Hot New Titles we’re reading now. STAY TUNED.
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.
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.
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.
Okay, it’s time for my annual “Pin the Tale,” in which you randomly select one of 8 fab books by clicking from the list of “here”s below. Don’t peek at the covers until you’ve made your selection. All make fine beach reads.
On your marks, get set…. go!
We just received a copy of the latest addition to the super Akashic Noir anthology series: OAKLAND NOIR, edited by Jerry Thompson & Eddie Muller. Up to now, my favorite has been SAN DIEGO NOIR which is filled with dark gems. But heck, Oakland is a natural for the series, with its shadowy crimes and disgruntled cops. Looking forward to diving in. The book goes on sale April 4.
Speaking of Noir, it doesn’t get any darker than this new biography of Hitler by Volker Ullrich. With all that has been written about him, you’re probably wondering what’s left to say. Well as it tune out, there’s plenty. The most compelling book on Hitler’s early days and rise to power. ORDER
Here’s my hot pick for Spring…. take a trip to Hong Kong’s crime zone and discover Kwan Chun-dok — a veritable Chinese Sherlock Holmes. But what makes this masterful novel unique is its background history of Hong Kong…following the detective’s 50-years tracking down criminals.
This beautifully designed edition from Grove Press deserves a vote for best cover of the year. Tip of the cap to Gretchen Mergenthaler.
2016 was a surreal year (in more ways than one), so I dove right in at the source and refreshed my sensibility with THE SURREALISM READER: An Anthology of Ideas, edited by the goddess of surrealist studies, Dawn Ades (also
While swimming in experimental waters, I’m glad I found a sandbar and Anne Garréta’s novel SPHINX. It’s not surprising that one of the few female members of Oulipo penned one of the most engaging Oulipian novels to date. It’s a remarkable genderless love story— complex and mesmerizing.
I couldn’t wait to curl up with RAZOR GIRL and—sure enough—Hiaasen had my number again. As expected, the book had enough black humor to float the boat and a finely drawn character— (how could he miss with a detective demoted to a food inspector in Key West)— Andrew Yancy . The guy surely deserves a sequel (Ya listening Carl?) But I won’t call this novel a “page-turner” because I refuse to resort to cliches. (Oops, too late.)
What? Another book with “girl” in the title, there must be some mistake. Well, instead of GIRL ON THE TRAIN which derailed midway through for me, I’m recommending THE CROW GIRL If you’re hungry for a hefty helping—784 pages—of Swedish noir., it doesn’t get any better (or darker) than this. A superb translation, too.
Got twists? This novel is a corkscrew, and, yes, there are moments when you say “couldn’t happen,” but then you have those nagging second thoughts after watching the local news and it doesn’t matter anyway because THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR is just plain creepy fun. A clever first novel by author Shari Lapena.
French PI Aimée Leduc needs no introduction, of course, nor does her creator, Cara Black. I was a bit worried Cara. Black had run out of Paris neighborhoods, but then along came MURDER ON THE QUAI and I gladly donned my beret. The book is a “prequel” that will satisfy fans of the series—especially since Aimée’s backstory has often been alluded to and was begging to be told.
For those who’ve yet to meet Ms. Leduc, there’s no better place to start than at the beginning.
Enjoy these wintry reads and have a great 2017!