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My Book Reading

The Border - Don Winslow

Metropolis - Philip Kerr

The Paris Diversion - Chris Pavone

The Network - Jason Elliott

Our Man Down In Havana - Christopher Hull

Mission To Paris - Alan Furst

A Dangerous Man - Robert Crais

Resurrections - Jeffrey Meyers

Spy Games - Adam Brookes

Podcast Favorites

https://player.fm/series/simon-mayos-books-of-the-year/lee-child

   In this episode of the entertraining Books of the Year podcast, Simon Mayo and Matt Williams ask Lee Child about his legendary coffee consumption, at my request. 

@booksoftheyear, @simonmayo

https://soundcloud.com/markbellspowerproject/20180525-layne-norton-audio-sc

I'll listen to Layne Norton discuss and argue passionately about nutrition any day. Mark Bell does a great job moderating an engaging conversation between Norton and Shawn Baker about health, fitness, food and nutrition. Science wins! @marksmellybell, @BioLane

http://spybrary.com/tag/charles-cumming/

Shane Whaley and David Craggs talk spy and espionage fiction, writing, politics and books with the outspoken, brilliant writer, Charles Cumming.

@Spybrary, @CharlesCumming

 

http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/30-analysis-parapraxis-elvis

Malcolm Gladwell digs deep into the one song Elvis Presley couldn't consistently sing, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" This episode is a gripping, utterly fascinating discussion of how Elvis recorded, sang live, and interpreted his life through music. @Gladwell

Entries in @AnthonyHorowitz (3)

Saturday
Jul282018

Forever And A Day by Anthony Horowitz

Forever And A Day is a fine, spirited, easy to read and enjoy James Bond “continuation” novel. It’s Anthony Horowitz’ second Bond novel (Trigger Mortis in 2015 was his first), and in the long canon of non-Ian Fleming Bond literature, one of the better entries. Horowitz is a fine novelist, notably his Sherlock Holmes work (my personal favorite).

Writing a new James Bond novel is complicated. So much more comes into play than just imagining and executing a damn good spy/adventure thriller. In the case of Forever And A Day, Horowitz was hired by the Fleming estate, had access to his papers, and was working from a partial, unfinished script or story. On the other hand, someone in the family is going to be reading and passing approval on the writing. 

Another significant factor must be the era. Bond’s adventures and professional life as 007 take place in the 1950s. Sex was mostly hinted at in popular fiction, rather than dramatized. Attitudes about women and race and politics were often looked at differently. Horowitz has to take all this into account, pen an exciting spy tale worthy of James Bond, be true to the spirit and means of the1950s, yet make sure his new work doesn’t feel and sound outdated. 

Considering the complicated task on his hands, Horowitz did a damn fine job. Forever And A Day is an interesting prequel to the James Bond of Ian Fleming; he becomes Agent 007 in this tale. Scipio makes a fine bad guy. I certainly disliked him and silently urged Bond on in his mission. Where he’ll fall in the pantheon of villains in Bond novels remains to be seen, but he’s loathsome here. Of course he’s duped others to assist him in his plans, and Bond has to navigate all that. Along the way is a beautiful woman (surprise!), named Sixtine. Their relationship starts off rocky, but takes a non-surprising road for Bond fans. 

Sixtine is a strong woman, a well-drawn character, an effective foil for Bond and a major player in the story. I think Horowitz did a good job with her. If the author has any drawbacks it’s developing the personal relationship, notably sex scenes (spoiler alert: James Bond goes to bed with a woman). In this case, his description is two sentences long and could be read aloud to school children.

I’m picking at little things. If you want to hear knowledgeable James Bond fans detail the details, listen to David Craggs on the Spybrary podcast celebrating the publication of Forever And A Day. It’s a fun episode, full of the charm and pointed knowledge of Craggs and host Shane Whaley.

Forever And A Day is a very good James Bond novel. I’ve not read every continuation effort since Fleming died, but in my estimation this is in the Top Five. I found the opening chapters superior to the middle, and the final pieces to move a bit too quickly for me. Horowitz is a good caretaker of the Bond franchise.

I bought and read the Jonathan Cape UK edition. Forever And A Day won’t be published in the United States until November, by Harper, with a different cover.

