7% Solution Book Club to discuss: PAPER TOWNS by John Green

paper towns
This Monday, August 4 at 7PM, the 7% Solution book club
will be discussing John Green’s Edgar Award-winning novel Paper Towns. In this mature and mysterious exploration of teenage psyche, Quentin Jacobson, a high school senior, is taken on a wild, midnight adventure by his next-door neighbor and long-time crush, Margo Roth Spiegelman. After their one night of risk-taking, Margo skips town, and Quentin must solve a series of intricate clues in order to locate his missing lady love.

John Green said about writing this book that he intended to kill the Manic Pixie Dream Girl through the character of Margo Roth Spiegelman, and he succeeds admirably at doing so. For those who haven’t heard the term yet, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl flutters into a story, says some uplifting things to a depressed young man who falls in love with her, and then flits away. In other words, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is not an actual woman, but an idealized version of a woman, without any problems or complications of her own.  Her sole function in a story is to heal or inspire a man through her irrepressible bubbliness and sense of adventure, and she has no agenda of her own.

Margo Roth Spiegelman starts out the story as Quentin’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a character to worship from afar. She has a reputation for taking risks, running away, and organizing impossibly elaborate pranks. Her friends are beautiful and popular, and she and the nerdy Quentin haven’t been close since they were children. As the story evolves, her character evolves with it, and by the end of the novel, not only are we left with a complete and human depiction of Margo’s character, but we also go full circle and find out who she, as a child, worshiped as an impossible paragon of virtue.

Paper Towns is not a mystery in the strictest sense – there is no murder, only an investigation, and the investigation follows clues carefully designed by Margo to hint at where to find her. As Quentin follows the clues and gets closer to discovering her physical location, his understanding of her character continues to grow, and each clue leads to another realization about the girl he has loved from afar for too long without trying to understand who she is up close. The clues Margo has left may be complex, but John Green’s message is simple – real love requires real knowledge, and to love someone without knowing them does them a disservice and for you, creates an impossibility.


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MysteryPeople Review: THE LITTLE BOY INSIDE AND OTHER STORIES by Glenn Gray

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Glenn Gray’s The Little Boy Inside And Other Stories was suggested to me by several respected opinions before I picked it up to read. Authors Matthew McBride and Scott Phillips raved about it. Joe R. Lansdale put up a glowing post recently on Goodreads. Now that I’ve finally finished the collection, I can say everyone knew what they were talking about. This is a book worth picking up.

Gray, a radiologist, uses his medical background to write about the bad relationships people have with their bodies. Many of his stories are mash-ups of horror, sci-fi, and crime fiction, while others defy genre entirely. The most noir of his stories involves the illegal use of steroids in “Jacked,” an intense tale of a user caught between cops, fellow criminals, and his habit. Just about all of these stories have disturbing vibe. “Expulsion” is a satirical take about a man who “gives birth” to an organism. “A Blind Eye” is a somber look on medical ethics.

While many of these stories aren’t for the weak of heart, it is the skill, not the shock value, that make this writing stand out. Whether working as a slow-burn or grabbing you with an alarming first sentence, Gray knows what cards to show and which to hold close to the vest in order to keep you in the game. Every word has impact and meaning.

The Little Boy Inside & Other Stories is like crossing Richard Matheson and filmmaker David Cronenberg. These are masterfully crafted stories playing to the worst fears of our own bodies. Don’t eat while reading.


Copies of The Little Boy Inside & Other Stories are only available on our shelves at BookPeople. Stop by or give us a call at (512) 472-5050 to pick up your copy today!

Tim Bryant Guest Post: A Grab Bag of Dismembered and Remembered Parts

Tim Bryant shares with us a little bit about each of his books, and a little more about his Dutch Curridge Series. He will be speaking and signing his new book, Spirit Trap, on Wednesday, August 6 at 7 pm.

I’ve been lucky enough to get some entertaining reviews of my books, but one of my favorites– if it wasn’t the one that said “this was the best time I ever had with three dead bodies”– might have been the one where the guy wrote something along the lines of “Bryant never uses five words when four will do.” If I never write like I’m being paid by the word (even when I am), you can probably blame it on my background in songwriting. Twenty years of telling stories in three verses, a chorus and (maybe) a bridge can have that effect on you.

