Pin the Tale: The Summer Random Reading Game

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!

The High Lit life here.  Snicker & guffaw in the hallowed halls here.   Berserk circus hijinx here. Behind the obscenes in scary Oz here.  Thai one on  here.  Catch some ruthless thrills here.  Iceland means murder here  The bitter half of a happy marriage here.

 

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Chills

Here are a few cool  titles we’re looking forward to.

[click on covers for more info]

crow girl

cabin 10

You Will Know Me

Harrow

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loney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND watch for our reviews of  Peter Lovesey’s new novel and a prequel to Cara Black’s popular series.

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Lost and FOUND!

I hope you’ll forgive a bit of self-promotion here,  as this has been a long time coming.

I’ve been on the missing persons list for a few months, putting the finishing touches on my book MISSING MYSTERIES: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF NONEXISTENT MYSTERIES. I began this massive satirical reference back in 2011 and it has finally launched—in a shiny,  full-color, large format paperback edition from Black Scat Books.

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I might as well let the blurbs speak for themselves because—frankly—I’m pooped.

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“Derek Pell is quite mad, in rather a brilliant way.”Lawrence Block

“Pell’s satire doesn’t lack for sharp edges. His twisted humor is sure to appeal to crime-fiction lovers.”J. Kingston Pierce, THE RAP SHEET

“This book is a lot of fun!” —Steven Heller

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Copies are now available worldwide on Amazon. CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Summer Mysteries

What would summer be without a good crime novel, noir, or whodunit?  An empty hammock, as far as we’re concerned. So here’s a round-up of titles that’ll keep you awake nights this summer.

sleepingThe Spike Sanguinetti series by Thomas Mogford is new to me, and I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading SLEEPING DOGS, just released by Bloomsbury. The opening is so good I dare anyone to put the book aside once they’ve opened it. Murder on Corfu, perfect.

signwaveHot off the press comes the thriller SIGNWAVE by Andrew Vachss (Pantheon Books), part of the popular “Aftershock” series. Vachss has made quite a name for himself (even if it looks like a typo) and for good reason. He knows how to make the reader jump. Assassins and murder abound in SIGNWAVE.

LOCKEDIf you’re in the mood for short stories packed with puzzling scenarios, I again recommend THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF LOCKED-ROOM MYSTERIES edited by Otto Penzler (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard). It’s loaded with genre luminaries: Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Lawrence Block, Erle Stanley Gardner, Dorothy L. Sayers, Georges Simenon, and many others. There’s even a locked-room tale by P.G. Wodehouse — “Death at the Excelsior”— holy Jeeves!  Bet you didn’t know the esteemed humorist began his career writing detective stories. I didn’t. Since this book is 900+ pages, you probably won’t be lugging it to the beach. Instead, keep it on your bedside table.

SD NOIRIf the ‘spirit of place’ is your thing, grab one of the anthologies in the Akashic Noir Series. My favorite is SAN DIEGO NOIR edited by Maryelizabeth Hart – 15 stories and not a lemon in the bunch. If you don’t know what city to choose, try their USA NOIR —  a selection of the best American noir. Cape Cod? Yes, and also Richmond, VA and other places you might not associate with the genre. In fact, the only location that seems to be missing is Disneyland Noir, but that’s probably in the works.

GHOSTSThe one city that screams noir and mystery is, of course, San Francisco. Regular readers of this blog know my favorite series set there is Kelli Stanley’s Miranda Corbie mysteries. To date, there are three, the most recent being CITY OF GHOSTS. Not only does Stanley bring SF in the 40’s to life, her female PI is an unforgettable character — you’ll fall in love with Miranda. So here’s the deal: buy all three and start with CITY OF DRAGONS. You’ll thank me.

oldAnd while I’m on the subject of San Francisco, I have to mention Jim Nisbet — a writer of hard-bitten noir novels that go where few writers dare travel. I recently got around to reading OLD AND COLD (Overlook Press) and let me put it this way: only Nisbet could get away with two nonstop interior monologues in the head of a homeless, schizophrenic hitman addicted to martinis. Yes, this book’s beyond “offbeat.” It has strains of black humor and enough suspense to keep you flipping through its 160 pages in a single sitting. Thumbs up to Overlook for keeping Nisbet’s seedy San Francisco within reach.

crime-lbIf you want a fab overview of American crime fiction, there’s Lawrence Block’s THE CRIME OF OUR LIVES which covers the best & the brightest Chandler, Hammett, QueenMacDonald, Marlowe, Westlake, and many more. Makes for a bracing chaser when you’re between novels.

