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  • Jeff Somers 4:24 pm on 2018/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: , andy carpenter, charlaine harris, , Deck the Hounds, , , , , , otto penzler, , , The Big Book of Female Detectives,   

    October’s Best New Mysteries 

    October is a month for scares and thrills—but there are scares and thrills in the world that have nothing to do with ghosts and goblins. This month’s best mysteries are here to get those goose-pimples popping and those neck hairs rising without a single witch, vampire bat, or werewolf necessary.

    November Road, by Lou Berney
    Berney spins a karmic tale about a mob fixer named Frank Guidry working in New Orleans in 1963. Guidry snips loose ends for his boss Carlos Marcello, violently if necessary. He gets the job of leaving a car in a Dallas parking lot, and after President Kennedy is assassinated he realizes he provided a getaway vehicle for the real shooter—and worse, now he’s a loose end. Trailed by Marcello’s top hitman, Guidry flees and meets up with Charlotte Roy, an unhappy but steel-tipped housewife escaping an abusive husband. As the tension rises, the two find themselves making a surprisingly effective team as they seek to survive in different ways.

    Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales, by P.D. James
    This cunning assortment of previously uncollected stories from the indomitable author of Death Comes to Pemberley is filled with tales of crimes committed long ago, complete with the chilling rationalizations that so often accompany them. Take a deep dive into the heart of a killer, and explore the push-pull in the minds of murderers, witnesses, orchestrators of the perfect crime, and unwitting victims. James’s formidable talent shines even more brightly in her shorter works.

    Deck the Hounds (Andy Carpenter Series #18), by David Rosenfelt
    Rosenfelt’s 18th Andy Carpenter novel brings Christmas to Paterson, New Jersey. Andy tries to help out a homeless man named Don Carrigan, offering the veteran and his dog the Carpenter garage apartment during the cold weather. But when Don is arrested for murder, Andy finds himself taking on a new legal client. There’s a sniper working in the area, and Andy quickly finds himself dealing with a blood-curdling series of crimes that put both Don and Andy’s lives in danger. Rosenfelt’s characters are as warm and bighearted as ever, and the holiday setting makes this a great gift for the person who has everything, especially the previous 17 Andy Carpenter books.

    The Best American Mystery Stories 2018, edited by Louise Penny
    Anyone looking to skim the cream of mystery fiction need look no further—between them, guest editor Penny and series editor Otto Penzler offer up twenty of the absolute best from the famous and the soon-to-be. Penny’s thoughtful selections feature fantastic short fiction from Michael Connelly, Martin Limón, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Andrew Klaven, Paul D. Mark, Joyce Carol Oates, Andrew Bourelle, and twelve others. The choices run the gamut from surprising reinventions of the genre to masterful exercises in the genre’s traditional beats and pleasures.

    The Big Book of Female Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler
    The legendary Otto Penzler continues his popular ‛Big Book’ series with a deep dive into detective fiction with a decidedly female-first focus; considering the current climate, the timing for such a book couldn’t be better. With authors including Agatha Christie (who offers up a delightful Tommy and Tuppence mystery), Marcia Muller (who contributes a Sharon McCone adventure), Phyllis Bentley, Charlotte Armstrong, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Mignon G. Eberhart, this anthology once again demonstrates why Penzler is the most reliable editor working in the mystery genre today.

    October isn’t just a month of tricks and treats—it’s also a month for gumshoes and gimlet-eyed private detectives. Which mysteries will you be reading this month?

    Shop all mystery and crime >

    The post October’s Best New Mysteries appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Paul Goat Allen 5:43 pm on 2014/09/09 Permalink
    Tags: charlaine harris, , hollows series, jaye wells, , kat richardson, , , marcus pelegrimas, , nicole peeler, paranormal fantasy, , ,   

    Brimstone and Leather: A Eulogy for Kim Harrison’s Hollows Saga 

    The Witch With No NameAfter 13 best-selling novels that have revitalized the landscape of genre fiction, Kim Harrison’s Hollows series—which features lovable witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan—is over.