My friend Joe Lansdale gave me the best advice I ever got. “When you want something done, ask a busy person.” Joe might be the busiest person I’ve ever met, but he damn sure gets a lot done. He’s been a good friend to me and my writing, and I’m certainly glad to know him, but I don’t believe the old maxim that “it’s all who you know.” Write a bunch of crap and give it to Joe, it’s still a bunch of crap. And he’ll tell you so in no uncertain terms.

My friend Elaine Ash,  who writes under the pseudonym Anonymous-9, told me that, when writing a series of novels, the second novel is always a bitch to complete and the third is an unmitigated joy. The worst thing a writer can be is predictable, but I went for that one hook, line and sinker. I spent too much time writing and re-writing my second Dutch Curridge novel (Southern Select)but the third (Spirit Trap) was magic from day one.

I wasn’t even planning to write Spirit Trap. I was writing a non-Dutch novel, called Constellations, and, by the time I’d reached the end of it, things were going so well that I was sad to end it. I turned the page and immediately started Spirit Trap.

I had the title and the first scene, and that’s it. Didn’t matter. I wrote the whole thing without ever stopping to outline, watching the story unfold as if I were reading it. Sometimes the best stories come that way. (Beware: some of the crappiest ones do too.)

The Dutch Curridge series has a great number of female fans, including readers who tell me they don’t normally read this particular genre. I don’t know what to make of that, but I like it. I do think Dutch speaks to a wide range of people and issues. He’s damaged. He’s unreliable. He’s afraid of love, and he’s afraid of death. He likes good music, Jack Daniels and Dr Pepper (together) and close friends, and he’ll never be able to tell anybody how much he cares for Ruthie Nell Parker. Especially himself.

Dutch is a lot like me. We’re both interested in Native American issues. We both like barbeque. We’re big fans of Bob Wills, and we like Jim Thompson a lot too. And yes, it’s true: both of us deal with Asperger’s Syndrome. On the other hand, he can flat out drink me under the table. And he knows even more stories than I do.

Dutch may treasure the sound of Lester Young’s saxophone, but he’ll always be an old country song. The good kind, like Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell sang. The kind that sound like they’re full of ghosts. Where you can feel something going on in between the words, even though– and maybe because– they’re so damn simple and direct. Dutch is definitely three verses and a chorus. No bridge necessary.

 

MysteryPeople welcomes Tim Bryant, along with Reavis Wortham and Ben Rehder, to BookPeople for a conversation about crime fiction on Wednesday, August 6, at 7 pm.

Scott’s Top 10 Crime Fiction Reads of 2014…. So Far

It’s hard to argue against the fact that we’re living in a golden age in crime fiction. It’s only the middle of the year and I have more than enough to fill out a Top Ten list. So to fill in your summer reading time, I’ve come up with 10 (okay, 12) books that you need to read in August.

1. A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride & The Forsaken by Ace Atkins

Both of these books showcase the wide range of rural crime fiction. McBride’s relentless noir novel and Atkin’s latest book starring heroic lawman Quinn Colson are both skilled gothic spins on communities and their underlying corruption.

2. The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman

Moe Prager takes on his last case with the humanistic toughness we have come to expect from Coleman’s work. This book delves into the series’ recurring theme of identity in a new way and lets Moe go out with class.

3. The Fever by Megan Abbott

Abbott’s take on the mysterious seizures of several high school girls in a small town borrows moods and tones from several genres. In The Fever, Abbott has created a unique thriller about populace, sexuality, and parental love. Another Megan Abbott book that’s hard to shake.

4. The Poor Boy’s Game by Dennis Tafoya

Tafoya’s latest reads like Hammett slammed into Eugene O’Neil. A damaged ex-US Marshall tries to protect what’s left of her family when her father, a corrupt union enforcer, breaks out of prison and sets out on a brutal trail. The emotion is as intense as the gunfire.

5. The Last Death Of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames

Retired police chief Samuel Craddock gets pulled into the murder investigation of a returned vet and ends up acting as a witness to the sins of his town and country. A moving mystery about a very relevant topic.


