Wait For Signs by Craig Johnson
2015 will mark ten years for Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series. It’s fitting as we approach the holidays and this anniversary that fans can now get Wait For Signs, a collection of all the short stories Craig has written about the Wyoming sheriff. It fills in the history of the character, catching him at quieter times between all the murders, escaped convicts, and conspiracies. In these stories, the reader learns that Walt’s life is still not totally quiet.
Much of the collection is composed from the annual stories Craig sends to his newsletter subscribers around Christmas, but they deal with more than just the holidays. “Thankstaking” allows Walt’s Cheyenne buddy Henry Standing Bear not only an opportunity to save the day, but the chance to voice his opinion on a certain November celebration. One of the Christmas stories takes place before the series, at one of the lowest points in Longmire’s life, when he is mistaken for the son of God. On New Year’s Eve, he and previous Sheriff Luican Connally solve a crime both old and new at The Durant Home For Assisted Living. Even the Jewish New Year is used for suspenseful and humorous effect. Johnson avoids the schmaltzy trappings of many holiday stories, making them appropriate to read at any time of the year.
There are also other pieces of short work. The very first Longmire story, “Old Indian Trick,” puts the myth of the criminal mastermind to rest. Two e-book specials “Divorce Horse” and “The Messenger” are available in mass print for the first time. “The Messenger”, a comedy of manners, errors, and situation involving Walt, Henry, foul mouthed deputy Victoria Morretti, a bear, and an owl trapped in a Port-A-Potty, is worth the price of the book alone. There is also a new story “Petunia, The Bandit Queen” that tackles domestic discord, Wyoming history, and sheep.
The collection gives a clearer picture of Walt, seeing him more in his day-to-day life. In many of the Christmas stories we get a deeper understanding the effect that losing his wife Martha had on him and how he got through it. Two stories that seem to happen back to back, one with a hitchhiker, the other with a marine, reminds us that Walt’s main goal is to heal, even though he avoids opportunities to find his own peace. We also see more of his connection to spirituality than he typically admits to.
Without the need to deliver the tropes of a mystery, we see Johnson’s strength’s as a writer on full display. Without a grim murder, his use of humor is able to flourish. We also get to fully appreciate his gift for misdirection that we associate with how he takes our attention away from who done it. Here he often shows how it helps provide theme and internal conflict without being heavy handed.
Wait For Signs gives us an extra glimpse at one of the best mystery heroes of this new century. We get a better understanding of his strengths, flaws, and what sustains him. All in all, we get the hope that old fashioned virtue can trump even the most modern problems. Boy Howdy.
Wait For Signs by Craig Johnson is now available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com
One of our recent stories was a Lawernce Block tale featuring Matt Scudder, the PI hero featured in the film adaptation of A Walk Among The Tombstones. This Friday we have a short story written by the writer-director, Scott Frank, that was on Popcorn Fiction. Scott Frank is the screenwriter of the acclaimed films Little Man Tate, Dead Again and The Lookout. He has also adapted a number of titles for the screen, including Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, Minority Report and most recently, Marley & Me.
“As Ivan slowly let Rima slip from his grasp, he had no idea that her fall would become the stuff of Big Top legend everywhere. If you could have seen his face that night, you would have seen that Ivan’s mind was clearly somewhere else. Before this particular night, Ivan had caught Rima over thirty-five hundred times without incident. Theirs was a relationship based on trust; Rima knew that Ivan would always be there with strong hands and perfect timing. And Ivan knew that Rima would always be there, hanging in space, reaching for him. Sure, there were many close calls: Rima would step on his shoulder, scrape his ear with the point of her heel. Ivan would flinch from the pain, and loosen his hold on her leg, but in the end, he would always catch her. And sure, there had been hundreds of times where he almost dropped her. But he had never completely let go before. He was always there. He had always caught her. But, unfortunately, on that fateful night in Jnimski, he was thinking about something else.”
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.
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.
-Post by Molly
On Tuesday, October 21, at 2pm, the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club will discuss one of Georges Simenon’s classic Maigret mysteries, The Carter of ‘La Providence’. The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets the third Tuesday of each month at 2 pm on BookPeople’s third floor.
Last month, the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club discussed Tana French’s In The Woods, her much acclaimed debut novel. For October, we have chosen a book of no less quality but of slightly less heft – Georges Simenon‘s jewel of a novel, The Carter of ‘La Providence’. The novel follows Inspector Maigret, Simenon’s main recurring detective, as he enters into the close-knit community of bargemen, boaters, and lock-keepers to solve the murder of a wealthy woman, found strangled in a barn.
