Love Touch

Sunday morning, as I sit here in my cool workspace swilling coffee, trying to wake up and figure out what to do with the rest of my day. I need to go to the grocery store and I should also probably make an attempt to go to the gym; but I can’t seem to find my iPad, which makes doing cardio pointless (I read or watch TV on my iPad while on the treadmill; perhaps not having my iPad is simply an excuse for not going; what if it’s gone, lost, stolen? I am trying not to think that way and am hoping that I simply left it at the office. If not, I am terribly screwed because I don’t know where it is and I currently don’t have the cash on hand to replace it. So, yes, let’s just continue pretending happily that it’s as the office, shall we?)

I could, of course, just go to the gym and do weights. That always feels good, at any rate. Perhaps once I finish swilling this coffee….

I slept late yesterday, and I slept even later today. I spent most of yesterday not only reading but doing chores around the house, on the pretense that today I would not only go to the grocery store and the gym, but I would also spend some time writing today. I need to finish a short story; I need to revise still another, and there’s that new one struggling to take root in my brain that I haven’t really decided what to do with just yet. There are two others swirling around up there in my head, as well as others I’ve not thought about or have forgotten about in the meantime. But now, now as I wake up I feel more confident about running the errands and going to the gym and actually doing some writing today.

I’ve been reading The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, and greatly enjoying it; is there anything quite like well-written non-fiction? It’s why I love Joan Didion and Barbara Tuchman; one of the things I love to do while reading is to learn, and non-fiction fills that need quite beautifully. I also like non-fiction that makes me think; which is why I am looking forward to reading Dead Girls by Alice Bolin. I still would love to do a collection of my own essays, book reviews, and so forth; but egad, what an odious chore pulling all of that together would be. I struggle with essays, but I also think that the writing of essays; the ability to pull thoughts from my head and extrapolate them out to their fullest meaning, is vitally important and a skill-set I wish I had honed more properly. A friend once pointed out to me, as I bemoaned my inability to write essays, that my blog itself is nothing more than years of personal essays. That took me aback, because it was, in many ways, correct; there is definitely some truth to that, but it’s hard for me to take the blog seriously in that fashion, because so much of it is simply written off the top of my head in the morning as I wake up and drink coffee and try to figure out what to do with the rest of my day.

One of the problems for me with personal essays is, ultimately, the issue of self-deprecation, which I’ve addressed in previous blog entries about my writing and my career and my books; who am I to write about this subject? Am I expert enough in this to write about it, or am I simply talking about things that smarter, better-educated people have written about long ago and having the hubristic belief that I am the only person to see this truth for the first time? 

And, in considering myself self-deprecatingly as not that special or particularly smart, I defeat myself and never write the essay.

And of course, there is the problem of all the lies my memory tells me.

But yesterday, I took the afternoon to finish read an ARC of Lou Berney’s new novel, November Road, and was blown away by it.

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Behold! The Big Easy in all its wicked splendor!

Frank Guidry paused at the corner of Toulouse to  bask in the neon furnace glow. He’d lived in New Orleans the better part of his thirty-seven years on earth, but the dirty glitter and sizzle of the French Quarter still hit his bloodstream like a drug. Yokels and locals, muggers and hustlers, fire-eaters and magicians. A go-go girl was draped over the wrought-iron rail of a second floor balcony, one book sprung free from her sequined negligee and swaying like a metronome to the beat of the jazz trio inside. Bass, drums, piano, tearing through “Night and Day.” But that was New Orleans for you. Even the worst band in the crummiest clip joint in the city could swing, man, swing.

A guy came whipping up the street, screaming bloody murder. Hot on his heels–a woman waving a butcher knife, screaming, too,

Guidry soft-shoed out of their way. The beat cop on the corner yawned. The juggler outside the 500 Club didn’t drop a ball. Just another Wednesday night on Bourbon Street.

