwork: spectacularly rendered original illustrations appear throughout John Coulthart.

If you loved Cthulhu, Shoggoths, the Deep Ones and the other monsters that haunted Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s sad and creepy vision, you’ll gobble up Lovecraft’s Monsters.

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This Just In… Sports Day by David John

Kevin Norris is a psychopathic killer, but a killer with a difference. He kills losers. Not just ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill losers, he’s quite specific about that. All his victims are Sports losers. Whatever their chosen game, if they play and lose; he kills them, pure and simple.

But Kevin is also particular about how they die. It must be slow. Painful. Appropriate. Whatever they play is how they die. Age and sex play no part in his choices either. They lose: They die. End of story.

An Essex police detective honed on tough streets of Sheffield and London is assigned to the case. But with a total lack of forensic evidence the only clue seems to be a calling card left at each murder with a strange epithet typed on it. Could this be a hint to the killers identity or is it a red herring?

As the body count rises and the murders become more sadistic it’s a race against time to stop the killer before he is replaced. But just as that seems likely, events take an ominous twist leaving him facing his own personal dilemma; one with deadly consequences if he fails proving that, in life as in sport, winning really is everything.

You can order Sports Day here or in the UK order 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.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

OED to Go Out of Print?

It looks like tough days ahead for the Oxford English Dictionary, for decades the final word on words. Though in all fairness, it’s never been an easy haul.

The first edition, published in 1858, took 70 years to complete. The current edition, volume three, is currently 20 years behind schedule, though maybe it doesn’t matter. New OED editor, Michael Profitt, says it’s possible that edition will never appear in print. From The Telegraph:
It is the world’s most definitive work on the most global language, but the Oxford English Dictionary may be disappearing from bookshelves forever. 
Publishers fear the next edition will never appear in print form because its vast size means only an online version will be feasible, and affordable, for scholars.
It’s all academic for now anyway, they say, because the third edition of the famous dictionary, estimated to fill 40 volumes, is running at least 20 years behind schedule. 
Michael Proffitt, the OED’s first new chief editor for 20 years, said the mammoth masterpiece is facing delays because “information overload” from the internet is slowing his compilers. 
His team of 70 philologists, including lexicographers, etymologists and pronunciation experts, has been working on the latest version, known as OED3, for the past 20 years.

This Just In… A Peasant’s Guide to Canada by Lyn Marsh

Lyn Marsh’s grandparents emigrated to Canada after the trauma of the Finnish Civil War. They brought with them resources and skills essential for survival in an evolving and sometimes hostile environment.

The reinvention of one woman’s life on a farm in Ontario since the 1960s is inspiring -- a revelation of landscape, family, career and evolutionary psychology. Woven with Canadian literary history, stories of danger and grace, hardship and plenty, education and tragic loss, as well as the laughter and love of children and horses, A Peasant’s Guide to Canada is a unique celebration of what is possible to recover when all that once was is lost.

You can order A Peasant’s Guide to Canada  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.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Doctorow Wins Library of Congress Prize

E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime, World’s Fair) has been awarded the 2014 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. Previous winners have included Isabel Allende, Philip Roth and Toni Morrison. According to the New York Times Artsbeat blog:

[Doctorow] said the prize was particularly important to him because the nominees are chosen by past winners and other esteemed authors and critics. “To have the regard of one’s peers is immensely moving,” he said.

Doctorow will receive the award in a ceremony at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington on August 30th.

Doctorow’s newest book, Andrew’s Brain (Random House) was published in January. The London Sunday Times got hyperbolic about the book, calling it “A tantalising tour de force … it fizzes with intellectual energy, verbal pyrotechnics and satiric flair.”


This Just In… Kurt, Gert, Jazmine, And Bagel by Irene Dolnick

Brrr! Jazmine is feeling cold, hungry, and lonely -- and when she passes a picture window and sees her two friends, Kurt and Gert, in the warm, cozy house, she also feels a bit jealous! But this little dog will soon meet a handsome black and brown beagle named Bagel, who knows what it’s like to be alone. 

Join Jazmine and Bagel as they form new friendships and embark on new adventures together! It’s a story that will delight children of all ages and remind us of the importance of friends.

You can order Kurt, Gert, Jazmine, And Bagel 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, April 18, 2014

Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez Dies at 87

Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, one of the giant’s of contemporary literature, passed away yesterday at home in Mexico City. He was 87. The author had been struggling with lymphatic cancer since 1999.

