MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON GETS INTRODUCED TO JOE O’LOUGHLIN

The Suspect (Joseph O'Loughlin #1) Cover ImageIn September, our Murder In The Afternoon book club will be introduced to one of the most complex and believable series characters in modern crime fiction. Joe O’Loughlin, created by Michael Robotham, is a psychiatrist who assists the British police as a way to deal with his early onset Parkinson’s disease. We will discussing the first O’Loughlin novel, The Suspect.

It is in The Suspect where Joe gets his diagnosis and is first asked by D.I. Ruiz (another great character) for help. The victim turns out to be a nurse who was a colleague and former patient of O’Loughlin’s. As he digs deeper and darker he becomes the chief suspect and the killer targets his family. The book proves to deliver Hitchcock style suspense grounded in an emotional character study.

O’Loughin and Ruiz should give us a lot to talk about. You can join us for a discussion on BookPeople’s third floor on Monday, September 17th, 1PM. The Suspect is 10% off to those planning to attend.

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Q&A with Sarah Pinborough

While Cross Her Heart was my first time reading a book written by author Sarah Pinborough, it definitely won’t be my last: Her plotting, pace and twists were amazing.

Cross Her Heart: A Novel Cover ImageAmid best selling authors like Gillian Flynn working with unreliable narrators I find myself wondering, when reading new books with female protagonists, if THIS is an character I can rely on. And this one avoided the clichés, the predictable twists of many other authors and instead provided a completely original book that will keep you reading all night.

As the Independent wrote, “Once the first reveal hits you in the face, you’ll be lucky if you can put the book down to go to bed.”

The author, who has also written 20 novels and novellas and written for the BBC,  was nice enough to let me interview her via email.

Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story?

Sarah Pinborough: The central subject matter – which I can’t really talk about without giving away the twist! – has always fascinated me, especially the fallout and how people continue to live their lives in the aftermath. In the UK in particular we have a fascination with these cases and I always wanted to write something that explored it. God, this is so hard to answer 😉 But once I had that the core twist in place, the rest of the story came easily.

Scott: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?

Sarah: Often I’ll start with a situation, or a scene, but the characters are very close behind. It’s very symbiotic. But when writing thrillers you need to have the engine of the plot and then house it with characters that people will care about. They don’t have to be likeable for me, but they have to like themselves, even if that particular character is an awful human being. Then you have half a chance that the reader will root for them.

Scott: How do you come up with so many disturbing ideas for novels?

Sarah: Ha! Sometimes I think I’d love to write something funny but my brain tends to go to darker places! When I was a kid I never slept because I was always scared of the monsters in the dark, and that endless death-like quality of night, so I figure I’m just destined to think of the terrible things rather than the fun ones. I hope that there are some uplifting moments in my books, though!

Scott: Am I right in guessing that you outline your books? I would think you would have to do in order to plan the twists and keep the pacing at atmosphere going.

Sarah: Yes, I definitely plan. I don’t always stick to them but they help point out the problems if nothing else. I always have to have the end solidly in place before I begin and that never changes once it’s locked in. If the ending doesn’t feel right I can’t really start. I do screenwriting as well, and there structure is everything, and that has carried over into my novel writing. I kind of get key beats in place but they often change as ideas or characters change!

Scott: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

Sarah: Mainly, I hope they just have a few hours entertainment. Entertainment is much under-rated in this difficult world we live in, and I love to get lost in a story, and forget about any problems I have, and hope that my readers have the same experience. But, also, the story stays with them for a while, or makes them think about people in a different way, that’s good too.

Scott: You have quite the collection of past works. What prompted you to write modern re-tellings of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty?

Sarah: Well, that was actually my old editor at Gollancz’s suggestion! We’d both been watching the first scene of Once Upon a Time and loving it and she asked if I’d ever consider re-telling fairy tales and they’d want to publish them if I did. I didn’t think I’d be able to write something like that but then I was thinking about Snow White and wondered what kind of man would fall in love with a dead girl in a glass coffin, and then I had my way in. I’m very proud of that trilogy, and it was fun to be able to write dark, saucy humour.

Scott: I understand Stephen King was one of your earlier writing influences. What’s it like to have King, along with Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Harlan Coben and others, praising you?