Lou’s previous novel, The Long and Faraway Gone, won every crime-writing award under the sun that it was eligible for: Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and I don’t know what all; it was the crime publishing equivalent of the EGOT. It was, obviously, an exceptional novel. I met Lou when we were on a panel together at the Raleigh Bouchercon, along with Lori Roy and Liz Milliron; moderated by the amazing Katrina Niidas Holm. It was funny, because the panel topic was, I think, writing about small towns which, in fact, none of us on the panel really did, but we had fun with the topic and I know I brought up Peyton Place at least once and pointed out that suburbs are small towns with the primary difference being suburbs are bedroom communities for cities while small towns aren’t attached in any way to a larger city. It was fun and spirited and I liked Lou, thought he was incredibly smart, as were Liz and Lori. Lori and Lou went on to win Edgars for that year; and I admire their work tremendously. I’ve not had the opportunity to read Liz’ work; but she did have a terrific story in the New Orleans Bouchercon anthology, Blood on the Bayou.

Anyway, I digress.

I’ve been looking forward to November Road since I finished reading The Long and Faraway Gone, but I still need to go back and read Lou’s first two novels, Whiplash River and Gutshot Straight. 

I also have to admit, I was a little hesitant about Lou’s new book; it’s built around the Kennedy assassination in 1963, which always gives me pause (I have yet to immerse myself in Stephen King’s 11/22/63). I’m not sure why I don’t care to read fiction around the Kennedy assassination, but there you have: an insight into my mind. But the Kennedy assassination, while a primary plot device, is just that: a device to set the story in motion. Frank Guidry is involved with a mob boss in New Orleans, and after the Kennedy assassination he is given instructions to fly to Dallas, retrieve a car, and drive it to Houston to dispose of it. While he is doing this, he realizes that he is getting rid of evidence that may be of vital importance to the investigation into the president’s murder–and as such, is a loose end who knows too much and figures out he’s got to disappear now because they’re going to want to kill him. And sure enough, they do send someone after him, Paul Barone, a remorseless killer and tracker. The cat-and-mouse game between them builds suspense throughout the book.

But it’s not just about Frank, and it is a credit to Berney’s talent, creativity and imagination in that he throws in another primary character, constructed carefully in all the facets and layers that make her live and breathe: Charlotte. Charlotte is a wife and mother in a small town in Oklahoma, married to a useless drunk fuck-up with whom she had two daughters, and her salary working for the local town photographer is the primary thing keeping a roof over their heads. Her own ambitions for being a photographer herself are constantly shat upon by her boss, her society and culture and environment: she is a woman, a wife and mother, and in 1963 that so thoroughly defines her that any other ambition she might have throws her identity as wife and mother into question. Trapped, with the walls closing in on her closer every day, Charlotte takes the president’s assassination as a sign for her to run away with the girls and start over. Charlotte is an extraordinary character;  her relationship with her daughters is the strong backbone of this story. You root for her, you want her to make her escape and make her dreams come true.

Frank and Charlotte cross paths in New Mexico, and Frank sees them as his salvation; his murderous pursuers might be thrown off as they are looking for a single man, not one traveling with his wife and kids; the book becomes even stronger and more suspenseful once they are all together. Frank and Charlotte become close, despite not being completely honest with each other; they are both keeping their cards close to their vests, but yet form a loving bond. WIll they escape, or will they not?

November Road reminded me a lot of Laura Lippman’s Sunburn; the same kind of relationship building between a man and a woman where a lot of information, important, information, is held back from each other, and that lack of trust while falling in love is an important theme in both books: women trying to make their best lives, even if it means making morally questionable decisions, while becoming involved with a man who isn’t completely honest with her. Berney’s writing style, and tone, and mood, also put me in mind of Megan Abbott’s brilliant Give Me Your Hand. If you’ve not read yet the Lippman and Abbott novels, I’d recommend getting them and holding on to them until Berney’s book is released in October and reading them all over the course of a long weekend.

Bravo.

Sweet Freedom

Ah, Monday, which this week is my short day. I didn’t (of course) get as much done this weekend as I would have liked; but the truth of the matter is I really need a day to run errands and do chores–which exhausts me–and then another day to just chill out and relax to get ready for the next week. But I am not beating myself up over not getting things done as planned any more; a to-do list is merely a list of things that have to be done at some point, without deadlines and/or pressure. (Well, actual deadlines do have to be followed, but you know what I mean.) I did spend the weekend getting caught up on things I watch (Animal Kingdom) and some movies I’ve always meant to watch (The Faculty, which was amazingly and gloriously ridiculous) and an absolutely brilliant documentary about Psycho (78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene) and how it changed everything and influenced everything that came after it. It also called to mind how Anthony Perkins deserved the Best Actor Oscar that year and wasn’t even nominated–one of the biggest crimes in Oscar history.

