Saturday, February 23, 2008

Robert B. Parker

Three blog posts in a day is a bit much, but I just found this.

There is an interesting interview with Robert B. Parker at

where he talks about his writing and the world of Spenser. Very interesting reading.


Publication News

I'm pleased to announce my rather weird little story "The Clock Is Ticking And So Are We" will appear soon in the March/April edition of the Crime and Suspense zine. You have to be a paying subscriber to read my fiction story and an exclusive book review and you can do so by going to the site at and subscribing for $12.00 a year. Beyond various benefits taht are listed on the website, you can read fiction, reviews, and other things from lots of other folks besides me!


Reviewing: "Deadly Sins-Deadly Secrets" by Sylvia Dickey Smith

I have already heard from Sylvia Dickey Smith that she and her husband plan to return to Dallas this June for the HHCC conference. I'm looking forward to seeing both of them again at the conference where guest speaker Tony Hillerman will also attend. Beyond the fact that both Sylvia and Bill are good people, Sylvia writes a very good book once again. But, if you are worried that I am biased don't take my word for it. Read the other reviews she has garnered for the book and better yet, read the book yourself.

Deadly Sins-Deadly Secrets
Sylvia Dickey Smith
L & L Dreamspell
ISBN # 978-1-60318-018-4
267 Pages

The latest installment in the series recently released takes readers back to the small south Texas town of Orange and the surrounding area. Moving on from events depicted in "Dance On His Grave" Sidra Smart, having rescued herself from a bad marriage and a life that virtually destroyed her very core, has rescued a dog she quickly named Slider. While he does like plain yogurt on his dog food, his needs and quirks are very simple compared to the rest of her life.

Having inherited "The Third Eye" investigative agency and having survived her first case, she finds herself in a bit of a money bind when asked to take another case. Dempsey Durwood would like to know for sure whether or not his deceased son, Ned actually committed the horrible crimes he is suspected of doing by local law enforcement. There is no question that he was at the murder scene where a man and woman were found brutally murdered. There is no question he ran from that scene and was killed in a freak accident at the nearby railroad tracks. Dead, Ned can't defend himself from the grave and Dempsey knows that he wasn't like other kids growing up.

He could have done it but Dempsey doesn't believe he did it. He also knows that local law enforcement isn't going to open the case back up when they have a clear suspect with his fingerprints on the murder weapon. Why open the case and investigate further when they have a dead suspect?

Driven by financial need, Sidra Smart sets aside her own belief based on news coverage that Ned was probably guilty and begins asking questions here and there across the local area. Before long, her poking around has stirred up more than she knows from paranormal events, missing suspects, racism, homophobia, and a killer who is determined to stop her meddling once and fore all. And then, if that wasn't enough, there is her own personal life that seems to be moving like the hurricane which forever damaged the lighthouse at Sabine Pass long ago.

This second novel in the series is a fast twisting read full of entertaining characters, her theme of through two novels of religious hypocrisy, and plenty of mystery of the past and present. Unlike her first book which occasionally stopped cold to tell readers again and again the nightmarish tale of abuse suffered by some of the characters, this novel relies on the reader to pay attention and think throughout the entire book. It moves forward relentless on several interconnected storylines from start to finish.

From a distinctive eye catching cover, through a story that spans more than 260 pages, the area and fictional people of Orange, Texas is brought alive for the reader in this latest treat from Sylvia Dickey Smith. With another book in the series scheduled for publication later this year, this would be an excellent time to catch up on these two Texas mystery novels.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Writer's Guild Of Texas--MARCH WORKSHOP

This came in tonight and I thought I would share............

Please forward to all writers and writing groups

Mark the third Monday of every month for the Writers' Guild of Texas meeting; the following event is a special Saturday presentation:

Saturday, 8 March 2008
10:30a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Topic: Understanding the Publishing Industry
Speaker: Maya Reynolds

Richardson Public Library
900 Civic Center Dr.
Richardson TX 75080
Basement Room

Maya will cover the following, although not necessarily in this order:

Why is publishing so different from other industries?

