Year: 2006

Adventures in Unhistory by Avram Davidson | Book Review

Imagine if you will that, when you were younger, you had an older relative — a grandfather or great-aunt — who was something of an armchair historian regarding mythology. Every now and then, when you were visiting, you’d make your way to their study, sit in one of the overstuffed chairs by the fire, and ask a question. “Where exactly did Sindbad sail?,” you’d ask; or, “who was Prester John?” or “were there really ever dragons, rocs, or unicorns?” Your older relative would get a youthful gleam of excitement in their eye and start pulling down a collection of books from the shelves with which to answer your question. “Maybe,” they’d say, opening an ancient-looking tome, “and maybe not. I once met an elderly gentleman named Mr. Dong who claimed to have seen a unicorn while on safari in Africa…but I’ll save that story for later. First, let’s see what old Pliny the Elder had to say on the matter….”


Shadowbred by Paul S. Kemp | Book Review

Wizards of the Coast and Forgotten Realms: Names that echo fancies of Dungeons and Dragons. The mere whisper of D&D can illicit comments from all shades of life, which proves that it has transcended other games by embedding its existence in society. To fantasy readers, on the other hand, those names recall a different thought. For me the “thought” that materialized was R.A. Salvatore; he was able to captivate me through the trials of Drizzt Do’Urden. Surprisingly, this is no longer the case. Now when I hear Forgotten Realms, I think Paul S. Kemp.


Red Baker by Robert Ward | Book Review

In 1985 Robert Ward, Baltimore native and reporter for The Baltimore Sun, published Red Baker. It was met with critical acclaim and won the PEN West prize for Best Novel of 1985, but nobody bought it and it faded away into obscurity. Wards depiction of the blue collar Baltimoron prompted Hollywood to come to Charm City and lure him away from the paper and from writing further novels. He became a successful screenwriter for Hill Street Blues and other shows including Miami Vice. But in mystery circles everyone was talking about Red Baker and the name was freely given to any who would listen like a secret password. “Psst, have you read Red Baker”, or “Do you think Ward will write another novel?” Ward went on to a successful career as a screenwriter, a job that most, even the talented ones, do anonymously. But those who were in the know always waited and watched to see what Ward was going to do next and his career was closely followed. Robert Ward became two things, a writer’s writer and an unknown commodity to any outside of certain circles.


American Skin| a Ken Bruen interview

Since the explosive popularity of The Guards Ken Bruen has quickly become one of the foremost crime fiction writers. His bold style is immediately recognizable but not easily imitated and is wholly unique.

He went to college at St. Joseph’s College and went on to earn a Ph.D. in metaphysics. After school he was briefly a security guard at the World Trade Center and an actor in some of Roger Corman’s movies. He then embarked on the career that would last 25 years, as an English teacher in Africa, Japan, South East Asia, Kuwait and Brazil.

He has been nominated for every award under the sun and has won the Shamus and Macavity. He is currently writing two series The Jack Taylor Series and The Brant series. His latest book is American Skin and 2007 looks to be a busy year for him as well.


Probable Cause by Theresa Schwegel | Book Review

Ray Weiss is a rookie police officer in Chicago. As a part of an initiation ritual rookies are expected to break into a store steal something for he senior officers and get out. When Ray’s time come he breaks into a local jewelry store and once inside finds the dead body of the store owner. In order to cover themselves the other officers sabotage the crime scene and destroy evidence. They eventually arrest a suspect that Ray knows is innocent, but if says anything then he will incriminate not only himself and the other officers but his long time best friend also. Rays father a lieutenant, is a cop also, and keeps a watchful eye over his son’s career. Rays is stuck in an uncomfortable position as he doesn’t want the wrong man to go to prison but cant do harm to himself at the same time. The other central dilemma is that Ray wants to earn his fathers respect but he also takes a lot or grief from everyone else because of his father’s position. As the investigation into the store owner’s death brings more information to light more elements get thrown into the mix like possible dirty cops and illegal immigrants. As Ray continues to vocalize his doubts he finds himself to be the target of supposedly random acts of violence and vandalism. The ending is unpredictable and more importantly is satisfying in its conclusion and wrap up of all the threads that came before.


The Magdalen Martyrs by Ken Bruen | Book Review

Jack Taylor continues to be a fascinating and compelling character in spite of his self destructive tendencies. The more we get to know him we become convinced that we’d like to meet him and have a drink.

The Magdalen Martyrs is the third entry in the Jack Taylor series and is the darkest one yet. Which, for this series, says a lot. With this book Bruen has Taylor tackle a dark chapter in the Catholic Church’s history, the forced internment of young, unmarried pregnant girls. The Magdalen was one such Church run home in Galway. Under the guise of helping “wayward” girls it was in all actuality a repository of hellish abuse that was all under the auspices of God’s good will. More then one girl entered The Magdalene and didn’t leave.