I also did some reading; I read some short stories, which was fun, and I also read more of  Lou Berney’s November Road, which I am trying to read slowly, so as to savor every word and every moment. It really is brilliant; I have to say this is a top notch year in the world of crime fiction, with terrific novels being released left and right–this year has also seen Laura Lippman’s Sunburn and Alison Gaylin’s If I Die Tonight, with Lori Roy’s exceptional The Disappearing and Megan Abbott’s Give Me Your Hand being released this week, and so many amazing others I haven’t gotten to yet. My reading isn’t as public or as frequent this year as I would like, simply because I am judging an award yet again so am trying to focus on reading for that–hence the Short Story Project–and I worry that the great books are going to continue to stack up in my TBR pile, and thus defeat me in the process of ever catching up.

I really need to stop agreeing to judge prizes.

One of the stories I read yesterday was “Almost Missed It By A Hair” by Lisa Respers France, from Baltimore Noir, edited by Laura Lippman:

Had it not been his body in the huge box of fake hair, I like to think that Miles Henry would have been amused.

At least, the man I once knew would have seen the humor in it: a male stylist who made his fame as one of the top hair weavers in Baltimore discovered in a burial mound of fake hair at the Hair Dynasty, the East Coast;s biggest hair-styling convention of the year. It had all the elements that guaranteed a front page in the Sunpapers, maybe even a blurb in the “Truly Odd News” sections of the nationals. Television reports swarmed the scene, desperate for a sound bite from anyone even remotely connected to Miles. Yes, it all would have been sweet nirvana to Miles, publicity hound that he was. If he had lived to see it.

I knew him pretty well. I knew him when he was Henry Miles, the only half-black half-Asian guy in Howard Park, our West Baltimore neighborhood. His exotic looks ensured that he never wanted for female attention, although they also made him a target for the wannabe thugs who didn’t much cotton to a biracial pretty boy spouting hiphop lyrics. He was a few years older than I was, so our paths crossed only rarely. Besides, he was the neighborhood hottie and I was a shy chubby teenager with acne. The different in our social statures, as well as the difference in our ages, limited us to the socially acceptable dance of unequals. Meaning, I stared at him and he didn’t know I was alive. It was only when we were grown and found ourselves cosmetology competitors that we began to talk to each other.

This is a great story, and yet again further proof of how important the voices of diverse writers are. A murder that takes place at a convention for African-American hair and nail technicians? And frankly, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a short story as much as I enjoyed this one. I know nothing –or at least, very little– about African-American hair, although I know it’s a very fraught issue. But from the wonderful opening of the discovery of a dead man’s body in a box of fake hair all the way through the finish, the authorial voice is strong, and what makes it even stronger is how she deftly explains, in a non-info-dumpish way, about weaves and wigs and styles and hair sculpting and everything that goes into what women of color deal with when it comes to hair.

Brilliant, and brava.

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A View to a Kill

God, yesterday.

Have you ever had one of those days where you took the morning off from your day job to drive out to the suburbs for an appointment with your eye doctor, only to arrive and find out that you don’t have an appointment after all–and the doctor isn’t even IN–and then after further investigation it turned out that when you called to make your appointment for March 2nd they made it for February 2nd? Yeah, that was how MY day started yesterday. So, I left with a new appointment for next Friday, which means taking ANOTHER morning off from work, and means I still don’t have my new contact lenses and my new glasses are still off somewhere in the future.

Honestly. It’s amazing there was no body count. Seriously. And, as always when something goes wrong in a day, everything else the rest of the day just seemed to go wrong, too. But today is going to be better.

Speaking of better, Alison Gaylin’s new novel comes out this week, and if you haven’t already preordered it, you need to do so. RIGHT NOW.

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From the Facebook page of Jacqueline Merrick Reed.

October 24 at 2:45 am

By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.

This isn’t Jackie. It’s her son Wade. She doesn’t know where I am. She doesn’t even know I can get on her FB page, so don’t ask her. This isn’t her fault. I am not her fault.

