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Sunday, April 04, 2004

And now, your massive weekend update (TM) 

Good lord, we've jumped an hour ahead, and I totally forgot. I wonder how that happened? Oh yeah, the whole Daylight Saving Time thing. And I could have used that extra hour's sleep....

Anyway, having done a cursory look around the horn at all the usual book reviews, the pickings, overall, are somewhat slim. Which means more mystery, less everything else.

Andrew Taylor's AN UNPARDONABLE CRIME (that's THE AMERICAN BOY to the rest of you) gets a rather puzzling write-up in the Paper of Record. Maybe because of the closing line that damns the book with faint praise:

For his hard work, Andrew Taylor deserves the attention of readers of detective stories who do not expect to find work that transcends its genre.

Uh, wha? I read detective stories, and I just want to read good books, whether they "transcend genre" or not. Sounds like Frederick Busch was expecting one thing and was a little pissed he got something else. So fie on him, go read the book anyway.

But enough hissy-fitting, let's go to Margaret Cannon's crime column in the G&M. It's kind of hit and miss, as worthy books (Michael Dibdin's MEDUSA, Pelecanos' HARD REVOLUTION, new books from Carolyn Haines and Iris Johansen) are reviewed alongside those that, frankly, were better left tossed aside (another Robert B. Parker review? Why? WHY? Isn't there a freaking moratorium on reviewing his books by now?) But I've never laughed so hard and stared oddly at my computer screen as I did when I saw this:

Miss Sex and the City already? Wonder how you'll get that great vicarious Manhattan fix without reruns or another night of Woody Allen DVDs? In fiction, hardly anyone beats Lawrence Block. His books are only incidentally crime novels. The real centre is the city, and Block is its devoted lover. This novel has style, wit, great funny characters -- and New York.

Larry Block and SATC in the same paragraph? Totally bizarro. And yet....Cannon has a point. Because THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL really does provide that inimitable Manhattan fix that you can't get anymore because Carrie & the gang are off the air. Man, I love when wacky segues pop up in reviews. I gotta do more of that myself.

The Washington Post Book World has finally figured out what the NYTBR did twice before: Lizzie Skurnick is absolutely rocktastic as a reviewer. Give her a column. Let her review for major papers every week. OK, I'll stop the cheerleading, but having never heard of this Matt Pavelich person before, now I want to run out and give the book a try. That's smart reviewing.

As for the rest of the WaPo: Yardley's bowled over by James Hynes' sense of the weird; Bill Sheehan likes Poppy Z. Brite's new kinder, gentler incarnation; a double dose of Alice Hoffman; and Michael Dirda looks at a cultural history of Alice in Wonderland and its effect on contemporary literature and mores.

Henning Mankell's newest novel in translation, THE RETURN OF THE DANCING MASTER, is not a Kurt Wallander book. But as Wendy Lesser says, that shouldn't stop you from reading the book, as it's the start of a brand new series.

I'm guessing that the link to Oline Cogdill's newest mystery column, on Reed Arvin's THE LAST GOODBYE, will show up on the Sun-Sentinel's site at some point, but it's already been picked up by the Arizona Republic.

David Montgomery returns with his semi-regular column for the Chicago Sun-Times, where he covers Gayle Lynds' THE COIL, Ace Atkins' DIRTY SOUTH, Daniel Silva's A DEATH IN VIENNA, Michael A. Black's WINDY CITY KNIGHTS, and Lawrence Block's THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL.

Speaking of Atkins, he plays tourguide for Jeff Johnson at the Sun-Times, who is in search for the birthplace of the blues and other notable landmarks. Fascinating stuff.

Tom and Enid Schantz are back with their monthly mystery column for the Denver Post. Meriting their attention is Leslie Silbert's THE INTELLIGENCER, Donald Westlake's new Dortmunder novel THE ROAD TO RUIN (where Dortmunder poses....as a butler?? Oh man, I gotta read this) Lev Grossman's THE CODEX, and Denise Hamilton's LAST LULLABY, which they seem to feel gets bogged down in romantic entanglements and chase scenes. Hello? It's called character development and action, and both were relevant to the story.

Speaking of Grossman's THE CODEX, it gets a very nice review in today's Boston Globe, as Caroline Leavitt, who admit she doesn't read many of them, finds this thriller "fabulously entertaining." She also is impressed with Mark Dunn's new experimental novel, IBID. A LIFE.

David Morrell is practically a legend right now; writing FIRST BLOOD and the other Rambo novels will do that. On the eve the "Reading Las Vegas" book festival, he's interviewed by the Nevada Review-Journal.

The article that appeared in the LA Times about Faye and Jonathan Kellerman has been reprinted in the Evanston Courier Press. Read how the married duo have finally collaborated on a project together.

Jonathon King, author most recently of SHADOW MEN, is interviewed in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the new book, and brings up his bemusement about the whole CSI thing, as he tries to incorporate forensic material in the books without overdoing it. They are, after all, mostly about atmosphere and character.

Elizabeth George's WRITE AWAY, a guide to fiction writing, is taking her across the country. The Seattle Times catches up with her and asks her about her new tome, certainly much different than her English-set psychological thrillers.

Just when we thought we'd escaped the Believer types, look! Up pops up Heidi Julavits again, as THE EFFECT OF LIVING BACKWARDS is now available in the UK. Scotland on Sunday calls it "exquisitely odd." What that means, exactly, I do not know....

R.D. Zimmerman used to write mysteries that were mired in midlist. A name change and a shift into historical fiction, and he cracked the NYT bestseller list with last year's hardcover THE KITCHEN BOY. He spoke to the Chicago Tribune about his new success and what he's doing next.

Agatha Christie....the computer game? Yes, it's true. Some of her most beloved novels, like MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, have been adapted for the PC and made interactive. But if you read the book, doesn't it kind of kill the suspense of the computer game? Just asking....

Cory Doctorow of Boingbong.net fame is wowing the critics again with his newest sci-fi novel. Robert Wiersma of the Toronto Star is quick to beat the drum that Doctorow is one of "ours," a Canadian ex-pat who's writing some swell speculative fiction.

Lionel Shriver instructs readers of the Jerusalem Post on how to write a novel, but gives quite the fair warning:

Telling people how to write a novel is like telling them how to have sex: really, it's whatever works for you. So, consider the following literary erotica. This is what works for me.

That is so beyond quotable that I know I'll be using this somewhere or another.

And finally, Roger Miller covers one of my favorite books which became one of my favorite musicals: Douglass Wallop's THE YEAR THE YANKEES LOST THE PENNANT the Faustian bargain that proved so popular upon publication 50 years ago that it became the basis for DAMN YANKEES, which launched the career of Gwen Verdon (and especially her dancing legs), furthered that of Bob Fosse, and featured some damn fine tunes ("Heart" "Whatever Lola Wants" and especially Ray Walston's oozing turn "Those Were the Good Old Days"). Like Miller, I think it's time to reread my own beat-up copy as well...and shake my head that things really haven't changed so much, and people are still hoping, wishing, and praying for the same exact result.

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