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Archive for September, 2012

Banned Book Week – Freedom to Swap

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

This weeks marks the 30th Anniversary of the American Library Association’s  event, Freedom to Read. This got me thinking about PaperBackSwap and our freedom to swap books.

There are books posted in every genre, by thousand and thousands of authors, on a million different subjects. There is something for everyone available, and the only books that aren’t available are, well, just not availableyet.

Searching the PBS data base, I was very please to see many of the books and authors that have been challenged or banned at one time or another are available for swapping here.

Here are a few that are currently available:

 

 


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

 

 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

 


The Color Purple by Alice Walker

 


The Call of the Wild by Jack London

 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

 


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

 


Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

 

 

Have you swapped any good books that have been challenged/banned lately?

 

 

Fantasy Friday – Sharps

Friday, September 28th, 2012

 

Sharps by K.J. Parker

 

Review by Bowden P. (Trey)

 

First, I am a fencer. Have been since I graduated college – I fence all three weapons, and honestly need to get back in practice. Sharps helped me decide that. Why? Well, it’s a really good book about fencers. A soldier. Killers. And two countries on the edge of a war…

The novel starts by introducing the reader to the characters and their circumstances, thought not always their names. The most memorable is by Giraut, a student of no account and womanizer of some ability, and his recollection of events that lead to him bleeding out in a tower. Phrantzes, former fencing champion and staff officer to General Carnufex during the War,  telling his friend about meeting a woman – scandalous because she’s a former prostitute and he’s been a solitary bachelor for most of his life. Suidas Deutzel, another former champion and soldier, fallen to reduced circumstances and driven to look for work. Adulescentulus, Addo, General Carnufex’s son (ordered to join the team by his father) and Iseutz (who joined the team to avoid an arranged marriage and can’t back due to her pride)we don’t meet until a bit later. As a group, they are the national fencing team for Scheria, sent on a tour of Permia, a country they’ve been at peace with for seven years and war for seventy. A war that only concluded when General Carnufex drowned one of their great cities and the Permians ran out of money to pay their mercenary troops. This tour by the fencing team is the largest and most important diplomatic engagements between the two countries that are again on the edge of war. And fencing is a national obsession in Permia, though they do things a bit differently there…

The tour starts inauspiciously with bad roads, a missing courier station garrison and a bandit attack. One might almost think that someone didn’t want them to start. It also introduces a recurring phrase throughout the book, “Here they fence with messers. God help them.” A messer is less of a sword and more of an over large knife like a machete or billhook, often used for agricultural work and other uses, like killing pigs, banditry and self defense.

I genuinely enjoyed the book. The characters were interesting and had a some good depth, motivations and unique personalities to them, even though Iseutz initially comes across as shrill. Fencing has been described as a conversation in steel, or chess at lightning speed, and in Sharps it has elements of both. Conversation and chess also play roles in the book as well, plus politics, intrigue and assassinations.

One thing that periodically ‘snapped the suspenders of disbelief’ was the world. Then again, I’ll forgive Shakespeare his world building, so I’ll forgive Parker his. What was it? Well, the organizational levels of both nations (and even beyond) seemed, industrial. Intelligence divisions. Accounting. Finance. All of these play roles here. Yet, gunpowder and explosives are curiously absent – which if I remember by history of weapons correctly were key in the development of the rapier and small sword as the role of armor diminished. But the king of ranged weapons seems to be the bow and arrow (not the crossbow). And I have a hard time believing that General Carnufex pulled off his stunt without explosives to blow the dams. No matter. I’ll forgive it for now, because I’ve accepted worse things in other fantasy novels.

The verdict? 4½ stars.  ½

Likes: The fencing; Giraut’s view point – very human, likable some times but always understandable; Not spelling everything out till the end; Letting the reader discover things for themselves; The characters, even Tzimisces the political officer and spy had sympathetic moments (and there were others when I’d have wanted to roast him over a fire to start talking); Deutzel Suidas, the fencing champion, former soldier and aspiring drunk who has hidden depths.

