Crime Fiction Friday: WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS, by Tom Pitts

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When it comes to depicting lowlifes in bad circumstances, few do it as well as Tom Pitts. We’re happy to have his latest novel, Hustle, in as well as as his novella, Piggyback, back in stock. This little gem from Shotgun Honey proves his strength in dialogue and a punchy twists.

“With a Little Help From My Friends,” by Tom Pitts

“You got a freezer. Part the fucker out. Every week or so you slip a foot or a hand in with the trash. Right in there with the coffee grounds and the other rank shit.”

“No good. Problem with that is you end up with maybe fifteen chances of gettin’ caught. It raises the odds, man. No, we gotta get rid of this fuck in one go. I gotta figure out how to do this, like, tonight. We can’t be sitting around cuttin’ him up and treating him like last week’s leftovers.”

“We? You mean you. I didn’t kill the guy. I wasn’t even here.”

“You’re here now, aren’t you? That’s enough. I didn’t call you over to fuckin’ complain about my predicament, I called for help.”

Click here to read the full story.

If you like Tana French…

-Post by Molly

Tana French worked as an actress before she began writing her Dublin Murder Squad series, and the psychological insight she brings to her novels reflects her previous career. French started off her life in crime fiction with the brilliant Edgar-award winning debut, In The Woods, and this year, she published her fifth novel in the loosely connected series, The Secret Place. Each of French’s crime novels features a different detective in the Dublin police force working on a case designed to erode the boundaries between personal and professional life. Here are a few recommendations for the fan of Tana French…


secret history1. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year for her novel The Goldfinch, and many have been revisiting her earlier novels in light of her recent accolades. In Tartt’s debut novel, particularly suggested for those who enjoyed Tana French’s The Likeness, six classics students at a small, insular private college in the northeast murder one of their own group and suffer a slow and steady psychological breakdown from that point on.

smillas sense of snow2. Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

Peter Hoeg wrote Smilla’s Sense of Snow in the early 90s, sparking a revival of international interest in Scandinavian detective fiction, and yet today what I consider the greatest crime novel to ever come out of the Nordic nations has been eclipsed by Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy and those authors that have followed since. Smilla’s Sense of Snow is an icy, beautiful novel. A glaciologist, torn between her indigenous Greenlander identity and her life in Copenhagen, goes on a quest to solve the murder of a child and explores her own identity and that of her nation’s while doing so.

case histories3. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

If you like Tana French, then you like psychological insight, buried crimes, and complex investigations, all of which are present in Kate Atkinson’s brilliant crime novel Case Histories, where all characters are complicit and none are to be blamed. Kate Atkinson has written many novels, all distinct and only some shelved in the mystery section, but each work Atkinson crafts has that perfect combination of psychology, literary prose, and deeply humanistic characters.


Copies of the above listed books can be found on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

 

Top Five Short Story Collections of 2014

2014 has been an excellent year for short story collections, and whether you have a taste for themed compilations or single author explorations of the short story form, we have a short story collection for you! Here’s our top five of the year, plus an honorable mention from 2013 that we just couldn’t leave off the list.


wait for signs twelve longmire stories1. Wait For Signs by Craig Johnson

These stories give us a look at Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire between his cases. Whether dealing with a questionable hitch hiker, robbery at The Red Pony bar and grill, or an owl trapped in a Porta-Potty, we learn that his down time is both eventful and often funny.

 


2. Trouble In The Heartland edited by Joe Cliffordtrouble in the heartland

Forty stories inspired by Bruce Springsteen titles. Full of midnight roads, last shots, heartache, and hard boiled love, this collection gives off the vibe of a great concept album.

 


phone call from hell3. Phone Call From Hell by Jonathan Woods

From the wonderful warped imagination of Jonathan Woods, the second installment of twisted satiric tales. From an out-of-control swingers party to a man getting a phone call from Charles Manson, Woods proves he is the mad scientist of short fiction.

