Sunday, August 18, 2019

On My Radar: Donis Casey's The Wrong Girl!

If you've been with me for very long, you know that Donis Casey's Alafair Tucker historical mystery series is one of my favorites. Having had the pleasure of meeting and talking with her several times, I knew that she did not want to continue the series into the Depression. I also knew that Casey had a built-in way to have her series "branch out" into fresh, green pastures-- Alafair's huge brood of independent-minded children.

As the children grow up and move out on their own, readers are treated to new adventures that Alafair can still have a part in because fans know she will always be a part of her children's lives.

You should have heard my little crow of delight when I saw proof of Casey's plan. Let me share it with you so you'll be ready to grab it when it's released!

Available November 11, 2019!

"Blanche Tucker longs to escape her drop-dead dull life in tiny Boynton, Oklahoma. Then dashing Graham Peyton roars into town. Posing as a film producer, Graham convinces the ambitious but naive teenager to run away with him to a glamorous new life. Instead, Graham uses her as cruelly as a silent picture villain. Yet by luck and by pluck, taking charge of her life, she makes it to Hollywood.

Six years later, Blanche has transformed into the celebrated Bianca LaBelle, the reclusive star of a series of adventure films, and Peyton's remains are discovered on a Santa Monica beach. Is there a connection? With all of the twists and turns of a 1920s melodrama, The Wrong Girl follows the daring exploits of a girl who chases her dream from the farm to old Hollywood, while showing just how risky—and rewarding—it can be to go off script."

I don't know about you, but ever since I read The Great Gatsby, I've loved reading about the 1920s, and the early days of Hollywood are the icing on my cake. A young girl champing at the bit to get out of a tiny little "nowhere town" is the perfect way for Donis Casey to keep on writing about the characters readers have come to know and love. I can't wait to read The Wrong Girl, and I hope you'll add it to your own pre-orders and wishlists!

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Joys of Home Renovation Weekly Link Round-Up

Casa Kittling was built in 1952. I've lived in it since 1981. (Denis since 2001.) Most-- but not all-- of its windows are original to the house. Denis and I both knew that replacing the rest of the windows was l-o-n-g overdue, so this was #1 on our to-do list. But, as is the case with so many home renovation projects, there's been a problem or two along the road of execution.

This household runs in accordance with Denis's work schedule, 2 PM to midnight. We get to bed around 3 AM and get up around 10 AM. The window installers wanted to show up at 6:30 AM. With the climate here in Phoenix, they want to start early and finish before the "insane" heat has taken hold. This made perfect sense to us, so during the first (and supposedly only) week of the installation on Denis's days off, we adjusted our schedule. In bed around 11 PM and rousting out at 5 AM (me) or 5:45 AM (Denis). Let me show you one of the windows that is being replaced.

This is the hole where the big picture window was at the front of the house. I chose this one so you could also get a glimpse of my TBR shelves. (I know you so well.) There's something unsettling about walking past huge holes in the walls of your house that insects and birds can fly through at will...

There was a problem installing the new picture window and a lot of chiseling had to be done before they could get it to fit. It took them all day just working on this one window, and the trim still has to be done. I won't even mention the other five windows that still need to be installed. The very next day, one of the installers was sick, so they told us two hours after they were supposed to be here that they weren't coming at all. We have their trailer, a bunch of windows leaning against the side of the house, and their tools, and all this stuff will be sitting around until next Monday (which is really last Monday by the time you'll be able to read this).

I am not pleased with the course of events, but I'm concentrating on new curtains and books. Denis is practically in a state of euphoria. He's gone around with one of his trusty gadgets checking the temperature on the inside and outside of the new glass. On the inside, the temperature is 80°. On the outside, the temperature is well over 100°-- and the window is currently in the shade. We have curtains up on that big picture window, but they're open-- and the room is COOL. That's never happened before in living memory! Can you imagine what the house is going to be like once all the windows have been replaced?

