ffb: Torch Town Boogie by Steven Womack

this is the 142nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books 

Torch Town Boogie by Steven Womack, Ballantine Books paperback original, November 1993 ($4.99) - Harry Denton, private investigator

Torch Town BoogieIt was a magnificent fire, a marvelous fire, the kind of fire whose brilliance penetrates even closed window shades and eyelids.

Fire is scary enough, arson downright frightening and the latest fire is so close to Harry Denton’s apartment that he can stand in his bedroom and watch the conflagration from his window. The newspapers have dubbed – not very creatively – the person starting fires all over Eastern Nashville the “East Nashville Arsonist” and this time the house torched was the best in the neighborhood, a big old Victorian belonging to wealthy psychotherapist Will Elmore, whose burnt remains are found in the basement. Harry gets a call from his ex-wife Lanie who wants his help. Seems she and Elmore were engaged and Elmore had already changed his will so she’ll get everything, which makes her  - you guessed it – the prime suspect.

This Harry’s second case. He’s now been a P.I. for ten months, and he’s still struggling to keep his business going and pay his meager expenses, like rent on his one room office and his two room apartment. His old Ford’s on it’s last legs and he needs a case, any case. That doesn’t mean he’s particularly happy when his ex-wife wants to hire him, but the fact is he needs the money.

Sometimes when I’m reading a mystery I have to make myself remember that people do things without thinking about the consequences. It’s easy enough for me as a reader, with the whole past, present and future sequence of events in my hands, to think at a character “Oh come on, you’re not really going to do ‘that’, are you?” Yet when I consider, ‘that’ is perfectly logical in the context of events from the character’s point of view. Not smart, maybe, but logical. It’s just that I know this is a murder mystery, and something bad’s due to happen pretty soon, and this is pretty obviously gonna be it, and if the character is smart he’ll turn right around, go home and read a book. Now wouldn’t that make an exciting story. So characters do things that turn out to be a bad idea, that’s the way life is, and when it comes to bad ideas it seems Harry Denton is on a roll in this book; taking his ex-wife’s case, getting involved with an arson investigation, lying to the cops and then things really start to go downhill.

The one thing that’s going good for Harry is his love life. He and his girlfriend Marsha, an MD at the Medical Examiner’s Office, are getting closer by the day, and that gives this tale of arson and murder a nice place to go when Harry’s not getting himself into trouble. I liked the first book in this series, Dead Folks Blues, (reviewed here) and I liked this one even better.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

 

Posted in At Home in Portland | 5 Comments

New Arrivals and Current Reading, April 7 – 13, 2014

New Arrivals
Two books this time, and they couldn’t be more different.

Duncton Tales by William Horwood [Harper Collins Publishers UK 1991 hardcover, purchased used] – fantasy-adventure, allegorical novel featuring a community of moles. The books are of a kind with Wind in the Willows (Ratty, Mole, Toad, Badger etc.) and Watership Down (rabbits); allegorical novels with animal characters. I came across, bought and read Horwood’s Duncton Wood (published in the UK in 1980) in 1982. I wanted to get the rest of the trilogy in hardcover, but they proved hard to find. Then Horwood wrote a second set of three Duncton books, The Book of Silence which proved equally elusive. I’been getting very good condition used copies as I find them, this is the first volume of that second set. I have found and ordered a couple Duncton books from booksellers in the UK.

The Dr. Zeng Omnibus by E. Hoffmann Price, W.T. Ballard & Robert Leslie Bellem [Altus Press 2011 trade paper, purchased new] – adventure. Seven short novels which originally appeared in Thrilling Mystery and Popular Detective between 1941 and 1944. The stories are of Doctor Zeng Tse-Lin’s “battle with crime and menace in the mysterious world of San Francisco’s Chinatown.” Never completely reprinted until this volume.

Current Reading
I finished and enjoyed Jeffrey Siger’s Murder in Mykonos and have started reading the second in the series, Assassins of Athens. Between those books I read The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel, enjoying it a good bit for the facts it contained. I’m also continuing to read short stories.

Barbara finished Louise Penny’s How the Light Gets In and then read Trickster’s Point by William Kent Krueger and now is reading Tamarack County  also by Krueger.

What new did you get, what have you been reading?

Posted in Current Reading, New Arrivals | 11 Comments

ffb: Gone No Forwarding by Joe Gores

this is the 141st in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

Gone, No Forwarding by Joe Gores, Random House, 1978 hardcover, private eye  -  3rd DKA (Mysterious Press edition shown)

“On the way from Harlem, Bart Heslip switched cabs three times and then caught a plane from Newerk because he was afraid they might be watching Kennedy and La Guardia.”

gone no forAnd so my set of three Joe Gores reviews come to an end. This third DKA novel, like the second, begins shortly after the previous one ends. A month or so has passed, and the work of repossessing cars and tracing missing persons continues. Then The California State License Bureau subpoenas Dan Kearney to appear at a disciplinary hearing. At stake is his private detective license. It appears someone in the State License Bureau has it in for Kearney & Associates. Who and why?