    For the last two decades, paranormal fantasy has enjoyed something of a Golden Age. Authors like Harrison, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, and Jim Butcher have become household names, and more than a few literary characters have become one with the pop culture zeitgeist, including Sookie Stackhouse, Anita Blake, and Harry Dresden. Experiencing this evolution in genre fiction—the audacious blending of various genre elements (mystery, romance, horror, etc.) to create storylines with limitless possibilities—has been amazing. Authors like Stacia Kane, Marcus Pelegrimas, and Jaye Wells have proved without a doubt that the days of rigidly defined categories are long gone.

    I was, admittedly, very sad while reading Harrson’s last Hollows novel, The Witch With No Name. I knew that this was it—I would never read about Rachel Morgan and her endearing group of friends again. My annual visits to the Hollows of Cincinnati were over. I found myself putting the book down again and again, as if a part of me didn’t want to read that final page.

    I’m obviously not going to talk about what  happened to Rachel on her journey of self-discovery, which was action-packed and more than a little surprising, but I would like to share three nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned from reading this series over the last decade.

    1. Find your happiness
    This has been Rachel’s credo from the very first book, though it may have taken her a little while to really figure it out. A line from The Witch With No Name is fitting here: “(D)o what you need to do to be happy and deal with the consequences.” That one line defines Rachel Morgan.

    2. Enjoy the journey
    As evidenced by the blockbuster plot twists in this novel, and in the series as a whole, everything changes. People change. Situations change. Enjoy each and every moment to the fullest because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

    3. Laugh!
    Even in the most hopeless of situations, Rachel always has her self-deprecating sense of humor. She could laugh at herself. The entire series has a humorous undertone—and really, how could it not, with ill-tempered pixie Jenks as a main character? I miss his one-liners already: “Sweet ever-loving pixy piss!”

    Rachel may have had all kinds of trouble figuring out her place in the world, but for all her mistakes, her life philosophy was as solid as it was simple: love, live, and laugh.

    So as Rachel Morgan and her friends walk off into the Cincinnati sunset, I want to take a moment to thank Kim Harrison not only for writing one of today’s most influential paranormal fantasy sagas, but, more importantly, for writing a series of novels that deeply resonated with so many millions of readers.

    Goodbye Rachel Mariana Morgan—you and your crazy red hair and penchant for leather will be sorely missed.

    Have you read Kim Harrison’s Hollows series?

  • Melissa Albert 3:45 pm on 2014/06/10 Permalink
    Tags: charlaine harris, , , , freakonomics, , guy fieri, , , midnight crossroad, , , recent releases, , ,   

    10 Great Father’s Day Gift Books for Every Kind of Dad 

    Jo Nesbo's The Son

    With less than a week to go till Father’s Day, it’s time to reward dads everywhere for another year of awesome dadding. Show yours you’ve been listening by showing up this Sunday with a perfectly tailored read. Anything the book can’t say, you can fit into a dedication on the inside cover:

    For the dad who likes to question everything: Think Like a Freak, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
    The authors behind Freakonomics are back, with another book that questions accepted wisdom and makes you wonder if you’re doing everything wrong (or totally right, by accident!). Their first two books focused more on counterintuitive explanations of social phenomena and solutions for daily problems, where their third outing offers, intriguingly, to “retrain your brain.”

    For the dad who wants an icy antidote to the summer heat: The Son, by Jo Nesbø
    In Norwegian writer Nesbø’s standalone thriller, the son of a deceased corrupt cop is in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, kept docile by a neverending heroin supply. But when new information reaches him about his father’s death, he stages a daring escape and begins a mission of revenge. A real father-son heartwarmer…in its way.