So... installation woes, but it's going to be fantastic once everything is done. Now it's time for those links!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Thousands of endangered animals were seized in a customs operation. 
  • The discovery of a raptor-like dinosaur adds a new wrinkle to the origin of birds.
  • Goats may be able to tell when their buddies are feeling good or baaad.
  • Funny! --A video shows a determined cockatoo methodically removing strips of anti-bird spikes that line a perfect place to perch. 
  • Thanks to light pollution, we're losing Nemo.
  • Fossil of 99 million-year-old bird with a giant toe has been found in Burma. 
  • Mussels' sticky threads could inspire ways to clean up oil spills, purify water, and more.
  • Tanzania says their elephant and rhino populations are rebounding after an anti-poaching crackdown.

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Denise Mina, a modern crime queen weighs in on podcast investigators, celebrity culture, and one more road-trip novel before Brexit.
  • S.I. Huang: Five ways my background as a stuntwoman and armorer helped me become a crime writer (and one way it didn't).
  • English pastry chef Annabel de Vetten creates made-to-order cakes that look like beautiful nightmares. (I love her nickname.)

►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Carrion Comfort by Aline Templeton

First Line: In high summer on the bleak northern coast of Scotland where the land at last gives way to the hungry seas, it is never completely dark.

When the body of a man is found in a derelict cottage, Detective Chief Inspector Kelso Strang is sent from Edinburgh to head the investigation. When he arrives in the village that's not far from Thurso, he finds that he'll be working with the over-eager constable Livvy Murray again, but even worse, he's been saddled with a lazy, offensive sergeant. Once he begins checking out the scene and talking with the locals, he finds even more.

Gabrielle thinks she's losing her mind. Still recovering from a nervous breakdown triggered by her beloved father's death and the loss of her unborn child, she's now suffering from bewildering and frightening losses of memory. The other major shareholder of her father's business is looking for any excuse to take over, so Gabrielle must act normally and not trust anyone.

With his boss wanting the case wrapped up as fast as possible, Strang keeps digging into the fractured minefield of local relationships and resentments. He's learned that one dead businessman has cast a very long shadow-- and he wants everything brought into the light.

When Aline Templeton began her Kelso Strang police procedural series with Human Face, I thought the concept was brilliant. Strang is the head of the Serious Rural Crimes Squad, which means this series will take readers into small towns and villages all over Scotland. Most of my favorite locations in Scotland are remote, so having a series like this created by one of my favorite writers makes my heart sing.

The area (not far from Thurso, which is way up on the north coast) and the locals come to life, and I was thrilled to hear that the creation of the North Coast 500 scenic route (touted as Scotland's Route 66) is bringing in needed tourism dollars. The setting and the mystery are tightly woven, atmospheric, and lend themselves to keeping the characters and readers off-balance.

Templeton's always good with setting and mystery, but it's her characters that are the shining stars in any of her books. Carrion Comfort is no exception. The quiet, almost secretive, Strang has his own domestic drama concerning his sister, and I'm looking forward to how that pans out in the next book. Readers also get to experience the on-going training of bright and pushy Livvy Murray, a young woman who must learn not to start forming theories before she's gathered the facts.

One fact that's brought home throughout the book is how thoroughly one man can affect the lives of so many others, even after his death. I was reminded time and again of an old Ingrid Bergman film as I read, but that's all I'm going to say about that in case there are other old movie buffs reading this. It may not be everyone else's cup of tea, but I absolutely love Templeton's characterizations because readers are allowed inside each person's mind. We see what they see, we hear their voices, we learn how they think. The way I see it, this is a gift for all armchair sleuths when it's in the hands of someone as talented as Templeton.

Carrion Comfort is another extremely enjoyable mystery from Templeton. I highly recommend both this Kelso Strang series and her previous Marjory Fleming police procedural series set in the southwest of Scotland. Both are wonderful.

Carrion Comfort by Aline Templeton
eISBN: 9780749024208
Allison & Busby © 2018
eBook, 448 pages

Police Procedural, #2 DI Kelso Strang mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dangerous Deception at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison

First Line: Edith Honeychurch abruptly stopped her chestnut mare in the middle of the bridleway.