According to the state, a Kearney & Associates employee mishandled funds. The employee who took the cash and gave the receipt is now dead, so DKA must find other testimony to the facts. There’s no doubt the whole thing is a set-up, but only seven people were in the office that rainy afternoon just before 5:00 p.m. Most of them have disappeared, thus the Gone, No Forwarding of the title.

The search intensifies when it becomes clear that Kearney’s staff aren’t the only ones looking for the potential witnesses, particularly a black woman who left Kearney employment as a clerk for the fast money of prostitution before she completely disappeared from the bay area. These other searchers are ruthless, and don’t mind killing if it gets them closer to their goal.

Some plot elements from the first two books in the series continue in Gone, No Forwarding in such a way that I can’t help but think of this as a trilogy. There is sufficient continuity between these books that they could have been published between one set of covers without causing the least discomfort to the reader at the ending of one and the beginning of the next, and this book brings things to a very satisfactory conclusion while introducing elements of the next  - very good indeed – book in the series, 32 Cadillacs.

Joe Gores writing is crisp and doesn’t get in the way of the story. I recently read a comment from someone who said Gores’ books are “light”. If the term is used as an antonym to “dark” I could agree, but not if the term was used to indicate the books are fluff. No, there’s no gore splattered across the pages, but these books are about the people and the process of finding people and answering questions, and they do that as well as any I’ve read. Read all three back to back and I think you’ll agree.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

Posted in Friday Forgotten Book, mystery | 5 Comments

New Arrivals and Current Reading, March 31 – April 6, 2014

New Arrivals
Three books plus a pamphlet. One of the books is a hold-over from Left Coast Crime, one bought as a result of a Friday Forgotten Books post, the other new from a favorite publisher.

Death Rides the Zephyr by Janet Dawson [Perserverence Press 2013 trade paper, purchased new] – mystery. I enjoy mysteries with a train setting, whether they are on, in or have a railroad background. This is tagged a thriller, but Dawson’s discussion of it on a panel at LCC convinced me to buy it. The book dealers at the con ran out of this one, so I got it at the book store when we got back. This one doubles as an historical mystery, as it takes place in the 1950s.

Redheads Die Quickly by Gil Brewer, edited by David Rachels [University of Florida Press 2012 trade paper, purchased new] – mystery short story collection. I bought this one as a result of reading Sergio Angelini’s excellent March 28 2014 Friday Forgotten Book post on The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer. Late in that post he says:

[...] the first-ever collection of Gil Brewer short stories, Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories (edited by David Rachels) has now come out, and it includes the first-ever authoritative list of the author’s short stories. It includes 25 stories, all published in the 1950s – for a complete listing of the contents, click here. It is now available from the University Press of Florida”

How could I pass that up? Thanks for that great post, Sergio. I admit that the darker noir stuff, some of which may be found in the collection, are not greatly to my taste, but I’ll read this a story at a time, here and there amongst other books, and plan to enjoy it when I do.

Nothing Is Impossible by Edward D. Hoch [Crippen & Landru 2014 limited edition hardcover, purchased new] – mystery short story collection. The latest Hoch collection by the short story publishing specialist, this is subtitled “Further Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne” and has fifteen stories plus introduction and a Sam Hawthorne checklist.

“A Slight Mistake” by Aaron Elkins [Crippen & Landru 2013 pamphlet, gift of publisher] – mystery short story.  This 6 page short story originally appeared in EQMM, and was published in this format in honor of Malice Domestic’s awarding Elkins a Lifetime Achievement award. I’ve read most of Elkins’ Gideon Oliver novels and enjoy them.

Current Reading
I finished Jeffrey Sigel’s Murder in Mykonos and have ordered up the second book in the series from the library. It’s just arrived. I read Death Before Compline by Sharan Newman (see my review here. The seven very entertaining short stories gathered here were initially written for various themed. I like Newman’s writing and need to get back to her series, the first two of which I have read, some years ago. I also finished Zoo Station, a WW II spy novel by David Downing, the first in his series of books about John Russell. I’m currently about a third of the way through The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel, the book on which the recent film was based. So far it’s very interesting.

Barbara finished June Gilliam’s House of Cuts, which she said was “okay”. She followed that with The Beautiful Mystery, an Inspector Gamache novel by Louise Penny, then went straight on to the latest in the series, How the Light Gets In and finished that. We’re both eager for Penny’s new one, which comes in August.

What new did you get, what have you been reading?

Posted in Current Reading, mystery, New Arrivals | 16 Comments

ffb: Final Notice by Joe Gores

this is the 140th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

Final Notice by Joe Gores, Ballantine Books  -  1973 hardcover, edition read and shown, Mysterious Press – private eye  -  2nd DKA

“She was a willowy girl wearing a skirt that was too short. At first glance her face held so much vivacity that Ballard thought she was feverish. Then he realized the glitter of her eyes came from contact lenses.”

F-NoticeThis book picks up where Dead Skip (last week’s FFB) leaves off. The same cast of characters is engaged in the same activities at Daniel Kearney Associates, and of course they run into trouble. One of the DKA investigators takes a pro-style hit which is partially foiled. It’s quickly apparent that the hit was aimed at Dan Kearney, not the operative who wound up in the hospital.

