Monthly Archives: August 2012
(Hopeton Hay and Ace Atkins here at BookPeople)
~post by Scott M.
I’ll be doing Hopeton Hay’s Book Review on Austin’s KAZI 88.7 this Sunday, September 2 at 12:30P discussing books and their translation to film. Click here to listen to KAZI 88.7 live, and be sure to tune into Hopeton Hay’s show. Hopeton will be focusing on Devil In A Blue Dress, I’ll be taking Double Indemnity. This made me wonder what some of my favorite authors considered their favorite book to film adaptations.
Author of Last Call For The Living
– The Night of the Hunter, Adapting Davis Grubb’s novel, Charles Laughton directs an absolutely frightening Robert Mitchum in a masterwork of mood and style.
Author of Still River
– Mystic River (Dennis Lehane) and The Town (The Prince Thieves by Chuck Hogan) and emotional highs and low of both stories while being true to the plot and spirit of the novels.
Author of When It All Comes Down To Dust
– The Friends of Eddie Coyle. It’s my all-time favorite novel, so I avoided the film until last year – and it turns out it might be as good as the book. Beautifully faithful to what Higgins wrote, and definitely Mitchum’s greatest performance.
Author of Amarillo
– The Last Picture Show. How a New York boy like Peter Bogdanovich could perfectly recreate a small Texas town’s denizens is a tribute to both him and Larry McMurtry, who wrote the book.
Author of The Lost Sister
– Point Blank (adapted from The Hunter)may be one of my favorite adaptations. More than anything, its about Lee Marvin’s performance. With barely a word, he makes you believe utterly in his ruthlessness and single-mindedness. And somehow, he colors the role so that, for me, Parker becomes Marvin no matter which book I’m reading; that walk, that glare, that tightly coiled menace that makes you glad you’re not the one standing between him and money.
MysteryPeople Pick for September: Gone by Randy Wayne White
Reviewed By: Scott M.
For over two decades Randy Wayne White has carried John D MacDonald’s torch of the Key West crime writer with his Doc Ford series, giving readers laid back, devil-may-care adventure, along with some great writing. With Gone, White promises a new series character who could be just as exciting, Hannah Smith.
Hannah is a fishing guide, in her early thirties, who comes from a line of hearty independent woman from the Keys. She’s likable, capable, and is getting used to her good looks that she has recently and awkwardly grown into. She recently bought a fast boat from a certain marine biologist and has reluctantly inherited her uncle’s investigation business.
To avoid a winter job, Hannah takes on a sort of missing persons case. Olivia Seasons left home with little notice, only contacting the executor of her trust every two weeks with the proper information to collect money. Hannah soon learns Olivia is with a horrific misogynist. He’s a man known for degrading women,and scarring them for life, and this looks like it might be the time he’s pushed to murder, making her search a race against time.
Hannah is what makes the book tick. Narrating in her voice, White delivers one of the best female characters created by a male writer I’ve ever read. Not scared by political correctness, he gives us a thoroughly complex and capable heroine. The banter between her and her mother, Loretta, recalls that of Jim Rockford and his dad.
Gone works as fresh take on the Florida regional novel. The characters are colorful, the setting pops, and, most of all, you have a lead character you’d like to hang out with. I hope Hannah has many more adventures.
~post & Q&A by Chris M.
One of the perks of working for a store like BookPeople (aside from tons and tons of free books) is getting the opportunity to talk to the authors we love about their work. Recently I was given the honor of interviewing Ariel S. Winter, the author of one of 2012’s best mystery novels, The Twenty-Year Death. Keep reading to see what he had to say about his writing process, crime fiction, and his future plans.
AW: The seed that became The Twenty-Year Death started as a novella in a larger novel. In that novel, the frame narrative was about an introspective reader reading through stacks of books. As he read, the book he was reading was presented in full, and the first of those books I wrote was Malniveau Prison a Georges Simenon pastiche. So in the context of that book, it was supposed to be as if the main character was actually reading Simenon. Once I abandoned that book, I wanted to do something with Malniveau Prison, so I started by expanding it into a full length book on its own. But at the same time, I began to ask myself what a mystery series would look like if a character other than the detective travelled from book to book. There are many ways to approach that idea, but since I had a Simenon on hand, I followed through with the thought, what would happen if one of Simenon’s characters wound up in a Chandler novel? Then in a Thompson novel?
