Sunday, December 24, 2006

Scavenger by David Morrell

The artwork for David Morrell's latest novel Scavenger has finally been released. (See right.) It is an extension of Creepers, and it is getting rave reviews. I'm hoping SFReader gets a review copy, and soon. Booklist gave it a starred review, and in part said, "Morrell has a reputation for smart, tightly written, genre-bending fiction, but here he exceeds himself, producing a superbly entertaining novel that will attract readers from multiple genres."

It's release date is March 30, 2007. It's publisher: CDS. Damn, I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Best of 2006

I know you have been waiting all year to read my best of 2006 list, and so to satisfy your hunger, here it is. But first, a few remarks: 1) These titles weren't necessarily published in 2006, but rather I read them in 2006; 2) I tend to re-read some of my favorite authors / titles, and to keep the list fair, a book has to be new to me to be included; 3) I completed fifty books this year, down from 77 last year, and 75 the previous year--a slump, or am I just busy? The latter, I think.

Drum roll, please. And picture your favorite celeb at the podium in their best dress / tuxedo with a modest smile and outrageously expensive haircut. Ready? Here goes. (They are listed in descending order, and order in this case does matter.)

5) Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston. This was a two day wonder. I opened, I read and I damn near couldn't put it down. Damn sleep, damn school, damn work. Preston is best known for his collaboration with Lincoln Child, but Tyrannosaur Canyon is all Preston, and I liked it as well, and better than most, of his collaborations. The action is swift, the characters are likeable, and the story is sharp. I was disappointed when this one ended.

4) Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston. This is the first installment of Huston's Hank Thompson trilogy, and it rocks. If you want cool, Huston writes it. If you want adventure, crime, violence, scary-as-shit suspense, Huston writes that, too. Start at the beginning, and read them all.

3) The Narrows by Alexander C. Irvine. I read this one for SFReader, and I loved every minute of it. It is an urban fantasy / historical novel set in World War 2 Detroit. Irvine's descriptions of the city feel so real you can almost hear the slightly disgruntled baseball fans watching the Tigers lose again and again, and even better you can damn near smell the hot dogs and beer. If you like historical novels, fantasy, or just great story-telling read this book.

2) An Obituary for Major Reno by Richard S. Wheeler. I read this book in January, but its images of a haunted Major Reno and his role at the battle of the Little Bighorn is still fresh in my mind. Wheeler takes the much maligned Major Reno and gives him a face, a life, and allows the reader to observe the man as a man, rather than a scape-goat. Richard Wheeler is a master of the western story, and this book very well may be his masterpiece.

1) The Crimes of Jordan Wise by Bill Pronzini. Pronzini is a master of the mystery, and while his Nameless Detective series is terrific, I always look forward to his stand alone novels because they have an atmosphere and tension that set them apart from his series books. The Crimes of Jordan Wise is part crime novel and part philosophy. The action is there, the atmosphere is sharp and haunting, but the story peels away to reveal something far deeper. My only wish is that more people read Pronzini. And he wrote several dozen a year.

Well, there you have it. For better or worse, was it worth the wait?

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'm Baaaaaack!

You may have noticed, or not, that my blog has been sadly desolate the past few months, but I'm back now. I think. I finished finals last week on one of the most intensely rigorous semesters of my college career and now, for another two-plus weeks, I'm free. Wooohooo!

I can't guarantee anything, but I'll try to get several posts online and in the ether over the next several weeks, and hopefully keep it up once spring semester brings more pain and demands into my life. Happy reading.

Masters of Horror--Incident On and Off a Mountain Road

Masters of Horror -- Incident On and Off a Mountain Road

I recently discovered--or more aptly put, remembered--the Showtime series Masters of Horror. I know nothing about the actual series, other than it was created and is produced by Mick Garris, and airs on Showtime; I'm one the remaining three or four dozen people without a cable or satellite connection in my home. (It's expensive, and hell, it leaves me more time to read.)

I have, however, been watching the individual episodes as they are released on DVD, and while the series is a little uneven, a few of the episodes have been terrific. One such episode is, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road. Incident is based on a short story written by Joe R. Landsdale and directed by Don Coscarelli, who also directed the wonderful Bubba Ho-Tep starring Bruce Campbell, which also just happens to be based on a Joe Landsdale story.

Incident is a tour-de-force horror film. It is part slasher, part psychological thriller, and completely and outlandishly entertaining. The cinematography is beautiful, the acting is better than competent, and the direction is great. Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is very nearly the perfect horror film--its length, at just under an hour, is ideal for the story, and the story is told with a sharpness and style that slasher films rarely exhibit. While I have never read the Landsdale short story on which Incident was based, I can only bet the film served its interpretation well, and I hope, oh how I hope, to see Coscarelli and Landsdale team-up again. Rumor has it, they are in the process of putting together a sequel to Bubba Ho-Tep.

