Devoted followers of ZOOM STREET will be familiar with the late French writer Pascal  Garnier. Indeed, Garnier quickly became one of my favorite practitioners of noir fiction after I read his short novel, THE PANDA THEORY in 2014. The author manages to blend  eerie, atmospheric suspense with jolts of black humor.

 Gallic Books  has, for years,  been treating American readers to superb translations of the author’s noirish novelettes  in compact, uniform editions. If you’ve  missed these stand-alones, you’re in luck  because the publisher has just released GALLIC NOIR (Vol. 1),  a  collection of three Garnier novels. This is the first of  three volumes and in addition to THE PANDA THEORY, it  includes HOW’S THE PAIN?  and THE A26.

I suggest you start with this collection—especially since it contains my fave—and by the time you’re finished you’ll be hungry for Gallic Noir: Volume 2.

As for the cover…  my first reaction was:  Aha!—a hook to lure beach-goers in search of JAWS!  But then I realized the shark was  a good metaphor for Garnier’s fiction, as  the menace  lies below the surface of the mundane,  and a strong undertow draws you out… just beyond the lifeguard’s reach.















Foggy Past & Present


Three noirish novels set in the City by the Bay — what more could you ask for to start the summer off. Two take place in the 1940s, and one in the future.

Kelli Stanley‘s addictive series featuring Miranda Corbie sails on with CITY OF SHARKS. Thick with atmosphere and hard-edged nostalgia, the novel’s undertow  is the war in Europe which is pulling America into the conflict. Miranda is planning to travel to England in search of her mother, but a new case has its tentacles around her. A  publisher has been murdered and a manuscript is missing. The shadow of Alcatraz suddenly rears up like a shark’s fin and the plot grows more complex and seductive.

Christopher Moore‘s NOIR is hard-boiled humor—fog, snakes and wisecracks. Moore plunders the genre for clichés to hang his fedora  on (“She was a blonde, the dirty kind…”) and you will find yourself smiling throughout. The terrain is familiar, but the ride proves a nice distraction during a heatwave.

THE NIGHT MARKET is an eerie dystopian novel set in the not too distant future. In fact, the city’s skeleton is a completely recognizable dreamscape turned nightmare.  Something is terribly wrong. in the city,  but  apparently no one saw it coming. Jonathan Moore‘s  novel will be compared to Blade Runner and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but he’s managed to carve out his own space in speculative fiction. Don’t miss it.




For all those with short attention spans, I’m  sticking the bottom line at the top: If you love noir, suspense, dark humor and lowlife characters, don’t miss SUNBURN.

It’s 100% pure virgin noir (hold the virgins): dead-on dialogue,  hard-edged clever,  with occasional jolts of wit like electroshocks.  (The only “noirist”  who manages this effect so well  is the late French writer Pascal Garnier.)

In SUNBURN, Laura Lippman pays subtle homage to  James M. Cain,  but she beats him at his own game here. Yeah, she’s that good.

The story takes place back in 1995,  so you won’t find anyone staring at an iPad  or taking selfies. The characters don’t  have Facebook pages, but if they did you can bet they’d all use fake identities. In fact, there’s so much lying going on in this novel, the characters would feel quite at home in Donald Trump’s White House.  But don’t get me wrong, there’s no politics in this novel, just undercurrents of good old, Made-in-USA corruption.

The setting is Belleville, Delaware….think small and seedy, like a hundred other no-name towns across America—where nothing much happens and folks live quiet lives of desperation.

In other words, a perfect place to disappear.

Also, a nice place to visit and lose yourself.

Grab it on Amazon 

REVIEWER’S NOTE: the original version of this review stated Belleville is a real place. It’s not. I wish I could claim that I lied (that would be in keeping with the novel), but I misread my Google search.



Michael Wolff’s bestselling FIRE AND FURY rode into bookstores Friday on a fiery wave of buzz, hype, and hysteria. The latter response coming directly from the White House, when an enraged POTUS threatened the book’s publisher with a lawsuit, and Henry Holt responded by moving up the pub date and printing more copies.

The impulse to gobble down a behind-the-scenes political book is often a guilty pleasure. Hell, it’s fun to feast on nasty revelations and dive deep into  the “dirt.” FIRE AND FURY, however, offers more. Although many of the juiciest  tidbits have already leaked out, the  book is still well worth reading. It not only provides deft descriptions of its bizarre cast of characters, but  offers memorable passages that rise high above the usual political hack-job. The sheer transcendent style of the writing makes this special. It reads like a novel by Terry Southern (think Flash and Filigree  and The Magic Christian), with a strange menacing undertow below the surface.

Wolff dissects the dark heart of Trumpism with cunning, cadence, and wit, and  lays bare the chaos and malice that storms inside the administration. Hundreds of interviews are skillfully woven into the narrative  in a manner that dispels the fog with shocking clarity. The daily web of hard-to-follow machinations are shaped into a tale that — despite its absurdity — is graspable.

Since there were no physical copies of the book  available in Sonoma County, I bit the bullet and downloaded the e-book. While reading the first fifty pages, I found myself frequently using the highlighter tool to preserve paragraphs for reading aloud later or sharing with friends.