Dislikes: Having my suspenders of disbelief snapped in the world building.

Suggested for: Fans of historical novels, particularly the enlightenment era. Those that enjoyed the early Merovingean nights series. Anyone who enjoys fencing or enjoyed fencing at one point in their lives. Sabatini fans, particularly Scaramouche.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview with Chris Everheart

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

 

 

 

An Interview with Author Chris Everheart

 

 

The League of Delphi

Ten years after his father’s mysterious death, 17-year-old Zach secretly returns to his wealthy hometown in search of answers. Why did his mother—who recently died—move him away and change his name, forbidding him to ever reveal his true identity or return home? Desperate to reconnect with this seemingly ideal place, Zach is troubled when a grade school friend commits suicide and no one seems to care. Ashley, a local teenager on the fringe, piques his interest with whispers of a secret committee that runs the town and pressures kids into dangerous overachievement. Finding a hidden passage into the committee’s impenetrable headquarters Zach and Ashley discover a dark connection to Ancient Greece and the Oracle at Delphi. Their suspicions are confirmed, but the conspiracy is more terrifying and dangerous than they imagined, sending them running for their lives and praying to get out alive.

 

Cheryl: Thank you Chris for agreeing to this interview for our Blog here at PaperBackSwap, we are very excited to have you!

Chris: It’s a pleasure. Thanks for welcoming me to the PaperBackSwap family. I know how active and dedicated your community is and I’m really happy to be included.

 
Cheryl: You have led what seems to me, a very interesting life so far. Working as an archaeological illustrator, managing an art gallery, acting, film-making and now writing. Tell us a bit about your career journey and why you choose to become an author.

Chris: Well, first, thanks for saying “so far.” I’m getting a few gray hairs at my temples lately but I feel like I’m nowhere near finished with this journey. There are still so many things I intend to do.

Career-wise, it might be a feature of my artist’s temperament, but I’ve gone from one industry to another, working, watching, and learning. I’m just fascinated with the way the world works and how people behave – and why. I’ve followed my interests and have been exposed to a lot of different fields, which is cool. The mistake I made was believing that I was supposed to completely fit in at one of those places and stay in that company/job/career for the rest of my life. But I just have never been able to do that. 

I studied art for ten years from high school through college and I managed an art gallery right after I got my degree. Long before then, when I was in my first year of college at the University of New Mexico, the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and the US Forest Service hired me to illustrate an exhibit of an a Pueblo Indian archaeological site in the mountains. I got to spend a lot of time talking to archaeologists and researchers, digging around in their massive collections room, imagining and recreating what life was like so many centuries ago – that was a great experience! Later, when attending the University of Minnesota, I worked in the labs, doing illustrations of artifacts excavated from Mayan ruins in Central America.

I also studied anthropology/archaeology and have a lifelong fascination with old things and ancient times, which shows up in my books. Soon we’ll be releasing the first book in an action/adventure series about a 14-year-old archaeologist – basically who I wish I had been when I was a teenager.

Filmmaking is a field I have really loved because I enjoy movies and TV so much. I love writing scripts, working with actors, and helping other people make movies. I’m a fish in water on a film set. Acting is a part of that. You know the saying, “If you keep going into a barber shop, eventually you’ll get a haircut?” Well, if you keep hanging around independent film sets, eventually someone will say, “Hey, we need more bodies in this shot. Change your shirt and get in there.” But the schedules for movie production are brutal and I found that I couldn’t do it as a job long-term. So, instead, I make a short film now and again for fun. I’ve gotten a couple of awards for filmmaking, which is nice. 

 I decided to write books because I was working in an ad agency and not getting creative satisfaction, but didn’t have the money or time for film school. I found that I really enjoyed writing fiction. And my wife (who was terrified about reading my first manuscript) said it was pretty good, which was huge encouragement.

Once I started writing, I began to understand that my short attention span makes long-term career building impossible, but qualifies me perfectly as an author. I can jump into a subject, learn all about it for a short time, write about it, and move on to another subject and story.