Gabo, as he was widely and affectionately known, was strongly identified with magical realism. His best known novels were One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) but he was prolific in various forms though when he won the Nobel Prize in 1982 it was “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts.” From a lengthy piece in The Guardian:
The Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, who unleashed the worldwide boom in Spanish language literature and magical realism with his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, died at the age of 87. He had been admitted to hospital in Mexico City on 3 April with pneumonia.
Matching commercial success with critical acclaim, García Márquez became a standard-bearer for Latin American letters, establishing a route for negotiations between guerillas and the Colombian government, building a friendship with Fidel Castro and maintaining a feud with fellow literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa that lasted more than 30 years.
Barack Obama said the world had lost "one of its greatest visionary writers", adding that he cherished an inscribed copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, presented to him by the author on a visit to Mexico. "I offer my thoughts to his family and friends, whom I hope take solace in the fact that Gabo's work will live on for generations to come."
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday via Twitter: "A thousand years of solitude and sadness at the death of the greatest Colombian of all time. Solidarity and condolences to his wife and family ... Such giants never die."
We wrote about the author’s path to literary greatness on his birthday last year. You can see that piece here.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gone Girl Trailer Offers Clues

It seemed as though mere moments after the release of the upcoming film based on Gillian Flynn’s wonderful 2012 novel, Gone Girl, analysts were -- well -- analyzing. For instance, the Hollywood Reporter suggests that viewing the footage of the trailer offers up eight big plot clues:
Directed by David Fincher, Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, whose wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary. At first Nick seems like a forlorn husband, his strange behavior soon makes him a suspect. The trailer for the New Regency/20th Century Fox feature shows the increased pressure he feels as the police and media begin to turn on him as they search for "Amazing Amy."
See all of the clues THR spotted here. We previously wrote about the project here.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Author, Naturalist Peter Matthiessen Dies at 86

A three-time winner of the National Book Award and co-founder of The Paris Review, novelist Peter Matthiessen died on Saturday. He was 86. 

A noted naturalist, Matthiessen is most strongly identified by his lyrical non-fiction on environmental topics, though his fiction and non-fiction sometimes overlapped. From The New York Times:
He holds the distinction of being the only writer to win the National Book Award in both fiction and nonfiction. And his fiction and nonfiction often arose from the same experience.
His fourth novel, “At Play in the Fields of the Lord” (1965), grew out of his reporting for “The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness” (1961). The novel, set in the Peruvian wilds, depicts the interaction between missionaries and tribesmen — at one point Mr. Matthiessen, an early user of LSD, has his protagonist drink a native hallucinogenic brew — and Western civilization’s damaging impact on primitive peoples. A film adaptation directed by Hector Babenco was released in 1991.
Mr. Matthiessen’s fifth novel, “Far Tortuga” (1975), was inspired by a New Yorker assignment in which he reported on the vanishing Caribbean tradition of turtle hunting. Highly experimental — it drew on recordings of sometimes cryptic Caribbean dialogue — the novel drew mixed reviews.
He delved into another isolated world for his late-career “Watson” trilogy — “Killing Mister Watson” (1990), “Lost Man’s River” (1997) and “Bone by Bone” (1999) — parts of which he compressed into one long opus, “Shadow Country” (2008). It won a National Book Award, though many critics thought a reworked version of previously published fiction did not deserve the honor.
Matthiessen co-founded The Paris Review in 1953, and he went on record as saying that he used the literary journal as a shield to cover his covert activities after being recruited by the CIA:
“I used The Paris Review as a cover, there’s no question of that,” he told The New York Times in 2008 after his C.I.A. connection had been discussed in “Doc,” a documentary film about Mr. Humes by his daughter Immy Humes. “But the C.I.A. had nothing to do with Paris Review.”That assertion was challenged in 2012 by an article in the online magazine Salon; drawing on The Review’s own archives, it suggested that there were C.I.A. ties that had bypassed Mr. Matthiessen or had outlived his two-year relationship with the agency.
“I was getting information on people,” Mr. Matthiessen told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2008. “I was a greenhorn.” He described the episode as “youthful folly.”
Matthiessen was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. He died in hospital near his home in Sagaponack, New York. His final novel, In Paradise (Riverhead), will be published today. Again The Times:
His last novel, “In Paradise,” tells the story of a group that comes together for a meditative retreat at the site of a former Nazi death camp. Such retreats were familiar to him. He regularly welcomed Zen students to a zendo, a place of meditation, on his grounds.
“Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake,” he told the British newspaper The Guardian in 2002. “We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.”


