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We're Ken Hebenstreit and Sharlan Douglas, blogging here about the books we love: Mysteries, suspense, crime fiction. If you want to comment on one of our postings, click on its headline.

Archive for March, 2010

March Madness = book tournaments?

Imagine my surprise to discover that, in the literary world, March Madness conjures no visions of hoops, mascots and Tom Izzo.  It means it’s time for book tournaments.  Who knew?

Anyway, this article at Salon.com introduced me to the subject.   I especially liked the bracket at http://jensbookthoughts.blogspot.com/ in which favorite fictional detectives square off against each other.  What, no point spread?  In round three, my toughest choice was between Kurt Wallander and Dave Robicheaux.  I chose Wallander, but, if I had to choose which author’s books I liked more,  things might go the other way.

The 47th Samuri by Stephen Hunter

OK, that is NOT Bob Lee Swagger in this book.   This imposter is flippant.  He’s chatty.  He knows who Kate Spade is, fer cryin’ out loud.  And, while maybe I can imagine him buying a designer handbag for his daughter,  his wife would have had him committed when he bought one for her.

Oh, sure, he really gets into the Samuri warrior mentality, that whole honor and duty thing.  To the manner born and all that.  And it only takes a short course with the Japanese equivalent of Yoda to turn him into a sword fighter who can go mano a mano with the best guy in the entire country.

Even Hunter acknowledges that keeping the story straight as he’s switched  back and forth between the stories of Bob Lee and his father, Earl, has occasionally forced him to rewrite their history.   I haven’t kept up on the Swagger series, so maybe he’s grown into this character.  If so, could we please rewrite his character to bring back the iconic, stoic sniper/tracker/woodsman from Point of Impact?

Movie of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

According to the 3/26/10 edition of Entertainment Weekly,  there’s a Swedish film based on Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by Niels Arden Oplev.  Netflix has no information about the movie. Further,  they’ve already filmed the next two Larson books, with the same two leads, Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace.   Sony Pictures has optioned the book for the U.S., with screenplay to be written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and David Fincher (Zodiac) as a possible director.

EW sheds some light on one of my earlier blog questions about  Scandinavians and Nazis:  Larson crusaded against right-wing extremism in Sweden until his untimly death in 2004.

Nazis are everywhere these days

Stieg Larson’s Girl with the Dragon Tatoo features an elaborate family tree populated with Nazi sympathizers.  White supremacists and Nazi collaborators span two generations in Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast, which takes a little side trip to South Africa, home to Malla Nunn’s apartheid-driven A Beautiful Place to Die.

Is national socialism still driving world politics, or is it just a useful device for contemporary suspense writers?

A Beautiful Place to Die, by Malla Nunn

Nunn started her career as a screenwriter. Gotta make some money before you follow your heart into the poverty-stricken world of book publishing, right, Malla?

No boring exposition here. Nunn gives her characters dialog that economically conveys character and drives the story.

In Nunn’s apartheid-based world, a cop with a secret, on the verge of trouble and insubordination (is there any other way?) navigates the dark pathways between whites and blacks to find a murderer in a South African village.

I’ve been working my way through a number of Edgar nominees and this is yet another worthy candidate.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

Our protagonist is yet another morose, obsessive, hard-drinking Scandinavian police detective. Kicked upstairs after a disastrous shooting accident, Harry Hole gets assigned to a busy-work case that turns into a complex mystery that started 55 years ago, among Norwegian soldiers fighting with the Germans on the eastern front of WW II.

Nesbo’s work is excellent and probably lives up to the jacket blurb calling this the best Norwegian crime fiction novel ever, but only the Norwegians know for sure.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

So THAT’s what they meant. All the accolades for this book, I mean. What an extraordinary mystery novel and all the more incredible that it was a first book. The plot is richly detailed, the characters deftly drawn, the suspense intense. Ken’s got two first editions but I had to wait to get it from the library: Didn’t want to worry about damaging a beautiful, collectible copy.

Featured in Fine Books Magazine blog

At opening night of the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair, we met Christopher Lancette, blogger for Fine Books Magazine.  He featured Ken in that night’s post.  See it here

Road trip electronics

When Ken Hebenstreit, Bookseller and Douglas Communications Group go on a road trip, we are wired.  Here’s a list of our electronic helpers:

  • Two laptop computers
  • Smart phone, with 12-volt and 110-volt chargers
  • A 12-volt to 110 converter, to use computers in the car
  • A converter to plug the smart phone into the car’s cassette player, so we can stream audio and play MP3s through the vehicle sound system, and
  • The piece de resistance:  A Mifi card.

I’ve wanted to try Mifi ever since I learned about it, and boy, is it dandy.  Just turned it on and both our computers immediately found the wireless network.  It worked in the car, so we could stream Pandora radio even when we didn’t have 3G coverage.  It’s faster than the hotel network.