What you need to know about publishers, bookstores and agents BEFORE you query

What are agents looking for?

The big players in publishing

The difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing

How to decide between a print publishing house or an e-publisher

What to expect once you have a publishing contract

What you need to know about genres

Among her various professions, Maya Reynolds has been a teacher, stock broker and social worker. She also spent five years as the vice-president of operations for the public mental health system of Dallas County. When she decided to get serious about being published, she approached the project from a business standpoint. Maya wrote a five-year plan that was so detailed, she accomplished all her goals in three and a half years.

Maya's first book, BAD GIRL, was released by NAL, a division of of Penguin, in 2007. She has a contract for a second book titled BAD BOY and a deadline of May 1. Along the way, she learned a lot about the publishing industry, which she is happy to share with newbie writers.

Early Bird announcements:

22-24 February 2008: ConDFWVII

23-24 February 2008: DFWWW Conference

8 March 2008: Brazos Writers' Workshop, College Station TX

17 March 2008: Regularly scheduled meeting of Writers' Guild of Texas; "Pitcher Perfect," presented by Pat Saunders

5 April 2008: DARA's Dreamin' in Dallas

13 April 2008: 6th Annual Plano Book Festival

25-26 April 2008: Writers' Roundup, presented by Northeast Texas Writers' Organization

For more information on the sponsoring organization, go to The Writers' Guild of Texas.Writers' Guild of Texas events are free and open to the public.

Permission to forward this email is not only granted, but encouraged. Let's get the word out to as many in the writing community as possible.

Carol Woods
Writers' Guild of Texas

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Reading Sylvia Dickey Smith

I'm currently reading and enjoying immensly her second book, "Deadly Sins, Deadly Secrets." Once again, Sidra Smart is dealing with murder deep in South East Texas. Thanks to being very sick, I have not read as fast as I normally would have and as of tonight, I am still a long way from finishing the book so I can review it. However, though I have not finished it, I can easily safely say this is one of those rare cases where the second book is much better than the first.

Which is not to say the first book was any slouch. It wasn't. Since the current book is the second in the series, I thought I would run my review again now to refresh the memory. So, below is that review.


Among other authors I had the pleasure of meeting at HHCC last June in Dallas was Sylvia Dickey Smith. I had a pretty good mental image of her from online items and in person she was even better. Then, I read her book. Apparently there are very dark things lurking in her mind and I never had any idea.

Dance On His Grave
By Sylvia Dickey Smith
L & L Dreamspell
ISBN # 978-1-60318-006-1
Large Trade Paperback
250 Pages

After the sudden death of her brother Warren due to a traffic accident, Sidra Smart comes to the small southeast Texas town of Orange to permanently close his private investigator business. Recently divorced after thirty years of a mind numbing marriage, Sidra knows absolutely nothing about private investigations or running her brothers business with the intriguing moniker of “the Third Eye: Intuitive Investigations.” While she isn’t sure what she is going to do with her life she knows that she isn't going to take over and run Warren’s business and she isn’t going back to her old life as a preacher’s wife.

Somewhere during the course of that thirty year marriage that started when she was so very young, she lost her identity. It is something she wants back and just isn’t sure how to get it back. She isn’t alone with that problem as the visibly agitated blonde woman makes clear by showing up while Sidra is paying bills and clearing mail in Warren’s old storefront office. The woman’s name is Jewell Stone and Warren had just barely opened a file for her. With Warren dead, Jewell expects Sidra to take over and help her. Jewell is haunted by nightmares of a naked woman who she thinks might have been killed by her father, Roy Manly back when Jewell was a child. If the memories that come out of Jewel and her emotional pain aren’t disturbing enough, while Jewell cries and talks, Sidra sees a small blue flame appear in the air over Jewell’s head for a few seconds. Despite all the reasons not to get involved, Sidra eventually begins to investigate a sinister world of child abuse and possible murder far different than her experiences of bake sales and back stabbing church politics as a preacher’s wife.