@harperbooks, #foreverandaday, @AnthonyHorowitz, @spybrary, @jonathancape

Thursday
May172018

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Word Is Murder brilliantly pulls off a dangerous concept. Initially I was puzzled and a bit put off by Horowitz inserting himself into this murder mystery as a principal character, side by side with police detective Daniel Hawthorne. He is telling the story, as himself. Horowitz sets himself up as a journalist in an unlikely pairing with the seemingly disgraced, difficult ex-police detective, called in to assist the local law enforcement in a puzzling murder investigation. 

The particulars of the actual story hold less interest for me than how real author Horowitz put this together. He in effect becomes a Dr. Watson-inspired principal in the narrative, taking notes and recording witness interviews as background for the book on the case Hawthorne has convinced him to write. At the same time, fictional Horowitz doesn’t like Hawthorne, considers him a bit of a bumbler, and merely someone to be used to possibly shape this book project. 

The further I got into the pages, the greater my enjoyment of The Word Is Murder. Set up as a classic British mystery, with nods to Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle and even Columbo, the fictional Horowitz experiences several unexpected life lessons, the plot of course tangles ‘round and ‘round, until we arrive together at a most satisfying and exciting conclusion. 

I closed the covers to The Word Is Murder wholly satisfied with an excellent murder mystery, well done in classic style with unexpected twists. 

 

@harperbooks, #thewordismurder, @AnthonyHorowitz

 

Wednesday
May022018

Short Takes on New Thrillers

 

The Last Stand by Mickey Spillane

Mickey Spillane would be 100 years old this month! I grew up seeing his pulpy novels in my parent’s basement, and in my lifetime have enjoyed reading many over the years. Spillane was a larger-than-life character.

The Last Stand is the novel Spillane was working on when he died in 2006. Only now can The Last Stand be read and enjoyed. A bonus addition to this volume is the also previously-unpublished novella A Bullet For Satisfaction, written early in Spillane’s career. Max Allan Collins, the fine writer who has done much to keep Spillane’s work alive, adds a lively introduction revealing how these two manuscripts were found.

@HardCaseCrime, @MaxAllenCollins, #mickeyspillane

  Closer Than You Know by Brad Parks

Brad Parks writes the sort of psychological thrillers typically I'm not attracted to. However, I got into and enjoyed Closer Than You Know.  This novel takes place in the world of social services, inadequate child protective policies, and mis-treated children. Author Parks creates deeply emotional issues and often helpless characters who demand a great deal from readers. Happily (for all of us), Parks also has a strong protagonist in the person of Melanie Barrick. Her adventures and struggles fuel Closer Than You Know, a legal thriller that kept me thinking and reading and turning pages.

@DuttonBooks, @Brad_Parks, #closerthanyouknow

 

Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian

I’m from Michigan, grew up in the late ‘60s and the ‘70s as immersed in the world of rock’n’roll as possible. I published a fanzine, wrote reviews as a freelancer, then in the late ‘70s moved to Detroit to work full-time editing and writing for a magazine about popular music publishing and record collecting.

Beautiful Music pushes all my buttons - Detroit, 1970s, the MC5, Iggy Pop. I was rushing to read the book before I knew a thing about author Zadoorian, another Michigan native. Set in Detroit in the early 1970s, a few years after the riots of 1967, a young Danny Yzemski has a startlingly poor home life, school is tough, and he's eternally confused. Danny begins to find salvation through music, even as his life and family goes downhill. 

Beautiful Music reads like rock’n’roll music, and affected me deeply. Zadoorian writes a mean lyric disguised as a wonderful, emotive sentence. at the same time, Yzemski discovers how rock’n’roll music can lift one’s soul.

@AkashicBooks, @zadoorian, #beautifulmusic

 

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Horowitz seemingly can write anything. Tell him to bring James Bond to life on the page - he does. How about the world of Sherlock Holmes - why not? In The Word Is Murder Horowitz clearly allowed his deep imagination to run wild, with interesting, amazing results.

Very much like Sherlock Holmes, Daniel Hawthorne is a smart, disgraced, police detective with less than optimal bedside manner. Author Horowitz is the Dr. Watson-like partner to Hawthorne, journaling about his cases.

The Word Is Murder becomes complex, intriguing, and just when I thought a narrative was unfolding in a manner I could follow, a blind turn appeared. Allow yourself to flow with the twists and turns and enjoy Horowitz’ mastery of the printed word. 

@HarperBooks, @AnthonyHorowitz, #thewordismurder