 


shots fired4. Shots Fired by C.J. Box

All of Box’s short work collected through the years, including many stories featuring his game warden, Joe Pickett. Standout tales feature a group of immigrants dumped in Yellowstone and two old mountain men trying to put up with one another during a harsh winter.


prison noir5. Prison Noir edited by Joyce Carol Oates

These tales of incarceration from different prisons around the country, most written by current or former inmates, deliver a cold hard hit to the bones. You won’t take freedom for granted after reading these stories.

 


GlennGray_TheLittleBoyInsideSpecial Mention – The Little Boy Inside & Other Stories by Glenn Gray

It came out last year, but I was finally able to read it in 2014 and it’s too damn good to be omitted from this list. Gray mixes crime, horror, and sci-fi in these stories where the thing a person can trust the least is his own body. Both well crafted and outrageous.

 


All of the books listed above are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Look out for more top lists later in December!

 

 

If you like Gillian Flynn…

Gillian Flynn’s psychological thrillers have made her one of the most popular writers in recent years, proving there can be a wide audience for dark subject matter and characters that don’t have to be “likable.” If you are a fan of Gone Girl and her other books, here are some other authors that share her sensibilities.


end of everything1. The End Of Everything by Megan Abbott

When a girl goes missing in an Eighties Detroit suburb, her friend tries to find out what happened and, in the process, uncovers the secrets of a community. Abbott has a brilliant understanding of how emotion informs mood and mines both brilliantly, finding a way to be both realistic and dreamlike.

after im gone2. After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

One of the best books of 2014. When a cold case detective looks into the murder of of a young woman, he also has to look into the ten-year-old disappearance of the man who once kept her as his mistress. The plot is revealed through the pasts of the wife, daughters, and victim he left behind. Lippman uses the mystery to look at family, faith, class, and feminism on very human terms.

the chill3. The Chill by Ross MacDonald

When it comes to family dysfunction in crime fiction, Ross MacDonald set the standard. In one of his best known titles, his PI Lew Archer’s search for a missing wife leads to sordid past histories, a few bodies, and a true look at human sin. This classic still carries one of the most disturbing reveals fifty years after it was published.

 


Copies of the above listed books can be found on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Review: TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND, edited by Joe Clifford

“Don’t like Springsteen?” Eddie asks. She huffs. “I’m one wrong turn from being a character in one of his songs.”

-Jen Conley’s “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City”

trouble in the heartland


No character escapes that fate in Trouble In The Heartland. Editor Joe Clifford has gathered forty strong voices of crime fiction, each contributing a story inspired by a Springsteen title. Dennis Lehane turns the ignition with a skillful look at paranoia after a crime with “Highway Patrol,” sending us along on a careening midnight road of working class last  shots, violence, and heartache, and proving that there’s a lot of range to a Springsteen character.

Many of the stories mirror the singer/songwriters work. Jordan Harper proves to be a perfect pick with “Prove It All Night,” hitting the cadences, word play, and hard lyricism of an Seventies Springsteen tune. It is a story that makes a stand. James R. Tuck captures the creepy and compelling vibe of “I’m On Fire,” giving it a dark twist, giving it a dark twist. Benoit Lelievre plays off the lyrics of “Atlantic City” in gruesome fashion.

Others simply use the title than full song. Hilary Davidson explores the obsession that sometimes gets lost in the upbeat tune “Hungry Heart.” The story leads up to a line that is hard-boiled heartbreak. Todd Robinson uses “We Take Care Of Our Own” to look at retribution on an inner city basketball court. Lincoln Crisler takes “Born To Run” for a clever tale of revenge and long distance running.

Springsteen’s themes even work outside of the crime fiction genre. Court Merrigan’s  “Promised Land” casts an outcast woman in a modern western that has the grit of the earth. Chuck Reagan takes Springsteen both literally and figuratively as far as you can by setting “Radio Nowhere” in a space satellite.

