Monday, September 27, 2010
This afternoon I finished Burn which is the latest from author Nevada Barr. One of the things that always made her books great was the fact that Anna Pigeon was a National Park Service Ranger and the tales were set in the parks. While Nevada Barr frequently paid fast and loose with where things were located in the park of the novel as opposed to real life (the preceding novel in the series set in Big Bend serving as the most recent example), it was always clear that she loved the parks and the outdoors.
This latest effort splits time between Seattle through another storyline featuring a mother searching for her children after a horrific incident, and New Orleans where Anna is hiding out with a friend and trying to get herself back together. Eventually the two storylines merge though it takes far too long to get everything together.
But, what is really horrible about this book is the theme of child abuse that permeates the thing from start to finish. I am not one to read book reviews before I read a book because I don't want those reviews to shape my thinking. In this case, I wish I had read at least one of the many very negative reviews out there on this book that expressed the darkness, the often borderline graphic sexual abuse aspects, and the unmitigated psychological dreck that readers are forced to wade through page after page.
I am not one to swear off an author after one book. In this case, I may make an exception. I need mind bleach to get the crap out of my head.
Do NOT read this book. It is not worth it.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Living in a small town means everyone knows your business. It also means that virtually everyone is a suspect when something heinous is going on. That was the case twelve years ago when letters harassing Charles Edward Kline known as "Chick" to one and all surfaced. No one was caught then and no one is a real suspect now in the current letter campaign.
What is being alleged now is a lot more serious. According to the letters Chick, now a successful small town attorney and twenty-six years old, is killing and mutilating animals and livestock in the area during the night hours. While some may believe the letters, others like retired police chief Dan "Sticks" Hetrick don't. Neither does Flora Vastine, an officer new to the force who unluckily found the most recent animal killing/mutilation.
Combining the threads of a disturbing mystery, domestic violence and at least two potential romances, this second novel in the series from author J. R. Lindermuth weaves a complex and very enjoyable cozy read full of murder, deceit and greed. Along the way he provides a revealing glimpse into a small town with characters just as real as your neighbors next door. Take the journey to Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania and you won't be sorry.
By J. R. Lindermuth
Whiskey Creek Press
Large Trade Paperback243 Pages
Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Brazos Writers in College Station, TX, is pleased to announce its
upcoming workshop, "The Real CSI: What Officers Wish Writers Knew
about Law Enforcement." Saturday, September 25, 8:30-11:00 a.m. -- A
former FBI agent and security expert shares information writers need
to know to make their crime investigation scenes match reality. Free
for members, $24 for nonmembers. Preregistration encouraged, but
registration available on-site. Find out more at meetings, from
members, or via the BW Facebook page or at http://
www.brazoswriters.org. All writers welcome!
Saturday, September 18, 2010
We never did go down to the Texas Gulf Coast as my parents had absolute zero interest. I had always meant to take the wife and later the kids down sometime on a trip to see the Alamo, and other sites but we never did get that done. Any traveling I do these days other than to the doctors and testing places is via my mind through reading. As such, when my wife picked up Galveston: A Novel from the library and brought it home for me, all I could think of was another famous song of Glenn Cambell’s titled “Galveston.” I hadn’t thought f that one in years and yet it played in my head as a constant backdrop to Nic Pizzolatto’s strong debut novel of the same name. Fitting his background as a proflic and accomplished short story writer in both literary and mystery venues, the novel is of two parts both of which could easily be read as rather long short stories.
Roy Cady goes by the name of “Big Country” and he is in real trouble – not just because of the junk in his lungs that his doctor just informed him is going to kill him pretty soon. Stopping smoking now isn’t going to save his life. Neither is the fact that the woman he loved, Carmen, is now making time with Stan, a bar owner. A bar owner who does a lot of shady stuff and employs Roy and several other folks as a crew to do various nefarious things for him. He has never fit in with this crew and recent events have not helped Roy.
Stan wants Roy and another guy, Angelo, to go visit a guy by the name of Frank Stenkiewicz and get him to do what needs to be done. His final instruction is for Frank and Angelo to not take their guns. Something Stan has never said before and that instruction as well as the way he is being talked to and Carmen’s behavior and other factors cause Roy to figure it for a set up. It is and before long Roy is on the run from New Orleans to Galveston with passengers that he can’t seem to get rid of for a variety of reasons. 1987 is not the best of time for Roy.
2008 is not much better though Roy is still alive. An old man walking his dog on a Texas beach should not be of interest to anyone. However, it doesn’t take Roy long to notice the ominous skies of the gulf predicting the coming hurricane or the man conducting surveillance on him. Old debts are finally coming due for many including Roy and this time he is not running from man or nature.
