REVIEW OF FOREVER AND A DAY BY ANTHONY HOROWITZ

Forever and a Day: A James Bond Novel Cover ImageIn Forever and a Day, Anthony Horowitz takes on the iconic spy James Bond for a second time. He goes further back to his first mission as 007. While new to having a license to kill, he proves to be lethal from the start.

When the previous 007 is murdered, Bond is recruited into the program. His predecessor noticed something odd about the drug smuggling in Marseilles — it had become almost non-existent. MI6 sends Bond out to find out what the agent learned about this dip in crime that got him killed. When asked what number he’d like to have with his double 0, he chooses seven to let them know they keep coming.

Marseilles proves to be a hive of dangerous scoundrels. After a brief altercation at the previous 00’s villa, Bond befriends Reade Griffith, an amiable CIA agent who shows him around the port city. He soon realizes the person he must find is Sixtine, a sultry freelance spy master with a tragic past, and a certain way she likes her martini. It all leads to a plot of international scale where few can be trusted.

Horowitz captures the flavor of the early Bond books. He replicates the cool tone and matter of fact attitude Bond carries, even in killing. He realizes that even though he may be new to the Double 0 circle, he would be a capable agent. Most of the missteps he makes are in his emotions.

The book also perfectly weaves Bond history into world history. We get Bond’s first meeting with M and a charming one with Moneypenny. Horowitz also plays with expectations of the the cannon, such as his choice of gun. He  uses the cold war backdrop of the fifties to perfect effect, having it play into the villain’s plan and the perfect twist of a last chapter.

Forever and a Day is a treat for Bond fans, particularly those who dug the Ian Fleming books. It is both dry and punchy as the spy’s favorite drink. This kind of mission may be new to the freshly minted 007, but it provides the kind of familiar entertainment his fans have loved for decades.

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INTERVIEW WITH C.M. WENDELBOE

C.M. Wendelboe is a western writer, no matter what genre he writes. A veteran of decades of law enforcement in Wyoming and the Dakotas his books show an understanding of the land and its people while delivering a well crafted and highly entertaining tale. In his latest to feature Arn Anderson, a retired Denver cop turned hired consultant for one of the city’s news stations, we have Arn also doing detail as as stock detective tracking down sheep rustlers. When he stumbles upon a murder he realizes “The Midnight Shepard” may have witnessed it. We talked to Mr. Wendelboe about Hunting the Saturday Night Strangler, how his writing is tied to his former profession, and the western life.

Hunting the Saturday Night Strangler (Bitter Wind Mystery #2) Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: Part of the plot deals with the crime of sheep rustling. Is that more common than most people think?

C.M. Wendelboe: Sheep rustling is still a common problem here in the west, as is cattle rustling. With sheep thefts, it is as I describe it in Hunting the Saturday Night Strangler where a trained dog can herd enough sheep to fill a small trailer (usually 25-30 head) and the rustler gone from the pasture within ten minutes.

MPS: What did tying the two mysteries of the killer and the “Midnight Shepard” allow you to do?

CMW: It allowed me to establish a continuity and a sense of purpose to Arn. Since he retired from the Denver Metro Detective Division, he has done what many retired lawmen have done after they hang up their shield—nothing except sit around watching soaps and drinking beer. Suddenly, the consulting gigs that Ana Maria snagged for Arn give him direction once again. He can use what has been his defining trait as an investigator—the ability to look at things from, first a broad perspective, and narrowing his thinking down into a laser-like focus to solve the cases.

MPS: As in the first book, you occasionally have a chapter from the killer’s point of view. How difficult is that to do without tipping the reader off?

CMW: I have wanted to use the killer’s perspective for some years now. When I was a law officer, I interviewed numerous genuine psychopaths and sociopaths, and each time I came away with the same perspective—they were highly intelligent killers whose intellect eventually were their downfall. To a man (and one woman) I talked with, each thought they were too clever—either because they were inherently intelligent—or that they were too ruthless to drop their guard.

Those chapters were the most difficult in the book because I am unlike the killer, and because it would be so easy to slip up. Of course the last thing I wished to do—aside from the foreshadowing—was give the reader too much information where he or she could solve the identity of the murderer before I was ready to reveal it.

MPS: One thing I like about Arn is that he is an older protagonist. What are some advantages in writing a hero with a few years on him?        

