Happy Birthday, Ross MacDonald

Kenneth Millar, who wrote under the pen name Ross MacDonald, was born today (December 13) in 1915.  He passed away in 1983.

MacDonald is best remembered as the creator of the Los Angeles based private investigator Lew Archer, although he also wrote stand-alone novels as well.  His early work was somewhat derivative of Raymond Chandler, but he soon established his own take on the lone investigator.

MacDonald has been on my radar a long time.  I read the Lew Archer novel The Galton Case when I was in graduate school.  I liked it enough to pick up copies of his books when I came across them in second hand shops.  Over the last few months, I’ve been dipping into The Archer Files, the collected Lew Archer short fiction.

I’m hoping to read more PI fiction next year, and MacDonald will definitely be in the rotation.

A Piratical Mystery

The Bloody Black Flag
Steve Goble
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper $15.99
ebook $9.99

The Bloody Black Flag is Steve Goble’s debut novel, and it’s definitely worth a read. It’s a historical mystery set onboard a pirate vessel in 1722. I covered the historical adventure aspect of the novel in my review over at Adventures Fantastic. Since this is a mystery and crime blog, I’ll look at the mystery component of the novel here.

The story starts out with Spider John and his friend Ezra joining the pirate crew of the Plymouth Dream.  They had attempted to start an honest life on land, but they were recognized. Being wanted pirates, they decided to go back on the account and head to sea.

Spider and Ezra both had women in their families who were accused of witchcraft. Remember, this was 1722. The Salem witch trials were fresh in people’s minds. One of the crew recognizes Ezra and accuses him of being bad luck because of this. Later that night Ezra is found dead. At first glance it appears he had fallen and hit his head in a drunken stupor. The problem with this idea is that Spider knows Ezra didn’t drink. His friend was murdered. Continue reading

When a Murder is Welcome

A Welcome Murder
Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paperback $15.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Ebook $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

Robin Yocum’s A Brillian Death was probably my favorite book last year.  He returns with another tale of murder in set in a rustbelt Ohio town.  A Brilliant Death was a coming of age story wrapped in a murder mystery.  As such, the profanity and sexual content were pretty minimal; its content would not be inappropriate for younger readers.  This one deals with what happens when the dreams of youth and high school turn to disappointment and death.  The content in A Welcome Murder is much more raw than that of A Brilliant Death and may not be appropriate for readers under twenty-one eighteen.

The books are both well written, with compelling stories that knocked all other reading commitments aside, but they are told in such different ways that I was quite impressed with Yocum’s versatility and range.  Permit me to elaborate. Continue reading

Be Careful or You’ll Get Snatched

Snatched
Gregory Mcdonald
in Snatch
Hard Case Crime
Trade Paper $12.95 US $17.50 CAN
ebook $7.99

Snatched is the first of two kidnapping novels by the late Gregory Mcdonald in the latest omnibus from Hard Case Crime, Snatch.

It’s a…What’s that?…No, that’s not what the book is about.  Try to keep your mind out of the gutter….Yes, I have to admit you do have a point.  I can see how putting a picture of a voluptuous redhead wearing only a sheet and the corner of a newspaper on the cover of a book entitled Snatch might be a bit misleading…May I continue?…Thank you.

As I was saying…what was I saying?  Oh, yes.  This isn’t a dark noir novel, but it’s not exactly a light humorous novel either.  Here’s the setup. Continue reading

Trouble in Brighton

latewhitsuncoverLate Whitsun
Jasper Kent
paperback $9.99
ebook $2.99

I really liked the first three volumes of Jasper Kent’s The Danilov Quintet, which I consider to be a  thinking man’s vampire hunter. The last two volumes haven’t been published in the US, so I’ve not read them yet.  Emphasis on “yet”.  You can read my reviews here, here, and here.

With Late Whitsun, Kent turns his attention to the historical mystery.  Set in Brighton in 1938, the novel concerns Charlie Woolf.  He’s a sometimes private investigator who earns a meager living by making sketches for the tourists.

When he’s approached by his former partner, Alan O’Connor, and asked to act as a courier, it’s a chance to earn some easy money.  All he has to do is take an envelope to London and give it to a man by a certain bench in a certain park at a certain time.