God bless my darling wife, Patsy. She’s been so generous and patient with me over the years. And now that writing is really starting to pay off, she gets to see a return on her “investment” in me.

 

Cheryl: You have written a series, The Recon Academy. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Chris: I developed the Recon Academy graphic novel series for Stone Arch Books, an imprint of Capstone Publishing. I really believe in Stone Arch’s mission to publish books for young, struggling and reluctant readers – because I was one of those (and although I’m no longer very young, I still struggle a bit with reading).

They asked me to create a series that a middle-grade boy could relate to that has a high-concept theme with a lower reading level. I pitched them several ideas and we Frankensteined a couple together to make Recon Academy. One of them won a Moonbeam Award, which I am proud of. A cool thing is that I wrote those books when I lived in Minneapolis and when I moved to East Tennessee I went to library and found them on the middle-graders’ shelf here.

            

 

Cheryl: And about Superman Toys of Terror?

Chris: Stone Arch Books partnered with DC Comics to create a series of partially illustrated chapter books for young readers. While I’ve never been a huge comic book reader, I have deep admiration for the genre. I’m very aware that not many people can say they’ve officially written Superman so it was quite an experience getting that call.


 

Cheryl: Your newest book, The League of Delphi, is a Young Adult Thriller that left me shouting for more!

Chris: Yes, I loved your mildly profane message to me when you finished The League of Delphi! It put a smile on my face.

I get bored easily so if I start reading a book, watching a movie or TV show but the concept, plot, or characters are weakly developed or poorly expressed, I’ll abandon the book, turn of/walk out of a movie, or quit a TV series. When I’m writing, I have an internal drive to make the plot interesting, the situations exciting, and keep the story moving or it won’t be worth reading and I simply won’t want to write it.

With The League of Delphi, the main character, Zach, is 17 years old, alone, confused, and uncovering a deep, dark mystery in his own hometown – where he thought he would be safe and welcomed back! Instead what he finds are secrets, deaths, deception, and mortal danger to himself and the other kids in the town. It’s out of his control and the writing and plot have to take advantage of that mood.

There will be at least three books in the Delphi series because Zach’s story can’t be told in one volume. He’ll encounter more danger and secrets on his journey to what he thought was home. So, you asked for more and you will definitely get more!

 

Cheryl: My favorite sentence from the book: Wrinkled and grooved buildings stand rooted low to the ground as if someone planted a single brick on each plot three hundred years ago and they’ve been growing slowly ever since, twisting upward each night toward the light of the moon.

Chris: That was a real Ray Bradbury moment. The 300-year-old college campus in The League of Delphi is a character unto itself – especially the library that no one is allowed to use. It’s the headquarters of evil and the only place Zach will find answers.

One thing I love about libraries and college campuses is how open they are. Everyone is there to learn and grow, to meet and talk and share an experience. I thought it would be interesting to flip that and make this town’s college foreboding and unfriendly. So, every moment Zach is on this campus, instead of feeling inspired he feels scrutinized and suffocated. The look and description of the campus reflects what’s going on inside him.

The description in that passage is based on a couple of very old buildings on the University of Minnesota campus, where I finished college. These ancient brick buildings stand on narrow, winding streets and their windows are big and vacant and stare down at you as you walk past. They seem alive, like huge old trees that were on that spot long before you came along and will be there long after you’re gone.

 

Cheryl: Is young Zach, the protagonist in your book based on someone you know?

Chris: Zach is not based on a specific person I know. Like most of my characters, he emerges from the circumstances in the story. My stories are very plot-driven and I usually don’t get to know the characters until I put them in these dreadful circumstances and they start to act and react.

In that sense, it’s very much like meeting someone for the first time. You have impressions of who they are based on how they look and talk. But as you live in the same world together and things happen, you see aspects of them emerge – sometimes admirable, sometimes repugnant – and they become more and different than you imagined them to be. If you stick around long enough or if the things that happen are strenuous enough, you’ll get to see a broader spectrum of their character and see major changes.