6. The Forty-Two by Ed Kurtz

This suspenseful ode to the sleazy Times Square of yesteryear stars a young grindhouse addict who ends up in his own horror show when the girl who sits next to him during a slasher double-bill is stabbed to death. One of the best uses of setting I’ve ever read.

7. Blood Promise by Mark Pryor

The latest Hugo Marston thriller has the embassy security head involved with a conspiracy linking French Revolution history to current politics in this fun and involving story with many strong characters. Proof of why Mark Pryor is one of the fastest rising talents in the thriller field.

8. After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

A brilliant use of flashback and cold case murder investigation. Lippman weaves a tapestry of family, identity, religion and class with a strong, suspenseful thread.

9. Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

A botched blackmail attempt combines with a botched kidnapping for a tale that contains an ever-changing  set of sub genres and points of view. The story moves from black comic noir to detective story to thriller, all the while presenting engaging characters and a relentless plot.

10. Providence Rag by Bruce DeSilva & Ways Of The Dead by Neely Tucker

If newspapers are dying, the newspaper mystery isn’t. In Providence Rag, DeSilva’s series character Mulligan is pitted against a crusading reporter whose exposé of prison corruption could release a serial killer he helped put away. Tucker’s debut, Ways of the Dead, has his D.C. journalist covering a murder case that links the city’s lower class and the power class. Both books show the untapped potential of the newspaper subgenre.

Read these bokos, take a breath, and brace for Fall with more books from authors like James Ellroy and Jon Connolly. Four members on today’s list will publish a second novel this year, as well, so look for new books from Terry Shames, Reed Farrel Coleman, Mark Pryor, and Ed Kurtz before 2014 is up.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Reavis Wortham

ReavisWortham

Reavis Wortham‘s latest Red River novel, Vengeance Is Mine, is a game changer for Wortham’s Red River series. When a Vegas hitman moves to town and befriends some of the lawmen of Central Springs, Texas, they must then deal with the violent consequences of his actions in ways that may change their town forever.

reavis wortham vengeance is mine

Reavis will be joining Ben Rheder and Tim Bryant for our Lone Star Mystery Discussion on August 6th. We got a few questions in early.

MysteryPeople: Most of the major characters you’ve dealt with before are native Texans. How did you approach the challenge of a Vegas hitman?

Reavis Wortham: Old Vegas has always fascinated me and when I was first thinking about Vengeance is Mine, it kept popping into my head. I wanted to get out of Center Springs for a while, and the idea of Vegas and old Highway 66 was as attractive as a cool swimming pool on a hot Texas day. My bride and I have talked about driving what’s left of that famous old road, visiting the remaining trading posts, and maybe staying in the vintage motels. At the same time, I’d written a short story about San Francisco, with a professional hit man as the main character, but didn’t do anything with it. When I sat down and stared at this blank screen, preparing to start Vengeance, I needed to see something besides a white and a blinking cursor. I pasted the short story onto the first page and read it. Then I deleted the story, kept the hit man idea, and moved the whole thing to Vegas. From there it was research, both online and books. My youngest daughter’s father-in-law lived in Vegas for some time back in the 1970s, so he offered some advice, since he knew folks who’d worked with the mob back then. From there, Tony Agrioli simply gained form and became the character torn between his own demons, mob life, and freedom.

MP: This is some of the best writing you’ve done of Top and Pepper. What did you want to do with them in this book?

RW: What a wonderful compliment. Thanks Scott! I honestly don’t think about what my characters are going to do until they do them. I think that the kids, Top and Pepper, have grown both on the pages and in my mind. As the young cousins have developed, their own desires, fears, and outlook on life have materialized until we all see something we recognize, and maybe in ourselves. It’s been interesting to watch Top struggle to simply grow up in the country. He’s a bookworm, undersized for his age, and enjoying his time as a kid. But at the same time, his first cousin Pepper has already reached puberty and is torn by the times. She’s influenced by the music of the late ‘60s, dark and revolutionary rock and roll, and wants more than a simple country life can offer. She’s precocious, and usually acts on impulse. Like all real kids, I want to see them grow up, happy and safe, but at the same time, I’m watching all the kids I knew back at that time materialize in these characters. They are reflections of the period, and I continue to recall thoughts and experiences as they develop.

