Bouchercon Recap, Part 3: Panel Redux

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
bouchercon-haul
My Bouchercon Book Haul

If you’ve noticed a bit of radio silence on our blog these past couple weeks, that’s because MysteryPeople’s Scott Montgomery, Meike Alana, and I took a road trip to the Big Easy for the “Blood on the Bayou” Bouchercon, one of the world’s largest gathering of mystery writers, fans, bloggers, agents, editors, marketers, librarians, booksellers and publishers. The breath of those titles pales in comparison to the diversity of day jobs talked about, past and present. Poison experts mingled with ex-cops, ex-cons, ex-journalists, and expert martial artists. This year’s conference, due to its desirable locale, was busier than most, so trust me when I say that the memories I’ve brought back represent a small slice of the enormous number of great experiences had over the weekend at Bouchercon.

Bouchercon exists on many levels. First, there are the official events: the panels, the awards, the signings, the book room; in short, plenty to entertain a mystery lover. There’s also plenty of behind the scenes industry action, as publishers celebrate anniversaries, authors celebrate book releases, and meetings galore happen across the city. Then, there’s that special camaraderie that only occurs from geeking out about mystery with folks just as weird as we are. That part seems to happen mainly in the hotel bar.

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Bouchercon Recap: Part 1

– Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

book-haul-scott

New Orleans is a city known for sin, drinking, and corruption; a perfect place for the 2016 Bouchercon where hundreds of crime novelists, publishers, and fans meet. I’ve been going solo to these things, but this time I was joined by my fellow MysteryPeople, newly named Director Of Suspense Molly Odintz and and MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana to divide and and conquer. That said, I was still exhausted after I was done.

Even the panels were more rollicking than usual. When Moderator Laura Lippman spoke on behalf of Megan Abbott on their “Real Housewives” discussion, panelist Greg Herren called up Megan to see if Laura was right. for the record, she was. On a panel on vigilante justice in crime fiction Stuart Neville questioned the authors who talked about the need for a vigilante hero, by saying it is a fascist trope. A panel on the use of violence got interesting when Taylor Stevens, author of The Informationist, talked about the need for it in her writings. “Our characters are gladiators in the arena and our readers want to see them get bloodied.”

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If you like Lee Child…

lee child personal

When it comes to tough guy action, there is no bigger name right now than Lee Child. His Jack Reacher has now saved the day and dealt out retribution in nineteen books. If you’ve finished his latest, Personal, and still need to root for a true, if tarnished, hero, we suggest these reads.


ace atkins the rangerThe Ranger by Ace Atkins

An Afghan war vet, Quinn Colson, returns to his Mississippi home to find it has been taken over by the local kingpin. With the help of his friends, his wits, and more than a few bullets, he fights to take it back. Inspired by the Southern-set action films of the Seventies, this book is rich in character, deep Southern flavor, and action.


 

more harm than good andrew grantMore Harm Than Good by Andrew Grant
A simple hunt for the person who stole his boots, puts British Naval Intelligence officer David Trevellyan in a dark international conspiracy, where only he can save the day. Fun and well paced with a hero who pulls you in on your terms.

 


 

The Mike Hammer Collection: Volumes 1,2, and 3 by Mickey Spillane

A lot of Jack Reacher’s DNA can be traced to Spillane’s hardcase veteran of the Second World War who operates as avenger as much as private eye. These books popularized the idea of a hero who took out the bad guys with there own methods. Tough, brooding, with a hard-as-nails voice, these books are red meat in book form.

MysteryPeople International Crime Fiction Review: BELFAST NOIR & SINGAPORE NOIR

 

– Post by Molly

In 2004, Akashic Books published Brooklyn Noir, their first collection of original noir short stories, set in Brooklyn and written by a combination of local authors and writers from all over. Since that time, Akashic has released collections for almost every major American city and region (including, for Texas, Lone Star Noir and Dallas Noir) and, after covering much of the United States, has moved on to collections set in cities around the world.