While the DVD-version of Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is a little overpriced at $16.98, you should make an effort to find it in a library or at your local video store. It's well worth the rental fee. At least, I think it is.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Charles Grant Dead of a Heart Attack

Bad news this evening. Charles Grant, author of dozens of novels in the horror and fantasy genres, died of a heart attack on September 15--nearly a week ago. I just found out this evening. He had been seriously ill for a few years, and apperantly it finally caught him. May he rest in peace. According to a few accounts he died while watching a baseball game on television at home--not a bad way to go.

I first discovered the work of Charles Grant in the mid-Nineties when I picked up his novel Jackals--a twisted little story about a family of mutant highwaymen. I loved it, and I read several more of his novels including his Dark Symphony trilogy, and one of his Black Oak novels. I haven't read much of Grant, but what I have, was damn good. Maybe I'll dig one of his books out of storage and read it. In a way, if his work lives on, so does he.

I don't know about you all, but his work will be missed, and I wish the best for his family. To read a short article about Charles Grant on Scifi.com go Here.

Go Here to read a great little article / bio of Charles Grant--it includes an exhaustive bibliography of his work (both novels and short stories).

Friday, September 15, 2006

New Hard Case Crime Artwork--Blackmailer

Hmmm. Hard Case just announced another title, and released the cover art. The title: Blackmailer. The author: George Axelrod (screen writer for Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Manchurian Candidate). Release date: June 2007. The artist: Glenn Orbik (he did the art for The Branded Woman and Colorado Kid--needless to say it is great!)

This is a title I am looking forward to. (Still, I'm wishing for more original HCC releases, but this one does sound good.) Go Here to read the marketing info on HCC's website.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Noel Hynd Interview

I discovered an amazing novel in the winter of 1991. One evening, probably a Saturday evening, I stumbled across the novel, Truman's Spy by Noel Hynd. It was a thriller involving an FBI agent, an American capitalist, the KGB, and Hollywood. It is plotted quickly--though not so quickly that it always feels like you are missing something (like the junk-thrillers being turned out today)--but with a literary flare that makes it substantial and provocative.

I dug out my copy over the weekend and started to read it again. It is as good as I remember, and it made me wonder about Noel Hynd. He switched to writing horror novels a few years after Truman's Spy was released and I lost track of him. In my search for what he has been writing over the past several years I stumbled across an interview. It is dated--1999, but still it is good fun, almost like running into an old friend. Go Here to read the interview.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Richard Matheson Interview

There is a terrific interview of Richard Matheson at Mystery File conducted by Ed Gorman. Gorman starts the thing with a brief overview of Matheson as a writer, and his (Ed Gorman's) first experience with a Matheson novel as young teenager--it, like most of Ed Gorman's fiction, is sweet, melancholy and very fondly remembered. The interview is great--Matheson, at times, comes across as grumpy, but he is a fascinating as he looks back at the old days of television, film and pulp writing. It is fascinating and very well worth the read. Go Here to read the interview.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Crimes of Jordan Wise by Bill Pronzini

Bill Pronzini is best known for his spectacular Nameless Detective series, but his stand alone work more than holds its own. In fact, I look forward to his non-series books because they have a similar atmosphere and style of the old noir novels, but they are anything but cheap copies--they are unique, sparse yet heavy with meaning and melancholy, and all Pronzini.

The Crimes of Jordan Wise is a nifty thriller with an anti-hero who has committed three perfect crimes in his life, and as his life draws to a close he wants to share the story. Pronzini is an old hand at plotting and you can tell--there is nothing out of place; no missing segments, and nothing left hanging. The prose is simple, almost haunting in a melancholy way, and easily disguises the complexity of the story: the layers peel away to reveal something deep and meaningful. It says something about life, friendship, love, all while navigating the darkness that burrows its way into the human soul. The Crimes of Jordan Wise is sad, gritty and dark, at times sweet and tender, and always entertaining.

Bill Pronzini, particularly his stand alone novels, deserves a larger audience than he has. His writing yearns back to the old days, but his style, talent and voice are uniquely his own. The Crimes of Jordan Wise is, if not the best, one of the best novels I have read this year.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mirror Lake Highway

Okay, I have been meaning to write this post for nearly two weeks, but alas it just hasn't happened. Well, it is happening now, I promise you. A few weekends back my girl--sexy and intelligent she is--her parents and I went for a day trip into the Uinta Mountains. While, as expected, it was beautiful, cool (somewhere in the mid-seventies) and fun it was also a much needed break from finals, work, the valley, and the heat.