Of course it’s not that easy.  The envelope contains incriminating photos.  The man he meets is wearing a gas mask.  And when Charlie returns home, there’s a surprise waiting for him in his apartment. Continue reading

Moonchasers by Ed Gorman

moonchasers-ebookMoonchasers and Other Stories
Ed Gorman
ebook $3.99

This isn’t a review of the whole book, just the short novel that’s the title story. I’ll read the rest of the stories throughout the autumn and into the Christmas holidays. We lost Ed Gorman this past weekend, or at least that’s when the news of his passing became public. As of this writing, I’ve not seen formal obituary with the exact date of death.

I’ve had a print copy of Moonchasers for years, but I’ve only read a few of the stories in it and none recently.  So after hearing of Ed’s passing, I wanted to read some of his work.  I chose Moonchasers because I had always wanted to read it.  It was the perfect story for the mood I was in.  Continue reading

RIP, Ed Gorman

ed-gormanI’ve just learned that Ed Gorman has passed away.  Ed had been battling cancer for quite some time.  His Sam McCain series of detective novels presented a view of the 1950s small town America that were an homage to the pulp detective novels of the period.  There are a couple I haven’t gotten to yet.  He also wrote horror novels under the name of Daniel Ransom and westerns under his own name.

As much as I enjoy his novels, it was at shorter lengths that I really got the most from his work.  It’s been long enough now that my memory is fuzzy, but I think the first book of his I read was the paperback collection The Dark Fantastic. Containing some of his dark fantasy and horror tales, Ed included an introduction in which he listed some of his influences when he was growing up.  Among the list of writers I also admired was Henry Kuttner, who has remained my favorite.  I knew when I read that Kuttner had influenced Gorman that I was going to like Gorman.  I was right and have been reading him ever since.  The Dark Fantastic is long out of print, but you can still pick up copies fairly cheaply online.  Check it, or any of Ed’s other books, out.

I never had the pleasure of meeting him, although he commented on one of my posts and said it was well written.  I was on cloud nine for days after that.  Ed will be missed.  I’m going to read some of his work later today.  Bill Crider has published this tribute.

Take a Trip with Mr. Finn

the-prison-guards-sonThe Prison Guard’s Son
Trace Conger
Paperback $12.95
Ebook $4.99

I’d like to thank Trace Conger for sending me the review copy of The Prison Guard’s Son.  I’ve been hooked on the Mr. Finn novels since I read the first one.  That was The Shadow Broker, which won a Shamus Award.  (Read my review here.)

While the first two books dealt with aspects of unlicensed PI Finn Harding’s family, this one takes him a bit farther afield.  Set approximately one year after the events in Scar Tissue (review here), Finn is hired by a retired prison guard whose eight year old son was murdered two twelve year olds after they took him  from a mall.  Although tried as adults, the killers were sent to a juvenile facility and released when they turned 18.  For some reason they were put in the federal witness protection program.

Now the grieving father wants Finn to find them.  Not because he intends to offer forgiveness, either.  Just the opposite.  He wants to kill them. Continue reading

Death in the Library

the-paris-librarianThe Paris Librarian
Mark Pryor
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper $15.95
Ebook $9.99

I’d like to thank Seventh Street Books for sending me a copy of The Paris Librarian. It’s been out for about a month now. I finished the book about the time it was released, and things have just slowed down enough to write the review. The reviews you’ve seen in the past month were for things I’d finished before this one. Hopefully things will settle down for a bit, and I can be more productive.

This is the sixth installment in the Hugo Marston series.  I’ve not read any of the previous books.  Seventh Street has sent me review copies, but I’d not been able to work any of them in until now.  I’m going to go back and read some of them. Continue reading

Killing The Kind Worth Killing

kind worth killing 2The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
William Morrow
paperback $9.99
ebook $14.99
audio

I was in the mood for a thriller and this one caught my eye. I think it was the blurb about four unreliable narrators that did the trick, although the one about three plots twists didn’t hurt.  (No, it wasn’t the nubile young woman silhouetted in the skimpy negligee. But that didn’t hurt.)

One of the blurbs compares the book to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, and I think that’s a fair comparison.  Other than the twist on the first page of the second part, which would be darn hard to pull off in a visual medium, this novel has all the elements of a Hitchcock thriller. Continue reading