This is an intense read with frequent and very graphic recounts of horrible child abuse and molestation. Such scenes are intense and very disturbing and will no doubt upset a number of readers. Author Sylvia Dickey Smith details the horrific abuse over and over again to various parties throughout the entire novel while occasionally adding a little new information at the various tellings. After awhile, the graphic abuse and molestations become a bit much and could distract readers from a compelling story.

This is a shame because the main story is quite strong and would move the story along very well if allowed to do so instead of being stopped by the detailed abuse materials. The novel revolves around a thirty year old murder case and accompanying arson in the small town of Orange as well as Sidra's efforts to find herself. During the course of investigating the case, we learn quite a lot about Sidra, her relationship with her former Pastor and husband as well as the congregation, a fellow private investigator George Leger, Sidra’s rather eccentric Aunt Annie, and numerous other characters along with a strong slice of life in that shadowy land full of mystique and mystery where Texas and Louisiana meet.

Evil walks in many forms in this intense novel. Full of suspense, interesting characters and a heroine trying to find herself once again, the novel delivers on all levels while disturbing repeatedly with the constant scenes of abuse and molestation. Few readers will find this a relaxing read but all will certainly find it suspenseful, intense, and not easily put down.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007-2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reviewing: "Now & Then: A Spenser Novel" by Robert B. Parker

I was recently hammered in an online group for referring to Robert B. Parker as "just a mystery author." When the posters involved weren't focused on personal attacks, they were focused on twisting my words to mean other things that I did not and cited other works this author has produced. The other works stuff was true and nowhere near my original simple point which was he is known by the general public for his mystery work and nothing more. Which is proof once again that some folks will find something to go off about no matter what and a good friend and fellow writer was right when he said on more than one occasion that most e-mail is a huge time waster.

Now & Then: A Spenser Novel
Robert B. Parker
G. p. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group USA, Inc.
ISBN #978-0-399-15441-6
296 Pages

Much like Stuart Woods has most of his novels in the Stone Barrington series open at a certain New York restaurant, Robert B. Parker has his open in the classic and some would argue clichéd way of beginning at Spenser's office in Boston with a client walking in the door. While both series written by their respective authors feature a lack of character development for the most part as well as limited description of the surroundings in favor of a quick read, the books are very different with Robert B. Parker being the master in packing information for the reader in the form of dialogue.

From the second Dennis Doherty walks into his office, Spenser knows something is off and not just the fact that they aren't remotely getting along. Flippant as he always is regardless of whether or not it is a cop, thug, damsel in distress or in this case Dennis Doherty it quickly becomes clear that they won't be friends and Dennis is hiding something. What is obvious is that he is hoping against hope that his wife isn't cheating on him and wants Spenser to investigate.

Jordan Richmond, the woman Dennis Doherty loves deep into his soul, is the wife and it doesn't take long for Spenser to confirm she is cheating and hadn't chosen the best person to risk her marriage. She is into something Spenser isn't sure how to handle. Before long, he has to go full bore with Hawk and several others as backup in a dangerous cat and mouse game that could result in Susan being killed. As he investigates, not only is he working a case with national security angles and Susan in direct danger because of his actions, he is forced to confront their not too distant past and how they ultimately reconciled.

With occasionally slightly more introspection than normal in the series, Spenser does not spend lots of time thinking about the past. What is done is done and they are fine now so everything worked out for the best seems to be his motto. Instead, his focus is on a killer, one known to all including readers from early on in the book and how best to finally stop him. The result is a fast paced read that Spenser fans will love from start to finish.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Book Review: "Vegtable Harvest: Vegtables at the Center of the Plate"

This book is both a visual feast for the eyes and a salute to vegetables and the farmers/growers responsible. The book, the latest in a number of cookbooks written by this author, is designed around the premise that vegetables should be center stage on the plate. Instead of creating meals around meats, fish or poultry, the author writes in the introduction she began putting the vegetables first and working everything else around that.