    For the dad who keeps a box of mint-condition comic books on the top shelf of his closet: The Art of Neil Gaiman, by Hayley Campbell
    Jack-of-all-trades writer Gaiman has written kids’ books, comic books, novels, poems, scripts…a Duran Duran biography? Campbell’s book collects many gorgeous examples of the artwork created to accompany Gaiman’s writing, and any dad who drooled over Dave McKean’s illustrations in Gaiman’s seminal Sandman series won’t be able to wait till the day is over to start thumbing through this volume.

    For the dad who wants to cement his status as family grillmaster: Guy On Fire, by Guy Fieri
    If your dad wants to up his grill game beyond “fire + meat = dinner,” Fieri’s here to help with recommendations ranging from wood/protein pairings to tailgating tips, spiked with a healthy serving of funny anecdotes and photographs. Done right, this one’s a gift for the whole family.

    For the dad with a designated Stephen King bookshelf: Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King
    Fans of the famously prolific King have it made: there’s never too long a wait between books. Last summer he took us to Joyland, at Christmastime he introduced us to Dr. Sleep, and now there’s Mr. Mercedes, a coldblooded killer whose weapon of choice is a stolen car.

    For the dad who loves alt history: The Lincoln Myth, by Steve Berry
    Former justice department agent Cotton Malone is back from his quiet retirement and investigating a threat to the United States that goes all the way back to Abraham Lincoln…and further. Rogue Mormons, femme fatales, and America’s forefathers as you’ve never seen them round out this page-turner, the ninth in Berry’s Cotton Malone series.

    For the dad who runs to the bookstore the minute the Pulitzer shortlist is announced: The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, by Tom Rachman
    Thirtysomething Tooly Zylberberg’s quiet life as the proprietor of a tiny Welsh bookstore serves as both a tonic and an escape from her mysterious upbringing, first spent bouncing around Asia with her dad, then traveling even farther afield as a member of a band of con artists led by the sociopathic Venn. This gorgeously written book finds Tooly thrown back into confusion when her past comes knocking.

    For the dad who’s a proud genre geek: Midnight Crossroad, by Charlaine Harris
    Whether your dad’s a Southern Vampire series/True Blood fan from way back, or has never even heard of Sookie Stackhouse, he’ll love this series-launching genre mashup, set in the one-stoplight town of Midnight, Texas. It’s a town where every inhabitant has a secret, and nothing’s as it seems, and if he loves it you can keep buying him new titles in the series for years to come.

    For the dad who loves an inside scoop: Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp, by Kenneth P. Vogel
    This nonfiction book promises to take readers “on the trail of the ultrarich hijacking American politics,” and one way or the other, it’s going to make your dad mad. It features comic portraits of the wildly wealthy (and wildly eccentric), and an eye-opening view of money’s role in American politics.

    For the dad who loves to torment his children with loads of history-buff facts: Midnight in Europe, Alan Furst
    Cristián Ferrar, a Spanish lawyer working in Paris in 1938, changes his life when he’s asked to join the battle against fascism in the twilit days before World War II. This country-hopping espionage tale throws Ferrar in the way of danger, intrigue, and a cast of finely drawn characters, in a bygone world your dad will get lost in.

  • Paul Goat Allen 7:00 pm on 2014/06/03 Permalink
    Tags: a shiver of light, a stroke of midnight, charlaine harris, divine misdemeanors, , , ,   

    No Going Back: An Exclusive Interview with Laurell K. Hamilton 

    A Shiver of Light

    Laurell K. Hamilton’s work over the last 21 years has played an integral role in reshaping the genre fiction landscape. The phenomenal commercial success of her Anita Blake saga in the early ’90s—which audaciously blended elements of horror, mystery, fantasy, and romance—began what became a revolution (or more fittingly, an evolution) in genre fiction. The floodgates opened and countless genre-blending novels began hitting the shelves—like Kim Harrison’s Hollows saga, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, and more.

    This fusion of genre elements heralded a golden age of storylines with virtually no narrative limitations: stories that authors love writing and fans love reading. Laurell K. Hamilton is a pioneer and a trailblazer. So why is it that controversy seems to always swirl around her and her work?