Of the pair of attackers, Bart Heslip gets to one before he can hop into the stolen getaway car. Bart reacts to his own attack (previous book) and puts the man in the hospital. The attacker is identified as a semi-pro hit man who works at Padilla Trucking in the east bay. Sure, over the years there have been plenty of people who might have a serious grudge against Kearney, but who would try to kill him, or have him killed, on the sidewalk in front of his place of business? Things are no clearer when it becomes apparent Padilla Trucking is run by the Mob.

Then there’s the Cadillac with the comic book on the front seat, hundred dollar bills between the pages, enough to make the back payments which have caused a repo order on it. Is it just another odd occurrence, or can it be tied into the hit?

Gores continues to show us the workings of a detective agency who do their business step by step, tracking down leads, doing the paperwork, taking a methodical approach to finding the reasons, and the perpetrators. The DKA books are P.I. agency procedurals and for me the format and characters work beautifully with the plot. This book naturally follows Dead Skip and you can finish one and pick up the next as if you were starting a next chapter instead of a new book. I happen to like that a lot. Gores doesn’t spend many words catching you up on previous events, each books stands alone but there are enough hints to make sense of references to past events and to justify character motivations when necessary. Another excellent book. I’ll do one more Gores book next week.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

Posted in Friday Forgotten Book, mystery | 13 Comments

Death Before Compline by Sharan Newman

Death Before Compline by Sharan Newman, stories © various, Bagwyn Books 2012 trade paper, historical mystery short story collection

Richard

This volume contains seven stories originally written by Newman for various themed collections over the years, each featuring characters from her series. Seven murders, seven solutions. The setting is France in the early to mid Twelfth Century, mostly in Paris but also as far afield as Rouen and Germany.

I like Newman’s series, what I’ve read of it (the first two). Her characters – here as in the novels – are intelligent, her settings well described and highly researched. I enjoyed hearing her talk at the 2014 Left Coast Crime convention, and bought this book there. It took me just an afternoon to read, and it was time enjoyably spent. Very nice stuff.

Posted in mystery | 5 Comments

New Arrivals and Current Reading, March 17 – 30, 2014

New Arrivals Oh yes, we have new arrivals. Mysteries and more mysteries. It’s what happens when you go to a mystery convention.

note: we saw and got a lot of self published books. People who self publish need to proof, proof and then do it again, or better yet, use an editorial service!

I’ll start off with the books in the convention book bags. Between us we’ll read maybe two-thirds of these. Also in the bags there’s always an old issue or two of a mystery mag. These are from 2011.

Billy Boyle by James R. Benn [SOHO Crime 2006 mass market paperback, new] – mystery. Set in World War II, first in an eight book series.

Buried by Kate Watterson [TOR 2014 mass market paperback, new] – mystery. Third in Detective Ellie MacIntosh series.

Dove Season by Johnny Shaw [Amazon Encore 2010 trade paper, new] – mystery. Debut novel.

Evil in All Its Disguises by Hilary Davidson [Forge 2013 trade paper, new] – mystery. Psychological thriller, author’s third novel.

Jail Coach by Hillary Bell Locke [Poisoned Pen Press 2012 hardcover, new] – mystery. First in Jay Davidovich series.

Murder in Retribution by Anne Cleeland [Kensington Books 2014 trade paper, ARC, free] – mystery. Author’s second mystery novel.

Providence Rag by Bruce DeSilva [Forge 2014 hardcover, new] – mystery. Hard-boiled.

Not all book bags are packed with the same things, so there is always a swapping table where people can put books they don’t want and pick up other ones they do. We swapped out our duplicates and picked up these.

Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin [Felony & Mayhem Vintage, 2007 paperback, new] – classic mystery. Originally published in the U.K. in 1948

Zoo Station byDavid Downing [SOHO Crime 2007 paperback, new] – mystery. “A John Russell World War II spy thriller”.

What You Wish For by Janet Dawson [Perserverence Press 2012 trade paper, new] – mystery. Suspense novel by the author of the Jeri Howard series.

 And then there are the books we paid cold hard cash for. The four Barbara bought first, then the four I bought.

Bone Pit by Bette & J.J. Lamb [Two Black Sheep Books 2013, new] – mystery, third in series. Barbara bought this after seeing Bette Lamb on a panel. Barbara has already read this. She liked the book but all of the typos and mistakes that an editor should or would have caught drove her crazy.

Cold Morning by Brenda Chapman [Dundurn 2013 mass market paperback, purchased new] – mystery. Bought based on Thursday morning panel. Second adult novel by author of several YA mysteries.

House of Cuts by June Gillam [Gorilla Girl Ink 2013 paperback, purchased new] – mystery. Gillam was on the first panel Barbara attended and she bought this just after.

Secret Thoughts by H.S. Clark [Grand Media 2012 paperback, new] – mystery. A medical thriller. Barbara saw Clark on a panel and was intrigued.

 Nightcrawlers by Bill Pronzini [Forge 2005 hardcover, used] – mystery. The 30th in the Nameless series, one I didn’t have.

Tip of A Bone by Christine Finlayson [Adventure Publications 2013 trade paper, new] – mystery. First novel, set on the Oregon coast, the author intrigued us at her panel. Looks very interesting.