The result is a colorful ode to vegetables that provides many different ways of cooking and using them to shake up the meal and your palate. Moving from appetizers, to salads, to soups, to poultry and meats and ultimately breads and desserts with every stage in between, author Patricia Wells creates meal after delectable meal on paper. Almost every single recipe is illustrated, not with a picture of the dish, but instead with a picture of the vegetable or vegetables for sales in the markets near the author's home in France.

Cooks experienced with various types of cooking equipment and utensils will find these recipes simple while those of us with less experience may find some of the more complex ones intimidating. Still, the instructions are straightforward and understandable and each recipe comes with a small amount of dietary information on calories, fat, carbohydrates, etc. Those on salt sensitive diets may wish to do a little research on items within a recipe before actually making the dish as that information is not provided.

At 324 pages, including an index and a detailed section on various things that each cook, according to the author, should have on hand such as homemade chicken stock, basil-lemon dressing, watercress pesto, etc. this book is aimed primarily at cooks that have the time and skills necessary to go beyond the standard fare. As such, this book is interesting, colorful and inspiring and can be used as tool to increase variety at the table.

Vegetable Harvest: Vegetables at the Center of the Plate
By Patricia Wells
William Morrow/Harper Collins
ISBN# 978-0-06-075244-6
324 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Yes, I am still sick. Yes, I have reviews to be written. Reading? Yep.

Currently reading "Deadly Sins, Deadly Secrets" by Sylvia Dickey Smith(Published by L&L Dreamspell)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reviewing: "Empty Ever After" by Reed Farrel Coleman

The past has always been a major theme and driving force of the Moe Prager series by Reed Farrel Coleman. The author is a winner of the Shamus, Barry and Anthony awards and has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Gumshoe. This latest effort, scheduled to be released in April, continues the first and no doubt will continue the second as this book is powerful, very good, and disturbing all at the same time.

Empty Ever After
By Reed Farrel Coleman
Bleak House Books
April 2008
ISBN# 978-1-932557-64-0
Paperback ISBN# 978-1-932557-65-7
272 Pages

The major secret stayed safe for over twenty years and provided the backbone of a story arc that has traveled the first four novels of the series. The shattering aftermath of the revelation provides the springboard of the current novel as Patrick Maloney won’t stay dead and buried. The Maloney family plot has been desecrated and the bones of his ex brother in law, Patrick Maloney are missing. Moses’ ex-wife Katy is distraught as one would expect and it is left to Sarah, their now grown daughter, to somehow bridge the distant gap between the parents. In so doing, she contacts Moe and before long, Moe is standing at graveside in the year 2000 inspecting the scene for himself.

A former NYPD officer who had to leave the force after a knee injury as well as a rather unorthodox P.I. in the few cases he handled over the years, Moe finds himself at a crossroads in his life. Multiple changes in a relatively short period of time have left him feeling adrift and alone. The desecration of the family plot gives him something to do and a focus for his days. From the beginning, the desecration of the plot which wasn’t just limited to the removal of Patrick’s body, has him thinking long and hard about his past, the people in it, and the secrets he has kept over the years as well as the secrets he has learned of others.

Soon, Moe learns of another grave desecration in Dayton, Ohio this time with links to Patrick and himself. Moe realizes someone is targeting what is left of his family and they are using Katy as a means to get at him. It is working as Katy’s mental state worsens due to repeated shocks to her already fragile system. Seeing her dead brother outside of her home and hearing him on the phone pushes her steadily towards the brink of insanity. Moe desperately seeks to find those of the living responsible and to bury the past once and fore all.

This book is incredibly disturbing and at the same time a very disturbing read. There is a certain depressing relentless series of events that leads to a shocking conclusion that comes at a total surprise to the reader and yet when the book is finished, inevitable and obvious. It is a book that could serve as a fitting ending to a series and yet could mark a huge turning point and a new way forward in a series. One doesn’t know quite how to take this very good book as it could easily go either way.