By the time you hit Richard Brewer’s pitch perfect and perfectly placed “The Last One to Die” at the end, you have the experience of a well executed concept album. All the authors find a way to tap into emotions that are heartfelt without being maudlin. The collection gives you all the colors of a world where life goes on, even though there is decay all around. The Boss would be happy.


Copies of Trouble in the Heartland are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

If You Like David Baldacci…

If you are shopping for fans of David Baldacci, or if you are a fan yourself, here are three books that should be on your radar, all hailing from the great state of Texas.


mark pryor the blood promise1. The Blood Promise by Mark Pryor

The third book in the Hugo Marston series has the head of security for our Paris embassy, body guarding  an American senator. When he goes missing, Hugo becomes involved with the politics of a current treaty connected to the French Revolution. A great political thriller that doesn’t preach an agenda.

 

tom abrahams allegiance2. Allegiance by Tom Abrahams

A political aide finds himself on the run after he uncovers a plan for state succession, using big oil and cutting edge science. Like Michael Crichton, Abrahams is skilled at taking a far-fetched premise and making it believable.

 

george weir capitol offense3. Capitol Offense by George Wier

A good ol’ boy trouble shooter gets a death row confession from an inmate who claims he blew up Vietnamese fishing boats for the current governor. This puts protagonist Bill on the wrong side of the law and in the middle of a political assassination. A fast moving, action packed thriller with a fun voice.

 


Copies of the above listed books can be found on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

If you like Janet Evanovich…

Janet Evanovich has a talent for keeping readers laughing as they turn the page with her Jersey girl bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. If you are a fan who has read all her books or are shopping for one, here are are other novels featuring fun and funny female crime fighters, two of them the first in a series.


sophie hannah bad day for sorry1.Bad Day For Sorry by Sophie Littlefield

This book kicks off the series featuring Stella Hardesty, a woman who, after killing her abusive husband with a screwdriver on her fiftieth birthday, goes into the business of helping women get back at the bad men in their lives. Littlefield captures western Missouri and its people, particularly the women, with perfect pitch and tone. Has the feel of a fun Miranda Lambert song.

lisa lutz spellman files2. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Isabel “Izzy” Spellman is a tough private detective working at a San Fransisco agency run by her parents with her siblings as co-workers. When they aren’t working surveillance for a client, they are spying on each other. A wonderful satire on family love and dysfunction that hits you with depth when you least expect it.

 

joe lansdale sunset and sawdust3. Sunset & Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale

Starts off with another woman killing her abusive husband. This time it’s in Depression era, East Texas, and the lady, Sunset Jones, takes over her other half’s job as town constable. Lansdale uses place and time perfectly with his sharp dialogue and and colorful style.

 


Copies of the above listed books can be found on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Crime Fiction Friday: IN THE KITCHEN, by Josh Krigman

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Sometimes you come across a short story that truly grabs you. This tale of restaurant mayhem from from the Mondays Are Murder Series at Akashic Books has a perfectly crafted first sentence and a kicker of an ending. It makes me want to find out more about author Josh Krigman.

“In The Kitchen,” by Josh Krigman

“The floor was covered with Timothy’s blood when Maurice came down the steps from the dining room to see how things were moving along. The fry cook had mouthed off again and George, having wanted to do something about it for weeks, and who was now finishing up his fifth eighteen-hour shift in as many days, had taken action with the closest thing he could find, which, in this case, was the heavy cutting board to the right of the sink where George set his rings while washing the dishes…”

Click here to read the full story.

Murder in the Afternoon Book Club Discussing THE BEGGAR KING

beggar king- Post by Molly

On Tuesday, December 16, at 2 pm on BookPeople’s third floor, the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club will discuss Oliver Pötzsch’s historical crime novel The Beggar King, the first installment in his Hangman’s Daughter series, set in seventeenth century Bavaria. Last month, the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club discussed Janice Hamrick’s novel Death on Tour with a call-in from the author herself. Next month, on January 20, we will read Death in the Andes, a detective novel from Mario Vargas Llosa, the Nobel-prize winning Peruvian author known for his lavish settings, lyrical writing and violent plots.