Death Before Compline by Sharan Newman [Bagwyn Books 2012 paperback, new] – mystery. Historical mystery short story collection. Newman is an excellent writer and I like historical mysteries, so I got this seven story collection.

That’s the listing of the books we brought home from Left Coast Crime. We became aware of other authors whom we’ll search out at the library, but it will be a while before we need to do that, these will keep us busy for a while.

Current Reading
I finished the second volume of Liaden Universe short stories before we left for LCC, and startedA Question of Proof A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake, his 1935 first novel, which I finished in Monterey. It was old-fashioned but fun. I read Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger which I enjoyed and will be seeking the 2nd in that series. Before I start on another novel, I’ll read some short stories.

Barbara finished William Kent Krueger’s Northwest Angle (very good indeed) in Monterey. She went on to finish Bone Pit by the husband and wife writing team of Bette and J.J. Lamb, which was good but plagued with typos and insufficient editing, and finished House of Cuts yesterday.

What new did you get, what have you been reading?

Posted in Current Reading, mystery, New Arrivals | Tagged | 20 Comments

Left Coast Crime Convention, 2014 – wrap-up

LCC 2014 bookWe had a blast. Went to more than the usual number of panels, caught up with friends, the weather was great.

The convention ran from Wednesday, March 20 (early registration) then Thursday, March 21 through Sunday, March 24, with panels and interviews on all four days. When we go to mystery cons, some of the time is panels, depending on the topics and panel members, some is socializing, some time is just out and about. We like to attend panels looking for new authors, so sometimes we just sit in and see what happens. This can result in a few duds, but over all we enjoy listening to what the authors have to say.

THURSDAY
We got down to Registration early, got our book bags (see the New Arrivals post on Monday). After a so-so breakfast at a joint up the street, I headed into the book room while Barbara went to Thrills and Chills: Medical and Psychological Thrillers with H.S. Clark, June Gilliam, Bette Lamb (half of the writing team J.J. Lamb) and August McLaughlin. This kind of mystery is right up Barbara’s alley, and she liked it a lot, buying a couple of books right afterward.

Then I joined her for Mysteries in Different Lands panel, with Janet Hubbard, Jane Matthews, Pricilla Royal and Jeffrey Siger. For me, the takeaway from this one was Siger’s Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, the first of which, Murder in Mykonos, I bought after the panel. I’m a third of the way in, and enjoying it very much.

Next was Bobbies vs. Mounties with Brenda Chapman, Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie and Louise Penny. I’ll go to any panel with Louise Penny. The title had little to do with the discussion, which was mostly about the role of the police protagonists in the books. This was a good one! Then we walked to the Crown and Anchor for good food, good beer.

FRIDAY
We had rolls and coffee, some chat and before we knew it, it was time to head for the first of several panels. The first, In the Beginning…Reminiscing was a lot of fun. Jan Burke, Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller just talked about the early days of their first books and the female P.I. Nothing much new to me, but a lot of humor and it was a feel good panel.

When Setting Matters with Timothy Hallinan, Sara Henry, Craig Johnson and William Kent Krueger. Krueger is the other author at LCC that I wouldn’t miss. Caroline Todd did a good job of moderating this and it was a very good panel, focusing on the role setting plays in the author’s books. I have read two of the authors and they do setting very well, especially Krueger, so it was interesting to hear him talk on how he plans setting as an important element in his plots. For me, the best panel of the con.

After some time enjoying the Monterey peninsula, and lunch out, we returned in time for Murder Across the Pond with Laura Anderson, S.K. Rizzolo, Priscilla Royal and Jeri Westerson. We’d never heard of any of these folks, but what the heck. Locations discussed were France and England, and for me there wasn’t much interest generated.

Last panel of the day was Crime Fiction, the Bigger Picture which had Janet Dawson, Guest of Honor Cara Black, Aaron Elkins, Craig Johnson and Laurie R. King. The panel title made little sense, and they ignored it. Unfortunately, Laurie King said little, but it was a pretty good panel.

The day wrapped up for us with a 45 minute interview of International Guest of Honor Louise Penny, conducted by Minotaur Books’ Andrew Martin. For us, this was a highlight of the convention. The following night Penny’s novel How the Light Gets In won best novel set outside the U.S. After the interview, we had a nice dinner at a local restaurant, then returned to the room to read and try for a good night’s sleep.

SATURDAY
Again, we started off the day with coffee and sweet rolls in the lobby, then off to Mysteries with a Meaning with Jacqueline Winspear (M), Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny and Michael Sears. The “meaning” of the panel title was the author’s perspective on crime in the novel beyond the crime-pursuit-solution aspect. It was an interesting discussion, and the type of mysteries each author writes, from traditional British (Cleeves) to police procedural (Penny, Crombie) to thriller (Sears) gave a variety of perspectives. During the audience question period, they had to hush up a fan who tried to ask a spoiler-filled question.