CMW: Arn is a lot like I was in my law enforcement career: the older I became, the more time I took to process things. This wasn’t due to a slowing of the mind, but rather an awareness that I missed many clues, many insights as I rushed headlong to find the answers. As an older character, Arn has grown out of the “puppy lawman” phase and thinks things through logically. Even though it takes him more time to do so.

MPS: Like Craig Johnson, you mainly give a sense of place through its people. What did you want to get across about the citizens of Cheyenne?

CMW: This series has a western flavor to it. Apart from Frontier Days (“The Daddy of ‘em All” rodeo), people here still live the western lifestyle even though most rarely set a horse or participate in brandings. But there are enough things in the community to point to the western heritage and makeup of the town, from the daily wagon and carriage rides seen on the streets in the summer to the lesser rodeos held nearly year-round to the abundance of large cattle and sheep herds within minutes from city center. A person can still see doors opened for others and women escorted away from curbside and men tipping their hats when introduced to strangers. But strangers not for long as the western hospitality will shine through.

MPS: You also have a new western with Tucker Ashley. What can you tell us about that?

CMW: I developed Tucker Ashley in the true sense of what folks think of the buffalo hunter/part time army scout/gunfighter. But I also wanted to showcase his abilities as a man tracker. Folks often assume that every frontiersman was track-savvy with the abilities to follow a gnat across choppy water. This was not so back in the day. Tales are full of men who misread sign and wound up lost or hundreds of miles off their presumed destination. Competent trackers back then were sought out, as they are today.

MPS: You will be calling in to our Murder In The Afternoon Book Club on November 19th for your discussion of your first Bitter Wind Novel, Hunting The Five Point Killer. Is there anything we can’t ask?

CMW: Sky’s the limit. Look forward to it.

 

Interview With Timothy Hallinan

Today marks the release of Nighttownthe latest book from Timothy Hallinan. He was nice enough to answer our questions about the new book and his other work.

Nighttown (A Junior Bender Mystery #7) Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: This is a unique plot even by Junior Bender standard. How did it come about?  

Timothy Hallinan: It arrived in three pieces and (since I’m not a writer who plans a lot) they were put together on the fly. First, a reviewer for a publishing trade said about the last Junior book, Fields Where They Lay, that, as far as Christmas mysteries were concerned, “it was one of the very best since The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” I hadn’t read that Sherlock Holmes story, but when I did I found myself liking the idea of the huge, stolen precious stone. Second, I’d been thinking a lot about the bum rap darkness usually gets – ever since the King James Bible (at least), it’s been equated with evil and misery. I mean, talk about stacking the deck: God’s first line is “Let there be light.”

Junior is a burglar, and he likes darkness; he sort of thinks of it as his personal ZIP code. I decided I wanted to put him someplace that was too dark even for him. Out of that came the second piece, Horton House, an empty, condemned mansion that practically vibrates with malice. Third, it came to me that the man who built the house had been a Spiritualist, a member of the quasi-religion that swept the world in the years of global mourning after tens of millions of people died in the twin calamities of World War One and the Spanish Flu, and I remembered that the world’s best-known advocate for Spiritualism was Arthur Conan Doyle. I thought it was interesting that Doyle–the creator of fiction’s most remorselessly logical detective–was the voice of Spiritualism and that his opposite number, speaking out against it, was the magician Harry Houdini. (I would have expected it to be the other way around.) Those three things, the stone, the old dark house, and the Spiritualism-Doyle connection, became the basis of the story, although the way they were woven together seems a lot more logical now that I’ve finished the book than it did when I was writing it.

MPS: You’ve looked at the different sides of Los Angeles in the series. what side of it did you want to explore in this book?

TH: Of all the world’s great cities, Los Angeles has the briefest past, and it’s relentlessly paved over most of the past it does have. Many of its most beautiful buildings have been bulldozed to make way for Walmarts and shopping malls. I’ve always found it interesting that it’s such a present-tense town, so I  thought it would be fun to set much of the action in a little bit of the past that’s due for demolition. I also wanted some of the story’s characters to be people whose personal pasts were being forgotten or erased: a once-powerful movie producer; an actress from a forgotten sitcom; a woman whose only inheritance was being withheld by someone who hated her. All crime novels, I think, look into the past to some degree, even if it’s only the recent past in which the crime was committed, but I wanted to play around with deeper past, especially since L.A. has so little of it.

