-Post by Molly
Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman have just released The Golem of Hollywood, a novel of epic proportions and many genres. This is a truly a novel that could only be written by two people, yet the collaboration is so successful that the reader feels little dissonance between the parallel narratives. The book is organized into two main plot lines. In one, written by Jonathan Kellerman, a modern-day detective, Jacob Lev, is assigned to a case involving a head with no body and the Hebrew word for justice scrawled in ash on a countertop. As he works to solve the case, he must travel to Prague and London, and, along the way, strengthen his connection to his Jewish heritage and faith. In the other, Jesse Kellerman takes an unorthodox approach to the story of Cain and Abel, and, along the way, introduces an entirely new origin story for the ancient figure of the Golem.
Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman both have impressive writing resumes prior to this collaboration. Jonathan Kellerman has written dozens of New York Times-bestselling crime novels and has won many of the industry’s most prestigious crime fiction awards. Jesse Kellerman has a longtime career as a playwright, and has written five novels. The two also practice Orthodox Judaism, and the beliefs and practices they follow in their own lives come across beautifully in the narrative. During the High Holidays, I set out to read as many Jewish-themed books as possible, and The Golem of Hollywood, along with David Liss‘ recently released Day of Atonement, are my top mystery picks to enjoy as 5775 gets going.
The Golem of Hollywood is a detective story. It is also, in many ways, a horror story, and readers who like the supernatural side of a murder investigation will enjoy this book thoroughly. The Kellermans, together, have seamlessly integrated Jewish theology and history into genre fiction, making this a perfect choice to start out the New Year. This may be the most entertaining work of Jewish-themed speculative fiction since Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and a comparison between the two is particularly apt given that each novel completely restructures the narrative of the Golem to fit in with the American Jewish experience.
Copies of The Golem of Hollywood are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
On Wednesday, October 22, at 7 pm, we will have the pleasure of hosting Walter Mosley at BookPeople. He will speak and sign his latest, Rose Gold, the thirteenth book featuring Easy Rawlins. It made us want to go back and pick five of the detective’s best cases.
The one that started it all. Getting laid off from the aircraft factory gets Easy pulled into being a P.I. when he’s hired to find a white woman known to frequent black clubs. This book announced a new voice to the genre with jazz-style prose, violence, and racial themes popping off the page. It is also has one of the best character arcs as Easy comes into being his own man.
2. A Red Death
Easy is forced by the FBI to ferret out communists. His infiltration of a union gets him involved with murder and the moral dilemma of setting up a person and ideal he’s come to respect. This is the book where Easy becomes keenly aware of the world outside his own.
This is Mosely working perfectly on all cylinders. When a white college girl is murdered in Watts in the same fashion as two black women, the police become interested and ask Easy for help. The color of place and period are incredibly vivid, plot, character, and them are vividly woven together.
Easy is once again asked to look into a matter. This time, he’s been hired to search for a white suspect in the murder of a black woman during the Watts Riots. Mosley completely plugs in to the aftermath of the riots in vivid detail and emotion. One passage alone that deals with a group of scared white folks and their perception of Rawlins as a black man makes the book worth reading.
5. Little Green
Mosley resurrects Easy and treats him like Rip Van Winkle as Easy takes a trip over to the psychedelic Sunset Strip, looking for a young Compton man known to drop out with the hippies. Easy comes back full force with an engaging mystery that provides a great backdrop for his changing life and changing LA.
Please join MysteryPeople on Wednesday, October 22, at 7 pm, for an evening with Walter Mosley. He will speak and sign his latest novel, Rose Gold, available now on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. This is a ticketed event. You will receive a ticket upon purchase of Rose Gold. The speaking portion of the event is free and open to the public. The event will take place on BookPeople’s second floor.