MP: You do such an admirable job emulating the masters, was there one style that you enjoyed writing over the others?
AW: The challenge of writing in another author’s voice while still making it your own is fun regardless of which author you’re working on, so I wouldn’t say I preferred one to another. Chandler was probably the most intimidating.
MP: I’ll be honest, Shem is kind of an asshole throughout the book, but in the end I found myself rooting for him. Do you think he truly got what he deserved, or did he get off easy?
AW: He definitely didn’t get off easy. No matter how boorish, alcoholic, and womanizing you are, nobody really deserves what Shem goes through at the end. I feel sorry for him, but I know I’m in the minority. He had flaws that he allowed to control him, and they dragged him down emotionally, personally, and professionally. Nowadays, he would have ended up on a mood stabilizer and so much of his pain would have been avoided.
MP: The novel is quite broad in scope; did you have a difficult time getting started?
AW: It helped that I had a third of it written before I decided on the final structure. When you have a full book sitting there, it takes some of the pressure off, because, if this new plan falls through (as the first one did), you still have this good book sitting there (like the first time). Once I did decide on writing the second two books, I remember knowing it was ambitious, but never doubting I could do it. My biggest concern was whether or not the through characters’ story would feel like its own book that justified the whole conceit. I still worry about that sometimes.
MP: The Twenty-Year Death is out via Hard Case Crime. How does it feel to be working with such a classic publisher?
AW: When I was writing the book, I knew it should be a Hard Case book. I told my agent right up front that Hard Case was the place for it. No one else could have edited it as well as Charles Ardai, and no one else could have gotten it the attention it has received. Stephen King blurb? I wouldn’t have that somewhere else. Hard Case has done their all, and I couldn’t be happier.
MP: This might seem like an obvious question, but I have to ask; what’s your next move as a writer?
AW: I’m rewriting an older novel about a family coming together for the eldest daughter’s engagement party only six weeks after the parents have announced their divorce. It isn’t a mystery, but that doesn’t mean I’m done writing mysteries. It just means a mystery isn’t the next thing I’ll be doing. As you may know, I also released a children’s picture book this year called One of a Kind, and I have several other picture book scripts that I’m hoping to sell in the near future as well.
Many thanks to Ariel S. Winter and his publicist for taking the time to do this interview. Be sure to grab a copy of The Twenty-Year Death at Book People!
Fall always shows promise of some of the year’s best books. While the stakes have been set high with a summer that included The Kings Of Cool, The Prophet, and Dare Me, I think these five books will deliver.
1. Blood Lance by Jeri Westerson
Westerson’s 14th century PI or “tracker”, Crispin Guest gets involved in behind the scenes intrigue in the sport of jousting. Jeri’s series has gotten to be a go-to for smart escapism.
2. Live By Night by Dennis Lehane
Lehane’s sort-of sequel to To The Given Day is set in prohibition-era Boston. The idea of a Dennis Lehane gangster novel is something I can’t wait to read.
3. Nearly Nowhere by Summer Brenner
Brenner threw readers for a loop with her pitch black tale, I-5. Her latest, a tight novel about an American expat in a Mexican village whose daughter goes missing after a violent confrontation, has me thinking this will be another strong offering from Switchblade Press.
4. Gun Church by Reed Farrel Coleman
One of the best crime fiction writers out there gives us a stand alone with an intriguing premise. A has-been crime novelist gets involved with a group that worships handguns. My co-worker Christy Popp has already read this and told me he keeps you emotionally involved to the final paragraph when he delivers the Final punch. We’re also honored to host Reed at our Noir At The Bar on November 13th.
5. Books To Die For edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke
Odd that the book I’m looking forward to the most is nonfiction. It contains over a hundred essays from some of the crime fiction writers around the world (some I already mentioned on the list) discussing one of their favorite novels. I believes the best way to learn about writers is when they are discussing other writers and pieces. With Megan Abbott talking about In a Lonely Place, Joe Lansdale writing about Chandler, and Jo Nesbo’s take on Pop. 1280, this should make for some fascinating reading.
