Monday, March 31, 2008

Reviewing: "Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Grilling"

Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Grilling
Recipes by Rick Rodgers
General Editor Chuck Williams
ISBN# 0-8487-3145-X
112 Pages

Speed of meal preparation is all the rage these days and is evidenced here as well both in terms of the series and this book. The longest section of the book opens the cookbook with "30 Minutes Start To Finish." With delectable choices such as "herbed flank steak with tomatoes," "florentine t-bone with spinach," or "orange-chipotle chicken with corn," "tuna steaks with ginger aioli," and many other mouthwatering delights which are also fairly easy to cook, you may never make it to the second section "15 minutes hands on time."

As implied by the title of the section, these mouth watering recipes are designed for a longer cooking time which leaves the cook free to mingle with guests, watch the ball game, or just relax. Whether you are making the "jerk pork tenderloin" or "chicken with tuscan herbs" one has to remember to occasionally wander back to the grill and flip the meat.

The third section is titled "make more to store" and takes the earlier recipes and explains how one can store in the refrigerator various amounts for consumption later in the week. Freezing is not recommended for any of the recipes in the book and that continues here as well. Other recipes not seen before are also included and detailed such as the enticing one on "vegetable quesadillas."

If you aren't starving by the time you make it to the back of the book and are still looking, you will find a detailed section covering grilling basics. Unlike many cookbooks devoted to grilling, those of us who use charcoal aren't left out and are in fact encouraged in this section. Indoor grilling is also covered along with detailed explanations of marinades, rubs, sauces and glazes, etc. as well as meal planning tips in terms of minutes or number of folks coming over.

Equally informative is the last section on what should be in your pantry, what can be stored for how long opened or not, and the general cooking tips that apply to grilling food as well as other cooking methods.

This fantastic cookbook which is the latest volume of a series closes with an easy to use index. At 112 pages, this book published through Oxmoor House is short but packs a powerful punch. It details easy recipes, beautifully photographed finished dishes, and plenty of valuable cooking tips which should serve to inspire your next meal.

Kevin R. tipple © 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Barry's Reviews: "The Fabulous Clipjoint" by Frederic Brown

by Fredric Brown

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

I’m tempted to call this novel mystery fiction’s version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It’s not a wholly accurate description, and I’m sure there are a lot of folks who’d take me to task for it, but The Fabulous Clipjoint may be the closest thing in spirit—though without the comedy—to Mark Twain’s masterwork that the genre has.

At eighteen, Ed Hunter is older than Huck and a good deal more worldly. When his father is beaten to death, the apparent victim of a random mugging, he wants answers but knows he‘s out of his depth when it comes to getting them. He therefore enlists the help of his father’s brother Ambrose, a carnival barker savvy in the ways of the mean streets. In teaming up with Uncle Am to solve what they eventually determine is a deliberate murder rather than an impersonal mugging, Ed undertakes his own Huck-like voyages of discovery through the streets of Chicago and thus performs his rite of passage.

The characters, with perhaps one or two exceptions, are neither all good nor all bad. Most exhibit morally gray behaviors and attitudes. The story itself is as “naturalistic” as any I’ve ever read in the genre, a superb example of the kind Raymond Chandler alluded to when he wrote about Dashiell Hammett (and by extension other pulp writers) giving “murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse.” Anthony Boucher called it “a singularly effective job of portraying people as they are and murder as it is—a solidly compelling story.” But while it contains its share of dark moments and situations, and has a strong sense of place, Brown’s style—though eminently readable—is relatively pedestrian, lacks the brooding lyricism that infuses, for instance, a David Goodis novel.

The Fabulous Clipjoint has been marginalized as a minor classic for many years. Recently, an article by Dick Adler argued for the elevation of its stature. Read it for yourself to decide if Fredric Brown merits being ranked with Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, and Jim Thompson.

Barry Ergang © 2008

Currently the Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and First Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2007Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available online, see Barry’s webpages.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Troubling News In The World Of Publishing

Troubling News In The World of Publishing

This week hasn't been a good one for publishers, authors or readers on at least two fronts. I'm not going to be long winded on these issues but I ask that if you have time you read some of the links and consider the implications.

