Here are a few cool titles we’re looking forward to.
[click on covers for more info]
AND watch for our reviews of Peter Lovesey’s new novel and a prequel to Cara Black’s popular series.
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.
I might as well let the blurbs speak for themselves because—frankly—I’m pooped.
“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
Copies are now available worldwide on Amazon. CLICK HERE TO ORDER
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.
The 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.
Hot 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.
If 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.
If 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.
The 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.
And 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.
If 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, Queen, MacDonald, Marlowe, Westlake, and many more. Makes for a bracing chaser when you’re between novels.
Millions 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?
The 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.)
Another 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.
Looking 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.
As 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 Island 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.
Finally, 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.
Tom Williams has written an engrossing biography: A 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:
King of the Weeds
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Titan Books)
by Bib Van Laerhoven (Pegasus Crime)
The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
by Peter Swanson (William Morrow)
USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series
Edited by Johnny Temple (Akashic Books)
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)
Here’s a paperback I’ve been eager to get my hands on— THE DARK GALLERIES: A MUSEUM GUIDE TO PAINTED PORTRAITS IN FILM NOIR, GOTHIC MELODRAMAS, AND GHOST STORIES OF THE 1940S AND 1950S by Steven Jacobs & Lisa Colpaert (ARAMER).
I first mentioned this book in a post last September and a copy has finally landed on my desk—bravo! (Official pub. date is March 31st) The concept is so deliciously eccentric it makes me want to compile The Encyclopedia of Fedoras. Fashion aside, who can forget the portrait of Carlotta Valdes in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but I’ll bet the farm nobody can name the artist. (It was created especially for the film by the modernist painter John Ferren.)
Art factors into the plots of a surprising number of film noir favorites such as Preminger’s Laura and Cukor’s Gaslight—as well as in many obscure releases. Well I’m happy to report you’ll find them all in The Dark Galleries.
The authors have produced an analytical study of cinema and painting that’s also a highly readable (and fun) reference. Indeed, this illustrated guide to an imaginary museum is like a big bucket of buttered popcorn for fans of film noir.
CLICK HERE to order on Amazon
Over the past few weeks I’ve read a dozen rave reviews of Lawrence Block’s new Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery, THE BURGLAR WHO COUNTED THE SPOONS.
Well that’s fine and dandy, but what about my rave?—this rave—what the hell am I supposed to write when there’s nothing left to say that hasn’t been said already. (OK, that’s redundant.) It would be easy if I could just type “Love it!” —end of story. But no, they’ve all said that.
Funny, witty, charming, LOL, beloved, tightly researched, delightful, lighthearted, comfortable, clever, madcap, amusing, etc. … are out.
Same goes for a brief plot summary.
Do I dare mention Barnegat Books or Raffles the cat? Bernie’s lesbian sidekick Carolyn?
No way, the bloggers have all been there and done that and done it again. I can’t even say I’ve missed Bernie like “an old friend” (and believe me, I have) because—as it turns out—Bernie is everybody’s old friend. And he doesn’t even have a freaking Facebook page.
I thought about searching my thesaurus for archaic praise, but once I stick my head in Roget it takes weeks to get it out and, by then, someone will have beaten me to the punch bowl.
If I was still a hippie I could call the novel “groovy” and “far out” (which it is) but I’m not.
So forgive me, Larry, but I give up. I’m throwing in the towel.
Besides, why should I have to share the private pleasure I derive from devouring a Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery?
It’s nobody’s business but mine.
Lawrence Block said he wasn’t going to write another Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery, which was sad news around here. But—thank Ra!—he changed his mind.
Christmas morning we’re looking forward to this…
Watch for a review here, and while you’re waiting you can pre-order the book here.