People who have read Michael Koyta’s debut, The Night I Said Goodbye, feel the need to recommend it to other private eye readers. I know this because it has been recommended to me often. It won him the St. Martin’s Minotaur/PWA First Private Eye Novel Contest at age twenty-one. When Michael came out to Noir At The Bar earlier this month, I finally got around to reading it. Now, I’m recommending it.
The book introduces us to Lincoln Perry. In his late twenties, Lincoln is younger than most world weary PIs, but he’s gone through a lot. Having to leave the Cleveland Police Department in disgrace, he bought a gym and disappeared from the world. Through some goading, he finally started an investigation firm with Joe Pritchard, a retired cop. Both Joe and Tracy, a reporter friend, back Lincoln up on cases, as well as keep him on track as he engages with life again.
The case Lincoln takes in Tonight I Said Goodbye is both classic and unique. A fellow investigator’s death has been ruled as a suicide, presumed to have been committed after he murdered his missing wife and daughter. The man’s father thinks different and hires Lincoln and Joe to find his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. The trail involves an extortion plot with the Russian mob, more than a few moral dilemmas, and an interesting take on justice.
What makes the story work, as in all his work, is Koyta’s sense of character. He makes it the source for mood, style, even plot at times. He uses his experience as an actual private investigator to describe the attitude one has at working on a job more than the detail of procedure. The relationship Lincoln has with Joe feels lived in and believable and provides a great deadpan banter between them. It’s a humor that reflects their experience of being cops together.
Tonight I Said Goodbye was Michael Koryta’s first step in a voice that has never stopped growing. He wrote three more Lincoln Perry books, then moved on to acclaimed stand alone thrillers, many with a supernatural bent. He’s won well earned praise and comparisons to Lehane and Pelecanos with his latest, The Prophet. He has developed an amazing body of work in less than a decade. I hope he can come back with that maturity and revisit Lincoln and Joe.
August 29th at 7p, The Hard Word Book Club continues its discussion of hard boiled fiction with one of the hardest. Published in the ’90s, Matthew F. Jones’ A Single Shot was one of the first books in the rural noir movement and its raw power has not faded. We’re honored to have Mr. Jones calling in to discuss it with us.
The story concerns Jon Moon, a hunter going through a rough patch in his life. When poaching a deer, he accidentally shoots a young woman. Next to her body is a letter she wrote describing a guy named Waylon, who doesn’t sound too nice, and a sack full of money. Jon decides to hide the body and take the money.
It proves to be one of many bad decisions he’s forced to make. Soon, he is up against a crooked lawyer (his own), some dark secrets buried in his small town, and Waylon who proves to be as bad as we assumed. Everything closes in on Jon, forcing him to take darker and darker measures.
The book uses a simple set-up to its fullest. Around 250 pages, it gives the reader a tight and tense story, while it looks at the marginalization of the traditional male. It it a skillful merging of plot, premise, mood, and theme.
There is a lot for us to discuss about A Single Shot and Mr. Jones has been looking forward to joining in on the discussion. Come out and join us on the third floor, 7pm on Wednesday, August 29th. The book is 10% off to those who attend.
If you want more insight into the book and the author, check out this interview he did at the Mulholland Books website.
PM Press’s Switchblade imprint has one of the best track records for crime fiction. In the past few years, they’ve published great, tight, socially aware books like Benjamin Whitmer’s Pike and Barry Graham’s The Wrong Thing. The work is smart, rough escapism. Escapism you can’t shake. They deliver again with James Kilgore’s Prudence Couldn’t Swim.
The hero (or anti-hero) is Cal Winters, a hare-lipped ex-con, who still dabbles in his old work. When he comes home to find his mail order wife, Prudence, drowned in their swimming pool, he knows it’s murder. He calls up his old partner in crime, a gambler named Red Eye, and the two scour Oakland, going up against cops, pornographers, and killers, to find the truth. Some of it may pertain to Prudence’s past in Africa.
