My Review of T. Jefferson Parker’s Latest Roland Ford Detective Novel

With each new book in T. Jefferson Parker’s series featuring San Diego private detective Roland Ford, the less the yarns resemble private eye novels and the more they bring to mind apocalyptic James Bond thrillers.

Fans of detective stories are likely to prefer the first Roland novel, The Room of White Fire (2017), over the fourth and latest installment, The She Vanishes, but apocalyptic conspiracies involving powerful forces fit the current national mood, and Parker certainly has the writing chops to pull this sort of thing off.

For the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.

 

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My Review of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s “First to Lie”

The first liar we meet in Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The First to Lie is Nora, a pharmaceutical representative whose job is to push a drug that can increase fertility in women who have difficulty conceiving.

But once we meet the other characters including Ellie–an investigative reporter who thinks Monifan causes permanent infertility in some patients–the reader realizes that nearly all of them are lying about something and that some them are not who they pretend to be.

As Ellie’s investigation reaches a climax, the identities and motives of the characters are revealed in a series of improbable twists, some of which readers nevertheless are likely to see coming. Ryan holds the tale together most of the way with her fine prose and an uncanny ability to keep all the balls in the air, but readers are likely to find the last few twists difficult to swallow.

For the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.

 

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A Tribute to the Great James Lee Burke

Fellow writers, including me and my wife, the poet Patricia Smith, congratulate the great James Lee Burke on the publication of his 40th book, A Private Cathedral. Patricia and I appear about 6:43 into the short video that kicks off with Stephen King.

To watch the video, please click here.  

 

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“The Architect” — Patricia Smith’s Stunning Tribute to Little Richard

Little Richard, who died yesterday at age 87, was approaching 60 when my wife Patricia Smith, one of our greatest living poets, wrote this tribute to him. Please give the stunning audio file a listen: https://soundcloud.com/user-975826890/recording48

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A Tribute to The High School Teacher Who Inspired Brian Dennehy

 

 

I met Brian Dennehy, who died today, about 20 years ago when he accepted my invitation to visit my staff at Associated Press headquarters in New York. He did so reluctantly because his dad had worked at the AP, and Brian long harbored resentment about the way his father had been treated there. Just what that was about, I never was able to find out.

While Brian joined us, he was gracious in sharing stories about his experiences, but NOT for print. One of the things he talked about was a football coach and theater teacher who had inspired and encouraged him. He might not have amounted to much, he said, if not for that teacher.

Hey, I said, if the teacher is still living, I’d like to invite him to sit with a reporter to watch one of your Broadway performances.

At first Brian said no. He didn’t want any story about himself, perhaps because he still didn’t quite trust us. You got me wrong, I said. The story won’t be about you. I will be about HIM.

Ok, then, he said, so we set it up. The teacher, Chris Sweeny, sat with one of AP’s best writers, Helen O’Neill, for a performance of “Death of a Salesman.”

To read the lovely story she wrote, please click here.

 

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Patricia Smith Performs: Prepare to Be Astounded

Just released recording of my brilliant wife Patricia Smith performing some of her poetry. If you haven’t heard her before, prepare to be astounded. To hear it, click here.

 

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My Review of “Broken,” Don Winslow’s New Collection of Propulsive Novellas

WireAP_7cd9ebb06b3348dca72857b5708fb279_16x9_992Don Winslow, whose work includes a dozen of the finest crime novels written in the last 20 years, displays all of his strengths, including propulsive narration, compelling characters, and a tight, staccato writing style, in Broken, a collection of six remarkable novellas.

The length of his novels has been swelling in recent years, his latest, The Force, exceeding 700 pages; so these tales, each about 50 pages long, are a departure for him. They vary in tone, but each, in its own way, conveys the sense that the people and/or American institutions he portrays are broken.

One yarn, “The San Diego Zoo,” does it with a touch of humor, its first sentence, “No one knows how the chimp got the revolver,” making it virtually impossible not to read on. Another, “The Last Ride,” does it with a dose of righteous anger as a Trump supporter, horrified by the sight of a little girl in a cage, sets out to reunite her with her mother in defiance of his Border Patrol superiors.

For the full text of my review for the Associated Press, please click here.

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“Eight Perfect Murders,” An Ingeniously Plotted Homage to Classic Mystery Stories–My Book Review

Several years ago, fictional Boston bookstore owner Malcolm Kershaw wrote a blog post listing the eight most perfect murders in crime fiction–among them: Agatha Christie’s The A.B.C. Murders, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train.

Now, in Peter Swanson’s Eight Perfect Murders, an FBI agent thinks someone is using Kershaw’s list as a script. As he and the agent work together to see if it’s true, the connections appear real, but soon the reader begins to suspect that Kershaw is not all that he seems.

The result is a  a suspenseful, well-written homage to classic mystery stories that offers both a bleak noir atmosphere and the charms of a puzzle mystery.

For the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.

 

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C.J. Box’s New Joe Pickett Novel, “Open Range” — My Book Review

In Open Season, the 20th novel in C.J. Box’s series featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, Joe comes to the rescue when his old pal Nate Romanowski is accused of a series of sniper shootings.

The result is a fast-paced, tightly written crime novel that includes, among other things, an arrogant but incompetent local sheriff, a fatal grizzly bear attack, a famous movie director, an illegal prescription drugs racket, planted evidence, a love triangle, a renegade falconer, a kidnapping, several more shootings and a jail break.

The main plot, along with several subplots, is filled with so many twists and red herrings that Box keeps readers guessing almost to the end.

For the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.

 

 

 

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My Review: P.I. Leonid McGill returns in `Trouble Is What I Do’

Many years ago, a Mississippi bluesman named Catfish Worry had an affair with the daughter of a wealthy white banker. Their dalliance produced a son who could pass for white.

That son is now a wealthy banker himself. He is also a vicious racist. When he learns that Worry plans to expose the family’s history, he hires a hit team to take the old man out. Worry counters with Leonard McGill, a private eye whose  network of underworld acquaintances are a match for anyone Charles’ money can buy.

The threat of violence looms over every page of Walter Mosley’s Trouble is What I Do, but action fans may be disappointed that the gun-play occurs offstage. The charms of this short novel lie in Mosley’s memorable characters, his portrayal of the world McGill inhabits and the author’s uniquely lyrical writing style.

For the full text of my review for the Associated Press, please click here.

 

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