Nature exists for one reason: To remind us of how simple life really is. It is about love, simplicity and reliance. The love and kindness we should extend to our families, neighbors and all living creatures. The simplicity of life: food, shelter, wonder and awe. The reliance we all have on each other.

I traveled the hills of the Uinta National Forest as a boy with my father and brother, a pack on my back and a few blisters on my feet. It feels very much like home when I broach its interior--it is more crowded, less peaceful than it was, but still it is a place of great wonder and awe.

I love the Uintas and hope our society continues to recognize the beauty of land and place so these wild places can remain intact. They are truly a treasure and if we don't protect them they will be beaten down and destroyed.

Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime by Robert J. Randisi

Good news. Robert Randisi has a new novel coming to a bookstore near you this Halloween--Oct. 31 for the mentally stunted out there. It is the first, of at least two, "Rat Pack" novels featuring, who else, but the rat pack? The Publisher's Weekly review is excellent--"Randisi (Arch Angels) provides a snazzy snapshot of a mythic 1960 Las Vegas in this enjoyable first of a new series."

I'm excited for a new Randisi for a few reasons, the most prominent is: I like this guy when he is writing well. I have been a shade disappointed with his recent output, with the exception of Cold Blooded, and I hope Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime represents the return of Bob Randisi to the form he held in his early Joe Keough novels.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

New Hard Case Crime Artwork--The Wounded and the Slain

New today! I just received an email from the fine people at Hard Case--Charles Ardai to be exact, or maybe his secretary. Who knows? They have just released the cover art (see right) for their upcoming David Goodis novel, The Wounded and the Slain. This title won't be on bookshelves until May, 2007, but it definitely is something to look forward to.

The next title coming from Hard Case Crime, the first week of September, is Pete Hamill's The Guns of Heaven. I thought this baby was an original HCC title, but alas, no. It was originally published some twenty years ago and HCC is bringing it back into print.

I love Hard Case Crime. The idea, the books, and the covers, but I have been disappointed with a few of the reprint titles--the Donald Hamilton title, the David Dodge title, and a few others. It's not that I didn't like them, but rather they didn't speak to me. My reaction was, "Hmm...well, at least I can add it to my books-read list." Not a great recommendation.

On the other hand I have absolutely loved all of their original novels--especially Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie, and The Confession by Domenic Stansberry. They are of my generation, and they say something that I am waiting to hear--I empathize with the characters more, enjoy the excitement more, and just basically like them better--on the whole--than the reprints. So, needless to say, I am disappointed that The Guns of Heaven is a reprint.

If you are out there Charles Ardai, acquire more original novels--maybe a Bill Pronzini title, an Ed Gorman, another Stansberry, or Guthrie. Anything new. Please. I'll buy it, I promise.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Covers of Harry Whittington

Bill Crider, paperback collector and mystery / western writer, has put together a slideshow of his Harry Whittington collection. The covers are wild and vivid. Whittington has been called the king of the paperback, and when you see this impressive show, you will know why. Check the show out Here. I have about seven of these titles--boy, would I be willing to trade for Crider's lot.

There is also a slideshow of John D's paperbacks Here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Weekend of Books: John D., Ian MacAlister & .357 Vigilante

Oh boy. It's Monday evening, and I'm still smiling. This weekend I made an absolute haul at a thrift shop and a used bookstore. I found no less than two vintage John D. MacDonald novels--Dead Low Tide and The Brass Cupcake. The Brass Cupcake is a Gold Medal reprint (R2139)--the cover art has changed, for the worse, from the original (see right), while Dead Low Tide is one of those beautifully gaudy paperback editions put out by Fawcett Gold Medal in the 1970s. While I know little about Cupcake, I have heard that Dead Low Tide is a masterpiece. I can't wait to read it--them, I mean.

I also came away with Ian MacAlister's Valley of the Assassins. MacAlister is the pen name of Marvin Albert, Gold Medal writer, and all around great storyteller. He wrote four slam-bang adventure novels under the MacAlister name very reminiscent of the good, early work, of Alistair MacLean. Maybe even his pen name was influenced? To read a great article, written by Bill Crider, about Albert follow This Link to Mystery File.

The other two paperbacks I picked up are less exciting, but still--
The Executioner #26: Acapulco Rampage. I haven't read a Mack Bolan book since I was sixteen--okay, you caught me, 26--and I thougfht it was damn time I tried one again. I thought I would go back to the original though, the new stuff doesn't excite all that much.