MP: The line “Some folks need killing,” comes up again in this book. How do you view that belief in this story?

RW: My granddad, who was a farmer and constable during this time period, had a clear, black and white view of the world. I heard him say that phrase throughout my childhood, and it reflected the thoughts of those people who lived and worked in rural northeast Texas back in those days. He always said the punishment should fit the crime, and had no use for anyone who murdered, robbed, or routinely broke the law. He was also a firm believer in chain gangs. “You’ll never see anyone go back on a chain gang once they serve their time.” If someone murdered another person, and especially if it happened more than once, you could expect him to say, “Some people just need killin’.” It became the brand for the Red River mystery series, because my main protagonist, Ned Parker, is based on Constable Joe Armstrong, from Chicota, Texas.

MP: My father, who is a fan, talked about how the books take him back to the ’60s and living in a small town. What kind of research do you do?

 RW: Please tell your dad thanks for me! A lot of what appears in the series comes from my own experiences. I grew up at that time (I was Top’s age in the books as they progress), and knew the people who lived in rural northeast Texas. Occasionally, things find their way in the books that require some research. The Plymouth in The Right Side of Wrong that had a push-button transmission and that was new to me. Of course I didn’t know anything about 1960s Las Vegas. I spent a lot of time online, looking at maps and history sites, but I still needed to get the location of casinos and hotels in my head, and most photos didn’t give me all the info I needed. Then I remembered a movie I watched in the old Grand Theater in Paris, and it became the best piece of research material I could find.  The opening scene of the iconic Elvis Presley movie, Viva Las Vegas, was shot from a helicopter, and it was the perfect device to show me what the old strip looked like at the time. From there, it was drive portions of Route 66, and listen to old rock and roll.

MP: You’ve said in a previous interview that little is planned in your writing. Which character has surprised you the most over the course of the series?

RW: That would be Tom Bell, the old man who appeared in The Right Side of Wrong. He was completely unexpected when he arrived in the first chapter’s snowstorm, and everything he did was a surprise, even down to the BAR he owned. Who owns a Browning Automatic Rifle? Tom Bell. And just when you think he’s gone, he reappears, in a sense, in Vengeance. Without giving too much away, I think the ending of The Right Side of Wrong is misleading. Who knows, he may continue to surprise us in upcoming novels, even though some say he died at the end of Right Side. Did he? You’ll have to read it, and then decide. Yeah, I love Tom Bell.

MP: As a Texas native who writes very Texas novels, what do you think is the biggest misconception about our state in literature?

RW:  Scott, I don’t think you could have asked a harder question. Maybe the biggest misconception is  that Texas lit is always rural and/or western. More and more, I’m seeing references to my Red River series as westerns. It never occurred to me until, during conversations and interviews, that in a sense, my series set in the 1960s may well be modern day westerns. But that could also describe a number of thrillers or mysteries by folks from all across this country. My plots, and those of others,  could very well have taken place a hundred and thirty years ago, all ending with the final Hollywood showdown at high noon, or sometimes in my case, at night.

Another misconception may well be that there is no other mainstream literature from the Lone Star State outside of Larry McMurtry, Bud Shrake, J. Frank Dobie, Elmer Kelton, or Americo Paredes. But there are others…many others. How about Fred Gipson, Jonathan Graves, Joe R. Lansdale, Laura Furman, Don Graham, Jan Reid, Katherine Anne Porter, Bill Crider, or Bill Witliff? Then there are those who have made their mark within the last few years, such as Taylor Stevens, Deborah Crombie, Ben Rehder, Tim Bryant, and George Weir. All these authors bring their own brand of writing that defines Texas, and Texans. They are as diverse as the landscape of this huge state itself, and all a reader needs to do is take a chance on an unfamiliar name.

 

MysteryPeople welcomes Bill Durham, along with Reavis Wortham, Tim Bryant and Ben Rehder, to BookPeople for a conversation about crime fiction on Wednesday, August 6, at 7 pm

Crime Fiction Friday: FALCONER by S.J. Rozan

crime scene
S.J. Rozan is one of the most resected crime fiction writers out there. Her intertwining series featuring Lydia Chin and Bill Smith have a master crafts-person’s fusion of story and character. In Falconer, at Akashics’ Mondays’ Are Murder site, she goes to different setting to deal with a different kind of crime.