I am writing to tell my mom and Connor that I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone. I wish I could tell you the truth of what happened, but it’s not my truth to tell. And anyway, it doesn’t matter. What matters, what I want you both to know, is that I love you. Don’t feel sad. Everything you did was the right thing to do. I’m sorry for those things I said to you, Connor. I didn’t mean any of it.

Alison Gaylin has been nominated for an Edgar Award three times: Best First Novel, Best Paperback Original, and Best Novel. (For the record, let it show there are many many horrible things I would do to be nominated once, let alone three times.) Her most recent novel, What Remains of Me, was a tour-de-force (Best Novel nominee), juggling two different time-lines as she told the story of two murders thirty years apart and yet connected. But somehow she has managed to surpass that novel with her latest, If I Die Tonight, which is powerful, compelling and beautifully written.

The book begins with the above Facebook post, which immediately pulls the reader into the story. Who is Wade? What is he talking about? Why is he going to kill himself? And from there, the book goes back to five days earlier, where the story truly begins. Jackie, mentioned in the post, is a single mother, estranged from her ex-husband and his current wife. The father of her two children has also pretty much abdicated any responsibility for his sons, other than the monthly check. Jackie is a realtor, and struggles to make ends meet. Her eldest son Wade is her primary worry: over the last few years he has withdrawn, become more insular, barely speaks to her. Friends don’t stop by to visit him or hang out, he doesn’t leave the house much. He is also no longer close to his younger brother, Connor. Jackie’s co-worker at the real estate agency is also her best friend; Wade used to be infatuated with her daughter but is no longer.

The peace and quiet of this little town in the Hudson Valley, Havenkill, is abruptly shattered in the early hours of a weekend morning when an attempted carjacking ends with a popular young athlete at the high school, Liam, hospitalized in critical condition; he and a friend came to the rescue of the woman being carjacked, but the car was stolen anyway and the comatose boy was run over. Who would do such a thing? The woman in the car is a one-hit wonder from the 80’s, Aimee En, and yet pieces of her story don’t make sense. What happened that night? And when Liam dies and it becomes a murder investigation, Jackie becomes increasingly more terrified that Wade was involved somehow.

Gaylin’s mastery of character is on full display in this novel; every character is real, believable, and alive. Even when they behave in ways that are either self-destructive or selfish, it makes sense and fits with the character; no one ever does anything that doesn’t make sense in order to advance the narrative. The plot is devilishly complex and layered, with twists and turns that make the truth almost impossible for the reader to ferret out. Gaylin makes you care for and understand every character, even if you don’t approve of what they’re doing.

But the heart of this novel, its true theme, is the relationships between parent and child. Jackie and Wade, police detective Pearl Maze and her estranged father, her co-worker Helen and her daughter–every step along the way Gaylin is examining those relationships: what goes wrong between them? Can distance, once it develops, be overcome? What is and isn’t acceptable for a parent to accept from their child in terms of behavior, and vice versa? How well can a parent know a child, and vice versa? What is enough space, and what is too much?

And every twist in this novel is earned, as it barrels along to its satisfying conclusion.

This is going to be one of the top books of the year; in fact, 2018 has–with Gaylin’s, Laura Lippman’s Sunburn, and Alafair Burke’s The Wife–already gotten off to an amazing start for crime fiction, and there’s a Megan Abbott coming this summer. If these women are indicative of how high the bar is being risen in crime fiction…it’s going to be a great year in our genre.

Think of Laura

Zulu is passing now; I can hear the drums of the marching bands. It’s a gorgeous morning, the sun is shining and I am betting the crowds up at the Avenue are deep; they certainly were last night for Orpheus. Paul and I both have to work tomorrow, so we’re ending our Carnival early; taking today to rest and recover so we can hit the ground running on Ash Wednesday. I also have a lot of things to do today; emails to answer, things to write, things to edit, things to read, a kitchen to clean. Even though it was abbreviated this year (I was in Alabama for the first weekend of parades), I enjoyed every bit of Carnival this year; and am already melancholy to see it end as always.