Just as everything seems to be running smoothly for Kat Stanford, it starts going pear-shaped, and the name of the pear in this instance is Cassandra Bowden-Forbes. At a local teddy bear fair that Kat has been looking forward to for weeks, she values a set of antique bears as fakes while Bowden-Forbes-- who elbowed her way into the fair-- values the same bears as incredibly valuable antiques.

Bowden-Forbes also muscles her way into Kat's love life, and the normally easy-going Kat realizes that, yes, she too can be jealous of an incredibly beautiful, perfectly turned out female.

With her personal and professional lives unraveling, Kat finds herself at the scene of two mysterious deaths. She's got a lot of work ahead of her to stop all those wagging tongues.

Hopefully, any fan of British traditional (cozy) mysteries has found Hannah Dennison's delightful Honeychurch Hall series. Chockful of humor, antiques, village life, and murder, these books are always so much fun to read. Dangerous Deception at Honeychurch Hall is no exception, and-- as usual-- I learned quite a bit while I was enjoying myself. Kat Stanford specializes in teddy bears, and in this latest installment of the series, I learned about mascot bears, the tiny bears given to soldiers during World War I. I also learned two new British slang phrases: granny-farming (swindling the elderly) and fly-tipping (illegal dumping). It's true that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language, and I do love learning the differences.

Although the whodunit of the story was almost glaringly obvious, I still enjoyed myself. I appreciated Kat's reaction to two men fighting over her, and I was surprised to find that I must be getting used to Kat's mother. Normally I've thoroughly disliked this writer of torrid bodice rippers, but-- heavens!-- I'm beginning to find the woman funny.

If you're a lover of British traditional (cozy) mysteries, you can't go wrong by visiting Honeychurch Hall. It's the perfect place to solve a mystery.

Dangerous Deception at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison
eISBN: 9781472128485
Constable © 2018
eBook, 242 pages

Cozy Mystery, #5 Honeychurch Hall mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon. 

James Ellroy at The Poisoned Pen!

Although I hadn't read any of James Ellroy's books since The Black Dahlia, I thought it would not be a good idea to miss the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master when he appeared at my favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen.

Denis and I arrived early, got the seats we wanted, and settled in. After a while, we were delighted to see that author Jenn McKinlay and her husband were attending the event, too, and we had a nice chat with Jenn while we waited.

After an introduction by Patrick Millikin, Ellroy walked through a sea of fans to rousing applause. He stalked up to the table and brusquely removed the microphone and bottled water, leaving only his book, This Storm. Taking a stance behind the table, he gestured for more applause, and when we finally realized what he wanted, he got it. (Be forewarned: there's a bit of rough language here and there.)

James Ellroy: Good evening, peepers, prowlers, pederasts, pedants, panty sniffers, punks, and pimps. I'm James Ellroy, the death dog of the hog log and the foul owl with the death growl!

I am the author of nineteen books, masterpieces all. They precede all my future masterpieces. These books will leave you reamed, steamed, and dry cleaned. Tied, dyed, and swept to the side. Screwed, glued, tattooed, and [unintelligible but rhyming]. These are books for the whole fucking family IF the name of your family is the Manson Family. [audience laughter]

If each and every one of you buys one thousand copies [more laughter] of my new book tonight, you'll be able to have unlimited sex with each and every person on this earth that you desire every night for the rest of your life. [laughter]

If each and every one of you buys two thousand copies of my new book tonight, you will be able to have unlimited sex with each and every person on this earth that you desire every night for the rest of your lives and still get into heaven. As a result of a special dispensation, signed by me. If each and every one of you buys three thousand copies of my great new book tonight, you get the sex, you get in heaven, and for the first time in its sunbaked history, Scottsdale, Arizona will rule the world! You heard it here first off the record! On the QT, and very hush-hush.