Gary Phillips has been a favorite of ours for quite some time, and we are happy to present his work as part of our Crime Fiction Friday series. This week we’re doing something a little different for Crime Fiction Friday. We’re providing a link to Capitol & Main’s site that features the first part of Gary Phillips’ The Dixon Family Chronicles, an online serialized novel in the tradition of Dickens. The story looks at a working class family in South Central, dealing with life and issues of the day, something Gary has written about for close to two decades. You can go to Capitol & Main next week for the next chapter…
“You don’t know what the hell you sayin’,” the red-eyed man blurted. He came off his barstool too fast, knocking it over as he did so. Drunk, he teetered over to Hank Dixon, who’d turned on his stool toward him but remained sitting.
“Best slow your roll, Al,” the one-handed bartender Pierre Gaston said languidly. He took hold of an empty glass between the pincers of his prosthesis. Behind him and above the bottles on a flat screen TV, played a near mute newscast about a truckers’ job action at the port…
Recently our friends at Mulholland Books have acquired the novels of noir master Jim Thompson, and are now reprinting his works in beautiful trade paperbacks, many with forwards from Thompson fans like Stephen King and Daniel Woodrell. Most know him for his truly chilling novel, The Killer Inside Me, but he put out several must-read novels through a lifetime of writing. Here are five more which I would put up there.
1. Pop 1280
Thompson’s other psycho lawman novel. Set in the deep South of the 1910s, this tale of a corrupt, philandering small town sheriff’s manipulation of events through murder is wild, funny, and bluntly violent. The author is working at the top of his game in style and voice.
Possibly Thompson’s most accessible book. A punch-drunk ex-boxer with a few other issues gets drawn into a kidnapping scheme with a former cop and alcoholic femme fatale. Thompson is not always known for pathos, but it comes across here for the reader willing to look.
Thompson takes the James M. Cain lovers-murder-for-money set-up and makes it completely his own. Thompson uses the backdrop of a small town movie theater perfectly and even gives a self deprecating cameo to himself. An often overlooked book, well worth picking up.
4. The Grifters
As much sordid family tale as sordid crime novel, but really, really sordid. The story follows the power plays of a short-con artist, his mother, who’s also on the hustle, and his girlfriend with her own history of larceny. About as fun as seedy gets.
5. The Getaway
This reads like a solid heist novel with touches of Thompson quirkiness. Then you get to last chapter. It is so dark and atmospheric that is reads like something out of a horror novel. Both film versions were afraid to tackle it.
All books listed above are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Ted Lewis‘ Get Carter, originally known as Jack’s Trip Back, was a turning point in British crime fiction. At the time of its publication, the U.S. was known for the tough, hard boiled style, while English crime was associated with the more genteel drawing room side of the genre that Agatha Christie made popular. Lewis put a shotgun in Jack Carter’s hand, blowing away the Venetian vases and the stereotype.
To call Jack Carter an anti-hero is putting it mildly. Both calculating and reckless, violence is often a convenient tool for him and he makes the Mad Men guys look like feminists. Carter works as an enforcer for a London syndicate run by Gerald and Les Fletcher. He is also involved with Audrey, Gerald’s wife, who he plans to run away with, along with a chunk of the Fletcher Brothers money. He is somewhat of an English cousin to Richard Stark‘s Parker, with less distance from the reader.
In Get Carter, Jack goes back to his home in middle England, to attend the funeral of his brother Frank. Frank died in a drunk driving accident, though he wasn’t known to be a heavy drinker. This puts Carter on the road to answers and revenge, running up against the town fixer who is connected to the Fletcher Brothers.
The book gives a bleak look at England. The pretty countryside, associated with those English cozies, is populated and polluted with smokestacks. Most of the denizens of the town are rough, ugly, and seem to have a touch of inbreeding to them. It’s no wonder Carter would do anything, including crime, to get out. Yet we see how it is a part of him. Much like Hammett and Cain, Lewis used the hard boiled novel to make subtle social commentary on his country. Despite his many dark qualities, we follow Jack Carter because of his willingness to be his own man in both the criminal and British class system.