The Beggar King follows the Kuisls, a family of hangmen, as they work to solve a murder and preserve their family against the backdrop of a Bavaria only recently emerged from the Thirty Years War. As the novel begins, Magdalena, the hangman’s daughter, meets with Simon, her doctor paramour, to lament the fact that their widely differing stations in life prevent their union. Meanwhile, her father, Jakob Kuisl, hangman and healer to the town of Schongau, heads to Regensburg to help his sister, recently fallen ill. Upon his arrival, the hangman learns that his sister has, in fact, fallen victim to another fate, and Jakob soon finds himself in jail for several murders and at the mercy of a mysterious inquisitor who appears to want revenge against Kuisl for reasons stretching back to the war.

Magdalena and Simon decide to run away to Regensberg and make a new life for themselves, away from the strictures of their incompatible places in the town’s hierarchy. Instead, they encounter murder, conspiracy, poison, a flamboyant Italian diplomat, and the greatest of all seventeenth century fears, fire; all in their quest to rescue the hangman of Schongau before he can be framed for another’s crime. Like the best historical crime fiction, the crimes, investigations, and pursuits of the novel all feel firmly grounded within the historical context of the novel. Pötzsch crafts a murderous plot both fiendishly complicated and well within the purview of the the main characters, as amateur detectives, to solve.

The story takes place soon after the end of the 30 Years’ War, referred to in the novel as the Great War, and the incredible brutality present in that conflict and the traumatic resonance of the war in memory and landscape some years later lend the book a modern feel to its early modern context.

The Regensburg and Bavarian countryside of the novel, however, should not be taken to be full only of broken men and women, sighing  about the war. Pötzsch’s Regensburg is dynamic; home to philosophers, epicureans, madams, brewmasters, and guilds of all kinds; a living, breathing, evolving portrait of the joys and sorrow of early modern life. The maladies, misery and stench of their town does not seem to phase the characters – they can always go bathe in the river when they become too covered in garbage, and sometimes the victims of plague or fire are the people the town most wants to see go.

The Kuisls, through their position a little outside of society and with the help of their untamable natures, serve as an excellent set of viewpoints for a modern reader to gain access to the 1600s in a way that feels modern but is firmly grounded in historical context. The Kuisl family has more agency than many of their seventeenth century counterparts, given their simultaneous specialization in murder and healing (a difficult combination of talents for any town to easily replace). Magdalena and Jakob thus have more leeway when it comes to minor violations of their town’s moral compass. The Kuisls also have quick defensive reactions gained from their status as pariahs and objects of superstitious fear from the townspeople. They have the wit to dismiss accusations of witchcraft without causing offense and the wherewithal to flee a bad situation before they can become the targets of an angry mob.

Oliver Pötzsch has a special connection to the Kuisl family beyond any academic or literary interest. Pötzsch traces his ancestry to a long line of Bavarian hangmen, and when he records the saga of the Kuisls and their exploits, he writes part crime novel, part genealogical history. Pötzsch has done his research, even including a travel guide to Regensburg detailing landmarks mentioned in the novel that are still in Regensburg today. Pötzsch has, in the end, not only written a fantastic detective novel, but also a love letter to a city and to a family.


The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets the third Tuesday of each month at 2 pm. Please join us Tuesday, December 16th, as we discuss The Beggar King, by Oliver Pötzsch. Copies are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. All book clubs are free and open to the public, and book club members receive 10% off of their purchase of their monthly book club title.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Patrick Hoffman


Patrick Hoffman’s The White Van made our Top 6 Debuts Of 2014. A bank robbery kicks off a careening story of desperate criminals and cops in a situation way over their head in the grittier sides of San Fransisco. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on thriller writing with Patrick and Jeff Abbott and was happy to catch up with him to discuss more about the book, how to creating tension,his day job as a real private detective, and why he considers himself an equal opportunity crime writer.