This is what writing a book is like. I don’t entirely know who the characters are, but as the story develops the readers and I get to know them. This is one reason big concept thrillers are so gripping and exciting – the compacted circumstances force the characters to do something and you get to know them and identify with them quickly.

 

Cheryl: In his adventures in this book, Zach is searching for his truth, his background and for answers about his life that he could never get from his family. This search surely will resonate with your readers, young and adult. Is there a similar search you have been on?

Chris: Zach is a teenager fighting the forces and circumstances around him that are blocking him from finding his true identity. So, in that sense, he is inspired by practically every teenager (and many adults) I’ve known – and also by myself. For me, the pain of growing up is still very fresh. I did not have an especially happy childhood and being a teenager was … well, let’s just say that, if you invented a time machine that could transport people back to 1983, I wouldn’t get in that damned thing!

Story is universally important to us because it can express what we don’t fully acknowledge and understand. Telling Zach’s story – as he discovers what the League of Delphi is doing to his town and is compelled to do something about it – is a way of dealing with vital teen issues like identity, rebellion, isolation, abandonment, pressure, romance, and risk.

Having helped raise a child, I can see these stages and themes more clearly, but I wasn’t aware or the least bit analytical of them when I was going through them myself. I also didn’t sense at that time that teenagers have likely gone through these phases and changes since the dawn of time. The plot, stakes, and circumstances in The League of Delphi are all amplified into a thriller story, but the themes are timeless and universal.

Zach’s not entirely sure why he’s doing what he’s doing. He’s afraid that he might be clinically insane. His mother stole him away from everything familiar when he was seven years old. He has returned to his hometown under a false name. Emerging from hiding, he is becoming a different version of himself. His parents are gone and he never really knew them. He wants his home to be ideal, but it’s deeply dysfunctional – even dangerous. He feels unable to love but connects with this damaged girl who reflects his suspicions about life and this place.

So inspiration for the character of Zach is in each of us and I hope readers will identify with him and connect with the subtle themes he’s encountering in addition to his terrifying and exciting story.

 

Cheryl: Tell us a bit about the Oracle at Delphi, and why you chose this theme for your book.

Chris: Ah, Delphi is such a fascinating place! For more than a thousand years, this mountainside site in Greece was the most important religious and cultural spot in the Western World. Starting in 1400BCE, royalty, aristocrats, politicians, military leaders, and commoners from all over went there to consult the Pythia – a woman who sat deep in a temple, breathing noxious fumes from a crack in the earth, babbling answers to questions. Decisions about romance, finance, and empire were made based on her famously – sometimes cruelly – cryptic prophecies. One emperor, for example, asked the oracle if he should invade a neighboring country. The oracle’s response was, “If you go to war, a great empire will be destroyed.” So he went to war and was unpleasantly surprised when he lost and it was his empire that was destroyed! (See more on Delphi at my Brain Burgers Blog at ChrisEverheart.com)

I had a story concept about a town where everyone somehow knew what was going to happen ahead of time. The conflict was they weren’t like other people because of their special knowledge and they fought amongst themselves about how to handle it. Because I love old-time radio, I was contemplating producing it as a web radio show – a sort of drama/soap opera.

That project never came to be, but I read about Delphi somewhere and realized that the mysterious knowledge could be coming from this mystical place – and the magic “What if …” questions emerged. “What if the Oracle at Delphi was the source of secret knowledge? And what if one of their own had a reason to tear the lid off it all?” By this time, I had started writing for young readers and asked the final important question: “What if that insider with something to prove was a teenager?” And Zach was suddenly thrust into this dark mystery – the poor kid never saw it coming.

 

Cheryl: Zach and his new friend Ashley discover some frightening secrets and encounter a dangerous truth in your book. Both cope with these truths very differently, yet compliment each other very well. Will there be another book with Zach and Ashley?  Will this story continue?

