Proof That I’m a Born Romantic


The two of us

I’m a born romantic.

Take tonight when I asked my wife, the poet Patricia Smith, to join me in watching a scene from The Hitman’s Bodyguard. In it, the hitman (Samuel Jackson) is telling his body guard (Ryan Reynolds) how he met his wife (Salma Hayek.) Cut to a flashback in a bucket of blood bar in Honduras.

A creep grabs Hayek’s ass, so she tussles with him. Jackson starts to get up to help her but then settles down and watches, his cigarette dropping from his lips in astonishment as she proceeds to beat the hell out of the creep and his friends.

She finishes the last one off by tearing his throat out with a broken bottle, the scene unfolding with Lionel Richie’s song “Hello” playing in the background. Then Hayek slides up to Jackson, takes the beer out of his hand, and drains it.

THAT, I told Patricia, is the same way WE first connected. She was standing in front of a crowd of 800 at a writing conference I’d organized, began to speak, and absolutely slayed them! Like I said, I’m a born romantic. The scene in question begins a few seconds into the video below.

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My Review of Sara Gran’s New Claire DeWitt Mystery

For the uninitiated, Sara Gran’s protagonist, 40-year-old Claire DeWitt, is the woman Nancy Drew might have become if she had been raised by indifferent parents, developed a fierce drug habit, got seduced by the occult, became sexually promiscuous,  suffered with depression, and could never forgive herself for failing to solve the disappearance of her close childhood friend Tracy.

Please click here for my full, New York Journal of Books review of  Gran’s fine new Claire DeWitt mystery novel, The Infinite Blacktop.

And to learn more about Gran and her work, please click here.


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My Review of “Colorblind,” the Latest Jesse Stone Novel by Reed Farrel Coleman

When a young black police officer hired by Chief Stone guns down an apparently unarmed white suspect in a cross burning, tensions run high in the fictional town of Paradise, MA.  As a white nationalist organization from out of town muscles in, urging residents to “take your town back,” Jesse has to act fast.

The result is another well-written, fast-paced yarn from Reed Farrel Coleman, one of the acknowledged masters of crime fiction. Colorblind is Coleman’s fifth installment in the Jesse Stone series, which was originated by the late Robert B. Parker.

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

For more information about Coleman and his work, click here.


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Check Out My Review of T. Jefferson Parker’s “Swift Vengeance”

T. Jefferson Parker

For the last decade or so, T. Jeffferson Parker has been using the popular form of the thriller to explore the pressing issues of our day.

His previous series, an uneven but sometimes brilliant one featuring undercover cop Charlie Hood, examined the devastation wrought by Mexican crime cartels and America’s war on drugs.

Starting with “The Room of White Fire” and continuing with “Swift Vengeance,” Parker’s new series succeeds not only in entertaining but also in challenging readers to ponder the circle of vengeance unleashed by the Iraq war and America’s seemingly endless war on terror.

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

You can learn more about Parker and his work here.


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A Chilling Tale of Vengeance: My Review of David Joy’s New Novel, “The Line That Held Us.”

Author David Joy

“The Line That Held Us” is David Joy’s third crime novel about life in a mountainous region where family roots run deep and where some folks live by a code that puts them outside of the law. The book’s title is in the past tense because in this tale, the line between civilization and savagery doesn’t hold.

It is well told in a voice that is lyrical in its descriptions of the region’s natural beauty and graphic in its depictions of violence and death.  To read the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.

You can learn more about Joy and his work here.


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My Review of William Wells’s New Crime Novel, “The Dollar-A-Year Detective.”

Author William Wells

“The Dollar-A-Year Detective” by William Wells is a detective story with the sensibility of a cozy, somewhat reminiscent of the fine Mario Balzic series by reclusive novelist K.C. Constantine.

This novel represents a major improvement over the first novel in this series, 2016′s “Detective Fiction,” which exhibited some rookie writing problems. It’s an entertaining, well-written read that’s well worth the time.

You can read the full text of my review for The Associated press here.

Wells’ novel can be ordered here.

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New York Yankees Poppycock!

Andrew Benetendi (R) ce;ebrates with teammates after knocking in the winning run in the 10th inning of the Sox win against the Yankees Sunday evening.

I live in New Jersey, so in the aftermath of the Red Sox four-game sweep of the Yankees, I heard a lot of sports radio poppycock today. Basically, it broke down along these lines: It’s Aaron Boone’s fault. It’s the Yankees’ injuries. Don’t forget what happened in 1978. Let’s take them one at a time.