Sarah: Oh my gosh, it’s just amazing. There’s always lots of fear in this business (I mean, I’m not bigging up writing, it’s not brain surgery or saving people from fires etc, but we have fragile egos and always worry) and whenever i have a moment of wondering if I’m making a mess of a story or if it’s all going to go wrong I think, ‘Well, at least all these people I admire have at some point enjoyed what I’ve done.’ It’’s a great way to calm down. 😉 I love all of them, but having grown up in total awe of Stephen King his words almost made me cry!

Scott: What are you working on next?

Ah! Well, I’m describing it as Big Little Lies meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s fun and sexy. It’s set in America, and it’s lots of terrible, wealthy people doing terrible things to each other … but I love them. Especially the main women characters.  It is a change because it’s third person past rather than first person present and it doesn’t have past chapters like the last two books but thus far, I’m pretty pleased with it. I think it will be a bit different.

3 Picks for September

Depth of Winter: A Longmire Mystery Cover ImageThe Depth Of Winter by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire marches into Mexico’s narco territory with a ragged band of misfits and several moral compromises to find his kidnapped daughter and settle things with long time nemesis Tomas Bidarte. Even at his grimiest and grittiest, Craig Johnson finds the humor and humanity in his characters.

 

 

 

Robert B. Parker's Colorblind (A Jesse Stone Novel) Cover ImageRobert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

Police Chief Jesse Stone, who just quit drinking, has to contend with a hate group when his black officer is accused of shooting the leader’s unarmed son. Coleman weaves Jesse’s personal struggle into a timely plot that examines race for a satisfying police mystery with real characters and emotion. Reed Farrel Coleman will be at BookPeople on September 16th at 5PM, to sign and discuss Colorblind.

 

 

Charlesgate Confidential Cover ImageCharlesgate Confidential by Scott Von Doviak

The robbery of a Boston art museum in the forties reverberates through  four generations in the Charlesgate apartments. Von Doviak uses Boston lore to weave his story lines, creating a mix of The Big Chill and The Friends Of Eddie Coyle. Scott Von Doviak will be with Edwin Hill (Little Comfort) on Saturday, September 22nd at 6PM to sign and discuss their books.

PICK OF THE MONTH- George Pelecanos’s Man Who Came Uptown

George Pelecanos has become one of the top humanist authors when it comes to crime fiction. His ability to link the believable emotions of his characters to ours and represent his working class folks with dignity makes a true poet in the genre. His latest, The Man Who Came Uptown is a fine example of this.

The Man Who Came Uptown Cover ImageHe gives us a protagonist who can go in several directions. Michael Hudson, a small time crook, awaits his trial in jail. As a way to pass the time, he develops a a love of books with help from the librarian, Anna Kaplan. Michael’s case is thrown out, due to Phil Ornazian, a PI for his lawyer. Michael wants to work at his restaurant job, figure out a good straight life for himself, and read. Ornazian has other plans for him. The detective has a side hustle of robbing pimps and dealers and wants to put Michael to use a a getaway driver. If Michael doesn’t do as he’s told, Ornazian can put him back in jail. As Michael struggles to find a way out, he develops an awkward relationship with Anna.

Pelecanos has his characters and situations unfold in a very real yet dramatic way. He avoids any of the standard ways this story would move, searching for the quieter moments in tale and unearthing them like precious jewels. He explores honest, human connections, and feelings like Michael’s pride in finishing a day’s work or Orzanian’s time with his wife. We see both the sinner and saint in his players, making the lives precious during the violent moments and tragic when it is snuffed out. Even those moments are played down, yet they are no less direct and brutal. It is simply part of the dance these people have found themselves in.

Some of the most moving parts in the book are when Michael reads. Pelecanos captures how reading develops a point of view as he interacts with Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling, an Elmore Leonard western, and others. He shows the quiet beauty of escape the act performs. You also get a lot of great book suggestions.

The Man Who Came Uptown has both grit and heart. Its characters struggle for a better life as they see it, some with misguided tactics. Many of their dreams aren’t lofty, yet are worthy. Pelecanos finds the value in all these people, mainly through their most intimate moments.