T.S. Eliot wrote, "If you came this way, starting from anywhere, at any time, and in any season, it would always be the same." You would have to put off sense and notion. You are not here to instruct yourself or to inform curiosity or to carry a report. You are here to kneel where prayer has been proven valid, and for me, James Ellroy, the death dog of American literature, newly enshrined in the Everyman's Library Perennial series. Let me say then what better place to buy my hidden prayer than a place where the Written Word-- not digitally presented-- but where words are printed on paper, are honored, venerated, and indeed worshipped. [applause]

Available Now!
You ain't nobody's audience but mine!

Here's another pithy quote. This is the great humorist, P.J. O'Rourke on Americans: "We're three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck, and descended from a stock market crash on our mother's side. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap d'Antibes. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying cheerio. And, concludingly, hell can't hold our sock hops."

This Storm and the first novel in my second L.A. Quartet that precedes it, Perfidia-- these, the first two books of my second L.A. Quartet-- are odes to, appreciation of, the hard-charging, shit-kicking generation of America that O'Rourke writes about.

Let's flashback to the dark, cold winter of 2008. I was living in my lonely divorce pad in L.A., my smog bound fatherland. I had a crib at the Ravenswood Apartments on Rossmore on the southern edge of Hollywood. Recently divorced, looking out my southbound office window, I was on the A #1 Most Wanted List of Alimony International. [laughter] A brilliant synaptic flash took me over. I saw a vivid picture of forlorn-looking Japanese in the back of a U.S. Army transport bus headed up a snow-covered pass to the Manzanar Internment Camp in the winter of 1942.

It hit me. I will write the second L.A. Quartet. I will take characters-- real-life and fictional-- from the first L.A. Quartet, four novels set between 1946 and 1958-- The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz-- and the Underworld U.S.A. trilogy, three novels set in America at large between '58 and '72-- American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood's a Rover-- and I will plunk them down in L.A. during World War II as significantly younger people.

The first novel in the second L.A. Quartet, Perfidia, my epic story set in the month of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 703 scintillating expose of the grave injustice of the Japanese internment, published to tumultuous acclaim in the fall of 2014. Big bestseller. I follow it up now with This Storm. It picks up the action two days later-- New Year's Eve-- '41 into '42. It goes through the 8th of May.

The second L.A. Quartet is now half complete, and there is nothing more that I rather do right now, tonight, June 20th, 2019 A.D., than to answer the most invasively, over personal questions that each and every one of you peepers, prowlers, pederasts, pedants, panty sniffers, punks, and pimps have for me. Except for one thing. I don't talk about America today. I don't talk about President Trump. I don't talk about contemporary issues regardless of how much people may think 1942 America is meant to stand in for 2019 America because it does not.

I live in the past. I am computer illiterate. I have never booted onto a computer at all. I have never used a cell phone. I write my books by hand. My steely resolve to live in the past informs my books with whatever power and vivid verisimilitude that they may possess. As a kid, I got hooked on history. Way back, circa 1955, before my parents split the sheets, I would steal into a hallway closet and read through stacks of Life magazines. I was obsessed with history then; I'm obsessed with history now. I look resolutely back into the past.

In 1956 when I was eight years of age, I said something that alerted my mother to the fact that I believed World War II was still going on. My mother said, "Au contraire, sonny, it ended in 1945 three years before your birth." I didn't believe her then, and I don't believe her now.

Available Now!
I have a muse. It's History. And I have never forsaken history, and history has never forsaken me since I wrote my first historically based novel way back in 1985.

I'm honored that you're here tonight. This is my last stop before I go home to Denver, Colorado. I've got a day trip to Austin, Texas next week sometime. Beyond that, that's it for This Storm 2019 in the English language. I've been to Britain. I've been to fourteen cities here in the States. It's time to wrap this up. This will be my final performing gig. With that in note, I would be honored to hear your questions.

Fan: I also believe World War II hasn't ended, and I would like to hear your thoughts on that.