MPS: One of the things I love about the Junior Bender series are his partners in crime. Is there one in particular that you enjoy writing for?

TH: The one for whom I feel the most affection is probably Louie the Lost, the getaway driver with no sense of direction who had to change careers after the word got out that he couldn’t tell the difference between north and up. I could write Louie all month long and spend most of the time laughing. There are also a couple of female hitters I like, including one who always unscrews her silencer when she finishes a job because it snags on the lining of her purse. And there’s a new character in Nighttown, an absolutely lethal woman named Itsy Winkle, who lives in a house full of stuffed cats and who just stole every scene she was in.

MPS: There is a great tip of the hat to The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes. What do you admire about those stories?

TH: This is probably going to cost me lots and lots of readers, but at the time I decided to write Nighttown I had never read a word of Doyle, and now that I’m done writing it, I’ve read only one story, “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” I know Holmes and Watson mostly through film and television, and I have to say that the one I like best is probably Benedict Cumberbatch. I admire the story I read, but I can’t honestly claim that it beckons me back to read more. On the other hand, I love some of the Holmes-inspired detective twosomes, most notably Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodman.

MPS: As a writer, what makes Junior Bender a character worth coming back to?

TH: It’s largely the way Junior, who is at heart an average middle-class guy, interacts with the darkness of the world he’s chosen. There have been a couple of attempts to turn the books into a TV series, and what went wrong was that they focused on the jokes and downplayed the menace. One doesn’t work without the other. I think what makes these books funny (if they are) is that there’s actually quite a bit of life-or-death interaction going on in the foreground, and it’s not just slapstick: people can really get killed. Even less bang-bang scenes, like the one with Laney Profitt, the former TV star, and Jake Whelan, once the most powerful producer in Hollywood, now both lost (at least temporarily) to dope, work because that little tragedy is seen through Junior’s eyes as he tries in self defense to keep it, emotionally, at arm’s length. It’s not funny (I think) unless it’s serious, and often it’s most serious because it’s funny. Junior copes with the world he’s chosen, in part, by distancing himself from it, by seeing its funny side. That alone makes him interesting to write.

 

C.M. WENDELBO CALLS IN TO THE MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON BOOK CLUB TO DISCUSS HIS WILD WEST

Hunting the Five Point Killer (Bitter Wind Mystery #1) Cover ImageAfter Craig Johnson’s success with the Sheriff Walt Longmire series, the western mystery has had  a renaissance. Investigations in rustic areas west of the Mississippi are proving to have an audience. One of the best newcomers in the field is C.M. Wendelbo. Our Murder in The Afternoon Book Club will be discussing the first book in his Bitter Wind series, Hunting The Five Point Killer.

The book introduces us to Arn Anderson, who retired from the Denver Police under a cloud and now works as a consultant for one of the city’s news stations. When reporter Anna Maria Villareal  works on a story involving three Cheyenne police detectives, Arn is dragged back to his home town. The investigation turns up old ghosts, as well as an old flame as the killer closes in on Anna Maria and him.

Hunting The Five Point Killer is a well crafted story that delivers everything you want in the sub-genre. It has humor, characters that pop, and mines the Cheyenne setting for great effect.

It makes for a fun book to talk about and to make it more entertaining Mr. Wendelbo will be calling us to join in on the discussion.

We will be meeting on BookPeople’s Third Floor, Monday November 19th, at 1PM. The book is 10% off for those planning to attend.

A Conversation with DCI Elaine Hope from A R Ashworth’s Elaine Hope Series

Thanks to author A.R. Ashworth for writing this guest blog post, a conversation with his character DCI Elaine Hope. Ashworth will be in the store Friday, November 2nd at 7pm.

Two Faced: An Elaine Hope Mystery Cover ImageDetective Chief Inspector Elaine Hope runs a Murder Investigation Team in the London Metropolitan Police Service. A.R. Ashworth has written two thrillers about Elaine’s cases: Souls of Men and Two Faced. He’s currently working on the third novel in the series. In early October he sat down for a conversation with Elaine. True to form, she took control almost from the start.

A.R. Ashworth: Thanks for making time, Elaine. I know you’re busy with a new case.

Elaine Hope: I am, but I owe you. You invented me. This won’t take long, will it?

