Saturday, July 31, 2010

ICE COLD by Tess Gerritsen

Frustrated at the state of her romance with Catholic priest Daniel Brophy, Maura Isles decides to go for a drive with a charismatic friend from college with whom she reconnects at a medical conference in Wyoming.

Unfortunately, Maura and friends veer off course, and one of their party is badly injured. They have to hole up in the abandoned town of Kingdom Come. Soon, Maura's Boston friends begin to miss her, and Det. Jane Rizzoli receives word that Maura's body has been found.

To Gerritsen's credit, I was easily drawn into this wintry mystery at the height of summer. That I worried for the life a viewpoint character (Maura) is a testament to Ice Cold's pacing. I also appreciated that the search for Maura didn't dominate the book. Two equally compelling subplots gave the novel scope. Recommended for fans of the series.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paperback Lover

I started reading for pleasure as a freshman in college. I was on a paperback budget, and I still am. Seventy-five years ago this week, Penguin published the first modern paperback, and I am forever grateful.

Here's a poem of mine published last year in Cindy Rosmus's Yellow Mama:

Paperback Lover

Hardcovers are
movie stars
way beyond my budget
in their prime.

Library books are
free (for two weeks)
but really, who knows
where they've been?

Paperbacks are
new for a few bucks,
and so readily
go to bed with me.

And a video rendition, featuring Glen Orbik's cover art for Money Shot by Christa Faust:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No more Bullets & Beer?

Yesterday I noticed the Robert B. Parker fansite Bullets & Beer had gone offline. It's been two years since proprietor Bob Ames announced his shift had changed at work and he'd lost interest in the research needed to maintain the site. Founded in the mid-1990s by Mike Loux, who moved on to other projects himself, for many years Bullets & Beer was the single best Robert B. Parker resource on the Web.

Eschewing the Internet as long as he could, Parker developed his own web presence an eternity later than peers such as Lawrence Block. While it's great to have his official blog and website, the possibly permanent darkening of Bullets & Beer leaves a void in fanspace that ought to be filled. We're discussing possibilities on my Parker mailing list, Spenser's Sneakers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tugging on Superman's Cape

Patti Abbott relays the latest gimmick to boost Superman comic sales: stripping him of the power of flight.

I commented:

I know it's one of his classic powers, but I've always found Superman's flying implausible, physically unsound. In the very beginning, he couldn't fly; he could just jump ("leap tall buildings in a single bound"). While I do think Superman has acquired too much power over the years, his power doesn't define him. TV's Smallville has been on for nine years, and Clark has yet to fly on a regular basis.

Superman is more about a strange visitor so admiring humankind that he does everything he can to help and live as one of them. Some may find this aspect of his character too idealistic, but change it and he wouldn't be Superman anymore, and sales would drop even further, not improve.

And if you're interested in my opinion of Wonder Woman's new clothes:

I don't mind Wonder Woman's and other costume changes. Real people don't wear the same fashions they did thirty years ago. Fictional characters shouldn't either, if they want to stay relevant. A change of clothes doesn't change character.

Does Good Writing Matter?

...asks J.D. Rhoades of Murderati, citing bestselling examples like The Da Vinci Code and the Twilight saga.

I commented:

A novel's prose has to be good enough to get me into the story. I'm most aware of writing for the first two-thirds of a novel. From there, if the writer has set up a climax compelling enough, I care more about seeing what happens than about the finer points of the writing.

I also think the closer the narration is, the more the writing matters. If you're telling a story without much psychic distance--first person or third person-limited--you have to get into the viewpoint character's mindset and voice. The prose can't be very clunky. If you're telling the story from a greater distance, you only need to give the broad strokes. I'd argue that it's more difficult to love a broad-stroke character, but they are readable enough.

I admire some writers' prose more than others, and I prefer certain narrative styles to others, but these differences keep me fascinated about writing overall.

I've come to think Ian Fleming's prose was unremarkable and sometimes stiff, but I'd reread DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE anytime.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Lineup's Second Reading a Success

(L to R: Joe Barnes, Sarah Cortez, Larry D. Thomas)

Wednesday's Lineup reading at Murder By The Book in Houston was a success. Assistant Manager David Thompson tells me fifty to eighty people turned out. I hope we can do a similar launch next year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What If...

I just received the Spring 2010 issue of Nerve Cowboy (#29), featuring my poem "We Might Have" on page 19. My thanks to editors Joseph Shields and Jerry Hagins. Enjoy.

The Lineup Reading Tonight at Murder By The Book

Houston-based Lineup co-editor Sarah Cortez and contributors Joe Barnes and Larry D. Thomas read from and sign The Lineup 3 at Murder By The Book tonight at 6:30 Central. The poets' other books will also be available. If you're attending the reading, send me photos or video, and I'll post some here and on the Lineup blog.

Covert Affairs: "Pilot"

Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) is pulled into the field with a month to go in her CIA training. Her handlers send her to make a simple wireless transfer of information with an asset they've put up in a luxury hotel. Just as the transfer is completed, the asset is assassinated, and Annie has to scramble from there.