This Just In… Toxic Distortions by Teddy Goldstein

Winner of the 2012 USA Best Book Award in the Historical Fiction e-book category.  

1965. London. Dr. Michael Turner receives a lawyer’s letter. Misty photographs -- a three-year-old boy with long blond hair; a teenage girl full of hope; a woman in her 20s, faded dress, slim frame, hollow cheeks, haunted eyes.

Michael is drawn inexorably into his past. To the stench of potato-sacks, the perfume of almonds and cinnamon, the kiss of a fairy princess, the barking of dogs, the screech of trains, a woman tearing at his shirt, her wail of loss. Paris.

Delphine looks at her lost child and finally understands her courageous act of madness. Frankfurt. Franz watches television. Thick smoke rising from a brick chimney. No, not Auschwitz. A cremation. His cremation. Geneva. Vittorio entwines two silken puppets in a splaying of legs, a lifting of buttocks and weeps for his unfaithful wife. Hampstead. A journal spews thick torpid pitch as it hisses in the flames. The hissing turns to popping. The popping to crackling. The crackling to wailing. Ghosts are set free.

WARNING: This novel contains sexually explicit material

You can order Toxic Distortions here. Visit author Teddy Goldstein 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.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Death Is Not the End

(Editor’s note: Following the release last month of Benjamin Black’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, a novel starring Raymond Chandler’s most famous private investigator, Philip Marlowe, Kevin Burton Smith -- a sometime contributor to January and The Rap Sheet, and the editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site -- sat down to make a close examination of that novel, looking to see how it compared with vintage Chandler. His thoughts appear in the essay below, which appeared originally on his own site.)

And the latest dead author spinning in his grave? Raymond Chandler. In the last few years, we've been subjected to an orgy of literary reincarnation, as beloved detective characters created by equally beloved authors who are long dead, recently dead or nearly dead, are exhumed and once again forced to go through their paces.

Spenser, Nero Wolfe, Hercule Poirot, Sid Halley, Sam Spade and Jesse Stone have all been resurrected lately (or will be shortly) with varying degrees of success. In a few instances, the results have been honorable and respectful -- sincere and heartfelt tributes and debts repaid by current authors to their own personal literary heroes.

But most cases seem to be more about, or even exclusively about, the bottom line: grab a hired pen, squeeze out a book with the deceased author’s name and their character in extra-large type featured prominently on the cover, slip in a more discreet byline for the actual writer, and turn a quick buck while the franchise still has name value. It’s a formula the always commercially savvy (and still living) James Patterson has milked well in the last decade or so; when/if he eventually kicks the bucket, his literary output won’t significantly suffer.

Nor is the phenomenon limited to private detective fiction, or even crime fiction. Science fiction and fantasy series have gone on long after the original creators have shuffled off this mortal coil (read #447 in the Dune trilogy yet?), and lately we’ve seen P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Bertie put through their paces again by Sebastian Faulks (who also resurrected Ian Fleming’s James Bond a few years ago). Hell, even the Bible has been brought back new and improved, this time presumptuously sporting the byline of a couple of holier-than-thou TV producers.

In an era when attention spans are measured in 140 characters (or fewer), it seems that name recognition -- and the bottom line -- may be all that matters. The actual writing? What are you, a commie?

Plus, someone’s widow may need new kitchen curtains.

* * *

The Black-Eyed Blonde, by Benjamin Black, which digs up Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye, Philip Marlowe, at least eschews the typographical sleight of hand -- Chandler’s name appears nowhere on the front cover.

But it’s not hard to predict how Chandler would feel about this latest desecration. The Anglophile with the literary ambitions might be momentarily pleased that Booker Prize-winner John Banville had tackled Philip Marlowe (Chandler had almost as high an opinion of himself as we did), but the eternally grumpy and fault-finding author -- once he realized he himself wasn't even mentioned on the cover -- would no doubt still have found the effort wanting, as indeed he felt about most things in life. And I tend to agree with Ray.