Thanks to Glenn Walker of WriterCircle on Yahoo Groups for providing links on the unfolding story of New Concepts Publishing (NCP).

And a simple internet search will point you to more. These issues have come up before with them but not to this level. One does wonder if we are watching the beginning final death throes of yet another publisher much like what happened with Quiet Storm.

On another front there is Amazon and their deal with BookSurge. Angela Hoy brought this front and center in her zine "WritersWeekly" for March 27, 2008. The link to a long piece is found at and there are additional links there to related pieces on the topic.

I can't say I am surprised Amazon is trying to do this as I thought from the time they made the purchase this would be their plan. Or, at least some form of it as their purchase didn't make business sense otherwise. What I am surprised about is not only that it took so long, but that that those in the publishing business are so surprised at this news.

The bigger question for me is what kind of backlash, if any, will Amazon face. Print on demand publishers and authors may scream bloody murder but will anyone else? MWA seemingly has ignored such screaming from nearly the same groups regarding the criteria for aspects of their conventions and the general public seemingly hasn't cared. This may happen here as well.

Things quite possibly are changing and not in the way some folks expected. As the economy worsens, one does wonder how publishing will change. Beyond the failures of small publishing houses and the like, will publishing itself undergo some sort of sea change?

Some have said for years now that publishing was open to anyone, books not encouraged by the big houses were marketable and would sell, one didn't have to wait to be noticed by the big houses, and that anyone could make money at publishing while telling those of us interested in long term writing careers that we were fools to believe the big houses were the pinnacle we all should be aiming for.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

Publication News--Update

I have received word the last few days that the anthology is not anywhere near ready and most likely the earliest publication possibility is some vague time this fall. I'm not sure what if anything happened, but, clearly the editor and I were not on the same page as far as our timeline. Our discussions have been by e-mail and I am reminded again that e-mail is not always the best thing.

So, this means publication is delayed and I am bummed.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Children's Book Review: "Trent The Racing Turtle"

Trent The Racing Turtle
Bill Franklin
BookSurge Publishing (Subsidiary of, Inc.)
ISBN# 1-4196-7994-5
114 Pages

Trent is a young turtle with a past he can’t remember. Two years ago, he was found alone in the forest near the small village of Elmwood at the edge of Willow Pond. Instead of normal turtle flippers, he has two wheels on the bottom of his shell which allows him to move incredibly fast. He lives in a small tree stump next door to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel who became his guardians after he was found alone in the forest. Their son, Jesse, is his best friend and both are eagerly anticipating the summer break as today is the last day of school.

What should have been an easy day of school is marred by the harassment of bullying classmates on their walk to school. After their adventuresome trip in, they meet their other friend, Mina, an orange and brown tabby kitten. Mina is the bookworm of the trio and is currently reading about the mechanical things Da Vinci drew and built.

The school day has its own events which ultimately lead directly into the main adventure of the book and series. The trio is drawn into the search for a series of powerful statutes, a 3,000 year old mystery which may have ties to Egypt, and an evil desert lynx known as Vane who is obsessed with his need to acquire power and treasure. Vane isn’t about to stop and doesn’t care who or what gets hurt or destroyed in the process.

This novel marks the first installment of a planned adventure trilogy aimed at intermediate readers. While Trent's past including why he wears wheels is not clarified, what is clear is that the positives of diversity are strongly promoted in this work. When challenged, the differences between the creature characters are what allow them to work together and overcome the seriousness of the various situations.