And, .357: Vigilante by Ian Ludlow. This is the first of a series cut short (three books released) when the original Pinnacle Books went bankrupt. I've never tried one, but thought it might be time. It is the work of Lee Goldberg and Lewis Perdue. Goldberg's novel, The Man with the Iron-On Badge was selected as a finalist for an Edgar for best novel this year, and it deserved it. While Lewis Perdue is the scorned and angry author of The Da Vinci Legacy--he claims Dan Brown lifted ideas, plot points and research for his novel The Da Vinci Code. Frankly neither of the books are very good, and Lewis Perdue (his The Perfect Killer is much better) should just be thankful that Brown's success brought Legacy back into print.

Here is to all the little flea-ridden, dust enveloped shops around the world that still find space for a few old paperback books.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Lisey's Story by Stephen King

I wish I could tell you that I have been a lifelong Stephen King fan, but I can't. Now don't get me wrong, I have never read a Stephen King novel I didn't like--although there have been a few I was mildly disappointed with: Hearts in Atlantis (the first 2/3rds was awesome, the last third unfulfilled), and his endings can be a little dicky at times.

My problem with Stephen King hasn't been his work, but rather his popularity--anything as popular as he is can't possibly be any good, can it? As evidence, think about the big blockbuster films of the last several years: Independence Day, Star Wars (the new trilogy), Pearl Harbor, and the rash of really shitty comic book movies (i.e. The Hulk, Sin City, etc.) Not to mention that dog of a movie, The Return of the King.

It's not surprising that somehow, somewhere, this relationship of popular equals crummy was ingrained in my mind not as post hoc, but as truth. So, I avoided Stephen King for years--popular is bad, so Stephen king must be awful. Then one day I picked up his novel, The Stand, and I have been a fan ever since. Hell, I even liked his much maligned, The Colorado Kid. So it is with some anticipation that I await his next novel, Lisey's Story.

It's long (528 pages), do we expect anything less from King? It is about love and violence with a touch of the paranormal thown in to keep it, well, different. It is due out in October--the end of October--from Scribner in hardcover. I already have a hold on it at my local library. What, you think I can afford 28 bucks? Yeah, right.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cavalry Man: Powder Keg by Ed Gorman

Ed Gorman writes a different kind of western--the characters are softer, lonelier and much more recognizable (they feel and act like people we know) than the standard fare. And the storylines run more towards the mystery genre than the western, and Powder Keg, the second novel in his Cavarly Man series, is no exception.

Noah Ford, the decent, almost philosophical recovering alcoholic federal man, is dispatched to the small town of Willow Bend. There is a bank robber hitting all the local banks and then turning the money over to small land owners to pay their mortgages, two other federals who are more apt to break the law than keep it, and a mysterious rash of murders that will keep Ford busy trying to figure a motive, and even more busy trying to keep himself alive.

Powder Keg is a mystery disguised as a western. Sure, the setting is set in the old west--there are cattlemen, saloons, livery stables, brothels, Sheriffs, and a whole lot of horses, but that's okay. A mystery is a mystery after all. It doesn't matter where or when it's set, does it? There are also a chain of murders, soft, sweet and sincere women, tough hard-drinking men and Noah Ford with a root beer in hand.

If you enjoy a good mystery, a western, or just like good, well-told stories, Cavalry Man: Powder Keg will sit well.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ghoul by Brian Keene--The Cover Art

I just ran across the cover art for the next Brian Keene novel coming out from Leisure Books--the most progressive mainstream horror publisher running. The title is: Ghoul. The release date: February, 2007.

I was disappointed with City of the Dead, and I haven't gotten to The Conqueror Worms yet--although it is still very much on my list--but I thought Keene's Terminal was one of the best dark suspense novels of 2005. It was well plotted, filled with characters that felt true, and just good damn fun. You could say I liked it. In fact, you can read my review for Terminal at SFReader by clicking Here.

New Stark House Noir Classic Double--Harry Whittington

It's no secret I am a fan of the old crime thrillers of the 1940s, 50s and 60s--not to mention the westerns, the science fiction and just about damn near everything else written--which is why this little number excites the hell out of me for two reasons. The first, and the most obvious is: Stark House Press is scheduled to release two vintage Harry Whittington novels--A Night for Screaming and Any Woman He Wanted--this September. This release, like all the Stark House publications, is a trade paperback with great cover art and two complete and unabridged novels. The novel retails for $19.95, which brings me back to an old gripe. Where have all the inexpensive mass-market paperbacks gone? I would be much more excited if I could pick this baby up for seven or eight dollars as a mass-market. Oh well, at least Stark House is out there, operating and bringing some of these old classics back into print.