Chris: Zach and Ashley are at the center of The League of Delphi. It was originally only Zach’s story, but I was surprised by how important Ashley became while I was writing it. She is on the inside of this cloistered town culture, but she’s also on the fringe. Ashley is Zach’s bridge into the mystery. She’s broken – in and out of the psych ward her whole life – but she’s the only person courageous enough to acknowledge the truth of what’s going on in this town. Zach can’t help but notice this because he’s looking for the ideal place that his mother stole him away from and instead finds a bunch of mind-numbed robots who can’t even acknowledge the suicide of a local high school kid.

They complement each other in several ways: Zach believes he is inwardly insane; Ashley is known to be outwardly insane. Zach is on his own and lonely; Ashley is surrounded by people but totally unable to connect with any of them. Zach is living under a false identity; everyone knows exactly who Ashley is. Zach is secretly trying to figure out the weirdness going on in this town; Ashley has gotten locked in the psych ward for talking about it. Zach doesn’t know who he is and feels he needs to get inside the mystery of the League of Delphi to figure it out; Ashley knows who she is and wants out so she can be herself.

They are soul mates on this journey to break the grip of Delphi and express who they really are. Of course, Delphi is not onboard with that and the battle that ensues tears them apart – inside and out. It’s pretty grim for these two teenagers.

And yes, this is only the first of at least three books in this series. I originally conceived it as a trilogy and I can see opportunities for more sequels as well as any number of prequels and historical fiction series based on the theme. The history of Delphi goes back over THREE THOUSAND YEARS – that’s a lot of stories to tell!

 

Cheryl: What books and authors do you read for fun?

Chris: I read a wide variety of subjects and authors – nonfiction, history, archaeology, true-life adventures, self-development, philosophy, scripture of many traditions, thrillers, some mysteries, and YA. I know a lot of writers, so I read their books.

I love to read Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books and Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series. When I really just want some brain candy, I read Clive Cussler. His books have a good blend of action, thrills, history, and archaeology – they’re pure entertainment. Lately I’ve been reading zombie books – by Jonathan Maberry and Max Brooks. I’ll start the Hunger Games series soon because I love what Suzanne Collins has done with teen stories – can the concept get any sharper than “Kill them before they kill you!”?

One frustration for me is that I still read very slowly so I know I will never get to everything that I would like to read.

 

Cheryl: Is there a book or books that influenced you as a young person?

Chris: A Louis L’Amour dime-store Western from my dad’s shelf stands out in my mind. I can’t remember the title now, but it was about a teenager who started out on a cattle drive with his father. Dad broke his leg and died from gangrene – gruesome! – and the kid had to fight some rustlers and finish the adventure by himself. It was a stock story, but it left an impression on me that this young man could rely on himself when he most needed to.

I also had an excellent Humanities teacher in high school who showed me Shakespeare, Dante, Plato, and Homer and got me out into a big, fascinating world beyond network television. I’m very grateful for that education.


Cheryl: What is next for you?

Chris: I have a number of books coming out in e-book and paperback in the next few months: ZomProm: a high school zombie romance (yes, it’s what it sounds like); Seti’s Charm: A Max Carter Adventure (the first in my action/adventure series about a 14-year-old archaeologist); Hub’s Adventures (a series of futuristic techno-mysteries about sixth-grader Hub and his robot best friend, Crank); a possible short film project; and writing the next book in The League of Delphi series. Is that enough? Because sometimes I feel lazy.

 

Cheryl: And now for some fun questions:

Coke or Pepsi?

Chris: I failed the Pepsi Challenge – COKE!

 

Cheryl: Mountains or beach?

Chris: Mountains. It took me 15 years to get to East Tennessee and I’m not leaving!

 

Cheryl: Cake or pie?

Chris: Cake – because I’m pretty sure brownies are in that category.

 

Cheryl: Television or movies?

Chris: Ugh! I seriously can’t choose – I’m one of the rare people who openly admits to loving television. I wouldn’t want to live in a world where I had to choose between Smoky and the Bandit and Dukes of Hazard.

 

Cheryl: Cats or Dogs?

Chris: Used to be exclusively a cat person until Molly came along. Now I’m a dog person – but it’s gotta be the right dog!

