Ordo, by Donald Westlake

Tags:  general-fiction
Ordo, a novella of just 73 pages, is the second work in Hard Case Crime’s Double Feature. Ordo Tupikos, a sailor in the US Navy in the early 1970s, is enjoying some down time with friends during a work break. One of them asks him why he never told them he had been married to movie star Dawn Devayne. Ordo thinks his friend, a practical joker, is kidding, so he brushes him off.

The Plains of Cement by Patrick Hamilton

Tags:  general-fiction favorite-fiction
The Plains of Cement is the third and final book in Patrick Hamilton’s Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky collection, which follows three down-and-out characters through the streets of London in the fall and early winter of 1929. Book one, The Midnight Bell, follows the waiter, Bob, as he falls in love with prostitute Jenny Maples. Book two, The Siege of Pleasure, picks up with Jennie’s story just days after book one leaves off.

The Siege of Pleasure by Patrick Hamilton

Tags:  general-fiction favorite-fiction
The Siege of Pleasure, the second book in Patrick Hamilton’s 1930’s London trilogy Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, picks up just days after the end of book one. Jenny Maple is walking the streets around the London Pavilion looking for a trick while trying to avoid a plainclothes cop who has recently arrested one of her friends. A seedy-looking middle-aged man has his eye on her, but can’t quite pluck up the courage to approach.

The Midnight Bell by Patrick Hamilton

Tags:  general-fiction favorite-fiction
Bob, a waiter at a London saloon called The Midnight Bell, leads a relatively simple life. He works the lunch shift from 11 to 3 and the evening shift from 5 till 10. In between, he reads in his room, wanders the streets, goes to movies. The son of an American man and an Irish woman, he has no living family, no clear path ahead, and only the vaguest of dreams.

Discover Great Reads on Shepherd.com

Tags:  general-fiction non-fiction
Ben Fox from Shepherd.com recently asked me to write about five of my favorite books in any genre. You can check out my list of the best books from the golden age of American crime and noir and perhaps discover something new. Hundreds of authors have contributed similar lists to Shepherd, which has become a discovery engine for excellent works that may have flown under the radar. When I shared my list with a fellow author, he said with surprise that he had never heard of any of the titles on my list.

1414° by Paul Bradley Carr

Tags:  general-fiction
Paul Bradley Carr’s 1414° is a satirical thriller that reads like Carl Hiaasen’s take on Silicon Valley, “An industry built on the promise of limitless memory, by people who can’t remember what happened last week.” The book opens with former tech titan Joe Christian counting out his final hours in a filthy flophouse in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Someone, he is sure, has deliberately ruined his life. Someone he calls “Fate” has orchestrated his long descent from wealth and power to this sad, sordid end.

Mutant Message Down Under

Tags:  general-fiction
[Note: This book’s preface claims it’s based on a true story. It’s not. If you read this novel as an accurate account of Aboriginal culture, you’ll be misled. It should be categorized as New Age Fantasy. The end of this review contains a link to a story in which the author retracts her claims to the book’s authenticity. As fantasy, though, it’s a pretty good read.] Marlo Morgan, an American living in Australia, is invited by an Aboriginal group to what she thinks is an awards banquet.

We Germans by Alexander Starritt

Tags:  general-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.

The Door by Magda Szabo

Tags:  general-fiction
Usually, when I finish reading a book, I write a thousand-word review. I can’t do that with a book as deep, thoughtful, and moving as this one. There’s just too much there. This will be one of those rare books I’m still digesting months or even years after finishing. This is also one of the few that will go onto my re-read list. For the first 90 pages or so, I felt the book was going nowhere, and I would have given up if not for the many glowing reviews.

No Country for Old Men

Tags:  crime-fiction general-fiction
I finally got around to reading this, three years after it was recommended to me by a pair of retired federal agents who had spent much of their careers pursuing drug runners in South Texas. No Country for Old Men opens with Anton Chigurh, one of the most pitiless and chilling figures in modern fiction, escaping a police station after his arrest. From the ease with which he kills the deputy, it’s clear that local law enforcement in South Texas in 1980 isn’t prepared to handle such ruthlessly efficient criminals.
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