The second reason I'm excited about this news has nothing whatsoever to do with the Whittington book, but rather how I found out about it. I have talked about a website called Mystery File on this blog before--it contains loads of information about current and past mystery writers and their work including bibliographies, book cover scans, interviews, reviews as well as light intellectual inquiry into the crime and mystery genres. The good and exciting news is, Ed Gorman is back! He is no longer blogging, but he has a sporadic column ongoing at Mystery File--today's column was about Stark House's new Whittington release. So thee you have it. If you want to hear some sage advice from one of today's best mystery writers follow this trail and read a little Gorman.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Sam McCain Novel by Ed Gorman

We all have a favorite writer, or two, or three, or ten--but every once in a while, if we are lucky, we find a writer that speaks to us. Not the common, "Oh, this is soo good" kind of book speak, but that "Wow, this guy is really saying something here" kind of lightening strike moment that signals a brief--all too brief--moment of understanding. To put it another way, the world--at least a very small part of it--is made plain by this writer; or something complicated and hard suddenly seems simple and very understandable.

This writer, to me, is Ed Gorman. He writes everything from dark suspense to mystery to science fiction to western, and I have never read anything he wrote that I didn't like. That's not to say I don't have favorites, because I do, and they are too numerous to post here, but among them I have to place his Sam McCain novels.

The Sam McCain mysteries are beautifully rendered portaits of small town life in the fifties and sixties spun into an entertaining, meaningful and downright fun story. There are six titles in the series: The Day the Music Died, Wake Up Little Susie, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Save the Last Dance for Me, Everybody's Somebody's Fool, and Breaking Up is Hard to Do. McCain is also featured in a novella titled, "The Santa Claus Murders," which appeared in the anthology: Crooks, Crimes and Christmas. I'm actually reading this story right now, and it is vintage McCain. Fun, fast and uncomprimisingly enjoyable.

And now, drum roll please--again imagine your favorite actor / actress at the podium--the seventh title in the Sam McCain series has not only been announced, but the cover art has been released (see right). The title: Fools Rush In. The publisher: Pegasus Books. The release date: March, 2007.

Damn. Why must I always wait? Needless to say, I can't wait to get my grubby hands on this title--the last entry in the McCain saga, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, was published two long years ago. Two very long years ago.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stansbury Island

The last several weeks have seen few, to say the least, posts here at Gravetapping. My instinct is to blame blogspot--their blog posting program has been messing about with me. I think it is a conspiracy. Although while this is a simple and somewhat accurate excuse their is another: calculus. God, how I despise that class, and I am just unfortunate enough to be taking it right this summer. Oh goody. So, anyway with that out of the way and can move on...


A few months ago my girl and and I went to Stansbury Island on the Great Salt Lake--it is a desert landscape surrounded by vast, seemingly limitless, stretches of water. There is a large heard of cattle that roams the northern end of the island, and on the southern end--which is actually attached to the surrounding desert, much like a peninsula--are several evaporation ponds, salt factories, biking and hiking trails, and a myriad of dirt roads--not to mention a few nude male sunbathers. Just don't look too close, and you'll be okay.


The island has a desolate eloquence, which gives one the impression of timelessness. It is seemingly the birthplace of our world. Ancient, and new at the same time. Everything is slowed down here: life, death, decay, and even re-birth. There is beauty. The golden hue of lazily swaggering flora. The crisp airy sky and the deep, restless water slowly moving, tapping, tapping against the brilliant whites of shoreline. There is life--mountain lions roam the in solitude along the far edges of the high back country, birds sweep across the horizon as they migrate North in the spring and South again in the autumn, rabbits bound across the flat brush covered lowlands down near the lake, and then you have the creepers and crawlers. The bugs, flys and the pesky mosquitoes. They are all here on Standsbury Island, living and dying. It is a wonderful place. A place were one can reflect on the past, the present and one's own mortality.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Amazing Journeys Magazine

Good news, and bad too. Amazing Journeys Magazine recently published my short story "The Electric Man," and it is currently available for purchase at Clarke's World Books. Go Here to find AJM--"Electric Man" is in issue 10.

It has been well received, both my short story and the magazine as a whole. AJM is a great little digest sized (perfect bound) magazine of modern science fiction written in the classic style of the golden age. These stories will remind you of The Twilight Zone, vintage Asimov, Heinlein, and even L. Ron Hubbard. The stories are crisp, clean and very well told.

Go Here to read the Tangent review for this issue of AJM.

Now for the bad: I recently learned that Ed Knight, the hardworking editor of AJM, has called it quits after thirteen issues. He did a nearly impossible job of putting this high quality magazine together on a shoe-string budget. I'll miss AJM, but I wish all the best to Ed and hope maybe, just maybe, he'll throw his hat back into the small press magazine rink. Good luck, Ed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg


SFReader.com has posted my review for Robert Silverberg's masterful scifi / horror novel The Book of Skulls. [Click here to read the review]

Robert Silverberg is a writer who I have known--routinely passed on the bookstore shelves--for many years, but a writer I had never read until I was fortunate enough to get the assignment to review The Book of Skulls for SFReader.