This is a fun enjoyable children’s book that entertains children and adults alike. Along with the occasional history reference, author Bill Franklin skillfully weaves in typical childhood situations that readers of any age can identify with. The result is a charmingly good book that starts off the series nicely and can also be read as a stand alone.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book Review: "Pemberley Remembered" by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Pemberley Remembered
Mary Lydon Simonsen
TRC Castle Garden Publishing
ISBN# 978-0-9798933-0-8

Maggie Joyce, a young woman who longed to escape the dreariness of her hometown of Minooka, Pennsylvania and her abusive family, was finally able to do so in June 1944. She was hired as a clerk typist with the Treasury Department in Washington. That led to work for the Army Exchange Service where she was assigned to Germany for a year after the war ended. She went with the expectation she would be moved to England and a year or so later, she was. It was while in England she met and fell in love with Rob McAllister an emotionally scarred man who crewed as a navigator on bombers that flew missions over Germany during the war.

She met him during the course of her travels while she began to contemplate the idea that a certain estate known as Montclair could have been the setting for Pemberley in Jane Austin’s novel “Pride and Prejudice.” Not only that but former residents of the estate, William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison may have been the basis of Darcy and Bennet. Then too there is the issue of her new friends, Beth and Jack Crowell, who seem to know way too much about the inner workings of those families and others not to be involved and Maggie is at a loss to explain how they have in their possession so many personal detailed letters that seem to match book events.

Is it an elaborate hoax to beguile tourists or something more? Could it all really be true?

The horrors of war, the clash of religions, and the clash of classes in postwar England and earlier are the main themes of this highly detailed and complex novel. This is an ambitious work that attempts to paint with a broad brush several different time periods while weaving the various tales into a cohesive whole. Covering the period from 1900 to the immediate years after World War Two as well as the period of Jane Austin’s masterpiece is a formidable task. Despite the listing of thirty-eight names and four places in the cast of characters, the actual names dropped, discussed, and explored are easily three times that. At times it becomes a real struggle to keep things, especially in regards to relationships between all the parties real or fictional, straight and in order.

At 411 pages and with this amount of relationship complexity this is not a fast read nor was it intended to be one. Instead, it is more of an epic style romance that one does not usually see these days and is written in a style that reminds one of an older novel. Maggie, a romantic and a huge fan of the novel, is searching for her own life story and romance in a world that is changing rapidly. While the Second World War has changed everyone and everything, the aftermath of war is having a more profound affect on her and everyone around her while she seeks to mold her life into something akin to a literary experience. As she seeks answers in her own romance and is faced with decisions that will further shape her life, she seeks answers to a literary mystery and proof one way or the other.

Those readers very familiar with the novel in question will have a distinct advantage since more than half of this work is devoted to Jane Austin’s book. Beyond a very brief synopsis that gives the highlights of “Pride and Prejudice" and a few other literary works that are mentioned from time to time, much of the character discussion and narration relate to major and very minor events in that novel, mores and customs of the period, and the possible identities of the estate location and various characters. At the same time, the economic and cultural changes after World War Two at home and abroad in England should strike a cord in any reader that takes the journey back into time with this interesting novel. Romance and the difficulties of romance is a universal theme for nearly any reader and that theme is a constant backdrop for almost the entire novel.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Children's Book Review: "Madam's Mini"

Madam’s Mini
Written by Jeff Lucier
Illustrated by Judy Allen
BookSurge Publishing (Subsidiary of, Inc.)
ISBN# 1-4196-6683-5
34 Pages

Hubert, known to just about everyone as Huey, lives on Victoria Street. Down the street in a beautiful house lives Madam and her husband Sir Archibald. They are from England and drive a beautiful red 1966 Mini Cooper S. Madam insists on being very proper as she is English and all and won’t call Huey anything but by his name, Hubert. She will take him on trips to town when she needs to go and he loves riding in her car as does his Dad. As Dad puts it, the Mini is a “sweet ride.”

One day madam has to go to market and post some letters and invites Huey along for the trip into town. Huey knows she means to go get some groceries and mail some letters. He loves to ride with her and agrees to go. On their drive into town they soon encounter a very rude young man driving a 57 Corvette. After he makes a couple of disparaging remarks about the car, Madam challenges him to a race to the outskirts of town with rather surprising results.

What follows is tale of powerful things coming in small packages. Appearances can be deceiving and the young driver of the Corvette soon learns that not everything is what it appears to be.