While crime is at its core, Galveston: A Novel is more of a literary character study of several characters. As such the focus is primarily on motivations and not so much action oriented as many books in the crime and mystery genre are. Therefore, those looking for lots of action may be disappointed as this novel is more about how one choice led to another choice which led to another ultimately delivering a fate twenty plus years in the making. A good novel that certainly isn’t run of the mill, author Nic Pizzollatto combines mystery and literary elements into a tale that is noirish and enthralling.
Scribner (Simon & Schuster)
Material supplied by the good folks on the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Gina Moretti wasn’t one of those girls who works in the adult industry and is stupid. She did her years, made lots and lost of money, and when it was time moved from in front of the camera to running her own company that supplied talent to the industry. She had made a name for herself as Angel Dare when she acted and she was a known commodity free of drugs, alcohol and in good shape. She parlayed everything she had into creating Daring Angels, her 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 is 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.
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 book weaves a twisting tale that is sure to entertain readers willing to take a look.
By Christa Faust
Hard Case Crime
Material arrived courtesy of my membership in the Hard Case Crime Bookclub.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2008, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
"The Play of Light and Shadow": http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/24377
"Stuffed Shirt": http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/24380
"PUN-ishing Tales: The Stuff That Groans Are Made On": http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/24380 A collection of all the groaners I've written to date.
"A Flash of Fear: Six Very Short Stories": http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/22337
"Slow and Quiet, Drift Away": http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/23417
This is the first story I ever placed outside of a school publication.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Writers Guild of Texas Meeting
Monday, September 20
7:00 -8:30 pm
To Be or Not to Be and Other Editing Quandaries
Presented by Cindy Vallar
At some stage in our careers, we've heard the advice, "Write the best book you can," but in today's competitive market, that isn't enough. As the publishing world contracts, jobs disappear, including editor and copyeditor positions. This is one reason why it's important to submit a well-polished manuscript. No submission is ever perfect, but the better edited it is at the start, the greater your chances of acquiring the representation or contract offer you seek. This workshop provides you with a checklist of what to look for in your manuscript to improve your chances at getting past the initial query. We'll discuss ways to tighten your writing, cause and effect, dangling modifiers, choosing the right word, general punctuation and grammar tips, and more.
A retired librarian, Cindy Vallar is the Associate Editor of Industry of Solander, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. She writes "The Red Pencil," a column that compares a selection from author's published historical novel with an early draft of that work. She is also a freelance editor, the Editor of Pirates and Privateers, and a content editor for Pyrates Way magazine. Aside from presenting workshops, Cindy writes historical novels and articles on maritime piracy, reviews books, and maintains her award-winning web site, Thistles & Pirates (http://www.cindyvallar.com).
Mark the third Monday of every month for the Writers' Guild of Texas meeting.
Meetings are free and open to the public. Held at:
Richardson Public Library
900 Civic Center Dr.
Richardson TX 75080
Writers’ Guild of Texas website: http://writersguildoftexas.org
WGT Yahoo Discussion Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WritersGuildofTexas/messages
The Writers' Guild of Texas is a nonprofit professional organization whose primary purpose is to provide a forum for information, support, and sharing among writers; to help members improve and market their writing skills; and to promote the interests of writers and the writing community.
Annual 2010 WGT dues of $20.00 may be paid at meetings, by mail to Writers' Guild of Texas, 6009 W. Parker Road, Suite 149-175, Plano TX 75093, or online at www.writersguildoftexas.org
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The past, the often painful and tragic history of Louisiana, has always been a major theme of the Dave Robicheaux series. It certainly is again in The Glass Rainbow. Detective Dave Robicheaux of New Iberia, LA is a bit outside his jurisdiction as the novel opens. He is over in Mississippi to see a long term convict by the name of Elmore Latiolas.
Elmore has heard that Detective Robecheaux has been asking around about seven girls that have been killed recently in a neighboring parish where local law enforcement is doing absolutely nothing to solve the case. The media says that the young teenage girls were prostitutes. Elmore tells Dave that one of the dead is his sister and that he’s sure that she wasn’t a prostitute or anything like that. He also is convinced that a guy named Herman Stanga is involved but can’t prove that nor provide Detective Ronicheaux any real reason Herman could be responsible other than personal animosity between the two men.
Detective Robicheaux knows Herman and what he is. If the man is not directly involved he might know who is so Dave goes to see the man. And like many of the characters in James Lee Burke’s novels, the man is rotten to the core while hiding beneath a thin veil of civility. He is just the start of yet another large group of characters whose public illusion is far different than their private evil. The case is not in his jurisdiction, at least initially, but that has never stopped Dave before in his pursuit of justice and the removal of evil from the face of the earth.