It was at this time we realized we were both so tired we decided to cancel our awards banquet tickets and made plans for a light supper. On to the next panel.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Detectives with Cara Black, Janet Dawson, Libby Fischer Hellman and William Kent Krueger was a good one. Krueger talked about all the bad things he’d put his protagonist Cork O’Conner through, and the others countered with the trials of their characters and how to get them into – and out of – the kind of jams the plot called for. I’d hoped to talk to Krueger after this panel, but he was mobbed after the panel and there was a very long line for his signing. At the awards ceremony, Krueger’s Ordinary Grace won best novel set in the U.S.

IMG_0187_2After a nice lunch with friends Kate Diere (left), Ted Hertel (2nd from right) and Thom Walls (right), followed by a walk, we returned to the hotel and went to Mystery Aficionados: The Books We Love and Why, with Les Blatt, Deborah Lacy, Barbara Fass Leavy and Donus Roberts. This panel promised to be good but let us down. The only connection to the genre one of the panelists had was having written a critical study of the novels of Ruth Rendell, which might have been fine if she’d had anything at all to add to this panel other than to state that she was an academic and didn’t have any favorite mysteries. (!) Another of the panel members only reads “classics” for reviews on his website so only mentioned Sayers. This left Blatt and Lacy to toss a few favorite authors at us, and the panel was highlighted only by a snafu with the air conditioning system requiring windows to be thrown open.

An hour later it was time for Historical Murder Around the World with Ann Parker, Sharon Newman, Frederick Ramsey, John Maddox Roberts and Priscilla Royal. I like historical mysteries, so I enjoyed hearing the authors talk of the setting and era of their books, and just after the panel I bought Newman’s recent short story collection Death Before Compline. I really should read more historical mysteries.

That was it for Saturday. We had a light meal, read. I finished the book I’d taken to the con, A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake. I then started Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger. We were asleep before the banquet was half over.

SUNDAY
Last day of the con. These things always seem like they’re suddenly over. There were hardly any people in the lobby except for a few checking out. We’re staying another day but the place was already almost deserted. There is one more panel on our list: A Day on the Beach: Murder at the Seashore with Larry Collins, Christine Finlayson, James Preston and Mara Purl. We’d never heard of any of them, they’re all new authors who were put on a last day panel. The person we found interesting was Finlayson, mainly because she lives in Portland and sets her mystery (she’s working on a second one) in Newport, on the Oregon coast. Of course we bought her book and had her sign it.

The last thing on the schedule was an interview with Lifetime Achievement Honorees Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. The interview was conducted by J.J. Lamb who talked about his personal friendship with Marcia and Bill, and had a batch of questions which allowed one word or single sentence answers, causing a lot of silences and awkwardness. Still, stars will shine and it was a mostly interesting wrap-up to the con.

From there on we had a relaxing day and a half before the drive home. We stopped on the way on the first day to visit Art Scott, a friend from when I was in DAPA-Em, a mystery APA. Had a great visit and tour, then back on the road. We stopped at the The Olive Pit, and bought some stuff, then stayed in an awful room in Redding. Next day we had a very stormy drive through the Siskiyou mountains and up the Willamette Valley to home sweet home.

Posted in Travel | 23 Comments

ffb: Dead Skip by Joe Gores

this is the 139th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

Dead Skip by Joe Gores, Ballantine Books  -  1974 paperback  (hardcover first published in 1972), private eye  -  1st DKA

 “The 1969 Plymouth turned onto Seventh Avenue, away from Fulton, away from Golden Gate Park. It was a quiet residential neighborhood in San Francisco’s Richmond District – white turning black with a sprinkling of Chinese.

Gores-DeadSkipThus begins one of the best procedural private eye novels you’ll ever read. From the beginning the process of Daniel Kearney Associates (DKA) doing business makes this book a standout. Joe Gores knows the PI trade from personal experience and his repertory cast go about their business: taking care of all the paperwork, scheduling and routine it requires.

DKA deals primarily with skip tracing, collections and auto repossessions. In this novel Bart Heslip has recovered a Mercury and returned to the DKA offices. He leaves again but only gets as far as the sidewalk before he is hit across the back of the head so hard it sends him to the hospital, in a coma, hovering between life and death. Dan Kearney is not amused and he devotes all the personnel he can muster to track back and try to discover who did it.

The novel follows the trail, winding and twisting, to the end and every step makes perfect sense, every move logical without always being predictable, the story pushing the reader to keep turning the pages. The plotting here is tight and flows smoothly from peak to peak, but the moments when the characters slow to take a breath, and there aren’t many, reveal the character through a thought, a casual act, a brief conversational exchange. I had read this book before but it had been quite a while and I didn’t remember how it all came out. It’s a tribute to Gores, or else a sad comment on my memory, that I was still puzzling almost until the conclusion. Gores is skillful at introducing and developing his characters, and at weaving them into the plot. I like his writing, the tone of it, the way the action is paced.