1. Boone: I watched every pitch of the series, and i’m not sure I saw the Yankees’ manager make any tactical errors. What I am sure of is that it’s not Boone’s fault that the Sox scored 15 runs on Thursday. It’s not his fault that Porcello threw a one-hit complete game shutout against the Yanks on Friday. It’s not his fault that Eovaldi gave up only one run on three hits in eight innings on Saturday. It’s not his fault that ace closer Aloldis Chapman couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead in the 9th inning Sunday. And it’s not his fault that Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are the two best players in baseball this year.
2. Injuries: Yes, the Yankees were without Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez (although the latter has played poorly and listlessly this year.) But consider who the Sox played without. Chris Sale, the best pitcher in the league this season, was out with a shoulder injury (expected back later this week.) The Sox’ second best starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, who was 11-3 when he went down with a bad ankle sprain before the All Star break, MIGHT be back by the end of this month. Rafael Devers, the slugging third baseman, is out with a hamstring injury and might be back later this week. Christian Vasquez, the number one catcher, is gone for the season. And Ian Kinsler, acquired at the trading deadline to solve a season-long defensive problem at second base, played only two games before going down with a hamstring strain. There have been other injuries on both teams throughout the season, of course, but you get the idea.
3. About 1978. First of all, it WAS 40 years ago, so I don’t see the relevance. But that year, the Sox led the Yanks by 8 1/2 games on August 5. The Yankees stormed from behind to tie them on the last game of the regular season, and the Sox lost the one-game playoff. That year, the Sox were coached by Don Zimmer, who played his starting 9 everyday players in nearly ever inning of every game through the summer. By mid-August they were thoroughly spent. Alex Cora, on the other hand, gives his starting everyday players a day or two of rest every week. This year’s Sox are as rested as a team can be in August.
So, are the Yankees dead?
Not exactly.
The Red Sox have been so good that if they win ONLY 25 of their remaining 49 games, which seems very unlikely, they will STILL finish with 104 wins. Just to tie, the Yankees would need to go 36 and 16 the rest of the way.
Possible? Sure. It’s also POSSIBLE that the Knicks win an NBA title in this decade.
But are either of these things likely? Of course not.
Even so, the Yanks aren’t dead yet.
Assuming they win one of the wild card spots, which is not certain but is very likely, they will need to win a one-game playoff, probably against the red-hot As — or maybe the Mariners. Anything can happen in a one-game series, of course, but if the Yanks win, they’ll be a threat to make it to the World Series. So will the Sox, the defending champion Astros, and the Indians, who I think are more dangerous than their regular season record indicates. In my mind, the Astros are the favorites because they have the strongest pitching staff among the contenders — but if they were in the American League East right now, they’d be 8 games behind the Sox and ahead of the Yankees, who have fallen 9.5 games behind the division leader.

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My Review of A New Philip Marlowe Novel Authorized by Chandler’s Estate

Where others have failed, Lawrence Osborne succeeds brilliantly in bringing back legendary private eye Philip Marlowe. He does so largely by sidestepping the temptation to mimic Raymond Chandler’s idiosyncratic style and by making no attempt to recreate the swaggering private detective who outsmarted cops and mobsters in the celebrated author’s seven novels and numerous short stories set in Los Angeles in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

Instead, Osborne imagines a melancholy, 72-year-old Marlowe living out his final years in solitude in a Baja Mexico fishing village in the 1980s. Gone is the gumshoe who taunted cops with wisecracks, manhandled gangsters and bedded debutantes. Osborne’s Marlowe is too world-weary, and too lame, for that sort of thing, and he no longer turns a pretty girl’s head.

For my full review of “Only to Sleep” for the Associated Press, please click here.


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My Review of the Crime Novel by Laird Barron

Isaiah Coleridge, muscle for the Chicago mob’s Alaska subsidiary and the hero of veteran horror writer Laird Barron’s first crime novel, isn’t your typical Mafia hit man. He’s college educated, frequently alludes to Greek and Roman classics and relishes his underworld moniker — Hercules.

The action is fast-paced, the characters well drawn, the settings vivid and the hardboiled prose quirky in the manner of a writer who cut his teeth on horror and poetry. Check out the full text of my Associate Press review of Blood Standard here.

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My Review of “Annie’s Bones” by Howard Owen

Annie’s Bones is the 16th novel by Howard Owen, whose most popular series character, investigative reporter Willie Black, makes only a cameo appearance in this stylishly written, sobering tale of suspicion, vengeance, injustice and an old man’s last, desperate chance for redemption.

You can find the full  text of my Associated Press review in The Washington Post here.


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