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Archive for the ‘first editions’ Category

We All Fall Down by Michael Harvey

This story about a biological weapon release in Chicago is suspenseful but a bit too economical. The protagonist, Michael Kelly, a former Chicago cop turned PI, too-neatly pulls together the solution to a gang drug deal, a municipal purchasing corruption scandal and the pathogen release. We never see him think or debate multiple options. There are no mistakes or red herrings and little color.

Harvey’s prose is terse to a fault. I frequently had to loop back a half a page to follow the back-and-forth to know who was speaking.

Perhaps the book will work better as the screenplay for which Harvey seems to be seeking options.

Quick reads before taking on George R.R. Martin

Next on my reading list is A Dance with Dragons, the fifth massive tome in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.  At almost 1,000 pages, I wasn’t quite ready to commit, so I slipped in a couple of books that I bought at sales recently.  Here are there reviews:

Death and Faxes by Leslie O’Kane

Okay, while I read a lot of different genres, this is not one that I usually venture into.  Cozies are usually just too cute and touchy feely for my tastes.  So why did I read this?  I don’t know, but I did and here is my review.

While her husband is out of the country on business, Molly Masters returns to house-sit her childhood home with her two young children.  Molly, a greeting card designer, has to deal with former high school teachers, friends, rivals, sinister threats over her fax machine and murder.  Much angst and humor ensues (I did mention former high school acquaintances, right?) as Molly tries to figure out who dunnit.  As usual, the humor is just a little too cute for me, but characters were well drawn and it was a pretty good mystery.  My one comment is my surprise at how fast technology has progressed.  Written in 1996, this book has the plot centered on the use of a fax machine.  Molly uses it as her primary communication method for her business and receives her threats appear there.

The Captain by Seymour Shubin

If you read my post last week, you know that I have processed almost 800 books in the last six weeks.  There are always titles that look interesting to read, but they get put on a shelf or in a box and I forget about them until I sell them and say “I meant to read that.”  So, when I finished several books on my reading list, but wasn’t quite ready to tackle the 1000 pages of A Dance with Dragons, I looked in my pile and pulled out The Captain.

Not so much a mystery, as a character study, this is the story of a longtime head of the detective bureau in the police department, now retired and living in a nursing home.  He is referred to as The Captain by residents and staff, but is not happy at all with how old people are treated.  This is a very interesting story of murder, investigation, how aging people are viewed in our society and nursing homes.  I thought it was well written and thoughtful, as well as suspenseful.

Pronto by Elmore Leonard

I have read a lot of Elmore Leonard novels over the years and always enjoyed them.  They are always well paced, with interesting characters, and Pronto is no exception.  I pulled this one off the shelf when I found out that Raylan Givens is a featured character in the book.  For those who don’t know, Raylan is the main character in the TV series Justified on the FX network.  I had heard that it was based on a Leonard short story and didn’t realize that Raylan had also appeared in books.  Indeed, he is in Pronto and its sequel, Riding the Rap.  According to articles, and verified when I spoke with Dutch at a Michael Connelly book signing last April (see my report below), while Leonard is an executive producer of the show, he does not work on the scripts.  Even so, viewers will recognize a scene toward the end of the book!

Trade secrets…

“Where do you find all of these great books?”  I almost always hear this question when we have a booth at a book fair or when some customer finds their way to our home, which houses our inventory of first editions, rapidly approaching 11,000.  It’s really not a big secret, so I won’t have to kill you if I tell you.  In fact, it’s all very public and I’m always jostling other dealers, collectors and readers to find treasures.

 

There are two busy times of the year for book buying for me, spring and fall.  This is when all of the Friends of the Library and AAUW groups have their fund-raising book sales.  Also, throughout the year, I buy books from various internet sites, used book stores, dealer catalogs, estate sales, customers looking to thin their collections and library shops.  Here are my statistics for the last six weeks:

25 library and AAUW sales

2 used book stores

2 dealer catalogs

3 old boxes purchased in some previous year, but never processed

1009 miles on the van

794 books processed into inventory

 

Lunch with Michael Connelly

April 13, 2011 was a beautiful spring day in metro Detroit.  I loaded up the van with two bags of first editions and headed for Birmingham to meet and lunch with one of our favorite authors, one of the few that we actually collect.  The luncheon was a benefit for The Community House and the Baldwin Public Library.  Connelly had a full day with this meet-and-greet luncheon followed by an afternoon event where he discussed The Lincoln Lawyer and an evening event at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield which would up with an overflow crowd of more than 300.

“I might not be here today if it wasn’t for the library,” Connelly said in his brief opening remarks.  Connelly credits the local public library for the many hours he clocked reading as a child in Florida. Connelly’s mother was a bank teller, he said, and in the summer she would drop him off at the library in the morning and pick him up after work.  He said he was “happy to take part in anything that supports the library.”

After his remarks, people quickly lined up to meet Connelly and have him sign books.  Book Beat, a fine local independent book store, had a table of the author’s books available for purchase, including his latest novel, The Fifth Witness.  I think I took the prize for bringing the most books, and I waited until the line diminished before approaching the author.  He very generously inscribed copies for our collection and signed copies that will be for sale shortly.

