Monday, August 06, 2018

Lost My Buddy

Snowball's last day on the planet was last Thursday. I haven't been able to do anything since. Today I'm determined to mine the muck and pull something through that needs doing. The poor guy had snarfed an antibiotic for a tick-borne disease up into one of his nasal passages, burning it shut. About thirteen grand later and several trips to Manhattan for surgery, he had four tubes in there that helped him breathe.

It seemed like no sooner did he get his feet back under him then this gorgeous, white-blond Golden Retriever came down with cancer in his lymph nodes, and it quickly spread to his liver. Repeated chemotherapy and steriods did nothing other than give him temporary bursts. We tried, we threw another ten grand at it, but he never went into remission, he just kept growing steadily worse. Then finally last week we made the call.

He was six years old.

My seventh out of nine dogs, so far, and he was a special one. There was an intelligence in his eyes that's been matched with another dog I've had, maybe two. An emotional intelligence, where you know you both know what you're thinking. A real dog owner/lover knows what that means.

Hears to you, Snowy. Our hearts are heavy and we miss you, pal. You were a great friend. Those walks in Central Park were special.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Book Review: DOWN TO NO GOOD by Earl Javorsky

Earl Javorsky's third novel, and second in his "Charlie Miner series, Down to No Good, is hopefully the sign of great things to come. The book itself is written in a hard-bitten style though the story revolves around a very real--and a very fake--spiritualism. When writers try to bring hard-boiled prose to other genres, Javorsky's done what they're trying to achieve. The plot could kick into full steam sooner and allow itself to grow more complex, but for the sheer joy of reading a no-nonsense, existentialist nearly hard-boiled prose, Down to No Good is as hard to beat as it is to put down.



Pretty good stuff, people. If you're in the mood for discovering someone new, here's a guy on a plate....

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Quick Book Review: JACK WATERS by Scott Adlerberg

Back from New York, the Noir @ the Bar was a lot of fun--best crowd I've seen at the Shade bar in the Village--and my car is even out of the shop. It shot craps coming back from Florida a couple of weeks ago and when I finally got two mechanics to get it back on the road, the check engine light came on. One of the problems was the catalytic converter had gone bad, they said.

"No," I told them. "I just had it replaced in January."

"This is the other one."

"There's TWO?"

I hate cars. And the check engine light had come on for two problems, one of which needed the dealer. And then there was a problem with the steering, but that came from the catalytic converter the first mechanic had used. Fortunately they put a factory replacement in and all is well and while I still hate cars, I like that someone actually cared enough about customer service to eat the additional cost to do a job right and keep a customer happy.

Anyway, I'm in the midst of people waiting on me for things, so here is a review I posted on Amazon for Scott Adlerberg's latest, Jack Waters. Stylistically, Scott makes brilliant choices and I cannot remember the last time I felt I learned something artistically from someone else's novel. Of course it's happened, and happened a lot, it's just been a long while. And then comes this gem.

Really cool stuff. And they make great gifts.

The very best lessons often come as epiphanies, and in JACK WATERS, Adlerberg has taught me something wonderful with his book about style. "Show, don't tell" is not just a cliched rule or advice for a writer, it exists as an aphorism because it is--I thought--more or less a universal truth. With this book, Adlerberg "tells" the entire book, with very little "showing," and he pulls it off brilliantly. From the beginning he made me realize that this is how fairy tales and myths are told, this is how legends are told and re-told in the oral tradition. Whatever inspired Adlerberg to write this book in this style was a masterstroke and deserves to be not only read widely, but written about as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Key West Mystery Fest

Every year there's a jewel of a conference in one of the happiest places on Earth not named Tijuana, the Key West Mystery Fest. I go every year and you should, too, or at least this year. It is too small to get lost in and big enough that they bring impressive people to talk to us.

Last year I had a chance to meet Clifford Irving, he of the infamous Howard Hughes autobiography hoax, and later, at a reception at the Hemingway House, one of Ernest's grandson, John. He gave a nice talk and signed and inscribed a nice copy of his book to me.

Everyone breaks bread together and rendezvouses for dinner at a local spot. The closing event is a brunch on a dockside restaurant. After all the information and stories you get from local, state and national law enforcement, various writers, agents and other people associated with the business, you will not be sorry you came.

And if you're in the hotel pool and one of the iguanas decides to come out of a palm tree and take a watery short cut, be cool. It's Key West, man, it happens all the time.

June 22nd through the 24th. Seriously. If you're in Florida, it's a no-brainer. And it's much cheaper than other conferences held in the state. And if you're not in Florida, jump on a plane. What's better than a summer vacation in the Keys? It beats walking in the park with a stick in your head. Or whatever that phrase is.

I hope to see you--you--there....

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Quick Addendum and Blood Oath

I was just on Amazon's site and I forgot a biggie for my list of Books I Will Not Read: ANY BOOK that comes up as a "Sponsored" book when you do a search on a particular writer. That's a disgusting practice of Amazon's, especially when they list their sponsored books first, ahead of the author you're actually trying to look up.

And they have the effect of squeezing my own stuff out of what should be my own list, which is long thanks to the many introductory essays I've written in addition to my own books. When a certain former President declared certain companies "too big to fail," I thought that was full of crap. Amazon, however, may be too big to fail because there is simply nothing to replace it unless they really, really transgress.