Twenty-five or so years ago, to mark what would have been the 100th anniversary of Chandler’s birth in 1888, there were a couple of major projects released: Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, a collection of original short-stories featuring Marlowe produced by some of the most-celebrated P.I. writers (and unabashed Chandler fans) of the time; and, more controversially, the novel-length completion of Chandler’s Poodle Springs, by Robert B. Parker, the creator of Spenser, who attempted to do what even Chandler had given up on: marrying off Marlowe. It was probably a lose/lose situation. Even had Chandler himself completed it, fans would have screamed bloody murder, but I always felt Parker did pretty well with the cards he’d been dealt. And at the time, who would have been better suited than Parker to write about a private eye in a long-term romantic relationship? Plus there’s no doubt that Parker, like the authors featured in the short-story collection, were the true literary descendants of Chandler. Affection and a sense of respect permeated both projects, and while nobody aspired to ape Chandler outright, the influence was obvious.

And because everyone’s heart seemed in the right place, those books felt “special.”

All of which brings us to The Black-Eyed Blonde, by Benjamin Black (the name Banville uses for what he calls -- with a wink -- his “cheap fiction”), which doesn’t feel particularly “special.”

Oh, it’s not the quickie rip-off it might have been, but neither does it seem like much of a literary valentine. Nothing in Black’s acclaimed series of six books about Irish pathologist Quirke recalls Chandler, except perhaps for a sense of brooding loneliness and the 1950s setting. But is that enough?

For those looking for a “Chandleresque” period-piece pastiche -- or just a good old ’50s-era detective yarn of the kind that “they just don’t write anymore” -- this may suffice. Most of the tropes one would expect to see in such a tale are here: sleazy rich people, femmes fatales, sexual treachery, colorful thugs and a tarnished knight going down those mean streets looking for a dragon or two to slay.

But after 60 years or so, should there be more? Chandler contemporaries such as Howard Browne, Dolores Hitchens and Leigh Brackett, and even Ariel S. Winter, in his wonderful The Twenty-Year Death from a few years ago, have already pretty much claimed that turf, creating their own Marlowe-like characters but putting their own spin on him, imitation perhaps being a more sincere form of flattery than impersonation.

Black, though, isn’t offering us a Marlowe-like character. He’s serving up Marlowe himself, one of the most analyzed, studied and debated characters of the genre; the Hamlet of detective fiction, created by one of the most instantly recognizable stylists crime fiction has ever produced.

And the results are, well, mixed. At times The Black-Eyed Blonde is crippled by an almost slavish attempt at impersonation, injecting far more Chandleresque wisecracks and similes into the mix than the surgeon general would recommend, and Black’s insistence on weaving in as many shout-outs as possible to Chandler’s other Marlowe novels (particularly 1953’s The Long Goodbye), something Chandler rarely did, grates more than gratifies. We hear all about Bernie Ohls and Linda Loring and Terry Lennox far more often than we really need.

We get it, we get it. We’re supposed to think we’re reading Chandler.

But we’re not.

* * *

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the story.

Black’s a better plotter than Chandler was, but nobody really read Chandler for the plots, anyway. Or at least the plots alone. And the plot of The Black-Eyed Blonde, while engaging, seems both too familiar and, worse, too obvious. The Irish author drops clues all about the place, as though he were being paid by the pound.

And while Black works hard at nailing the voice, he plays a little loose with Marlowe as a man. Although he loosened up a bit in later novels, Marlowe was still something of an old-fashioned guy when it came to ideas about romance and sex. As Chandler once famously stated about his ideal of the detective hero, he might “seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin.”

I’m pretty sure that Marlowe would not have his head turned so easily (or quickly) by his rich and seductive (and married) new client, Clare Cavendish, the young black-eyed blonde of this new book’s title. Especially when it becomes clear that he’s still carrying a torch for the lovely and willing Linda Loring, who desperately wants to marry him. And particularly when he discovers that Linda and Clare are close friends. How is that going to work out? Marlowe as a perpetually horny schoolboy unable to control his own libido -- read it here first.

After almost two decades in the shamus game at the time this book takes place, wouldn’t Marlowe have smelled something fishy? Certainly fans who’ve been reading this sort of book for 60 years or more certainly would.

Almost from the start, when she waltzes into Marlowe’s office, asking him to find Nico Peterson, the man she claims she had an affair with, we know Clare’s going to be trouble.

The plot tumbles along, and we get to meet some interesting characters: eccentric rich people, colorful thugs, hard-bitten cops and sinister men and women with too many secrets and too few scruples. We soon discover everyone thinks Nico is dead, the victim of a hit-and-run incident, a detail Clare didn’t think worth mentioning at first. But by then Marlowe’s already besotted. He continues working the case, and as the lies and betrayals pile up, I began wishing Black wasn’t trying so damn hard to be Chandler.