While the past has always been a theme of this series, recently in the wake of the real life destruction of New Orleans and the surrounding area by Hurricane Katrina, the novels have taken a hard turn toward the melancholy as Detective Robicheaux contemplates that final ending. That is very much the case here with Robicheaux, who has always been susceptible to visions, having a large number of them and other characters also seeing a dark future for Dave and his good friend Clete Purcel. That leads to a rather open ending that gives rise to a concern widely reported on many media outlets and other places about the series going forward that has been recently been laid to rest on the author’s website.
As always, there is a large amount of noir and Greek tragedy mixed together in the read along with plenty of scenic description, occasionally graphic dialogue, and tons of convoluted characters and complex plot points. James Lee Burke does not construct simple minded books. His books are dense, full of nuance and impactful long after the book is finished. The Glass Rainbow is another excellent book that serves not only as cultural history but also as a complex mystery and mighty good reading.
The Glass Rainbow: a Dave Robicheaux novel
James Lee Burke
Simon and Schuster
Material provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Written by 2002 Shamus Award Nominee Mark Troy, this fast paced and suspenseful novel revolves around Hawaii based private investigator Val Lyon. An ex cop, ex-con, and former pro basketball player, Val Lyon doesn’t tolerate idiots and has little patience for those who don’t do the right thing. Her latest case brings her to the office of Brian Magruder who used to work in the Honolulu Public Defender’s Office before going out on his own.
Part of the wealthy and politically connected Magruder family, Brian is a bit of a black sheep of the family as he has gone his own way. Among his many clients is Jean Pfeifer whose case has turned into a media firestorm. Jean claims that her ex-husband, Jason “Jock” Pfeifer abused their son, Nathan. Jean has stopped the visitations and has hidden their son in an effort to protect him from further abuse from his father. She faces contempt charges and jail time unless she brings Nathan back out of hiding and lets him see his dad. Something she isn’t going to do.
This strikes a chord with the media and the viewing public causing a media firestorm with Jean and her attorney at the center of things. Numerous groups get involved making Jean and by extension Nathan part of their agendas. That also ratchets up further the media scrutiny. Brian Magruder initially just wants Val to be part of the security team, and to protect Jean at a public rally the next day. With emotions running high on all sides, something is sure to go bade and it does. Soon, a simple body guard job morphs into a case involving death threat, blackmail, extortion and a missing child as well as the beginnings of a romance between Val and Brian Magruder.
While occasionally reminiscent of the Stephenie Plum type character because Val is also a woman with a sarcastic wit, Val is a much better character. Not only does she have a deeper and more complex background, she also learns from what happens and takes precautions as opposed to Stephanie who makes the same fundamental mistakes in book after book after book. Val is an evolving character over the course of the novel and one that builds quickly on experience.
That fact, coupled with a steady pace, plenty of twists and turns, and characters that come alive for the reader, it is no wonder this book was a Shamus Nominee. simply put, Pilikia Is My Business is a very good one.
Pilikia is My Business
Material provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2009, 2010
Sunday, September 05, 2010
I never did watch much of classic TV shows like Night Gallery or The Twilight Zone. Part of that was because my folks had pretty strict rules about what we kids could watch. The other part was that I never was into the creepy stuff. That is pretty ironic as a lot of my fiction is either rejected or accepted by editors with the stated reason alluding to the TZ qualities of the story.
Though I never saw very much of The Twilight Zone, the classic lead-in is legendary and one I am familiar with. Unlike me, Joe Posner watched a lot of the show in the late 50’s and 60’s. Not only did he watch a lot of the show but his own father as he notes in the introduction to “Joe Posner’s Pipe Dreams” knew Rod Serling. Through his Dad, Joe got to know Rod Serling a little bit and he even gave him some writing advice which he credits to his own successful and prolific career. Unfortunately, Joe never tells readers what that advice was.
By the 70’s, Joe was at USC and watching Rod Serling’s Night Gallery in his dorm with his buddies. It isn’t surprising then that life at USC in the 70’s plays such a prominent role in a number of stories in this self published collection along with obvious influences from The Twilight Zone series.
“Concrete Love Song” opens the collection with Chad Hunter having a very bad day. A nightmare is followed not even getting to eat his normal breakfast as his wife has left him according to her note. She took the car which means
Communication is also a major part of the next story titled “Ray of Hope” where the communication comes from beyond the grave.
“Pipe Dream” provides part of the title for the collection as well as good tale where Stony Parker decides to smoke a small piece of meteor fragment just to see what happens. After all, if pot is good, just imagine what an outer space rock would be like. A man simply can’t waste his smoking talents or what falls from the sky above.