Get Carter proved that while the U.S. may have invented hard boiled crime, they didn’t have a patent on it. One can’t help but wonder how this book hit British readers in the late Sixties. A new publisher, Syndicate Books, has released Get Carter, following it with the two others in the Carter trilogy, Jack Carter’s Law and Jack Carter And The Mafia Pigeon. I can’t wait to spend more time in Jack Carter’s world.
Get Carter is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
For the past few years, Seventh Street Books has had an incredible knack for finding new talent. Terry Shames and Mark Pryor are just two names they’ve introduced to the genre. With The Life We Bury, Seventh Street introduces a new author to watch, Allen Eskens.
The plot of The Life We Bury is something akin to a good Grisham-style thriller. Joe Talbert, a poor Minnesota University student with an autistic brother and alcoholic mother from hell, is assigned to do a biography on someone for his English class. To make the piece stand out, he chooses Carl Iverson, a man living the last days of his life in nursing home with pancreatic cancer after being imprisoned over thirty years for the rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. Joe is skeptical about Carl’s claim of innocence, although the old man admits to have both “killed and murdered” in his life, but with the help of Virgil, Carl’s buddy from Vietnam, and his inquisitive neighbor, Lila, he uncovers truths that could both substantiate those claims and cause considerable danger for Joe and his friends.
In his debut, Eskens shows his skill as a storyteller. The pacing could be set to a metronome and the style is clean and accessible. He finds fresh takes on puzzle pieces for the story and knows when to present them.
More than anything, he gets us involved his characters, not just Joe and Carl, but those around him. He even brings life to the victim. He is unafraid to take time from the plot and look into the lives of his people, realizing they will be dealing with the messiness of their day to day and past as well as mystery. It makes the reader truly care for them when those lives are threatened.
Allen Eskens is a perfect fit for Seventh Street. He writes a smart, fresh mainstream thriller that knows how to grab a reader. He also knows that character is key. Looks like they found another good one for us.
The Life We Bury is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Most of you have heard the Nineties noir soap, Twin Peaks, will be returning to Showtime. The news prompted one of our favorite authors, Megan Abbott, to write a piece for Vulture about the influence the David Lynch-Mark Frost show had on her own writing. Abbott’s latest novel, The Fever, revolves around a group of girls struck by a mysterious illness, a rather perfect pairing with Laura Palmer’s story. Megan Abbott is the author of seven novels, and her last three books – The End of Everything, Dare Me, and The Fever – have all focused on the dangerous lives of adolescent girls.
HARD WORD BOOK CLUB TAKES ON TOUGH GUY AUTEUR AND NOVELIST SAMUEL FULLER
The Hard Word Book Club will wrap up this year with a hard boiled master of the screen and page, Samuel Fuller. Fuller was best known as a filmmaker with tough guy classics like Pick Up On South Street, Shock Corridor, and The Big Red One. He also wrote several novels, including The Dark Page. Hard Case Crime recently brought one of his last books, Brainquake, to the U.S. for the first time. We will be discussing it and all things Fuller.
Brainquake begins in classic Fuller fashion with a murder by baby. That odd rub-out starts a series of events that put a syndicate bag-man, who suffers from odd brain seizures, and a mob widow on the run from Father Flannigan, a hit man who dresses like a priest and crucifies his victims. It gets even more outrageous with the action moving from New York to France , with several reminders of Fuller films.
We’ll be starting our discussion of Brainquake on our third floor, October 29th at 7PM. After the discussion we’ll be screening The Typewriter, the Rifle, and the Movie Camera, a documentary on Samuel Fuller featuring Tim Robbins, Samuel Fuller, Quentin Tarantino, and Fuller himself. Books are 10% off to those who attend.
We will be taking a break for the holidays, but get ready to come back in January for our discussion of L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy.