I’ve also been enjoying the hell out of the Winter Olympics, and like millions of people worldwide I am–what’s the word kids use now? Oh yes–stanning Adam Rippon. As a long time figure skating fan, I’ve known of Adam long before these games; I remember when he had a mop of floppy curls; when gossip websites were pairing him and Ashley Wagner as a couple (I rolled my eyes every time I saw the photos), and I remember when he came out. I blogged about homophobia in figure skating a while back; when Adam came out while still on the Olympic eligible circuit I thought to myself you’re never going to win anything now; so I was pleasantly surprised to see him win US Nationals and make the world team in 2016; he missed last season with a broken foot, and this season he is full-on out: his short program is to gay club music, and his long program, as everyone saw the other night, is breathtaking. I’m so happy for both him and Mirai Nagasu, who became the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics that same night; they earned bronze medals as part of the team competition, and I couldn’t be happier for both of them–all of the Americans on the team, to be honest. Adam is so funny and refreshingly himself; a big personality and a natural wit he doesn’t try to hold back, and that honesty…I just can’t get enough. I had tears in my eyes when he finished his long program the other night; Paul and I both screamed when Mirai landed the triple axel. Seeing the trashy homophobes on Twitter trashing him or going after him makes my blood boil; I’ve resisted the urge to reply to them He’s got an Olympic medal and you’re a fifth-rate Twitter troll. Congratulations.

So. There’s that.

And in other news of the fabulous, the lucky world of readers can look forward to the upcoming release of a new Laura Lippman novel, Sunburn. I got an ARC at Bouchercon and read it in one sitting on a rainy Saturday back in October.

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It’s the sunburned shoulders that get him. Pink, peeling. The burn is two days old, he gauges. Earned on Friday, painful to the touch yesterday, today an itchy soreness that’s hard not to keep fingering, probing, as she’s doing right now in an absentminded way. The skin has started sloughing off, soon those narrow shoulders won’t be so tender. Why would a redhead well into her thirties make such a rookie mistake?

And why is she here, sitting on a barstool, forty-five miles inland, in a town where strangers seldom stop on a Sunday evening? Belleville is the kind of place where people are supposed to pass through and soon they won’t even do that. They’re building a big by-ass so the beach traffic won’t have to slow for the speed trap on the old Main Street. He saw the construction vehicles, idle on Sunday, on his way in. Places like this bar-slash-restaurant, the High-Ho, are probably going to lose what little business they have.

High-Ho. A misprint? Was it supposed to be Heigh-Ho? And if so, was it for the seven dwarfs, heading home from the mines at day’s end, or for the Lone Ranger, riding off into the sunset?  Neither one makes much sense for this place.

Nothing about this makes sense.

Laura Lippman has been one of my favorite writers since I read Baltimore Blues years and years ago. I tore through her Tess Monaghan series, and she very quickly became one of my buy in hardcover authors. I’ve never regretted making that switch, and as she has expanded her skills and pushed herself with her exceptionally brilliant stand alone novels, I’ve never once quibbled but I want another Tess novel! (I do, always, but the stand alones are so fucking fantastic that it doesn’t matter–I really just want a new Lippman, and wish she was on a yearly schedule rather than an eighteen month one.)

Laura’s career trajectory has been most impressive from a writing perspective; because as a writer of stand alones, she has gone from being a literary crime writer to a literary writer about crime, if that makes sense. Each of her stand alones are unique and different from the others; about as far removed from her series as any novels can be and still be by the same author. Each one of these novels are rare pearls, individual and vastly different from the others; different themes, different explorations, different everything. The one common thread that runs through these novels is that they are, for the most part, about women, and what women face in their lives; how they deal with crimes and tragedies that take them out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary. Laura also regularly experiments with form and voice and tense; enormous, dangerous risks as a writer that she somehow always manages to pull off, make engaging and enjoyable, and always manages to tell a story that makes a very compelling point.

Sunburn,  her latest, is as different from anything she has done before as it could be unless she decided to write about vampires or a zombie apocalypse; but she also brings her incredibly powerful sense of empathy to this tale of murder, vengeance, and oh-so-careful planning. The book opens with the main character, Polly Costello, walking away from her husband and child on a beach vacation and winding up in the hard-knock town of Belleville; she is being observed by Adam, who is being paid to keep an eye on her, follow her–but not to become obsessed by her, which is what happens. Their story is told in a very limited third person point of view, alternating between them, and as we slowly get to know them, watch their physical attraction expand and develop into something more, the questions remain: why did Polly walk away from her family and child? How could she do such a thing? Who is this enigmatic redheaded bar waitress?