No Dominion by Charlie Huston | Book Review

No Dominion, the second book in the Joe Pitt Casebooks series by Charlie Huston, kicks off right in the middle of things with Pitt and his girlfriend Evie at a bar. Pitt is getting beat pretty handily by another vampyre. This shouldn’t be happening because as has been hinted at in the past and will be explored later on in more detail, the older vampyres aren’t easily beaten and Pitt has been around. It turns out that there is a new drug hitting the vampyre community especially the younger ones that gives its users a radical high but also crazed super human strength, even by vampyre standards. Pitt goes to long time acquaintance and one time friend Terry, the head of Coalition with this discovery. Terry hires Pitt to investigate the influx of drugs into their neighborhood. Like Captain Willard this investigation will send him uptown into the dark heart of Hood territory, and beyond. By the end of the novel there will be revelations and tough decisions to be made.


Nothing Personal | a Jason Starr interview

This week our On the Spot guest is Jason Starr. His seventh novel, Lights Out, was released this past October. His other novels include: Twisted City, Tough Luck, Hard Feelings, Fake I.D., Nothing Personal and Cold Caller. He has co-authored one novel, Bust, with Ken Bruen and the sequel is due out in 2007. The two are also working on a graphic novel. Jason’s eighth novel, The Follower, is due out in 2007.


American Skin by Ken Bruen | Book Review

It was only a matter of time before Bruen had set a story here and we have been waiting with baited breath for it. Well the wait is over; American Skin is Bruen does America.

In the last couple of years, since the explosive popularity of The Guards, Ken Bruen has had a large swell of popularity here in America. All of his European crime novels are being republished here with increased and continued success. If one didn’t know any better one would have assumed that Bruen was the world’s most prolific writer because with the mix of reprints and new material he has had, I believe, 16 novels published in the last 6 years. Which is a real boon for those who discover his writings because you can really get your fix after you have been hooked on the good stuff (pssst, Bruen’s the good stuff)? Up until this point all of his novels have been set primarily in Galway or London. A couple of the characters made brief excursions to The States in Taming the Alien, the middle book of The White Trilogy and the second book in the DS Brant series. But those characters trips were brief as is befitting the blistering pace of that series. It was only a matter of time before Bruen had set a story here and we have been waiting with baited breath for it. Well the wait is over; American Skin is Bruen does America.


The Killing of the Tinkers by Ken Bruen | Book Review

The power of Bruen’s prose poetry continues to amaze as he continues to plumb the dark depths of Jack Taylor’s soul.

At the end of The Guards Jack Taylor left Galway in order to start a new life in London. The expectation was that the next book would chronicle those times. But in the beginning of The Killing of the Tinkers we find Taylor returning home leaving behind a failed marriage. While in the middle of a bender he is approached by an Irish Gypsy, Sweeper, who is seeking help in investigating the murders of members of his clan. The Guards are of no help because they aren’t interested in helping the tinkers. Their outsider status guarantees that that they won’t find help using more traditional means within the system. Jack, the consummate outsider looking in, finds a kindred spirit in Sweeper and for the first time in awhile feels comfortable with them. Taylor crosses paths with a thinly veiled character from another book and the two set out investigating the murders. This being a Taylor novel he will spend much of the time fighting losing battles with his inner demons that haunt his every moment. As he is want to do Taylor makes frequent references to the end results as being tragic but even with prior knowledge and looking out for the road signs along the way we are still blindsided with the ferocity of the ending.


Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan | Book Review

warrior witchFrom its cover one might suspect Marie Brennan’s Warrior and Witch to be a fantasy-romance hybrid, but there is actually very little romance in this tale of magic, politics and cultural change. Also misleading about the cover is its failure to note that this is a sequel to Brennan’s previous novel Doppelganger (the story, and this review, contain spoilers for that book). The omission of lineage is unfortunate because Warrior and Witch is not the best introduction to Brennan’s work, nor is it as good a story as she is capable of.


The White Trilogy by Ken Bruen | Book Review

The White Trilogy is an omnibus edition that contains the three novels The White Arrest, Taming the Alien and The McDead. They are interrelated novels with the same cast of characters; in fact The White Trilogy reads more like one book instead of three separate ones. It is also important to note that these books are the start of the Brant series, something that isn’t clearly identified anywhere on the book, presumably because the series is being re-published here in America by two different publishers.

“Roberts had got the call at three in the morning. The hour of death.”

The White Trilogy follows the exploits of R & B, aging CI Roberts and loose cannon DS Brant (“I was born angry and got worse”) as they encounter the underbelly of London. Some of the cases they will tackle are a serial killer who is offing England’s cricket team, a group of vigilantes lynching drug dealers by hanging them from lamp posts, a rapist who targets black women and a hit man who has fled the country.


Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days | Comic Book Review

Ex Machina has at its heart two central conceits. One of them is readily apparent from the outset, is proudly displayed on the back cover summary, is the main calling card and probably the reason that the book was picked up in the first place. What if a super hero became an elected official? Mitchell Hundred was a civil engineer who stumbled upon a glowing object of mysterious origins that bestowed upon him the ability to talk to machines. After healing from his burns he embarks on a short lived career as the worlds first and only superhero. Short lived because he feels as if he is just maintaining the status quo and he could make more of a difference by unmasking and running for mayor of New York City.

Now, I said above that there were two central conceits at work here. One is on the surface and the other is buried below the surface and could only have been asked by a modern comic creator. I’ll get to the second one in just a minute so I ask for your patience.