In fact, my admiration for Chandler was probably the reason I couldn’t let myself just be carried away by the story. It’s the many “Hey! Look at me!” instances where Black falls short that weigh this novel down. He didn’t take a loose thread Chandler left dangling and run with it, as Parker did; nor did he use a Chandler-like character to tell his own story. No, he’s purporting to be Chandler.

(Right) Raymond Chandler

The real Raymond Chandler was notorious for his sometimes sloppy treatment of Los Angeles, playing fast and loose with place names and street locations. Black has no such problem; he eagerly shows off his research. (Marlowe at one point makes a pointless aside about Chandler Boulevard -- no relation -- that’s too cute by half.) Black’s penchant for period-perfect celebrity name-dropping (Errol Flynn, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc.) is something else Chandler never shared. When Chandler bothered to take a shot at a well-known target, it was more subtle; a poke at a cop named Hemingway, not the writer himself.

Chandler fudged the details and made the City of Angels come vibrantly alive; Black nails down the details but turns it into a vacation slideshow.

And this novel’s ending seems too bleak, too cynical for later-period Chandler, which this is clearly meant to be.

The real failure here, though, is the lack of (for a better word) romance. Even at his most angry and cynical, Marlowe was a believer. Beyond anything else, there is no echo in this book of romance or beauty; no reverberation of the battered and bruised but defiant ideals that Marlowe clung to throughout Chandler’s work. Yes, he loves Linda, but hoo-boy, let’s forget all that. That black-eyed blonde is a hottie.

In the noirish conclusion of The Big Sleep (1939), Marlowe muses on how far he’s fallen from his ideals, and how he was now “part of the nastiness.” The Black-Eyed Blonde doesn’t even seem to acknowledge that fall.

It would be too easy to simply dismiss The Black-Eyed Blonde as lacking, then, that “music heard faintly around the edge of the sound” (as Chandler described love). But without those ideals, however bruised and tattered they may be, Marlowe seems curiously and disappointingly hollow. Yet, from reading some of his Quirke books it’s clear to me that Black/Banville knows the melody well; it’s just that, unlike Chandler (or Parker), he seems to be having trouble with the words.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Today’s Quote: Frank Zappa


“If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.” -- Frank Zappa


This Just In… Goodbye, Elaine by Francis Nehilla

Why aren’t children told the truth? There are bad people in the world and bad things can happen to you that mommy and daddy can’t fix.

Most people meander through life, but not Elaine. She had life thrown at her from all directions from an early age. Childhood disappointments and sexual encounters long past buried in the subconscious caused recurring behavior into adulthood.

As an adult, balancing family, work and life brought her to the breaking point. Continuously confronting obstacles in her quest for happiness and unconditional love, Elaine eventually overturned her neurotic behavior and inhaled life like fresh air.

You can order Goodbye, Elaine here. Visit author Francis Nehilla on Facebook 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.


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Trailer Released for Lehane’s The Drop

Sopranos star James Gandolfini, who died last June, stars in the Dennis Lehane-written The Drop, a feature film scheduled for release this coming September.

The source material is a Lehane short story called “Animal Rescue” which first appeared in Boston Noir (Askashic Books, 2009).

The official bumph says that The Drop is “a new crime drama from Michaël R. Roskam, the Academy Award-nominated director of Bullhead. Based on a screenplay from Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), The Drop follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) through a covert scheme of funneling cash to local gangsters -- “money drops” -- in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood's past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living -- no matter the cost.”

Since we’re big fans of both Gandolfini and Lehane around here, we can’t wait. The official trailer is below.

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This Just In… The Apple Picker’s Daughter by Anne Brooke

Born in the 1960s on a UK apple farm, Clare Rivers is a girl out of time, living in a family and a world that makes little sense to her.

Determined to carve out her place somehow, and with her deep love of her father to see her through, Clare begins a unique journey to discover the reasons for her own existence. If she can. However, accompanied by the oddities of family, school and the strange lyrical life of the apples, can Clare really find a place within herself to call home?

This novel will appeal to lovers of rural life, recent history and a child’s quirky but clear-sighted view of the adult world.

You can order The Apple Picker’s Daughter  here. Visit author Anne Brooke 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.