“Falconer” by S.J. Rozan

 

“‘Ulan Bator, Republic of Mongolia

Tuguldur didn’t like the city.

His father had never come, nor his father’s father. Nothing called them. They drove their herds to the ridges, within sight of the distant towers and haze, and sold them to middlemen. They turned their horses when the business was done and rode back to the steppe, to the autumn camps and their families and the young, strong animals that would survive the howling winter and fatten in the spring…”

 

Click here to read the full story.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins’ fourth Quinn Colson novel, The Forsaken, has the combat vet-turned-sheriff, looking into an old crime that a black drifter was lynched for. It has biker gangs, shoot outs, and fun dialogue as well as looks at race, family, retribution, and our relationship with the past. Ace is the author of fifteen books, including the New York Times-bestselling novels in continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, and has been nominated twice for the Edgar Award for Best Novel with his first two Quinn Colson novels.

Meet Ace Atkins here at BookPeople on Monday, July 28 at 7PM.


MysteryPeople: In The Broken Places you looked at religion in the South. Here you address race some. What did you want to get across about that subject in your culture?

Ace Atkins: A discussion on race and religion is definitely hard to escape when writing about the South. I don’t know if I really had an agenda about either only a good story to tell. In The Broken Places, the easy tale of religion as fraudulent was turned a bit. But in The Forsaken, the dirty, harsh tale of hate crimes is as ugly as the truth. There are a
lot of attitudes that have changed down here in the last 30 years. But it’s far from gone.

MP: The book deals with the past of his town and his family. The past seems to be an important theme in Southern literature. Do you think the area has a different relationship with it than other parts of the country?

AA: History is certainly an important theme in two of my favorite writers — William Faulkner and James Lee Burke. Southerners just obsess on it more. I can see the whole history of the town — a recent history — from settlement shortly before the Civil War all the way up to today. This was a harsh country, wild country I’m writing about. The people
are certainly more hardened. The family stories are core to who we are.

MP: Family is playing a bigger and bigger role as the series goes on. What do you want to explore in that dynamic with Quinn?

AA: We’ve talked about this a lot — the ridiculous preconceived notions of the limits of a crime novel. I love the form — there are no constraints for me. The interaction between Quinn and his family — their personal struggles — is something I wanted to tell from the very beginning with these books. That’s the fascinating and the draw for me moving forward. The Colson family is everything in this series.

MP: There are chapters set in the past dealing with Quinn’s father and his involvement with a particular crime. How did it feel to write a finally be writing a character who has only been talked about in the last three books?

AA: I felt it was about damn time. I’ve been teasing readers for the first three books about Quinn’s dad. I just had to run across a storyline that would involve him. He had to be key to the story. When I ran across the true event of these two teen girls in 1977, I saw a way for this to be part of Jason Colson’s personal story.

MP: Pop culture plays an important part in your books. Some authors are afraid to use it. What draws you to it as a part of your work?

AA: I’m a kid who grew up in a world bombarded by popular culture –books, movies, music. I love the good and the bad. It just seeps into our everyday world it’s tough to ignore. Whether it’s a reference to a classic Western like High Noon or having a character listening to a God-awful Kenny Chesney song, it’s just true to the modern world.

Probably my most use of pop culture was in my novel, Infamous — set in 1933.

MP: The Forsaken is dedicated to two men who recently passed Elmore Leonard and Tom Laughlin (AKA Billy Jack). What qualities in their work do you hope reflects in yours?

AA: Elmore Leonard was my hero. I was lucky enough to get to know him a bit. And I learned a lot from him. All the stuff I love about writing novels can be found in Leonard’s work.

Tom Loughlin was a guy who made films about the stuff he believed in — they were tough, exciting and also had something to say. There’s a lot of Billy Jack in Quinn Colson. I love that movie and that story of a soldier returning home and having to fight a corrupt world means a lot to me.


Ace Atkins speaks about and signs The Forsaken here at BookPeople on Monday, July 28th at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public. If you’d like a signed copy of one of Ace’s books but can’t make it to the event, you can order signed, personalized books via our website, bookpeople.com.