SHOTGUN BLAST FROM THE PAST: ANGEL’S FLIGHT BY LOU CAMERON

If not integral to classic crime fiction, jazz at least has a strong relationship to the genre. Whether it be a mob-owned club or evidence of how hip the detective is, jazz is the primary background music to the writing. My own love of the music can be traced to my love of jazz. Because of this, I was intrigued about Stark House reprinting Angel’s Flight, a noir novel that covers the thirty years when jazz was the music of America.

Angel's Flight (Black Gat Books #10) Cover ImageThe book follows the feud between two musicians. Ben Harper plays bass for Daddy Holloway and his Hot Babies, an integrated band led by a genius behind the piano. He butts heads with Johnny Angel, an ambitious kid living with their gay drummer for lessons. Angel finagles his way into the band and through stealing the daughter of Big Daddy’s heart, steals the band. Ben fights him as they both rise in the industry, until World War Two takes him overseas.

After the war things escalate. Ben finds himself in Hollywood helping score a film so Angel doesn’t take the work away from a friend. This leads to his discovering a red-headed beauty with a killer voice, causing yet another battle between him and Johnny. After a nightmare USO tour in Korea, Ben gets leverage on a “dirty” record producer who gypped him and starts his own company that competes with a larger one owned by Johnny Angel. This leads to  final fight involving a senate investigation and murder, coming full circle with poetic noir irony.

Lou Cameron tells the story with the pace and style of a good Benny Goodman number. It covers three decades non-stop under three hundred pages. It is dense and tight. The jazz lingo gives it style, a subtle dark romanticism circles around the story like a breezy horn section, with a cutting cynicism serving as percussion. As it keeps moving, Cameron’s style becomes a major part of the story.

Cameron fills the tale in with detail. We get the drudgery of life on the road, the business of making dirty records and the dirtier business of payola that leads Ben to go up against the the mob and Angel. He also explores the race and sexuality in the scene as well as is other denizens. His definition of a hipster is worth the price alone.

Angel’s Flight gives us a rough and tumble tour through the jazz subculture at it’s peak, carrying the fate of two men, one foolish enough to think he can control it. Cameron plays it with style but with little nostalgia. He gives us an an art and business that can take the lives that exist in it and even worse, their souls.

DAVID CORBETT’S THE LONG-LOST LOVE LETTERS OF DOC HOLLIDAY SHOWS THE WEST CAN STILL BE WILD

The American West has returned as a hot spot for crime fiction. Revived by the likes of Craig Johnson and C.J. Box, sheriffs now square off with meth dealers instead of train robbers, instead of the cavalry, Indians fight crime and politics of the reservation, and a game warden can become an unlikely hero, fusing modern crime fiction with the classic western. David Corbett swaggers into this territory with the fresh and inventive The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday.Join us this evening, August 27th, at 7pm to hear Corbett speak about the book. 

The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday Cover ImageHe gives us a unique protagonist in Tuck Mercer, a former rodeo rider and western art forger who became a western artifact appraiser after a stint in prison. The man is Sam Elliot with a touch of slick salesman thrown in. His time for a big payoff occurs when he comes into possession of the correspondences between the infamous gunfighter Doc Holliday and his sweetheart Mattie. He enlists Lisa Ballermo, and arts attorney with a crush on him, to sell them. News of the letters comes to a shady judge who will do anything to get his hands on them, including the use of a local militia group. Soon there is enough gunfire to give Tombstone in the 1880s a run for its money.

Corbett studies several facets of the west. Tuck and Maria have to maneuver through the neuvo-rich who both live and profit from cowboy fantasies, as they search for a buyer. They also encounter the sons of the pioneers who have lived there for generations living the values the history has instilled in them. Others have twisted those values like other terrorists have done with the Qur’an, and turned them into something xenophobic and bullying. He frames all of it by weaving in the correspondences between Doc and Mattie, creating an elegant counterpoint of the old west to the raucous new one.

The Long Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday uses it’s story and characters to paint a vivid landscape of the American west. Corbett melds action thriller, courtroom drama, and Elmore Leonard-style crime novel to explore the territory that defines our culture and how we define it with legend, lore, and fact colliding together. Thank God a literary prospector like David Corbett was the one to come along and mine it.