And just how fucking good does Adam’s grilled cheese sandwich taste?

The prose in this book is lean; not an extra word to be found anywhere, and it is an homage of sorts to the kind of lean, tight, dark noir that the great James M. Cain wrote. (Cain is a hero of mine, and I have always wanted to write something that dark and lean and tight…ironically, one of the ideas I had for such a noir–gay, of course–was also titled Sunburn) I’ve seen, in some of the early reviews, comparisons to Cain’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, which seem obvious; there’s an insurance scam buried deep in the plot, it’s set in a bar/diner, it’s about an unexpected, explosive attraction between a man and a woman; there are side plots that end in mysterious deaths… but if anything, I’d say Sunburn is more reminiscent of Cain’s The Cocktail Waitress than anything else.

The book is extraordinary, and probably Laura Lippman’s best work to date; that wisecracking, tight prose; a complicated and complex plot that grows even more complicated as you read another page; fully developed characters you can help but root for, even if their motivations aren’t exactly pure; and ultimately, the book is about a woman with everything stacked against her all of her life, who  never gives up, and makes plans…risky plans; where she gambles everything, including her own happiness and desire, for her future, yet is flexible and smart enough to always adapt.

Polly Costello is a heroine Cain would have been proud to call his own.

Cruel Summer

I am having a rather productive day so far, really. I slept late–which I didn’t want to do, but maybe, you know, just maybe I needed the sleep–and since getting up feeling completely rested, I’ve been taking my own advice I gave out on the panel yesterday and am cleaning; and the cleaning is clearing my mind and that mind clearance is bearing fruit. I’ve already made some good notes on a short story I’m working on, and as the Lost Apartment slowly but surely gets more clean, I feel more on top of my game; I think I am finally getting back on track after being derailed by being sick for so long.

Huzzah!

I have also dived back into my Short Story project, and today I read Laura Lippman’s “What He Needed.”

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My husband’s first wife almost spent him into bankruptcy. Twice. I am a little hazy about the details, as was he. I don’t think it was a real bankruptcy, with court filings and ominous codes on his credit history. Credit was almost too easy for us to get. The experience may have depleted his savings, for he didn’t have much in the bank when we married. But whatever happened, it scared him badly, and he was determined it would never happen again.

To that end, he was strict about the way we spent money in our household, second-guessing my purchases, making up rules about what we could buy. Books, for example. The rule was that I must read ten of the unread books in the house–and there were, I confess, many unread books in the house–before I could bring a new one home. We had similar rules about compact discs (“Sing a sing from the last one you bought,” he bellowed at me once) and shoes (“How many pairs of black shoes does one woman need?”). It was not, however,a two-way street. The things he wanted proved to be necessities–defensible, sensible purchases. A treadmill, a digital camera, a DVD player and, of course, the DVD’s to go with it. Lots of Westerns and wars.

But now I sound like him, sour and grudging. The irony was, we both made good money. More correctly, he made decent money, as a freelance technical writer, and I made great money, editing a loathsome city magazine, the kind that tells you where to get the best food/doctors/lawyers/private schools/flowers/chocolates/real estate. It wasn’t journalism, it was marketing. That’s why they had to pay so well.

How much truth is there in those three paragraphs? Haven’t we all been in that kind of relationship/marriage, where one partner tries to control the money and judges the other’s every cent spent? And how confined and trapped that can make one feel? In those casual, almost careless and unemotional paragraphs Lippman deftly paints the portrait of a marriage in trouble and a woman who is desperately unhappy, both at home and at work.

The story was originally published in Lauren Henderson and Stella Duffy’s wonderful anthology Tart Noir (from which I’ll undoubtedly be pulling more stories from during the course of my short story project) and was reprinted in Lippman’s wonderful short story collection Hardly Knew Her. 