Gores wrote as well as any PI writer of the time and these books still are potent. He’s one of the few writers whose books I bought and read as soon as I could get my hands on a copy. This first DKA novel is the place to start when (not if!) you start reading his books. Highly Recommended

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

Posted in Friday Forgotten Book, mystery | 8 Comments

LCC (travel & arrival) Day 2

Mt ShastaThe pretty part of the drive (see photo) – but the longest driving day – is over, now it’s just down the flat Interstate 5, over past San Jose (song jingle deleted) onto the 101 and into Monterey. Depending on traffic, we should get there about 2:00 – 2:30 this afternoon, including a late breakfast stop somewhere.

i-i-oIt’s been almost five years since we moved from California to Oregon, so that means I’ve been missing something I really like a lot: In-N-Out Burger.  Since it was dinner time when we got in Redding last night, we ate at (as Barbara says it, a “real” restaurant), so today was the day. When we hit Vacaville I drove straight to the establishment. It was great, the photo is my bonafides.

In Monterey, we expect weather in the mid-60s and clear. People will be arriving, so who knows who we might run into. The con starts tomorrow, so if we’re not tired from driving we have things to do in Monterey and Pacific Grove. Barbara is reading William Kent Krueger’s <i>Northwest Angle</i>, which we’ll get signed this weekend, and I’m reading the first of Nicholas Blake’s mysteries, <i>A Question of Proof</i>, written in 1935, which I will not get signed.

We each have a few panels we want to see, the rest of the time is people-place stuff. Expect to see Ted Hertel tomorrow or Friday. Tomorrow, the con begins.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 8 Comments

LCC Day 1

Really this is travel TO LCC day one, but who cares about technicalities? The trip from top to bottom of Oregon is really beautiful, especially in early Spring, when the Willammette Valley is warming, the pastures and fields are green, the lambs are gamboling (as lambs are wont to do), the hill and mountainsides are clothed in deep green conifers. Myriad rivers, creeks and streams follow or duck under the freeway. A decent lunch and a leg stretch or two filled the 7 hour drive into Northern California past Mt. Shasta. [note: Lake Shasta is horribly low. The drought has dealt a nasty hand.]

So it’s a walk, dinner at The Cattleman, and I may catch one of the NCAA play-in games, or not.

Tomorrow, on to Monterey.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 3 Comments

New Arrivals and Current Reading, March 10 – 16, 2014

New Arrivals
I was listening to the program Here and Now on public radio about a week ago and there was a very good segment on visiting Eudora Welty’s home in Jackson, Mississippi. The piece had recordings of Welty speaking of her writing, her childhood in that house and reading snippets of novels and stories. The host discussed Welty’s influence on southern writers and how, along with William Faulkner, her writing defined life in the south in the early and mid decades of the 20th century.

I realized I’d only read one Welty story, probably in college or soon after, and I wanted to read more. The Library of America seemed the obvious place to go to obtain the works I wanted.

Complete Novels by Eudora Welty [Library of America volume # 101, 1998 clothbound, new copy] – fiction. The Robber Bridegroom, Delta Wedding, The Ponder Heart, Losing Battles, The Optimist’s Daughter.

Stories, Essays & Memoir by Eudora Welty [Library of America volume # 102, 1998 clothbound, new copy] – fiction. Contains A Curtain of Green and Other Stories, The Wide Net and Other Stories, The Golden Apples, The Bride of Innisfallen and Other Stories, selected essays and the memoir One Writer’s Beginnings.

Obviously I’m not going to read all this in great gulps, but plan to dip into the short stories and then tackle a novel. Once I’ve done that, I’ll decide how to proceed.

Current Reading
I finished the story collection  Constellation, Vol. 2 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. That made two very thick collections of Liaden Universe stories I’d read, back to back and after that I need a break. Just in time here comes Left Coast Crime (see previous post) and some immersion in mystery fiction. I’ll take a book or two, as always, to the con but expect to pick up something there. For the time being, some mystery short stories will suffice.

What new did you get, what have you been reading?

Posted in Current Reading, New Arrivals | 11 Comments

Left Coast Crime

We’re busy getting ready to head off to LCC; planning, packing, loading the car and all that for a drive to Monterey. Sorry for no Friday Forgotten Book post. There will be a brief New Arrivals post Monday. I’ll be checking here for comments, what you’ve been doing and reading, etc. and I’ll be making updates from the con.

CalamariCrimeBanner

The last con we went to was Bouchercon in San Francisco, and we’re not going to Long Beach for Bouchercon so LCC in Monterey is our only one this year. Next year LCC will be here in Portland, by the way.

While our house & cat sitter cares for things at home, we’ll be on the road. It’s a two day drive, straight down the I5, the length of Oregon and past Mt. Shasta to Redding, CA. then down past the bay area and into Monterey.

The plan is to go to some panels, meet and have meals with friends, possibly buy a book or two…  I’m a huge fan of both William Kent Krueger and Louise Penny, who will be there, Pronzini-Muller are Lifetime Achievement awardees, and both Sue Grafton and Laurie King are participating, so it should be fun. I’ll post a full report after we get back.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 8 Comments

Signs of Spring

While much of the country is suffering late snow storms, heavy rain with chance of floods or too early summer heat, here in Portland, Oregon it’s Spring. Though we’re still dipping into the high 30′s at night, the days are in the 50′s and we’re getting sunny, or partially sunny days between days of rain showers. The garden is coming on. Take a look, and mouse over or click to get the description and a bigger image:

Last weekend we planted sixty Gladiolas in our Iris beds to extend the flowering in those places, added a dozen Callas and fed and turned the soil in the yet-to-be-planted Summer Bed (we plant it on April 15).