Along with clear and simple text, this short book aimed at four to eight year old readers is full of wonderful classic type illustrations on every other page done by Judy Allen. Her work alone would have made the book worthwhile as the detailed illustrations are both nostalgic and arresting to the reader. They add real value to a simple tale that entetertains young and old alike. One hopes this isn’t the last tale involving Madam’s Mini as this very pleasurable read is over way too soon.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Reviewing: "Zero Cool" by John Lange

Zero Cool
John Lange
(Pseudonym of Michael Crichton)
Hard Case Crime (Dorchester Publishing Co, Inc.)
March 2008
ISBN# 0-8439-5959-2
221 Pages

For twenty-six year old Radiologist Peter Ross the trip to Spain in mid July 1967 is supposed to be a relaxing vacation. While attending the annual meeting of the American Society of Radiologists in Barcelona where he is slated to present a talk, he also plans on spending time in Costa Brava before and afterwards. Rumor has it that the place is full of English and Swedish girls this time of year and all are "…deeply passionate, fabulously attractive, and incredibly sexy." (Page 14)

However, his fabulous vacation begins to go odd shortly after his arrival. First, there was the distinguished gentleman looking for him in the hotel who ascertained he was there and yet strangely made no contact. Then, while on the beach at Tossa del Mar where he met a very attractive young woman from England by the name of Angela Locke, another man highly agitated runs up to Dr. Ross. He begs Dr. Ross to talk in private and once able to do so insists that he must not do the autopsy and that he must leave Spain immediately.

What autopsy?

Dr. Peter Ross isn't qualified to do one and has no idea what the man is talking about. Beyond that, he has no plans to go anywhere. The man quickly becomes angry and throws the final parting comment, "If you do the autopsy, we will kill you. Do you understand? Kill you." (Page 23)

And so his nightmare begins. Powerful conflicting interests are at work that see Dr. Peter Ross as a sacrificial scapegoat for their aims and objectives. He isn't thrilled with his death being the only option proposed by so many and begins to try and extricate himself.

As in most cases with HHC, this is another fast fun pulp fiction style read where occasional violence is the norm and implied threats of violence are constant. Once again the hero, in this case Dr. Peter Ross, is dashing to and fro when he isn't being plucked off the street or accosted in a hotel room by various competing forces. The women are beautiful and in all likelihood trouble, the locations exotic, and the violence and threats of violence are always little more than a sentence away. Simply put this is another highly entertaining read from the author and publisher.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reviewing: "Money Shot" by Christa Faust

Money Shot
By Christa Faust
Hard Case Crime (Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.)
February 2008
ISBN# 0-8439-5958-4
250 Pages

Gina Moretti wasn’t one of those girls who works in the adult industry and was stupid. She did her years, made lots and lots of money, and when it was time moved from in front of the camera to running her own company that supplies talent to the industry. She had made a name for herself as Angel Dare and she was a known commodity free of drugs, alcohol and in good shape. She parlayed everything she had into creating Daring Angels, a management company for adult talent. So, it isn’t a surprise when her old friend and producer Sam Hammer calls looking for help.

But, he doesn’t want anyone but Angel Dare. It seems like his new male star Jesse Black has always dreamed of working with Angel Dare. Angel is flattered and intrigued by the idea of working with the hottest male star in the business. The money would be nice and as she approaches forty and feeling a little insecure about her body, the idea of going before the cameras is exciting and a boost to her ego. And then there is the fact that Sam has always been there for her and his project is on the verge of collapse. She owes him and knows it so she agrees to the job.

Huge mistake.

Left for dead in the trunk of a Honda Civic after being beaten, raped, and shot, Angel Dare was lucky to still be alive. But, despite the odds she did survive and now she wants to find out what is going on and to make her enemies pay one by one while trying to save the few friends she has left.

This February 2008 release from HCC is a scenic and often incredibly violent tour of the underbelly of the adult film industry. Along the way Angel Dare evolves in ways she never thought possible thanks to the carnage in the form of beatings, bullets, fire, and blood. Each violent encounter molds her and shapes her into a character of steel and backbone bent on her own particular brand of justice which has nothing at all to do with the aims of law enforcement.

