Mutant Message Down Under

Tags:  book-reviews fiction
Marlo Morgan, an American living in Australia, is invited by an Aboriginal group to what she thinks is an awards banquet. Her guide, Ooota, picks her up from her hotel in a beat up Jeep and drives her deep into the Outback to meet a waiting tribe whose members call themselves The Real People. The tribe burns her clothing, wallet, camera, passport and all other possessions and invites her on a walk across the continent.

The Man in the High Castle

Tags:  book-reviews sci-fi
Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle presents an alternate reality in which the Allies lost World War II and the Axis won. The book was written in, and takes place in, the early 1960’s. Unlike many of today’s dystopian alternate-history novels, which tend to be dark and somber, Dick’s story is darkly humorous. Instead of focusing merely on how the victors oppress the vanquished, Dick transposes the absurdities and petty quarrels of twentieth century life onto an America colonized by Japan, a world in which two cultures, fundamentally at odds, must coexist without being able to fully understand each other.

(Low)life by Charles Farrell

Tags:  book-reviews non-fiction
I recently had the pleasure of reading Charles Farrell’s Low(life): A Memoir of Jazz, Fight-Fixing and the Mob. If you’re into true crime, boxing, jazz, or just good writing from a sharp-minded observer who has led an interesting life, check it out. Follow the link below to read my full review on Medium. Book Review of “(Low)Life: A Memoir of Jazz, Fight-Fixing and the Mob”

We Germans by Alexander Starritt

Tags:  book-reviews fiction
Alexander Starritt’s We Germans tells the story of a small group of German soldiers retreating from the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1944. The German soldiers on the Eastern front know the war is lost. Pursued by the ruthless Red Army, they’ve retreated a thousand kilometers on foot and are crossing the Polish countryside they destroyed years earlier, when they looked and felt invincible. The main character, Meissner, was drafted into the war at age nineteen as an artilleryman.

Blood on the Moon by James Ellroy

Tags:  crime fiction noir book-reviews
James Ellroy’s Blood on the Moon introduces LAPD Detective Sargent Lloyd Hopkins, a “genius” homicide investigator with a reputation for solving tough cases. First published in 1984, the book contains what are now a set of common tropes. Hopkins is a rogue cop working against the strictures of the department that employs him. His self-sworn duty to protect the innocent is born of his own childhood trauma. He can be as single-minded, violent, and relentless as the killers her pursues.

The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain

Tags:  crime fiction noir book-reviews
The Cocktail Waitress was the last book James M. Cain wrote before he died in 1977. Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai pieced it together from a number of manuscripts and published it in 2002. The book, as Ardai says, “is a classic Cain femme fatale story that’s told for once from the femme fatale’s point of view.” And what a point of view it is. The book opens with twenty-one year old widow Joan Medford standing at her husband’s grave.

No Room at the Morgue by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Tags:  book-reviews crime fiction
Jean-Patrick Manchette’s No Room at the Morgue is the first book I’ve read from NYRB Classics that’s just flat out bad. The back cover includes a blurb from Kirkus Reviews that says, “If Marx, Freud, and Jim Thompson collaborated on a noir, this might be the result.” Actually, if Marx, Freud, and Jim Thompson had had an editor, this book would never have been published. A good crime novel raises questions in the reader’s mind to keep them hooked.

The Cut by George Pelecanos

Tags:  book-reviews crime fiction
I wanted to like George Pelecanos’ The Cut, but it left me a little cold. I’m a huge fan of Elmore Leonard, and Pelecanos has a lot in common with the master. Both rely heavily on dialog to convey character, and both have a good ear for the language. Leonard’s characters come off a little sharper, at least compared to this book, in which the testosterone-drenched wise guys on both sides of law do too much posturing and smart-mouthing.

Bring Him Back Dead by Day Keene

Tags:  book-reviews fiction crime
In the opening of Day Keene’s Bring Him Back Dead, sheriff’s deputy Andy Latour seems to be stuck in the wrong job and the wrong marriage. His wife, Olga, a descendant of the faded Russian aristocracy, barely speaks to him. He had promised her a life of wealth and ease as the oil boom struck southern Louisiana and the Delta Oil Company had opened a test well on his land.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Tags:  book-reviews fiction crime
I’m often disappointed by contemporary mystery and thriller bestsellers. The characters are flat and unengaging, the writing is often heavy-handed, as if the author is telling us through a bullhorn what we’re supposed to feel. Many writers jack up the action to make up for a lack of depth, like a bad guitarist turning up his amp to try to bowl us over with power because he doesn’t have the skill to win us over with substance.
1 of 7 Next Page