The book is a shade lighter and funnier than many Switchblade books. The chapter that takes place at a hot dog eating contest is like no other. Projectile vomit is used as a weapon. Mainly, the tone comes from Cal’s attitude. He’s neither overwrought nor hardened by Prudence’s death. The search is more out of duty than vengeance. He barely seems phased when he learns about her darker secrets. Also, the fact that Cal mainly uses his skills as a con man to get information also give it a less menacing tone. It sometimes feels like a sleazy version of the Rockford Files.
Where it does follow in the Switchblade tradition is in depicting an underground society within a society. We travel through chain restaurants during grave yard shifts, dive sports bars in the middle of the day, and backrooms that are dangerous anytime, rubbing up against some colorful people along the way. All have history, most have broken dreams, and all hang on. Kilgore walks that line, making you feel the underworld that borders on the “normal” one.
Prudence Couldn’t Swim is a fresh take on the hard boiled novel. Just over two hundred pages, it’s tight, funny, gritty, and as political as you want it to be. It deserves it’s place in the Switchblade library.
Congratulations to our friend Megan Abbott. Her recent book (and our Pick of the Month), Dare Me has been optioned by Fox 2000. It’s no surprise that her noir novel, which takes cheerleading rivalries to the level of Shakespearean backstabbing, caught Hollywood’s eye. I’m sure many young actresses will be fighting for parts, much like the characters in the book fight for rank in the squad.
On August 16th we had our second Noir At The Bar over at Opal Divine’s with special guest Michael Koryta. It was a great night, and great to see as many writers in the audience as we had on stage. Two of the three authors who make up the pseudonym Miles Arceneux showed up. Their book, Thin Slice Of Life, is a fun thriller set along the Gulf. They’ll be here at BookPeople October 1st. Lee Thomas and Ed Kurtz, part of Austin’s horror scene, also dropped in.
Jesse Sublett kicked things off with tunes from his stand-up base, proving my claim that he’s the coolest guy in Austin. George Wier, known for his story “Duck Weed” in the collection Lone Star Noir, scarred us for life with his story “Death Kiss” about a serial killer’s disturbing use of flesh-eating bacteria. Michael Koryta read a passage from his current book, the acclaimed The Prophet, which sobered us up no matter what we were drinking. Jesse returned to close the night with an enthusiastic and funny performance from his work in progress, Grave Digger Blues, which follows a PI during the end of the world.
A side note – legendary singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard invited Michael Koryta and me to his show at Shady Grove later that night. Apparently these things happen when you’re standing next to Michael. Michael was excited since he played a lot of Ray’s music while working on his book The Ridge. We caught the tail end of the performance. Right after Ray played “Screw You We’re From Texas” he said to the crowd, “You all need to go over to BookPeople and get The Prophet.”
Michael turned to me and asked “Can I come back?”
Any time, Michael. For anybody who loves noir, there’s always a place at The Bar.
We kicked off Austin’s Noir At The Bar at Opal Divine’s last June with a strong start. Our mix of readings from hard boiled writers, music, and drink proved to be fun for both customers and fans. Tonight we continue the party.
Michael Koryta’s publisher told us he’d be a perfect fit for our Noir Bar. His award winning Lincoln Perry series was a mix of classic PI plotting with a realistic and moving central character. After moving to a series of acclaimed supernatural thrillers, like The Cypress House, he gives us his best book to date with The Prophet. The story focuses on two brothers, estranged because of their sister’s twenty year old murder, who have to face their demons and each other when another killing occurs. This book made my top 10 list of books for the year so far and I wont be surprised if it will be on my year-end list, as well.
I’m also happy to have my buddy, George Weir join us. He came to the attention to many with his short story, Duck Weed, that appears in Lone Star Noir. He will be reading a story titled Death Kiss. He told me it is “very noir and very Austin.”
Jesse Sublett returns providing both song and spoken mayhem. As well as playing a few tunes, he’ll be reading from his work in progress, Grave Digger Blues, an apocalyptic private eye novel. His mix of words put to music brought down the last Noir At The Bar.
So join us tonight, Thursday, August 16th, 7pm, at Opal Divine’s on 6th and help us continue a tradition. There will be time to drink and mingle with the authors and I’ll be hanging around if anybody wants to talk crime fiction. Spend a good night with great writers.