The result is an intense fast paced rollercoaster read at 250 pages that frequently details heartbreak and anguish as well as an all consuming need for vengeance. The book grabs the reader by the throat and other places and doesn’t let go. Graphic frequently in regards to adult industry terminology, language and brutal violence, this good book weaves a twisting tale that is sure to entertain readers willing to take a look.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reviewing: "Easy Innocence" by Libby Fischer Hellman

Easy Innocence
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Bleak House Books (Division of Big Earth Publishing)
ISBN# 978-1-932557-66-4
April 2008

It is easy these days to blame the mentally ill for crimes and there is no doubt that Cameron Jordan is mentally ill. There is no doubt that his finger prints were all over the murder weapon. The weapon was a baseball bat which, like Cameron, is covered in the blood of the deceased Sara Long. It didn’t help matters that he was found kneeling over the body holding the bat by her teenage friends.

Georgia Davis, a former Chicago Cop is working these days as a private investigator. While the circumstances of her leaving the force are rather murky, it is clear that she has a number of enemies and few friends among her former colleagues. One friend in particular is concerned about the speed at which Cameron Jordan’s case is moving through the system. He quietly refers Cameron Jordan’s sister and caretaker, Ruth Jordan, to Georgia Davis for help. Motivated by disgust regarding the cases she has been working and a need to seek justice, Georgia Davis plunges into a world of rich and twisted high school students, their politically connected parents and murder where the odds are stacked against the truth.

This was my first exposure to Libby Fischer Hellman’s work and it was quite the mystery ride. Georgia Davis is a multi faceted heroine with many secrets and issues and only a few were somewhat exposed in this novel. Unlike how many female private investigators are portrayed in mysteries where they either out drink and out cuss men or they are bumbling idiots more than ten novels later who still amazingly forget to take their gun to the abandoned warehouse at two in the morning, Georgia Davis is a normally intelligent human being who occasionally gets herself into situations any real person would and could get into while working the case. As such, she and by relation her world, are immensely believable and connect with the reader.

So too are the other characters as well as the descriptions of scenes set in and around the Chicago area. Then there is the interesting and complex case itself. Full of political intrigue, money and privilege as well as the universal problem of parents dealing with teenagers that are often taught by the educational system not to respect the authority of their parents, this novel works on many different levels while providing an entertaining read right to the last page. Much like Reed Farrel Coleman’s “Empty Ever After” also due out in April from Bleak House, there is a same powerful poetic imagery at work here and yet the books are very different in style, tone and subject matter.

Hopefully this won’t be the last of Georgia Davis because this novel just begins to scratch the surface with her and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. If, like me you are new to this author, it might be well worth looking up some of her other titles. I certainly plan too.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Barry's Reviews: "Love Lies Bleeding" by Edmund Crispin

by Edmund Crispin

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

The timing couldn’t be worse at Castrevenford School. Brenda Boyce, a schoolgirl who is precocious in ways that are unhealthy—even potentially deadly—has gone missing. So have some dangerous chemicals from the school’s science lab. These incidents just before Castrevenford’s annual Speech Day.

To make matters worse, the bodies of two masters, Somers and Love, are found. Both men have been murdered. Still later, the body of slovenly Mrs. Bly, a woman who lives in the country nearby, is discovered by a clerk on a walking tour vacation.

Are the events ill-timed random occurrences, or are they connected? (If you can’t answer that question, you’ve clearly never read a traditional whodunit.)

Fortunately for the local, inexperienced Superintendent Stagge, Oxford Professor of English and amateur sleuth Gervase Fen, a friend of Castrevenford’s headmaster, is on hand to present Speech Day awards. Stagge is grateful for his assistance.

It doesn’t take too long before Fen discovers what connects Brenda’s disappearance and the three murders: a lost literary treasure of enormous scholarly and financial value. He knows rather quickly who the murderer is, too, but in accordance with classic tradition, won’t reveal the name until he has conclusive proof.