What is very clear is that this book goes into extensive detailed commentary about past events, past cases, and past relationships that have been covered in earlier books in the series. Much of this book goes into such descriptions of past events with the actual event described as well as all the ramifications of the event. Such detailed examination not only allows Moe to consider his past, secrets, and his responsibility but other themes that have been part of the series.

In so doing, Author Reed Farrel Coleman continues his history of evolving the Moe Prager character. Unlike some main characters that seem to remain relatively static novel after novel, Moe has changed from book to book. While his basic core beliefs have remained the same, his application of them and his view of the world has changed. The result is a living, breathing, humanely flawed major character that continues to evolve as does the series and another very good book.

If you are new to this series, I strongly suggest you start with the first book "Walking the Perfect Square." You won't be sorry.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Reviewing: Abraham Lincoln and the Forest of Little Pigeon Creek

I don’t often get children’s books for review because I am not directly connected to book review sites aimed at children’s books. So, when I joined Blogger News Network recently, I made a point of not responding too many of the calls in favor of responding to review calls for non-fiction books and children’s books. The result so far has been a good one and through them I was able to get my hands on this book.

Abraham Lincoln and the Forest of Little Pigeon Creek
Written by T. D. Carter
Illustrated By Randy Jennings
AmeriTales Entertainment, L. L. C
ISBN# 978-0-9798739-0-4
32 Pages

As a history major in College and a parent, I know history does not have to be drab and boring. One example of a children’s series that works really well is the Magic Tree House series and all of the related spin-offs. There two fictional children via a magic tree house are transported back in time to actual historic events and are able to experience them first hand. In this case, the first book in a planned series, the work is based on a fictional story built around a real historical character.

Set in 1818, Abraham Lincoln is nine and walking through the forest of Little Pigeon Creek with his best friend, Jack, who happens to be a turkey. The young Abraham Lincoln is desperately trying to convince himself that he isn’t afraid despite the fact that the forest smells, has lots of scary noises and bugs, and all the rest of what one would expect in a forest. For Jack, everything is fine and as he chases a bug here and there, he can’t understand why Abraham would be afraid because everything seems to be normal to him.

The only reason Abraham Lincoln is walking deep into the forest is because that is where Old Man Crawford lives in his house. He has a book that Abraham has been itching to read and probably will loan to him for a little while. The journey to his house and back as well as a follow-up journey to return the book provides the adventure and learning moments for the young Abraham Lincoln as well as readers.

The result is a charming children’s book with colorful detailed illustrations and a powerful message regarding reading and the environment. Both are very important, as the book makes clear as it does the secondary theme of overcoming obstacles in life.

While marketed and aimed at four to nine year olds, the text itself may reside above their abilities despite a short glossary of terms used at the back of the book. The illustrations though, know no boundaries, and are sure to delight young and old alike. The overall result is a good children’s book that parents and others can feel comfortable with young children reading and learning from. It starts the series well and one hopes that future planned editions featuring Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, Jackie Robinson and Sitting Bull will meet if not exceed this strong standard.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008


Got word earlier this week that my first fiction submission of the year has been accepted. One for one is a good way to start the year fiction wise.


Monday, February 04, 2008

TBR---A Book At A Time

Tonight, with abnormally warm tempetures (75 at 7 at nite) and yet another massive heald cold, I headed out to my porch to read. I should have been working on my own writing but I feel a lot of guilt over many things including the fact that my TBR pile is so out of control. I know authors , editors, publicists, etc are waiting for me to get things read and reviewed and it seems a bit selfish to be working on my own stuff. Guilt is a powerful motivator for me as well as Moe Prager.

Which might be one of the reasons I like the Moe Prager series so much. As crickets chirped along the creek, I sat with a booklight in hand and started EMPTY EVER AFTER written by Reed Farrel Coleman. The book is scheduled to be released in April by Bleak House and so far at least, it is very good. It is a bit complicated so I won't go into the synopsis now. I will say that I would strongly suggest that if you have not read this series you start and make sure you read them in order. Always a good idea, it is very true with this novel which spends a large amount of time looking back while moving forward. The past is never past with Moe.