The big Garden Fair, a hundred nurseries and sellers in one place, one weekend, is mid-April and once we come home from that we dig in, literally. We love this time of year.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 4 Comments

New Arrivals and Current Reading, March 3 – 9, 2014

New Arrivals
Ah, a flurry of goodness.

Firstly, I now have the complete set – I already have volume 1 - of the MacBride & Kennedy collected stories. All three with an introduction by Evan Lewis.

Shake-Down: The Complete Cases of MacBride & Kennedy Volume 2 by Frederick Nebel  [Altus Press 2013 trade paper, new copy] – pulp mystery story collection.

Too Young to Die: The Complete Cases of MacBride & Kennedy Volume 3 by Frederick Nebel  [Altus Press 2013 trade paper, new copy] – pulp mystery story collection.

Winter Kill: The Complete Cases of MacBride & Kennedy Volume 4 by Frederick Nebel  [Altus Press 2013 trade paper, new copy] – pulp mystery story collection.

Then there are the other things that knocked on the door. More Liaden Universe novels from Baen, one an omnibus, one a single novel. Yes, one of these days I’ll read them.

The Green Hornet: Still At Large edited by Joe Gentile, Win Scott Eckert & Matthew Baugh [Moonstone 2012 trade paper, new copy] – pulp hero original story collection. Another 17 original stories featuring Hornet and Kato. I thought the first two collections were a lot of fun.

The Crystal Variation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller [Baen 2011 mass market, new copy] - science fiction omnibus. More Liaden Universe. This contains three novels: Crystal Soldier and Crystal Dragon are the first two novels, in the internal chronology of the books. The third novel here is Balance of Trade. 

Ghost Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller [Baen 2011 mass market, new copy] - science fiction novel. Another novel set in the Liaden Universe.

Current Reading
After finishing Here, There, Everywhere by William Least Heat-Moon I dug into a couple of short story collections I’ve been working on for what seems years, no need to mention names yet again. I have several books calling to me and hadn’t decided which to start, when Constellations volume 2 came from the library. I’m about halfway through it’s near 480 pages.

What new did you get, what have you been reading?

Posted in Current Reading, mystery, New Arrivals, science fiction | 11 Comments

ffb: Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

this is the 138th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham, Carroll & Graf  1994 paperback, ISBN 0-7867-0441-1, first published in 1930, featuring Albert Campion, amateur Sleuth

“I’ll bet you fifty dollars, even money,” said the American who was sitting nearest the door in the opulent lounge of the homeward-bound Elephantine, “that that man over there is murdered in a fortnight.”

Mystery Mile by AllinghamThis is the second Campion novel and his early characteristics are nowhere more evident. The plot here isn’t much less bizarre than the protagonist. This may be the most unbelievable of the Campion novels but it is also a great deal of fun. The term “willing suspension of disbelief” comes to mind.

A series of attempts on the life of Judge Lobbett have resulted in the deaths of several other people instead. Judge Lobbett has been a thorn in the side of an international gang and the gang’s leader, the legendary and much feared “Simister”, wants him dead. It’s only a matter of time until one of these attempts succeeds so Lobbett decides to leave the States and travel to England where, presumably, he will find safety.

On the ship during the voyage Campion foils yet another attempt. The Judge’s son Marlowe determines to retain the services of the amateur detective to protect his father. The decision is made to take the Judge, his son and daughter to Mystery Mile, a country estate in Suffolk. Unfortunately Simister’s minions, and death, are not far behind.

The plot is incredible, much of the supporting cast fantastic as Campion battles the criminal mastermind. Campion’s multiple personas, countless contacts and the vacuity of his expression is repeatedly in evidence. There is a bizarre tint to some of the scenes in this book worthy of a George Chesbro Mongo book, and I found the denouement of the villain satisfying. Campion’s morose ex-con “assistant” Lugg is much in evidence in this book and he’s one of the things I like the best about it.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

Posted in Friday Forgotten Book, mystery | 16 Comments

New Arrivals and Current Reading, February 24 – March 2, 2014

New Arrivals
It’s all science fiction this time!

I very much enjoyed the short story collection Constellation, Vol. 1 by Lee & Miller [Thanks again to Carl Anderson at Stainless Steel Droppings for the review that led me to it!] so I decided to try a novel. The more I looked into the Liaden Universe, the more I wanted to read a lot of it, so I’ve gotten these omnibus volumes to get started:

The Agent Gambit by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller [Baen 2011 mass market paperback, new] – science fiction omnibus contains two novels:  Agent of Change and Carpe Diem.

The Dragon Variation Sharon Lee & Steve Miller [Baen 2010 mass market paperback, new] – science fiction omnibus contains three novels: Local Custom, Scout’s Progress and Conflict of Honors

Now for some older and less serious stuff:

Whistle Stop in Space by Kendell Foster Crossen. [Altus Press 2013 trade paper, new] – science fiction. I enjoyed the first of the Manning Draco story collections, Once Upon A Star a lot so I ordered this one. These are fun, quick reading, just the thing for a Winter’s afternoon.