Edmund Crispin (real name Bruce Montgomery) was one of mystery fiction’s most literate producers. (You might want to have a good dictionary close by for when you encounter words like ferial, resipiscently, unhouseled, and irrefragable.) He was a skilled plotter, and had a knack for creating wildly colorful characters. Love Lies Bleeding has a solid enough plot, but I found it, on the whole, to be a disappointment. Most of the characters are mere names on the page; they don’t come to life as individuals, and they and the novel’s overall tone lack the expansive extravagance I’ve come to expect from Crispin. Even Fen’s explanation of the solution and how he arrived at it felt plodding and tedious.

I can recommend this one to readers already familiar with Crispin via livelier works such as The Moving Toyshop, Buried for Pleasure, Swan Song, and The Case of the Gilded Fly. If you’re new to his work, this probably isn’t the place to start.

For more on this novel and others created during the Golden Age of Detection follow the link to where you can search by author and/or title.

Barry Ergang © 2008
Currently the Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and First Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2007Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available online, see Barry’s webpages.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Publication News

As soon as I know the exact date the anthology will hit bookstores and the like, I will share. I have received word tonight that things have progressed well and volume 2 of a certain series is about to be published. I have a rather quirky tale in the book, even by my standards. Despite my well known aversion to horror the story could be considered horror.

I'm very tickled about this because this publication marks the first anthology I was invited to submit something and subsequently my work was accepted. While I have been invited to submit several times to different things, what I write isn't easily categorized. As such, my work often doesn't fit the unstated guidelines an editor has in mind. That wasn't the case here and in fact, my weirdness was supported fully by the editor.

Anyway, I will post more soon when I know all the details completely but this is a nice ending to what has been a hard week.

Kevin R. Tipple (c) 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

North Texas Book Festival

The below was recently posted to the Texas-Writers group........

April 18-29th
at Center for Visual Arts
400 E. Hickory
Denton, TX

Authors and books galore...for all ages, Entertainment for the kids

Featured authors: Scott Murray, former KXAS-TV Sports Anchor and author of "Whatever it Takes: Life Lessons Learned through Sports Legends."

Also featured: Richard Trout, biologists, Diver and author of Young Adult Adventure Novels including: "Cayman Gold," "Falcon of Abydos", and "Czar of Alaska."

The funds received from the North Texas Book Festival, along with gifts and donations, are given in grants to school and public libraries, literacy programs, and reading programs in the north Texas area.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Barry's Reviews: "Mr. Monk And the Two Assistants" by Lee Goldberg

by Lee Goldberg

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Hardcore “Monk” fans know the back story: Adrian Monk’s photojournalist wife Trudy was murdered in a car bombing by person or persons unknown. Devastated, Monk was nearly catatonic for the next three years. When he was released from the hospital, it was in the care of a nurse named Sharona Fleming, who functioned as both his nurse and assistant for the next several years. When Sharona remarried Trevor, the husband she’d previously divorced, and moved from San Francisco back to New Jersey, Monk hired Natalie Teeger as his new assistant.

So when, in Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants, Natalie’s daughter Julie breaks her wrist during a soccer game, necessitating a trip to the emergency room, both Natalie and Monk are stunned to see Sharona working there. Monk is ecstatic as he imagines both women in his life; Natalie feels threatened by the prospect of losing her job to Sharona.

It turns out that Trevor moved to Los Angeles after buying a landscaping company, and is now in jail, charged with murdering one of his clients. Convinced he’s guilty, Sharona would be happy to let him languish while she resumes working for Monk. Natalie wants Monk to prove Trevor innocent so Sharona will get back together with him, thus solidifying Natalie’s position as Monk’s sole assistant.

After Natalie takes it upon herself to visit Trevor, she persuades Monk to investigate. She, Sharona and Monk drive to L.A., a place Monk quickly learns to fear, to begin their probe of the events. There they meet, among others, bestselling mystery novelist Ian Ludlow, who frequently acts as a consultant to the LAPD.