MysteryPeople: The White Van has an involved plot where the fates of several characters interlock over a bank robbery. What was the initial idea for the book and how did it come about?

Patrick Hoffman: First off, can I take a moment to say that you are my favorite book seller in Texas, and I am so happy to talk with you about my book, and so happy to have met you! So, lets see, where was I…I was working as an investigator at the San Francisco Public Defenders Office, when I heard about an interesting case. That case supposedly involved a group of people that were taking women to hotel rooms, plying them with drugs, cleaning them up, making them look more professional, and then forcing them to cash fake checks. I said to myself, that would make a great start of a novel. I think I just sat on that idea for about six months or a year before I finally began writing it. Once I started writing, I started becoming curious about the other characters: okay, lets see, if we have a group that is taking women to hotels, why are they doing that? What would force someone to do something like that? That’s when the story became more interesting to me.

MP: The first chapter has a Gas Light quality where you are never on solid footing where you’re not sure what’s going on and you assume the people Emily is dealing with are the villains, but you are not certain. It’s quite effective. What was the goal to that approach?

PH: My goal at all times was to keep things tense. Not knowing what is happening is one way to make a scene tense, but you don’t want to just confuse the reader. I wanted to create a scene that is inherently tense–bringing a woman to a hotel and having her become incapacitated by drugs while be tended to by a male and female pair of Russian gangsters seemed like a tense situation, but then, I also wanted to drag that scene on for a while and not let you know what they were planning on doing with her. I was also trying to play with the character’s perspective, I mean here she is losing control of herself to a drug cocktail that she doesn’t even entirely know she’s receiving, so, of course, you have her perspective, too.

MP:  You learn later on that Emily’s antagonists are in over their heads. In fact, practically every character is. Was there a certain reason for that choice?

PH: Again, tension, tension, and tension. But that also goes back to my criminal defense background. I think I was interested in looking at why these characters would do these bad acts, and try and come up with a defense for those acts. It’s all a search for mitigating evidence, right? I would say, okay, this guy or gal did this thing, but look at why he or she did it, she had X, Y, and Z reasons for doing it, and she had to do it! Ladies and gentleman of the jury, you must acquit!!

MP: Your police characters are ethically challenged to say the least, but are quite human. As someone who has had to deal with law enforcement, what did you want to convey about those in the profession?

PH: Under the advice of my attorney, I am going to exercise my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. What are you trying to do, get me killed? Just kidding. Look, here’s the thing, in my decade of working in and around the courts of San Francisco, I saw a lot of shady behavior by police officers. I think one of the biggest problems with our justice system is that the police (and prosecutors) have decided that they can lie with impunity (and, usually, they can!). But I didn’t want to get super preachy, that would be boring! I wanted to treat the cops in my book with the same amount of respect that I treated the drug addicts, and the gangsters. I’m an equal opportunity thriller writer, I make bad things happen to everyone!!

MP: This book is full of fun, seedy characters, who are morally compromised. Was one really fun or easy to write?

PH: I don’t like writing about good people. I think they’re boring. But, I also don’t like cliched bad guys either. I think they are equally boring. My goal was to make everyone a mixture of both good and bad.Once I had those people, I wanted to let them loose on each other and insert them into very stressful situations and see how they responded.

MP: As a private detective, I have to ask, what’s the biggest thing private eye fiction gets wrong?

PH: Private investigation can be super exciting, but it can also be incredibly drudging. My job sometimes feel like all I do is go from one empty house to the next, ringing doorbells along the way. If somebody is home they are usually not the person I’m looking for. Also, and I love this part of it, but sometimes you’re just going over somebody’s phone records with a fine-tooth comb, color coding them, so you know what’s happening, or listening to hours and hours of interview tapes, because you have to listen to everything. I love that kind of work, but private investigation fiction usually leaves the boring parts out. Maybe that’s why there are no private investigators in my book!


Copies of  The White Van are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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