Ellroy: I don't have any. It's an emotional reaction. [audience laughter] It's a referendum on the extent to which I live in the past. I don't discuss the world today. I don't know what's going on in the world today. I can tell you about the Suez Crisis of 1946. I live in a mediated state with the past. The language of the past, the music of the past, the racial attitudes of the past; they are embued within me, good, bad, indifferent.

And I love the American idiom. I love racial invective. I love Yiddish. I love black hepcat hipster jazz patois. I love police jive talk. I love penal code abbreviations even if I don't know the offenses-- hold on-- the numbers designate. I live for it. I live with it, and I will never forsake it.

In reply to another fan: Absolute historical accuracy means next to nothing to me. I don't care. It doesn't have to be absolutely accurate. You can diverge from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. JFK hit November 22, 1963. This is stuff you can't mess with. Beyond that, you have absolute latitude to fictionalize.

Fan: How do you keep the history from getting in the way of the story?

Ellroy: That's an excellent question to ask. The outline for that book is 465 pages, and I wrote it by hand just as I write the text of all my books.

I lay out in minute detail everything broken down chapter by chapter, viewpoint by viewpoint, all the way through. Everything that has to happen character-wise. The investigatory arcs, the story arcs. All I have to do is have it typed up, a stack of pages yay high, go to New York and see my two editors at Alfred A. Knopf. They give me feedback, and then I can go home and I write the book by hand.

Having a superstructure that detailed allows me to live improvisationally in the individual scenes-- and write the hell out of them. And give them the snap and the pop that makes it feel like actual action. As long as I don't violate the strictures of the outline... that's how I get the proper measures of the history, the language, the police work, and the overarching story of World War II.

For those of you who would like to watch the event in its entirety, I urge you to watch it on The Poisoned Pen's Youtube channel. It's not often that you can have a front-row seat to a master talking about his work!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

First Line: At ten after five on a raw December afternoon, Joshua Kane lay on a cardboard bed outside the Criminal Courts Building in Manhattan and thought about killing a man.

A popular actor is on trial for the murder of his actress wife and their head of security, and the media is drooling at the thought of all the juicy stories they'll be cranking out in the weeks to come.

There's one person who is determined to make sure Robert Solomon is sent to Death Row, and he wants a front-row seat while it happens. In fact, there's nothing that Joshua Kane won't do to ensure his wishes come true. You see... Joshua Kane is the real killer, and he's managed to find his way onto the jury of Solomon's trial.

There's only one small glimmer of hope for Bobby Solomon and that's his lawyer, former conman Eddie Flynn. For one thing, Eddie believes his client is innocent. For another, he thinks the real killer is closer than everyone thinks. What he doesn't realize is just how right he is.

When I was alerted to an upcoming appearance by Steve Cavanagh at my favorite independent bookstore, I was a bit puzzled by why the messenger was making a "big deal" in telling everyone. So I looked up Thirteen and was instantly blown away by the premise of the book. I remember the heady days of Thomas Harris and Red Dragon when the serial killer in that book had the power to change how I performed a routine task. Since those days, serial killers have become a bit of a snooze, very predictable, and something that's seldom added to my reading. With the synopsis of one book, Steve Cavanagh changed all that. I'd never heard of a serial killer smart enough and bold enough to force his way onto a jury just to further his plans.

The pace of Thirteen is fast and furious and never lets go. Alternating chapters let readers know what's in the minds of lawyer Eddie Flynn and serial killer Joshua Kane. This is the fourth Eddie Flynn mystery, but I immediately felt at home. No awkward "Who's he?" or "What's he talking about?" moments. Eddie has a Harry Bosch mentality-- everybody counts or nobody counts-- that made me immediately warm to him. He's also the type of lawyer who will not defend a person whom he believes is guilty. He's not in it for the big bucks. That former conman background means that he looks at things differently from most people, and that's certainly going to help him with Joshua Kane.

