Hard Word Book Club goes to Yuma Prison with Elmore Leonard

For November, The Hard Word Book Club discusses a book by one of the
greats at a transitional moment in his career. Elmore Leonard’s Forty
Lashes Less One was the last western he did before starting crime
fiction. Containing many elements in those future books and taking
place in less than wide open spaces, this can be viewed as him taking
steps forward.

The two protagonists are Chiricahua Apache Raymond San Carlos and
Harold Jackson, a black former soldier, sentenced to life in Yuma
Prison. To put Jackson in his place, the king of the cons, Frank
Shelby, tricks him into a fight with with San Carlos. Raymond and
Harold bond when tossed into the hole and become the pet
rehabilitation project for a the new warden, who is also a minister.
When the inmates need to be moved to a new prison, Shelby plans a
breakout and Raymond and Harold plot revenge.

Forty Lashes Less One is funny, tough, and very unique. It provides
much to talk about with how the characters view race and religion. It
is also provides great examples to talk about crossing genres and
Elmore Leonard. We will be having our discussion on Wednesday, November
29th, 7PM on BookPeople’s third floor. The books are 10% off to those
planning to attend.

Advertisements

MysteryPeople Q&A with Screenwriter and Author Scott Frank

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Scott Frank is a screenwriter and director of exquisite talent. He has adapted Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, and Minority Report. As both writer and director, he has given us two of the best crime films in past decade, A Walk Among The Tombstones (from the Lawrence Block novel) and The Lookout.

Frank has now added “novelist” to his already impressive resume with his debut, Shaker, a crime satire that takes a New York hitman to L.A. just in time for one of California’s worst earthquakes. The book looks at gangs, the media culture, and politics, all in a style that allows for human depth and darkness as well as laughs. Mr. Frank took a few questions about the book and the switch from screen to prose. He joins us Monday, February 1st, at 7 PM, appearing alongside authors Terry Shames and Josh Stallings. 


MysteryPeople Scott: You mainly are known for your work in film. What made Shaker more suitable to tell as a novel?

Scott Frank: It was a story that depended so much on understanding the history of several characters. You couldn’t really go forward without knowing what had come before. So it just seemed more of a novel to me for that reason.

MPS: What did you enjoy doing in prose that you couldn’t do in a screenplay?

SF: When you write a film, “show not tell” is always your mantra. You don’t ever get a chance to go deep. You want to define scene and character as quickly as you can. And if you do go backwards, it can’t play as digression. It will feel like a mistake. We just don’t watch movies in the same way we read books. In a book, a digression can be the most satisfying part. It was so much fun writing about what happened before the book began, and then making it pay off.

MPS: The book has an interesting interplay between plot and backstory. On the surface, it plays like a Carl Hiassen crime satire, yet you slowly get introduced to everybody’s dark history. Was this planned going in or just happen since you were dealing with some pretty unsavory characters?

SF: It just sort of evolved. I realized that if I wanted a reader to actually care about these people, I couldn’t always write them as jokes. I thought it might be interesting for introduce someone, make an impression, then subvert that with their backstory, so that you cared about them, no matter how unsavory they turned out to be. The tone in those past sections, then, had to be more serious, but still had to somehow dovetail with the rest of the book. Was the hardest part for me. But I just heard those parts differently in my head.

Read More »

Three Picks for June

reluctant matadorThe Reluctant Matador by Mark Pryor

Hugo Marston hits Spain to track down the missing daughter of a friend. Along with CIA and sometime sober pal, Tom Green, he finds himself up against a sex trafficking ring and more out of his element than usual. Pryor continues his entertaining series with great pace, characterization, locations, and just the right amount of humor. The Reluctant Matador hits the shelves today, June 2nd. You can find copies on our shelves or via bookpeople.com

new yorkedNew Yorked by Rob Hart

This tough-as-the-streets debut introduces us to unlicensed New York PI and enforcer Ash McKenna. When the goth beauty he loves is murdered, Ash sets his sights on revenge, tearing up the city, going up against his mobster boss, and falling into a strange hipster turf war. A unique hard-boiled thriller that could only be set in New York. New Yorked hits the shelves June 9th. Pre-order now

charlie martz and other storiesCharlie Martz & Other Stories by Elmore Leonard

A collection of Elmore Leonard’s early short work republished for the first time. From revenge in the big city to showdowns in the old west, these works show one of the greatest learning his craft and reveals that he had many of his gifts coming out of the gate. Thoroughly fun to read, a pure gift for Leonard fans. Charlie Martz & Other Stories hits the shelves June 16th. Pre-order now. 