 

 

 

 

Chris Everheart is an award-winning author of books and short stories for middle-graders, young adults, and adults and an occasional filmmaker. A lifelong reluctant reader, TV junkie, and movie lover, Chris infuses the pacing and thrills of visual storytelling into all his stories. When not writing he can be found hiking in the mountains near home, watching television, or learning about history, science, and archaeology. He’s a Minnesota native living in East Tennessee with his family.

 

Connect with Chris at:

Facebook: facebook.com/chriseverheart.writes

Twitter: @ChrisEverheart

ChrisEverheart.com

 

 

 

 

Chris Everheart has generously offered an autographed numbered paperback copy of his new book, The League of Delphi to a member who comments here on the Blog. A winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zombie Romance Review – Dearly, Beloved

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

 

Review by Kelsey O.

 

It’s 2196, and the city of New London is now markedly changed. Political and social tensions are building around the advent of the “civilized” undead, and there’s violence in the streets. When that violence hits close to home, Nora Dearly and Bram Griswold are once again forced to take control of their own destinies. As old friends become foes and chaos reigns all around them, Nora and Bram must find strength in each other-no matter the cost.

 

Lia Habel is a genius. In her first book she made zombies loveable and she did not let us down with her second installment, Dearly, Beloved. I loved returning to New London and seeing how life is now that the general population knows about the dead. Of course there are different types of zombies. There are the civilized ones that just want to go about their lives now that there are ways of retaining their memories and then there are those that have succumbed to the virus and are just mindless biting machines.

 

Nora is still our headstrong heroine and now that they are back in New London, it is required of her to learn how to be a lady. After everything that Nora has been through, this is a little tough. She wants to be on the front lines fighting for the zombies rights. She and Bram are still going strong but they have to be careful and keep their relationship on the down low for now. Bram is still the valiant knight to Nora and will always do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

 

The plot this time is that the Lazarus strain has mutated and the vaccine they designed isn’t made to deal with this strain. They do not want another Siege so they try to covertly move the zombie (Patient One) infected with this strain away from anyone that could use him for a weapon. There are several groups that know about Patient One and they all want him.

 

The main reason that I find this series fascinating is that the story is told from multiple points of views. The reader is not restricted in knowing only what the main characters know. We are lucky enough to know everything that is going on and it keeps the pace of the book moving. The non-stop action will keep the reader invested in the lives of these characters. If you are looking for a unique series to read, this is the one for you. Due to the high complexity of Lia’s world, I recommend reading the series in order.

 

 

Book 1

Dearly, Departed

 

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Review – Speaks the Nightbird

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon

 

Review by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

 

Note to self; ALWAYS listen to Jeanne’s book recommendations.  Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon was another stellar recommendation from a good friend of mine.

I am not into “witch trial books” as a rule, so I really resisted picking this up, sometime you just have to go out of your comfort zone.  This is an excellent page turner of a book and I immediately went out and got the next two in the series.  It has to be one of a reader’s greatest joys to find a new to them author, and one with a back list is always a bonus.

I had never heard of Robert McCammon and so I this really was a leap of faith, what I found is an immensely rich, thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.  You are taken back into the early colonial American south; the writing is atmospheric, and sometimes profane the narrative is comfortable, even if the subject matter isn’t.  I love Matthew Corbett and his mentor Magistrate Isaac Woodward, and a thoroughly unforgettable cast of characters from the witch Rachael Howarth to the rat catcher and blacksmith you will be enthralled by this disturbing yet surprisingly funny look at what had to be a very difficult time in our country’s history.  I have only a couple of minor quibbles with the book; these are a history buffs quibble, however the minor inaccuracies take nothing away from this wonderful reading experience.

4.5 stars highly recommended, and I would venture to say that this book will be on my best reads list for 2012.

Also for the audio book listener, Edoardo Ballerini the narrator is wonderful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – Black Hearts and Slow Dancing

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Black Hearts and Slow Dancing by Earl Emerson

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Regional setting, sense of humor, and deft writing are combined in this first-of-a-series mystery novel that features Mac Fontana. A firefighter and arson investigator with a hard-luck history, Mac has been through the mill, with a wife killed in a car crash during his own trial in the death of a woman he slapped to death. He’s moved to the Seattle area with his young son and been pressured into becoming the sheriff in addition to his duties as fire chief in the village of Staircase.