When they return to San Francisco, Captain Stottlemeyer tells Monk, who’s a paid consultant to the SFPD, that he needs his help in the murder—on a nude beach, to Monk‘s chagrined horror—of one Ronald Webster, a shoe store clerk.

Eventually it becomes clear that the two apparently disparate cases are connected, and any veteran mystery reader will easily guess the identity of the culprit. Proving said culprit’s guilt is another matter entirely, because that person has cleverly and convincingly developed seemingly airtight cases against Sharona and Natalie as the perpetrators of the two murders.

This is the fourth of Lee Goldberg’s Monk novels that I’ve read. I’ve enjoyed all of them, but this one is the best to date, in no small measure because of its fairly-clued solution. The clue, I might point out, is kept in front of the reader throughout the book, but is nevertheless elusive—a sign of excellent authorial misdirection.

Recommended without reservations.

Barry Ergang © 2008

Currently the Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and First Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2007Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available online, see Barry’s webpages.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Reviewing: "A Diet Of Treacle" by Lawrence Block

A Diet Of Treacle
Lawrence Block
Hard Case Crime
January 2008
ISBN #0-8439-5957-6
Mass Market Paperback
205 Pages

Set in the late fifties in New York City, this novel released again by publisher Hard Case Crime, considers the odd triangle formed by three characters all driven by the need to be hip and not square. A variation on the Romeo and Juliet star crossed lovers theme with the added complication of another person who is not blood family and yet the three form a sort of dysfunctional family for a time.

Anita Carbone lives in Uptown with her mom and has a good if not great life. But, the young lady is bored and doesn't want the all too predictable future that is expected of her. So, from time to time she ventures out and into the Village in a quest for something she can't define. Her forays out are never planned and she isn't really sure what she is looking for as she just wants something different with the hint of possibly forbidden.

A rather stoned Joe Milani knows exactly what he wants with her when he spies her sitting a few tables away in a coffee house located in Greenwich Village. Joe is a war veteran who certainly hasn't had it easy on his return home and now doesn't want much more out of his life than getting high, drinking coffee at The Palermo, and making a few bucks here and there. Content to drift through life convinced that things are what they are and are unchangeable including his own place in life, he lives with his roommate and friend Leo Marsten, also known by one and all by the name "Shank." What starts as a dare between the two of them soon has surprising results as Joe, despite Shank's opinion, does manage to pick up Anita and eventually an unlikely romance.

While the two lovers are completely opposite in every way, the complicating factor is the dark personality of Shank. A small time drug dealer and hood, he gets any woman he wants and only rarely has to display the knife he is known for in the neighborhood. He has plans, albeit unfocused plans in the beginning, for the future. Once he starts on a course of action he isn't about to change it no matter the consequences to those around him.

Beyond being a criticism of the beat movement, this novel is a rather flat read featuring simplistic characters on an obvious road to ruin. The good girl, Anita, is portrayed as stunningly naïve about everyone and everything while Joe is the stereotypical war veteran deeply scarred by battle and yet filled with a good heart that will be unleashed by the right woman. Through Anita, Joe slowly discovers that there is more to life than being stoned all day and that they could have a future together if they broke free of the darkly evil, Shank. Beyond all that is implied by his nickname, he is a twisted force of simmering evil that is gradually and relentlessly poisoning everyone and everything he touches.

Hard Case Crime publishes good books and ones that I usually like but this one was a strong exception. This read didn't work for me as I was bored most of the book. The characters never came alive for me or mattered in any substantive way, the writing seemed flat and dated possibly because it was originally published in 1961, and the ending was vague and unsatisfying. At 205 pages it was a quick, but lack luster read.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Reviewing Children's Books: "Charlie Bird: The Best Bird Ever"

Charlie Bird: The Best Bird Ever
Linda Bird
Outskirts Press
October 2007
ISBN# 978-1-4327-0489-6
27 Pages

This children's book is based on Linda Bird's own life with her pet parrot, Charlie Bird. In the main storyline, Charlie, as depicted in the text and small pictures is a bird that constantly is on the move in their home and frequently gets into trouble. The parrot, which has had his wings clipped, plays games such as hiding under the covers, ripping out chunks of the toilet paper, and engaging in sniffing contests with two young girls, Sarah and Molly among other activities. Sarah and Molly are ages nine and seven and think he is "The Best Bird Ever."