So, just a quick update on what I'm reading. I'm killing tissues left and right as well as cough drops and hope that I get over whatever the latest thing is quickly. Way too much to do and no time to be sick.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Reviewing: "Shoot Him If He Runs" by Staurt Woods

Over the years, I have for the most part enjoyed the novels written by Stuart Woods. My only quibble with him is that in recent years as he churned out less complex books, he also included more graphic sexual scenes in his novels. Sexual scenes that were gratuitous and did nothing to advance the plot and seemed to be included because he felt like he had to have such situations for whatever reason. The latest does that again at one point but overall is a tighter more complicated novel despite the shaky and rather unbelievable beginning.

Shoot Him If He Runs
Stuart Woods
G. P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Group)
ISBN # 978-0-399-15444-7
293 Pages

The novel opens at the restaurant Elaine’s, as almost all do, and as always it the time is described as late. Stone, having just returned to New York is pawing through his mail where he finds what appears to be a dinner invitation from the White House. The legitimacy of the invitation is confirmed minutes later when his friend and occasional lover, Holly Barker, calls him. She is doing shadowy things for the CIA these days and tells him to bring his tux for the dinner tomorrow night along with enough warm weather clothing to be gone a week as well as his passport. Holly doesn’t say much more and neither does the President the next evening before leaving so that Lance Cabot, also of the agency can talk to Barrington.

For the current administration there is the potential of a huge public relations disaster should it become reported by the media that a former employee presumed dead is actually very alive. What is wanted and would be denied by President Lee is for Barrington to go with Holly to St. Marks and help her look for the former employee. Barrington has been there before with mixed results and Holly knows what the master of disguise has looked like on at least two occasions. It is suspected, because of circumstantial evidence that the rogue agent could be in St. Marks. They are to go down to St. Marks and see if they can locate him and if so let the Agency deal with him as they see fit.

Before long, Barrington, Holly, Dino and his current girlfriend, Genevieve, are all cavorting on the beaches, having a good time in the bedroom and at the local restaurants and generally playing the role of wealthy tourists on vacation. Barring and Holly have a harder time with that as they are also trying to find the rogue agent while staying out of the current government’s politics. There are many agendas at work at home and in St. Marks, and Barrington and Holly are pawns on several game boards.

The result is a fast paced fairly enjoyable installment in the Stone Barrington series. The tale is a bit complicated and has a couple of twists in it that aren’t glaringly obvious to the reader. Woods also keeps things interesting as he minimizes the allusions to Barrington’s wealth and sexual encounters. Several are implied briefly with only one being very graphic and obtrusive.

Of course, there really isn’t any character development and series readers wouldn’t expect any since these characters have been fully developed long ago. Instead, the focus is on providing a pleasant tale with some mystery and some action with suspense and the occasional funny throw away line. In that regard, the novel easily meets the goal. While it doesn’t measure up to his early work, it does continue the recent improvement in readability and reader enjoyment.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Barry's Reviews: Crippen & Landru Books

Four years ago, Mysterical-E published a brief essay of mine called “Impossible Pleasures,” which deals with my favorite type of traditional detective story, one in which the question is not only who done it, but also how.

Mystery lovers were recently saddened by the passing of Edward D. Hoch, undoubtedly the most prolific exponent of the mystery short story and one of its greatest craftsmen. Mr. Hoch was a master of the impossible crime story.

This brings me to Crippen & Landru, the company that only publishes mystery short story collections in handsome hardcovers and trade paperbacks. C&L is owned and operated by Douglas G. Greene, respected anthologist (The Locked Room Reader, with Robert Adey; Detection by Gaslight; The Detections of Miss Cusack, with Jack Adrian; R. Austin Freeman’s The Dead Hand and Other Uncollected Stories, with Tony Medawar); biographer (John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles), and editor (John Dickson Carr’s The Door to Doom and Merrivale, March, and Murder).