Akashic’s motto is “Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World.” Some collections profile the fraught and violent underbellies of some of the world’s most prominent centers of tourism and business. Others focus in on the humanity and humor within a place already possessing a reputation for violence. Whatever the setting, Akashic, in their noir series, succeeds admirably at this goal. Akashic releases new collections faster than I can read them, and alas, I am now woefully behind on my world noir anthologies, but two recent releases from Akashic particularly stood out to me: Belfast Noir and Singapore Noir.

Belfast has always had a rather noir reality, but over the past decade or so, Northern Ireland has also become known for an incredible outpouring of noir fiction, dubbed the “new wave” of Irish crime fiction. Belfast Noir draws upon two of my favorite authors from the region in editing the collection: Adrian McKinty, author the Troubles Trilogy and many other novels, and Stuart Neville, author of The Ghosts of Belfast, Collusion, Ratlines, and most recently, The Final Silence, and includes original crime fiction from many more.

McKinty and Neville, as editors of the collection, have crafted a fine introduction, distilling the past several hundred years of bloody history and a relatively recent economic resurgence down to three pages and a minimalist map. They chose to organize the collection into four sections to reflect Belfast’s changing narrative, post-Troubles: City of Ghosts, City of Walls, City of Commerce, and Brave New City. Each section includes stories by authors as varied as the times and city they represent.

It would take far too long for me to write and you to read a description of what I liked about each story, so I’ll describe just a few. “Taking It Serious,” by Ruth Dudley Edwards, tells the story of a young boy whose mental illness leads him to embrace the motto “Free Ireland” to dangerous levels after his uncle spends a little too much time telling his nephew about the glorious old days of the IRA. In “Belfast Punk Rep,” Glenn Patterson teaches us that not only is Belfast the noirest city in the world, but even the punks of Belfast are a bit more hardcore than anywhere else as well. “The Reservoir,” by Ian McDonald, blends ghost story, murder mystery, and cross-generational smack-down at a wedding for a perfect Northern Irish celebration gone awry.

Steve Cavanagh‘s “The Grey” uses electric meters to tell us a story of love, revenge, and consequences, while Claire McGowan, in “Rosie Grant’s Finger,” writes about teenagers reenacting the high drama of the Northern Irish Troubles in a very, very petty way. Eoin McNamee, in “Corpse Flowers,” structures the story of a young girl’s murder entirely through images seen through cameras, a poetic twist on the surveillance state. Each story, layered on top of the rest, provides another nuanced viewpoint with which to construct a portrait of Belfast today – perhaps not a complete portrait, but a beautifully complex and ever-growing one.

Belfast, with its long history of violence and division, and its more recent history of capitalism run rampant, seems to be an obvious setting for Akashic to have chosen. Singapore’s darkness, however, rests a little more below the surface. As S. J. Rozan writes in her story “Kena Sai,” “Singapore, it’s Disneyland with the death penalty. Jay-walking, gum-chewing, free-thinking: just watch yourselves.”

Many of the stories in Singapore Noir structure their narrative around this contrast between appearance and reality, particularly emphasizing the contrast of luxurious and poverty-stricken settings; the corruption and organized crime behind the facade of democratic government; the city of expats and migrants within the city of Singaporeans. Singapore Noir is edited by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Singapore native and current New Yorker, who describes Singapore as “the sultry city-state,” and if this description brings to mind the cutthroat Italian city states of the Middle Ages, you’re not far off.

The voices included in this collection are as diverse as the residents of Singapore itself. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s story, “Reel,” tells a story of heat and lust set in the kelongs, old fisheries on stilts, while Colin Goh’s tale “Last Time” takes place in the glittering high rises of the city and involves international pop stars, corrupt businessmen, and powerful mafiosos. Simon Tay, writing as Donald Tee Quee Ho, in his story “Detective in a City with No Crime,” tells the story of an ordinary policeman stuck in a world of interchangeable people, where he can aspire only to lust, and never to love.

Philip Jeyaretnam’s “Strangler Fig” uses the natural environment of Singapore to structure a story of obsession and possession, while Colin Cheong’s “Smile, Singapore” uses a murder mystery to represent all of the frustrations of modern Singaporean society, and also fufills Chekov’s adage that if you introduce a gun in act 1, you had better use it by act 3. Each story is more poetic than the last, and Singapore Noir, like Belfast Noir, once again proves that Akashic Books’ noir series is better than any travel guide.


