Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Working The Story.....

Kevin’s Corner

Another day, another box of tissue and then some gone. The battle continues and so does the reading. Back to the world of mystery fiction, sub-genre: cozy, we go.

A Confidential Source
By Jan Brogan
Mysterious Press
April 2005
ISBN # 0-89296-007-8
338 Pages
$24.95 US
$33.95 Canada

For reporter Hallie Ahern the road to redemption has taken her to Rhode Island and the Providence Morning Chronicle. She works out of a county bureau office in South Kingston and spends her days covering school boa4rd meetings, retyping press release and police reports, and other lightweight but needed articles. She still dreams of the big story but the big story blew up in her face once before and she constantly worries it could happen again.

Dreams are what got her into trouble in the first place. Dreams that caused insomnia so severe that she became addicted to sleeping pills. And addiction she still fights and is very careful not to give into again. That battle quickly becomes harder when the owner of The Mazursky Market, Barry Mazursky, is gunned down while she is in the small convenience store. While she did not see the shooter put the bullet into Mazurky’s brain, she knows exactly who did it. Moments before a large man in a parka had cursed her when she saw his face and there is no doubt he killed Mazursky.

While she cared deeply about Mazursky and felt him to be a friend as she wrote in the paper for a lead story, the facts are that she really knew very little about him. After praising him extensively in print, it slowly becomes clear that Mazursky hid dark secrets. Assigned to continue to work the case by the editorial staff of the paper, she begins to discover pieces of information while asking why the police are stonewalling the case. Links to political corruption and a coming referendum of gambling appear and it seems many of the characters are using Hallie for their own ends. As she investigates, Hallie figures out this wasn’t a simple robbery gone wrong, but a public execution designed to send a statement to certain individuals. She realizes this could her chance to break back into the big leagues and claim total redemption for her past sins. That is, if she doesn’t miss the warning signs and get herself killed.
Rich in detail and with somewhat stock characters, this novel works forward very slowly as Hallie pulls the pieces together. As in many cozy style novels, the pace is slow and the mystery is an ongoing theme but often not primary. Such is the case here, as Hallie deals with possible romantic entanglements with a handsome District Attorney among others, her own addictive personality, relationship issues, both professional and personal, and her ongoing debate with herself over her own past failures and triumphs. Hallie is a complex persona who seems to shift back and forth, waffling between the responsibilities of adulthood and a wishing for simpler things. With the focus so scattered across so many themes, the first two hundred pages of this novel read like an elaborate setup piece.

But the final seventy-five to one hundred pages make the wait worth it as the novel begins to go. As the pressures rapidly mount, Hallie spends less wasted time with doubt and self-recriminations and becomes real to the reader as she reacts to the considerable forces allied against her.

Those familiar with the background political history at the state and local level in Rhode Island will appreciate this novel more than others. No doubt heavily based on real life people at high levels of State and local government, this cozy encourages speculation as to who the fictional characters are based on. That fact as well as the rich details in setting work well and make this novel come alive for the reader.

All in all, this is an enjoyable read that follows her first novel, “Final Copy.” This novel is not a sequel and easily works well as a stand-alone or as a possible series start. That of course, is up to the author, but I hope that she will bring back Hallie for another adventure soon.

A big thank you to Renee Supriano of the Time Warner Book Group for providing a review copy. It is appreciated!

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note here or at Kevin_tipple@att.net with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Searching For The Sound

Kevin’s Corner

The battle to get well continues. Strep has laid siege to this family and while the kids bounced back really fast, the wife and I haven’t. Among other things to have fallen by the wayside the last couple of weeks was my writing schedule. That wasn’t good especially with the fact that in two more weeks, my boys will be home for the summer. Yep, mid- May and they are out. Theoretically, they go back in August but that decision isn’t final thanks to the Sate Legislature, which is fumbling around with the issue of school finance. They can’t get anything done there but they seem to have figured out that some cheerleading routines are obscene. The only thing obscene to me is the fact that they are still messing with school finance and haven’t got the job done yet.

I haven’t managed to do much but read a few books. Some of those reviews you will see elsewhere and I hope to make that announcement I have been promising real soon. In the meantime, I have an offering from the vast world known as non-fiction to offer. I don’t do reviews on very many non-fiction books but this one is definitely worth it.

Searching For The Sound: My Life With The Grateful Dead
By Phil Lesh
Little, Brown And Company
April 2005
ISBN # 0-316-00998-9
338 Pages
$25.95 US
$34.95 Canada

In non-fiction, the literary voice of the person who actually lived the life rings truest. While outsiders may scratch and pick at the surface while writing thousands of words on the subject, there is nothing like the story told from the inside. That certainly is true in this book written by the bass player for the band.

While the book does open with background on his early days and long before joining the legendary band, the primary focus of the work is on his experiences on stage and off. He details the inner workings of the band from an economic standpoint as well as his personal relationships with the band members. Along the way he not only explains what it was like to make music but the background of the songs and what they really mean. He takes his personal life story forward to the tragic death of Jerry Garcia as well as his own critical health problems. As such, the book becomes a retrospective look at the highs and lows of one’s own life and the role one played, good and bad, in the end result. He articulates in great detail the day-to-day experiences of the band, which ultimately shaped its sounds for nearly forty years.

For fans of the band, this book provides a detailed and honest look written in the way only a true insider could. Covering the highs and the lows, the author explains all in an easy confessional style that enlightens but never talks down to the reader. Instead, it is almost as if he is sitting beside you in some small club somewhere as he tells what happened and why. Humor and compassion for himself and his band members make this work by Phil Lesh one worth reading.

A big thank you to Renee Supriano of the Time Warner Book Group for providing a review copy. It is appreciated!

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note at Kevin_tipple@att.net with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005