    Just days away from the release of A Shiver of Light—the ninth installment of her saga featuring faerie princess Merry Gentry and the first novel in that series in five years—I caught up with Laurell as she was preparing to embark on a five-city book tour, which begins in Los Angeles on June 2, to ask her a few probing questions about her Merry Gentry series, the evolution of genre fiction, and her legacy.

    It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost five years since the last Meredith Gentry novel, Divine Misdemeanors, was released. After all that time, how difficult was it to immerse yourself back into Merry’s world and get back into her headspace?

    It wasn’t hard to get back into Merry’s world, but getting back into Merry’s voice was much more difficult. Her world is fully realized for me, I know the rules and how my magic system works. But getting the characters to talk to me and through me again after so many years, that was much harder. I finally stopped trying to beat my head against the brick wall, and got smart. I reread all the Merry books, not just the scenes I thought I needed to read in preparation for writing A Shiver of Light. Rereading the books helped me immerse myself in the world, the characters, and finally in Merry’s voice, because when you write a first person narrative, your main character’s voice is nearly everything.

    The events in A Shiver of Light were absolutely pivotal—the potential for future storylines here is now virtually limitless. Have you put any thought into where this series is ultimately headed?

    One of the interesting things that I learned while rereading the series in prep for writing book nine was that the first seven books are an epic fantasy. While I was writing the books I honestly didn’t see it, but reading them years later as I tried to write A Shiver of Light, suddenly I realized that Merry was the underdog heir to the throne that no one believes can, or will, rule. Then a series of adventures help the diamonds in the rough get polished up, until they come into their power and conquer everyone and everything to win the fair maid, the crown, the battle, whatever the “THE” of the series is, gathering their band of fellow adventurers along the way that will help them win the day. I’ve vowed to never again get locked into a one-way story arc that gives me so little room to explore a world, because it’s all about the march to the climax of the series. Divine Misdemeanors, the eighth book in the series, was the most straight mystery of any of the books, and my attempt to try and explore the world now that the epic fantasy had succeeded, though again I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing at the time. I just thought I was writing a good story. A Shiver of Light is a book with all the tropes of epic fantasy, but it’s strangely the least genre and most mainstream of any novel I’ve ever written. The series is free of the earlier story arc, and you’re right, the world is suddenly Merry’s for the taking, or the winning. I’ve got two ideas for short stories, one featuring Barinthus, and the other about the new babies, and what happens as their magic grows. Beyond that, I’m not sure; I’m letting the muse bring me treasure instead of hunting it down with a club, the way I usually do.

    I’ve interviewed you five or six times over the last decade or so and have moderated a few of your book events online through BarnesandNoble.com. Forgive me if I’m wrong here, but a line from A Shiver of Light just jumped out and slapped me in the face. Early on in the novel, Doyle’s description of Merry’s existence seemed to also be describing yours: “I do not think our path was ever meant to be easy…wondrous, beautiful, exciting, thrilling, even frightening, but not easy.” Am I wrong?

    I think you do “get” me and my writing better than most. I always enjoy when you’ve interviewed me for BarnesandNoble.com partially because you bring things to my attention in my own writing. I hadn’t thought about Doyle’s line referencing my own life, but it certainly could. I believe sincerely that if you’re walking the path that Deity, the Universe, wants you to walk to learn the lessons needed to make you the best person you can be, that it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. I liken my spiritual path to a forge and myself to a blade being beaten and heated until it becomes hard, polished, and sharp enough to be battle worthy. Life has always seemed like a battle to me, fighting for what is right, what is yours, what you want, what you need, and what you want to accomplish. If a successful, happy life were easy, everyone would have one, and they don’t. You’ve got to work for it, and work through things to succeed and be happy.

    Writing stories that feature strong, free-thinking female characters who are not afraid to live their lives within the confines of cultural mores has made you an easy target for the intolerant. But, to your credit, you haven’t let that affect your writing. I’ve never been able to fully understand why you are such a lightning rod.