October is here, and as the weather cools, the end of the year stealthily approaches. But 2014 still has plenty in store for us, this month especially. Here are the three MysteryPeople picks for this month:
The Thicket by Joe Lansdale
One of the best from 2013 is finally coming out in paperback. At the turn of the last century in east Texas, a young man hires a bounty hunting dwarf, an African American tracker, and their hog find the outlaws who took his sister. Peter Dinklage just bought the rights to turn this into a movie. Full of humor and adventure, this book is loved by everyone who has read it.
The Final Silence by Stuart Neville
Neville’s latest with Belfast police detective Jack Lennon. Lennon is asked by a former lover to look into go off the record to look into eight possible murders that may have happened and could compromise her politician father. Neville is a skilled storyteller who looks at the sins of his country with an unflinching and entertaining eye that becomes universal.
Prison Noir by Joyce Carol Oates
This may be the darkest book of the Akashic Noir series. The short stories, most written by current and former inmates, all take place in our country’s incarceration facilities. These are looks into life without freedom, both well written and unflinching.
On Wednesday, October 22, at 7 pm, BookPeople is proud to host the eminent and prolific novelist, Walter Mosley. Mr. Mosley has been writing for almost a quarter century and has published books in a variety of genres. He is the recipient of PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is one of the most respected and dynamic writers in America today. He will be joining us to speak and sign his latest Ezekial Rawlins novel, Rose Gold.
-Post by Molly
Walter Mosley wrote his first Easy Rawlins detective novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, nearly a quarter century ago. Despite taking breaks from the series to write numerous other novels (including sci-fi stories, general fiction, and other crime series), he has just released Rose Gold, his thirteenth novel to star the character of Easy Rawlins. One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading the series has been following Easy Rawlins through three decades of American upheaval. Mosley set the first book in the series in the 1940s, and twelve books later, Ezekial Rawlins has made it to the smack-dab middle of the sixties. Mosley’s last novel in the series, Little Green, followed Easy as he dove head-first in the Summer of Love trying to hunt down a wayward teenager. His next novel starts immediately after Little Green left off.
Rose Gold, loosely based on the story of Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, continues Rawlin’s journey through the chaos of mid-century America. At the start of the novel, Easy is in the midst of moving houses when a corrupt cop with a hidden agenda tracks him down and offers him some mortgage money fast. Easy reluctantly agrees to find a wealthy debutante, Rosemary Goldsmith, kidnapped out of her dorm room and held hostage by a group of wannabe revolutionaries. The debutante’s father, a high-profile arms dealer, hires Rawlins to infiltrate the radical black power community, but Easy soon figures out this is easier said than done. His first step is to find the revolutionary group’s leader, a black nationalist ex-boxer named Uhuru Nolicé, and he quickly figures out that the police are searching for Uhuru much more assiduously than for Rosemary, and with much worse intentions.
As Easy continues the search for Rosemary, he takes the time to fix a few problems for his friends and family on the side, and throughout the novel, the reader finds frequent reminders that Easy Rawlins is happiest when defined by his relationship with his community. Walter Mosley, in the character of Easy Rawlins, has created not only an ass-kicking private eye, but also an ideal role model. One of the great pleasures of reading a novel starring Easy Rawlins is witnessing the actions of a character both likable and moral – a rare protagonist in the detective-novel world.
In the murky world of 1960s revolutionary politics, lines quickly blur between kidnapper and kidnapped, victim and perpetrator, and revolutionary and poser. Mosely’s characters use 1960s radicalism as a way to try on new identities and act out personal vendettas, and the radicals that Easy meets have a difficult time distinguishing the difference between performance and belief. Mosley does an excellent job of both portraying a society in motion and showing the parts that remain static. In particular, Mosley draws attention to police abuse towards young black men in a story that, stripped of its revolutionary framework, could be seen in a newspaper today. Both timely and timeless, Rose Gold provides an excellent addition to the canon of Mosley and a new modern classic for our shelves.
Please join us on October 22 for a visit from Walter Mosley, who will be speaking and signing his latest Easy Rawlins novel, Rose Gold. Copies are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. All BookPeople events are free and open to the public. The signing for this event will be ticketed.