Lippman is one of crime genre’s bright shining lights; her Tess Monaghan series is one of the best private eye series in print currently, and her stand-alone novels are incredible accomplishments, in which she stretches herself, the boundaries of crime fiction itself, and tells well-written, amazing stories about women and their realities, their choices, and how they respond to the bad things that happen to them. I’ve already read her yet-to-be released 2018 novel Sunburn, which is destined to make a lot of Best of 2018 lists and get shortlisted for every crime award out there (most of which she has already won, sometimes more than once). I will be discussing that one, as well, closer to its pub date.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Dancing in the Dark

Well, I finished Alafair Burke’s The Wife last night, and wow. Just….wow.

That is three, count ’em, three, amazing novels by women I’ve read recently; all of whom–Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman, Alafair Burke–were already writing fantastic novels, and yet somehow manage to get better with each new one.  As a writer myself, reading these fantastic novels is a bit daunting–it puts me in mind of why do I bother I will never be this good–but as a reader who loves books, they make me want to send off fireworks.

I also started reading Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds last night, and it’s also exceptional. I’d read his Edgar Award nominated debut, Shovel Ready, which was amazing, but somehow had missed his second novel; but got a free copy of The Blinds at Bouchercon (thank you, Harper Collins author signing party!) and have heard raves about it, so I decided to tackle it next. And yes, wow. I am also still processing The Wife, and Lippman’s Sunburn, and Gaylin’s If I Die Tonight. I will of course discuss all of these books closer to their release dates, in great detail, on here. But if you love great books, Constant Reader, you need to go pre-order these right the fuck now. You will not be sorry.

You’ll only be sorry if you don’t.

I don’t have to go into the office until late; which is lovely as I have about a gazillion things to do around the house this morning. I also have several errands to run: I have to stop at Garden District Books to pick up a book about the New Orleans Jewish community (more on that later); CVS to pick up a prescription; and of course, as always, I have to get the mail. I need to spend the morning outlining some short stories–one is due at the end of the month, and I am going to have to really get moving if I intend to get it finished–and I also seriously need to get some Scotty stuff finished. I also need, this week, to tear apart the WIP so I can figure out how to restructure it and add in the things that need to be added. I’d like to get that finished by the end of the year, and I think going about doing all of this in an organized fashion makes the most sense. It’s weird how disorganized I am about writing, when I try–almost to the point of being obsessive–I am about everything else in my life. I also need to start restricting my access to social media; that doesn’t help me with my attention span, which seems to be getting shorter and shorter as I get older. I’ve always had trouble focussing and maintaining that focus; I’ve got to be more laser-like in my focus if I’m going to get all of this stuff done by the end of the year.

I know I can do it, and I am actually feeling a lot more confident than I should be. But the busier I am, the more I have to do–the more likely I am to get things done.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines.

Here’s a Tuesday hunk for you, Constant Reader. Enjoy.

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Owner of a Lonely Heart

Tuesday, Tuesday. I managed to slog through another thousand words of the new Scotty yesterday, and some things I want to do with the book are starting to take shape. I also managed another five hundred words on an essay I am writing and need to finish, but it’s a tricky one–one that could easily give offense. I am going to go back to the beginning of it again this morning and see if I can start revising at the start, and maybe then I’ll be able to finish it. I feel a bit rusty–I used to be able to knock off a couple of thousand words in an hour or two, no problem, every morning, and now it’s more of a slog. I am going to blame it on a lack of practice, and that I need to simply get my writing muscles back into shape.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

I have to say that I finished reading my advance copy of Laura Lippman’s Sunburn this weekend, and was completely blown away by it. I’ll post a review when it’s around time for the book to be released, where I will go into more detail about how incredible this book is, but reading it and the new Alison Gaylin (If I Die Tonight) was truly inspirational. Ironically, I myself have had an idea for a noir thriller lying around in my files for decades now, also called Sunburn–which, obviously, I won’t be able to use now, if I write it I’ll clearly need a new title–but they have nothing in common other than the title and the sensibility. I love noir so much, and I really want to write more of it. I also started reading my advance copy of Alafair Burke’s The Wife Sunday night, and got more into it last night, and it, too, is quite extraordinary.

Reading such amazing work by friends is inspirational, but also a bit humbling. But I also kind of love reading books that make me think, boy, I have to work harder and do better. 

And on that note, I should get back to the spice mines and get to work.

Here’s a Tuesday hunk for you:

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