People often claim credit for things they never created once the famous creator is dead and can’t prove otherwise. Such is the idea of “Sparrow’s Revenge” which has a fitting twist that would make Rod Serling proud considering the number of folks who have claimed their own involvement in his projects over the years.
Guest author Miriam Trimpe comes next with “The Ultimate Field Trip.” UFO’s are making landings and sometimes they pick up passengers though getting folks back home could be a problem.
“Mother Knows Best” follows next where Debbie Carpenter, who works at the San Diego Zoo, is in for a bit of a shock. Suddenly, the animals can talk to her and they aren’t happy.
While “Pipe Dream” has a definite ending, one knows there has to be more to the story. There is in “The Triangle of Time” that serves as a sequel of sorts featuring the continuing exploits of USC stoner, Stony Parker.
Make sure you have batteries, aluminum foil, and a roll of black electrical tape. After all, one never knows when a flying saucer will crash and the alien on board will need your help as the alien does in “Charlie’s Gift.”
The concluding story, “The Steve Machine” tells the tale of how far a famous actor and his doctor will go to keep the actor’s brain alive.
At 112 pages, this collection is a fast, enjoyable read that plays homage to Rod Serling and his work in a variety of ways. The read has a pulpy, campy feel to it indicative of simpler times and greater possibilities. A fun book, not to be taken seriously and an excellent way to spend a couple of hours in sheer escape where nothing is ordinary.
Joe Posner’s Pipe Dreams
June 16, 2010
Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2010
Friday, September 03, 2010
Family is often a background element in mystery fiction. Beyond the obvious biological family, detectives often have an extended family of sorts that they rely on for assistance. That isn't the case here where Marc has a very involved biological family, a problem that won't be solved easily, and virtually zero outside assistance.
The year is 1992 and the setting is
From the start this isn't something Marc wants to do but he really doesn't have a choice as he can't say no to Tio. They begin a search for Jasmine at the local indoor skating hangout known as "The Skate Key" counting on Marc's age as being a way to get other teens to talk. As they begin to look for her and ask questions they run into a wall of police indifference based on racism, kids that won't talk for a variety of reasons, and drug dealers that rule the streets. Tio Ramos is going to attack the problem the same way that he dealt with the Viet Cong in the jungles of
While NYC isn't
As he does the cynical world weary young college age student, Marc. Tio's nephew, Marc often sounds far older than his years and routinely expresses a cynical view of life, the world, and his family's place in things. Well aware that nothing can be fixed or reversed, he seeks to get the hunt for Jasmine over as fast as possible. Not because Jasmine could very well be in serious danger, but because he finds it all a bit much as she certainly needs to learn a lesson and besides that he has things to do. That sets up quickly a conflict between Tio, who sees family as everything and a reason for being, and Marc, who sees family as a burden to be tolerated.
Of course that results in conflict about strategies to employ in the search for Jasmine as well as how to deal with the other characters inside and outside of the family. While that conflict, that attention to detail could overwhelm the main theme of the work which is the hunt for Jasmine, it doesn't. Instead, it adds a depth and richness to a read full of intriguing characters, plenty of action and a twisting case which ultimately results in an intense and suspenseful novel.
The Concrete Maze
By Steven Torres
ISBN # 978-0-8439-5969-7
Mass Market Paperback
Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2010
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
There’s a lot of fear and loathing right now among authors and publishers regarding eBooks. Is this the beginning of the end for print books? The death of publishers? Will eBooks be a boon or the final stake in the heart for the midlist author? Nobody out there has a clue how all this is going to shake out. I certainly don’t, but I’m going to throw out some random thoughts on the subject and see where that leads. I’ll also be tossing out a few predictions. If I toss out enough, I’ll get lucky with one and will later proclaim myself the next Nostradamus!
First, eBooks are conceptually brilliant. Have one device replace 1000s of physical books, being able to buy books at the touch of a button, easily magnifying the text so those of us with declining eyesight can read without magnifying glasses. All this is great, but there are problems lurking in this. Right now the cost of eBook readers (Kindles, nooks, iPads, etc.) is between $139 and $829. This gets worse when you think that each reading member of the family will need a device. So the old paradigm was you buy a book and share it among family and friends; new paradigm, each family member has to buy an expensive eBook reader before they can share their books. This becomes even more problematic as eBook readers break, are lost or become obsolete. Think of it, you lose your eBook reader, you lose your library, at least until you replace it. You drop your eBook reader while on vacation, you lose your library and all the books you wanted to read. You might not even have to lose or break your eBook reader to lose your library. A glitch in their software might lose your library for you. Can’t happen? Hah! Happened to me and the tunes I bought for my iPod from Apple. And there’s little doubt that technology and the marketplace will march on and your eBook reader will at some point (probably a lot sooner than you ever imagined) become obsolete (think 8-track tapes, cassettes, etc.) and you will need to replace both your reader and library. Not going to happen? Ebook formats will always be supported by the next generation of eBook readers? If you believe that I’ve got some swamp land to sell you. Now some people are predicting that eBook reader prices are going to come down dramatically, which leads to my first two predictions.