The Book of Skulls was originally published in 1972--you can feel the turmoil of the Sixties and Seventies mixing itself into the story and the characters the way a setting--a time--should make itself known in a story. It is another character really--perhaps the hero, or more likely the villain--who pushes and shapes and molds the flesh characters into what and who they are: We are the time and culture we live.

It is a story of youth, angst and the terrible consequences we must pay for our beliefs, dreams, actions, and maybe just because we are alive, breathing, and dying all at the same time. Read the review, then read the book, because The Book of Skulls is one of the best novels I have read this year.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Hard Case Crime Artwork

I just got my dirty paws on the latest artwork to appear on a future Hard Case Crime novel. It is deliciously lurid and boldly vibrant. The artist is Greg Manchess--he has painted several of the better covers for HCC including: Fade to Blonde, Home is the Sailor, and the forthcoming Michael Crichton novel (published under the pseudonym John Lange) Grave Descend. This beauty reminds me of his cover for Fade to Blonde--my favorite of the HCC covers to date--and it will appear on Gil Brewer's The Vengeful Virgin due out--sigh--March 2007.

Don't forget that Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake), the latest HCC title, is due out in the next week or so. This is a title I can't wait to get. It features Grofield, a member of hardass-criminal Parker's gang, and now brought back into print in one of his starring roles. Westlake is great, as either himself or as Stark.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The 2006 Shamus Award Nominees are Announced

The Private Eye Writer's of America have announced the 2006 nominees for their annual Shamus Award for best private eye fiction. All of the nominees were published in 2005.

I'm ashamed to admit that I have read only one of the nominated stories--Lee Goldberg's The Man with the Iron-On Badge, which was a great P.I. novel. Anyway, here are the nominees. (I hope you pictured someone fantasically hot celebrity smoothly delivering that line--I pictured, um, Naomi Watts.)

An interesting aside: two of the five nominees for best paperback original are from independent publisher Pinnacle. The titles are: Deadlocked by Joel Goldman, and The Killing Rain by P.J. Parrish. Not a bad showing.

Best Hardcover

Oblivion by Peter Abrahams (Wm. Morrow), featuring Nick Petrov.
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown), featuring Mickey Haller.
The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais (Doubleday), featuring Elvis Cole.
In A Teapot by Terence Faherty (Crum Creek Press), featuring Scott Elliot.
The Man with the Iron-On Badge by Lee Goldberg (Five Star), featuring Harvey Mapes.
Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown), featuring Easy Rawlins.

Best Paperback Original

Falling Down by David Cole (Avon), featuring Laura Winslow.
The James Deans by Reed Farrell Coleman (Plume), featuring Moe Prager.
Deadlocked by Joel Goldman (Pinnacle), featuring Lou Mason.
Cordite Wine by Richard Helms (Back Alley Books), featuring Eamon Gold.
A Killing Rain by P.J. Parrish (Pinnacle), featuring Louis Kincaid.

Best First Novel

Blood Ties by Lori G. Armstrong (Medallion), featuring Julie Collins.
Still River by Harry Hunsicker (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur), featuring Lee Henry Oswald.
The Devil’s Right Hand by J. D. Rhoades (St. Martin's Minotaur), featuring Jack Keller.
Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure (Mysterious Press – Warner), featuring Calla Gentry.

Best Short Story

“Oh, What a Tangled Lanyard We Weave” by Parnell Hall. Murder Most Crafty (Berkley), featuring Stanley Hastings.
“Two Birds with One Stone” by Jeremiah Healy. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jan/Feb 2005, featuring John Francis Cuddy.
“The Big Road” by Steve Hockensmith. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May 2005, featuring Larry Erie.
“A Death in Ueno” by Michael Wiecek. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, March 2005 featuring Masakazu Sakonju.
“The Breaks” by Timothy Williams. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2005 featuring Charlie Raines.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Through Wyoming Eyes, by Ken Rand

My review of Ken Rand's most recent chapbook, Through Wyoming Eyes, has been posted on SFReader.com. [Click here to read it] Ken Rand is a local Utah writer--he is a librarian in my local library system--and his writing is a unique blend of science fiction, horror and western. In this collection he puts together five stories that are set in Wyoming. They all have a great sense of time, place and will often leave you smiling--they have the feel of classic scifi: The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits.

If you have never read Ken Rand's work, you should, and Through Wyoming Eyes is a good place to start.