Here are two examples; the first on Trump’s inaugural address:

Much of the sixteen-minute speech was part of Bannon’s daily joie de guerre patter—his take-back-the-country America-first, carnage-everywhere vision for the country. But it actually became darker and more forceful when filtered through Trump’s disappointment and delivered with his golf face. The administration purposely began on a tone of menace—a Bannon-driven message to the other side that the country was about to undergo profound change. Trump’s wounded feelings—his sense of being shunned and unloved on the very day he became president—helped send that message. When he came off the podium after delivering his address, he kept repeating, “Nobody will forget this speech.”
George W. Bush, on the dais, supplied what seemed likely to become the historic footnote to the Trump address: “That’s some weird shit.”

Here’s Wolff’s description of the dual-realties theory of Trump politics:

This had led increasingly to the two-different-realities theory of Trump politics. In the one reality, which encompassed most of Trump’s supporters, his nature was understood and appreciated. He was the antiwonk. He was the counterexpert. His was the gut call. He was the everyman. He was jazz (some, in the telling, made it rap), everybody else an earnest folk music. In the other reality, in which resided most of his antagonists, his virtues were grievous if not mental and criminal flaws. In this reality lived the media, which, with its conclusion of a misbegotten and bastard presidency, believed it could diminish him and wound him (and wind him up) and rob him of all credibility by relentlessly pointing out how literally wrong he was.

Beyond the leaked revelations, exquisite writing and sharp analysis make FIRE AND FURY a must.

It’s not just another guilty pleasure.


Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
by michael wolff
henry holt & co. 336 pages

click to order on amazon



Merry Mystery Christmas!

We’re wishing everyone MERRY mysteries this year.

There’s plenty of mysteries and crime fiction to choose from., but here are four off the top of our list

We always start our shopping at SOHO CRIME  — this  imprint publishes some of the best mystery writers around, including Cara Black, James R. Benn, Francine Mathews, and  Peter Lovesey, to name a few.

Lovesey, of course, is best known for his stellar Peter Diamond series, and boy we’re in luck because his latest is Beau Death  which launches Dec. 5th. (Looking forward to reviewing it in 2018. That’s a hint to Paul Oliver!)

Lovesey has also contributed  to a delightful new anthology, THE USUAL SANTAS featuring holiday-themed tales by Helene Tursten, Mick Herron, Martin Limón, Timothy Hallinan, Teresa Dovalpage, Mette Ivie Harrison, Colin Cotterill, Ed Lin, Stuart Neville, Tod Goldberg, Henry Chang, James R. Benn, Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis, Sujata Massey, Gary Corby, Cara Black, Stephanie Barron. There’s also a  forward by Peter Lovesey. Lots of goodies in here, and one of our faves is Mick Herron‘s “The Usual Santas.” Set in a fashionable  mall in the UK on Christmas Eve, 8 Santas are  gathered in celebration of their gig’s end, when they suddenly realize there’s a mysterious ninth Santa among them.


Next stop is MINOTAUR BOOKS — .another hot mystery publisher which, this year, gifted us with Jane Casey’s LET THE DEAD SPEAK —  the latest in her Maeve Kerrigan series.

A richly plotted  thriller with wicked twists, this novel has  a drop-dead ending that will haunt you long after reading. Maeve is a character who lives and breathes,  thanks to Casey’s mastery.  Beyond  the carefully layered suspense, he relationship between Kerrigan and DCI Derwent  is complex and compelling. If you have yet to  encounter the series, you’re in for a treat.

Looking for noir under the tree, well the late French writer  Pascal Garnier writes novelettes  that are dark and laced with black humor . Gallic Books has been making all of his books available in excellent translations.

When we read  Garnier’s THE PANDA THEORY we were hooked. Had the late Terry Southern written a thriller, it might have been this. We recently read THE ESKIMO SOLUTION which is as noir as Simenon but with an edginess that is uniquely Garnier’s. Here a writer gets a tad too close to his protagonist

It’s not for the squeamish.

To end the year with laughter, our friend Norman Conquest asked us to mention two new Black Scat Books.

The first publication in English of the master humorist Alphonse Allais‘s collection, LONG LIVE LIFE! — stories culled from the pages of LE CHAT NOIR, packed with madcap (and bawdy) tales of love, adultery, the supernatural, military life, and fake news. These texts are quintessentially Allaisian, spiked with absurd digressions, parenthetical asides, footnotes, puns, jokes, military jargon, Parisian slang, neologisms, dog Latin, literary quotations, and other unmentionable forms of wordplay. This special Black Scat edition features four additional  short stories not included in the original French volume, as well as a lively introduction, illustrations, and fascinating notes on the text by Doug Skinner.

And in the stocking stuffer category comes this fictional reference book:

Le Scat Noir Encyclopædia contains entries from Acrostic to Zwine, and features contributors from around the world—some of whom are distinguished professors at prestigious universities. Others are Nobel Prize winners, while a few have been arrested on felony charges. Discover rare factoids, flash fiction, nubile moon spew, mythological arcana, cabalistic pathogens, pataphysical detritus, scatological schemata, crypto-heuristic scripture, and radical homomorphism.

Over 100 pages of profusely illustrated weirdness.


See y’all next year — have a blast!








As you can see I’ve got a lot of reading to do. A surreal trip to Paris, then down the rabbit hole into the Trump Zone courtesy of Matt Taibbi and Joshua Green.  Deeper still into Pascal Garnier‘s latest. And hey — look, Michael Connelly has launched a new series!  Can’t wait to dive into Jane Casey‘s latest novel — oh yes, I’m a Maeve Kerrigan groupie.   Take my word for it, I’m an expert even though nobody listens to experts anymore, right Tom?

Full report soon.