Scott and Molly’s Top Eight Reissues of 2014

This was a great year for publishers bringing back classics into print. It’s important to keep legacy publishing going, to inspire writers and readers alike. Here are eight books brought back into print this year that are well worth your time today.


Molly’s Top Four Reissues


williammcilvanneylaidlaw1. Laidlaw by Ian McIlvanney

When Ian McIlvanney took some time off writing poetry in the 1970s to write the Detective Laidlaw trilogy, he had no idea that he was  quietly creating the genre of Scottish Noir, or as some like to refer to it, Tartan Noir. Europa Editions reissued the first and  second volumes of the DI Laidlaw Trilogy this year – Laidlaw and The Papers of Tony Veitch – and the third volume, Strange Loyalties,  is due out April 2015. In a city as grey and dismal as Edinburgh, especially in the 1970s, it should be no surprise that Detective  Inspector Laidlaw is about as noir as it gets.


borderline2. Borderline by Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block is one of the most prolific and admired authors writing today, and after a 60-year career, Mr. Block has quite a few  novels to bring back into print. Borderline, a relic of the porn paperback industry, was initially published in the 1950s, and what  read as salacious at that time now reads as coy and clever. Borderline takes place in El Paso and Juarez as several desperate  characters, including a serial killer, collide in a murderous take on the Beatnik experience.


mad and the bad3. The Mad and the Bad, by Jean-Patrick Manchette

This classic, crazed French noir, originally written in the 1970s,and now reissued through New York Review of Books, stars a spoiled heir, a suspicious  red-headed uncle, a nanny recently released from the mental ward, and a professional killer suffering from ulcers, all with a severe  penchant for violence. Follow the nanny and the heir as they are kidnapped by the professional killer, and be rewarded with the most  violent road trip across France since the D-Day invasion. The novel’s ending is explosive and stylish, reminiscent of the recent film  Hanna in the fairy-tale setting of its final showdown.


gb844. GB84 by David Peace

Originally released in 2004, and never before published in the United States, possibly because of its radical politics, GB84 is David  Peace’s epic and intense depiction of the 1984 Coal Miners’ Strike in Great Britain. Through shifting perspectives and shadowy goings  on, lurking Special Branch agents and striking miners beaten by police, Peace merges history and crime novel to create a portrait of  Margaret Thatcher’s England more Orwellian than even George Orwell could have imagined.


Scott’s Top Four Reissues


get carter1. Get Carter (AKA) Jack’s Trip Back by Ted Lewis

Syndicate Books kicked off their publishing enterprise earlier this year with Ted Lewis’ trilogy featuring cold to the bone London mob enforcer Jack Carter. In  this first book, Carter is in full ruthless form, returning to his Northern England home town to hunt down the folks who killed his  brother.


pop12802. Pop 1280 by Jim Thompson

Mulholland books have reprinted almost all of Jim Thompson’s work with elegant new covers, with many having introductions by famed  authors. Daniel Woodrell introduces this violent and satiric tale of a crooked sheriff in the the early 20th century American South. The book looks at race,  greed, corruption, and love with a jaundiced yet inventive eye.


hardcase3. Hardcase by Dan Simmons

Mulholland also brought this hard boiled gift back in print, introducing us to Joe Kurtz, a private eye who makes Mike Hammer look  like a Hardy boy. You can feel Simmons love for the genre as spins this tale of Joe setting himself back in business after a ten year  prison stint, working for the mob boss who’s son he saved in the joint. The follow ups, Hard Freeze and Hard As Nails, will be out in  2015.


elmore leonard library of america4.  4 Novels From The 70s by Elmore Leonard

One of our most influential authors gets the American Library treatment. This first of three volumes features 52 Pick-Up, SwagUnknown Man #89, and The Switch. The reader can track the progress of an already seasoned writer developing a voice that would leave  its mark.

 


You can find copies of the books listed above on our shelves or via bookpeople.com. All books listed above as forthcoming are available for pre-order on our website.

MysteryPeople Review: Elmore Leonard’s FOUR NOVELS OF THE 1970S: FIFTY-TWO PICKUP / SWAG / UNKNOWN MAN NO. 89 / THE SWITCH

elmore leonard library of america

Over a career spanning decades, Elmore Leonard was not only one of the best crime fiction writers in the US.  He was one of our country’s best writers, period. Like Twain, Hemingway, and Chandler, he turned the American idiom into art. It is therefore fitting that The Library of America has chosen to publish a three volume set of Leonard’s works, edited by George Sutter, Leonard’s friend and researcher. Each volume will contain four books. The first volume, subtitled Four Novels of the 1970s, was released this month. The selected titles are great representations of his first full decade in the crime fiction genre, sometimes referred to as his “Detroit Period.”