The bonus round was the appearance of local author Elmore Leonard and his son (and author) Peter Leonard.  I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Dutch about the FX series Justified, which is based on his short story, Fire in the Hole.  Even though he is an executive producer for the show, he has nothing to do with the story line.  However, he is in the middle of writing a novel featuring Raylan Givens and, as he completes sections, has been sending them to the shows writers.  There are times when Shar an I are watching the show, hear some dialog and simultaneous laugh out loud because we know we just heard Leonard’s words.

 

Snow Angels by James Thompson

What is it about Scandinavia that makes its mystery novels so dark and melancholy and turns their protagonists into gloomy alcoholics?   I see it in the works of Henning Mankel, Jo Nesbo and now James Thompson.  Only Stieg Larson seems immune.  His characters eat sandwiches and drinks lots of coffee.

Kari Vaara is a brooding Lapland police chief (did I mention he drinks too much?) investigating the  gruesome murder of a Somolian pop star during the sunless, bitterly cold winter.  The sources and suspects include Vaara’s ex wife and her boyfriend, a dissolute playboy and the simple folk in his district.  The solution comes a bit too conveniently, but the overall story and atmosphere are compelling.

Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva

You saw it here first:  Keep your eye out for this new author.  He’s one to watch.

A book about a traditional, hard-boiled, big city reporter will always tug at the heartstrings of this journalism school graduate but it better keep pulling me in after that initial tug.  Rogue Island delivers.

Reporter Liam Mulligan grew up in the working class neighborhood of Provincetown, RI which is now beset with a series of deadly arsons. He drives a beat-up car with a name, smokes Cuban cigars and loves the Red Sox beyond all reason.   DeSilva’s other characters are right out of noir’s central casting — a bookie who is the neighborhood philanthropist, mobsters in shiny suits, the beautiful, young ambitious girl reporter and the eager beaver copy  boy.

The plot is tight, the prose is spare but sufficient.

The fact that the book refers gratuitously to Loren Estleman early on gave it a leg up.  And what could be more Estleman-esque than the following?

“Polecki lit a cheap black stogie with a disposable lighter, leaned back in his oak office chair, and thunked his weary wingtips on a green blotter scarred with tobacco burns.  The chair groaned under the weight he’d packed on since the wife left and Kentucky Fried wasn’t just for breakfast anymore.  His assistant, a bum named Roselli, who got the job because he was first cousin to the mayor,  sat stiffly on a gray metal chair under a cracked window skimmed over with ice on the inside.”

Vermilion Drift by William Kent Kruger

The federal government wants to store spent nuclear fuel in the vacant iron mines of northern Minnesota.  A gruesome discovery in a remote portion of the mine quickly shifts the focus of Vermilion Drift to private eye and former sheriff Corcoran O’Connor, who straddles the worlds of town and the Indian reservation.

Cork battles his own memories and demons while slowly discovering that something approaching pure evil walked the fields and roads a generation ago, and may still.

I rarely think that a book should be longer, but Kruger uses a lot of exposition at the beginning of the book to set up the characters and circumstances.  It’s a little too economical.  Some  flashbacks would have added color in a manner consistent with of the Indian mysticism we see later in the book.

Reading list status and reviews

So, a month ago I stacked up a pile of books to read next. I had a lull in my musical activities and figured to get through the seven books in three or four weeks. Five weeks later, I still have one left. Here’s what I read and what I think of them:

Don Winslow – The Winter of Frankie Machine
This isn’t the Don Winslow who writes Victorian erotica. This Don Winslow started with a series featuring PI/agent Neal Carey and then branched out to stand alone novels. The Winter of Frankie Machine is about an ex-hit man getting caught in a mob turf war in San Diego. I really enjoyed it. As Shar noted in an earlier comment, Winslow has a knack of making every character memorable in just a few words. Rumor has it that this may show up as a movie with Robert DeNiro.

Robert Crais – The First Rule
I’ve always enjoyed the Elvis Cole novels, particularly when Joe Pike showed up, so I was happy when Crais started writing books with Joe as the main character. I thoroughly enjoyed The First Rule. A good, complicated plot and some Elvis Cole!

Peter Steiner – L’Assassin: A Thriller
I picked this one up at the library because it looked interesting. The setting is a small town in France where a former CIA agent has settled after being set up and disgraced years before. Interesting characters and plot and an old protagonist with more skills than expected.

John Burdett – The Godfather of Kathmandu
I flew through the first three books in this series and looked forward to a fourth trip to Bangkok. This one took me a long time to get into and, even then, never satisfied as the first three did. Perhaps Sonchai spent too much time looking for enlightenment and not enough time investigating.

Michael Connelly – Nine Dragons
Even on an off day, Connelly is terrific. I’m not sure this was an off day, but I would prefer that family not be so involved in the plot. It always makes things more out of control.

Charlie Huston – My Dead Body
Everything from Huston is brutal and relentless and I want more. My Dead Body is the fifth in the Joe Pitt vampire noir series. Our hero is in even more trouble than before and still manages to resolve a lot of issues. Will there be another book? Hard to tell.

Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
This is the one I didn’t get to, but I will as soon as I finish Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (gotta read that before I see the movie!) and Barry Eisler’s Inside Out.

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

I’m still reading this book, snorting helplessly with laughter on almost every page.  Ken says if I do it one more time he’s going to make me leave the room.