AA: It shouldn’t, but with you I never know. Tell me why—

EH: I bet your readers wonder why you’re writing about me. Maybe because I’m so patient and charming. Or maybe because I’m six feet tall and I don’t give rat’s a—sorry, I forget about tender American sensibilities—I don’t give a rat’s bum about how glamourous I look.

AA: I’m certain that’s not why I write about you.

EH: Not bloody likely. It’s because I’m good at catching killers.

AA: Bingo.

EH: You live in Texas but your stories are set in London. You’re a man, writing about a woman. From what bourbon-soaked, cob-webbed corner of your brain did you conjure me?

AA: Some days I wonder that, too. You’re asking me to explain myself. I don’t think I need to; my stories stand on their own. But here’s a synopsis. I’ve spent a lot of time in London, been to the locations in the books, drank in the pubs. Besides a few mystery writers and some barmen, my Brit friends include two retired Met detectives. I got hooked on Dorothy Sayers back in the ‘70s because her writing was richer and deeper than Christie or Marsh. I’ve loved the darker British-style mysteries ever since. And female authors write about male protagonists all the time.

EH: Sayers. You once told me I have a bit of Harriet Vane in me—that I don’t need a man in my life, but I’ll listen if he makes a good case. I fight the male establishment but I’m not Jane Tennyson in so many ways.

AA: I wasn’t thinking of them when I created you. Maybe Harriet Vane a little, with Peter. But as I got to know you, I saw a few similarities. You’re gritty, strong, assertive, but never a bitch. You can be vulnerable, but never a victim. You evolve and learn on-the-fly. You never back down.

EH: You can tie a ribbon ‘round that. What were you thinking, making Peter the protagonist in the first draft of Souls of Men? I’m glad we had that talk.

AA: We? You did all the talking. I nodded and rewrote it, didn’t I?

EH: You admitted it. Peter’s a helluva guy, but it was me you turned loose on the Srecko brothers. Reviewers said Souls of Men was a strong, smart debut. Gritty, dark, satisfying. You can thank me for that. I don’t tolerate violence against women, and you dumped me right in the middle of those toerags. Talk about gritty and dark. One reviewer compared me to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. She said we’ve both seen the worst. You were damn hard on me.

AA: That was Karen Keefe from Booklist. You handled it.

EH: Yeah, the world’s full of surprises, innit? It changed my life. In Two Faced I was set on revenge, running a rogue investigation, screwed up with PTSD. Thanks for Fiona. She’s even more messed up than me, but she’s the friend I need. Barefoot Woman. That was a hoot.

AA: I gave you Peter, too. How’s that going?

EH: I miss the hell out of him. Long-distance affairs are hard, even without a six-hour time difference. He plays Sam Cooke songs to me when we Skype, so I think we’re solid. I just hope he won’t go ballistic when he hears—

AA: Stop! We agreed no spoilers. Can you tell me something about your current case?

EH: The one you’re calling If I Can’t Have You. I’m back from compassionate leave, running a murder investigation team, up to my eyeballs in—say, can you give me a hint about who wants to kill Tessa? Didn’t think so. And I’m dealing with that other, erm, possibly ballistic situation. I have a lot on my plate.

AA: You’re a London cop.

EH: I couldn’t be anything else. People need justice. Need the Met. Need me. Time to get back to the nick. You’ll see me tomorrow afternoon. We’ve got scenes to write.

AA: Yes, we do. See you then.

Meike Reviews Jeff Abbott’s latest

Jeff Abbott is a perennial BookPeople favorite, and his new book doesn’t disappoint. Here, Meike reviews it ahead of Jeff’s visit to the store Thursday, October 25th at 7pm to discuss it.

The Three Beths Cover ImageYou know that feeling you get when you think there might be someone following you? You walk a little faster, and then they walk faster, too? And the faster you go, the faster they go, until at the end it’s straight up race for survival? That’s how Jeff Abbott’s latest standalone, The Three Beths, feels. You’ve been warned.

It’s been a year since Mariah Dunning’s mother Beth vanished from their home in Lakehaven, TX,  a comfortable suburb of Austin. The residents there have known each other for years, so Mariah acutely feels the suspicion that’s fallen on her father Craig. One day she briefly catches sight of a woman who Mariah believes might be her mother, and she becomes more determined than ever to discover the truth to her mother’s disappearance. That’s the only way she can prove not only that Craig didn’t kill his wife, but also that Beth didn’t choose to walk out on her daughter. With the help of a crime blogger, Mariah discovers that two other Lakehaven women disappeared recently—both of them named Beth.