 

In Mac’s jurisdiction, a fireman from Seattle is found tortured to death. Mac’s investigation uncovers civic corruption and a sad lack of a moral compass in aid of urban sprawl. During his search to distinguish the good guys from the other kind, Mac is forced into an oil tank to die, tempted into You-Know by the victim’s weight-lifting GF, and supervises his crew at the arson fire of a church. Emerson has skilled hand for the rousing scene.

 

This is more a crime novel than a mystery since the perps are easy to spot. Readers that are leery of series books will have to tolerate the gimmicks of local setting, emotionally damaged hero, demonic moguls and their depraved helpers. The barnyard language and humor, plus the loud stupid-on-purpose  atmosphere of a men’s locker room may be too much of a familiar thing for readers who spend quite enough time in a men’s locker room in real life, thank you very much. The three female characters can be summed up easily: one is a pain, the next a flake, and the last a brute.

 

What may or may not balance this for prospective reader: the wide-ranging action rocks, the pace is brisk, the plot twists and turns in remarkable ways. Plus, there is a Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd named Satan.   The presence of a wonder dog wins extra points, of course. While this novel did not win any awards, Emerson has won honors for other novels, so he is writer that readers can trust will deliver an entertaining mystery.

 


 

 

 

Mystery Monday – Murder In A Mummy Case

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Murder In A Mummy Case by K.K. Beck

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

After the non-stop mayhem and guy’s dorm-room ambience of Emerson’s Black Hearts and Slow Dancing, I harkened back to the kinder gentler traditions of the Golden Age whodunit. I found K.K. Beck’s Murder in a Mummy Case (1986) charming and delightful, though she would go on about clothes: “dressed in a smart two-piece golf ensemble, aquamarine wool knit with a band of orange at the neck and in the gores of the skirt.”

Gores?

Set in the late 1920s, Stanford co-ed Iris Cooper has received permission from her parents to spend Easter Break with gentleman friend Clarence Brockhurst and his wealthy family. The high society setting will bring to mind Charlie Chan novels by Earl Derr Biggers. That is, the characters are wealthy enough to afford eccentric hobbies and maintain wacky hangers-on. Mrs. Brockhurst employs a spiritualist medium and her entourage of handler Mr. Jones and a lady’s maid who turns out to be The Victim. She has also taken in a poor relation Aunt Laura and a dispossessed White Russian Count Boris. Son Clarence has the resources to indulge his hobby of Egyptology and even keeps a mummy in the house, which the psychic blames for evil emanations.

Mystery fans and fans of B-movies by Poverty Row studios will recognize the stock characters.  Iris is smart and sweet, and plucky in the pinch. Brassy and bold she is not but those are covered by Clarence‘s sister Bunny, a free-spirited flapper. Iris’ other possible BF is a walking checklist of traits of a young newshound: brash, quick witted, wisecracking, and apt to jump to conclusions. Clarence is the huffy pompous mooncalf who woos his lady love with the promise to teach her how to read hieroglyphs.

Beck has a deft hand with comic allusions. The butler, who is assumed to have Done It, is a Chinese named Charles Chan. Even the characters look askance at that. At the beginning, she has Iris say, “Had I but known that my request would lead me into another adventure, my anticipation would have been even greater, “ which is a send-up of the standard melodramatic “Had I but known” foreshadowing of mysteries and gothics in the first half of the 20th century. At the end, a character marvels at his luck, “Imagine, I almost invested a fortune in some worthless little town in Southern California, Palm Springs it was called.”

Beck must have read her share of cozy puzzlers not only to spoof them but also to feel affectionate about the whole genre. Nostalgia buffs will like the dumbwaiter, speakeasy, and chaperones and other such artifacts, institutions and customs that went as dead as the dodo a long time ago. Readers on the look-out for a light and entertaining mystery will not go wrong with this one.