You can find copies of Singapore Noir and Belfast Noir on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Douglas Corleone

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Douglas Corleone’s Good As Gone is a great thriller with a hard-boiled detective edge. We asked Doug a few questions about his new book and new character, Simon Fisk

purchase here

MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did the idea of Simon Fisk come about?

DOUGLAS CORLEONE: My inspiration for Good As Gone came from a one-page article I’d read online about a private investigator in Tampa, Florida, who specializes in retrieving children kidnapped by their estranged parents and taken overseas to countries that don’t recognize U.S. custody decisions. Fortunately, I printed the article and saved it for two years at the bottom of my filing cabinet.

When my agent said that my editor would like to see something new from me, I immediately went digging and had a one-page synopsis for Good As Gone a few hours later.

MP: While Good As Gone has some comic relief in it, it is more somber than your Kevin Corelli series. Did you welcome the change in tone?

DC: I have mixed feelings. It’s fun to write funny, but it’s also very difficult to sustain a significant level of humor for 350 pages. I also love to challenge myself when writing, and I was happy for the opportunity to write a novel substantially darker than my Kevin Corvelli books.  So I did welcome the change in tone in many ways, but that’s not to say I don’t miss Kevin Corvelli’s quirks and his unique worldview.

MP: One of the things I loved about Good As Gone was that Simon has a sidekick for almost every country he’s in. How did you approach writing these characters?

DC: Simon Fisk is very much a loner like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. But, I knew he’d need help along the way. You can take a number of risks with a sidekick that you can’t take with a main character, especially the hero of a series.

So, I tried to be fearless in creating characters like the Berlin Private Investigator Kurt Ostermann and the Warsaw lawyer, Anastazja Staszak. I allowed Ostermann to be as hard and as brutal as he seemed to want to be. Ana, well… Ana is based on someone I knew well and who was very special to me.  I permitted Ana to be herself, and she was every bit as smart and funny, and courageous and stubborn as I expected her to be.  If the real Ana reads the book – and I suspect she might, since it was translated into Polish, and is being released in Poland this fall – I think she’ll immediately recognize herself.  And then she’ll insist that I got her all wrong, simply because she’s a contrarian.

MP: There is a lot of globe trotting in the book. How do you go about bringing out the personality of each setting?

DC: I let the characters bring out the personality of each setting. If I accomplished what I set out to, then the reader won’t notice me at all.  When I read a thriller, I dread lengthy descriptions of setting.  I think the setting’s personality is best established through the hero’s interaction with the place and time he’s in.

If an author knows the place he’s writing about well enough (through firsthand experience and/or rigorous research), then the setting shines through as brightly as the characters and the author’s hand is invisible. Simon doesn’t stop to smell the roses; he can’t afford to.  But he may spot them from the corner of his eye, and if they’re relevant he’ll tell you about them.  If not, he won’t.

MP: Fisk has gone through hell in his back-story. What keeps him going?

DC: What keeps Simon going is empathy. He’s experienced the pain of losing everything; and if he can prevent someone else from experiencing that kind of suffering, he’ll risk life and limb to do so.  He’s also keenly aware that he doesn’t want to die without knowing what happened to his daughter.  He wants to know who took her and why; and he’ll never stop looking.

MP: Your books are a unique mix of sub-genres. Does a writer as unique as you have any influences?

DC: I have many influences and they come from a variety of genres and sub-genres.  Readers might catch the reference to Patrick Bateman, Bret Easton Ellis’ anti-hero from American Psycho. Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson were major influences on Kevin Corvelli’s sense of humor.  Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is a major influence on Simon Fisk. Other influences of mine are Ken Bruen for his Irish noir, Jeff Abbott for his jet setting, David Rosenfelt for his wisecracks, and the late great Elmore Leonard for his dialogue, just to name a few…

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We have several copies of Good As Gone with signed book plates available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Fine at 5′ 7″: A Review of JACK REACHER

jack reach tom cruise

As soon as a Jack Reacher movie was announced with Tom Cruise as the lead, many fans of Lee Child’s character were up in arms. It had little to do with Cruise’s acting talent or the choice of Christopher McQuarrie as writer and director. It was the fact that Tom Cruise is seven inches shorter than the formidable 6’4″ hero Child writes about in the books. After seeing an advanced screening of Jack Reacher, the film proves that size matters little.