    You and I have discussed before that I don’t know why I’m such a lightning rod for the negatives either. Years ago when it first started it caught me completely off guard. I still don’t understand why anyone is offended by women who own their bodies and their sexuality. I still don’t understand why in so much of the world the fact that women can, and do, enjoy sex as much as men is so threatening to so many people, but I have had some insights into why my writing has bothered some people, and why Anita’s story bothers them more than Merry’s. Merry had a high sexual content from the very first book, but Anita Blake didn’t. Fans were comfortable with Anita being one way and used the books as a refuge, a happy place, to go when their own lives were hard, or sad. I have book series that I “run away from the world” with and can be renewed from revisiting one of my favorite characters. Readers, especially series-loving readers, don’t like too much change. I actually like character growth and change in a series, but I seem to be in the minority; most people like series to be like a brand name product that does the same thing every time, reliable. When the Anita Blake series changed, it made some readers feel betrayed, because their happy place was now an uncomfortable place for them, and uncomfortable isn’t happy for most people. Uncomfortable is the beginning of growth and change in real life and fictional; a lot of readers were thrilled with the new direction, but the ones that weren’t honestly did feel betrayed. Because I don’t feel that way as a reader, I had no way to anticipate it as a writer, so I wandered blissfully off the path and into the woods, only to find that some of the fans had turned into haters. In their minds they felt I had started the “fight,” because I took their beloved world and characters and changed them into people they didn’t enjoy anymore. In my mind I didn’t know there was a problem, until the first hate-filled spewing began. Now, most of my readers, and legions of new fans, have loved, and continue to love how Anita’s personal life and world have opened up, but I understand some of the hatred now. It won’t make it go away, or make me change what I write, or how, but I think I understand some of why it started in the first place.

    I was a bookstore manager when your Anita Blake saga, combining elements of romance, fantasy, and horror, exploded commercially in the late ’90s. That genre-hybridization is still going strong today, and continuing to evolve. A few literary “purists” I know believe this is all just a trend and that genre fiction will eventually revert back to its well-defined categories. I couldn’t disagree more—a good story is a good story and readers ultimately don’t care how it is categorized.

    The landscape of genre and fiction in general has changed forever, there is no going back. Maybe if the paranormal field were static and just contained one type of storyline it would fade, but the field has continued to grow. You say that I combined romance, fantasy, and horror, but Anita Blake is a hard-boiled mystery series, too. Merry Gentry is a political thriller. So many people call the paranormal genre, paranormal romance, but it’s so much more than just romance alone. Even among the “romance” you have everything from serious and sexual, to light and humorous, to tongue firmly in cheek. We have a whole new crop of male writers who are bringing serious two-fisted tales of adventure to the paranormal genre. I am pleased to say that I’ve had the men tell me the same thing the women do, that my writing inspired them to write their own novels. I write as a good a fight scene as I do a sex scene, as good a mystery as a relationship arc, and other writers have come behind me to pick elements and expand them into their own worlds. Some paranormal series are doing better than others, and some types have glutted the market with less than stellar additions and those will fall to the Darwinism of the marketplace, but good stories and great characters—with or without paranormal elements—will find an audience and thrive. Also, bear in mind that the first Anita Blake novel, Guilty Pleasures, was rejected over 200 times, because no one knew what to do with something that mixed so many genres. One editor rejected the book, because the market couldn’t bear one more vampire novel, and another one came out that week, so they rejected me. We’re over 20 years down the road with my audience still growing with each book, and more titles in the paranormal genre than ever, so I think the predictions of an untimely death for it may be premature.

    Laurell, I know you’re busy. Thanks once again for yet another enlightening chat. And, seriously, thank you for being the writer that you are. Because of your creativity and courage, I have been entertained—and enlightened—for over 20 years. Good luck with Merry and her babies! 

    Thanks so much, Paul. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you. I look forward to another 20 years of stories for you and everyone else to enjoy. Who knows what worlds and stories may come next.

    Have you picked up a Merry Gentry novel?

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