The first book in the collection, Fifty-Two Pickup, tells the story of a businessman, Harry Mitchell, being blackmailed for an affair. When he refuses to pay, the blackmailers kill his mistress and frame him with doctored evidence they threaten to release if he doesn’t pay a higher amount. This starts an involved cat-and-mouse game playing the three villains against each other. Here you see Leonard’s aptitude for writing criminals. While sleazy and vile, each is familiar and believable, with great dialogue.

The second title, Swag, features criminals as the leads. It is the first appearance of car thief Earnest “Stick” Stickley Jr. Stick meets car salesman Frank Ryan while trying to boost a car off of Ryan’s lot. Frank has some shady get-rich-quick schemes and pulls Stick into a series of robberies that rest on a series of rules he has concocted, including the old adage, “Be Polite”. Leonard takes a close look at middle class criminals and the modern American dream. Stick is one of the first characters to display the “Leonard Cool,” existing only in the moment. The notes section in the back contains a passage he discarded from the novel.

I was happy to see one of my favorite Leonard novels, Unknown Man #89, included. The lead is Jack Ryan, the protagonist from his first crime novel, The Big Bounce. Ryan is working as a process server with a reputation for finding anyone, especially those who don’t want to be found. He’s hired to to track down an unknown stock holder to deliver the news of his good fortune, but it soon becomes clear that Jack is not the only one looking for his target, and that the others have much deadlier intentions., leaving Jack stuck in the crossfire.This book is tougher than his better known, later work, painting Detroit street life in its gritty glory.

The final book, The Switch, is the closest to the kind of story Leonard became known for. A crime fiction take on O’Henry’s The Ransom Of Red Chief, the story concerns the kidnapping of a businessman’s wife that occurs right before he is about to file for divorce. It is full of Leonard double crosses, switching alliances, quirky characters, and fun dialogue. Leonard like his characters from The Switch so much he put two of the characters in one of his nineties novels, Rum Punch.

All four novels are packaged in a beautiful edition with a detailed history of Elmore Leonard’s life. It shows him in the process of developing his voice, after twenty years of writing westerns, to become one of crime fiction’s most original voices, influencing even those outside the genre. Most of all, you get an understanding of how distinctive that voice was at the start.


Copies of Four Novels of the 1970s can be found on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

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.

MysteryPeople Review: THE FORSAKEN by Ace Atkins

The Forsaken by Ace Atkins
Reviewed by Scott M.

With echoes of both William Faulkner and Elmore Leonard, the latest Quinn Colson novel by Ace Atkins, The Forsaken, goes deep into both Colson’s character and his culture. Like Southern literature’s best novels, Atkins centers his narrative around themes of family and of the past, with a few great action sequences thrown in to keep things interesting.

As The Forsaken opens, Chains LeDoux, leader of The Born Losers biker gang, has just finished up a twenty year prison stretch, and he comes out gunning for Sheriff Colson’s nemesis town fixer, Johnny Stagg. Quinn, himself, is looking into a cold case involving a a man who raped one girl and killed another when the town was celebrating the Bicentennial.

The town quickly decided to lynch a black drifter for the crime, but evidence has arisen years later pointing to his innocence. As Quinn looks into what really happened, he finds much resistance from the town. Like Faulkner, Atkins uses the mystery structure to look at the past’s relationship to the present. Many chapters take place in the ’70s and feature Quinn’s estranged father, Jason, and his involvement with a neighborhood gang called The Born Losers, all leading up to that dark July 4th. The back-and-forth structure creates a conversation between Jason’s prior actions and his son’s current investigation. This past and present dynamic enriches the book and gives it its authenticity.

We get a realistic modern Southern town in Jericho. The classic country from the barbershop mixes with the hip-hop from a passing pick up. Quinn’s mother still cooks lard-fried bacon and eggs with biscuits and gravy, but he has to make due with a salad when spending the evening with his girl. Ace also shows how ignoring the past can drag progress made towards the future.

With The Forsaken, Ace Atkins digs into the specifics of southern life, mining universal truths of history, family, and society. His characters are both true and entertaining (Leonard fans will love the dialogue of his villains) and the world he creates breathes with a lived-in quality. All that and kick-ass action too.

Look for an interview on our MysteryPeople blog with Ace Atkins later on this week. Ace will be speaking and signing his latest novel, The Forsaken, on Monday, July 28, at 7 pm on BookPeople’s second floor. You can order signed copies of The Forsaken via bookpeople.com. We ship worldwide.