To solve the crime, Maigret must bicycle to and fro on the canal interviewing all the flotsam and jetsam of humanity floating down the canal. Through his investigation, we get a close-up of the world of French barge travel in the 1930s, as well as the lives of peasants in the small towns that the barges must pass through. As the inspector’s respect for the small world he has invaded grows, and his dislike of the murder victim increases, Maigret gets closer and closer to an answer he will almost certainly find to be unpleasant.
The world of the canal, and the small feeder communities that support the travelers along it, provide a fascinating glimpse of French society in miniature. Maigret must conduct investigative interviews at all levels of this society in order to solve the crime, from yachts filled with faded mistresses and international playboys to barges carrying cargo and pulled by horses. The setting of The Carter of ‘La Providence’ - in the world of boats, canals, and cozy cabins – draws inspiration from Simenon’s own life as an avid boater, and this novel is one of several that he wrote on board his own boat, the Ostrogoth. The language of The Carter of ‘La Providence’, like in any Simenon work, is a masterpiece of minimalism, and David Coward has done an excellent job of translating Simenon’s deep thoughts hidden in short sentences. Simenon describes each little world with only essential details but in a way that draws the reader entirely into the scene.
Georges Simenon lived a full and busy life, writing over 75 novels with the character of Inspector Maigret, as well as numerous short stories and other stand alone novels. Many credit Simenon with creating the prototypical French roman noir, a novel so dark it can be shelved in a mystery section without even a murder. New York Review of Books has re-released many of Simenon’s stand-alones, including Dirty Snow, a stunning and amoral journey into the heart of a black marketeer in Nazi-occupied Paris. These twisted journeys into the human psyche first piqued my interest in Georges Simenon, but it was Maigret’s love of humanity and earthy humor that sealed the deal in my becoming a Simenon fan for life. Penguin Classics has reissued many Maigret novels over the past year and a half in new translations, and you can find many of these stories on our shelves today.
Simenon does not go for shock value. In his novels, ordinary people commit ordinary crimes and an ordinary and rather worn-down detective solves them. Simenon’s characters are crass, humorous, occasionally shocking, and constantly eating. Through his Inspector Maigret novels, Simenon manages to convey what to me is a singular human truth, and one that is often lost in more hard-boiled novels – nothing is justifiable, everything is understandable, and almost anything is forgivable.
Copies of The Carter of La Providence are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Come to the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club Tuesday, October 21, to discuss this eminently satisfying novel.
If you’ve read my review or talked to me lately, you know I’ve become a huge fan of the adaptation of Lawrence Block’s Walk Among The Tombstones. For fans of the the New York PI, Matt Scudder, here’s a short story involving Matt from when he worked for the NYPD that appeared on the Mulholland Books website. Block gives the reader a good sense of what his hero’s morals were like at the time.
“When the phone call came I was parked in front of the television set in the front room, nursing a glass of bourbon and watching the Yankees. It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t. I remember that Thurman Munson had just hit a long foul that missed being a home run by no more than a foot, but I don’t remember who they were playing, or even what kind of a season they had that year.
I remember that the bourbon was J. W. Dant, and that I was drinking it on the rocks, but of course I would remember that. I always remembered what I was drinking, though I didn’t always remember why…”
The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly
John Connolly’s latest Charlie Parker novel, due to release at the end of this month, has the author working in top form. This time the Maine detective (and possibly fallen angel) finds himself in a town of dark secrets. It is a story that lends itself perfectly to Connolly’s talents.
Charlie gets word that a homeless man he knows wants to hire him to find his missing daughter, a junkie who also finds herself on the street at times. By the time he is able to contact his client, he learns the man has been hung, with the death ruled a suicide. To fulfill the man’s last request, Charlie takes the case.
The trail leads to the town of Prosperous. The place seems to reflect it’s name, thriving in economic conditions that have ruined other towns, with citizens who have suffered little. The good fortune may be linked to some bad secrets, connected to a church brought stone by stone from Europe centuries ago. That secret is also tied to Parker’s nemesis, The Collector.
Connolly is at his best here. He’s created an involving mystery which the supernatural elements and social themes subtly settle into. The writing is so good, it will have you yearning for Parkers’ next next as soon as you are finished.
The Wolf in Winter will be released on October 28th and John Connolly comes to BookPeople November 18th at 7PM to sign and discuss the novel. Pre-order your signed copy today in-store or via bookpeople.com