“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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My Review of “Salt River,” the New Doc Ford Crime Novel by Randy Wayne White

Thirty years have zipped by since Randy Wayne White first introduced readers to Doc Ford and his pals in Sanibel Flats, and from time to time the mostly solid crime fiction series seems to falter. Salt River, the 26th Ford novel, is one of those times.

White’s prose is better than OK, of course, and Doc’s fans will be pleased that old friends, including the protagonist’s love interest, Hannah Smith, and his aging hippie pal, Tomlinson, are part of the action. But the book’s twin plots are far-fetched, even for a Doc Ford novel, and readers who aren’t already familiar with the relationships between the characters might feel a bit lost.

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

 

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Audio of a Poem By, and an Interview With, Award-Winning Poet Patricia Smith

The Brooklyn Poets website features a poem by–AND a great interview with– Patricia Smith, one of the world’s most honored poets.

She is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Award, the 2017 LA Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award and a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize

The poem appears in both text and audio.

By the way, the greatest honor of MY life is that Patricia is my wife. You can find the poem and interview here.

 

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My Review of Joanna Schaffhausen’s “All the Best Lies”

In All the Best Lies, Joanna Schaffhausen’s third crime novel featuring police woman Ellery Hathaway and FBI agent Reed Markham, the writing is crisp, the suspense is intense and the tale ends with a twist no one is likely to see coming. Even so, the most appealing thing about this fine series is the complex, evolving relationship between the protagonists.

As a teenager, Ellery was kidnapped and tortured by a serial killer. Her dramatic rescue by an FBI agent was big national news. That agent was Reed. Now, Ellery is a damaged young woman who understandably shuns romantic entanglements. Reed, a divorced father, is protective of the girl he once saved but is increasingly drawn to her courage and beauty.

With each novel, they circle each other, drawing ever closer before partially pulling back. The author handles their emotional dance with keen insight and sensitivity.

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

 

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