Friday, June 16, 2006

An Interview with Western Writer, Elmer Kelton

There is a great interview with writer Elmer Kelton currently online at The American Enterprise Online. Kelton recently celebrated his eightieth birthday--he started his career writing stories and novellas for the old pulp magazines, and he has seen some amazing changes in the business of writing. He seems witty, humorous and downright humble. It doesn't hurt that he is one of the better selling western writer's currently producing.

I have read only one novel written by Elmer Kelton--Badger Boy--and I can't say that the story, the location--Texas--or characters spoke to me, but the prose and pace were expert and I finished it with no problem. With that in mind, this article / interview puts me in the mood to try another of his stories. I hope you read it, and enjoy it because we are watching an entire genre washed away without so much as an alert, a siren, or even a eulogy. Click here to read the interview.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont

I was pointed to a review of a new "pulp" novel on Yahoo! News, The Chinatown Peril written by Paul Malmont; published by Simon & Schuster in hardcover. (Now just if they would print the damn things as paperback originals so we could afford to buy them!*) The book sounds great--the main players will all be familiar to you: L. Ron Hubbard, Lester Dent, Robert Heinlein, Louis L'Amour and many other popular writers of pulp's golden age join forces to solve the murder of the soon to be famous H.P. Lovecraft. . . read the review. It'll explain sooo much better than I, since, dare I presume, he actually read it. This is one I hope I can find at the local library.

*This review got me thinking, if the old-style pulpy thriller is fashionable--we see it all over these days in bookstores, on movie screens, and even on television--does it take away from its power as a vehicle of the working class to tell their very real story in a fantastical way? The way it told stories in the 30's, and especially the '40s and '50s when the paperback original revolutionized American literature by making books--real paper, ink and ideas--available in editions that the common person could afford?

The way I see it, when something becomes hip, or fashionable--all the beautiful people "love, just love it baby"--it has lost its connection with reality. If the wealthiest, most charming, most beautiful--and probably most medicated--of us all has an attraction to this neo-pulp has it (the genre) lost its power as a voice for the working class? God, I hope not, but how can the same piece of fiction speak to a Harvard graduate earning $300,000 a year and to the guy that cleans the toilets for $300 a week?

No answers here I'm afraid. Only questions, but damn I wish there were more publishers putting out affordable books. Although the cover for The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril is genuinely beautiful--still, it would be even more so on a cheap rack-sized paperback.

Friday, May 26, 2006

An Interview with John D. MacDonald

I ran across an interview with the one and only John D. MacDonald (you know, the guy who wrote the Travis McGee novels, Slam the Big Door, The Damned and dozens of other tremendously successful novels) conducted by Ed Gorman. It was originally published in The Big Book of Noir in 1984. John D. talks about Travis McGee, writing, and life. There are also several scans of vintage John D. pulp art paperbacks--Gold Medal and Dell. You should check it out.

The interviewer, Ed Gorman, is one of my favorite writers and he does a bang-up job here. If you like his interview style you should check out his novels. His Sam McCain stories give John D's Travis McGee a run for his money.

The interview is currently online at Mystery File. Click here to read the interview.
Pulp Covers for Classic Novels

Is this the mark of the revitalization of 1950s pulp? First we have a major national publisher, Hard Case Crime, marketing classic and original noir novels complete with lurid and sleazy artwork (which I love!) and now Slate.com is following the trend by bankrolling six mock pulp covers for classic literary works. Animal Farm is my favorite--when you see it, you'll know why. Click here to read the article and see the covers.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Parker is Back!

I just bumped into Richard Stark's latest Parker novel on Amazon--it is amazing what aimless surfing / time-killing will do for you. The title is, Ask the Parrot, and it is, according to Amazon, set for release on November 23, 2006.

If you are unfamiliar with Parker, or Stark, you should remedy that as quickly as possible. Parker is the quintessential tough guy anti-hero. He is a professional criminal who works only when he needs to, and isn't afraid of anyone, or anything. He is loyal, most of the time, reasonable and more than willing to kick your ass if you cross him.

You very probably saw him portrayed by Mel Gibson in the film Payback--and while I enjoyed the film, the novels are so much better!

Richard Stark is the pseudonym for Donald E. Westlake, and I have yet to read a Westlake, or Stark novel that I didn't enjoy. Hard Case Crime released a vintage-style mass-market paperback of Westlake's classic hardboiled novel, 361 last summer and they are set to release Lemons Never Lie in July. Lemons is another classic novel, this one under the Richard Stark moniker, which means it will be tough, hard and lean. It is high on my list of summer reading. The cover is great, too.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

New Jack Ketchum & Richard Laymon titles from Leisure Books


Good news on the horror front. Leisure Books has two new Richard Laymon titles coming later this year, and one Jack Ketchum. Okay, so they are all reprints. Picky, picky. First off, Leisure continues to publish classic Ketchum titles with, Off Season. This is the unexpurgated edition, which means that it has been expanded by the author to more accurately represent his original text before the editors / censors of the original publisher got ahold of it. I have read that Ketchum actually threw-out, or otherwise destroyed the original manuscript. Off Season was Jack Ketchum's first published novel, and it will be released in June--just a few weeks away. I can't wait. I read the Headline edition several years ago, and needless to say I'm anxiously awaiting this new revamped version.