Along with being simply the best bird ever, he is approximately four years old and is part of a secondary storyline that seems to be at least partly fantasy. In that storyline, while the children are off at school, Charlie, who has several wild birds as visiting friends, manages to change places with one of them so that he can experience freedom. Both he and the wild bird known as "Rusty" learn that trading places wasn't worth it and before long manage to switch places again finding peace in their own respective worlds.

While overall entertaining this is a book that may be confusing for the intended audience. Beyond the amateurishness of the cut and paste picture technique and the odd decision to represent the children Sarah and Molly through dolls, the twin storylines are at odds and work on different learning levels. While one is reality based (despite the dolls issue) and teaches understanding and how a pet interacts with his family the other is fantasy based and is used to tell a far different tale than the main storyline. For some readers, this could create an obstacle as they won't be able to separate fantasy from reality and could be confused by the way the book unfolds.

As with any book purchase, it is always wise to take the intended reader into account. If the above is not an issue for the intended reader, than despite the picture technique, this could be a charming book that serves to spark reader interest and discussion regarding owning birds. Recently self published through Outskirts Press, the author intends to release other tales involving children and their pets.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Reviewing: "You Should Have Died On Monday" by Frankie Y. Bailey

As a personal preference, I don’t usually start a series that is new to me with the latest novel. Doing so can often reveal details that make it impossible to read the earlier books in the series and one isn't able to evaluate story arcs that cross through the series. However, in this case, I made an exception because PJ Nunn, the publicist for the author, asked me to despite knowing well how I feel on the issue. I’m glad she did because this is a very good book.

You Should Have Died On Monday
Frankie Y. Bailey
Overmountain Press
July 2007
ISBN # 978-157072-319-3
218 Pages

Professor Lizabeth Stuart finds herself in this fourth novel of the series professionally successful and yet full of deep conflict. About to embark in a new position at the university in Gallagher, Virginia and deeply in love with, Quinn her boyfriend and Chief of Police of Piedmont State University, everything should be just about perfect. But, “Lizzie” has a health issue to deal with as well as her legacy and isn’t able to move forward until she resolves issues in her past.

Lizzie never knew her mother having been raised by her grandparents. Now, as she approaches forty and is contemplating what it would be like to be a mother herself, she has a need to know why her own mother, whom she knows as Becca, abandoned her all those years ago. Her recently departed grandmother took secrets to the grave with her and if she can find her mother and talk to her she could learn a lot including the name of her biological father.

The search won’t be easy because the trail vanishes after she was at the scene of a multiple shooting in 1969 in Chicago. Becca, a blues singer, involved herself with gangland figures as well as African American radicals and was there at the scene of the shootings. What she did or encouraged to happen is at question. People died and she vanished, no doubt to reinvent herself elsewhere, but the question is where did she go and can Lizzie find her if she is still alive today. Once found, will she tell all or will she take her secrets with her leaving Lizzie with still more questions than answers. Thanks to Quinn’s contacts and the need by those still alive to meet the daughter of the beautiful and notorious Becca, before long Lizzie is on the ground in Chicago retracing her legacy every step of the way in a suspenseful trail that may ultimately uncover things she will wish she had never known.

The result is a rich read full of atmospheric details that engage the reader and pull one deep into the world of Lizzie Smart. The past as well as the present comes alive on every page making one feel like they are right there with her on her journey. A twisting, occasionally violent journey that constantly interjects history in small snippets into the tale as pieces of character development. In so doing, author Frankie Y. Bailey, currently a criminal justice professor at the University of Albany, shows a real story telling ability as she never slows down the pace of the novel. Back story and legacy are huge parts of the novel and both work well as do the other elements to provide an engaging moving tale sure to capture reader attention. A very good book that works well as an introduction to the series and will also work well for those already well aware of the good series and this clearly very talented author.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008