Johnny Mayhem – the Complete Series by Milton Lesser writing as C.H. Thames [Pulp Tale Press 2013 paperback POD, new] – pulp science fiction stories. Thanks to Bill Crider, for whom no superlative is too great, I was made aware of this collection of 1955-1958 stories from Amazing Stories. A romp.

Current Reading
As mentioned above, I finished the story collection  Constellation, Vol. 1 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I finished Here, There, Everywhere by William Least Heat-Moon, a very enjoyable collection of Heat-Moon’s short form travel writing. That made a nice break before my plunge into some short stories of various genres and then my first Liaden Universe novel (not sure which one yet).

What new did you get, what have you been reading?

Posted in Current Reading, New Arrivals, science fiction | 17 Comments

New Arrivals and Current Reading, February 17 – 23, 2014

Reading, watching Winter Olympics, walking in the rain, sipping hot cocoa with little marshmallows on it, reading blogs, planning for Spring in the garden, quilt planning, chores and errands. The days are packed. How did I ever have time for work?

New Arrivals.
Restraint continues, just two this time.

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias [TOR 2014 hardcover, new] – science fiction. Bought because of reviews read and the teriffic cover by Thom Tenery. This one has human-alien culture collision as it’s primary theme.

Fledgling by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller [Baen Books 2010 mass market paperback, new] – science fiction. I’m enjoying the short story collection Constellation, Vol. 1 by these authors enough to try a novel. This one, though far from the beginning of the Liaden Universe books is, I understand, a good jumping in place.

Current Reading
I’ve been reading between watching the Winter Olympics which end Sunday. Reading will pick up as I watch very little evening television. I finished The Everything Store about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com, which was interesting. I’m two-thirds through Constellation, Vol. 1 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, which is over 500 pages of short stories. Good stuff. Next up after that is Here, There, Everywhere by William Least Heat-Moon, subtitled Stories from the Road a collection of Heat-Moon’s short form travel writing.

I also read a couple of books on conifers from the library, as that is our winter gardening interest of the moment.

What new did you get, what have you been reading?

Posted in Current Reading, New Arrivals | 17 Comments

ffb: The Dragons of Archenfield

this is the 137th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

The Dragons of Archenfield by Edward Marston, historical mystery

This the third of Marston’s Domesday Books, following The Wolves of Savernake and The Ravens of Blackwater. I came into the series with this book, enjoyed it and bought and read the first two.

Dragons of ArchfielsThe year is 1086, two decades after the Norman conquest, and the setting is the former Welsh stronghold of Archenfield on the quiescent English border. William the Conqueror has sent tribunals throughout the lands to assess taxes and survey land-holdings. This is how information was gathered for the well known Domesday Books, and each of Marston’s Domesday novels draws upon an actual entry of this historical document.

Dragons deals with a murder, land disputes along the Welsh border, and the distrust between Welsh, Saxon and Norman. The characters are believable and the two main protagonists quite likable, each in his own way.

This third volume of the Domesday Books starts off, literally, like a house afire. The house fire traps and burns alive Warnod, a Saxon thane scheduled to testify before Soldier Ralph Delchard and lawyer Gervase Bret, the Domesday commissioners.

On the ground outside Warnod’s house, a red dragon, symbol of Wales, is drawn. Which of two Marcher lords, bitter rivals, is bent on creating trouble and why? Aided by the obstreperous, chauvinistic Welsh priest, Archdeacon Idwal, Delchard and Bret get to the bottom of the mystery but only after two bloody skirmishes. Marston clearly sketches his historical setting and the fights for the spoils of war and conquest. The pace is slow at times but the setting so interesting I hardly noticed.

I’ve continued buying the series but am currently a few books behind in my reading of it. Here are the Domesday series titles, in publication order:

The Wolves of Savernake
The Ravens of Blackwater
The Dragons of Archenfield
The Lions of the North
The Serpents of Harbledown
The Stallions of Woodstock
The Hawks of Delamere
The Wildcats of Exeter
The Foxes of Warwick
The Owls of Gloucester
The Elephants of Norwich

Recommended for readers of historical mysteries.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

Posted in Friday Forgotten Book, mystery | 6 Comments

New Arrivals and Current Reading, February 10 – 16, 2014

Again, No New Arrivals.
IMG_2310I’m reading between watching the Winter Olympics (but starting to get burned out on the coverage and commercials). Yesterday we went for a rainy walk by the Willamette River, which is as high as we’ve seen it, though not in danger of flooding. Then we came home, had hot chocolate. Nice day.

We had a hell of a wind storm last night, a real howler, with rain. No power loss but a wakeful night. Lots of small branches and leaves to clean up when next the skies are dry.

Current Reading
I’d gotten halfway through Constellation, Vol. 1 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, from the library when three more books popped up on the library ready-for-pickup list. The first one is The Everything Store about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. I was on a long wait list for it so I had to stop reading one to start on the other. Two came the next day, both mysteries. I may end up returning one or two of those and requesting them again at another time.

What new did you get, what have you been reading?

Posted in Current Reading, New Arrivals | 17 Comments