Sadly, they made their bones as a bookseller but now they treat books with the same reverence as bird food and you don't want to know how many books I return because they simply have a robot drop them in an envelope and let the post office swallow it up. It's actually luck if a book arrives undamaged and it becomes a question of damage tolerance and "return fatigue" when I get book shipments. Yes, there are alternatives, and I use them, but the fact is that if I used them for everything I couldn't buy as many books.

And I still need to get bird food from somewhere.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Books I Will Never Read

Books with titles similar--they don't have to be exact--to Sins of the Father or The Good Son, The Good Wife, or probably The Good [anything]. Nothing with the word "Prodigal" in it. Almost certainly no book titled with a Biblic quotation. Definitely nothing that has "White People"--it just isn't funny (and no, you don't know how I mean that, you just think you do).

Copycat titles have worn thin, like the "Girl" books, although I've read several. I keep waiting for someone to write The Absolutely Last Damned "Girl" Book That Will Ever Be Published. That would be a must-buy in hardcover.

Titles derived from Shakespeare lines have also seen their time. Especially if I don't recognize the line, then I'm just distracted by how stupid and miseducated you've made me feel.

Books with the word Baby are okay if they reference dames, chicks, women, ladies, tramps or trollops, but not so much when they mean an actual "baby" baby. Unless the baby smokes a cigarette and rides a hog, I'm passing.

Don't tell me you can't judge a book by a cover. Why else do we put art on them? Titles are part of them, which is why publishers reserve the right to name the books whatever they want because they almost always retain cover design and part of that cover design is the title. I suppose we're lucky they like our names.

Nursery rhyme titles seem to be artifacts from the eighties but I guess it would depend on the actual one used. Little Miss Muffet isn't a big name draw. Besides, Andrew Dice Clay already used that one.

All of these rules can be broken, of course. There are always exceptions. They just need three little words below or above the title: James Lee Burke. That'll get me every time.

Help Each Other Out

Hey, there, it's been a while. There was a time there when I thought there was no way I'd ever recover from the busted hand but now, though still buried, I believe I can see the makings of a light. The long-awaited, much-anticipated BLOOD WORK anthology should be finished with CRX and bios tomorrow, then I'll get back to work on DOWN & OUT: The Magazine #4, and then I need to finish a new piece to read at a Noir @ the Bar event in Manhattan the Sunday after Thrillerfest.

This morning I saw where Anthony Bourdain killed himself. I thought what I always do when someone takes their own life: they needed someone to save them. When you're in the darkness it surrounds you and there is no way out. Somebody else must bring the doorway to you. How you sustain that is anyone's guess. I wish I knew the answer. I was not a fan but I was barely familiar with his work.

I just kinda sorta have the notion that the key to stopping depression-based suicides lies with the unafflicted. It's easy to let yourself be driven away by someone in the midst of self-destruction. If I'm looking out for number one, if I just can't do it anymore, that may be all I can do but what a pity for the pain I'm leaving behind if I could only see through it. Before someone destroys themselves they often try to destroy those around them, not that I'm implying Bourdain did any such thing. I only base those statements on what I've seen. Or think I have. I may spend too much time alone these days.

There are several changes I have to make on the Schedule page and I'll try to get to those after BLOOD WORK goes back to the publisher. Noircon 2018 has been canceled due to the death of one of the co-founders, so I won't be going to Philadelphia this year, at least as of right now.

As I mentioned above, I'll be reading a new piece at Shade Bar in Manhattan on July 15th, more details to come this weekend (hopefully--soon, anyway). And I'm registered for the New England Crimebake for the first time. I was there a couple of years ago just to sign books but not as a regular participant. William Kent Krueger was there and he said we should catch up later and I just said okay as the surge of people carried him past. Then I left. I feel bad about it, but it was the simplest thing to say, and I'm sure he has no recollection of it. He has an excellent story in BLOOD WORK. When I suggested an alteration to the last lines he told me to go jump. You get that sometimes.

I should post more on that book, too, so I will. Right now though, it is a quarter of two in the morning, I'm on my fourth course of antibiotics for that same damned sinus infection I wrote about a couple of posts and a few months ago, and I think it's time to floss and brush. I need to be careful that I don't puncture the balloon that is my face.

By the way I'm reading Danny Gardner's excellent A NEGRO AND AN OFAY: The Tales of Elliot Caprice and enjoying the style immensely. Pretend "ofay" is a nice word, Bobby, and pick up a copy. I'm afraid the title may put some people off but the book is too good for that. At least the first half. I've been staying up too late working and not getting enough time in reading.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Saturday Celebration

This Saturday, March 31st, I get to go to one of my favorite places in the world, Minneapolis's own Once Upon a Crime Bookstore. Formally owned by Gary Shulze and Pat Frovarp, it has been taken over by the quite capable hands of the Abraham family and on Saturday they are holding their 31st Birthday bash for the store!

From 12 Noon to 2:00 p.m. 26 native sons and daughters will show up to mingle, chat and sign in an informal meet and greet so this is an especially great event for people who have always been too shy to come out to these things before.

I'm driving in from New Hampshire and then heading down to Florida. Someone told me it's on the way. So stop on by and say hello or ask me to introduce you to someone you'd really like to meet. That's always cool.