The plot sticks close to the book One Shot. The first ten minutes are pure cinema. Without dialogue, we view a killer take out five seemingly random people through the chilling POV of his rifle scope. We see the clues set before us, leading to the arrest of an ex-army sniper. The man doesn’t say a word, he just writes GET JACK REACHER.

This kicks off a cool montage and voice over that gives non-readers everything they need to know about Jack. He’s a brilliant former army investigator, who has trouble with authority and now lives off the grid. When he introduces himself, we learn he’s not out to prove the sniper innocent, he wants to make sure there’s an airtight case against the man to find him guilty. The evidence and a group of thugs sent to rough him up (who of course fail miserably) prove otherwise.

McQuarrie’s writing and direction make the film work. It’s a throw back to the stripped down action films of the ’70s. The fight choreography is clean, believable, and easy to follow with little quick cutting. A chase where Reacher turns the tables on a car that’s following him as he is pursued  by a half dozen squad cars relies more on strategy than stunt work. The script also doesn’t shy away from the character’s more sociopathic instincts, particularly at the climax. This is a movie Steve McQueen could have been in (who was also under six feet.)

It also takes its violent content seriously. McQuarrie’s technique gives us a PG-13 film with little blood, but with an R-rated feel for the brutality of the actions. Mainly this is because he treats violence with respect for the damage it can do. The camera doesn’t fetishize guns the way a lot of films do, they are shown as blunt tools for killing. Every character that uses violence comes off either dim, socially maladjusted, or, like Reacher, carrying a void with them. When Reacher and the main villain, beautifully cast with German director Werner Herzog, look at each other in the eye, there is little difference that can be viewed between them.

The main question is about Tom Cruise as Reacher, though. My verdict is mixed, but accepting. His awareness of the camera and display of “intensity” has never quite worked for me. McQuarrie does his best to keep this in check and whether it comes off as Reacher’s confidence or a Cruise character’s cockiness will be in the eye of the individual viewer. For Reacher’s physical appearance, Cruise allows his age to show, showing the wear Reacher’s life has put on him. He portrays him as a man who has been through many tests, knowing he’s passed most of them and what to expect. After a few minutes I forgot about the height thing.

At best for Reacher fans, the movie reflects the spirit of the books and character and even at it’s worst, it is a strong, smart, old school action movie. And for those who need a 6’4″ actor, look for Child’s cameo as a desk sergeant in the police station scene.

If You Like Jack Reacher…

~Post by Scott

A couple weeks ago, A Wanted Man by Lee Child came out. By now, most fans have devoured it, looking for their next fix. Here are five series characters who can get you through to the next book-

 
TRAVIS MCGEE created by John D. Macdonald
First Book: Deep Blue Good-by
Reacher’s off the grid lifestyle and philosophy owes a lot to McGee. Macdonald was the first to take the men’s adventure novel to a new level.
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CHARLIE FOX created by Zoë Sharp
First Book: Killer Instinct
More than a female Reacher, this British Special forces veteran and self defense expert, has to struggle to keep her aggression in check at times. Zoë Sharp proves that women writers and characters can get just as rough and tumble as the boys. These are some of the best action sequences in print.
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QUINN COLSON created by Ace Atkins
First Book: The Ranger
This series brings back memories of the Southern set action movies of the Seventies, with Army ranger Colson out to clean up his corrupt Mississippi town. A well written mix of hard boiled crime and current events.
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MERCY GUNDERSON created by Lori Armstrong
First Book: No Mercy
Gunderson used to be part of an elite group of female snipers. Sidelined stateside to the family’s South Dakota ranch, she has to use her old skills to protect it and her clan. Armstrong brings thriller elements to the modern western with a fun and at times even humorous look at her region.
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DAVID TREVELLYN by Andrew Grant
First Book: Even
This is truly Reacher as a fish out of water. Tied to British Naval Intelligence, Trevellyn navigates his way around danger as well as the U.S., Andrew Grant proves he can write a man of action as well as his brother Lee Child.