(Prediction 1) Dedicated eBook readers, like Kindle and Nook, will try to lower their prices to gain marketshare, but they will go the way of the 8-track as consumers gravitate towards multifunction devices like iPads, which will not be lowering their prices substantially.
(Prediction 2) You think ADD is bad now, just wait until we have a generation of readers constantly interrupting their reading to check Facebook and email.
I can’t see the Kindle and Nook surviving, not when consumers can buy devices like an iPad which gives them also movies, games, and thousands of other applications, especially websurfing. Plus the iPad solves the biggest problem dedicated eReaders like the Kindle and Nook have now, mainly graphics, which children's picture books and textbooks need.
How are eBooks going to affect bookstores? I’ve read predictions that the tipping point is 25 percent, and bookstores can’t survive, and that this will happen by the end of 2011. Namely, once 25% of the book buyers have moved to eBooks, that will be the death of bookstores, and enough iPads will be given out as Christmas presents by 2011 that we’ll hit that 25% number. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but there’s no doubt that eBooks are putting pressure on bookstores. Amazon announced earlier that they’re selling more eBooks than hardcovers. For anyone who thought Amazon was stretching the truth, Harper just announced that for the first week of Laura Lippman’s latest book, they sold roughly 4800 ebooks compared to 4000 hardcovers. We’re in the midst of a recession, and this is not making it any easier for bookstores to survive. It would be a very sad cultural loss for bookstores to disappear, and as an author, it would be devastating. This leads to my next two predictions:
(Prediction 3) Large publishing is starting to diverge where they’ll be publishing in print only books for the large box stores, everything else will be digital only.
(Prediction 4) Small independent bookstores that can integrate themselves into their neighborhoods will survive and flourish, and will sell mostly books from small independent presses.
Over the last year I saw a statistic that the large box stores (Walmart, Target, Costco, etc.) sell 60% of all books. I don’t know if this is still true, but it sure seems as if the large publishers are rapidly increasing their blockbuster only mentality. With the chain stores struggling and the increasing pressure caused by eBooks, I see them only printing the so-called blockbusters that they can continue to sell to these box stores, and all other books will be put out only as digital with maybe small POD runs. On the other hand, the independent publishers will increasingly publish the books that these large houses ignore, and these are the books that will excite readers sick of the same old formulaic blockbusters being constantly recycled by the large houses. These more exciting independent press books will help allow smart independent bookstores to flourish during these uncertain times. But what about publishers in general? On the one hand they must love the distribution costs associated with eBooks ($0) as opposed to the high distribution costs associated with print books. But here’s the thing, if readers get sick of these large blockbusters, or stop buying them from box stores and instead buy them as eBooks, then these large publishers are dead. There’s no reason in that scenario for bestselling authors to cut them in. They’ll do it themselves. Which leads me to my next predictions.
(Prediction 5) The large publishers who continue to follow their current blockbuster only mentality will die.
(Prediction 6) The smaller, independent publishes who keep publishing the books they love instead of chasing after blockbusters like the big six, will flourish as they form a symbiotic relationship with like-minded small independent bookstores.
So this begs the question why wouldn’t the authors being published by the smaller houses do it themselves like the big boys will? Simple, the support by these publishers and small bookstores are critical to us smaller known authors. You look at the bestselling crime authors today, and few of them would’ve made it without small bookstores handselling them for years and developing them a readership. That’s what has been happening to me over the last few years as booksellerS who discover my books recommend them to their customers. This is going to be needed more than ever for writers in the eBook free-for-all that’s coming.
So these are some of my thoughts and predictions. While I think it’s clear things are going to be changing rapidly, I do see a glimmer of hope. Is #6 wishful thinking or an honest prediction? We’ll see.
Dave Zeltserman lives in the Boston area with his wife, Judy, and his short crime fiction has been published in many venues. His third novel, Small Crimes, was named by NPR as one of the 5 best crime and mystery novels of 2008. His novel, Pariah, was named by the Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009. Killer, the 3rd book in his 'man out of prison' noir trilogy was published in the