Joshua Kane is probably the most intelligent, twisted, and dedicated serial killer I've ever run across in crime fiction. Reading of the duel between Kane and Eddie Flynn was sheer pleasure. Something tells me I'm going to be backtracking and reading the earlier exploits of this conman-turned-lawyer. Thirteen is quite a ride, and I want more!

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh
eISBN: 9781250297617
Flatiron Books © 2019
eBook, 336 pages

Legal Thriller, #4 Eddie Flynn mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Net Galley

Sunday, August 11, 2019

On My Radar: Jess Montgomery's The Hollows

Since Jess Montgomery's debut mystery The Widows comfortably resides on my Best Reads of 2019 list, you have to know that I was looking forward to the next book in the Kinship historical series. Well, I found out what it is, and I can't wait to get my hands on it and read it!

Let me tell you more about it...

Available January 14, 2020!

"Ohio, 1926: For many years, the underground railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a short cut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths, but Lily does not believe that an old woman would wander out of the hills onto the tracks. In a county where everyone knows everyone, how can someone have disappeared, when nobody knew they were missing? As ghost stories and rumors settle into the consciousness of Moonvale Hollow, Lily tries to search for any real clues to the woman’s identity.

With the help of her friend Marvena Whitcomb, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows—an asylum is northern Antioch County—and they begin to expose secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains."

Montgomery's first book was so evocative of time and place, and it looks as though this one will be, too. How many of you have read The Widows? Do you plan to add The Hollows to your pre-orders/wishlists? I know I do!

Friday, August 09, 2019

My Reading Spot Weekly Link Round-Up

I thought it was time, once again, to show you my favorite reading spot since its appearance changes over the years. If I ever win the lottery, it will be my favorite year-round reading spot, but right now, I can only bask in it when the water is within the right temperature range. (It's hard to turn the pages when you have icicles on the tips of your fingers.)

You'll probably notice a thing or two that looks different. Two umbrellas instead of one, for instance. Denis shortened the pole on the big umbrella so it provides more shade and allows me to operate the crank from where I sit in the pool, but even with the umbrella tilted, it doesn't shade me from the sun coming in from the side, and that's the reason for the second umbrella.

There's a "black blob" off to the left that holds the mosquito coils that I burn while I'm out there. I know everything on this planet has a rhyme and reason for being here, but I've never quite figured out the rhyme or reason for mosquitos. I loathe the little beasts.

If you feel like looking closely enough, you'll see a big insulated drink cup and my book, but the other thing that undoubtedly caught your eye was the fact that the big pink umbrella isn't opened up all the way. (And while we're on the pink? That's what the Arizona sun does to deep red in a short period of time.) There's a reason why that umbrella isn't opened all the way, and it doesn't have anything to do with it being defective. (1) I don't get into the pool until 2PM or later, so the sun isn't directly overhead which is when I would need the maximum amount of shade. (2) July and August are the months for Arizona's monsoons. Monsoon storms usually build in the afternoons, and the storm will first announce itself with wind gusts. I've learned the hard way that umbrellas opened all the way will blow over easily in strong winds, and it's difficult to juggle a book and an umbrella at the same time. The umbrella before this one was on its last legs and wouldn't open all the way, and when Denis was shortening this replacement, it dawned on me that the partially opened version didn't blow over in strong wind gusts. Live and learn, eh?

With all this talk about sitting in the pool with storms brewing, strong winds, and toppling umbrellas, you're probably wondering if I stay in the pool during these storms. The answer is short and sweet: No!

And now it's time for the links! 

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • The noise made by wild hippos can be deafening. 
  • A little squirrel sits on top of his human's gasoline can guitar while the human plays a tune. 
  • The St. Kilda Pier penguin colony.
  • California eagles defy the odds by taking in a baby hawk. 
  • Coral grows at about the same rate as human hair.

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • The real "Charlotte Gray": Pearl Witherington, the French Resistance leader with a million-franc bounty on her head.
  • How a Pennsylvania kid went west, became the Sundance Kid and joined Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch.

►I ♥ Lists & Quizzes◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!