 

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SUMMER CHILLS

SAVOYMillions of mystery lovers know the best way to beat the heat is with a Swedish crime novel—preferably a series like the Martin Beck books by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö  (available from Vintage Crime/Black Lizard). If you’re one of the few people on earth who haven’t discovered this quintessential Swedish series, you’re in for a thrill – ten books! While I’m thinking of it, let me add a  word of caution. When you get to #6,  MURDER AT THE SAVOY, DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION.  It’s a perfectly fine introduction, but it reveals the ending of the final book in the series THE TERRORISTS (#10).  May I suggest to the publisher this simple remedy: in the  next printing  add the words “Spoiler Alert. Readers can then go back and read the intro once they’ve finished the series.

But what does one do when – like me – you’ve read all the Martin Beck books twice?

pyramid1The answer: lose yourself in the 13 Kurt Wallander novels by Henning Mankell. All are available in paperback from (you guessed it) Vintage Crime / Black Lizard. Don’t think because you watch the popular BBC series based on the books that you don’t have to read them.  Good as the TV productions are, they only scratch the surface tension. If you want the real deal, you’ve got to eyeball the words.

I’m spending my summer vacation with Wallander and I invite you to join me with the first in the series, THE PYRAMID. (Watch this page for a future review.)

9781616956264-398x600Another sure thing for summer is Peter Lovesey’s DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN (Soho Crime), part of his Peter Diamond Investigations. I’ve read them all except for UPON A DARK NIGHT  but I’ll fix that soon enough. See my previous post for more on Lovesey.

mountainLooking ahead to the dog days of August, don’t miss TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN by Arne Dahl from Vintage Crime / Black Lizard. This novel is part of the Stockholm Intercrime series. I received an advance “uncorrected proof,”  so I’m not at liberty to quote from it. But I love the first sentence and since it doesn’t have a typo and gives nothing away, I’ll reveal it here:

‘I didn’t see anything.’

That’s what I call a hook. Now you can look forward to August.

DEADWATERAs you can see from this selection, exotic, atmospheric locations are what readers crave. Crafty escapism… a mystery that takes us away from the familiar. Two series titles that will help you “get away from it all” (except from crime, of course) are Ann Cleeve’s DEAD WATER (Minotaur Books), part of her popular Shetland singaIsland series, and William L. Gibson’s new Detective Hawksworth novel, SINGAPORE YELLOW (Monsoon Books). The former has plenty of  island atmospherics going for it, while the latter takes us back in time to Singapore and Malaya in 1892.

NEW-ANGEL-for--order-pageFinally, let me recommend a book published under an imprint of my own small press: ANGEL OF EVERYTHING by Catherine D’Avis (New Urge Editions). It’s not a mystery, per se,  but erotic suspense. If that’s your cup of tea, drink up.

Happy reading!

 

 

Summer Reading (mysteries / noir)

RAYMOND CHANDLER A MYSTERIOUS SOMETHING IN THE LIGHT.3the huntermastermind

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Tom Williams has written an engrossing biographyA Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler (Chicago Review Press). In Chandler’s hands, hard-boiled crime fiction became art and this book paints a vivid portrait of the author’s life.

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Two Dashiell Hammett collections provide a sumptuous fix for fans of Sam Spade’s creator. Lost Stories (Vince Emery Productions) features 21 rare tales restored to their original texts, replacing heavily cut versions. Complete with 46 photos & illustrations, plus an introduction by the late-great Joe Gores.

The Hunter and Other Stories by Dashiell Hammett
Includes the full-length  “On the Make” which was the basis for the rarely screened Mr. Dynamite (1935), plus other screen treatments. Twenty-one stories in all, making this an ideal book for spring break.

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Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova (Penguin Books) “Holmes was a detective second to none, it is true. But his insights into the human mind rival his greatest feats of criminal justice. What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving crime. It is an entire way of thinking, a mindset that can be applied to countless enterprises far removed from the foggy streets of the London underworld. It is an approach born out of the scientific method that transcends science and crime both and can serve as a model for thinking, a way of being, even, just as powerful in our time as it was in Conan Doyle’s.”    Fascinating, clever and original. Mastermind is so much fun you won’t even feel your brain being sharpened.

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More HOT SUMMER MYSTERIES:

weeds

King of the Weeds 
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Titan Books)

baudelaire

Baudelaire’s Revenge 
by Bib Van Laerhoven (Pegasus Crime)

girlwithclock

The Girl with a Clock for a  Heart 
by Peter Swanson (William Morrow)

 

noir_usa

USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series 
Edited by Johnny Temple (Akashic Books)

murder

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime 
by Judith Flanders (Thomas Dunn Books / St. Martin’s Press)

Elmore Leonard, RIP

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Ten Tips from the Master

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.