Similar to Alias, Covert Affairs' cast (Perabo, Christopher Gorham, Kari Matchett, guest star Peter Gallagher) is talented enough to keep me watching. My only complaint, a significant one, is that during a fight to the death with her main target, Annie is miraculously saved by her ex-lover. Talk about pulling a punch.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner

The iconic P.A. voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard, died Sunday morning, aged 99. Today, sources report Yankees majority owner George Steinbrenner, also in failing health, has died, aged 80. It's pretty to picture Sheppard, the only employee Steinbrenner never criticized, announcing George's arrival in the afterlife.

Rizzoli & Isles: "See One, Do One, Teach One"

The pilot for TNT's Rizzoli & Isles was based on Tess Gerritsen's book, The Apprentice, which introduces Maura Isles and brings back Warren Hoyt from The Surgeon. Simply put, everything worked. It was as close as TV can come to delivering what readers want. The show plays to the actors' strengths: Angie Harmon's accessibility, Sasha Alexander's sophistication, and their chemistry together is the perfect storm that is friendship.

And I want to mention: I've long been a fan of Bruce McGill, but I was pleasantly surprised by the San Antonio native's New England accent. I hope this is the breakout show of the summer.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Perils of Pocket-Dialing

The other day I wrote a poem about getting pocket-dialed by an unrequited love. I submitted the poem to Popshot's "This Is Modern Living" issue.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Short, Fast, and Deadly Summer Fling

"Summer Fling", my first poem to fit the 140-character confines of a Twitter update, has been accepted by editor Joseph Quintela of the micro-fiction and poetry site Short, Fast and Deadly. It will go live in the August 8 "Clothing Optional" issue.

Joseph also tells me he attended The Lineup's first reading, last October at KGB Bar, and enjoyed it immensely.

Flattery aside, Short, Fast and Deadly is a great venue: clear goals, very specific guidelines and publication agreement, tapped into the latest technologies. The 140-character limit was just what I needed to execute an idea I juggled for a year. Thanks again to Joseph and staff.

Go get it.

I had been feeling uncreative for longer than I knew. Oh, I had ideas and I worked on them, but I wasn't finishing anything at the rate I wanted: Stories, poetry chaps, novels. I wish I could, but I can wish to be one kind of writer or accept the kind of writer I am.

I work best with lots of stimuli and prefer to jump to what excites me than to let anything bore me. This may sound capricious. Then again, boredom shows on the page. For the past few mornings, I've told myself, "Go get it." I don't know what "it" is to start, or how many "its" there will be in a day, but I prefer to produce something than to produce nothing, lost in notions of what I should be doing.

I don't know what kind of career I'll have, but I'm willing to go get it a day at a time.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

What a Country

What I admire most about the United States of America is its potential. The Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution may not have been written with everyone in mind (the Founding Fathers kept slaves, after all) but U.S. principles have the potential to include and invite everyone. Those who don't have equal rights should continue to fight to be recognized.

"They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way."

Friday, July 02, 2010

Paul Levine's Jake Lassiter Returns in Charity E-Book and Upcoming Novel

As a fan of Paul Levine's work, I'm pleased to pass along the following press release:

To mark the 20th anniversary of its hardcover publication, To Speak for the Dead, Paul Levine’s bestselling legal thriller, is now available as an e-book, with all proceeds going to charity.

The novel introduced Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, who is as likely to punch out a witness as cross-examine him. In To Speak for the Dead, Lassiter defends a surgeon accused of malpractice after his patient dies during routine surgery. When evidence is uncovered that the surgeon was obsessed with his patient’s wife, Lassiter suspects his client is innocent of malpractice...but guilty of murder. Add a sexy widow, a deadly drug, and a grave robbery to the stew and you have the setting for Miami’s trial of the century.

To Speak for the Dead was translated into 15 languages and adapted into an NBC World Premiere Movie in 1995. All royalties from the e-book edition will go to the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports cancer treatment and research at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

I’ve had three dear friends lose a child or a spouse to cancer in the last few years,” Levine says. “This is a cause close to my heart.”

Seven Lassiter novels were published in the 1990's. Since then, Levine has written two stand-alone thrillers including last year’s Illegal, plus the four-book Solomon vs. Lord series. Additionally, he wrote 20 episodes of the CBS military drama JAG, and co-created the Supreme Court show First Monday, starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna.

"To Speak for the Dead got me out of the courthouse, or at least on the other side of the Bar," says Levine, a former trial lawyer. After signing his initial two-book contract with Bantam in 1988, Levine quit the practice of law and began writing full time.

"I’d read Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent and Carl Hiaasen’s Tourist Season, plus all of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books," Levine says, from his Studio City, CA hillside home. "I was influenced by their rich characters and powerful themes, and in Carl’s case, his subversive humor. Those books convinced me I wanted to be a writer."

Jake Lassiter will return in an original hardcover next year with the publication of Lassiter.

More information at