In a story with multiple plot lines like this, the pacing is critical and Abbott hits the mark — each part of the story is revealed subtly and at just the right time. That leaves the reader simultaneously wanting to race to the next clue and trying to slow down so as not to miss any important details. And there are just the right amount of twists and turns to keep things lively without going off the rails.

 

INTERVIEW WITH HELEN CURRIE FOSTER

Helen Currie Foster’s latest mystery to feature Texas lawyer Alice MacDonald Greer, Ghost Next Door, starts with her small ranch being invaded by drones and escalates when a food writer is murdered during the first barbecue cook-off her town of Coffee Creek is putting on and the killer has her sights on her. With her gal pal, Red, she is out to unravel this very fun, Texas-flavored mystery. Helen was kind enough to take a few questions from us about the book.

Ghost Next Door Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: With this mystery, you delve the town of Coffee Creek. What did you want to explore with that?

Helen Currie Foster: The Hill Country is beginning to change, but local flavor remains strong. The landscape itself demands character in the people: they’re either dealing with drought or flood, are either baking or freezing. As Molly Ivins put it, “Texas! –land of wretched excess!”

Bland suburbanization continues its inexorable march west, but people still love places like Coffee Creek: the feed store, the post office where everyone picks up the mail, Friday night lights with the bats darting after the bugs and the PTA frying burgers and selling hot dogs…… AND big sky, live oaks, limestone, and secret springs.

MPS: What I really enjoyed about the book was the relationship between Alice and Red. Where you wanting to say something about female friendship?

HCF: Alice knows she’d never have moved to Coffee Creek, much less begun to belong there, without Red. Red’s a long-time friend who lured Alice (at the lowest point of Alice’s existence) out to Coffee Creek to start over again. Alice loves Red because Red speaks truth, declines to put up with any of Alice’s introverted angst, and honors her own deep Texas roots. Red has Alice’s back; Alice has Red’s. Red’s game for adventure, even (or especially) for danger. She also says yes to frivolity. Alice knows she needs Red. Alice’s friendships with Red (and Miranda) are crucial to her survival.

MPS: Cooking, especially barbecue plays a big part in the story. Did you do any kind of research for this?

HCF: Oh, yeah. A lifetime of research. I’m deeply competitive when it comes to brisket. So competitive that, unlike in Ghost Dagger, where I did share a character’s recipe for Scottish pastries, I didn’t share the character M.A.’s recipes in Ghost Next Door for the dry rub or the mop she uses on her prize-winning brisket, or for the secret technique that keeps it juicy and not burned on the bottom. Like many others, I’ve spent decades pursuing the perfect brisket, whether mine or someone else’s. An all-time best was the brisket taco with the “green sauce” from a food truck on the courthouse square in Fort Davis…EPIC. I will share the recipe for that green sauce on the website.

As to the Coffee Creek Cook-Off, the town adapted the actual Lone Star Barbecue Society Rules.

MPS: One of things that makes your books work is how even characters that are just on a few pages pop. Do you have an approach in writing every person Alice encounters?

HCF: Yes. Even when characters get bit parts, they play an important role in the plot. Alice pays attention to them, watches them, listens to them. She picks up key clues from them. So they must be as alive, as vivid, as any main character—but they have less time to make that impression!

Characters reflect people I’ve met, worked with, been scared of, been enchanted by. Real people. Like the south, the southwest revels in its characters. The guy at the garage, the old man who loads hay at the feed store, the plumber planning to start a commercial venture with marijuana, the clerk at the post office—they revel in their independence, they expand into their own stories, they’re comfortable in their own skins. They don’t try to look like everyone, or talk like everyone.

MPS: As a writer, what has made Alice a character worth coming back to?

HCF: Great question. Alice isn’t perfect. She’s insecure, introverted, critical. And she’s driven. As a lawyer she feels absolutely compelled to finish what she signed on for, what her clients need done. She’s sometimes short-tempered and hasty, because she’s infuriated by people who try to intimidate her or her clients. I admire her strong sense of justice. And you know, Alice loves mystery novels…I have to admire a fellow mystery-lover.