Into the Fire by Richard Laymon will be released in July--this is the paperback reprint of Leisure's hardcover release last fall. It isn't one of Laymon's better novels, but it is entertaining, and contains the usual sexual titillations and humor Laymon is known for.

The Laymon title I really am excited about is his first published novel, The Cellar. It is the original Beast House novel and, from what I have heard, the best of the bunch. I can't wait to get my grubby hands on this one. It is scheduled for release in October, and it should make a great Halloween read.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Vengeance Valley by Richard S. Wheeler

I read a western a few months ago titled Vengeance Valley by Richard Wheeler. It is a mining camp story about a prospector named Hard Luck Yancey. It is a quiet story of perseverance, love and ultimately triumph. It won the 2005 Western Writer’s of America Spur Award for best paperback original.

And no one read it! The sales numbers were terrible. It got me to thinking—and on this subject I am less than original and far from expert—about why such a sweet and charming novel would do so poorly.

First let’s start with the title: Vengeance Valley. This is an obvious throwback to the heyday of the western. Those old Ace Doubles, Gold Medal and Signet originals (all of which I love) that portrayed the west as a palace of helpless women, bad men and loner heroes. Unfortunately in this case the title is so misleading that if that were the type of book you wanted, you would be angry that it never took shape. There is no valley in the story—the town of Yancey, where the novel is set, is literally on the side of steep mountain ridge. And as for vengeance? Nope. None. Maybe there is a touch of poetic justice when Hard Luck Yancey earns back his mine, wins the girl and saves the town, but not much in the way of six-gun vengeance here.

Now, how about the cover (see above). There is a duded-up gunman with six-shooters in hand getting ready to exact a bit of vigilante justice on the bad guys. When I got about halfway through this novel it dawned on me that I had yet read about a gun—any gun, let alone a six-shooter—so in fun I made a count of just how many firearms showed-up in the telling of this story, and there was exactly one: A shotgun that was pointed, but never fired.

The publisher (in this case Pinnacle) marketed this book for failure. It narrowed the audience to a group of about five rednecks in Arkansas (Bill Clinton not among them) by the title and cover art when it easily could have found a much wider audience. There is much in Vengenace Valley to admire: there is a tender and beautiful love story; a very basic good versus evil strain; great characters; greed and innocence. This is a novel that could easily be enjoyed by both men and women, so why is it marketed as an action novel for men?

Why do the major publishing houses insist on marketing westerns like it is still 1955? Vengeance Valley is but one example of how publishers are destroying the genre through incompetence, neglect, or outright literary snobbery. I guess the old saying is true: You truly can’t judge a book by its cover. Maybe those romance novels with bare-chested Fabios aren’t so bad either—well, maybe.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Welcome to Grave Tapping.

Summer has finally arrived on the high desert--it was an unusually wet winter. The ski resorts had an unbelievable base of around 150+ inches of snow in April, and Snowbird is still open! Anyway, today is beautiful. The sky is clear, the snow covered Wasatch range is seemingly clawing their way to heaven and it is all happening on mother's day.

Happy day to all the mother's out there. It may be a Hallmark (buy crap from us) inspired holiday, but this one is well deserved. Although, skip the stores and just let your mom know you love her. Leave the consumerism alone for a day. Wal-Mart will survive, unfortunately, without your presence and purchases for one holiday.

Now, off my soap box. If you haven't noticed already, this is my new blog! Oh the power--err, something. Anyone out there? Anyone?

This is the place for anything and everything me, all the time. Except, that one can only talk about oneself for so long before ennui sets in with all its bleak ferocity. In fact, now that I think about it, I am almost there already.

If you love books--popular fiction (mystery, horror, science fiction, western) you will love this site because I love it, and will try to discuss it a bit here. I also love non-fiction, quality literature (not so much what passes for literature today, but the good stuff: Hemingway, Conrad, Steinbeck, etc.) You know, the good old-fashioned writer's who realized there had to be a story involved before any meaning could be conveyed. Or reader's found. Do I dare say, that evilness, they understood and implemented plot?

Welcome, sit back and maybe, just maybe we can have a dialog, monologue, or something equally enviable. Welcome, and come back soon.