I own five C&L titles, four of which are by Mr. Hoch, the fifth by Joseph Commings, another impossible crime specialist. Before I discuss those, however, let me mention that C&L has a huge list of titles and authors that will please fans of both traditional and hardboiled detective stories.

Now, on to the titles I own and can heartily recommend.

Diagnosis: Impossible and More Things Impossible feature Mr. Hoch’s New England country doctor/sleuth Dr. Sam Hawthorne. Each is related in the first-person as Dr. Sam, after pouring his regular visitor “a small libation,” regales him with the puzzles he solved starting in 1922 when he first came to the town of Northmont. The stories progress forward in time, and each involves a seemingly impossible situation. Among these are how a horse and carriage vanished from inside a covered bridge, how a man was stabbed while alone in a voting booth, how an actor was apparently strangled by a haunted oak tree, and how someone was stabbed in the locked cockpit of a plane in flight.

Mr. Hoch created a multitude of colorful characters, one of whom was master thief Nick Velvet, fourteen of whose adventures are collected in The Velvet Touch.

Nick Velvet is unique in that he only steals for his clients items of no value for a $20,000 fee. Titles like “The Theft of Nothing at All,” “The Theft of the Four of Spades,” “The Theft of the Overdue Library Book,” and “The Theft of the Bald Man’s Comb” will give you an idea of what I mean. Of course, the thefts invariably lead Velvet into deeper mysteries he has to solve.

He also occasionally teams with or competes against the beautiful Sandra Paris, a.k.a. “The White Queen,” a stellar thief herself whose motto is “Impossible Things Before Breakfast.” As the motto implies, Velvet must sometimes solve the “impossible” situations.

The Ripper of Storyville is a collection of fourteen stories about Mr. Hoch’s peripatetic cowboy sleuth Ben Snow. Snow bears a striking resemblance to Billy the Kid, which frequently gets him into trouble. His adventures sometimes lead him into the realm of the impossible--e.g., the steamboat that vanishes in the middle of the river after it leaves Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the locked-room problem in “The Phantom Stallion.” I’m not generally a fan of historical mysteries, but the Ben Snow stories are gems of that sub-genre. I never considered Mr. Hoch a writer of “dark” fiction, but some of these stories surprised me.

Mr. Hoch also collaborated with Joseph Commings on a story titled “Stairway to Nowhere,” featuring Commings’ series sleuth Senator Brooks U. Banner, a gaudy and memorable figure. Until C&L collected this and thirteen other Banner stories as part of their Lost Classics series in the collection Banner Deadlines, only a few had been anthologized. Most originally appeared in pulp magazines.

The Banner stories are tantalizing in their premises. Consider, for instance—and here I’m quoting from the book’s back cover—a “murder at a séance where everyone is strait-jacketed together and linked by touching feet…a killing in a sealed glass case, and a murder by a sword which must have been wielded by a giant. The most extraordinary story of all is ‘The X Street Murders,’ in which the victim is shot in a guarded room and the smoking-gun is delivered, a few seconds later, in a sealed envelope next door.” Although some of Commings’ solutions are a little too mechanical for my taste, I tore through this collection enthusiastically, and I hope there will be another.

Mystery fans owe Douglas Greene an enormous debt of gratitude for the Crippen & Landru titles—past, present, and forthcoming. They can repay him by purchasing some of the books I’ve mentioned as well as others, and nourish themselves by supping on some of the finest stories the genre has produced.

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, February 02, 2008

Groundhog Day

I don't know if what's his name saw his shadow or not today. And I don't know how accurate he is.

I do know that I am seeing trees around here starting to bud out and there are fish moving in our creek again. This has not been a normal winter at all and it would not surprise me if things started heading for spring. It also wouldn't suprise me if we got hammered with an ice storm. I never see true blue northers anymore like when I was a kid, but Texas weather is still freaky.